Monthly Archives: October 2012

No parents allowed (at least in public)

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English: A juvenile male platy (Xiphphorus mac...

English: A juvenile male platy (Xiphphorus maculatus) with his mother behind him. Platys have no parental bonds, and when their young a small enough, they are at risk of being eaten by the parents. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, a notice came home from M’s teacher asking for parent volunteers to help run a school-wide event the class was organizing. I haven’t been able to make it into the class so far this year and since the activity was taking place after school, it seemed like a good idea. Except when I told M that I was going to come and help, he was horrified. Apparently, I act “…too much like a mom.”

 

I gave him a big, long speech about how parent volunteers were really important and the teachers counted on us to help out. I pointed out that since this was his last year at the school, I felt an obligation to give back. M was unimpressed. When I’m on a field trip or in the class, “I tell him what to do and embarrass him in front of his friends.” In my defense, when I help out on a field trip, he’s always in my group, which means I’m responsible to make sure he follows instructions. On those (rare) occasions when I “tell him what to do,” M is generally doing something he’s not supposed to be doing, like pushing another child or not staying with the group.

 

I’m not so old that I can’t remember the horror of parental embarrassment. My mother was rarely a problem, but my father was guaranteed to humiliate me in front of my friends – tasteless jokes, talking too loud, etc. However, my father was a difficult and unpredictable person, who didn’t particularly care if he embarrassed his children in public. I, on the other hand, try to take my child’s feelings into consideration.

 

But as I discovered, M has reached the stage when his parents (at least his mom) are embarrassing just by the mere fact of being. Especially if there are other kids around. He’s particularly sensitive about parental contact at school. It doesn’t even have to be in the building – I used an endearment (something like “honeybun”) as I was walking him from the car to school after an appointment one morning and he asked me “not to call him that.” We were barely on the sidewalk and there was no one else outside. I didn’t point this out, but chose to respect his wishes.

 

Despite M’s objections, I did go ahead and volunteer for the recent class event. I reiterated my promise that I wouldn’t hang around him. I arrived late and didn’t see him for the first 10 minutes or so. When our paths finally crossed, I said hello and asked how he was doing. He looked annoyed and mumbled something at me and walked away. I didn’t make a big deal of it, but the next time I saw him, I quietly pointed out that being rude to me wasn’t an option.

 

I got busy helping people  and didn’t really pay attention to what M was doing. At one point, I wandered into another area and noticed he was busy with something with a group of his classmates. The kids were very involved in running the event, so it probably wasn’t too hard for him to keep himself occupied – as far away from his mother as possible. I had to give him credit for finding a creative solution to the problem.

 

I;m not completely persona non grata. M still hugs me. Most nights, he wants  to read in our bed and prefers to lie on my side. The other night, he’d fallen asleep after reading, instead of going to his room and when I tried to move him, he just cuddled up beside me as I read. But I imagine that before too long, the hugs will be an exception rather than a rule and he’ll want to spend as little time as possible in the same room with either of his parents. The good news it that by the time he’s in his twenties, I’ll be much more acceptable.

 

Random acts of craftiness – teen boy birthday card

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One of the biggest challenges for me is making a birthday card for a boy, especially a teenager. When you’re dealing with the 13 to 20 age bracket, there is a very fine line between fun and catchy and embarrassing and goofy. Especially if you don’t want to be referred to as the weirdo aunt who gives hand-made stuff. That’s almost as bad as giving clothes or educational toys.

When my nephew recently turned 16,  I wanted to mark the occasion with a personalized card. I had already checked out what was on offer in my local card stores and the pickings were slim indeed. I would be embarrassed sending a card that says, “nephew, you rock,” with a stylized picture of a skateboard or a guitar on it.

As it happens, my nephew is heavily into music and plays several instruments, including the banjo. With M’s help, I downloaded a couple of images of banjos from a clipart site. I decided to go with a black and while image and print it onto a piece of cardstock that had the texture of Kraft paper. I’ve used this cardstock to good effect before; it contrasts nicely with black and white images and gives the card a rustic, masculine feel. Kraft paper cardstock is readily available at my local Micheals’.

