Raising a Daughter in Scary But Hopeful Times

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with an old friend whose family was expecting their third child: a daughter, after two sons. [Actually, I started this post more than a month ago, and as it happens, said daughter was born TODAY, early this morning! So read on, in honour of wee baby EC’s birth day.] This friend is from a two-son, no-daughter family himself. He said, “I should pick your brain sometime about how to raise a girl. I’ll have no idea what I’m doing.”

I’d like to say that I have all the answers, since a) I am a daughter and b) I have a daughter I’ve managed to get to age 5 relatively unscathed.

jean-jacket-mom-daughter
And we’re jean jacket buds.

Let’s see:

  1. Always wipe front to back
  2. Don’t over-clean and irritate those girl parts
  3. Keep a close eye on her interactions with her big brothers, because it’s easy for big brothers to abuse their power without realizing it.

Annnnd… that’s about the only straightforward advice I have. As soon as you’re past the diaper stage – and sometimes while you’re still in it – other things that differentiate raising a girl from raising a boy get sticky and complicated.

Once upon a time, I was a girl. (Still am, in some ways.) I was always happy and proud to be one, and never wished I were a boy – girls are the best! I was fortunate to have many strong, wise, smart female role models in my life, including my mom, my aunts, and my grandmothers. Also, I grew up between two sisters (with a brother as well), and my best friends were all girls (past about age 5).

Now I’m a grown-up woman, and I still wouldn’t trade that for anything. There are lots of awesome and basically magical things about being a female human. That being said, I have come to understand a lot more about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the status of womanhood today, and the breadth of the progress we have yet to make. I’ve thought and read and discussed a lot about what feminism means to me now, as a mother and as a teacher. Often, the process makes me mad, and always, it makes me feel fiercely protective of my little girl.

Obviously, girls, like all children, are individuals. The main things you can justifiably say about “Girls” as a group are not about their personalities, hobbies, habits, or tendencies. They are about the ways society sees and treats them. In my career I have taught literally hundreds of girls between the ages of three and eighteen, observing and getting to know them in many different contexts.

Here are a few thoughts that I hope will be helpful – or they may just confuse things worse than ever. But I think they’re important.

Pretty is as pretty does

The wish to be physically appealing is extremely powerful. I believe that this is partly instinctive, but mightily reinforced by the media. Society teaches girls and women that making themselves pretty should be their top priority.

Not too long ago, it was our duty to be pretty for men. Nowadays, it’s ostensibly for “us” – the company line is that it’s empowering to feel beautiful. Frankly, this is often true. Most women I know do feel most confident when they know they look good. I’m sure most men are the same.

Where the empowerment argument falls down is that the standards for women are flat-out ridiculous. As in, the consumer engine is all up in our appearances, down to Every. Single. Detail. Not just the quality of our hair and the state of our toenails, but everything in between, including the consistency of our breasts and the look of our vulvas. (And when I mention hair, I mean ALL the hair, in EVERY place.) There is no part of the external female anatomy that is exempt from society’s opinion.

And the expectation is perfection, literally. Women’s products are designed to minimize or conceal “imperfections” – or even “correct” them, as though every unique quirk of our bodies is a MISTAKE. I feel the outrageousness of this as I write it, but sadly, it’s no exaggeration. Society’s collective sense of entitlement to judge female people on and by their looks is inescapable and crushing. The engine never stops, because there are people making obscene amounts of money off of women feeling bad about themselves.

Tiny girls are able to love themselves and their appearances naturally and abundantly. Sean was worried at one point because AB loves to admire herself in the mirror, strike cool poses and so on – is she too focused on her looks? Will she grow up vain?

But this time of a little girl being able to enjoy her reflection without self-judgment and criticism is fleeting. Due to the above phenomenon, a girl’s self-esteem is often extremely fragile. I was already worrying about whether my body was good enough by the time I was nine (ballet class did not help in that regard, even though I adored ballet) and I fretted about my crooked teeth as soon as I got them, which was even earlier. Every insecurity a girl can have is promptly and thoroughly validated by the media. I watch my daughter enjoying her beauty, and it squeezes my heart. I know all too well the self-consciousness that creeps in, so soon, on young girls.

