Archive for the 'kids' Category

Prison and school. It’s the same thing, right?

October 23, 2009

There is a group of parents at my kids’ school that want to enforce a playground policy that reminds me of a prison yard.  But, in prison yards, there actually is free association.  The yard rules are made and enforced by the inmates.

Here is the skinny.  There had been issues with older and younger kids having conflicts on the playground.  When, say, the grade four kids and the grade one kids were trying to play a game of basketball or soccer together, there were multiple occasions each recess where the kids would be running to the teachers with complaints of the older kids being bossy and the younger kids following the older kids around even when the game had stopped.  Understandably, the teachers on duty thought it needed to be addressed and a guideline was made that if kids were more than a grade apart, they were not to play together.  This was only a guideline and only to be used as a tool for the teachers to be able to say to the kids that were complaining that they need to stop playing together because of this rule.  The principal is very reluctant to designate certain areas of the yard to only certain grades.  She likes that kids can intermingle, but wants a definite line that teachers can tell kids they’ve crossed if needed.

This, to me, is a symptom of the overprotective parenting so prevalent today.  Had these kids (the younger and older ones) been left to defend themselves and think up solutions outside of the school, they would not have turned to the teachers so frequently to solve their problems.  These are kids who are incapable of compromise because all of the compromising has been done for them.  I can’t blame the teachers for becoming exasperated with it all.

Had the issue ended there, I would be ending this post on a more positive note.  However, there is a group of parents who support this and want it enforced in the most strict way possible by designating an area of the yard for each grade.  I had the opportunity to talk to one of these parents and her attitude scared me.  She was adamant that the only reason a twelve year old would ever associate with a seven year old would be to prey on him.  After I got over the shock and was able to talk again I told her about three real life occurrences at that very school: 1 – siblings have been playing together for years without incident; 2 – a grade seven soccer guru student has been giving “lessons” to his grade four brother and his brother’s friend; 3 – when my oldest was in grade two, she and her friends had a group of grade eight students help them make snowmen.  This is what this group of parents are willing to sacrifice. The fact that they are perfectly willing to turn innocent TWELVE YEAR OLDS into potential predators is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever encountered.

For me, the issue is over.  I am not against the guideline for the teachers to use as needed.  A note is going home to parents to explain exactly what the guideline is and how and when it will be used.  I have a feeling that the issue is not over for the principal and the psycho group of parents.  I will keep on top of it for sure.  I have joined the Home and School Committee for the first time this year and hope to keep brining sanity to the insanity that can happen.  I am happy to report, though, that we are planning not only a bake sale but a cake raffle.  Long live the cupcake!  And long live free play!

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Halloween. It’s dangerous too!

October 19, 2009

I came across an article from Single Minded Women about Halloween safety for kids.  Maybe I’m just nostalgic or maybe I’m careless, but I thought most of the tips were a reaction from media fed paranoia about our kids’ safety.  One of my favourite memories from Halloween inovles going into a stranger’s house with my bestfriend.  We were in grade 9 and weren’t trick or treating, just walking around in costume having fun.  We were both dressed as Charlie Chaplin and someone thought it was really creative and funny.  He called us over and asked us if he could take our picture.  So we stepped into his house and he took a couple of pictures of us and then we left and went on our merry way.  I often wonder if that man still has those pictures. Weigh in on whether or not you think this was dangerous.  If I found out that any of my kids went into the house of  someone they didn’t know so he could take a couple of pictures of them in a costume on Halloween, why I’d… laugh.

Here are the tips from Single Minded Women’s article and my commentary because it’s my blog and you want to know what I think.  Yep.  You do. Because you’re awesome. 😉

1.) Select a safe and bright costume. Make sure your child’s costume (including beards, masks and wigs) is clearly marked as flame resistant or look for flame resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester. If the costume does not have any reflective fabric, add your own reflective tape on the back and front. Avoid billowing or long trailing features, especially those made of lightweight fabrics or materials. Your child should wear well-fitting shoes to prevent trips and falls. Costume accessories, including swords and knives, should be soft and flexible.

Completely reasonable advise for the most part here.  I like the flame resistant suggestion.  No snark there, I really do.  Halloween is a time when kids are likely to come across dozens of candles. It’s not something I would sweat over if I couldn’t find a flame resistant costume, but it doesn’t hurt to try to find one.  Well fitting shoes, well are we really that stupid that we need someone to tell us that our kids should be in comfrotable shoes?  The bit about soft accessories is way over the top, though.  Why should they be soft?  If a kid is going as a hockey player, does that mean a foam hockey stick? I’m not suggesting giving a seven year old a real sword, but surely a plastic one can’t be categorized as dangerous.

2.) Masks can obstruct children’s vision and restrict breathing. Consider make-up instead, checking all labels to ensure that it is non-toxic. If children do wear a mask, make sure they can see and breathe easily.

Remember those plastic masks that had those eye holes and the tiny little slit to breathe through?  Guess how many kids died as a result of not being able to breathe in one of those.  None.   Not being able to see, of course, is a bigger problem but kids are still able to, you know, take off the mask to cross the street.  Like we did as kids.  I wore mine only while walking up to the house to get my goodies.  Then it was slipped up over my head while I walked because those things were stuffy.  But, instead of teaching kids how to look out for cars or to take off the mask while crossing the street, it’s better just to not buy a mask of course. (Do they even make those anymore?  I was Yoda once.)

And seriously, who makes toxic makeup!?!  And who eats makeup?  Shouldn’t the masks be non-toxic too, just in case a kid takes a nibble?

3.) Do not let children under age 12 go trick-or-treating or cross the street without the supervision of an adult on Halloween night. For guidance and safety’s sake, accompany younger children to the door of every house they visit.

This gets the big ‘ol WTF! from me.  Yes, please make sure you go up to each door with your 11 year old.  Don’t forget to always hover no more than two feet behind him, too.  And, for the love of all things holy, don’t ever ever ever let him (or her) cross the street without you! Take him firmly by his 11 year old hand and don’t let him let go.  I know you let him cross the street by himself while going to school or to his friend’s house, but this is Halloween.  It’s dangerous.

