Category: Parenting

My Son Coming Home

My Son Coming Home

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It’s the 30th of April, 2019 and, just in time for the school buses to be running, we are moving our soon back home. Never mind that we were half an hour early to pick up our truck which was not ready and while they had a record of our reservation, although not at the place we were supposed to pick it up, they did not have a truck held for us. Thankfully, there was one was unloading, that had potentially been flagged for someone else, but our reservation was in first and they honoured it. However, that meant we didn’t pick it up until 1 PM. Two hours loading and a bit of cleaning later, just before 330, we are on the way home.

Well, I say we, but I am driving the truck while my wife takes our son by a different route that also involves picking up his girlfriend, whom we have not met before. I am uncertain at this point how long she’s going to stay, but I am quite certain that she’s coming to hang out for at least a couple of days.

And I am, more or less, okay with that. It’s been, so far, relatively speaking, a long distance relationship for them. She lives in Arden, just south of Highway 7, and he’s been in Ottawa. They met online, which is a super common thing anymore, and it’s so far the longest relationship he’s had that I can remember. I don’t know about her.

Our son has had a rough time emotionally for, well, last few years, really. He disguised it well before he left home, was very eager to get out of the small town we live in but living with his high school friends wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. We are expecting him to live with us for the summer and then we’ll see, but as long as the family dynamic stays good – there are always sibling issues – it shouldn’t be an issue to be longer. He wants to finish school, but there are other things on his agenda, too. It will be what it will be.

But I am driving the 15-foot truck, with basic air and no cruise control. There’s more glass in the back than I would prefer, but there’s only so much space in the SUV if he wants to also included his girlfriend. As a matter of fact, I’ve got two glass tanks in the front with me, along with a boxed it also contains at least one small lizard and the mantid experiment.

The lizard is a long-tailed grass lizard that I didn’t know he had, but which he got free with the pair of Emperor Scorpions I didn’t know he had. All things considered, I wish we had a bigger basement.

I’d like to say it’s a race to see who will get home first, but race is the wrong word. With standard traffic, between the city and home, and me more or less going the speed limit, Google maps projects me at two hours and 20 minutes door-to-door. My wife has an hour thirty-five to go to pick up our son’s girlfriend and then 45 minutes to get home after that, which looks like the same amount of time. She also left about one minute before I did.

We’ll have to wait and see how it goes. It’s not a race, and I do expect to be home first, but not by much. Which is good, because I’ll want help unloading the truck, especially the larger bits of furniture.

Good thing I ate my Wheaties this morning.

Be well, everyone.

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My Youngest Turns 16

My Youngest Turns 16

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Holy crap, my youngest child is old enough to drive.

She elected not to go write the test today, already having enough on her plate, but could have. Maybe on the weekend.

But my youngest child is old enough to drive. It’s crystal in my memory holding her for the first time, her holding my finger for the first time, the sheer amount of hair (with blonde highlights) she was born with, bringing her home from the hospital, and on.

It’s not so easy for me to wrap my head around the idea that it’s been sixteen years since that day she finally came into our lives. It should be easy. I’ve watched her pass from infant to toddler to child to teenager and now making the transition into wonderful young woman.

But she is my youngest child, so it’s not easy. Why would it be?

Hold onto the time while it lasts.

Be well, everyone.

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Another Child Driving

Another Child Driving

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherIt seems like I enter a new era every few weeks lately.

Last month, my oldest daughter (who turned 16 in May) finally wrote and passed her exam to achieve a G1 license in Ontario. She’s held off for the timing to be convenient and she was mentally prepared rather than wanting to rush into the Drivetest Centre the moment she was legally able to. Sets her own pace for her own tasks, my child.

No, you should not be afraid. She’ll be a competent driver in short order and I have every expectation that she’ll actually be a good driver with a little practice.

The point is that my Little One is old enough to drive a car. I remember quite clearly holding her for the first time, bringing her home from the hospital, and so on. It’s hard for me to understand that sixteen years and more have passed since then. It shouldn’t be, since I’ve watched her grow from that infant into a wonderful young woman. But she’s still my Little One, so it is hard.

Be well, everyone.

