Today is National Pancake Day, 24 hours to celebrate a breakfast food that is a perennial family favorite. For this frazzled mother of four, today brings back memories of a story that shall live in infamy as “Mom’s IHOP incident.”
Pancakes are more than a food, they’re a family-time staple.
National Pancake Day is the result of an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) fundraiser that began in 2006, during which the restaurant chain gives away free buttermilk pancakes with the hope that patrons will reciprocate with a donation to the charity of each local restaurant’s choice, according to the IHOP website.
In our house, making pancakes at home is an ingrained family ritual.
My husband is a crepe man, because his family is pure Hungarian all the way back to the Danube, where they specialize in Palacsinta (polin-chin-ta) crepes filled with cottage cheese and jam.
Our household went through a long crepe phase, with my son Ian (the best pourer) even insisting we buy a proper crepe pan.
Recently, we’ve created “Despicable Me” themed pancakes in freaky shapes, using a spritz cookie-making device to pour the batter.
Once, we tried doing pancakes in colors, but the red ones shaped like hearts looked too much like they were bleeding once the syrup was poured on, so that never happened again.
Two years ago, all four of my sons and I decided to do a “mom’s day out” and let Quin, then 8 years old, choose the spot.
He picked IHOP on a Sunday after church, the same week that one of the restaurant's famous specials had come out.
The place was bedlam. Quin began to melt down as service slowed to a crawl and the restaurant's sound level crescendoed into a cacophony of crying babies and clanking plates.
By the time our wonderful pancakes arrived, Quin was in no fit state to appreciate them, and I had yet to see my first cup of coffee for the morning.
Basically, it was an eating race against time to see who would completely crack first – Quin or Mom.
As soon as we were out of the restaurant and in the open air, Quin snapped out of it, but I was still a frazzled train-wreck.
We were about two blocks away when my son Ian said with great care – the way one might address a person who has pulled the pin from a grenade and is at the end of the countdown – “Uh, mom, aren’t you suppose to leave the cup in the restaurant?”
He was rewarded with me snapping, “Well of course you are. What the heck are you blabbering about?”
He prudently waited until we were at a red light to point to the IHOP mug that was still in my hand as I drove.
There was one moment when I am sure the boys feared I would explode, and I did – laughing.
I laughed all the way home, tears streaming down my face, and the boys rocking with laughter and jeers.
“Mom’s a mug thief,” howled my son Avery. “She’s going to go to mug jail.”
“The IHOP police are going to be waiting at the house,” Ian roared.
Quin, Mr. Rational at this point, simply said, “Well, I guess my meltdown wasn’t the worst thing that could happen if Mom’s going to mug jail.”
Then he began to cry because, being so literal, he actually believed there was a “mug jail,” where you clearly must get “mug shots” taken, and his mother would be gone forever, all for a pancake breakfast.
By the time I was at home sitting on the couch, my oldest son Zoltan pouring a fresh cup of coffee into the ill-gotten, insignia-bearing mug, the older kids were’ still rolling at my accidental pilfering and Quin was still snuffling.
I called IHOP and confessed to the cashier man who regularly answered.
“Please, Ma’am, don’t you worry about it,” he said with a chuckle. “You’re a mom. It happens all the time. Hang on to it and come back and see us again soon.”
The next time we all went back, I had the mug in the car and all the boys, including Quin, begged me to keep it.
“The man said to hang on to it and you can’t ever get rid of it,” said Zoltan. “Every time one of us sees that mug, it will remind us of the best pancake breakfast we ever had with our mom.”
Proving once again that breakfast with the kids is rarely about the pancakes, because what we most need to make with our kids each morning is a happy memory.
In Massachusetts, where I live, possessing a small amount of marijuana has been legal since 2008, and using it for medical reasons was legalized in 2012.
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It’s on one of my daily walking routes, only 0.8 miles away from my home, right by my local Whole Foods store, where I sometimes swing by to grab a slice of broccoli and goat cheese pizza.
In general, I have no disputes with the dispensary, at this point. What I am more concerned about, as a mom, is what potentially could come next – the more widespread legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
While my daughter is just a baby right now, I’m already thinking ahead about what pressures she will face as she grows up, particularly as a teen. In 10 or 15 years, will that dispensary be offering pot for recreational use, too? The possibility makes me cringe.