I stand at the end of the walk for each house and send my kids up to get the candy.  I’m taking such risks with my own flesh and blood, for sure.  I mean, they could trip or bump into someone or something.  And we all know that it takes only a second for the guy to snatch up my kid and drag her into the house with everyone watching and knowing where he lives and all that.  Thank you Simple Single Minded Women for showing me just how dangerous I have been all this time.

4). Make sure your child has his or her own flashlight or glow stick to illuminate pathways and curbs.

Flashlights and glow sticks are just plain fun.  We actually need them here because the developers of this subdivision thought that streetlights were not necessary and the city planners agreed (and this was in the 1950s).  Seriously,  walking down the street at night here, there are places where flashlights are needed.  However, I do think streetlights are adequate if they are present.  But, like I said, what kid doesn’t like playing with a flashlight or glow stick?

5). Trick or treat with your smaller children during daylight hours.

Bwahahahahahahahaha!  And if you have older kids you’re taking out too?  Yeah, they need to go in daylight with the little ones too.  Or you need to go out in daylight and at night because you can’t let a kid under age 12 trick or treat alone.  Oh, and don’t forget to mention to all of your neighbours that you will be out at 4:00 so they can be home from work early to give out the candy.  (Yes it’s on Saturday this year but not every year.)  How does this even jibe with the advise to give kids flashlights?  And really, it is such a huge deal for the little ones to be out after dark! ” OMG! How cool is that?  It’s past my bedtime and I’m outside in the dark walking down the street!” I don’t see the risk if you’re, you know, hovering two feet behind them at all time, right?

6.) Teens should always go trick-or-treating in a group. Advise them to only stop at familiar homes with an illuminated outdoor light. Remind teens that they should never enter a stranger’s home, car or walk in unpopulated areas. At least one child in their group should have a fully charged cell phone.

Cell phone, not a bad idea I guess.  But, can’t we just let teens use their common sense as to whether or not a situation is dangerous?  Like my story above.  Never did I think he was a dangerous person and if I did, I would not have entered his house.  I do think all kids should trick or treat together, but more because it’s just more fun that way and a larger group is easier to see.  But I’m a big Halloween curmudgeon and don’t think anyone over the age of 13 should be going door to door anyway.  Dress up and walk around, sure.  Get free candy?  Nope, go get a job and buy your own candy.  And why would anyone be walking around an unpopulated area on Halloween?  How do you get candy that way?  And yeah, don’t go to that house where the person you don’t know lives!  In todays withdrawn society, we live in a whole neighbourhood of unfamiliar homes so that’s really limiting.

7). Make sure you know where and when your teen will be trick or treating and with whom. It’s also a good idea to have the phone number of their friends’ parents in the event of an emergency.

Sound advise, even for when ti’s not Halloween.  Nothing wrong with knowing where kids are supposed to be – I’ll leave it up to you to decide if they’ll actually be there.  I do think it’s a really good idea to have the phone numbers of your kids’ friends.  So, hey, I agree with them here.

8). Illuminate jack-o-lanterns with flashlights or glow sticks. Avoid candles as they can pose a danger for trick-or-treaters who may come in contact with the open flames and ignite their costumes.

But then why the need for the flame resistant costurems?  I don’t really see anything wrong with this advise.  If you’re not going to be out front with your pumpkins in sight, it is best to use a flame free candle.  It does lose some of it’s festiveness that way so we just make sure we’re able to keep an eye on the pumpkins.  I may be a bit over cautious on this one, but a friend of knocked over a Jack-o-lantern when we were young.

9). Advise your child not to eat any of the candy until you have inspected it first. This is especially important if your child has any food allergies.

Children with food allergies are usually overly aware of the risks of eating something that could hurt them, but it is good to remind them that they can only munch on the licorice while out trick or treating.  However, there is no need for anyone to inspect the candy.  None.  At all.  Ever.  You know all of those stories about kids who ate poison candy on Halloween?  Want to know how many of them are true?  None.  Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.  There are two reported cases of poisoned candy killing kids and in both of those cases, it was the parents who killed the kids and blamed it on poisoned candy.  So, let’s all throw caution to the wind and let the kids eat a bag of chips while they are trick or treating, shall we?

10). Monitor their candy intake too. You’d be surprised at how much sugar, fat and calories a single, snack size candy bar has.

Um, no I won’t be surprised at the amount of sugar, fat and calories in a single, snack size candy bar.  I don’t monitor their intake because the faster they eat it, the faster it leaves the house.  I have a sneaky suspicion that regular meals of take out, fast food and prepackaged meals contributes more to the child obesity rate than Halloween candy.

 The world is a crazy place, but it’s not as dangerous as people would like us to think.  This particular article was partially written by Debra Holtzman, author of a book called Safe Baby.  Perhaps someone who has a vested interest in keeping parents paranoid is not the person we should be turning to for advise on Halloween safety.  After all, if we as parents are no longer paranoid, will we still want to buy her book?

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On another Halloween note, has any one heard about the candy goblin that comes and takes the candy away and brings a toy for the kids instead? I have heard of two families who do that and they’re quite proud of themselves. I personally think it’s a huge waste. Why would you be proud that you’re throwing a bunch of candy out that you didn’t need to get in the first place? I mean, would you proud if you bought a bag of Skittles just to throw it out? No. Why not just go door to door, sing a Halloween song to the people and then get a toy at the end of it all? Plus, Halloween = candy. And candy != evil if it is not an everyday, all day thing. These families could give their kids three pieces of candy a week and it would last a year. Is it just me or is the candy goblin really a stupid and wasteful idea? (Not to mention that it is more than likely bringing in another piece of cheap plastic crap (CPC) into your house that your kids don’t need. There will be more on CPC from me as Christmas approaches.)

Play. It’s dangerous business people!

