With the start of the school year upon us, we have been extra interested in that hot national topic of bullying. After all, parents have heard a lot about bullying this year. Already. There have been speeches by school administrators, informational pamphlets and pledges, peer-to-peer presentations. We know the fight against bullying is a cause célèbre, but what gives with the extra attention this year?
We asked a number of experts about this. It turns out that while the topic is complex, one of the big reasons is that, increasingly, schools are required to adopt anti-bullying policies. By law.
It’s hard to know, of course, which came first: law or social trend. Chances are they have reinforced one another. But for now, we’ll take a look at how anti-bullying legal landscape has changed – rapidly and dramatically – over the past decade or so, and why some people are troubled at what lawmakers and advocates almost always portray as a positive movement against bullying.
Forty-nine states now have anti-bullying legislation in place; Montana is the only state without an anti-bullying statute. This is a huge increase from just a few years ago, and 15 years ago there weren’t any anti-bullying laws at all.
Katharine Silbaugh, a law professor at the Boston University School of Law and an expert on bullying legislation, explains that the first laws against bullying passed soon after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, as lawmakers scrambled to respond to what suddenly seemed to be a shockingly dangerous phenomenon in schools.
(To recap some of what we’ve written before about Columbine: Almost immediately after the shooting, in which two seniors killed 12 other students and one teacher, media reports focused on the idea that the perpetrators were social outcasts who were taking revenge for being bullied. That narrative, however, has been challenged: in his book, “Columbine,” for instance, author David Cullen unravelled the bullied-versus-bully story line, which he found to be almost entirely a media creation.)
The laws spread rapidly across the country. Between 1999 and 2010, according to the US Department of Education, 120 bills were enacted by state legislatures either introducing or amending laws to address bullying and related behaviors in schools.
“To go from zero to every state in that amount of time is unusual,” Ms. Silbaugh says.
While the scope and nature of these laws vary, supporters say they almost always force schools to take bullying seriously, usually requiring some sort of anti-bullying policy and bullying investigation procedures. Too often in the past, anti-bullying advocates say, schools simply ignored this sort of student-to-student harassment and violence, or claimed there was nothing they could do about it. Moreover, by adopting anti-bullying policies, which often include some sort of anti-bullying curricula, many schools end up going through a bullying self-audit. This is important, advocates say, because it forces administrators to recognize just how big a problem bullying is in their communities.
But critics say there are some big question marks here. There’s no evidence that anti-bullying laws actually work. They just haven’t been around long enough for researchers to collect that data.
Moreover, the laws can muddy the conversation about bullying. While at least 41 states provide definitions of “bullying” within their statutes, these definitions differ from one another. They also almost always differ from what those who study bullying call the “research-based” definitions of bullying, which include some key components: a repeated pattern of behavior, an intent to harm and a power differential. These characteristics are important, scholars say, to distinguish “bullying” from drama, teenage bad behavior, and other sorts of conflict.
Or, some say, to differentiate “bullying” from voiced opinions that school administrators just don’t like.
New Jersey, for instance, which is lauded as having one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country, has come under fire from free speech advocates for its anti-bullying policies. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education says that the state’s laws, which prohibit speech that “has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students” in such a way to substantially disrupt or interfere with the “orderly operation of the institution,” cause administrators to over-react to criticism, or even humor, that might include a perceived insult.
This is definitely not the research-based version of bullying that scholars have connected to all those serious health and psychological troubles, it points out.
Regardless of these debates, though, anti-bullying laws have “given salience to the issue and caused [schools] to focus on it when they have a thousand things to focus on,” Silbaugh says. “Can you say whether the law reduces bullying? You can’t say, it’s too short a time. Are schools talking about bullying more than they were five years ago? They are.”
Parents who sent their kids back to school this month have probably already heard a lot about bullying. Not necessarily because their children have encountered a bully, mind you, nor because school administrators suspect that Junior is a bully himself.
No, they will have likely heard about bullying – and may have even read reports, signed pledges, watched awareness videos, and learned about new school rules – because across the country “bullying” has become one the buzz-iest buzz words in education – maybe even in American public discourse overall. (Why else would the question of whether a teenage Mitt Romney was a bully become part of a presidential campaign? And the chair of the US House Foreign Relations Committee even recently called China a “bully” to its maritime neighbors. Take that, Beijing.)
But what’s actually going on with bullying in America?
