Posts tagged ‘children’

August 18, 2015

The heart of being a parent

A good quote about parenthood from Hank Lentfer in his memoir Faith of Cranes:

Parenthood is like having your heart race around outside your body . . . . Parenting, from the get-go, is one long lesson in letting go of what was never yours.

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May 9, 2015

Television and the human brain: a healthy combination?

Television: love it or hate it, it is here to stay. I was therefore intrigued to read psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge’s discussion of how “the square box” is definitely¬†changing the way the human brain operates. Whether you see these changes as good or bad will depend on your perspective. Check out the following quotes from Doidge’s book The Brain that Changes Itself, then decide for yourself . . . .

  • A recent study of more than 2,600 toddlers shows that early exposure to television between the ages of one and three correlates with problems paying attention and controlling impulses later in childhood. For every hour of TV a toddler watched each day, their chances of developing serious attentional difficulties at age seven increased by 10 percent.
  • About 20 years after the spread of TV, teachers of young children began to notice that their students had become more restless and had increasing difficulty paying attention. The educator Jane Healy documented these changes in her book Endangered Minds. . . . When those children entered college, professors complained of having to “dumb down” their courses each new year, for students who were increasingly interested in “sound bites” and intimidated by reading of any length.
  • The Harvard psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, an expert on attention deficit disorder (ADD), which is genetic, has linked the electronic media to the rise of attention deficit traits, which are not genetic, in much of the population.
  • Television, music videos and video games . . . unfold at a much faster pace than real life, and they are getting faster, which causes people to develop an increased appetite for high-speed transitions in those media. . . . [T]he form of the television medium — cuts, edits, zooms, pans and sudden noises — . . . alters the brain by activating what Pavlov called the “orienting response,” which occurs whenever we sense a sudden change in the world around us, especially sudden movement. We instinctively interrupt whatever we are doing to turn, pay attention and get our bearings. . . . Television triggers this response at a far more rapid rate than we experience it in life, which is why we can’t keep our eyes off the TV screen, even in the middle of an intimate conversation. . . . Because typical music videos, action sequences and commercials trigger orienting responses at a rate of one per second, watching them puts us into continuous orienting response with no recovery. No wonder people report feeling drained from watching TV. Yet we acquire a taste for it and find slower changes boring. The cost is that such activities as reading, complex conversation and listening to lectures become more difficult.

It is inevitable that the dominant media of the day should shape the way we think, act and interact — the same process undoubtedly also occurred with the introduction of the alphabet, the printing press, the radio, etc.

The real question is whether a fast-paced, stimulus-ridden, “always-on” culture a good social change or a bad one. And beyond that, do we even have a choice as to which way the pendulum will swing?

Doidge spends the majority of his book demonstrating how we can consciously rewire brain functioning in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The brain is a “plastic” and changeable medium; with time, dedication and appropriate exercises, stroke victims can recover lost movement, dementia patients can recover lost memories, people with brain deficiencies can recover lost functions, and the elderly can curtail or even reverse age-related cognitive delcine.

It’s a use-it-or-lose-it brain, Doidge says. The ways you can choose to use it — or let your environment influence it — are endless. Check this book out; it’s worth the read.

December 23, 2014

Thoughts on nature from a wilderness dweller

I’m reading an excellent series of books by Chris Czajkowski, a British woman who has for over 30 years lived off the grid, on her own, in cabins she built from scratch in the Chilcotin wilderness of Central British Columbia. Here are a few of her ideas about the natural world and our relationship to it that I think deserve consideration:

Thoughts on silence, from Diary of a Wilderness Dweller:

Most people will spend their whole lives never knowing what it is to live without human noise . . . . These people, and probably the majority in today’s world, will never know the beauty of silence. And if they were presented with it, it is likely that the first thing they would do would be to destroy it.

Thoughts on how we educate our children, from Nuk Tessli: The Life of a Wilderness Dweller:

People who question leaving the city while their kids are still in school, worried that they might “miss out on something” should think again. To teach a child that he belongs in an interdependent ecosystem that deserves respect is surely the greatest, almost the only, inheritance that he or she needs.

And thoughts on the importance of accepting and respecting all aspects of nature (not just its romantic beauty), again from Nuk Tessli:

Nature is fascinating, beautiful, and uplifting to the soul. It is exciting, exquisite and miraculous. But it is also dirty, uncomfortable, itchy and cold, full of disinterested murder and terror, unnecessary cruelty, misery and waste. To accept the wilderness you have to understand that both sides are valid, both are part of the intricate relationships that give us our water, air, all life-support systems and sanity. To deny one side of nature is to abrogate the other, and to understand the essence of these natural laws provides insight into our own behaviour as a species. We are part of nature and nature is part of us. To ignore that is to ignore reality, and I am afraid that is what most people do.