I decided to make the banjo the centr piece of the card. I added a little bit of texture by mounting the image on a background of colour blocks. As a final touch, I stamped birthday greetings on the front and used stickers to spell out “play on.”

Teen’s birthday card – easy to personalize

Although I used my scoring board to make the fold in the card,because of the the finish on the cardstock, it didn’t fold cleanly. I turned the card over, so the messy edge was inside and glued a coordinating strip of paper on either side of the fold. It still looked messy so I ran a strip of wasbi tape in a neutral colour across the fold and re-glued the paper strips back into place. As is my habit, I embellished the inside of the card.

Inside of the card, including the top edge

Inside of the card – upside down

It took me a little longer than usual to put the card together – I wanted it to be  funky, rather than freaky. The design can be easily replicated, for a boy or a girl, with different image and colours.  Clipart makes it a snap to tailor the card to the specific interests of the recipient.

I was really pleased with the results. Even better, my nephew really liked his card.

And just for the record, he got a really cool gift.

I have linked up to the following: Craft Envy – Saturday Spotlight; Think Pink Sundays at Flamingo Toes ; Monday Link Party at Craft-O-Maniac; Motivate Me Monday at Keeping It Simple; Making Monday Marvelous at C.R.A.F.T. ; Made by You Mondays at Skip to My Lou ; Get Your Craft on Tuesday at Today’s Creative Blog; Take-a-Look Tuesdays at Sugar Bee Crafts; Wednesday Wowzers at oopsy daisy; Flaunt It Fridays at Dotted Line Crafts; The Cure for the Common Monday at Lines Across My FaceSix Sisters Stuff – Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Dumb kid tricks – is it ADHD or because he’s an 11-year old boy?

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English: Symptoms of ADHD described by the lit...

English: Symptoms of ADHD described by the literature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of weeks ago, M showed up at school one morning with a long sharp piece of rusted metal. I received a very polite email from the principal later that day telling about the incident.

Normally when a child shows up to school with anything that could possibly be used as a weapon, the school goes into lock down mode and calls in the Calvary (aka officials from the school board). The parents are called and the child is removed from the school. The principal has to make a detailed report. It doesn’t even have to be an actual weapon – a couple of years ago, a couple of boys caused total panic when they brought in empty bullet casings from a Cub Scout visit to the police firing range. Never mind that they were essentially hollow metal tubes – the fact that they were bullets in another life was enough to get them classified as contraband.

I appreciated that in this case, the principal used her judgement and determined that M had no intention of hurting anyone with the piece of metal. When I asked him where he found it, M told me it was on the stairs he walks up ever morning on his way to school. When I asked him why he picked it up, he looked at me like I was soft in the head. It turns out, the piece of metal was loose and he had to kick it off. Once he done that, of course he had to take it with him to school. Duh mom!

Like many kids with ADHD, M can be impulsive. He also gets easily distracted. We joke that it’s the “squirrel syndrome.” M can change subjects on a dime, it’s  the conversational equivalent of watching a dog catch sight of a squirrel. So it’s entirely plausible to think that M saw that a section of the stair was loose and he kicked it off – perhaps over the course of several days. On that particular morning, we were all running a bit late, so he didn’t get his meds until just before he left for school. Given that it takes him less than 5 minutes to get to school, there’s no way the meds had kicked in. So when he saw that loose piece of stair, he kicked it. Maybe if it was 30 minutes later, he would have passed it by. Or even if he’d kicked it off, he would have left it on the ground, because he recognized that taking it with him would get him into hot water at school.

It may well be that M’s ADHD contributed to his lapse in judgement in taking a piece of rusty metal to school. However, I grew up with 2 brother and a bunch of male cousins. I know first hand that pre-teen and teenage boys do dumb things, for no apparent reason. I still remember the summer at the cottage that my middle brother and one of our cousins decided to teach themselves to light entire packs of matches on fire by flipping them open backwards. They had enough sense no to do it in the cottage, but they would practice outside on the deck. A few time, they flipped the pack of matches off the railing of the deck into the underbrush below. Did I mention that the deck and the entire cottage was made of cedar? I seem to recall that was also the summer they took up whittling, which they did like to do inside, using as sharp a knife as they could possibly find. Then there was the time that they decided to clean up the rocks near one of the docks by dragging the motor of my uncle’s boat on the bottom of the lake. They managed to rip a couple of big chunks out of the propeller and provoked my usually genial uncle into ripping a strip off their backsides.