October 8, 2009

My kids brought home some interesting news from school today.  Aparentally, the principal  announced that it is no longer allowed for a younger student and older student to play together.  In order for two people to play together, they have to be either in the same grade or one grade apart, either higher or lower.  Trying to get to the bottom of it, I asked why.  The answer that my kids gave me is because older students play rougher.  Well, talk about taking the sledgehammer to a problem.  My kids can no longer pay together at recess, even though for the last three years they have played together at recess at least once a week without incident.

Why on earth would someone want to prevent intergenerational play?  It’s good!  Good for the younger kids to look up to the cool older kids.  Good for the older kids to look out for the younger kids.  If there has been an epidemic of injury to the younger kids due to rough play with older kids, I have not heard about it.  If it has been a one case thing, well then GAH! (That was a scream of frustration, just to clarify.)  Last week my five year old ran out onto the street without looking for cars.  So, all five year old must now stay inside at all times.  Got it!  Oh, and on Monday, my almost ten year old fell down the ladder of her bunk beds so no more bunk beds for ten year olds, OK?

I want to address this with the principal.  I think it needs to be addressed.  It is a ridiculous rule that does not need to go into effect becasue 1) older kids are usually less rough when playing with younger kids, and 2) younger kids are just as likely to be rough with each other as older kids, meaning they can still get knocked down, bruised, scraped, bumped and whacked.  There is nothing anyone can do to prevent these things from happening.  If there is something happening, it needs to be addressed on an individual basis and stopped.  But, to ban a grade seven student from helping his grade three brother and his friends practise some soccer moves?  Yep.  Dangerous!

I need to know what to say to the principal.  I want to let her know the benefits of play between younger kids and older kids.  I want to tell her how sweeping generalizations are never a good thing.  I want to say that kids will get hurt and no amount of rules will ever stop this.  I want to include something about putting kids in a bubble gives them an unrealistic view of the world.  They will get hurt.  It’s going to happen.  Let them  Let them learn how to play with younger kids.  Let them learn that sometimes it’s not a good idea to play with older kids.  Let them learn how to get along with each other.  Don’t isolate them.  Include them.

So, how do I say all of that?  And does anyone have a web site I could point her to?

Free Range Sesame Street!

October 5, 2009

I am wathcing Old School Sesame Street with Victoria and Rosemary. Yes, I ignored the warnings at the beginning of the disks about it not being appropriate for today’s preschoolers. How Sesame Street can be inappropriate for preschoolers of any generation is beyond me, but yes there is a warning at the beginning of each episode.

So far, in this episode this is what I have seen:

  • Louise left his store in the care of a child around seven years of age while he left for five minutes to grab a cup of coffee.  He asked her to answer the phone if it rang and tell the people he would be back in five minutes.  This child is clearly not his.
  • Small kids (some girls) running around without a shirt on.
  • A group of children playing outside the buildings unsupervised and then joined by a man who has no children of his own.
  • A child sitting alone on the stoop of his building.
  • A boy around the age of 11 driving a cart of some kind (his job I assume) while a younger child sits on it.
  • A young girl telling someone who is practically a stranger that she loves him and giving him a kiss.  (The infamous A-B-C Cookie Monster clip.)
  • Lots and lots of bellbottoms.

None of that would ever be shown to todays kids.  And why?  Because all of it has been deemed to be dangerous behaviour.  But is it really?

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Old school vs. new

I would rather my kids watch the outside of the box Sesame Street old school than the formulaic one that is currently offered on PBS. As my brilliant 19 year old nephew put it, old school Sesame Street taught kids how to think and now Sesame Street teaches kids what to think.

Do you remember the yo-yo man and the lost kid? What great advise yo-yo man gave to the boy!  “You should figure it out yourself”.  Do you remember the kid buying a loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter?  No need to write it down mommy!  I can remember!  Neither of those clips would be suitable for today’s preschool children, according to so-called child experts.  And why?  Because those children were left to think for themselves.

What are some clips from new Sesame Street?  Let’s see, there’s Jack Black and the fuzzy red incarnation of evil itself Elmo teaching about octagons.  Then there’s Neil Patrick Harris (love him!) singing about shoes.  Where’s the thinking involved in those?  (And if anyone can show me a new Sesame Street clip that would make me jump for joy and change my stance, please point me to it!  I will even make sure everyone who visits me here will see that I am wrong.)

How about the guest songs?  Well, Feist visited Sesame Street and sang a redone version of her 1-2-3-4 song.  But, way back in the day, Paul Simon visited Sesame Street and sang Me and Julio.  Can you see the difference there?  Which gives you a good feeling about the future generation?  I weep for todays generation of children when the freedom to think for ones self is not considered appropriate for preschoolers.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t include a rant about Elmo’s world in here.  My personal feeling about Elmo aside, I hate Elmo’s world.  A lot.  Sure kids like it, but kids will watch a video consisting of fish swimming in an aquarium.  And I would rather they did.  At least fish are unpredictable.  “Hey, I wonder where the orange one will swim next!  Oh and look!  The angel fish (just for you my friend Angel <3) swam in the same place three times and is now moving to a different area! What will happen next!”  With Elmo’s world, kids know exactly what will happen next.  Right down to the words of the song he will sing at the end of the episode.

And just for fun, watch the clip of Elmo’s song with Big Bird and Snuffy and put a sarcastic undertone on everything Big Bird and Snuffy sing and say.  “To think, he wrote that himself” *roll eyes and snicker*

My Own Seven Layers of Hell

October 3, 2009

I know there’s the whole seven layers of Hell, but I can’t really put these in any order of bad to baddest. So, here are my seven layers of Hell, in no particular order.