So here’s a quandary: do I tell my daughter she’s beautiful to reinforce her confidence, or treat appearance as unimportant so that she will focus on her character and skills? (The internet is all over both sides of this argument, BTW. It’s no help.) Personally, I try to do both. I tell her she’s beautiful often, because I can’t pretend that Beauty isn’t an issue. She IS beautiful, and she will need this knowledge-ammo to fight off the counter-messages. Plus… we all know it feels good to hear that. (She tells me I’m beautiful too, with sincerity and delight, usually when I wear a skirt or something pink – or any outfit she chose for me.)

[Here is a wonderful blog post about a mom who learned, for her daughters’ sake, to agree with them that she was beautiful. This had a big impact on me when I first read it, back when my own daughter was baby. Since then, I try very hard not to be self-critical in front of my kids. And in general (though that’s harder).]

We also talk about her character on a regular basis, discussing almost every day what makes a good friend, how much we learn from hard work, what courage looks like, and other traits we want to foster. I only use the word ugly when we’re talking about certain behaviours (which could be another whole post). I want her to know deep down, as she grows, that in real life, inner beauty is the greatest determining factor of overall beauty.

Nurturing is for everybody

Society may have been telling girls that we want to play with dolls for generations, but it’s not out of the blue. The nurturing tendency among girls is not solely a learned thing. As my daughter already knows, girls are born with all their eggs already in place in their bodies (in fact, AB seems quite proud of this). It makes sense that certain instincts come with them. Even in families trying hard to avoid gender-norming their kids, you often have tiny toddler girls pretending to be mamas (and tiny toddler boys who freak out with excitement around construction equipment). Many’s the kindergarten girl I’ve seen taking a random object – like a block or a chalkboard eraser – and mothering it.

I guess it’s not surprising that so many of the vocations dominated by women – child care, education, nursing, veterinary medicine, home health care, social work, not to mention parenting – are those in which the nurturing instincts are an asset. I am proud of the skills and accomplishments of these women, as well as those of the women who pioneer in male-dominated fields, who deal with chauvinism every day in order to pound their boots on that glass ceiling.

At some point, my daughter will have to contend with all this. Particularly divisive are the many perceptions that complicate a woman’s choice to mother – or not. “Parenting isn’t real work”… “Working mothers can’t fully succeed in their careers”… “A woman isn’t a real woman until she’s a mother”  and many more, often in conflict with each other. For now, though, I encourage my daughter to nurture (as well as to build things, play with trucks, and so on) – and I encourage the caring tendency in my son, too. We all need comfort and care, at every age. The world needs more nurturing, always, from everyone.

little_girl_puppy

Pink is STUPID… Or AWESOME

I looooved pink when I was little girl. Then, around age 12, I went off it and didn’t start to enjoy it again until I was an adult. That’s partly because I came of age in the 90s – grunge and pink didn’t mix well – but partly because I saw it as a dumb, girly colour. Which is awful. I hate that I internalized that message for so long. Pink is fun. It’s happy.

It might also be a little bit of a trap. When my daughter was born, I didn’t want her to feel like she had to choose pink as the be-all and end-all of everything. But of course, people love to buy cute pink clothes for girl babies (and they are adorable). Although I dressed her in all the colours, as soon as she began choosing for herself, she overwhelmingly chose pink. These days, purple and turquoise (thanks, Frozen) are also really popular, and she loves multicoloured things… But nothing can sway her love of pink.

The part that makes a protective parent mad is when you go to the toy section of a department store and find your totally-pink aisle and your zero-pink aisle. As though there’s no middle ground, for anyone. Really?? In the 21st century?

Here’s a question I can’t answer: is it good that they’ve started making “girl” Lego? Because it seems like you shouldn’t have to – Lego is for everyone (with strong and able fingers). But then… I’ll be honest. I probably would have done lots more fine-motor play-building if I’d had more colours and shapes to work with. When we gave AB a Lego set with all sorts of colours (including pink and purple and turquoise) and lots of random wheels and windows and funny parts, BOTH kids got really excited and built like crazy. More variety = MORE FUN.

[On the topic of pink, dolls, and many other very pertinent things, I highly recommend “Cinderella Ate My Daughter“, by Peggy Orenstein, to be read by EVERYONE with girls in their lives.]

little_girl_art_paint

No means No. Except when it doesn’t.

