Trophies for everyone! (Sorry, James Harrison.)

Trophies for everybody! (Sorry, James Harrison.)

Image credit via Flickr cc license.

I don’t believe in catering to my kids’ tastes when it comes to dinner. I generally try to feed them food they like for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, but I also think it’s important that they are exposed to a variety of different foods and encouraged to try them. It’s important to me, really, that I get to eat what I want, too.

So does that mean that no other parents should ever go for mac and cheese over mussels arrabiata? Is it never okay to offer a peanut butter sandwich and apple slices when coconut curry chicken has been patently rejected? Should we force all our children’s friends and our nieces and nephews to choke back kale salads or bust? Maybe restaurants should stop serving kids’ meals altogether!

But of course they shouldn’t. Just because I feel strongly about making dinner a constant struggle eating a good variety of food, doesn’t mean that also has to be everybody’s priority. To be honest, there are days when I can’t be bothered about it either.

Yet, when it comes to parenting, everyone thinks they know best. People like to insist that their own values and priorities should apply to everyone. Participation medals and trophies for kids are in the spotlight again after Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, James Harrison, posted a picture to Instagram of the trophies his sons received. 

 

This is all fine and good. Harrison is a professional athlete and teaching his children what it means to work for and earn an award is obviously important to him. But, holy cow, is this ever a popular opinion — and one I’ve seen echoed many times before. Kids these days are given everything for nothing, the thinking goes. They are entitled brats who will never learn how to work hard or cope with disappointment. We must not mollycoddle them!

Ah, whatever, I say. What. Ever.

Give the little kids their trophies for coming out. The more competitive leagues for families and kids who are serious about athletics could probably ditch the participation trophies (if only to spare me yet another hunk of plastic in the home), but house league programs that are about learning and having fun should reward the kids for showing up.

For lots of kids (and especially for younger children), going to practices, learning new skills, and playing as part of a team, actually is an accomplishment. Have you never had to drag a reluctant child out of bed for skating lessons? Or bribed your kids to please just get in the car and go to the game it’s for your own good dammit why does this have to be so hard?

Some kids love team sports and thrive at them and will go on to compete at higher and higher levels. Others are shy, insecure, or physically uncoordinated, and it’s a challenge just to get them to join in. But it’s still good for them! Physical exercise, discipline and team spirit benefits all the players, good and bad alike.

So, at the end of the season, we should absolutely take a moment to recognize every player who worked to make the year a success. We should hand out medals or even trophies to our youngest and weakest to shine a light on the entire season for them. It’s something they can hang up or put on a shelf and look at with pride. When they look back on last year’s season, then, maybe they won’t remember the fights and the tantrums; they’ll remember earning an award as part of a team.

But of course that trophy still says “participant”.

Anybody who thinks kids are fooled into believing they’re the winners just because they got a trophy is fooling themselves. As soon as children are old enough and emotionally mature enough to care about competing, they know who the champions really are. Try having a “just for fun” game of anything with some ten-years and tell them not to keep score. Impossible! They will always keep score.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what we do. Because participation trophies mean as much to competitive children as a big, solid gold, “thanks for coming out” trophy would have meant to Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers when they lost the Superbowl XLV to the Greenbay Packers. They mean nothing at all.

How to eat out with kids. I’m sorry.

So who’s right, the restaurant owner who yelled at a toddler or the parents who let her “fuss” for over 40 minutes? I don’t know; probably neither of them. I’ve been in both positions and I’ve probably fallen short of ideal behavior as both a restaurant employee and as a parent.

Let’s look back at that one time I was working on the second floor of a certain Queen Street West restaurant with an upstairs patio. At this particular restaurant, the servers made all their own drinks, bussed all their own tables, sat all the guests, ran all their food through the entire length of the downstairs dining room and then up the stairs to one of three dining areas. We also had to bring all dirty dishes and even glasses (!) back down to the kitchen ourselves. We did have a computer upstairs for placing orders that would get printed up in the kitchen, but any other communication with the kitchen staff who had varying levels of proficiency in English would require another trip down to the kitchen.

Right, so one sunny summer afternoon we got slammed. It had been busy all day which means that we were already short on bar stock and cutlery roll ups and all the other good prep work that is done to make your job go more smoothly, and we were all running on fumes. Some sort of festival or other (hey, this was more than a decade ago, I can’t remember) let out and the restaurant filled up. One of the tables was a family with young kids, though I don’t think any of them were babies or toddlers.

They sat on the patio and I took their order which was macaroni and cheese off the standard menu (we didn’t offer a kids menu) for the kids and probably burgers or sandwiches for the adults. I entered their order into the computer, brought their drinks and moved on to the approximately 15,000 other things I needed to do.

