Bo Obama is a catch.
Owned by a presidential family, from the same litter as former-Sen. Ted Kennedy's dog Cappy, and, like The Washington Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia wrote, he's a debonair gentleman: "[He's got tuxedo-black fur, with a white chest, white paws and a rakish white goatee."
So it's easy to see why, considering the spate of celebrities being asked to Prom through rambunctious high schooler-led social media campaigns, Bo would not be left out. Enter a doting Goldendoodle from Oregon, who targeted America's favorite coiffed canine in a YouTube video requesting his escort to the Oregon Humane Society's 26th annual Doggie Dash fundraiser.
The YouTube video shows the Goldendoodle, named Ramona, looking lovesick and lonely. And then Crayola crayon outlined thought bubbles appear above her head, "Oh no!! I don't have a date for Doggie Dash!"
A picture of Bo, framed inside a floating heart, appears above a hopeful name: Mrs. Ramona Obama, First Dog-Lady.
Ramona gets busy. How does one reach the FDOTUS? She tries reaching him through her twitter handle, @ramona_the_dog, but, despite her pinpointed typing skills, she has no luck. Bo doesn't even return her Facebook message. He's unreachable (like his Dad).
On the Doggie Dash's website, Ramona even makes a five point argument for why the pair would hit it off. They're both hypoallergenic, they both love blues music, she'd frolic in the Hawaiian sand with him any day.
In a last-ditch effort, Ramona writes Bo a letter. She begins by appealing to his ego — he's probably really busy and important at the White House, but here he'd be leading 4,000 dogs. Following that, an appeal to his conscience. The Oregon Humane Society doesn't get tax dollars or any other government support and they need this fundraiser so they can match their record set this year of placing 11,000 dogs into homes.
And then Ramona throws caution aside and comes on strong: "Because I love you, and want to marry you, and be the First Dog-Lady of the United States."
Although ABC News reported the humane society hasn't heard back yet, workers did communicate with Oregon's congressional delegation to ensure the letter made it into the right hands (paws).
A petition on Change.org had 699 signatures as of this morning.
When a New Jersey father posted a picture of his young son toting a rifle he’d received for his birthday in order to follow a family hunting tradition, the boy was nearly lost to his family when he was caught in the social media crosshairs. This is not about gun laws, but what we, as parents, are choosing to fire-off to our social media sites that could make our kids and families targets for a very gun-shy society that’s become trigger-happy about reporting kids and parents to authorities.
I know I wrote about a little girl in Pennsylvania getting into trouble for pointing a Hello Kitty bubble-blowing toy at another child and saying, “I’m going to shoot you!” When we have people pointing fingers at kids who point finger-guns, it’s really just common sense not to put our families in harm’s way by posting photos and stories that could easily be misunderstood to our social media feeds.
RECOMMENDED: Future hangs on misunderstood majority of gun owners
In just such a posting, according to The Associated Press, Shawn Moore uloaded a photo of his son Josh holding a rifle he gave him for his 11th birthday, at their home in Carneys Point, N.J. The photo shows Josh, a little boy, in cammo, smiling with what looks like a military-style assault rifle, but is actually just a .22-caliber copy. This doesn’t blow bubbles.
The Moore family says this photo, posted on Facebook, led the state’s child welfare agency to the family’s house on March 15 demanding to be let inside to inspect their guns. It’s truly not a leap of logic to see how that picture being posted on Facebook by the father snowballed into a mess.
Mr. Moore is terribly upset about the ensuing raid and I would be as well. In fact I would be angry and terrified that people would misjudge my child and my parenting as the result of a Facebook picture. However, the fact is that no matter how defiant I often feel about the nanny society that has risen as the direct result of numerous children being murdered and wounded by gun-toting classmates, I also take great pains to try to understand and thus not inflame it.
When posting a picture of your child on Facebook can result in child abuse hotlines being called and the child nearly being taken by authorities, it’s time for parents to change our social media habits. We can be angry and shout about not bowing to social pressure, but the bottom line is that this is one more way we must move with the times and not against them in order to protect our families.
RECOMMENDED: Future hangs on misunderstood majority of gun owners
I have spent countless sessions with my nine-year-old son trying to recalibrate the expressions he uses and things he says in, around, or after school. I don’t like having to bow to social pressure either, but frankly when the media blew up the fact that the Sandy Hook shooter had Asperger's, every parent of an autistic child that I know called me to get a consensus on how to handle things socially. We worried that our kids could no longer say, “I’m mad at you!” to another child, raise his voice, or do anything to show emotion that would not have us out of school and in court.
It’s not fair, but as we so often tell our kids, “Life’s not fair. Sometimes we just have to do things we don’t like.”
There is only one occasion when seeing your son uproot a tree and slam it through your window is cause for celebration and former WWE wrestler Chris “Master Lock” Masters tumbled to it when he saved his mom from a captor who’d set her house on fire with her in it. In doing so, he smashed a favorite bully weapon by giving the term “Mama’s Boy” a fierce makeover. He also has my sons thinking about what they would have done to save Mom.
