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Missing the Point

So, I’m always reading. Usually, I’m reading stuff that resonates with my beliefs and interests (aren’t we all though?). Most times, what I wind up reading are blogs or articles that get linked to in my facebook feed. In fact, the only way that I really know what’s going on in our world is because of the good people who keep linking to or commenting on political/social/economic/enviromental pieces.

This irritates MOMD to no end since he is a news junkie and a journalist by trade.  My ardent refusal to engage in his penchant for useless information is baffling to him; although I like to think he also secretly finds it endearing.

Anyway. As you well know if your’e a regular reader (bah! Regular! That assumes that I write regularly! hahaha… Sorry. But really: we both know that’s just ludicrous.) my leanings are decidedly socialist with a mighty dash of feminist. So a lot of what I decide to read in my feed are stories in these veins.  This morning I linked to something about women not engaging in political discourse because of the level of debate.

Now that resonated with me.

So I clicked the link.  And I tell you what: it was not well written.  In fact, I think it was written by someone who simply wanted to prove their point because it did nothing to further the discussion, and it actively discouraged my interest.  Which is a shame because honestly, I think the subheader did a great job of luring in readers.  The synopsis hit on an idea that’s been percolating in my head for ages that I just haven’t had the time to formulate.

I do not actively engage in politics because the level of discourse is so low.

A prime example is attack ads.  They do nothing to discuss party platforms, track records, or public engagement.  The sole purpose of these ads is to simply defame a single person.  And while it’s true that often we often vote for an individual rather than specifically a party (Jack Layton, anyone?) ads that vilify the leader of a party are useless.  I remember when Kim Campbell had stepped in as interim leader for the Conservative party back in 1993 and during the election campaign that followed, she was advised to run an ad that criticized – really, made fun of – Jean Chretien’s partially paralyzed face.  The woman I was wanted desperately to love our country’s first female Prime Minister, but the human in me was appalled at that level of insensitivity.  As was most of the country, and the conservatives fell from a majority government to not even holding official party status.

It’s not just attack ads though.  If I look at politics closer to home, a fantastic example of what really turns my engagement to zero is currently holding the title of Mayor in the City of Toronto.  There are so many things that offend me about Mayor Rob Ford, I could seriously go on and on.  If I look at that litany what it all boils down to is that he is belligerent, diametrically opposed to discussion or debate and willfully ignorant.  What I learned in school, when I was politically engaged, is that the heart of politics is discourse.

Remember debating?  I do.  I remember high school debates with so much fondness.  Choosing or being given a stance (defense or opposition) on a statement, and you and your team mate laid out an argument and then you debated the other side.  They were heated, but they were always civilized.  Yes, we kept to our stances while the debate was raging, but we were listening to what the other side was saying.  We had to: we had to be able to refute their arguments.

From my position, today’s politicians are all like Mayor Ford.  They have a position, they have a party line, some communications handler carefully crafts them a statement, and they read it.  Over and over and over again in some cases.  They are not listening, they are not responding, they are not engaged.  When the opposition stands up to speak, they are doing the same thing, except there’s a lot of heavy chest thumping accompanying their stating and restating and restating their opposition.

And really: that’s just so disheartening.  I for one would welcome a conversation where I did not have to prove that sexism is inherent, that rape culture exists, and that listening and responding to comments is an important part of what sets us humans apart from primates.  Maybe, just maybe, if I felt like anyone was listening, if anyone anywhere in our political system was engaged, then perhaps I too would become so myself.

For now though, for now I’ll just stay over here in my media-free bubble.

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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Opinion, Politics

 

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What No One Tells You

First: full disclosure.  This post is going to be embarrassing   For my eldest.  I’m not going to use his name, not that I think it will make that much difference, when it’s all ready spread through this blog like salt on popcorn, but still.  It provides a modicum of a shroud of decency.  Right?  If nothing else, it will make me feel less like a bad mom for sharing embarrassing things about my children.

