Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Fitting In When You Feel Different

I dropped my son off at school the other day and encountered a woman I have met only in passing. We are polite and friendly, so I smiled and asked how she was doing. She told me her day was going to be rough because someone was giving her daughter a hard time in class.
While I know kids are being bullied, it's in the news a lot these days, I was shocked. Her daughter looks very well put together, friendly, outgoing and from what I know, smart. The only reason someone would pick on her, I figure, is because she's mixed race. Like my children.
I encouraged this woman to listen close to her momma-bear instincts and take care of her child. When I climbed into my car, I began reflecting on how miserable my miserable days in elementary school were.

I grew up in small town Ontario, my parents were white. They adopted me, a little Jamaican girl, in infancy. I never knew any different and that was just the way it should be. By the time I got to grade school, I was to face a brutal onslaught of bullying and misdirected racism. (The kid most responsible for my depression was half black himself). Kids made fun of me and made me feel less than I was daily.

Amanda and Stephanie, two pretty Italian girls in my class were perfect. I wanted to be like them. Smart, with pretty hair and nice clothes. They knew the right answers and had beautiful printing. I was a stuttering, sloppy handed girl with frizzy hair. Polar opposite.

These days, Dove has a great campaign to bring awareness to the fact that girls are under more pressure than ever to fit in, be smart, be good, be pretty.

Now I am the mother of a 8yo girl who has thick tight curls, creamy brown skin and thinks she's a fashionista. I see the pressure she is under and have done my best to instill pride and confidence in her. We watched The Greatest Showman the other night, and Keala Settle's song, "This is Me" along with Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" will be our anthem as we navigate the coming years. I will use this for my son as well, as the tween/teen years are no small feat.

I sincerely hope the mom I encountered on that morning can do the same for her little girl.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

What I learned about Responding to Grief

Image by @silviapecota (artist)

I'm loving all the photos of the hockey sticks on porches, the gorgeous heartfelt drawings too. It is a little thing, but I've given this whole thing some thought and have come to a conclusion. When we post that we are thinking of the victims and that we are praying for their families, in any tragedy (I mean there are so many awful things that happen), we are really saying this:
"I see you are hurting. I see you are sometimes caught in a memory that rips your heart open again and that it's a struggle to even breathe sometimes. I see your eyes searching for a face you'll never see again. I see your fingers twitch to hold a hand or stroke a cheek that will never feel your touch again.You will need a few more minutes, an extra smile or a bit more space. I am thinking of your pain and trying to be aware of that when I am interacting with people today."
That's no small thing. In the days after my father passed, I moved through my days as though wrapped in layers of wool. I couldn't feel the same, hear the same or think the same. I was slower, sadder, more detached. Some folks responded with sharp words and scornful looks. I would have been lifted a bit more if more people had been aware of my wounded heart. If more people could see. It's a pledge to be aware of others and act with kindness. We don't know what someone is grappling with. It could be a bad night of crying babies or a stressful presentation at school or the vertigo-inducing gut punch of losing a loved one.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

When Love Lets you Down

Today I got the devastating news that a woman I know, through social media, had to do the absolute unthinkable.  After a building pattern of mental and physical abuse she was put in a position by her partner where it was truly life or death. Blessedly, she chose life and yet her choice meant his immediate demise. What that life will look like going forward is hard to say. How do you go back to any form of normalcy once you've been to that edge? How do you turn your face to the sun after love has so utterly betrayed you?

Another dear friend had the brutal misfortune of learning that the man who swore to protect and honour her, let her down in the most heinous and selfish of ways. In doing so, he stripped away her entire past and that of their children. Her life has completely been turned upside down and her self opinion has been struck a fierce blow. All because his narcissistic behaviour was masked under the guise of a loving partner. He played her like a fiddle and left her when he was discovered. What he doesn't know or care about is the wreckage and rust he has left behind. All these pieces my friend has to sift through and put back together in some semblance of a life. All because love let her down.

It breaks my heart and boggles my mind that people who stood before a god they doggedly believe in, and pledged with  their mortal soul to honour, respect and cherish another human, simply could not follow through.

I wanted to try to understand what went so wrong for my friends. So I began reading, as the mother of a daughter what I gleaned made my blood run cold.