4. An eternity where “It’s A Small World” and the Smurf themes are played non-stop.  It’s a small world.  Yeah.  We’ve all been on the ride or have at least seen some videos of the ride.  My memories of going through that ride, of course, all involve that song.  The first time I went on the It’s A Small World ride I was ten and had the distinct pleasure of having the boat stop for a good 15 minutes in the middle of the ride while the maintenance crew fixed the roundy gizmo that connects to the wogle dohick so the ride could continue.  I don’t want to be over dramatic but – Worst. Fifteen minutes. Of. My. Life. (Apparently, this is not an uncommon occurrence.)  When I was young, we would go to Canada’s Wonderland once a year.  They had Yogi Bear’s cave.  It was so cool!  You just walked through it and it showed little animatronic characters from Yogi Bear.  At the end, there was a room that was all upside down!  The furniture was above you and you were walking on the ceiling!  How cool is that!  Then, the Smurfs became popular and they replaced Yogi’s cave with a Smurf cave.  That isn’t so bad, really.  I liked the Smurfs and the cave was still really neat, although there was no upside down room at the end but Gargamel’s area was all dark with black lights and lightening and that was pretty cool*.  But the Smurf theme played through the cave non-stop.  When there was a lot of people, you would be forced to stop in one place for a few moments from time to time, all the while hearing the theme from the Smurfs.  Either of those two songs played for an eternity would be hell enough, but both of them.  I… I just don’t even want to think about that.

2. An eternity where the only food options are buffets.  I. Hate. Buffets.  Look, if I’m going to pay for a pre-made meal, I want it brought out to me.  I don’t want to have to stand behind some guy who can’t decide if he really wants the noodles with questionable sauce or not.  And then there’s the people who go the wrong way in the lineup.  Then there’s the kids who can’t see over the side and drop a huge scoop of food on the floor. And then there’s the “what exactly is this supposed to be?  Meatballs? maybe?” factor.  And then there’s the whole ordeal of getting the food for my kids (yes, in buffet hell, my kids would be there).  Go with Lilly and Madeleine and Victoria.  Hold Victoria’s plate and a plate for Rosemary while I try to scoop food on everyone’s plate.  Then Madeleine can’t carry hers so add that to the pile.  Then have the argument that no, Lilly, you don’t like that and won’t eat it so you shouldn’t take it because it’s wasteful.  It is better now that the kids are older, but I sill hate herding two of them to the feed trough to pick up their food.  By the time I get mine, they’re done their first plate and want seconds.  Yeah, buffets suck and would certainly have a place in my personal Hell.

7. An eternity of MMO lag.  “Oh good!  There’s that mob I have been after for the last three hours!  It finally spawned!  I’ll just run over there and…. wait a minute.  I’m hitting it but, why am I not doing any damage?  That’s weird.  All of the other players are standing still…. oh crap!  I’m lagging again, aren’t I?”  And the next thing you know, you’re dead and the rare spawn has been killed by another player and you have to wait for it again.  I shudder at the thought of spending an eternity like that.

3. An eternity without any Joss Whedon shows.  I don’t mean not seeing any ever again, although that would be bad enough in and of itself. My obsession with Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog is so deep I think that only an eternity with no access to that Emmy Award winning show could cure me.  And Firefly?  Yeah, that special place in hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in theatres would be a hell without Firefly.  No more Buffy kicking ass, no more brooding, sorrowful Angel and no more perfectly beautiful Dolls. But, an eternity where Joss Whedon shows never even existed?  Well, that is a hell I have no interest in! No Slayer Slang? No crazy random happenstance?  No Shiny? Just no! Make it stop!

6. An eternity of listening to people quoting Monty Python nonstop. I love Monty Python.  I watch their movies and shows.  I have even quoted them myself.  But, you know, there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  I don’t want to spend two hours sitting at a table where people constantly quote Monty Python (true story), much less an eternity of it.  Don’t make me fetch the comfy chair! 

1. An eternity without Diet Coke. I have in the past gone on a sort of Coke cycle. I would be totally off any kind of pop and then start drinking Coke. I would then realize that all that sugar wasn’t good for me and switch to Diet Coke. Then I would think about all of the caffeine and how my body shouldn’t depend on it so much and wean myself off, only to start the cycle all over again a few months later. However, I have been stuck on the Diet Coke part of the cycle now for about a year and a half. I cannot imagine going a day without it, much less an eternity.

5. An eternity with nothing to read but 1980s (and early 1990s) young adult fiction.  Ah, Sweet Valley High.  How I loved you in my tweens.  Elizabeth with her romantic boyfriend, Jessica with her crazy schemes. And Babysitter’s Club.  You also have a special place in my heart.  Clear headed Kristy, artsy, exotic Claudia, sophisticated Stacey, shy Mary Anne and independent Dawn.  All of you from both books were with me when I was suffering at the hands of my bullies.  Your stories were an escape and I thought you were all just so cool.  I wanted your lives.  The babysitters all had it so together, the Wakefield twins were popular and beautiful, none of which I felt applied to my life at that time. But, MY. GOD!  Have you revisited any of those stories?  Elizabeth is a busy body know-it-all who will interfere with anyone’s life ’cause she has all of the answers and knows best. Don’t have a boyfriend?  Elizabeth will help you!  Parents headed for divorce? Elizabeth will get them back together!  Your parents are racist jerks and don’t want you dating someone of a different ethnicity? She can fix that too, just let her go talk to your parents.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t want her help, she’ll just barge on in and fix it all for you.  No need to thank her.  Just tell her how perfect you think she is and how much you wish you could have her life. And Jessica! What a skanky cock tease! Girl never put out but sure did have a long line of guys who wanted to pop that cherry.  Why, I will never know.  I’m not sure why any guy would want to have anything to do with a psycho who is not only unpredictable, but is likely to accuse you of date rape when you try to go for a feelskie.  The whole Sweet Valley universe is just so warped. Now, I have never left my kids with a sitter other than family (I’m cheap, what can I say?), but if I ever did and that sitter decided that she knew how to parent my kid better than me, I would put that 13 year old in her place so fast she wouldn’t know what hit her.  Listen, BSC. You may think you know what’s best for the kids you babysit, but you’re 13.  If you ever tell my overweight kid that it’s OK to go off the diet I have made for him with the help of a doctor, I will bitch slap your face.  If you ever convince my extremely shy kid that she should be part of a pageant because you’re jealous of your friends who are helping other pageant kids, I will put you in a frilly dress and have you stand in front of a crowd who will yell out your faults and shortcomings while you have a fake smile plastered on your face.  To run it down:  Kristy – bossy, controlling bitch who really should have no friends at all: Mary Anne – shy doesn’t begin to describe it, stand up for yourself and tell Cookie et el. to back off and stay away from Logan; Claudia – you need to go to a school for the learning disabled.  Really. And those clothes (I love the 80s!), I hate to tell you this, they don’t make you look artistic.  They make you look like a clown.; Stacey – Just stop it.  I don’t need you to tell me how sophisticated you are.  I get it.  Really.  You’re from New York.  Just shut up already!; Dawn – well, you have a special place in my heart Dawn because you were my favourite.  But… relax, OK? Just because you don’t want to eat foods consisting of refined sugar and ingredients I can’t even pronounce, doesn’t mean those of us who love Oreos are doomed to a life of cavities and weight watchers.  Stop expecting your friends to jump on with your causes.  Be the change, Dawn, be the change.**

