Bully, Part II

by , on
February 27, 2013

After writing my post on the documentary and the fear that my daughter might be bullied I took another step back and thought about it some more.

What if my daughter is the bully?

We’ve had some problems already. While she was at daycare she used to get time outs for pushing a little boy. One day we had a play date at our house and she was mean to the little girl the entire time she was here. I told her it was not okay.

What would happen if we got reports back from school that our kid was the one making another child feel like less than nothing? It seems like so many parents react badly or lay blame somewhere else.

I’d have to take a step back, breathe and let myself believe it. Believe that my daughter could be the cruel one.

We would have to have some serious talks about empathy and appropriate behaviour. There would be apologies to the other child, to the school and teachers, to all her classmates for making their environment something that it shouldn’t be.

Honestly, I don’t know how you fix such a thing or discover the reasons behind the behaviour, but we certainly would do everything we could think of to stop it and turn it around.

Bully

by , on
February 27, 2013

I finally watched the documentary Bully. People had been talking about it in my earshot for a while but I was scared to see it. I’ve seen the stories. The kids driven to suicide because of the torture they’ve had to go through every day.

I was never bullied that way. There were people who were not nice to me. There was one guy who seemed to hate me for no reason I could discern, but I stopped letting it bother me and he left me alone.

I don’t remember seeing really severe bullying in my school, but I could have been blind to it.

The film talks about two boys that killed themselves because they couldn’t face another day of brutality, there’s a young girl who came out and face bullying from her classmates and teachers, a girl who couldn’t take it any more and brought gun in her bag (no one was hurt), and a 12 year old boy who is threatened in ways I can’t even comprehend. This boy is painful. When adults finally come to his aid the question is ‘why didn’t you tell us?’ rather than ‘how can we help?’ There was victim blaming, passing the buck. It was awful to see.

The image I can’t escape from is that of Ty Smalley’s mother. The boy shot himself and the documentary-makers were there for the funeral. This woman could not stand up without support. Her face was blank. She’s lost.

The fact is that I am terrified of bullies. If my daughter faced the kind of things I have heard and read about I wouldn’t be sure how to handle it. I don’t know how to make sure she talks to us. I don’t know how to protect her.

Even now I watch her and I see that she’s different, I see that she’s tentative, I see that she could believe the worst things people could say. I envision her smile fading.

And if we ever lost her I would crumble. I would be in pieces on the floor.

I know it and Joe knows it. If we ever lose her, I’m lost too.

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Guest Post: Opportunities Lost: Connecting the Dots Between the Economy and Our Health

by , on
February 27, 2013

Opportunities Lost: Connecting the Dots Between the Economy and Our Health

By Ann Douglas

Back in 2006, when I first started to become concerned about how Canada was changing, I started reading everything I could about politics and social policy.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that there was a huge and growing gap between what we should be doing and what our country’s leaders were choosing to do.

I found this incredibly frustrating.

And I still react with frustration each time I read a newspaper headline that reminds me how far we have journeyed down the wrong path — and how much further in the distance the Canada I remember from my growing up years has receded.

I am constantly seeking out sources that confirm that I’m not the only who cares passionately about Canada and where it is headed—and who wants this country to get back on track. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing is one of my favourite such sources. As opposed to merely limiting itself to measures of economic activity, the index includes measures of wellbeing that indicate the extent to which a community is thriving: community vitality, democratic engagement, healthy populations, leisure and community, living standards, and time use. As the CIW noted in its 2012 report: “Certainly economic growth is laudable. But what does it mean to a society if it comes at the expense of less free time, fewer social connections, lower personal satisfaction, and a more stressful life.”

The CIW also has something fascinating to tell us about the impact of the economy on our overall wellbeing—something that is the exact opposite to what we have come to expect, given our governments’ emphasis on the economy above all else: “The trends in the CIW tell us when the economy improves, Canadians reap comparatively little benefit, but when the economy stumbles, Canadians take the fall.”

The World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health has likewise connected the dots between government economic policy, an abundance of precarious work, and our overall health and well-being as a society. In its 2008 report “Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Final report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health,” the Commission wrote:

“The increasing power of large transnational corporations and international institutions to determine the labour policy agenda has led to a disempowerment of workers, unions, and those seeking work and a growth in health-damaging working arrangements and conditions. In high income countries, there has been a growth in job insecurity and precarious employment arrangements (such as informal work, temporary work, part-time work, and piecework), job losses, and a weakening of regulatory protections….Evidence indicates that mortality is significantly higher among temporary workers compared to permanent workers. Poor mental health outcomes are associated with precarious employment (e.g. informal work, non-fixed term temporary contracts, and part-time work). Workers who perceive work insecurity experience significant adverse effects on their physical and mental health.”

