Monday, May 30, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
- Lack of harmony among musical notes
- an unusual degree of dissonance for such choral styles
- the harsh dissonances give a sound which is quite untypical of the Renaissance
- A tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements
- dissonance between campaign rhetoric and personal behavior
The idea for this post has been percolating for over a year, but I never seem to get around to actually writing it. I've changed titles, messed around with the topic and even now, I'm rewriting this introduction for the fourth or fifth time. In essence, this post is about saying NO to your kids even when you eventually say YES. It's not easy to explain, so here goes.
I’m not talking about a state of total denial. I’m just saying that it is a parent’s job to teach their children. As a child's primary teacher, parents do children no favors by saying “Yes” to all of their requests.
For several years, I was absolutely adamant that our children would not have video games or a gaming system. I said no for a long, long time. At times, I ranted and raved. I cited the "vidiots" I taught who spent every waking hour gaming instead of reading or doing my incredibly meaningful homework. I read to my kids every chance I got. We did not (and still do not) have a DVD player in our vehicle. When we went on a long road trip, we took books, played games like 21 Questions and, if it was an extra long trip, we purchased an Invisible Ink puzzle book.
My reasoning went something like this... I didn’t have anything like it when I grew up. Most of my friends had some sort of gaming system – Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision. I made do with my handheld Coleco football game. I never was very good at video games (with the notable exception of Galaga) so I spent a lot of my childhood enjoying simple things like reading and playing with sticks. I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I missed anything because I didn’t own an Intellivision until 1996 (a fellow teacher had a system gathering dust in his garage, so I brought it home on a whim.)
Over the past couple of years, gaming systems have gradually made their way into our house. Santa brought my oldest son a Nintendo DS and since then, a DSI, two iPods and an Xbox Kinect have appeared. My children have always had a computer to use. They are digital natives and it amazes me to watch them interact with and figure out anything that is electronic. What finally swayed me was watching how their peers interacted and socialized. Gaming has become a social event that can be shared whether they are in the same place as a friend or not. I wondered if I was turning my kids into social pariahs through my absolute denial of portable, personal gaming systems.
Their gaming was initially restricted to educational sites and games like Brain Age. Over time, we have mellowed. Before our New Year's Eve party this year, I even purchased the Dance Central game so the kids could play (and laugh at the adults.)
In retrospect, it appears that I was being obstinate and perhaps hypocritical about gaming systems. I did have handheld games as a kid – Coleco Football, Mattel Basketball, and an amazing piece of plastic called a Merlin. When I was twelve, one of the coolest things I did with the friend I wrote about in Stand by Me was to play Space Invaders on his Atari. During my third year of University, I bought a Mac Classic II (after all, it had a blazing clock speed of 16mHz, twice as fast as the first generation of Mac Classics. When I started dating my wife, I did enjoy playing Donkey Kong on their Nintendo. I have a laptop from work that I bring home and take with me when I travel. My wife and I both have an iPhone and when I’m away from 3G and WiFi, it seems strange to me.
Part of the reason this post has taken so long is that I don’t believe in preaching. I particularly don’t want to write one thing, then turn around and do the other thing. My first title for this post was “Do Your Kids a Favour and Say No”. Upon further reflection, dissonance has tempered my outer grouch.
In my job, I do encounter children whose parents indulge their every whim. For many parents, screen time for their children means peace and quiet. Buying candy in the store also buys a quiet child and prevents embarrassment. My wife and I try hard to ensure that our children understand that they cannot have everything. We don't have the financial resources, but more importantly, I really want my kids to understand that things need to be earned.
More than anything, I hope that parents think carefully about the decisions they make when it comes to their children. I take a very long time to make decisions because I really need to understand as much a possible about an issue before I determine my stance. I am pleased with the way technology operates in our home. It allows us to learn, to communicate and provides a great deal of entertainment. Like anything, moderation is crucial. Every hour spent in front of a screen is balanced with an hour of physical activity, homework, reading or family time.
After all, I spend a great deal of time writing this blog because I really enjoy writing and I love the feedback I get from people on the thoughts that rattle around in my head. It would be pretty sanctimonious for me to deny my children the opportunites that technology affords them. I may not always say what I mean, but I do mean what I say!
