an early morning ramble about bullying


There is lots of talk about bullying these days. This is a good thing – more adults are starting to take notice and to take what goes on between kids seriously. More workplaces are striving to create safe environments for the people who make their business or organizations actually work.

Do you ever wonder about the quality of the discussions around bullying? I saw a comment online the other day about how anti-bullying curricula are big business these days. That kind of comment raises a red flag for me. I always worry that profit and market appeal will trump quality and effectiveness. Easy answers are so tempting in the face of the painful or difficult questions in life.

I have three school aged children and we have dealt with our share of bullying incidents over the years everywhere from on the school bus to the classroom to birthday parties to Facebook. And as I am sure just about any other parent to more than one child can attest, all three of my lovely children has the capacity to treat a sibling with less than loving, respectful behaviour. They can be each other’s best friends but they also test out their worst behaviour on each other – at least mine do! Here are some things I have observed and learned over the years while trying to raise compassionate, creative, courageous, just, kind people from the perfectly beautiful, loving, joyful babies I was given.

Self-esteem matters. Children cannot be too loved. I do not believe that constant praise and unconditional support and admiration contribute to a child’s self-esteem, just the opposite in fact. I think that steady love and praise for something the child has worked for or done well is a good thing. I assume the best of my children and see it as part of my job to guide them when they stumble. Healthy and true self-esteem will grow from having done real good in the world as well as knowing that they are cherished and loved. Choosing the right path when in a hard situation is something worthy of admiration. I think children need to know we believe they are capable of being wonderful human beings and that they are capable of the hard work that entails. When a child has been hurt by someone else’s bullying behaviour they need to be comforted, cared for and kept safe. Being treated with compassion plants the seeds that I hope will someday bear fruit when this child offers compassion to another.

When I look at some of the situations my children have faced I think a misguided approach to building self-esteem has contributed to the bullying problem. Everyone feels they have the right to have their self-image affirmed at all times, regardless of their behaviour, and anyone who challenges their behaviour is being “mean” or “bullying them. The bullying curricula seem to have emphasized helping children speak up when they have been bullied – a very good thing – BUT I see little evidence that these programs are teaching children to recognize when their behaviour is hurting someone else. It is all about how others make me feel all the time. Even when children communicate well and say, “When you do X it makes me feel Y, please stop,” most often I find that the reaction is one of outrage and accusations of bullying. Please tell me how it works when one child takes a lunch, name calls or pulls hair, the one who says “Stop!” is the bully?

I would love to see us teaching our children (and adults for that matter) that as well as respecting and caring for themselves, they will be much happier, stronger and more capable if they can find self-esteem in making the world a better and kinder place. You can go to bed peaceful knowing you did the right thing during the day, that you made someone’s day easier or better. Everyone has a right to be loved and respected and that means that we all need to make sure we are actively offering those things to the people we interact with as well as seeking them for ourselves. It is not a one way street!

These are just some Sunday morning ramblings after nearly two months of sickness and sadness around our house. I am tired and my thoughts are not nearly as organized or well articulated as I would like so I am going to consider this the beginning rather than the end!

hooked on colour

I knit for many reasons but one of the biggest is for colour. The amazing variety of soft yarns we can find so easily at any yarn shop today was not so available when I became a serious knitter in the 1980’s. There was wool, cotton, some mohair and a lot of acrylic. I didn’t care so much because it was the colours that drew me into the shops. I had absolutely no respect for gauge or the consequences of combining fibres. When the lovely owner of my LYS at the time (anyone remember The Hill Knittery in Richmond Hill?) directed me towards Kaffe Fassett, I was enthralled. I knit several of his patterns in those years before having children and this is the only photo that I have.

