Ladies, Go See Ghostbusters and Take Your Daughters

Ghostbusters

I live in a house full of nerdy men which means over the years I’ve had quite the education in all things superhero, science fiction, and fantasy. It wasn’t something I was exposed to growing up since my mum thought science fiction was stupid – I think that’s a direct quote – and my dad never seemed to watch anything but news, boxing, and Police Academy movies.

As I’ve raised my boys I have begun to realize that maybe there was a nerd inside me all along just waiting to get out. Wonder Woman? LOVED HER!! We would run around the school yard mimicking Linda Carter’s moves with her magic bracelets and lasso. Star Trek? Who didn’t grow up watching it in reruns every single day and crushing a bit on Captain Kirk?

Then, in my teens, there was Ghostbusters. I didn’t really think of it as a nerd movie at the time. It was a huge summer blockbuster and everybody went to see it. There were special effects and familiar actors and a funny premise. And truthfully, I had no idea that it had become an iconic nerd film where people went to conventions dressed up and made their own proton packs.

My kids saw the original Ghostbusters about 4 years ago and Monkey went on a big kick with it, even insisting on a homemade costume for Halloween a few years ago. I’m not really sure I saw the appeal of the movie… until now. Because when you replace the snarky, chain-smoking balding guys with strong, funny, competent women, magic happens.

I was fully expecting to be mildly disappointed by the movie. Remakes are always sketchy and the reviews had been so mixed. I wasn’t expecting to come out of it excited and eagerly anticipating a sequel but that’s exactly what happened, and here’s why:

Ghostbusters licking gunGhostbusters gives us the imperfect female superheroes so many of us have been craving. They’re tall and short and thin and curvy, they wear glasses, and don’t fit in. They have unique ideas and interests that are frowned upon by those around them but they persevere. Their uniform is a baggy jumpsuit, not skin hugging spandex. They are genius level smart and bitingly funny and a bit crazy. They are tough, determined, and loyal to each other. They take on evil and absolutely kick its ass. What on earth is there not to love?

They are the kind of female superheroes that I wish I could have grown up with. The kind of female superheroes I wish my boys could grow up with. Instead, I grew up with spandex and low-cut tops, big boobs and high-heeled boots and secondary characters. Guess what? Not much has changed.

Nerd culture is still a man’s domain, although that is slowly changing. The nerds in my life are feminists, because I would have nothing to do with them if they weren’t, but there’s still a lot of misogyny out there in nerd land. And if you have any doubts, the Washington Post just published a break-down of the reviews for Ghostbusters.

 

“A closer look revealed men rated the film, on average, a 3.6 out of 10. Women, on the other hand, rated it 7.7 out of 10. Additionally, nearly five times as many men had rated the movie — 7,547 men as opposed to 1,564 women.”

Those numbers are enough to piss me off. What is it that men aren’t liking about the movie? Are they so completely unused to seeing female heroes unless they look like Katniss or Black Widow that they just can’t wrap their heads around realistic looking women getting the job done? And what a sad reflection is that on how our society views women?

So ladies, go see Ghostbusters. Do it for the little girl in you who never got a chance to see a hero on the screen who looked like you or liked science like you did or wasn’t afraid of goo and dirt. And take the girls in your life so they can experience it too.

 

Enter the Tweens

My little Monkey is not so little anymore. He turned 11 this week and is proudly announcing to all who will listed that he is now a tween. To be honest, the tween attitude started about 6 months ago, but I’m not telling him that.

Mini Me is 14 now and he outgrew me about 4 months ago, which is not that insignificant since I’m 5’8″ when I stand up straight. His teen years came with hours locked in his room and deep sighs when we ask him to do anything. They also came with a stubborn refusal to wear anything but sweat pants and t-shirts or to do anything with his hair. That I can live with. The lack of showering on the other hand… His friends are all the same so I just shrug and roll with it.

Monkey is going to be a very different kind of teen, I can tell already. The last week I have been enlisted every morning to put a bright green streak through the front of his hair – which, I may add, hasn’t been cut in about 5 months. He’s going to be one of those scraggly haired kids who experiments with crazy dye jobs and develops a distinct and unique sense of fashion. He also still loves to bathe so I’m calling that a win.