(I think this is something that all of us parent bloggers deal with, isn’t it?  Surely I’m not alone.)

#1 (what I will call my eldest throughout this post) will be 9 in 13 days.  NINE.  I have no idea how this is even possible.  In so many ways it seems like just yesterday I was falling asleep at the table when MOMD&I were celebrating our 5-years-of-meeting-anniversary.  It feels like moments ago when I was holding my belly, crying, and dancing with the baby within, that the doctors said I would never carry.  It feels like a couple of days ago when MOMD started his parental leave and I went back to work…  and yet.

He will be 9 in less than 2 weeks.

There are a lot of things that prove this, aside from the calendar.  He’s taller, and he’s getting lanky.  Just the other night he said to MOMD, “Dad, it’s ok.  I think I’m too old now for bedtime stories.”  And the adult’s hearts both broke a little.

The real sign of #1’s impending manhood though came the other night.  Well, morning really.

The routine in our house for some time has been that I get up to pee around 5:30, and usually his lights are on (yes, that’s 5:30AM). MOMD gets up for the day at 6, and the boys usually arise with him.  They breakfast, then he comes to get dressed for the day and wakes me up.  About 2 weeks ago now I got up to pee around 5.  It was earlier than usual, and I noticed that #1’s lights were on.

“Hmpf,” I thought. “Another day where he will be tired.  I hope his teacher isn’t left wondering why he’s crying again…” and I stumbled back into bed.

Next thing I know, MOMD is in our room saying, “So, for a switch, #1 wet the bed last night.”  I sat up right away.  “Did you check?  Because I bet it wasn’t pee.”

“Wha?!” says MOMD.  “No way. If you are suggesting it’s a wet dream, you’re crazy.”  Or something like that.

I was adamant though.  I mean: this is the kid who yes, took a long time to toilet train.  Once we tried at the right time though, he was trained in a day.  And from then on, he has wet the bed possibly 2 times.  That’s 2 times in 5.5 years.  So you know, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t regressing to that point and wetting the bed.

And possibly I was prepared for this more than MOMD was.  I have been watching and waiting for the signs of his budding puberty.  In part because I was blooming by the time I was 11, so I expect him to be early too.  And perhaps I’m just attuned to his physical attributes.  You know, Mother’s Intuition sorta thing.

Anyway – MOMD did check, and he was surprised to find evidence that I was correct.  He said to me, “So I checked and it looks like it was option B after all…”

“Whadda ya mean?  What are you talking about?  Oh!  #1!  Wet dream?”

“Looks like…”  MOMD – bless him – was incredulous.  And I get it, I think.  He has a really special, close relationship with #1.  They are two peas in a pod, watching comic-based cartoons, loving cinnamon buns, early risers and all that.  What will this change mean?  What will this step towards adulthood bring to their relationship?  Only time will answer these questions for certain, but I suspect they will remain just as close because they are friends.  This is what I was like with my Mom, and we always stayed close even when discovering my independence.

But: to the title of the post.

Did you catch that part in the story where I mentioned his teacher contacting me because he was crying in class?  It’s true: she did.  She was concerned because it’s not like him to be emotional like that.  She said that he’s always very even-keeled, and happy to continue to find the right answers when he’s wrong.  He gets frustrated, but he has a strong sense of resiliency that she really admires in him.  Which is why she was so shocked when he was crying in class.

That incident was about a month ago now, I guess.  At that time I had notice too that he was more emotional around the house, not dealing well with his siblings, and generally flying off the handle.  I had no idea why because, like his teacher noted, he’s always been an even-keeled kid.  I asked him what was going on, was there something happening at school, did he want to talk and he did share with me.  There was a story about Red Rover at recess and how he wasn’t called to come over and it left him feeling left out.   There were more elements to the story, and somehow I got it in my head that perhaps he was being bullied, maybe this was the start, and then the note from the teacher.

