While scientists trumpet the potential catastrophic results of a supervolcano causing planetary extinction, parents should not be too quick to jump on the story as science fair fodder for their kids, because this news could be a snooze thanks to YouTube science fare.
The annual rite of passage for parents and kids – the school science fair – is coming up later this month. So, when I read the BBC News report this morning stating that it is much more likely than once believed that a “supervolcano” – like the one underneath Yellowstone National Park – could explode and wipe out civilization as we know it, the first thing I did was tell my son Quin, 10.
None of my sons have ever wanted to build a science fair volcano, like the one my dad and I made together years ago, because it seems they have become so cliché.
Quin’s project is on making a “true mirror” by placing two mirrors at right angles in order to counter the reversal that a common mirror makes of our reflection. He’d seen a Vsauce video on YouTube about why people don’t like what they see when looking at photos or videos of themselves. That’s because the mirror shows us a reverse or “untrue” image of ourselves, which we come to know and accept.
“I’d rather see how I really look than make some boring, goopy red mess all over the table,” Quin explained.
Maybe I was being a little childish in offering the supervolcano news this morning, hoping he’d see mom’s idea wasn’t lame after all.
Because this is about something I believed was cutting edge, I expected him to erupt with excitement, amazement, scientific curiosity, and wonder.
“Meh,” he said with a shrug. “When you think about it, it’s not nearly as scary as the ones on Mars. If the biggest one on Mars erupts it could turn the planet inside-out.”
Okay, but we don’t live on Mars.
And, according to a recent study published by ETH Zurich, cited in the BBC report, a supervolcano doesn't need additional factors other than its size to erupt.
"Once you get enough melt, you can start an eruption just like that," the study's lead author Wim Malfait told the BBC.
There are about 20 known supervolcanoes on Earth – including Lake Toba in Indonesia, Lake Taupo in New Zealand, and the somewhat smaller Phlegraean Fields near Naples, Italy.
None of this impressed Quin, because he is a modern geek-child with Internet access and an insatiable hunger for science factoids.
The child looked me straight in the eye and said the word, “Yawn!”
“Mom, seriously, Mars has the largest supervolcano in the SOLAR SYSTEM, called Olympus Mons,” Quin said heatedly. “THE SOLAR SYSTEM! It’s actually three-times taller than our planet’s biggest one, in Hawaii!”
Embarrassingly, I had to look that up. He was talking about Mauna Loa, and he was right.
You’d think an extinction-level event for our species would be a revelation to a child of 10, yet I was the one who got schooled as Quin spewed volcano facts at me.
Apparently, he’s not spending as much of his time online gaming as I thought, but rather has become a skilled researcher, and has even modeled a Martian supervolcano on Minecraft.
His volcanic-fact spew was often punctuated with verbal footnotes referring to a science video from The Discovery Channel on YouTube and the website Stumbleupon.com, which directed him to a host of “deadliest space phenomenon” videos.
Supervolcanic cataclysm had been news to Quin 10 months ago.
I suppose the lesson I learned this morning is that the science of parenting is ever evolving. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
I saw my child on the computer for long stretches and dragged him away because I thought I was looking at a kid wasting time and rotting his brain.
Apparently what I needed was a “true mirror” to see how my perception of my child’s interests differed from what was right in front of my eyes.
As we welcome in a new year, some thoughts on the promise and protective properties of compassion and resilience for our children (and all of us)…
In the US and probably many other countries, the Internet safety discussion has focused largely on external safeguards: filtering, monitoring, and other parental control tools, household and school rules, state and federal laws. Those can be helpful in the quest to increase children’s well-being online and offline, especially if caregivers and rulemakers are applying them thoughtfully and recalibrating for age-appropriateness the way parents typically do. But external protections aren’t the only kind. They’re not the only kind of protection kids need at a time when connectivity is as mobile as our kids are, a time when we seem to have less control over our kids’ connectivity all the time and when – even when we feel we do – they have plenty of workarounds.
The internal safeguards
So more of our collective focus needs to be on *internal* safeguards – the kind that improve with age and are with our children wherever they go, digitally, and physically, the rest of their lives: resilience, empathy, respect for self and others, their moral compass (or inner guidance system), and the literacies of this networked media culture, digital, media, and social literacy (see the second half of this).
