Tag Archives: children

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Mehrota & Yuan-Innes

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Today, I have Rati Mehrota and Melissa Yuan-Innes. Not every tale in Playground of Lost Toys has an actual child in it, but both of these do and the children are very central. Both of these stories examine the magic we see or grasp as children, but in different ways. Rati’s “Chaya and Loony Boy” is one of the doll stories we actually accepted, and there were many.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

It’s such an enchanting topic! The power of once-beloved toys, memories of childhood, and a speculative twist all coming together in one unique anthology. I knew at once that I wanted to read this collection when it was published. And close on the heels of that thought—hey, I have just the right story that might fit under this lovely umbrella.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
Mehrota

Rati Mehrota, author of “Chaya and Loony Boy”

Absolutely. While the story itself is fiction, I grew up in just such a house as I have described – my grandmother’s house. I also had a doll with only one eye to whom I ascribed various magical properties. And I did lose her in the end. But my grandmother never locked me in the attic!

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

The theme of otherness, of loneliness, and how we give and take power from ordinary objects to increase our own sense of control.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

Just that it was a joy to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed every story in this collection.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I am currently working on a fantasy novel based in an alternative, post-apocalyptic version of Asia. I have several short stories published and upcoming in various venues—the best place to find them (or news of me) is at my blog ratiwrites.com. In particular I am very excited about the upcoming Exile anthology Clockwork Canada which will include my story “Komagata Maru.”

Melissa Yuan-Innes is a prolific writer, with many mystery/thriller novels to her name. “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” was a gentle tale that hitches on every adult’s fear for their child, that they will get sick. And like dvs duncan’s story “Treasure,” there is the wish that the adult might regain the lost magic of childhood.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

Money. Fame. And the desire to join a collection of excellence.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

In this case, I was thinking more of my son Max’s childhood. I wanted to capture his world, making the transition from toddlerhood to preschooler years: the tenderness, the stubbornness (fighting over getting his Crocs on and off!), the imperfect words.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

What if magic really existed? How would a day care worker—or an ordinary mother—react? I figured it would range the gamut from calm acceptance to fear to exploitation.

One of the sayings that resonated with me was “As a mother, you’re wearing your heart outside your body for the rest of your life.” If my son or daughter had the opportunity to learn magic, I would be excited but wary, too. Is it real? What’s the cost? Because nothing’s free, baby.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I’m so glad that I captured Max then. He’s nine years old now! If you’re a writer or an artist as well as a parent/caregiver, I encourage you to use your talent to freeze-flash your children for a moment. I want to thank Max and Anastasia’s caregivers, and really all people who take care of our children. It’s such important work, under-recognized in our society, but it touches my heart when people truly look after my kids and get to know them as individuals instead of little widgets. I’d like to thank Liz, Gisele, Aly, Tanya, Mme. Marguerite, Catherine, Ben, and Sabrina.

This interview made me realize that I’d never read “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” to Max. So I did it last night. He enjoyed seeing himself. “Not bad. I’m kind of the star.”

 

Yuan

Melissa Yuan-Innes’ mystery thriller is a new release involving medicine.

One more thing. After the Can Con mini-launch of the Playground of Lost Toys, a reader named Rene told me he’s volunteered at his daughter’s day care for fifteen years, and I got the details right. We laughed about things like the fact that parent-friends will know the names of all your kids, but you’re just “Julie’s mom.” That’s your name. You don’t have any other identity now. He also liked that it seemed like a lighthearted story instead of a grim, bloody one. I assured him that it was. I have bloody stories, but I don’t write them about my fictionalized children.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

Speaking of bloody, I write a lot of mysteries. I’m very proud of my latest Hope Sze medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome (http://melissayuaninnes.com/), about a hostage-taking on an obstetrics ward in Montreal. If you click on that link, you can check out my TV, CBC Radio, and print interviews about it. Some readers have told me it’s my best book, which is satisfying. I like to think my skills are improving. I also have a new collection of critically acclaimed short mystery stories, Reckless Homicide: Five Tales of Death and Deception (http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/reckless-homicide-five-tales-of-death-and-deception/). I’m also proud of my werewolf thriller, Wolf Ice. http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/wolf-ice/​