Mr. Masters, whose real name is Chris Mordetzky, got a call from his uncle saying that a neighbor had locked himself in Masters's mother's Los Angeles home and threatened to burn the place down if anyone tried to come inside, according to the wrestler's Twitter feed. Masters decided not to be dictated to by the home invader and called the police — then the neighbor set the house on fire with Masters’ mom inside.
While there are those who say pro wrestling in the WWE is all just play acting, Masters was not playing around when he decided against waiting for police and, instead, went rushing to his mother’s aid.
Masters arrived on the scene and, as police struggled to find a way into the burning house, he uprooted a tree and used it to smash in a window and save his mom.
“Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.... Moms resting comfortably with me at my place,” Masters posted on his Twitter feed, which is filled with photos of his mother’s home. “Heres the aftermath.So thankful my moms alive!!!!!!!!!”
I bet his mom excused the swearfest that ensued in his posts after he very satisfactorily took down the bad guy and rescued her. Profanity aside, the incident has my sons debating how they would save me in that situation and I have the feeling the landscaping’s going to suffer before this day is out. The fact that Masters chose a tree as a tool has Team Geek here at my house in an uproar. Masters is the new social media meme fodder with my boys saying things like, “A bulletproof vest wears Chris Masters for protection” and “When Bruce Banner gets mad he turns into the Hulk. When the Hulk gets mad he turns into Chris Masters. When Chris Masters gets mad, run!”
Of my four sons the eldest, Zoltan, 19, is a criminal justice major at Virginia Commonwealth University with a homeland security a minor; Ian, 17, is a high school senior; Gracie Jiu-Jitsu blue belt (one stripe), Avery, 14, is the stick-thin gaming Star Trek geek; and Quin, 9, is the self-proclaimed “mathmagician.”
So how would my sons handle this crisis?
All the boys agreed that Zoltan would have been the one to “Go Chuck Norris on the situation” and throw himself through the window to get his hands on the bad guy.
Ian could not stop grinning, “A tree? That’s beautiful. Arrive on the scene, assess the situation and the answer we get is tree? Well, it worked so I guess my only thing would be the take-down once I was in.”
“What’s wrong with a rock,” Avery asked. “You can’t go wrong with a rock. Think of the time lost uprooting a tree!”
Quin closed the comments saying, “Seriously? The guy’s huge and can pull out a tree, so why not just kick in the door? Actually, forget that, if I saw a dude ripping out a tree and I was the guy hurting his mom I would just die of being scared.”
This is an incident that’s not going to get old at our house.
I will tell you that it’s really nice to see a big, tough, scary guy who can perform bone-crushing locks in the ring be such a doting son. Seeing him continue to post love for his mother and her being safely under her son’s wing tells me that as a parent she really did something right.
In fact he just posted a retro black and white snapshot of his mom and wished her a happy birthday on Twitter today. Even though her son already gave her the best gift any mom could have by loving her so much he’d smash through fire for her, I bet he still gives her flowers. If there was a belt you could win for being a good son I’d award it to Masters.
Rebel Rocker, iconic bad girl, Pink, is usually a show-stopper, but this week she took it literally when she spotted a little girl crying in the audience and shut-down her set to give comfort and, in a watershed moment, parented the crowd. That moment can serve to remind us that taking kids with us to events can be stressful, yet also have surprising benefits for everyone.
Last week I wrote about Jada Pinkett-Smith being a tiger-mom on Facebook and parenting the media over what she termed “cyber bullying” attacks on young stars. Today we have another mom rocker, Alecia Beth “Pink” Moore who took her Philadelphia concert audience to task for fighting in the presence of a child. It’s starting to feel like if you want to be a mom who rocks you need to get “pink” into your name somewhere.
It’s safe to say I was a timid mom at the start, 19 years and four sons ago. When my kids were younger I dreaded taking them out in public fearing the social spotlight of being the mom with the wailing kid. I remember leaving carts full of groceries behind to snatch up a crying son and get out of the store in Olympic-time to avoid the embarrassment. A concert of any kind would have been unthinkable, but after seeing Pink in action I realize maybe I missed a step on the parenting path that could have taken us someplace great.
Pink can be seen in a YouTube video (scroll down to view!), shot by a fan at her Philadelphia performance Sunday night.
In a very mommy moment the singer’s gaze sweeps the massive crowd, zeroes-in on a distraught little girl in the sea of noisy humanity, and asks in a no-nonsense voice: "Hold on. One second. Time out. Is everything OK right here? Is this little girl all right?"
Mind you, this is a packed house and the entire audience is singing with her during the set, and yet she picks up on a child crying. She’s the mom of a little girl, age 2, and her thought is now rewired, tuned, like most moms’ ears are, to screen out everything and hear the child crying. Who’s got the mom super power? Oh yeah, Pink’s got it big time.
