Friday, 30 November 2012

Behaving Like Children

We’ve all been there. Participating in meetings which seem to go on forever or which don’t really seem to apply to us personally. Feeling like our voices aren’t being heard. Getting really upset by someone’s contrary opinion. Squirming with the rising tension. Sometimes I get frustrated. But I rarely get mad. And I never yell.

But sometimes my mind wanders.

So, (even before hearing about the yelling matches in the Toronto council meeting yesterday) while attending meetings of my own, my wandering mind began to compiling this list of all the childlike behaviours that can reveal themselves from our inner psyches when we ‘grown-ups’ are sitting in business meetings:

No patience. Usually there is an agenda for a meeting. Yet so often, people display that childlike quality of “I want it now” and jump to talking right away about an issue that is most important to them even though it is scheduled to be addressed later on in the agenda.

No focus. I often get frustrated with my 6- and 4-year old daughters for not paying attention when I’m talking to them or asking them to do something. It drives me crazy. It also drives me crazy when people in meetings ask questions or repeat comments that have literally just been addressed.

Going way off topic. When we ask our 2-year old about her day, it starts out all normal talking about story time at daycare and how some kid (often her sister) told her she didn’t want to be her friend anymore. But before you know it, she’s making up stuff about eating bugs for lunch or trying to describe some minute detail about the little thing she found on the playground but then lost and worrying that somebody stole it. It’s kind of adorable. The grown-up version of this happens in meetings all the time. It’s not so adorable. But equally hard to follow. And more frustrating since other people have things to say too and timelines to keep.

Being self-absorbed. You know how kids can go on-and-on-and-on about some topic or another that you really don’t understand or even care too much about. It’s kind of cute and endearing, but not really a waste of my time. However, when someone presented something in a meeting carries on-and-on-and-on, rehashing a topic over-and-over again, going into way too many details or specifics, under a delusion that people are really interested in what it is they are saying, I feel my time wasting away. It drives me crazy.

Over-reacting. We all tend to lose perspective from time to time. My kids are terrific at getting overly dramatic about tiny little things that really aren’t that important; especially since 5 minutes later they’ve probably forgotten about it and moved onto something different all together. It drives me crazy when people do this in meetings though. Make a HUGE deal out of things that either aren’t really that important and/or not totally relevant to what’s being discussed. There is a time and a place. And a thing called perspective.

Falling subject to distractions. We all have a tendency to zone-out after a while when we aren’t completely captivated. Children would just get up and leave. Or, more likely, start acting out for attention. I guess grown-ups kind of do this too: start hushed chit-chat (which isn’t really that quiet), doodling, reading emails, or sending ‘very important’ texts. Or anticipating lunch.

Obsession with food. I’m so guilty of this one. That anticipation when the meeting room door opens and someone wheels in the snack tray or lunch. You can feel the energy and focus shift once food is brought into the room. No one’s really listening anymore. Just salivating at the smell of hot pasta or fresh deli sandwiches…

Then there’s also the ways that you wish you could behave like a child in a meeting:

Falling asleep. Because, really, we could all use more sleep. And sometimes, meetings are really boring!

Tantrums. I’ve heard it called the noodle. My sister calls it the stages of despair. But wouldn’t it be a great release if you could just flop and scream and kick when you didn’t get your way. When no one agreed to your idea. Wouldn’t that take them by surprise! Would they listen then?

Getting up and walking away. Seriously. How great would it be if you could just stomp out, or ‘take your ball and go home’ when no one is listening to you or your concerns, or playing by your own rules!

I hadn’t included name-calling and shouting in my lists, but apparently some grown-ups, politicians no less, feel this is an acceptable way to behave in meetings.

I'd be giving them a time out.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Giving Tuesday

I'd heard a lot about Black Friday.  I even experienced it one year in Boston.  Although all I can recall is a hazy memory of a crowded mall and G.I. Joe action figures.  I don't think we bought anything else.

This was the first year I really became aware of Canadian retailers marketing Black Friday so strongly.  The first time that such strong efforts were made by Canadian stores to keep Canadians in Canada with super specials and bargain buys on the last Friday of November.

It wasn't our intention to go Black Friday shopping, but since my husband and I both had the day off and we had some things to buy (dress pants for him, black shoes for me) we ended up at the mall.

Sure, there were good deals.  And we got what we were looking for.  But I couldn't help feeling terribly overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of things to buy.  By the volume of stuff that was somehow suggested we needed.  By the rows and rows of cars in the parking lot.  By the number of people in the mall.  By the amount of money being spent.  By the thought that we had just spent money that we don't really have.

That's probably what I thought about the most: all of us spending lots of money, probably mostly on credit, on lots of stuff that we don't really need.

I also thought about all of our money going to big stores and major corporations instead of the little shops in our neighbourhood owned by people just like us, trying to make a living.

I'm hoping that it was my last trip to a mall during this holiday season.  I'm going to try to do my holiday shopping in the local businesses and small stores downtown. 