The effects of marijuana have long been documented, including affected judgement, decreased ability to focus, and slower reaction time. When the drug wears off, users have reported feeling anxious, depressed, or sleepy. Legal or not, it’s not something I want my daughter to use, especially as a teen, when her developing sense of the world could lead to misperceptions about the safety of drug use.
It seems to me that if it becomes legal for broader recreational use around the US – even with age limits – she could easily say to me, "If it were that bad, it would be illegal.”
It's hard, though not impossible, to argue with that stance.
Yikes. How will I respond? I’ll just try to speak from my heart, being careful to listen to her point of view as well, taking into account that she’s growing up in a totally different time and place than I did.
I’ll try not to be shrill when I respond, though it’ll be hard. This look into my future already has me sweating, and puts all my worry about teething, night weaning, and such things into perspective.
So, perhaps I will tell her something like this: most important, I always want her to be clear-headed and in control.
Avoiding drugs and alcohol is one key way she can stay in charge of her own actions and be a lot healthier, too. I’m sure her schedule will be packed with studying, going to dances (she already adores dancing as an 11 month old), and perhaps playing a sport (track? She really books it when she crawls across a room).
Hopefully, drugs and alcohol won’t even enter the equation, but if she’s like most teens, the question will come up at some point. And I want to chat with her about the risks before it comes up with her friends, who might tell her, “Just try it, it’s OK, nothing bad will happen. Come on, everyone is doing it! Don’t be so lame.”
What will she reply? I hope she’ll remember what her mom said and say, “No thanks, I’m good.” Perhaps a friend or two will say no, too.
Talking things through really helps kids be more aware of the potential consequences of drug and alcohol use, and how to stand up to peer pressure. According to DoSomething.org, teens who consistently learn about the risks of using drugs from their own parents are “up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs” than those teens who don't. They know they’re not alone – their parents are looking out for them. And even when they say we’re boring and old-fashioned, at least their mental wheels will be turning so they can make thought-through decisions.
With lots of love, support, and a healthy dose of discipline, our kids will make it through adolescence. First, though, she’s got to learn how to walk, eat with utensils, and sleep through the night. We’re just taking this one step at a time.
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It isn’t surprising to see news from Ukraine making international headlines. However, the fact that one focus is Ukrainian model Valeria Lukyanova, a.k.a. “Human Barbie,” should give parents reason to show their kids how to look past distractions to get to the real news.
Ms. Lukyanova, who claims she is using her good looks to share a spiritual message, is making news for declaring her conversion to Breatharianism – the spiritual practice of surviving only on light and air.
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My 10-year-old son, a science fan, was amazed at the story of this human trying to live on less than a houseplant.
Then he realized she is Ukrainian. “Is that the same as Ukraine?” he asked. “Isn’t there something else happening there, like a war?”
The fact that an elementary school student can look at human Barbie eye-candy, shake it off, and see a war in Ukraine is not a naturally occurring event.
It happened because as a household, we have been briefing my son and his brothers on the news from abroad, showing them videos online about the Crimean war and explaining news stories about the unrest.
Having been to Kiev as a reporter at the breakup of the Soviet Union, I had that precognitive “mommy sense” that the goodwill of Sochi was unlikely to last on Mr. Putin’s part.
Kids, and many parents, may see the headlines about Lukyanova, the Ukrainian model, and will never make the connection to what is happening around her in Ukraine today. Some may not even go on to read hard news about the unrest, stopping at her story as good-enough online reading.
My son was still upset by the transformation of Russia from “good guy” to “bad guy” because he was hoping for a standard Disney ending.
This was one of those sad times in parenting, when I had to dispel the comforting belief of childhood that things will always turn out for the best.
Then, I turned it over to an Associated Press video, which explained how Ukraine ousted its president and Putin used that as an excuse to swoop in with troops, when there was arguably no credible threat to Russia.
I also showed him a story from Bloomberg on how the Russian president has used the gas pipeline that runs through the Ukraine to pressure the country into doing what he wants by threatening to raise rates too high to afford the fuel they need.
Still, it’s understandably hard for kids to get their minds around the news in Ukraine when just last week, our TVs were broadcasting images of global goodwill during the Olympic Games.
