Don't Be That Dad

Make Time With Your Kids A No Phone Zone

Don't Be That Dad

The Windows Phone 7 commercials asking "Really?!" are perfect. We are so attached to our phones we're missing what's going on in the real world.  

It's not just in the car and behind the wheel that needs to be one of Oprah's No Phone Zones - many aspects of our life need to be cut off and enjoyed. I went to the park with my son this weekend and I forgot to bring my phone with me.

I'll be honest, I was fidgety and awkward for the first few minutes, then I let it go. I soaked up the sunshine of the day, laughed along with him as he fought off aliens from his playground fort and chased the soccer ball across damp fields with him.

I am an avid documenter of my kids' lives. I highly advocate getting Twitter accounts for your kids as ways to note the silly things they say. Both of my boys have Facebook and YouTube accounts where I will toss up photos and videos for family far and wide to peek in on their lives.

But while I'm face into the phone trying to get a perfect picture or firing off one final email before I pass him the ball in a road hockey session, I'll often get a "Daddy! Pay Attention To Me!" Then it hits me. I'm "that dad."

It was awesome to leave the phone at home and drown in unadulterated daddy daycare time with my son this weekend.

What are you doing to make your kids "no phone zones" so the time you share is quality time?


The Parents Who Want To be Prime Minister

Behind Each Candidate Is A Family

The Parents Who Want To be Prime Minister

Never mind the politics, what are these leaders like as parents?  Many in the Yummy Mummy Club are wanting to #momthevote by raising family issues in the current campaign.  Let’s take it one step further to find out just what kind of parents these leaders are as I try to #dadthevote.

Only one of the federal leaders has a perfect record when it comes to marriages.  Ignatieff and Layton are on round 2, Elizabeth May has a daughter, but never married the father, while Stephen Harper’s wife Laureen counts Steve as husband number 2. 

Gilles Duceppe with wife and grandson - The Gazette

It’s only Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe who stands alone as the model man of marriage.  He and wife Yolande were married in 1978.  They have 2 daughters, Amelie and Alexis along with 3 grandchildren Emile, Jeanne and Lucas.

Political blood runs through many of our first families.  Duceppe’s dad was one of the founding members of the NDP in 1961 Canada leading Gilles to a politically active life at an early age.  Jack Layton comes from a long line of politicians. 

His great-granduncle, William Steeves, was a Father of Confederation. His grandfather, Gilbert Layton, was a minister under Duplessis in Quebec while his father, Robert Layton, was a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister in the 80s.  Layton’s son, Mike, has even taken up “the family business.”  He was elected a city councillor in Toronto in 2010.

While the Laytons live and breathe this political stuff (Jack’s daughter Sarah and his granddaughter Beatrice joined him on stage to open the latest election campaign) Michael Ignatieff’s family tries to turn the other cheek at the dad who might be Prime Minister.

Theo and Sophie, both from Ignatieff’s first marriage, are in their mid 20s and keep a distance from the campaigns.

“I like to keep my children out of this,” Ignatieff told the Toronto Star last summer.

“They do their thing. And I want to respect their privacy. But they’re very supportive. They think their dad’s crazy.”

Michael Ignatieff fixes a child's hat at the Calgary StampedeIgnatieff’s family life is not a shining mark on his record.  The divorce from his children’s mother was a public nasty affair overseas and there is suggestion other parties have tried some muck raking to open fresh wounds.

Sophie graduated from the University of Edinburgh last year while Theo lives and works in Toronto.  Ignatieff rarely speaks about his children in public, perhaps because of the messiness of the past and because of the learning difficulties Theo lives with that  Ignatieff says “impedes his ability to succeed.”

“This is the life I’ve lived. It’s the life that millions of Canadians have lived. It’s very painful. It’s part of our lives,’ he said in the Toronto Star.

Ben and Stephen Harper at a Leafs game

Stephen Harper is the only leader still with school aged children. Benjamin Harper, (Yes, the piano playing PM has a son named “Ben Harper”)  was born in 1996, his younger sister, Rachel in 1999. As the Prime Minister, his private life is more in the photographer’s lens and he has brought his children along for many official events.  It’s not uncommon to see Mr. Harper taking them to school when classes start each fall or sitting in the stands wearing a Leafs jersey in the winter.

Elizabeth May and daughter VictoriaI’d tell you a little bit about Green Party leader Elizabeth May and her daughter Victoria, but that’s perhaps better saved for Victoria herself.  She penned this piece from The Yummy Mummy Club about her own Yummy Green Mummy.

The span of family experiences our leaders share is a quick look at Canada.  There is a first shot at love that has succeeded.  There are babies before marriage, stepmothers and bitter breakups.  There are those who struggle to get by and those who strive to continue the family legacy. 

Love them or hate them, just peak inside their kitchens and look at who sits around their dinner table and you’ll realize that those “nasty politicians in Ottawa” are just like us.  They’re moms and dads trying to raise their kids right and give them everything they can to do better.