And then there's Cyber Monday.  SOOOO many emails from retailers about special online deals that I'll never open.  Delete. Delete. Delete.   Sure, online shopping would be a great way to avoid the mall, but I remain a litle skeptical about buying more things I don't need, sight unseen, and trusting they'll arrive in the mail in time for the big day.  And to hear about the crazy amounts online sales made by retailers in a single day!  1 billion US dollars online alone!  So much money spent on things and stuff...

Then, I read about Giving Tuesday, and I started to feel better. 

A day to give back to your community. A day to donate to charity.  A day to compensate for all of the greed and consumption of commercial goods that can all too easily take over the holiday season. 

Charities could market Giving Tuesday as the day to purchase 'gifts' for those on your list who are hard-to-buy-for.   How about hens and a rooster, or mosquito nets for families in Africa on behalf of your great-aunt who has everything?

Or organizations could plug Giving Tuesday as a day to secure pledges from individuals to commit to volunteer efforts over the holidays or in the New Year.  

Wouldn't it be great if Giving Tuesday would catch on?  A movement to encourage us to rethink how much money we spend on 'stuff' for family, friends and ourselves.  On people who already have so much.  A campaign to encourage us to donate as much to deserving charities that help those in the world that truly know the difference between 'want' and 'need'.

There's still time left, what are you doing for Giving Tuesday today?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Should they stay or should they go?

We continue to battle the germs in this house.  I knew conquering cold and flu season wouldn't be easy, but it's only November, and it has already taken its toll on me.  I think the fact that there are three little kids in this family exponentially increases the number of germs we are exposed to, and hence, the frequency of illness.  It probably also compounds my guilt.

I hate seeing my little ones feeling miserable.  But empathy is not the only emotion I feel when they're sick.  I also feel guilt.  Lots of guilt. 

... Guilt for sending them when they should be staying home. 
... Guilt that I'm taking a 'work-from-home' day when they don't seem that sick. 
... Guilt that I kept the older one home from school 'cuz she's easier to look after, but sent the little one even when she's coughing as much as the older one. 
... Guilt that I should've taken them to the doctor earlier. 
... Guilt that I'm taking them to the doctor unnecessarily and using up valuable healthcare time and money. 
I realise that I should mostly trust my gut instinct when deciding when my kids should be staying home, or when they should be seeing a doctor. But my gut isn't very decisive. 

Some things are obvious, like the daycare 24-hour fever-free policy or not sending a kid who is vomiting and has diarrhea.  But it's the less obvious symptoms that always have me second guessing myself.

So, while at home today with my youngest who has a chest and ear infection, I've done some research on child care health policies, public health websites and other sources of information on the Internet.   And, I've come up with the following guidelines to (at least sort-of) follow when trying to determine whether my children should be going to school or daycare, or whether I need to figure out who and how we can stay at home.  Again.

  They shouldn't be going to school or daycare if:
  1. They've had a fever within the last 24 hours.
  2. They don't seem to feel well enough to participate in the activities there.
  3. They have a persistent, phlegmy cough and are cranky or lethargic or wheezy.
  4. They've vomited more than once within the last 24 hours.
  5. They have had more than three bouts of diarrhea in the last 24 hours.
  6. They have a reportable disease or an infectious illness such as impetigo, conjunctivitis, or strep throat.
It's okay for me to send them to school or daycare if:
  1. They have a cold (i.e. sore throat, runny nose, cough), but no fever, and feel well enough to participate.
  2. They have an ear infection.
  3. They have a stomachache with no other symptoms.

I should take them to a doctor if:
  1. They've had a fever for more than 3 days.
  2. They have a really high fever (e.g. more than 104 degrees).
  3. They have a cough that is getting worse or not improving after a week.
  4. They're vomiting blood or there is blood or mucous in their stool.
  5. They have a stomachache along with vomiting, diarrhea, fever and lethargy.
There.  Now that I've compiled some rules and checklists, I feel better.

Hopefully, the little girl will feel better soon too.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Dear Germs,


You are no longer welcome in our home.

I understand that you are only trying to survive by moving from child to child, jumping from hand to nose to mouth.  I appreciate that you didn't come specifically for us, that we are just a convenient vector for your life.  I know that you aren't attacking us personally and that many of your friends and relatives are visiting our friends and relatives too.

But enough is enough.  I don't want you around anymore.

I can't take any more of the fevers and the coughing and the nose wiping and the whines of "my ear is sore" from my children. 

I'm tired of stressing over whether my children are well-enough or too-sick to go to school and daycare.  Of anticipating a phone call from the daycare informing me that my child has a fever.  Of feeling guilty about wanting them to be healthy enough to go, only so I don't have to figure out who's going to stay at home with them this time.  Of wondering if they really should be going to see the doctor or not.

So last night, after waking up with one of my children for the too many-th night in a row due to a fever or cough or stuffed up nose, when I was trying to settle back to sleep, but realized that now I was feeling all achy and congested, I decided that your little virus party is over.

You are being evicted from our home.

We're upping the daily dose of vitamins, adding probiotics and orange juice, 
getting our flu shots, and implementing and enforcing strict hand-washing-no-face-touching-or-nose-picking rules in our house. 

I know that you won't leave without a fight.  But I'm not backing down.

I don't want any more 'sick' in my house.

Kind regards,
Average Working Mom