  • Children are more likely to witness domestic abuse if the victim is female
  • Domestic Abuse is described as a pattern of behaviour which involves physical, emotional or sexual abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting such as marriage or cohabitation
These are real and this is happening. People are dying, people are losing so much more than their innocence and oft times children are part of the equation. Children who didn't ask to see/hear/feel what is being forced upon them. Families ripped apart and battered by lies and feelings of shame. This happens in every community, all the time. ALL THE TIME! 

I don't have a magic solution to stop it. I wish that I did. What I can tell you is what I am going to try really hard to do. I am going to try really hard to raise my daughter to know her worth and not settle for anyone or anything that doesn't appreciate that. I am going to raise my son to value his partner and to always strive to be worthy of their affections without compromising who he is in his soul. 

I pray that I can achieve this lofty goal and I hope with all that I have that it will be enough to keep my babies safe. I don't want love to let them down. Not in this way. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Martin Luther King Jr Day

Today is a day to remember a man who, through his dogged determination, was able to change the lives of millions of people for the better. He opened the door to change and even today reminds us that the things worth having in life are worth the struggle to get them.

I was maybe in my early teens, perhaps younger, when I realized that I would most likely marry a man whose skin was different from mine and that our babies would be interracial. Growing up black in a very white city, I struggled to find faces that looked like mine. I was given BA Baracus on the A-Team, Marilyn Magoo on Solid Gold and then the Cosby family. While they were better than nothing, I was left reading books about white kids like the twins in Sweet Valley High. I decided then and there to strive to raise my babies, whenever they came, to see themselves in all forms of media.It was important to me that they see how we can live and work side by side with every colour and creed.
I used my love of books to start a collection for them.
It was harder than you'd think to find decent children's books in the early 90's, without the help of the internet. Yet my collection grew thanks to friends and family. By the time I was ready to start my family, I had over 65 books spanning pre-school to middle school reading levels.
My son was around 4 when he learned about Martin Luther King Jr and what he did for the world. I used the book Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. We read other stories afterwards about slavery and the Underground Railroad.

I'd like to toot my own horn for a moment and say that in the past few years, the school has asked if I would lend my collection to each February for teachers to use. They display the books in the trophy case! This year, the grade 2 teacher wrote to ask if I could send some MLK Jr books for today.

" Only in darkness can you see the stars" ~ Martin Luther King Jr

Tuesday, 26 September 2017


Twice in as many months I have found myself asking this question out loud, as I was let down by service people in my area. People who have come through for me in the past. It has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and forced me to vote with my wallet.

The first incident/offence: I made an appointment in person at my local nail salon. I have been going there for several years and while I've been let down before things have been more than positive by far. My appointment was for the next day at 12:30. Since I've been going for years, I am on a texting basis with my nail artist. So I text her the day of to confirm times. That's when the bomb gets dropped! Yes my appointment is at 12:30 but can I come a bit later. Usually when I get this question it's at most 20 minutes after I'm scheduled. This time it was a full hour!
I noped pretty hard on that and found somewhere else that would take me. I now go to this new place permanently.

The second incident involved my son. He has been growing his hair but still needed a trim, as it was really messy and scraggly. A barber shop wasn't going to do the trick this time. So I called a place I have been taking my daughter, somewhere that could cut his curly hair properly. We decided on an 11am appointment, meaning I would have to take him out of school. At least his hair would be cut and styled before he went to the teen dance that night.WRONG!  I took him out of class and down to the salon. He was happy and looking forward to a fresh style, but before we even got inside the stylist comes around the corner with their take out lunch. He announces they had been trying to get a hold of me ( I had no voicemails or missed calls) because they had other customers come in and were now really behind "but let's reschedule him for Tuesday!" Annoyingly, I was too dumbfounded to speak my mind, I just muttered something along the lines of "fine" and we left. It took until 1pm to find somewhere in my town that could fit us in on a Friday.

My question, is why do they even take appointments if they can so blatantly disregard them?  Is this a problem about poor time management? Are there that many people ignorant to the phrase "customer loyalty"? I can't feel confident in your service, no matter how good, if you can't honour my time. And I certainly won't be recommending you in the future.

Oh my gosh, I'm 42 and sound like my 80 year old curmudgeon grandfather!

Has this happened to you? Do you feel any guilt in taking your business elsewhere after having been a faithful customer?