The good news is that, even though we haven’t seen them as key to their online safety and even though the public discussion about it has focused almost entirely on external safeguards, these internal ones develop pretty organically anyway, as kids grow up, absorb their families’ values, and work out social norms with their peers.
But think how much more powerful – and empowering – these internal “safety tools” will be when, as a society, we help children develop them in a conscious, concerted way that’s respectful of their individual and collective development of them. Social literacy, with all the other benefits that come with it (including better academic performance), is an academic standard in only one state, Illinois, and it’s generally taught only as an in-person skill. Rarely is it consciously taught as a skill needed in digital environments, while what we find is that kids need these skills and literacies more than ever in all the environments of this ultra-connected world of ours, with images and information constantly flowing through their everyday lives – a world in which connectivity is increasingly key to economic as well as social success.
Growing interest in empathy, compassion
There are encouraging signs of real momentum in that direction, though. Besides the growing interest in social-emotional learning and school climate in education circles, there’s focus on this in the Internet industry, academia, and philanthropy. This month I attended back-to-back conferences on compassion: Facebook’s fourth Compassion Research Day and a Compassion & Technology conference at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE).
Both were about perspective-gathering, growing consensus and spreading the word – de-silo-ing a discussion that’s necessarily cross-disciplinary, along the lines of the gathering that launched the Born This Way Foundation at Harvard’s Berkman Center. I like the way Keith Neilson of HopeLab(.org), a nonprofit group that designs games “to improve human health and well-being,” described the Stanford gathering:
“Drawn from a rapidly emerging field [the study of empathy], presenters from around the world convened to share their perspectives on the power of technology, in particular, games, Web apps, smartphones and tablets, to promote resilience and compassionate action in the world.” He picked some great takeaways from the conference, showing what science says about the benefits of compassion (look under “Snapshot of Three CCARE Presenters” in his blog post).
How resilience helps us
HopeLab itself is working on an app that increases resilience in its user – no small task, I’d say, but an important one, given that, for resilient people…
- Online (or offline) risk doesn’t become harm
- Safety is built in and grows when adversity happens
- Meanness may hurt but doesn’t scar
- Bullying signals a need for compassion (for the bully too) and
- Resiliency brings freedom – to help others as well as bounce back.
In other words, resilience is protective. It allows for safe risk-assessment. So how is it cultivated?
“Scientific research indicates that there are three psychological experiences we can cultivate to bolster resilience … a sense of purpose, a sense of connection, and a sense of control [see this about the need to restore a sense of control in young people targeted by bullying]. These experiences not only improve our psychological well-being; they can also improve our physical health,” said Janxin Leu, HopeLab’s director of product innovation, in her presentation at the Stanford conference.
Cultivating purpose, connection and control
Dr. Leu went on to define purpose as “a far-reaching steady goal, something personally meaningful that is self-transcending (reaches out into the world); to define connection as “authentic relationship with others, a sense of belonging, the opposite of loneliness”; and to define control as “our belief in our power to affect our destinies, the engine of motivation.” Another word for “control” that I’ve written a lot about is “agency.” It’s key to play, which – more than work – navigates rapid change and complexity, the conditions of today’s world and our kids’ futures.
So do you see how vital it is to help our children develop these internal safeguards – resilience, empathy, ethics, self-respect, and the blended literacy of participatory media and this networked world? They are key to safety as well as health, happiness, and success.
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. Anne Collier blogs at Net Family News.
As winter storm Hercules takes hold of the East coast, parents have the opportunity to give older kids the mixed blessing of volunteering to help shelter and feed homeless adults, teens, and families before having to turn them back out into the storm.
Every fiber of my being wanted to remain in bed, but my parental conscience nagged me because I had signed everyone in the family up for shifts with the NEST (Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team).
Though still destroyed from the six hour drive the night before, I kept reminding myself, “If I bail, so will all the kids when their turn comes and I will have nobody to blame but myself.”
My husband is the one who saw the signup sheet Christmas Eve after service at our church and said, “We really need to start getting the boys to volunteer in a variety of ways.”
However, I have never done this before and so I had no idea what to expect. That’s why I took the first shift, so I could then prepare the kids before they jumped in to help.
Nothing could have prepared me for this morning’s experience of seeing a defeated, 19-year-old homeless boy waiting in line for a cold, hardboiled egg, choice of oatmeal or cold cereal, toast, and Tang or hot tea.
