June 22, 2018

Being ten years old

I remember my 10th birthday. I remember it like little else from when I was younger. I don’t precisely know why this is. it definitely stands out in my mind, from all other adolescent birthdays, from most memories of my youngest years in general. My memories from being a little kid are often fairly spotty. Even if I see myself in a photo from, say, my eighth birthday party, or a family camping trip when I was seven, there’s no memory that is jogged by it. I remember nothing—nothing—at all about kindergarten, other than the names of the three teachers I had that year.

But the 10th birthday sticks out for me. Maybe it was all the talk of ‘double digits’—that short period of time in our life when we have only one number to our years, now in the past. I remember both my mom and dad talking about what a milestone it was to be 10 years old; some coming-of-age time of life, even though it’s really not. I remember holding the birthday cards in my hands, colourful, with text loudly pronouncing ‘YOU’RE 10!’ I had a hot air balloon cake that year, with blue icing, shredded coconut, and licorice whips for the ropes between the balloon and the basket.

Like I say, I don’t know what this birthday sticks out in my mind. But today, my own son turns ten. And I’m sure it will stick out in my mind forevermore.

A decade is a long time.

It was a long time ago that this small little human was born, very suddenly, on our bathroom floor, three weeks ahead of his projected due date. Born on the summer solstice during a period of pleasantly warm weather, we took him to the beach when he was four days old, this 6 lb 7 oz baby, swaddled in close to his mother’s chest.

A decade is a long time.

And here, today, this same human with the same chestnut-coloured hair that he was born with, will scoot, walk or ride himself off to school, perhaps where he will be feted by his classmates. He’ll learn long division, do a unit in the computer lab, charge around at lunch playing soccer or basketball or just goof around with friends. Before all that, he’ll probably ask for an egg for breakfast, and then another, which he’ll hungrily slurp down along with fruit and bread and a glass of milk. And on the weekend, he’ll have his party where we’ll play laser tag and talk about hockey and soccer and have cake and sing happy birthday.

Maybe it will all stand out to him like it did for me when I was his age. Maybe there is some understanding that those single digit years are behind you, and the road to triple digits is long, and unachievable to most. A life of double digits, therefore, awaits. But that’s too big a thought for 10-year-old, isn’t it?

And now I pause and think again of that little baby boy. And I reflect on all the milestones in these first ten years, the uniqueness of the character that is growing up before my eyes, and I set my sights on what his next ten years will look like. But I don’t actually want to look ahead too soon. Because as I think about it now—about these last ten years—they actually happened really fast. 

In fact, I’m wondering, just now, where they went. 

How did we go from diapers and midnight feedings to hockey card collections, Saturday soccer games and skiing black diamond runs? How did it go from mushy peas and carrots, to a love of sushi, top 40 music and a mind for mathematics?

I guess, perhaps, it just boils down to this nice, round number. It’s easy to package up a decade in retrospect; so much cleaner than a seven-year review, or eight or nine. Ten. It has a certain ring to it, just like my parents told me it did.

That’s just about enough philosophizing on the importance of a 10th birthday. I’m glad for every day we’ve been given with him. He was the best thing to happen to 2008, and ten years later, we have a smart, funny, kind, interesting kid on our hands, and there’s nowhere to go but up. I don’t know if he’ll look back at his own 10th birthday, 30 years from now, and think ‘huh, that was something special’. But trust me, it IS special. HE is special, and THAT is what makes it special.
Happy 10th, buddy. Love you.

ps - perhaps he'll remember his LAZER TAG party! (watch it larger on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ljSko0-6k48) 

3,650 days ago. 

June 20, 2018

I just can't believe...

I can’t believe I live in a time where children are being taken away from their parents, to be held in separate detainment camps.

I can’t believe I live in a time where a sitting U.S. President said  that undocumented immigrants are not people; “they are animals.” And “Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country.” Infest? People are bugs, now?

I can’t believe all this happens just a few thousand kilometers from my home, here in North America. The celebrated west. The free world.