I did not:

  • warn them that we were slammed, so their meals would likely take a while
  • offer to put a rush on the kids meals so they would come up first
  • tell them that the cooks sometimes garnished the mac and cheese with chopped parsley and ask if that was okay
  • bring them crayons and paper (since the restaurant didn’t carry those anyway)
  • acknowledge their children in any way, shape, or form

Nor do I think it was my responsibility to have done any of those things. If I weren’t so busy, I would have been better able to accommodate extra needs. If I were waiting tables now, having had three kids of my own, it might occur to me to check about the parsley and offer to have the kids meals come first. But I was in my early 20s and, quite frankly, those extras were not in the job description at this particular restaurant.

Ultimately, I remember the parents complaining about how long the food was taking and being especially outraged that I hadn’t at least brought their kids’ meals first. All I could do was stand there panting and dripping with sweat and apologize for the wait, offer more bread and more water, and suggest that in the future they let their server know they would like the children’s food to arrive first when they place their order. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get much of a tip.

Part of the problem is that the kind of restaurant people feel comfortable bringing their children to is often also the kind of restaurant that is least able to accommodate them. (I’m not counting chains that cater to kids here.) Most people don’t take their kids to fine dining restos with a maître d, a full set of support staff for the servers, and a table to server ratio that is small and manageable. You don’t do it because it’s expensive and you don’t want to spend $30 for your kid’s bloody macaroni. You don’t want to risk bothering the other diners. And because if you do go out to that kind of restaurant, you don’t want your meal ruined by having to be constantly vigilant about your child’s behaviour. I get it. But, having worked in both kinds of restaurants, let me tell you that it is a hell of a lot easier to anticipate the needs of customers of any age when the menu is priced high enough that you don’t have to serve three times as many people with little-to-no support.

But here we are, parented up and desperate for some bourbon-infused french toast, and just a small taste of poached ducks eggs nestled on a bed of housemade cheese biscuits with a coating of lemony, herbed hollandaise. What’s a mom or dad to do? Well, you can all but forget about that new hot brunch spot for now (if you actually want to enjoy it). Sorry, but line ups are a no-go.

A few simple rules to keep in mind.

How to Eat Out with Kids

Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself stuck in a line up with three starving kids and nary a crayon in sight on a Saturday night because organization is not your strong suit. So you take antsy kids out for plenty of walks. You sacrifice your good lip gloss to be used for napkin doodles. You order as soon as possible. (Seriously, read the menu before you even walk inside.) You clean up those clumps of spaghetti from underneath the highchair before you leave. And I can promise you: that meal will suck. But eventually they do grow up and then you’ll really learn how expensive eating out as a family can be.

Good luck.

On not blogging and hating the internet and coming crawling back anyway

On not blogging and hating the internet

I long ago made it a rule not to blog about not blogging. No more posts that start off with an apology for having been away, follow with a litany of excuses and end in a heap of empty promises, I said to myself. God. What kind of abject narcissist thinks people have been stopping by her url on the reg, ever refreshing their screen, hoping for some new wise crack about her kids anyway? If you want to write something, then go ahead and write it, I continued telling myself. Otherwise, just shut up.

Okay, so. Screw that rule.

The problem with taking a blog breather is that I feel pressured to make the first post after the break some kind of special. I don’t know why. It’s not as though most people even notice when you haven’t been blogging.  But here I am. One three-quarters done post about dieting that I was excited to post several weeks ago, sits in my drafts folder, feeling staler by the minute. (Not that it’s lonely, my drafts folder is full of half-baked blog posts I didn’t have the attention span to actually finish.) Several bigger story ideas float around in my head, too, but those are destined for non-blogging platforms. I have a few odd writing jobs to distract me, an up-ended summer work schedule, kids and vacations and home repairs to manage. I have excuses is what I’m saying.

And being sick of the internet is one of them. Is it even possible to get more disillusioned with the internet than we already are? All the endless streams of mediocre-at-best fluff that’s put out because websites need content, content, content — on the double! — but are only willing to pay minimum rates for maximum output. Please, for the love of all mankind, spare me your three intro paragraphs about what summer means to you and just tell me how to make that freaking sour cherry lemonade. I already hate myself for clicking on the link; don’t drive me into a bottomless depression.

Then reading a brilliantly written story like Kathryn Schulz’s earthquake piece in the New Yorker simultaneously fills me with hope for the future of the written word and makes me want to set fire to my, um, internet connection and swear to never write another “quick take” as long as I live.

But in the end, I’m not ready to forsake my online existence just yet. I simply need to get back into this space and share some stories, thoughts or goddamned lists if that’s what I feel like writing at least a couple times a week to keep from getting twitchy.

