Are “Girl Geeks” Cool?

by Samantha on April 22, 2014

Back when I was a kid, it wasn’t cool to be uncool. 

Back then, the tech revolution wasn’t in it’s infancy; it hadn’t even begun. To be called a “Nerd” was to elicit scorn and its accompanying exclusion. You see, the “cool” kids had no time for those who were more interested in pocket protectors, slide rules and puzzles. This was particularly the case for girls who had a penchant for all things that were deemed “masculine” – subjects such as math and science, in particular.

The cirriculum at school did nothing to help shift perceptions of what girls and boys “should” be doing. Girls, for the most part, were steered towards Home Economics and boys were encouraged to participate in Shop. God forbid if you were female and had a burning desire to become a carpenter. Ditto in the reverse – males who liked to cook and sew were looked at with suspicion and were often treated with downright hostility.

During this time, there was still the subtle and not-so-subtle steering of girls towards more “feminine” types of endeavours such as sewing, knitting, cooking and -ugh – cleaning. These areas were the supposed landscape of the XX chromosome, the domain of those who were to be relegated to a life of domestic bliss and servitude. Cooking and cleaning – likely while barefoot and pregnant – were the supposed aspirations for any young girl worth her salt. Conversely, young boys were supposed to like making things, building things and bringing home the bacon. That’s just the way it was.

The millennial shift seemed to bring on more than just a fear of Y2K. The Internet generation was waking up and in a few years, there would be blogs to speak of, upload and download speeds to assess and apps to help both young and old manage their lives, their interests and so much more. Being “online” became a way of life and knowing how to navigate the Information Superhighway was something that got you noticed. The gender divide that was the longstanding benchmark of student life was starting to change.

Fast forward a decade or so and we’ve found ourselves in a world that is markedly different from the one in which “girls who wore glasses” and other “undesirables” were ridiculed and scorned. Look at any elementary, high school or university class and you’ll see geeks – girl geeks – who wear their nerdiness with a certain panache. In the new world order, HTML, CSS and coding are the technical currency that will make a girl (or young woman) stand out from the crowd. And it’s not just high-school aged teens who are jumping on the bandwagon. There is a new trend towards teaching kids – girls in particular – coding skills in a growing number of cities.

Young girl with glasses reading book

How the tables have turned and the tides have shifted. What was once considered an impediment – to be considered nerdy, uncool or, God forbid, smart – has now become the goal of both parents who realize the value of “geeking out” and of young girls alike. As a parent, I’m both heartened and encouraged by what appears to be a societal shift in “acceptable” behaviour. Girls can be sugar and spice and everything nice and smart, to boot!

Which leads us to the obvious question that now arises: are “girl geeks” the new aspirational model for parents these days? Has the tide shifted so far that the idea of what it means to be a girl now includes the requisite “sugar and spice” as well as the ability to write some wicked code? Have we finally shed our collective fear of “smart girls” and the power that they may yield? I, as the parent of a growing girl, certainly hope so. The idea that young girls may now be able to realize their true selves – geekiness and all – is a time for celebration. The prevalence of digital technology and tech gadgets in our daily lives can only add to young girls’ curiosity about how things work and technology in general – both topics formerly considered outside of the realm of femaleness.

What this new reality means is that young women now have the opportunity to lead with their brains, not their beauty. The old standby of a foregone era dictated that if a woman couldn’t get ahead with her skills, well…she could always rely on her looks. No more. This is not to say that this reality doesn’t continue to occur; one must only look at popular cultural figures to underscore this fact. However, there is certainly less of a focus on a woman’s “female charms” than there used to be and a greater acceptance of girls’ and women’s abilities to go head-to- head with males in the brains department. I, for one, am relieved.

Raising a girl in this day and age is hard enough and eliminating some of the biases that have challenged the female contingent will make it easier to raise the smart, confident and successful women of tomorrow. Many thanks to Tim Berners-Lee for getting the ball rolling.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

 

Image courtesy of www.sheknows.com 

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If You Could Turn Back Time…Would You?

by Samantha on April 12, 2014

How connected are you to your tools and toys?

I’m not talking about the items that you may actually find in your toolbox or in your children’s toybox. I’m talking about the things that you’ve come to see as necessary parts of your everyday life – those things that you couldn’t live without.

In many cases, sadly, these items are largely technologically-based. Think about it – how did you feel the last time you left your smartphone at home or forgot it in your other bag? Ever try to take a technological holiday, even for a weekend? Difficult, isn’t it? And your kids? If they’re like mine, they’re already connected - literally – to the tech toys. Tablets, video games and online videos have become standard fare for even the youngest of children. It’s a new world order and families work, play and learn via digital and technological means.