I said they’re in no particular order…***

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* Sadly, they have gutted the cave to make room for an arcade.  I weep for this generation when we tear down an imaginative ride to make way for an arcade in the middle of an amusement park.  Video games at home are one thing but do we really need to put them in the middle of a park where kids should be encouraged to engage with the world instead of retreating into a video game?

** Lilly reads Babysitter’s Club now. I’m not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, she’s reading.  But on the other hand, those books are so formulaic that I can’t even get her to look twice at the copy of The Breadwinner trilogy I bought for her. She has complained now about books that she can’t remember the characters because they’re not introduced like they are in Babysitter’s Club at the beginning of the book.  So…

***You know, I’m going to add an eighth level here.  An eternity of running from zombies and not having a shotgun or a chainsaw.  That’s just plain frightening.

Risk your child’s safety, for the sake of their sanity – Part 3 Let’s talk about sex (offender registry)

September 30, 2009

People who commit sexual offences against children are probably the most hated people around.  And they should be.  To take the trust of a child and abuse that trust in such a way to create emotional damage from which a child will likely never recover takes a certain kind of evil.  To look at a child’s innocence and want to gain power over them in a perverse way is such a serious crime the the public needs to be informed when a person has in the past been convicted of such a crime. The sex offender’s registry is a good tool for a parent to use to keep their children safe, right?

Not necessarily.  If the registry were designed to include only those who are a threat to children it would be a good tool.  However, the way it is designed now, a child of 14 can end up on the registration for life for having sex with his 13 year old girlfriend.  The 14 year will be labelled as the most dangerous of sex offenders due to the nature of their “crime”.  Please read the following links.  They explain the failings of the sex offender’s registry better than I can.

Classically liberal writes about children labelled as offenders and in another post clarifies and backs up her statements.
Read about Ricky who was labelled a sex offender at age 16 for having sex with a girl who told him she was 16.  He will be on the registry for life.
Read about AJ and List Dameree who were at risk of being put on the sex offender’s registry for taking bath time pictures of their three daughters.
And then read about the residency restrictions these “offenders” will have  – even the “offenders” who are not convicted may end up on the list.

Add to the above the fact that the registry only includes those who have been caught and most abusers will have hurt a dozen children before they are caught, and we have to ask ourselves just how effective such a registry really is.

Proponents say it’s worth it if one child is saved from abuse. I say if we are willing to let innocent people suffer for crimes they did not commit then we don’t deserve to call ourselves a free society.

Negligent  mother example #3

The risk: Not knowing if someone convicted of a sex offence involing children lives near me or has contact with my kids.

I have never looked at a sex offender registration and so I have no clue if the man down the street that my kids talk to from time to time is a convicted sex offender.  I have never taught my kids to stay out of strangers houses if they are invited in for a cookie.

The precautions: Instilling a healthy respect for their bodies and talking to them about what to do if they feel uncomfortable in any situation.

I know that my children are most likely to be abused by someone they know and so have taken the route of telling them to put up a fight and run away from anyone who is doing anything to them that they feel uncomfortable with.  I have not put a fear of strangers into them, nor have I instilled a fear that everyone is out there to get them.  I have taught them to respect their bodies and that no one has a right to touch them anywhere if they don’t want them to.  They identify their genitals and man’s genitals using proper terms.  Cute names like “pee pee” and “tinkle box” give children a view of their body the is unrealistic cute. We have an open attitude about sexuality in this house.  If I make it taboo, then how likely are my kids going to come to me to tell me if anything does happen?

The reaction from other parents: None because I don’t talk about it with them

I will admit to keeping silent on my beliefs that the sex offender’s registry is more harmful right now than it is helpful.  Many parents are supportive of the sex offender’s registry and it’s not an argument I want to have while sitting chatting over a cup of coffee.

Why it’s worth the risk:  Fearful kids will grow up to be fearful adults

I have no stats to back me up on any of this, but Helene Guldberg, Ph.D. in psychology and the author of Reclaiming Childhood: freedom and play in an age of fear, has written an article on the consequences of teaching children to fear all strangers.  Here are a few excerpts from that article:

Inculcating children with a fear of all strangers is counterproductive. The message this imparts to parents and children is to be suspicious of any adult who wants to work with children.

The sad consequence of all this regulation is that, one way or another, children will pick up signals about stranger danger, the problem of photography, the implications of vetting – and the only message it is possible to draw from this is that it should not be taken for granted that you can trust adults.

Another side effect of today’s culture of fear – and in particular of the paedophile panic – is that adults no longer feel confident to step in to help children in trouble.

