“Cancer” and “Child” don’t belong in the same sentence.

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Auntie Says…With caring comes vulnerability.

It’s a Tuesday morning and I just left the Penticton casino. No, I’m not a gambler. I went to the pancake breakfast fundraiser being held for Wills Hodgkinson, a local boy who’s fighting cancer at the Vancouver Children’s Hospital. I don’t usually go to these kinds of things—in fact that was my first. I guess I’ve always felt such events would be attended by family, friends, co-workers—that sort of thing, and me showing up, being a complete stranger, seemed a bit weird, maybe even intrusive. I’ve always been one who preferred to show my support from the sidelines. 

Today was different though. In fact the entire week has been a weepy one for me. I don’t know if it’s the Humboldt Broncos tragedy or the picture of seven year old Wills sitting beside an RCMP officer looking up with those big, round, trusting eyes. When I think of either situation I’m reminded of the vulnerability of life and the pain that comes from caring. 

I knew I couldn’t be in Saskatchewan but I could attend a pancake breakfast fundraiser. When I saw Wills picture—his eyebrows raised, not quite in question, but in awe and wonder—I felt drawn, compelled even, to somehow connect. I think what I saw in Wills was every child I’ve ever known and loved. I look at the picture of a little boy, dwarfed by the man-sized police cap he’s wearing, and don’t see the suffering, or the fight he’s facing, just the innocence of a child loving life.

So, I went alone to the pancake breakfast. I had no idea what to expect going to such a fundraiser. Upon entering a young girl asked me if I wanted to sign a card for Wills. Again, my answer normally would have be no—he doesn’t even know me, why would it matter? But I picked up the pen and wrote to him. I told him that I’m in this fight with him. As I was printing as neatly as I could, I held back tears and turned my back so no one would see. I stuffed my donation in the box and then grabbed a plate of pancakes and a cup of coffee. I was relieved that a small booth, tucked in the far corner, was empty. It allowed me to sit away from others so I didn’t feel like I had to talk to anyone. Even though it was a public community fundraiser, I didn’t want to appear nosy or meddlesome—I simply wanted to offer my silent support and then slip out.

I nearly accomplished my mission when a lady approached my table. She smiled and held out her hand to shake mine and said, “thank you so much for coming, I’m Wills Grandmother.” Well, that was it for me. The lump in my throat that I’d forced down returned and I couldn’t speak. Suddenly, holding the hand of that little boy’s grandmother, I became a quivering mess. My biggest fear had come true—I looked like the idiot stranger blubbering in the corner over a kid she doesn’t even know. I felt so stupid—and completely vulnerable. The grandmother patted my hand and smiled. She comforted me and then told me that Wills was having a good day and the family was taking everything one day at a time. She exuded a quiet confidence and strength that made me think that Wills was very fortunate to have this lovely lady in his life.

She pointed out all Wills fellow students who were there to help with the breakfast. “He’s really a lucky boy. He has so many friends,” she said. She then told me how his classmates gave Wills an iPad to communicate with the class and that they were planning a field-trip down to see him. She thanked me again and moved on to other guests in the room. I sank back into my booth wiping away my tears and thought of all the kids who’ve passed through my life. My son, many nieces and nephews, and the children of friends…too numerous to count.

While there’s no way to reconcile such a huge disease being foisted onto such a little person, I hope that the fundraiser helped. Supporting means something different for everyone. It may mean donating, volunteering, or perhaps saying a prayer. It’s personal and private, though we all recognize that the one suffering is actually a representative of the possibilities for any of us. 

Stay strong Wills. Your parents have named you well—with a solid will comes determination and strength. You’re in my thoughts little man. xo

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. You can reach her at faye.arcand@icloud.com or www.fayeearcand.com  

Auntie Says…The term “bully” is over-used and doesn’t mean anything anymore.

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Auntie Says…Bully? How about tormenter or bulldozer?—it’s a better fit.

There was recently an article in the news about a school bullying incident that escalated to the point of involving the police. Apparently the Principal and staff could see the situation getting out of hand and chose to use every resource at their fingertips. Bravo. 

The Administrator and staff aren’t miracle workers and realized their own limitations in dealing with a simmering situation. Having outside support is huge in taking a stand against the unrelenting bullying that some students inflict and others suffer.

It was the comments following the article that I found to be most insightful. Many said they were teaching their children to fight back—‘knock the other child down’ they said ‘and then kick them’. While the comments didn’t shock me, they made me sad in that there is a misunderstanding as to what is actually happening in the schools and it makes me think that we need to re-think the word “bully”. 

