Monthly Archives: September 2010

Only child looks at Karma

Look-alike car

I’m looking for some Karma – you know the what goes around comes around. Or if you were raised Catholic like  me, the “as you sow, so shall you reap.”

I really believe in Karma – but I’d like to see it in action – personally. Often when something happens in your life – good or bad  – whether it’s something you do or something that occurs – you don’t see the Karma.

Last Friday evening while out running errands with a friend, I got hit by a car in a mall parking lot. My friend was already over at her car and I was still walking towards it when I felt a smack on my left leg. When I looked up I saw this small black car roaring off. Immediately I started chasing it and swearing at the driver. She (and I am sure it was a “she,” and that’s just a gut feeling) continued racing around the parking lot, turning around on the other side of an aisle. I charged up that aisle, yelling away (I’m sure the two women getting in a nearby car thought I’d lost it) but I never caught up. My little 5’1″ frame is no competition for a moving vehicle.

“Did you get the licence plate?” my friend asked.

“No,” I said. I’d never thought of that.

I was lucky it was only a tap on my bare calf – I was wearing capri pants because temperatures were up in the 80s Farenheit. But I was furious. How could the driver not have seen me? I was in clear view almost in the middle of the aisle.  She wasn’t backing out but driving through the parking lot. And to make matters worse, a few minutes before when she was attempting to back out of her parking space around the corner in the lot, it looked like she didn’t see me and might hit me. I moved back. Was this an early warning of impending danger? I didn’t listen.

When I climbed into my friend’s car I shouted, “God, if you do exist, please get this person. I don’t care how; I leave it up to you. But I’d like to know.”

As I mentioned before, you hardly ever find out. But I did – twice – one for something rotten that happened and one for something good that I did and continue to do.

The rotten occurrence also concerned a car. (Feel free to figure out that significance. Clue: I don’t drive.) It happened 15 or 16 years ago when I worked for a publishing company. One of the other employees there volunteered to drive me to work each day. She was continually late – but she had a small child and had to drop her off at daycare on the way to work, so I said nothing. Two or three times I was running late – literally – putting the garbage out as she arrived at my driveway. After a few months of driving me to work, one day when she picked me up, she said, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m not driving you anymore. You’re always late.”

A few months later, Ms. Driver broke her ankle and had to get someone else from work to drive her to and from work.

When I tell this story I either get a big smile or a “Huh? You mean because she stopped driving you she broke her ankle.” Obviously the latter individuals don’t believe in Karma.

And my good Karma? I run the East End Writers’ Group, a writing group, and through the group I help a lot of writers (and learn a lot from them, too). The East End Writers is celebrating its 10th anniversary this fall and when I asked for help in putting it together, a couple of members volunteered. One designed the flyers, another is helping with distribution and may even be able to get us a mic for that evening.

What goes around comes around. And I wonder if  for me it all goes back to my mother and her eccentric ideas of honesty. In my memoir I call them “Mom’s 10 Rules of Honesty.” One in particular, in relation to the girl that bullied me in school, comes to mind.

In grade three, The Bully sits right in front of me. When Mrs. Roberts isn’t looking, she swivels around and talks to me out of turn. However, her biggest sin is cheating with the numbers. When we complete an arithmetic exercise, Mrs. Roberts says, “trade.” The Bully crouches over my assignment, purses her lips, picks up her pencil and scribbles – x, x, x – beside my correct answers. Meantime, I, blessed with my mother’s streak of honesty, also mark x, x, x, but alongside The Bully’s incorrect answers. When we trade back, The Bully crouches even lower and turns the x’s into Ö’s. At home, I whine to Mom.

“You have to tell the teacher when she cheats,” Mom says. She’s sitting in the chair under the living room window and I’m standing in front of her like I’m the bad girl in school. “Next time, she cheats, tell the teacher. Then tell me and I’ll give you a quarter.”

Money talks for me. The next time the Bully messes up the math marks I raise my hand and rat. When I return home, I tell tales out of school and claim my reward, not just 25 cents, but my admission to the honesty/money seesaw.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Part 1 – Deconstruct. Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

In case anyone is wondering, my leg is fine. As for Karma – what do others think? Personally?


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Filed under Car accidents, Karma, Only child, Only child memoir

Only child visits cousins

A couple of those cousins I visited

I don’t get to visit siblings – they’re non-existent.  I get the next-best thing or is it better? I get to visit cousins. And as mentioned in a previous post I have lots of cousins. Earlier this month I finally took my annual summer holidays and stayed with some of my cousins in southwestern Ontario. And many of those I didn’t stay with joined me for a dinner at a restaurant in Stratford. I counted 10 cousins around the table – eight from my generation and two from the next generation down – sort of a mini reunion. We had one of those big family reunions in the summer of 2003 – a week after the big blackout in southern Ontario and Ohio. You know where you haul out the old photos and old stories – the former tell no lies but the latter often have varying versions but if you put it all together you get some great family history. Since then all the uncles have died and if we did another biggie reunion, I’d be part of the older generation. Scary thought.

