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I Will Not Scroll On By

I Will Not Scroll On By

How many times have you read on social media: “If you don’t like it, just scroll on by.”

Be it on an individual’s page or a group, I see this all. the. time.  All the damn time.  Someone posts something controversial (or sometimes, not even!) and the instant that anyone has the gall to offer an alternate view they are accused of being unsupportive or told they are just trying to start “drama”.  Is that really what we’re reduced to, these days?  Are we really not allowed to voice a different opinion or stance, lest we be told we’re judgmental or worse, a troll?  Or my absolute favourite: the claim that the poster has the right to freedom of speech and how dare you challenge that.

For starters.  Freedom of speech means that the government will not throw you in jail for your opinions.  That’s literally it.  Freedom of speech does not actually mean that there are no peer consequences for voicing opinions.  It doesn’t mean that you can say whatever you’d like and people have to either agree or “scroll on by.”  It doesn’t mean your job has to continue to employ you.  It doesn’t mean that your friends have to continue to support you.   You can say whatever the hell you want and stay out of jail.  Yay for freedom.

Secondly, as I’ve already written about, it’s pretty unrealistic to think you can or should post things for hundreds, maybe thousands of people to read and expect that there won’t be a few disagreements in the bunch.  If you aren’t in a place where you can truly listen to both sides, maybe don’t post so publicly in the first place.

Thirdly, most importantly, where is the growth?  Where is the conversation, the healthy debate, the changing of minds?  When we are not allowed to ever disagree with one another – or forced to ignore it when we do – we are forced in these silos of naivety and arrogance.  We are surrounded by confirmation bias, content in our own little bubble that everything we do, say, and believe is absolutely the right thing.

This, my friends, is dangerous.

That is exactly why I will not scroll on by.  When you post about how you spank your kid, I’m not going to just ignore that.  When you tout the benefits of feeding pablum at 3 weeks old, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t read.  When you talk about how unfortunate the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling was, I’m not going to support your stance with my silence.  Because I want to offer the other side.  I want to discuss my own findings.  I want us to have a conversation about where your information came from and why you feel that way.  Mostly? I want to understand.

What happens if I follow the “scroll on by” advice and ignore every post a new mom makes about letting her baby cry to sleep?  I start getting upset – CIO is something I’m desperately against.  Maybe I distance myself from her.  Maybe I block her.  Maybe I convince myself this is the absolutely best thing because I’m doing what I need to without upsetting or disagreeing with her. Right?  Everyone else does the same.  And maybe, just maybe, this mom hates using CIO but doesn’t know what else to do, and since everyone who would try anything different is just moving along, she gets no offers of alternatives.  She now lives in this silo, believing that everyone follows the same approach, because nobody is willing to say otherwise at the risk of a debate.

Or maybe she’s perfectly comfortable with her choice.  Also completely possible.  The point is, I don’t know. I don’t understand.  And I can’t, if I’m not allowed to ask.  If I’m not allowed to tell it from my side.   I’m not always right, and we will not always agree.  That’s okay.  I don’t need to agree with my network on every issue to love and respect them . I truly don’t.  What I do need is to understand.

When I refuse to scroll on by, I learn so much.  I learn that the new mom was desperately calling out for help, and I can share what worked for me.  Or I learn that she was just strongly advocating for her position, and we learn that this topic is now off-limits for the sake of our friendship . Either way, it’s a much better ending than me being upset and cutting off contact.  Not to mention all the lurkers reading the thread that may have been hoping for a different point of view.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much knowledge I’ve gained simply by reading the different stances of people, even when I wasn’t quite ready to listen the first few times.  Rinse and repeat for virtually any other topic.

Now, of course, there’s a way to disagree.  Or rather, there’s an acceptable way to present your side, without coming across like an arrogant jerk.  Diplomacy should never be underestimated.  If you come to the conversation slinging insults and mud, it’s unlikely that any decent point you’re making will ever be heard.  You actually can be a voice of disagreement and still be respectful of everyone involved.  I suspect the people who don’t follow this are the reason this whole scroll on by business even came to fruition.  Do us all a favour and don’t be that guy.  Nobody likes that guy.

