Social Media Parenting Perils or How My Child Got Scolded on Facebook

I may have mentioned in the past that I live in a neighbourhood very unique to the big city. We had a community organization, do street parties and fund raisers, our children play together on the street, and many of us parents know each other. Some of my best friends are the ladies who live on my street. With all this community togetherness, however, comes a downside. I have come to think of it as the Facebook Group of Nosiness.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to having a community Facebook group. It’s great when you’re looking for a recommendation on a good contractor or selling off the toys your children have outgrown. My issue is how some people have begun to use the site to air their grievances and to just generally vent. It has led to some rather amusing posts mind you. Like the time somebody decided to go on a diabtribe about the number of outdoor cats wandering through her backyard. I checked to make sure it wasn’t my cat she had issue with, then promptly ignored it all but I have been told that the thread had well over 100 posts and turned rather ugly by the end.

This weekend, things got a bit personal though and it had me longing for the days when it wasn’t quite so easy to air your dirty laundry.

My little Monkey has recently turned 9 and has been enjoying all the freedoms of playing outside unsupervised with his friends for quite some time now. With over 60 kids on our street aged 16 and under, there is never a shortage of kids to play with and since Mini Me has become a surly tween, with all the sulking and Minecraft playing that accompanies it, I am glad that Monkey has so many kids who can occupy his time. He loves to be outside running around and never gets into trouble… until now.

Since spring has finally arrived, we have been letting Monkey go to the park which is up the street and around the corner, with his friends. I am insistent that there should always be an older kid going along, but this weekend I made a tactical error. He asked if he could go to the park with two other boys his age and one of the older kids to deliver some outdoor toys that the older boy wanted to leave up there for the neighbourhood kids to use. There’s a fair collection of old dump trucks, play kitchens, and riding toys that people have contributed in the past, so I was fine with it.

Imagine my surprise when I went onto Facebook later that evening to see a post by a parent I don’t know describing my son’s little posse and their reprehensible behavior. It would seem that the older kids were launching these big toys off the top of the climbing structure in the presence of the park’s toddlers. Great. She went on to describe their appearance and what they were wearing, and commented that she did say something to them, but then she felt the need to go on Facebook and describe the incident further, saying that she wasn’t sure where the kids lived but she hoped they would be taken to task.

And you know, I would have been fine if it had been left at that. It was the ensuing comment thread that had my hackles up. About 10 comments had come in already, tracking the boys’ progress home and identifying them as living on our street. There were also several comments from parents about how their children would never do such a thing, how disrespectful they were, and a call to post the photo of the boys that the parent had taken of them – in order to describe them better, she said.

Now I was pissed.

I spoke to Monkey right away because honestly, I have never seen or heard of him doing anything like that. As far as the 9 year old boys of my acquaintance go, he’s a pretty passive kid. Loud, energetic, and willful sure, but never destructive of his own property let alone anybody else’s. He also loves little kids and is very careful around them, so I found it very uncharacteristic that he would do anything that could potentially hurt a little one. He was puzzled when I asked him what happened at the park and didn’t seem to really understand when I pushed further and asked if people were throwing around toys. As it turned out, he was a witness to what his friends were doing but said he didn’t participate himself. Why didn’t he speak out? He just “wasn’t that kid” who could say those things to his friends. He quite rightly pointed out that any time he has spoken up he has been told bluntly “you tell me what to do.” Sigh.

What he did or didn’t do was really immaterial by this point. It was the online witch hunt that upset me. Monkey was mortified when I told him how I found out about it all and couldn’t understand why somebody had to post something like that on Facebook for the whole neighbourhood to see. It had me thinking the same thing. The kids had already been told off by the parent at the park and in fact, she mentioned that several parents were watching it all happen and never said a thing. I applaud her for telling them off. But why take it to social media? Why open up the incident for a huge group of people who could now judge my child and his friends? Why the need to track them down and determine where they live?

It made me long for the days when kids could do stupid things and be told face to face by an adult that it was not okay. Where an isolated incident remained isolated. Where a kid could be marched home and made to stand there and be held accountable for his actions by a concerned bystander who just wanted to make sure things were put right and deliver a face to face apology.

In the end, I posted to the thread that the incident had been addressed, grounding had happened and the witch hunt could be called off. I left the thread and never went back to see what became of it. I figured that if the same group could go on for hundreds of comments about stray cats, who knows what they could do with this one.