 Want to take a risk?:   Don’t look at the sex offender’s registry

There is nothing I can say or do that will convince someone to let go of their fear of paedophiles.  All I can do is to say that there is a certain freedom in trusting people.  Not only for my kids, but for me too.  I am free not to worry about the dangers lurking behind the closed doors of a neighbours house.  As Helene Guldberg says at the end of her article:

If we can harness a more positive outlook about our fellow human beings and challenge institutionalized suspicion and state-authorized scaremongering, then we really might free up our children’s lives and allow them both to enjoy themselves and to learn through living.

Part 4 Turning parents into criminals – coming sometime this century

The Adventures of Lilly and Madeleine – at the ripe old age of seven and nine*

September 28, 2009

While looking up stats and information for my Risk Your Child’s Safety For the Sake of Their Sanity series** , I came across Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog.  One read and I was hooked and now make it a daily visit.  Today, Lenore posted a story about a mom, Lynn, who let her seven year old go get the mail for the first time.  The mailbox is down the street and around the corner, putting her child out of her sight for a number of minutes.  I highly recommend you visit Lenore’s blog to read about it.  Lynn’s take on her situation is such a cute read!

It made me decide to tell the story of Lilly and Madeleine’s first trip to the Dollar Rama by themselves.  Now, we are a walking family.  I deliberately live in a neighbourhood that has everything I would possibly need within a half hour walk. So, me and my kids walk everywhere.  Let me preface this by saying I would never suggest allowing anything like what I allowed for a child who is not familiar with his or her surroundings, but I would suggest people familiarize their kids with their surroundings so they can do something like this. I’m afraid that this needs a map to fully understand what exactly went down.  I needed a map to fully understand it when they were explaining it to me!  So, here’s the map (let’s call the street running vertically Main St. and let’s call the street running horizontally First Ave):

Photobucket

Lilly and Madeleine wanted to go to the dollar store themselves, sans growups.  It is marked on the map with the $$$.  The green dots represent streetlights and the red circle is a really busy intersection that I didn’t want them to cross alone, with or without lights. In order to avoid the busy intersection (because people there can be really aggressive drivers), I had to give them directions different than the ones we normally take.  They had been to Shopper’s Drug Mart to pick up milk for me before, but never had I let them cross the busy street alone before this experience.

The directions I gave them were to take the path that leads to the back of the Shopper’s Drug Mart and then to cross the parking lot and end up at the T intersection with the lights, which is another parking lot entrance and First Ave.  I wanted them to cross the street at those lights, walk to the corner of First and Main, turn left then walk down to the plaza with the $$$.  I thought it would be easy for them to follow as we had been to the $$$ numerous times (cheap snack crackers FTW!) by a more direct route but have crossed the street at that T-intersection many times for other reasons.

They ended up getting to First Ave with no problem but they didn’t really cross it.  Through some sort of weird directional mix up, they ended up walking toward the fire station!  They got to the fire station and said “Hmmm, this isn’t right!” and turned around.  They ended up at the corner of First and Main – the intersection I didn’t want them crossing – and crossed the street… the wrong way.  They ended up walking toward Archie’s.  Once they reached Archie’s, they said “Well, this isn’t right!” and turned around and went back to the corner of First and Main again and ended up crossing it again.  They were now headed toward the library.  They reached the library (where we go once a week) and said “this isn’t right either!”.  But they know that $$$ was right across the street and we have walked to $$$ after the library a few times.  So, they continued heading in the same direction down Main, go to the other set of lights, cross the street, end up on the right side of the street (finally!) and headed to $$$, which is how we go when we get there after our library trips. 

Being completely confused as to how they got there, they decided to just go down Main St, crossing the insane intersection yet again, continuing down Main until they reach the street leading to our subdivision.  From there, they made it home.  Crazy kids!

So, what did I do during this whole ordeal?  I did start wondering after they were gone for an hour and a half.  My mom was over and so she walked to route to $$$ that I gave the girls and called me on her cell when she didn’t see them on her way or at the store.  I started feeling a little anxious at that time.  I was picturing them walking around some subdivision off of Main St., trying to find their way home.  I went outside and took a peek down my street in both directions, only to see Lilly and Madeleine round the corner.  I gave my mom a call and told her all was well.

When they came home, I couldn’t help but laugh at their misadventure.  They were so scared that I wasn’t going to allow them to go on their own again because they crossed at the intersection I wanted them to avoid.  Had they deliberately disobeyed that request, I would have been angry and would have banned them from solo trips to the store for a while.  But, there was nothing malicious in their intent – they were just lost and confused. 

I was so proud of them for keeping a cool head and being aware of their surroundings.  I toyed with the idea of giving them my cell to call me if they got lost but it wasn’t charged so it stayed home with me (my cell is never charged, which I suppose defeats the purpose of having a cell).  In the end, I’m glad I didn’t.  They learnt something that day, a lesson I could never teach them.  And they gained a giant leap toward independance.

Prologue:  They have since made the trip to Dollar Rama two more times.  Madeleine now wants to go it alone without Lilly, and when the opportunity presents itself, I think I’ll let her.

_____________________________________________________

*Well, Lilly is nine and Madeleine is seven, but the title wouldn’t have rhymed that way.

**Part three is coming soon, really it is. Kevin’s seizures and those pesky demanding kids are keeping me from writing it up.  I mean, they like, want food and stuff.  And they’re so dirty so I have to, like, clean their clothes and sheets.  I know.  It’s so unreasonable!

"Meet the teacher" night is so overrated.

September 25, 2009

I don’t know how constructive this will be or if it will be more of a rant. Let me start by saying that I was in the ER with Kevin (again) the night before and was just exhausted. The kids were all hyper, I had to go to “Meet the Teacher” night with all four of them as the solo parent. The school is always overcrowded and I was just not in the right frame of mind to deal with all of that. So, perhaps I’m just being a crank.

Let me get the main point out of the way, and then go on with my pity party.  I really don’t like meet the teacher night.  It’s supposedly for parents to see the class and just spend two or so minutes with the teacher and then leave.  But that’s not how it goes.  You get a room full of lingering parents who think that their child is just the best child to ever grace the face of the planet, and don’t you think so teacher?  And oooooooh look!  Isn’t that the most beautiful picture you have ever seen?  Can you believe that their child did such a good drawing?  I know!  It’s just unbelievable how talented their precious little dew drop is! 

