Category Archives: Children

Please Don’t Dumb My Daughter Down

Build up our children

I have always found it a shame when I have seen girls or women dumbing themselves down, portraying themselves as the stereoptype ditz or bimbo in order to fit in. And I’ve always wondered where it comes from. Especially in light of all the empowerment campaigns we are exposed to.

And then this morning I had a conversation with my daughter. It started talking about where our youngest is with his speech (on track) and the fact that she had been a very early speaker. That she picked up French in the immersion program very quickly and that I could probably throw two more languages at her today and she’d be fluent by Christmas. It’s her thing.

As part of this she has a huge vocabulary. Words have always come out of her mouth in the correct context long before she was “old enough” to use them. We have always encouraged this, teaching her new words and explaining the meaning of anything she (or any of our kids) don’t know.

So you must understand my frustration this morning when she told me that her teacher told her that no one in her class would understand something she had written and that she needed to change the word so they would. The offending word? “Foliage.” As in the “Colours of the foliage in fall.”

]How about “Great word. I’m not sure that everyone knows it though, so how could you add another sentence to teach them that word?” That to me is teaching.

Being told to remove the word is telling my daughter that it’s not ok to have a big vocabulary. It’s not ok to be smart. That she has to dumb herself down to fit in to her class. That dumbing down her vocabulary is the way to get a good mark.

My daughter will always have to fight against assumptions about her. She is a cute blond with an athletic competitive dancer’s body. Who will ever look beyond that when she’s only using the vocabulary of a child? When she’s too afraid to use the words she knows because she may be perceived as “smart” which her teachers have taught her is “bad”.

I told her not to change the word. To add that second sentence. That it’s not her job to dumb her work down. That she is always to do her best, to strive to be better.

I just hope that next time she isn’t intimidated by the teacher. That she has the inner strength to say “No. I will not change my work for the lowest common denominator. I will do my best. And I will teach and share.”

Parenting is hard enough. And now I realize that we can’t just rail against the ridiculous standards of the fashion industry, and the silliness of the pop music industry, we now have to be on guard from the very adults who we are supposed to trust are the role models in our children’s lives.

My message to all of you: Your only role is to build every child up. If in the process of doing this you manage to teach them history and geography, math and science then you are worthy of the title “Teacher.” And as your momma used to say if you can’t say something nice, if you can’t build a child up, then don’t say anything at all.

Advertisements

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Dad

Happy Birthday Dad


Today would have been my father’s 80th birthday.

That just feels weird even typing it. I can’t picture him at 80, I can’t extrapolate how he may have been. You see we lost him when I was 14 and I never had the chance to get to know him as an adult.

Already this is hard to write. Yet I am trying to celebrate his life this year rather than the day of his death. It’s a sentiment that I read somewhere online, probably reposted by someone on Facebook. For weeks I’ve been contemplating it, and all day chewing on my words, what I would say and how I would say it.

He first got sick when I was very young, so I never knew the healthy vibrant man he had been. I knew a loving, caring, hardworking dad, who loved jokes and Saturday night hockey. Yet I used to always dread that one day I would get called out of class to be notified by the principal that he had died. That was the one fear about it all that never came true. He died over the Christmas holidays, packing away our decorations. Understandably I hated Christmas for a while. I really only remembered it’s magic through the eyes of my children.

I admit that over the years I haven’t always remembered his birthday or even the day of his passing–sometimes it was just easier not to mark it. This post is a conscious effort to remember a happy day. Like the time we put 50 candles on his 8″ birthday cake. The flames were huge and melted the icing into a mess. What a laugh we had over that ūüôā

Tonight at dinner I will share stories of him with my children, his grandchildren. Our first carries his name as a middle name, and our second carries his sister’s name also as a middle name.

We’ll talk of the time when he was teaching horseback riding and he got kicked in both knees. The times I used to help him clean the pheasants that he and the good ol’ boys had hunted (yes eww, but it didn’t bother me then). We’ll chat of the time we went fishing and my little brother was the only one who caught anything. Of his stories commuting on the GO Train. His co-workers and the jokes they used to tell. How he could fix anything. And the time I accidentally dipped my blond pony tail into the blue paint he was using and how even paint thinner wouldn’t take it all out.

I will tell them that he would have loved to be a grandfather. Because he would have. He loved being a dad so how could he not?

Later, I will raise a glass of wine. Pretend that it’s clinking on his glass. And share the drink that we never got to share.

The Unicorn


A mythical creature.

A story passed down.

Often describes things that we cannot fathom or dream of.

Things that are outside of our scope of experience.

For example our eldest son’s new school.

I got a call this week asking if I could come in for a meeting. “Of course!” I said, hoping that our honeymoon period wasn’t over yet. When I signed in at the office the principal came out of his office to say “Hi.” and ask how things were going. He seemed genuinely happy when I said that I was thrilled that our son was making friends and choosing to hang out with them outside in the school yard rather than reading in the library or office. Not only did he not think it was weird when I said that alone made our year a success for me, he agreed!