I’m going to use this incident as a learning moment for my kids. They are still young enough that they don’t use social media themselves and they don’t understand the power of it. I want them to understand that what you put on social media is out there for all to see and you can’t take it back. If you choose to vent, you had better think about the people you may be offending, or hurting, or embarrassing. You need to think of the impression you are presenting about yourself and about other people. These are powerful tools and even though my little run in this weekend is very minor, it has also made me mindful of what I put out there. Lesson learned.

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A Year in the Life

Okay, so maybe not quite a year but you get the idea. And while this poor blog was always in the back of my mind, I just didn’t seem able to sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to make it happen.

The reasons were varied and I’m sure I’ll talk about them at length at some point but not right now. The two life altering biggies were my little Monkey’s diagnoses of ADHD and Tourette’s which came on the heels of my mum’s diagnosis of and battle with uterine cancer. They both took the wind out of my sails, let me tell you.

The update now, a year later, is that Monkey is fine, and so is my mum.

For Monkey, we were lucky enough to have a fantastic pediatrician who is not only knowledgeable but well connected. He had us at an OHIP covered, University of Toronto affiliated ADHD clinic within a couple of weeks. The Tourette’s was a bit of a surprise but he has always had little tics that we didn’t think about too much. Excessive eye blinking was the first one, then a little cough followed by a shoulder shrug came later. The worry was that medication for ADHD may worsen the tics but Monkey has been a textbook case so far. We hit on just the right medication first time out the gate and he has been taking “his pill” (that’s what he calls it) for about 7 months now with great results.

As for my mum, that was probably the longest year of my life. She doesn’t live in Toronto (where I now realize we get quicker, better, and more available care), so it took longer to get a diagnosis when she started having unusual bleeding. Referrals, appointments, trips to the ER – all handled by my amazing sister who lives with her – finally led to an appointment with oncology and a diagnosis of uterine cancer, stage one.

Long story short, after a complete hysterectomy, she is fine. It was early enough to not need radiation or chemo and although the surgery was high risk due to her age and other health problems, she came through with flying colours.

As for myself, I got a part-time job working at a local store that sells housewares. It was exactly what I needed to shake off the bad taste left in my mouth after about 9 months working for an online magazine and for a boss who was nearly impossible to please. Don’t get my wonderful partner Muppet started on that topic – he has some choice words.

Things have settle down now and I’m looking forward to a summer that is completely unplanned, with no summer camps and the kids underfoot every day. If you live in Toronto, I am looking for cheap ideas on how to entertain 9 and 12 year old boys!!

So there you have it. A year (almost) in the life. A new start, a new look to the blog and some new ideas on what I want to share with you all. I can’t wait to get started.

 

 

 

How Vi Got Her Groove Back

Well, hello there. What a strange feeling to be staring at a blank page for the first time in a couple of months. Turns out this winter really did a number on me. No, I wasn’t really sick per se. I wasn’t snowed in either. I was just really, really down. And, the thing is, I didn’t even really realize it until we took a much-needed family vacation and suddenly I was feeling so much more like myself. I didn’t even realize I had lost my groove until I started to feel it coming back. That’ll teach me to keep taking my vitamin D all winter long and not put off going to the gym, won’t it?

Here is right about when my groove started coming back…

Mexico 039

When we got back, I couldn’t believe how energized I felt. Once I got over the sheer exhaustion of all the travelling and the quite astounding tummy bug that I picked up, I was suddenly feeling like doing things again. I wanted to spend a day in the kitchen cooking. I wanted to go to the gym. I wanted to get back to my dance class.  Was it the Vitamin D? The adventures? The time away from our normal routine? I’m still not sure but I have to say that I am very happy that something seemed to snap me back to reality.

It’s going to be a fantastic spring.

Super Awesome Weekend of Fun Part One – CNE

Do you ever have one of those days where you are just capital T Tired? Where you want to stay in your pyjamas and sip tea and randomly nap all day? That would be me today. It’s a good tired but I am now sitting with my feet up and a glass of iced tea beside me and I really don’t want to move.

Friday was a trip to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) for those of you who are not from around these parts. I’m not even going to try and explain but if you’re curious, check out their website at http://www.theex.com/. I went with my sister and her 3 kids plus my niece’s friend this year and it was a very different experience this time around. No more forays through the farm building to look at the baby chicks, no more sitting and watching the wonderdogs show, no more craft fair. This trip was midway, midway, midway, and frankly, I was exhausted without having gone on a single ride.

