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Wednesday, 07 December 2011 20:43

Little Princesses

I love a bit of controversy, so when I read an article, 'liked' it on facebook with a bit of a comment, and had a ton of people commenting on it also - agreeing or disagreeing on various parts of the article - I got a little excited.

The article was called 'How to Talk to Little Girls', by Lisa Bloom from the Huffington Post.  It was about talking to little girls, and trying to steer clear of telling them how cute or pretty they are in favor of more intellectual things like asking what they're reading and if they like books, etc. as well as telling them what you do and asking their opinion on some sort of 'grown up-ish' things such as 'What bothers you about the world?' and 'If you had a magic wand, what would you fix?'.

I thought it was great, and added a comment about another article I had read about the early sexualization of girls in our society today and how the 'Disney Princesses' helps to pave the way for this process.

What? Not the Disney Princesses - but I love the Disney Princesses!!!

Not to blame the Princesses, but with these toys there is a 'prescribed method' of play.  Princess is pretty.  Princess attracts the Prince.  The article suggested this subtle theme encouraged girls to start thinking about appearance - particularly in reference to attracting boys - at an early age.

Anyway, there were comments from moms who played with Barbies and watched Disney Princess movies, and didn't think there was any connection between that and low self-esteem.

There were also comments about the dangers of NOT complimenting your daughter's appearance, and how that might damage their self-esteem also.

I wish there was a clear answer to this, because I don't think anyone would deny that little girls in our society are sexualized WAY to young.  I think we also know that girls focus on their appearance too much and too early, and that eating disorders are rampant. I think this is probably not a really new problem, but I think something has changed in recently that has made this situation worse.  Personally, I do believe the media is partly to blame (another part being the parents who allow their children to watch anything and everything in the media).  I was recently in the vicinity of a nine year old watching music videos on you tube.  I was horrified at the message that was being directed at girls her age.  Some of the songs were obviously about sex, and one even mentioned something about a 'manage et troi' (I'm not French, so you'll have to forgive me if that was spelled wrong.

Anyway, there must be some way to combat these messages and raise strong and self-confident young women.  We need more of them in this world.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 18 October 2011 10:09

Ignorant Skinny B!@#$s

I am probably not the best person to rant about this, because although I have PCOS which makes it much more difficult for me to lose weight and keep it off than the average person, I am lazy and I could weigh a lot less if I made it a priority to do so...

However, I have a couple of friends who have this difficulty as well - one with PCOS and one with Hypothyroidism who are overweight by all definitions, but at absolutely NO fault of their own.   One of these women is actively involved in a number of different sports, works in an extremely physical job and also either bikes or walks a couple of kilometers to work each day.  The other friend is a mom of two who despite her busy schedule at home, regularly goes to the gym, and is extremely careful about the kinds of food she and her family eats at home.  I probably deserve to be overweight, but these women don't.

The second of these friends told me the other day about a situation where she ended up at the dentist with her three year old daughter who is starting to get cavities.  I understand the dilemma of having bad dental genes, which she was telling me was also in her family, and knowing how she feeds her children I completely believe that this little girl's cavities are not caused by too much sugar!

The presumptuous dental assistant, however, made the snap judgement that obviously this overweight Mama must be feeding her children junk.  She commented that my friend's daughter was eating too much sugar.  When my friend protested that actually her daughter ate almost no sugar - aside from what is found naturally in fruits and vegetables, the assistant tried to educate her on the amount of sugar that is found in all kinds of other junk food like chips and fast food.   This friend had just confided in me that earlier that day she had indulged in fast-food with her family, but that it had been the first time in over a year, and that they simply did not eat junk food at home.  I wish I could say the same for my husband and I - I admire the habits of my friend, and would like to strive to emulate these habits at home.   I doubt that even this perfect-looking dental assistant has such healthy habits. 

Anyway, to everyone out there who is blessed with a speedy metabolism and no thyroid or blood-sugar related health issues - be glad that you are blessed with this, and don't take it for granted.  Also, understand that although there are many people out there who work hard at looking healthy and slim - for some people, no amount of work is enough to fit into a pair of size 4 jeans.  My friend voiced her frustration at constantly being judged, and wished she could wear a t-shirt that said 'I have hypothyroidism - that's why I'm so fat!' - which I thought was funny, but I understand her frustration.  There are lazy people out there (like myself) who are overweight because they don't put enough effort into their physical body - but you can't tell who these people are by looking at them, because many of these lazy people are also perfectly skinny.

Rant over.

Published in Blog
Saturday, 01 October 2011 23:35

This is How I Roll...

As a new Mom, I have limited to zero experience with many parenting problems that can and will come up as a child grows up.   I have learned, however, that this is how all Mom's begin, and we all embark upon a journey to learn how to parent our children and continue to learn as we go.