Girls start out quite knowledgeable about their physical boundaries. Society blurs that line for them, however, from a very young age. There are a million insidious messages about how a woman should be, permeating a girl’s psyche as she grows. We should be kind, gracious, altruistic, polite, agreeable, generous, accepting, and friendly. All great qualities – I aspire to them myself, and encourage them in all the children I know. The problem arises when they are so  ingrained, to the exclusion of other qualities, that they affect a girl’s protection of her boundaries.

Even in 2018, there are potent forces telling girls and women to avoid being confrontational, defensive, or inconvenient. I see ALL THE TIME our tendency to sacrifice ourselves and enable other people – sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad. On the one hand, you have the professions I mentioned earlier in which women care and give every day in extraordinary ways. On the other hand, you have millions of women becoming recipients of unwanted sexual attention, language, and/or contact, from men who exploit that politeness, friendliness, acceptance, and the desire not to make a fuss or be a pain. And please don’t misunderstand: I do not blame the women. This stems from the burden of centuries of misogyny.

[Here is an excellent article about sex from a woman’s perspective that I honestly believe every woman who’s ever been sexually active, no matter how good her sex life may be, can relate to on some level. And here is a post I wrote when AB was a toddler about managing the complexities of the physical relationship between her and my son.]

My Hubbibi and I have had many earnest conversations about the word NO, especially regarding our kids. I know that sometimes no doesn’t really mean no… Sometimes kids screech and giggle “no” during a physical game when they actually enjoy it and want to continue. BUT. I don’t think it’s up to me or anyone else to decide which Nos are real and which aren’t. Not even if parents (for example) traditionally have that leeway. Some words MUST mean what they say. I always tell students: “When someone says stop, you must stop.”

If “Stop” and “No” are open for interpretation, how does a person make herself clear? If people feel entitled to construe another person’s “No” however they like, then you have… well, you have the status quo. You have #metoo, in its millions.

Don’t even get me started on the folks who object to the new Ontario Sex Ed curriculum that finally takes on consent. Keep kids in the dark about sexual health and of course they will be blindsided.

The Herbivore’s Dilemma

To take the above idea even further, girls learn young that the dangers they face can be grave indeed. Consensus says that girls aren’t safe by themselves. Young boys are in a similar category – all children have to be careful of “stranger danger” – but as we get older, the understanding deepens for women. It is an extraordinarily strong (and trained) woman who is physically able to overpower your average adult male. In the Survival Game of reality, female humans are the Herbivores – for their whole lives. Depressingly, this is a biological and statistical truth. We are the prey. We are always aware of it. It is part of our everyday existence to avoid situations that leave us vulnerable to predators.

In my mind, this is the most deep-seated reason why so many women had a profound emotional response to Wonder Woman. We vicariously walked with her right into danger, and just dealt with it like a BOSS. The idea of being unafraid, of knowing you can protect yourself and your people… That’s the dream. it’s huge.

little_girl_joy

I wish it were unnecessary, but I will be teaching my daughter everything I know about personal protection. [Here is a pretty good article that covers many of the things I learned in a personal protection workshop I took a few years ago. We also learned how to put up our “fence” – guarding hands – and say loudly and aggressively, “Back off!” and if that doesn’t work, “Back the f*ck off!!!” Haven’t shared that with AB yet, but apparently it can help a lot.]

Contradictions, Hypocrisy, and Injustice

Last year at OELC iArts, it was my privilege to have an in-depth discussion with our group of Dance Majors, based on the question “What bugs you about the way society treats girls?” These junior high students know what’s up. They are angered by the impossible standards of beauty, and the way that all forms of media prey on their insecurities.

Even more, the double standards in their daily lives are infuriating. Boys get away with all kinds of things that girls can’t. Boys can, for example, wear basically whatever they want. Girls are not allowed to violate the dress code – it’s distracting (to boys) – always the girl’s fault… but short shorts are IN. It’s impossible to be fashionable and adhere to the dress code. Girls reported being made to wear random lost-and-found shirts to cover up visible bra straps – but god forbid they should propose removing the bra to solve the problem. Already, in Grade 7, the sexualization of EVERYTHING involving girls is rampant.

There’s a lot of unfairness. And a lot of pain. The unspoken expectations, the things that are just easier for boys, the things boys – and men – feel entitled to say and do around and to girls, the things that society says girls need to care about, the things it won’t let them do…. It’s a LOT.

