Tag Archives: Teenagers

I’m Sorry Boys, It’s Not On.

An open letter to every adolescent with a Y chromosome who is in, or even on the periphery of my son’s life … and of course my son himself.

The world has gotten a lot bigger for you all in the past six months. A lot bigger physically in new schools that span from one end of the Valley to the other – but also a lot bigger online. There are more of you. More people you are getting to know, and more people you may not really know, but sure pretend to know through social media. You are all trying to find your way. I can feel it everywhere I turn. And I can see it no where more clearly than online.

And I’m sorry boys, some of this behaviour that I’m seeing … it’s not on.

It’s simply not.

I know I will earn no respect saying it or revealing it, but I’m not here for your adoration. I’m here to raise a young man. And I’m here to care about other young men who are in his life, or even on the outside circle as classmates, teammates neighbours or old friends.

I understand you are all growing up in a world of social media. I understand you are “digital pioneers”, and that we have to raise you to learn to manage living in this new world.

I understand you have all heard, ad nauseum, about the dangers and pitfalls of the ‘evil online world’ of people looking to prey on you, of bullying, pornography and safety.

But today we are not talking about any of that. We are talking about the young men you want to be in this world.

I feel as of late, somewhere, somehow, an incredibly pathetic low bar is being set in your personal online world. And whether you admit it or not each of you are playing a role in keeping it there. Each of you.

The group chats that happen in the guise of team bonding, the snap chats that come and go so quickly you are lulled into complacency, the memes – some specific memes – that some of you think are hilarious because they only step “one” foot over the line in your opinion but not “two” … and the others that are clearly well over any line.

So here are some things I want to make perfectly clear:

Saying “But it’s not pornography” doesn’t cut it.

Do not set the bar that low for yourself or for your friends. Expect better of them. Or get better friends. Choose respect. Expect respect. Accept nothing less.

Saying “But I’m not participating in the chat” doesn’t cut it.

Even if you never post anything derogatory yourself … ever … just being a part of demeaning conversations normalizes them. The undertones are all too often sexist, homophobic, or at the very least elitist. It creates a sense of normalcy that is false and against the values you should aspire to. Just because you aren’t the ones saying the words or posting the posts, you are still choosing to view the conversation. And I know it’s because you are part of a team or a certain group at school. And I understand “staying” comes from a fear of speaking up and being ostracized. I do.

But remember – you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Online, at school, on the sports team. Remember that. REMEMBER THAT.

Saying “I didn’t understand what that meant” doesn’t cut it.

I get it. There are things out there that “I” don’t even understand online! But ask if you’re unsure about something. Ask an adult in your life. Be grown up enough to find out from people you can trust. We are your safe place. They are your safe place.

Saying “He’s not really like that in real life” doesn’t cut it.

This is real life. It’s ALL real life. And choosing who you are online is choosing who you are in the world. If he’s like that online, he’s like that period.

Saying “I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble” doesn’t cut it.

I adore loyalty in my son and his friends. But if you feel that you have to keep covering for people, or if you think our families expectations are too high, maybe you need to reevaluate some things.

I completely understand you all will make mistakes. I completely understand that in the most literal sense your brains are not fully developed yet and you will have an imegdula-hijack from time to time.

I understand. I do. There are no expectations of perfect. But everyone still has to be responsible for their actions. Both on a screen and in person.

To those of you who I have seen with my own eyes post degrading photos and memes about women … who swear in a way that is not expressive but degrading … who make jokes about being gay … who think you are so much better than people who may be struggling academically or those who may not be good at sports … some of you really caught me off guard. I am ashamed and disappointed in you. I am. And guess what – maybe we need to say that more often. Maybe someone needs to be disappointed in you. I’ll be that person if you don’t have one in your life or if their heads are in the sand.

And once again, to those who don’t post these things but are seeing them and not saying something … who are not standing up … I do know it’s hard … I do know that … I do know decisions to remove yourself from conversations and stand up will affect you for years at school. I do know it may mean not sitting at the cool table.

But make the hard decision.

CHOOSE the young man you want to be.

To those who care so very very VERY much about the numbers of followers you have and who don’t know everyone following you (but only know “of” them …) please be careful not to get caught up in that … you are better than that.