For Lukyanova, she is using her good looks to broadcast what she feels is a deeper, spiritual message.
“My [recent press coverage] is only based on my physical appearance,” Lukyanova said in one of her YouTube videos. “Unfortunately, spiritual ideas will never get so much attention. If a nun starts talking about spirituality, will anyone notice her? No. No one will. But if a beautiful, inspiring young woman starts talking about it, many people will start thinking.”
Despite the pretty images – from a model or a produced TV event like the Olympics – it is vital for parents to excavate real issues behind the scenes, and bring their kids along for the dig.
Here in America we can do little more than watch the unrest in Ukraine unfold without rose-colored glasses, teaching our children to look past the glossy images to see the truth.
Beyond that we can do what so many are calling upon the world to do – pray for Ukraine.
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Every family is different. Families in India can be majorly categorized into two kinds: Joint families and Nuclear families. Joint families are people united in common relationships. It is a large social group in which the father, mother, their children, their brothers, spouses, and their parents all live together. Thus, these are the group of people who share almost everything with each other. On the contrary, nuclear families have only the parents and their children living together.
I am local to Udaipur, India, where Foster Care India is starting its work. I live in what is considered a joint family home with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and my cousins. While my family structure is considered more traditional, the family model in India as a whole is shifting to include more nuclear families, consisting of just parents and children.
India is known for its rich culture, its traditions, and the love among families; and not just biological families, but those joint families that include many loved ones outside of immediate family relations.
In the context of foster care, the structure of the family unit is an important factor to look at. As the country’s population is moving toward a more nuclear family concept, there is a higher demand for a foster care system. And India has no organized foster care system, most of the population is not even aware of the concept of foster care.
As an Indian, I have seen that the type of families makes a huge difference in each child’s development. I consider it an advantage, living in a joint family, that even if anything happens to a child’s parents, there are still the family members who can take care of the child. Also, from a child’s perspective, even though they may have lost their parents, there are still individuals in their immediate family surroundings to whom they are emotionally attached and they feel they have someone to support them.
When it comes to a nuclear family, the feeling of having someone related to them is totally gone with the death of their parents. The only option left with a child is of a shelter home or orphanage for support.
Now is the time to introduce the concept of foster care into the Indian community.
But the need for change and acceptance of a change is different.
Steeped in cultural traditions, customs, beliefs, and societal norms, Indian society, in many ways, is not expected to easily accept a new concept that stands a little different from the ones they were following for generations.
A nuclear family model – a small nuclear family of two to three people – is potentially more open to foster youth because of the freedom the model offers to make such life-changing decisions, versus a joint family of decision making among many generations.
But change takes time and education. More than 40 percent of the Indian population is between the ages of 14 to 25. They are more sensitive, educated, and responsive to social issues, which can provide a positive reinforcement to their lives, leading to support of new concepts such as a foster care system in their country.
Speaking with Ian Anand Forber-Pratt, executive director of Foster Care India, offers some international context to support the importance of bolstering family units in India.
“Foster Care India is lucky to have people like you, Kripa, because without a ground level understanding, development isn’t possible,” he says. “For foster care to take root in a society, I believe we need to know the heart beat and pulse of the local community. As we’ve been doing research, we’ve learned that, for instance, here in Udaipur, only 3 percent of the community was even aware of foster care.”
Of those polled by Foster Care India, many families appreciated the idea, but were cautious about considering themselves ready to foster. Out of a sample of 650 households, the majority listed “Not the right time in life” and “Immediate family influence” as reasons to not foster. The second response aligns with cultural concerns and resistance to change.
According to Mr. Forber-Pratt, “The introduction of a foster care system has been attempted in India multiple times in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, by accomplished child protection social workers. Therefore, we are often asked, what makes your work any different?”
“The answer is twofold; A) India is ready," he says, "and B) the entire globe is pushing for family-based care for children.”
In 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child placed a special importance on the family unit. The UNCRC goes so far as to include this in the preamble: “Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”
India ratified the UNCRC code in 1992. However, the larger push in recent years for family based care came in two documents. In 2009, The Indian Integrated Child Protection Scheme (for India only) and the UN Alternative Care Guidelines (meant for global adaptation). Around this time, the Indian government started calling for non-profit partnerships to strengthen existing systems and introduce new foster care, kinship care, and adoption systems to local communities.
