Archive for October 2011

 

Metaphor Monday  We interrupt regular programming to bring you this special seasonal post . . . .

 

This weekend our family attended the 12th annual Night of Dread here in Toronto. We’ve been going almost 10 years now. The thing that keeps us coming back year after year other than the spectacular parade of giant puppets, live drumming bands to groove to and a parade of community, is the facing your fears portion of the night. After the parade we gather round a large circle and the archetypal fears are called forward. One by one the fears step into the centre of the circle and community is invited to laugh at or shun the fear with “Boooo”s.  There is fear of natural disasters, fear of government aka “Prime minister Nobody”,  Toronto’s Mayoral gravy boat, fear of war, fear of consumption.  The list goes on.


After that, other big and “little” or idiosyncratic fears are called upon, each written on cardboard signs pre-made by participants prior to the parade.  Fears such as the fear of “getting into trouble” “zombies” “fear of racism” “fear of authority” to name a few. We are all called upon to repeat these fears out loud, yell them loud just before they are thrown into the cleansing fire in the middle. Its a ritual with such deep meaning, perhaps not always fully comprehended by our children though enjoyed by them just the same. They have the opportunity to see the community at large gather to protest, fight back and take control of their fears in a fun and peaceful way, all the while bringing awareness to important issues and creating a feeling of not being alone in one’s fears.

 

After this, the community (not audience as we are all participating on some level by just being there I believe) are invited to dance with death.  Every year I waltz with death.

 

This year was bitter-sweet: for not only did I have the usual feeling of gratitude for my life, but also a great sense of loss for my family, as my father-in-law had died this past spring.

The gathering was held in a large park and after the activities we took some time to visit the shrines that were scattered across the park, each lit with a small candle.  This year we participated on another level as a family.  Night of Dread invited people from the community to make shrines for loved ones who had died or to morn the loss of other tragedies such as natural disasters, pollution and so forth.  Together (while my mother-in-law watched) we built a shrine for my father-in-law.  Chris did most of the arranging of items and pictures he had picked.  My sons made a rendition of a lira, an instrument that their grandfather’s father use to play.

As we walked among the collective shrines that night we saw a shrine for the earth, one for Haiti, pet cats, John Lennon and others loved ones who had died.

My sons made a lira to hang in their grandfather's shrine

 

This multimodal approach to fears is what kids need. Talking about fears is useless to kids because being rational is not a part of one’s fears.  Kid’s know that there are no monsters under the bed but they feel them there anyway. Through ritual, these fears can be acknowledged, accepted and released.

 

 

 

Welcome to the 25th episode of Metaphor Monday! Today come for a drive with me as I talk about parenting from a different perspective.

 

 

 

 

On today’s Metaphor Monday, I look at the importance of learning how to put on the breaks with your children.

 

 

Special note: the music credits should read: “Ares live on the Ukulele”.  Thanks Ares for the impromptu music performance!

 

 

Today’s post was to be a video but there really wasn’t much point as you would not be able to see anything. Aside from that it is a holliday weekend here in Canada and I was quiet pleasantly distracted by family that we were visiting.

 

Temagami Night Sky, 2010 photo by Christos

 

When we were camping back in August I was reminded at night of how much clearer the sky is out of the city. Where we live in Toronto here is so much light pollution that most nights we don’t really get to see all the stars as we do when we are out of the city. Picture shining a flashlight on a lava lamp to see how it glows. It just doesn’t work. One night when we were in Temagami I looked up into the night sky and was so amazed at how clearly I could see all the millions of stars. It was spectacular. Nothing was getting in my way of seeing them so clearly. I began to think about how much clearer I can see things if only I don’t over focus on them. It’s easier to see if I am not blinded by light. Usual ally we think of light as illuminating, helping us seethings more clearly. But if there is too much light we are blindsighted and miss that which is important.

As parents, sometimes we can walk into a situation so focused on what we expect to see or even what we hope to see, that we become blinded to what is really there. I can recall many times having an expectation that there was going to be a problem in a situation with my children; I feel myself get all tense, I begin to get ready to address the predicted “issue” only to then realize that I was wrong, that things have turned out differently but okay just the same. Or there may be other times when I expect things to go a certain way in order for them to “turn out” and then (with the help of my children) I realize that there is a different way to get to the solution.

Sometimes our expectations can become a kind of light pollution shining so brightly we miss what is right in front of us.

I remember not that long ago, waking up one weekend expecting to make some whole grain pancakes with the grains I had soaked the night before. My boys had risen before me and were reeking havoc (admittedly my skewed perception, since they were veering from my “plan”) making breakfast. It’s not that I don’t like having breakfast made for me, it’s just that I was so blind sighted by my “vision” of making pancakes with the grains I had soaked and now what was I going to do with these?

I was getting ready to complain about the mess. So focused was I on the fact that my “vision” of a pancake breakfast was not going to be happenning that I couldn’t see the stars in front of me. There was so much more that I wasn’t seeing. Blind sighted by my own “vision” I almost missed some very important happenings: for one, my boys were trying to help; they were excited about surprising my husband and I; they were using their independence skills; they were feeling proud about what they had done, and most of all, they were coming from a place of love.

