Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: social

Bubble-wrapping Our Children Doesn’t Work

Originally published as a column in The Armchair Mayor’s News on March 7, 2014. 

It is snowing as I write this. Shoveling (in replay) notwithstanding, new snow always promises fun.

It is almost noon; lunch break for school kids, most of which is spent playing outside.
But, the snow has to stay on the ground, they are told. For safety reasons. I had first become acquainted with this safety measure when my oldest was in grade 1. Things have tumbled since.

Snowman building is allowed as long as you are a primary student and your hands stay close to the ground while rolling the snow. For everyone’s (un-fun) safety.
Kids don’t see it that way. They want to play with snow, and snowballs fights are a fact of life.

The risks associated with the occasional misguided snowball are an accepted, worthy downside. Still, can’t do it.

Sure they can find something else to entertain themselves with. On non-snowy days, tag sounds like a good option. Except that some BC schools have now adopted a no-touch rule, due to a few injuries caused by hands-on playing. The kind of games you and I played when we were little and fear was not a decision factor.

Children are encouraged to say ‘hand off’ to each other whenever they are being touched – friendly shoulder taps included. Or an adult will remind them.

Where to from here?

Children explore the world using all their sense and touch is a big one. They need to play, and years of research showed that playing is not just playing, but learning, developing, and understanding. We can state the general rules and help them understand what’s acceptable and what’s not, but they need to figure out the rest, like all generations of kids have.

How safe can we make the bubble wrapping around our children before they lose contact with reality? We are already witnessing communication misfires among children, young and old.

No-touch rules will never prevent bullying or its new vile form, cyberbullying. Nor will it help keep children safe from getting injured on the school grounds.

Children get hurt. They fall or they play in ways that may just see one of them hurt sometimes. Things are pushed too far occasionally and lessons are learned. Scraped knees are part of growing up, so are squabbles among peers.

Things can get confusing for the youngest ones with too many of these safety rules in place. What’s appropriate and what’s not? They might wonder about bullying and boundaries, and see everyone as a potential aggressor.

Safety redefined.

The first time another mom caught a glimpse of my youngest son, six at the time, carving a stick with his pocket knife while sitting on the porch, she raised a brow. I explained that he has to sit while carving, or else the knife goes, and there is no playing with it as a toy.

She did not buy it. Knives are dangerous. True. So are bows and arrows. But if we teach children how to use them safely and be firm about it, they will. Somehow children know when we mean it. Or learn soon enough.

There is a high chance that a child who has been taught about sharp objects and was allowed to use them only under certain conditions – carving marshmallow roasting sticks perhaps? – will hold onto that knowledge for life and even teach others too.

Instilling a sense of responsibility is part of parenting. And appreciated by children. That’s how it has always been. Bubble wrapping never worked to protect children from getting in trouble after all.

Same goes for playing. Rough housing is important for a child’s development. That it sometimes becomes rougher than it should be is true, but that’s how boundaries are learned and rules are set in place by parents.

Interestingly enough, children left to solve their own issues – basic rules in place – may just learn important life skills. Negotiation, reinforcing of boundaries, fairness, forgiveness and learning to stand up for themselves or for someone else who is being mistreated, these skills are all learned during hands-on playing.

They’ll also be useful later on when children sail into the often dubious waters of online socializing.

If kept too tightly wrapped and helicoptered by adults, children will either assume that the world is a cushiony place where as long as you don’t touch something or somebody you will not get in trouble, or that everyone intends to hurt them, or they’ll learn to be sneaky about hurting others. Or all three. No one wins.

Keeping children safe should involve allowing them to play, make mistakes, have adults teach them about rules, learn about boundaries, honesty, and most of all, reminding them about the old rule that has kept many alive and thriving: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

Stories of Nearby Coffee Shop Charm

(Originally published as a column in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday, November 16, 2013.) 

You know a good place as soon as you enter it.

WarmthIt was Thursday morning; we were the first two customers to sit in the Barnhartvale coffee shop and the big wood stove was quietly churning out heat — an invitation in itself.

We sit next to it and set up the computers. It was a working day, after all.

“A few local people will be here soon for a jamming session,” one of the owners, Carrie, tells us.

I like the quiet and the usual kitchen noises you hear from a kitchen you don’t always see, but there’s something special about witnessing a music morning in Barnhartvale.

We sit and write and the coffee is pleasantly hot.

A few people pour in shortly before 11 and take their seats around the big round table by the window after pulling their guitars out for the jamming.

A few more show up and the first notes fly around the room.

Christmas carols, old songs, interruptions here and there to adjust pace, tone, or to exchange words and jokes and all those “good to be here” looks one would expect.

The group seems so well oiled in creating music, we assume they formed a long time ago.

“It’s their first time like this,” Carrie says.

We write, eat homemade parsnip-and-ginger soup, and music fills all the spaces that would have stayed uselessly empty otherwise.

Music people chatter, other locals step in to warm up over a cup of coffee and to exchange a few words, and writing turns plump and satisfying. I am glad I gave in to the morning invite.

Before leaving, we take a look around the store the coffee shop is adjacent to. Half is old country antique and some has one-of-a-kind fair trade and local art pieces.

In the antique and consignment side of the country store, there is a handmade thick wool sweater with a few moose and evergreen on it. I am hardly the impulse buyer, but this time is different. Every now and then we each give in to a “winter’s on our doorstep” kind of gift and this is mine.

Outside, it smells like winter and feels like it’s about to snow.

We take a stroll through the yard. We’ve seen it before during a drive-through trip in the spring when the coffee shop was still a project and greenness abounded.

PondThere is a pond with edges festooned with dormant water lilies and ruffled-top reeds and a wooden dock in the middle of it. Two mallards with orange feet and a whole lot of confidence make their way out and question our empty hands. The only place where a sense of entitlement doesn’t seem exaggerated.

There is no denial that country charm has dipped its toes in this pond and frolicked about the yard. We’ve seen it in bloom in early spring and we’re not scared by its rather stark autumn appearance, but comforted by its slow pace and leaf-covered paths.

I am partial to quirky coffee shops. I admit it. And though I like walking to my favourite ones in town, the 15-minute drive to and up the windy Barnhartvale road was well worth it.

You know it’s a good place to be when people, who know each other only by virtue of inhabiting the same community, gather to strum a few chords in the warm place that has coffee and homemade lunches — and all the stories and smiles a good host should.

The “Right in the heart of downtown Barnhartvale” sign outside in the parking lot calls it straight.

There’s a heart to it.


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