Thursday, 16 June 2016

"I Don't Want To Be Good"

The most epic meltdown as a child that I can remember was when I was about four. Funnily enough I don't remember much about it myself -  it was more the numerous recounts of the event as told by my parents, describing the one monumental tantrum they chose to preserve in our family's collective memory.
Blogger @4: Not so innocent
The story goes that I had gotten some money for my birthday; my aunt living far away in Canada always diligently sent her nieces and nephews in Serbia a generous monetary gift each year of our childhood, nestled in a beautiful Hallmark card. The three-figure number (a lot of money for Serbia) precisely outlined by little perforated dots that felt like Braille on the back, the intricate design on the thick stock of the Toronto Dominion bank cheque. 
So my parents asked me - likely as a joke - where would I want to invest my money?
     "JIK bank - a bank in your home!" - I answered right away and they all burst into laughter.
There was a radio commercial for Jugoslav Investment Credit bank that aired constantly. Having stayed home with a nanny while all the other family members were in school or at work caused me to hear the marketing message so many times a day that I even said it with the intonation of the voice actor.  This had brought on an flurry of giggles. 

JIK bank pin
However, my own parents didn't bank with the JIK bank and no one was seriously committed to honouring storing my Canadian dollars the way I had personally elected to as a young investor. When I realized there was no call being made on my behalf (JIK bank's pitch promised they would even send a representative to one's home to open an account!) I immediately opted for that meltdown that everyone remembers till today. The story was that I cried for hours, voice hoarse and eyes red and swollen. My mother made an executive decision to send me to bed without dinner - likely a difficult and heart-wrenching move for her given at age four I was skinny as a toothpick - a hopelessly poor eater. 

All these years later, it turns out that as an adult I am equally unprepared to deal with authority that offers me a freedom of choice within well-established rules, only to neglect honouring it when decision time comes. In minor cases I am talking about offers which 'expired' and can't be honoured even though the fine-print is clear and the date is right. That's when I become a relentless warrior of the customer service line until the issue is resolved to my utmost satisfaction. In major cases -- well, I am not going to be talking about major cases. You get the point. 

I'm not sure if this childhood incident ignited my moderate yet unfaltering type of righteous-rebelliousness to see each "because I say so" type of injustice through until its very end, but this just might be the case. Don't circumstances usually forge the behaviours? Adamantly forbid something and sure as hell it will be done behind your back: Not staying off the grass. Underage smoking. Experimenting with drugs. Not asking your doctor. Driving over the speed limit. Drinking while at work. Using business hours to browse the internet, write a book, sell shakes, jewelry and even real-estate? 
Pretty much every time a parent, a boss or a politician tries to go hard-ass with some safety or productivity or political rule, it backfires. And in case the parent, the boss or the politician showed a smidgen of incongruence with their own rule - the very core of that structure starts to rot, perhaps not visibly at first, but surely leading to an individual if not collective collapse down the road. 

Bottom line - those making up the rules or making accusations better make them and enforce them carefully - perhaps highlighting guidelines that honour integrity, core values and the big picture; ensuring they themselves first adhere to the very last letter of it. You can't take a 'green day' then expect your teenager to stay off weed. It just doesn't work that way!

My guilt-ridden mother tells me she entered my bedroom shortly after she sent me to bed on that day. My breathing was still heavy from all that drama and she wanted to kiss and make nice, thinking I wouldn't be able to fall asleep until we said 'sorry'.

    "Hey darling, I came to say goodnight. I'm sorry you were disappointed. We will talk about the bank tomorrow." She sat near me and tenderly stroked my hair. "Is there anything you want to say to mama?" 
    "Yes." My quiet voice answered and my mom smiled. I shakily drew a deep breath:     
    "Mama, actually, I don't want to be good!" Then allegedly relieved, I fell asleep. 

The way I try to parent my boys is by being fluid. Have the core rules we are proud to honour in our family each and every time no matter our relative rank by age: being kind, honest, hard-working and light-hearted. Light hearted. It is extremely important not to take ourselves too seriously, let alone make comparisons to others. That goes under 'kind': kind to ourselves. Compete today only with who we were yesterday and no one else. And then there are those rules which are welcome to be 'broken' especially when folks with born-into-it status or those with default authority are in question. By example, I often teach my kids "not to be good"-- coaching them to sense and question inauthentic behaviours and one-sided rules, challenging the unfair, exposing the fake and the ridiculous. Like an everyday version of a PG-rated bad-ass, steadfast in being the proverbial 'troublemaker'.
It's my pleasure to be one!
Proudly raising the next generation of troublemakers! 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Whistle While You Work

One thing that people living in the country where their native language is spoken can't possibly appreciate is the ease of understanding the song lyrics. To you it just comes with ease and zero effort. To me - it's a labour intensive experience and unless it's a karaoke night I am reluctant to sing out loud for over a decade now because of - Brian Johnson.

My biggest blooper with language and lyrics happened when my oldest son was 8 or 9 and got introduced to none-other than AC/DC by his "dad" - a wonderful man and a lifelong friend I rarely mention in my writing although he helped a great deal in raising my son. But I feel that the story of love and respect for the man who's on paper my "second ex-husband" deserves way more than just a blog post. No need to worry M, you can keep your anonymity a while longer, the memoir's not quite done yet!

