Category Archives: Stellar (and not so stellar) parenting moments

A paradigm shift in thinking about “books for boys.”

I’ve been paying attention to what it means when we say “books for boys.” As authors and conference attendees we hear the following:

  • There is a shortage of books for boys.
  • Boys are more reluctant readers than girls.
  • Due to number 2 above, publishers lean towards “books for girls” for better sales.
  • If we don’t capture a boy’s attention within the first 5 pages, they’ll put the book down. Girls will read to the end, hoping the book gets better.

What makes a book a “boy” book?

statue-1641760_1280I came up with an answer recently that really bothered me A LOT – adults. Parents, teachers, librarians place judgement and the first and foremost reason for a selecting a book is the main character. Is our protagonist a boy or a girl? And this is the determination of who should read a book. . .  really? Is that where most (not all, but most) of the weight is put on determining what we feed our kids to read?

For the most part a girl will read both “boy” and “girl” books, girls are considered more open minded. Or, is it that boys are considered un-boylike if they read a book with a female protagonist?

My son, age 19, read my book, Empty Cup, for his grade 12 choice reading project last year. Empty Cup would be considered a “girl book” due to the protagonist being a girl. But when I consider the social issues addressed in the book, shouldn’t boys be enlightened also? Anyway, at the time when he read it, my son said that he liked my book . . .yes, I realize I’m his mom. . .

Recently, I chatted with him about how he felt reading Empty Cup. Excluding the fact that I’m his mom, is it a book he’d read or recommend to his male friends. He said sure. Kids today read whatever they want, it doesn’t matter who the main character is. Basically, kids aren’t judged for exercising their individuality, because it’s cool to be different. So his answer confirmed my thinking that adults place too much judgement on what would be appropriate for boys.

Gabe Red Stone CoverConsidered my friend Gabriele Goldstone’s historical novel series. Red Stone and Broken Stone are set during Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany and tell the story of Katya, the main character based on her mother and the true events that happened to her during that time. These books should absolutely be read by both girls and boys as they tell an important story from history in Gabe’s beautiful prose.

Image result for chanda's secretsWhat about Allan Stratton’s books? Several of his stories have a female protagonist – Chanda’s Secrets and Leslie’s Journal for example. Both books very appropriate for boy readers.

Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series – each book has a main female lead character, but the series is appropriate for both boys and girls.

Also consider the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, loved by many girls and boys.

Image result for night gardenerThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier has a female protagonist, the best middle grade horror… sorry, let’s go with “thriller,” I have ever read! Totally recommend for both boys and girls.

And of course the list goes on…

I’d like to ask you to really think about your book recommendations and consider the pre-judgements you make when you recommend them. What are you basing your opinion on? Is it a valid judgement? Could you make the recommendation differently? Scrutinize why you feel the way you do about the recommendation with regard to boy readers.

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I was recently participating in a reading with a teen writers workshop and a boy in the class said he read “anything but romance.” I don’t think boys are as picky as we adults: parents, teachers, librarians — make them out to be. We haven’t given them a chance. We’ve been too quick to judge. Our boys are more open-minded than we give them credit for, and we need to take this into account with our book recommendations. Its time for a shift!

 

photo credits: pixabay.com

Living Ideology – A Wise Father’s Words

opinions beliefs meme

I remember my dad saying these words when I was about 13 years old. He was talking to someone else. I didn’t understand them at the time, but for whatever reason I never forgot them. Eventually, I understood.

They will always need their Mom…

Still need mom

Even at 18 years, they will still call for Mom!

To Car or Not to Car

James — “Did your mom tell you about the other car?”

Matt– “Yeah, but she told me to tell you ‘no’.”

 

*Later*

 

Me — “Hey, I told you not to tell James that I told you about the car.”

Matt — “Wait! I told him not to tell you that I told him that you told me.”

Me — “Well… it’s not happening anyway.”

Matt — “Yeah, James told me.”

 

 

Mind Meld with a Crazy Person–oh wait, that’s me.

“Hey Mom! Led Zeppelin’s playing,” Matt points to the UK Folklorama Pavilion program as James I take our seats across the table from him. “And Maiden Manitoba. Check it out, it’s an Iron Maiden cover band.”

Matt passes me the paper and I read it over – The Revival, covering Led Zeppelin and the Maiden cover band, playing tonight at midnight. I don’t really want to deny my teen son his first love – a classic rock experience – which ranks better then a dreamy girl any day… (I’m his mother, let me believe this is reality.)

I pass it over to James and he reads it. “Oh, yes.” His non-committal response. He pushes his chair back, “I’m going for some steak and kidney pie. Coming for food, baby?”

“Uh, yeah. Matt, you hungry?”

“Not really. Can we stay for this? We have to.” His eyes plead with me.

“Not sure yet.” Which is code for I’ll work on James, give me a minute…

My love muffin and I stand in line for traditional British food. On the menu is the a fore mentioned Steak and Kidney Pie, plus Fish and Chips, Welsh Rarebit, Cornish Pasties, and some puddings which James says aren’t the good ones he was hoping for… We eventually return to the table with food and drinks in hand and Matt looks at me, expectantly.

I give my head a small shake. Not yet. “It is late you know, they don’t come on till midnight. This show finishes at 10:30, then we’d have to sit through a repeat of this show at 11:00…”

“But we have to stay.”