None of my brothers has ADHD. Neither to my knowledge, do any of my cousins. But they did goofy things all the time, usually egged on by one another. They didn’t deliberately set out to wreck the motor – one of them wondered whether the motor would move rocks and the other one grabbed the boat and off they went. They didn’t worry about the consequences. But even if they did get into trouble, it usually didn’t stop them from doing something just as dumb a week or so later. Given some of the stunts my brothers and cousins pulled over the years,, it’s a miracle that no one was ever seriously injured.

When your kid has ADHD, it’s easy to see that as the root cause for much of his behaviour. But all kids do things that seem to the adult mind to be completely stupid. They just don’t have the same sense of danger or consequence. Apparently boys’ brains mature later than girls’, so they are especially prone to taking risks. The piece of loose metal on the stairs was a temptation for any 11-year old boy walking by. Having to kick it off made it all that more challenging. What would be the fun in just picking it up off the ground?

I know I can’t stop M from doing goofy things. After all, half of him comes from the same gene pool as my brothers. And his dad tells me he did a fair number of pretty dumb things when he was M’s age. I can make sure he gets his meds earlier in the morning, so they have a fighting chance of keeping M on track till he gets to school. So if he sees a squirrel, he’ll just keep walking.

 

Thinking about Malala…some days my worries are just plain trivial

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Balata Basic Girls School - UNRWA

Balata Basic Girls School – UNRWA (Photo credit: Beautiful Faces of Palestine)

Like most parents, I spend a fair amount of time worrying about my child. Most of the time, it’s just day-to-day stuff – will he get into trouble at school today? will he do his work? will he get along with his classmates? Sometimes, my mind is preoccupied with larger questions, usually about how M will fair in middle school, high school and beyond.

 

Although I’ve had a few desperate moments with M where I wasn’t sure what to do, we’re very fortunate. We have access to resources to help both M and our family; we live in a safe community and M attends a great school with dedicated staff and teachers. We have the financial resources to clothe, feed and provide a roof over our family’s head.

 

Just how fortunate we are was struck home for me today when I heard on the news about the shooting of  Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year old girl living in Pakistan. Malala has been actively campaigning for the rights of girls to education since she was 11 years old. The Taliban had declared that she had “…become a symbol of Western culture in the area.” and decided to kill her. Malala survived the attack and hopefully, she will recover.

 

It’s impossible to make a fair comparison between what happened to Malala Yousafzai and the challenges that M has faced and will face in the future.  By any measure, M is a privileged child. He’s also a boy. While boys are not immune to victimization (witness the tragedy of child soldiers in Somalia and other countries), around the world, girls are particularly vulnerable. I am fortunate to know a number of young women, including my own nieces, who are amazingly talented, compassionate and enthusiastic about the world around them. It’s awful to think that all girls still don’t have access to basic rights, including education. It’s generally accepted that educating girls and women is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty in most countries.

 

Some days, the world seems like a pretty grim place. I’m at a loss to explain how any adult could deliberately go out and harm a child, whether she or he is living in Pakistan or Pennsylvania.  Those are the days I count my blessings. Yes, M good and bad days. His bad days are fewer and farther between than even a couple of years ago. His

 

psychologist has suggested that adolescence will probably bring its own set of concerns and frustrations. From where I sit tonight, with my sweet boy tucked into his warm, comfortable bed, life is good. Sometimes, it’s all a matter or perspective.

 

October 11, 2012 is the first International Day of the Girl. In recognition of Malala and girls around the world, please consider making a donation to an organization that advocates on behalf of the rights of girls, such as Plan International

 

Everyone’s a critic

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As we were driving to the cottage this morning, M’s dad and I were listening to a CD of original recordings of George and Ira Gershwin. the quality of some of the recordings wasn’t great, but no matter what, I love listening to Gershwin.  M, it turn out, isn’t a big fan:

M: This music sucks.  It’s almost as bad as Justin Bieber.

Guess it  all depends on your point of reference.English: A theme from George Gershwin orchestr...