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Parenting

“Raising Empowered Daughters; A Dad-to-Dad Guide”

There’s an old joke amongst English teachers – as an aside, as a person who teaches English I always feel like correcting the misplaced modifier in that title, after all, people who teach English aren’t always English – but I digress. Back to the old joke.

That joke? One English teacher asks another English teacher if they have read a certain book.

The other teacher replies, “Read it? I’ve never even taught it!”

Ha ha. Teacher humour. The fact is, that as a teacher I spend so much time “teaching” that I rarely have time to read for pleasure.

I’m usually reading literature about teaching so I rarely get to read for pleasure. As another aside, if you’re a teacher check out Rethinking Letter Grades – that’ll make you think about the work you do as a teacher around assessment.

Raising Empowered Daughters

But this week a friend of mine told me had written a book. Cool. And because I’m a dad who is pretty involved in my daughters’ lives, he figured I might enjoy reading the book.

So I’m reading Raising Empowered Daughters; a Dad-to-Dad Guide. And saying out loud, “holy shit”. On almost every page.

See, in the book, Adamick talks about how most of the sexism that exists is passed off as “oh relax, it’s just a t-shirt”.

Which reminds me. When I am quoting in this blog post, I am quoting from Adamick’s book, Raising Empowered Daughters; a Dad-to-Dad Guide.

But back to the findings in the book. The fact is, it isn’t JUST a t-shirt. It is nearly ALL shirts.

When Mike Adamick was shopping for shirts for his kids he found “Boys had literally dozens of college logo shirts available to them.”

And NONE for girls. ZERO. None.

And when you start looking at the cumulative impact of all the messaging involved in clothing choices for boys and girls, then you begin to see a bigger picture.

In fact, that is what Hannah Garcia, a UK design writer did. She looked at the really big picture by creating a computer program “to scan and survey 1444 pieces of clothing for signs of bias in the animals displayed on, say, T-shirts and sweater.”

What they found was what Adamick describes as “a whole bunch of sexist bullshit.”

Or in more scientific terms, they found that “clothes for boys were more likely to have large, dangerous predators, whereas clothes for girls were more likely to depict cute, small prey animals.”

In other words, “…girls are cute prey, and boys are wild predators.”

Is that really the message we want to be sending to our children?

Raising Empowered Daughters

And then consider the quote pictured above. Even the way that “science” measures and analyses differences between boys girls is done with value-laden language .

You see if a boy measures higher than girls, the gap is noted with a plus sign.

If a girl measures higher than a boy, it is noted with a MINUS sign.

Just a little thing. Like all the other millions of little things that add up to make massive roadblocks and systemic barriers for girls.

I’ve only just started reading Raising Empowered Daughters but I’ll already say, this is a must read book – heavy stuff. Stuff that makes you think and reconsider.

The best part of the book – so far – is that even though it is full of heavy stuff that doesn’t necessarily make you feel so good, each chapter has ended with a section titled, “So, What Can We Do.” A brief section that gives the reader hope – something that can be done to make a positive change.

For example, chapter 5, an expose on the cliche of “boys will be boys” ends with the advice to “be the guy your friends are scared to death to say ‘the wrong thing’ to. Make their sexism as uncomfortable as fuck if only because we’ve all played a part in allowing it too long and are finally realizing that each piece is part of a larger whole.”

Powerful ideas. Thanks Mike Adamick for writing this book. More later, after I’ve read more.

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Parenting

Another Free “Beat the Heat Activity”

As the heat wave continues to sit over top of Metro Vancouver and much of southern British Columbia I am looking for more creative ways to entertain my children while avoiding the heat as best I can.

I previously took the kids to Burnaby Village Museum which they loved, but today I wanted to be inside and away from the direct rays of the sun. So we went to one of the largest and most challenging escape room experiences there is in our city.

Yes, we went to IKEA.

The number one benefit of going to IKEA is that basically nobody bothers you or tries to sell you anything.

Unless your kids are like mine and are easily embarrassed by their Dad’s ridiculous antics like trying to climb through the tunnel tube only to get his ass-end stuck. Then they will bother you.

There are endless places to sit and read as well as if you get really tired, you can easily have a nap. If anybody from the store asks all you have to do is say “I’m just trying to get a feel for this furniture.”