I shared my concern with her, and she promised to check it out.  She let me know that she finds generally he makes good choices in friends, and that she would be surprised if bullying was the issue.  Later in the week she got back to me that it was not looking likely.

Now I get it.  Now I know why.  He is being emotional because his hormones are surging, and his body is changing and he doesn’t know how to deal with all of it.

How come no one ever talks about this?  So many of the media and parent resources take great pains to present balanced approaches (boys and girls) to the changes our children go through equally and fairly.  In fact, in my quick google search, I found a lot of resources geared to kids, to boys and to girls.  Thing is, most of what I saw for boys talks about physical changes.  Very little is mentioned about emotions.  I mean, sure: they talk about boys and them being embarrassed about their voices changing or their acne or waking up in a wet bed.  What they don’t address is the emotional instability.  The rampant mood swings.  Those are solely the domain of girls, it seems.

This post has gone on for so long, that I hesitate to open this can of worms.  But I will, because I want to put a bookmark here, to address the inherent bias shown here for another post.  Even when they’re little guys, they still aren’t allowed to be emotional.  I find that so sad.  How are we going to raise fully developed, emotionally present and available people when we can’t even acknowledge that they have a full range of emotions?

I am here to tell you:  My boy is in the throws of puberty and he is not at all embarrassed.  He is emotional, he is weepy, he is sporadic.  If you have a son, expect that what the experts say about girls will happen to the boys too.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Family, Oversharing, Raising Kids

 

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Dinner Conversations

When I was growing up, my family had dinner together every day.  Never with the TV on, usually with music playing in the background, glasses of milk for the kids and water for the adults.  We sat at the table every night and we talked.  Everyone talked about how their days were, what we learned at school, challenges at work, sharing the news about our friends and family; we engaged with each other every day.  On Sundays, the same rules applied except that the food was usually more labour intensive to prepare, and we always ate in the dining room on the fine china.

They say that you will do what you know, and so it’s really no surprise to me that every night we all sit at the table to have dinner.  Although, our fine china is not dishwasher safe like my parents is, so on Sundays we just eat on regular plates.  But I digress.

While I try to engage everyone in discussion about their days, some times that conversational tactic runs out before I’ve even taken my first bite.  On those nights, the kids ask random questions and we do our best to engage in discussion with them.  One night though, over the Christmas break, Connor asked, “So Mom: what is man’s work?”

The feminist in me immediately bristled.  “Where is he getting this from,” I raged internally.  MOMD dropped his fork, his terror shining from his eyes, while he tried desperately to see how I would respond, without looking at me thus to provoke my wrath.  Being in communications, he tried to firmly get control of the question and started sputtering something like, “Well Connor…”

Cooler heads prevailed however, and I interrupted MOMD with the faithful advice given by my OB many, many years ago.  “Well Connor, ” I said, “what do you think man’s work is?”

Connor: “I’m not sure.”
MOMD: “Well, let’s think about the kind of work I do, and the kind of work Mom does.”
Connor: “Oh…  ok.  So like, Dad does the laundry, cleans the bathrooms, washes the floors…  So I guess that’s man’s work.”
Me: “Well, my work is done here.”

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Family, Food, Raising Kids, Traditions

 

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What’s in a Name?

I am a very happily married woman.  I’ve been married for more than 12 years now, and I can say with certainty that hitching my wagon to MOMD’s star was the best decision I’ve ever made.  And our wedding?  It was awesome, if I do say so myself.  The ceremony took place in a lovely church which we had been attending regularly for more than a year, in the Beach of Toronto.  Our reception happened at the Westin Harbour Castle, in Toronto on the waterfront.  It was the best party I ever threw, which is exactly how you’re supposed to feel about your wedding.