Monday, May 16, 2011
Over the past weekend, I led a group on hike around Nordegg, Alberta. The route follows an abandoned rail line and crosses three trestles that are in varying states of disrepair. As the kids (and adults) nervously picked their way across rotting boards, one of the group leaders mentioned how much the trek reminded him of a scene from Rob Reiner's great film, Stand by Me. This comment brought back a flood of memories for me that form the basis for this post.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
I believe that you can tell a great deal about a person from the way they treat animals and children. My paternal grandfather was a tough man to be around at times. Even after he passed away, he requested that there be no memorial service. His final wishes were to be cremated and his ashes spread near the junction of the Clearwater and North Saskatchewan Rivers. This spot is about an hour’s drive from my home in Red Deer and it is on the way to one of my favourite rivers to fish. Every time we cross the river, I smile to myself and think of the day we gathered to fulfill his final wishes.
It was a small contingent. Me, my parents, my aunt and uncle. We met for breakfast in Rocky Mountain House, a small town where my grandfather was stationed during his time with the RCMP. The restaurant is a short drive away from junction of the Clearwater and North Saskatchewan, so we found our spot quickly. It was a gorgeous spring day, but we were not able to access the actual junction of the rivers, so we settled for a spot along the banks of the Clearwater just upstream.
As we said our goodbyes and released his ashes, we heard the voices of two small children. Their dog bounded up to meet us and actually ran right through the recently spread remains of my grandfather. At first, I was taken aback that someone else had intruded on the final memory of a man I admired and learned so much from as a child. My aunt, as usual, was able to make me smile and put things into perspective. We didn’t say anything to the children, returned to our vehicles and came to my place in Red Deer to spend the rest of the afternoon. As we prepared for supper, Auntie Lee laughed to herself then told us how she thought it was fitting that our intimate memorial service had been crashed.
“After all,” she noted, “Dad loved kids and animals. He didn’t like most people, but he always had time for children and animals. I don’t think he would have minded that we had company today.”
I’m inspired to write this by the passing of a person I only saw three or four times a year, but I looked forward to seeing him each time. I didn't know him really well, but honestly felt like I got to know him better each time we came to Nordegg. Brent Young was a figure known by anyone who spent time around the Shunda Creek Hostel or townsite at Nordegg, Alberta. He managed the hostel, was a driving force in the volunteer Fire Department/Search and Rescue, introduced countless people to the wonders of central Alberta and put a smile on the face of everyone he talked to. Brent grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, but landed in Nordegg several years ago and chose to stay because "he liked the big back yard." He was full of unforgettable witticisms like "There's not much happening, but it's all going on in Nordegg.”
Brent loved the outdoors and the adventure it brought. He told me that the perfect drink was scotch because it was easy to carry into the backcountry and all you really needed to add was snow. One of his main mantras was “No dramas” and he spent as much time as he could climbing, skiing or just trekking around. He was absolutely selfless and never seemed to be in much of a rush. This summer, I watched him tour my ten year old son around the Nordegg Fire/EMS newest bush rescue vehicle. For at least fifteen minutes, he answered every single question with the same patience and enthusiasm. Brent loved to talk and treated people with dignity. He was a big part of the reason I wrote the following blog last summer. (Nordegg: Reason #3 To Love Central Alberta)
For the past several years, every time I brought a group of children to stay at the Hostel, I looked forward to visiting with Brent. My oldest son loved the hostel so much, he wanted to spend his tenth birthday there. From middle schoolers to Cub groups to my own children, Brent treated the kids with respect and loved sharing his little piece of the world with anyone who found their way to the hostel. Kids loved Brent because he wore knitted hats, spoke with the cadence of a surfer and dished out phrases like “Cool bananas” and "Have a sunshiny day". Even if we weren’t staying at the hostel, I loved seeing him around the community or when we came to the hostel for a hot shower.
Brent died last week in a backcountry skiing accident. It seems fitting because he made his exit doing something he loved to do. I’ve read many stories about the untimely passing of people who love the mountains. Will Gadd has written a couple of columns about people who remind me of Brent. Accidents are an acknowledged risk of anyone who heads into the backcountry. No matter how knowledgeable or skilled you are, nature is more powerful and unpredictable. I’ve often said that if I pass away unexpectedly, I’d want to do so while I was fishing. I honestly never believed that a person I knew and admired would be in this type of situation.
The world lost a beauty last week. Brent truly made the world a better place and people can learn a great deal from the way he respected and loved the outdoors, treated others (particularly children), and animals. He was the full meal deal.
We are heading to the hostel for Cub Camp this weekend and it saddens me deeply to know he won’t be there in person. Shakakan.