Then, she very pointedly asks why the child’s upset. She’s not letting go, this is one big pink tiger mom sorting things out and in so doing, parenting the huge audience. This is not the kind of audience you find at a church choir sing-along, this is Philly and the woman who, while having voiced a part in the children’s film "Happy Feet 2," also has washboard abs and was a powerhouse in the video for her new song “Try” where she does an Apache dance with a guy who looks like an mixed martial arts fighter, while covered in neon chalk and not much else.
Much like any mom at home, she then learns a fight in the crowd had frightened the girl and that’s when it gets interesting. "Y'all are fighting around a little girl?" Pink demands in what the world now can reference as the mom voice multiplied by the wow-factor of coming over a state of the art sound system and the Pink pipes.
The crowd instantly responded to this by booing the offending parties. Pink, realizing that she’s just thrown the weight of a heavy crowd onto the pile, backpedals and parents the other half of the crowd. She makes a joke about all of them having been there, done that, and the crowd laughs and things reboot to a happy event.
You might think the star was done and would just move on, but she can’t let it go until she’s sure the child is calm and happy again, offering her a stuffed animal someone had tossed on stage and a Rice Krispie treat. The child is now frozen in the spotlight, and Pink does the classic mom coax in a goofy voice saying, “Come aaawwwwnnn! You know you want a Rice Krispie treat.”
When the child doesn’t move Pink hands the prizes through the sea of humanity which obediently crowd surfs the stuffed frog and tasty treat to the child.
Pink ends the episode by telling the audience, “ ’Cause Rice Krispie treats make everything better don’t they?”
She tells the girl, “Don’t cry. Cry when you’re older.”
Then, before taking her seat she turns to the crowd and sternly adds, “Cut it out y’all. Y’all are grown-ass women. Seriously.” And the crowd went wild with support of parenting in Pink style.
What I took away from the video was that the little girl and her parents all survived the spotlight and in fact have the baby book entry of a lifetime, and that more celebrities should be as brave as Pink was in that situation. She didn’t give a moment’s thought to losing fans or how it would play, because her life is unscripted.
If I had it all to do over again, I would still rush the kids from the public places when they had a melt-down because it’s polite and keeps you from doing something out of desperation that might be even worse – like melting down yourself. However, I would also take my young children to more cultural events, performances, and social gatherings because they might have encountered someone like Pink along the way to free our minds of our fears.
While the lyrics for the song "Try" are intended to reference relationships, I think they work perfectly in this context as well:
Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone's bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn't mean you're gonna die
You've gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Oh, and of course, I want to thank Pink for permanently removing the “soccer mom” stigma from those of us who still make Rice Krispie treats. Sure, making a dessert out of a cereal and Marshmallow Fluff with your child will not solve everything, but as parents we still have to “Try, try try.”
First it was that the blood and gore were too graphic for young children, now The Bible, the History Channel series, is losing the scriptural education message to the perception that the actor playing Satan looks, to some, like President Obama. The real problem here isn’t that History has given birth to “Obama-Satan,” but that it suffers from the same parenting issue we do here at home, that too often the messenger’s demeanor distracts from and derails the message.
What parent hasn’t telegraphed, through a facial expression or gesture, the exact opposite of what we are trying to get across without realizing it? We make a child fear thunderstorms by racing to comfort and saying, “Don’t be afraid!” before the kid has made a whimper.
So, too, the History channel series that tries to parent viewers into biblical education is suffering to get its message heard above the faces it’s making in each episode. We saw angels in armor delivering a coup de grâce on the wicked as blood spurts onto the face of the holy. This week, African-American kids are seeing that the faces of all the bad guys look like theirs in hue, while the pious and Christ himself are the opposite.
“Why’s Jesus and the good guys always white and the devil’s looking like Obama,” a little girl, hands on hips, asked an older girl at the recreation center yesterday afternoon. The center has large TV sets in the game and workout rooms, plus a computer room where kids often scan headlines that pop us during searches. The older girl, who had her back to me, shrugged and replied, “White people make everything white.”
Both girls are in my after-school chess program, and when I cleared my throat, the younger child giggled and the older one whirled around and without missing a beat said quite frankly, “Right Ms. Suhay?”
Being about as light-skinned as it gets, I was at a total loss; and rather than step into this bear trap I just said, “I’ll have to look into that and get back to you.”
People are fond of saying, “I don’t see color.” Well of course they literally see it but are saying that their mind’s eyes are “color blind.” My son, Quin, 9, heard that phrase once in this same racial context and said, “Yeah, but if you’re color blind all you see is black and white, right? So how does that sentence work in real life?”
What I have learned from the past five years of working with any and all kids and parents who live in predominantly African-American neighborhoods here in Norfolk, Va. is that color is an issue right down to which side of the chess board you choose to play. I stopped bringing black-and-white chess pieces to first-time chess sessions and substituted green versus gold and red versus blue because I could not get kids or adults to play white if they were a variant of brown themselves.
