I Don’t Know My Neighbours

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I’ve been saddened lately by how few neighbours I know, never mind how few I would even recognize if I saw them somewhere else. Our next door neighbour walked right by us a few weeks ago and I had no idea she was our next door neighbour. Don’t blame me; she didn’t even say hello to prompt me that I should know her. In fact, I’m pretty sure she glared at me, but maybe I’m just making that up to be dramatic.

I blame all this on the continuously inflating housing bubble. Nobody can afford to buy houses in the Greater Toronto Area anymore… except for foreign investors. They are buying up our properties with bully bids, no conditions, full cash payments, prompting greedy realtors to go on a door-to-door expedition, practically begging homeowners to sell. And after these foreign investors have successfully purchased, they leave the property to rot, feeling just fine that their money is now safe. ok, now I’m definitely being dramatic, but it’s much more interesting this way.

But here is what is really happening in many neighbourhoods across the GTA, like mine. These foreign investors don’t live in the houses they buy, or they buy them so their barely-adult children can live there. Why should I care? I care because often, these owners do not take proper care of their property, and more importantly, they don’t participate in my community. They don’t support retail services and use the infrastructure that is around us, and when that happens, local businesses suffer, municipalities think that there is no need for any further infrastructure development, and I – who live here every day and maintain and take care of my home and need retail and infrastructure – suffer. The worst part is: I don’t feel like I’m a part of something, I don’t feel like I belong in a community where everyone cares and looks after one another.

One evening, I was sitting on my front landing enjoying a summer evening, and was amazed as all my Asian neighbours gathered around on the street chit chatting and having a grand ole time. Meanwhile, the neighbour who lives directly next to me, will not even make eye contact to acknowledge that I am human. I know he talks, because he has nice conversation with the Asian neighbour who lives across the street from us. Even if you cannot converse in English, you can at least say “hello”, or maybe just nod? You don’t even have to do it with a smile if you don’t want to. No, instead, when he waters or mows the small patch of lawn that our two properties share, he makes sure to water or mow only his little half of lawn.

Another house on our street sold recently, and no sooner were the sellers out of the house that a “For Lease” sign went up on the lawn: another investor who had no plans to actually live in the house.

At the risk of sounding like Donald Trump (no, please, no!!), this is not the Canada I want to live in.

What is also worrisome is that as these foreign investors with no shortage of money buy up all our homes and drive prices through the roof, what will happen when it’s time for my daughter to buy a home? As I’ve said to many: I cannot imagine being a first-time homebuyer in this market, just starting out with my career, my marriage, my family… DQ is priced right out of the market, and she was born and raised here. Shouldn’t the “American Dream” be accessible to her, first and foremost?

I’m not suggesting that I have the solution, because I don’t. What they are doing is not illegal; they pay their property taxes (I hope). But it just doesn’t feel good for community. I’m not sure adding a 15% surtax to foreign buyers like the British Columbia government has done is the answer. However, I would say to these homebuyers: if you buy a home in Canada, live in it, take care of it, and be a responsible and participatory citizen – that’s kind of the whole point.

Which 3 Would You Choose?

Family, friends, work, sleep, fitness. Choose 3.

That was a compelling headline in my Twitter feed last week. In our eternal quest for work-life balance, somebody is finally telling it like it is: you cannot have it all.

The post was targeted at entrepreneurs, but the statement applies to anyone who is working, whatever shape “work” takes for them. It made me think back to when I was working full-time hours outside the home: which 3 did I choose then? Work of course dominated my waking hours. Whatever energy I had left was given to family and sleep (although, not enough to either). I certainly believed I was going to achieve work-life balance by quitting my corporate job. There’s no question I am wholly happier, in better health and generally less stressed. But do I have it all? After reading this post, I realized that I didn’t; I still had to choose 3. Today, I choose family, sleep and fitness. However, that is only because I am now no longer consulting and am in “pause” mode with any kind of work, so it’s admittedly a bit of a luxury that I can afford for now. But when I had work, I was definitely more stressed, even though it consumed a mere 8 to 10 hours a week – it really did feel like one too many things on the go with everything else I had chosen. I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time, but for me, it certainly validates the notion that once work comes into the picture, it’s hard to get balance.

