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.

 

 

Crawling to the summer…

crawling

Is it just me or has this school year been the classic sprint marathon? As I stumble into the last day of June and the hopes and promises (and inevitable question “Dad, what should I do now?”) of summer, it feels like a good time for some self reflection.

September is always mental. It’s the true start of any year. School starts. Sport/art/community activities start and the malaise of summer days are quickly replaced with racing to an after school program (or two), the need to pack lunches, sign forms and plan and pay for winter activities. October was just as big a punch in the face, as was November. December offered a faint bit of hope – the calm before the holiday storm. January charged in and February and March were a blur. April offered a wee respite with winter activities ending and a week or two before summer activities began but it’s now a distant memory. May passed in a day and June has been the long painful crawl to the end.

I know it’s not just me as I’ve talked to other parents who’ve said they are “done”. We’ll use the next couple of months to recoup and refresh with days on the dock or hikes in the mountains depending on where we all live. G&T’s are not geographically specific. So let’s raise a glass of our favourite beverage and cheers our effort. We made it through another year of permission forms, sick kids, car pools, meal plans, laundry needs, project deadlines, homework dread and never ending cheque writing. Enjoy the summer and rest up. September is looming in the distance…

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.

Pointless

pointless

At first blush, this might seem super depressing. The reality was that this was a great starting point for a dinner discussion. My guess is that the notion of pointlessness came from an 11 year olds acknowledgement that Sunday evening feeds into Monday morning and with that the beginnings again of the weekly routine. More specifically, this means: get-up, go to school, eat a dinner that probably doesn’t make my top 5, go to bed. Repeat.

Of course each day is far more varied than that, a fact he granted after some further probing. I think this speaks more to the reality that as we grow it’s natural to question our place in life. What does it all mean? What is it’s purpose? What is my role in it all? Big questions that many adults probably can’t answer. We talked about family values, experiences, the importance of enjoying the moment and not just the end goal – all good stuff but did it resonate with the immediate feelings of a sixth grader? I’m not sure but it was a good chat never-the-less.

Making time to eat dinner together has oft been discussed as critical for all members of your family. Need a refresher? Try this story from Today’s Parent. Or this one from the Washington Post. Or how about visiting this site devoted to family dinner: The Family Dinner Project.

Enjoy tonight’s dinner and maybe even an engrossing chat about existentialism!