Maybe it’s just a problem at the school my kids attend that a lot of parents talk loud enough to be overheard so you can pay attention to how wonderful their child is.  It’s been my experience since Lilly’s been in Kindergarten, though, and I hate it.  My approach is “Hi, how are you, I’m Sara, Lilly/Madeline/Victoria’s mom.  How’s the year going so far.  Any issues?  No, good.  Well, I’ll see you later!” And then I say “OK, Lilly/Madeleine/Victoria, show me what you want me to see”.  I get a kid guided tour where I oooh and aaahh privately over what they show me and then we go home.  It just sucks the energy out of me to listen to all of the praises a lot of the parents heap on to their kids.  But, let’s face it, the yellow, red and orange finger paintings all of Madeleine’s class did all looked pretty much the same.  Really, I do care about your kids artistic ability, but only in the same way that you care about my kid’s artistic ability.  So, just keep it to yourself, mmmkay?  (Yes, I am a bitch.)

Any other mommies with school aged kids out there experience this?  Am I being a big crank?  Let me have it, I can take it!

So, on with the pity party.  We set out last night at 6:30. Living right behind the school, it took us less than a minute to get there, but by the time we got there I was ready to inflict great amounts of harm on the kids. I told Lilly and Madeleine I would meet them in their classrooms and they took off.  But Victoria and Rosemary took off with them.  No, that was not the plan!  So I yelled for them to come back and told them that they will stay with me or I would chose a family at random and they would go home with that family.  (OK, no I didn’t tell them that, but I was tempted. They were bouncing off the walls since about 4:30 that day and I was at the end of my rope already.)

We get to Victoria’s class and… no teacher.  OK then.  We wait around a bit and… no teacher.  I decided to go out front to buy them the one cookie each I said they could have and there is Victoria’s teacher at the bake stand selling goodies.  OK, then, let’s go see Madeleine’s teacher.

We get to Madeleine’s class and I say hello to Mme. Grouette and took the time to tell her about Kevin’s condition.  It’s usually something I tell the teacher’s during the first week of school, but I forgot this year.  So, we said hi and I told her that from time to time there will be a note saying there was an emergency and it’s always having to do with Kevin’s brain, but I that I like to keep the teacher’s informed of things like surgery etc. when life is a little more hectic for us.

Then on to Lilly’s class.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  But for both of those visits, all four of my kids were out of control.  So, we get outside of Lilly’s portable and I send the kids away to play for a bit, hoping it would burn off some energy.  I chatted with some parents I knew for about 10 minutes and then gathered Victoria and Rosemary to go to Victoria’s class.  I told Lilly and Madeleine to stay out of the classrooms and just go home when their friends did.

We get to Victoria’s class and there’s still no teacher.  So I have Victoria show me stuff around her class, show me some stuff she did, grab her shoes that she’s supposed to bring home every day and then we head on home causing Victoria and Rosemary to dissolve into a fit of tears because they want to play with Lilly and Madeleine.  But, it’s 7:15 by this point and they have to get to bed.  So, I go home and tuck them in to bed and go to collect Lilly and Madeleine so they can have a shower before bed. 

I send those two home and go for a walk to hopefully ease my frame of mind.  I walk around the park for about 20 minutes, and head on home.  On the way home, I see a plastic fireman’s hat that I pick up to give to the school, thinking they could use it.  When I get back to the school, I see them tearing down the baked goods stand and ask if they want some help.  And in turn for that I get attitude.  Big attitude.  This is from the teacher whose class Victoria was supposed to be in but ended up needing to be switched.  Thank. God.  She is a royal bitch.  I was met with resistance from everything I talked to her about the one day Victoria was in her class.  A friend of mine had an awful experience with her.  And then she bitched at me when I asked if she wanted my help?  So, I just held my hands up and said “fine” and walked away.  (She was pissy that there were a bunch of unlabelled containers that people didn’t pick up and when I asked if she wanted help she said in a snotty tone “Well, unless all of these are yours, there’s nothing you can do.”  So I jokingly said “You know, I live right over there (pointing to my yard) and I can easily take them off your hands!”  M. Baugley laughed, she glowered.  “What, are you going to go get a container?  I don’t have time for this.”  So, that is when I walked away.)

I went to see the principal to ask her a couple of questions and to give her the hat I found, which she said could be put to good use in one of the Kindergarten classes.  And then she complimented me on my jacket (for all of you visiting from The Parent Path, yeah, that jacket. The upholstery one.  See, Joann and I are not the only ones who think it rocks!)  I then left and went home.

So, along with my usual “Meet the Teacher” issues, I had the extra bonus of super hyper kids, being overly tired from the ER visit the night before, having to solo the visit and a snotty teacher.  I am going to add another level to my own personal hells.  There is buffet hell, and now there is “Meet the Teacher” hell.  But, on a plus side, I really like all of the kids’ teachers!

Sigh…

September 22, 2009

It’s articles like this that make me want to give up on society.  Yep folks, we had a good run at it but I’m sorry to break the news to you, we failed.

Health and safety ban coffee morning pensioners at public library – because they could spill hot drinks on children

A group of pensioners have been banned from holding a coffee morning at a public library for health and safety reasons – in case they spill hot drinks on children.

The seven members of the Over 50s coffee morning have been meeting every Tuesday for the past four years without incident at the Eye Library in Eye, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

But council officials have now axed the meetings claiming that toddlers from a nearby nursery who use the library at the same time could be injured if hot coffee spilt on them.

Yes, it’s true.  The children could have hot beverages spilt on them.  So, instead of having the toddlers in one area and the Over 50s coffee meeting at a table in another area, we’ll just ban the coffee.  After all, one of those little cherubs could get away from the group and could run over to the table and could bump into the table and could have a hot beverage spilt on them.  And then we’ll take all of the books off the shelves because one of the little tykes could climb the shelves and could pull a bunch of books down on top of another munchkin.  And then we’ll be sure to remove all doors from the facility because one of those sweeties could get their fingers caught.