What happens if I pick up some consulting work later? I have a feeling fitness will fall off the rails, but depending on what kind of work arrangement I can negotiate, maybe it doesn’t have to be complete abandonment. Maybe I can make it a smaller check mark in the box, which may or may not be satisfying to me.

Of course, this all made me start to wonder, “What happened to friends?”. They never seemed to make it to the list of 3. That’s not to say I never choose to see any friends. However, as an introvert, it might be fair to say that what I consider “time with friends” is different from an extrovert’s. Time spent with a large number of people really drains energy from introverts, so I much prefer to spend one-on-one time with people (not to mention that my friends all come from disparate circles anyway). But to get together with people one at a time can take a lot of time! I admit it’s not on the list of 3 as a priority, but I haven’t shelved it altogether.

So: family, friends, work, sleep, fitness. Choose 3. Every day we wake up, how our day will go is always determined by the choices we make.

Which 3 are you choosing?

Is It Possible I Respect Gwyneth?

This is a watershed moment. Remember my last rant about Gwyneth Paltrow? She is indeed a celebrity many love to hate because she appears to be so disconnected from Everyday Woman. But after reading in Fast Company about her recent efforts to expand her Goop brand into a real business, I’ve actually come to – gasp! – respect her? That doesn’t mean I have to like her, right?

What I have come to realize after reading the story is that she is pretty out of touch with middle America… because she’s not middle class! Never has been, never will be. The primary tenet of marketing is know who your target audience is. She appeals to like-minded individuals who can afford her lifestyle. Nothing wrong with that. Good on her for capitalizing on it. That’s what smart entrepreneurs do.

And after reading what she had to say about how and why she started Goop, I really see now that her business started from intentions that were very honest and good. She was seeking ways to live a really solid, happy life, in every way: through health, fashion, food, spirituality… And because she couldn’t find a single source that spoke to this topic in a way that resonated with her, she decided to write about how she was doing it. She just honestly wanted to share her positive experiences with people through an e-mail newsletter. Over the years, as the business evolved, she realized that Goop was facilitating the sale of big brands to the tune of millions of dollars, and thought, “Hey – I should be getting a piece of that action!”. So I admire her “un-womanlike” attitude of not allowing herself and her brand to be taken advantage of.

Another thing that really struck a chord in me was her genuine desire to make it work because she now has investors with expectations:

It’s my main job. I’ve made commitments to people and I’ve taken their money, so I’m going do everything in my power to make sure that the brand scales.

And like any smart businessperson, she understood she alone didn’t have the capabilities to grow and scale the business. She hired people with relevant experience to manage the business, but remains a very involved founder to ensure that the business always has the Gwyneth stamp on it and remains true to its roots. I respect that. It’s a model I aspire to as I seek to find my next entrepreneurial venture. It’s pretty powerful to own a brand that is so well defined for you that you will absolutely not compromise its integrity.

In the Fast Company story, her editorial director talks about how people become converts of Goop:

 “That’s the general trajectory,” Loehnen tells me. “People are resistant, and then someone gives them her cookbook and they’re like, ‘These recipes are kind of amazing,’ and then they become fans. Generally, when people experience the site, they’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t want to like it, but I loved it.’ ”

I’m a little afraid to visit the site myself now…!

Food Fight

Wow, what a crazy couple of weeks on Twitter in food circles. When The Toronto Star broke a story last week about pastry chef Kate Burnham making sexual harassment allegations against several superiors at Toronto restaurant Weslodge, all Twitterverse broke loose. Or as Jen Agg from The Black Hoof would suggest, it was way too quiet. I’m not a big fan of Jen Agg; sometimes, I think she should just tone it down. But I wholeheartedly support her stance on the issue of sexual harassment of women in restaurant kitchens. So good for her on calling out (shaming?) her industry colleagues for not speaking out about it – loudly.