Friday, 28 July 2017

How Summer Camp Abused Their Caregiver Position

Let me preface this whole thing by saying that we talk to our children about many hot button topics and choose age appropriate pathways to educate them on the issue as well as where we, as their parents, stand. 

We decided to send my happy go lucky (and bored to tears) 7 year old daughter to a horseback riding day camp, just minutes from our home. We were promised 5 days of riding and learning to care for a horse. For two long weeks, we counted down days on her calendar. The first morning of camp, she was up and dressed before Dad left for work at 6:30am. I was so happy she was excited. All week at dinner time, she would regale us with stories about her day.
Fast forward to Thursday night, the second last day of camp. She was practically levitating with excitement, as the campers were going to do a little ride around to show the parents what they had learned. As my husband and I were emptying her lunch bag, we got a BIG SHOCK. Tucked into her bag were booklets and pamphlets from PETA. Glossy colourful paper with horrifically graphic images, peppered with catchphrases easily deciphered by my newly literate child.
What we thought we were paying for was a opportunity for my child to learn to care for and ride a horse in a safe and professional environment. We trusted the company and staff to care for and nurture my child's budding curiosity and confidence as she learned about these amazing creatures. Had we, instead, paid several hundred dollars for someone to sneakily indoctrinate my daughter? As I leafed through the pages, each seemed more horrendous than the last. Dead piglets with mom looking on, photo-shopped images of puppies with bloody fishhooks in their faces, cows tagged and standing behind grim looking steel bars.
I was also told by another campers mother that the kids were allowed to sample different milks.I do not recall giving permission to feed my child ANYTHING.
 I need to point out that nowhere in the stables Facebook page or website was there any indication this might occur. In all the areas that non-campers were permitted, there was nothing to say this was their stance.
I went in there on the last day for the riding presentation. Upon touring the barns, I was greeted with an entire hallway of posters asking "Is eating cows and Drinking Milk Worth it?"; "Is eating turkeys worth it?" These homemade signs were decorated with images of turkeys and animals in "factories".
I found this stealthy placement to be just that, stealthy.

The bottom line is this: These people were presented, and were paid by my family, as somewhere my child could learn to ride. We did not ask for, nor did we expect that my child would be used to further an agenda. It was extremely unprofessional and for her future riding encounters we will be seeking a new stable.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

What Have I Done to My Kids Childhood?

Yesterday I went on my son's grade 2 field trip, to where it didn't really matter. He was thrilled I was on the bus with him. I became a celebrity as soon as arrived at the school. Boarding the bus with other Mom-unteers, we agreed to sing songs as we drove the 35-odd minutes to our destination. That was when I passed the "cool mom" torch.
Mrs. S (another mom on the bus) lead the group of kids in rousing renditions of "The Wheels on the Bus", "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" and even "QuarterMaster's Store". She received many giggles and loads of eager participation. When I was asked to lend a song, I drew a massive blank!

I saw the confused and lost look on my child's face and was awash with regret. I had failed him. I was a bad mommy and his face was clear, undeniable proof.

When our children were born, DH and I decided they would not be raised on a steady diet of Raffi-High School Musical-Dora&Diego music. If we were going to have to listen ad nauseum to songs in the car, it would be "good" music. To this day, I'd rather get caught humming a Garth Brooks song over "Must Be Santa". It was a great plan, a great thing indeed. Until that fateful bus trip when it all fell apart.

All that I could think of to sing were songs not really ok for other peoples 8 year olds. My son didn't really know the words to QuarterMaster's Store, but he can sing the heck out of Bad Reputation by Joan Jett. In pre-school he knew all the words to The Night That Patty Murphy Died, and some weird part of me was proud. We sang it loudly in the car and I sang " Thunder Road" as a lullaby at night.

Now, my 3 year old demands Joan Jett and Dr. Dre in the car and I oblige. They get excited to hear "Waking Up in Vegas"  and " Royals" by Lorde. I wonder if somehow I have stolen something from them.
Not to know Baby Beluga or Greasy Grimey Gopher Guts is a crime when you are a child. Those songs are part of the silly, sweet innocence of youth and my kids are missing it.
Too late I tried offerings of silly songs like I think I'm a Bunny, Super Hero, even  Island sounds like Father Goose (Reminisce). They were unimpressed, hopefully, your kids are more responsive.