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.

 

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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?

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.

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.

 

Hearing Noises: The Update

So, it would appear that my little Monkey is not going insane and that whenever he’s not listening to me speak, he’s really just ignoring me. Not sure how I feel about that one. Huh.

For those of you who didn’t read my last post, my 7 year old was complaining of hearing noises in his head that he compared to “nails on a chalkboard.” Needless to say, we were puzzled, particularly when a trip to the walk-in confirmed that his ears were clear.

Well, I am happy to say that our awesome pediatrician checked him out and declared that it was probably nothing more than a virus that was probably lingering in his ears long after the original bug had cleared out of his sinuses. Sure enough, when we went back one week later for the boys’ checkups, Monkey declared the noise to be gone. We all cheered… and then traumatized him with a chicken pox booster shot for which he earned a celebratory trip to Tim Hortons.

So, there you go. Drama over. Phew!

 

Hearing Noises

It is blissfully silent in my house right now. After 2 weeks, our new kitchen floor is almost done and although I love our contractor and he is now a good friend, it is so nice to be sitting here, still in my pjs, sipping tea, with my hair looking like Medusa’s. I’m giving myself a bit of time to wallow!

It’s also a relief to have a break from what we are calling Monkey’s “Voices In His Head.” The secretary called me from the school Monday afternoon to say he was shivering and complaining of noises in his head that sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Being the good mummy I am, I rushed off to the school and he did look pale, he was shivering, but then he went on to talk my ear off all the way back home. Hmmm.

I assumed he would come down with a fever like his friend across the street who he had been playing with the day before. Nope. He even gladly took Tylenol in the hopes the noise would subside. Curioser and curioser. He was acting totally normal for the rest of the night but when we had a good talk at bedtime, he told me the sound had been there for a while (he said weeks or months but he’s 7 and has a crappy concept of time) and he wanted it gone. He would even go to the doctor to get rid of it. Okay, now I know this isn’t B.S.

Muppet trooped him off to the walk-in the next morning but his ears, nose, and throat were clear. The doc recommended having his hearing checked and gave us a number to call. He was thinking maybe there was a nerve being irritated or pinched. Turns out the place he recommended doesn’t take anybody under 18, so now we’re off to our pediatrician tomorrow afternoon to see what’s what. Sigh.

Thing is, as strange as his story sounds, he is a crappy liar, even if he is a bit of a drama llama. So, I think this is all legit and I am going to let him explain it all to the pediatrician and see what he makes of it. His story is remarkably consistent for a 7 year old with the attention span of a gnat. Anybody had similar complaints? I admit that I am going to feel guilty for how much we tell him he’s “not listening” if it turns out he couldn’t hear us!!

 

Embracing the Weird

Today my little Monkey came downstairs and informed us that he wanted to dress “fancy” so could I please help him put on his bow tie and find his vest. He had already wet down his wavy hair so that it was plastered to his head and was in the process of doing up his black dress shirt which he had paired with blue jeans.

Being the good mum that I am, I helped him get all ready, complimenting him on his choice of beige and brown socks with monkeys embroidered on them to complete his ensemble. I got him bundled up and out the door with his brother who never veers from Old Navy track pants and comfy cotton t-shirts (preferably with a video game characters on them). Then I sat down with my cup of tea and had a bit of a revelation.

When my Monkey came along, I had already been a mum for over 3 years. Mini Me had long ago introduced me to the joys of sleepless nights, first smiles, teething, and play dates. I was an old pro and Monkey was a happy, easy baby by all accounts. I thought I had this parenting thing nailed.

And then a funny thing started to happen. Monkey started to develop a Personality. The capital P is there for a reason, trust me. He was a performer from an early age and loved to make people laugh. He had an uncanny ability to remember dialogue from shows or movies and would act out scenes. I remember I had to warn his junior kindergarten teacher about his love of quoting Sponge Bob complete with a pretty uncanny imitation of his annoying voice and laugh.

For well over a year he insisted on dressing thematically. Green shirt, green socks and brown pants meant he was the Hulk that day and he would stomp around growling and flexing his muscles. My personal favourite was when he wanted to dress like Mars and I went shopping for red pants so that he could represent the red planet from head to toe.

While other boys were taking soccer and hockey, he insisted that he would do sports camp and dance camp and art camp because he loved them all. And somehow he managed to charm the soccer camp counsellor into putting on the boom box at the end of the day and letting all the kids bust a move while they wait for their parents to arrive.

What I realize when I look at this awesome little 7 year old is that he has managed to teach me to be a better person and certainly a better parent. He has taught me to go with the flow. To let go of some control and not worry about the little things. That it’s more important to do what you love than to worry about what other people think of you. That what other people may think is weird is actually really really wonderful and special and lovely. He makes me want to embrace my own weird and to live my life as honestly as he does his.