Turns out Monkey and his cousin of the same age have now hit the magical 50 inch height barrier and they can now go on ANY RIDE. Seriously. I had to watch my kids boarding the Polar Express. Remember this baby? I’m not talking about the feel good Christmas movie. Remember how fast this thing goes and how you get crushed if you’re the unlucky soul sitting on the outside?

The thing with having 6 kids all going on rides is that it leaves the mums holding the bags and seeking shade. It was 37 degrees yesterday (that’s 98.6 farenheit for any Americans out there), and super sunny, so my sis and I spent a lot of the time hunkering beside game booths seeking shade and waiting and waiting and waiting. The best new attraction at the midway this year? There, amongst all of the hot dog, funnel cake, and cotton candy booths, was a new concession stand selling COFFEE!!!! Iced coffee, hot coffee, frozen vanilla lattes, you name it. Nothing hits the spot when you’re tired, sticky, and overheated like a gigantic frozen coffee. Ahhhhhhh.

Lunch, or early dinner, was at theCanadian National Exhibition - Food Stall inside Food Building Food Building. Imagine a food court but with a couple of hundred booths serving pretty much any food you can imagine.

Of course, the one thing they didn’t have was avocado sushi which was what Monkey wanted. That meant pizza instead, which he is much less likely to fill up on, and which meant he would be clamouring for ‘treats’ within an hour.

I ended up having some yummy Asian/Mexican fusion fish tacos that had a lovely soft shell, a crunchy Asian slaw, and soft flaky fish, with some creamy and spicy sauce that was divine. I was very happy to find something relatively healthy with a bit of veg, while in a building that has an entire booth dedicated to bacon.Canadian National Exhibition - Garden Show

After lunch it was back to the midway and I was extremely happy when Muppet showed up around 5:30 to up the parent/child ratio to a more sensible 2:1. By this point, the incessant whirring of the rides, blaring music, heat, sun, and smells (both good and bad) were sending me into a definite sensory overload.  Time for a bit of a break in the air conditioned and very quiet garden building. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I kind of look back and see this year’s trip to the CNE as a bit of a parenting experiment for Muppet and I. We learned very early on that our kids have limits to how much fun and excitement they can take in a day. If we don’t read their signs of fatigue and hunger, we end up with weepy, whiny  basket cases where our cheery children used to be. It’s not pretty and we always aim to avoid it.This year, because they were with their cousins and able to enjoy the ‘big kid’ midway, we followed their lead and just kept on going. We hit the midway again after dark, which I have to admit is extremely cool, and waited to see what would happen. There was funnel cakes and fresh lemonade, fun houses and more Polar Express. About 4 rides later the meltdowns began. Mini Me got off the Gravitron and said he was ready to go home NOW. He couldn’t wait any more, he wanted out of there.Then Monkey had a total mental collapse over something that I can’t even remember which meant I had to pick him up and carry him for a bit. That kid is skinny but he is no lightweight, let me tell you. He tucked his sweaty face into the crook of my sweaty neck and had a good cry. It was time to go.

One of the fantastic things about living in Toronto is the ready availability of taxis. It’s a splurge, sure, but when you have 2 kids having complete and utter mental breakdowns, $25 is a small price to pay to be walking in your front door within 20 minutes.

And the parenting lesson Muppet and I learned? Sure, our kids are older now and they can go on the big kid rides and we can have a family day without strollers and goldfish crackers and diaper bags, but their basic personalities are still the same. They want to be Energizer Bunnies like their cousins, but when push comes to shove, they need their sleep, they get over stimulated, and somebody needs to be the bad guy and put an end to the fun before things get ugly.

Oops, I just realized that they’re exactly like me!!

My Kids Make My Brain Hurt Sometimes

Maybe it’s because it’s almost 11am and I haven’t consumed my required 2 cups of fully caffeinated black tea, but I already have what I like to think of as Achy Brain. It’s a particularly dull ache accompanied by overall annoyance that I think is specific to parents and it is caused by just too many ridiculously stupid demands on your brain in too short a time period, compounded by having to repeat everything you say at least twice. Sound familiar to anyone?