The SERT met me in the office, and together we went upstairs, chatting along the way. Our son was again offered an opportunity to join us but chose to take the bus home with his classmates! Anyone who knows an aspie realizes just how big a step this is. Oh and did I mention that instead of sitting near the driver, he chooses to sit at the back.

With the other grade 8’s.

Because that’s what grade 8’s do.

The meeting consisted of two teachers, an EA and the SERT.

And you know what? There were no major issues. Just some questions about how to handle certain situations. All asked in a “What do you suggest we do/try?” tone of voice.

I made sure to repeatedly tell them how thrilled I was. That they can feel free to contact us at any time. That being proactive like this can only ensure his success. That for the first time he is coming home talking about his day.

And most importantly, he is happy.

I sat in my van afterwards and realized that I no longer had to hold back the tears.

I’m so glad that we made the difficult decision to transfer him. That the school we chose is that rare mythical creature that actually encourages and supports him.

If only every Autistic child had that opportunity…

The List

one of our fun hikes from a few years ago

one of our fun hikes from a few years ago


It almost didn’t happen.

We do it EVERY year.

But this year in the chaos that is the night before school, between unpacking the trailer, showers and discovering that not only was a lunch container lost but so were sharpeners and erasers BEFORE SCHOOL EVEN STARTED it was forgotten.

Eventually everyone was settled to bed and my hubby remembered.

Every year on Labour Day, in the evening when things are (supposed to be) calm, we all sit down and write a list of all the things we did that summer.

Everything from our tall ship excursion to our epic road trip was on the list this year. Whale watching and grandpa nearly dis-mounting a Mountie were there too. So were sleep overs, pool parties and going shopping. Anything that we enjoyed we add to it.

And then we re-read what we’ve done in previous years. There was the camping trip with ice cream every single day. There are animals spotted (from birds and turtles to bears and moose). One year was Fort Henry where the kids were “hired” as soldiers and then had to take their recruiter to jail for enlisting underage recruits. Another point talks of playing in the waves at the beach, learning to swim or ride a bike.

It’s our back to school ritual. I’m so glad that hubby remembered. When we all woke up the next morning, there was a draft of the list on our places at the table. We added our thoughts to it, and now we have eight summers worth of lists to look fondly back at.

Is it Ever OK to Make Fun of a Child?

Picture of a blue sky with fluffy clouds. Caption says "Children are only bullied on a continual basis if the bully's behavior is encouraged by the adults in their life"

Picture of a blue sky with fluffy clouds. Caption says “Children are only bullied on a continual basis if the bully’s behavior is encouraged by the adults in their life”

I’ve blogged about this before, and I will continue to blog about it until those who are “grown-up” get it: Kids bully other kids when their behavior is encouraged by the adults in their life

Several weeks ago “friends” posted a picture on Facebook of a child in a stroller. They were treating it as a people of Wal-Mart style pic with which they made comments that they assumed were funny. I looked at that picture and saw a child who was too large for the stroller leaning back hiding her face. In hiding her face, I saw a child who was overwhelmed by the crowd and noise. (it wasn’t clear if it was a mall or theme park or other place, just that there were other people there) In the stroller I saw a child who was perhaps a runner or who perhaps had mobility issues. When I suggested that perhaps the family couldn’t afford a wheelchair the glib comment came back that if the child needed a wheelchair then the government would have provided one.

Sigh. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where all of our medical needs were met by some benevolent caretaker, where there were no wait lists and no need for extended health care coverage? I bet it would be sunny every day and no one ever went hungry either.

The reality is that even here in Canada, children do not get the supports that they need automatically. And if you can’t comprehend that, just ask any parent of a child with special needs.

I mean it’s lovely and wonderful in your life that you don’t have a child or know anyone with a child who has extra needs. But that does not ever give you the right to make fun of someone else’s child. Ever.

Even if this child was not overwhelmed and was leaning back chatting on a cell phone (as was indicated in one of the comments), even if this child did not have mobility challenges and is not a runner, even if this child is simply too large for the stroller, ANY comments that make fun of this child are bullying. When you make fun of anyone, it is bullying.

As an adult, what kind of example are you setting when you bully a child? You are telling your children, your nieces and nephews, your neighbours, your friend’s children that differences are not ok. That bullying is not only ok but that you support and encourage it.

When you do not allow that kind of behaviour in your home and in your life, when you open a discussion about differences, when you become inclusive rather than exclusive, then and only then will we start to see the end of bullying at school.

Think of it another way, when we make a behaviour socially unacceptable, like we did with smoking. Once it was common to see adults smoking in a car with kids in the backseat. Now we look at that behaviour with disgust. That change was made in less than a generation.