Fantasy-wise, Fireside has slated my short story, “Fairy Tales are for White People,” for its February issue. It’s about the power of family, magic, and Chinese barbecue. Galen Dara has created gorgeous art for it. It may be my favourite art piece ever! http://www.firesidefiction.com/

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Foster Homes: Better the Hell You Know

foster parents, foster homes, children, family services, child abuse

Universal's Despicable Me is a film where fostering goes right

Yet again one of Canada’s ministries of children’s welfare is in the news because a child in their care died under questionable circumstances. This one’s in Alberta and after taking a four-month old baby from the mother the child died within a week of removal. The ministry, or department, seems to keep itself steeped in secrecy and obscuring the facts. These ministries were set up to rescue children from terrible situations in their families lives and give them a chance at a normal and healthy life.

It is even the stuff of movies and books; the child removed from the abuse at home and put into a foster home. The foster home becomes one jumping off point after another, because of neglect or a host of abuses. The child grows to be a teen, often on drugs, into prostitution and on the street. The teen grows to be a criminal adult. Those fictions and tropes are unfortunately built on fact. The movie Despicable Me is about a villain who takes on foster children as a cover. The results are hilarious and fun and with a turnabout that gives the children a good home. It’s a fantasy in many ways, but a good foster home is not something all children get.

There are good foster parents who do give a child a loving and stable home in their life. There was a case in Alberta a few years back of a foster mother who lost her right to foster, not because she was bad (in fact she had fostered many children well) but because she was a lesbian. Yet ministries in various provinces have time and again placed children in homes where the people were abusive (physically or sexually), alcoholics or drug users.  And of course the worst cases are where the children lost their lives due to being placed in a home possibly more horrific than the one they were in.

Imagine the nightmare of being a child and thinking you are saved to find the situation worse, or to be torn from the dysfunctional beings that you still love and placed with monsters who care nothing for your well-being. Sad and unfortunately no exaggeration for some. For Alberta last year, six children died and five of those were Aboriginal. Makes you wonder where the ministry is placing these children.

I know of someone whose mother was a foster parent. This woman, an only child, was placed in foster care at times by her own mother, because the mother could make more money raising other people’s children than her own. Eye witnesses report that this mother would be quite verbally abusive to a child she was caring for. I also know of a couple who rescued their relation from an abusive sibling. The sibling was unfit for several reasons to be a parent and they are giving that child a stable and loving relationship that he would not have recieved from his own parent.

There are good and bad foster homes but the governments who oversee these services need to screen the foster homes far better than they do, and get their facts straight. They need to charge the people who are killing the children and they need to clean up their own acts so that they can truly rescue children from a dire situation and put them in a safe environment. I guess I’m lucky that I only had my own dysfunctional family to deal with and didn’t have to face a foster parent as well.

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Tiger Mom Equals Bitch Mom

tiger mom, tough parenting, abusive parents, tough love

Creative Commons: memegenerator.net

A friend sent me Annie Murphy Paul’s article Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer? about Amy Chua, the self-proclaimed tiger mom who is into disciplining her children and forcing them to learn things into the wee hours, without bathroom breaks. Didn’t I hear about this technique used by countries that prefer torture as a way of breaking and humiliating people, or perhaps getting information from them?

After reading the piece I had one strong feeling about Chua: revulsion. It’s not that I don’t think children should be encouraged and disciplined; it’s just that doing so in a draconian way can cause a lifetime of issues for most people. In fact, my second reaction was, well, she has a point about people being too lenient with this generation. I should point out that I haven’t read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, and articles can slant one way or another when aspects are taken out of context.

When I read this Q&A with Chua, I thought she had some good reasoning for some things, and I’ve heard she’s done a fair amount of back pedaling on other statements. (TIME’s Q&A with Amy Chua.) She also said she wrote a memoir, not a parenting guide book. But she strongly touts the Chinese way/Chinese  Moms (in Paul’s article) as a superior way of parenting, almost to bigoted proportions. And by writing the book she did want to portray her way of parenting as superior though she admitted defeat with one child.