Like this morning, I am trying to drink my tea and Mini Me decides to get himself a bowl of cereal. He takes the first bite of Rice Krispies and flies out of his chair with a yell of pain that gives me a jolt of fear and possibly another grey hair. I look at him slightly stunned, fully expecting him to start bleeding from the eyes or something. No. The Rice Krispie poked his kanker sore. Seriously? Can we get a little perspective. Geez.

CAUTION! DANGEROUS WEAPON!!

Monkey was given a balloon by one of the neighbourhood kids and left it in the kitchen so as I turn on the ceiling fan to get a little air circulation going (is it hot in here or am I having another hot flash?), I carry the balloon to living room for safekeeping.

Me “I’m moving your balloon out here because the fan is on in the kitchen.”

Him “What?”

Me “I’m moving your balloon out here because the fan is on in the kitchen.”

Him “What?”

Me “Never mind.” The balloon has now been delivered to safety and I am heading back to the blissful breeze in the kitchen and my cup of tea.

Him “No! Tell me! Tell me!”

Seriously? He is not only selectively deaf but also incredibly nosey, so while he is happy to ignore you while he’s immersed in Minecraft, he will hunt you down and nag you to death if he gets wind that he has missed some juicy bit of info. Which leads to the following conversation.

Mini Me almost drops the tv clicker in his Rice Krispies and in his lunge to save it (or the cereal, I’m not sure), he comes away with a wince and an arm wrapped around his stomach.

Me “What did you do?”

Him “I stabbed myself with the table edge when I was grabbing for the clicker.” Again, the table is rounded and wood, so probably not a lethal blow but I wince in commiseration.

Me “Ooh, that had to hurt.” See, I am not without sympathy, even when he’s being a drama llama

Monkey (From the living room couch) “What?”

Mini Me “NOTHING!!”

Monkey “WHAT?? WHAT HAPPENED?”

Mini Me “NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!”

Monkey “Whaaaaaat (insert whiny voice). Tell meeeeeeee.”

Me “HE BONKED HIS STOMACH ON THE TABLE. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, JUST STOP IT!!!!!”

I may have to make more tea if this is the way this day is going to progress. Maybe I should spike it. What kind of alcohol goes well in black tea? Anyone?

 

 

Boys and Gender Stereotyping

If you have read any of my previous blog posts, you know that I have two sons. Mini Me is 10 1/2 and very much the NIT (Nerd In Training), already following in his dad’s footsteps playing Dungeons and Dragons and video games, reading fantasy novels, and showing a real aptitude for science and math.

Monkey is a whirling dervish of creativity who also seems to be just as good at math as he is at art. There was a point, from the ages of about 3-6, that he was always in a superhero costume of some sort. He still plays dress up at least once a week with his BFF, although some of the costumes are getting a tad small on him and starting to fray at the edges.

Yesterday, I read a blog post by natural urban mama here: http://www.naturalurbanmamas.com/2012/08/19/notbuyingit/

She was talking about recent Gymboree and Old Navy ads for Halloween costumes that were very much gender stereotyped. Girls are pixies and fairies, boys are astronauts and EMTs and she very rightfully refuses to buy into it.

She did a second post today after a reader named Dave pointed out that her original article tackled the issue of girls dressing as boys but not vice versa. You can read it here: http://www.naturalurbanmamas.com/2012/08/20/notbuyingit-part-two/

What Dave very eloquently points out is that while we can be indignant about our girls not being shown in traditional ‘boy’ roles, the reverse is never spoken about. We don’t even address the idea of a boy wanting to wear a pixie costume.

I would beg to differ with Dave, just a little bit. We are a very liberal household and we live in a part of Toronto that is pretty far left-wing. Most of my friends are of the urban leftie hippie granola type and I know several bloggers who are of the same persuasion. Here’s the thing though: I hear talk about sons who dress up in fairy costumes or wear nail polish and sparkly barrettes. I see pictures of my friends’ little boys wearing princess dresses and lipstick. We want to be open-minded and let our kids be who they want to be, so we say it’s cute and it’s a natural part of growing up. Little kids are like magpies and ‘girly’ things are bright and shiny. But while this seems to be a typical stage for boys up until they’re about 6, I rarely seem to hear about boys who are still in this phase after the kindergarten years. And I wonder if that’s when society has determined that a boy wearing princess dresses goes from ‘cute’ to ‘wrong.’ This is when your son’s love of nail polish and sparkle becomes an ‘issue.’

