Mothers Day Reminds Us Why Paper Will Never Be Replaced by Digital

May 13

Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day like a child’s artwork made by their own hands.

This would not mean as much to me if it was made digitally

From my 10-year-old

Made with love by my 8-year-old

 

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Book People Unite Video Will Inspire Parents to Read to Kiddos

Apr 19

This wonderful one minute video is a public service announcement by the children’s literacy non-profit organization, Reading is Fundamental (RIF). If this doesn’t inspire a parent to read to their kids, I’m not sure what will. Share it with your video gaming kids and see if it sparks their own desire to read more books (I’m betting it will!)

Nearly two-thirds of low income families in the United States own no books. Remember to donate your used kids’ books to schools, libraries, and organizations that support children of low-income households. Canadians can learn more about supporting literacy by visiting ABC Life Literacy.

Watch and enjoy!

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Why Trusting Parents May Not Buy Their Kid a Mobile Phone

Apr 13

A cell phone can hamper a child's leap toward adulthood

My soon-to-be 12-year-old son periodically pleads for a cell phone when he grows weary of watching his classmates constantly text on their cell phones as he twiddles his underused thumbs.

“Everyone has a cell phone EXCEPT me!” he exclaims with desperation.

“No,” I respond, my cold mono-syllabic reply cutting deep into his soul (I know this because of the ensuing tears and accusations of how cruel a mother I am).

While I prefer to leave the conversation right then and there, my son will ensue with the false hope that I will recognize the breadth of his suffering. But, here’s the thing. Buying my son a cell phone isn’t like buying an iPod, that, by the way, was also essential to his very survival as a tween (and once purchased, quelled the pleading for, um, a few weeks).  The cell phone is an ongoing gift that keeps on taking (from my wallet). But even more than the financial drain, the cell phone has the potential to undermine his journey toward independence.

If I were to purchase my son a cell phone, it would enable me to send him texts.

All. Day. Long.

u forgot ur math book :(

Don’t take bus I pickup :)

Bringing pizza 4 lunch :D

Having a good day? :)

Going to buy u underwear 2day :D

What pants u want me to wash? :)

Going on run. txt u when im back :(

I’ve spent the past 11 years fostering my son’s independence. Slowly disconnecting the figurative umbilical cord (of which he’s been more than happy to oblige). Yet a cell phone seems as though it would, to some extent, re-build that connection with a digital umbilical cord that is no less potent than the figurative one.

When I think back to my own childhood, my memories are a treasure chest of parent-free experiences where I strengthened my bonds with those outside my family, made decisions that – good or bad – I learned to live with, and in essence, prepared myself for the bigger decisions I’d one day be making. By the time I was 12 years old, I’d think nothing of heading straight to my friend, Erica’s, house after school without calling home to check in. I knew dinner time was at 5pm. So, that’s when I’d scoot back home. On weekends, I’d hop on my bike and take off to the park with Erica and Joanne, then hit another friend’s place for lunch, ride to the convenience store for some packs of Rainblo, find another friend’s house to make crank calls. Go home for dinner. All with nary a thought about my mom or dad. They didn’t worry about where I was. I didn’t worry about telling them. Pure golden independence.

I understand that many parents (including myself) worry about the safety of their kids, and hence, see the almighty cell phone as an assurance of safety. They may say, “I always know where he is. We text all day long so that if he’s at the park, I know. If he goes to friend’s house, I know. I never have to worry.”

Funnily enough, my mom never had to worry either. Because she trusted me. “It’s not a matter of trust,” many parents will argue. I get it. Yes, there’s a possibility that a child may be kidnapped – every parent’s biggest fear. But the chances of that actually happening are slim. We all know that. So, maybe it is trust?

As I observe my sons grow increasingly independent, I feel great pride in their ability to make smart decisions. They know how to keep out of trouble. They are respectful of adults and one another. And, I especially love that they are learning through their own mistakes. For a child entering in his tweens, I think there is no greater reward than having freedom from, well, Mom. For the millions of kids who are equipped with smart phones, that’s impossible as good ol’ ma beeps them every fifteen minutes:

Where r u? Having fun?:D

Making ur fave dinner :) Come home soon.

And, what should happen to a child who ignores Mom’s beep? Probably a lecture when he returns home to NEVER ignore mom’s messages.