Newspaper articles, discussion groups, and government policies began to emerge and, to date, New Delhi (a union territory and the capital of India) and Goa (a union territory) have passed foster care “rules,” and Karnataka (a state in Southern India) has rules in a draft form.
“We at Foster Care India are in the process of working with the local government to introduce rules for Rajasthan,” said Forber-Pratt.
Until recently, India was predominantly run with a joint family model. Though this generalizes a bit, essentially it means that, if a family had a problem and came to the government’s attention, the government would re-direct them to handle the problem among themselves. However, the world is changing, nuclear families are becoming more frequent, and they are quickly sprinting away from the joint families in regards to cultural and social differences.
Because of this emerging model, there is a need for the government, and its non-profit partners, to take an active role in the care of children. This a monumental task, as India thinks through how to provide for more than 1.2 billion people. Foster Care India is excited to do its part to help the existing systems answer this question.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Kripa Devpura is a member of the Foster Care India organization, which can be found at fostercareindia.org.
It was a simple enough recipe – place peanuts and several types of chocolate in a crockpot for two hours and then scoop out the melted mixture in dollops to create bite-sized treats.
Simple, right? Well, not if you forget about it for four hours.
My younger daughter came downstairs when she smelled a pungent odor wafting from the kitchen. “What is that horrible smell, Mama?” she asked scrunching up her face as I scraped peanuts that now resembled black beans into the sink.
“I just wasted four bags of chocolate because I forgot to turn off the crockpot. I cannot believe I did that!” I chastised myself as I aggressively shoved charred clumps of chocolate into the garbage disposal. “And now I don’t have anything to bring to the party.” I didn’t try to hide my disappointment. I couldn’t believe I’d messed up something so simple.
And that’s when a little voice of wisdom cut right through the burnt haze of my frustration.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” consoled my daughter. “Remember, Mama?”
She was telling me to remember because those have been my words to her over the past three years. In every possible way, I tell her mistakes are okay. Mistakes are necessary. Mistakes are what happen when you are living life and taking chances.
Unlike her older sister, she doesn’t remember how it used to be. During my highly distracted years, the pressure to be perfect was fierce. Innocent mistakes were met with aggravated sighs and eye rolls. It wasn’t until I saw the pressure my older daughter was putting on herself that I realized I needed to stop shunning mistakes and embrace them as part of our home and our lives.
Although my older daughter lived with a perfectionistic mother for six years, her memories of the controlling, impatient, unapologetic version of myself are fuzzy. I know this because I brought it up recently during our nightly Talk Time. Earlier that day, I’d participated in a follow-up interview with Good Housekeeping magazine about letting go of perfection. Unexpectedly, the editors requested a fresh, untold story that I’d never written about before.
“Can you describe a time when you wanted things to be perfect to the point it made you lose your temper?” the editor had asked in an effort to jog my memory.
I closed my eyes and thought. Snippets of difficult to re-live memories were more easily retrieved than I expected. As I envisioned pink and yellow checked outfits, I felt sadness well up in my throat. I vividly remembered the pressure building up inside me as I tried to get my daughters out the door to meet new neighbors. We had just moved, and I knew no one. I felt so unattractive that day – so far from perfect. And there were my precious girls wanting to wear comfortably worn mismatched shorts. They wanted nothing to do with pretty outfits and neatly secured ponytails. They just wanted to play and be kids. Of course, in true drill sergeant fashion, I made them wear the pristine outfits despite their cries.
I recounted the story to the editor – a story no one had ever heard before – a story I’d tried to forget and almost did.
“Oh this is wonderful. Lots of people will be able to relate to this,” she encouraged.
But, yet, I felt regretful and alone. I thought about that painful memory all day, so much that I felt the urge to apologize to the one I knew probably remembered it too. Although it happened several years ago, I’ve learned it’s never too late to ask for forgiveness.
“I am sorry I used to want things perfect all the time,” I blurted out to my older daughter in the glow of the nightlight at Talk Time.
“Give me an example,” she asked unexpectedly.
“Do you remember how stressed out I would get about wanting things to look a certain way when we left the house? Or how I made such a big deal out of trivial mistakes and mishaps?” I asked, bracing myself for distressing recollections.