At Modern Parenthood, we’ve been following the daily flow of bullying-related news items from around the country. But we still have questions: How prevalent – honestly – is bullying in American schools? Has online bullying taken over the lives of teenagers? What should schools (and state legislators, for that matter) do to stop bullying? And while we’re at it, what’s the definition of bullying, anyhow?
Turns out the answers aren't as straight forward as you might think.
Over the past few weeks, we've been reaching out to child development experts, educators and bullying researchers to ask them about these issues. We’ve checked out a number of academic studies on bullying, too. (And there are a lot of them.) In future posts, we’ll share some of what we’ve learned – about anti-bullying initiatives, anti-bullying laws, cyberbullying and various other aspects of what turns out to be a sprawling, complicated topic. (For a preview, check out our Top 5 Myths About Bullying.)
Here's the general picture:
Almost everyone we interviewed agrees that bullying is a problem. As the American Academy of Pediatrics stated in its 2009 policy on youth violence prevention, there's a lot of research that connects bullying to other acts of violence, as well as depression, decreased physical health and long-term psychological challenges. Researchers who study bullying often note how surprised they are to interview adults who have crystal-clear, troubled recollections of incidents of bullying that took place decades earlier.
But the extent of that problem, and what to do about it, well ... that's another story.
There has been a significant cultural shift over the past decade in the way we view bullying. This, in and of itself, is not necessarily new: University of Massachusetts, Amherst Professor Laura Lovett points out that, historically, there have been a number of times public perception has changed about what is “normal” for children. At the end of the 19th century, for instance, writers such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hughes start questioning in their literary work the “standard” child-on-child violence at boarding schools, she says, which helps lead to a new cultural sense of childhood as a time of life that should be protected.
But now, she speculates, we are in a new phase: one in which people are challenging the assumption that bullying is a "natural" part of schoolyard dynamics.
She also sees a move away from the old narrative of the picked-on child finally coming of age by walloping the bully – something you've seen hundreds of times in movie and TV plots. (Think George McFly finally punching Biff Tannen in “Back to the Future.")
Over the past few years, there has also been an explosion of anti-bullying laws, anti-bullying curriculums, bullying research, and anti-bullying films, as well as non-profits and support groups.
Advocates who have long worked to raise awareness about the dangers and lasting impact of child-on-child cruelty say this new focus is a huge step forward. Lovett tends to agree.
“Young people are more familiar with the term,” she says. “And that means they’re more able to find ways to stop it.”
But others warn that this anti-bullying sentiment is not so straight forward.
There is widespread disagreement about what bullying actually is – and also about what to do about it. Some critics even wonder whether this explosion in attention – or hype, as they might say – is doing more harm than good, blurring the lines between normal developmental child conflict and bullying, tying up educational resources, and putting more pressure on schools to take action, any action, when there is little evidence about what policies encourage or discourage bullying.
(One related tidbit that we found interesting: Research has found that some anti-bullying initiatives, such as peer-to-peer mentoring, can actually increase the rate of reported bullying in a school.)
It’s easy to give lip service about having zero tolerance for bullying. But, some worry, when the term gets so broad it can lose meaning
Check out the variety of recent bullying-related news we've followed over the past months:
• The defense attorney for 15-year-old Perry Hall High School student Robert W. Gladden Jr. quickly mentions "bullying" as an explanation for why his client brought a shotgun to his Maryland school’s cafeteria and started shooting.
• The debate over whether it’s wise to have students across the country the movie watch the movie, “Bully,” which details, among other things, the suicide of a 17-year-old bullying victim. Controversy erupts over whether the portrayal of the school and victim are accurate.
With such a wide scope of behaviors and resulting behaviors, how can lawmakers possibly hope to regulate bullying?
That's the topic of our next post: anti-bullying laws.
The other day, Albie, our half yellow Lab, half Golden Retriever rescue dog, spotted a baby squirrel trying to make its way up a tree in our front yard. Albie circled the tree frantically, occasionally putting his paws on the trunk and stretching as far as he possibly could to try to get at the little creature who remained just beyond his reach. Eventually, the squirrel managed to get to a branch well out of range and remained there for a long while, still as a photograph, while Albie continued his exercise in futility. Nothing, not even a steak, could have distracted Albie from his mission.