When my son begs for a cell phone, I don’t think he understands the full ramifications of what he is asking. He is a naturally free spirited boy who’s been working diligently toward full independence since he was about two years old. As much as I love his company and could very easily fall into the trap of wanting to ensure he is 100% safe 100% of the time, I recognize that a cell phone will encourage me to grow increasingly attached to his every decision, every worry, every moment. Conversely, my son will likely grow increasingly reliant on my approval and permission when he really should be moving in the opposite direction.

Twelve years is, truly, a transformational age for kids. When their youthful creativity and sense of independence swirl together to create magical experiences that straddle the world of childhood and adulthood. Experiences that will help them become the amazing adults they are meant to become.

Mom’s constant presence, whether digital or real, will hamper that from happening.

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Home Digest Magazine Wants You to Renovate Your Breasts

Mar 26

I just received my Home Digest in the mail. It’s a free mini-magazine that is chalk full of advertising with a few articles sprinkled throughout about home decor. As usual, I quickly perused it and planned to toss it into my recycle bin a few minutes later. But, this time, something caught my eye.

One full page ad (5.5 inches x 8.5 inches) was emblazoned with a full colour display of before and after breast augmentation photos. Three photos to be exact, comparing the progress from flat, droopy boobs to perky full boobs, and finally the LOOK! No scars Ma! Photo (The model even has her arms raised).

Renovate your breasts

I’ve seen a lot of boobies in my day, particularly due to the fact that I have a pair, myself, that have undergone their own journey from perky to tired. So, it’s not because I’m shocked and offended by these graphics, but rather it’s the context and the message that is implicit in this ad.

I have to ask: why is an ad featuring bare breasts in a Home Design magazine, at all? I might expect to see this kind of blatant advertising in Cosmo or InStyle, but not in the pages of a decor-based mag. The odd time that I open the pages of a fashion magazine, however, I can’t recall ever seeing half naked women.

Secondly, the message of the ad, and its accompanying article written by the owner of Skin Vitality Medical Clinic is just plain icky. As if we, the readers, are supposed to look at the model’s small “before” breasts and think they need fixing. Because women are supposed to have a certain size of boobs. And not only that, they should defy all laws of gravity by hovering beside the shoulders with no help from that old-fashioned watchamacallit brazier.

Lastly, I have three young boys whom I’d prefer to not find nudey shots of women in a free mini magazine we get in the mailbox. In the olden days, didn’t they at least have to go out in the dark of night to buy something like that and hide it between the mattress and box spring? In any event, my kids are even too young to do that.

Funnily enough, when I look at the back cover Home Digest, I see a full page ad with a headline across the top that reads: Your Family Deserves The Best.

Damn right. Let’s start with no more freebies in the mailbox.

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An Online Quiz to Eliminate Some of Your Mother Guilt

Mar 26

What kind of mother are you? Other than the guilt-ridden kind, that is. Sometimes it feels like no matter how hard we try to be the kind of parent we think we should be, our efforts often devolve into feelings of guilt over our inadequacies. It doesn’t help that advice-filled articles, blog posts, and workshops abound reminding moms what they should and shouldn’t do to raise well-adjusted children.

Chances are, unless you share your genetic makeup with Mary Poppins, you will never live up to the standards you’ve set for yourself. That is, unless you have a clear understanding of what type of person you are. Because believe it, or not, motherhood is as much about embracing the person you’ve turned out to be as it is embracing the young children you’ve brought into the world.

Not sure who, exactly, you are? Enter the . It is based on the book,, by Janet Penley, which is meant to help women understand, develop, and trust the strengths of their unique mothering style. According to their website, MotherStyles (both the quiz and the book) helps you “break through the myth of the perfect mother and equips you with the self-knowledge you need to become a more effective Drawing on the Myers-Briggs® system of personality type, popular in career counseling and team building, MotherStylesexplains the innate mind-sets that make up 16 distinct mothering approaches.”

I took the expanded quiz, which lasts about 10 minutes and concludes with a description that details your personality type as it relates to your role as a mother with specifics on whether you are sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. For me, it was bang-on with what I’ve come to recognize as the type of person I am. Although, for me, this is not particularly revelatory since I’m now 39 years old and undergone 11 years of parenting boot camp (raising three boys), counselling, and constant reading to research why, well, I have sucked at parenting so much of the time (that’s my old guilt talking, by the way). In essence, it has confirmed what I’ve already come to recognize in myself.

Although this quiz may not change any mother’s life overnight, it provides a perfect starting point for anyone struggling with a constant stream of guilt over her parenting practices. MotherStyles accepts that every mother is unique, and once each of us accepts and loves our uniqueness, we can stop wringing our hands over what we’re doing wrong and embrace how to do things right – right, that is, for ourselves and our families.

