values

What Makes a Family?

by Samantha on August 26, 2015

The "1,000 Family Project" sheds light on the changing face of the modern family

What makes a family?

What does the concept of “family” mean in today’s world?

Once upon a time, the the only societally-accepted norm for the family structure consisted of a mother, a father a few kids and a white picket fence. To wit:

Leave it to Beaver Cast

As the years wore on, we thankfully shook our heads and realized – either via real-life circumstance (divorce) or by divine intervention – that life does not often replicate television (or books, or the movies).

“Family” is a relative term, meaning different things to different people. The white picket fence may indeed be part of the mix, but more often than not, the modern permutations look nothing like the conventional model.

And that’s a good thing.

I was honoured to be asked to share the details of my family on an amazing site, The New Family, that, with it’s 1,000 Families Project, hopes to profile the uniqueness that lies within all of our familial permutations.

Thenewfamily_logo_final_resize300dpi

A “one-size-fits-all” model of family does not exist, and let’s all be thankful that it doesn’t. For previous to our current times, many of us who did not exist within the very narrowly-defined cookie-cutter version of what it meant to be a family experienced disapproval, to say the least.

The good news is that the world has changed, as has the definition of what makes up a family.

They come in all different colours, shapes, sizes and age. Learn about my family and so many more on this site. You can read the full article here.

Sister Sledge – We Are Family

What does “family” mean to you? What makes your family unique? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

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By coddling our kids, we're doing them more harm than good




latchkey kid

Are there still latchkey kids these days or have they gone undercover in the age of helicopter parenting and our increased paranoia about kids’ safety?

I used to be a latchkey kid.

As a matter of fact, I remember walking to and from school alone, sometimes with friends of the same age, as young as eight years old. I also remember spending many days and evenings on my own over the summers, after school, going to the park, the corner store for candy, riding my bike. All my friends did it too. My parents were working, making a living. I was fine.

While this occurred in the not too distant past, it wasn’t that long ago where kids other than myself and my friends were afforded the responsibility and provided the trust to similarly live their lives. In doing so, they were able to gain confidence in their abilities. This often included walking to and from home to school and back, to the corner store, or somewhere within the vicinity close (or close enough) to home.

Now, it’s considered nothing short of child abuse to allow a kid under the age of 12 or 13 to walk anywhere on their own. Don’t believe me? Just think of Lenore Skenazy who was publicly vilified for allowing her nine-year-old son to take the train alone, or Danielle Meitiv, whose children Rafi and Dvora aged 10 and six respectively, were taken into protective custody by the authorities after being spotted walking a few blocks home from the local park.

Sadly, this event is all too common when it comes to society’s perception of what we should or shouldn’t be allowing our children to do. Despite a long history of children having considerable responsibilities at much younger ages than they do now, we have, strangely, become more worried about our kids’ abilities to fend for themselves in today’s world. 

There was a time where kids were allowed to be kids, which meant going out to play and coming home when dinner was on the table. The delta between this edict and the return time could be as much as three or four hours. Oh, the freedom!

“There was a time where kids were allowed to be kids, which meant going out to play and coming home when dinner was on the table.”

Today, the thought of a child walking home alone, letting themselves into their house and staying put until mom or dad gets home puts some parents into a state of hyperventilation. I’m guilty of hyper-parenting as well but also realize that I’m not doing my children any favours by passing my paranoia on to them. 

As with many parents, I’ve bought into the paranoia about the dangers of life to some degree. Touted on the evening news, online and via social media, one would think that the world is coming to an end, at least in terms of kids’ abilities to be…well…kids. These days, parents face a daily struggle to provide their children with the right balance of protection while still affording them the freedom that they require to become confident, secure adults. It’s a difficult balancing act for sure, and one that’s not easily managed.

Yet, what has changed in our society, really? Has human nature – both good and bad – really gotten worse in the past 30-40 years?  Not much. In fact, there are still the same threats that we had so many years ago, if not more. “The Boogeyman” lived then as he does now; we’re just more aware of him, thanks to Professor Google.

We’ve become a society of incredibly fearful parents, much to the detriment of our kids. As a result, our children are the ones who are suffering, both from lack of experience and from general distrust. The thought of exerting any semblance of independence is quickly followed by waves of anxiety, distress and “stranger danger.”

And so, those who allow their kids any degree of freedom or responsibility are made to feel like they have somehow failed in their roles as parents. How can this be a good thing?