What really took me over the edge, though, was reading Montreal restaurant critic Lesley Chesterman’s point of view on the issue. It’s been weighing heavily on me for the past week. Chesterman was asked by Jennifer Nickle on Twitter to chime in. I don’t know who Jennifer Nickle is and whether her intention was to entrap Chesterman, but Chesterman wasn’t afraid to speak her mind:

As for my take? Ok. Why did Burnham stay?Why did she put up with that treatment from those Cro-Magnons for so long? I was sexually harassed when I was a chef when I was 19 and 23. You either deal with it or you get out.

 

I was disturbed and incensed when I read this, and I was so close to replying with my disappointment in her, particularly as a woman, but what would she care what I had to say, really?

“Deal with it or get out”? That’s your answer? That attitude is making you part of the problem, Lesley, don’t you see that? Anybody who says that we should all just accept that this is kitchen culture and move on if you can’t take the shit… you’re just giving permission to men around the world to continue doing this to other women. This is someone who is oblivious to the historical power imbalance between men and women in the workplace. When asked if she would have the same attitude if it had happened to her own daughter, she replied, “I would have told my daughter to get out of there after the first incident.” Which is good and right. But to then say “The industry is what it is. Not everyone working in a restaurant kitchen is there because they loved Julia Child.”? Hmm, if we had all felt that way about the Nazis and just accepted that this is the way it is, we’d be living in a much different world, wouldn’t we?

Some things are worth fighting for. Like the right to feel safe in your place of work, for example. When challenged, Chesterman claimed that we cannot compare this situation to a woman in an abusive domestic relationship. How is it not the same? Just because Burnham wasn’t physically beaten up, just because she only had her crotch and breasts grabbed on a regular basis, humiliated in front her colleagues when her uniform was ripped open to bare her breasts, just because it was only that, it’s totally different??  I can’t even… *fuming*

When Shauna Hunt from CityNews in Toronto fell victim to a FHRITP stunt, and then challenged another male bystander to explain what his mother would think of it, some (mostly male) critics brushed the whole thing off, suggesting Hunt wasn’t able to take a joke. A joke? Are you f*king kidding me (no pun intended)? I know a lot of men would have a tough time doing this, but just for a minute, put yourself in women journalists’ shoes, and just imagine a man, a total stranger, running up to you while you’re reporting live – you are doing your job – and aggressively yelling “FHRITP!” into your microphone. Can you not see how frightening that actually is? Can you not understand how a woman would be rattled by this? I would have been scared and probably would become scared of most men after that (particularly inebriated ones who have no control over their sensibilities). That a man would say this suggests that he could do this – that would qualify as rape if I don’t tell you can do it. And it’s pretty likely I wouldn’t say you can do that to me. I never want to tell DQ that “this is just the way it is.” – some things are worth fighting for.

I cannot understand anyone who would suggest that a workplace where women are sexually harassed (or worse, assaulted, which- if you ask me – is what Burnham allegedly endured) will not change and leave it at that. The world goes round because there is progress and people fight for it – that’s why we still exist today and haven’t been blown up to smithereens. Sometimes, the progress is minute and it can feel painfully slow, but it’s progress. Ask women today if they could imagine a time when they were not allowed to vote and they would say it’s unthinkable. Hopefully, in less than five years’ time, ask women if they can imagine a time when they had to fear being sexually harassed or assaulted in their place of work and they will think this to be a trick question. This thing is worth fighting for.

 

How Death Connects Us All

I recently attended the funeral of a family friend. She was the matriarch of a family that I considered to be my own second family when I moved to Toronto. I lived with them for a month before I found a place of my own. The family had five boys who were like brothers to me, and who treated my parents as if they were their own. We frequently visited each other in the summers, travelling between Montreal and Toronto. The family was large. There was also a set of nine cousins in Montreal, and another set of six cousins here in Toronto, and I knew them all.