I do believe that children should be given expectations, such as good behavior, politeness, completing and passing school, and chores. This trains them to  take on responsibility, be socially functional, be able to succeed and be self-reliant. I’ve watched some friends raise their children by doing everything for them, and they do neither their children, nor their children’s partners in years to come, any favors. But such phrases as Chua calling her daughter “garbage” after the girl behaved badly seem overly harsh. Or when she returned the birthday card her daughter made, saying, “I deserve better than this. So I reject this.”

Yes, we are raising a generation of coddled and entitled kids where everyone in a class is given a prize, but there needs to be a balance, which, Chua argues, she did everything with compassion. As much can be gained by supporting and encouraging your child and expressing love as in disciplining them with jail like restrictions.

tiger mom, child abuse, tough love, social conditions, raising children

Not all tiger moms are rough. Photo credit: law_keven Creative Commons

I speak partially from experience. My mother taught us responsibility. A punishment or something withheld if we didn’t do our chores would have been justifiable. But sometimes the level of enforcement or lack of compassion didn’t help. I still wish my mother would have kept me at acrobats and tap dance when I was little, something that in my child’s temporal sense of things took someone keeping me on it. But she was sick and couldn’t do it. I still regret that I didn’t continue those classes. I also remember my paper dolls being thrown out in a fit of my mother’s pique. What I did, I don’t remember. We were sometimes punished for imaginary things, or events so small that the punishment never equalled the crime. We were told that “better people than you have failed” and encouraged very little.  That did no service to confidence.

Forcing a child to play an instrument they don’t like, as Chua did, will beat some down and make others rebel as her one daughter did. Giving them a choice to express their creativity in what they like, and then supporting them and making sure they stick to it, is a better way. Yes, too many people let their children do whatever they want and we have a nation of young people growing up with obesity because they only play computer games or watch TV. However, an overly strict disciplinarian style can instill such a case of fear and lack of self-confidence that obesity can result from that too.

Chua’s daughter can now go on dates and only (only!) practice piano for 1.5 hours a day instead of the six she used to have to do. Wow! Six hours a day on top of school and homework, and presumably chores. Of course, practice makes perfect and research supports this, but I wonder if there was ever any time for fun. Chua says,  “Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they’ve learned that they’re capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals.” Unfortunately in my family, the tiger mom approach did not give anyone a sense of mastery. Oh, and we’re not Asian either so maybe this isn’t a Chinese way, just a harsh one.

One end of the pendulum is saying your little Johnny is perfect, rewarding him for everything even if he doesn’t finish it or care, doing everything for him, and treating him like a little prince. The other end of the pendulum is treating little Johnny that even second place isn’t good enough, punishing him constantly, leaving no leeway for changes in path or preference and treating him like he’s in prison. In the middle is a parent who is loving and cares and encourages yet set up tasks and responsibilities and doesn’t let the child get away with murder. Paul says in her article, “All that said, however, psychologists universally decry the use of threats and name calling — verbal weapons frequently deployed by Chua — as harmful to children’s individual development and to the parent-child relationship.” Having seen a range I think I’d prefer a cat mom, one who can still use claws from time to time but who can love and relax as well.

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Memories: Firebugs

Everyone makes mistakes in their lives or does things innocently without considering the consequences. We learn sometimes in a trial by fire. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, or smarter or at least thinking, I sure won’t do that again.

My first true experience with fire was when I was about eight and my brother six.  We weren’t in the habit of burning candles around the house. Still, there were matches to be found because my father smoked. My little brother and I would come home from school at lunch hours and light paper straws and smoke them, or pretended to. I guess no one was home at the time because we surely wouldn’t have got away with this if my mother was around.

This was all well in our enactment of adult activities, but then we proceeded to candles (there were a few around the house). On Saturday mornings when all the older folk were asleep my brother and I would get up to play in our unfinished (cement floor and that fake wood paneling on the walls) “rumpus room.” Since we couldn’t make too loud a rumpus at that time, we’d play with my dolls or his cars. There was an old bed in there, an ideal place to play. At one point I dropped a piece of doll’s clothing under the bed, so my brother went to look for it, where it was dark, with a candle.

