At Issue: Is It Okay To Curse In Front Of Your Kids?

middle-144954_640Kids.  The minute we become parents our world goes topsy-turvy.  Things we may have held near and dear before our little ones arrived instantly seem trivial and a waste of time.  Many of us traded in the 2-door sedan for something with an impressive safety rating, swapped our Saturday nights at Green Day concerts with Sunday morning sing-a-longs and maybe even a few succumbed to wearing the dreaded mom-jeans (if you did, please stop reading this right now, take them off your body, get your kitchen scissors and cut them up.  Right. Now.).

The point is that we do change in many ways when we become parents but in just as many ways we don’t.

We don’t give up reading books that we love, eating our favourite foods or enjoying the same late-night comedies simply because we have to trek someone to hockey practice at 6 am or wash mountains of dirty laundry.

But are there exceptions?  For example, if before you became a parent you peppered your everyday language with expletives do you have put an end to that?  Full stop?

On June 3, 2013 Peter Scowen wrote an article for the Globe and Mail about potty-mouthed parents.  He cited Nicole C. Kear who wrote a post for Salon, an avid (and creative) curser long before becoming a mom.  Kear decided to put an end to her bad-language habit, wanting a more G-rated environment for her children as her little ones reached the ages of 8, 6 and “toddler”.

Naturally, Scowen found another blogger, from the parenting site The Stir, offering the opposite view point.  This writer suggested that swearing in front of your children is not only fine but also possibly good for them.  Five reasons are cited in support of uncensored foul-language vary but include the foremost principle that adults must never swear in front of other people’s children and that children are never, ever cursed at.

So what do you think?  On what side of the coin do you fall?  Do you need your own mouth washed out with soap or could you be a regular on the Disney channel?

This week the 4Mothers are giving their two cents on the issue and Kristi Ashcroft will be our weekly guest.

Kristi has a degree in Economics from Princeton University and work for eight years at a Wall Street firm in New York and London.  She and her husband settled in Toronto, and she is now a stay-at-home mom to three busy boys ages 3,5 and 7.

And as always, we want to know what you think.  Let us know by leaving us a comment or sending us a tweet (@4Mothers1Blog).  Want to know what you friends think?  Like us on Facebook and send them the link!

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The Name Game

Three of the four mothers are anxiously awaiting news from Carol- she is in her final days of pregnancy!

To honour the soon-to-be newest member of the 4mothers family, this week we will be posting all about names.  For some parents naming a baby can be stressful (read all about my angst here for an article that I wrote for the Globe and Mail, Facts and Arguments section almost one year ago), for others choosing the right name comes naturally.

After learning the gender of the baby most people immediately want to know the name.  Everyone is a critic and either secretly chastises the parents for their questionable taste or commends them on their chose of moniker.

Be sure to read Friday’s post by our hilarious guest blogger, Lori Dyan.  Lori, a mom of two, is a writer of all sorts including both children’s and contemporary women’s fiction.  Her uproariously funny blog aptly titled Lori Dyan is about her life as a parent and wife to the “Serb”.   Her recent post about her celebrity doppelganger is one of my favourites.  If you are looking for a pick-me up that is legal before noon, I would suggest checking out her blog.

As always we invite you to join in the discussion by leaving a comment. 

Hmmm, perhaps we can spend our research dollars more wisely?

I was reading the Globe and Mail on-line edition yesterday and stopped at this headline: Yes, your kid’s whining really is that annoying by Adriana Barton.  My question:  did they really need to do a scientific research study to come to these conclusions?  Spend a day with me.  I can provide those answers and many more (such as a three year asks approximately 347 questions per day) for FREE!

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Know Your Child

Tralee Pearce’s article deals with the question of how much, if any, media coverage about natural events we should share with our children. As a parent, naturally, I want to protect my children from anything that might do them harm or cause them pain. As a parent, again, I also want them to understand their world and have empathy for the people in it. When it comes to media portrayals of natural disasters, I am pretty sure that the “know your child” rule applies: I can’t, nor do I want to totally shield my children from knowledge of the events of this world, both good and bad; I just want them to learn in a way that is respectful of who they are and how much I think they can handle.  Letting my children watch the nightly news seems much like teaching them to swim by throwing them in the deep-end. I’d rather they ease into the water, myself.

