Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life. She is the co-author of the family cookbook Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and Families Who Love Them and is hoping to one day finish her certification as a parenting coach. She lives with her three kids, ranging from tween to grade schooler, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national parenting and lifestyle magazines and newspapers. When she's is not making typos, telling you what she thinks, and thinking about dinner, you can find her on Twitter at @emmawaverman. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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Monday
Apr212014

Parenthood Finale Recap And One More Reason To Cry

The Pontiac. Obviously, this episode should have been called the The Tomato In The Room. My renaming of the episodes is just more proof that I should be writing Parenthood, not just the occasional recap. This wasn't my favourite of the season -- it felt a little forced. While I know and even appreciate that Parenthood is a glorified soap opera -- the episode took some dramatic turns that I thought were over the top. The plot oversteps do not diminish the lovely small moments that I think are the heart of each episode. The scene when Crosby and Adam are reliving their childhood one last time, and Crosby's obvious discomfort as soon as he saw that birdhouse, Drew's under-the-breath irritation with Zeke, the slow dance in the empty house, Julia and hot teacher being adults -- those are the moments that are real to me. Keep reading for a bonus scene with Max!

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Tuesday
Apr152014

To The Boy Who Wants To Date My Daughter And Vice-Versa

In any given day there are thousands of videos on the Internet aimed at parents. Most of them want to tug at your heartstrings a little, many of them want to remind you of how hard parenting is, or how cute kids are, lots of them want to sell you something. I tend to watch them and move on, they barely make a dent in my memory banks. But I watched this one today, and after shedding the requisite tear I showed it to my son.

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Thursday
Mar272014

Breakthrough New Parenting Study Is A Must Read

I was going to write about all the new parenting studies that tell us we are bad parents. You know the ones that scare us, chastise us, and go against the last instinct that we have managed to hold onto despite every media organisation, Facebook link and bitchy parent in the schoolyard telling us we are wrong.

Last month we killed babies with swaddling, gave them ADHD by taking Tylenol, hurt their horomones by using plastic; we didn't give them grit and worked them too hard. We over-managed their homework and taught them bad math. We texted too much, they texted too much. We gave them dumb names. 

We do everything wrong. And if there is a moment when you think you did something right, someone, somewhere is ready to refute you.

But finally an article came out from the esteemed New Yorker magazine that got it right. It was a small article but it's resonance was large. Under the low-key headline New Parenting Study Released, is this finding:

A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.

One example:

Frieda Duntmore, a thirty-nine-year-old Baltimore-high-school teacher and the mother of twin six-year-old girls, recounted standing in line at a supermarket, reading a magazine article about how being a parent sucked, and then recalling that, that very morning, she’d read another article, which said that being a parent was awesome, and that anyone who didn’t have kids might as well just take their own life. “All of a sudden, I felt my skull start to split right down the middle. I put my hand up, and there was literally blood there.” Duntmore paid for her groceries and fled. “About fifteen minutes later, my skull pieced itself back together, so I figured I’d forget about it,” she said.

Yes, the article is satiric. No such study exists. But it could, couldn't it? 

How many times do you read about a  new study and get that feeling in your gut, the one that tells you that you are the worst parent ever but it's too late to change. These parenting "hate reads" are common fodder of parenting magazines, blogs and newspapers (I am guilty as charged as well.)

They get passed around Facebook pages and discusses on the schoolyard, no parenting theory or parent is immune from the sounds of contradictory evidence. 

The (fake) parents in the (satiric) study from the New Yorker chose to deal with it this way:

... they began a protocol of recovery. They cancelled their Facebook accounts, and they go online only when absolutely necessary. If they leave their house, they wear horse blinders, which Waterson’s husband, an inventor, has adapted for human use, and which can be purchased on Waterson’s Web site. Upon greeting other parents, they hand out pre-printed cards (also available on their Web site) that read, “Please do not talk to me about my children or your children, or children, or schools, or schooling, or learning, or Tae Kwon Do, ballet., etc. Also, please ignore the horse blinders.

“Most people just smile and walk away,” Duntmore said. “But, once in a while, someone wants to talk about Crimea, which is a treat.”

We could all use a pair of those blinders. 

Sunday
Mar232014

The Truth Behind the HPV Vaccine (Spoiler: It Saves Lives)

Despite all the hullabaloo over measles outbreaks and the unvaccinated, the amount of children who do not have the basic childhood vaccines is (thankfully) small. I don't understand why people are choosing to put their children at risk as well as those who are immune-compromised around them, but I hope that the trend reverses soon.

What is also worrisome is the people who opt out of what they consider the "secondary" vaccines like the meningitis and HPV shots. I don't get that either. 

