Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Hey! It's a new post AND I am going to try to get the podcast up and working! So: woo hoo!
I will, if all goes well, be hosting a podcast here of just my stuff, but of course you should listen to the whole show on WHMP 1400AM, Saturdays at noon, the Liberal Oasis Radio Show. Or at the very least, listen online at www.liberaloasis.com. AND all the other things that Bill does there, because he is a wicked smartypants and knows stuff about things.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.
I moved to a new town in fourth grade. Prior to that, I guess maybe we were too young for cliques, or possibly I just happened to have friends and didn't notice. In the new school, We had assigned seats, and the first day I sat down next to a boy who immediately began to punch me in the leg, under the desk so the teacher couldn't see. "Cut it out!" I whispered. His in retrospect amazing response was, "Whatsamatta, can't take it?"
Ermm...it's more that I don't want to be punched in the leg, really. And thus began quite literally one of the worst years of my life. No one in school would talk to me, for the entire school year -which is a long time for anyone, and so much more so for a kid -; my mom had to import my old friends from the next town over for sleepovers and birthdays. At lunch the first week, a girl sat next to me, and her friend asked, "Why are you sitting with her?" "I dunno, the teacher said I had to." Awesome. That is excellent. Thank you for that.
We moved back to my old town the next year, but I don't think I regained my social equilibrium until high school, when there were so many kids I was able to find enough misfits to form a protective critical mass. We huddled under our black hair dye and Cure records and waited for the day that we never had to see any of these people ever again.
So I am aware that bullying is nothing new; still, the news of the suicides of kids like Phoebe Prince and Carl Walker-Hoover hits a nerve. But instead of focusing on the kids who were harassed, I think about the Mean Girls, and their motivations. Specifically, I think about teen movies, and who normal people identify with. Are you the plucky underdog, the quirky indivdual? Or are you the stuck up, feathered-haired jock pushing the nerd into a locker?
Are there people who want to be that guy? People who think that guy gets a bad rap in the movies? Are there really people, kids, out there who read Harry Potter and identified with Draco Malfoy? Especially the one where Harry is tormented all year by Malfoy and Rita Skeeter? Remember that one? It seems that there must be, it seems that a lot of people side with the quote "bad guy" in movies, otherwise why would they act just like them?
There is a lot of talk about what the South Hadley school could have done, what the parents could have done -- and I can't imagine what any of the parents are going through, both victims and perpetrators -- if I knew my kid was that cruel to another person, I would be devastated, no matter the result. I hear a lot of "kids will be kids, kids are cruel, what are you going to do?" and I call bull-puckey. Maybe they are, maybe it's a part of growing up, but another part of growing up is taking personal responsibility, especially for teenagers. those kids were mean; there is Facebook evidence of it. And they need to take responsibility for the results of their behavior.
As adults, we are responsible for giving kids the tools they need to deal with it when people are horrible, and we need to make clear what kind of behavior is acceptable, and what is definitely not. I remember there was a kid in my school, typical nerd, so skinny and really pale, and he was teased quite a bit. I was fully in my scary goth mode, so was left alone for the most part by this point. One of the jocks started in on him in math class one day, and the teacher, one of the hockey coaches, pulled the jock up out of his seat and dragged him into the hall. We could hear him getting chewed out, as could everyone else in that hallway, I would imagine. It was sort of amazing, really. We sat there, silent, and listened.
If you saw a movie about the things you did in high school, would you root for yourself? There is evidence that those kids went on Facebook and continued to talk crap after Phoebe Prince's death. You can't spin that positively, even if you directed the movie yourself. Would you be the title character or the antagonist? Are you Harry or are you Malfoy?
So hey, guy who knocks books out of people's hand. and girl who spreads lies on purpose: you are doing that thing the jerks do in the movies! You know that horrible character that gets their comeuppance in the end and everybody hates? That's you! Do you really want that? Do really want to BE that person? My guess is no, you don't. So, stop. Don't be that guy.
Friday, March 5, 2010
I'm just...I'm going to say this, and someone is going to be upset one way or the other. Either I'm an elitist helicopter mom or I'm too much a slave to the status quo to properly care for my child and should probably have her taken away from me. So let's just begin by saying, I love my kid, and you love your kid, and we're all doing what we feel is the very best for our whole family. Can we start there? Okay.