The word is used to conjure up the image of an overly aggressive kid who pushes a smaller one down and steals the ball. That kind of hands on school-yard posturing hasn’t changed over the centuries and is only part of the picture. Parents telling their kids to fight back are not wrong because they’re giving their kid permission to have a voice. It’s a matter of “how” they fight. Hands on doesn’t work and chances are the kid retaliating will be the one who gets in trouble. We’ve all heard it—he started it—but it doesn’t make a difference. Having someone treat you badly is not ok and screaming bloody murder until an adult arrives (or the aggressor leaves) is an option.

 

Bullying has evolved over the years. It doesn’t necessarily mean hands-on, violent confrontation—it’s become sneakier, slimier, and more silent. Imagine someone walking by your work station every day, several times, whispering, ‘you stink’ or ‘I’m gonna get you’… always out of earshot of any authority figure. What if you were being deliberately ‘nudged’ in the hallway—just enough to throw you off balance—constantly. It’s sometimes done with a smile by someone who’s considered a “good kid” and not necessarily your likely suspects. It can be like a game or power play to them. Imagine going to work everyday and having your co-worker treat you like that. What if, every single day—over and over—you’re told you should ‘go kill yourself’…‘go off and die’…‘no one loves you’? That’s a slow erosion of an individuals self worth and confidence. You might want to punch them in the face in the lunchroom, but then what?

I remember reading about a woman who was the target of an online hate attack. She said that though she knew all the words were false, it ate her up inside. Every time she turned on her computer it was there…mocking her. While computers and phones can be turned off, the hateful whispers, innuendos, the seemingly innocent jabs in the hallway, or the open mocking by individuals, doesn’t go away. The question I ask, is whether or not this nonviolent/hands off bullying is being viewed as being as serious as a bully knocking down a kid and stealing the ball. I’m not sure it is and I think it’s worse—much worse—and frightening.

Maybe we need to change the word ‘bully’ to ‘thug’ or ‘goon’…how about ‘bulldozer’? 

The real question is, what satisfaction do these bulldozer kids get out of making someone else feel like crap? I know one person had commented on the recent bully story saying that the home life of the tormentor needs to be the focus. I totally agree. The focus needs to be off the act and on to the wrong-doer. They’re inflicting life long pain for what we all see as ‘no reason’, but there has to be some pay off. I’d like to know what it is.

If you have a story to share…let’s chat.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the south Okanagan. Contact her at  faye.arcand@icloud.com or fayeearcand.com

U.S.A. Student Activism–March On!

Auntie Says…My thoughts are with the American students. March on!

Columbine. That word pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

It was April 1999 and I’ll never forget seeing the images of terrified high school students running for their lives. I, like everyone else, was horrified and sickened, but It got worse—much worse. School shootings in the U.S. became, I hate to say it … commonplace.

While for the most part I don’t talk politics or religion, my heart and voice are with every student in the U.S. marching and protesting for a safer tomorrow. I’m optimistic as I witnessed the planned walk out one month to the day after the Florida school shooting. It was an illustration of choosing a course of action in solidarity and it makes me proud.

The young people of today are the voters of tomorrow. Getting angry about the abhorrent gun laws, political rhetoric, and the seemingly lackadaisical attitudes surrounding school shootings is not only necessary, but required, for change. It takes a lot of courage and tenancity to take those first steps against the status quo and I applaud these young people for what they’re doing.

Like many, I’ve wept as the body count rises in the name of U.S. democratic freedoms. Even from a  distance where I don’t feel the same physical (gun violence) threats, I can still understand the grief faced by so many —too many. I seriously don’t know how they all cope and carry on after such harrowing circumstances.

In Canada, we don’t face the same fears about school shootings, but we still feel our neighbor’s pain and the aftershocks of grief and anger. For every individual that dies, there are survivors—the other students, the family, the teachers, staff, and first responders—forever changed in a way that we can only imagine, but there’s also the public. Let’s not forget the average person watching the tragedy unfold on TV and how it affects them. It’s a mood of uncertainty and helplessness suffered by millions of people in both the US and Canada. It’s a sad truth of the day.

Even if you don’t think your kid is aware of the news and current events, believe me—they know. The kids talk about it to each other and in class. They watch YouTube .It’s not a secret and yet as far as I know, the schools here don’t do anything like security drills or heightened vigilance. Who knows how much all the school gun violence south of the border is adding to the anxiety and depression for teens everywhere?  After a televised incident, I’d bet that all the teachers and administrators walk back into the school with a heavy heart. How could you not? It doesn’t matter where the incident occurs, it affects us all.

