Category Archives: Childhood

PBS must really hate kids

As I rang in 2016 listening to the dulcet tones of my husband snoring on the couch next to me and Carrie Mathieson saved America on Netflix yet again, little did I know that life as I knew it was about to end. I logged out of Netflix not knowing that the following day, the first day of 2017 (That beacon of hope! That clean slate!), would dawn with doom and gloom on the horizon.

2017-cat

By the end of each day my house looks like a tornado has passed through it. I’m pregnant and tired, sick of asking the four year old to pick up his toys, and just done with the day. Cleaning and tidying are for the morning, before I’ve been asked a dozen times for candy for breakfast (and called the meanest mom in the world at least a dozen times for denying the request), before I’ve caved and given my kid Cheetos for breakfast (because cheese is full of calcium and is therefore healthy), before life has generally beaten me down for the day. The day still holds a lot of hope at 5am, so that’s the best time for tidying. After coffee, of course. But sometimes the house is just so destroyed that I’m still cleaning when Hurricane H emerges from his room, and I count on Netflix for entertainment while I finish up. On the days when I haven’t even started yet I count on Netflix to allow me to enjoy at least one beverage while its still hot.

me-i-want-a-magical-unicorn-for-christmas-santa-be

And so, on the first day of 2017 I turned to Netflix to save my morning (and let’s face it, that morning was going to set the tone for my year – I had a lot riding on that morning). “Mom, put on Neckflix while I eat my cheesies,” H requested. I obliged with , “What would you like to watch?”

“Curious George.”

curious-george

The books are so much better, anyway

All 9 seasons of Curious George had been on Netflix as of Dec 31st, 2016. On Jan 1st, 2017, every episode vanished. It’s usually right there at the top of the screen, under suggested shows, recently watched, continue watching… I scrolled through each list, panic mounting. I finally searched ‘Curious George’, staring at the screen in horror as ‘Titles related to Curious George’ popped up – the equivalent of a Netflix death sentence. A quick Google search revealed that PBS has signed an exclusive deal with Hulu this year and pulled all programming from Netflix. This means that our backup show, Caillou (which most parents hate but I have grown to love because, whiny bald bastard aside, HOT COFFEE), is also gone.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-10-15-00-am

I’m sure all you other non-Pinteresty, average moms feel my pain too. My kid is acting like the world has ended and after many tears is now reluctantly lost in a Mighty Machines YouTube loop of despair. I fear he may never find his way out.

MY COFFEE IS COLD.

PBS:

pbs-sucks

Bonus – further proof that PBS hates kids:

Bonus The 2nd – I confess that by ‘clean the house’ I really just mean ‘clean the kitchen’. The rest of the house I’ll get to when I get to it… I blame PBS.

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All Families are Psychotic

“All families are psychotic, so sayeth Douglas Coupland” (Me, just now).

OMG guys, I just realized. My parents are divorced. This must mean that I’m going to be a horrible influence on my child.

NOT.

What I meant to say

What I meant to say

Ok, so divorce sucks. I’m not gonna lie; however, it’s a total misconception that the children of divorced parents are more likely to be messed up than those who grow up in that ever-revered all-hallowed nuclear family unit. In my personal experience I have known well-adjusted people whose parents are divorced and people with severe addictions and personality disorders whose parents are still married even to this day. Who’s to say what’s worse? For all the academic articles out there warning of the negative impacts of divorce on children there are just as many that focus on the effects of abuse, including that elusive,  constantly slipping under the radar mother effer, verbal abuse  —if any kind of abuse is slippery, that’s the one because it is the least reported and most invisible (see Teicher et al., 2006). Have you reached out and touched an insult lately? I didn’t think so. Abuse happens in nuclear families too.

Nuclear: Not necessarily nice

Nuclear: Not necessarily nice

Why on earth am I thinking about this? Because my brain is in the bad place. You know, that place where it goes to get angry and/or feel sorry for itself. Postpartum depression aside, my whole life I have been inadvertently punished by others because my parents couldn’t get along. Nice thing to put on a kid, people. Just sayin’.

My first divorce related owie came shortly after my parents separated. I noticed that suddenly my best friend wasn’t allowed to sleep over anymore. It took some plying, but I finally got her to confess that her mom believed that children of broken homes were bad influences. Say what!? I was pretty much an angel during my teen years. I never really rebelled. Maybe I rebelled a bit in my early to mid 20s, but that’s pretty late! Far later than the sensitive young age of 13 anyway, which is when this offense occurred. Parents should have been begging my parents to let me hang around their kids. I was a total nerd. My homework was always done early, my idea of a good time was to get an A on an assignment, and my extra-curricular of choice? Solo clarinetist for our regional youth orchestra. Oh yeah. I was the biggest badass out there, clearly.

