Category Archives: Parenting

Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-09-20

One man’s constant connection to the endless news and media feed and how it broke him. The differences between being rude, mean, and a bully. And the amazing tale of two brothers’ discovery that their parents were not Canadian emigrants to the US, but rather Russian spies. That’s the Jeneral Finds of the week: 2016-09-20

This is your brain on continuous information feed

The pervasive usage of digital devices is on my mind a lot lately. And by lately, I mean for the last two years. It started off as an exercise to come up with a strategy of how and when I would be comfortable getting a mobile phone for my daughters. As I read and think more though, the exercise is quickly morphing into examining what my own device usage is doing to me.

Andrew Sullivan’s long-form piece “I used to be a human being: Technology almost killed me” in the New York Magazine this week is an eye-opening cautionary tale. It is all the more terrifying to foresee how easily many more of us will experience the same breakdown as Sullivan.

Rude vs. Mean vs. Bullying

My younger daughter got pinched and pushed to the ground by another unknown child at school last week. When she later worked up the courage to tell me about it, she started off her story with “I was bullied today”. A phrase that sends the heart up the throat of any parent.

The info in “Rude vs. Mean vs. Bullying: Defining the Differences”, by Signe Whitson, was helpful to keep in mind while I assessed whether I needed to be alarmed about the occurrence. (thankfully it seems to be an isolated incident of a kid being super rude) With the hyper awareness and classroom discussion on the issue of bullying now in our schools, it is not surprising that she labels all aggressive behaviour as “bullying”.

Most of all, I am so proud of her that she put her hapkido self-defence training to use. She told us she immediately confronted the child by making a stop sign with her hand and saying assertively, “Stop that! That was not nice!”. She was shaken up by the experience that day, but she seems be be okay now.

The Spies who loved me

The day we discovered our parents were Russian spies“, by Shaun Walker in The Guardian is a fascinating read. The title of the article says it all; it’s a crazy story out of a TV show plot that happens to be true and real life.


Parenting is hard: when to allow our kids to have mobile phones

As I write this, E1 is 7 years old and E2 is 5 years old. Yes, definitely too young to be having mobile phones, but these rascals grow so quickly! It seems like yesterday they were still doll-sized, so I just know they’ll be pre-teens in a blink of an eye. And wanting their own mobile phones. So to avoid having to respond in a wild-eyed, unprepared and panicked manner, I think we gotta plan now for when to allow our kids to have mobile phones. (*ugh*)

I definitely think anytime before they are in Grade 7 is too early. But after they are going to middle school and extra-curricular activities by themselves? I don’t think that age alone should be the determining factor. Hence this haphazard plan below.

I don’t profess to have a grand manifesto that I’ve been planning for ages. These are just some of the random ideas and “risk mitigation strategies” that have been floating around my head lately. Maybe I’ll add to this list or take things away as the years pass. Definitely this post will be updated as things change. Looking at this list below, the daughters are going to have to do a lot of work to convince me! That might be enough to discourage it for a few years. But who knows, i’m writing this now in 2015 without knowing what the social and technological environment will be like when they are 13 years old. I’ll try not to be too hard on myself if this current best-laid plan doesn’t work out. Continue reading Parenting is hard: when to allow our kids to have mobile phones

Sex ed in Ontario, Part 2

In my previous post, I tried to keep my cool as I explained why I support the curriculum updates. Trying to catch anti-curriculum-changers with honey, rather than vinegar, as it were. To be honest though, my initial reactions upon hearing the reasoning coming from those against the curriculum update were decidedly more vinegary. “Incredulous” would be a better word, and what I wrote below is actually what I wrote first in a fury. I know pieces like this and this have done a great job at countering many of the concerns that have been raised against it, but I just needed to vent!