Furthermore, the mixed messages start right away, and never stop. Girls can do anything boys can… but in reality, they are not treated the same. Girls should do everything in their power to be pretty, but they should not care or even really be aware of it. Women should own their sexuality, but not TOO much. Women should act more like men when they lead, but if they do they’ll be called cold and heartless – and people will still feel entitled to comment on their appearance.

As a family with two living children, a boy and a girl, things are sticky sometimes. Double-standards and mixed messages have to be dealt with, often on the fly as they come up. I try to be as honest as I can about how things are, within age-appropriate limits. We discuss how people grow up with different ideas about how to treat others, and then we think together about what we believe is right. My kids are already pretty thoughtful and astute people in many ways, and have some wise things to say. They know that we will never shut down their questions or invalidate their frustrations – and that we will love them no matter what. We hope that’s enough.

little_girl_smiling

Dilovely, didn’t you say “Scary But Hopeful”?

Okay, right. I acknowledge that this started out as parenting advice and became a feminist Di-atribe. (And I almost apologized for it, then backspaced. Because raising a daughter to live fully in this world = FEMINISM. No apologies.)

Yes, my understanding of, and frustration with, the status quo for women has grown with every year that goes by. It seems like, in this day and age, in a country like Canada, we should be over the silliness. Over the stupid beauty standards, the antiquated attitudes, and the misogyny so deeply embedded that some people don’t even see it. At times, it feels like we haven’t come nearly as far as we should, given the work that has gone into dismantling the patriarchy. Sometimes it even feels like we’re regressing.

However! I am also very grateful to raise my family in this place and time. Here and now, I do feel safe most of the time, and my daughter does too. Girls attend school – at all levels – in numbers that couldn’t have been imagined a century ago. We explicitly teach about consent. The pay gap is a household topic of conversation. The Prime Minister’s latest budget focused heavily on improving the lives of women. The Cabinet has gender parity. Awesome female heroes are more and more visible in movies and TV shows – and in real life too.

[If you need inspiration, news, resources, book lists, blog posts, or anything else to learn about girls or help girls learn about themselves, please mine the riches of A Mighty Girl. It is an absolute treasure trove and will make you feel better about the world.]

I’m grateful for the campaigns that mainstream companies are working on, because although they’re not without difficulties, they are highly visible and they do seep into the public consciousness. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has done some good work, bringing up issues mothers and daughters need to consider. And the original #likeagirl video made by Always consistently makes me cry.

Particularly the moment where a smiling teenage girl acknowledges she doesn’t have to accept “run like a girl” for its connotations. She says, “I would run like… myself,” putting both hands over her heart. She does know her worth, but the world tries hard to rob her of this. The woman asks her gently, “Would you like a chance to re-do it?”

Yes. Girls would like a chance to reclaim their self-compassion and take loving custody of their own value as people, please.  YES.

This can happen. The world is shifting. There may be a sexual predator slash nincompoop currently terrorizing the White House, but I’ll say this for him: he (unintentionally) rallied millions of women to take louder, stronger ownership of their feminist ideals. This is helping to put feminism where it should be: as the mainstream, default position for ALL non-misogynist humans. The #metoo movement has swelled past its banks on the power of women knowing they can’t let others just get away with shit anymore. Complacency is not an option.

I am also comforted by the knowledge that we have sisterhood to draw upon. We can bring our daughters into the fold as women who know the profound power of our bodies, hearts, and minds. We understand the strength of unity. The variants of our tenderness are blessings, sources of energy and healing. We know that daughters and mothers and sisters, joined with our allies, are already in the process of uplifting this chaotic jumble called humanity and making it better.

And there are lots of fantastic fathers out there, raising daughters with their own hearts and minds open to who those girls will become.

I am sincere when I say that I feel real optimism for our girls. It is truly exciting to be part of this new wave. We are in it together, all the daughters and all the sons, feeling the thrill of a changing, learning, evolving humanity.

We’ve got this.

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Photo credits, in order: 1. Auntie Beth, 2. Bess-Hamiti, 3. pikauisan, 4. yohoprashant, 4. cherylholt, 5. skimpton007. Photos 2-5 via Pixabay.

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A Post About Beauty

I started worrying about my children back when they were zygotes. With a daughter, I have worries that are completely different from those I have for my son.