When I see the anger and determination on the faces of those young people marching, it gives me hope. Hope that there will be change. Hope that someone amongst those students, is a strong and forever leader—a compelling voice—that will bring about positive transformation. I also hope that the protest continues until it’s voice is so strong that it can no longer be pushed aside or ignored.

We joke about having ‘first-world problems’—school shootings should not be one of them. Let’s pray that the students voices raised in protest will be heard and acted upon. #NationalWalkoutDay #StudentsForChange #EndGunViolence #AuntieSays

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. She can be reached at faye.arcand@icloud.com  or www.fayeearcand.com 

Dating Abuse and Manipulation

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Auntie Says… A different kind of bullying. You’re not alone. Be Aware.

If you ask any kid what the biggest problem in school is, they’re likely to say bullying. It’s one of those insidious things that sneaks in and shows up in the hallways every single day. Campaigns, like Pink Shirt Day, bring much needed attention and awareness to the problem as students, teachers, and communities work together to make the situation better. 

One facet of bullying that’s rarely mentioned though, is the reality of dating domestic abuse/manipulation among young people. Like school yard bullying, it can no longer be swept under the carpet and ignored, otherwise it’ll grow and fester in secrecy and those entrenched in the ugliness will feel alone and forgotten. A strong message needs to be embraced—namely, love should never hurt, be about jealousy or control, and domestic violence can (and does) occur among young dating couples—believe me, you don’t need to be old and married to be caught in an abusive relationship. 

Usually the relationship begins like any other but can end up feeling suffocating, controlling, or even dangerous. It doesn’t necessarily happen quickly and the subtle nature of it can leave you in doubt. Just keep in mind that a loving relationship is a partnership of two, not a dictatorship of one. You always have a right to discuss your concerns and have them heard. Sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding or miscommunication. Life happens, but when the negative behaviour is escalating into nonstop bullying you may need to put your pink shirt on and find some help.

Here are some things I want you to be aware of, for yourself and your friends—and guys listen up—we so often think of domestic/dating abuse as being against women but it happens to guys too. It’s not okay to have a girl dig her nails into you, pull your hair, kick you or blame you for being late etc—nope not ok. You should be able to say ‘I don’t like that…’ or ‘please don’t do that…’ and be heard and respected. 

Signs of an abusive relationship:

Excessive isolation and manipulation. If your partner takes up all your time and attention, always wants to be with you (not your friends and family—just you), is very possessive, doesn’t want you to hang with other people, and makes you feel bad for having any type of life independent of them— that’s not normal. If your partner threatens self harm if you don’t comply with what they want, this is a huge red flag (and a scary one) and an indication that you need to seek advice or help.

Does your partner always have to have their way? Are they really bossy and demanding? Moody? to a point where you feel threatened if you defy them. If your partner forces or pressures you to do things and you comply just to keep the peace—that’s not love.

Is you partner hyper critical and always putting you down? If they tell you you’re fat or stupid—dump them—now. If a partner tells you how to think or tells you that you’re opinions/beliefs are wrong…that’s not love. 

Is your partner controlling? This could be anything from being told what to wear, who you can talk to, or what you can eat. Is your partner deceptive and sneaky—do they cause you to be late for work? miss an exam? show up just as you’re about to leave with your friends because he/she needs you? This in not ok.

Is your partner jealous or insecure? Do they get angry when you talk to other people? Do they want to know who you’re with, or who you’re talking to…all the time. Do they check your phone without permission and accuse you of things you didn’t do? This is not love. It’s controlling and will escalate over time.  

Does your partner have an explosive temper? Is everything always your fault? Do they give you the silent treatment or punch walls? Are you afraid of them? 

Is your partner physically hurting you? Call 911 or if necessary attend your local hospital emergency. 

For confidential victim service information for yourself or a friend, call VictimLinkBC, 24/7 in British Columbia and Yukon 1-800-563-0808 

If you think you, or a friend, may need this number in the future, put it in your phone under Auntie…no one but you needs to know what the number is for. There are also many local resources available. Your school/college counsellor, and local police being two very public and accessible ones.

The message of Pink Shirt Day is that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. No one should ever live in fear. Embrace the message. Be safe. 

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. She can be reached at faye.arcand@icloud.com  or www.fayeearcand.com #SignsOfAbuse #RespectNotFear #AuntiesSays 

Faye Arcand

faye.arcand@icloud.com