Here’s my MotherStyle conclusions for the quiz. As I wrote earlier, although I know this information about myself now, it took me ten years of struggle to realize that I do not have to completely conform to motherhood, but rather motherhood can conform to me. I believe that striking a balance between the practical demands of parenting and the personal demands of your individuality is key to becoming the best mother you can be.

Porridge Report has been nominated a Top 25 Tech Mom Blog. Add your vote for Porridge Report by clicking on the image below and selecting Porridge Report from the list. Thanks!

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Mar 02

I have a varied past in how I’ve dealt with video games in my household of three boys. By varied, I mean I used to have a slew of threats that I would yell at various times during the day at any one of my boys when they could not pry their glazed eyes from a screen. I was regularly exhausted and emotionally spent from the constant effort I exerted in trying to tame the digital beast that could hypnotize my kids to ignore all sounds emitted from their mother’s mouth.

Over the past year, I have experienced a major change in how I deal with my kids and the digital barrier between us. I came to recognize two important truths. The first of those was that technology never moves backward. That is, screen technology – and all the unsavoury habits that come with it – is here to stay. It didn’t matter how much I wished it away, digital tech was not going to suddenly disappear from our lives. Once I accepted this, I changed my strategy from trying to deny its growing influence in our family to trying to work its existence into our lives in a way that could actually benefit us (or at the very least, not tear us apart).

The next truth, and the more important of the two, was learning the true definition of listening. Ironically, it was a marriage counsellor who taught me how to listen. I soon discovered that it requires far more effort than I’d ever thought. After practicing this intense attentiveness with my husband (which requires a post all its own), I transferred my nascent skill to the relationships with my children.

What, you may be wondering, does this have to do with technology? The answer is simple: a disproportionate amount of our family rivalries were focused on how we related to the screen. The kids were playing too many video games, I was fighting with them to turn it off, I was on my laptop when they tried to chat with me, I was worried they’d be exposed to “bad things” online. All these scraps converged into an upheaval of continuous frustrations. We each craved our screen time on our own terms, and yet we’d never sat down to think about why or how it was affecting us, much less talk about it.

Communication – that is, face to face communication – was non-existent. Ironically, the need to listen to one another is more essential than ever in the digital age. For example, it helped me share my concerns about the dangers of the internet, which in turn helped my kids be more careful online, which of course led to fewer frustrations. As a screen-obsessed society, parents need to be that much more cognizant of their efforts to verbally talk and quietly listen (not interrupt) while looking at one another (not the TV, laptop, or iPod screen). Listening, I’ve learned, does not count when one person is distracted by a YouTube video of piano-playing cats.

I finally implemented a no-video game rule from Monday to Thursday after discussing my reasons with the boys. They begrudgingly accepted it. The cutbacks on video gaming then freed up time for my boys to talk to me about their day. I also make a conscious effort to stop rattling at my keyboard when one of my sons walks into my office to talk to me. I turn from my screen and listen to his latest announcement. I’ve realized that the topic doesn’t matter. What matters is that he knows I am interested. I am listening.

The screaming and threats that once echoed against the walls of our home have diminished (not disappeared, I’m no saint) and I am working harder than ever at carving out time to discuss any number of issues that we struggle with regularly – from squabbling at bedtime to spending too much time texting friends. The point is: kids will talk if they know their parents will listen.

The prevalence of social media provides parents and kids a new way of communicating. However, we need to beware of our reliance on these platforms. The now famous video of a dad shooting bullet holes into his daughter’s laptop provides a cautionary tale for families who allow the one-sided communication of social media to voice their frustrations. Granted, if the daughter had openly voiced her grievances (whether they were valid or not) she’d likely have found herself in trouble anyways (and I don’t think there’s much reason to believe that their father-daughter relationship is grounded in honest and open communication), but perhaps they’d have had a better chance of resolving their problems within a day than in a drawn-out fiasco that involved millions of viewers worldwide. That’s the power of listening.

The reality is that parenting is hard, freaking work. Adding a digital component that tends to loosen, rather than tighten, the ties that bind only adds to the difficult task that we parents face every day. That’s why I am a firm believer in the practice of listening. I say start young, while they still love to share their ideas and experiences (however silly and seemingly unimportant). I’m hoping that as my oldest son heads into his teens (gulp), he will not stray too far me. And, maybe, just maybe, when I feel like smashing his iPod to pieces, I can gently share my feelings with him before listening to him explain why he so desperately needs to check his texts every ten minutes.

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