Sadly, I did not have a cape

Sadly, I did not have a cape

The next time I was faced with a similar comment was probably five years later. I was waiting for class to start and the girl next to me turned to me and said, “Hey, do you think you’ve had so many boyfriends because your parents are divorced and you don’t live with your dad?” Uh… holy inappropriate comment Batman. Ok ok. There was probably some context, but I truly don’t remember the nature of the conversation. What I do remember is that this chick was no friend of mine and whether or not I had daddy issues was none of her beeswax.

Holy Robin

Admittedly, I have boyfriend hopped a bit. I guess I was a nerd that never had a problem in that department? I dated other nerds, wannabe badasses and real badasses. Actually, that’s it. I had three boyfriends during high school. Those identifiers should all be singular. It wasn’t that I dated a lot of guys, it was just that there wasn’t much time between each relationship. Is that because my parents are divorced? Who the hell can say? And why is it even a bad thing? I was a teenager! Teenagers do stupid stuff, and of all the stupid things I could have been doing that was the least of my parents’ worries. Geez.

Most recently, since becoming a mom, I have been faced with criticism from people thinking that I might not have what it takes to hold a family together simply because my parents are divorced. Seriously, people need to get over it. In a society where more than 50% of couples get divorced (and I am in no way implying that this is good, I’m simply stating that it is) I think it’s time for us to redefine the norm. I don’t deserve to be pigeonholed as dysfunctional simply because my parents are divorced. Say, for example (and I stress that this was not the case), my father were physically abusing my mother in the years leading up to their divorce. Should they have stayed together simply because they took a vow? What is more harmful to the children of that union? Most would argue that divorce is best for the children in this case. What if physical abuse wasn’t the problem, but rather verbal abuse? Children that grow up being exposed to verbal abuse can develop severe anxiety and/or depression (Teicher et al., 2006). They can become dependent on substances, develop a slew of behavioural disorders, or end up being bullies and abusers themselves  (Suh & Abel, 1990; Tang, 1997). For example, the number one cause of compulsive lying disorder is fear (Kartha, n.d.). Fear of what? Fear of a beating? Fear of being screamed at? Children are sensitive and they want to avoid all these things, so why wouldn’t they develop coping mechanisms such as these? In this case, is the child better off having lived in a household with insults bouncing off of every surface, or would they have been better off if the parents went their separate ways? In fact, it is widely acknowledged in academic literature on divorce that the anguish and resulting behavioural problems that develop in the children of divorced parents are not a product of the termination of the marriage, but are rather a result of the conflict witnessed between parents while the marriage was still in tact (Adamson & Thompson, 1998; Emery, 1988; Long et al, 1987).

Can I get a...

Can I get a…

The point that I am trying to make is that we shouldn’t judge. Unless you have lived it you do not know the circumstances and should not presume to know anything about a person one way or another simply based on the marital status of his or her parents. It’s quite ludicrous when you really think about it. All of these judgments come from the analytical mind anyway. They come from a place of ego where we have formed opinions based on a belief that one upbringing is ‘better’ than another. The ever popular Eckhart Tolle urges us to become free of these types of judgements —“free of the egoic mind” (2004).

The truth: The circumstances of my parents’ divorce are nobody’s business but their own. I certainly don’t have all the details, nor do I want them. By definition, yes, my home was ‘broken’. But does that mean my upbringing was lacking love and direction? My parents loved me, they just didn’t love each other anymore (and even then I don’t think things are ever that simple). They taught me to treat others as I’d like to be treated —to love and treat my family and friends with respect and to never take them for granted. They encouraged me to get an education and to travel the world. We weren’t rich by any means, but I had everything I could have ever needed and then some. They taught me the value of a dollar and that hard work pays off. Does being divorced negate everything they did right?

Owl

Where am I going with all of this? Oh, yeah. I’ve got enough on my plate right now. I’m a new mom. I’m sleep deprived. I’m learning new things every day. I’d love to say that I’ve reached some level of spiritual enlightenment where these things don’t affect me, but my life is so wrought with insecurity right now that I don’t have the where-with-all to chalk it up to ignorance and be the bigger person. I don’t need these kinds of insensitive comments. I’ll just get my back up and that’s never a good scene.

