Monthly Archives: April 2014

Why the sarcasm?

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Wandering around town today with family, we ended up at Chapters. And daughter and I ended up in the teacup, reading books. One might think that reading new, popular children’s books would be an illuminating, inspiring, high-quality experience. But no.

I find myself saddened by the negativity, self-consciousness and sarcasm found in many (not all!) contemporary children’s books.
Negativity: many scenes of children being excluded, made fun of, ridiculed, often by their peers, for being different. That the plot twists to turn differences into a strength isn’t enough for me to embrace this repetition of bullying, exclusionary social norms.
Self-consciousness: high levels of awareness of physical appearance and how one is perceived by others, rather than simply allowing characters to exist and enjoy life. And, my brain isn’t with me tonight, but what do you call that thing where the characters know they’re in a book? Yeah, that, done way too many times.
Sarcasm: adult levels of humour, irony, personal put-downs, grown-up word play, all of which (in my opinion) tarnishes the sweet innocent presence and authenticity of childhood.

Oh yes. And technology. Lots and lots of technological references.

I acknowledge problems with past children’s literature. That’s another post (lack of diversity, racism, etc.). However, when I read past books (and some present books) with my daughter, there’s a sense of being transported to a beautiful, magical world. Of creativity, manageable problems, healthy learning opportunities.

Are today’s children different? Are they not really children? Has innocence been lost? Or do we want it to disappear, and instead embrace young knowingness, early adult-hood, extreme self-awareness?

Or, do these books exist for the adults, for whom childhood is now a hip, cool thing to celebrate, and these books enable them to bring their hipsterdom into their parenting roles?

Don’t know. Don’t like it. Want to create something different. Know it’s out there, too – I’ve read it and loved it. Looking for more!

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Allergic to Activities

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Let’s say you told me, I’d like you to commit to being at this particular place at this particular time once each week. Get your daughter there, on time, dressed in appropriate clothing, with a bag packed with a healthy snack, drink, change of clothes. The activities will be good for her, I promise, even though she might not like them at first and the socializing will be kind of wild. We’ll do an art project: Sit her, do this, then do this, and voila! It looks just like the model! We’ll make sure she transitions through at least 6 different activities in two hours and learns at least one useful thing. Sure, it cuts into your day, exposes her to play-fighting and video game/ popular toy and marketing talk, and feels like an attempt to train her to fit into school routines with minimal disruption, but that’s just life!

I would probably say no thank you if I were smart.
If I were persuaded that I really should try harder to get my child engaged with society, I would say yes.
Then I would withdraw after a single class, and spend a blissful afternoon at home.
Cooking a wide variety of dishes to feed my family.
Watching my daughter dance wildly to a Putomayo Quebec CD
Helping my daughter do her art project: kind of painting, then digging in the paints and pouring water on the table, destroying one and then two large sheets of good-quality paper to produce a ripped, plastered, delicately coloured collage of a man with … what did she say … was that blood in his bum? Something like that.
Talking with her about why she wants us to go away and leave her home alone: so she can learn how to do things for herself. Helping her start to do a few things by herself.
Nursing her into a nap, then finding time to blog before I start experimenting with another gluten-free pie crust recipe.
Waiting for her to wake and work with her to envision and then create a beautiful table setting for my parents when they come for dinner.
Taking our time to do what we’re moved to do, for as long as we’re so moved, building a bond of trust, creating a home environment that is a place she wants to be, a place of love and creativity.

Sometimes I’m reminded where my gut sits and what home and family really mean to me. It’s not always perfect, but sometimes it’s just right, just slow enough, really connected, authentically authentic, and nurturing in a way I dream about. Sometimes, being a social misfit is the best way for me to be – and, witnessing my daughter this afternoon, for her too.