July 20, 2014

Observed on the street: “Can I drive this time?”

Observed on the street: A young girl of about 5 and her father walk towards their car outside a local drug store. The little girl skips along beside her father, and, as they approach the vehicle, chirps out hopefully, “Can I drive this time, Daddy?”

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July 19, 2013

Put some spark in your parenting!

Excellent parenting advice from children’s author Roald Dahl, as printed at the end of his book Danny the Champion of the World:

A MESSAGE
to children who have read this book

When you grow up
and have children of your own,
do please remember something important.

A stodgy parent is no fun at all!

What a child wants
— AND DESERVES —
is a parent who is

SPARKY!

May 20, 2013

Of archers and bibliophiles

Two quotes today, one for parents, the other for book lovers . . . or both for book-loving parents!

First, from poet and artist Khalil Gibran, inspiration those of us with children:

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

Be patient and aim well.

Second, from journalist and writer Christopher Morley, comfort for those of us with a stack of books always nearby:

There’s no mistaking a real book when one meets it. ¬†It is like falling in love.

How many times have I fallen in love with pages and pages of unbroken prose?  Far too many to count.

April 3, 2013

I am not what I once thought was mine

I like this passage from Susannah Conway’s book This I Know: Notes on Unravelling the Heart:

We could all spend a lifetime unravelling the knots of our childhood, but at some point you realize the knots are no longer yours. They belong to your parents, and their parents before them. The legacy is long and complicated, the damage passed on through generations, until one day someone finally stops and says: This story does not belong to me. 

So many of us blame our troubles and our limitations on our childhoods — on how we were raised; on how we were perceived or treated as children; on the messages we received or didn’t receive in our formative years; on unmet expectations, emotional disappointments, missing pieces and unfulfilled hopes.

But do these stories really apply to the people we are today — to the experiences we have had in our adult years? Many of us have grown beyond the bounds of these old narratives, yet we continue to cling to them, to let them drag us backwards in our vulnerable moments.

What if we were to let them all go? To say to ourselves, “This is a story, yes, but it is not my story. It does not speak about the person I am today. I am more than that. I have travelled beyond the reaches of that tale.” Would our associated troubles lessen? Would our perceived limitations fade away?

Writes Conway:

The past is just the soil we grew up in, a blueprint we can redraft if we look at it from another perspective. What if we retell our stories, and in the retelling the new tale becomes the truth?

A truth in which we are not a victim, not small, not forsaken. A truth in which there is space inside us for love, compassion, forgiveness and empathy — for ourselves and for the people in our lives.

What if, indeed.

March 27, 2013

What we should tell our kids, every day . . .

A wonderful quote from Spanish cellist Pablo Casals:

Each second that we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. ¬†And what do we teach our children? ¬†We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. ¬†When will we also teach them what they are? ¬†We should say to each of them, “Do you know what you are? ¬†You are a marvel. ¬†You are unique. ¬†In all the world, there is no other child like you. . . . Your legs, your arms, your fingers, the way you move. . . . You have the capacity for anything. ¬†Yes, you are a marvel.”

Every child deserves to hear this, spoken with unrestrained energy and enthusiasm, from an adult in his or her life. ¬†Don’t you think?

December 4, 2012

Love the ones you’ve got, while you’ve got them

I like this quote from Canadian poet Lorna Crozier’s memoir, Small Beneath the Sky, because it captures the essence of the ties that bind a family — that hodgepodge of collective memory that only we, our parents and our siblings can access — as well as the very fragility of those ties. ¬†One day, the people who helped colour the memories of your upbringing will no longer be present to share those memories with you — to laugh and cry with you over events gone by; to remind you of moments or details you had forgotten; to understand, implicitly, completely and without question, the myriad currents flowing beneath it all, holding it all together.

Near the end of her book, Crozier writes about the decline and death of her mother, Peggy, with whom she was close. ¬†In the moments before Peggy enters surgery, she refers to her daughter, then fifty, as “still my little girl, my skinny little girl who I couldn’t get to eat.” ¬†For Crozier, those words trigger an instant flash of memory — and a sudden sense of impending loss:

People would stop [Mom] on the street and ask why I was so big-eyed and thin. ¬†What was she feeding me? ¬†The truth was I’d eat almost nothing but bacon. ¬†Outside the porch on a wooden chair she’d leave pieces for me to snatch as I flew by like some wild child, not wanting to come in from playing. ¬†Who else could tell me that? ¬†Who but my mother held those small pieces of my childhood? ¬†Where would they go when she was gone?

November 17, 2012

Laugh of the day – A castle on the corner

Observed on the street:

A young girl to her mother as she points enthusiastically to a building on a street corner in my neighbourhood: ¬†“Look Mommy — a castle!”

Mother, patiently: ¬†“That’s not a castle, that’s Starbucks.”