Yep, before we knew it the bed was starting to smolder. We ran back and forth from the bathroom downstairs filling glasses of water and tossing it on the bed. But the fire was underneath and happily consuming the dry interior. After some minutes of our futile attempts and the house slowly filling with smoke, we made the hard decision and trucked upstairs to my mother’s bedroom to wake her. And of course we said, “We were just playing and all of a sudden this fire started.”

My mother got my older brother up who took the mattress out to the yard to hose it down. No real harm done, thankfully. Surprisingly, we didn’t get the living daylights beat out of us but instead were chastised soundly, me especially, because I was older and should have known better. The chastisement worked. I was so ashamed that I didn’t tell my firebug tale until I was in my late twenties.

My second run-in was at a comedy dinner show. I believe it was a Fawlty Towers theme which worked well through the dinner. After we ate, half the table had to turn to see the stage. The tables had tealights all over and I had hair nearly to my waist at the time. I heard this shout behind me and someone batted at my head. Apparently my hair was flaming from the tealight and I hadn’t heard anything…yet. Someone else was about to pour a pitcher of water on my hair but they got it out before I knew what was happening. The whole restaurant smelled of burned hair, which the actors used to say their next show would be “Hair.”

And my hair? The burned part was mostly indiscernible. It had only burned a surface layer. There was that one purely stupid move one time, where I lit a pillar candle on my mantle. But then I wanted to see if it was scented and what scent it was so I picked up the candle and looked underneath, with the flame burning. And I burned my bangs.  Duh, that was a smart one.

What have I learned from all this? Don’t play with fire. Be cautious and know your surroundings when fire is present. Don’t do stupid things near fire. Pretty simple really. There is one last fire tale, which is long but I’ll try to shorten it.

At one point I was in Pennsylvania camping with a very large group of  people (very very large group) enough that we wandered from campsite to campsite partying. On the last night, it was raining hard enough that we were pretty wet, but it was a warm rain. There was mud everywhere so we left our shoes in the campground because they were getting destroyed, and we wandered, with alcohol.

I was actually not drunk yet when I decided to bellydance around one fire. I was ankle deep in mud and I ended up slipping on the slimy surface and going down on my right knee and both hands into the fire. Luckily two guys pulled me out immediately. My hands weren’t burned and I decided it was a sign from the gods to quit.

As we wandered away in the dark, I pulled up my still wet (from the rain) pant leg, touched my leg below the knee and said, yeah, I burned myself. Then I proceeded to drink the night away and ignored the burn for another 12 hours. When I eventually, the next day, looked at my leg, it was black and crusty. The medics on site tried to clean, which put me into shock.

When I flew home I had to go to the hospital for burn treatment, which put me in shock again. I also needed antibiotics for a bacteria that can set in after 24 hours and be very serious. And I needed burn treatment (cleaning, burn cream and rewrapping every day) for two weeks. Luckily the burn was below the knee as opposed to be on the joint, and I was in Calgary where their walk-in clinics were equipped for such things.

I figured out what had happened that night was that my cotton clothing was wet from the rain. My hands didn’t burn because I wasn’t in the fire long enough. My pants weren’t burned because they were wet, but there had been a bar (for roasting meat) in the fire and I had been steam burned that night, receiving a third degree burn and a permanent scar. The only good thing about a third degree burn is that it doesn’t hurt much because the nerves have been killed.

To this day, I have no feeling in that one spot on my leg. The scar is relatively small and I have a stupidity award. I don’t drink tequila anymore. Even if I wasn’t drunk when I slipped up, I figure why tempt fate with more. What did I learn that last time? Don’t play with fire, don’t dance in the mud, don’t fall into fires. I really do hope that’s my last life’s lesson with fire.

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The Power of the Swastika

There is hardly anyone who doesn’t know what a swastika is, and, because 20th century Nazism understands the stigmatization of that symbol as it relates to hatred and racism. There are those who still support and believe in that particular symbolism, and are often called nationalist or neo-Nazi. The symbol is now so abhorred that Germany has outlawed it (along with a few other countries) and cringes as a nation every time it is seen. Games or other products in Germany can in no way display the swastika. They are a nation carrying great shame from Hitler’s crimes of the past.

