Wednesday, July 29, 2009

spoilt brats

While I truly do love children, I have little fondness for spoilt brats. Why? I think it's because throughout all my childhood, from early memories when I was about 5 years old right up to my high school guidance counsellor in grade 10, I was labelled as a spoilt brat. I got to be an expert on what a spoilt brat was, because I wanted to know what it was I was accused of being.
That first memory, when I was about 5 years old (maybe four years old), was of being in a queue to see Santa Claus in a department store. A lady asked me if I was going to ask Santa for a doll. I said no, because I already had nine dolls. She put her nose in the air and said loudly to her friend, "Humph! She's obviously a spoilt brat." To this my mother took exception, and hastily explained to the snooty lady that the reason I had nine dolls was because our house had recently burnt down, and neighbours gave me dolls and dresses. All mine had been burnt in the fire, and we were still basically homeless. But I, homeless or not, I was a spoilt brat.
That last time I recall the accusation, from the high school counsellor, occurred when I went to see her about which courses I should take the following year. My mother and step-father were alcoholics, and there was not a chance in the world that I would be able to take post secondary courses anywhere, certainly not in a university, and so I needed to know which courses would help me get a job as soon as possible, so I could support the "adults" and myself. The counsellor didn't glance up to look at me when I entered her office. She just took a file folder off the top of a heap, read my name aloud, I responded. She opened the file and read "only child", and commented, "Humph! Obviously a spoilt brat." I sat stunned and waited while she grilled me about my friends and courses, and announced that she had an address for me to go and apply for a job as a clerk typist in Vancouver's poor end of the business section--near Main & Hastings, for those of you who know the area.
So, what is a spoilt brat? Well, if you're talking about me, it's a homeless child with more dolls than she knows what to do with, and who has no siblings to help with useless parents.
Being homeless, or almost so, means never having friends from one year to the next--always being the "new kid" and therefore the one who is the butt of jokes and/or who is left out of games. Even those who are the "last one chosen" have it better than the new kid who gets left out of the game altogether. We're the spoilt ones, remember?
Having no siblings was sometimes seen as a blessing by some kids I went to school with. They fought with their brothers and sisters. They complained about their brothers and sisters. They were jealous of one another, and seemed to really hate each other. BUT, let an outsider (like me, for instance) say one word against said siblings, and then the family closed ranks and the outsider was pushed off the planet altogether. Out in the cold all alone, I'm a spoilt brat.
So, what can a person do to avoid being a spoilt brat? First of all, one needs parents and, if possible, siblings. Then, it seems to me things fall into place IF these parents (and older siblings if there are any) teach the potential spoilt brat that he/she is NOT the centre of the universe and does NOT have the right to write all the scripts for the rest of the world. In other words, a child needs to be socialized. And that means (I know this is unpopular) he/she NEEDS to be disciplined. Disciplining a child does NOT mean being unkind or abusive. That is inappropriate behaviour for anyone of any age. It means teaching by example. An example of what? Of courtesy, not demanding one's own way all the time, not expecting to be first or have the best. This is tricky, because if parents always give way and take last place and settle for worst, they have to understand that the example they are giving is not what it seems to be. If the child never has to obey, he/she learns that obedience is never expected and never needs to be observed. If the child always goes first and gets the best, he/she learns that this is their entitlement and it's the way it should be. And now you have a spoilt brat. (Regardless of how many toys and siblings are available in the family.)
Spoilt brats come with excuses for bad behaviour which their parents have taught them. "He's over-stimulated" was one I heard today. Huh? He has to be bored before he'll cooperate? Or, "He has special needs." Guess what! I've never met a human being who didn't have special needs. But in a class of 30 kids, if your child expects to get special attention, that means that 29 other children must be neglected. If you truly feel that your child is that special, then either homeschool him or get him a tutor. Do the school system and all teachers (and all other families in your neighbourhood) and keep him away from public schools. If, however, you love your child so much that you hope others will at least like him and want his company, then do him a great favour: Socialize him and discipline him. This is the greatest favour you can do him--and the rest of us. Otherwise, you're raising a spoilt brat. I've been there and it's not fun.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

