Archive for June, 2012

Smart Mouth

When I was a little girl I loved helping my Dad fix things around the house. The tool box came out, I came running. I knew all the tool names and if I didn’t know I made them up. Like a nurse in an operating room; when a tool was called it was my job to slap it into Dad’s hand, handle in – mechanics out, ready for business. As long as the job was going smoothly my presence and help was welcome. The moment things started going south my Dad would send me to hang out with my Mother. As I got older I came to understand that he was protecting my little ears from a barrage of profanity, my Dad was the best at it! I overheard him once and could not believe the colourful string of emphatic, dramatic, punctuated, explicative words that flowed from his mouth; like Longfellow meets Eminem. I was impressed and could hardly wait to be that grown up. I also knew that no matter how old I grew up to be, if my Dad ever heard me using such language that was exactly how old I was going to live to be.

It never fails to leave me in total shock when I hear kids swearing. Teenagers yes, I half expect that out of earshot and beyond my reach there is some experimentation with expression taking place (I could have given Eminem a good run for his money myself in my prime adolescent years). But little kids? I mean little kids! Last week a seven year old, in the course of a normal conversation, said to me “….that guy just PI**ED me off, so I rammed him right into the EFFIN……” I must have been busy picking my jaw up off of the ground because I missed the rest of the story, I’m not sure how it ended, I got as far as the first ‘F-bomb’ and I was mentally running for my bar of soap, or is it hot sauce now? maybe it is tactical ‘I’ messages and rational conversation. It doesn’t matter, whatever the appropriate response was I was rendered incapable of action, comment or response. I was dumfounded!

Language I understand is becoming ever more accepted and overlooked, I get that and hear it when the kids are playing out on the street, the most outrageous words fly from the smallest of mouths and are greeted in retort by stronger more vulgar words. Words they do not even possess the exposure or maturity to comprehend the meaning of. Words that I would be embarrassed to use myself. Words I could not believe my ears to hear a seven year old saying to a grown up just like please and thank you.

Have we come to this? What an amazing display of people willing to take the easy road. There are More than 247,000 words in the English language and our kids are falling back on a mitt-full of four letter ones to make their point? The same ones we used growing up, the same ones our parents used but didn’t want us to hear growing up. Does that show a lack of creativity, a lack of intelligence or a lack of caring? Are we evolving in all other aspects of life except creative expression and ‘Pi**off-ed-ness’?

If we told our kids that swearing is a sign of small intelligence could we encourage them to think outside of the box? There are so many fabulous words we could be using to achieve the upper-hand in any given situation and the beauty is that because mostly we are only using the four letter easy words, there are even more to choose from. If you throw out the word ‘fastidious’ in the middle of a debate, you are going to win; by default if not by wit…nobody knows what ‘fastidious’ means anymore. (Troglodyte was a good word we used to use as an example in our house for a while but I looked it up, it has a new Urban Dictionary meaning now, the example is no longer great – don’t use it.)

Evidently as demonstrated by the word (or words) on the street lately and given my recent encounter with a very colourful seven year old, the profanity train is not about to derail. I’m guilty myself on occasion of blurting them out and I am not nearly as diligent as my father was with sending my kids out of the room before it happens. I think however we are going to begin posting “big words to stump your small minded friends and end an argument” on our chalkboard in our house. Maybe we can start a trend whereby the next generation will end up using words like reprehensible, incorrigible, and unregenerate.

Something’s got to give. We either have to stand up and be part of the solution or prepare for our grand-kids to high-five us as they rocket through the door and lay a ‘How the F*** are ya Gran?” on us. If that happens I’m going to need an extra set of pacemaker batteries and a tanker of red wine.

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Children and Anxiety

For far too many years than I care to count, I suffered from anxiety. (There’s a trending phrase for you!) It kept me from enjoying a great deal of my childhood; it robbed me of some really fabulous adolescent experiences. It turned our early years of marriage and parenthood into a minefield of emotional uncertainty. My story if you care to read it can be found on The Space Between Raindrops. I don’t want to use up word count with it here; I want you to hear my son’s story. Maybe it is your child’s story, maybe we can help each other.

This morning I was standing at the front door in my dress pants and air drying hair with tiny arms wrapped around my waist and tears soaking through my blouse. Today was a rough day, we haven’t had a bad day in a long time, usually they are just trying. This morning however I choked back my own tears from falling into my son’s hair and all I could think was “Why this? Of all the things he could have inherited from me, why this? Why anxiety? Why this struggle?”

I sat him on the trunk and we began talking through it. He is ten years old and we have been doing this for a long time. In the beginning he couldn’t do this, we couldn’t talk through to a calm, rational place. What he could do was throw up and go to bed. He was about six years old when he started getting migraines; they were always emotionally triggered, severe and predictable. Upset and worry would lead to visual disturbances, migraine pain, and vomiting followed by twelve hours of sleep. The triggers were simple; mention death, destruction, playground conflict, a French, math or spelling test, talk about going to spend the weekend away from Mom and Dad or a sleepover and we were in for the full experience.