In chess, if you never play white you never take the initiative, because white goes first and has the advantage of setting the pace and having a plan in motion, or start out controlling the game and so if racial lines can sink that deep into the culture then it’s not so surprising that in the northeasternmost notch of the Bible Belt, kids go to church on Sunday, do Bible study, are hearing about this series and asking the questions the girls asked. Even those not watching the series get a big enough dose of previews and commercials to know what’s what with the characters.
So I looked into it, via Google search, and there was “Obama-Satan” all over the place.
The actor chosen to portray Satan in History's "The Bible" mini-series, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazani, was given the nasty moniker by TV pundit Glenn Beck, sparking a social media smack-down over the weekend. Thanks Mr. Beck, just what the world really needs right now, someone stealing the light from the Bible and shining it on hate, intolerance, and political agendas.
According to The Christian Post, both History channel as well as "The Bible" mini-series producers, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, have called the suggestions "utter nonsense."
The problem with “utter nonsense” is that people just can’t seem to stop uttering it all over the Twitterverse and other social media sites.
To find answers I turned to the book I’m currently slogging through on my Kindle, “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don't,” by Nate Silver. Mr. Silver is a statistician, writer, and founder of The New York Times political blog FiveThirtyEight.com. Silver also developed PECOTA, a system for forecasting baseball performance that was bought by Baseball Prospectus. I’m reading it to try to understand why my kids and adults follow trends – i.e. The Harlem Shake. The first time I saw the video I dismissed it and then it was well, bigger than "The Bible" in popularity.
Silver talks about finding the signal or message in all the noise we tend to find generated around it and the chaos and unpredictability of audiences. I really feel for Ms. Downey and Mr. Burnett because on some level they must have believed that you can’t go wrong with a series on “The Greatest Story Every Told.” But they didn’t take into account the noise of people like Beck and, at some level, me. They gave us too much noise to work with in high volume and what they’re getting is feedback instead of people hearing the vital messages of the Bible’s stories themselves.
The Obama-Satan attack really kills me because Downey once performed in the TV series "Touched by an Angel," which I watched religiously. It produced of the most effective noise-free moments of racial introspection I have ever seen on television. In that episode Downey is transformed into an African-American woman in the South during the height of the Ku Klux Klan and finds herself being hunted down by the Klan across a wooded area.
The angel, running for her life as an African-American woman, falls to her knees just as the killers are about to discover her and begs God, “Please, Father, make me white again. Please make me white.” Just as the white hand of her would-be attacker falls on her shoulder she is suddenly white again and thus safe.
The angel is disgraced, bereft, and horrified by her choice and words, but is comforted by another angel, played by actress Della Reese, for the fact that she learned, and now her compassion, understanding, and vision would be true for all eternity.
That was a noise-free signal that was powerful and, while controversial, it was effective for me and I believe many others as well.
I want "The Bible" series to succeed, but there is just too much chaos in the audience and too much noise generated by the choices the producers made. In defense of the producers, there was no way the series' makers, who filmed prior to the election, could have known Obama would be president now. OK. I do see the resemblance between Obama and the actor playing Satan, but only after Beck framed them in that context and I really don’t think it was purposeful. The biggest note here is that only chaos theory can account that we’re even talking about this instead of Jesus being tested by Satan in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).
That’s more background story noise than the Easter Bunny makes laying eggs in the yard as I try to explain the Biblical underpinnings of a time of rebirth and hope to my sons.
It’s a beautiful effort to try to bring the history of the Bible to those who have no experience with it, but unfortunately they don’t make noise-cancelling headphones for this production. Perhaps the best thing we can do is to ask people like Beck to stop making use of the spiritual as a loud, untuned instrument of political destruction. Perhaps he could pipe-down and let the message through.
In the Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial, the social and digital media trail proved that many boys were complicit in the rapes of Jane Doe — not just the two who were found guilty. Chillingly, these boys seem like they could be anyone’s son. As a result, today, many parents are asking: How can I raise my boy the right way — to become a young man who will neither rape nor be a casual bystander to rape?
It’s an important question to ask, but a difficult one to answer. The Steubenville boys’ families likely thought they were doing a great job raising their sons. But something is wrong with our society: girls are so sexualized and dehumanized by our culture that unless it is directly and regularly addressed at home, boys can easily internalize the attitude that girls are sub-human; Sex objects, rather than respectable subjects. And as the Steubenville case shows, once this attitude is internalized, boys think raping girls is not the problem, but rather getting caught. Consider even the judge’s words, which according to an AP report betrayed this kind of perspective:
"In sentencing the boys, Lipps urged parents and others 'to have discussions about how you talk to your friends, how you record things on the social media so prevalent today and how you conduct yourself when drinking is put upon you by your friends.'"
