How Big Did You THINK It Was Gonna Be?

For those of you who haven’t read any of my previous blog posts, you may not know that when I’m not being a mum or trying to be fabulous, or (recently) tracing my family tree, I run an adult toy website. Yes, my life is varied and strange.

Before you go getting ideas in your heads about all kinds of sordid stuff, it’s really a very classy site and the idea is that we need to reduce the stigma and shame about needing or wanting a little bit of help (or more fun!) in the bedroom. We sell kegel exercisers that help women get their lady parts back in working order after having kids, and lovely lotions and lubes to ease the way between couples. There are wonderful products that truly help women suffering from low libido or inability to orgasm, and that can help men with erectile difficulties. I love to educate people about all the possibilities out there. But, where there are sex toys, there is inevitably going to be some giggles too. I both love and dread those scenarios.

One of the things I quickly learned in the adult toy business is that a lot of toys are made waaay bigger than the average male anatomy. There are size queens and kings out there who like a bit of a challenge. And that’s great – for them. Then there are those folks who just don’t seem to understand what they’re getting into. I don’t know if it’s a case of “it seemed like a good idea at the time” or if they truly have no concept of how to measure stuff. Because all of the toys come with very specific and detailed measurements – for good reason.

For a while there, I would cringe whenever we would get an order for something that was… shall we say, substantial. Why? Because we also had a run on people who eagerly opened up their packages, delivered to their door by the unsuspecting postman, and then proceeded to freak out. Then they would email or call me and freak out and ask for a return or exchange for something more manageable. (Hopefully it will come as a relief to you all out there that returns are not an accepted policy in the online adult toy store industry.)

I  hate being the bad guy. I really do. But seriously, if the very TITLE of the product includes the words 12 inches, how big did you think it was gonna be? Because, let me tell you, 12 inches is the length of my forearm – and I’m a tall gall at 5’8″. And don’t even get me started on circumference because we’re talking pop cans – or bigger. I actually got a sample to use as an educational demo so that I can help people realize what they’re getting into and I love opening up my samples cupboard where it sits, still in the box, and showing my friends. Their jaws drop in collective wonder and then they laugh. Because really, it could be used as an effective weapon against burglars. I could either knock them unconscious or they would flee in terror at the mere sight of it.

I wonder if these customers have just lost perspective from watching too much bad porn or if they need to retake grade three math. Or is it kind of like how big boobs seem like a good idea until you’re faced with actually having them attached to your own body, weighing you down and making your back ache.

Whatever the cause of these misunderstandings I am trying to save others from the same fate by adding a size guide to each product page in the hopes that others will not suffer the same fate.  And for those who got exactly what they were hoping for, I tip my hat to you while at the same time cringing and crossing my legs.



The Gift of Education: A Follow-Up

For any of you who read my post on the Gift of Education, you will know that I met with Mini Me’s teacher this week. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read that post here:

To make a long story short, Muppet and I were a bit worried about Mini Me being in the top half of a grade 4/5 split. He’s a bright kid and rarely gets a grade lower than a B+. We wanted to make sure that he wasn’t going to fall through the cracks, that he would be challenged, and not allowed to coast, which he would do happily if allowed.

A teacher friend of mine pointed out kindly that we are lucky that we have these kinds of problems and I totally appreciate that. That was why I was having anxiety about approaching the teacher to begin with. I don’t like causing problems, or making an issue of things, but I guess what I learned about myself is that when it comes to my kids, all bets are off. I will do whatever it takes to make sure they’re ok. Thank you Mothering Instinct. Glad to see you’re in full working order.

So, off I go to meet the teacher. I sent the kids home ahead of me so we could feel free to talk in privacy, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. Mr. D. is probably around my age (40-something) and he is no newbie to this business. He has also taught grade 6 for the last 7 years. He listened to my concerns, and said that he was really glad I came to see him. He said that when teaching grade 6 he often saw kids who would hit a wall academically because they had never learned how to work hard or face challenges, and by then he was trying to get those kids over a huge hump in their school careers before sending them off to junior high. He found it frustrating. Having me air my concerns about Mini Me meant that he was really taking stock of his abilities, as well as those of all his other kids, individually. He had even started giving my boy some grade 6 math, which he was overjoyed to tackle. I left feeling that all of my questions had been answered and that my kid was going to have a fun, rewarding year with a teacher who really ‘gets’ him.

Which really got me fuming again about the way our teachers are treated. Here in Canada, teachers are paid more than in the United States, but yet in the province of Ontario (where I live) the government has just passed a bill to freeze teacher’s wages, cut sick days and deny them the right to strike for two years. WTF?

In our school, teachers run numerous after school clubs and sports activities so that our kids can be healthy, fit and involved. They volunteer at the fun fair and sit in the dunk tank, they meet with parents on their own time, and go the extra mile to help the kids who really need it. They do all of this on top of caring for our kids from 9am to 3:30pm five days a week. For some kids, that is more time than they spend with their parents. And yet, we want to freeze their wages? Try pulling that one on most CEOs in this country.