I’m going to take heart in the fact that this happened in the UK and pretend like Canada is immune to this kind of thing.  I’m going to go steep me a pot of tea, sit back and read in the family room with blatant disregard to my kids’ health and safety as they roughhouse right next to the table with my cupa tea.

Risk your children’s safety, for the sake of their sanity – Part 2 Alone in the park

September 18, 2009

“Hi mom! I’m going to the park! Bye mom!” – That is often the only “conversation” I have with Lilly between the time she comes home from school and supper.

It used to be the case that from the second the end of the day bell rang to when kids had to be dragged home for supper, a park would be filled with kids climbing and playing while a pick up game of soccer was going on in the field nearby. Now, those parks are empty and silent during this time. What has caused this change? Certainly, dual income homes means that kids are going to daycares and after school programmes instead of the park. But then, what about after supper? Why are parks so barren then? The homework load that most children are saddled with means that kids have to spend their time between supper and bed doing their work, cutting into their play time. But, then why on the weekends and during school holidays are these parks so empty? Is it because they are all playing in their yards or on their streets? I see little evidence of that in my neighbourhood, but I suppose it’s possible. Mostly, though, kids are simply not allowed to go to a park without a parent – and most parents don’t want to go to the park.

Negligent mother example #2

The risk: Letting my kids play out of eyesight at the park or letting them go to the park alone.

When we lived 25 minutes from the school, I would often meet my kids at the park beside the school where they would play from 2:40, when the bell let them out of school, until 5:00, when we finally decided to go home. While there, I would let the older three (then 7, 5 and 3) play on the hill away from the equipment while I stayed with my then one year old. This put them out of my direct line of sight as there are many trees both on the hill and between the equipment and the hill. When we moved to our current house, I allowed my then 8 and 6 year olds to go to the park without me. Before our move, I would let them go to the school playground nearby without me.

The park has many paths that wind around the three baseball fields. I have taken to walking those paths after the school day is done while my kids play on the equipment or on the hill, leaving my 9 year old responsible for my 3 and 5 year old. And by that I mean if they get hurt or in trouble, Lilly has to yell for me and I’ll be there, her only responsibility. (I need to get more exercise.)

The precautions: None

I figure that if they are in earshot, I will be able to tell if someone is lying bleeding to death in a pool of their own blood. The thought of someone coming to abduct or hurt them didn’t really cross my mind, but we had the “stranger danger” talk before and they knew to scream loudly and fight. I guess I would hear that too. Once they started to go to the park without me, the only thing I told them was if there were any kids there who were making them uncomfortable to just come home. I also told them to come and tell me if they decided to go to a friend’s house.

The reaction from other parents: Some didn’t care about the hill but most are uncomfortable with the idea of my sending my kids to play alone at the park.

Other parents would let their kids play over on the hill as well. There was three of us who I would group under the “relaxed parent” profile. But, when it comes to letting my kids go it alone, I am again in the very small minority (like the “I’m the only one in the neighbourhood who allows it” kind of small). It is the fear of “what if” that makes other parents reluctant to tread in the territory that I am willing to. I have experienced shocked raised eyebrows when I say my kids go to the park alone.

Why it is worth the risk: Unsupervised play has many health benefits – physically and psychologically

A study by University College London monitored 330 kids aged 8 to 11. They put tracking systems on their wrists and motion sensors on their belts and tracked their movement, direction, calories burned and speed for 4 days, including one weekend. The kids who were allowed unsupervised play were more active and used more calories than the kids whose play were supervised. The unsupervised kids also moved in less direct lines and took time to socialize and explore as they moved from activity to activity.

Lilly has been meeting her friends at the park after school since we moved to this house, not quite a year ago. She did not have friends in our old neighbourhood due to school location and the age of the residents (most of them were empty nesters). I have noticed a change in Lilly’s ability to interact with her peers since then. She a bit socially awkward but allowing her to explore social norms on her own in an unstructured environment has allowed her to conform without losing her spirit. I know that conformity is seen as a bad thing to some, but it happens to everyone to some extent. I am glad it happened for Lilly in a way that lets her keep her uniqueness. Could this just be her maturing as she gets older? Yes it could, but unsupervised play aides in the maturing process.

There is a climbing wall at the park that Madeleine loves. She doesn’t want to wait until I have time to take her and so her visits are frequently made without me. One day, she came running in the house all excited. “Mom! Mom! Next time we go to the park I have to show you something!” Not only has she mastered climbing the climbing wall, she has mastered standing on the climbing wall. Since the two friends I used to meet at the park have moved away, I don’t go as often as I used to. It took more time for Madeleine to learn her new trick than I was willing to spend at the park. Her sense of accomplishment and pride was almost contagious when she showed me. Could she have found something just as challenging in the back yard? Probably, but without having me there to watch over her she got to show me her trick once it was perfected, without me seeing the times that she fell. (I don’t know if that was more a benefit for her or me!)

Want to take a risk?: Take your kids to the park and let them loose.

Many neighbourhoods lack a green area or park. If this is the case for you and you don’t feel comfortable letting your kids travel to one alone, go with them. Bring a book, park yourself on a bench and read. See what your kids can get up to without you monitoring them. Let them play as far away from you as you feel comfortable with. Sit back and relax and enjoy the fresh air. Or you could drop them off if the park is close by and not a half hour trek from your house. Tell them you’ll be there to pick them up in two hours. If you have a park near by, let them go it alone. Give them a watch and let them know that they have until the alarm goes off and then it’s time to come home.

An empty field will do just as well as any park. Or a school yard, or a soccer field not in use, or a parking lot of an empty or closed store. There are many places for kids to explore! Giving your child a cell phone can help ease your anxieties, just make sure they aren’t the type who will lose it.

Next – Let’s talk about sex (offender registry).