As different as they both are, I love this time in my parenting career. I see my friends with really young kids and I do not feel at all wistful. I love being able to pick up and just go anywhere with them. I love that they have the freedom to make their own arrangements with their friends and that my house is becoming the hang out hub. I laugh with the cashier at the grocery store about the amount of milk and number of chip bags in my cart. I can just shrug and say “teens” and they laugh knowingly.

They have important opinions now and we can talk about the world. Mini Me brings home ideas that they discuss in class – much deeper stuff than we were dealing with in grade 8, let me tell you. Racism, slavery, misogyny, homophobia. I love to see his brain wrap around ideas of social justice and acceptance in a deeper, more philosophical way than when he was younger. He sees the shades of grey now and it’s inspiring.

Monkey has just joined the Anti-Trump Alliance at school. Not an official organization, of course, but a little society created by two of the Muslim students in the school yard where apparently they talk about the evils of the Orange Menace. I guess with about a 50% Muslim school population, and a good majority of the rest coming from pretty left leaning households, the Trump issue comes up a lot. Monkey fulfilled his membership pledge by naming 10 things he didn’t like about Trump – in writing – and them generously designed their club logo. I am loving it.

My biggest regret about these years? How quickly they seem to go by. I know that everybody tells young parents that the baby years seem endless but that they really go by in the blink of an eye. No way. Those baby years WERE endless. I still have back problems from dragging my boys around and not for one minute do I lament about changing another diaper. It seemed like I had young kids for AGES with all their tantrums and toys everywhere and no sleep.

But these years, with all their independence and interesting thoughts and doing chores and easy outings – these years are flying by. And maybe it’s because I realize that we are in the final stretch. Mini Me starts high school in the fall and that’s only 4 years away from University and potentially moving out. Monkey only has one year left in the school that has been a second home this family for so very long.

Realistically, I know that they probably won’t be gone when they finish high school. Living in Toronto and taking into account the number of amazing colleges and universities here,  the chances of them doing post-secondary here are huge. But they MIGHT move away. And they may never move back. When I think of that, my gut clenches. Forget babies. Can’t they just stay tweens and teens forever?

Not So Little Anymore

My Monkey turned 10 in May and with that came the realization that I’m not the mum of young kids anymore… and I love it. It’s a different stage in my life and my family’s life and I have to say that I am rocking it so far.

With Mini Me being 13, there is a whole different level of responsibility he has taken on. He’s off right now walking his brother to the local pool for swimming lessons where he will wait around for the half hour and then walk him back. I don’t have to go. I am, in fact, sitting in my PJs having a coffee and writing instead. What? It’s pure luxury.

Of course, I’m paying Mini Me to do it but it’s worth every penny. He wants his own computer. I want quiet mornings for the 9 days the class goes on. It’s a win win.

I think Muppet and I have come to the realization of this new stage in life slowly. Sure, Monkey has been walking himself home from for a while now and yes, Mini Me is in grade 7, but sometimes it’s difficult to see what’s right in front of you.

We started slowly with leaving them home while we went shopping. Nobody wanted to come with us, so we wandered off on our own. There was a stop at Starbucks and a leisurely stroll through Home Depot. Exciting, I know.

Then came a date night. Sure, we were home before bedtime but we went to a restaurant, had a nice meal, and then even snuck off for gelato afterwards. Monkey chastised us when we got home for being out so late (9:30pm) but it was totally worth it.

As we were strolling along between dinner and desert, we ran into 3 families who were out with their kids and they all joked about out child-free state but I could see that look of longing in their eyes. We just smiled and kept walking, hand in hand.

When I meet new people and they ask if I have kids, I no longer hear the “oh, they’re still little” or “you must have your hands full” refrains. Now I get the sympathetic head shake for parenting teens and tweens.

I know that I’m probably in a golden time before Mini Me actively starts pursuing girls and where Monkey is still a mixture of childish and surprisingly mature. Nobody is dating or yelling “I hate you” yet. They’re happy for us to go off on our own as long as we still have some family game or movie nights and dinner is still on the table. But, you know what, I’m loving every minute of it.