When I moved to Toronto on my own, the mother made sure all her boys looked after me, and always included me in their own family gatherings. After I moved out on my own, I’d slowly lost my connection. The parents would always come for a visit whenever my mom came to town. The mother had been in poor health for some time and I often was saddened by how frail she’d become each time I saw her.

The funeral home visitation was the first time I’d seen so many of the family in over ten years; most of them I had not seen since my own wedding. It was really wonderful to reconnect with everyone. You know how they say you can quickly regain a connection with a good friend even if you haven’t seen him or her in many years? That’s how it felt. It felt like home. Because I did not come from a large family, and the only set of blood cousins I did have were not close, I don’t think I really ever understood family connection. It’s at moments like funeral visitations and services that you realize who the important people are in your life, even when you don’t see them in ten years.

That’s why you have to hang on to family. If you are lucky enough to have many cousins and aunts and uncles, realize that these are the people who will really be there for you when times are rough – this is when they will close ranks and protect you, when you need it most. Family is binding. It’s just unfortunate that it takes a death to remind us of that.

So What Do You Want Me To Say?

Something that has become a pet peeve recently is not knowing “the right thing to say”. One risks being called out for being ignorant about everything in life.

In today’s diverse population, it’s not unusual for people to ask, “Where are you from?” or “What nationality are you?”. Some take great offense to that and will snap back sarcastically with, “Canada”. As a Canadian-born Asian of Chinese descent, I understand what people want to know when they ask that question. So why make the person feel ignorant or guilty by trying to be a smart-ass? People who ask that question simply want to understand more about your culture; isn’t that what we keep asking for: greater appreciation for diversity? So why do we shut the door on it when someone wants to start the conversation?

Then there’s the example of parents who have a child with autism or some kind of disability. I find I hear a lot of these people venting about how annoyed or upset they get with what people say to them, as if others are just so completely insensitive to what they’re going through. I’m just trying to express some admiration when I say, “It’s so great that you are giving your child all the best opportunities to succeed.” Instead, you may react to that with, “Why wouldn’t I? My child has every right to the same opportunities as yours does!” Or I may be trying to express some empathy if I say, “I’m sure you have some challenging days; I hope you find some time for yourself sometimes.” But you may react to that with, “What are you saying? That my child is a great burden on me? I don’t love him any less than you love yours! I’m sure your kid can be a huge brat, too!”. Sigh. You really can’t try to be nice to anyone anymore.

So let me turn the tables on you. I really don’t know what you’re going through if I haven’t been through it myself, so, what do you want me to say? I get that you might be angry about your circumstances, or that you might feel like you’ve been dealt a really lousy hand in life, or that you feel like nobody can possibly know what you’re going through . But why am I being punished for it? It’s not like I said, “Your kid’s a horror show; you have to rein him in.”

Instead of ranting on your blogs about the stupid things I say to you, why don’t we make this a productive conversation? Why don’t you suggest something I could say that would make you feel better? Would you rather I just not make any effort to speak to you? I have other people I can talk to, too.

That’s why I appreciated this blog post in the NY Times, written by Margaret Gilmour, who has a child with a learning disability; often, other parents presume her child is autistic. How refreshing that Gilmour acknowledged that in the past, when there was an attempt by another parent to start a conversation about her child, she shut down. She found the questions or comments a bit strange or too direct, and she never knew how to react, so inevitably, there would be no further conversation. But she came to the realization that this is not the best way to have normal relationships with other parents. She came at it with a new perspective: an appreciation for how awkward or uncomfortable it can be for someone to start a conversation with her about her son. And she gave some tips for conversation starters – thank you!

All I’m saying is, “Stop rolling your eyes and telling me what not to say. Tell me what I can say to better support you.”