Yes there is rhetoric spewed on the campaign trail about “working families” and their needs but just look at those thumbnail sketches and you’ll realize it takes work to make every family work - and we always don’t get it right the first time.

Advance polls for the current federal election start to open this weekend.  We're all busy parents, so if May 2 isn't going to fit in your crazy schedule, please visit the Elections Canada website to find out where the advance polls in your area are and when they're open. 

You can't #momthevote or #dadthevote if you don't vote.


When I Was Homeless (For A Night)

Supporting the YWCA'S Keep A Roof Over Their Heads

When I Was Homeless (For A Night)

Keep a roof

I spent nearly an hour huddled in a corner of the parkade with my hood pull down tight, not looking at anyone. At first it was comfortable, my sleeping bag a decent cushion, but after 30 minutes the cold started to creep in and I got cramps. I was waiting to get into shelter for the night. It was supposed to be open at 630, but as often is the case with these things, it didn't open on time. No matter, I had nothing but time.

As a radio host, a very small 'c' celebrity in town, we are asked to pitch in and highlight charitable efforts. I've run races, emceed events, decorated Easter Eggs, eaten pies and starred in fashion shows. However one of the most difficult things I've ever been asked to participate in was the YWCA's Keep a Roof Over Their Head. A night where we would experience a typical night in the life of someone on the streets of Calgary.

It started with waiting in line for the shelter. Then we shuffled inside and were given a mat to toss on the floor. Nothing more than the sort of thing you'd use for gymnastics in elementary school. A meagre soup and coffee would follow.  And then, just as things were getting comfortable, the fire alarm went off.  We were ushered back outside for another 30 minute wait in the frigid late spring air.

There were more than 100 of us who signed up for the 'homeless experience.'  It was a chance to spend 13 hours in someone else's shoes and have a deeper understanding of how the other half lives.

Honestly? I was a skeptic. I bristle at the notion of "affordable housing" noting my family has to find something affordable to us and we work hard to make ends meet. Then again, I have a job that doesn't pay minimum wage. Then again, I'm not fleeing a violent or abusive situation. Then again, I speak the language. Then again, my wife and I work together to make things work.

I am a firm believer in personal responsibility, but sometimes the circumstances one gets backed into have dire consequences. Even single mothers with decent jobs can be a car repair or dubious landlord away from being out on the streets.  

I chatted with Pam before we settled in for the night. She fled to Mary Dover House in January 2010, escaping a violent situation. She was 9 months pregnant. 4 days after she arrived she gave birth to her son. A son born into homelessness. Pam is now back on her feet, ready to take some schooling and get a job in Alberta's lucrative oil and gas industry. She says without the YWCA she would have likely had to have given her son up to social services, unable to cope with the situation.

The YWCA's Mary Dover House in Calgary offers a transition, a place for women to escape and find support and the resources they need to get back on their own. They have 86 beds that each cost $20 000 a year to run. The math on that means they need $1.7M in operating expenses to keep things going. That's half of Matt Stajan's annual salary for the Calgary Flames. If former Mayor Dave Bronconnier had decided to be more frugal with his furniture, he could have funded the society for more than a decade.

Back in the gym, the lights were turned out at 11pm and we all huddled on our mats and crawled into our sleeping bags. The lights didn't 'really' turn out though, it was a big gym and needed to have 'running lights' on at all time. It was barely dim.

I had chosen a spot right by the door complete with a mid spring blast of arctic air breathing on me all night. I had 4 layers on and could never get comfortable. I had more than 100 roommates that night, not all of them the lightest of sleepers. To say they snored was an understatement. The echo of buzz saws called back and forth. First a lady on my right, then a man on my left, then a choir of a few more all at the same time. I woke up every 90 minutes or so, unable to get comfortable or completely fall asleep. At least there were no fights or swearing or assaults, the sort of things that keep even the hardiest of the homeless away from some drop-in shelters. It was just loud snoring, still I didn't sleep. I couldn't sleep.

The clock said 1:40am. Then 3:15. Then 4:25. I couldn't wait for 6am to finally arrive when we would all be handed a coffee and muffin. At 730, we all quietly packed up our bags, stacked our mats and humbly shuffled back into the grey parkade and a late spring snow. I couldn't wait to get home.

If I was truly homeless, I'd have 12 hours to find 'something to do' before I would huddle in a corner again and wait for the shelter to re-open. 12 hours to try and recover the rest I didn't have the night before. 12 hours to try and keep warm, clean and entertained before the entire aching cycle would begin again.

When I got home, I spent an hour in my own bed relishing each cushiony coil. I hugged my kids and gave thanks for what we have. I had a long, long shower.

That 13 hours we imagined is reality for thousands of Canadians.  The experience magnified for moms fleeing abusive environments with their young children in tow. 

We raised more than $100 000 for the YWCA that night, enough to give 5 rooms the chance to help a woman and her family make a positive change. We had walked in someone else's shoes, our perspective forever changed.