I’m not the be-all-end-all guru of the world – I’ve got a lot to learn, too.  I hope that people won’t be afraid to challenge my beliefs, whatever those may be, so I can continue to question, learn, and grow.  Sometimes, it ends with me coming out with a new perspective.  Sometimes it makes me more stable in my original position.  It’s all still growth, and it won’t happen by scrollin’ on by.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in Parenting, Random Shit

 

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I Can (But I Won’t).

I Can (But I Won’t).

I can, little one.

I can stand over you; a giant in comparison.  I can intimidate and point my finger.  I can yell as your little face twists and turns in fear and sadness.  I can because I’m bigger.

I can let my anger get the best of me.  I can hit when I’m frustrated; when you’re not listening. I can stand by the “do as I say, not as I do” mantra.  I can wear it like a shield.  I can tell you it’s not okay to hurt, and then I can hurt you to reinforce my lesson.  I can because I’m stronger.

I can throw a tantrum and find that perfectly reasonable, but still not put up with yours.  I can tell you to calm down and get a grip, even though it’s apparent that I’m not able to do that for myself.  I can isolate you and tell you that you’re naughty.  I can expect you to know how to gain control of your emotions, or at the very least suppress them.  I can because I’m in charge.

I can leave you alone at night.  I can let you cry yourself to sleep, secure in my reasoning that you need to learn to soothe yourself.  I can ignore your stress and I can teach you to ignore your instincts, because that’s more convenient.  I can shut the door and go cozy up to my partner.  I can because I’m tired.

I can, little one.  But I won’t.

I won’t abuse my size and power by making you fear me.  I won’t inflict any emotional or physical pain on a child when it’s illegal for me to do it to an adult.  I’m bigger, and that’s already an uneven advantage.

I won’t act hypocritically and expect your immature mind to “get” it.  Setting respectful, firm boundaries takes more work, but I won’t settle for anything less than the long game.  I’m stronger; it’s not a fair fight.

I won’t expect you to have the tools to regulate your reactions until I give them to you.  Until I help you, and practice, practice, practice.  I don’t expect you to learn anything else overnight, and this is no exception.  I won’t be so unwilling to allow space for the negative emotions simply because they make me uncomfortable.  I’m in charge; which means I’m also in charge of supporting you through all those big feelings.

I won’t crave closeness but deny you the same.  I won’t believe the hype of the busy North American life that suggests that children are made manipulative, and need to be trained out of it.  You need me, and I know it.  I know that with proper support, you’ll develop your independence all on your own.  I won’t force it.  I’m tired, and so are you.

I might screw up sometimes though, kid.  I’m only human and the pressure is great.  I have learned habits and in times of stress I sometimes fall back into those ways.  I can apologize.  I can resolve to do better next time.  I can come up with an action plan of how I’ll do exactly that.  I can create a village and ask them to remind me.  I can work everyday to make sure that I won’t be everything that works against our attachment.  I can do those things, little one.   And I will.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Parenting

 

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This Is A Mommy Tummy

This Is A Mommy Tummy

It’s been bigger, it’s been smaller.  It’s soft.  It’s squishy.  It’s covered in stretch marks.  It jiggles when I walk.  It hangs over my underwear (and if I’m not careful, my pants).  This, friends, is my mommy tummy.

It gave a warm, cozy home to new humans.  It provides comfort and warmth to them earthside today.   It made new life possible.  It made love I didn’t know existed a reality.

It’s healthy.  It’s active.  It keeps up with my kids.  It runs half-marathons and does yoga and scales walls in obstacle courses.

It’s one mommy tummy of many in this world. Some of which are also bigger.  Or smaller.  Or harder or softer.  Darker or lighter.

And to a lot of society, it’s hideous.

Think about that for a moment, folks.  My body, that creates humans and runs races and has zero medical conditions is unacceptable because it’s not twenty pounds lighter and divided neatly into six sections – as if those are the factors that determine health and longevity.  My body, which is like so many other bodies out there, is one in need of a makeover.  One that I should regulate and deprive and drill until it assumes the shape dictated by Photoshop.  A realistic goal, I’m sure.  My body is one reminiscent of so many “before” photos in the makeovers, further reinforcing the notion of its undesirability.