When MOMD and I tied the knot, I did not take his name.  If you’ve been around this blog for a while, this will come as no surprise.  What we did do though, was each of us took each other’s name.  Yes, you read that right: MOMD took my last name and added it to his.  I took his last name and added it to mine.  On our driver’s licenses, passports, health cards, all official ID we are hyphenated.  The rationale I used when I pitched the idea to MOMD was that if a hockey player leaves one team to join another team, the player gets a new jersey with the new team’s name and logo on it.  You’ll never see a TML jersey on a player on the Senator’s team.  Despite not being a sports fan at all, this analogy made sense to him.  Thus the SB moniker was born.

This weekend just past –  Thanksgiving weekend – I attended the wedding of my longtime friend to the love of his life.  It was a wonderful ceremony, and their reception was the party of the decade.  The bride, I am sure is keeping her last name.  Also getting married this weekend was another woman with whom I am a business associate.  She has taken her husband’s last name.

Neither occurrence is uncommon: every day people get married, and every day people choose either to change their name or not.  I try not to have opinions on the subject; it has no affect on my life, and frankly is none of my business either way.  What did you choose to do when you got married?  Are you happy with your choice?  Because really: to me, that’s all that matters.

So like I was saying: some people I know got married this weekend.  One of them posted on on facebook a few days later something about how it’s weird to have a different name.  This status update garnered some attention, most of it saying, “Yeah, I remember that too!” and one comment saying basically, “I just couldn’t get used to it and so I kept my name.”  That one little comment caused someone to post a very opinionated, non-supportive, response.  And the response had nothing to do at all really with the original post.  The jist of the reply was to the effect: “Part of the deal when you get married is taking his name.  Why get married if you don’t do this?  No matter what, you are ‘Mrs’ now.”

MAN did that comment set me off!  Who was this woman?  Who died and made her the judge of facebook nation?  More to the point: what is her problem?!?!  That one comment sent me back 12 years to when we first got married, and one of MOMD’s aunts said of our name “What’s this? She’s a Brown now!”  She was very put out that 1) I would choose not to take her family name and 2) she could not find us in the phone book, since she never bothered to learn how to spell my last name.

That one comment, made by a virtual stranger to me, set me on edge for months.  Literally.  I could not think of this woman, could not hear her name mentioned, without reliving that comment.  Looking back on it now, through the wisdom (*snicker* *snicker*, she thinks she’s ‘wise’ now *snicker* *snicker*) of my years, what I felt at the time, though I could not express it, was betrayed.  I felt judged by someone who was older than I was, and betrayed by a fellow woman who was not supporting a woman’s right to choose.

I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way; I’m sure choice has nothing to do with it.  In her mind, I joined the greatest family God ever created, and why wouldn’t I want to proudly proclaim that?  She wasn’t thinking about how it had been my name for my whole life, my own attachment to my family, my own pride in our history, about me at all in fact.  She was speaking her knee-jerk reaction.  (Emphasis on jerk.)

My marriage is just as important as anyone else’s.  It’s just as real, just as committed, just as loving, just as everything as someone who chose to take their husband’s name.  Or not to change their name at all. And don’t you dare call me “Mrs”.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in Family, Opinion, Vexations

 

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This World We Live In…

Every day I start off my day by reading blogs.  I don’t read news papers, or news sites even (unless someone on my facebook feed links to an article that tweaks my interest).  I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t watch newscasts.  I am in what I like to call a “Media Free Bubble”.  As such, I miss out on things.  And the only ways that I stay informed of what’s going on in the world around me is through MOMD (who himself is a journalist), facebook, and blogs.

This week I stumbled upon a new blog: http://wrathofmom.blogspot.ca/.  When I find something new, where the writing is good and the humour is plenty, I tend to read through a bunch of entries to get the flavour for the site and decide whether it will make it into my usual haunts, so to speak.  Which is how I became aware of this.  And this.  I’m sure you can imagine it really made me uncomfortable.  Because wow…  way to be totally insensitive, even after the issues with your material are raised.  Far more appropriate would have been  to say, “Oh – I had no idea.  Thank you for raising our awareness.”  Or something like that.  Instead, the station did nothing and time is being spent discussing the problem in the House of Commons, in front of our Prime Minister.