The very things that we hope to see develop within our children are being stifled by our (often) unsubstantiated fears of the unknown. Independence, self-assuredness, fearlessness – these qualities are left to wither and sometimes die due to our hesitance to loosen the apron strings and let our kids experience real life. While we are stalwartly determined to not let our our most precious assets venture too far beyond our purview, we are, at the same time, stifling the very real qualities that we’d hope to see in our children as they move towards adulthood.

This fact alone should give us pause to revisit what we are teaching our kids about the world in which they live. After all – our job as parents is to give them the skills to survive in the real world, to arm them with knowledge and, perhaps most importantly – provide them with confidence. All of these must-have attributes will never be realized if we continue to coddle them and refuse to let them venture beyond our line of sight.

There are still “latchkey kids” out there, walking themselves home from school and letting themselves into the house to wait for their parent or parents to come home. It’s safe to say that these children are likely less afraid, more self-assured and likely more responsible than their coddled counterparts. They’re also, sadly, more likely to be the brunt of our collective pity and their parents the recipients of our collective scorn, as indicated by the reaction to Ms. Skenazy and Ms. Meitiv indicates.

In today’s world, Helicopter Parenting is the the norm, not the exception. In spite of this fact, Latchkey Kids still exist; they’ve just gone undercover, having been forced to operate in the shadows as a result of our over-protective and fearful society. They’re in hiding with no clear indication of when they can come out of the shadows to lead the way for their peers who would likely gain so much more from the shared knowledge than they would lose. Yes, learning to be independent and following the lead of those who bravely do so, often because there’s no other choice, would be inspiring, to say the least.

For these parents who either have no choice or have the choice but have chosen to teach their kids the ropes; for those who send their children out with a key in their backpack and who say a little prayer as they leave their children to make their way in the world, I salute you. For you know  and act upon what all of us “Nervous Nellies” secretly know but chose to ignore: that giving our kids the freedom and responsibility to trust their own judgement and abilities is one of the greatest things we can do to help them grow into highly-confident, well-functioning adults.

Perhaps it’s time that we collectively reconsider the effects of our parental protectiveness and look to another alternative that will ultimately help, rather than hurt our children in the long run.

 

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Image courtesy of www.sheknows.com

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Are Parents to Blame For Picky Eaters?

by Samantha on June 20, 2015

Whose fault is it when kids refuse to eat what's put in front of them?


girl picky eater

We’ve all dealt with the picky eating habits of our kids at one time or another. Whether it’s a disdain for broccoli or a dislike of asparagus, most parents have had to negotiate with their children about certain types of food that said child has deemed “gross.” I’ve done it myself and have used every trick in the book to get my kids to eat what I think to be a balanced and sufficient meal.

But what about those kids who consistently decline most food items put in front of them, demanding, instead another meal selection, snack or pronouncing a downright refusal to eat at all? What about them? Where did they get their chutzpah?

At the risk of being scolded, may I suggest that it may very well be from their parents?

Yes, their parents.

It’s safe to say that many kids are picky eaters because their parents have coddled them. Through fear that they will eat nothing and – gasp – go to bed hungry, they have been provided with their own personal chef and concierge, taking orders and serving meals on demand.

In many households, it is the child (or children) who have been allowed to dictate what is being served. In these homes, the parent(s) gives in to the child’s demands and makes special or separate meals for them. How many of us have given in and said, “okay, if you don’t want to eat this, I’ll make you something else?”

Guilty as charged. And it’s not a stretch to assume that you are too.

As parents (and mothers in particular – there, I said it), we worry about our children’s every need. Whether it’s the fact that they have a runny nose, a fever or the fear that they haven’t had enough to eat (in our opinion), so many of us feel the need to rectify the situation at any cost. It’s this parental instinct that takes over and shifts the balance of power from the parent to the child.

In the case of picky eating, the tendency for the parent to give in to the child’s refusal to eat sets up an expectation that all demands and requests will be accommodated.

In these scenarios, the child feels that they are in control and they don’t have to try anything. Also, it sets them up for unrealistic expectations as adults that they will be given in to whatever they ask for.

Allowing kids to set the stage for meals is just one example of the growing trend towards a child-centred philosophy of parenting. The rise of “helicopter parenting”and an age where over-protection is the norm, not the exception, just feeds (pun intended) kids desire to have all of their demands fulfilled.