“Not really,” she shrugged. “I just remember how you used to lay out my clothes every morning, and I didn’t get to pick. But now you let me wear what I want.” She snuggled closer. “I like it the way it is now.”
“Well, I’m sorry I didn’t realize sooner that being happy matters more than making things look perfect. I’m sorry I didn’t change sooner,” I admitted with regret.
“It’s better to know it now than never know it at all,” she wisely offered.
My child’s profound words were fresh on my mind the next morning as we prepared for school. Her little sister was standing in front of the mirror, parting her hair straight down the middle. She completely ignored the back of her hair and as a result, it resembled an angry cactus.
I could see my older daughter eyeing her sister’s disheveled mess. She reached out her hand to take the brush, but then quickly drew it back without saying a word. My younger daughter, unaware she was being observed, walked out humming to herself happily.
My older daughter looked up at me. I was about to find out just how much my confession the night before had resonated with her. “The old you probably would have fixed her hair, and she probably would’ve cried.” After pausing for a minute she admitted, “I thought about telling her to change it, but then I decided not to say anything. It’s better to just let her be who she is.”
My friends, I am simply the messenger on this journey, and today I have some thoughts for you to consider:
Maybe the words, “I’m sorry,” can be the start of a liberating dialogue your heart’s been yearning to have.
Maybe those you have wronged can be more forgiving than you are to yourself if given the opportunity.
Maybe second chances are not given to you, but rather something you offer to yourself by using new words and new actions.
Maybe who you are now is more important than who your were then.
Whether it’s been five minutes, five months, or five years,
it’s not too late to speak words of remorse,
it’s not too late to offer forgiveness to yourself or those you love,
it’s not too late to be the person you always wanted to be.
Because who you are now is more important than who you were then.
I think that sentence bears repeating:
Who you are now is more important than who you were then.
Just think of the gift you’ll be giving those who are learning how to live by watching you live – not perfectly, but with small, positive steps and daily doses of grace.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Rachel Stafford blogs at www.handsfreemama.com.
For fans of the popular Netflix series “House of Cards,” Kate Mara is all the rage. News of her asking her young sister, Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Social Network”), advice on working with director David Fincher – who directed “The Social Network” and the first two episodes of “House of Cards” – is making its way around the Web.
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When Kate was asked to work for the director, she went to little sis for advice and it seems everyone is surprised.
I think that surprise stems from the fact that siblings fighting usually makes for juicier headlines than a love fest.
The first time I tell anyone I am the mother of four boys, I hear two things, “You really have your hands full” and “How do you handle all the fighting?”
I tell people that all parents “have their hands full,” no matter how many kids there are. I was probably more overwhelmed with my first child than with my fourth, due to the difference in parenting experience.
However, on the matter of fighting, I tend to look at them and smile that “I’ve got a secret” smile, because I know that nothing is more terrifying than when siblings unite.
While they may fight, grumble, complain, and roll their eyes at each other daily, all any siblings need is a common enemy in order to come together as a fighting unit.
Some of the most impressive things I have ever seen my sons achieve together have come as the result of responding to bullies, breakups, and being forced to do a household project by their father.
“Oh, all it ever takes is common enemies with us,” said Zoltan, 20, over the phone this morning from his college apartment in Richmond, Va. “Remember how bad we were all fighting that one summer until Pop decided to build the massive brick patio and deck?”
I had forgotten that they were all sniping at one another that summer, but building a deck in the record 109-degree heat in Norfolk, Va., had a galvanizing effect on the boys.
However, siblings united isn’t always fun for parents.
In a house with four kids, it’s a lot like watching the TV show “Survivor” or playing the board game Risk, as alliances are built and the balance of power shifts, depending on which of the kids are bonding at the moment.
It’s great to see the Mara sisters sharing advice on jobs.
In our house, brothers tend more toward discussions of strategic video gaming and anti-parental tactics.
In our household today, Ian, 18, and Avery, 14, are the currently bonded pair, repelling all parental efforts to get them to do chores, or anything else they don’t want to do.
Quin, 10, is perpetually on the outs with Ian and Avery, but bonded tightly with Zoltan and will Facebook message his big brother for advice on life and how to handle his brothers.
