Saturday, March 20, 2010

Are We Bullying When We Tease Our Children?

I had an epiphany the other day as I was at an adoption course. We watched a video that was made up of just words from the perspective of a child who was in government care, asking why we should expect them to trust when they’ve gone through so many negative experiences (and these stretched from neglect, to physical harm, to being abused by an older child in the home).

One of the things that was mentioned in the video was how the child talking started bullying other kids because it was a defence mechanism to prevent him from being bullied…that he felt that showing power was how to ensure they didn’t become the victim…and how he eventually  learned to look down in disgust at those who were weak.

That got me thinking: as parents, who hold such immense power in a child’s life and so much ability to help or hinder, are we unknowingly doing damage when we “tease” our children? My dad is a bugger…as in, he’d like to bug and tease…it was one way to show love. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve inherited this trait. Growing up, my dad was never vindictive in his teasing. I mean sure, I was freaking out when he’d hold a favoured stuffed animal out the window as we drove down the highway, fearing he’d let go and I’d never see it again (which as I type that does sound a little WTF). But I was never put down verbally or the butt of vicious jokes.

Still though…as parents, our role is to build up our children. It’s one thing to play with them, but another when our intent is to annoy or frustrate them. Worse, by doing so, are we really just masking bullying with a different term: showing a weaker, defenceless person that we ultimately have control over them?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Power of Mommy Marketing

One thing I’ve enjoyed about being a parent is how I have this new level of connection with people I don’t even know. The other day I was getting my haircut and the discussion drifted to kids: her daughter was 1, and I was able to share about the last 6 months.

During the conversation I mentioned that she’s just starting to flip over regularly and that she’s trying to figure out this crawling thing. My hairdresser then tells me about this “crawl ball” that she got her daughter and that she buys for all her friend's’ baby showers. “It moves, it has lights, it speaks, and she loves it! She’d keep trying to crawl towards it!.”

Now, think about how often you’re told about a “fantastic” new product that you just HAVE to try! Video games, appliances, whatever…people tell you stuff all the time, and my reaction to most of it ranges from disinterest to further investigation online. Yet for some reason, right after my haircut, I found myself at WalMart buying a VTech Move and Crawl Ball.

There’s something about hearing another parent expound the virtues of a children’s product that, as a parent, is stronger marketing than any commercial, article, or marketing material could ever be.

Am I the only one like this?

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Manitoba Adoption Policy for Criminal/Abuse Record Checks

A new policy has been put into place in Manitoba that adoptive parents need to be aware of. The policy requires that, when the adoption is brought before the court, criminal record and sexual abuse registry checks must have been completed within 6 months of the hearing date.

Many adoptive parents have these checks done when their file is opened with the respective agency, and are typically required to be redone on a yearly basis. This new policy means that you have to be aware of how old your checks are when the court date is finalized.

In our case, we had our checks updated in the Spring of this year. Even though this policy was only communicated last week (today was our court date), there was no grace period for those already booked…ergo, we’re now postponed at least another week.

And that “week” assumes that we can get expedited checks performed and returned by Friday of this week. It is what it is, but if anyone else gearing up for their court date in Manitoba is reading this, make sure you know whether you need updated checks done beforehand.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Santa: Lying to your Child, or Protecting their Innocence?

My sister in law and her husband decided this week to tell their three kids (7, 5, and 3) that Santa Clause wasn’t real, that it was really them. Their reasoning behind this was that they weren’t comfortable lying to their children. No report on how the kids took it, other than the youngest didn’t really *get* it yet. I actually feel bad for him the most since he’ll have no Christmases with the excitement of waking up to see what Santa had brought and checking that the cookies were eaten.

But, parents are allowed to make these decisions. For our daughter, we’re intending on carrying on the Santa tradition for a number of years. Ideally, she’ll just come to realize what’s really going on as she matures…the same way that she’ll understand about the world beyond her childhood realm.

I was thinking about the notion that propagating the Santa “myth” was somehow lying to the child, that it was a breakage of trust between parent and child. I think back to my own awakening to reality, which to be honest was a long time coming by that point (I was a very naive child).

It was Easter, and I was in grade 4 or 5. I walked into the kitchen while my dad was getting a drink of something, and he had the cupboard door open. In plain sight on the top shelf was the soon-to-be hidden chocolate stash, with the Easter Bunny obviously being the accused culprit. In that moment, I realized something: my parents had lied to me…there was no Santa, there was no bunny, there was none of it. I was devastated. I remember crying to my mom, asking her why she had lied to me. You might be thinking that my story should make me want to adopt what my sister in law has decided for her kids. But to the contrary, that experience was in many ways the beginning of my first real education about the world.

When I look back on my childhood, I have many good memories of getting up early on Christmas morning and being thrilled at what Santa had brought me. I remember Easter’s at my grandparents hunting for chocolates hidden all over the house. I also remember leaving a note for the Tooth Fairy asking for a higher-than-normal amount for a loose tooth so I could buy a toy (she left the tooth). Those memories leave more of an impact on me than the few hours I was upset at realizing what I really should have picked up on my own. In a way that experience forced me, as a child, to grow up a little bit more…to re-evaluate the world around me, what I believed, what I thought I knew. In a way, it was a first step to losing my childhood innocence.

When I look at my daughter, I see the value in that innocence though. Children today grow up so fast, being bombarded with marketing and enticed with toys, clothes, and programming that force them to face life circumstances far before they should. It’s us as parents against the world for control over how long our children stay children.