It was at Monkey’s dance and drama class that I met another mom whose son, just turned 7, identified himself as a girl. He dressed in shirts with flowers on them and pants with pink trim, put his beautiful, long wavy hair in pigtails with colourful clasps and bows, and wore pink sneakers. I had no idea there was even another boy in the class until I spoke to her. We got friendly as moms do when they’re forced to wait around and she shared some of her pain with me. How her son was picked on at school, how the teachers didn’t know what to do, how he was starting to get angry and lash out physically. He had reached that age where it went from ‘cute’ to a very real problem. Not for the mom, but for society.

We lost touch after the classes ended and I do regret that because she was a pretty awesome woman. She wanted her son to be whatever he wanted to be and she wanted to support him every step of the way but society was making nearly impossible for this poor kid to be happy, despite all the love and support he was getting at home. And the most difficult part, she told me, was other kids. Because her son dressed like a girl, strangers assumed he was one, but the kids in his class knew the truth and they were making grade one pretty hellish for this poor kid. Somewhere along the way, those little boys who used to dress in princess costumes had learnt words like ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ and ‘fag.’

I wonder what happened to that little boy and his mom. I do think about them often and wish I had pursued the friendship between Monkey and her son because I realize now how much it must have meant for Monkey to be so accepting of her son. I think the conversation between Monkey and I went something like this…

Me “You seem to really like that other little boy. Do you know his name?”

Him “What little boy. It’s only girls”

Me “No, Chris (not his real name) is a little boy too.”

Him “Oh. He looks like a girl.”

Me “Yep. He likes girl clothes but he is a boy.”

Him “Oh.” and dances off.

I could pat myself on the back for a parenting job well done, but I think that it’s just in Monkey’s loving and trusting nature to accept all things. He has also grown up with a BFF who has two mommies, and in a school with about a 50% muslim population where head scarves are pretty commonplace. He doesn’t have much of a concept of ‘different is bad.’ I wish there were more kids like him out there. I wonder if there would be if we didn’t impose our own notions of gender at such an early age. I wonder how many kids are out there like that little boy from dance class who have learned that they are ‘wrong’ and are too afraid to be who they really want to be. And it makes me sad.

City Girl Survives Camping (Barely)

Yes, I went camping and I lived to tell the tale, although the fact that we came back Monday evening and it has taken me two full days to recover should be slightly telling.

Here are the things I learned while camping for the very first time in my adult life:

1. Make sure that everybody in your party took the whole freakin’ day off work on the day you are setting out. None of this ‘oh, I’ll just go in early and leave early B.S. It never works out and you end up leaving 3 hours late.

2. Make sure that the slightly less stinky but very nervous and constantly quaking dog has not been stowed away in your car. It will end up on your lap, shivering and panting for half the trip and you will have to constantly check to make sure that there are no little wet surprises left on your previously clean, dog hair free capris.

3. When borrowing a tent from friends, make sure all the pieces are there BEFORE you head out, or you will end up with something like this…

And praying to all that is holy that it doesn’t rain.

4. When the forecast calls for rain and you are stuck using a tent with tarps held on by bungie cord for a roof, it will inevitably rain.

5. Seaweed seems to love clumping up in the underboob of a woman’s bathing suit.

6. Never trust a teenager to have closed all the windows on the tent when rain is forecast.

7. Toasted marshmallows taste waaaay better when you have kids who are happy to keep you supplied and you don’t have to get off your butt to do it yourself.

8. Kids don’t seem to care if their juice boxes are only slightly cool, leaving more ice for the adult beverages in the cooler

9. Adult beverages are a complete necessity to take off the edge from being with 7 kids all day but also to help you sleep through the godawful dinn of crickets/cicadas/raccoons/drunken neighbours playing Gotye on repeat (I used to love that song but now I’m not so sure)

10. Sharing a bathroom with untold numbers of campers is completely disgusting, and no matter how well kept the facilities are, you will find somebody else’s long dark hair in the sink or shower stall.

11. Camping is hard freakin’ work for the grown-ups involved but when you see how much fun the kids are having, it almost seems worth it.

12. I would do it again, but only if we have our own tent, electricity on site, and running water., because I love my kids more than I love air conditioning and private bathrooms and my soft, comfy bed. And I love seeing them spending time with their cousins and aunts and uncles and even the stinky dogs. There. I admitted it out loud. Pass the wine.