Self-esteem and body image issues are some of my biggest concerns for her. She’s only seven weeks old, but already I find myself wondering how best to foster a positive self-image that will get her through the tough times… like puberty.

As I see it, we can talk as much as we want about how physical appearance doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but the fact remains: beauty – or at least our perception of it – IS important.

I want my daughter to feel and know she’s beautiful. Unfortunately, I think that’s one of the toughest achievements out there.

It might seem silly to care about physical appearance. After all, we’re all just a bunch of cells. We’re made up of un-pretty things like skeletons, eyeballs, and intestines. We see only the very surface. Furthermore, if we have naturally nice skin or lustrous hair or straight teeth, it’s accidental – not the result of any hard work or particular worthiness on our part. Still, somehow, appearances are a source of judgement.

I’ve known it since childhood. There’s that line in the Free to Be song, “When We Grow Up“, where the girl says, “I don’t care if I’m pretty at all.” I knew, even back then, that I should feel the same way, but I didn’t. I wanted to be pretty. And even before age 10, I worried that I wasn’t. I fretted about my crooked teeth and my stubby fingernails and my freckles and my flat chest. Then, by the time the braces were off and the breasts showed up and I quit biting my nails, I was already worrying about being too fat. (Looking back, I know I was in no way too fat.)

twentysomething dilovely
Dilovely at age 20 or so…? A LONG time ago, anyway.

I thought a lot about looks when my university boyfriend entered medical school in my fourth year. I was taken aback when I visited him at school, because I quickly realized that basically 100% of his classmates were somewhere on a continuum between Quite Good-Looking and Downright Gorgeous. I remembered the process my boyfriend had gone through to get into med school – a rigorous series of essays, interviews, and references, not to mention the MCAT – and figured there had to be a correlation. Not that beautiful people are smarter, or more cosmically deserving of success, but that beauty facilitates confidence. Confidence is an undeniably large factor in success.

Doesn’t seem fair, but it’s true. Naturally, I want my daughter to have that confidence. I wish I could just install it in her psyche like software… but alas, instilling it is a much trickier process.

This video is a nice attempt to break through the self-esteem angst.

I like all the different, lovely faces, and I appreciate the positivity. Some of the advice is great (2, 7, and 10 are my favourites), but two of them really annoy me: “Control your perspective” and “Another word for sexy? Confident.” As if it’s that easy. If your perspective is getting you down, just fix it! And if you’re not sure you’re sexy enough – simply BE CONFIDENT. What have you been waiting for?

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

Why don’t more of us grow out of this dissatisfaction? Don’t we adults know better? Not always. I recently read a memorable blog post by a thirtysomething mom who had included a photo of herself that she hated.

The photo was neither pretty nor horrendous. There are other photos on the blog of this woman looking very appealing – but that’s not how she sees herself. I was impressed by the raw way she wrote about her appearance, how she considers herself ugly, and how often she feels inadequate because of it – in spite of a happy marriage, good family, friends, and readers.

I was touched by her post, because most of us can relate to feeling ugly sometimes – I definitely can… but it depends on the moment. I have times when I feel pretty, too, which makes it easier to get through the ugly times. How hard would it be to feel ugly every day? Because no matter how other people perceive us, it’s how we feel about ourselves that makes the difference.

A wise friend, in response to my post about my pesky wrinkles and grey hairs, sent a link to this wonderful piece by Amanda King, “I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful.” It is full of love, pain, protectiveness, and amazing words. This lovely mom has nailed it: she’s beautiful to her daughters, and she doesn’t want to tell them they’re wrong. So she says it aloud – she is beautiful. She writes, “I see it behind their shining brown eyes, how glad they are that I believe I am beautiful.”

Oh. So true. I think of my sweet daughter and my heart squeezes.

I tried to imagine saying to her, “Aren’t I beautiful?” My mind balked at the idea, because, well – isn’t that conceited, somehow?

Wait – NO. It hit me. Society gives women a preposterous goal: work endlessly to attain beauty, but don’t acknowledge that you have it. We’re not supposed to be satisfied with ourselves. How perverse – and dumb. After all, I admire tremendously the people I know who seem most comfortable and happy in their own skin.

I also realized… my children are worth the effort of tossing that stupid goal in the toilet. If anything can convince me to own my beauty, it’s knowing that my children might need me to.