And then there’s the whole business with Ashley Judd.  I mean, 6 months ago most of us were hard pressed to remember who Ashley Judd was.  We may remember her from her movies like “Double Jeopardy” and the grief she reportedly gets from her mother, Naomi Judd, for her movie roles.  And now, she’s up in the stratosphere, appearing on 4 highly recognized and watched news programs in less than 4 days.  She is the new face of the feminist discussion.

I’ve been a big fan of Miss Representation ever since I discovered it.  And in fact, when it was here for a screening back in October, I bought 4 tickets myself, and filled the seats.  There were 7 of us in our little group that night and it was just amazing to see.  A theatre filled with people – the 7 in our group ranged in ages from 12 to 63 – men, and women, discussing Humanity and how to best serve our own interests.

All of this made me feel like we were getting somewhere.  Maybe – just maybe – the time has come for the tide to turn and the world to become a more accepting place.  But then, I’ve always been an optimist.

Yesterday there was a link in my newsfeed – which I am deliberately NOT sharing here – to a piece asking whether a fairly well respected woman comedian was “too ugly for Hollywood”.  Mother of God!  Where do I live that this is a headline in an international magazine?!?!?!  Detractors from this article are saying things like, “did anyone ask this about Jack Black?”  This makes the point that there are not just ugly, but also fat men in Hollywood, who are regularly given big-budget movies to carry.  And at no point that I can find has someone ever asked if a man were too ugly for the industry.  And c’mon: Steve Buscemi – while an excellent actor and highly deserving of his reputation – is not good looking.

And yet, when I reflect, I note something that I find too convenient to be a coincidence.  This article was published in the wake of Ashely Judd’s essay, her subsequent press tour discussing her position, and all of the articles that came in response to her moment in the media spotlight.  All of this was designed to change the conversation – to dismantle and rebuild the way we think about each other and women specifically.  Women were getting some screen time and were talking about breaking down the establishment.

Does it not seem too convenient to you as well that “Is Rachel Dratch Too Ugly for Hollywood?” is a headline in the aftermath of the shifting sands upon which the Media Machine stands?

I remember reading somewhere once that the only way to keep women from taking control of our culture and industry is to keep them divided. (Mommy Wars, anyone?)  The author was saying that the only way for men to stay as power-players in our societies is to keep us distracted and fighting with each other so that we did not turn our collective intellects and strengths toward accomplishing goals that we consider important.  You know, silly stuff like ending the cycle of poverty for our young and elderly, education, and dare I say it?  Even world peace.

Somedays I am dismayed about the state of the world.  I question whether bringing more people into this mess was the right decision, particularly now since I’m carrying a little girl.  And then I remember that I am one person, with a voice, who has influence over 2 soon-to-be men allowing me to shape and mold their perspectives.  I remember that the presence of a strong man, like MOMD and my presence too promises a strong foundation for self-esteem, compassion, and discourse that will set our daughter up for success; in fact it will serve all 3 of our kids well.  It is then that I take a deep breath, square my shoulders and soldier on.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Opinion, Politics, Soap Box

 

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Reaching a New Level of Understanding

Do you find that, as you age (note: I did not say “get older” because really: no one wants to “get older”) opinions and thoughts you developed when you were young, solidify into facts?  For instance: I was a Girl Guide, and we used to camp on occasion at a place called Camp Ma Kee Wa.  They had a pool there, and when I was young, I knew that pool was huge.  I mean, freakin’ HUGE.  Then one time when I was a Brownie Leader, we took our Brownies to camp there.  And guess what?  That pool was tiny.  Like, the size of 2 regular-issue Toronto front lawns.  Seriously, I have friends that have pools in their back yards that are significantly larger than this pool.

