Tag Archives: friends

A New Year Starting with Chaos; Ending with Thanks

By Jason Menard

You’re never too young or too old to learn. And as we welcome 2014, I’d like to offer a few lessons that I’ve had the fortune (both good and bad) to learn — and, in some cases — relearn as I say goodbye to what ended up being a life-altering 2013.

I’m not a woe is me guy. On this blog and in my social media feeds, I tend to avoid talking about my personal life. You’ll never read a “sigh” or see an open-ended statement that begs for a sympathetic response. What I do is try to offer solutions based upon my experiences — and while I prefer to talk about my professional or political interests, every once in a while it’s worthwhile to share something a little more private. Continue reading

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Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em

By Jason Menard

It’s a fact of life. Chances are that the larger your family gets, the smaller your circle of friends will be – and differing views and tolerances on child-rearing is often the catalyst for change.

Some mothers do have ‘em. It’s not just the title of a British television comedy – it’s a simple fact of life. There’s a reason why couples with children tend to lose friends over a period of time – friends can last through thick or thin, but differences in how you raise your kids can be the straw that permanently breaks the camel’s back.

There’s no way to determine how people are going to react to becoming parents. There’s no indication that you can gather during your youth or the formative years of the friendship that can give you any sort of inkling as to what their parental style will be and, more importantly, how that will mesh or clash with your own views when you both have children.

The biggest problem is that everyone thinks their way is the right way. And this intransigence can drive a wedge between the longest-standing of friends.

In any relationship, when forced to choose between your kids and your friends, your offspring will win each and every time. It’s a foregone conclusion. The best intended criticisms and suggestions will never be met with understanding when it comes to raising our children. So it’s almost better not to say anything except for the resentment that carries. Eventually that simmering pot will boil over and what happens is that the list of excuses as to why you can’t drop by gets increases, while the level of enjoyment of this shared time decreases.

Everybody has different standards for discipline and child-rearing expectations, and when those don’t mesh with your own, it creates an environment that’s intolerable. My wife and I know are strict with our children. We have high expectations for them and their behaviour, especially outside of our own walls.

Kids will be kids, but there’s a time and a place – and there are limits. We’ve set clearly defined limits for our children and we expect them to follow them – if they don’t there are consequences. We don’t hit our children, nor do we believe in corporal punishment, but we also aren’t afraid to express our displeasure with them when appropriate. We will raise our voice at times to indicate the gravity of a situation.

We’re not perfect and neither are our kids – nobody is. But we’re confident in taking our children out of the house. We know we can go to a store, visit friends and family, or enjoy a dinner out with the confidence that our kids will be well-behaved and respectful. We don’t expect them to be robots or sit poker straight and not talk – and we don’t ask of them anything we don’t expect of ourselves.

But that view isn’t shared by all of our friends – and this is the issue we couldn’t have anticipated. Whether it’s constant screaming, refusals to eat food, or rudeness and aggression, things that aren’t accepted in our household are tolerated in others. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some people we know who condemn other people’s children for being unruly, undisciplined, and unwieldy are blind to the fact that their own little hellions are running around behaving the same way.

So what is one to do? Disciplining other people’s children – try it once and see how well that works! The only way to deal with it is for the parents/friends to be on the same page when it comes to child-rearing, and that’s a compatibility test we often don’t get to take until it’s too late.

Are we wrong? Are we too strict? Is it too much to expect that saying no to a kid 10 times may result in some action (or at least some appreciation from the other parent as to respecting the rules of our house)? Are we wrong in believe that while kids should be allowed to be kids, running around like free-ranged chickens with no restrictions is a little counter-productive towards their long-term development and appreciation of a life with rules and regulations?

As our families grow our circle of friends get smaller. We have friends lamenting the loss of their single friends without realizing that if their obnoxious offspring are taxing on those who already have children and understand the trials and tribulations, why would someone without the first-hand experience of child-rearing want to subject themselves to this torture? The visits become infrequent, the phone calls are fewer and farther between, and, eventually, they stop outright.