I volunteer in the classroom and go on field trips regularly. I see first-hand what those teachers are dealing with and I know that I only get the tip of the iceberg. These people are handling a classroom full of rambunctious, hormonal, distracted, chatty little people and trying to actually teach them something. And not just that, but teach according to a strict curriculum with definite expectations about what has to be accomplished. Then you need to add in the kids who have behavioral problems, learning disorders, anxiety, problems at home, abuse, bullying… It is teachers who often identify these problems. I know teachers who have had to call Children’s Aid. I can’t even imagine how stressful that must be and how much you want to just grab that kid and hug them and hide them from what their life must be like, but you can’t because you have to maintain a professional distance. And we say these men and women need to have their sick days cut?

I just spend the majority of the summer (minus two weeks of camp) with my two fairly functional and well-behaved children and found it mentally exhausting. The bickering and fighting, the nagging and demands. Monkey is only just passed the stage where parenting s also physically demanding. The picking up and carrying, dressing them, being called in to help with every little thing.  Come September, I feel like I need a holiday. And yet, we begrudge our teachers having 8 weeks off in the summer? Please. I’m sure it takes them about 3 weeks to stop twitching from the stress of being responsible for all of our kids, then the last two weeks are spent with that slowly creeping feeling of anxiety for another school year. I have been told that no teacher sleeps well the night before the first day of school. What will the kids be like? Will they have a low-key class, or a challenging one? Which kids will need special help and which will cause problems? I shudder just thinking about it.

My kids have been so lucky to have some truly amazing teachers in their lives and it has helped them to love learning. From what I am seeing now, we have hit on two gems again. I think this is going to be another stellar year


The Gift of Education

Finally we have reached the end of the first week of school and it has been a bit of a rollercoaster in this house. Not for the kids, but for me. They were all eager to head off, ready half an hour early, backpacks on and chattering incessantly from the very first morning. That eagerness has given way to some complaints and whining, caused by what I know to be over-tiredness. It’s hard to go from spending the last week playing Minecraft constantly to having gym class every day AND hiking up and down the four stories that comprise our massive, turn of the century school building. Oh yeah, and it has been HOT. About 3o with the humidex every single day. Did I mention the school isn’t air-conditioned?

My own little rollercoaster journey started when I picked them up after the first day of school and found out that Mini Me was not in the bottom half of a grade 5/6 split, but instead in the top half of a 4/5 split. In case they don’t have split classes where you are, I can tell you that it’s a pretty common occurence here in Ontario. And here is the where I have a bit of a crisis on my hands.

Mini Me is great at the whole school thing. He pulls fantastic grades, he is cooperative and studious and respectful. Teachers love him and I have never heard anything more negative than ‘he needs to speak up more.’ So, all the way home that first day I’m wondering why the heck a kid who performs above his grade level in virtually every subject would be placed in a grade 5 class that is half populated by grade fours. I mean, the common stereotype is that you put the high achievers in a split where they will be exposed to the grade above them, not below. What the heck?

Welcome to my identity crisis. Was I being a snob? Was I underestimating the teacher and his other classmates? Was I one of ‘those parents’ who complains and raises a stink about stupid things? I let Muppet know, and to my great relief his reaction was also a resounding WTF?

So, we are meeting with the teacher on Monday after school to talk about how this whole thing is going to work out and if we’re not happy with the answers we get, we will be approaching the principal to change his classroom. Causing a stink at the school isn’t something I thought we would ever have to do and it makes me sick to my stomach to think that this may be the case, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I realize that this isn’t about Mini Me completely. It is also about me.

I came from a family where neither parent ever finished high school. There was never any talk of working hard to achieve your dreams. They never spoke of my sister and I going on to higher education or fulfilling careers. They were happy that we did well and got good grades but by high school, they were pretty much out of their depth. In my entire grade school career, I remember only two times when my parents ever got actively involved in my education.

The first was when the principal told my mother that she should discourage me from being a journalist (something I had wanted to be since about the 3rd grade) because I was too ‘quiet’ and ‘nice.’ He felt I would make a better english teacher. My mother recounted the conversation to me just like that and then the matter was never brought up again. I don’t know what she thought about it. She never told me, but it has always stayed with me.

The second was when I was placed in the top half of a grade 4/5 split. My father called the school. This was the man who never went to a single graduation or school play or awards ceremony, but he called the school and told them that his daughter was to be put in a straight grade 5 or into a 5/6. They moved me the next day. That was the very first time I remember my parents acknowledging that I was smart.

So, can you say baggage? I don’t want to have to speak to the teacher. I don’t want to go to the principal and demand a change if I think it’s necessary. But, you know what? I will do it for my kid. Because he is smart and because I want him to know what it’s like to have challenges academically. I want him to know that we have expectations of him to do well and to make something of his future. We want him to know that if he works hard, he can have a bright future doing something that he truly loves and that he finds fulfilling. And I want the school to know that just because he is ‘nice’ and ‘quiet’ that he is not to be underestimated. I am going to give him what my parents were never able to give me.