Our furnace quit in October and this old house is barely warm with the space heaters, even less so today with the driving wind off the Elizabeth River two houses down the street. I inwardly grumbled about this as I dressed in the dark.
On the way to the church where about 40 homeless individuals had spent the night and were soon to be awakened and summoned to a breakfast I was volunteering to help prepare and serve, a pine tree came down across the road in front of me.
It missed the nose of the minivan by two car lengths and forced me to back down the road and re-route to get to the church.
Again, one inner voice said, “It’s a sign. Just go back home to bed. No one would blame you.”
However, the mommy voice said, “No excuses. Set an example of doing the right thing to keep a promise in the scowling face of adversity.”
I then backed over a fallen branch and had to stop and crawl under the car with a flashlight in the 4:45 a.m. darkness, sleet, and wind to unstick the stick.
All the while I was thinking, “If just one of the boys grumbles about taking his shift this weekend I will have plenty of ammo.”
I was surprised to learn that the majority of the volunteers, both staying overnight and coming in at 5 a.m. for the breakfast shift, were Boy Scouts and teenagers with their families.
These kids are regulars, pros who had an entire system set up for cooking, serving, and cleaning up afterwards.
Each and every one of the volunteers treated the “guests” with dignity and respect, waiting on them, catering to requests for fresh plastic bags for belongings, and aiding one wheelchair-bound homeless man to use the restroom facilities.
As I took orders and helped the teens and others pass out toast, eggs etc. my eyes wandered across the sleeping and dining areas.
I was told that a bus was coming in an hour to collect the guests and take them downtown where they would be turned back onto the streets until tonight when the NEST shelter would re-open for the night.
The volunteer coordinator at the church explained that this is a standard practice for shelters nationwide in order to help encourage people staying in temporary shelters to seek more permanent housing and assistance from social services.
Nationally, there is a serious lack of long-term housing options. Where we live in Norfolk there is a wonderful program called ForKids, which is specifically oriented to help homeless families and children obtain long-term shelter and assistance.
While there is a sense of fulfillment that comes with serving, we must prepare our kids for the harsh reality of being powerless to do anything but watch as kids their own age walk out into the storm dished out both by Mother Nature and life.
After my experience, I took time with my sons, ages 10, 14 and 18, to explain that they will be helping homeless people who are close to their ages. I also told them that they should not fall into the trap of avoiding eye contact, especially if it turns out to be someone they know. We are making some resource sheets for teens to help them find other sources of food, shelter, and aide that the boys can slip to other kids after they have broken the ice and made some conversation.
I told the boys, “Don’t be stingy when you volunteer. While we need to be mindful of supply and demand, if you have a surplus and someone wants seconds just give it to them. If they want to stuff extra hardboiled eggs into a pocket it’s OK. This isn’t the lunch line at school. Offer a roll to go with it.”
After all my explaining I asked Avery, 14, if he was still ready to do this. He said, "Actually, now that I know more about it I'm way more comfortable about volunteering."
One of the most enduring memories of my childhood is the family road trip, be it day trip or long haul trek for holiday or reunion, only the funniest stories survive to be retold to year after year.
My husband and I are on our first major family road trip in nearly 10 years from Norfolk, Va. to see family and friends in New Jersey with our four sons (ages 10, 14, 18, and 20) plus one girlfriend, Monica, 18.
I anticipated a series of increasing disasters ranging from infighting to cannibalism when the snacks ran out.
I have been amazed in many ways, so far all of them good.
That’s a six hour drive just to get from state to state, plus multiple hours of stops all over Jersey to convert friendships previously based in social media and Skype into real-life, hug ‘till your arms hurt relationships.
While the older boys plot a game plan to isolate their Uncle Tommy and extract as much damaging information about their father’s childhood as they can in the time allotted, the youngest wants only to soak-up the Jersey shore like a sponge.
As a parent I want to survive both physically and financially while returning Monica to her mom safely. There is nothing as terrifying as being responsible for another person’s child (even if she is 18) on a road trip.
Our first stop was Medford, N.J. to revisit the log cabin where three of our four sons spent five years.
We came away with a nonstop flow of chatter about the memories triggered.
“Remember when we had that big snowstorm and Pop hooked the sled to the dog and it ran away with us on it,” Ian asked.
“Oh yeah!” said the boys.
“Oh no,” I thought. “This is going to be a tour of the parenting potholes on memory lane!”