Popularity does not equal kindness. As a matter a fact it requires a sneaky exclusivity and disrespect toward others that is most often the opposite of kind.

Popularity is a slippery slope and you can find yourself at the bottom feeling alone all too quickly. Or you can hurt feelings and relationships that become irreparable. You are not better than anyone. Let me say that again. You are not better than anyone. Even if friends and even parents and teachers and coaches and all kinds of peers and even adults are silently telling you you are. You aren’t.

CHOOSE to be the respected young man – not the popular one.

And finally – I know many of you are revered in the sporting circles. I know you think you are on top of the pack ~ or want to be.

But ask yourself “what pack?”

Are the actions you portray on the court matching your actions on social media? At your round tables at lunchtime? Or in the locker room?

Really ask yourself this.

Are they?

I can tell you they are often not. I’m so disappointed in some of you. I truly am.

I’m sorry boys. I’m sorry Mark. I’m sorry parents, coaches and teachers, who may or may not have knowledge of this specific behaviour. I’m sorry world.

But I’m not raising the popular kid, or a kid to “just get through four years of high school”. I want to raise a confident, strong, empathetic, caring young man and I want him to be surrounded by other confident, strong, empathetic, caring young men. Young men who can be proud of themselves and who consciously choose who to be in the world … and that includes the online world people! There is no distinction or definition there.

Please. Please. CHOOSE the men you want to be. And not just in the easy circumstances and not just around the popular kids.

And adults, it isn’t enough to just let these things pass by or not be aware of them because they are online and you may not see them because they are on Snapchat or have been deleted from Instagram or you aren’t looking.

Boys will NOT be boys.

I’m raising a young man.

It’s not on.

And I’m actually not the least bit sorry.


Post Script:

I wrote this about a year ago. Instead of posting it I used it as a jumping point to begin conversations with my son about behaviour I was seeing start to plant itself in and around his grade. They weren’t easy conversations to have and they happened over time. But I am so glad I started them.

Some won’t agree that I choose to randomly look at my children’s phones. Some won’t agree with this post overall. And that’s ok.

Within myself I am personally so happy with the conversations we have had that came from these actions. It opened my eyes. It stopped me from thinking “this person or that person would never do that”. Including my own kids. It reminded me of so many things I knew but needed reminding of.

Even more so I am incredibly proud of my son and the choices he has chosen to make over the last year. They were not easy choices sometimes. But I believe this kid had dug deep into choosing who he wants to be, which has sometimes meant stepping away from some old friends, some new friends, teammates or classmates and deciding what was more important.

I’m incredibly proud of him this past year. I tell him all the time. (And each time he rolls his eyes at me).

Finally, I wrote this as if I was talking to Mark and his peers. In retrospect I would like to add a note to each adult that touches these boys lives. And it’s this:

Popularity, privilege and being overly adored by adults and peers (including parents, teachers, coaches, mentors etc) is all too often where behaviour and thought patterns begin, that can later end in appalling behaviours (such as those by some Dalhousie Dentistry males a number of years ago.) Don’t have your head in the sand or be fooled by outwardly polite behaviour on the surface.

Remember not to equate popularity with positive behaviour.

It begins here. It begins now. And it begins not with “other kids”. But with our own.

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I Do Know

I do know.

I do know I’m abnormally attached to your boys.

No really. I am.

I very much see this for what it is and feel a little sorry for your kiddos who have to endure yet another adult who is so invested in their presence on this earth. Particularly during a time of teenage hood where they would be happy if a giant hole swallowed everyone over the age of 30.

But there I am – always in the wings.

I cheer just a little bit louder when “they” have their time in the spotlight either on the court or walking across a stage accepting achievements.

I tease ‘them’ just a little bit more than their counterparts.

I wave a little bigger and my heart melts a little bit more when I see ‘them’.

I do know my love for them is one that is usually reserved for family members.

I do know I’m a little too thankful for them.

I do know I’m a little too invested in their lives. That I ask about them a little too often.

I do know that when Mark is having groups of friends over I always hope to hear their name in the list of attendees (which is pretty much always true).

And I do know sometimes I even expect a little too much of them – as I do from people I truly care about. I do know the unfairness of that to them – and to you.