I will come clean. My little girl watches TV every day. Always in the morning, usually after school, and before bed. I can freely admit this is partly my own laziness- I am not a morning person, and if a talking dog can distract her while I make coffee, that makes a better morning for everybody. It's hard to admit, though. Talking to a parent who bans TV is a fast track to parental guilt, recrimination, and lies. "We watch one hour of educational programming once a week." "Oh, uh, well, us too, sort of. I mean, we mostly watch PBS, you know...and Noggin. Noggin doesn't have commercials, isn't that great? So, what are your views on the health care debate?" Anything to get off the topic of television and your own lousy parenting.
I feel that our family is pretty moderate, but then again, of course I do. I am not a hard core joyless monk, nor am I permissive and careless. (can you feel the judgment? Judging others is how we know we are doing better than they are!) We are careful about the programming she watches- mostly public television and other age appropriate shows. She is very active and loves to be outside. We read a ton of books and are regulars at the local library. So she is not the typical kid they show you on the exposes of 200 pound 6 year olds addicted to soap operas and Doritos.
I recently read an article on Slate called The Benefits of Bozo, by Austan Goolsbee, who currently serves in the Obama Administration's Council of Economic Advisers. He analysed not the data, but the way people get the data for all of those "TV will give your kid ADD and diabetes" reports. He calls most studies flawed, and says,
Kids who watch no TV, or only a small amount of educational programming, as a group are from much wealthier families than those who watch hours and hours. Because of their income advantage, the less-TV kids have all sorts of things going for them that have nothing to do with the impact of television.
In other words, the environment in which a child grows up is more of a factor in future success than how much television he watches. If you take two toddlers, and one watches an hour of Sesame Street after Montessori school and before violin lessons, and the other watches 2 hours of Sesame Street at an underfunded, overcrowded and unlicensed day care while his teenaged mom works 3 jobs because his dad's in jail, Toddler #2 has more worrisome problems than how much he's really learning from Grover. I have noticed these studies often mention the violence that kids watch. Kidshealth.org tells me that "the average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18". You have to ask yourself, who is letting them watch it? Again, the environment in which a small child is allowed to watch violent shows is probably not the most nurturing overall. You also have to ask yourself a few other "grain of salt" questions, such as, how many of those 200,000 violent acts were seen in the later adolescent years, and how were those violent acts catagorized? Was it only human on human violence, or did they include Tom on Jerry abuse? I recently watched an old Tom and Jerry cartoon and I can tell you, some serious stuff went down. I watched Tom and Jerry all the time when I was a kid and I did not remember that they set. each other. on FIRE. Yikes. So, as anecdotal evidence, yes, I watched people getting hit in the face with frying pans on a regular basis. but I also was read to every night and I was encouraged, some would say forced, to play outdoors. I finished college and have yet to go to jail. Coincidence?
Still, there is a stigma now that there wasn't when I was a kid.
"The kids are upstairs, and there's...uhhh...a Dora DVD. Is that okay?" I whisper to the stranger at the party. "Oh sure! No problem!" she says. We both relax, knowing that we are on the same page, as far as the whole TV things goes.
She loves Dora the Explorer. Have you seen this show? In the preschool world, she's all but inescapable. Why is she yelling? Stop yelling, Dora, we can hear you! And stop asking me to answer you, because you cannot hear me! You are a marketing gimmick made to sell toys and yogurt! Yes, I can see the red barn! The only thing on the screen is you, your ugly monkey and a big red barn. I hate that show.
But Word Girl? Word Girl is great. Chris Parnell from Saturday night Live is the narrator; how great is that? Plus, positive female role model: she's a SuperHero, and she's smart, and the other characters admire her for being smart. I think that is a valuable lesson for a young girl. Yelling and staring blankly, not so much. Okay. Parental rant over.
There are many things that divide us as parents, in fact we all do things a little differently. Some would never poison their child with anything non-organic, while others are not averse to an Oreo now and again, or everyday. I try, but don't always succeed, to assume that most parents are being thoughtful about how they are raising their kids, and their decisions about whether to include television, or Oreos, or even Dora the Explorer, were made out of love for their children. The truth is, most of the time we are all just trying to get through the day, and sometimes we have to look at the big picture.