If my daughter ends up finding joy, happiness, and excitement in the myths and traditions that we associate with our holidays, far be it from me to rob her of those experiences.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Value of Innocence

Wore camouflage on Halloween
A plastic bag, an M16
Door to door and house to house
There ain't nobody handing it out

At night it's cold
We sit and freeze
Running red lights in our Humvees
Never thought I'd live to see see the day, I'd be
Afraid of little kids playing in the streets

Well this ain't the woods behind the house
There ain't nobody screaming out
For you to come inside and eat
You're just holding your friends and watching them bleed

- Matthew Good,
Silent Army In The Trees

I was spoiled as a kid, and I got pretty much any toy I wanted: Transformers, He-Man, GoBots, Starriors, MASK, Visionaries, etc. I say pretty much because there was one toy that my parents never bought me, and that I would routinely get denied if I ever asked: GI Joe. I had friends that had GI Joe’s and I thought the toys were pretty kewl. But my parents didn’t budge. I never really got an answer for why, just that they didn’t approve.

Now I know why. Or more, I understand why.

At some point, my daughter will begin to understand how the world works. She’ll grow to learn about wars, hate, racism, poverty, drug and alcohol use, divorce, cancer, vehicle accidents, historical atrocities, kidnappings, thieves, liars, politics, discrimination…all the things that we as adults are aware exist in our world.

I was feeding my daughter this morning…she’s almost 3 months old. Looking into her eyes, I realized the value of innocence…how beautiful it was that this person I was holding had no grasp of the reality going on around her: the war in Afghanistan, the financial struggles of so many, the upcoming flu pandemic, the fear of countries with questionable intentions having nuclear weapons, etc.

Our children are constantly being pressured to grow up faster and faster. As children begin to engage in technology earlier in life, the dangers of exposing them to the reality of the world too early is heightened.

Its somewhat overwhelming. You want to protect them and keep them safe from all harm, and yet part of parenthood is easing them into the reality of the world, guiding them as they begin to experience and realize how the world works.

As a child, I didn’t understand the big deal about not playing with war toys. Now as an adult, I get it. I get why Halo 3 has an M rating. I understand better why, for the last year or so, I’ve thought it weird that more R rated content seems to be seeping into PG rated movies.

We, as parents, have such a better appreciation of what “innocence” really means and how valuable it is. We know it won’t last, but we can prolong its destruction by protecting our children from a continuously intrusive world for as long as possible.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surprise Package from Nestle Good Start

There are tonnes of point programs available to new parents. Pampers, Huggies, Nestle Good Start all offer different programs where people can log on to a website and enter a code which translates to points that can be used towards products, sweepstakes, or coupons.

My wife set up something with Nestle after we switched to their Good Start formula and after signing up she was notified that some coupons would be sent. Great, nice gesture.

Well we got a package in the mail this week and it was quite the package from Nestle!


We got a diaper bag (complete with change pad), a bottle, a can of formula, a free subscription to Baby Magazine, pamphlets…oh yeah, and those coupons!

Very kewl gift and greatly appreciated (I had no problem using the pink-accented diaper bag my wife picked up, but its nice to have a solid-black-more-manly option now ;) )

Friday, September 4, 2009

How I Danced With The Car Seat Devil…and Won!

Nothing will frustrate a new father more than realizing he can’t seem to get that blasted car seat in tight enough! If you’re like me, you just assumed that it was going to be easy: put the seat or base in the car, loop the seatbelt through, and finished! But after trying to install two different car seat bases via the seatbelt in our Rav4 and having absolutely no luck with really securing it, I turned to the trusty internet.

So let’s back up first and cover off some important car seat points. You may find yourself the recipient of a used car seat and this may or may not be a good thing. For one, car seats have a relatively short lifespan. Due to regular use, exposure to heat and cold, etc., a car seat is only good for 5 – 7 years. Also, technology from early 00’s to today has changed (as we’ll see below), so you may be stuck with the archaic seat-belt installation if your seat/base doesn’t have LATCH hookups.

So with that said, my opinion is that its better to drop the coin (because yes, this stuff ain’t cheap) and get a new car seat. For those of us with newborns (and up to approx 50lbs), there are great travel systems available that bundle car seat, base, and stroller. We purchased the Chicco Cortina travel system and LOVE it! So many good things about it, but for the purpose of this blog post let me say the car seat base installation was super easy.

Let’s talk about installation. At first I tried to install my seat base via the seat belt method. I checked my vehicle’s manual and that was the only option it listed, so I assumed I was doing things correctly. The problem is that, for whatever reason, the seatbelt just wouldn’t tighten enough to hold the base in place properly…even after doing things by the book. If your vehicle was manufactured in 2003 or later, and you’re trying to use the seatbelt…

You’re doing it wrong!

Don’t get offended, just trust me. My car seat base visibly laughed at me as I toiled and swore trying to get this thing secure. But then, I learned about LATCH.

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children and is mandatory for all vehicles built in 2003 and after. Two metal bars are installed just under the rear right and left seats that special, magical hooks can be attached to. I could explain it to you, but this guy does a great job showing how it works (and it looks like he’s using our model of car seat base too! Chicco FTW!):

Once your base is latched in, it will not move! Our base is now a permanent fixture of our back seat. If your vehicle manual doesn’t mention LATCH, it doesn’t mean you don’t have it. If you have a newer model vehicle, you *should* have the bars available. You’ll be able to determine it, in part, if you find identifiers on your rear seats showing where the bars are located (round plastic labels showing a child in a car seat at the bottom left and right of your rear seats).

So in summary:

- Loaner seats might seem thrifty, but you may be saddled with older technology
- Car seats have an expiry date that you need to check for any offered equipment
- To ensure your car seat is safe and technically up to date, buy new
- LATCH is your friend…seat belts are your enemy!
- If your vehicle was manufactured after 2003, you have LATCH hookups

Good luck and don’t let the car seat win!