“Had I known they were playing, we’d have just come for the 11:00 show.”

“But, Mom!”

“I’m not even a big Zeppelin fan…”

We sit in silence for a bit, nibbling on food that I come to realize is awful. “I don’t like your country’s traditional food, babe.”

He nods. “This is awful, whoever cooked this should be shot.” (Yes, ladies… all spoken with a true English accent.)

I pass the program over to James. “So, what do you want to do about this?”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the United Kingdom Folklorama Pavilion…” Opening remarks boom out over the crowd.

Our conversation is drowned out by the start of the show. During a quieter number, I tap James arm, point to the paper and raise my eyebrows. Give a little nod. (We can stay for a bit right?)

James tips his head to the side. (I’m not sure.)

I shrug one shoulder, shift my eyes to Matt, back to James and nod. (Just two songs… we’ll just stay for two songs.)

James widens his eyes and makes a quick nod. (Two songs, sounds great to me!)

Fantastic, I lean over to Matt, “We’ll stay for a couple of songs and see how it goes from there.”

A happy boy.

The show ends at 10:30 and we meander slowly around the cultural display upstairs, twice even… we do have time to kill so might as well take in all the details.

A make-shift tea room is set up on the main floor at the far end from the stage. “I haven’t had high tea for years,” James says, being reminiscent of home. We enter the small restaurant and sit down. The three of us chat, spend a little time on our cell phones, the boys nibble on date squares, I watch the 11:00 show playing behind them (a repeat of the 9:45 show.) James has three cups of English Breakfast. The show ends at 11:45. Fifteen minutes to the Zeppelin cover… Matt’s blood courses through his veins with his shots of adrenaline. He doesn’t often get excited, but I can see him… kinda bouncy.

James stands up, “Well, I guess we should make a move.” (“Time to leave” – for those who don’t speak British lingo, I learned this on our third date, but that’s another story!)

“What do you mean leave?” I’m bewildered.

He sits back down.

“What? No!” Matt looks at me.

I look at James, “We agreed we were staying for a couple songs to see how it goes.”

“When did we agree to this?”

“You know, before, at the table, I did the eye brow raise thing and you did the shrug and head nod thing and we did the mind meld thing and agreed to stay for two songs.” Now that I say it aloud I do realize I’m a crazy person, but why stop now.

“I did not mind meld with you!” James disbelief rumbles.

“I thought that’s why were sitting here for so long drinking tea… wasting time till midnight.”

James says, “I was just enjoying tea.”

“Oh.”

Matthew pipes in, “We’re staying right?”

“Well, it’s almost midnight, I say we stay for a couple of songs and see how it goes.”

James agrees.

… And there you have it, a failed mind meld.

 

However, the evening was stellar fun. The bands were fantastic and we ended up staying until 2:00 a.m. So worth it to hear my teenager say several times, “This is great, so much fun.”

 

The Fidget Box

While attending a foster parent training, there were several items placed in the middle of each table. Observing that most people didn’t know what to do with these items, left them alone (me included) assuming they were part of the training to be used later. A few people at other tables were playing with items which  included, play doh, stress balls, crayons/paper, dice. The training commenced and the items were never mentioned…

The Fidget Box

The Fidget Box

At a later date, we had the same trainer for a different topic, and again these items were on the table. This time, before the session started she announced that these were fidget items and we were welcome to “fidget” while she spoke. Having “permission” to touch, suddenly many people in the room were testing out different items to mold in their hands, or wrap around their fingers, or doodle while the instructor spoke.

This gave me the idea of the fidget box. It sits in the middle of my dining room table – ALL THE TIME. I only remove it if we’re playing a board game and need the space. Otherwise it sits there, in the middle of all of us. I don’t allow play during meal times, but before and after is fine, and any other time is always open season on the fidget toys.

This is one of the best investments I’ve made. The toys are inexpensive and small. I have two strict rules. One, only fidget toys in the fidget box (not pens or feathers or craft left overs or FLYERS!!!) And two, that the fidget toys are always returned to the fidget box when done with them.

What’s in the fidget box?

fidget box close2 fidget box close1

  • Frog musical instrument
  • Several spinning tops
  • Rubber alien finger puppets
  • Jacobs ladder (A big favourite, just how does that work?!?)
  • Stress balls, squishy balls of different textures (one of them makes an infectious giggling sound)
  • Search and find bottle
  • Search and find wand (another favourite)
  • Bead maze
  • Hand held games
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Magnetic sculptor (don’t put this beside your laptop!!! Experience talking…)
  • A bag of storyteller chips (purchased from my good friend at Withershins Ink)

I encourage everyone to make their own fidget box. Adults love it just as much as the kids do!

Stop Touching Me!

Child 1 ~ “Stop kicking me.”

Child 2 ~ “He’s touching me.”

Child 1 ~ “You’re kicking me.”

Child 2 ~ “Suzanne, he’s squishing my toes.”

Me ~ “OK, everyone freeze, no one move.”

*pulls out phone and sets camera, clicks picture under table.*

To child 2 – “Put your feet back to your side of the table.” and to Child 1 ~ “We’re in a restaurant, put your shoes back on!”

Nothing like photo evidence 🙂

who's touching who feet