Then I noticed this tiny squirrel’s hind legs were dangling awkwardly, and it appeared he’d been crippled, either from birth or in some previous, unfortunate encounter. Since we were outside with Albie the whole time, we knew he hadn’t inflicted the injury. But as long as that squirrel stayed in that tree, Albie was going to be there hoping for a lucky break (for him, not the squirrel).
The standoff continued for well over an hour until the squirrel made an ill-advised decision to try to make it down the tree, clinging to the bark with his front claws, his hind legs dangling uselessly. When he reached the point where I feared Albie might reach him, it was time to intervene. I grabbed an old fishing net, reached up, and easily got the little guy inside. As Judy dragged Albie into the house, no small feat, I released the squirrel in a wooded area behind a neighbor’s house. I don’t know how he’s going to make it on his own, but I really didn’t know what else to do.
Back at the ranch, Albie sat by the front door staring intently at the tree, quivering with excitement. When we let him out a short time later, he made a beeline for the tree and continued to stare, circle, and jump up on the tree trunk in search of a prey that had long since left the building. This went on for hours and for the rest of the day and into the evening he was as amped up as we’ve ever seen him. The next morning when we went out for our walk, he again went straight for the tree, convinced his furry little friend must still be up there. All day he kept checking, though his obsession seemed to fade ever so slightly as the day wore on.
The following day, we took our younger son, a high school senior, to visit the University of Vermont and left Albie in a neighbor’s care. We were gone about 36 hours, and as we neared home I said I expected Albie to still be curious about the squirrel; my wife thought he’d be over it. When we opened the door and let him out to greet us he was, as usual, beside himself with joy, but within two seconds made another beeline for the tree. Of course, one day another squirrel is going to appear in that tree – there are plenty of them around – and Albie will feel vindicated.
It can be hard to reconcile the sweet, lovable dog you know inside the house, the one you think would pick an injured squirrel up gently by the scruff of his neck and carry him five miles to a veterinarian’s office, and the instinctive animal who roams the outdoors like a natural born killer. But he is a dog after all, and dogs will be dogs.
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Pulling up to our son’s Virginia Commonwealth University dorm at 2 a.m. (my spouse works nights so the trip began at midnight), to pick him up for his first weekend home we saw the flashing lights of emergency vehicles and a crew taking a stretcher right to our son’s door.
We held our breath, only to find he helped save the life of a student suffering from potential alcohol poisoning and was not the one in danger.
Knowing alcohol is a college pitfall that can affect grades, lead to injuries, date rape, and even death, we pray our parenting holds them up like invisible training wheels on a bike as they roll away from us their first year of college. However, many things factor into the college equation: increased peer pressure, new freedoms, and the thrill of believing oneself immortal and immune to all fatal harm for young adults.
“He never had alcohol before and went to a party,” my son Zoltan reported after the unconscious boy was taken away by paramedics. “When he came in we didn’t know how bad it was. I asked him what he drank and he just said ‘everything.’ Then I hear the thud and bang, he was out cold.”
This is college, freshman year and many students tend to think a drunken buddy is funny, choosing to scrawl on their faces in marker to photograph for Facebook or Twitter.
According to my son, the resident assistant on duty had done his job: Hearing the boy was drunk, he immediately came to check and, finding him “asleep,” said he would check back in the morning.
At VCU a suite is two or more rooms connected by a common bathroom. This boy was not my son’s roommate, but they had a bathroom in common in which the boy had noisily stumbled prior to passing out.
My son, eldest of four boys, a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt and a criminal justice/homeland security major in his freshman year said things just didn’t sit right with him, something was off. I’m not saying my son’s an angel, but he is a solid caretaker.
He gathered the other suitemates together and told them he was going home for the weekend and someone would have to watch the unconscious student. During the discussion the boy, spread-eagle on his back in bed, began to choke. "So I rolled him on his side and called the RA and his roommate,” Zoltan explained.
How did he know to do this when the others didn’t? A high school friend had experienced the same episode and he was told about someone else doing it to save him.
According to my son, the RA and others argued about what to do next because the boy would surely be in trouble for under-aged drinking. There was apparently a fair amount of peer pressure on the side of “Let’s just wait and see what happens” and "don’t make waves in a storm thinking." I wonder how much pressure there was on this student to drink, drink, drink!
Something I believe really helped mold my son into a shepherd rather than a sheep, was the Gracie Bullyproof program of jiu-jitsu he began as a sophomore in high school. It instilled the confidence in him to stand his ground in the face of that peer pressure and gave him that core of
authority and confidence.