And I do know they aren’t my children.

I do know all of these things.

But what YOU don’t know is this:

There was a time in my life I didn’t know my son would have these friendships. At all. With anyone. I didn’t know that he would be blessed enough to have these relationships. That he would know the camaraderie of being one of the gang. Something that has now come to mean everything to him.

And here’s the other thing:

I bet you always took for granted that your children would form these bonds. Maybe you didn’t know who they would be with, or when they would happen – but I bet in life you pictured they would have close friends who would have their back.

There was a time I didn’t.

There was a time I didn’t believe he would have the privilege of fist bumps and shared laughter. I didn’t believe he would be on a court working with others. I didn’t believe he would have that feeling that comes from close knit friends.

So yes. I do know I care a little too much. I even know I care much too much.

But this was a future I never knew he would have, and so the hard truth for you and your boys is this: I don’t know how to be any other way.

Where My Gratitude and Optimism Fail Me

My daughter Megan started her first real job this past Spring. You know – the kind where she has paperwork to fill out and the Canadian Government is aware of her pennies earned.

She was hired as a Swimming Teacher and Lifeguard for a local University, and as I dropped her off for this new stage in her life, like so many moments lately it seems, I thought to myself “How did we get here?”

But I didn’t lament this to her, instead I smiled, waved goodbye and headed back home.

She taught for five and a half hours and every minute that went by I thought about how she was doing. I couldn’t wait to hear all about it (note the artful use of “I” in that sentence. “I, I, I, me, me, me. Sigh …..)

The hours crept by and soon it was time to pick her up. There I sat in the Acadia parking lot waiting with eager anticipation.

Now keep in mind this isn’t my first time to the rodeo. Meg is 16 years old, quiet in many ways, and like many teenagers is used to being somewhat guarded with her feelings around her Mother (who only in the last year or so has started to gain some credibility as a real human being in her mind!)

And hey – I’m a 44 year old educated professional – I know all the ins and outs of effective communication – ask open ended questions – don’t assume – probe -but only gently.

Yup. I had it going on. One skilled communicator. Check.

Until I opened my mouth.

And the following sentence came out:

“So how was it?”

Now I know. I know what you are thinking. 

It’s a pretty damn good sentence. 

Honestly. It is.

Short, unassuming, conscience and open ended.

Sure it is.

On paper.

But it’s me. Have you MET me?

Those four words in print are an entirely different beast when spoken out loud by Mamma Wilkie. Because they are, in my world, spoken with a vocal enthusiasm, optimism, assumption and gratitude that is unparalleled.

Always.

And let me tell you – it’s not always helpful.

So there I am with my high-pitched sing-song eager voice spouting those four words. 

So how was it?

Cue the completely unintended (but none the less present) expectation that the correct answer is “incredible!”

If dancing unicorns wearing rose coloured glasses could have flown out of my mouth they would have.

Oh my. OH MY!!!

I truly don’t mean to do this. And I so much don’t want it to be how I come across. But I have realized I often do. I have also realized that somewhere, somehow, the following happens:

Instantly the air is filled with an unspoken expectation. The bar is set. And we as a family are going to clear it. We are going to be the most thankful, optimistic, positive family this world has ever seen. Because we have been given everything. Everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

We get to be the lucky ones. And so we give back 100 fold. We are grateful 1000 fold. We have perspective. We know what the most important things are in life. Period.

Wow. 

Hold on there Miss Karrie-Ann. 

That’s a bit of an unreasonable bar there isn’t it? Let’s take a minute.

It IS a pretty tall bar – and written all over that bar says: We are over privelaged people who are so lucky to live, work and play in this incredible life. It says positive energy attracts positive energy. If you smile the world smiles with you. The more thankful you are the more you have to be thankful for.

Yup.

That’s me.

Blah. Blah blah blah blah

As we would have said in the late 1980’s “gag me with a spoon”.

But you see … the truth is … my unbridled raw truth is this … i believe in it whole heartedly … almost as a religion. That positive thought, gratitude and energy. It’s real for me – not trite or disingenuous. It’s not trendy or “just a quote”. 

It’s me.

But the other truth is this:

It’s not fair. 

It’s not fair to my family – especially those teenage ones filled with a myriad of emotions so close to the surface.