And what fitspo doesn’t seem to understand is that the body acceptance movement isn’t about promoting unhealthy habits and lifestyles (although there are many who would argue that you get to do whatever you damn well please with your own damn body because it’s yours).  It’s about recognizing that thin does not equal healthy.  That fat does not equal unhealthy.  And that there are so many variations in between that are normal, natural and beautiful.  That it’s okay to love yourself for who you are, in the skin you’re in.  Even if you’d rather be a different shape.  Especially then.  That it’s alright to have confidence and self-love.  It’s alright to decide to workout and eat differently and it’s alright to decide that you’re happy and healthy right where you are.  That sometimes, there are more important things in life than depriving yourself of cheese.

This is my mommy tummy.  Maybe it’s yours, too.  And I’m here to tell you – that’s okay.  You are beautiful and worthy, just the way you are.

mommy tummy

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Parenting, Random Shit

 

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The Dangers of Spousal Saving Syndrome

The Dangers of Spousal Saving Syndrome

“Oh here, I’ll do it,” you say, whisking your crying baby out of your spouse’s arms.

“He won’t go to bed for anyone except me. I can never get any time to myself,” you confess to your friend.

“I keep telling them they’re doing it wrong, but nobody ever listens to me. Mama knows best!” you complain about your partner’s lack of skills.

Sound familiar? 

Moms, we have a problem. An epidemic, really. Thousands of us are affected. We are suffering from Spousal Saving Syndrome.

The irresistible urge to micromanage our partner’s interactions with our children. To impart our infallible wisdom. To coach, direct and insist on proper technique. And when all else fails? To do it our damn self and bitch about it to our friends.

I was Captain Controllypants with my firstborn, too. I get it.  I figured I spent most of the time with him and knew the best tricks. Which I was happy to graciously insist on with my partner. I couldn’t stand to hear my son cry, so I immediately swooped in to save the day at the first sign of upset. I had SSS, and I had it bad.

Here’s what happened. I created an environment where I was the only one who could parent my son. Then I became resentful of my lack of alone time, and of my partner’s incompetence. I micromanaged their every interaction so that they lost confidence in their own abilities. They started relying on me to save them, and stopped trying to deal with it in the first place. I grew more resentful.

I grew more resentful and it was entirely my own fault.

Babies? They don’t come with manuals. I didn’t know what worked best when my son was born. I had to figure it out. I had to try some things. I had to go back to the drawing board. I had to find my groove. And just when I thought I found it, a new stage would hit and the whole thing would repeat again. Throughout all of it, I never allowed the space for my partner to travel the same journey. I never considered that what works for me might not work for them. I never gave them the confidence they needed to find their groove. I never even insisted that they try. 

So Mamas, I’m here to plead, to beg: stop saving your spouses. They are competent, intelligent parents just like you are. They will find their rhythm with your children, if you let them.  They will bond and their confidence will grow just as yours did. They will find a way that may not always be your way, and it will be just fine. It may work, it may not. Not everything you tried worked, either. Allow them to settle in to their own routine and watch them blossom. There will be tears, as there was with you. Your child is safe and supported. Leave the house when your urge to save becomes unbearable, or at the very least take some deep breaths. You’ll be okay.

I’m not saying let them flounder.  If they ask you for tips, share what works for you and then step back again. Agree on your hard limits to sleep and discipline and all the rest and then allow each other to work within those guidelines. Collaborate. Communicate. 

If you let your Spousal Saving Syndrome get the best of you, you’re liable to wind up just like me and so many moms I know – drained, with an empty cup feeling like this entire parenting gig falls only on our shoulders. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. So save your sanity, save your relationship, save your sense of self, save your partners confidence – all by refusing to save your spouse. They aren’t in need of rescuing. 

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2015 in Parenting

 

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Pro Vaxxers: It Isn’t About Wakefield. Or Jenny.

Pro Vaxxers: It Isn’t About Wakefield. Or Jenny.

