Although the crisis in Syria has been building for a long time, it is the poignant and tragic photographs of children and families suffering and dying while fleeing from the danger in their home country that have finally brought the issue to the forefront of our public consciousness.
Images that some people find distasteful and others argue the world needs to see have scrolled across our computer screens and stared out of our newspaper boxes, presented without warning to adults and children alike: The photographs of tiny Alan Kurdi, drowned along with his mother and older brother, washed up on the shore of a Turkish beach resort, his limp body tenderly cradled in the arms of a Turkish soldier; the combined despair and relief etched on the face of a father cradling his children as he finally reaches shore in a slowly deflating boat; the shocking footage of a TV cameraperson deliberately tripping a refugee father and child as they flee, and the confusion and anger on the father’s face as he stares up her, wondering why.
So….this happened. Yesterday I played my first team sport in more than 20 years. The last time I took part in any sort of team sport was softball, age 13. My dad signed me up. I hated every minute of it and ended the season with the final strike-out of the final game (which my team lost).
Other significant sports-related memories in my life are:
in Grade 7 I made the soccer team! (because they didn’t cut anyone who tried out)
in Grade 5-6 I swam competitively, coming in dead last in every race ever except one. On that one occasion, I came first in my heat in the 50m breaststroke (in the only meet I can remember where they only awarded ribbons to the overall winners)
when I was 7, I got a BRONZE MEDAL in a ski race! (I “tied” for third. Out of four.)
I’ve been seeing this post about a daughter’s questions about her mom’s makeup in my news feed recently, and it’s made me think. Christine Burke describes how her daughter’s simple question made her see herself through a 7 year-old’s eyes and examine why she spent so much time and effort contouring, highlighting, plucking, cleansing, and otherwise enhancing her looks.
In one of my university social work class there was an intense argument about nature versus nurture – Is empathy innate or learned? As I recall, I took the innate side of the argument then but I’ve since changed my tune. I believe that empathy can and should be taught starting at a young age.
The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” and Wikipedia notes, “One may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience compassion.” I think of empathy as the ability to recognize how another person feels and compassion as the drive help them feel better. Both empathy and compassion have been important parts of my life and I feel that they are two of the most crucial interpersonal skills I can pass on to my children.
Ben and Carol grin at each other. Carol was my nanny when I was young. She was disabled by a brain aneurysm and is mostly non-verbal, but she can still make her feelings known!
I think it’s safe to say that everyone has parenting moments they’re not proud of. For some, those moments have tragic consequences – like the larger-than-I-ever-want-to-wrap-my-head-around number of children who are forgotten in cars every year. In almost every one of those cases, the culprit is a change in routine – it’s not the usual parent taking the child to daycare, or not the usual grandparent looking after them, or they’re being taken to a different babysitter.
*time out, because it makes me sick to my stomach even to write about this*
Even so, when we read about one of these tragedies in the news, we collectively draw a sharp breath in and then reassure ourselves that it would never, ever happen to us. Because the alternative – that at any given time, any one of us could be that parent – is simply unthinkable.
Of all the phrases I wish we parents…heck, people in general…would stop using, this one tops the list.
Back in the day, when I worked for Children’s Aid, I heard this from clients all the time: “You don’t get it because you don’t have kids. You haven’t been in my shoes. You can’t possibly understand. How can you tell me what to do?” SO annoying, amiright?”
I would nod sympathetically and patiently explain yet again that I completely understood their misgivings, but although I might not have children of my own, I had a lot of experience and training, not to mention a university degree in child development and specialized training in child welfare and assessment.
If I had a time machine, I would go back and apologize to all those clients and give the smug little university grad I was a smack upside the head because I Just. Didn’t. Get. It.
I have a new baby nephew!!!! Well, not so new any more….he’s almost 2 months old.
He got off to a bit of a rough start. “Some assembly required,” my brother joked. We can joke about that now. We couldn’t make that joke then – and you know things are bad when there are no jokes, because that’s what my family does in difficult situations. It was over a week before the first one came along – the first picture of the baby in a hat inspired his first nickname: “Master has given Dobby CLOTHES!”
So little Dobby had a rough start, but things got better. The word “miraculous” was tossed around, always modified by “almost” because we don’t like to risk overstating the situation. That’s another thing we do. Along with ironic sound-effects when we show physical affection or back into parking spaces and M*A*S*H references.
Oh, and sudden changes of subject, expecting our audience to just keep up. That too.
Here’s one for the “What is the world coming to?” files.
This gem scrolled through my Facebook feed yesterday: A friend’s children’s school has decided to forgo Halloween this year in favour of…I don’t know…Friday, I guess. The decision was attributed to the “staff” and the reasons behind it were given as follows: Continue reading →