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that while parents remember the parenting failures kids remember the good stuff as they rattled on about the neighbor who always had the scariest Halloween decorations and the fact that “everything looks so much smaller that I remember.”
We drove to Barnegat, N.J. hoping to see the marine biologist friend Ian Jones for whom our son Ian is named, but had no luck. Instead we took pictures of the tribe at his front door and swapped stories of crabbing, sailing, and “Crazy Ian Jones.”
Then we were right back on the road to Long Beach Island, N.J. to visit Peter and Laura Maschal and their twin daughters who are age 21.
Laura is one of the moms I have modeled my parenting after. She has been one of the greatest influences in my life. Peter and my husband are fast friends as well as surf and sail buddies.
After a long, freezing stretch of the legs down the jetty and beach at Barnegat Lighthouse we were all starving. We were also finally out of apples, PB&J, and juice pouches.
LBI being a summer haunt is fast food free in winter. We didn’t want to impose the tribe on our friends for dinner so we decided to fill up before descending on them.
Peter’s dad founded the family business Country Kettle Fudge in Beach Haven. While Quin hadn’t heard the stories of summer fudge the sign caught his eye as we drove past the shop.
“The sign says they sell amazing chowder. They call it ‘Chowda’ like the cartoon ‘Chowder’,” said Quin, 10. "Pleeease?" Kid begging for clam chowder is a whole new spin on Happy Meal for this mom. Of course clam chowder for kids and teens was a new food risk, but each new year is packed with positive risks we want to take with our families.
We basically brought coals to New Castle as we arrived at the Maschal home laden with quarts of New England white chowder and fudge for dessert made in their family’s shop.
Quin ended up having a tuna sandwich while all the others devoured every last drop.
Peter is a chiropractor and he literally straightened-out my whole family and Monica.
No matter what else happens on this trip at least I can return to Virginia with a happy family and make the claim that this family trip resulted in all my kids finally being well adjusted, if only in the chiropractic sense.
It’s amazing what some zig-zag scissors and scrap paper can do to keep a small child occupied when they have a goal and feel important. My kids love to help me cook and especially bake. Our oldest daughter used to sit on the countertop near the knife block and study everything I did, only assisting when asked. My husband and I felt so proud of ourselves that we disciplined so consistently and confidently with great success. Then the second kid came along.
Our younger daughter was given to us to prove that it was innate personality and not our “style” that kept the eldest from wreaking havoc. When we bake, the little one eats handfuls of dry flour. She sprinkles spices into things like a hysterical mad scientist whenever I turn my back. And she has no fear of electrical appliances and their on-off switches. This is most dangerously coupled with a lack of respect for the usefulness of putting lids on blenders or making sure the KitchenAid beaters are lowered into the batter.
I couldn’t be happier that each of my little ladies enjoy spending time in the kitchen. But, there are occasions when I have the time and patience for their assistance and others when mini sous chefs cramp my style. When planning for a dinner party or making more complicated recipes, I find that the best way to shake them is to avert their focus while still keeping them involved.
For one dinner party, I put the girls in charge of place cards. I explained to them the importance of place cards and we discussed how guests would know where to sit if they didn’t see their names. The girls were interested in helping decide who would sit where and which guests would prefer to sit together. For quite a long time, they focused their attention on place cards and I had free reign in the culinary department! The project led to discussions about making conversations with people you don’t know and trying foods at parties whether you like them or not, just to be polite.
A few social lessons, free time in the kitchen and customized table decor – triple win!
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. Caroline Lubbers blogs at www.whippedtheblog.com.
If the holidays are over, and parents are still feverishly focused on chasing the after-Christmas sales, all the lessons of love, laughter, and spirit may be trampled in the rush to the register.
I have always been drawn to opposite altars at the holiday: that of my faith, and the one of unending commerce.
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For a multitude of reasons, this year we could not afford Christmas as we have known it in the past. That meant getting creative with thrift shop and used book store buys and adding humor in place of cash to the process.
Son Ian, 18, gave his hipster older brother a pair of socks with yellow duckies all over them. The gift was great, but the fact that he wrapped them in a box firmly sealed with duct tape, inside a series of five other boxes, each with its own taunting note, was hilarious. He also gave him a wrapped box cutter to open the final gift as we all wept with laughter at his frustration and said repeatedly, “There better be a PS4 in here after all this!”