Children learn from example, and the most important thing is to raise them in households that uphold love and respect between all members. So that’s my plan. Love J, love little H, show them the respect they deserve and expect the same in return. This has nothing to do with marriage or divorce. It’s basic human decency.

Mk?

Mk?

If you want to be a part of this new life of mine by all means, come visit. However, I recommend that you check your ego at the door, lest you find it locked.

References:

Adamson, J.L., and Thompson, R.A. (1998). Coping with interparental verbal conflict by children exposed to spouse abuse and children from non-violent homes. Journal of Family Violence, 13(3), 213-232.

Emery, R.E. (1988). Marriage, divorce and children’s adjustment. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Kartha, D. (No date). Compulsive liar treatment. Retrieved Jan 4, 2013, from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/compulsive-liar-treatment.html.

Long, N., Forehand, R., Fauber, R., and Brody, G.H. (1987). Self-perceived and independently observed competence of young adolescents as a function of parental marital conflict and recent divorce. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 15, 15-27.

Me. (1983-Present). My brain. Toronto, ON: Deal With It Press.

Suh, E.K., and Abel, E.M. (1990). The impact of spousal violence on children of the abused. Journal of Independent Social Word, 4(4), 27-34.

Tang, C.S. (1997). Psychological impact of wife abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 12(3), 466-478.

Teicher, M.H., Samson, J.A., Polcari, A., and McGreenery, C.E. (2006). Sticks, stones, and hurtful words: Relative effects of various forms of childhood maltreatment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(6), 993-1000.

Tolle, E. (2004). The power of now. Novato, California: New World Library.

Some Serious Shenanigans

And I sing, “Press me freshly, read me slowly, take it easy don’t you know, that I have never been Freshly Pressed beforrrrrre!”

How exciting is being Freshly Pressed? At time of writing I have yet to see my post appear on that hallowed page, but I’ve received an e-mail saying it’s on its way there today or tomorrow. I got really excited and called my daddy right away. Yeah, I’m that cool.

So, WordPress seemed to enjoy my childhood anecdotes, and I hope you did too. I had a lot of fun writing that post and in the hours since I’ve had all these hilarious childhood behaviours and memories pop back into my head. I often joke that I have PTSD (oh the joys of being a child of divorce) and can’t remember my childhood, so when I do catch glimpses of it I try to build context so that I remember more.

I qualified as a shenanigans savant at an early age, back when I looked like this:

Circa 1987

A warning for new parents: Do not teach your children to read and write at an early age. They will hone the skill and use it against you.

Credit: Erika Aoyama, 2003

Case in point: I was reading and writing at the age of three. My parents have always boasted about this and even I have come to wear it as a badge of pride; however, I think they have forgotten the day back in 1989 when a bunch of parents and their children arrived at our doorstep for my supposed birthday party bearing gifts on a Wednesday afternoon in November, much to my mother’s surprise. She was nearly 9 months pregnant with my youngest brother of that particular parental pairing, and at home with her was my 5 year old self and my 3 year old brother. Of course, I really couldn’t understand as she sent me to my room and then proceeded to turn my guests away, one by one. In my five year old opinion my mother was being totally cruel. I mean, I’d had a birthday party every other year of my young life, so why not this year? And to not even keep the gifts? Oh! The agony! What those beautifully wrapped colourful boxes might have contained… I imagined I’d never know. I wept.

I pretended I was Ariel from my new favourite movie, the Little Mermaid, that my dad had just taken me to see in theaters the previous weekend. My mom was Ursula the sea witch (sorry mom) and no matter what she did to me, Prince Eric would rescue me. I sat by the window flopping my pretend mermaid fins around, singing that song Ariel sings, “Ahhhahhhahhh, ahh ahh ahh ahh ahh“. Know the one? No? Well, I was convinced Prince Eric would recognize it and come to my aid.

Anyways parents, if you insist on teaching your children to read at an early age (don’t say I didn’t warn you), here are some pointers. Should you receive an invitation made out of construction paper that comes home crumpled in the bottom of your kindergarten aged child’s backpack and looks something like this,

there are some telltale signs to look for in determining whether or not it is parent approved.

1. Make sure your child’s name is spelled properly. If the invitation has been proofread by a parent, there are not likely to be major typos.