Kids Are Mean

In my family, we pride ourselves on preaching the value of being different. In a household (and extended family) full of what could best be described as “quirky” individuals, we all get along just fine. But then sometimes the outside world comes along and rudely reminds us that being different is still something that is to mocked – a reason to be shunned.

Monkey is 10 now and its been a year and a half since we had his ADHD diagnosis. His was a pretty typical type of ADHD, with emotional rather than physical impulsiveness and an inability to stay focused unless it was something he was VERY interested in. He is doing unbelievably well on his meds and noticed the improvement so much that he demands his pill every morning before school.

Of course, being an ADHD kid who is also a bit quirky and a huge nerd has made him a target for some of the kids at school. He isn’t being beaten up or picked on necessarily. He has lots of friends and loves to run around and play outside with them. Where he has run into trouble is with kids mocking and devaluing the things he loves. Let me explain.

I may have mentioned before that Muppet makes video games for a living. He works for one of the major gaming companies in the world and his work is not only fun and rewarding, but lets him travel to places like San Francisco, LA and Paris. Pretty sweet.

So, like any boy his age, Monkey wants to be just like his dad. And honestly, he has a pretty good chance at pulling it off. He has natural artistic talent, an ability to create original structures out of Lego that blow my mind, and a creative mind that loves thinking of stories and scenarios. Recently he made a functioning gumball machine out of Lego.

He loves to play video games, of course. When he was 8 he created the entirety of Sponge Bob’s Bikini Village in Minecraft. He also created a functioning amusement park in the game with rides and attractions. He built houses with functioning rooms, giving thought to their livability. This kid has talent.

But, he also likes to talk about what he’s been doing to other kids and here’s where the problems start.

Imagine a mocking 10 year old boy voice.

“All you do is play video games.”

“Why would you spend all that time to do Lego?”

“Why do you spend all your time watching Youtube?”

“Who cares about that stupid game?”

He’s also a cautious kid who likes to think things through. This is the kid who only told me weeks later that he left the neighbour’s backyard and came home in a huff because the boys he was playing with were running their fingers through flame from a lighter they found as some kind of initiation into their backyard club.

“You need to be more brave.”

“Don’t be such a chicken.”

“See all these scabs on my knees. They didn’t hurt AT ALL.”

“Suck it up.”

We all know that kids are mean. That little boy bravado starts at an early age and it’s rough on the kids who don’t conform. What I would dearly love is for the parents of those kids to hear what their kids are saying. I want them to talk to their kids about the value of not following the crowd and how brave it is to do your own thing. I tell my own boys that all the time.

My kid has talent and I think he has the skills to do exactly what he wants to do in life. Devaluing his love of video games comes from that blanket idea that “video games are all evil and pointless.” I get that.

Maybe I would be the same way if I didn’t live with somebody who has obviously found his perfect job and who has intelligent discussions about how to make the industry more female friendly and less violent. It may interest them to know that our own kids aren’t allowed to play the very games that Muppet makes because we both strongly believe that those ratings are there for a good reason.

I would like them to know that creating video games takes artistic talent, knowledge of math and spacial relations, programming, creative writing abilities, a talent for narrative, and attention to detail that would astound most people. My kid has all those skills and one day he’s going to kick ass at whatever he wants to do. But for now, he’s just a 10 year old kid dealing with the mean, thoughtless words that come out of other kids’ mouths.

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.

 

 

 

The Golden Years

Spring is always the craziest season in our household – surpassing even Christmas in some ways. Not only do 5 out of 7 kids in the family have birthdays falling between early March and mid-May, but so do most of my kids friends. I have done the math (and know from experience) – the Canadian summer long weekends are to blame for this spring baby boom. Add in Easter, March break, my own birthday, some crazy work hours and this year, for the first time, a tropical vacation, and it seemed like the spring was just non-stop around here.

It also seemed to cause somewhat of a shift in our household. My baby, my little Monkey turned 8 and Mini Me is now a tween. We are in what seem to be the parenting golden years where the kids still like us and want to be around us, but they are more and more able to do things for themselves. I am milking these years for all they’re worth!