One comment that I heard repeatedly (annoyingly) was that I was reading too much in reference to parenting my infant daughter.  I did notice the excessive use of the words 'I was reading about...' or 'I just read that...' escaping my lips, which had me considering whether or not I was capable of forming my own opinions.   The comments regarding my superfluous reading were suggesting that by reading about potential health problems and growth delays, I was worrying myself about things I might have been better off not knowing about.  I respectfully disagree.  Although this may be the case in some instances, I can look at countless times throughout my pregnancy when I experienced some sort of pain or symptom that panicked me - only to look it up online to find that many other women had experienced the same, perfectly normal, phenomenon.  I have also come to realize that I read by nature - it is my primary learning style.  I am unlikely to ask my mother or grandmother, or even my best friends what they think I should do in a specific situation because I recognize that my parenting (and life) priorities may differ greatly from theirs and might feel uncomfortable obligations by asking for their opinions.  What I do appreciate, however, are factual and unbiased accounts of how they did things and how that turned out.

That being said, I think there are many different learning styles that depend on our personalities, as well as our communities.  It is much easier to ask the advice of a close living relative or friend, than to ask the advice of parents still living in their country of origin when you have moved halfway across the world and now reside in a much different environment.

As I have already said, I am a reader, and a researcher.  I will read different accounts written by different people and accept the method that makes sense to me and my world view.   Some people learn by observation - in the case of parenting - they may see how children around them behave and respond in certain circumstances and take mental notes about what their parents are doing.  Some people ask for the opinion of a trusted friend, family member or medical professional, and follow the advice they are given.  Some parents may even trust their own instincts completely.  If I were to give my completely unqualified advice, I would suggest some sort of balance of all of these methods.

I would like this site to branch all of these while assuming the position that although there are certainly 'wrong' ways to parent, most choices in regards to parent come down to parenting styles and learning methods - as well as personality types and world views.  I will seek to encourage and support all legitimate styles of parenting, only questioning methods if some form of abuse is suspected.  I encourage any and all readers to do the same - if you disagree with another parents views or methods, choose not to criticize or argue and to understand that there are many different accepted ways to do things - yours are not the only correct options.

Published in Blog
Saturday, 01 October 2011 23:33

Connected Parenting

I began reading a book recently called 'Connected Parenting', by Jennifer Kolari.  I had never heard of 'connected parenting' before but fully expected to disagree with it entirely.   I personally find myself dismissing anything that seems related to 'Attachment Parenting' (which I, admittedly, don't know very much about), and presumed that although I was interested in reading this book for scholarly reasons, I would find nothing of use to myself.

I was very wrong.

The basic point of this book (so far) is to encourage parents to empathize with their children.  This may seem like common sense, but as I read on, some of the examples given by the author reminded me of some of my own frustrations in childhood.  I have an excellent relationship with my father, but I was continually frustrated by his attempts to 'fix' each and every situation I found myself in.  I have learned that even now I cannot tell him about a negative experience I have had, without an "It will all be ok because..." or "Next time do this differently...", etc.  Now, he means well and in retrospect I realize that this is a completely natural response for me also - this is what we do.  What I wanted from my Dad as a child, and still do, is for him to just LISTEN, with maybe a 'Yeah, that sucks' every so often.   'Connected Parenting' outlines exactly how to do that, and although at times her examples are a little extreme and it sometimes seems like a long-winded response to a very simple question, it may not be easy for many people to do.  Particularly if, like myself, they have grown up with a very different 'norm'.

I was discussing some of the principles Kolari mentions with my husband this morning, and having decided a while ago that parenting by instinct is the best way to go, he immediately got defensive and started outlining reasons why her theories were wrong.  I don't deny there may be holes in any theory - and not everything will work for all families - but I have come to a sort of agreement with myself;  In the future when I pick up a book to read (and I plan to read as many as I can get my hands on, as a scholar-mom), I will assume that it will contain something valuable for me to learn.  I think most of us can admit that there may have been some behaviors passed down to us through generations that may not be helping us to be the best people - or parents - that we can be, and if my reading can bring my attention to these things, I want to be ready to learn.

I came back to my husband later in the day and asked him to consider adopting a similar philosophy.  I mentioned how our relationship has not been perfect - how each of us does things in ways that we think are normal and beneficial because that is how our parents treated each other, or whatever.  I don't think there's a relationship out there that doesn't have some imperfections in this behavioral 'code' we all have in us, so personally, I don't see how we can assume that our instincts will be correct in all circumstances either.

Maybe that's just me.

Published in Blog
Saturday, 01 October 2011 22:25

The Mommy Mafia Dilemma

While reading a blog entry recently, I came across the term 'Mommy Mafia', which was a term I had yet to encounter considering the fact that my daughter is only 8 months old and I have only begun to try building bridges with other families for the purpose of play-dating.

