Sunday, 23 November 2008

Excellent use of the materials at hand? Are you resourceful?
Excellent use of the materials at hand.

That's what I think of when I hear 'resourceful.' 

Then there is the opposite of resourceful. I can't decide if it's impatience, selfishness, expediency or some kind of sense of being indestructible, or even that it just doesn't matter, really.

That the consequences, whatever they may be, are deemed not important enough (or is it likely enough) to sway the decision.

Unbelievable decisions have become something of a theme around here these days. The tragedy that started me thinking about this was a 32-year-old who fell off the 15th floor of my daughter's building and died from the impact with a balcony rail and a concrete planter and the ground. Her distraught co-workers and friends insist 'it wasn't stupid it was just poor judgement' ... which is a synonym, I thought, but whatever...

Now I think: if there was anything I wanted my kids to take with them into adulthood, it was a sense that there is more than one way to accomplish anything, and it's usually a good idea to think of more than one before acting on a plan. The aforementioned woman had locked her keys in her apartment and instead of any of these choices:
  • get the other set from her new husband, at work 6 blocks away
  • call a locksmith and pay $50 to be let into her home
  • call the manager and have him use the passkey (no cost)
  • wait somewhere else until her husband arrives home from work (several hours)
  • try breaking in herself
  • find some strong guys to break the door down
  • get the keys from her husband, get another set cut and return his keys to him
Which seem to me to mostly be pretty sensible ideas... Instead, she decided to climb down to her 14th floor apartment from the apartment directly above, without a safety line. I've done a small, informal survey: no one, of any age, who I've ever talked to about this has ever thought it was a smart idea.
My daughter lived on the 17th floor, and I wouldn't have leaned over that railing to catch any falling object (I'd make a stab for one of my kids, but otherwise, not even for a cat.) I'm not wigged out by the height, I think it's fun to look over the edge and see all the little stuff below, but I wouldn't throw my weight against the railing for anything.

The apartments in this building have 10' ceilings, and there is no 13th floor (or, rather, the 14th is the 13th floor) so when she landed on the ground level with the 2nd floor, she fell more than 120 feet. 

A review of her plan: instead of hesitating or being talked out of this idiotic plan by the wise, elderly woman who tried, this not-young woman decided it was so important that she make her apartment perfect for her new husband that she would not be swayed from what appears to be the first solution that occurred to her, full of confidence that she would absolutely succeed because, as she told the neighbour, 'I climb mountains.' of the unfortunate realities of life is that sometimes the single dumbest thing we ever decide to do is also the single last thing we ever do. 
If you can't be a good example, at least you can be a horrible warning.
This story, and all the folks who one way or another make it into the Darwin Award nomination list, points to a sense of 'I couldn't (or didn't) think of anything else to do in the situation.' This lack of creativity just astounds me.

So, kids, resourcefulness may some day save your life, without you ever really noticing.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Overwhelmed already? 'Tis the (frantic) season (in a few weeks)
Oh, man... I feel it. The neighbours across the street had their Christmas lights up (and lit) before Halloween. The stuff in the stores started appearing in August. The ads started in the papers, on bus stops, in stores and on tv by Canadian Thanksgiving (second Monday in October).

While I appreciate that stores are hoping to make 50% of their annual earnings between October 15 and December 31, and that everyone seems to be celebrating earlier and earlier... People, could we have some restraint. 

Have you lived with a 2 year old through 10 weeks of immersion in Christmas? By the 13th of December, they are already overwhelmed, and the excitement of Christmas Eve often makes them barf. 

There is simply no way that kind of ongoing hype can lead to anything but disappointment.

What is a thoughtful parent to do? How can we protect children from the onslaught of all-things-merry-and-bright while sustaining the magic of the season, and not go broke or crazy ourselves in the process?

Sane Holiday Preparations
  • make two budgets -- one for time/activities and one for money
  • slow down in general -- if it's a special season, all the regular stuff need not be done in addition to all the seasonal stuff
  • find out what you do love about the holiday season and do that
  • determine what you find a burden about the holidays and do not do that
There are many books and websites about bringing the meaning back to the season, filled with great tips for making the holidays personal again, and taking out the obligatory unpleasantness. Many even include suggestions for helping relatives near and far understand why you're opting out. 

Stay focused on the things you love and ignore the pressure to do everything.

There Are SO Many Things To Want

Here are a few suggestions for avoiding the wall-to-wall advertising aimed at your kids, so you don't have to deal with the non-stop 'wants' and to prevent some of the more predictable sources of disappointment:
  • instead of going to the mall or stores:
    •  go to a park and feed the ducks or to look for the seasonal changes
    • visit friends or relatives or local nursing homes
    • play in the yard in all weather except horizontal rain and blizzards
    • go to the library and pick out seasonal books, DVDs, CDs or to enjoy the seasonal activities
    • look at the local events pages and do something new: go to a concert, look at the tree decorating competitions or craft fairs or other fundraisers, parades...
    • walk around the neighbourhood after dark to see the light displays
  • instead of watching tv and listening to radio (advertisements):
    • stream tv and movies, ad-free, from online services (a subscription will save you a lot of money, and you can have on just for a few weeks or months), an ad blocker app can help
    • watch videos or DVDs and listen to recorded music
    •  check your friends' collections and the library for free variety
  • instead of shopping (where all that stuff to want is displayed so alluringly) for gifts for others
    • make gifts --libraries have a whole section of gift crafts, and there is Pinterest
    • take already-made artwork, or have the kids make more, and frame it for aunts, uncles, grandparents --they are obliged to appreciate kid art

  • instead of having the kids make a single request from Santa
    • get them to make a long, long list, of all the things they would like, so there are various price points for different budgets and not a single focus on the Santa request (or the guaranteed disappointment of not getting the live baby tiger)
    • get them to make lists and plans for what they're going to give others, how they are going to surprise or delight their friends and family (to focus their attention on the fun of giving to others instead of the greed of getting.)

In all your delightful free time, you'll find it an attractive idea to engage in a seasonal craft or baking project

You will probably save money because in the absence of all the 'great ideas' suggested by advertisers, kids generally come up with much shorter, more personal lists.