Luckily I came to my other senses and was able to see beyond my the light pollution of my “vision”. I could hear the tone of excitement and pride that they felt, not to mention feel their love filled smiles (and of course it smelled delicious too). No longer blindsighted by my own expectations, I was able to sit back and enjoy a wonderful breakfast made with love.

We all are blinded by the light from time to time. Sometimes that picture of how we think things should be or how they “should” go is so bright that we can’t see what else is right in front of us.

Are you willing to dim the light so that you can see more?

When I decided to participate in the Girl Effect campaign, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write. There are so many issues that I could delve into and rant and rave about the injustice. But this is not my style. I wanted to focus on the girl power aspect of the girl effect.

As a mother of 2 boys living in Toronto, Canada, we are privledged  -wait that doesn’t sound right, its not about priveledge, its about human rights- we live in a counrty where our human rights are recognized and upheld.  When they are not, there are systems in place to help us.  I don’t want this to be about how “we” are so “lucky” and “poor” them. In fact if you watch the last video on this post you will see a major thing I like about the Girl Effect campaign is its positive focus on the potential for these girls to be a part of the change.  I felt myself cheering some of these girls on when I heard their stories.

I was once a young girl, and now a mother by choice.   I never had to deal with being forced to marry. I chose for myself. I always had the opportunity for an education and to chose my own career doing something I love. I chose to have children when I was ready, when I desired to, not when others told me I had to.  Seems simple doesn’t it?  But not so in many underdeveloped countries, where poverty determines ones’ choices like Kidan, the 13 year old girl in this video:

I’m not saying that everything is perfect for girls here. I don’t mean to ignore our own problems here such as child sexual abuse (against girls and boys), and teenage pregnancy to name a few.   Or what about how the media distorts and sexualizes young girls, pushing young girls to compare themselves with the images they are bombarded with on a daily basis. Many girls here struggle with eating disorders, depression or even suicide. I don’t want to down play these very important issues we have here in Canada.

The difference is, we can make a difference, we have the resources to help our children here.  This is not the case for those countries where poverty is so prevalent that people feel they have no other choice, but to marry their daughters early because they can’t afford them.  In underdeveloped countries that are war torn, have ongoing poverty  and hunger, these young girl’s rights becomes burried and blinders are put on to the cycle of poverty they sustain.  It is forgotten that in fact if girls aren’t forced to marry early, dropping out of school  and bearing children while they themselves are still children, they can pull themselves out of the poverty.

Forgotten that is, until it is highlighted, and there is a big enough spotlight put on these issues: (taken from http://www.girleffect.org/uploads/documents/1/Girl_Effect_Fact_Sheet.pdf )

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent.
  • An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.  (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)
  • Research in developing countries has shown a consistent re- lationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers. (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Compara- tive Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 per- cent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)

This ripple effect of positive outcomes when girls get an education, can also go the other way; a ripple effect of negative outcomes: death by childbirth, contraction of HIV and continuing the cycle of poverty.

But let’s focus on the positive, let’s hold that vision of educated girls, rising out of poverty, changing their world, changing the world.  Help me spread the word about the Girl Effect and why it is so important.  We can be a part of the change.  The only way that can happen is if we spread the word about the hope for the future and the enormous power of the Girl Effect to change the world.

Watch how Anita did it:

 

So now I invite you to write your own Girl Effect blog posts – during the week of October 4-11. To read other Girl Effect blog posts and to find out how you can be involved click HERE  .

Are You Carrying Around Too Much?


 

Well, I took a week off from doing Metaphor Monday in keeping with my self-care practice: practicing what I preach.  I have just been super busy this last week or so.  I figured there is no need to get all worked up and tense then carry that baggage of “oh I failed because I missed a week of Metaphor Monday” I said to myself.   So without further ado, here is this week’s Metaphor Monday; the last of the Temagami-nature-inspired  metaphors for this year.   I’ve made a short video for this Metaphor, taken from one of our portages.  I hope you enjoy it!

When we go canoe camping we have to pack light and be practical about what we take with us.  We need to pare down in preparation for our portages which obviously will be more difficult if we have too much baggage.  After all we want to be able to enjoy the scenery when we portage.

When we set up camp we take out what we need and put it back right after, rearranging it at that time to balance the load.  And every time we have a meal it makes for a lighter load.

As parents we all  have baggage that we carry with us from our past into our present experiences with our children.  Some of it may be useful, like when you use your own experiences as a child to guide you towards parenting in a way that is best for your child (and not necessarily the way you were parented).  Some of our baggage that we carry can interfere with our ability to parent to our best  because we get so weighed down emotionally from our baggage.

Sometimes we pass this baggage on to our children unwittingly when we put expectations on them that are too high.  Expectations that our parents had of us. Expectations that we feel we should have because other parents do. Expectations that ultimately our children feel they need to live up to, and when they don’t they carry this baggage around with them continuing the cycle.

Sometimes we need to remember to unload some of the luggage we carry piece by piece, carefully holding on to what serves us well, what feeds our soul, memories that teach us. We need to take care that we shift our load around to balance it out when we do. Sometimes that may mean replacing our baggage with more efficient, positive lighter things.

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