So when someone of Western culture uses the sign, it is suspect ,and the person will be taken to be a neo-Nazi or white supremacist/nationalist as a woman in Winnipeg was seen to be. When her daughter inscribed a swastika on her arm, went to school and the teacher scrubbed it off, the mother decided to re-inscribe it the next day and send her daughter to school. Which resulted in social services taking away the two children. The couple began the fight to get their children back, citing freedom of political views.

As the case is beginning today, the mother, now separated from her partner, has softened her tone. Earlier interviews showed she was adamant about her beliefs and that the removal of her children had strengthened them. On CBC’s “The Current,” the woman stated that if she needed to change her beliefs to get her children back, she would. Perhaps her lawyers finally coached her that adamantly voicing her belief in her political beliefs damaged her chances of ever getting her children .

She also stated that she wasn’t a racist and believed only in white pride and going back to her Norse (she might have said Nordic) roots. That the swastika symbolized peace and love. But she also said she didn’t believe in interracial marriage. Umm, that’s racist or at least bigoted. Maybe not the big racism (you know, beating people and destroying their property) but it is still racist, as in you’re okay but I won’t mix with you because of the color of your skin.

Is there any truth to her claims of the swastika going back to her Norse roots? Yes. In fact, the swastika is pretty much a symbol once used universally throughout the world, just as the Greek key design was likewise used in Celtic lands and Mexico (and elsewhere I’m sure). There are conjectures of how and why the sign arose, from basket weaving designs to religious symbols, but the swastika and variations thereof is very old. It dates to neolithic and Bronze Age times. Some of the groups that used the swastika in one form or another were: Celtic, Germanic, Native American, Navajo, Hopi, Japanese, Baltic, Etruscan, Finnish, Hungarian, Polish, Tibetan, Indian, and Slavic. The meanings have varied but it could symbolize the sun, man, god, fire, majesty, power, good luck, wandering, etc.

The swastika can be a variant of the sun wheel or sun cross  (a cross in a circle), which is older than the Christian cross and can represent the four directions. It is also very prevalent throughout Hindu and Buddhist culture to this day and figures largely in Chinese, Tibetan, Indian and Japanese culture. Items have sometimes been shipped to Western countries with these symbols on them (which may mean vegetarian or be a good luck symbol), which has caused considerable consternation and protest at the cultural misunderstandings.

So, in essence, anyone in our culture knows what the historical connotations are and should you want to exhibit pride in your skin color there are probably many better ways to do it, unless in fact you are racist and believe white is better. This woman (who can’t be named for protection of her children’s identities) doesn’t really get my sympathy. But maybe her song is changing.

The thing I always find amusing was that Hitler picked a symbol used for centuries by many races of color. That it was also Germanic probably helped but this indicates his ignorance of the great scope of symbols and culture. He also wanted a pure “Aryan nation” (and I believe this woman may have been a member of the Aryan Guard). What Hitler didn’t know was that India would have been considered an Aryan nation because the way anthropologists interpret Aryan is through the root language. It’s linguistics not racial types. And really, people in India are of the Caucasian race (people of the Caucasus region) to begin with. Bet that would have had Hitler spinning like a top. I wonder what the modern Aryan nations and neo-Nazis and others who want “Aryan” supremacy think of that and I wonder if this woman would marry a Hindu from India, since basically he would just be a very tanned Caucasian.

But maybe the next time this woman sends her kids to school (if she ever gets them back, and whether social services can intervene in political views is another matter) maybe she’ll have a higher wattage bulb turned on and realize the swastika has negative symbolism in Western culture. Unless she proves she’s Buddhist or Hindu she’ll have to keep her views secret and raise her children to be happy, peace loving racists.

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Childhood Memories: Toys

I heard someone saying the other day, “I don’t remember anything about grade three.” The point was that she remember the grades on either side to some degree but nothing about grade three. And over time we forget a lot of the everyday, normal boring stuff. We remember the unusual, the good and the bad. Often, I think, we remember the bad best of all because it sears our memories like a branding iron, the pain making pathways we’d sooner forget.

