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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"We Protect Kids From Everything But Fear"

This "My Turn" essay in the current issue of Newsweek totally struck a chord for me. I think about this a lot, about the degree, the passion, the commitment, to which modern middle-class parents adhere to these arbitrary strictures.

For example, my brother doesn't let his 4-year-old daughter watch TV at all. He and his wife decided she has to be 5 years old (I have no idea why that's the magic number). But I don't see the point at all - we (he, my sister and I) watched tons of TV as kids and it didn't ruin us! We drank nothing but Koolaid, and we went to the fair every summer and had an orgy of junk food. We're not fat, we're not stupid.

I just don't see what all the hysteria is about. I think a lot of this is just clever marketing - how much does a long sleeved swmsuit cost??? All this craziness is just so companies can sell us alternatives that cost 10 times as much (e.g., soy chips versus potato chips).

There's a difference between setting reasonable limits (on TV, on junk food, on sun exposure), which many parents also don't bother to do, and this current obsession with controlling every minor childhood frivolity, as if all this vigilance really matters, really has an impact on your child's long-term quality of life.

What is a much more important parenting responsibility, in my opinion, is to teach kids to cope with life's ups and downs, rather than trying to control everything (which is impossible anyway) and rather than trying to protect kids from the vagaries of life.

Here's the link and some excerpts from the article:

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17770831/site/newsweek/

We Protect Kids From Everything But Fear
With hand sanitizer and long-sleeved swimsuits, we're teaching our childrena dangerous lesson.
By Paula Spencer
April 2, 2007

Fear is the new fuel of the American mom. If it's not fear of her childbecoming obese, it's the fear of falling behind, missing out on a sportsscholarship or winding up with a thin college-rejection envelope.

It's not that I think parents shouldn't worry about anything. I'm personallypetrified of SUV drivers on cell phones. I fret as much as the next momabout how to pay for college. I pray my kids won't wander onto MySpace andpost something dumb.

But you can't go around afraid of everything. It's too exhausting! No matterhow careful you are, bad stuff happens (diaper rash, stitches, all yourfriends assigned to another class). And it's seldom the end of the world.

Watching my daughter's friends ogle my pantry, I realized there's one big,legitimate fear that I haven't heard anybody mention: what's the effect of our collective paranoia on the kids? Yes, these very kids we want to be so self-sufficient, responsible, confident, happy and creative (not to mention not food-obsessed). They're growing up thinking these weirdly weenie viewsare healthy and normal.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Surge improving security for some

I literally cried in my car while listening to this story on NPR. It's not that's it's our fault exactly, but we've made a mess over there for sure - this peaceful, integrated neighborhood joined the civil war when gunmen drove up and slaughtered a mixed group (Shia and Sunni) of boys playing soccer.

The houses around the empty lot are owned by families of both sects. They have known each other for years. Until then, sectarian tensions had been kept in check, but the savagery of this attack sent them over the edge. "Shia start shooting Sunni houses, Sunnis start shooting Shia houses. They let the real criminals run away," Saleem said. "The men in the houses, they lost their minds totally."



Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Great quote

God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through.
-Paul Valery, poet and philosopher (1871-1945)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rudy Memorial Entry

Our sweet cat, Rudy, died this morning, quite unexpectedly. He was clearly sick when I saw him this a.m., and luckily Larry was off today and was able to take him to the vet. But he died right after they got there. Unfortunately, the vet isn't sure what happened, but my stepmother, who knows a lot about these things, suspects congestive heart failure. He was 15 years old (or would have been, next month), and never a svelte figure. He may have been sick in the last day or two, but he's so mellow and unobtrusive, I hadn't noticed. I'm so glad he went quickly and didn't suffer, but I wish I'd had a chance to give him some extra TLC before he left us for good. He was always a sweet cat, but he's gotten a lot less attention since we had Caleb and then Alana and then Roxy (our dog). I'm picturing him as he journeys to a better place today, where he gets scratched and petted around the clock and his world is full of cantalope (which he loved) and cat treats. He'll be missed.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Great quote

The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only commonfeature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal afteranother of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos.
-Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist, biologist, author (1941-2002)

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Spirit of Strom Thurman

Of course I knew that Dick Cheney was trotting around the globe on what passes for a good will tour, but I hadn't heard that the plane he's traveling in is named "The Spirit of Strom Thurman" until I heard Bill Maher, and then Jon Stewart, comment on it. I'm surprised this didn't cause more of a ruckus. His comments at Thurman's BD party almost ruined Trent Lott's political career. How inappropriate is it for the VP to travel the world on official business in a plane named for the famed segregationist (who happened to be a miscegenist as well).


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Great quote

For disappearing acts, it's hard to beat what happens to the eight hours supposedly left after eight of sleep and eight of work. -Doug Larson, Olympic Gold Medalist (1902-1981)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ann Coulter stumbles again

I heard with some surprise the outrage over Ann Coulter's latest remarks - a pathetic joke about John Edwards (she said she would talk about him except you have to go to rehab if you call someone a faggot, which is a reference to Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington). I have to give her credit for managing to get in digs at two people at once, but I can't see why anyone bothers to get upset at anything she says - she has absolutely no credibility as a political commentator anymore, and she appeals to only the most rabid and foolish extremists. Pointing out that Ann Coulter said something outrageous is rather like saying the sky is blue.