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Father’s Day Blues

fathers-day-300x300If you’re in North America, you’ll know today is Father’s Day.

While this is a joyous occasion for many families, there are others for whom Father’s Day brings grief, indifference or painful memories.

Stemming from a quick peek at Facebook today, I see that many are happy (me included) to reflect heartfelt wishes to fathers who are present and also tender words for those fathers who are no longer around – both literally and figuratively.

For children living with divorce, adoption, death or who are estranged from their dads, occasions like this spark sadness. Many will be spend today celebrating or reflecting on good times with loving fathers yet many others will reflect on “what could have been” or “what should be.”

What does Father’s Day mean to you?

The Waiting Game

waitlistI’m sad to say I missed a day of blogging yesterday. Dock me ten points during the blogathon. ):

Ironically, I missed posting because I was attending a parent advisory board meeting for a mental health organization and passed out cold when I got home around 9 pm. This was the first meeting of a newly configured board of (mostly) women whose families are affected by mental health challenges.

One issue that always comes up when talking about mental health intervention is waiting lists. The waiting list is the torturous reality that most, if not all, parents and children face after contacting a government-run mental health care agency.

Rarely will a child be seen right away. If there’s a real crisis (and we joked last night about the clinician’s version of crisis versus the family’s version), families can head to their nearest ER and be seen within a few hours.

However, most families require short or long-term counselling and programs for their child in addition any crisis intervention.Because waiting lists are so long (many people wait 1o months or more before their first appointment), frustration, sadness and stress ensues.

What can be done? I’ll be posting more about Ontario’s changing mental health strategy (of which I have some insight) in the coming months. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) also has a decent list of ideas for children and families currently on waiting lists, including:

  • Checking in frequently with your family doctor
  • Putting your child or youth onto other lists for services in your community/city
  • Taking advantage of any employee insurance or private services (which can often happen within days) available
  • Spending good quality time with your child
  • Getting enough rest and having fun with the whole family in order to reduce stress

We have a long, long way to go before lists can be cut down to more reasonable wait times. Parents and kids with mental health challenges have enough on their plates and sitting on a waiting list for months at a time does nothing to counteract that frustration.

Incarceration Day

2prison-05Today I had lunch with an old friend from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years; needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do.

It was great fun to meet again and catch up (of course Facebook provides advanced info). Beyond discussing our youth and mutual friends, S. and I have something else in common – we both work in the field of mental health, family and corrections.

While S.’s work involves hands-on counselling, social work and research, I interview experts and write about issues related to these same topics. We had a stimulating conversation about what’s at the root of offenders – what makes them tick and what many have in common.

This topic deserves pages and pages of research and writing. But, because this is in blog format I will get straight to the point: We agreed that mental health challenges and a history of violence and abuse is at the core of most offenders/offences.

This discussion reminds me of the painfully honest film that shines a light on offenders who have gotten out of the prison system and are trying to make their way in the world. Just thinking about A Hard Name hurts my heart.

While it’s easy to say: “Lock ’em up” (and so we should in many cases), dismissing or hiding offenders away in the prison system does not get rid of the problem. Having a better understanding of good mental health, neglect, and child and domestic abuse is the key to preventing offences and ripping peoples’ lives apart.

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like governments and the public at large are realizing more and more that good mental health makes a huge impact on society.

Virtual Sunshine Part Deux

Zen parenting

Zen and the art of good deeds

In January 2013 I shared this post about virtual sunshine – offering readers links to positive, and inspiring blogs.

I just checked to make sure the links were all still viable and they are.

Even though summer has barely arrived, it’s a good time to get kids thinking about how to do their best and be productive and charitable over the break and into next year.

Sometimes when I need motivation and inspiration in order to dive into work or other endeavours, videos and sites like these help me remember that I’m really just a tiny grain of rice in the massive casserole dish we call life. (: If we can all spread a little happiness each day, then we’re doing a good job.

Om

Managing the Storm

Managing the Storm

She sat dead centre in the storm.

Make it all right she said.

I already did. You’re here now.

The calm was like nothing she’d felt before.

It sat in her heart.

Her soul was full. Calmness.  A new sensation.

Angels drew closer.

She could hear their hearts beating.

On Not Judging Covers

Heart PuzzleToday I had the good fortune of attending day one of The Vanier Institute’s Families in Canada conference.

As one of the only writers in attendance, I met and listened to fascinating attendees and speakers. They included Andrew Solomon, Ann Douglas, Mary Gordon, university professors, and executive directors of family-related non-profit organizations.

So many facets of family were covered: law and incarceration, youth justice, gender roles, work and family balance (or integration), mental health and stress, domestic violence, millennials in the workplace, and childcare.

I took copious notes and can’t wait to digest all of the information and hopefully use much of it for this blog and for pitching story ideas to magazine editors.

However, one of the best and possibly most ironic (or iconic) aspects of my day happened on the bus ride back from the conference. The bus was packed as it was rush hour and I was heading to suburbia. After about three stops, a man in his mid-thirties with a mohawk, earrings, tattoos, white tank and shorts got on the bus with a stroller – an adorable one year old boy was inside.

On first blush, one might think of the situation: Oh, poor kid. That man probably isn’t a strong role model/father/caregiver. 

But, that wasn’t the case at all: The man was obviously loving and devoted to his baby; carefully putting a blanket on him and encouraging him to suck his pacifier to go to sleep. He appreciated all of the coos coming from fellow passengers and bragged about his little boy’s accomplishments.

It was a sweet scenario and reminded me of why I came to this conference and why I enjoy writing about families, relationships, parenting and children: Even families who look perfect from the outside usually aren’t, and families who appear imperfect are often loving, caring, and whole.

Sometimes it’s the little things…

Follow the path to enlightenment

Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend a few hours with my son. While that in itself doesn’t sound like a big deal, it was the quality of those few hours that made the difference.

While sometimes (okay, often) we butt heads or bicker, my son and I had a lovely time running errands, picking out a Father’s Day gift for my dad and his dad, and then enjoying a long leisurely lunch. My daughter was playing with a friend so it was just us – mother and son – for three happy hours.

Sometimes it really is these little things that make all the difference in parenting.