fatherhood

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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Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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Messed-Up Kids’ Songs

by Samantha on September 20, 2014

A peek behind the curtain of classic children's songs shows a surprisingly darker side

baby singing

One of my sons’ favourite songs is “You Are My Sunshine.”

It’s a classic - a perennial favourite amongst parents everywhere. Perhaps it’s the metaphorical comparison between lightness and the object of the singer’s affection (You are my sunshine). Perhaps it’s the seemingly positive message of hope offered in the chorus:

You make me happy when skies are grey.”

And what child doesn’t want to hear this proclamation of absolute adoration, almost desperate in its pronouncement:

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Every child wants to hear that. A mother or father declaring their absolute love for their offspring - it’s a child’s dream, isn’t it?

Yet when we actually look at the full lyrics of this popular song, things aren’t as rosy as they seem. Check out the full lyrics here:

CHORUS:

You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

REPEAT CHORUS

I’ll always love you
And make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me
To love another
You’ll regret it all some day;

REPEAT CHORUS

You told me once dear
You really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you’ve left me
And love another
You have shattered all my dreams

REPEAT CHORUS

Louisiana my Louisiana
The place where I was born
White fields of cotton
Green fields of clover
The best fishing and long tall corn

REPEAT CHORUS

Hmmm…

Sounds like the tune is a spiteful ode to a possible cheater, with overtones of threats (“If you leave me to love another, you’ll regret it all someday”). Let’s also not discount the apparently unequivocal callousness of the person about whom the song is intended, as evidenced by this beauty of a verse:

“You told me once dear, you really loved me, that no one else could come between, but now you’ve left me and love another, you have shattered all my dreams.”

Doesn’t sound very happy to me…

Yet we sing the song unwittingly to our kids, often. At least I do. And I know I’m not alone.

Funny, when we dig just a little bit deeper in to many kids’ songs, we find out information that may not fit in with our ideas about what’s appropriate to share with our children…or not. “You Are My Sunshine” is a classic and sung numerous times daily, around the world. But how closely do we listen to the words that we blithely recite to our kids? Is it the fact that because these words are accompanied by a sweet tune, this fact alone may somehow negate the clearly unfavourable message that is being told?

You Are My Sunshine” is not the only seemingly innocuous song that has a darker side. Witness this classic - “Clementine” - which is about every parent’s worst fear: drowning.

In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Lived a miner, forty-niner
And his daughter Clementine

CHORUS:

Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling,
Oh my Darling Clementine.
You are lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes without topses
Sandals weren’t for Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Drove she ducklings to the water
Every morning just at nine,
Hit her foot against a splinter
Fell into the foaming brine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles soft and fine,
But alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

How I missed her! How I missed her!
How I missed my Clementine,
Till I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Then the miner, forty-niner,
Soon began to peak and pine,
Thought he oughter join his daughter,
Now he’s with his Clementine.

Again - some questionable content.

So distraught is the author of this song about losing his beloved Clementine, that he promptly took solace in the arms of the dead girl’s little sister, which apparently made everything better.

Nice.

Now let’s move on to another classic children’s ditty - “Rock-a-Bye Baby.”

Rock-a-bye baby
On the tree top,
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will fall baby
Cradle and all.

Am I the only one wondering who on earth puts their baby in a cradle on a treetop? The situation is precarious at best, tragic at worst and yes - of course - the bough will surely break in the event of a strong wind or two.
Neglectful parenting, child endangerment and possibly the charge of premeditated you-know-what is very real in this scenario. Yet we sing it to our kids without batting an eye.

What gives?

I’m not completely sure but here’s an idea:
Perhaps we’re so caught up in singing to our kids, trying to calm or soothe them, or entertain them for a moment that we can’t see the forest for the trees. These and many other songs (hello, “Ring-Around-The-Rosy“, about the bubonic plague) - so many of them - have been ingrained into our consciousness for as long as we can remember and we sing them without batting an eye.

We pride ourselves on being loving and forgiving to our children yet these words don’t sound like either:
But if you leave me
To love another
You’ll regret it all some day;

Threatening and ominous for sure - not the type of message that we usually want to send to our kids.

Now, granted - many of us don’t follow through to sing each and every verse to our children when we’re trying to soothe them or put them to sleep. For the most part, much of our singing includes repetition of the main chorus without much thought or time given to the more disturbing other verses. But do we not owe it to our kids - and ourselves - to at least know the full story and the intended background of these songs? Is it okay to blindly sing these tunes to our kids, relinquishing all responsibility for these songs’ content due to our willful ignorance?

I likely won’t stop singing “You Are My Sunshine” to my son but may shudder a bit inside every time I do so, now that the real intention behind the song is known. Ditto for “Clementine.” And “Rock-A-Bye Baby?” I’ve never been in support of ditching babies in trees…but that’s just me.