I had some pretty big and far-reaching posts earlier this year and, hey, I’ll take ‘em. But this is a blog which (for me) means fast, loose, and dirty most of the time. Even the posts I’ve worked hardest and longest on are put out in a kind of flurry. The internet runs on the here and now, so I might spend hours and hours writing and researching something but I still push it out as fast as I can and see what happens.

So while my relationship with the internet is complicated, here’s my big empty promise to sit down a couple times a week and try to craft a sweet little blog post because I miss it. It keeps me on my toes.

The real reason I dig a dadbod

The real reason we dig a dadbod

Image via Flickr cc license

Beards and man buns can step aside because the latest dude trend is the dadbod. It all started about a month ago when Mackenzie Pearson wrote an article called “Why Girls Love The Dad Bod,” on The Odyssey. Then last Thursday New York Mag’s The Cut tried to figure out what exactly a dadbod is and whether or not women are into it. This all-important line of inquiry was then continued by Salon, The Atlantic and just about everybody else.

Dadbod is exactly what it sounds like. It’s what the male physique typically looks like after clocking 40 hours in a cubicle and ten hours of commuting to and from the burbs every week. It’s what happens when you’re finally grown up enough to consume however many beers and burgers as you damn well feel like, and the only reason you wear athletic gear is to coach a t-ball game.

You don’t actually have to live in the suburbs, or even be a dad to look like one, of course. In fact, the term usually refers to young men who manage to rock a dadbod even though they are not actually dads. You just need to be kind of soft around the middle. You have arms like saplings and no part of you could possibly be described as “cut.” Chances are pretty good that manscaping is also completely off your radar.

If this is you, then congratulations. You have a dadbod and, yes, chicks dig it. But it’s not because we appreciate your laid back attitude, and it’s not because we want to raid your fridge, as The Cut suggested. Pearson was more on the money when she wrote that girls love the dadbod because, “We like being the pretty one.”

The reason I’m all about the dadbod has nothing to do with what is says about you and everything to do with what it says about me. Your dadbod makes my mombod look better, basically.

When I squeeze into my tummy-controlled one piece at the beach and douse myself in baby powder to prevent inner-thigh burn, I like to look over at my male companion and think, “Oh yeah, baby. We  could look worse.”

Nobody wants to play Lyle Lovett to their partner’s Julia Roberts, know what I mean. For one thing, just standing next to a smoking hot guy with actual abdominal definition is going to make us look dumpy by comparison. What’s more, it makes us feel less attractive.

It’s not that we’re more attracted to the dadbod, you see. Do you really think we watch Olympic swimming because we care about whether some guy can shave a fraction of a second off his butterfly? Of course not.

The reason I dig a dadbod is because how your body makes me feel about myself is more important than how it makes me feel about you.

My spring body image hack

My spring body image hack

Image credit via Flickr cc license

I accidentally bought the wrong size pants.

This happens sometimes, when your number one method of clothes shopping involves grabbing something off the sale rack and then sprinting across the store to catch your three-year-old before she falls down the escalator. It can also happen when your number two method of clothes shopping is showing up to the store ten minutes before closing and then buying whatever you happen to be holding when it does close.

So, yes, it’s not uncommon for me to buy the wrong size pants. But this might the first time I ever bought pants that were too big for me. You’ve heard of body dismorphia, right? You usually hear about it in relation to eating disorders; people will have an exaggerated perception of their own flaws. They’ll think they are overweight when they really are not, for example. Well, I kind of have that except, THE OPPOSITE.

Like, I’ll have put on ten pounds but every time I look in the mirror, I turn to the side and suck in my stomach and think, “Looking good!” I’ll see pictures of myself and think, well, that was a bad angle. I keep trying to squeeze into places I think I should fit. The number of things I have knocked over with my ass alone is humilating. And, of course, I keep buying pants that are too small because I know what size I take, thankyouverymuch.

But this time the pants were too big. I don’t remember if that was the only size left on the sale rack or if I was trying to come to terms with needing a bigger size or what. But they’re just a little … loose, y’know?

Like, I’ll put them on in the morning and they will seem to fit fine. But then I’m halfway to the bus stop and they’re starting to slide down my hips a little. My underwear is showing at the back. The crotch is getting a little baggy. I have to keep tugging them back up every few blocks.

Holy shit, do I ever love these pants. They don’t make me feel like I’m wearing giant-sized pants. They make me feel like my body is too skinny for these pants. It’s a feeling I have not experienced for a long, long, long time.

So all right, it’s kind of a sloppy look and these are definitely leisure-type pants. I wouldn’t recommend wearing clown pants to the office or to an important meeting or a fancy event. But if, hypothetically, you happen to work at home and you are mostly, 90% of the time, just schlepping around the neighbourhood anyway, then I totally recommend putting on some big-ass pants.

Do you know how much easier this is than actually losing weight? Amazing.