But that’s not necessarily what they want. They are not isolated from the facts of what occurred in Japan. My children continue to ask questions about the earthquake and tsunami. Of course, they wanted to know whether what happened in Japan could happen here. They needed to know that they are safe.  They wanted to know what happened to the children in Japan. They even wanted to know the physics of  how tsunamis work.  At school, they collected loonies and folded paper cranes.  They pledged money from their piggy banks to be donated to the Red Cross.

They also wanted to watch the news.  You Tube videos of the tsunami rushing in,  in particular, fascinated them. Neither of them could have articulated this, but I understood: they wanted to make the abstract, concrete.  Having no frame of reference, seeing what really happened in Japan helped make it real to them. Out of an abundance of caution, we might have chosen not let them watch the news clips, and perhaps, in a different circumstance, we may demur.  This time, however, I think it was okay to let them.

Sometimes I need to tell a fib.

“. . . and then a giant waterfall came and washed away all of the buildings and the cars and the people.  After that, the bad people with their guns were taken away and put in jail.”

My husband and I exchange a quizzical look.

“Did you talk about the earthquake in Japan at school today?” he asks our 4 year-old son.


“And did you talk about a place called Libya too?”


With that he bounds up from the table to take his dirty dishes to the counter.  We determined that inside his little head a million neurons were firing this way and that tangling together the horrific tsunami that washed over Japan and the crisis in Libya.

Who can blame him, really?  I have got twenty-five years on him and I can’t keep the chaos of the world straight.

So here we are, my husband and I, at a crossroads of sorts.  Do we sit down with our son and explain to him that he is confusing two events?  Do we further the discussion that he had at school and answer any questions he may have?  Or do we just follow his cue and take our own dirty dishes to the counter and move on?

When reading Tralee Pearce’s article, I was transported to the early 1990’s.  Images from the Gulf War flashed across the T.V. screen in our family room each night and early morning “current events” discussions at school were dominated by the anatomy of gas masks, sand storms, AK-47s and of course, Saddam Hussein.

The Gulf War was my first exposure to war.  Up to then I had only read stories about the World Wars and listened attentively to the veterans who visited our school auditorium.  But seeing the images of missiles light up the Baghdad sky terrified me.

At night my stomach would be in knots and lying on my bed, staring at the dark ceiling, I would think about the possibility of our own country under attack.  In true child-form, everything that I knew about war muddied together in my head and the result was petrifying.

Atomic bombs might fall on us – just like in Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes.   My parents, brother and I might have to live in a small shelter and wait to be rescued – just like Ann Frank.  Maybe we won’t have any food and have to grow our own – just like my grandparents had to do.

While I was much older than my son is today during the Gulf War, I don’t want him to experience the same level of anxiety as I did.  I want to be there for him and to reassure him that he is safe, even when the world seems like it is falling to pieces.

Tralee Pearce’s article suggests that we use “corrective feedback” and keep images of traumatic events to a minimum.  There is no doubt that images can leave lasting impressions – in some cases more so than words.

I still remember a photograph of Karla Homolka splayed across the front page of the newspaper when I was just twelve years old.  Her penetrating brown eyes stared coldly at the camera telling me that she was no innocent and to do this day I can’t view images from 9/11 without getting goose bumps and feeling queasy.

As I tuck my son in for bed, I lie down beside him and ask again about his day.  He retells the story of the giant waterfall that washed away lots of homes.  He turns on his side and rests his head on his hand.  He looks intently at me.  His blue eyes the mirror of my own.

“Will a giant waterfall wash away our house?” he asks.

“Nope.  Not ever.  We don’t live near the ocean.” I answer him.

“Will our house ever shake a lot and the walls fall down?”

This is it.  I am back at the crossroads.  I can tell him the truth.  That there is a possibility of our home being shook to pieces by the force of the earth.  After all, there was a quake that measured 5.0 on June 23 of this past year.

Or I can tell a fib.  But it’s not really a fib.  It’s just like when I tell him that Santa is watching and that the Tooth Fairy loves clean teeth.  It’s a way to preserve his innocence a little bit longer.  It’s the type of fib that I wish I could tell myself now and then.

“Nope.  Not ever.  We’re safe here.” I tell him with conviction and kiss him goodnight.

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It’s a mad, mad world.

