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.


Letting Go

I have created a short video below about letting go. I also included a story about how it came to be in this weeks post. Enjoy!


Sometimes it’s hard to let go of stuff. For some of us that means letting go of things we are sentimental about.  Sometimes its letting go of memories; things that happen that become our story or our truth. We may have invested our emotions in in the past with events that bothers us. As we hold on to these emotions they linger and overshadow our present moments. But in holding on we pay a price, the heavy load, the luggage we carry around wears us down.
With kids this holding on sounds like “he always does this” or “always gets his way” or the famous “its not fair” hanging on to perceived past injustices and carrying them into future experiences of what’s going on. Everything unjust becomes labeled as “always” happening and there doesn’t seem to be room for change because there is a holding on to the past experience so tightly that it is expected in the future. Holding on in this case is not the holding on of hope but rather of negativity.


The other weekend while canoe camping, a process in and of itself is a practice of letting go of stuff and leaving conveniences behind, the boys decided to make boats. They usually love collecting rocks like most boys or like to bring back souvenirs like chewed beaver sticks or other “keep-sakes” from their trip. Both enjoyed taking pictures of the sunset the first night. My youngest was photographing the sunset and was getting frustrated when he was not able to see the pictures right away on the camera screen. I reminded him that he could look at it anytime and to just enjoy the real thing in front of him, after a few more grumbles he was able to let it go and relax, not getting stuck in his expectation of how things should be.


After the boys made their nature boats they talked about bringing these back home with them. After hearing his brother talk about bringing them home my youngest decided he wanted to as well, even though on the way my youngest had made a boat on his own which he let go at the dock before we paddled off to our camp site. After talking about how we could document their launch with photos just as we had when they made them, they both agreed and became excited about launching their boat, sending it out into the water, out into the world, letting it go. Who knows what kind of travels their boats would go on perhaps it would be like the little carved canoe in the film “Paddle to the Sea” where a boy carves a wooden canoe and then releases it into the river which then travels down to the great lakes and eventually out to the ocean. This got them excited, they were ready to let go and open up to the possibilities. We talked more about not having to hang on to everything.


At one point when we were paddling back to the car, my youngest spontaneously released his boat, I thought prematurely, but he was fine with this. However, being the typical adult, who sometimes gets stuck and has a hard time letting go of stuff or ideas, I suggested we retrieve it because I missed photographing the moment of release.


We all can learn to let go a little more, whether it is letting go of fear of whether your kids are capable of something, or simply letting go of the past as in the last minute that just went by. Letting go of “hard” feelings is also a tough one. But if we don’t learn to how will our kids. Holding on to resentment or disappointment can also be a set up for us expecting similar unwanted behaviours from our children. If we just let go of our expectations a little more and be open to all the possibilities, imagine what adventures we can enjoy.


Parenting from a different perspective.

What can animals teach us about our children? In Today’s 11th Metaphor Monday I explore a different way of looking at children’s feelings of fear and anger. Please post your comments or questions below.

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