I will leave you with a slight digression, if you don’t mind. It is about how children should handle other children that they just don’t like. A couple of friends and I have discussed this many times in the face of some classroom situations we’ve seen in the last few years. We have unanimously agreed that our children do not need to pretend to like everyone. But they must be polite.

Why can’t adults do that in the workplace and set an example for the children in their lives?

7 Things I Never Thought I’d Say Before I Became a Parent

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a city far, far away (well a 45 minute commute anyway) I had a life. It was civilized, and people spoke politely to each other (with the exception of road rage) and we never spoke of body parts unless we were drunk or laughing at some celebrity who forgot she wasn’t wearing underpants. It was peaceful there. And drinks at noon were cool.

Then I became a parent.

black mini van parked in my driveway

black mini van parked in my driveway

And I found myself saying all manner of strange things. Things that once repulsed me were now topics of everyday conversation. In fact, I often find myself desperately seeking some adult conversation. A mere sentence or two that has nothing to do with the contents of one’s diaper or where the damn permission form has gotten to now.

When I stop to think about it, some of the things I’ve said are pretty horrifying. So, just to brighten your day a bit (as you revel in not having to say those things, or that you managed to escape them), I thought I’d share with you some of the most awful things I’ve found myself saying:

7.  A mini-van? Really?

6.  Yes, someone needs to be sober in the house at all times.

5. ¬†No the baby doesn’t count.

4.  Oh, that diaper smells delightful! Think we can make it home without causing another rash? That mom over there is about to ram us for our spot.

3.¬† Seriously? You’re picking your nose and eating it? At the table? Instead of this¬†dinner I slaved over?

2.¬†¬†I know it’s fashionable to wear tight shorts, but honey, do you know what camel toe is?

1.  Sure I can take three more kids in the van. Pile them in!

 

 

Negative And Then Positive End to the School Year

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted anything.

Lots has been going on, but in an effort to be positive, I haven’t focused on the crap that’s happened at our school and the behaviour that teachers believe they can get away with when it comes to our children. And this time I’m not referring to the teachers of our child with Asperger’s, but rather our daughter and the rather cold, nasty teachers she had this year. But by not writing of it, I’ve been stuck and unable to form a full post (several drafts await editing/saving though)

I find it very stressful confronting anyone and yet I had to do it with them and carefully used the correct language about how as adults in a position of authority need to choose their words and expressions carefully. That dismissing the hard work of a student as “not worth their time” is not an appropriate way to speak to anyone, let alone a child. I called a very last minute meeting with the principal, frustrated at how my child was in tears yet again over class work and how her teacher was treating her. I gave him no option, sending him an email that I was on my way to the school and expected him to meet us in the office. To his credit he did, and actually called the two teachers in question out of class to join us. But that was the only positive part of it.

Excuses to justify their actions were made (two teachers, one English, one French backing each other’s bad behaviour up in an unprecedented show of callousness at our meeting) and I called them on each one. I spoke to one then the other teacher. Both replied with a cold “Ok” clearly indicating “yeah whatever.” The principal lifted his head off the table (yes really!) long enough to look at me when I told him (in front of the teachers) that their behaviour was unacceptable, that instead of supporting and helping their students they were destroying the children’s confidence.

Then without preamble or apology the teachers stood up, left our (admittedly last minute meeting) and left for another meeting. Rude, cold and unbelievable that they are teachers! (If they had offered an ounce of politeness that they’d had a prearranged meeting already then I would have been fine with them leaving, clearly my words were not having an effect) I spoke a bit further to the principal, though my words seemed to have little effect.

When we got in the van, my daughter and I had a few good minutes of saying all the bad things we needed to say, and the joy in getting to say bad words I think took a bit of the sting out of the situation for her.

My husband followed up with the principal and was told that he and the vice-principal had spoken to the teachers about their behaviour in the classroom. I was doubting how effective this was until this week when my daughter told me that after that day both teachers refused to pick her to answer a question even when she was clearly the only one in the class with her hand up. Really? Child-ish, petty, nasty behaviour from an elementary school teacher?! Sigh.

On a much more positive note, we toured our son’s new school for next year. It was a tough decision to move him for his last year of elementary, but as I’ve noted above their current school isn’t a nurturing, supportive environment. From the moment we stepped into the office we were welcomed. The SERT, a lovely lady, introduced us to several people from the principal, to teachers, the librarian and a custodian. All welcomed us with big smiles and told us that we would love it there. We spotted a former classmate of my son’s and he was welcomed to go say hi to her.

Both of us left that experience feeling at peace with our decision to move him. He feels calmer about it, less nervous. And we were welcomed to make an appointment to meet his teacher in August and get more details about his busing. Yes the bus may prove to be a challenge but so far it looks like his request to sit at the front will be respected.

Looking forward to the positive things to come, and releasing the negative experiences (not to be forgotten at all but to be set aside so that they don’t affect our summer holiday).

I’ll blog about our year end camping in another post!