We all need to be allowed to feel what we feel when we feel it. We are all allowed really bad days. We are all allowed to not be brimming with gratitude every moment of the day.

So I’m learning. I’m learning and I’m admitting to my biases.

I’m learning that even if I’m thoughtful about what words I say or what questions I ask – I also need to be thoughtful about my tone, my eagerness, my anticipation and my unconscious expectations.

Because while gratitude, positive energy and optimism are among my closest companions, they can’t possibly serve me or my family in every situation all the time.  

Otherwise I’m little more than a cartoon character named Joy in a certain Disney movie. (A movie which by the way, gets 5 stars in my books … she says with no irony what so ever.)

Two Days with Five Boys

 A self indulgent, terribly long, tongue-in-cheek post that waffles between the first and third person. Mainly to serve as a memory so that some day, far into the future, I can remember two days with five boys.

Remember when your kids were young and your childcare provider would give you a run down of their day when you picked them up?

This week I took five boys to the city for two days. Here’s my teenage boy version of that run down.  

Day One of Two

Leave at 9am. Stop at Superstore to let the boys spend $40 of my points on snacks for the weekend. They momentarily consider spending all the points on a large stuffed pink hedgehog to use as a mascot the entire weekend instead of food. Teenage stomachs overrule the brief sidebar and junk food it is. Surprisingly though some fruit and cheese are also part of the equation. Small wonders.

11:30 am we arrive at the Oval and rent skates. The boys request sizes that range from 5 to 13. Seriously. When else in life do you have friends that range so much in physicality? 

I learn that The Oval only carries one pair of size 13 skates. At all. Mental note to reserve them next time, and hope Matt doesn’t keep growing, otherwise we will have to rent a sledge to push him around with.

Put skates on and answer the question “do I have to wear a helmet?” Yes. Sorry. It’s the uncool part of the program, and I have big plans of bringing home all five of you with intact skulls.

Out they go onto freshly zambonied ice. (I know it’s not a word).

I immediately sigh with relief as I realize I’m not the only parent who hasn’t taken my child skating since Grade 5. I stand and watch as they look like a cross between drunk gazelles and baby deer. With the exception of hockey-player Daniel who glides effortlessly around the ice with his hands in his pockets like he is in a 1940s Black and White Film. I expect Audrey Hepburn to jump out of the bushes at any moment to skate hand and hand with him. He’s that smooth. 

Meanwhile some of my other flock have taken to utilizing the child-assist skating devices. I worry for a moment if they should be giving them to the small children, but quickly recognize that is a moot point – as the 8 year olds skate circles around my 13 and 14 year olds.

Time for Chris to return his skates and helmet. When asked what last name it was under he says Ann. My last name is not Ann. I have known Chris for 5 years. This will be the “bit” of the weekend.

Chris apologizes. Karrie-Ann threatens to take Chris’ fruit away if he keeps apologizing for things. Sweetest most respectful kid ever.

Leave the Oval. Justin trips over a stick and falls down. He lays in the ground a long time and looks to be injured. Crap. We are only 3 hours in to this weekend and we already have a man down. Damn it. Wait. Nope. He can’t catch his breath because he is laughing so hard. No harm no foul.

Load in the van. Give them choice of where to eat. Will drive them anywhere. They unanimously and excitedly request the food court at the Halifax Shopping Centre.

Huh?

Mental Note: Start taking kids out to places with more culture than food courts.

They proceed to spend two hours at the mall. This is new. The mall? Shopping? I guess they aren’t 10 anymore Dorothy.  

Watch as some girls watch the boys and the boys watch some girls.

Head to the hotel. We have only rented one suite for six of us. They will break some fire codes and “illegally” cram into the living room side of things to sleep on the floor, pull out sofa and “feel” like they have a room to themselves.

I ask three of them to come with me to check in, leaving two in the van. I have a flashback to when the kids were little and I would have never left them in a car by themselves. 

I wonder for a moment if someone might try to kidnap the 6’2″ children. 

Check in and go dump stuff in room. Try to discreetly go back downstairs and sneak remainder of “the children” through the side door.

Learning of the day: They are all too big and loud to try and sneak anywhere. Graceful and sleuthlike is not their forte.