Another benefit is that there is a relatively inexpensive cafeteria where there are many kinds of food that kids can get food. Foods that it is almost guaranteed that kids will like. The fact that kids are almost guaranteed to like it makes me question the nutritional value of the food. But not for long. They’re eating. That means they won’t be hangry later!

One of the things that I always consider when going to a place such as Burnaby Village Museum or the Vancouver Aquarium is what does the gift shop look like. The gift shop at Burnaby Village Museum is tiny and out-of-the-way. That means that a parent can escape without too much damage to their wallet.

The Vancouver Aquarium on the other hand has a massive gift shop that you have to exit through in order to leave the place. It is like running a gauntlet. You know you have to do it and you know you’re going to get hurt. At least your wallet is going to get hurt.

A drawback to spending the day at IKEA is that the entire store is essentially a gift shop. It is such an amazing and well organized gift shop that there are items that will tempt every age and every desire. I have to admit that I even bought a couple solar powered lamps for myself!

All things considered, while Costco is my favourite “escape from the sun shopping heaven” (free snacks and hotdogs for $1.50 WITH a drink) the Escape Room experience of IKEA is a real winner and I can almost guarantee we’ll be back inside IKEA before the summer is over.

Any recommendations from you for (free) places to take the kids and beat the heat?

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Parenting

Fun, Free, and Entertaining; Burnaby Village Museum

Are there any words more frightening than hearing a young child saying “I’m bored”?

During the summer months I am essentially a stay at home dad. As such I need activities to engage my children.

Seeing as our neighbours complained about the dirt track and the noise from the dirt bikes that we were running on the track in our backyard, I’ve had to go a little further a field to find activities to engage my children in.

With limitations like complaining neighbours and bylaw enforcement, there are only so many activities that I can do in our backyard that will fill the time and keep me sane and the kids safe. And to keep the neighbours from complaining. Again.

So what to do? Where to go for fun and free summer activities?

This week the kids and discovered such a place! And no, it wasn’t Costco! Although Costco is always a fun place to spend a sweltering hot afternoon – free snacks, air conditioning, lots of shade and a hotdog and drink for $1.50? What’s not to love?!

We discovered Burnaby Village Museum!

An old-timey place where kids can get an idea of what life was like before iPads and iPhones ruled the world.

There are all sorts of “hands on” activities for little ones – of course there are also many signs saying “don’t touch” that should be respected to protect the antiques on display.

Oddly enough, one of the activities that my kids particularly enjoyed was the black and white silent Charlie Chaplin movie! They were intrigued with figuring out what the characters were saying and actually doing a pretty good job of narrating the film until the old guy in the back of the theatre “shushed” them.

And of course there is the carousel. My kids LOVED choosing their own horse. Of course the carousel isn’t feee but for $2.65, it does provide a few minutes of entertainment for the kids while a parent can sit and watch. Or check their email.

All things considered, the Burnaby Village Museum is pretty solid option for keeping kids safely engaged. My kids enjoyed it. And I think they learned a few things about life in the “old days” that helps them understand that life was not always as easy as it is nowadays.

Best of all, it is free! And the Burnaby Village Museum does NOT force parents and children to exit through the gift shop – meaning you can avoid being forced to buy an over-priced stuffed toy!

Check it out. But be aware, Burnaby Village Museum closes at 4:39pm. It is located at 6501 Deer Lake Parkway in Burnaby.

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Life Musings Parenting

Reflections on the Public School System

I have spent the first couple weeks of summer break reflecting on and thinking about how we do things in the K to 12 education system.

One of the things I have been thinking about is the way we treat people who arrive late.

Imagine if when you arrived at your workplace even a couple minutes late, you had to go down to a central office and get a little piece of paper from that office to take to your team leader or supervisor in order to get allowed into your workplace.

How long would you put up with that system? That begs the question; why do kids who arrive late to school have to report to the office to get a late slip – making them even later for their day of learning.

And then what about in schools where teachers choose to not allow late arriving students into their classrooms while they are giving the instructions for the days lesson.

Interesting concept. This guarantees that the student has completely missed what the day is going to be about. Why not let the late arriving student into the classroom and let them begin to get their head into the days lesson?