What do you think? Are these songs harmless or should parents play closer attention to the lyrics and intentions of popular children’s songs? Do you sing these songs to your kids? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

VIDEO: You Are My Sunshine

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Image courtesy of http://get-your-baby-to-sleep.com

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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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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The 5 Secrets of Successful Parenting

by Samantha on January 6, 2014





woman-telling-secret

Everyone wants to know the secrets of successful parenting. The role of “Mom” or “Dad” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Instead, those who are in the trenches are left to their own devices, often to flounder and find their footing as they travel along the parenting road, wondering if they’re doing it right.

For most of us, there are stumbles along the way and self-recriminations such as “Why did I say that?,” “What was I thinking?” or “Did I do the right thing?” Second-guessing oneself is normal but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. As difficult as parenting is, there are some simple truths that, if followed, will make a world of difference in not only how you feel in your role as parent and provider, but in how your kids will perceive you as well. These truths are basic, straightforward and to the point, and will stop you from the self-criticism that often accompanies so many parenting decisions.

Here are the 5 secrets of successful parenting:

1) Don’t Ask - If you can’t handle the answer, don’t ask the question. It’s simple. While it may seem counter-intuitive to being a parent - after all, we’re hardwired to think that we have to know everything - not knowing something will help us parent better in the long run. How many times have we asked the question, only to find out something that we didn’t want to hear, or something that made us insanely stressed at the time. Fast forward a day, a week or a month from that same time and we’ve forgotten about it. The bottom line is that most things that kids do that may infuriate or worry us at the time are of little consequence in the long run. To this end, steel yourself and only ask questions when it is abundantly clear that you have to.

2) Don’t Tell - There’s been a recent trend towards parents spilling the beans. I mean telling the kids everything, no holds barred. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Kids do not have to know everything; nor are parents obliged to tell them everything. Our society has become one of the tail wagging the dog where in many instances, the kids are running the show and the parents are haplessly following along, forgetting that they’re the ones who should be in control. Forget about this trend towards telling all and spilling the beans to our kids. “Mum’s the word” so zip up and remain silent. They’ll survive.

3) Fake It - That’s right: fake it. You may not know what you’re doing but that shouldn’t stop you from acting like you do. The expression “fake it till you make it” should be one of the benchmarks of parenting for all of us. Why? Because there are many instances in our roles as parents where we really don’t know what we’re doing. It’s part and parcel of being a mother or father: having doubts, and lots of them. When this occurs, follow your gut and act like you know what you’re doing. What you’ll find out is that you’re usually right in your decisions, and that you know more than you think you do.

4) Keep Cool - You may feel as though you’re going to combust any second and that your insides are primed for a Mount Vesuvius-type explosion. Ignore it. Never show it. On the contrary, be a cool as a cucumber in your demeanour. On the outside, you should have the calm, cool, control and comportment of one who is confident in their decisions and abilities. Behave in this manner and your kids will believe that you’ve got it together, in spite of what the truth may be. Act it, live it, be it. Done.

5) Follow Through - If you say you’re going to do something do it. This is especially the case when it comes to parenting. Kids don’t react kindly to waffling or indecision; if anything, they take advantage of any sign of weakness. Show your kids that you’re a man or woman of your word and that you can be trusted to follow through with whatever it is you said you’d do. Doing so is a sign of integrity and trustworthiness, even if the action is not what your child wants to see.

What other parenting secrets would you add to this list? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Image courtesy of http://www.thehiredguns.com/

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The Multiple Mayhem Mamma eBook Is Now Available on Amazon!

November 24, 2013

I’m thrilled to announce that my new eBook, Meltdown in Aisle 5: Top Parenting Tips From Multiple Mayhem Mammais now available for download on Amazon! The book is a compilation of my best tips and advice that I’ve provided on this blog, since I started writing in 2011. Since that time, I’ve committed countless hours […]

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The Top 5 Parenting Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

October 1, 2013

Parenting is a tough job, no one’s going to dispute this fact. Think about it: you have the responsibility of affecting a person’s life and if you do it wrong, guess who’s going to get blamed? Too bad that there’s no standard guidebook for parenting. Yes, there are books on the topic but no “one-size-fits-all” […]

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Monday Musings - How Do We Keep Our Kids Away From Negative Influences?

July 8, 2013

It’s an inevitability that all parents must face: their child has a new friend and we don’t like them. Perhaps it’s the new friend’s sassiness, their precociousness or their unwillingness to listen. Perhaps it’s their casual rudeness, familiarity or insistence when speaking with adults. Perhaps it’s the fact that their bad habits and manners are […]

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The Top 5 Things About Parenting That You Were Never Told

April 19, 2013

**You can get the full podcast audio of this blog post at the end of this page** ————————————————————- Parenting advice is a dime a dozen. Everyone has their opinions on what you should and shouldn’t be doing in order to be a great mom or dad. Do this, don’t do that. Is it any wonder […]

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The Top 10 Lies Parents Tell Their Kids

March 25, 2013

All parents lie to their kids. It’s part and parcel of being a parent. The reality of being called “mom” or “dad” means that you’re gonna have to bend the truth somewhat. And often. Sometimes the lie is to get your child to do something, like eat their dinner (yes - it’s magic broccoli!). Sometimes […]

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