The clichés are true: beauty comes from within, and it’s also in the eye of the beholder. If my child sees me as beautiful, I am. My friends get more beautiful to me the more I know and love them. It’s not that I stop seeing “flaws”; it’s that inner and outer beauty are all wrapped up together.

We ARE beautiful.

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Is this what it’s like to be popular?

So, lovely Di-hards, how do you like the new look? Isn’t it pretty??

I’d like to declare a huge thank you to my big brother, Uncle Ben, a.k.a. Eupharos, for taking a nice theme by NodeThirtyThree and customizing the whole thing according to my inexperienced ideas. He’s got skillz. And he’s even going to help with different versions of it for different seasons, so we don’t get bored. Yay! Merci!

(Incidentally, we are still working out a few kinks of the changeover… like you might notice the comments suddenly aren’t threading, for some unknown reason… but we will figure it out, I’m sure.)

I also want to express my thanks to everyone who read – and everyone who shared – my last post about teachers. I never expected that the aforementioned facelift would coincide with a much larger event.

It has been humbling and wonderful and more than a little freaky to watch my traffic spike over the last week… and when I say “spike”, I’m actually understating it a bit. Through last Monday, I got nice, regular, very modest traffic (100-200 page views per day) where I knew most of my actual readers personally, and the rest of the traffic bounced across my blog looking for movie reviews, Kate Winslet naked, Salma Hayek’s cleavage, or Reese Witherspoon’s legs.

On Tuesday, I suddenly had the most one-day page views of my li’l blog’s history, including more than 500 just for my teacher post. I was all like, “Woohoo! How exciting!” Then, the next day, views for the post jumped, such that Tuesday’s numbers became tiny. By yesterday, the post had been shared so many times on Facebook (over 1K) that my widget stopped counting.

I know these numbers are not huge by internet standards in general, but to me, they were nothing short of shocking. By yesterday evening, I was feeling a bit more “Um, holy crap,” than “woohoo”, because what the heck do I know about getting this much attention?? As of this writing, Those Greedy, Lazy Teachers has been viewed 14,000 times and counting. (Please don’t think I’m boasting here – it’s more like boggling.)

Again, thank you. I am honoured that you found my words to be worth passing along, that you chose them to help represent teachers’ situation. And a special thanks to all you supportive non-teachers – you make such a huge difference at times like these.

I’m figuring that this will be simmering down pretty soon. I think it is most likely a one-post flash in the pan for this blog, indicative of teachers’ level of frustration – not to mention need for understanding – in the current climate.

As such, dear teachers, I hope that reading this helped, for a moment at least. You have proven what a tight-knit, solid community we are. I hope your first week back with the kids was stellar.

And I hope that at least a couple people who needed that clarification have gotten it, and understand a bit better. It’s hard to tell about that.

You see, along with all the page views, I’ve also had an unprecedented number of comments, and… my very first trolls! (It’s funny that I vowed in my post not to read any comments on online forums… I didn’t realize I was going to create one.) And I was very nervous about those trolls before they showed up yesterday, knowing it must be only a matter of time before they stepped up to the plate… but then I got a comment from “Fred”, and honestly, I was grinning. Silly though it sounds, it made me feel that I’d “arrived” somehow – to be spread far enough to get me some haters.

Anyway, after congratulating Fred on being my first troll, I was amazed and relieved to realize it wasn’t just me against him: other readers were stepping up to enter the discussion. (If you co-defenders are reading – again, thank you.) It got rather interesting. And THEN, there was Thomas, who made Fred look like a relatively good-natured mischief-maker.

All this served to remind me of something I think I already knew: if a mind is tightly closed, you can’t just go and open it.

I think, to get into a mind like that, you would have to come at it sideways, far from the protective anonymity of the Birdhouse. You’d have to meet that person, in person, in an entirely different context… see each other as humans first, do something unexpected that peels back a layer of baggage. Like in this story from Momastery – I love how Glennon wrestles (philosophically) with herself and the jerk beside her on the plane, and they both learn stuff.

And hey, just for fun, since I’m all wicked-popular now (get it? I’m sooo funny), here’s a song that I hope might give me guidance on what on earth to do next.

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Those Greedy, Lazy Teachers

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little, I wanted to be a ballerina. After that, I wanted to be a novelist.

It didn’t occur to me to want to be a teacher until later. As a homeschooling kid, I didn’t even have teachers other than my mom.