However, as mentioned earlier, all bets are off when a common enemy is involved, particularly one outside the family.
I remember when Zoltan and Ian (17-months apart in age, with opposite personalities) were at the height of their fraternal dislike, we learned that Ian – a freshman in high school at the time – had been bullied at school for months.
The two of them made a stunning shift in communication, from barely acknowledging each other’s existence while sharing a bedroom, to Zoltan having his arm draped over his younger brother’s shoulder as they huddled to discuss strategy.
Apparently, the visual impact of them together, and a few choice words from big brother, went where no teacher conference had gone before.
“You mess with one of us and you get all of us,” is the phrase Zoltan coined that day at school and I believe it will stand the test of time.
The next time your kids are fighting, remember that while they may often pull apart, the most powerful instinct siblings have is to pull together.
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President Barak Obama brings stakeholders in the $200 million “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to the table Thursday to assist young men and boys of color.
Parents should be eyeing a seat at that table, as that is the place from which they can ensure both the end of "zero tolerance" policies that have plagued education and the success of our nation’s children.
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I applaud the fact that Mr. Obama announced a $200 million commitment from nine foundations to help young men and boys of color, according to Yahoo News.
According to reports, this is a component of a bigger plan to get private businesses, non-profits, and local governments to work in concert to step into the lives of African American and Hispanic boys at key points.
The plan would focus on providing pre-kindergarten education, lifting third-grade reading proficiency, leading schools away from "zero tolerance" disciplinary policies that kick misbehaving students out of school, and convincing businesses to train and hire young men of color.
I am no fan of “zero-tolerance” policies in schools because they criminalize our kids over minor and often misinterpreted actions.
I am a white woman, with four white sons, and zero tolerance took my eldest son, Zoltan, now 20, out of kindergarten for an entire week when he was little.
We had just moved from a sailboat docked in Florida with no TV to a New Jersey community. It was just after the terrorist attacks of September 11.
On his second day of kindergarten, the principal of the elementary school called to tell me my child was being suspended for “terroristic threats.”
“His teacher asked if he liked Barney – the purple dinosaur – and your child said, ‘I hate Barney! You gotta get a mask and a knife and get rid of him!’ ”
After a long day filled with family services people, clipboards, and a school psychologist, I was finally able to clarify that my child had been raised without TV and “a big purple Barney” was a barnacle, which his father “hates” resulting in him having to put on a dive “mask” and “get rid of the barneys” with a putty “knife.”
It was really touch-and-go for days.
Having read the Juvenile Law Center (JLC) posting from January that talked about the overall damage the “zero-tolerance” policies have done in specifically the African-American community and the broader education system in general, I shudder to think of what it would have been like for my son today had I been an African-American or Hispanic mom trying to explain the Barney mishap.
Would my son have been expelled? Would being marked as a “bad kid” have dogged him and resulted in him being in a jail cell today instead of a college classroom?
These are reasonable questions being asked by people at the highest levels of our government, and I think it’s time more parents, of every race, joined the discussion.
While these policies were meant to prevent guns, drugs, and weapons in schools, instead, they often times have resulted in banishing children from the learning environment for using a finger as a “gun.”
In a recent report, “A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned About Zero Tolerance in Schools,” the Vera Institute of Justice examined the research on zero-tolerance policies over the past 25 years. The JLC broke down the findings of the study in its own report.
According to the JLC, researchers found that after a generation of this policy, “Zero-tolerance policies are one piece of the epidemic known as the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ – the criminalization of school-based student misconduct that increases the chances that students – especially low-income students of color – will end up involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system.”
At this point, it’s also important to note that no amount of money and policy change will truly make a difference in the lives of our nation’s youth, if the most important stakeholders – parents – are absent from the table.
For all races, charity – giving of our time – begins at home.
Parent and caregivers must show support and let kids know that they have greater expectations for kids than many kids have for themselves.
We also need to make time to mentor kids who are not our own, because in this economic climate many parents are unable to be there to guide and strengthen their kids.
I volunteer by creating free chess programs for the community to bring at-risk kids, mentors, and families together across a game board.
For years, I was frustrated that so many fathers would come to the community center to work out and never set foot in the chess room to see their sons and daughters play.
While dads often encouraged their little girls, they would be very negative about their sons learning the game.