Unfortunately, giving in to these demands just sets up kids for unrealistic expectations in the future. As difficult as it may be, it’s in our kids’ best interests to not always give in to their demands, particularly regarding food choices. In the absence of a specific allergy or inability to digest certain foods, what’s on the table for dinner should be just that – dinner, with no option for choice. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, when I was a kid, there was no choice – each meal was what we were eating and that was it. No consulting with us kids about whether or not they wanted to eat it, what they wanted instead, or why they didn’t like it. Not eating meant that they’d likely have a grumbling tummy and a voracious appetite the following morning.

It’s a hard thing to do, denying your child their preference for food, as there’s always the fear that they’ll starve. They won’t. Especially if there’s a fridge full of food and a healthy balanced meal in front of them that they have chosen not to eat. As difficult as it may be, as parents, we are obliged to teach our kids that there are not always choices in life. As they grow up and later when they become adults, they will need to know that sometimes, the luxury of choice is absent. More importantly, it’s crucial that children learn early to be flexible, accommodating and that sometimes they will have to just go with the flow and deal with the situation at hand instead of assuming that there will be an option. There won’t always be one.

Is your child a picky eater? How do you respond when your child won’t eat their meal? Do you give in or say “no?” Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Pregnancy and Public Transit

by Samantha on June 14, 2015

What has happened to kindness and common courtesy?


Pregnant belly

She was about 8 or 9 months pregnant, belly hanging low, baby about to drop any day. The previous months had clearly taken a toll on her, as her face showed the exhaustion and fatigue required to make a human being. She was physically spent, yet there she stood.

Yes, she was standing. Standing on the 505 streetcar in downtown Toronto, as it abruptly stopped and started in morning rush hour traffic. Had she slept the night before? Unlikely, as anyone who has experienced the final months of pregnancy knows: a good night’s sleep is an ephemeral and fleeting fantasy.

Yet there she stood, while all around her, young, fit and otherwise preoccupied citizens pretended not to see her by burying their heads in their smartphones of choice.

A 20-something man in a crisp suit, clearly headed to his job in the financial sector pretended to sleep, as his eyes closed immediately after viewing the pregnant woman’s swollen belly.

A middle-aged woman played candy crush saga with an intensity and fervour that many of us thought only belonged to a younger generation of gamers, her eyes glued to her retina display screen.

Three teenage girls in private school uniforms giggled amongst themselves, giving nary an eye to the belly that not only protruded into the aisle in front of them, but turgidly languished on the very edges of their personal space. You see, her belly – had it been acknowledged – would have broken up the party, and that wouldn’t have been cool. The latest gossip about that cute guy in class and recap of last night’s TV show was much more important.

This had not been the first time that I had seen such appalling behaviour. Sadly, purposely, ignoring pregnant women while riding public transit has become the norm, not the exception. What has happened to humanity?

I’ve posted many rants and complaints about this on my personal Facebook page and talked to many friends who are mothers themselves. All of them have a similar story to recount about how they have been ignored  while pregnant and riding public transit.

A personal anecdote: during my last and final pregnancy with my twin boys, I could barely walk. I was considered “high-risk” for a few medical reasons which relegated me to bed-rest for most of my pregnancy. On those off days before I was completely immobile, somewhere between my seventh and eighth month of gestation, I needed to use the public transit to get to my doctor’s appointments. Now, let me say that having my third pregnancy and twins, no less, made me huge, much earlier than I would have been, had I been on my first pregnancy. In other words, there was no doubt that I was indeed pregnant.

Yet there I stood.

Their eyes averted, I was ignored, invisible and silently defeated as I struggled to balance so many times on the streetcar, hoping that some kindly person would give me a seat. My elephant-sized ankles continued to swell, my feet ached and my back painfully swayed with each lurch and jolt of the streetcar. Everything hurt, including my feelings.

As the mother of four, and one who has experienced three different pregnancies, I’m sad to say that this experience wasn’t atypical. Sadly, it was the norm, not the exception. And every single woman that I know who has been pregnant has experienced the same. What on earth is going on?

While I don’t profess to have all of the answers, I do believe that our culture of entitlement is a huge factor in this cultural shift. Once upon a time, there was chivalry, then socially accepted norms that included women, about “doing the right thing.” Helping someone who was clearly in need was the norm, not the exception. With the increasing sense of entitlement, exemplified by the “Me Generation” and continuing onward, those in need haven’t had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a fair shake. Whether they’re seniors who are unstable on their feet, the disabled or the aforementioned pregnant woman just looking for a kind soul who will let her have a well-needed seat, the chances of these folks receiving this small kindness grows smaller every day. The lack of focus on others, supported by the technological tools to “zone out” or feign ignorance wherever and whenever possible makes this willful blindness not only possible but probable as well.