So good memories become rarer in some cases. A few though, stay in our memories in various ways, sometimes in a back file that is triggered when you see something. Like the other night when in a friend’s attic there was a little wooden sleigh with metal runners. I remember having one like that when I was a child, which had been my older siblings’. And thinking of that makes me remember this big (about 6 inches long) red, metal tractor with large rubber wheels and a spring beneath the seat. It had been my older brother’s but could have been around even longer than that.

I had this little metal fridge. In my eyes it was about ten inches tall. I don’t know if that’s accurate but I really loved it. It was white and round and then one year I got a sleek new brown and black fridge, all rectangular with plastic vegetables. I still missed the original fridge, which had somehow even then, seemed to have more personality than the new gadget. I can’t explain why I was so attached to that old metal fridge.

And dolls. My sister was never into them but I had a doll in a purple dress with purple hair. She may have even been a walking doll, one that if you grabbed its hand and walked it would rock back and forth and follow. Actually now that I think of it, the walking doll was different and a couple of feet tall whereas the purple doll was about a foot tall. There was also a nurse doll, in a blue and white striped dress, a white nurse’s cap and a blue cape. It too must have come from my sister. My favorite was a Debbie doll. She was about 6-8 inches tall with short, curly platinum hair (kind of Marilyn Monroe-ish) and unlike Barbie dolls had proportionate plastic features.

The best thing about my Debbie doll was her plastic closet of clothes. They were quite a range and made fairly well. Compared to Barbie’s fairly trashy clothes, Debbie’s were very well made. Little cocktail dresses with a velvet top and red taffeta skirt, evening gowns, suits in various materials. I always liked dressing up dolls and paper dolls and would spend hours design and drawing fashion outfits in my early tweens. I briefly entertained thoughts of being a fashion designer but didn’t like sewing.

Dolls were a pretty big thing. I was pretty typical that way. My brother had asked for a G.I. Joe doll but my mother (maybe typical of her era) said that boys didn’t play with dolls. Riiight. So in his own way my brother, two years younger, maybe four years of age, found a way. He took all of my dolls, stripped off their clothes and threw them in a big pile. I imagine he danced around looking demonic but that’s just my imagination. But what he was imagining was that he was burning them or as my brother called it, “I’m firing them.” Shades of the Inquisition.

I remember the dolls because I played with them. I remember the tractor because it was so heavy and just always there, even after we were all too old to play with it. I think it was passed down to my nephew. I remember the fridge because in my mind it was special. These are all good memories and there were many bad ones in my childhood. But if nothing else, these paint the picture of the wonder and exploration of children.

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Media Creates Paranoia

I was talking with a few people at work today and it came up that one woman has a 12-year-old daughter who is just ready to start walking to school, as opposed to being driven. She said they let you know when they’re ready to walk. I sometimes pass a school in the mornings where there are numerous cars with parents dropping off their children.

When I was a child, at the tender age of six, my mother took me to school the first few times. My next older sibling was six years older and in a different school so she couldn’t take me. After about a week I was on my own, wending my way through blocks and blocks to school. That school was well over ten blocks away.

In the winter, outfitted in multiple layers and big, clunky boots, I would trudge through Calgary snows to get to class and get out of the snow suit, or tights and pants and toque for the classroom. I was late every day for over a week because I just couldn’t make it through the snow faster. My teacher said to tell my mother I was late.

But I still walked to school. My mother didn’t drive. My father often worked out of town and people just did not drive their children to school. It could be argued that people have to go greater distances but we were far enough away that it took a child over a half hour (maybe it took an hour) to get to school. It was at least a mile.

Junior high and high school were all about the same distance as the elementary school and yet we continued to walk it, winter or summer. No one was abducted. I don’t think anyone was even hit by a car. People didn’t drive as fast, roads weren’t as crowded. Perverts didn’t lurk around every corner. I don’t know of anyone who was killed by any means while I was in school.

And speaking of perverts, I bet most parents would quote safety from murderers and abductors as their number one reason for driving their child to school. Probably safety from traffic and then distance would rate as second and third reasons.

Interestingly, we were mature or responsible enough and given the freedom (told to) go to school on our own as children. Parents didn’t watch our every move. We weren’t given cell phones, we weren’t given cars (only a very few kids in high school had cars). The maturity hasn’t dropped in thirty years yet the responsibility level has risen, so what has caused the overprotective nature of parents and the dependence their children now have on them to do everything for them?