This is what I mean about thoughts solidifying into facts.  Does that ever happen to you?  And then you come face-to-face with something that takes that “fact” and crushes it into teeny-tiny little pieces?  Has that happened to you before?

I have all ready admitted that it happens to me.  I’d like to think that it happens less often now, because I’ve made it a point to become very flexible in my view points.  Especially since so much of what I know about the world I learn from the internet.  And everyone knows you can’t trust what you read online.  <grin>  This flexibility has served me well in recent years, and thank God it’s been tested because yesterday, I had another one of these shake-up-and-shatter moments.

A friend of mine linked to a series of articles on The National Post’s website, about forced adoptions.  If you click this link, you will find a dozen or so articles that work to uncover the atrocities committed  in the name of “family values”.  I read through probably 6 of these articles yesterday, and with each one my heart was hurt.  As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain these women lived through, and the guilt that must still haunt them.  As someone who is right now pregnant, feeling the kicks of the child within, I cannot fathom never seeing the child I birthed, nevermind being denied the chance to hold my baby.  As a woman, I rage against the machine who believes that our mental states are so inferior that we – all women everywhere – cannot possibly raise a sound, solid human being without the presence and support of a man.  As a human being, I am deeply dismayed that as recently as 1970, basic rights to decency and compassion were denied to my sisters…

But this post is meant to be about reaching a new level of understanding.  And so I will explain that now.  My paternal Grandmother was a wonderful, strong, passionate woman.  Some may have called her obstinate, or stubborn.  I would actually call her liberated.  You see, she was born in the 1920’s in a farming community in Ontario.  She used to tell me about her big move to the city when I was a young woman, and I still find the story so empowering.  She told me that she went to school until she was 12, so she completed grade 8.  The summer after her 8th year, someone came to her door asking if she was going to register for school in September.  She said no, she was not.  She was going to the city to get a job and that was that.  And you know what?  That’s exactly what she did.  At the ripe old age of 12, she packed up a suitcase and boarded a bus to Toronto.  She got a job as a housekeeper for a family, where she stayed for some years.

She grew up in the city, grew into her independence, and worked for a living that was very comfortable.  When she met my Grandfather, she was 22.

This is my Nana, around about the time she married my Grampa

They met on a Saturday night, at a dance at the YMCA.  They way I remember her telling the story, she was dancing with him sometimes, and sometimes with his friend George.  A while after that fateful night, she found out that Grampa & George had a bet on to see who could take her home, “If I had known that, I wouldn’t have gone home with either of them!” She always made that last statement with a bang on her armrest.  God, how I miss you Nan.

Anyway – about my new understanding.  My Nan wound up pregnant.  Her baby was born in 1949, and she and Grampa were married in 1949 as well.  Obviously, she would have been one of the women who would be the targets of the forced adoption tactics.  This was eye-opening for me…  truly, a revelation.  Here’s why: my Nan’s marriage was – in so far as I could tell – loveless.  She didn’t ever seem happy with Grampa, and in fact I remember when I was 12, she was getting ready to leave him.  I always wondered why a woman like her – strong, fiercely independent, capable, empowered – stayed where she was not happy.  In fact, why did she get married at all?  All she would ever say to that question was, “Because it’s what you did.  You didn’t have a choice.”

I think I get it now…  She got married because if she didn’t, she wouldn’t get her baby.  And while I didn’t know her when her kids were young, I can tell you with certainty that there was very little she would not do for them, even as adults.  Whatever was needed, she was there for them.  Whatever her grandkids needed, she was there for them.  Be it a place to stay for a night or a week, some money to make rent, a nice hot dinner and a loving hug, she was there.  The very idea that this woman would not be allowed to have and raise her family is just devastating.  She did not have a choice.

So today, another facet of the woman who was my grandmother is crystalizing.  She truly was a warrior, a trailblazer.  Maybe not because she wanted to be, but because she had no other choice.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Family, Opinion, Politics

 

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