There is the social impact of less TV as well. I am not saying that you have to let your kid watch TV or she will be an outcast, but An adult of my generation that doesn't sing "Do do do do!" after hearing "Mnamna!" - it's a lonely, lonely feeling.
I was talking to a woman one day and she said, "Oh, I wish my son wouldn't eat so many Ding Dongs. But he just loves them! I try to hide them, but he always asks for them. He eats at least one a day!" Your kid is two, lady, my thought bubble said. Unless he does the grocery shopping, you have quite a bit of control over what goes into your kid's mouth. (again with the judging!) The thought of a two year old feasting on Ding Dongs is horrifying to me. But,to some, the thought of a 4 year old sopping up Dora and the Backyardigans is just as horrifying.
The human race is in the last stages of Survival Mode, and I for one think that is a good thing. Let's get on to bigger and better communal goals. And yes, I do think that a key to establishing worldwide communal goals is having a collective subconcious, of sorts. Maybe I am giving the Electric Company too much credit.
"Most studies of the impact of television, however, are seriously flawed. They compare kids who watch TV and kids who don't, when kids in those two groups live in very different environments. ...The problem with comparing them to kids who watch a lot of TV is like the problem with a study that compared, say, kids who ride to school in a Mercedes with kids who ride the bus. The data would no doubt show that Mercedes kids are more likely to score high on their SATs, go to college, and go on to high-paying jobs. None of that has anything to do with the car, but the comparison would make it look as if it did."
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
This essay is Not Safe For Work, or really, Not Safe For Home if you have small children. The more horrible words will be edited for broadcast, of course. The less horrible but still very repeatable words will be there in all their glory. Just a head's up.
My husband and I disagree about the word "jerk". To him, it is a mild term, like goofball or silly. I find it more offensive; a jerk to me is someone who is mean, and stupid. This wasn't an issue, really, until we had kids. Whenever he would call someone a jerk, I would give him The Look, and my California transplant husband would roll his eyes at my New England prudishness. Until, of course, inevitably:
"Daddy, you're a jerk!" our 3 year old says, grinning. The adults exchange glances, my eyebrows clearly communicating my vindication. So we sat her down and talked calmly about words that are not nice to say, and how words can hurt people's feelings, yadda yadda yadda. (beat) About a week or so later, she's in the bathtub, covered in bubbles and babbling away to herself. "Jerk. Jerk is a bad word. (pause) Fucking cute. Fucking cute is a nice word to say." (beat), that one is all my fault.
In my defense, she really is that cute; her cuteness needs a strong modifier. And she's not wrong, in that it's a positive sentiment.
which brings us to context. I really have no problem with the use of any words in the proper context. I feel it is inauthentic to say, Oh fudge! when I've just dropped a jar and pasta sauce and glass shards are covering the floor. "Fudge" is not what I mean, and really, who am I fooling? Intent is the important thing here, and so in this case fudge is just as dirty a word as the one I meant. It would be hypocritical of me to swear and then forbid her to do the same. but she and I both must adhere to certain rules: no using words to be hurtful, words are for enhancing the human experience. Consider this: "I just watched Lost and I do not know what the heck is happening." as opposed to "I just watched the season premiere of Lost and I do not know what the fuck is going on." The latter is simply more truthful, more concise.
We never swear when we are speaking directly to her. Well, except that one time when Pete was sick, and she asked him how he was feeling. "I feel shitty", he said. "Why you feel shitty, Daddy?" What I mean to say is, We don't swear AT her. For some reason that makes a difference to me. I know that words have meaning and weight, so it does not feel right to use them with a child, or in mixed company, really. And we have explained that those words are words adults use, much like the wine we have with dinner is an adult drink, and juice boxes are mostly for kids. I don't want her to walk around like a mini-sailor, and for the most part she doesn't. I feel that we are raising her with a conscience, with a sense of right and wrong and fairness and compassion. I don't think that the use of a few choice words will counteract that.