Fear. Fear of murder, of sexual abuse, of abduction, of traffic injury, of succumbing to the elements. Overall, the incidence of murder and child abduction hasn’t increased in thirty years. However, driving children to school has. Interestingly, in the US, even the rate of pedestrian-traffic accidents hadn’t increased, but 50% of children injured by cars were hit by parents or other students driving. And school zone speed limits are often exceeded. I see this every time I’m driving through a school or playground zone at 30 km and I’m passed by 90% of the cars.

The increased driving can be partly attributed to the fact that more parents work and fewer stay at home with the kids, there are more cars so that each parent may have one, and media. We now have radio, newspaper, internet and TV. There are more channels and you can get news 24/7 and the same news repeated. And repeated. And repeated. In fact, not only do the news channels repeat and update us several times a day on the same dire crime, they now go into long talk shows and reports and interviews and research on a particular phenomenon.

With the inundation of events, these murders and abductions move to the forefront of our thoughts. Parents hear the details of a horrific child abduction and murder, where the body was found, how the child was murdered, the search and rescue attempts, the hunt for the murderer, the sorrow of the loved ones, and the trial with all the horrific details again. It becomes one never-ending circle, a parent’s worst nightmare and it feels so close.

The media needs to take half the blame here for being too focused on the dark, dire and depressing. When various statistics for most Western countries indicate drops in all sorts of crime including those against children, consider if you’re coddling your child too much. Will the next generation hide in the cocoons of their homes and condos, only interacting through virtual media, too afraid to talk to anyone? I’m worried that it’s already happening, perpetuated not by crime but by the fears of it.

US report on kids walking to school and crime incidences since 1969: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/kidswalk/then_and_now.htm

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Piggy Banks

I got talking with someone the other day about piggy banks. Her four-year-old daughter had got one for Christmas and although she didn’t ask for it was ecstatic about it, telling people she had “finally” got a piggy bank.

I mentioned how I had seen one that me and my siblings had as children. I think they were mapiggy-2ss produced in cheap plastic. It had cartoon style eyes, stood on its hind legs in overalls, and wore a cap. There was definitely no high class style to these and I think they show up from time to time in Value Village or vintage stores. These guys stood about 6-8 inches high and I know I never filled it with money, though there was the handy plug on the bottom should I need the coins.

piggyThe other piggy bank I had was a little ceramic pig, white with painted designs, similar to the one shown here (except there were no indentations). The slot was right on the top and I did store money in it, which then took some fancy maneuvering of shaking or wedging a knife in to try to get the coins to slide out. Along the way it broke, maybe from shaking it too much but it was patched back together.

Then many years later I was trying to save money to go to India. Vancouver’s West End had this area near Davie St. where people would set out items to sell. I put out various things, including books, jewellery and the old patched piggy bank. I never knew it would be such a hit. A gay guy came by and gushed all over it, how cute it was, how it was just the thing, etc. But then he left. Well I was trying to sell my stuff so when another guy came by to buy the broken pig, for all of a couple bucks I sold it. Then the first guy showed up an hour later and was incensed that I’d sold it. Hey guy, you snooze you loose.

Those are the only two piggy banks I’ve ever owned that were piggy shaped. I began to wonder why piggy banks came to be. Was it like the teddy bear, where Theodore Roosevelt played a major part. Well no, it seems that a type of clay was called pygg, and people used to save their money in pygg jars. In the 18th century the spelling changed and people made the connection, playing on the word.

According to Wikipedia the etymology of the word had a similar evolution in Indonesia with this 15th century Javanese pig. I would love to have a piggy bank that looked like this. Of course, these days I have no money to save…or it’s in the bank. WordPress has gone wacky. I’ll try to upload the picture later or you can go to Wiki and type in piggy bank.

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Brutal Indifference to Child’s Plight

I’m sure if I talked about sex or the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, then more people would read this as it seems to be what titillates humanity most. But unfortunately this is more important, sadder and tragic than some woman selling her virginity. Oh, I know. I should just title this Virgin Sells Body for Charity. Now that would be something to talk about.