There’s A Nerd For That

I’ve become semi-addicted to Twitter lately. (And here I thought I had achieved victory over social media by giving up Facebook!)

I joined Twitter for professional reasons at first, working on a project that required me to be somewhat informed about the hot new restaurants and chefs in Toronto. Luckily, it wasn’t a painful exercise, because I love food! I quickly started following outside the foodie circles, into current events, politics, marketing, technology and more recently, sports.

Sometimes I will come across posts that remind me to not take myself too seriously. Foodies preach about buying and eating only local and sustainable, bloggers meticulously and lovingly pine over their photographs and the gorgeous plate compositions, the food truck proponents will rant ravenously about the travesty of municipal legislation that prevents them from fairly operating on their city streets and ask you to sign petitions… John Lanchester wrote a nice piece in The New Yorker where he put all foodies in their place:

Imagine that you die and go to Heaven and stand in front of a jury made up of Thomas Jefferson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Your task would be to compose yourself, look them in the eye, and say, “I was all about fresh, local, and seasonal.”

What I find probably the most amusing is within the realm of sports. On Twitter, and on TV and radio sports shows, analysts and armchair commentators will go to great lengths – with dramatic pauses for full effect – to analyze last night’s game to death to parse where things went awry, or to declare with utmost authority what the Leafs need to do to dig out of their mess. Most recently, it’s been all the analysis on the NFL scouting combine and who ran the fastest 40 yards, and next will be the breakdown of March Madness, down to what shoes the players need to wear to get to the Final Four.

Charles Barkley recently mocked the fact that professional basketball teams are now all hiring analytics staff, claiming, “Because they had no talent to be able to play . . . smart guys wanted to be able to fit in, so they made up a term called ‘analytics.’” (it didn’t occur to him that basically, he was saying he’s not smart). Well, I am a firm believer in the fact that the numbers don’t lie, and I don’t necessarily agree with his theory on the evolution of analytics in sports, but I do think analytics in the world of sports is kind of funny. I mean, can you imagine: the movie “Moneyball” created a whole sub-industry in sports. The nerds won!

And that’s my point: there’s a nerd for everything. While the analytics guys may be the nerds to Charles Barkley, he should listen to himself and his fellow sports broadcasters give such ridiculous in-depth analysis about a game. Trust me, Charles: it’s just as nerdy. FuBu reminds me that it’s driven by passion: for sports, for food, for knitting… people should be celebrated for loving something so much, I suppose.

But it reminds me that the only people who should be revered and lauded for their nerdy passions are the ones who save lives: our scientists, our engineers, our doctors, our military, fire and police servicemen and women… They can be as nerdy as they want; I offer them my full respect. Everyone else doesn’t need to be taken so seriously – let’s just chuckle and move on.

The Bible is So 2000 B.C.

I’m all for progress. I guess that’s my fundamental problem with religion.

Religious teachings today don’t take into account the fact that the world has changed. In business, we always promote innovation, we look down upon standing still. You will die a fast death if you never change. There’s a great quote I saw that said “Innovation is the best defense against irrelevance.” Because if we’re not put on this earth to move forward, what the hell are we here for? So why is it acceptable to still preach the teachings of the Bible and other holy scripts as if we are still living in that age (this presumes that those texts tell a true story; I can’t even go there)? Has the Bible become irrelevant?

I recently received an innocuous text message from the mother of DQ’s playmate. All it had was a URL, and from that URL, I questioned whether this could have been some kind of “spam” text message; it included the words “campaign for life” and “Sex Ed Curriculum”. I found out shortly after that it was not junk and that she was expecting me to sign some kind of petition. When I opened the link, I was astounded. The premise of this website was to protest the Ontario Liberal Party’s decision to move ahead with a sex education curriculum in Fall 2015 that would introduce admittedly rather graphic content. But it’s sex; what do you expect?