{This is where I’d insert picture of my oldest daughter holding her license, but photographic imagery is currently forbidden.}Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Once Again, I Feel Old

Once Again, I Feel Old

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherSo she absolutely hates it when I post about her, or even mention her in passing on social media, so I’ll leave names out to protect the innocent and merely note that my oldest daughter turned sixteen today. Whether she wants to admit it or not, that’s a big deal.

I feel old, and I often get nostalgic on my kids’ birthdays, remembering when I held them first, brought them home from the hospital, watched for first steps, listened for first words, went to tea parties and school shows, picked them up when they fell down, held them when they were sick, and all of the other firsts and events and tragedies.

She doesn’t allow her picture to be taken these day, but I’ll go back a few years for a couple of memories and just say that I love her more than I can possibly express. And I won’t post this anywhere she can see it.

Be well, everyone.

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You Are Not a Pet Parent. Really.

You Are Not a Pet Parent. Really.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather02 CyrusSo I’m not sure why the phrase “pet parent” irritates me so much, far more than pet owner.

Actually, that’s not true. I am sure, but that surety actually had a couple of people willing to argue about it with me yesterday, even after I offered a better word.

What’s the word?

Guardian. You’re not a parent, you’re a guardian.

Someone is shouting semantics at their computer screen right now, but it’s not. The difference between parent and guardian is not like the difference between big and large, far and distant, or brother/sister and sibling. Parent and guardian are not synonyms, they define two different relationships.

As a parent, your job is generally to raise a child from birth (or sometime later in childhood in the case of adoption) to adulthood, gradually teaching them how to think and act for themselves and to become a functional member of society.

This is not what you’re doing with your pet. (There are exceptions with children, too, but these are not the rule, and then I’d suggest both parent and guardian as relationship titles.)

Any animal you bring into your family—and that’s absolutely what you’re doing, no matter how small they are—you’ve taken responsibility for every aspect of their life, from the moment of their arrival to that horrible day when they die in your arms or you have to make that decision no one wants to make. You’re a guardian.

Children eventually start to detach themselves from you and find their own place in the world. Pets don’t. You’re never going to explain sex, love, death, or other complicated things to your cat. You’re never going to teach your dog to drive or help your Guinea Pig study for a math test. Your gecko isn’t looking for dating advice and your corn snake won’t need to be taught the realities of social media.

Your child will eventually learn to feed her/himself, but you’re opening a fresh can of dog food every single day for as long as that dog is with you. Your child will (someday) clean things up on their own, but you’d better keep scooping the litter box.

Pets are not children. You are not their parent. Think about it. Really think about it. To your pet, you are everything, the bringer of food and warmth and affection, the solver of problems and the cleaner of messes, and the absolute centre of their world. Your child will learn how to do or be all of these themselves and if it takes longer for some than others, it also takes longer than most pets will be with you.

Guardian. It’s a different kind of relationship than parent. To your pet, it’s all encompassing.

“Pet Parent”, I’m fairly certain, is a term coined by some marketing whiz to help sell us stuff for our pets we don’t really need.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Life Lessons From 2014

Life Lessons From 2014

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherWe should always be learning. I’ve learned lots this year as well as others. But some lessons stand out and sometimes because they were hard to learn or relearn. I have four picks for this year, each learned or relearned or reinforced in a different way.

If someone is wrong on the Internet, it’s not that important.

Rather than telling someone they’re wrong on FB (or Twitter, or wherever), it’s often just as satisfying to comment out loud to yourself without posting. Humans being humans, most people are just going to resent the correction anyway. Make an exception when they’re posing a danger to themselves or others.

If you haven’t got anything nice to say, say something nice about someone else.

There’s something about our modern society that entitles someone’s opinion to be as valid as carefully researched and proven facts. Combine this with the fact that many people think that just because they have an opinion that other people have to listen to it. Throw in a little anonymity on the internet to bleed belligerence through into the real world and you’ve got a veritable douchebag cocktail at work in western society. Try not to contribute to it. Find something you like about someone and say something about that instead.

Do something to make the world a better place.

Anything. Stand up for something that’s wrong. Be kind to strangers, animals, and small children. Pick up a little garbage. Write a protest letter. Be the person you wish everyone could be.

Meet your kids where they are.