This is my wonderful and so very beautiful aunt wearing one of my version’s of Jack’s Back Stripe from Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Knitting. I recall using about 40 different yarns in this, combining some of them in an attempt to keep the weights somewhat similar. There was a lot of wool, some chenille, a lot of mohair, including one delicious ball that had strands of fuchsia hidden among the blues, purples, bits of black and green. Too bad none of that pink showed up in this picture! The dyer in me needs to take note of the fact that a knitter who loves colour can remember a truly beautiful skein 30 years after knitting it. I wish I knew where that skein came from. I just remember that it was expensive and I only had one and spread it out carefully through this sweater.

The sweater is long gone too. My aunt wore it for years but as it was knit loosely and side to side, it grew and it grew and it grew. She gave it to her much taller sister who wore it for a couple of years and then it was passed on to someone else who pinned up the sleeves and wore it as more of a robe. I have no idea what happened to the other Kaffe patterns I knit and gave away so many years ago.

I just bought the newest book by Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably – Knitting With the Color Guys. Do I really need this book? Probably not, but I have all of Kaffe’s other books and I love starting my day with a cup of tea and one of them, just flipping through the pictures. Over the years I have come to realize that while I love what he does with colour, we do not share the same colour preferences. At one point I purchased a number of his quilting fabrics but when I got home I realized that while I love what they do together, I don’t actually like the colours he uses. Too many yellow and gold undertones for me. I have learned from that expensive experiment and now like to use his ideas with the shades and tones that I love. This quilt was a lot of fun to make and I love the overall effect but if I were to do it again, I would only use fabrics that make me happy. I think I loved 10% of these fabrics and tolerated the rest because they made the project work. Now I would make sure those statistics were reversed! I am still slowly sewing my way through that part of my stash!

I keep thinking it is time to knit another colour explosion but then I look in my dresser and see that as much as I love to work with crazy amounts of colour, I like to wear pretty simple things – except for my socks and mittens. Maybe I should use the colour inspiration with my sewing machine and make another quilt or doctor up some jeans for my daughter. We are having our first burst of spring after a dull and dreary winter so I will get things blooming on my needles and sewing machine to inspire the outdoors!

so ready for a new season to begin!

What a winter this has been. I got everyone back to school after New Year’s with all kinds of good intentions and plans. I even got a few days of wonderful snowshoeing in on the four days we actually had snow this winter. Then one of my daughters developed a strange rash on her neck. It turned out to be shingles and the virus knocked her off her feet and into bed for two weeks. Shingles is not contagious, but the chicken pox virus which causes it is contagious to people who have never had chicken pox. People like her younger sister. Both girls were sicker than they have ever been. When the rashes cleared up and they seemed to feel a little better they both made it back to school for a couple of days and then were back in bed with the flu and strep throat. Between them they have been off school for all but two days of the last six weeks. One of them is finally well again but my little one (do I still get to call her that because she is my youngest even though she is taller than me?) is home sick again today. Thank goodness they have next week off to rest and hopefully recuperate!

So what do you do with two sick girls for six weeks? You make a lot of peppermint tea and toast. You borrow old musicals from their music teacher and spend a few days watching movies like Singin’ In the Rain, Grease and Amadeus. You do a lot of laundry and give a lot of backrubs. You work hard to find a space with no chicken pox on it big enough to kiss on your daughter’s face and kiss it a zillion times in a row to make her giggle and start to feel better. You try not to think about all of the work you are not getting done because really, this is the most important work of all, even if it doesn’t pay one single bill. And then, when you have done all you can think of and they are still home sick and nowhere near ready to go back to school, you find the DVD’s of Little House on the Prairie and before you know it, you have watched every single episode. Who knew that there were ten seasons of Little House? Who else has watched them all in just one month? And while I can’t say I loved every minute of it, it was fun to laugh and to talk with my wonderful girls about the stories, the characters, the issues and to have so much time with them.

I didn’t get as much knitting done as I thought I would with so much time on my hands. I have started sewing again and even figured out how to use my serger. I learned to crochet and that has been fun, at least some of the time. More on the fibre fun stuff soon. The camera still eludes me…….