Our friends will come over and drop an F bomb, or S bomb or D bomb, you know, the classics, nothing extravagant, and immediately say Ooops, sorry. and look guiltily at Audrey. We smile and shrug and tell them not to worry. Mostly to be good hosts and not make our friends feel bad, but also because, clearly, we say the same things in front of her. I don't really see anything wrong with it, and kids are pretty savvy. They know what they can say at school and in front of Nana, and I rarely hear her swearing on her own or out of context. (Typically, her swearing is directed at electronics such as the computer games or TV remote. She has been overheard struggling with a game and muttering Fucking Thing. A perfectly natural response, I would say)
I guess it's about authenticity for me. When people say, Gosh Darn It, instead of God Damn It, Who are they fooling, God? "Wha? did someone take my name in vain? That's a sin! Oh, wait, no. My mistake." If there is a god out there that is fooled by that, you can have it.
We are raising our daughter in a thoughtful way, in a way that conforms to our beliefs, our morals. It is not the way everyone does it, but then, everyone does it differently. I think there are worse things to be concerned about. Like what we are going to do when she's a teenager and boys think she's fucking cute, too.
Then, to emphasize the bad (good?) parenting, I said to Pete this morning, “You are super S-E-X-Y.”
Audrey says, “Daddy’s sexy! Ha ha! Daddy’s sexy!”
I did not know she knew how to do that.
Moral: never teach your children to spell or read.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
As I wrote this yesterday, I got an email telling me that a person who has contact with my daughter is being treated for H1N1. So again,
I have to make decisions on whether or not to immunize myself and especially my kid and I am again at the mercy of the medical profession.
Like most of you in the listening area, I did research before she was born, and made the informed decision - THAT WAS RIGHT FOR ME AND MY FAMILY AND IS IN NO WAY A JUDGMENT ON HOW YOU RUN YOUR LIFE FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T BE Such A big baby- to stick mostly with the routine scheduled vaccinations. I almost didn't do the chicken pox vaccine because I thought, really? I had the chicken pox it was no big deal I stayed home from kindergarten for a while and watched General Hospital with my mom every day. But then I was taking a stroller walk with other parents of tiny babies, and one of them happened to be a doctor, and he sort of turned white and got this 1000 yard stare and began to talk about his ER days, and dear lord woman, when chicken pox goes wrong it goes REALLY REALLY WRONG and I started to cry and tried to stroller my baby to the nearest walk in clinic and handcuff myself to the reception desk until they shot The Girl up with dead chickens or whatever it is they have to do. It was pretty traumatic.
And so here we are again, and we, as an informed, news watching public, are being pulled in a million different directions. If we vaccinate, Will she get the flu from the vaccine? Will she grow up to rob banks because she got the vaccine? Will she suffer horribly if she doesn't get the vaccine? Will there even be enough vaccine to go around?
(cue going crazy music)
I am sympathetic to the alternative medicine way of thinking; I used to work for an acupuncturist, who prescribed me teaspoons full of some horrible tasting concoction; We use ginger for bellyaches, and Calms Forte for sleepless nights. I am not in the pocket of Big Pharma - I am unfortunately not in the pocket of anyone. I get the fear: having to count on someone else, essentially a stranger, to have the expertise to make decisions that affect your kids makes you feel powerless. Nobody loves your kid more that you do; how can they possibly make the best decision for them? Truth be told, and as attached as I am to other people's children, if it means saving Audrey's life, all those other kids can just fend for themselves, and I know other parents feel the same way. Having said that, I am firmly in favor of vaccinations, and I am a bit dismayed by the rise of non-vaccinations in the US.
(cue the angry mob coming to burn my house down)
I think it is disingenuous to call parents who choose not to vaccinate victims of pseudo-science or hippie morons who believe unicorns cure cancer. Like I said, it is scary to have to trust in experts, and the stakes are so high. Scientists are not always the best spokespeople for their cause, either; ask any nerdy person you know about the thing they are nerdy about, and your eyes will glaze over almost immediately. But, to quote a famous scientist, I recently read something Carl Sagan said about pseudo-science satisfying a human need and offering more comfort than cold, hard science:
“A great many of these belief systems address real human needs that are not being met by our society,” Sagan wrote this about the embrace of reincarnation, channeling, and extraterrestrials. “There are unsatisfied medical needs, spiritual needs, and needs for communion with the rest of the human community.”