So I searched this new term - 'Mommy Mafia' - and came across a comical but honest article on the CNN website.  The article mentions that we have all (as Moms) judged other Moms on the way they parent and therefore have a little bit of the 'Mafia' in us, but that there is no way of truly knowing for sure if we are doing things 'right'.

I found that this article summarized how I have been feeling lately about parenting in general.  I have made the comparison that parenting is kind of like driving.  The number of accidents there are on the roads these days (and honestly - at least 90% of accidents were caused because SOMEONE wasn't paying enough attention) would indicate that there are not as many 'good' drivers out there as there are people who claim to be 'good' drivers... but almost no one admits to being a bad driver.  Parenting is similar, but the stakes are much higher.  We are vehemently defensive of our parenting choices, because the result of choosing the 'wrong' style might indicate that we are in some way failing our children.  As desperately as I try to convince myself that all parenting styles are good in their own way, and that different children and different families require different types of parenting methods, of COURSE I believe that any methods I have currently chosen are the 'best', otherwise I would not have chosen them.  However, like driving, when I look at the number of people out there who are rude, unmotivated, difficult, socially awkward, or worse, I realize the stakes are against me there too.  The odds of me raising a child who does not fit the 'ideal' in my mind's eye is all too likely.

Does that mean the 'Mommy Mafia' problem is unchangeable? Not entirely.  Although we all may feel defensive about our own parenting ideals, we do have to consider the fact that we all have different priorities when it comes to our children.  We all want to encourage different things.  Where my first priority might be to raise kind and respectful children, another parent's priority might be to raise intelligent and motivated children.  The differing layout of our priorities will ultimately change the way we parent them.  This is obviously one area where there are many 'right' answers.

Don't even get me started on the cliched statement that all children are different, but this is also a huge factor that will affect the outcome.

So with all of these things in mind (and the best way to combat this is probably to assume that we are all part of the problem), even though we will probably internally criticize another Mom's methods, we must choose to not let this affect how we treat them, or their children.  On the other side of this, we should probably make an extra effort to really understand our own methods so that we can get behind them 100% and feel confident in them even in the face of differing opinions.

Step 1 in getting along with other parents?

Published in Blog
Sunday, 28 August 2011 21:58

Homeschooling

After a recent Facebook post by a friend and homeschooling mom about a comment she had heard recently stating that home-schooled children are ‘weird’, I felt the need to voice my own uneducated opinion.

Although I’ll admit that I have had my share of experiences with ‘weird’ home-schooled kids, particularly in rural areas where it is easier for children to remain isolated from other people, I have also had an abundance of contact with ‘weird’ public schooled kids, and just as many home-schooled kids who had no defining characteristics that set them apart from their public schooled peers.   From my observations, it was less the method of schooling that affected the child’s ability to socialize and more the amount of time each child spends cooped up in their rooms or basements away from other people aside from the time they spend schooling.

In response to my friend’s post, another friend suggested that home-schooled kids are ‘weird’ because they do not have the same pressure to conform that publicly schooled children have (in the ways of social behaviors this may be considered a necessary skill, while in the area of a child’s talents and interests it creates the possibility of repression).   As a girl who was publicly schooled as a child, I recognize that my views and interests were shaped a lot by my peers in school.  There were things that were considered ‘cool’ when it came to clothing, activities and even who you were friends with, and there were things that were ‘uncool’.  To allow yourself to be labelled with something ‘uncool’ is opening yourself up to be ostracized and ridiculed, and maybe even to lose your friends.  This is a scary thing for a child, and most will bend to this pressure to fit in.  I admit that in a lot of ways, I altered who I was and what I might rather be doing out of fear.  I wonder to this day what sort of person I might be, what I might be interested in and even what type of clothing I might buy, if I had not been brainwashed to care about what the general public would think of me.   This is a curse that many home-schooled kids seem to be able to avoid.

I recently read the Wikipedia article on Homeschooling, and skimmed through some of the comments made in reference to research that has been done on home-schooled children recently.  It basically stated that recently, home-schooled students had been found to perform better on standardized tests than their public-schooled peers.  Another interesting point made was that the gaps between minorities and genders were much less prevalent in home-schooled students.

Might I suggest that a child’s ‘strangeness’ has nothing to do with how they are schooled, but rather how they are parented? These studies might also suggest that academic achievement also is not affected by the method of learning, but rather more to do with how invested a parent is in their child’s learning.  For example, a parent who is wanting to teach their child at home is likely going to be more involved in their child’s learning and development.  It stands to reason that a child who has invested parents is more likely to succeed than a child who is left alone.  Any child who spends the majority of their days in their bedroom in front of a computer monitor is more likely to be socially awkward than a child who spends much of their free time outdoors playing with other children – regardless of whether their ‘at school’ time is spent in or out of the home.

One advantage of home-schooling is that it typically takes less time in a day than public-schooled children spend in school, and so they have more time available for ‘playing’, which seems to be something we are sadly getting increasingly too busy for.

Published in Blog
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