The problem was that as I read further along, I came across the excerpt below pertaining to teaching about gender identity and the fact that the curriculum would address this as a personal choice: that gender is not a physical construct, but an identity that you can choose based on what you are most comfortable with. The authors of this website disputed this with the following:

This is not science-based teaching, but rather a dangerous socio-politial ideology that seeks to normalize a mental disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Associations’s Diagnostic & Statistics Manual.

I couldn’t even read any further on the page after seeing this. How can proponents say the Bible promotes love and inclusion and then talk about transgendered individuals as mentally ill, and part of a psychiatric statistics chart? As I thought more and more about this, I became infuriated. I think I was more offended that the sender thought I could actually agree with the statements being made and that I would rally around these messages of intolerance. I hardly know this woman; how could she be so presumptuous? I guess the red flag should have been raised when DQ told me that this woman’s daughter read her excerpts from the Bible at their last playdate.

The world has changed. Through science, we’ve learned a lot about our environment, about human sexuality, about biology and genetics, about civilization and the human race. When I think about the Vatican and all it stands for – even the fact that there is a Vatican City, that is so crazy! – I just can’t help but marvel at the sheer number of believers who have had the wool pulled over their eyes. Talk about Eyes Wide Shut. It’s sheer denial of reality. If you say enough times that pre-marital sex, or masturbation, or homosexuality is abnormal and unnatural, you will start to believe it, I guess. I feel sorry for them. And I thought I was a prude.

 

Don’t Tell Your Kids They’re Smart; They’ll Fail

A recent article in Scientific American reveals that the key to raising smart kids is to not tell them they’re smart. Many parenting experts today agree: when praising children for strong academic performance, parents should focus on process, not on the result. For example, if the child solved a particularly difficult math problem, praise them for how they got the answer, not the fact that they got the answer. Underlying this theory is that intelligence is not innate, but rather a function of effort and perseverance. These are the traits that should be encouraged. Children who were led to believe that they just weren’t smart would not show any perseverance, assume they were never going to be smart, and would just stop trying.

I’ve always believed that there is no such thing as a “dumb child”. Every child is smart; it’s just a matter of bringing that smartness out of them, by encouraging effort and hard work (and this doesn’t even take into account the fact that every child comes from different life circumstances, which of course heavily impact their motivation and ability to learn).  I’ve heard more than one parent of an autistic child say, “I know it’s in there somewhere; we just had to find a way to draw it out.” (so huge kudos to special needs educators who can achieve this; I’ve seen results first-hand, and it is the most awe-inspiring thing).

This comes back to the stark reality that every child learns differently, and therefore needs to be taught differently, a realization that has only come to light recently by school boards here in Ontario, Canada. But let’s be real: for all the talk about how education reform may be heading the way of individualized learning for success, it’s extremely challenging to actually accomplish this. In a public education system, there will never be enough funds to sustain this kind of learning model. Class sizes will never be where they need to be; we’d have to build a lot more schools and hire a lot more educators, and what taxpayer is going approve of that spend?

Growing up, my parents had expectations that I would excel in school. To my knowledge, there wasn’t any supporting reason for that. I hadn’t demonstrated any particular genius abilities in my pre-school days – I could barely speak a word of English when I started school. But for whatever reason, I was a high achiever. I don’t remember my parents ever praising my process, but always praising the grades. Part of that was because of language: my parents did not speak English and were not able to help me with homework. I was lucky enough to have an older brother who was incredibly intelligent and always forced me to look at ways to get to an answer – he made me really think a problem through. Maybe that was the difference.

What I find interesting  is how this process theory related to me from an athletics standpoint. I was never strong in athletics, and never interested in physical education. I didn’t really understand its purpose. If I failed at any one physical activity, I never wanted to do it again and would avoid it if I could, which pretty much left me with nothing to be interested in. I believed that if I wasn’t good at any activity, I just didn’t have it in me and therefore, I should just move on, instead of thinking, “How can I be good at this?” or “What techniques could I learn to get better at this?” I do recall that in my final year of high school, Phys.Ed. had more of a learning and theory component to it – it was more than just “throw the ball”, it was “how to throw this ball” or “what muscles are being used when you throw the ball this way”. Interestingly, that’s when I actually developed a twinge of interest in physical activity, because I understood that there was a process to reach the end game. I found myself more motivated and more willing to participate.

Learning in the classroom has come a long way. In my day, I don’t recall ever learning about strategies to solve a math problem; you either got the answer or you didn’t. Today, in watching how DQ solves problems, it’s clear that the approach is all about how you get to an answer. With older elementary school children, even if the child knows the answer on a math test, they will not get a mark unless they show how they got that right answer. That’s great progress. It forces critical thinking, which is a life skill regardless of whether the answer is right or wrong.

…And I Turned Out OK

How many times have you heard this (or how many times have you said this yourself): “My parents used to [fill in the blank with bad thing here] and I turned out ok.” It could have been: “let me drink pop with every meal”, “let me eat a Twinkie every day”, “packed Chef Boyardee pasta for my lunch every day”.

Or “When I was growing up, I [fill in the blank with unimaginable thing today], and I turned out ok.”  It could have been: “ride in the front seat when I was four years old”, “sit in the back of the station wagon – no seat belts”, “walk to school on my own when I was five”.

It’s true, parenting has changed. As with most things, the Internet is largely responsible. We have so much access to so much information that we almost know too much.  And because everyone pretty much has equal access to the same information, it seems to give us all permission to judge other parents. Did our parents parent out of sheer ignorance then? Did we really need to know as much as we do today?  Does all this information beget paranoia? Would we be better off not knowing so much?

I’m of two minds on this one.

On the one hand, I do feel that today’s parents are in many ways too rigid, too black and white. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything where it concerns your child. That’s really hard for parents. I remember when DQ was a newborn and soothing this child to sleep was not the easiest task in the world. After reading a sleep training book that was so regimented about how “you MUST do it this way”, I felt like such a failure when DQ did not comply with what I thought was the Magic Bullet for sleeping. When I was a baby, I’ve no doubt my mother just let me sleep whenever I wanted to sleep; and I turned out ok.

On the other hand, with the passage of time, there is a great thing called “progress”. Yes, it’s true I never wore a seat belt when I was a kid, and my mom carried me in her lap in the car when I was a baby. Yes, I turned out ok. But really, I could just as easily have died. Seat belts and infant car seats are modern inventions meant to protect and save lives. If you can improve the chances of surviving while driving to the grocery store, wouldn’t you want to?

I’m also certain my father smoked when I was in the room as a baby and child. I’m ok now, but there’s still a chance I will die of second-hand smoke. Some scientific discoveries – such as “smoking kills” – will help many but be too late for others. But that’s the nature of progress.

I am most conflicted when it comes to stranger danger. The facts seem to indicate that most child abductions are by family members, and that child abductions may have actually gone down in the past several years. So why do we have such fear of leaving our children to play on their own in the playground? It’s simply because when a child does get abducted, it obliterates all other news stories of the day. It’s right to make people aware and spread the news, because it increases the chances of finding the child quickly. But it also breeds fear and paranoia and exacerbates an issue that really isn’t a bigger societal problem.

While I feel like I should be able to leave DQ to play at the park on her own, what I fear more than her being approached by a stranger is my being judged by other parents who see her alone. “What kind of parents would leave their child alone to play in the park? Do they have any idea what could happen to her?!” I can already hear all the mean whisperings. I walked to the local swimming pool on my own every day in the summer, starting at the age of seven. I always made it home unharmed and was never once approached by any strangers. Yes, I turned out ok. I know DQ would as well. And yet, I cannot let go, just yet.

What did your parents do that would be unheard of today?  Did you turn out ok? I’m guessing the answer is “yes”.

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