“I told them he was choking to death,” Zoltan says. “It’s better safe than sorry. We had to get outside help. I’d rather have him alive and in trouble than explain to his parents why we left him.”
“It’s better safe than sorry,” was my grandmother’s phrase, my mother’s and mine, the consummate broken record.
I am not claiming to be the only parent ever to drum in that phrase, just celebrating one of the times when, as the mother of four boys, somebody listened and remembered an important lesson. It’s just validation for every parent who has been that broken record, become their parents and wondered if they should just shut up. The answer is to keep that record playing and pump up the volume.
Here’s why: According to a College Task Force report to the NationalInstitute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “the consequences of excessive drinking by college students are more significant, more destructive, and more costly than many parents realize. And these consequences affect students whether or not they drink.”
Statistics from this report show drinking by college students aged 18 to 24 contributes to an estimated 1,825 student deaths, 599,000 injuries, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape each year.
The boy called my son two days later to thank him and assure him that he was not expelled, but would receive counseling and support in making more careful choices. Good on you VCU for having those resources and approach.
Our children are going to surprise us for better or worse, and while we love them through it all, it’s never too late to remind them, “It’s better safe than sorry.”
Beyonce – singer and new mom of baby girl Blue Ivy – and her husband Jay-Z hosted a $40,000-a plate fundraiser for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign Sept. 19 with her husband at his 40/40 club in New York and got a presidential endorsement of her own ... as a role model to the first daughters.
"Beyonce could not be a better role model for my girls," Mr. Obama remarked.
Which seems on point, because Michelle Obama has said Beyonce is her role model. When asked in May to choose someone she would like to emulate, the First Lady said, "I'd be Beyonce." And, Beyonce, too, has said Michelle is her role model.
The mutual backscratching has its roots in some wholesome mutual interests:
Beyonce has publicly supported the Obama campaign for years but went above and beyond this April by sending an open letter and video in support of the first lady. Citing Mrs. Obama as "the ultimate example of a truly strong African American woman," Beyonce describes the First Lady as a role model worth celebrating.
The dynamic duo also collaborated on a video entitled "Move Your Body," as part of a campaign designed to get kids fit through exercise. Beyonce even surprised students at Don Pedro Albizu campus in New York City last year by performing alongside them to the official "Lets Move! Flash Workout" for New York City.
Fundraising for the president clearly links her to the Obama brood, but Beyonce also has been active in fundraising for charities throughout her career.
Co-founder of the Survivor Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping victims of Katrina, she was also an ambassador for World Children’s Day in 2005 which takes place internationally every Nov. 20. In 2004, she teamed up with Jay-Z and raised $1 million for the Shawn Carter Foundation, a nonprofit that provides scholarships for low income students pursuing higher education.
Don't forget to add female empowerment to the philanthropic star's repertoire, Beyonce recorded the song, "Run the world (Girls)," a track capable of serenading any young girl whether she’s an Obama or not.
All those tweens distraught by that dramatic Kristen Stewart Robert Pattinson breakup this summer: never fear! Word on the street – OK, in the oh-so-accurate celebrity gossip news – is that the “Twilight” pair are back together. Or at least have had a “dramatic makeup” in Los Angeles, according to Us Weekly.
Yes, that sound you just heard was the delighted gasp of “Twilight” fans everywhere. (Along with the outraged protests of those who are still furious at Ms. Stewart – aka Bella – for doing wrong to her vampire beau. I mean, to the actor who plays her vampire beau.)
See, parents, as we explained some months ago, Stewart and Mr. Pattinson are the stars of the film version of Stephanie Meyer’s young adult book sensation, “Twilight.” Stewart plays Bella, the female protagonist, who has fallen in love with Pattinson’s character, Edward, a vampire. (Just go with it.)
But here’s the thing – the attractive Stewart and Pattinson were also a couple in real life. They earned the melded last name tag of “Robsten.” Which, honestly, is about as much of a true love fairy tale as you can get for the under-15 set.
Then, one dark day in July, it came to the public’s attention through some not-so-indiscreet photos (what is it with revealing photos this summer?) that Stewart was having an affair. Or at least a “momentary indiscretion,” as she would put it. The Other Man was the married Rupert Sanders, who directed the movie “Snow White And The Huntsman,” in which Stewart played the title role.
Pattinson packed his bags, and reportedly holed up at Reese Witherspoon’s ranch for a while. Mr. Sanders’ wife, Liberty Ross, who, in a cringe-worthy detail of the whole sordid affair, played Stewart’s mother in “Snow White,” ditched her wedding ring and reportedly told her husband not to come home.
Stewart was photographed for the next months looking drawn and tear-streaked, reportedly trying in vain to convince Pattinson to talk to her. Meanwhile, talk show host Jon Stewart offered Pattinson ice cream during an interview, saying it helped him through a lot of breakups.
A sordid soap opera for Twilight fans who had embraced the idea of undying love.
But now reports say that RPatz finally relented to meeting up with Stewart, and that the two have been visiting each other ever since. “Sources” tell celebrity news that the two are still in love with each other and are going to “work it out.”
So ... is this the happy ending for which we’ve all been waiting?
Not so fast, we say.
Because here’s the thing: as we wrote when this whole ugliness went down in the first place, this sort of break up is complicated. As are the marriages, relationships and feelings involved.
It’s far too simple (and easy) to assign “good” and “bad” when infidelity is involved. As many psychologists and sociologists told me a couple years back, when I was reporting a cover story for the Monitor magazine on this topic, infidelity has more to do with stress, distraction, feelings of worth, relationship dynamics, and self control than it does “good” and “bad.”
It's not too much of a stretch to say that the same is true about making up.
If the relatively young Stewart and Pattinson (they are 22 and 26) do get back together, it might mean “true love,” as the “Twilight” diehards are saying.
Or it might just be the next step in the relationship world of two talented people who are still young, confused, and – like the rest of us – trying to figure things out. (Albeit with the means to rent a $6.3 million bungalow, but whatever.)
My bet is on the latter.
And that, I think, would be the most sympathetic story of all - and the best one, really, for the millions of teens who admire the actors involved.
What do Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and researchers at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles have in common? They all have new wisdom about the dangerous combo of nakedness (or some degree thereof) and photography.
Yes, this has been a teachable moment sort of news spell when it comes to the power of modern image dissemination – especially when the images are, well, revealing.
First came Harry and his ill-advised strip billiards game with a bunch of new friends he met in Las Vegas, at least one of whom had a cell phone camera. (The headline writers had a great time with this one.)
Then, in a scandal that has rocked the British Palace and the media circles of Europe, a French gossip magazine published paparazzi photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless in a (thought-to-be) private chateau. By all reports, the Palace is livid, claiming a “gross invasion” of Kate’s and husband Prince William’s privacy.
(This morning, reported Associated Press, a French court ordered the magazine's publisher to hand over all digital copies of topless photos of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, within 24 hours and blocked further publication of what it called a "brutal display" of William and Kate's private moments.)
And just when you thought that the clamor for nude and semi-nude photos was only a problem of the celebrity set, USC researchers announced Sept. 17 the findings of a study that offer more proof that sexting – the sending of sexually explicit images and texts via cell phone – is rampant among teens. (One in seven Los Angeles high schoolers with a cell phone has sent a sext; a recent study from Houston found that one in four teens had sent a naked picture of themselves through text or e-mail.)
Sexting, the researchers found, is linked to riskier actual sexual activity – and, of course, often results in unauthorized forwarding and publishing of explicit photos.
So what can we learn from looking at this news together? (Besides the fact that if you’re a member of the Royal Family, it’s safest to keep your clothes on. Always. Change in a guarded safe room or something.):
Let’s start by looking at how people reacted to the topless Kate photos compared with the naked Harry photos.
Brits, if you recall, basically shrugged at Harry’s revealing moment in the spotlight, with many even cheering the “party prince” for having a good time in Vegas. Hey, boys will be boys, was the basic attitude. With Kate, though, the reaction has been far more defensive, with shock and outrage and much disparaging of the photographers and publications involved. (The Palace, which essentially ignored the Harry photos, is filing civil and criminal lawsuits around Kate’s situation.)
A lot of this is explained by the fact that Harry was clearly enjoying his free-form moment with a group of relative strangers, and ended up a subject of the sort of party shot that goes up on Facebook, whether you like it or not. Kate, meanwhile, believed she was in private, sharing an intimate moment with her husband. The invasion of privacy involved in her case is clearly far more significant.
(You might also spot a bad boy, good girl divide – you know, the whole “my son can romp around, but don’t you dare sexualize my daughter” sort of thing – but I’ll leave that to the gender experts.)