Another issue I’ve been thinking about is the bell system. It is interesting to note that prisons, saw mills,and the K to 12 public education system are the three institutions left using a bell or loud buzzer to indicate it is time to change activities.

Prisons, saw mills, and the K to 12 public education system. Now that’s something to think about.

At a school based meeting I proposed that we stop using bells to signal the start and finish of classes. The other educators in the room looked at me as if I had lost my mind. They said that without bells there would be chaos in the schools.

It is interesting to note that the post secondary school system does not use bells or buzzers to indicate it is time to transition from one class to another. No chaos there.

These issues remind me of the story about the family cooking a turkey. They cut the end off the turkey and when one of the kids asked why they had to cut the end off the turkey, the reply was, “because that’s what my mom did.”

The kids said that’s interesting. Let’s ask your mom why she cut the end off the turkey.

They asked the grandmother. And the grandmother said “said well because that’s what my mom always did.”

So they went back another generation and asked their great grandmother “why do you cut the end off the turkey?”

The great grandmother replied because I didn’t have a roasting pan big enough to fit a full sized turkey in. So I cut it down to fit.

Sometimes we do things simply because we’ve always done them that way. It is useful to think about what we do and think about why we do them that way. Ask yourself, is what we are doing still serving the needs of our students?

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Parenting

Leghorn Ranch Horseback Riding

I made a deal with my daughters for their birthday this year. The deal was, rather than buying them a toy or something that they might use for a short while and then set aside, I would buy them an experience – and that’s how we connected with Leghorn Ranch.

Leghorn Ranch

Hopefully an experience they will treasure for a long time! And thanks to the crew at Leghorn Ranch – they did receive a very cool experience that they’ll remember for a long time – for all the right reasons!

Leghorn Ranch

A couple of weeks before the birthday weekend celebration I started doing a Google search for horseback riding and Leghorn Ranch came up.

On their webpage there is a phone number and it says to call or text for information. Cool. I do not like talking on the phone so I appreciate the option to text. So I sent a text off describing my needs and wants and who I would like to bring riding and asking for a little info and their suggestions.

Six minutes later I received a friendly and informative reply. Cool. So I called and booked with them!

Leghorn Ranch

The kids smiles were ear to ear. Janet and Hanif – the key staff at Leghorn Ranch treated us like we were VIPs.

We paid $65 each for an hour of riding but we were on, around, or with the horses for almost two hours.

They gave both girls an introductory lesson on riding in the ring. That lesson made it pretty quickly clear that my kids wouldn’t be able to effectively control the horses they were on so they changed the plan and decided to “pony” my kids.

Leghorn Ranch

Effectively meaning that each of the kids would be on a horse but their horse would be led by the staff who would be riding another on horse. This gave my kids a chance to relax and enjoy the hour we were out on the trail rather than stressing about controlling their horse.

Leghorn Ranch

It really was a great day. The weather cooperated, the horses cooperated, the kids had a great time, and memories were made thanks to Janet and Hanif at Leghorn Ranch!

Leghorn Ranch is located at 20254 Old Dewdney Trunk in Pitt Meadows. Phone or text them at 778-886-1343 to book your own riding experience. Maybe we’ll see you out on the trail some time.

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Parenting

A Dad in the Burbs Has Started A Podcast!

Just because I didn’t have enough places where my “voice” is able to be heard – other than here on my blog, on my Instagram, my Facebook, and my YouTube channel, I decided to start a podcast!

You can check out my podcast, Stacey Robinsmith is A Dad in the Burbs, on Anchor! https://anchor.fm/stacey-robinsmith

Give it a listen. Subscribe? Let me now what you think of it. I am learning. Experimenting.

 

 

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Parenting

Monday’s Movie; Kid Snippets

If you want to know what it is like being a primary school teacher, have a look at this Kid Snippets video on the YouTube –

 

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Parenting

Every Parent’s Nightmare; Lost Child

So the unthinkable happened to me this week; I actually lost one of my children. Rest assured, within a few minutes she was back with.

A little background; we were in Burnaby on the SFU campus for a work related thing I was doing and because my kids enjoy being on the SFU campus, I decided to have them come along on the trip with me. 