Yet, in spite of this trend towards selfishness, I do believe that change is possible. The change starts now with all of us who are raising children with the values that support kindness and compassion. And while we make efforts to effect our childrens’ behaviours in future there are some adults who are in need of an etiquette refresher now.

I am starting a one-woman public awareness campaign as I feel that it needs to be done. As someone who has endured a very difficult twin pregnancy and was on the verge of begging someone to please give me a seat, the time for greater awareness for this reality is long overdue. Clearly, the assumption that everyone riding on the bus/subway/streetcar/[insert transportation mode here] understands that pregnant women should be given a seat is completely wrong. My assumptions – based on the teachings of my parents (thank-you, Mom and Dad) underscored the importance of kindness, but more specifically the need for those of us who are more able, to extend said kindness – and where appropriate, a seat – to those in need. This includes the elderly, the disabled and, of course, pregnant women.

Whenever and wherever you can, please remind those riding the public transit who seem to have forgotten basic courtesy that pregnancy is challenging, difficult and just plain exhausting. If a pregnant woman is standing while able-bodied people are pretending not to see her, be her advocate and ask them to give her a seat. I’ve done it before and have never been told “no,” probably because the shock of being called on their bad behaviour mixed with their embarrassment makes the culprits stand up quicker than one would imagine.

Perhaps making the subject one that is no longer ignored, one where pregnant women don’t have to suffer in silence, will put an end to it once and for all. If anything, making those who are oblivious more aware of their choices and how these choices affect others will affect change, hopefully for the better.

I’ll be tweeting and sharing the hashtag #StandUpForMom and #giveupyourseat on my social media channels to keep the topic top of mind and hope you’re able to share it as well.

Let’s do this.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

VIDEO: Stand Up For Mom!


What has been your experience with pregnancy and public transit? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Some basic tips to help parents with common parenting challenges


Top parenting tips

Ever feel like parenting is this big secret that you’re not in on?

It’s no surprise that most of us feel like this at one time or another.

Let’s face it – being a parent is tough, to say the least. What to do and how to do it are on the minds of most parents at any given time.

Some time back, I wrote this post – Parenting Advice That You Were Never Told – and the information included was so basic yet so true, that I thought I’d revisit the topic again, this time via video.

Check out my YouTube channel for the latest clip where I provide some quick and easy parenting tips on this very subject and let me know what you think! If you have any additional tips to add, please do so in the comments section below, or on YouTube.

The Top 5 Parenting Secrets You Were Never Told

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The 10 Childhood Loves My Kids Will Never Know

May 8, 2015

The simple pleasures of earlier times are now just memories in the age of technology It was a certainly a different time, a simpler time, devoid of the constant activity that is part and parcel of life in our increasingly rushed, hurried, 24/7 digital age. With the rapid changes to technology and how we communicate […]

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Under Pressure: Celebrity Culture and Kids’ Need to Conform

April 25, 2015

The “Kylie Jenner Challenge” highlights the worst insecurities in tweens and teens Have you heard of the #KylieJennerChallenge? It’s a hashtag that’s become the call to action for young women who want to emulate the full-lipped look of the reality TV star. One of the famous sisters on “Keeping up With the Kardashians” and the […]

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Separate But Equal? Should Twins Be Separated at School?

April 18, 2015

What’s the best course of action for educating twins? There comes a time that, as the parent of twins, one has to make a crucial decision: Should I keep them together or should I separate them? This is a particularly pressing decision to be made in the case of identical twins. Think about it: they share […]

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VIDEO: Huffington Post Live – Kids and Public Bathrooms

March 27, 2015

How old should a child be before they’re able to go to a public bathroom alone? We’ve all been there. You’re out with your young child and all of a sudden, he/she announces “I have to go pee!!” You know that this type of warning means that time is of the essence and that a […]

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VIDEO: CBC Marketplace – Checkout Charity Episode

March 2, 2015

CBC investigation reveals more questions than answers on this increasingly popular tactic Hmmm…seems as if I’m not the only one with questions about the charitable donations that are being requested at the checkout. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that the trend towards “checkout charity” is one that gets under my […]

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