But I couldn’t help thinking about family traits and values that I saw – what is different between us and what is the same. Some kept their religious upbringing but do religion very well. What I mean here is they manage to make it part of their lives (and thrive from it)  without shoving it on everyone else -not an easy task. Some cousins are more old-fashioned; some more worldly, some talkative, some quiet. But one trait comes across in all of them, in my generation, anyway. They are considerate of others and made me feel at home when I stayed with them or even just visited for a few hours. Yet, they politely made their plans known – if they had errands, etc. to do or wanted to just stay in, they let me know. And I didn’t feel I was a burden because I was visiting. Rather I found it easy to go along with their wishes. The bottom line is it was done in a friendly non-demanding way. If you think of anytime you may have visited a relative or friend and they treated you as if you were in their way for whatever they had to do or wanted to do, then think the opposite – this latter is what I experienced.

Not that my cousins are perfect. Some of them are die-hard hockey and baseball fans and I’m not. But isn’t that what makes us all tick – our differences? And many of my cousins are mystery novel fans – so am I.




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Filed under Consideration, Cousins, Family, Gratitude, Only child

Only Child and social skills

Only Child, age 7. at Holy Cross School

There’s research  that says only children don’t have problems developing social skills because they get enough interaction with their peers. The backstory of this study is that with families now getting smaller and going down to one child, maybe junior will be socially challenged. Or will he or she?

My son and I, both only children, went to opposite ends of the poles as children. Martin had no trouble making friends and interacting with them from a young age. When he was in his teens our place was teen central, but part of that was because he played in a rock band and they practised in my basement. At least I knew where he was. I think the key here was getting him involved in activities with other children when he was young. He took swimming lessons, did track and field and was on the local kids’ soccer team  – all prior to age 10. When he was a toddler, I took him to a Mothers’ Morning Out Group at one of the local churches. Here the kids played while being babysat by some of the parents (done on a rotating basis per sessions) while the rest of the parents sat and lisetened to a talk on something in the adult area of topics. I took notes and wrote a story about the talk for the local newspaper. With my freelance writing, Martin also was in daycare part-time and then there was school. That’s the one the researchers, Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, an assistant professor of sociology on Ohio State University’s Marion campus and her colleague, Douglas Downey, refer to in their research as the saving grace for only children’s development of social skills.

Not this only child. I was too shy, very easily intimidated and had overprotective parents, so landed in ongoing situations with a couple of people (the nun in the last post was one) who bullied me. The other one was a classmate. (I’ll cover bullying in another post). I had friends that I hung around with in grade school and in high school but in those days (you know, back in the grey ages) parents didn’t put their children into a lot of extra-curricular activities. My mom got me into ballet and tap dancing for one year when I was seven and then after that switched me to piano lessons. I don’t recall making any friends from those dance classes but the piano lessons and recitals brought a few what you might call “passing friendships.”  I really didn’t develop my social skills much until I was an adult and probably my writing helped. When meeting other writers and  editors and expecially getting out there to interview people for stories, you have to sink or swim in the social arena. In hindsight, I wasn’t completely hopeless in my childhood.  As I write in my memoir…

In grade 3 or 4, we girls discovered baseball – not the New York Yanks, but the unnamed Holy Cross Girls recess and after-school teams. By then the school had grown too small for the ever-expanding families of the baby boom, so the school board brought in three portables and dumped them in a corner of the girls’ yard. You could find a brother or sister of most of my classmates in a portable or in the main building. As an only child, I was in the minority. That may explain why I adopted baseball almost like an obsession. Baseball was a way to belong…

Our girls’ baseball diamond, a mixture of sporadic sand pits and weed patches, stood over by the three portables, so we had to be careful we don’t throw or hit the ball through a window. I don’t recall that ever happening although some of those foul balls landed between the portables or on one of their verandas. Not any I ever threw did. I played third base, over by the last portable near the linked fence corner. Whenever someone hit a ball my way, I caught it. It made up for my lousy pitches. I couldn’t strike anyone out even with my eyes open.