They’re still pretty young when they stop automatically coming to where you are and joining in with your interests. Finding their own path is important, but you’ve got to learn to walk it with them, and that’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s bloody hard. But it’s also incredibly important.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Understanding My Kids’ Relationship With YouTube

Understanding My Kids’ Relationship With YouTube

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So lately I’ve been trying to watch some of the YouTube video channels that my oldest daughter is into. I watch them with her, because none of them are things I’d likely go to on my own, trying to understand what she sees in them. This is a bonding experience, I suppose, because from my perspective, the attraction to most of these is like a train wreck: you just can’t look away.

Let’s be clear: not all of them. There are actually a small handful I enjoy, although I wouldn’t sit down and watch a whole bunch in a row.

 

Fun Stuff on YouTube

Movie Sins is probably my favorite. Produced by a guy who goes through popular movies and points out all of the problems and plot holes that are running through my head as I’m watching them. While I manage to keep the easy ones to an eye roll while I’m watching the film, he adds them up. And every movie gets a score at the end of the video. Higher numbers are bad.

I also kind of like Game Theory. This is an entertaining little segment where the host takes some strange little, or not so little, item or incident from a popular or classic videogame and then blows up into a giant conspiracy theory, completely “supported” by “evidence” in the game it’s from and from other related games if necessary. This is fun, and shows immense creativity.

Your Grammar Sucks is also worth a mention. The host, Jack, takes user submitted scrapings of comments from YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook of the most atrocious grammar, spelling, and things that just don’t make sense, and reads them as seriously as possible. He has a couple of other channels in his feed, too.

And I get some of the College Humor material. Some of it. There are videos that are absolutely hilarious. Some of the work, well, a lot of it, is clearly not targeted at me and most of that I don’t find particularly funny. Some isn’t even mildly entertaining.

 

Sturgeon’s Law

Now, before you get the idea that I’m actually liking everything YouTube has to offer, or at least the chunk of it my kids are watching, let me remind you of the generalization of Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.

In that light, I’m trying to understand the attraction to streaming video of someone playing a videogame with running commentary that never stops. I mean, I get the idea of an exciting play through. Fun and weird stuff happens that can make it really entertaining. Watching a two player or team game is the geek equivalent of watching football or hockey.

I don’t understand watching something where the commentary provided by player is a never ending stream of meaningless drivel and noise. I mean, we all went to school with the guy or girl never shut up and thought everything that fell out of their mouth was hilarious. We didn’t pay an awful lot of attention to them back then, so why are we giving them hundreds of thousands of views YouTube now? (This is the same reason I don’t like Deadpool, by the way. Deadpool is that guy only with superpowers. No thanks.) There are some fun and entertaining play throughs happening, but remember Sturgeon’s Law.

Then there’s amateur standup or sit down comedy hour.

Hours.

Days.

Eternities.

A lot of YouTube are somebody sitting in their bedroom, living room, basement, etc, talking about random stuff for no apparent reason and we’re supposed to hang on every word like it’s life changing. Or at least we’re supposed to find them incredibly entertaining. Unsurprisingly, Sturgeon’s Law applies again.

The question becomes how work with the Law, how to find the good stuff among the random chatter. Clearly, we can’t trust popularity. If a girl telling the story about how she knows everyone and is friends with everyone who works at the local 7-11 because she’s there every single day gets a hundred thousand hits, there’s clearly something wrong with us as a species.

I have developed three rules that I think apply beyond YouTube.

 

Rule Number One

If your kids are watching it, watching it with them.

Yes, you can make fun of it here and there, but only after you’ve taken the time to see what they’re seeing, ask questions, and make efforts to get them to explain to you what it is they find so entertaining or attractive about the particular channel or the selection of shows it has. YouTube is a lot like TV or movies this way.

 

Rule Number Two

Give something three chances. When you’re checking out something new, don’t assume the first thing you see is the creator’s best work. Everyone has an off day sometimes, but if they have, by your perception, three off days in a row, then either they’re going through some major issues, or they only have an on day every so often. If it’s the former, watching their unappealing video content is probably not going to help them get through, though putting extra views on the good stuff might. If it’s the latter, you’re just encouraging them and it isn’t going to help either of you. Either way, I’d suggest finding something else to watch. If you’re far enough along the path, ask the child you’re watching with to switch to a channel in their list to one you know have a chance of liking. But do it casually. Hey, is there a new Movie Sins this week?