The most frustrating thing I see in pro-vaccination articles, comments, blogs is the constant assumption that the 2 main drivers in the anti-vax ‘movement‘ (you can hardly call it that, it’s not really that popular) are Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. Examples are everywhere:

“If vaccines caused the harms Jenny McCarthy and her ilk claim they do, then my persistence in giving them must say something horrifying about me.” – source

“16 Years Ago, A Doctor Published A Study. It Was Completely Made Up, And It Made Us All Sicker.” – source

“Some of the people currently spreading the mumps self-identify with the anti-vaccination movement, a dangerous and scantly informed craze that is probably best known for semi-celebrity Jenny McCarthy…McCarthy was taking her cues from a fraudulent 1998 research paper written by the discredited former surgeon Andrew Wakefield, a charlatan who had planned to launch a venture that would line his pockets on the back of bad science.” – source

Or hey – this entire website dedicated to showing how many ‘bodies’ are the fault of Jenny McCarthy.

I could go on. And on. And on.  Just Google either name to see what I mean. Attached to these and any pro-vax article on social media are usually snide remarks about taking medical advice from washed up Playboy models; how stupid anti-vaxxers are for refusing to give up on Wakefield despite him being debunked on numerous occasions; or, you know, how vaccines are proven by science and science is and has simply never, ever been wrong.

Here’s the thing: It isn’t about Wakefield.  It definitely isn’t about Jenny.  Those are just the two easiest arguments to counter.  For some unknown reason, this belief by pro-vaxxers that these are the anti-vax population’s biggest influences is rampant and incredibly puzzling. I know a lot of anti-vaxxers.  I’m a self-proclaimed hippy, after all – it comes with the territory.  Of those people, exactly zero of them allowed Wakefield or McCarthy to have any bearing on their decision.  Even the most rigid anti-vaxxers I know acknowledge that Wakefield was a piece of shit.  Seriously.  Even if they believe that autism could possibly be triggered (I say triggered, not caused) by a vaccine, they don’t believe this because of anything Wakefield said.  The guy has no credibility on either end of the spectrum.

Anti-vaxxers are also some of the most well researched people I know.  You don’t just generally decide to go against status quo without reading the shit out of the subject.  My anti-vaxxer friends have read, and researched, and analyzed.  Point being – Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity with zero medical background and a very biased viewpoint.  Taking the advice (any advice) from anyone without the credentials to dole it out is irresponsible at best.  Anti-vaxxers on the whole know this. To prove my point, I did an informal poll in a group I’m in that is overwhelmingly anti-vaccination.  No, folks, this isn’t a formal, peer reviewed study and you won’t find it on Google Scholar (although I’ll point out that at one point you’d find Wakefield’s work in there. Irony is a wonderful thing).  It does illustrate what I mean, though.  Of 79 people that responded, 77 of them indicated that Wakefield and McCarthy had zilch to do with their decision not to vaccinate.  2 people indicated they had ‘some’ influence but clarified in the comments that Jenny McCarthy brought attention to the subject of vaccinations which prompted them to look into it more, but that her opinion on them didn’t carry any weight.  Many people indicated they didn’t even know who Wakefield was until they started seeing pro-vaxxers spout his name at every opportunity.

So, my pro-vaxxer friends: stop it, m’kay?  Stop it with assuming that everyone who chooses not to vaccinate is blindly taking the advice of a ‘washed up Playboy model’ or a debunked fraudulent charlatan.    It’s not even accurate and such a waste of your focus. You can’t start off by making a misguided assumption about the motivations behind the anti-vax population and expect them to listen.  Wakefield and McCarthy are the easy ones to destroy, but the assumption that anti-vaxxers give a shit about either of them seriously undermines your entire cause.  Who’s going to change their mind on the rantings of someone who hasn’t even taken the time to understand the full scope of the problem? Of course, you will find individuals who have based their opinions on either of these individuals.  There are extremists when it comes to any subject.  Don’t use the one example that you know and generalize the intelligence of an entire population. Also, I don’t give a shit what you think about vaccinations.  This isn’t anti-vaccination propaganda.  I didn’t state my stance on the subject (and actually, you’d probably be surprised).  My request is simply that if you are going to fill up my social media newsfeeds with your rants about how dangerous and irresponsible anti-vaxxers are, at least have your facts straight.  At the very least know why people are making the choices they do.  It isn’t about Wakefield. Or Jenny. I promise.