Talk about being tone-deaf! As the mother of two sons, this is not my takeaway from the case. The issue is not how the Steubenville rapists and their peers recorded their criminal actions on social media and therefore were caught, found guilty, and sentenced for their crimes. It’s that they raped in the first place.
Even CNN committed a major gaffe in their reporting on the sentencing, focusing not on the victim’s vindication and the possible outcomes for her, but rather on how difficult it was to watch the young rapists’ lives falling apart. According to The Huffington Post’s report on CNN’s coverage:
"[T]he effects of the rape on the victim seemed to be an afterthought: 'It was incredibly emotional, it was difficult for anyone in there to watch those boys break down,' Harlow said. '[It was] also difficult, of course, for the victim’s family.'”
The victim shouldn’t be an afterthought in the media coverage. Her vindication despite our broken culture of rape, her prognosis for a recovery from her trauma, and the possible consequences she and her family may face in their small town as they move forward should be central to the coverage.
With a culture that has such a messed up attitude towards rape that even the judge and CNN are making major missteps, how do we answer the question posed earlier? How do we raise our boys into young men who will neither rape nor be casual bystanders to rape — who understand both that “no means no” and, more importantly, that consent requires an enthusiastic “yes”?
The answer is to begin teaching boys about two concepts — consent and respect — from an early age, in age-appropriate ways.
For example, my four-year-old son loves to hug and kiss his friends. He is sweet and affectionate, and when he first sees a friend or when it’s time to say goodbye, he wants nothing more but to wrap his arms around that friend and give him or her a big kiss.
Sometimes, his friends reciprocate, but sometimes, they clearly don’t want the physical contact. So, since about the time when he turned four-years-old, and he seemed old enough to understand, we’ve told him that he needs to ask his friends for permission first. We taught him to ask, “Can I give you a hug and a kiss?” We’ve also told him he needs to respect their answers, even if it’s disappointing, and I’m glad to see that this is now his usual approach. He gets their consent.
Then, there’s the matter of respect. When my son was three-and-a-half, he became interested in wearing nail polish on his toenails and fingernails after seeing me get a summertime mani-pedi. I agreed to paint his nails, but before sending him off to preschool, I prepared him for the possibility of pushback from his friends or even his teachers. “Some people at school might not like your nails,” I warned him. “But you like them, right?”
Admiring his shiny blue nail polish, he told me, “I really do!”
“So,” I coached him, “if anybody says they don’t like your fingernails, you tell them: ‘It’s MY body!’ Because it’s your body, and you get to decide what happens to it. No one else does. Can we practice? I will pretend to be another kid who doesn’t like your nails, and you can tell me, ‘It’s MY body!’ Okay?”
A few practice scenarios later, and he was great at saying, “It’s MY body!” as a confident response to comments that disrespected his right to make decisions about his own body.
This was a great lesson for him to learn, because a few months later, when we set the rule that he needs to ask his friends for permission before hugging and kissing them, this helped us to foster an empathetic perspective. We were able to explain: “It’s HIS [or HER] body, and he [or she] doesn’t want you to hug and kiss right now. So you have to respect his [or her] wishes.”
All this is helpful in the present. I’m glad my preschooler has a basic, age-appropriate understanding of respect and consent, even if he doesn’t know those words yet. Everything we do now paves the way for future conversations, and I know that as he approaches adolescence, it will be easier for us to discuss consent and respect with him.
Since the broader culture gives such terribly mixed messages to our boys, I want to make it clear: consent and respect are not options. They’re necessities.
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. Rebecca Hains blogs at rebeccahains.wordpress.com.
Clint Eastwood celebrated his daughter's wedding this weekend, according to a number of news sources. His daughter, Alison Eastwood, married Stacy Poitras — an outdoorsy, lumberjack archetype. Mr. Poitras is known for making sculptures with chainsaws.
Poitras decided to ask Mr. Eastwood, the star of shoot 'em up movies like "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and "Dirty Harry," for his daughter's hand in marriage. No report published about the wedding so far has failed to include, usually as the article's conclusion, Eastwood's response.
"He looked at me for four or five seconds, which felt like 15 minutes, and then he said, ‘You’re going to have to take that up with her,’” Poitras told Westlake magazine last year. “I said, ‘Is that a yes or a no?’ And he said, ‘That’s a yes,’ and he shook my hand.”
With marriage customs constantly in flux, the tradition of asking a father for his daughter's hand in marriage seems unshakable. But is it?
A study reported by The Associated Press in 2007 showed that 73 percent of men said asking a father's permission to marry his daughter is necessary while 68 percent of women said it was not necessary to ask their fathers.
A report published in The Christian Science Monitor in 2003 describes the changes that popping the question to the wife-to-be's parents has gone through over time.
While some couples interviewed, regardless of age, considered the question a legitimate step in the marriage process, others considered it a formality, they rejected it outright, or, within the context of divorce, multiple parental figures, and changing gender roles, confusing.
Tom Branigan, a public-relations executive in Whitefish Bay, Wis., estimates that only 35 or 40 percent of his friends posed the question to their future in-laws. "That's a shame," he says. "That action says to the family of your bride-to-be, 'I want to be part of this family, and I want to build a relationship.' It also lets them know that it's important to me that you agree that we are a good match."
[M]any men are no longer very concerned about the answer.
"It's been about 50 years since Dad held the ultimate veto power,' says Lisa Daily, author of "Stop Getting Dumped!" a dating book. 'Today, if the father says no and the daughter says yes, the marriage (minus Dad) is likely to go forward."
Other couples reject the idea of seeking parental approval. John Potter of Maplewood, N.J., and his wife were 26 and living on their own when they married in 1990. "I did not ask for permission first," he says.
In an age of divorce, seeking permission can get complicated. One woman recalls that her boyfriend asked both her father and stepfather. In another sign of changing times, Justina Grubor of Takoma Park, Md., proposed to her boyfriend, Dennis Fleming. "I didn't ask his mom first," she says.
So while we celebrate the wedding of Eastwood's daughter, and applaud the courage shown by Poitras to ask a man who often seems like the gritty, conservative characters he portrays on the big screen, perhaps the custom should be followed through on a case-by-case basis.
But if the potential father-in-law is the "Man with No Name," yeah, you should ask.
Greek soccer star Giorgos Katidis apologized for giving the Nazi salute on the field, allegedly without knowing what the symbol meant, and actor David Hasselhoff defends the last bricks in the Berlin Wall from demolition so that future generations may both honor the dead and learn from a nation’s history. In both cases, it’s a furor over the German "fatherland" that reminds us to think globally; parent locally.
It also takes us to understanding the difference between parenting lessons to be found in objects versus in the everyday actions of people. An inanimate object, such as a remaining fragment of the Berlin Wall or the beams left standing after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center that resemble a cross, serve as memorials and lessons.
However, actions speak louder than bricks and steel. Seeing the Nazi salute on television and YouTube is an ongoing action insinuating itself into our kid’s lexicon of everyday gestures, with disastrous result.
The story of AEK Athens midfielder Mr. Katidis, 20, is a cautionary one. According to Reuters, Katidis gave the traditional stiff-arm Nazi salute after he scored his team’s winning goal. AEK's German coach Ewald Lienen told Reuters, "He is a young kid who does not have any political ideas. He most likely saw such a salute on the Internet or somewhere else and did it without knowing what it means."
That’s not entirely impossible to believe as the mother of four boys who I have occasionally caught saying something socially offensive that they were just parroting from a YouTube video. That’s what that PG rating is all about in film and TV, parental guidance is required for much of what our kids are absorbing.
My maiden name is Goldenthal, my father’s side of the family is German and Russian Jewish, and seeing the news today has a very personal effect on me because of what my father taught me about history and our heritage. However, I realize that my sons, all raised Roman Catholic like me, with a name that does not immediately garner attacks from the anti-semitic, may not understand the deeply troubling nature of the neo-Nazi salute.
As a parent, it’s my job to educate them and call this to their attention so they can understand the gravity of what may seem like a funny or popular “new” gesture. I believe we need to pick our battles about what to address as silly, rude, and mildly inappropriate versus gestures, symbols, and sayings that our kids may use innocently and find themselves branded as something they’re not.
The upshot for Katidis: he was given a lifetime ban from all national teams by the Greek football federation and lambasted by the media and fans alike. He apologized and asked to be dropped from AEK's first team saying, "I would like to confess that I am totally unacceptable and I feel terrible for those I upset with the stupidity of my act," according to The Associated Press. Katidis reiterated numerous times that he was not a fascist or racist. He simple took his social cues from someone who was both of those things, and Katadis has paid with his career.
Anything viral on the Internet is de facto cool and imitated verbatim without research by kids. It’s yet another great reason to know what young kids and teens are searching online. While I realize this should be something learned in a history class, it is our job to attach the social and moral context to history lessons.
On the up side, I am seeing some great social parenting courtesy of someone my kids know from the Spongebob movie and I remember from Baywatch, Knight Rider — actor David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff.
Mr. Hasselhoff, father of two girls, is trying to stop developers from chipping away at a very important and tangible reminder of society gone awry. He's advocating the protection of a section of the Berlin Wall set for demolition by developers. The developers want to demolish a part of the defunct cold war symbol, which divided east and west Berlin for 28 years, according to the AP. At least 136 people died trying to cross the wall between 1961 and 1989. The wall officially came down in November 1989, however two sections were left standing, a three-quarter-mile stretch was decorated with murals and dubbed the East Side Gallery.
According to AP, Hasselhoff opposes the destruction saying, "It's about people and it's about hearts that were broken, hearts that were torn apart, and lives that were lost. That's what we're talking about today, not a piece of real estate.”
There’s an even more important piece of “real estate” the Hoffs are fighting for and that’s the one between our kids’ ears. That place should not be for sale, or rent, to developers of intolerance, hate, prejudice, and fear.
After looking through the new "Teens & Technology 2013" study issued by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, I'm as convinced as ever that regardless of income or education level, tech parenting is changing.
“The nature of teens’ Internet use has transformed dramatically – from stationary connections tied to shared desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day,” the study’s lead author, Mary Madden, writes in the report. And I'll summarize those interesting findings below. But some parenting context is important to consider first.
It’s difficult to control either the use or the users of an Internet that goes wherever the users go. But was control ever easy either? What replaces control? You might call it a guidance system, both internal and external. Psychologists and game designers talk about intrinsic/extrinsic rewards in learning and gaming. I think what we’re collectively learning now, urged on by the media shift, is that the most effective parenting starts with mostly external guidance (though I think children arrive with all the parts of an internal guidance system already in place; it just “learns” with use) and becomes increasingly internal and increasingly effective.*
My friend, author and teen and parent adviser Annie Fox, calls it our children’s moral compass. The child, their parents, many other people, and life experience activate, calibrate, and improve that moral compass. Those who care the most are there with the child the most when the guidance system hits an unknown. That’s why we need to keep the communication channels as wide open as possible so they’ll seek the external guidance they need to do the calibrating. So, as Henry Jenkins, a professor and friend, says about parenting our very mobile, connected kids, we need to “watch their backs, not look over their shoulders.”
Mobile saturation of childhood
Of the 12- to 17-year-olds living in the United States, 95 percent use the Internet, 93 percent have access to a computer at home, and 71 percent of teens with a computer at home share it with other family members – the biggest explanation, probably, for why teens’ Net use has gotten so mobile. It allows them to keep their connectivity personal.
- Devices used: 78 percent of teens now have a cellphone, and 47 percent of those devices are smart phones – which means that more than a third of all US teens (37 percent) have smart phones, up from 23 percent two years ago. Almost a quarter (23 percent) of teens have a tablet computer.
- Mobile access: 74 percent of teens access the Net on cellphones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally.
- Mostly mobile access: A quarter (25 percent) of teens are “cell-mostly”, meaning they mostly go online using their phone and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer. Of adults, 15 percent identified as cell-mostly and “among teen smart phone owners, half are cell-mostly.”
- Older girls are even more mobile: More than a third (34 percent) of girls ages 14 to 17 go online mostly by cellphone, compared to a quarter (24 percent) of boys ages 14 to 17 (they use Xbox Live more, I figure, but this is purely anecdotal!). Pew says the gender discrepancy is “notable since boys and girls are equally likely to be smart phone owners,” bearing out, I think, the theory that cellphone use is very individual. “Among older teen girls who are smart phone owners, 55 percent say they use the Internet mostly from their phone.”
Mobile digital divide narrower
Pew found that teens in “lower-income and lower-education households are still less likely to use the Internet” – mobile or wired – but they are “just as likely and in some cases more likely than those living in higher income and more highly educated households” to be cell-mostly with their Internet access.
So we might extrapolate that the mobile platform is narrowing the digital divide in the US the way it is between developed and developing countries.
Here are some digital-divide data points:
- 89 percent of teens living in households earning under $30,000 per year use the Internet, compared to ...
- 99 percent of teens in households earning $75,000+ per year.
- 30 percent of teens in households earning under $30,000 per year are cell-mostly Net users, compared with ...
- 14 percent of teens in households earning $50,000-74,999 per year and ...
- 24 percent living in households earning $75,000+ per year (the last three points probably indicate the most free-flowing access on any and all devices).
*We probably need more research on what the right conditions are for children to develop their internal guidance system in the digital age, but we have plenty on child development, at-risk youth, and parenting – and a diversity of perspectives on moral development. But I suspect that most children have reasonably useful external conditions and largely unacknowledged inner resources for healthy, meaningful participation in community online and offline.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family andparenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employedor 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 NetFamilyNews.org.
Right now in the crime-ridden, gang-infested section of Newport News, Va. someone who perpetuates that violence is getting a free haircut. Terry Riddick is giving the haircut, but his goal is to cut down on gun and street violence by building relationships to draw offenders to the Unity March where they will hand in their guns, get counseling, and rejoin their community.
For the past eight years, Mr. Riddick and his brothers, Wilson and Randy, all barbers, have held Unity Walks in cities where the amount of violence make it necessary. The walks are held in memory of Riddick's cousin, Eric E. Ralph. According to Riddick, his cousin chose a life of violence and crime and died at age 28 when he pulled a gun on someone at a 7-11 who he didn’t realize was armed. “He was one of those people who didn’t listen,” Riddick told the Monitor. “He spent his time prior to that in and out of jail and gang violence.”