 

Rule Number Three

Don’t be afraid to try something new, especially something completely new. You never know what you might like, and at least it will give you some insights into your kids’ minds, if you’re following rule number one.

Bonding with your kids is never an easy thing. You can only force them to like what you like for so long. And it’s probably better if you don’t force it in the first place. Let them see you like something to decide to join you. That will stop at some point, a different age for every child of my three. After that, if you want to spend time with them, you’re going to have to find things that they like. You need to go where they are, not drag them to you. That way lies and madness and sulking.

 

There is no rule four, five, or six. At this point, I’m working with just the three. And believe me, it’s hard sometimes.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Field Trips

Field Trips

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherSo all of my children have different ideas of what school should be, and what it means to be social, and things they should have to do. This is normal and natural, and I expect no less from them, but they are coming into an age where they can actually argue better than, “I don’t want to”. This is a good thing, but sometimes makes discussions take a little longer. I love that they are using their brains to try to get their way rather than a just flat black and white argument.

But as a result of this growing brain power, both of the girls did not go on their year end field trips this year.

Amanda, because hers was to camp Quin-Mo-Lac again and she feels she’s done that one before, and doesn’t really like to go outside anyway. Melanie did not want to go to the the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, for a similar reason: been there, done that, on several previous occassions.

I kind of agree with the reasoning. They’ve both been on this trip two or three times with the school before. Unless they have something really new and exciting, and that seems possible, but is a difficult argument to make next to all of the e non new and exciting things still at both locations, they’d rather not go thank you.

So, my counter proposal is that they will each go on a field trip of my choosing with me in the first week or so after school is out. They both easily agreed to this, although I’m not certain what I’m going to do with either one of them, especially considering my promise that it would be something each would enjoy. I’m not going to drag them somewhere they hate to punish them. That would be pointless, and really punish me more.

I thought about taking Amanda to a geocaching event in Toronto, although, as a day trip it doesn’t have as much to recommend it as an overnight or weekend. The COG event, Central Ontario Geocachers, is in Tottenham, and looked big and exciting the Saturday after school is over, but it wouldn’t necessarily be something different. We’re already planning to go to the mega event in Nappanee in August, and I’d rather have that one be exciting and new than her making comparisons to the another one. So I’m still stuck.

And I have no idea what to do for Melanie.

But we’ll figure something out. Preferably something in less than a two hour drive from where we live. Shouldn’t be too hard. Summer is coming, and there’s an awful lot of stuff to do.

And that’s aside from the fact that I’m hoping to manage a number of short duration summer adventures in the area. Amanda and I are going to learn to kayak. Both of the girls have expressed some interest in the idea of a tree top trek with zip lines and rope bridges. I’ve also been threatening white water rafting for several years now.

Plus the debate has continued between fan Expo and Montréal Comic Con, though I think this has probably been decided now.

Montréal had my vote on the strength of the announced guest list, having booked the attendance of almost the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation crew, including Denise Crosby who was a main character in first season but was killed off, with the exception of Patrick Stewart. With the addition of John DeLancie, who played Q as a guest star several times, plus visited the ships and sets of both DS9 and Voyager. Of less interest are several of the Power Rangers. Oh, and Robert England will be there. Since we missed him in Ottawa that will be a good opportunity.

Fan Expo on the other hand has announced William Shatner who is always a big deal for me. It’s hard to beat Captain Kirk. Elijah Wood (Frodo from the Lord of the rings movies) tops my wife’s list of any announcements made for any con so far this summer. They’ve announce some other big names as I write this, but are doing just a few announcements per week, building tension as much as they can.

All that said, my understanding is that if you want to go to a hockey game, and spend the night, you’re going to spend between $300 and $500 spending on your tickets and how much you like expensive beverages and food at the arena. So, for me, that equates a single evening hockey game with an overnight stay ito a three-day science fiction convention extravaganza. Fan Expo is closer to two hockey games with the high ticket price and extra night. Yes, I need more spending money for a con, and so do the kids, although they tend to save a little bit leading up to the con, but we’ve never been, and will never be sports fans. No competition, and even if it were, I think a convention wins value-wise.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather