For all the ease and wonder that technology has granted us, how many times have you lamented that it’s also made life more complicated?
We deal with tremendous amounts of email clutter to rival our closet clutter. We wonder if our kids are experiencing too much technology too soon, and at what expense. We find ourselves bleary-eyed and twitchy-fingered as we check various online news outlets and events one more time, for fear of missing something important. We reveal a little too much to our co-workers and about ourselves and our significant others.
For fleeting moments, the life of a few decades ago appears so much simpler.
People had time to compose long letters at writing desks; to visit with friends, make lovely meals, and play simple games by a lake or a hearth. Of course, it’s easy to romanticize such a life as well. When so much of the world is literally at our fingertips, it can be tricky to choose which aspects of technology and modernity to embrace and which to let go of to make room for that which is simple, personal, tactile, and ultimately leads to a fulfilling and connected life.
I had the great fortune of meeting Randi and a few like-minded fellow bloggers at a lovely luncheon, and then I got to return to the Zuckerberg Media Studios, to chat with Randi, Beth Blecherman of TechMamas, video blogger Lizzie Bermudez and Veena Goel Crownholm of Tiaras to Babies. The conversation was wonderful and warm, ranging from our attempts to untangle and manage our lives and households to the ways in which we find happiness and take care of ourselves.
You can see our four video segments.
I also had a short session with Randi, in which I shared How to Make a Paper Boat, one of the 300+ projects in Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World which are designed to give families ideas and instructions for simple activities, many of which can be done spontaneously and with little equipment on a free afternoon or during a low-key gathering. The paper boat was one of our favorite things to make as a family and sail, either in a local creek or a bathtub. I recently got to share origami boat making with a younger generation of boat-makers, which was delightful, and which I recounted for Randi.
Often us parents think we have to plan unusual, elaborate, or expensive activities for our kids. Many of us would be surprised at the simple activities and small moments that instead become our children’s fondest memories. Sailing paper boats is one such example for us. Others include picking fruit on long summer days and coming home and making jam, mixing a bucket of bubble solution and enjoying giant bubbles for days, playing tag in the park, making and eating homemade soft pretzels, keeping a moon diary, and watching the night sky for meteors.
I believe that the more technological our lives become, the more we yearn for tactile activities like crafts and cooking, as well as activities that help us gather in families and communities to experience the wonder of the seasons and the natural world and to bond through important play time, down time, and family time.
For more simple, fun, and memorable things to do with your kids this summer (and a couple of attitudinal changes that might help make summer go more smoothly and joyfully) see my Dot Complicated blog, 7 Secrets to Make Summer Last Longer.
Looking for still more simple, even retro, family fun? See 8 Fun Things to Do While it’s Still Summer.
Thanks again to Randi and everyone at Dot Complicated for being such an important voice for simplifying our lives and for bringing together so many wise and passionate people who desire the same thing.
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. Susan Sachs Lipman blogs at Slow Family Online.
The royal baby has a name.
"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to announce that they have named their son George Alexander Louis. The baby will be known as His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge," said a press release from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's official website.
Moments ago, a tweet sent out by the Clarence House, the official twitter handle for news about Prince William, also made the name announcement.
The Internet has been quick to react (probably because we're all tired of repeating "royal baby" as a place keeper).
The @ClarenceHouse tweet has already been retweeted close to 5,000 times and that number is multiplying fast.
Wikipedia's entry for the line of succession to the throne already lists "Prince George of Cambridge" as third in line behind his dad William and grandpa Prince Charles.
Six previous British kings have been named George, and the name was a favorite of British bookmakers in the run-up to Wednesday's announcement.
For now, the baby is expected to stay out of the spotlight after making his first "public appearance" in the arms of his parents outside of London's St. Mary's Hospital on Tuesday.
After leaving the hospital, the couple introduced their son Wednesday to great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, who was keen to see the baby before she starts her annual summer vacation in Scotland later this week.
Then the young family headed to see Kate's parents in their village near London.
Now that Kate and William have chosen a name, they are expected to soon choose a photographer for the baby's first official portrait.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
There's no question that the institution of college is here to stay – in the information era, education is the credential that certifies students as being engaged in the modern world. The operative question is, by contrast: What are we willing to pay for it? And what do we get for our money?
A survey released yesterday by Sallie Mae found that parents are contributing less of their income toward their child’s college education – about 10 percent less – than they did four years ago. This comes even as the percentage of parents describing college as a (presumably worthwhile) investment climbed 10 points to 90 percent.
RECOMMENDED: College budget: 11 items students don't need
Once upon a time, college was an option generally only for the strongest students, and a college degree largely guaranteed a series of well-paying, white-collar jobs from graduation to retirement. For many jobs now, however, a college degree is a requirement for applicants in the way that a high school degree once was – it's a gate check, not a guarantee.
This creates a paradox: the college degree is more essential, less of a valuable differentiator, and far more expensive than it used to be. All of this reevaluation is taking place even as the Internet threatens to completely overturn the apple cart and make affordable, quality distance-learning a practical reality.
The result is that parents increasingly want their kids to obtain some kind of college degree – but they don't want to go broke in the process.
According to the Sallie Mae survey, one-fifth of parents added work hours to pay for college and half of students increased their work hours, too. The report found 57 percent of families said students were living at home or with relatives, up from 41 percent last year and 44 percent in 2011.
Among other strategies employed to deal with costs:
- One-fifth of students from low-income families chose to transfer to less expensive schools.
- About one-fifth of students said they changed majors to fields that were expected to be more marketable upon graduation.
- In all, 67 percent of students and their families eliminated colleges at some stage during the application process because of costs, up from 58 percent in 2008.
The impact of all this economizing is hard to know. What's given up by going to a less expensive school – the name? The actual classes? The market value of the degree? What's sacrificed by living at home – hard parties? Study opportunities? Networking? Nothing whatsoever?
When I attended college at the University of Wisconsin in the late '90s, in-state tuition was less than $2,000 a semester. In return for that sizable but manageable chunk of my parents' money, I got access to a world-class education (which I largely squandered in favor of ska concerts and late-night coffee runs) and the opportunity to work for a paper on the only campus in the US with two competing student dailies (which I took advantage of.)
For an equivalent in-state education at Wisconsin today, I'd pay nearly three times as much, an amount I'd happily pay for my own son, were he of college age right now. (Who knows how things will have changed in 18 years, but it seems likely there'll be even more new stuff to figure out.)
But it's easy to pay far more than $5,000 a semester for college. The idea of paying $30, $40, even $50,000 a year for school is not unusual, and not every expensive school offers the opportunities inherent in a big, battle-tested state system like Wisconsin, or Michigan, or California.
Should my son need $30,000 a year to attend anything less than a platinum-clad, first-rate, world class school, I'll probably say this to him: "Instead of college, how about we give you $120,000 as an investment in the craft-driven business of your choosing after you go through a couple years of working apprenticeships."
I'd be proud to have a son who was a master plumber, or boatwright, or electrician, or any such skilled trade. I'd have more ambiguous feelings about going bankrupt to provide him with a degree in English literature.
This of course assumes that my wife and I have anything like $120,000 to give, which opens an interesting discussion on the state of the journalism industry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
RECOMMENDED: College budget: 11 items students don't need
As Kate Middleton and Prince William become parents, I wonder if my own two young girls will share the range of feelings about the royal family that I’ve traveled as a Briton. Mine is hardly an unusual emotional evolution in our society – from the fairy tale romance of the knight in shining armor, to the rejection of tradition as one tries to assert one’s independence, to a growing fondness for the national unity these individuals spark in us.
One of my earliest memories of the royals came in the summer of 1980, when I was 6 years old. I remember the competition clearly: design a birthday card to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday. I was a runner up and won a “Lion” chocolate bar which for any child was reward enough. In all honesty, the birthday of the Queen Mother hadn’t meant much to me, I was just excited to make a card and enter a competition.
As our school was in Ascot, we would walk in procession out to the route the royal family took each year to Royal Ascot. Not only was it great fun missing lessons and cheering as the members of the royal household passed by, but we got to see them close up! It was something I looked forward to each year.
When Lady Diana Spencer got engaged to the Prince of Wales there was a throng of activity from the press. It fed our imaginations and we looked forward to all the pomp and circumstance the ”big” day would bring. Crowds lined the streets of London – many had camped out for days to ensure they got the best spot. The nation couldn't get enough of the magical moment. I remember mugs, tea towels, commemorative coins. In fact, I am sure that anything that had a surface area large enough to put a transfer on had something that captured the moment.
On the day of the wedding, my family sat around the TV all wearing our Union Jack bowler hats. Flags and bunting decorated our home. The excitement was tangible. We waited with bated breath to see “The Dress.” We had been told by the press that the silk worms couldn’t make enough material in time – just the kind of detail to fuel our excitement before the big day.
And then, there she was, the princess-to-be in a gown that every little girl dreams of wearing. She reinforced our pride in the royal family. Girls and women tried to emulate her look and longed for the fairy tale life we thought she led. In time, we’d follow how she raised her two boys. I was older than the princes so it was more with interest that I watched their lives unfold than wanting to follow in their footsteps.
As I think of these things I watch my daughter’s reaction to the status quo. She asks me if Catherine is a princess, which leads me to explain how the peerage system works. It introduces her to what it means to be British, while nurturing my own patriotism. Morgan thinks the Duchess is ”cool” to have visited the scouts. She is equally concerned that she hasn’t visited the Brownies, more particularly her pack, I shouldn’t wonder! She asks at the breakfast table if Kate has had the baby yet. This in turn sparks the same flurry of questions from my 3-year-old. Who is having a baby? Who is Kate? Is the baby a boy or a girl? I’m curious to know what Morgan’s memories will be of these moments when she is older.
My own views changed in my teenage years when I was swayed by popular criticism of the royal household, as an obsolete tradition taking more than was due from the state. I recall my parents’ frustration with me, the debates with them about the topic. The climax of this was a Christmas gathering at which I refused to stand for “God Save the Queen.” I was the only one. I could not see why I should when I wholeheartedly rejected the institution.
But I now cringe at that memory, in part, because the royal family has considerably reduced its support from taxpayers, but also because I understand more of its key role in our nation and how much of their work goes unsung.
The British monarchy, without question, is a global ambassador for our nation. Others view them with affection and curiosity, and this makes them a major tourist attraction bringing sizable revenue to our country. But they are more than that. They unite us, giving us a sense of nation. And to me, the royal family is part of our identity; providing continuity through the ages. But it is also true to say that the issue of monarchy still divides opinion.
The paparazzi hounded Prince Charles and Princess Diana – through their unhappy marriage, their separation, and divorce and into life and death beyond that – because we, the people, wanted the detail. We didn’t seem to consider that it was a complete invasion of their privacy. We were happy to support the obsession, making every publication that had Diana’s face on it a sell out.
Then, one early morning in September 1997, my father came in to my room to break the news: Diana was dead. He had been listening to the story unfold through the night. I had to travel through London on the day of her funeral. There are no words to truly describe what I saw. I would think it was rather like after the Blitz. People crying, walking around looking lost. Complete strangers were consoling each other. We were a nation united by our loss. As sad as the moment was, I saw it as one good example of the way the royals bring us together.
The post Diana era was rocky for the royal family – the nation had fallen out of love with them. Like a child scorned, the monarchy went away to lick its wounds while the nation struggled to find a way forward.
But the engagement of Catherine Middleton to Prince William was a rebirth – the love was back. Coupled with the Olympic games, the royal wedding meant our nation had pride in its heritage once more. These two events brought everything that is quintessentially British into the present. It allowed the nation to celebrate being us, something I feel we have not always felt right and proper in recent times.
The story for me has now come full circle: I have a daughter who is near the age I was at the time of Charles and Diana’s wedding. That royal couple’s son and his wife are now giving us a new generation of the royal family. And I watch my child with my mother’s eyes.
Baby Einstein's not-so-smartly designed Musical Motion Activity Jumpers are being recalled. Complaints on the $90 device appeared in online customer reviews as early as 2011.
The voluntary recall is for jumper model number 90564 (the same model still hosted at Baby Einstein's website – here), sold at nationwide retailers and online at Amazon.com between 2010 and 2013, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The company, Kids II, announced the recall yesterday after they received 100 incident reports describing 61 injuries related to the jumper. Injuries ranged from bruises and lacerations to serious head trauma.
Injuries centered around a "sun" toy attachment, which Baby Einstein describes on its site as a "sun teether," that sits atop a spring-loaded stalk connected to the jumper. The stalk, when tugged and released, can rebound with enough force to, in one reported case, fracture the skull of a 7-month-old.
Reviewers on Target's website complained specifically of the sun toy attachment.
On Target, where the device has a 4-star rating out of five possible, one commenter on June 17, 2011, wrote: "our 7 month old discovered an issue with the yellow sunflower item attached to the activity center. She was able to bend it over which makes it catapult back towards her face. After it cracked her in the forehead (twice) resulting in tears, we removed this toy."
Another written on April 7, 2012, said: "When a baby pulls on it, it flies back and aims straight for their little head, resulting in screaming. It actually left a bruise on my daughters head!"
If you have purchased the recalled model and would like a free replacement, call Kids II toll-free at (877) 325-7056, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. You can also go online at www.kidsii.com, go to the bottom of the page and click recall for more information.
The world just got its first glimpse of the royal baby, born this week.
The new prince means the lineage is that much more secure. The most important bit, though, is that the world gained another mom with the power to raise her little prince into a good man.
As the mother of four boys, I would like to welcome Kate Middleton to the realm of motherhood – where every son’s a prince. And each little prince looks up to his mom and sees a crown – a circlet of love, strength, and protection.
That crown is really hard to keep on straight, Kate. It often tilts, it’s heavy, and it’ll leave a mark on our brow.
Working mothers, including royal mothers with appearance schedules, face a great challenge because we must, all too often, trust others to take care of our children for us. And some will stand in when we don’t ask.
It doesn’t matter if your address reads Norfolk, UK, or Norfolk, Va., (as mine does), everybody around a baby acts like a royal advisor. They’ll tell you that you are wrong because you’re new to the job. Bunk!
You have a grandmother-in-law who is actually the Queen of the entire UK, and she is known for being a bit rigid when it comes to royal dos and don'ts of royal parenting.
But Diana tossed the monarchy’s parenting manual out with the bath water and her sons were the better for it.
Go for it, Kate. Find your ground and stand it.
I went against the grain and lived on a sailboat for five years with my husband when our oldest two boys were toddlers. They grew up strong and confident. When they were bullied, I learned jiujitsu with them. When a doctor told me my youngest would never speak or connect, I quit my job to help him learn to speak, which he now does almost too often. Four boys, 20 years, thousands of mistakes and a stronger bond between a mother and sons is beyond my imagination.
How will you stand your ground for your son?
Perhaps you will be the first among us to embrace the wise words of a mother-in-law, though she be long gone.
Diana’s words may serve you best when you doubt yourself and think to hand the little prince to a nanny or boarding school.
If someone tells you that something is more important than your child, take these words from Diana to heart, “Family is the most important thing in the world.”
When you worry about vaccinations, remember Diana said, “The biggest disease this day and age is that of people feeling unloved.”
”Everyone of us needs to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves,” she said. Moms need to remember to take time for themselves in order to reboot and recharge.
And, of course, "Hugs can do great amounts of good - especially for children."
As long as you did your best and not someone else’s, your child and you will be great.
Today, CNN published a photo to Facebook of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, leaving the hospital with their newborn baby boy. When it came up in my news feed, I was aghast- – not at anything in the photo, but at the comments visible beneath it.
"Why is she so fat?"
"I'm sorry, but thats a BIG post partum tummy."
"i think they forgot anther baby."
"is she expecting twins?Its like something still breathing in her belly"
"is she pregnant again?"
"Kate still looks pregnant. is the a second baby?"
"Why she still look prego?"
"Whose kid is he holding? It's obvious that skank is still pregnant."
Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), Twitter featured more of the same:
"She's still fat. #KateMiddleTON"
"OMG Kate middleton is fat still!"
"Why is Kate Middleton still fat? What's left in there?"
"Kate Middleton still looks pregnant. Is that normal? I know there's 'baby fat' after bt it lks like she's got anthr1 in there."
As was the case with the criticisms of Marion Bartoli's looks when she won Wimbledon, these comments about Kate Middleton's body demonstrate our culture's misogyny. If a woman doesn't live up to Western society's near-impossible beauty ideals – even if she just had a baby the day before – it's open season on her. Let the potshots commence.
Considering how many celebrities hide postpartum until they can "flaunt their weight loss," and because many people seem to have no idea what a postpartum body looks like, it's terrific that Kate appeared publicly. Her public appearance can be read as an act of self-confidence. But how sad is it that simply appearing in public with her new baby would require self-confidence in the first place? It should be such a simple thing – and yet it isn't.
Instead, I am continuously disappointed that women's bodies are under surveillance, endlessly policed, subjected to the harshest scrutiny.
As a friend pointed out in a reply to me on Facebook: "Remarking on Kate's body is unnecessary not only at this time, but ever."
Never rent a recreational vehicle if you don’t want to buy one.
Last year, my husband planned a mystery day for the kids and I. After a scavenger hunt at several shops and restaurants, we followed the clues and ended at an RV rental store. The next day, we loaded it up and traveled from our home in New Hampshire to Pennsylvania for a family reunion, then on to Niagara Falls.
After that trip, our three children never wanted to see our little popup again. They had been forever spoiled. In truth...so had my husband and I. I loved the freedom and independence of traveling with our home. (Turtles have it made!) We could go anywhere, anytime.
So we bought an RV. The first time I sat behind the wheel, a long forgotten feeling of wanderlust resurfaced.
Almost immediately, I began planning (and preparing the kids) for a cross-country trip.
I wanted this trip to be totally random and let the spirit move us as it would. But in order to ease the grandparents’ worry, the kids’ need for structure, and the logistics of arranging a time and place to meet my husband, some planning had to be done.
The kids came up with their own method. A large United States map hangs in our kitchen. Using their Nerf guns with suction cup-tipped ammunition, they shot at the map and kept tallies of the states they hit. It was simple – we'd visit the states our sharpshooters hit the most. My husband and I decided to intervene when Hawaii and Alaska tied for first.
We decided to start off at the Peach family reunion in western Pennsylvania.
After that, each child was allowed to pick one (reasonable) destination. Being a Lego lover since Kindergarten, Maria, 11, wanted to visit Legoland near San Diego. Colie, 9, chose Hollywood – she acted in her first play this past fall. Jacob, 5, wanted to see any place with toys, so Disney. This all meant one place – southern California. Heck, if you are road tripping in America, one might as well drive all the way.
Second step: how do we get there? There are four interstates that connect the east coast with the west:
I-90 travels 3,020.54 miles from Boston to Seattle.
I-80 travels 2,899.54 miles from Teaneck, N.J., to San Francisco.
I-40 travels 2,555.40 from Wilmington, N.C., to Barstow, Calif.
I-10 travels 2,460.34 miles from Jacksonville, Fla., to Los Angeles, Calif.
The fifth major highway, I-70, crosses the central US, starting in Baltimore and ending in Cove Fort, Utah.
We chose this route because of my son. The girls love to say that we “got Jacob from a Pizza shop in Phoenix.” Although only five, Jacob is proud of where he was adopted and wants to see it for himself.
Using Google maps, we plotted a course that has us traveling no more than five hours per day.
Next, we reserved a few campsites, which demanded some logistical aerobics.
For example, our 28-foot, Class C RV is not allowed on certain roads in Sequoia National Park. The road system was built in 1946 when vehicles were much smaller.
One has to pay extra for a campsite with a tree and a tiny plot of artificial turf at the local Kampgrounds of America (KOA) in Las Vegas. At almost $90 per night, we will likely skip these luxuries.
And many campsites in Arizona and New Mexico are not accepting reservations because they had too dry of a spring.
The kids can’t wait. Maria has been packed for months, Colie plans to wing it the day before, and Jacob is counting on Mommy for everything he needs, especially his “white blankie” and knights.
Now, with just a few days to go, I go over our check list:
Campground app – check
Trip Tik – check
Tire pressure (especially important when driving an RV in hot areas) – check
Extra water – check
Road games, books, movies for the kids – check, check, check
We are as ready as we can be.
Our tentative itinerary, from Brookline, N.H., to San Diego and back spans 7,109 miles. Without stopping, this will take us 111 hours and 4 minutes. With our planned stops, we will be gone six weeks.
Here’s to learning about our wonderful country. Here’s to family vacations. Here’s to adventure.
Over the 15-or-so years I’ve been covering family technology, I’ve noticed a kind of siege mentality developed among parents about kids’ use of digital media.
Then, a few years ago, when sociology professor David Finkelhor at the University of New Hampshire gave his milestone talk, “The Internet, Youth Deviance & the Problem of Juvenoia,” I heard him offer the most plausible reason I’d heard or seen yet for what he called this “juvenoia” – “the exaggerated fear about the influence of social change on youth” – that had developed around children’s seemingly unprecedented and uncontrollable exposure to a diversity of values and influences not our own.
Not helping was awareness of our children’s delight in and comfort level with the media and technologies enabling that exposure (here‘s where I wrote about that), a comfort level many of us had not ourselves reached.
24/7 exposure to somebody else’s values
“Virtually every parent from every station in life,” Dr. Finkelhor said, “sees him or herself as raising children in opposition to the common culture. Parents feel undermined by it – pitted, depending on their point of view, against consumerism, secularism, sexual licentiousness, government regulation, violence, junk food, public schools, religious and racial bigotry…. Of course the Internet is one of the institutions that increased the diversity of that exposure, and this leads to a constant anxiety about [children's exposure to] external threats” to their family’s values.
The professor hypothesized that this siege mentality has grown over the millennia as we’ve gotten further and further away from tribal society, where the tribe reinforced the values parents taught their children.
I’ve been working this problem for a long time, and up until now, about all I could think of to suggest to fellow parents besides getting informed about digital media and – much more important – playing and talking with their kids in the media they love.
I felt that, by focusing on the kids, the tools they love, and the facts (the research about the kid-media nexus), other parents might see what I’ve seen with my own kids: that their experiences in and with digital media are about 99% positive or neutral but, when not, can be worked through because mostly about people and parenting (I’d come to see that the context of those experiences in media was mostly home and school and the rest of offline life and sociality, not so much the media).
‘Myself, my family, our story’
Now, however, I think I’ve stumbled upon a missing piece to the equation – and it has even less to do with technology than my own antidote.
In a great commentary in The New York Times by parent and author Bruce Feiler about his own family and research, I read that “the last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs [from a number of fields] in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively,” and it’s not just unplugging (see this).
“Develop[ing] a strong family narrative,” Feiler discovered – helping our kids know who and where they came from with those family-history stories and little rituals (some of the best are the hokiest) clans develop together – helping our children have a sense of family history, is one of the best things parents can do to help them develop self-esteem, resilience, identity, and all the other good things that sustain safety, mental health, and good relationships online and offline.
“The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned,” Feiler says psychologists have found. Think about the safety that ensures.
More focus needed on internal protections
Probably because the online safety field believed risk and safety were somehow all about technology, its messaging has always been weighted way too much on the side of external tools for kids’ well being – filtering and monitoring software, parental control, abuse reporting, school rules, laws. What about the resilience, confidence, empathy, moral compass – the internal protections – that help them deal with challenges and connect with others successfully for the rest of their lives, the “tools” more important than ever in a networked world?
Way back in 2008 a national task force on Internet safety found that a child’s psychosocial makeup and home and school environments were better predictors of online risk than any technology a child uses.
So there’s something really substantial, now, for concerned parents to go on: Know that neither your child’s inner strength nor your influence can be swamped by technology and that, even if you believe they can be, there’s something you can do about it – as well as something you can do to reinforce healthy child development.
You can help your children know themselves better by knowing “they belong to something bigger than themselves … the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness,” Feiler wrote.
When you think about it, we haven’t actually lost that ancient tribal support David Finkelhor referred to in his 2010 talk. We’re building on it as we work toward a better balance between internal and external protection for children and families.
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.
Much has been made about the birth of the so-called royal baby. He will be the new heir to the British throne, via the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. But as much has been made about it, there has probably been more made about how too much has been made about it.
"The statement from Kensington Palace contains just 45 words. Such is the global fascination with this baby, those words will be translated into countless languages and endlessly repeated until fresh information is provided once the child has been born."
Even factoring in the (nominal) importance of the baby to the overall health of the still-robust British monarchy, itself a system of nominal importance, the event is not stunningly important. It's absolutely trivial. It's utterly ordinary. And, yet – as a microcosm for birth in general – it is of course totally momentous.
What really happened is that a new baby was born – something that happens about 134 million times a year worldwide, according to the United Nations. But for everyone observing the event by TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, or other means, it's not merely a random baby that's coming into the world – it's a symbol for every baby that's ever come into the world, with all the fear, joy, and expectations that come along with it.
We can relate. And where there's that kind of emotional connection, there's a live-wire, capital "e" news Event, the kind that attracts special sections, 24-hour-watches, and blog posts that nibble enthusiastically on every particular edge of the story. (Yes, a bit like this one, I suppose.)
If you've recently become a parent like I have, you understand how difficult it is to get perspective on a birth, and so the royal baby is fascinating both as an exotic event and as a mirror to our own experiences.
For the parent involved in the baby carrying, birthing, and caring processes – each of which have their own halos of myth, superstition, and panic – the birth of a baby is not a trivial event. It is the big bang kickoff to an epic, years-long combination of celebration and self-flagellation, both a festival of joy and funeral for the freedoms of the pre-baby era, to be played out in adorable gifted onesies and growing mountains of soiled diapers and declined dinner invitations.
So yes, the royal baby has nothing to do with us, and isn't very remarkable. But, no, you shouldn't feel bad for following the spectacle. It is, after all, everybody's spectacle – it's the spectacle of human life.