So how could a family possibly exist without the items that have come to be seen as standard and trusted tools in their everyday lives? One family did it – for a year. To be exact, they chose a year that they liked, one that was many years in the past: 1986. This family in particular chose the year of the parents’ births as they benchmark time frame that they would use as a basis for how they were going to live for 365 days. Forsaking all technologies and conveniences that mark the lifestyles of today’s day and age, they pulled out the VCR, videotapes and Super Mario brothers and got busy. Oh – they also got mullets, kids included.

go back in time
This foray into the past is an interesting and fascinating experiment, particularly in this day and age where many of us are connected – literally and figuratively – to our tech devices. The thought of going through our lives without the conveniences that we have come to expect and rely upon seems almost unimaginable. And kids? That’s a whole other story. Entertaining them circa 1986 style means forgoing the modern conveniences like iPads, Netflix, video games and a range of distractions that we use in trying to keep our little ones quiet.

Perhaps this point is where the sheer horror of this family’s story begins. That’s right – I said “horror.” Because we all know that most of us could not give up our current lifestyles and modern conveniences to go back in time and live like they did over 25 years ago. If we did, we’d have to drastically change the way we do things, in more ways than one. No more reliance on technology to provide us with those much-needed “quick fixes” when our kids started to meltdown in the grocery store or doctor’s office. There would be no more text messages as methods of communications for our Tweens and Teens when they were outside of our home or view. And think about this for a moment: we’d actually have to talk to our children from a landline or pay telephone when they went to a friend’s home or to the mall. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Perhaps the real story about this family’s journey back to the ’80′s is not about their experiences living a more simple life, but our collective fear of what their experiment says about the way we are living our lives now. The idea of losing our technological crutches that we’ve come to depend on is a frightening one for those of us who can admit to our reliance (and often addiction) on technology. The thought of no longer having our trusted distractions to keep a certain distance between ourselves and our loved ones is enough to send a shiver down our collective spines. Hard to admit, I know, but true nonetheless. Sometimes it seems so much easier to bury our heads in a movie on the iPad or to pop in our headphones and listen to music than to actually connect – really connect – with our kids. Conversely, our kids are similarly distracted, more often than not, texting their friends or turning to an online community for support. It takes a strong man or woman who can turn on, tune in and drop out of the digital age in favour of a lifestyle that does not include the distractions of daily life.

Kudos to this family who had the courage to ditch the modern conveniences that they’d come to love in order to get back into the lives of their children. I couldn’t do it. Could you?

If you had to live your life with your kids the way it was 25 years ago, do you think you could do it? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

VIDEO: Watch a family live life like it’s 1986

 Image courtesy of www.sodahead.com

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Kids: It’s Okay To Give Up

by Samantha on March 27, 2014

i give up
We all know the story of the little engine who thought he could.

“I think I can, I think I can” he repeated until, overcoming a great obstacle, he did. The moral of the story? That positive thinking and a will to succeed is all that is needed to achieve a goal.

While this may indeed be the case much of the time, there is an equally compelling perspective that supports an opposing ideology: that it’s okay to think you can’t do something and, accordingly, it’s okay to give up.

Gasp.

A radical thought for any of us who have grown up with the increasingly popular and optimistic perspective that a person – a child in particular – can do whatever they set out their minds to do.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m certainly no pessimist and for the most part, subscribe to the tenets of positive thinking, supportive parenting and the belief that “mind over matter” can overcome the most challenging of scenarios. That being said, I’m also a realist and have wondered how much collective harm we are doing to our kids by telling them that they can succeed at whatever they set their minds to achieving. After all, by the time most people have reached adulthood, they are keenly aware that they can’t do everything that they set out to do – and oftentimes, it’s not the smartest decision to even attempt trying.

As parents, we’re often scared that the decisions that we make on behalf of our children will be bad ones – that we’ll mess them up by not supporting everything that they desire and want, in spite of themselves. We quote proverbs such as “if first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” all the while knowing in our heart of hearts – sadly – that our kids will likely fail at a the particular task at hand. Yet we continue to ease them along, saying “you can do it!” and similar supportive words. Sometimes they do do it and exceed our wildest expectations. Oftentimes, however, they don’t, which should give us pause that we wasted their time and ours on what we knew was an impossible or highly improbable task at hand. Was it better that we showed them our support even though we knew the probable outcome, or would it have been a more prudent decision to have been honest with them from the outset, saving them from wasting time and worse – the inevitable disappointment of failure?

A difficult question for sure, but most of us know the answer. Realistically, it makes a lot of sense to teach our kids the importance of “cutting one’s losses” when need be as opposed to supporting their ride on a continual treadmill with no end or success in sight. There are certainly lessons to be learned about perseverance and tenacity but aren’t lessons about knowing when to call it a day and not wasting one’s time equally important?

With our collective guilt being the determining factor for our silence, we’re doing our children more harm than good. After all – there will come a time when our kids are no longer in our purview and will have to deal with the spectre of failure outside the loving support system offered by their parents. Sometimes, such lessons are even more painful in the stark light of day in full view of those who may not be as tactful in addressing such failures.

Being a good parent isn’t always about supporting your child in their endeavours no matter what. Being a good parent is about teaching your child the importance of good judgement and more importantly about having realistic expectations about what one can likely and realistically achieve. For these and many other reasons, don’t feel guilty next time you want to tell your child to throw in the towel.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here

 


Image courtesy of http://www.radicallychristian.com/

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VIDEO: Huffington Post Live – Kids and Play

by Samantha on March 20, 2014

Parents playing baseball with kids


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How much do you play with your kids, I mean really play with them?