9 must-haves to get through a Canadian winter with baby

Huge thanks to The Baby Show for sponsoring this post and letting me share all my best Canadian baby advice.  And don’t miss the PROMO CODE at the end!

The sun is throwing little slivers of warmth our way, snow banks are shrinking and pedicures are being booked. You can almost smell the spring in the air. Not so fast! This winter might be on it’s way out, but another one will soon be on it’s way in. And your days of breastfeeding on picnic blankets in dappled shade, strolling along city streets for hours on end and changing diapers on park benches will be over.

Getting through a Canadian winter with a baby can be tough. On the one hand, it’s the perfect excuse to hibernate in your warm and cozy home and never, ever face the bitter cold. On the other hand, you will go crazy if you do that. Don’t go crazy.

It’s important to get out of the house, and there are all kinds of brilliant products that will help you do just that. Don’t forget to put these on your “must have” list.

1. Big, fat, snow-climbing stroller tires

If you live in Canada, you really want a stroller with inflatable rubber tires that can ride over the snow fairly easily. (Unless you live in Vancouver, in which case you already know not to talk about your winter weather with other Canadians.) Exactly how heavy-duty your winter stroller has to be depends on how much snow your area gets (and how quickly it gets cleared). Check out a few different models to see which will work best for you.

Image credit via Flickr cc license

2. A stroller cover

For a Canadian winter with baby

Image credit via Flickr cc license

Rain covers for your stroller make equally good windshields and help to keep baby toasty on cold winter walks. If your stroller model has one designed especially to fit, it’s worth getting. Otherwise, a generic, well-ventilated,  stroller cover will also do.

3. An infant car seat cover

Image courtesy well.ca

These are the best. They’re like a winter coat or sleeping bag that fits snuggly over your baby’s car seat, so you don’t have to worry about bundling them up for car trips. Babies are also safer and more secure in their car seats without bulky snowsuits, so win-win.

4. One-piece snow suit or bunting

Image credit via Flickr cc license

But when you do bundle them up for walks, nothing beats a one-snowsuit or bunting bag. Plop ‘em in and zip them up. Yes, I wish they made these for adults, too. (Pro tip: Don’t leave your baby lying in the snow.)

5. Itty bitty hats and mitts

Image credit via Flickr cc license

Not only will these help keep baby toasty warm, they’re also some of the sweetest items ever designed. Go ahead and splurge on pretty knits now while they’re still young enough not to lose them.

6. Something extra for their footsies

Image credit via Flickr cc license

Whether it’s hand-knit baby booties made by great-aunt Jane or commercially made boots or slippers, you will need something extra to keep those itty bitty footsies warm on the coldest days.

7. A big-ass coat for baby wearing

Image courtesy dearbornbaby.com

My all-time favourite method of keeping a newborn warm on a cold winter day is simply to wear them and then zip up a giant, old coat around us both. (Baby will still need a hat, obvi.) There are now maternity coats on the market that are actually designed to accommodate baby wearing as well as a pregnant belly. I wish I’d known about those when I was pregnant the first time! You can also borrow or buy a winter coat a couple sizes larger than you usually wear.

8. Easy on and off boots for mom

 

I know many moms swear by those ultra-warm, fur-topped boots that lace halfway up your shins. They look good and keep you warm, after all. But when I’m trying to get out the door with babies and young children, I am all about warm boots you can step in or that zip up easily. Listen to me.

 9. Warm nursing tops

Layering gets tricky when you’re a nursing mom. Banish all pull-over sweaters to the back of your closet for now and make zip-up sweaters and cardigans your best friends. (It may be cold outside, but many indoor spaces are overheated. So you’ll want to be able to peel off layers as necessary.) There are also special nursing tops that provide easy-access opening for breastfeeding while keeping mom nice and warm.

 10. Tickets to The Baby Show

The Baby Show

Honestly, if you are overwhelmed by all the options on the market, The Baby Show in Toronto or Ottawa is one-stop shopping for all the the stuff you’ll need next winter (and some summer stuff too because they are not cruel.) You’ll get great tips on caring for yourself and your baby while scoring big-time on samples and giveaways from both local and national vendors. There’s a full line-up of expert speakers and you get hands-on demos of all kinds of products before deciding what to buy.

Ottawa dates: March 21 & 22  Tickets are $12 at the door ( and kids under 12 are free). SAVE $2 with promo code PGC2015 when you buy online.

Toronto dates: March 28 & 29 Tickets are $15 at the door ( and kids under 12 are free). SAVE $3 with promo code PGC2015 when you buy online.

Use the promo code for yourself, buy tickets for your sister or share it widely. It’s all good.

What am I missing? I’d love to hear about your wintery baby advice in the comments.

 This post is sponsored by The Baby Show. But I’ll take credit for all of the advice ;)