Then I went to public high school, and had many different teachers, including some really amazing ones. It was my senior French teacher who inspired me to consider a career in education. She was (and is, I’m sure) a wonderful, talented person who taught because she loved kids and wanted to engage with them and help them to do better in life. I loved her class.

When I decided I wanted to teach, it wasn’t because I wanted to be rich. (I already knew that teaching is NOT the way to get rich.) Ditto being famous. I wanted to use my languages, to help other people find their love of language, to impart knowledge and connect with young people. To teach. It sounded so rewarding, so community-oriented, so purposeful.

I remember that my awesome French teacher came to my farewell party before I left for France, after I’d finished my degree in French and Spanish at university (which was also inspired in a large part by her). I hadn’t seen her in four years – four years during which Mike Harris had wreaked havoc on Ontario’s education system. She was looking forward to retirement, and she was feeling, for the first time in her decades-long career, disillusioned and sad about teaching. I remember her saying, “It’s different now. The government speaks badly of teachers, so the parents speak badly of teachers, and the kids come to class with that disrespect in their minds. It’s a terrible atmosphere to teach in.”

The same thing has been going on in British Columbia now since 2001 – an agonizing demoralization of educational professionals through consistent bad-mouthing and a gradual stripping of contracts and working conditions.

Now here we are in Ontario, once again, dealing with a provincial government who blabs on about “putting kids first” as they scramble to lay blame for the deficit. (Ask any Ontario public school teacher – this catch-phrase is so hypocritical it makes us want to throw up.) Continue reading “Those Greedy, Lazy Teachers”

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An Open Letter to the Gunman

toronto eaton centre shooting crime scene

Dear Mr. Shooter:

So. It appears, from the status of the person you succeeded in killing, that your decision, i.e. to open fire in the crowd at the food court in the Toronto Eaton Centre yesterday, was gang-related.

We, the public, still don’t know who you are or where you’re from. We don’t know what your history is. What we can assume is that you’re angry. You’d have to be, to pull a stunt like that.

As a teacher, I automatically wonder what kind of a child you were, and what your teachers thought of you in school. I wonder if you were ADHD or ODD. If you were a bully, or if you got bullied. If you were part of a visible minority that felt it had to stick together to survive, or if you had a bone to pick with visible minorities – or both. I wonder if you were neglected or beaten as a child, if you had enough to eat, if you had a parent in jail, or if you witnessed murder. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Gunman”

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Hypes and Gripes – June 2011

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Just for shivers…

I had something else I was planning to write about today, but then there’s this. (Sean found it, being the primary internet troller of the household.) It’s simply too bloggable to wait, especially on the heels of that last video.

Ad for Lysol Douche

a) Doubt? Inhibitions? Ignorance??? Chemicals fix those!!!!!!! Why didn’t we think of this before?? Women need not have any problems after all!

b) A woman should always question herself. She is the cause of all her own misfortune, especially any rejection, neglect, or sexual dysfunction with respect to her husband.

c) Ladies, if you were wondering what your goal should be, where your life is headed, what the pinnacle of your achievements will be, look no further: it’s daintiness.

d) Booklet of Feminine Hygiene Facts! Free if you send away for it! What will “leading gynecological authority” say? Feminine undaintiness (disdaintiness?) is actually Satan’s leftover spawn and is the source of all marital, sexual, psychological, and emotional woes. Woman, you were born dirty and it’s your duty to burn the hell out of your bajingo. Then you will be fit to hop in the sack and do some sinning with your hubby.

P.S. “Don’t let me be locked out from you”? What the heck kind of a sentence is that? These copywriters needed some help with jazzy catch-phrases. Even if, as the commenters at boingboing point out, Dave’s in the closet of his own accord… 😉

P.P.S. Some commenters also have dug up information that achieving daintiness was a euphemism for avoiding conception at a time when actual contraceptives were frowned upon – and women knew this.


 

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Accomplishments

Remember how when you were a kid, certain things about being grown-up just seemed incredibly cool?  Well, I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but for me it was.  There were many little things I really looked forward to achieving.  Sometimes I like to remind myself of those things, because I’ve achieved so many of them… and this has nothing to do with my job or my education or even becoming a mother.