Mini Me, who is now 11 going on 40, is able to hang out with his friends after school and walk himself home afterwards. He can walk his little brother home as well, although I get complaints that the walking home conversation is less than stellar. He can get his own snacks and get himself off to bed without complaint and he is willing to stay home alone while I take Monkey to his dance classes Monday night. Now if only he would bathe without threats of eternal grounding, but I am told that showering willingly comes with the discovery of their sex drive, so I am willing to deal with the stench and threats as long as I need to.

Monkey, who has always been my little social butterfly, plays outside with his friends and I don’t have to be watching him every second of the day. He goes to the park with his brother and understands that he has to listen and behave if he wants to keep that privilege. He can make his own breakfast on the weekend without waking us up for help and is great company to hang out with. We have sushi dates together and he is fun to take to a restaurant.

And here’s the thing. I am not at all nostalgic for the younger years. In fact, I think that my whole parenting experience has been leading up to them being the ages they are right now. I found the baby and toddler years difficult, frustrating, and incredibly restrictive. Of course I loved them and I loved spending time with them but I craved time alone where there would not be little people hanging off me and crying. I look at friends who have toddlers now and it makes me realize how active and non-stop my boys were when they were little. Not that they weren’t well-behaved. They were actually fantastic kids. But THEY NEVER STOPPED!! Up, down, in, out, climbing, running. No wonder I was always exhausted!

I was talking to a friend recently who joked that she felt like such a bad mother because she was counting the years until all 3 of her kids were out of the house. With one off to university and the other two in their teens, she was looking forward to having the house back, to reconnect with her husband, and enter a new stage in her life.

She got me thinking – it doesn’t make you a bad parent at all. Enjoying your kids for what and who they are, encouraging them to be independent and move towards adulthood, isn’t that our job as parents? Isn’t a parent longing to relive the baby years kind of the equivalent of those popular kids whose lives peaked in high school? I think the same way about my own ageing. If I start wanting to relive the past, then how can I have a happy present or future? My kids are getting older and they are changing, and I am changing along with them. We are growing up together and I plan on enjoying every second of it.

 

Snow Day!

It’s about 4pm on Friday afternoon here in Toronto and it has been snowing since about the same time yesterday – a wintry kind of blast that we rately get anymore. I’m sure you’re thinking SNOW DAY! Well, in fact, you would be wrong.  I’m not exactly sure what it takes to make our school board shut down for the day but apparently 25cm of blustery white stuff does not qualify.

Still, I am a cool mom (in my own mind!), and one who really didn’t want to go out in this anyway, so I declared my own snow day, DAMMIT! It didn’t help that the school principal totally got the kids’ hopes up yesterday by telling them to listen for cancellations in the morning “just in case.” Maybe he was hoping for a snow day too? At any rate, it left me with two wound up kids eagerly checking out the window this morning to see how bad it was out there. I just couldn’t bear to make them trudge up to the school, get soaking wet, and sit in classes where half of their peers were probably missing anyway.

Of course, by 9:30am they were out playing in it anyway…

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And this all got me thinking about my own childhood snow days in Montreal. Now, they know how to do snow! I remember snowbanks waaaay over my head. I also remember the moms having to supply non-perishables to the school for storage in case we ever got snowed in and couldn’t leave the building.

My mom sent chocolate pudding cups, Chef Boyardee and, for some unknown and bizarro reason, tinned salmon. Can you imagine all your other friends cracking into their Spaghetti-Os and you being the kid who has to stink up the room with a can of salmon? What was she thinking?

Then again, this was the woman who made me give knee high nylons to my teacher as a Christmas gift because it was “practical.” Maybe she thought the risk of calcium deficiency was more critical than my utter humiliation?

Anyway, I declare this snow day a resounding success and I’m going to pat myself on the back. They’re out playing in it now for the second time after spending some time inside with video games and cartoons. I’m just about to gear up and join them for some shovelling. I was glad to give them this little memory because I know I still carry around mine to this day.