Arrive in room. They hook up the XBOX to the TV. I never would have agreed to bringing a video game system on our mini vacay if it wasn’t for the pending storm knowing we could be stuck in the hotel room a good part of the day.

I learn later that night that there are screens and then there are screens. These games they play – they never stop talking and laughing. It’s very unlike screens when they are on their social media. 

Head to cineplex to beat the storm. Drop boys off. Go shopping. Worry the entire time if the storm will start early as I have four kids who are not my own with me. (The fact that I am literally less than five minutes to the hotel doesn’t seem to factor into reality for me).

Go to Boston pizza to pre-order pizza. BOGO on pizza. Score. We can eat supper for $10 each.

Return to find boys at the theatre arcade. Matt and Daniel are either incredibly skilled or incredibly lucky at an arcade game and receive an unusual amount of tickets to trade for bouncy balls. Which of course they must have. 

The dichotomy of this age is one of the things I love most. 

Young woman behind the counter becomes confused and somewhat defiant when the tall men-like creatures standing before her insist on acquiring all of said bouncy balls with their dozens of tickets.

Sadly Karrie-Ann (again Ann is not not her last name) must break up the conversation as she insists it’s time to go as a blizzard is forming quickly and we do not want to be stuck in the Cineplex with rude-bouncy-ball-lady for the entire weekend.

Eat the cheap pizza at hotel.

They go to the pool to swim. Return within 5 minutes. Too many little kids. (Be still my heart – they aren’t ‘the little kids’ anymore)

Return to pool after some serious gaming. Apparently have pool all to themselves later in the night.

Karrie-Ann chooses not to supervise them at pool – there is only five of them – letting them grow up and go. 

She instead spends the entire hour in room praying they don’t make stupid decisions to dive head first into the concrete bottom.

They return in one piece. Phew. Dodged that bullet.

Try to sleep.

12:35 am. Karrie-Ann quietly but meaningfully turns on her light and shuffles about her room hoping they can see the light from the crack under my door. She hears “shhhhhhh” and laughter. She makes a mental note in 10 minutes she will be less discreet and go yell at the boys that it’s time to settle down.

12:36 am. Karrie-Ann falls asleep. Who the hell knows what happens between 12:37 and 7:00 am. Bars and strip clubs perhaps.

Day Two of Two

Wake up and give thanks that a) it appears no boy wandered out of the hotel room never to return and b) we did NOT get kicked out of the hotel.

That’s how I’m defining success this weekend.

Inform boys next time there will be a morning curfew – no one out of bed until 8am. Matt and Chris agree. Particularly Matt who got elbowed by Daniel several times asking if he was up yet. No Daniel. He wasn’t up. Truth be told though it was Chris’ alarm and my early morning son and Jackson who started the sunrise fiasco.

Boys head down to eat breakfast and play a tournament of something on the gaming system. 

Karrie-Ann drinks two large cups of coffee. Without Baileys. Give myself pat on the back for not being inebriated around the children.

Somewhere around this time they call me on “a swear”. I called one of them a smart-ass. I love they think that qualifies as swearing. I love even more I never heard one disrespectful word from them all weekend toward me. Not one. And that’s the truth.  

Get ready to leave hotel for Get Air. 

Uh oh. Realization that a bomb exploded in the boys room. We may need a late check out just for them to clean it up. 

The sloth-like creatures do a reasonable job in an unreasonable amount of time. How the hell are they so fast on the court?

Arrive at Get Air. Everyone from Halifax and Dartmouth are there. No really. Everyone. People have quit their jobs to come here today. The line is nearly out the door.  

Finally get through. Boys go jump. I go sit and make small talk with other Moms I’ve never met before. Big mistake. I don’t have the energy for small talk. I should have went and sat in the van by myself. 

All five return after their one hour jumping session with no injuries and have apparently not jumped on nor injured any people shorter than them either. 

Once again – success.

Look for van in parking lot. We are all confused when it won’t unlock. Another mental note – pay better attention when renting a vehicle – memory consisting of “blue van” doesn’t cut it in the city.

Pile back into the correct van only to pile back out again after a vote calls for eating prior to leaving. 