Long story short, the kid got a boom box from his dad and a few CD's and the next thing I know the door to his room is starting to be more and more often shut. The music blaring behind it is angry; bass and drums are fierce seemingly shaking the very foundation of our East York home. I approach the door in order to intervene about the decibels when I hear my otherwise gentle boy's voice growl the most disturbing lyrics. Shocked, stunned and mortified, I run to the backyard where M is fixing their bikes so they can go for some equally savage ride and mistakenly I repeat what I heard, but first - of course - questioning his sanity as a co-parent to provide such disturbing musical content to my child.

AC/DC fan club 
   "Dirty deeds un-der sheets? DIRTY DEEDS UN-DER SHEETS!?"

What ensued was one of those moments that I only remember in slow-motion. M lifting his face towards me, dropping the greased bike chain on the driveway, whole face squinting into a grimace before his 6'5" frame rolled over to the grass patch where he laughed uncontrollably until the kid heard him, paused the music, got told how I understood "Dirty deeds done dirt cheap" , after which they both continued laughing and rolling on the ground - likely until supper time. Which I probably didn't even want to cook for them!

Understandably so, I stayed away from loud singing until this past winter, when my new set of kids (Oops 1 & Oops 2) fell very much in love with the Disney soundtrack. No, not Frozen, thank goodness but an old CD they inherited from their big brother, the AC/DC fan himself: Villain Songs! #boyswillbeboys

And since the best way to motivate the boys to get ready for school in a flash is to make it a competition (the kid that gets his snowsuit, boots, hat, gloves & backpack on first gets 2 songs on our drive to school while the runner up gets only one) I got to hear a lot of that villain music this past winter. Before  e v e r y  drop-off and after  e v e r y  pick-up!

When the lyrics finally managed to sink with my comprehension what stroke me as incredible were the lessons and social queues I totally missed when I used to hear these songs with Filip many years back! Disney Villains offer some seriously good teachings that can turn to be very useful for navigating both personal and professional relationships.

Here are some Disney song gems:

You can sleep safe and sound knowing I am around!
Have you ever been encouraged to trust, to trust so much so that once this convincing someone hears and "takes over" your worries you can actually 'sleep safe and sound' only to find out you've been conned? Well, if you saw the Disney cartoon version of the Jungle Book you have been taught a valuable lesson early on! Be careful who you trust and share your burden with - if you have to be convinced you are safe, it's likely a deception! Trust in me, Kaa is way more than just a pretty name!

Please be careful and say NO!

"I'm not asking much, just a token really, a trifle..."
Along the same lines is the lesson brought by Ursula the Witch. She nonchalantly tells the Little Mermaid it is actually her job to assist her.

"My dear, sweet child, that's what I do
It's what I live for
To help unfortunate merfolk like yourself
Poor souls with no one else to turn to."

The price will become visible only in the end, when it's too late - when the "favour" has already been completed. And when Ursula coldly says: "We haven't discussed the subject of payment" followed by "It won't cost much. Just your VOICE!" I actually had chills! Sometimes in life one is offered a deal at the expense of basic human rights, their voice included. Given my life's experience, I am dying to yell to Ariel each time "Don't do it!" as I listen to her singing naively thinking she made a wise choice by trusting a witch. This is when my sons go in unison, while strapped into their car seats in the back: 
   "Don't worry mama, she'll get her voice back!" 
Thank you boys. True. She WILL get her voice back. Of course she will. Silly me!

The lyrics state: "Whistle loud and long". Please DO!
Good news, it doesn't always take a villain to give sound advice. For all of us locked-up in a Monday to Friday routine sometimes referred to as a rat-race, the Snow White has an easy to follow advice: 
What is more surprising, these exact words are echoed by grown-ass councillors that are trained to career-coach!
"Frozen", just not by fear!
It might sound simple but it is actually quite profound. Whistling can make the time pass quicker. In case the work is dull & done only for the sake of a paycheque, it will remind you there is much more to life than just work. It is also contagious - the more you whistle the more people will join in making for a jolly company that weathers the daily obstacles together. We are never alone in our problems. Taking things lightly is a great strategy!

Ask any little girl and they'll tell you, no they won't tell you, they will sing you one of the most important life lessons we all - me first - need to get better at: Let it go!
The 2013 animated blockbuster "Frozen" offers the best ear-worm ever created and I am sure to be humming it until I fully and totally get it. Life-coaching taught me to never to allow things to be rushed, but rather acknowledged and processed - usually with a group of trustworthy peeps - in order for everything to be understood and closed. It's only then one can fully and completely "Let it go!"

I'll end my Disney-inspired silver screen adventure with an unusual learning. Can an ultimate villain offer a useful advice that actually rings truer than true? Absolutely!

When Daniel wins our little pre-school winter-dressing contest, being a jazzy kind of kid that plays a
Couldn't have said it better myself!
piano, he always chooses: "Cruella de Vil". When Joshua wins - him being a hearty little rascal - it's "Are you in or out" from Aladdin and the Prince of Thieves. When it's my turn, perhaps because of my fondness for choir music - I always pick Lion King's - "Be Prepared". And amazingly enough it is the worst of them all that precisely pinpoints how I feel these days as I enjoy my life, my family and my work while mapping our amazingly fun summer:
"Just listen to teacher:
I know it sounds sordid but you'll be rewarded
When at last I am given my dues!
And injustice deliciously squared.
Be prepared!"

Injustices can be deliciously squared indeed. It just takes a tiny little bit of patience and preparation: know who to trust, whistle while the work is getting done, then simply claim one's voice back. Then it becomes super easy to let it all go!