Happy Holidays!


From all of us to all of you, our very best of the holidays! May 2017 be filled with much merriment, health and success!

Projecting not yelling…


We can argue all we want over the semantics, bottom line is I need the volume button lowered…

Not so secret Santa


My first reaction after he asked to go out and buy something else was to shut it down. I’d already taken time out of my day to go to two separate stores to buy the gifts and with dinner to make, skis to wax and driving to co-ordinate with other families, adding another trip to a store was non-negotiable. Heap on top of that the fact that I was the one pushing for this to be done ahead of the night before the exchange was to happen and I felt secure in my inflexibility. He pouted. I simmered.

After a short while he came back and explained how his secret Santa had “finally” told him what she wanted, and then it hit me. These secret Santa gift exchanges are nuts. As a kid, you’re assigned a person who you may or may not know and you’re given a limit on spending (it’s getting bigger every year as this year’s limit was $20. Twenty bucks?! I thought this was supposed to be a small thing, five bucks, tops.). I suppose the purpose of this activity is to enact thoughtful behaviour towards someone else. To take a moment to sereptiously inquire into your secret Santa recipient’s likes and interests and then search around for a worthy gift that will surprise and delight them. Here’s the reality though. It’s another thing to add to already the busiest time of the year. Kids (well my kid) are either disinterested in the melancholic notion of gift giving or blatant in assessing their recipients interests by asking them outright which eliminates the “secret” part of the giving anyway. At $20, I’m not asking my kid to take that out of his allowance and savings so now I’m on the hook for another whack of dollar store crap. Oh, and in return my kid is going to get something that ineveitably will wind up in the trash heap or the second hand store in two weeks anyway…

Ouch. Am I sounding Scrooge-like? Perhaps, but let me offer an alternative idea.

Let’s take the money we were going to spend on a kid in a privileged school who doesn’t need something else to begin with and allocate that to a charity within our town. Let’s create one of those giant fake cheques with the amount raised in the class and present that (and the actual cash) to the charity in question, take a photo and keep that in the classroom as a reminder of the value of giving to those in need. Secrets aren’t broken. Parents aren’t running around to find a gift. Kids are reinforced with the importance of helping others. Everyone wins. Isn’t that more in the spirt of the season?

And yes, I did got out with him to buy the thing she said she wanted. Sigh.


The “B” word and the cloak of strength


“I’m sorry to use this word dad, but some of my friends are being real “b” words. I’m just so upset because I’m being treated so badly and I don’t know what to do.”

It’s 11:00 at night and my daughter, in tears, can’t sleep because she’s going through the day’s unpleasantness in her head over and over again. Being a 13-year isn’t easy. Knowing how to respond to “death glares”, being ignored, being subject to nasty comments whispered loud enough to knowingly be heard, these make the growing up experience even harder. Not having a bestie, someone there who can help deflect the meanness and provide the kind of comfort only a true friend can, must be terribly isolating. I can only imagine what this makes going to school feel like.

The challenge for me is that as a man I can’t fully appreciate what she’s going through. Growing up as a boy wasn’t without it’s difficulties in relationships but my recollection was that we swore at one another, maybe scuffled a bit, and then five minutes later were back to doing what we were doing. It wasn’t ever really psychological or manipulative. It was in your face and you dealt with it and moved on.

A great friend of mine warned me that grades 7, 8 and 9 can be the toughest on girls and so far that prediction has proved true. Finding one’s place in the social structure of a school or a community is inherently a daunting process. There are strong personalities, weak ones, and indifferent ones. Some people are incredibly sensitive to other people’s thoughts and feelings while others don’t care. Some just lack an emotional intelligence. This isn’t unique to 13-year-old girls by the way. Many adults, male and female, go through this. I’m not sure my saying so helped my daughter. Growing up, I told her, doesn’t make it easier. Growing up provides us with a set of experiences to reflect on and use in situations that we’re facing in the present or will face in the future. As hard as what she’s going through now is, I believe her reactions to it and the learning she takes from it will shape her behavior and her response to conflicts as a young adult and beyond.

All this was very nice but what she really wanted was a solution. I told her I didn’t know the answer to solve this problem but that I could, at that moment, think of two responses she could try. The first is to confront her friends directly. I suggested that rather than saying, “Why are you being so mean?” she try, “The way you’re acting towards me really hurts me. Why are you treating me this way?” A head on approach doesn’t beat around the bush and it puts all the cards on the table. I warned her that the response she gets might not be what she wants to hear but that putting it out there affords the other party the opportunity to come clean with their behaviour.

The second option I could think of was to put on what I dubbed “the cloak of strength”, an invisible drapery of confidence that would very clearly show those who were mean to her that their words and actions couldn’t hurt her. Of course she was hurt but sometimes people knowingly do mean things because they want to elicit a response, they want to see another person shrivel. If my daughter could let the words bounce off of her, put on a smile and simply remove herself from the situation with her head held high, there would be a good chance that those who were looking to knock her down would notice this. I advised her that in this case they might re-double their nasty efforts which for a time would make things even worse but that eventually that person’s friendship really wouldn’t be worth salvaging or that person would come to appreciate my daughter’s strength and would see the value in having a person like her as a friend.

As we sat in a tight embrace on the couch, damp Kleenex around us but eyes now dry, she took a thoughtful moment to digest her options. Her shoulders relaxed, a faint smile appeared and she said, “Thanks Dad. I feel more comfortable with option two and I’ll try it out tomorrow.”

I tucked her back into bed, kissed her forehead and told her that she had more strength than she probably knew. I don’t know if what I said was the right thing but I do know it was what I believed. Parenting, as I’ve said before, is the hardest and worst paying job in the world. It’s also the best. We just have to be able to find the good parts because they are there, even in the moments that feel the darkest.

Lost vs misplaced…

Not only did he redefine the state of his mitt, he also deflected responsibility for it’s current whereabouts. Well played my boy, well played. And good luck with that cold hand.


Bedtime jobs- know your role…