Accomplishments that are Grown-Up that I Admired as a Child and have Now Achieved (in no particular order):

  • Wearing lace-up shoes – and being able to do them up myself
  • Writing in cursive (oh! I remember how much work that was at first)
  • Having keys (I don’t know, just something about the jingle of keys sounded like an adult)
  • Wearing a watch – especially one with hands
  • Being able to type really fast (one of the reasons to play “store” and be the cashier was to pretend to be an expert super-fast typer on the calculator – this was before bar codes were scanned with a beep)
  • Wearing high heels and real nylons (and to think, now I avoid them as much as possible)
  • Quitting biting my nails and growing them long
  • Wearing makeup – face paint didn’t count (dance recitals were the first real makeup-wearing opportunities)
  • Having my own tapes and a tape player (ha ha)
  • Having a job (my very first one was as an assistant in younger ballet classes – the idea of it was more important than the money at the time, since I rarely spent my money)
  • Wearing glasses (I was jealous when my sister got them)
  • Getting to be staff at Camp (teen staff were the coolest people ever)
  • Being able to play the flute (I could play the recorder, but something about the transverse nature of the flute – and the fact that my big brother and his friend both played it – made it seem way cooler)
  • Needing a bra, getting my period etc. (I was a bit of a late bloomer in this)
  • Driving a car (ditto)
  • Having a boyfriend (even though the idea was scary – could one really spend time alone with a boy and know what to talk about?)

See, once I get going on a list like this, I realize I am constantly living my childhood dreams!  It’s fun.  Try it y’self.

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NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo. (DoWiSeTrePla?)

How auspicious!  I have started blogging, just by coincidence, during NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month.  All I have to do is blog every day… no problem!  (Way easier than if I had to jog every day.  I am just not a runner.)  Of course, I missed a couple days there, but I can do some extras on the end, right?  And then, I mean, does anyone actually get to the end of a blog?  I can just keep going!

My aunt has done NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, many times.  My cousin is doing it this year.  My husband thought he might one time, but he works in a bookstore where November is already Christmas and life is crazy by then.  Plus he’s not good at being regular about writing.

I, on the other hand, am good at being regular about writing, when I put my mind to it.  I think I may have mentioned that I was a compulsive journaler for most of my life; I also wrote lots of stories, three chapter books, and a bunch of incomplete opuses (opi?) during my homeschooling years.

Once, in high school, I wrote an English essay in which my teacher could find absolutely nothing to criticize.  And once I wrote an analysis for music class that compelled my teacher to call me at home the evening she marked it, just to tell me it was lovely.  (See??  Lovely.)

When I did my MA in French lit, I wrote a 75-page mémoire on ways women convey their messages (l’énonciation) in francophone Africa.  (Mostly I did the whole MA just to prove to myself that I could be disciplined enough to write that big a paper in French.)

I journaled all through my pregnancy and have been trying to keep up with a bit of a new mom journal as well.  And my project I’m imagining – it has to do with writing too.

The point I’m finally getting to is that, as apparently experienced and confident a writer though I am, I’m still intimidated by people doing NaNoWriMo.  I am in awe of them.  People actually write whole books, or at least very respectable chunks of books, in that time.  And I… I somehow feel that I can’t write a book.

At least, I can’t write the book I want to write.  I could probably write a book of essays, ha ha.  I could maybe write something non-fiction.  But I’d like to write an epic story – and my pre-teen girl dramas unfortunately do not fit the bill.  I want it to be a book that would make people feel the way the books I love make me feel: proud and inspired.

Proud, you say?  Yes, proud.  My favourite books put me so firmly in the shoes of the protagonist that I feel as awesome as if their accomplishments were my own.  I am as skilled at Quidditch and fighting evil as Harry.  I am as beautiful and fascinating as Bella.  I am as desirable and passionate as Dinah.  I am as smart, sexy and resourceful as Lusa and Deanna.  And I possess incredible selflessness and love in the face of years of suffering, just like Jean Valjean.

When you finish a book like that, you are satisfied, and also wistful because you’re going to miss those people you’ve been keeping company with.  That is the kind of book I want to write.

But what can I actually write about?  How could I come up with such good ideas and brilliant characters… especially when such wonderful books of all kinds already exist?  Where can I find this imagination, and marry it to the passion and inspiration that will allow me to write a truly great story?

I’m still figuring that out.  If I find the answer, I’ll let you (the ether) know.

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