I was recently part of a Huffington Post Live segment where this question was posed. Along with some great panel guests including Jason Good (blogger and comedian), Farah Miller (Managing Editor of Huffington Post Parents) and Rachel Cedar (blogger at 28 Days of Play project), we discussed the importance of parents role in their kids’ experience of play.

Watch the full segment here:

HUFFINGTON POST LIVE – KIDS AND PLAY


What are your thoughts? Do you play with your kids enough? Do you think you should play with them more or less?

Image courtesy of www.sheknows.com

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An Ode to Saturday Morning Cartoons

by Samantha on March 15, 2014


A recent Saturday morning found me waking up to the sound of my kids’ feet scurrying down the stairs. Ahh….weekends. No school or daycare, no deadlines for getting out the door, no stressed-out parent yelling about packing lunches and backpacks. Saturday mornings are what kids live for, what I used to live for when I was in grade school.

On this particular morning, my kids were indeed running downstairs to watch their favourite shows. The difference between their experience and mine, however, was that they were watching their shows on my laptop. As I descended the stairs to the dining room, that familiar glow became evident and I saw my daughter and twin boys (ages 10, four and four) huddled around the screen, watching the remainder of the kiddie movie that they had started the night before. If they needed to go to the bathroom, they simply touched the touchpad and the action stopped. Ditto for that second trip to the kitchen for yet more cereal (their default when they don’t want to wait for Mom to make them a “real” breakfast). The idea of making a mad dash to do whatever was needed within a two-minute commercial window was as foreign as having to wait for a particular show to air on TV. In this day and age, even DVDs seem obsolete to the technologically-savvy, elementary school set.

In my experience, a huge appeal of the weekend was being able to wake up, run downstairs to the basement (where our TV was then), and turn on the TV. My reality wasn’t a 24-hour digital universe of children’s shows playing on a continual loop; rather, there were five to six programs that were good – really good – and if I slept in or missed them, I was out of luck for another week. Back in the day, the term “you snooze, you lose” was literally the case. After all, Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) didn’t exist, and that was okay. We all managed to live without watching our favourite programs at the perfect times and we survived if we – gasp – missed a show or two.

Bugs Bunny classic

The whole allure of “Saturday Morning Cartoons” (yes – they were a thing in and of themselves) was waking up early (really early, sometimes at 6am or before) – in order to catch the best cartoons and shows that would be played in sequence each week. There was no time-shifting, satellite or repeated-throughout-the-day, 24-hour or “on-demand” programming that has become the standard expectation of kids today. No – it was me alone at dawn, waiting with baited breath for Bugs Bunny, The Road Runner and Tweety Bird to do their thing. And when they did finally appear on the screen, they were so much more appreciated because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to Google the particular episode and watch it on YouTube if I wanted to see it again. I would just have to wait. Knowing that this particular time to watch was my only chance made it all the more enticing.

Kids these days really don’t know what they’re missing. The fact that they can access their favourite programs anywhere, anytime means that they will never experience the thrill of anticipation and the joy of watching a show, savouring it and letting it go once it is over, knowing that they won’t know when they’ll see it again. It is the not knowing that makes the program so much more enticing. At least that’s what it seemed like to me, way back when.

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology and all it has to offer, but there’s something to be said for the weekly wait and excitement leading up to the Saturday morning lineup. Somehow, running downstairs to do a quick Google search for a cartoon just doesn’t cut it.

Rocky and Bullwinkle Intro


Do you miss Saturday morning cartoons? What were your favourite shows?
Image courtesy of Warner Brothers

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Watch These Movies With The Kids This Spring Break

March 11, 2014

DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own. —– Kids going crazy? Feeling stressed? Gotcha. You’re not the only one. March Break, Spring Break, it doesn’t matter what you call […]

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How to Deal With the Morning Rush – Top 10 Tips For Parents

March 5, 2014

The Morning Rush: It’s that very stressful period where we have to wake up the kids, get breakfast ready, get them dressed, fed and out the door and deposited to school or daycare – on time. For many of us, it’s a daily struggle. I’ve written about it before and put a humorous spin on in in […]

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What Type of Role Model Are You?

February 25, 2014

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” A wise saying and one that’s more true than many of the adages that we’ve heard over the years. The phrase is one that indicates what most of us already know: that what we do and how we behave is often mimicked and replicated by our kids. […]

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“Strike a Pose” – The Selfie Generation Battle Cry

February 13, 2014

“Strike a pose.” Remember that edict that Madonna pronounced to us so many lifetimes ago? In the song “Vogue,” she challenged us to go big or go home. “Strike a pose” was the battle cry for some heavy-duty showing off, if that’s what you want to call it. “Voguing” was the rage and narcissistic vanity […]

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Top 5 Tips For Kids’ Snow Safety

February 8, 2014

With the winter season, snowfall can mean just one thing to most kids: fun. To a child, nothing can be more enticing than piles of snow, taller than they could imagine, beckoning them to start the festivities of snowman-making, fort-building and igloo assembly. Unfortunately, these piles of snow can be deceiving and in some cases, […]

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