Yet, I MUST believe. For the more I might try not to believe it, as much as I don’t want to believe it, its is far more dangerous to act like this is all propaganda and lies, and that it can be ignored. Ignorance and complacency are the best friends of those who would support this reprehensible behaviour.


I grew up reading about the terrible behaviour we allowed our own Canadian society to engage in and accept.  You need look no further than the stories of internment of 22,000 Japanese Canadians right here in British Columbia, during war time, in the name of “national security”, are but one example.

Residential schools are another national shame. 

These "schools" were the final resting places of thousands of indigenous children who were ripped from their families for the sake of some skewed sense of need for assimilation, ironically perpetrated on First Nations people by the very people who were, themselves, the foreigners to North American soil. Residential schools were a final resting place for many, and the beginning of a lifetime of ills for many of those who survived.

We are not so far removed from these atrocities. This is only a generation ago. In the case of the Residential schools, not even a generation has actually gone by since the last doors were shuttered. 

We have friends and neighbours, even extended family, who know firsthand the effects of these internment camp“policies” and Residential school schemes—they are the survivors and living reminders of how unbelievably cruel we can be to one another, even here on such “civilized” soil as we have here in North America.

Yet here we are, in this day and age, where we have all this history to educate us—simply from examples here in North America, let alone any number of lessons we can learn from terrible histories in other parts of the world—and a government is being allowed to take infants and toddlers away from their parents; separate them from their flesh, blood, and hope, and call it sound policy. (sadly, not to detract from the bigger issue to the south, it does happen on occasion here in Canada, too.) 

Undocumented migrant families, many of whom are approaching the US Southern borders to legally declare themselves—people who are trying to do the right thing—are being instantly punished for their hopes and dreams of a better life.

Put yourselves in the shoes of these unfortunate souls. 

Can you imagine, as a Canadian, approaching the US border to head into, say, Washington state,  and having your children taken from you right then and there? With no understanding of why, or of where your children are being taken?

My children are eight and 10 years old. The emotional punishment that children their age, half their age, and younger and older, are being forced to endure right now, here, in North America, breaks my heart. In the USA. The land of the free. Believe it.

The issue of unaccompanied minors being detained is in of itself not a new issue. It first hit the news in 2014, with stories of children trying to cross the border without parents, and being detained once they hit the US border. Don't confuse that with the current, fast pace of families being split apart, being held away from each other with little to no awareness of where their family members are being sent, or why. 

There are ways to help. And if you’ve made it this far, and feel moved to do so, then by all means, don’t let your Canadian citizenship hold you back from trying to affect change in the U.S.

Money is one way, and there are various options. 
  • You can donate to the Immigrant Defense Project, which is concentrating on the current hotpoint issue of family separations through detentions, but they also tackle a wide spectrum of other problems facing immigrants in the US as well. 
  • More directly related to the detention issue, A legal defence fund is established to help migrants sort out their cases. You can donate, here. They have a goal of $15 million US dollars. Help them smash that goal.
If you can do more: 
  • If you are one, or know of lawyers, law students, and paralegals with Spanish language skills, you could be of use!  Volunteering your time for week-long assignments in Texas, to assist families held in ICE detention centers, is a tangible way to show how unimpressed you are with this current state of affairs.  (Volunteer by emailing lcemails@acslaw.org). Presumably this can only apply to those who understand US law and are licensed to practice in the States, but what do I know? 

And, of course, educate yourself. 
  • Know what’s going on and be vocal about it. Knowledge (not propaganda!) is power. The American Civil Liberties Union have a great primer up on their page right now.

In the last six weeks, 2,000 children have been separated from their parents. This is a human rights disaster. In a world full of human rights disasters, this one is happening in what should be one of the most respected, civilized societies on the planet. Believe that it is true. Take some time to think about it, talk about it, hopefully find a way to help, and try to ensure this process is reversed.

Because if history is any guide, it proves that things can indeed get worse. Do we want ‘even worse’ on our conscience? Check your history text books. 

We do not, should not, want to be part of a new chapter, that a future generation will look back and read and say ‘I just can’t believe they let it all happen.’