Thank You for Empowering My Daughter

I got a call yesterday from the school bus driver. My daughter is in kindergarten. We are on school day 13 of the school year. And I got a phone call about my daughter’s behaviour. I was not surprised.

The bus driver informed me that my daughter bit a boy on the bus, that it left a mark but did not break the skin, and that she did have to write it up. To be fair, she said, he was blowing in her face and wouldn’t stop. I’ve separated them. She went on to tell me that she understood why my daughter bit him, and that she explained to my daughter that if anyone bothers her on the bus she is to tell the driver or the aide.

I talked to her and reinforced the “chain of procedure”. When someone is doing something we don’t like we ask them to stop. Then we tell an adult so the adult can make them stop. If they won’t stop it is okay to push them away and make them stop.

We talked about the “golden rule” – treat others the way you want them to treat you. Do you want to be bitten? Didn’t think so. Before you act, stop and think, would I like it if someone did this to me? If the answer is no, maybe it would be better not to do it. Unless of course you’re making them stop because they won’t listen to no.

Today the school principal (Mrs. T.) called me. She wanted to make sure I was aware of what had happened and that she understood completely where my daughter was coming from. She was fully supportive of my daughter standing up for herself and stopping someone who was in her face. “I’m not advocating violence!” she laughed. I understood completely. She has a right to defend herself. And her bus driver and principal understand and respect that. But could I teach her to ask for help first?

Yes. Yes I can.

And I will, because this isn’t about not getting the boys in trouble, it’s about covering her own ass. If she had told an adult he would have gotten in trouble and she would not have. Because she bit him she got in trouble. Yes, he got in trouble too, but biting is a bigger deal than blowing in someone’s face so she got in more trouble than he did.

(I know, it’s not about the blowing, it’s about not listening when she said no but they’re in kindergarten – they are both learning the appropriate ways to act)

If you tell the adult then the person bugging you gets in trouble and you don’t. And if they do it again they get in even more trouble. And when you finally have to hit them, it’s justified and you get in less trouble than they do. May sound like a dumb way to explain it but kids understand it – they don’t want to be in trouble. And it will save her a heap of trouble when she’s a teen.

Because one day a boy is going to snap her bra strap and she’s going to give him a black eye.

And I’ll be damn proud of her.


So thank you to her principal and bus driver for empowering her to seek help and to stand up for herself. Thank-you for respecting her right to say no, to dictate what people can do to her person, even at 4 years old. She will learn that you are safe people, people who will listen to her, believe her, and respect her.



I’m Sorry

When did we give those two little words so much power? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that just saying sorry can go miles towards repairing a lot of things – IF certain conditions are met.

We’ve all see the stories and analogies about the nails in the fence, the broken plates, the crumpled papers. What we say and do has real impact on real people, and it’s not always 100% repairable. You can glue the plate back together but it’s not the same. You can pull the nails out of the fence but the holes remain. Saying sorry goes a long way to smoothing the paper, but it doesn’t get the folds out completely.

I got into an argument with my husband last night. It was dumb. We got a new alarm clock and I kept bumping buttons by accident. Laughingly he took it from me and set it on the ledge. Up until that point it was all fun and games. Then I reached out and pressed the button to turn off the little LED nightlight on the clock. I was careful because I didn’t want to hit the button next to it. I know I didn’t hit an extra button. I was looking at my finger, I saw what I was doing. Still something clicked that shouldn’t have.

ME: There, it did it again!

HIM: Well, that’s because you hit both buttons.

ME: No I didn’t.

HIM: Yes you did.

No/Yes and few times and then:

HIM: It wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t hit the button.

I walked out. I didn’t go far. I just went down and tucked the kids in because they have a habit of kicking off their covers and then I went back. I wasn’t even gone long enough for the knot of anger and hurt in my chest to go away.

You see, we got a new alarm clock because the old one was glitchy. The alarm sometimes didn’t work. But what he said, it made it sound like there was no way in hell there could be a glitch in the new clock. Clocks work right. Tech works right. The wife’s eyes don’t. The wife’s memory might not. And that hurt, a lot.

I walked back in and he smiles at me and lightly says, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have pushed.”

And that’s it. That’s the end. I have to forgive him. I have to be done being mad and hurt. The whole thing is over. But dammit, it really sounded like he was brushing the whole damn thing off. He pushed the game too far and he was sorry.

He was also missing the point. I wasn’t mad because he said, “Yes you did” too many times. I was mad because I was fallible and the clock was infallible. And I wasn’t done being hurt and angry just because he’d apologized.

When I apologize to him I don’t smile. I don’t make light. I give him time and I take the time to really think about what happened, about why he might be angry. I apologize for what I feel like I’ve done wrong, and I really try not to tack the “but you …” on the end. This isn’t about the why I did it, it’s about me feeling bad for upsetting him. And then, if he’s not ready to hug me, I leave and give him some more space and time. At least I try to . I’m not perfect and this process was a long time coming.

Somewhere along the way we end up teaching kids that just saying sorry is enough. When someone says sorry that’s the end of things. That’s not how things work in my house with my kids.

We reinforce what sorry means: I feel bad for what I did, and I will try not to do it again.

If you willfully repeat your negative actions are you really sorry for them?

We reinforce that just because sorry has been said that doesn’t take the pain away.