In its 2012 report, the CIW stresses the urgency of addressing the problem of income inequality (which has been increasing in Canada over the past 20 years.

“Income inequality leads to larger gaps between the rich and the poor on their educational attainment, their health outcomes, and their access to leisure and cultural opportunities. In the long run, a larger divide between income earners at the top and the bottom prompts the very wealthy to question contributions to public programmes on which our communities depend – in essence, to question the public good. Such a response would not only be very destructive to our society and long-term prosperity, but it diminishes our sense of fairness.”

So what can you do to promote an agenda of fairness?

  • Connect with organizations that are committed to promoting this same value: The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, The Broadbent Institute, and The Caledon Institute of Social Policy are three such organizations.
  • Support political candidates who understand that income inequality damages communities and individuals; and who are committed to policies that promote the common good.
  • Read books that demystify the economy. I recommend 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang and Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism by Jim Stanford.
  • Subscribe to progressive magazines, like This Magazine.
  • Be prepared to challenge the status quo. As the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health noted: Any serious effort to reduce health inequities will involve changing the distribution of power within society and global regions, empowering individuals and groups to represent strongly and effectively their needs and interests and, in so doing, to challenge and change the unfair and steeply graded distribution of social resources (the conditions for health) to which all, as citizens, have claims and rights.”
  • Share these ideas with your friends. It’s the most powerful way to begin to turn the tide and to create the Canada we want.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting, including The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. She writes about parenting, health, and social justice for a number of Canadian magazines. Her websites are www.anndouglas.ca and www.having-a-baby.com.

Fear, Itself

by , on
February 25, 2013

*Also the title of one of my favourite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer*

This weekend the kid didn’t want to go to her skating class. We’re still trying to figure out what to do about these situations – force her to go and watch anyway, let her quit and try again next week…

After she said she didn’t want to go, I sat down with her and told her that with my birthday coming up it would be a very special present if she would go and participate in her skating and gymnastics classes this week so I could watch her. She agreed that that was a good gift and we got ready to go.

And then she declared again that she didn’t want to.

We went from planning to go to skating and then out for breakfast to staying home all day. And I started crying. I think the tears were sadness for her and frustration at not being able to fix whatever is wrong, and not wanting to spend another day at home, stuck.

Eventually we all sat down again to talk about. She was scared, despite having gone to this class before and knowing that she had fun there, that her daddy would be with her. She was scared and she wanted to totally avoid the situation.

So I told her that I know how she feels. I used to not do things because I was scared. I let me talk myself out of things that I may have enjoyed because the fear made more sense than anything else. I told her that I had to learn that you can be afraid but you need to still push yourself to do things because you will end up having fun. I told her that if I had just let myself be afraid I never would have married her Daddy and, more importantly, I never would have become a Mommy.

I told her that being a mom was the scariest things I’ve ever done, but if I hadn’t gotten past being afraid I would have lost out on the best thing that ever happened to me.

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I don’t know if she understood what I said. I don’t know if I fixed it, but we got her out. She almost quit halfway through but then we talked again and she went back out and did her best and I got to tell her how proud I was of her for trying and trying again.

 

You’re Doing It Wrong

by , on
February 21, 2013

Next week I turn 32 and I’m sad to say that I still have trouble feeding myself. I’m quite pathetic really.

I’ve never been good at breakfast. Never. I’ve tried all sorts of tricks and advice. The best I’ve ever done was oatmeal and an apple every morning before I left work last year. I had a great routine: Get to work, go into my office and put my stuff down, grab my oatmeal, take the newspapers to the boardroom and spread them out, grab my copies, walk to the kitchen and microwave my oatmeal, head back to my office and get started (log in, open five tabs, a Word doc, email… I miss my morning routine).

Our routine now varies, but usually starts with a bit of camping out in bed, kid gets a snack and some milk and I get my coffee. Sometimes I manage to eat something myself, sometimes it’s cookies. Another problem with being at home is the constant snacking. I have access to whatever I want here, I have a full kitchen, I can run out and get something I’m craving.

I snack through the day, often skip lunch. One thing that has gotten much better since I started staying home with the kid is dinners. We have a plan, I have time to cook and we don’t end up opting for take out half as often as we used to.

Still, my metabolism is thoroughly screwed up at this point in my life, and I have PCOS which means insulin resistance.

I’m enjoying going to the weight room, I’m getting my exercise, I’m moving my body, but the food…

The food has to be fixed.