catching up

More than two weeks have passed since my last entry. The weather has been SO hot that I can barely tolerate in--and I usually love the heat. I spend most of my time in an attic room I like to call a "loft", but today I can't even go up there. The temperature is 98 degrees Fahrenheit--it sounds more than 31 or whatever, celcius. I remember once being in Madrid when the temperature was 40 degrees celcius. It was evening, and y'know, it was not as hot as we're having it now.
This week, my hubby and I, with the help of two of our sons, are busy with Vacation Bible School at St. James' Anglican Church. It's "Paul and the Underground Church". We're having a lot of fun, and it seems that the kids are enjoying it too--and learning a lot, too. Our rector, Fr. Mark Greenaway-Robbins, is playing the part of St. Paul, chained to a "guard" behind "bars" in the baptistry of the church, currently a "jail". In the nursery room downstairs, black plastic coverings have converted the usually welcoming area into a "cave" where the Christians hide their church. In the Upper Hall, we have a marketplace where the children can spend their denarii on making mosaics or learning about Roman Numerals or making wreaths and leather bracelets, among other things. During marketplace time, there is usually a two-minute drama, such as the freeing of a slave or hiring of an architect to build the emperor another villa. The day starts and ends with a worship time, consisting of learning some songs, and spending time in small groups ("families") setting up for the day and summing up the day. The programme is produced by Concordia Publications, and we're having a lot of fun with it. We chose that programme mainly because it can all be done indoors. Our church is located in the poorest postal code in Canada, usually called the "Downtown East Side" of Vancouver. To use one of the local parks, we'd have to clear away hypodermic needles and avoid possible intrusions by the prostitutes and drug-dealers. These people are always welcome in the church, but we don't have to take the children to play in their territory.
We still have three more days of Bible School to go, but so far we're having a blast!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

short story

There's a website: where we can find contests for poetry or short stories. So, a few days ago I wrote a first draft of a short story, polished it today, and faxed it in to the contest. Keep positive thoughts!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

family fears

This morning I woke up, not to the alarm which was set for just after seven, but to the phone ringing a minute or two before the alarm. A stranger asked, "What kind of car do you drive?" The conversation that followed led me to believe that our car might be stolen. By the time I got to a window to see my car safe in the driveway, I had learned that it was actually my son's car in question. For the next hour, my husband and I were torn up with fear for our sons. Neither could be contacted by cell phones or otherwise. Eventually, it turned out that the car was not stolen. It had been left at the home of a friend of a friend while they went off to Alberta in search of a job. How did I find out? The police were involved, and the friend's friend's roommate had the information.
Now, my sons are not kids. They're middle-aged men, and don't have to call "Mommy" every time they want to go some place. But it would be nice to have a phone call once in a while, so that we don't go through agony for nothing. Of course, I'd rather go through agony for nothing than have it turn out to be something worth agonizing over. Moral of the story: let family know when you plan to be away from home for more than a day. It's just the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Would you want your mother to go missing for a couple of days???? Check in from time to time as an act of common courtesy and kindness.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

writing short stories, etc.

Writing short stories has never been a goal of mine. My mother wrote them all the time, most of them excellent but only one got published. I've written a few, but without success--that is, I wasn't satisfied with them. Right now, there's a competition with the deadline July 15th. I'm aiming to get something sent to them. It's only 750 words maximum, so.... That doesn't make it easy, just not a long term commitment. I'll write a story and send it off. Maybe I'll write some more, just to have ready in case another competition comes along, or I spot a market for short stories. In preparation for this competition ( I downloaded the winners of the last competition and have been reading them for inspiration and an idea of what these judges are looking for. It's a Canadian publisher, and there's no entry fee, so what can I lose?
As for the "etc." in the heading, it's to do with a goal I've set for myself. I have been keeping up with it for a few weeks now, and it's working for me. That is, I must write at least 500 words every day. That is EVERY day. AT LEAST 500 words. So far so good, but that's not the goal. The goal is to work it up to 2000 words a day. I've been over 1600 words, but have not yet reached 2000 words in one day. Some days, just getting 500 is a struggle. The above short story accounted for that minimum yesterday. That's just the first draft, of course. Most of the time this month I've been working on a middle grade novel. Some days it flows, other days it doesn't. But at least I'm writing every day now. For a while there, I wasn't.