But I could hit – not far – just enough to run to first base. I am right-handed in everything else but my technique was to hold the bat over my left shoulder and when I saw the ball coming, swing the bat around and whack – when I didn’t miss…

In winter, when snow, slush and ice made chasing after balls somewhat dangerous, we sometimes spent recess sliding down the small hill at the front end of the girls’ yard, at the fence over by the church yard. Or we’d stand around in a huddle and talk – but that came when we were 12 and 13.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Part 1 – Deconstruct, Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

So I’m not a shining example for this study of only children developing social skills.

The analysis used information that the National Study of Adolescent Health (ADD Health) collected on 13,000 + students  from grades 7 to 12, inclusive, attending over 100 US schools in 1994 and 1995. (I would like to see some more up-to-date data.) The interview method was used with each child listing their peers – five of each gender, and then the total overall votes for each participant was counted. This study was presented at the American Sociological Association (ASA) annual meeting in Atlanta on August. 20, 2010.  For more information on the study go to

And what about only children reading this? And parents of only children? What are your views on only children developing social skills? And what the heck to you think of this study?


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I’d like to hear some comments about thisfrom only children and parents of only children. What do you think? If an only child, did you have problems developing social skills as a child? And parents of only children,


Filed under Family Size, Only child, Social skills only children

Only child looks at school days

Only child school photo at age 8

The first day back at school can be scary. There are worries about what the teacher will be like, who will be in your class, will you fit in, and the age-old question that has bothered girls of all ages – what the heck will I wear.  Of course, some students miss all that because now they go to school year  round, a concept I find disconcerting. Although these year-rounders get a few weeks off here and there, it is not the same. How can you have a normal school year if you don’t have summer vacation in July and August?

Back in the grey ages when I went to school it was from September to June with two months off for good or bad behaviour. In grade school I actually anticipated that first day. I could smell the lead pencils and text books, feel the exercise books we wrote in (no laptops then), see the blackboards and hear the squeak-scratch of the chalk across that blackboard. But it wasn’t all good times. I felt some dread about fitting in, especially with no brothers or sisters to stand up for me (or tease me). Then there were the teachers and I had some doozies from the old bat who blinked non-stop to the nun who bullied me in grade 2. I write about her in my memoir.

In grade 2 we applied our Grade 1 reading skills in exercises.

“Turn to page 12, exercise A,” Mother St. Helen says. She stands behind her desk. She holds the exercise book, alternating between glancing down at it and over at us. “When you are finished it and exercise B, you may quietly bring them up here for me to look at.” She sits down.

For the next 15 to 20 minutes the only sounds are the flipping of pages and the scratching of pencils. I read through each question and write down my answer or draw the picture required. Some of the students finish quickly and line up at Mother’s desk, so now I hear her occasional, “That’s wrong. How do you expect to pass Grade 2,” and “Good.”

I have now completed the work, so pick up the exercise book, which is the size of a thick colouring book and climb out from behind the desk, walk up to the front and line up. Nora and Michael stand in front of me and as Mother looks at Nora’s work and says, “good,” I think I also have done all right.

“How do you expect to pass grade 2?” Mother asks Michael.

I hope I have done all right.

It is now my turn. I say nothing as I place the open exercise book before Mother. She presses her lips together as she follows along on the page with her pencil. When she reaches the bottom, she jerks the book at me.

“What’s this?” she asks.

I look down and read out loud. “Draw an X.”

“The word isn’t ‘X;’ it’s an ‘axe.’ ”

I have drawn an “X.”

“Stupid,” she says. “You should know better than that.” She whacks the pencil against my nose.

Tears well up in my eyes. My face must be turning red because Mother is looking a little strange for Mother.

“I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?”

I can’t speak because I am too busy pretending tears are not sliding down my face.

“I’m sorry. Come down to the lunchroom after school and I’ll make it up to you.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Part 1 – Deconstruct. Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

Shortly after that, this nun disappeared from my grade school but if I thought I was well rid of her, I was mistaken. She returned in full fury as school principal when I was in grade 8 and made it her business to boss me around.

All this may sound tame to what kids have to put up with in school these days. I’m talking high school when I refer to the violence, the gangs and lockdowns. I live in Toronto and we’ve had murders inside and outside Toronto schools – not a lot and not on a daily basis, but because it happens is enough to raise the fear factor and make me glad I’m out of it and my son is out of it, although there were some rumblings in the high schools when he attended  in the 1990s and that was in Aurora, Ontario.

These are just my thoughts on the first day back to school in 2010. What do others think? Any hair-raising personal stories? Any heartwarming personal stories about that first day back at school?

And I really did not like the sound of that chalk scratching across the blackboard. And chalk is so messy and dusty.



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Filed under Only child, Only child memoir, School days, Teachers, Teaching