RECOMMENDED: 5 tips for talking with children about violence
“We set up a campsite with counselors, FBI, mentors, and we walk from a point about four miles away through the neighborhoods and to the site,” Riddick said. “People come out and they join us. Gang members come out and hand in their guns. We collected 25 guns over the last couple walks. If they want a free haircut at the end, they have to get a stamp or wrist band from each and every table to show they got the help.”
Lorenzo Sheppard, Newport News' assistant chief of police, said, “We have worked with Terry Riddick before. We all know about the free haircuts he gives and the mentoring he is able to do as well while those haircuts are happening. He does a lot of good in the community and we will be there for whatever they need with this event.”
Why would hardened gang members come out and hand over their guns, don a “Stop the violence” T-shirt, and walk to a campsite full of help?
Riddick laughed when I asked him and said, “Oh yeah! They really do. But it’s not that easy. We are building trust. They do because we are there for them in time of need. We give them the haircut they have no money for, give Christmas presents, or show up at a door with a turkey.”
Since starting in 2005 the group that calls itself Best Kept Secret has performed more than 4,000 free haircuts and given away approximately 2,000 holiday gifts per year, all purchased via donations from a struggling community.
Terrell Wiggins, 25, a former felon who spent his entire childhood since age 10 incarcerated for violence, is now a motivational speaker who supports the walk and the method.
“I hit a teacher in the head with a desk when I was 10,” Mr. Wiggins said. “It was what I knew as a means of getting notoriety. You see you can teach a child in school or rec center and they understand what’s right and wrong but the place they go back to at home in the neighborhood hasn’t changed. The parents aren’t changed. To deal with youth [is] you have to change the people at home in the neighborhood who are influencing them. I been that. I know this to be true.”
What shocked me was when I asked Riddick if he could put me in touch with someone who had been directly influenced as a result of this Unity Walk process to change their life, he said, “You already met one.”
At first I thought he meant Wiggins, but he was referring to a local gospel radio show I had been invited to appear on two months ago to speak about the inner-city chess program I run here. He was also talking about the person who I would have never, ever imagined was a reformed product of the streets and a violence headline-maker I’d once read about.
Kimberly Adams, a mom with two little girls, was in her Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, sensible shoes, and bordering on prim, pastor’s daughter mojo when we met. I remember remarking on the purple chiffon skirt and how beautifully turned-out her kids looked. Meanwhile, my boys looked like ragamuffin fugitives from a Tide commercial.
“She ran the streets as a woman, hung with the wrong crowd before she found the Walk,” Riddick said.
So I called Ms. Adams and asked her to tell me her story, and it turned out to be one of a child growing up with little parenting. What there was, wasn’t positive.
“I was honest and loving and what I got back was not; so I got hard on the inside,” Adams, 27, biological mom of one girl, 7, and step-mom to another, age 6. “I was what you’d call gang-affiliated, but not a gang member. I shut myself off. If you did me wrong or I thought you were against me, I didn’t care about you or how much I hurt you.”
“Being loving and having a moral compass wasn’t getting me what I felt I deserved from my family and that was love and honesty,” she explained. “I was in trouble with the law. I was a fighter. But at the same time I was a defender in school. I was the one the bullies were afraid of, but then I was more like Iron Man, self-involved and destroying, than Captain America doing the right things.”
Adams had been arrested for a brutal knife attack and escaped incarceration due to lack of evidence, she said. “Instead of being afraid, I was excited, like ‘Wow this is cool,' the arrest didn’t affect me to change my ways."
It was seeing numerous Facebook posts about Riddick by others in her community that eventually led her to seek him out and learn about the Unity Walk.
“So I decided to go see what this Walk was about and, before I knew it, they threw a ‘Stop the Violence’ T-shirt on me, and I was walking with all these people who looked at me like I was a great person. They were not looking at me like I was going to do them harm.”
In that moment, Adams said, “I just suddenly saw myself as a woman. That sounds strange, right? But I was with my daughter, and they had me hold this disabled woman’s hand, and we walked together. I was a woman and a mother and not who everybody saw me as before that moment.”
At that time her biological daughter was age 4 and is now seven with a mommy who works for Norfolk State University’s Community Foundation and is helping Riddick obtain sponsors for this year’s walk.
“That walk was the highlight of my life,” Adams said. “Walking it gave me peace and a sense of pride I’d lost. I want that as a parent for my children.”
RECOMMENDED: 5 tips for talking with children about violence
Her advice to other moms and dads currently living a life of crime and violence is simple, “It’s not about you anymore. Once you become a parent, it’s about your offspring and making things better for them than what you had.”
As a parent who has written many blogs trying to find some solution to the violence and loss of children’s lives as a result of hate, guns, and bullying, I never would have thought to reach peace with a barber’s chair and a T-shirt. However, that method is clearly building a community while deconstructing the destruction of our communities, so I say: It’s time to give violence the chair.