2. Make sure the date is not for the middle of the week. That just makes no sense.

3. Note the obsession with presents. It’s not cute, it’s greedy, and my mom would never have let me show the world that I was a greedy little present fiend.

4. Make sure there is an RSVP! No parents want a surprise number of five year olds showing up at their house! Would you?

Honestly. Even though I didn’t get my party (until the new year after that pesky little brother was born… man, I have nice parents), I’m quite proud of myself for pulling this off. How is it that not one parent questioned this handmade invitation for a Wednesday afternoon birthday party during the school year and called to verify with my parents? I totally blindsided them. Those are some seriously successful shenanigans my friends!

Mom, I borrowed your gaucho pants

Someone just died in the McDonald’s drivethru. What’s that? I made that up? Yeah. No one died, but apparently someone ordered the entire restaurant and I regretted not going in on foot even though it was piss pouring rain outside. To make matters worse, the biatch that cut me off going into the drivethru was smoking a cigarette whose foul poison infiltrated my car. What’s that? My boyfriend is a smoker!? Ugh. I know! I said I’d never date a smoker, and truth be told, it really grosses me out… except when he does it. I’m such a hypocrite. And a liar.

Alllllll by myyyysellllffff!

Mom, I borrowed your gaucho pants… but we both know this is a lie. I stole them. I stole them because you took my brothers and abandoned me by going on vacation to British Columbia, only one of my favourite places on the planet, without me. What’s that? I could have gone but opted not to? WHO KEEPS POINTING THESE THINGS OUT TO ME!? Stupid conscience. Also, why is ‘!?’ not an actual button on a keyboard? It should be.

Why do we lie? Lying usually starts from a very young age. It starts with fantastic stories (or in my case, really really dumb self-preservation stories) and then later morphs into this trail of white lies in order to protect the innocent and/or guilty. Like J telling me he’s cutting back the cigarettes. Yeah. Friggen. Right. I’m not blind. Plus, I have the nose of a bloodhound thanks to the creature we planted in my uterus. So there. Don’t lie to ME, mister.

I remember telling my first lie. Okay, correction. The first lie I ever remember telling is this (there were surely many before my memory kicked in):

Back before I went to school with unicorns and leprechauns… I mean, faeries and gnomes… I mean, kids that drew with block crayons (minus the black ones) and wore sloganless t-shirts (don’t get me wrong, I love my Waldorf education. It’s just easy to make fun of), I used to go to school with normal children. You know, the kind that were allowed to have real chocolate rather than carob (dammit mom, we always caught you in that lie. Carob tastes nothing like chocolate!), play with plastic toys and wear Ninja Turtle t-shirts (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, heroes in a half shell, TURTLE POWER!). Well, there was this girl in my class named Jessica. I don’t remember why I wanted to be her friend, but for some reason I did. She never paid me much mind, but then

Whaaaa?

one day she loaned me her book. I was so excited! You can imagine my surprise when shortly after handing it back to her, the teacher approached me, Jessica in tears by her side, asking me if I’d taken Jessica’s four-leaf clover out of her book. Um, whaaaa? Instead of telling the truth, which was simply that I hadn’t noticed any clover and if it fell out of the book it was certainly an accident, I told the teacher that it was just a regular, run of the mill, nothing special three-leaved clover. In retrospect, I know a simple, “I didn’t realize” and “I’m so sorry” would have sufficed for the teacher, but hey, I was five. Besides, everyone knows she wouldn’t discover the luckiest clover for at least another 10 years.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. This picture came up in my search for a clover. By no means am I suggesting that Jessica is a stoner. I don’t even know her last name, or really remember what she looked like even back then.

Another lie from that era (1988-1989) was the day I panicked because I broke my friend’s pen. It wasn’t one of those ordinary pens. It was one of those super cool ones that you clicked and the nib switched out for one of a different colour. Understandably, with such a rare piece of technology, my friend was very upset that I broke her pen. In a panic over the potential loss of my friendship, I assured her that it would be alright! She needn’t worry because my mom repaired pens for a living and could certainly tend to her precious writing accoutrement. I can only imagine what my mom thought when I handed her the broken pen and told her this tale. I’m assuming it went like this: 1. Shakes head, 2. Thinks, “My child is such a dumbass.” We went out and bought my friend a new pen that night.

I can’t wait for the doozies baby H will tell.

So yeah. Mom, I borrowed your gaucho pants. Good luck getting them back.