We spent a great amount of time close to home, coming home early, missing school, missing work, missing birthday parties and sleepovers. We saw doctors and ruled out physical causes. He was following right in my footsteps. This was probably a good thing. I knew first hand that we weren’t dealing with garden variety childhood worry; we had that with our two older children. I knew exactly where he was coming from and exactly where he was heading and I knew that we could stop it, or at the very least bring it out into the light where we could give him power over it. I wonder on our bad days how parents who don’t suffer themselves, find the patience to cope.

Slowly we went from not having any control over the fears to talking through so that we only got as far as the headache. Then we could get it before the headache started. For a good amount of time now he has been able to self-talk on his own when panic first grabs him, quieting his mind before it gets the better of him. I am always completely and thoroughly amazed when he does this. He has, at ten years old mastered something I could not even attempt until well into my thirties. It gives me hope.

Hope, that there will be fewer days like today, when I am reminded that this will always be a part of him. This is a struggle that may always lie just below the surface, there will be days when he might not be stronger than his fears and on those days I cry. I cry with him, for him, we cry together. Then we get bigger than the panic together. We take our time, we call in late, we have a rest, we take a walk, we play music and talk about feelings emotional and physical, we rate them 1-10 so we can measure our strength growing. We do all of that and we step back into line, your life still needs you.

Why am I sharing this heart ramble with you? I’m not sure exactly except to say that kids deserve everything we can give them, except to say that little people have feelings and emotions larger that your imagination can imagine. I want you to know that the fears of your child should never be dismissed or belittled no matter how foolish they seem to you. They should be given names and brought into the light, talked about. I want to encourage you to learn how to identify feelings and talk about them openly, to not be afraid to ask for help for your child, for yourself.
Today was a very bad day. I need to acknowledge that, as far as we have come they still happen. Mostly I want you to know that if this is your story, you are not alone. Even though I know it can feel like you are.

I want you to know there are great days too and that nothing will fill you heart with more hope than seeing your child replace more and more of their anxiety with adventure. Keep going, get help, talk and know that it is okay to cry.

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Teaching Gratitude

Another school year is drawing to a close, filled with miniature graduation ceremonies for kindies and grade schoolers off to middle school. There are field trips, playdays and volunteer breakfasts. Something else looms in those last days of June…The Teacher Gift.

The internet is clogged with ideas for you… I’m in.

Should you is the first question? Absolutely! This poor creature teacher has spent the better part of ten months trapped in a room with your child. Could you do it? You tip your hairdresser for less sanctuary than a teacher provides you.

So yes, in my opinion, absolutely! Even if you think you could have done a better job you have to acknowledge their mental capacity to not only survive your child but 29 others as well.

Deciding what would be a great gift takes a bit of thinking, it is the thought that counts right. Write a list of possibles. Now scratch off the first five items. I promise you no teacher wants candles, soaps or knick-knacks, most are allergic to flowers and chocolates will only melt in the car while they enjoy their last day of school pint with their colleagues at that elusive watering hole that only teachers know about. (Have you ever noticed that you never see your child’s teacher outside of school? Never at a restaurant, grocery store or medical clinic).

Get creative; nobody wants to be the parent that equated their child’s year of education to a wooden folk art apple that says #1 teacher. Show them you’ve been a good student, that you were paying attention. Ask your child what their teacher likes to do when they are not at school. Think about conversations you have had with your teacher. Pick something meaningful and unique and turn it into a gift that will disappear.

By disappear I mean choose something that gets used up, spent or given away or eaten. Math quiz; if you taught grade two for thirty years and received a trinket from each of your students, with an average class size of twenty five…how big of a room would you need to keep them all in? Give them something that isn’t meant to be held on to.

Gift cards are good. A card to a local smoothie stop or gas to get them to the beach with a little note that says ‘road trip on us’. Perhaps a card to a school supply store, teachers buy most of what you see in their classrooms out of pocket, help is nice. There is the standard coffee gift card which is great if they are coffee fanatics but wouldn’t a gift certificate for a pedicure or bookstore be nicer?

Give away gifts are better. At Christmas time we make donations to a local food bank in our teacher’s honour. You can choose any charity close to their heart and donate you gift there. (You know what it is because you’ve been paying attention right?) A nice packet of artisan thank you notes are a great idea too, teachers write a lot of thank you notes over the course of a year. If you can find some with personal significance or a charitable association even better.

Gifts of your time are best. Take the time to write a note that reflects your personal appreciation, mention specific accounts or impact they have had on your child, wish them a relaxing summer (remember they have earned the opportunity to recharge) Have you child write a note too, draw a picture or include a snap shot of them together. Teachers love scrapbooks, give them something touching to paste into theirs. Attach your sentiment to a bag of gourmet bakery treats, a magazine reflective of their hobby or a jar of homemade strawberry jam.

Bottom line is that teachers do one of the hardest jobs on earth then most go home to the very hardest job on earth; parenting their own children. They deserve to know that they are appreciated with a token more clever than an apple shaped candle that smells like happy hour at the nursing home, unless of course they like that sort of thing.

Enjoy these last frantic days of the school year, there is a long glorious summer ahead!

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.


Candace also blogs for
the Yummy Mummy Club!