You bit your brother? You’re sorry? That’s good, but look at his finger. It’s still red. It still hurts. He’s still upset. Saying sorry doesn’t take the pain away. That’s why we have to slow down and think before we act, we have to make better choices so we don’t hurt people in the first place. Maybe we should get him some ice. Maybe we should bring him his stuffed bear. Maybe saying sorry is the beginning and you need to DO something to help make it better.

I told my husband once after he apologized for something that I accepted his apology, I forgave him, but I wasn’t past the angry yet. I needed time to be mad. We really do need that time. Because without that time it dismisses our feelings as unimportant.

It’s more important to forgive him and make him feel better than it is to be angry so bottle that anger away, hide it, you have to be done with it when he says you’re done with it.

That’s not healthy or fair.

We need time to be angry, to work through why we’re angry, to decide if it’s something we can just forgive and forget or if it’s something we need to discuss with the person who hurt us. We need that time because it validates our emotions. We need that time or we’ll just keep bottling up our emotions until we explode and say things we regret.

And by we I don’t mean just women though it does happen to women more often than men. But men are not allowed to show emotion either. Remember that. We live in a society where women must cater their reactions to suit their men, and men cannot show emotional weakness to anyone. We’ve all been crippled by this modern day society. It’s not healthy for any of us.

So, for the sake of your marriage, your friendships, your relationship with your kids and parents, please, take the time to be angry. Examine your anger and decide just how big and deep it is. Please respect that people need time to be angry before they can smile and forgive you. And be honest. A fight is most often a two-way street. I know you want them to apologize. It takes a lot of strength to step up and say, “I was partly to blame for this fight and I’m sorry for that.” And sometimes saying that will make it possible for them to apologize to you too.




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Why? Because Book 2 will be finished by the end of the year, with a little luck. Maybe I’m being sneaky and hoping you’ll like book 1 enough to give book 2 a try. Maybe? *sad puppy eyes* No. Actually, because I’m so excited that I’m past this dreaded writers’ block that I’m celebrating and I’m inviting you to celebrate too.

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The Power of People

Writing is a solitary endeavour. Writers are required to sit down in front of their writing implement of choice for extended periods of time and write. We need at least moderate isolation so we have the focus we need to string letters into words and words into sentences and sentences into stories. Fiction or non-fiction, any genre, it’s really the same story.

Sure, there’s the getting out and getting inspiration part of writing. Reporters need things to report on. Novelists must experience or at least listen to human conversation so they can translate those interactions into their stories in some way. We need to hear and see and taste and touch things. But the actual writing? Mostly solitary.

Organizations like National Novel Writing Month do seek to make the writing more communal with an online group and with local write-ins and gatherings. But even when we sit in a huge room full of people all writing, we are all isolated in our own worlds doing our own writing.

Our stories are intensely private. For writers of fiction we are creating people, worlds, cultures, you name it, out of thin air, out of thought and will. We are magic. We are powerful.

And we are stuck, alone, in a world no one else knows anything about. Because no one else has seen it yet. We’re still writing it, still creating it.

But creation cannot happen in isolation. I’m discovering that more with each passing project.

My biggest project to date – the Zoedavian Chronicles – is teaching me this. I’ve been working on this project for years. At first I was working with a dear friend, but she stopped writing fiction and moved on with her life and left me full control of this world we’d been crafting. To be honest, she was the flash-point of creation, the one who put forth the ideas and the creatures and the snippets of plot and person. I was the chronicler, the sorter. I was the one who asked the questions that allowed us to meld these shards and scraps into a quilt. Together we were building raw inspiration into a coherent world.

But I don’t have her to work with anymore. She has moved on and I rarely see her. This story was too good to be abandoned. And so I worked through the raw material, picking and choosing, changing and reordering, adding and subtracting, until I had something strong and unique and cohesive. It wasn’t right yet, it wasn’t done, but it was a strong start.

A few months ago I printed off the first 100,000 words and gave them to friends of mine. They read it over and we started working through the draft, pulling apart the story again, rebuilding it in a way that left it even stronger. I was hoping it would make it leaner too, but that was not to be. Instead the story has grown again and again and maybe once more.

I just spent 10 hours at my friends’ apartment pouring over drafts and outlines and time lines and maps. We hammered out several huge holes in the plot and timeline. We sorted out 8 cultures, magic systems, and religions. And we have about 8 more hours of work to do on the balance of power between one of the churches and the king. This is work I never would have been able to do alone. This is work that needed more than one set of eyes, more than one sparking point to create, more than one set of ears listening for discrepancies, and more than one sense of humour.

I’m glad I found my people, the ones that will sit with me for an entire day and sort out the implications of allowing a 13th century style culture educate their women, what happens to global climate when you change the land-to-water ratio, what happens when you forget that North isn’t actually the top of this map, and what happens when you have 3 moons. I’m glad because I get stuck in a rut. This is the way it is. I forget to ask “yeah, but what if” and they are glad to ask it. And because they ask it the story has grown some very unique and new features that I look forward to exploring.

Of course I have to finish the Rose Garden books before I can progress with the Zoedavian Chronicles (a working title only). And I will. I worked out what was giving me writer’s block on Rose from the Ash the other day too. With a little help from my friends.