Weight Struggle: My history

by , on
February 21, 2013

If I stop to think about it I have a history of disordered eating, and I want to lay it all out for myself, so here we go:

I was overweight as a kid. Not obese, but definitely overweight. When I started getting allowance I spent it all on candy. I was a regular at the corner store and when I didn’t have any money I would search through the kitchen at home for something sugary – frosting, maple syrup. It’s embarrassing to think of it now. Kind of disgusting.

When I was in Grade 6 a chip truck started parking just outside the schoolyard at lunch and I discovered their fries, and then their fries with gravy and then poutine. Grade 6, 7 and 8 were really unhealthy years for me. I don’t think I was paying a lot of attention to my weight at the time, but when I look at my school pictures I can see an increase.

In Grade 9 things started changing. At my high school we had two classes and then a break, and then two more classes and then lunch, so lunch wasn’t starting until an hour after I was used to. I would have a muffin or something at the break and then not eat at lunch because I had usually gone past being hungry, and then I would start snacking when I got home, eat dinner and keep snacking into the evening.

At the same time I got frustrated with the packed city bus I had to take home and I started walking home. The walk took about half an hour, every day after school – more exercise than I had gotten in years.

It wasn’t until my father asked me if I had lost weight that I weighed myself. Without paying any attention I had lost 40 lbs. By the time high school was over I had gained about 10 lbs back, but I was comfortable at 140, I felt good about my body for the most part.

The healthiest I have ever been was probably the year after high school when I was working part time. I walked home from work a lot of days, I was moving around all day, lifting boxes and running up and down stairs, and I didn’t have any chances to snack. I was fit.

And then I went away to college.

Living on my own I did do some cooking, but ate mostly takeout. I kept what I wanted in the house, snacked when I wanted, slept when I wanted. I ate at the cafeteria every day for lunch. I was busy with school and wasn’t getting any exercise, except when I pushed myself to go to the college gym, but I only did that a handful of times because it was embarrassing being the fat girl among the fit people.

The unhealthiest time of my life came when I was working in Northwestern Ontario. I was alone – completely alone – in a strange place, not sure of what I was doing. My schedule was hectic, I was working regular hours to be in the office and then the sporting events I was covering were in the late afternoon and evenings. It was rare that I cooked at home, I was living on fast food from breakfast through dinner. I gained 40 lbs and hit my highest ever weight in the five months I was there. Shortly after I moved back I saw my doctor about my menstrual issues, she referred me to an endocrinologist and the endocrinologist eventually diagnosed me with PCOS, something that shook me up pretty badly.

Once I moved back home and started university I think I realized how bad it had gotten, but I had other things to focus on and my weight didn’t come back into play until Joe and I got engaged. I wanted to lose weight for the wedding, as brides do, and we changed our lifestyle.

We made healthier eating choices and I started riding our exercise bike in the mornings before my classes started. Before we got married I managed to lose 35 lbs – the only time in my life I’ve ever done the right things to lose weight. The hard things.

Right after we got married I lost my job, I moved to Saskatchewan for almost a month trying to find something out there, then I was back in Ottawa, adjusting to a new schedule. I was doing okay with my weight until the summer I spent in Montreal and then came back to work the federal election campaign.

Campaign food sucks. You don’t have time, you don’t have energy, you’re working and sleeping so when someone offers you a meal plan you take it. You start work at 6 am, which means you leave the house at 5, and breakfast arrives at 7, which means you subsist on coffee until then, and when breakfast arrives and all you get are pastries, you go for it.

All the weight I had lost and kept off I gained back through that campaign – and then some.

My weight stayed that way until I got pregnant, and then I gained 20 more lbs.

At the end of my pregnancy I weighed 220 lbs. The highest weight I have ever seen was 230. Right now I sit at 215, willing the scale to move again.

I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. I know I’m an example for my daughter, she’s already watching me. I know that I have the opportunity to make myself a thousand times healthier. I know that white sugar is poison.

I know all this, and it’s still so very hard.

Depression Lies

by , on
February 20, 2013

The Bloggess tells me all the time, depression lies, and on days like today I have to remind myself. Today was not a good head day. I didn’t get enough sleep last night and the sleep that I did get didn’t seem too effective. I didn’t feel like a very good mom, I couldn’t keep up with the kid and it all took its toll.

When depression lies to me it always attacks in my most painful place – that I don’t deserve this wonderful child I’ve been given.

Today, driving to return library books, listening to the radio, a thought struck me that has struck before…

When children die, they always seem to be the best of us, the most wonderful, the good ones, too good to be true. On my bad days I can’t picture my daughter grown and depression tells me that this is because she won’t grow. She is the best of me. I imagine losing her and not being able to see what she is supposed to become.

