What I said and what I wanted to say…

what i said.jpg

Two weeks ago we dropped our kids off at camp, three provinces away, for a month long stay. Today I received a letter from our son and it instantly reminded me of the feelings I had when we said our final goodbyes before leaving him with his cabin mates. Like many boys, he finds being away from home challenging, especially in the evenings. He’s honest and open with his emotions in the lead-up to camp and at the actual drop off (when extra hugs are never ending). I tried to provide a sense of strength and positivity by acknowledging his fears and reminding him of the good times ahead but deep inside, I’m a super softie.

 

 

This is what summers are meant for…

avenger

The other night, during the harvest moon, I slept outside with my son. We’d just watched Spiderman:Homecoming (awesome) and we had the kind of conversation that only seems possible on warm summer evenings. I luxuriated in the banter over which super hero we’d be, as ourselves, in their costumes and with their powers. It was thoughtful and carefully deliberated and after talking through all the Avengers, we settled on the hero we’d picked initially. We talked about other super cool stuff like flying cars, inventions that would make us rich and who we’d take to a dance if we absolutely had to or else we wouldn’t be allowed to create inventions that would make us rich…

It’s moments like these that need to be taken and remembered. It’s what keeps us young and connected to our kids who are growing faster than the weeds in the backyard where we pitched our tent.

A bed of quicksand

quicksand

Do you ever have those mornings, when your alarm goes off and you have the best of intentions to hit the gym or catch-up on emails before the steady thrum of activity that consumes you’re every being when the kids wake-up begins and-you-just-can’t-pull-yourself-out-of-the-comfy-confines-of-your-soft-warm-bed…

Yeah, I know the feeling.

One night with my puking son

one-night

Look, I remember being a kid and feeling like the world was stacked against me in moments like this. It’s easy to deflect the hurt and pain onto someone else and the most obvious target is the one who is looking after you. They are listening already to your aches and pains so it’s only natural to be completely honest about how you want to feel better.

What this episode did reinforce is how much I appreciated my mom and dad doing this kind of thing for me. I’m not sure I ever thanked them enough so I’ll just bank this as a pay it forward kind of thing.

Screenagers. A lesson in digital citizenship and irony

screenagers

Screenagers is a documentary film by Delaney Ruston that is currently making the rounds across North America. “Growing Up in the Digital Age” is the subtitle and the film covers a range of topics that include but aren’t limited to, gaming, social media and the pressures associated with it, addiction, digital citizenship and the role of screens in the lives of families. It clocks in at an hour and six minutes which was a bit long in the opinion of my teenager, but does a decent job of presenting some of the challenges facing teens and their parents when it comes to understanding the relationship we have with devices. I’d encourage you to see it should it be screening in your area. Please check out the following link for more details: Screenagers: The Movie

I brought my kids with me (kids 18 and under are free) and while they were reluctant at first (“Geez dad, will there even be any other kids there?” – there were), in the end they both felt it was worth while. The biggest take aways for us actually came from a panel discussion that happened after the screening. In it, we learned about the concept of “Goldilocks” – the notion that there can be too much screen time, too little and some that is just right. This amount will of course vary from family to family depending on their values but my kids liked this idea that there could be a happy medium. I fully support this notion. I work in an industry that creates content for screens, and my business was boosted when the iPad and like models came out opening up a whole new avenue for storytelling, so while I have a vested interest in content development I also don’t want screens to take over my kid’s lives. I’d prefer to have discussions with them about developing strategies to help them gain control of their usage and how to be good digital citizens rather than characterize screens as dangerous and addictive. Probably the best part of the whole experience was the talk we had on the drive home. Here are the ideas that stuck with us the most:

  • There can be a happy medium of screen usage and it’s up to kids and their parents to discuss this together
  • Self control takes practice and we as parents are there to help
  • One of the film’s experts, Laura Kastner, talked about the idea of high school students being “under programmed”. She quoted a stat that 40% of teens don’t have after school programs and are turning to screens to fill their time
  • Fake Likes. I had no idea what this was but my teenage daughter explained it to me. She pointed out that this can be better managed by making one’s online profiles private thereby restricting comments to people you know.
  • Parents need to take a look in the mirror and examine their screen time usage. Do you take your phone into the bathroom with you? Do you look at it as soon as you wake up? Right before you go to bed? Guilty…
  • The irony that we were watching a film about screen usage on a screen and that we were being asked and encouraged to post our thoughts online and to respond to questions and ideas, through our screens

If nothing else, this film provided another opportunity to discuss this subject together. I don’t know what is right or wrong, I’m not sure anyone does, but based on our family’s values we will continue to make decisions that support what we believe in. Perhaps the most important thing we can offer our kids when it comes to screen time is an open, non-judgemental door to talk.

Teenage daughters and water bills

water-bill

Yes, we’ve reached that glorious time of life where our daughter luxuriates in long, drawn out hot showers. Somehow, her brother is always in desperate need to brush his teeth when she is showering, but to be fair to him, it can be a bit of a wait. While I’m not so sure he actually cares about the water bill, I do believe it was a crafty move on his part to steer the conversation in a financial direction in an effort to jolt me into action in support of his dental hygiene needs.

Say goodbye to the taxi driver role

self-driving-minivan

Raise your hand if you’re exhausted from shuttling your kids to and from school, playdates, after school activities, sports events…. the list never ends. I recently created a spreadsheet to share with a couple of other families in an effort to share the load in an attempt to alleviate that last minute anxious texting and calling. It’s sorta working…

Well, our friends in the auto industry are bringing us the future and it’s looking good. At the Consumer Electrics Show in Las Vegas Chrysler unveiled an electric, self-driving minivan that could completely eliminate the taxi dad and mom roles. Just imagine yourself grabbing another hot drink and picking up your book while the “Portal” whisks your kids to dance/ski/soccer/music/daycare/school… Ok, maybe it’s not quite like that but we taxi parents can dream, can’t we?