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Too often, a father would say right in front of a son, “Don’t bother with him. That game won’t do him any good. He’s not going to be a lawyer or anything.”
I used to get angry, until I took more time to coax dads into the chess room and talked to them about why they had been absent.
Turns out that the dads in question never got the kind of breaks “My Brother’s Keeper” is expected to provide.
Because these fathers deeply love their sons, they often want to spare them the disappointments by managing a son’s expectations of success in school, business, and life.
Once they saw their boys play – and win – these same fathers made it their mission to be there every chance they got.
When the dads took their seat at the table the kids did better at chess, in school, and in the disciplinary area as well.
It seems to me that $200 million will buy a pretty large table, and it’s my hope that Obama leaves seats open and available for parents to be a part of the difference.
During the interview, Bialik recounted a 2011 incident on the New York City subway, during which she breastfed her 3-year-old son.
Ms. Bialik told HuffPost, “What I like to point out is that was the best way for that subway ride to be pleasant for everyone.” She later added "I don't believe you need to cover up a baby eating anymore than you need to cover a baby drinking a bottle."
Bialik also declared during the interview that breastfeeding is “NOT a sexual act.”
Bialik is an actress and neuroscientist. She's currently playing Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS's Big Bang Theory.
Her defense of breastfeeding her own children into toddlerhood comes as the US reports a marked drop in child obesity rates for pre-school age children.
Breastfeeding children beyond the age of six months has been identified as one of the potential reasons for the obesity drop.
A government report released Tuesday showed that the obesity rate among children 2 to 5-years-old dropped by nearly half over a decade, from 14 percent to 8 percent.
According to government figures, some researchers believe breastfeeding helps children regulate their intake of food, helping to lower their obesity risk later in life.
Of infants born in 2010, 49 percent were breastfeeding at 6 months, up from 35 percent in 2000. The breast-feeding rate at 12 months increased from 16 percent to 27 percent during that time period.
Judy Dodd, a University of Pittsburgh assistant professor in nutrition and dietetics, told the Associated Press that government programs and other services have encouraged breast-feeding by providing free or low-cost breast pumps, access to refrigeration and more offices with private, comfortable rooms where new moms can pump on the job.
"When a woman goes back to work, how does she continue to breast-feed? That's the biggest challenge I'm hearing, and there have been improvements," Ms. Dodd said.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Following the death of a 10-year-old boy who died, according to the San Diego County medical examiner's office, as the result of being bitten by an infected rat bought as a pet, parents may want to rethink the value of unusual pets and how to warn children before allowing them to play at a home where more exotic animals are kept.
After reading about young Aidan’s death, I am reminded, as all parents should be, that with great pets comes great responsibility for a child’s safety.
As the mom of a 10-year-old boy who adores all animals, and would cuddle and adopt anything that walks, crawls, or flies across his path, Aidan’s story captured my full attention.
Most parents already know to warn kids about how to approach strange dogs – palm down and let them sniff the back of your hand so the dog doesn’t think the child is holding a treat it could snap at.
However, dogs seem to be where our cautionary advice to kids on pets ends, and this news story is a powerful reminder that we should also consider how to approach more exotic pets.
The Animal League website offers some good basic rules for any pet:
- Children should not be left alone or allowed to sleep with an animal.
- Ensure that you and your child always wash hands with soap and water after handling pets.
- Teach your child not to pull on the ears and tail of animals, or pinch, squeeze, or make loud noises.
- Never approach strange dogs or animals.
- Don't allow your pets to lick your child's face or any cuts or scratches.
The choice of an exotic or unusual pet means reading all the literature that comes with it, plus some additional research by parents.
As with anything you hand your child, read the instructions and know the potential dangers before handing it over.
In Aidan’s case, according to ABC, he already owned one rat and had kept it without incident. This was a companion to the first animal that caused the tragedy.
While I am not a rat person, I recently saw how a boy could love one as a pet.
Last month, when the weather was extremely cold, a river rat got into our dining room and was cornered by our two cats.
Quin, 10, and his brothers Ian, 18, and Avery, 14, said, “Aaaaaw! Save it! We can keep it.”
I was shrieking, “They bite! Hit it with something!”