Go eat. Sit away from them to give them space. I’m so tired my head feels heavy. Would it be conspicuous to lay my head down next to my quesadilla and take a little nap?

I realize what a long period of consecutive waking hours they have been together – usually they would have breaks in time when spending two days together. They have done very well. They are good kids and they make me proud – even though only one of them is mine – I’m so proud of them all.

Ok. All done. Time to go home.

The drives are always the best part. They chirp each other and make the stupidest jokes and try to one-up each other. They try and beat each other at some game I can’t pronounce. They fight over the back seats which is where they are most squished but still want to be.

There is one point as I’m dropping Daniel off to his house that I laugh so hard tears literally pour out of my eyes. I’m so so so tired. Why don’t I have a vehicle that drives itself?

Two days with five boys. 

Each of who unfold themselves from the van as I drop them off. Each of whom try and find their bags and pillows from the piled-high-Beverly-Hillbillies-Van. And each of whom holler a big and sincere “Thank You” as they drag themselves to their homes.  

Each of them exhausted, over tired and zombie like. They don’t exactly “look” like a great time was had. They are smelly from Get Air. Come to think of it I’m not sure I saw any toothbrushes out at the sink either. And certainly not a shower was had. Will their mothers ever let me take them anywhere again?

But even smelly and exhausted, I wouldn’t trade these two days or these five boys for the world. 

These are the moments.

Oh – and by the way – the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead. 

It’s an inside joke. Which isn’t so much a joke as a game. And which I wasn’t really on the inside of either.

But how thankful I was … to be on the outside of it looking in.

There’s a Big Difference


Dear Megan and Mark,

I love YOU so I will always happily do things for you.

But please know … I don’t always LOVE doing things for you.

Read it again. There’s a big difference.



Love, 
Mom



Last week I was driving Mark and Megan to school. Later that day they had soccer practice, piano lessons times two, a party, and a dentist appointment thrown in for good measure.

In the front seat I was going over the seemingly complicated agenda of the day. Who was picking up who from where, at what time and what they needed to have ready.

It was one of those days where there were four activities, only two of them and small windows to transition between each.

There are days when I feel overwhelmed by this, and days I feel energized and grateful. I’m lucky that most times it is the latter. I’m extremely conscious of how blessed we are to be doing all of this and how each and every activity is a choice made by us. No one forced these on us. It is what we want to do and what we choose to do. 

And although of course there are days accompanied with a big sigh and rolled eyes, because I’m human, this day wasn’t one of them.

So as we were going through the logistics of the day, Mark says to me, “And Mom you get a chance to read your book.”

Wait a minute. Excuse me. What?????? WHAT??!!!!??

Because it’s the way he says it. It is just so non-chalant.

He wasn’t being sarcastic or rude. He GENUINELY thought this was something I would love to do. 

Some “me” time. 

A little “gift” I would be receiving in the middle of the day.

A chance to read a chapter from my book while sitting in the drivers seat on a rainy day cramped behind the steering wheel waiting for him before rushing to the next thing.

It was a HUGE wake up moment for me.

And it dawned on me. He really and truly thought that I was having a blissful time as I waited in that car for him.  

Oh boy. Maybe I’m doing a little too good of job being positive in life. 

Because kid, let me tell you, given the choice, you will ALWAYS come first in my life. I love you. BUT don’t kid yourself that sitting in this car, or driving you places, or having to be somewhere at a certain time, or sitting through a band concert of newbie tuba players, is where I find my deep personal joy. I can list 82 places I do find that joy – but these aren’t any of them.

Watching you play a soccer game, or listening to you at a recital, or watching you in a theatre performance. THESE things all bring me IMMENSE joy. But all the thousand things in between that – to enable those moments to happen – well, just be aware that there in fact is a difference.

So while I love you and am happy to do things for you BECAUSE of that love – I am also a vibrant, passionate, multifaceted human being who has numerous things I’d rather be doing if you weren’t involved in this little scenario this rainy Monday evening.

So as long as we have that straight – which bears repeating:

I love YOU so I will always happily do things for you. 

But please know … I don’t always LOVE doing things for you.

As long as we are clear on that, and the difference that lies there, onward we go. 
We have a lot to do and a short time to do it. Because you are loved. So very much. 

Let’s hit the road.