So tomorrow I have to have a better day, and I have to enjoy every moment with her and I have to spend some time reminding myself the depression lies.

I didn’t think it could happen to me

by , on
February 19, 2013

I had heard before that having a child is like allowing your heart to walk around outside your body for the rest of your life, but I don’t know how seriously I took that claim before giving birth.

The fact is that my daughter is now three and I am still consistently amazed that I could possibly love her this much. I can’t say no one warned me.

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I really don’t understand how this all works. She drives me crazy all day, she fights sleep for two or three hours, and then when she is asleep I go in to look at her and give her a kiss. When I’m desperate to get a minute by myself and I get out of the house and it doesn’t take long to start missing her.

There’s so much of me in her – my mother actually used the phrase ‘what goes around comes around’ – it comes as a constant surprise that I like her as much as I do.

We went out to an event yesterday and spent four hours wandering around, playing, watching shows. It was great, but at the end of the day the moment that stands out for me is when we were watching Belle read a story and she had all the kids participating. They sat on the floor in front of the stage following her directions. But not mine. Mine almost sat on the floor, but decided Mommy’s lap was the safer place. She didn’t do the wave or curtsy or the dragon’s roar. She was timid, exactly like I was when I was a kid.

Exactly like I often am now.

I think back to that little moment in a long day and it pains me to think of her missing out on fun because she has to pause for that moment of shyness. To think of the regret that I so often felt when I took that same moment before allowing myself to have fun.

I think she’s awfully special, but I know that there’s a lot of shit waiting for her out there with the good. I tell her over and over again how much I love her without really being able to convey just how much that is, and without being able to guarantee that the rest of the world will love her just as much.

Stupid world.

On wheels

by , on
February 18, 2013

Right after the kid was born I went out for roller derby. I went to one session and got a high. It was wonderful to be in a gym with women of all shapes and sizes, all different skill levels.

I ordered skates, and then something happened, I still don’t know what. I quit.

Last year I tried again. I went to the first session and I couldn’t hack it. We were dropping and getting back up and I couldn’t lift my body weight. I quit again.

A little while ago Jordan started talking about these quad skating sessions. I wanted to go, but there was this fear.

Fear of embarrassing myself, of hurting myself, of not being able to do it. Failing. Quitting again.

On Tuesday I wasn’t going to go. I was going to flake again. I was going to skip it and make excuses. And then Lara and Jordan both asked me if I would be there. They did just the right amount of pushing. (Jordan said it would be blog fodder, so here I am, blogging). I started getting angry with myself.

I decided that I couldn’t do it again. I said I was going to try. I was going to try.

I got changed, got in the car.

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And by the end of the hour, despite a few breaks, I felt awesome.

I wasn’t embarrassed. I didn’t hurt myself. I certainly didn’t fail.

Get Back

by , on
February 15, 2013

We’ve been dealing with this whole thing where the kid doesn’t want to let me out of her sight. When I’m gone she’s usually fine, but she doesn’t deal well with the leaving part of things. That part of things seems to be getting better (assuming I’m not jinxing it right now), but there’s a new problem.

I have always had the kid in activities. She’s taken swimming, music classes with Daddy, gymnastics, skating, soccer, t-ball, anything I thought she might like. Right now she’s in a sports class on Saturdays that one of us does with her, a skating class on Saturdays that Daddy does with her and a gymnastics class on Tuesdays that she does by herself.

The past few weeks we have seen the same issue with every one of these classes – we talk about the class, we get ready, she’s excited and then at some point between getting in the car and arriving at the class she doesn’t want to do it any more.

I’ve tried different tactics, I’ve tried to push, I’ve said okay, I’ve told her that I’m angry, that I’m disappointed that she didn’t want to try. I’ve told her that I love watching her, we talk about how much fun she has – which she does.

I’ve been talking to other moms about this problem and quite a few have suggested that maybe it’s time to give up, save the money, time and aggravation, and try again when she’s a bit older. That’s the approach we took with preschool, but this time I’m not so sure.

The fact is that this kid is a ball of energy. She’s always going. It almost seems as though getting exercise just feeds her energy. Thanks to Sara we have one way of burning a bit at home when she gets out of control…

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But casual play is just not enough to wear her out before she wears me out, and in the winter I can’t always send her outside to play or take her out to a park, which was such a great thing for us in the summer.

This is such a hard thing because it feels almost like a watershed moment in motherhood – do I become the mom that pushes her to try or the one that takes a step back and waits for her?

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