That became the running gag of Christmas morning. Each time someone opened a gift they knew came from the thrift or dollar store they said, “This must be the PS4!”
However, in the days before Christmas, I was so miserable over the prospect of not being able to afford a "good Christmas” this year that I felt an urgent need to camp in front of the TV watching “Miracle on 34th Street” (the original version) and “It’s a Wonderful Life” with my kids.
That didn't happen because as Quin, 10, and I sat there waiting for the classic film to begin, advertisers kept blitzing us with what great deals we could have on stuff we still couldn't afford any more the day after Christmas than the weeks before.
The message of after Christmas sales this year seemed to be, “Face it people, you're not getting what you want for Christmas but you can buy it the next day."
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I am a consumer from way, way back, raised in New York City in the ‘60s by a fashion designer who pretty much raised me in Macy’s.
However, as a parent, I suddenly realized the film I count on to renew my holiday zeal is about battling department stores – Macy’s vs. Gimbles – and the belief that if we couldn't afford it, Santa would make it appear.
I shut off the TV in despair after the first commercial.
Quin patted my shoulder and dropped the bomb.
“You know there’s really no Santa Claus and that I know that, right?” he said. “Kids in school told me I was being stupid. So I looked it up. There was a Saint Nicholas but he didn't buy stuff and he died. So I know you can’t afford what I asked for again this year.”
By “again this year,” he meant tickets to take his favorite teacher to go see comedian Brian Regan at his annual performance at Chrysler Hall here in Norfolk, Va. Tickets start at $65 each.
Quin, now in fourth grade, has been asking for this since his second grade teacher Juliet Kuehl introduced her classes to the comic’s routines through spelling bees and other school-related funnies.
His request became even more urgent when Ms. Kuehl was switched to teaching fourth grade and became his teacher again this year. Mr. Regan's comedy once again became part of classroom life for Quin.
Humor and Regan's comedy became key to Quin’s social survival because he has Asperger's Syndrome and is frequently on the outside looking in on social unity. Now he had reliable jokes to re-tell and bond with the others.
Asperger kids don’t often have the ability to recognize or understand jokes because it usually requires the more subtle understanding of social nuances that make things funny. Regan is not subtle. He’s a big kid.
A few weeks before Christmas this year, I wrote a note to Regan asking him for an autographed picture for Quin and one for his teacher.
I didn't say I was a journalist, just a mom who needed some help in the Santa department.
Regan responded, via his agent, reserving tickets for Quin and his teacher at the May 9, 2014 show here and promising to send the signed photos too.
When that answer arrived two days before Christmas, I banned TV and we instead watched Regan's routines on YouTube.
On Christmas Eve, we spent the first real, substantive, holy night all together as a unified family going to church to see little kids dress as sheep for a Nativity play, baking cookies, and opening thoughtful gifts from the thrift shop.
I had been a wreck about not being able to afford "a good Christmas" and thinking about how I might try and “make up” for that when the sales started.
The best gift was one I didn't buy. It wasn't even the actual tickets, but a printout of a faux ticket to Regan's show telling Quin he was getting his laughs straight from the source.
“So I guess I shoulda been sending my Santa letters to Las Vegas (where Regan lives) all these years,” Quin joked.
It’s not about the stuff in the box. It’s about thinking outside the box to make your kids happy at the holidays – or any other time.
You like to think you’ve brought your children up well, as evidenced by the annual Christmas card photos. Together, you delivered toys for the poor, dinner for their families, books for their schools, snowsuits for their clothing drives. Your own kids have done it all – visiting Santa, caroling, making paper chains for the tree, and simple surprises for Daddy. There were velvet dresses on the girls and navy blazers on the boys. By Christmas night, you’ve exchanged the gifts, fed the relatives, and listened to the whole big clan’s attempt to make the high note in “O, Holy Night.”
After finally closing the door behind Christmas 2013, you will take off the apron and move enough of the trimmings off the sofa to make room for your little family, now taller than you. None of you has any jingle bell left, not even enough to watch a nice Christmas movie. Besides, you’ve done the wholesome thing. You’ve watched "White Christmas" for so many years that your daughter’s welcome to her new brother-in-law was a warning: “Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister.” You’ve seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” so often that, if you tell your son that you ran into a hometown girl who’s grown up well, he will respond: “She’s not the kind of girl to help me find the answers, Mom.”
Out of necessity, in recent years you have developed a dirty little Christmas night secret, one that’s morphing into an old-fashioned tradition. That would be "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation," with crazy Clark W. Griswold, aka Chevy Chase and his, um, family.
Mildly crude, slightly mean, with an overwhelmingly PG-13 scatology to it, the 1989 film, while quaint in comparison with the newer holiday movies, doesn’t really fit your Christmas-perfect stereotype. Not on Christmas night, at least, when you’re supposed to feel, well, hushed. But your new tradition places you in good company, apparently. This year "Christmas Vacation" tied for eighth place – with the far more fraught "Miracle on 34th Street" – for favorite holiday movie among those polled by the whattodowiththekids.com parenting website. It similarly bears down on the classic greats on all best Christmas–movie lists.
Maybe elsewhere – as in your house – the Griswold thing crept in during the teenager years when you’d do anything, even watch this, not to have conflict. Now, it actually adds something to the tableau. After all, you may have the sport jackets on for the main event, but, when it’s all said and done, everyone needs a bit of year-end yin with their yuletide yang and this movie delivers.
Now you can embrace the you that you are in your less-than-best moments: the mom who burns the turkey, the teen who sulks in between smirks, the sanctimonious neighbors, the critical in-laws, the odd relations from out of town, a city dweller useless in the company of animals. You can even be the dotty old aunt who unwittingly brings some odd sense of rightness to it all, even if she’s got the holiday wrong. But perhaps most important, you can be like the hapless dad, all heart, who stares down temptation and seemingly inevitable failure and never stops believing he can light up life for his little corner of the world. There's no sonorousness of Bob Wallace’s “Count Your Blessings” in this flick, or the urgency Zuzu’s petals have for George Bailey. Chevy Chase’s very shtick is the man who falls. Here he staggers to his feet again and again, from yet one silly, slapstick holiday disaster to another, to deliver the ultimate Christmas gift: hope.
It’s about all you can muster in those waning hours of Christmas. Well, maybe one last carol: “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light?... “
While Cameron Diaz would look amazing wearing a potato sack and no makeup, her new work “The Body Book” gives us an excuse to tighten up our body of parenting lessons by teaching kids about the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover.”
Seeing the headlines with “Cameron Diaz” and “body book” all in a row like tin soldiers, I became instantly Grinchy, assuming it was going to be yet another vapid, ghost-written, Hollywood faux-fitness money maker.
I figured I would end up writing about Diaz betraying the character lesson taught by her Shrek character, Fiona, to not seek a perfect outside, but love and accept both your inner and outer ogre.
I was wrong to make that assumption. Not being perfect is actually what Ms. Diaz’s book turns out to be about.
I unfortunately didn’t learn this by being open-minded about her book, as I would tell my kids to be.
Instead, I watched the three-minute video of Diaz interviewing subjects and snapping photos, seeking to wallow in what I presumed to be a perfection-fest by a blond string bean born with great genetics.
I saw Diaz being very authentic with a diverse group of 40 women, snapping the photos herself in a low-key, almost slumber party-style candor for a body-mind nutrition and healthy movement book.
When my 10-year-old son Quin asked me just now what my topic for today’s blog is, I said, “It’s about Mom not taking her own advice.”
To which Quin replied, “That should be a good one. Let me know when it posts so I can show the other guys (his three brothers).”
While I was wrong, the media could have given me a shot at forming a better opinion had they used the full title of Diaz’s book in the headlines or subheadings.
The full title of her book is “The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body.” Ah-hah!
According to Amazon.com’s book description: “Grounded in science and informed by real life, ‘The Body Book’ offers a comprehensive overview of the human body and mind, from the cellular level up.… Cameron also explains the essential role of movement, the importance of muscle and bone strength, and why we need to sweat a little every day.”
I am one of many moms who have given up on conventional diet and exercise as age 50 looms large in my front window.
Because of my own fitness and dieting experiences through the years, with all of their ups and downs, I am more open to Diaz’s forgiving observations to compliment my knowledge and efforts.
So, another lesson to pass on to kids is that we are never too old to learn, change, and improve our body, mind, and spirit.
The final lesson I got from all this is that Diaz is right, we do need to “sweat a little every day,” just not over being perfect in front of a mirror or our kids.
Maybe it was a mistake, sticking one of our biggest, "let's get together-iest" holidays in the middle of winter, right after the solstice and smack dab in the middle of snow-, sleet-, and ice-time for much of the country. But at this point, there's no taking it back: Christmas travel comes when it comes, and we're left trying to figure out what that means.
In the Upper Midwest where I live, the general gist of weather headlines right now is "Mother Nature's Christmas present: Cold, snow." As per usual around here, the travel decision isn't an easy one, and it depends upon the distance to travel, the route, and the expected conditions.
This year's Christmas Eve weather craziness is particularly bad, but it plays up an annual discussion that I've been familiar with pretty much since birth.
The "Do we drive for Christmas?" talk balances a lot: on one hand you've got the precious (and in some ways irreplaceable) lure of holiday time with your family, and on the other you've got the trip, which can be anything from easy to exhausting to physically dangerous, depending upon the weather and your current level of exhaustion.
Our family is wrapping up a tiring year, featuring the birth of our first baby. We're in cold and snow territory, so we're skipping the 500-mile round trip from Minneapolis to Madison – no small thing, considering that this is the first time ever my wife and I will not to be home with our parents for Christmas.
We're looking forward to a few days of rest, popcorn, jigsaw puzzles, hot cocoa, and red and green pasta for Christmas Eve, a tradition for my wife’s family. And we're really, really looking forward to not driving for five hours on sometimes dodgy roads, worried about potentially hitting an ice patch and skidding into a ditch.
That said, we're going to video chat a lot on Christmas, making at least a digital connection with all the grandparents and aunts and uncles we're missing by staying home. One of the upsides of modern technology is that while we can't yet teleport, we can at least share our voices and faces long-distance without the need to negotiate icy roads. It's not a replacement for the trip, but it's a way to be there, together, at least a little bit.
And, more heroically (or foolishly, or however you want to depict it) we'll be back down in Madison next year, to see everyone in person. It's too important a trip to give up on it for good just because it's difficult. That said: weather allowing, of course....
No sooner did I write about the virtues of "Duck Dynasty" for its good, clean fun and quirky family watchability, than the head of the Robertson clan got any mention of the show entirely banned from our home.
It started when "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson paraphrased the Bible in a GQ interview: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won't inherit the kingdom of God … Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
"We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job," he added. "We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus – whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later, you see what I'm saying?"
Holy smokes, Duckman!
Later, Mr. Robertson issued this statement: “My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."
Not to join the Duck hunt here but, how does that foster love of all humanity and loving each other?
To really get the Ducks in the soup, Robertson then went on a spree about growing up in pre-Civil-Rights-era Louisiana, claiming African-Americans he’d met were happier under Jim Crow laws because he never heard them complain about poor treatment by whites.
The reality check there is that in those days in the cotton belt, an African-American could get brutally murdered for complaining to a white person.
I don’t know Robertson beyond what I see on TV or read in a magazine, so I can only guess where his heart truly lies.
We have only his words to go on – and that’s the point to make to kids, when discussing how we make our opinions known.
This has become a powerful lesson for kids on thinking twice before they speak and being mindful of how their words affect others.
In his workshop out back, my husband passes on to our sons the lesson his father, a carpenter, taught him: “Measure twice, cut once.”
I suggest Robertson apply the words of our family carpenter when preaching the words of another carpenter whose birth many are about to celebrate.
Robertson hacked up his family’s reputation and ran our family unity through the buzzsaw because he didn’t measure his remarks before running his mouth.
As a parent, I can see the silver lining. I get to teach a quote from Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”
This is also a chance to teach kids to turn away from hate and intolerance, without becoming hateful and intolerant ourselves in the process.
My husband detested “Duck Dynasty” before and now has banned even the mention of it from the house.
“If I see it on my TV, I will unplug the set,” he said in fury after reading about Robertson’s remarks.
So, while I preach tolerance of the intolerant, my husband has gone the more difficult route of trying to ignore something that is everywhere you turn, from TV to the internet, and even a trip to Walmart.
Those are the family challenges that “Duck Dynasty” has brought into our holiday home.
My hope is that our sons hold to what I have preached: “Just because we believe it doesn’t mean that saying it isn’t hurtful.”
While I am not asking Robertson to recant his religious beliefs, it would be appropriate for him to admit that restraint and being mindful of the feelings of others are sacred responsibilities, too.
I would consider that a Christmas gift to all family viewers.