I have a friend who works ECOMM, emergency 911 calls. On January 10, the following occurred here in Vancouver, leaving me appalled and horror-stricken.

At 10:30 pm a woman and her child were walking home in the pouring rain and slush when  a barefoot, 12-year-old Asian boy (I mention the race because maybe it’s important, maybe it’s not) in pajamas came running out, pleading for help. His parents were fighting. The woman refused to help and didn’t even guide the boy to some phone or another place but just pointed to the care home nearby. Fifteen minutes later when she got home, perhaps guilt gnawed at her because she called 911.

When the police came, they checked at the care home where no one had answered the phone. The duty nurse, someone who is supposed to care for people, had said yes, the boy, soaking wet, crying and begging had come to the door. But they didn’t help or let him in because it was against their policy. They told the police that yes, they had called 911 but in fact the dispatchers confirmed that they had not. They left the boy, late at night, soaking and cold, to fend for himself.

The police then sent units up and down all the streets, including canine units but there were too many people who had come and gone by then. My friend, along with the call taker, checked houses within a radius to see if any had past histories of disturbances/abuse. Nothing showed up.

When the duty officer arrived on the scene, he sent the police door to door from the care home. In fifteen minutes they found six witnesses who had seen this boy trying to stop traffic in the street pleading for help. All the cars swerved around him. No one stopped. Not one of those six witnesses helped or called 911.

The police searched for three hours that night. They never found the boy.

Who knows what happened. Did the boy go home to a resolved fight? Or did he go home and get beaten for trying to involve others? Did he get frostbite, hypothermia, pneumonia? Is he dead somewhere? Worst of all, this boy, should he survive this will have lost all faith in humanity and will probably grow up to prey on others as he has seen nothing but a cold and uncaring world. It makes me cry just thinking of this. All these coldhearted people should consider the child abuse that they perpetrated.

We like to think the big cities in the US have this problem but it’s right here, on your doorstep and it will get worse if no one cares. The police should commended for trying their all. The rest of us should wonder if we live in a civilized society.

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Rebellion Baby

Or is that rebellion, baby! Actually, no, it’s rebellion baby. That’s what I was. My brother was recently in town and commented on a little tactic I had at the age of two. I don’t remember it but he still laughs about it.

It seems when my mother would put me to bed I would rebel with a fit where I’d tear off my pajamas, toss them in the hallway and then lay down upon them…and fall asleep. Maybe that’s why I don’t where pajamas today. But I do remember being slightly older, around four or five years of age, and I would slowly, accidentally, slide out of bed on the covers, because that way I wasn’t going to bed, darn it! No way! It didn’t seem to matter to my child’s mind that I would fall asleep on the sheets on the floor and inevitably wake up in the morning in my bed.

What a rebel I was. I hated going to bed. I hated missing out on things. One evening, some adult cousins from Lac La Biche, Doreen and Ted, showed up at the house. It was past my bedtime and I was in bed but not asleep. I heard them come in and wanted to see them but there was no way I could just trounce upstairs without getting in deep doodoo.

I was, on one level, very honest. I didn’t tend to lie. I couldn’t fake being sick, like my brother believes he did and faked himself into an appendectomy at a young age. But I had a devious plan. I could swallow air and at other times, burp on will. This time I just kept swallowing the air and not burping it out until my tummy hurt. Aha! Now I could go upstairs and say, “My tummy hurts.”

My mother must have been wise to my ways. She said something about it being suspect and gave me a glass of warm water, which succeeded in freeing my trapped burps. But I got what I wanted. I got to see Doreen and Ted before being sent back to bed.

I was a classic bookworm, often staying up late at night, reading, with the flashlight under the sheets. I’m still a late night person, often going to bed at 2:00, which means I usually don’t get enough sleep during the week. And I still sleep in till 10:00 am if I can.

As to rebellion, well, I wanted to learn to play drums as a kid, not because I had any affinity but because it’s what girls didn’t do. Instead, when my mother denied me,  I hit the art/drawing route, much better suited to my temperament. And my mother learned that if she wanted me to do something she got a lot farther if she asked instead of telling me what to do.

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