How much bad news should we share with our kids?  Opinions on this matter run the gamut.  Our world is rocked by natural disasters, threatened by extremists and in environmental peril on an on-going basis.  Parents are often confronted with how to explain such atrocities to their children.  Opinions on this matter run the gamut from full on disclose to extreme censorship.  Where do your beliefs fall on the spectrum?  This week the 4mothers weigh in on this issue using Tralee Pearce’s article,How Much Upsetting News Should Your Kid See, featured in the Globe and Mail on March 14, 2011 as a starting off point.

As always, we encourage you to share your opinions on the subject by writing a comment.  Perhaps you have an experience we can learn from or just want to join the conversation.  Either way, we welcome you to do so!

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Women who opt-out of the workforce: non-contributors?

I read Katrina Onstad’s column in the Globe and Mail each week.  I find her social commentary to be witty, encapsulating and at times, provoking.  Which is exactly what her column titled, Kate Middleton Quits Her Job proved to be.

I expected more from a Katrina Onstad article than snide and judgmental comments directed at Kate Middleton for choosing to quit her job to plan her and Prince William’s royal wedding.  I was willing to ignore Onstad’s sneers about “giving it all up” for a man until she flung Kate into the epicenter of the mommy-wars, and the poor woman doesn’t even have children!

To support her argument, Onstad quotes noted philosopher Linda Hirshman:

“Philosopher Linda Hirshman took them on in her 2006 “manifesto” Get to Work. Her argument was only partially about how work can provide “human flourishing” or personal fulfillment (the usual reasons mothers work or don’t, after finances). Her real assertion was that a culture where women aren’t working sets back women as a group, reinforcing a dangerous social imbalance. Women remain financial dependents and unpaid labourers, while men earn cash and respect. Hirshman scorned “choice feminism” as a watery cop-out: Women unquestioningly supporting each other’s choices isn’t feminism; women working together for better social conditions for all women is.”

Well Ms. Hirshman and Ms. Onstad, I couldn’t disagree with you more and by calling women out who choose a different path than you as anti-feminist is frankly, oppressive.  Isn’t that what “choice” is about?  The freedom to choose for yourself what shape your life will take?

Suggesting that women who opt-out of the workforce by choice are non-contributors and setting back the entire feminist movement is asinine.  In fact, in my opinion such comments do nothing but stack insurmountable pressure on both working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.  In addition to bringing home the bacon and frying it up, don’t forget to swing by the local farmer’s market, pound the treadmill, toss in a load of laundry, recall the exact steps of long division, reply to that birthday party invitation and don’t forget that tomorrow is purple shirt day.

Why is it that Hirshman and Onstad have strongly tied work with contribution and contribution with compensation?  I don’t see a dime for the hours upon hours I log on the home front, but to imply that I am not contributing?  Contributing to what exactly?

I see my contribution everyday.  I see my son reach out to help up a fallen friend on the playground.  I see my son enthusiastically separate the recyclables from the garbage.  I see my son neatly fold his outgrown clothes to donate to a family in need.

It is true that there is not a chorus of people telling me what a great job I am doing.  It is true that I don’t see my bank balance increasing.  It is true that there are days I think that there has to be more to my life than snow pants, potty breaks and trips to the doctor.

But who is Hirshman to put a value on my day?  Why are Katrina Onstad’s musings worth more than my walks to the schoolyard?

When I think of a woman like Michelle Obama who has put her law career on hold to focus on being the First Lady, opting-out is the last thought that comes to mind.  I view her as someone who is opting-in.  She is opting-in (for a short time) to be present in her life and do something that she is passionate about.

And that is what feminism means to me.

At this point in my life, I have decided to opt-out of the work force but don’t ever suggest that I am not contributing to our society.

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Kate Middleton, Get A Job! (And Our Giveaway Winner!)

Never one to shy away from stating her opinions, Globe and Mail columnist Katrina Onstad, wrote on Saturday February 5, 2011 that princess-to-be, Kate Middleton should get a job.

Onstad argues that Middleton and Michelle Obama, along with “opt-outers” (a minority group of educated, privileged women who choose to play a supportive role to their high-powered spouse) are ultimately depriving themselves not only of compensation but contribution.

Needless to say, these are fighting words that have long fueled the battle between stay-at-home moms and working mothers.  The 4mothers have a lot to say in response to Onstad’s comments and will be the focus of February’s At Issue.