Update: I’ve often been asked “Ok – you’ve said it wasn’t Wakefield or Jenny. Then what IS it?  You can’t just tell me what it isn’t and not tell me what it is.”   Friends, if you’re truly curious about the real reasons why, you need to ask the anti-vaxxers.  Except that I mean ask and genuinely listen.  Then would not be the time to belittle or shame them, you won’t get the meat that way.  If you are so darn passionate about refuting the anti-vax argument, you really shouldn’t be turning to some random blogger to give you all the answers.  Do some discovery.  The reasons are as vast and varied as anything else and you’ll find themes but nothing that’s one size fits all.   Despite common belief, there actually are peer reviewed scientific studies available that support the anti-vax side.  I know, I know, this goes against everything you’ve ever learned.  You’ll be okay.
If you’re really not sure where to start, I did highlight some of the concerns over here, but the post was never meant to be a be all end all to the argument.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Parenting, Random Shit

 

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The Trouble With “This Too Shall Pass”

 

You hear it everywhere.  Baby doesn’t sleep, like, ever? Not to worry – this too shall pass.  Toddler being aggressive and hurting others? Normal.  This too shall pass.  Teenager seemingly hates you?  It’s just the hormones – this too shall pass.  Job is frustrating the hell out of you?  That happens to everybody, sometimes.  This too shall pass.  Rough patch in your marriage?  Marriage is hard.  This too shall pass.

The four words that have become the commonplace answer for each of life’s frustrations.  The catch-all that tells you that it’s just a phase and not to worry.  The statement that is, in my opinion, extremely problematic.

Now before you get all huffy, I understand that the phrase has good intent.  I get that it’s meant to be reassuring.  I know that it can be helpful sometimes to be reminded that your problems are short-lived and if you can just breathe a little more deeply you will see it through to the other side.  Hope is a powerful thing and it’s not bad to be told that there is a light at the end of the tunnel; what you’re going through is normal and that is does get better.  That, well, this too shall pass.

The problematic part is that we’re giving all this reassurance and hope without following up with any practical survival tips.   It’s great to know that in another year I may sleep for longer than 45 minutes at a time, but right now I’m a walking zombie who can barely function.  It’s awesome that my toddler will, in a few months, learn the words they need to express themselves but right now I avoid playdates like the plague for fear of what my little monster will do to their peers.  I may know that my teenager will sprout into an adult and decide I’m an okay human to be around, but in this moment I’m hearing ‘I hate you’ for the fifteenth time this week.   Job dissatisfaction may be normal, but I’m currently out of sick days because I just can’t muster up the motivation to get my butt to work.  Perhaps I’ll decide my spouse is the fabulous partner I once knew, but the thought of jail is the only reason I haven’t acted out the fantasies in my head.

When somebody reaches out to you, they are looking for something – maybe some empathy, commiseration or advice (although as a caution: if they haven’t directly asked for your advice it’s always best if you confirm they actually want it before you start playing Dr. Phil. Sometimes a sympathetic ear is all that’s required.)  Most people are fully aware that their children won’t go off to college still needing to be comforted 27 bazillion times throughout the night.  They know it will pass.  It doesn’t change their now.  Telling them ‘this too shall pass’ may make them feel like you are dismissing their experience.  It may make them wonder if perhaps their situation is worse than the normal, since you are basically telling them to suck it up and yet they feel so damn miserable.  It may make them resort to techniques that aren’t really in their best interest in the name of a short-term solution.

And, sometimes, it actually doesn’t just pass on its own.  Marriages normally don’t just fix themselves, for example.  Sometimes, it can only pass if you help it along.

So next time you want to assure someone that their experience is normal and likely a phase, avoid telling them it will pass without adding value to that statement:

That happened to me, too.  It’s normal.  This too shall pass.  In the meantime, here are some things that helped me get through it…

Ugh, that sounds so hard! The good news is that this too shall pass, eventually.  How can I help you cope?

I’ll help support you through this, until it passes.  What do you need from me?  Are you open to some suggestions?

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Parenting, Random Shit

 

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What’s That Smell?

“What’s that smell?” My son asked as he stood beside the washroom I had just come out of.

“Hmm.  I’m not sure.” I lied.

“Yuck.” He said and walked away.

Don’t judge me.  I’m only going to get away with feigning ignorance for another year, tops.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Parenting, Random Shit

 
 
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