But now it’s more than a week later and I still haven’t gotten this finished and polished up enough to my standards. Instead of letting it languish in “draft” purgatory and eventually dying a forgotten death, I’m just going to publish it as it is, so I can have a record of the frustration I feel.  Continue reading Sex ed in Ontario, Part 2

Why I support the update to the sex ed curriculum in Ontario

So the topic of sex ed has been blowing up in the news again this week, as Ontario parents against the curriculum changes banded together to take their kids out of class for the week in a “strike” protest. I gather that they believe that the content and schedule of curriculum delivery is harmful to their children.

I get it. As parents, we all want the best for our children. We want them to grow up to be healthy, happy, connected and loved individuals, and to protect them from harm where we can. But these adjectives are pretty vague in terms of specific goals and ambitions, driving the IT delivery manager in me to distraction. I decided to take a step back to look at what specific goals I want for my daughters. (taking from Stephen Covey, “Begin with the goal in mind”) Continue reading Why I support the update to the sex ed curriculum in Ontario

Parenting is hard: sibling jealousy

I’ve been noticing in the last few months that E1 has been taunting her sister more and more, or doing things just to bother her. Putting her foot on E2’s chair. Purposefully taking up more space so there is no room for E2. Belittling things or accomplishments that E2 wanted to share with the family. They still had lots of moments where they got along great and have fun together, but the ratio was starting to to the other way.

I decided to address it at our family meeting this week. Continue reading Parenting is hard: sibling jealousy

Parenting is hard: sex talks

“Mommy, how does your body know when you are married so you can make a baby?”

This is the question posed to me last night by my elder daughter, E1.

Me: “Um, that’s not how a baby gets made.”

E1: (still continuing on the train of thought that babies are spontaneously made in mommy’s belly upon marriage) “And then how does the baby get parts of the Daddy in it? Like some of his looks, or personality?” Her face was pondering this question. Continue reading Parenting is hard: sex talks

By which name should kids address me?

I’ve been volunteering at my daughter’s school recently and I’ve come to a little conundrum: by which name should I get the kids to address me? Right now they greet me as “E1’s mom” which really isn’t sufficient. (Gotta educate them early that there is more to a person than being merely defined by her relationship to someone else.)

Having the kids call me by my first name would be pretty easy, it’s the name I’ve grown up responding to. However, there is a part of me that thinks that as a parent, I’m not here to be friends, I’m part of the community of adults helping to raise these children. With that hat on, a level of formality helps establish and maintain a level of respect, especially if I’m going to be calling them out on improper behaviour. Mrs. Toh or Ms. Toh accomplishes that.

But Jen, you say, isn’t the name “Mrs. Toh” also defining yourself via your relationship to your husband? Didn’t you just say above you didn’t want to do that? Yes fine, technically it is, but I’m complicated that way. I’m of a mind that it’s up to each person to determine how they want to be referred to. I chose willingly to adopt my husbands last name, it’s on all my ID, so Mrs. Toh it is. I do not have “E1’s mom” on my ID.

This leads me to then think: how should I teach my daughters to address other adults, as a default? Continue reading By which name should kids address me?

How To Be a Woman

In the last six months I’ve read a bunch of books, many of them by funny women, but none of them have impacted me as much as How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran.

Book cover for

She lays bare many of the underlying reasons of the angst I feel about being a woman in these modern days. At least as a woman into her late 30s, because admittedly she hasn’t reached middle age yet. Best of all she does so in a thoroughly readable, entertaining, and often laugh-out-loud funny manner. The things she points outs here is so on point and truthful that I am going to make my daughters read this book when they are about 12. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any woman who thinks about her place in this world, and any man who wants to understand more about real women.

Continue reading How To Be a Woman

The Struggle Inside: Lean In or Lean Back?

Before having children, I used to think that it would be no big deal to have both a career and a family. In other words, be a superwoman.

My mother did it, many of my friends’ mothers did it…and it felt like we owed it to our feminist elders to take on the torch and continue making progress towards equality in the career marketplace. Our partners would be more sensitive and involved in the raising of the family so the burden would be eased. Society would be fully supportive of working families and there would be many options for childcare available. I was going to make a big impact in the world, and I would happen to be a woman.

Then I had my kids.

Continue reading The Struggle Inside: Lean In or Lean Back?