We ended up compromising, with Ian trapping it in a large container and me escorting it to the river a few blocks away with the stern warning not to return.
So rats aren’t my thing, but I know all about how great it is to see your child love a pet, no matter how unusual an animal it may be.
Frankly, when parents consider a pet, we may think more about the creature’s welfare than the child’s, asking “Who’s going to feed it?” and not “Will it hurt my child?”
I was rough on pets as a kid.
When I was a little girl, my father would buy any pet I asked for.
There was the chameleon bought at the circus that I let out of its cage so it could “get some fresh air.” Gone.
There was the canary the cat actually ate, just like in the old expression.
Then there was the bunny given to me at Easter, which died after eating plastic flowers I put in the cage to “make it happy.”
As a parent, I run a two-cat and one-massive-dog family.
The most exotic we’ve gotten as pet people is when my pal Ed Florimont sent the boys a “singing” frog via Grow-a-Frog kit, that allows the owner to watch a frog grow from a tadpole sent in the mail.
Hence, we raised a Xenopus laevis, or African clawed frog, which would trill or “sing” when it was about to rain.
Still, I realize many parents choose more unusual animals as pets because their kids' friends own an exotic pet of their own. Over the years, my four sons have come home asking for: a snake, a ferret, a rat, a hamster, and various lizards – all the result of friends owning one.
Because of these friends, and the requests that resulted, I have become more careful about asking the parents of potential playdates if they have any pets that fall more into the zoo-than-home category.
Animals can add so much to our kids’ lives, teaching them to be responsible caretakers, but we must never forget that these are all domesticated animals with wild instincts.
When we tell our kids the bedtime stories of “Where the Wild Things Are,” it’s important to remember that some of them may be under our roof, curled up beside our children.
Yes, I’m one of those people. I'm a mom who practices attachment parenting, a term coined by Dr. William Sears that includes babywearing, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping. I’ve done all three with pride since my daughter was born 10 months ago. It just came naturally to me – I never really thought about it very seriously.
But as a recent Huffington Post piece points out, a mother's needs can often be left out of the attachment parenting process.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Children and Family Studies suggests that attachment parenting led to higher levels of stress and lower levels of satisfaction for many moms.
Among the on-demand nursing sessions (for the first few months, my baby nursed about every 45 minutes, all day long), always focusing on her needs first (I remember gobbling down meals as quickly as possible during those first six months), and co-sleeping, oftentimes my needs have been completely forgotten.
All of this is OK, for a time, but it is so special when the mother is mothered, too. I remember being absolutely giddy when, among all the other special packages sent for the baby right after she was born, one of my aunts included an enormous bar of German chocolate for me.
I didn’t expect anything like that because I was completely focused on my baby – addressing every single little need as soon as it came up. This is the way I’ve chosen to mother my child and it makes me so happy most of the time. However, I do still need to recharge my batteries occasionally.
A few days ago, I had a job interview for some freelance work, and as a stay-at-home mom, this was a really big deal in my little world. I was thrilled to take my actual purse with me, not the diaper bag with my wallet and cellphone hastily stuffed in. I even put on a little mascara, lipstick, a dress, and high heels. My husband’s eyes popped out when I kissed him goodbye as I walked out the door. I think it was good for him to see me out of my stay-at-home mom uniform of a T-shirt and jeans, too.
I adore being at home with my baby, but even the most steadfast attachment parenting moms need an hour or two to just be themselves, and not only a mom, just for a little while.
When I returned home from my interview a couple hours later, I scooped up my little girl, and let her cling to me like a koala bear cub for the rest of the day.
Nurturing my child is a top priority for me, as it is for so many moms of my generation. Judging by the plethora of nursing covers I see at Starbucks on any given morning, pieces of the attachment parenting process are becoming more common. Most people smile and nod if I mention that we’re co-sleeping, and I see more baby carriers than strollers gliding past my house, too.
A new video is making its rounds around my mom circles, and it depicts a baby persistently holding onto its mom right after birth. To me, it exemplifies the beauty of attachment parenting – it follows a mother’s natural instinct to gently, selflessly nurture her baby, and a baby’s natural desire to be deeply nurtured.
Yes, diving into parenting your child whole-heartedly is awesome, but don’t forget to take care of your needs, too. Eat the chocolate.