Simply put, science may be the truth, but our brains are hard wired to want more than that. So, I get it, I truly do. I am not inclined to just believe anything the government or big corporations tell me. I read 1984. But I do believe in science.
In a recent Wired magazine article, which I will link to, it says:
" nonprofit health care provider Kaiser Permanente reported that unvaccinated children were 23 times more likely to get pertussis" which is whooping cough, and potentially deadly to infants. "Kaiser’s Institute for Health Research, revealed that the number of reported pertussis cases jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 26,000 in 2004. A disease that vaccines made rare, in other words, is making a comeback."
Choosing to not vaccinate your children is simply choosing a different risk- you are betting your kid won't get the flu, or whooping cough, or polio. You are basing a lot of this bet on the fact that most kids do get vaccinated, so you are piggybacking on their continued good health. Statistically,however, the better bet is with getting the vaccinations. Especially in an area where a lot of parents are not vaccinating, there have been outbreaks of disease; most recently there was a measles outbreak in San Diego and one of mumps in Brooklyn. It would be heartbreaking to have your kid, or anyone else's kid, get sick or even die because of the choice you make. Remember that babies don't get a lot of these vaccines til later, so these outbreaks affect other people's children as well as your own. So the stakes are high. No vaccination is risk-free, but we are also taking a greater risk by not vaccinating.
There is a huge debate over whether vaccines are terrible and bad and more specifically cause autism, it can be summed up by the following: science says it doesn't, Jenny McCarthy, actor/playboy model/mother of an autistic child, says it does.
The controversy stems mainly from a preservative called thimerosal, which contains ethylmercury. Pregnant women are told not to eat fish because of the mercury content, so naturally freak out a bit when they hear about this preservative, and, somehow- the origins of this theory are unclear to me- it became linked with autism. Possibly because symptoms of autism show up around 18 to 24 months of age, around the time when kids typically get certain vaccines. Thimerisol has largely been removed from vaccines since 2001, yet the incidences of autism continue to rise, probably because of better diagnostics and clearly not because of mercury. There is also talk of the aluminum salts in vaccines used to increase antibody response, which also sounds really bad, right? However, one dose of antacid has about 1,000 times as much aluminum as a vaccine does. But, it's too late. Many people have "vaccines = bad" already stuck in their heads. It doesn't help that nobody knows exactly what causes autism, and autism has been in the news a lot in the past decade. We want to protect our kids, and we will do so in any way we can, right?
My cousin is autistic, and my aunt always laughs and says, "He's not my problem child. His sister, on the other hand..." I in no way want to minimize the effort, the worry, the heartache of having a child with autism. However, i speak for my entire family when I say that we would very much rather have my cousin in our lives, rather than risk his life by exposing him to infectious and potentially deadly disease. Autism has never killed anyone. And, again, for the record, there are no reputable, peer reviewed studies that make the link between vaccines and autism. I have links to the CDC and FDA websites on my blog if you would like their take on it, as well as other sources.
I expect a lot of mail about this, a lot of name calling and rending of garments. Don't disappoint me, people.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
But not really. Even if it were possible to have her as a baby again for a while, for me it would be unsustainable. I would crack, crack into pieces and what is left of my brain would leak out my ears.
Babies are a lot of work. Even now, I am all too familiar with the middle of the night; I see 2 and 3 a.m. with alarming regularity. I can shuffle bleary eyed through darkness and find clean diapers, medicine droppers, teddy bears tangled in blankets. I am up and functional in an instant, my reflexes and hearing honed through the trial by fire known as early infancy. Sounds awful, doesn't it? It is. Sleep deprivation is an enhanced interrogation technique.
My need for sweet, snuggly babies and my need to be a whole, real, grown up autonomous person are of equal intensity. They pull against each other, and somehow co-exist in my psyche. I simultaneously want and don't want to be with Audrey all day. I feel relief and regret in equal measures when I drop her off at school. Sometimes the opposing forces are such that my neurons feel they are coming apart.