The same goes for those friends with children. Raising a family is tiring enough and subjecting yourself to a visit marred by unruly children and indifferent parents is not high on your list of things-to-do. So you withdraw little by little, distancing yourself from what you know is going to be a negative experience. Eventually, time and distance proves too much and you can cross one more person off your Christmas card list.

There are some lines that just can’t be crossed. While friends and family are the keys to life, they’re not always compatible. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing that until it’s too late.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The Mystery of the One-Way Highway

By Jason Menard

If the government of Quebec is looking for a way to save a few bucks, perhaps they could scrimp a little on repairs of Highway 20 west of Montreal because it’s a little-known fact that this stretch of highway only goes one way.

Well, to be honest, it’s a little known fact only to Montrealers. To those of us estranged from our beloved city to locales westward, it’s an all-too-real phenomenon.

OK, it can be a little scary crossing those bridges and heading to the mainland. And, sure, the barren expanse around St. Zotique is almost post-nuclear in its Spartaness. But a little perserverence goes a long way. Maybe it’s a fear similar to what seafarers felt in Christopher Columbus’ day, but I can assure you that you won’t fall off the edge of the Earth – well, maybe off the edge culturally, but certainly not literally. In fact, many successful forays have been made into the Heart of Darkness – also known as Ontario – and several Quebecers have lived to tell the tale.

Sure, family members have been forced to visit us because we have that all important magnet creating an irresistible force drawing them to us – grandchildren. However, when it comes to friends and extended family — that’s a different story.

When we make our frequent pilgrimages back to our home town of Montreal, all of our friends come out of the woodwork, welcoming us with open arms, and peppering us with the same question, “When are you coming back?” Yet, despite this outward expression of concern and affection, a return visit to our domain is never forthcoming.

Lest you think that this is an isolated situation and that we’re the proverbial black sheep of the family, let me assure you that this is a phenomenon shared by many of us now residing in the land of the trillium but with fleur-de-lys growing in our hearts. From my parents, to co-workers, to acquaintances with French roots, it’s too much of a coincidence to believe that we’re all social pariahs condemned to banishment from our birthplace. Since examples of this phenomenon are shared across family lines, then there must be a deeper aversion at foot.

Why is there such an apprehension of crossing this particular border? In fact, the Ottawa-Gatineau border is well traveled, with people from both sides making ventures into a different province and returns to their homes without any long-term emotional scarring. Perhaps it’s Montrealers’ fear of the unknown, prompted by the fact that so many of their friends have disappeared down the 401 never to return. Of course, this migration is usually prompted by the threat or existence of a referendum, but that’s another story.

As our license plates state, Ontario is truly yours to discover. There is more to us than the scourge of Toronto – many of us non-Hog-Town residents hate that city as much as you. We are here, immersed in our Anglo enclaves waiting for your arrival. In fact, a trip to visit relatives in Ontario is no more exotic than a visit to certain parts of the West Island, so don’t fear broadening your horizons.

We have many of the same programs, we have many of the same interests, we use the same currency, and hold the same passport. We even all get SRC, so the comforts of home are all around you! Sure, Montreal has more to offer than most other cities on this planet, and travelling to Ontario locales doesn’t have the same cachet as staying in town – but what Montreal doesn’t have at this moment is us, and friendship and family knows no geographic boundaries.

I can assure you that there is no hidden danger that comes when the 20 turns into the 401. We are not forced to return to our Ontario homes because of the fact that our first-born are being held as collateral by some Orwellian government organization designed to tether us to our shallow Ontario bonds when the lure of our deeper Quebec roots come calling. We come and go as we please – and so should you.

As a Quebecer stuck in Ontario, I beseech you to come visit us! We’ve gone to all extents to make your trip as comfortable as possible. In fact, you’ll notice that we’ve taken the steps to make all the highway markers bilingual – well, at least until you pass Cornwall, and then by that time you’ve made too much of an investment of time to turn back.

Come visit us. Regale us with stories from the old country. And don’t be afraid of the unknown because, despite all appearances and experiences to the contrary, the highway does go both ways.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved