Social critics are aflutter this week, with the release of a report from the US Census Bureau showing that 62 percent of new moms in their early 20s are unmarried. The report also found that 36 percent of all moms were unwed in 2011, up from 31 percent in 2005. In families with incomes of less than $10,000, that number goes up to 69 percent.
This is troubling news, according to pundits on both sides of the political spectrum. Single moms are one of the most disadvantaged groups in the US – nearly 30 percent of their families live under the poverty line, according to the US Census, as compared with 6.2 percent of families with married parents.
Those on the right tend to frame these perils in terms of deteriorating values and a growing disregard for marriage. (Married parents are statistically way better off, as are their kids.)
On the left, the worry about single moms is transferred into demands for improved social safety nets and economic gender equity. (Raise pay for women, give better maternity leave and sick day policies, get government helping out more with child care, and all of a sudden the economic disparity between married and non-married moms drops.)
Indeed, the question of how to help single moms should be front and center for US policy makers. Children of single mothers are at higher risk than their married-family peers for a variety of social ills, from impoverishment to poor academic achievement to incarceration.
But here’s the issue: To delve straight from the new report into the single mom debate misses a significant part of the family picture.
That part of the picture where Mommy and Daddy are both there, smiling for the camera, but without wedding rings.
The new report, “Social and Economic Characteristics of Currently Unmarried Women with a Recent Birth: 2011,” includes both “single moms” and women who live with the father of their baby in its economic analyses. (The numbers come from the American Community Survey, a statistical population survey that asks respondents about everything from marital status to the nature of plumbing in their residences.) Of the 1.4 million unmarried women in the survey who gave birth in the past 12 months, almost 408,000 described themselves as a “partner in an unmarried partner household.”
And it’s this latter group that is attracting a good bit of attention – and disagreement – these days.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, 42 percent of children will have lived with cohabitating parents by the time they are 12 years old, almost twice as many who will have divorced parents. And this particular sort of family structure is on the rise, a number of studies show.
Conservatives, again, tend to worry about the implications of this apparent rejection of marriage.
As with single moms, unmarried-but-together parents tend to be poorer and less academically advanced than their knotted neighbors; they also tend to break up more often than married parents, with lasting impact on kids. (It’s harder to get divorced than to simply leave the house. Just ask anyone who’s tried both.) Children of these relationships do worse in school, jobs, and life in general, according to the statistics.
But again, there’s a lot more nuance once you start digging.
It’s true that lower educated and less economically advantaged women are more likely to be in cohabitating parental relationships rather than marriages – at least in the US. (In other countries the weight is shifted in the opposite direction.) But some research has indicated that there might be a chicken-egg problem when it comes to this topic.
Once you strip out the other predictors of problems for children (poverty, relationship stability, and so on) family structure doesn’t make all that much difference.
Mom’s education does. So does age. And general stability.
And those, of course, are all linked, too.
The connection between marriage and parenting, it turns out, is a lot more complicated than the shocked pundits might have you believe.
Brightly colored tissue- or crepe-paper flowers make a cheery gift or decoration for May Day, Mother’s Day, or any time in spring and are a great way to fill a May basket. These are so easy to make, and the results are so pleasing, don’t be surprised if you end up creating a whole bouquet.
Sheets of tissue paper or crepe paper, in a variety of colors, any length
Pipe cleaners or wire
Wooden dowel or cardboard tube from a dry-cleaning hanger
Floral tape or green paint
Wrap floral tape around the dowel or tube, or paint it green and let dry.
Layer 5-6 sheets of paper.
Fold the pile accordion-style (the long way, if there is one), approx. 1” thick, if using standard sheets of tissue paper.
Wrap a pipe cleaner or wire around the center of the papers, leaving two equal-length ends.
If desired, cut the ends into round or jagged shapes to create decorative petals.
Gently separate the layers of paper and fluff them until they are fairly evenly distributed.
Attach the flower to the stem with pipe cleaners or wire.
Note: Smaller flowers make great embellishments for gifts. Skip the stem and tape or tie flowers to gift wrapping or ribbon.
This craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains this and 300+ more fun family activities.
Parenting begins before the baby’s born and we select the name our child will either fly on the wings of, or carry like an albatross. This global issue is addressed in Iceland and New Zealand, where governments ban some names in order to rein in parents who too often see naming as a good joke, rather than a responsibility. Babies are caught in a tug of war between parental personal freedoms and alleviating bullying issues, as parents fail to find the wisdom of Solomon when naming their children and thus give names that are cruel in their carelessness and grist for the mean mills.
This week in New Zealand, officials working for the country's births, deaths, and marriages department updated their list of rejected names, according to Sky News. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy name-calling session from here on out. This list began in 1995.
RECOMMENDED: The top 25 celebrity baby names of all time
“The list of 77 names reveals one child was set to be called 'Anal' before the Department of Internal Affairs vetoed the proposal, while another narrowly avoided being dubbed '.' or full stop,” according to the Sky News report. “Other names on the list included '4Real' and 'V8'.”
According to Sky News, back in 2008 New Zealand's family court ordered a name change for a girl, 9, named "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii" because it "makes a fool of the child."
I blame Tom Lehrer for a good joke from his album “An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer” gone pear-shaped over the years. His routine called “We Will All Go Together When We Go” had the famously quoted line, “I am reminded at this point of a fellow I used to know who's name was Henry, only to give you an idea of what an individualist he was he spelt it HEN3RY. The 3 was silent, you see.”
I really don’t think he could have predicted the trail of tears he paved with that joke, resulting in names that New Zealand Judge Rob Murfitt cited as examples of what never to name a baby, such as "Number 16 Bus Shelter," "Midnight Chardonnay," and twins called "Benson" and "Hedges," Sky reports.
The way I see it the courts are going to be tied-up either way so perhaps we should allow people their freedom or there will be no “Justice” in this world, at least not in New Zealand where that one is also banned. Also the spellings “Justus” and Juztice” didn’t make it past the censor.
I personally can’t imagine a world without a Justus Williams, chess phenom of Brooklyn’s IS 318 and the film Brooklyn Castle. Somehow seeing him destroy the field, winning against the odds of circumstance, race, socioeconomic status, and statistical probability makes me want to shout, “Yes! There is Justus in this world!” Frankly, shouting, “Yes! There is Sheldon in this world!” just isn’t the same.
Back to the courts, in January of this year, we reported on Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15 of Iceland, who was denied her name because it wasn't on official registries of approved names. I was very happy to learn that the 15-year-old sued the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother and won her court case. She can now use her name – Blaer, meaning "light breeze" – instead of "Stukla," which means "girl" and was imposed on her by government agencies. Blaer is not on a list approved by the government.
Our eldest is named Zoltan, 19 after the Hungarian Zoltán Kodály the Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, pedagogue, linguist, and philosopher. We called him “Zoli” as a child. He has no middle name because my mother-in-law said that she disliked the name so much she would insist on calling him by whatever middle name we gave him. Zoltan loves his name as a conversation starter and because, “It’s just cool.”
Next in line is Ian “Tucker,” 17. His middle name was chosen for the doctor who delivered him against terrifying odds or the island where he was conceived. We alter the middle name story for Ian depending on who’s asking. He refused comment. Not sure if that means he dislikes it or is just tired of being quoted in the blog.
Avery Danger Suhay, 14, was the clincher for names. Our priest flatly refused to say the name at his baptism which resulted in a packed church in New Jersey being introduced to a Frenchified pronunciation of Avery Dangerre Suhay. Today he said, “I love having Danger as my middle name. Excellent choice.”
Quinten, 9, is named after the song "Mighty Quin" and his middle name, "Coltrane", for both the jazz musician and the Norfolk Southern coal cars that bang night and day near our home here in Virginia.
RECOMMENDED: The top 25 celebrity baby names of all time
“I don’t know if I’m happy with my name,” he said this morning when I asked. “I mean, how often do you meet someone named after a mighty Eskimo in a song? Did you ever think how hard that would be to explain to third-graders?”
Well, I thought it was a cool name. I had to punt this morning to redeem myself and his name by looking it up online and finding Quinten, Switzerland and it’s “awe-inspiring near-vertical cliffs.” This appears to satisfy Quin, and he went to school proud and tall as a limestone giant.
It’s my first day back to Modern Parenthood after maternity leave. So you can imagine the excitement when I saw this new item from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons: arm lift surgery, the group has announced, increased 4,473 percent in the past decade, making it the fastest rising cosmetic surgery around.
Yes, that’s upper arm tucks. And why not? Last year we wrote about chin implants becoming trendy. If you can do chins, might as well throw arms in there, too, right? After all, as the ASPS found in a poll that “women are paying closer attention to the arms of female celebrities.”
Call it the Michelle Obama effect, plastic surgery style. Toned, muscle-bound arms are in. So start snipping.
This is a parenting blog, so it’s tempting to start ranting now about the message this sends to our little girls. (I have two now. I’m sensitive to this stuff.) Or to write about how it’s so not OK to make me take a second look at my own triceps two months postpartum.
And sure, moms and dads out there certainly don’t need yet another trend that seems designed to make young women feel bad about themselves. Five percent of plastic surgeries are already done on children between the ages of 13 and 19, including more than 8,000 of the country’s 286,274 breast augmentations and 33,673 nose jobs, according to the ASPS. Overall, there were 1.5 million cosmetic surgeries last year, with everything from buttock lifts to cheek implants.
But last year’s 15,000-plus arm lifts seem extra special problematic.
Perhaps this is because it turns a positive for little girls – athleticism, strength, power – into something superficial.
Or maybe because it suggests that the end result of physical work, whether in the gym or on the sports field or in a construction zone, should be attainable to everyone, even if you’re not so into sweating.
These messages, I’d venture, are more troubling than the old “you don’t look like a model so you’re not as worthy” memo that somehow makes it onto the desk of teenage girls everywhere.
Still, not all is doom and gloom for a new mom who believes her babies should feel beautiful as they are.
This wasn’t as publicized as the new arm surgery trend, of course, (and did I mention that the online press material had a helpful picture of a woman pinching her underarm skin?) but the numbers of children’s cosmetic surgeries is down.
There were 8 percent fewer breast augmentations among teens in 2012 than in 2011, 12 percent fewer chin augmentations (how trends fade), and 2 percent fewer liposuctions. (Botox treatments were up 8 percent among the teenage set, but so it goes.)
Maybe it’s the economy. But maybe, just maybe, more teens are learning to be happy with the way they look.
Or at least content with Photoshop.
As a birthday surprise to his son, age 9, Dad Mohammed Nisham of India handed over the keys to his shiny, red Ferarri F430, put another child in the passenger seat, and sent them off on a fast and furious joyride. The YouTube video went viral, dad was charged by local law enforcement, and all some of us can do is marvel at a parent who can hand over the keys to a child while our own teens have to pry them from our death grip.
To be clear, this is not a case of a child on a farm driving an old pickup across the barren plain. This is a suburban street where, in the video, we can see another car travel down the road in the Ferarri’s wake. In defense of the child’s skills, The Times of India reports this isn’t the unnamed boy’s first time behind the wheel.
“The boy is reported to have driven some of the family’s other vehicles including a Lamborghini and Bentley,” according to the boy’s mother, who also is alleged to have told The Times of India that she was proud of her son’s driving skill and was hoping to encourage him.
I’m not sure which is harder to get my mind around, the kid at the wheel while Mom cheers and takes pictures, or the laundry list of Gone in 60-Seconds-worthy automobiles this child has driven.
My son Quin, age 9, watched this video with me before he went to school today and said, “That’s crazy! Letting a nine-year-old like me drive? He should at least had a 12-year-old behind the wheel. That’s crazy!”
Last week Quin finally mastered riding a bike and is now tearing up the neighborhood where college students often careen around corners at high speeds. I’m afraid to let my nine-year-old out on his bike, so putting him in control of anything Nicholas Cage would steal in a film or Lucas Black would hop into for the next incarnation of "Tokyo Drift" is out of the question.
Back to the fast track of our India 500, police eventually became aware of the video and have since charged Mr. Nisham for encouraging underage driving and for allowing an unlicensed child to drive a vehicle, according to the Times Of India.
Nisham allegedly let his son to drive the car as a surprise on his ninth birthday, after the boy had pleaded for months for permission. There is a time to listen to your children’s aspirations and a time to tell them, “I want a seal that barks my name and that’s not happening either.”
For Nisham, I believe, this was one of those times when he should have picked the seal over the Ferarri.
I think that maybe I’m a little envious of the parents’ total abundance of confidence in their son’s abilities because the first time I got my son Ian, 17, behind the wheel last year I left a scream behind that you can still hear echoing on quiet afternoons.
Last fall, a year after all his friends had already been on the road, Ian was still adamant about not getting behind the wheel, stating flatly, “I don’t want to die, and I also don’t want to kill anybody, and that’s what’s going to happen if you make me drive.”
This is the same kid who hops on a featherweight bike and weaves like greased lightning through traffic all over the city of Norfolk, Va., and neighboring areas. This is the guy who became the youngest to attain a Gracie Blue Belt in Jiu Jitsu at 15 and who regularly takes on some of the most deadly opponents on the mat.
This is a kid who was absolutely right, and I should have listened to him. In an empty parking lot when told to shift into drive “D” and slowly ease-on the gas pedal, Ian put it in “R” and, lead-footed as The Iron Giant, shot us backward at high speed. We travelled backward, across the lot with my forehead on the dashboard from sheer centrifugal force until we jumped over a decorative barrier and my left foot found the brake pedal. This freed my head and engaged my scream circuits even as I realized he was already screaming, “I TOLD YOU!”
It didn’t get better. The next day he tried to change lanes without looking and we nearly dogpiled into a 7-11 with three other cars.
Fortunately, a few years ago, I read a book called "The Worst Is Over: What to Say When Every Moment Counts — Verbal First Aid to Calm, Relieve Pain, Promote Healing, and Save Lives," by Judith Acosta and Judith Simon Prager. The authors tell you to look at the person in crisis and say, “The worst is over. We’re past it now and we can get better from here.”
The book also warns you not to lie and give false hope. So in Ian’s case I said, “It’s OK. The worst is over, I hope. Let’s just sit here for a while longer.”
He got much better because he’d been expecting my screaming to continue and morph from the series of prayers I was apparently shouting, to reproach. I was just too happy to be alive to chide. Now Ian’s an excellent driver and about to take his road test.
However, since I had a video camera set up on the dashboard the event was recorded and has now acted as a deterrent to son Avery, 14. When Avery’s pal came to visit from North Carolina waiving around his new learner’s permit, Avery said, “I don’t see what you’re so excited about. You now have permission to pilot a multi-ton missile into inanimate objects and living beings. Pass!”
Two recent cases of traveling breast-pumping moms resulted in their unnecessary humiliation. These cases also help illustrate the rights of breast-pumping moms in the face of ignorance or poor training.
The harassment came even though Mrs. Brahos had checked on breast-pumping when she made her flight reservations, and had been told her Medela pump was pre-approved. And the incident occurred after Brahos had flown on three other American flights and used the breast-pump with the full support of the flight attendants.
But on April 18, she told Fox Channel 32 in Chicago that she had been 'humiliated' and 'embarrassed' as the flight attendant told her upon boarding that breast-pumping - however discretely done - was not allowed. The flight attendant repeatedly checked on Brahos to make sure she wasn't using her breast pump.
The mother of three wasn't traveling with her 1-year-old son. She told The New York Daily News that she normally pumps every three and a half hours and began feeling painfully engorged during the normally short flight because it took off late and she'd spent the previous few hours checking out of a hotel, traveling to the airport, checking in with American and going through security.
American Airlines has issued a statement of apology: "We apologize for the experience Ms. Brahos had on a recent flight. Our in-flight personnel are trained to handle these situations with professionalism and discretion. American does not have a policy prohibiting the use of breast pumps in-flight. As with other devices that have an on/off switch, customers will be asked not to use them during takeoff and landing. Our procedures advise our crews to ensure that mothers who are breast feeding or using breast pumps have the privacy they need."
An American spokesman said Brahos needed no prior approval for using her Medela pump. A different brand of pump would have required prior approval, she said.
Another breast-pumping mom was embarrassed by a TSA agent at a security check point. On March 27, Amy Strand was stopped at Lihue Airport in Kauai as she carried her pump, a cooler pack, and empty milk bottles. She was told by the TSA agent that she couldn't bring the cooler pack unless there was milk in the bottles.
Ms. Strand, a mother of four and school principal, tried to explain that the ice pack was specially made for the cooler and wouldn't be easy to replace. And, that she'd emptied the milk out before going through security to avoid carrying more than 3 ounces of liquid.
Strand said she only had two options: Leave part of the cooler behind or pump. There was no private place to pump so she went to the women's restroom. "I'm in a dress, in heels and I find myself in front of a sink and mirrors with travelers coming in and out of the bathroom," Amy Strand told ABCNews.com. "I'm standing at the sink with my breast hanging out, pumping. I wanted to cry. I was humiliated."
Like American Airlines, the TSA issued a statement apologizing for the ignorance of its agent. "The passenger has contacted us with her concerns and we accept responsibility for the apparent misunderstanding and any inconvenience or embarrassment this incident may have caused her," the statement said. "The officer in question is receiving remedial training."
In fact, the TSA website specifically addresses this situation and the current screening procedures."Parents flying with, and without, their child(ren) are permitted to bring breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is presented for inspection at the security checkpoint. Additionally, empty bottles and ice packs are permitted under these conditions."
Moms and Dads, bookmark the TSA page, and carry it with you on your phone. Just in case.
A profanity-laced e-mail by a sorority sister gets her reputation from Alpha to persona-non-Gamma right after a news anchorman for a North Dakota television station was fired for opening his first-ever broadcast with obscenities. It’s time to find a cure for sailor’s mouth before our kids become the next to lose face and future over a slip of the lip that sinks their professional ship.
A Delta Gamma sister at the University of Maryland is “resigning” from her sorority after her F-bomb rant in e-mail sparked a viral, media-frenzy. Last week the headlines were all about A.J. Clemente, new weekend news anchorman for Bismarck, N.D., television station KFYR when, as his co-anchor was making the introduction on air he failed to realize his microphone was live as he dropped some choice obscenities.
Sadly, I can imagine the shock and awe their parents felt upon seeing their kids on the news for foul-mouthed fails. I wonder if the parents swore roundly when they first heard about the incidents?
I can say with all honesty that if I were in their positions I would have struggled mightily not to let fly with a few expletives.
I don’t drink, smoke, do any sort of drug and have even given up coffee and Red Bull, but swearing is still, despite all efforts, my Achillies heel. I blame it on my former New York Times, New Jersey section editor who used the F-bomb as every part of speech and punctuation as well.
When I first began working for the Times as a stringer, about 15 years ago, I didn’t need to delete expletives from my speech, let alone e-mails because I just plain didn’t use them. However, after several years of multiple daily phone calls with my section editor, I became so desensitized to the word that I began to use it with regularity.
That came to an abrupt halt when I was out on assignment one day and my mother came to our house to babysit the boys while I was out doing an interview. When I returned home mom told me, “A man called claiming to be from The New York Times. He expects you to call him back. I told him I’d see about that.”
That is all she told me at that time. The following story comes from the aforementioned contrite and swear-free editor who answered my return call. The story requires a moment of background.
This editor habitually called with a greeting that was never, “hello,” but a rapid-fire, no breaths or prisoners bark full of F-bomb adjectives.
Mom and I have almost identical “phone voices” and her hello triggered the floodgates of salty greeting when the editor rang me up that morning.
The editor moaned: "I swore at your mother! How upset is she? What did she say?”
Even now I remember the icy trickle down my spine as he unfolded the story in technicolorful language and detail. We had a “curse jar” in our house, and allowance would be eaten alive by it if you uttered a profanity. Today, in our house, cursing gets you more chores, and if you swear while doing them, the chores multiply like rabbits.
Back to the editor’s call where, apparently, Mom listened and listened and then took a few breaths before saying to him, in what I can imagine was the tone of a disdainful snow queen, “I am terribly sorry, SIR, but my daughter is not in at the moment. If you will give me your name I will give her some of your message.”
When I got off the phone there was my mother, sitting at my dining room table with a cup of coffee and The New York Times. She was crisply turning the pages. Nobody can turn a page and make it sound like a whipcrack of ire like my mom. I now do the same thing and it is the universal “Lookout! Mom’s peeved,” signal in our house to hear a page turned in anger.
“That man’s a bad influence on you. Now I see where all your swearing is coming from,” she said. I was a grown woman with three children at the time and at that moment I was looking at the toes of my pumps in total childhood disgrace.
It put up a firewall between my brain and my mouth from that day on because the fact was that I hadn’t even realized I’d sworn in her presence during her visits. That meant I was swearing in earshot of the boys. Double epic fail! However, once you have broken that barrier to bad language, it’s a struggle to keep the new wall in place. Hence, I am even more tough on the boys during those times when the chore load fails to keep them in check.
This week must be a bad week for good words because the chore load wasn’t doing the job with my 17-year-old. I made him read the recent stories about the sorority girl and news anchor and offered him the alternative of using his natural humor as countermeasures to swearing.
His naturally rebellious almost-18 attitude inspired him to mock the idea with “OK, so I drop a hammer on my foot and yell ‘Oh Frootloops?’ Seriously?”
Britain’s Prince Harry has really changed — a diaper. The monarchy may often be in anarchy but it’s moments like this, seeing a bad boy turned war hero change an imaginary poo-poo, that unties the UK with the world in a shared snicker.
According to ABC, the prince experienced how to change a baby doll's diaper with one hand, while holding a weighted dumbbell in the other, during his visit at Headway in Nottingham, England. Headway is a charity organization that supports brain injury survivors. It was a charity his mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, often favored with her time.
As a mom who struggles to balance time between my own kids and volunteering to run a non-paying, non-profit children’s charity, I had a feel-good moment from this news story.
My boys have trailed me to chess events and volunteer sessions on evenings, after school, and weekends for the past four years. I would be very proud if, after I died, even one of my four sons were to pick up that torch, even if only to shine for a few hours. Of course, I’d also hope they didn’t show such a face of utter discomfort to the cameras of the world, but then there’s not any poo or bare bottoms involved in playing chess — at least not the way we play it.
However, the prince gave the paparazzi a field day with his visible chagrin when coming face to bottom with a baby doll.
Changing diapers at a brain injury center one-handed while holding a dumbbell in the other may have been to demonstrate the inability of one with a brain injury hampering the use of one side, but in my world the weight represents the other child the parent is juggling.
The 28-year-old prince is preparing to be an uncle after all and may (in some fantasy situation left on the Disney cutting room floor) be in the trenches changing a wet nappy someday soon.
Back in the real world, it’s always nice to see a man who was recently dubbed the once “quintessential bad boy of the royal family” by OK Magazine in a spot of bother over a baby doll. As OK pointed out, “The young prince has made countless headlines, getting caught with marijuana, accused of cheating, and most famously dawning a Nazi costume.” However, the risk-taker, faced the diaper danger with a look on his face that said, “Isn’t there a war I could be fighting somewhere?”
It seems we will never lose our love of watching males struggle in traditional feminine roles such as diapering. The amount of praise they get for it is always tantamount to having taken a terrorist stronghold single-handed while rescuing three orphans and a cat.
Had it been an actual baby and real poo-poo he’d have merited the Nobel Prize for Poop Patrol.
I now know why they say, “God save the Queen” and that’s because if anything were to happen to her the monarchy would be left to the men.
Prince Harry's Nottingham visit included activities that didn’t make as many headlines because they are stereotyped as more normal and male-appropriate, such as an appearance at the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies where he tried video gaming, sparring with some young boys at the KK Boxing Club ring and even becoming a DJ for the day, according to International Business Times of Austrailia.
According to ABC, “This visit is one of the several charity-focused public activities that the prince has undertaken since returning from a four-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.”
Next month, he will be visiting the US, where he’ll be attending public events to support veterans. The prince may be diapering in a city near you as well, since he will make six stops around the country, including Colorado, New York, Washington DC, and New Jersey.
Still, a mom who runs a children’s charity can dream of the possibilities. I would really put his bravery to the test giving him a six-year-old named Ka’Lil to face across a chess board in the wardroom aboard the Battleship Wisconsin with 40 other inner-city kids ages 4-12, all clamoring for help in slicing and buttering bagels, while arguing at full voice over chess moves.
Kidding aside, I am happy to see gender role boundaries being assaulted by the prince. If I were his mother, Diana, I would be pleased to see that my son was “mom enough” to try and make a difference by sacrificing his tough guy image for the charity I myself had so strongly supported during my life.
I started the clock on the first presidential "tramp stamp" when the president told the Today Show that he and first lady Michelle Obama had an immediate counterstrike to prevent his daughters, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, from getting tattoos. They would get identically placed and matching tattoos. This is one campaign promise requiring a term limit because lower lumbar tats are super painful — I should know, I got one two years ago.
In the interview, the president explained that he hoped the threat of a "family tattoo" would completely deter his daughters from inking their bodies during their teenage years. Yes, well, having a Secret Service detail on your teens is really the actual ink deterrent the Obamas have as a first line of defense.
However, as a mom who got a tattoo two years ago — a lower back/lumbar bit of ink that is often pejoratively tagged a “tramp stamp” — I am less inclined to see tattoos as the end of the world. Also, seeing things from the lawyerly perspective inherent in teenagers, I think the president left a loophole that can be artfully used to dodge the negatives currently associated with body art.
My tattoo is a “tribal” design that’s all black with no words. It’s a set of sharp-edged, interlocking strokes depicting, in a very broad sense, the elements of water and femininity I want to hold sacred as I age.
I liked the description of this style that I found on the website for Captain Brett’s Tattoo Shop in Newport, R.I., “Some Tattoos are self-motivated expressions of personal freedom and uniqueness. Most, however, have to do with traditions that mark a person as a member or nonmember of the local group, or express religious, magical, or spiritual beliefs and personal convictions. We all have a undeniable need to belong, this is the most basic Tribal need, and the reason for the Tribal Tattoos renewed power.”
Hmmmm, now if I wanted to belong to a group that shared my values, religious and social, I’d sure hope it was my family.
After all, what is a tribe but a family? By telling his daughters he and the first lady would make tattooing a family affair they were not being original and perhaps were actually making an excellent case for the girls to get inked.
Oh, Mr. President, you just blew that door wide open and believe me, I feel your pain. My tribal took about four hours at Fuzion Ink, Norfolk, Va.
If it makes you feel better, tattoos are steeped in tradition, religion, and history since the tribal styles of today originate with ancient tribes from Borneo, the Haida, the Native Americans, Celtic tribes, the Maori, and other Polynesian groups.
Think of all the Olympians who get tattoos of the Olympic rings with the year of their Olympic experience. It’s just a big, inclusive, strong, happy, healthy, fit, all-American family — a large, sport tribe.
By sheer coincidence, I just watched an episode of "Preachers’ Daughters" two nights ago on the Lifetime Channel wherein a preacher’s three daughters go together as one of them gets a tattoo on her forearm. Her mother Victoria Koloff, a Christian preacher who hosts a faith-based radio show, just about loses her mind over the tattoo, despite the fact that the daughter already had one and is well over 18. Understandably, part of the upset is that the older daughter has taken her 16-year-old sister Kolby to witness the event and in so doing made her a convert to body art.
The thing I found valuable in the episode was the daughter explaining the significance of the new tattoo to her preacher mom, “The compass is kinda like for my faith, like always having a moral compass in my heart, ‘cause I’m a Christian. This is you, the North star. And then these are our initials ... So we all go in our different directions but you are like in the center of it all you’re who we look to for direction.” She tried to explain that, for her, the body art was a way of holding her family close to her.
After the Obamas leave the White House and the girls age out of the Secret Service 24/7 tattoo-parlor watch, the Obamas may someday find that old Today Show interview translates into the presidential seal and 2009-2017 on all their ankles.
In all seriousness, parenthood is a permanent bond between the parents and children, documented in ink and bound by blood. From the day our children are born, their names are written indelibly on our souls.
The real test isn’t whether we can prevent them from doing something of which we disapprove, but how quickly we are able to accept their choices and forms of personal expression. Love them deeper than the skin they came in and, as a parent, you can never go wrong.
Ella Fitzgerald sang our lives into perspective with a smoky three octave voice that rose and fell during a time when we listened with our ears and not our eyes, without noting what curves her body possessed and instead fell deeply in love with her sound which still resonates across the barriers of age, time, social strata and race.
Today advertisements offer us pricey ways to become “timeless” and “flawless.” Those offerings are just about keeping a wave upon the sand, whereas Ms. Fitzgerald represents the ocean of human emotion.
According to her official website, “Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Va. on April 25, 1917. Her father, William, and mother, Temperance (Tempie), parted ways shortly after her birth. Together, Tempie and Ella went to Yonkers, N.Y, where they eventually moved in with Tempie's longtime boyfriend Joseph Da Silva. To support the family, Joe dug ditches and was a part-time chauffeur, while Tempie worked at a laundromat and did some catering. Occasionally, Ella took on small jobs to contribute money as well. Perhaps naïve to the circumstances, Ella worked as a runner for local gamblers, picking up their bets and dropping off money.”
I tell kids here that you can go anywhere if you have a song in your ear and I really believe that, largely because it is Fitzgerald’s voice in my heart that often pulls me back onto the rocky path.
The first songs I ever sang, at age 5, were Fitzgerald hits that my nanny played on the record player in our New York City apartment. Decades later, I sang them to audition for my spot in a tight and tiny vocal jazz program at a New Jersey college with instructor Myra Murphy.
When I had children and lived aboard a sailboat, I sang into the wind with what I often hoped was her voice and then crooned one of her famous tunes to my sons at bedtime.
I call them her songs, even though she didn’t write them. George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, or some other brilliant composer wrote them, but Ella, she made them sing. She made me sing. She makes me sing.
“I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood. I know I could, always be good, to one who'll watch over me,” is a song, a sigh, a prayer, and a bedtime soothing. She didn’t sing them, she breathed them into you.
Fitzgerald performed during a time when music and voice were all that mattered and so they endure and are imitated today. They’re imitated, but seldom can a modern record production and artist match the spirit and cast the thrall that Fitzgerald did in her recordings.
When it came to joy she could swing it and make words like: “From this moment on, you for me dear,
Only two for tea dear, from this moment on, From this happy day, no more blue songs,
Only hoop-dee-doo songs,” make perfect and ageless sense.
One of the many gifts Fitzgerald had was that you believed her. When she sang she didn’t phone it in or auto-tone the pitch. Fitzgerald was the real deal.
I think the song she sang that really sums up her music and the passion many still hold for and from it can be found in the song Our Love is Here to Stay, written by George Gershwin, the lyrics by Ira Gershwin, but immortalized by the First Lady of Jazz:
The more I read the papers, the less I comprehend.
The world and all it’s capers and how it all will end.
Nothing seems to be lasting, but that isn’t our affair.
We’ve got something permanent,
I mean in the way we care.
It’s very clear our love is here to stay.
Not for a year, but ever and a day.
The radio and the telephone.
And the movies that we know.
May just be passing fancies and in time may go.
But, oh my dear, our love is here to stay.
Together were going a long, long way.
In time the rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay.
But our love is here to stay.
I know we’re celebrating what could have been her birthday, long after her body stopped its song. However, I’m here to tell you that Ella Fitzgerald will never die. Ella and our love for her, are here to stay.