It kills me that there will be a time when I won't be able to just grab her and squeeze her. For example, when she's 30, she won't let me pretend to eat her cheeks. At what age do I have to stop reaching into her shirt to coo, "What a soft little belly!" Probably soon, sooner than I want to. Between the sleep deprivation and the melancholy, I am beginning to see why all moms are ever so slightly crazy.
I can ease the longing, desperate ache somewhat by trying to be really present with her, by truly appreciating each hug, each crack up, each time we pretend to be magnetized to each other, and pull away as far as we can until bonking back together, faces squished and her laughing so much that her nose runs all over my cheek. That seems to help.
Sleeping more will help, too, I suppose. When she's a teenager she'll sleep til noon- that will be so sweet. I recently told someone about my daughter's sleep issues, and realized that I have slept through the night exactly twice in the past 5 years. Twice. Most nights I wake up just enough to scoot over when she climbs into bed with us, but there are still quite a few times she feels a party coming on around 3 a.m. It's hard to tell someone to stop talking at that hour without swearing. Not my inner child so much, but my inner 20 year old is absolutely horrified by this. Sleep has always been my dear, dear friend. I haven’t slept 8 full hours in a row since I was about 7 or 8 months pregnant (by that time my esophagus was jammed up next to the roof of my mouth, so sleeping was an issue, what with digestive fluid coating my throat and all). Thankfully the sleep deprivation has so addled my brain that I don’t really notice it much.
Still, in a perverse way I will miss this time, and I miss her babyness. I actually miss trying to eat dinner holding a flailing child on my lap, food sticking to the walls, to the floor, to my hair. I want her to *stay*- to be my baby forever and ever. I don't ever want to be without her. I have wanted that at every stage of her life; each time she changes and grows I think, "This. This is the best, and I don't want it to ever change." But of course it does change, and that change is always, always for the better. I feel so lucky to be able to witness her becoming more herself. It is a fascinating process. However, I will never see the Her That She Was again; that baby is gone. Babies go away...they don't tell you that part.
I was unprepared for this dichotomy of feeling; of both loving and hating everything to do with life as a parent. Most parenting books talk about how much work it is to have and care for a child, but what they don't say is that it is horrendously boring work. It's boring, and it's tedious, and it makes me tired. Living with and caring for small children is about messes, bodily fluids, frustration, sleeplessness, and hours of boredom. Not the "there's nothing to do" kind of boredom; the "seriously if I have to pretend I am a cat while making this plastic cow walk up and down the dollhouse stairs for one more minute I swear I will die" kind of boredom. That's what makes it hard. You need to be on, you need to be aware of everything that is going on and potentially harmful. It is difficult to do anything else (read, work, drink vodka straight from the bottle) because you have to be ready to swing into action at a moment's notice to keep her from killing herself. Besides, aren't you supposed to be interacting with your kid?
Because that's what you do. This is her life; this is not some one-off babysitting gig where you can let her sit in front of some awful Disney movie all day, because it's not All Day, it's Every Day. This is her childhood, this, right here, this cow and these stairs and me meowing my head off. This is important.
I am glad I had kids, and I am sorry to see this part of it go. Sorry doesn't even begin to explain it. I am devastated to see it go. She starts kindergarten next year-- and then that's it. That's it, I am done, thanks for the help, we'll call you in to consult, but the day to day is done. and she's going to get older, and soon I won't be able to fix her problems just by being there. Soon there will be mean girls, and homework, and she'll know that one day she'll die, and I'll die, and I can't fix that. I can't make that better for her. Soon she won't come thumping into our room at 3am, and snuggle her warm soft body up to me. Soon she will turn to other people for comfort. There will be a time in my life when an alarm clock wakes me up, not the sound of 1000 legos hitting the floor all at once. Soon the middle of the night will be foreign territory again. Our relationship will change, and I will maybe not even remember what was so sad today. I hope that Future Me, the rested me who goes to the gym regularly and can finish reading a novel in less than a year, the Me who has the time to pursue her career and go to the movies, I hope she is happy, and satisfied, and fulfilled in her relationship with Audrey. I hope she remembers me with fondness, but not wistfulness. But I am pretty sure she will. The dichotomy is why moms are nuts. So hug your mom today.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Ready, Aim, Smoke!
Because you get smoke with fire.