The HPV vaccine is given to girls in Grade 8 free of charge (in Ontario). The vaccine decreases their risks of genital warts by 90%, and more importantly it reduces their risk of getting cervical cancer. Cervical cancer kills.

It killed Linda Lewis, the editor of More Magazine (and former editor of Today's Parent). Linda had cervical cancer and later died of leukemia, likely related to the treatment of the first cancer. Linda inspired everyone around her -- as a journalist, editor, person and later in life as an activist. She became an advocate for the HPV vaccine in the hopes that no woman would have to undergo the terrible treatments that she did.  

Before she passed away from leukemia, she made this video to inspire parents to make sure their daughters got the vaccine. 

She continued to advocate for the vaccine until her death co-founding a cervical cancer research institue at Princess Margaret Hospital. One of the things that we can thank Linda Lewis for is better and a larger amount of understandable research available to parents. She knew that parents aren't perfect, and they are doing the best they can. But she hoped to reach them with her advocacy.

At this point, the vaccine is only available to girls though there is discussion that boys should and will have it as well. 

There will always be people who will avoid vaccinations I'm not one of them, though I understand that people have their reasons. I just can't imagine watching my daughter go through this, knowing that I could have changed the course of their life years earlier.

Will you opt in for the HPV vaccine?

 

Tuesday
Mar112014

My Daughter Is Bossy. But Don't Tell Her That

"So, who here has been called bossy?" Sheryl Sandberg asked the primarily female crowd at BlogHer13. Almost every woman raised their hand (except me, I'm opinionated but not bossy). 

"And who has called their daughter bossy?" again, many hands stayed up, mine went up.

"Who has called their son bossy?" But then most hands dropped. 

Sandberg, author of Lean In, and feminist du jour, gave a convincing argument that bossy is applied to girls who show leadership skills, but not to boys. The word bossy is a rebuke, a signal that being passive is better than assertive, that girls should be seen and not heard.

I thought about that term bossy after that. And I tried not to call my daughter bossy, even when she was being bossy -- which is quite often. I don't always succeed.

Sandberg is now going a step further than the Chicago Convention Centre with her message. The #banbossy movement has hit the airwaves with some big names -- Coach Sue, Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Condi Rice all appear in a video and posters for the #banbossy movement. The Lean In organization has teamed up with the Girl Scouts (in the U.S.) to encourage girls leadership skills and #banbossy is their war cry.

I am all for the idea of building girls' leadership. If girls were encouraged from a young age to be leaders, I think there would be less destructive Queen Bee shenanigans on the schoolyard and would lead to more women embracing their assertive side. We are building the next generation of economic and political leaders and I sure hope that my daughter experiences a culture where there are more women surrounding her. 

But in the meantime, the #banbossy message is getting pulverized out there. Even I have mixed feelings about it. I agree that girls are called bossy when boys are not. When girls show leadership skills, in fact when women show leadership skills they are often called bossy, bitchy, shrill -- you know the drill.

The term bossy, does have a double-edge to it. Bossy is unkind, ungenerous, self-centred. When I call my daughter bossy, it is not because she is leading a crusade, it is because she isn't let her friend get a word in edgewise. And so what is right about this intiative -- teaching girls (and maybe boys too) to own their leadership skills and exercise them in a positive manner is being lost in people defending their own bossiness and arguments over semantics about the word itself.

I have no doubt Sandberg is sitting in her palace banging her head against the wall to the reaction. No, that would be passive, aggressive. She is articulately defending herself and charismatically explaining that it is the double standard she is trying to erase, not the word itself. Because words do matter, they describe our world and how our children function it. Both boys and girls can be leaders, and both men and women can be bossy, but only one gender gets called it. When was the last time a man was called bossy? How about a woman?

My first thought is that this campaign isn't going to change the world. It is a highly digestible, celebrity-driven Internet-friendly meme that will disappear in a few days. But then I ended up in a day-long Twitter conversation about the word, the semantics and why it does matter. All day long we kept returning to the idea of what  the word bossy means to us, and to girls. (I created a Storify of it here.) So, I guess I have to hand it to Sandberg, the conversation is happening. The word bossy is on my radar once again, and I am reading over the banbossy.com resources so I can nurture and inspire my daughter to use her alpha skills for good and not evil. 

Because my daughter is going to change the world. Isn't yours?

At banbossy.com there are some excellent resources for parents and kids who want to nurture leadership and high-level executive function skills. There are cute videos, inspiring quotes and there is Beyonce. Because she is the boss.

What do you think of Ban Bossy? Is it overkill or a great way to get people thinking about girls and leadership?