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Giveaway Winner:

We also want to announce our movie date night giveaway winner is Melanie!  Congratulations Melanie – we hope you will have a great belated Valentine’s Day evening at the movies.

Far To Go

I consider myself an avid reader.  I read about thirty books per year, which isn’t a staggering number, but between three kids (four and under), running a house and trying to have a life, I’d say it’s a decent number.

I’m no Oprah but I feel like have it on good authority to recommend a good read and Far To Go is one of the best books that I have read in a long time.

Far To Go, by local Toronto author, Alison Pick is guaranteed to make you cry, question your beliefs, challenge your thinking and leave you breathless.  I promise!

Set in 1939 Czechoslovakia, wealthy textile merchants, Pavel and Annelise are faced with increasing anti-Semitism, as the political climate grows hostile for Jewish nationals.  Realizing their options for escape are limited they must decide whether to separate the family and place their young son on the kindertransport.  Their nightmare is made complicated by a twisted web of deceit, confliction and unconditional love.

It may sound like a familiar story but Pick’s characters are rich in complexity and achingly human.  Her writing left me feeling gutted by the painful loss that was a reality for many Jewish families during the Holocaust.

I had the opportunity to meet Pick when she attended our book club’s review of her novel, Far To Go. I gushed just like a schoolgirl meeting Justin Beiber.  But really, how could I not.  Just read this novel and this author’s raw talent will mesmerize you.

Why more people don’t know about this book saddens me.  It should be soaring bestsellers.  It should be sitting on Heather’s table of picks.  Oprah should be emphatically hollering, “You get a copy and you get a copy and you get a copy!”

As I often write, I am not a reviewer but merely a suggester.  Should you want to read a review of this book by some savvy book bloggers may I suggest Kerry Clare of Pickle Me This, Bibliomama, and Kevin From Canada.  If you prefer print media reviews, take a look at what The National Post and Globe and Mail have to say about this special book.

If you only read one book this year, make it this one!  Have you read Far To Go?  If so, what did you think?


Are There Really More ADHD Kids or Just A More Intolerant Education System?

The Globe and Mail ran a six part series on boys and education.  As a mother of three boys and a former teacher, I was interested in reading the opinions of various experts.

The stand-out point for me was the discussion surrounding the alarming number of students being medicated for Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD).  Along with the rise in diagnosis is the number of children being prescribed Ritalin with the majority of cases being identified in young boys.

The article identifies that the only way ADHD can be diagnosed is by reviewing reports authored by parents and teachers about a child’s behaviour.  The question that comes to my mind, is it possible that we have created an educational system that stifles a boy’s natural instincts (to be fair, some girls too) to be physically active and in constant motion?  Is it possible that we are trying to manipulate a square peg in a round hole?

Generations ago children played outside, walked to and from school, were responsible for helping with household chores.  In effect these actions helped to “get the beans out”.  Maybe our sedentary lifestyles, complete with video games, t.v., car-pools and heavy after-school programming has attributed to children being under-stimulated, both physically and emotionally.  After all, playing outside for hours on end not only encourages children to use their imaginations but also to be active.

Who knows?  Maybe thirty years ago there were just as many ADHD kids but we just didn’t have a name for it.  Maybe those kids were labeled “bad”.  Regardless, if the numbers of boys being diagnosed ADHD is on the rise, then do we not owe it to our boys to review the education system where they spend between six and eight hours a day?

I grew up in the “girls are just the same as boys” era.  We were told that we were the same as boys and could do anything that our counterparts could do.  But now, as the mom of three boys, I see that message is flawed.  Yes we can do the same things boys can do but there are some fundamental differences between the sexes.  Leonard Sax and Barry McDonald both have researched and written extensively on the subject of boys and gender differences.  I have found their findings to resonate with me and have helped me to understand my boys’ behaviour.

For example, they physically are not able to sit at the dinner for 20 minutes without fidgeting, they have to jump on couches, everything must be tossed into the air like a ball (forks, shoes, books, etc.), physical contact is necessary in relaying their messages especially when they are toddlers . . . it’s not their fault.  It’s in their genes.  It’s in their wiring.

I understand that there are societal norms that my boys have to adhere to, but I want to know that the education system is taking steps to understand how the sexes learn differently.  Prescribing drugs is a dangerous band-aid solution that may  simply prove to only sedate our children while damaging their self-esteem.

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