We stopped for a snack and after we were done, I told the girls I was going to the washroom (located about 20 feet away) to wash my hands. Brown Bear came with me. And I realize now, Blonde Bear somehow didn’t hear me say we were going to wash up. So I went into the washroom with one kid and left the other sitting at the table where we had all been sitting. Or so I thought.

We have spoken to our children any number of times about what to do in the very unlikely event that they do get separated from us while we are out of the house with the key message for them to stay where they are; don’t wander off looking for us.

The bad news is that in spite of all the training we have done, all the talking about what to do in case you get lost, none of that worked in this case.

Even though we have reinforced this message countless times, in this instance rather than staying put, she didn’t stay put, in fact she wandered off. And she didn’t just wander a little way, she wandered way off.

Key point to remember – do not assume anything with children!!

Looking back at the situation it is very interesting to think about how I reacted. As the gravity of the situation settled on me I could feel my stomach tightening and my head start spinning. I felt the panic and fear that probably any parent would feel if their child had gone missing.

Key point #2 – stay calm!! You MUST fight the urge to panic and STAY CALM!!

However, in spite of the fear and panic that I could feel inside of me, I knew that I had to remain calm and deal with the situation absolutely logically and clinically in order to make sure that I got my kid back in my arms as soon as possible.

The very first thing I did was think about what my best strategy for recovering my daughter was. Seeing as I had my other other daughter with me at the time, I decided that she would probably get more help and positive attention if she was moving around yelling her sister’s name.

Key point #3 – you MUST very quickly develop a flexible plan!!

I figured that a little kid would probably be more of a sympathetic character to other people nearby rather than if it was just me yelling a girls name.

So I made sure she understood where our meeting place was and that we were to remain in eye contact of one another and then I sent her off to search for her sister, while calling her sisters name.

At the same time I went and looked at the possible routes that did my other daughter could have disappeared down.

Key point #4 – establish a perimeter.

Essentially I was creating a perimeter of sight in each direction to see if I could see her.

My strategy of having my other daughter calling her sisters name paid off almost immediately. Another young person noticed her and asked if she was looking for a little girl. My daughter said yes and then the other person said she had seen a little girl walking alone.

Now we had a confirmed siting point to work from.

We knew the directions that she had most likely travelled and so we went with that as our most reliable point to follow. Interestingly, the direction we were told she was moving was in a direction that I would not have assumed that she would have traveled.

Key point #5 – stay flexible and continually assess the situation.

Here’s where I made another assumption; I assumed my daughter had wandered off and was not abducted. We were in a university setting where the vast majority of people are students or staff so I went forward with the assumption that she had wandered off looking for me.

We continued our strategy of having my daughter moving forward calling her sister’s name and getting attention from people around her. Again this paid off as we moved forward through the building.

Within two or three minutes (which seemed like hours at the time) of us searching in the direction we had chosen, a young man and a woman approached us with my daughter at her side.

My daughter was obviously in distress. Her eyes were very misty but she was holding herself together very stoically. Unfortunately for her when she saw me her stoic attitude melted and she turned into a sobbing weeping mess.

Key point #6 – you MUST be the rock your kid will need. Suppress the urge to PANIC.

Luckily for me, I didn’t turn into the sobbing weeping mess that I wanted to.

I simply reached out and took my daughters hand and said “hey there you are! I’m glad we found you so quickly.”

Me remaining calm even in that instance in spite of all the feelings that I was experiencing helped her cope with what I can only imagine what was an incredibly stressful moment for her.

Lost Child

Interestingly, another thing I frequently do before entering a busy place with my kids is I get them to stand together and I snap a quick picture of them.

I’m always snapping pics of them so this is just another normal, “oh Dad hurry up and get your picture” sort of thing. But in the back of my mind, the pic is so that in the unlikely case they get separated from me and I do need to get help locating them, I’ve got a picture of what they look like with what they are wearing that day.

I’m not sure how else to approach the situation any differently other than to keep talking to kids about the right thing to do in “emergency” situations. Maybe having a real life practice session is also helpful?

The bottom line is that both my kids are safe. We have talked about what we learned and what we could do differently if this ever happened again. And we are almost ready to laugh about the scare we all had.

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