But here, potentially, is a lesson: Regardless of technology, it turns out, regardless of the cell phone cameras and extra-long paparazzi lenses and the ability to disseminate photos rapidly and globally, regardless of the dismaying fact that once that photo’s out there, you can never, ever get it back, behavior still matters.
And for better or worse, that’s true for sexting teens as much as it is for the Royals.
Feeling cold feet with the wedding around the corner? Don’t just shrug off those premarital jitters, psychologists from University of California, Los Angeles say. Especially if you are the bride-to-be.
In a new study, published this month in the American Psychological Association’s “Journal of Family Psychology,” UCLA researchers found that women who reported pre-wedding doubts were 2.5 times more likely to divorce than those who went confidently down the aisle.
And although men were more likely to report doubts about tying the knot (47 percent of husbands said they had been uncertain or hesitant about getting married), it was the women whose jitters were more indicative of later marital trouble. Nineteen percent of women who reported pre-wedding doubts were divorced four years later (It was 14 percent for the nervous husbands-to-be).
"People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don't have to worry about them," Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author of the study, told the UCLA news service. "We found they are common but not benign.”
The findings come from a four-year study of 464 newlywed spouses. Researchers interviewed the couples within the first few months of marriage, and then surveyed them every six months for four years. One of the questions they asked at the initial interview was “Were you ever uncertain or hesitant about getting married?”
The answer to that question (again, 47 percent “yes” for men, 38 percent “yes” for women) appears to be a decisive factor in the potential for splitting: more so, the researchers said, than reported satisfaction with the relationship, whether a person’s parents were divorced, whether a couple lived together before their wedding or how difficult they found their engagement period.
(This throws back to a story we reported earlier this year: While nearly half of first marriages break up within 20 years, the US Centers for Disease control and Prevention found that, despite popular opinion, cohabitation before marriage signaled no higher chances for divorce.)
"What this tells us," Lavner said, "is that when women have doubts before their wedding, these should not be lightly dismissed. Do not assume your doubts will just go away or that love is enough to overpower your concerns. There's no evidence that problems in a marriage just go away and get better. If anything, problems are more likely to escalate."
Just because you’re feeling totally confident, though, doesn’t mean you’re home free. The UCLA researchers found that in 36 percent of couples there were no pre-marital doubts; among those, 6 percent were divorced within four years.
“Yes, Daddy actually does go to work!”
After two weeks of togetherness in the sumptuous cocoon of The Garden Hotel in Guangzhou, China, followed by a family vacation in Quebec for another 10 days, there were some genuine concerns about how Madeleine Bao Yi would accept the fact that Laurent, her hands-down favorite playmate, would have to return to work. I worried that there would be a noisy scene that first morning of separation, followed by squirt gun tears – both on her part and mine. As that Monday drew near, there was much speculation, and diversionary tactics at the ready.
As Laurent put on his running shoes and prepared for the three-mile jog to the local train station, Bao Yi came into our bedroom with a look of surprise on her face. She immediately set to work straightening the shoelaces and then clutching her daddy’s hand.
He told her calmly that he was going to work.
Her response in Chinese: “Bao Yi comes, too.”
After several rounds of calm Daddy logic and a new daughter’s quiet insistence, we were no farther along on the vector of understanding, though if there were tears, they were largely unshed.
Grace and I gathered with Bao Yi at the upstairs window and watched as Daddy ran down the front sidewalk. A chorus of Chinese shouts broke the morning stillness in the neighborhood. “Good bye! Come back! Come back in the afternoon!”
So far, so good.
Several mornings later, however, we had to drive Laurent to the train station. Bao Yi was alert, watching the commuters, listening to the screech of the train wheels, keen for some adventure of her own. As we waited for the next train, she began her muttered mantra: “Bao Yi comes, too. Bao Yi goes on the train with Daddy. Bao Yi goes to the office.”
Perhaps it was more curiosity than a real desire to see the newsroom. Where did Daddy disappear to every day, and how could it be more fun than staying home with his daughters?
It took some doing to keep her seat belt buckled that morning at the station. She wriggled and reached for Laurent, but to no avail. That is when we invoked the solemn promise, comprised of two simple Chinese words, xia wu. “Afternoon, Daddy will come again in the afternoon.”
This time, tears rolled in the back seat as the squawking train pulled out of the station. But it was all short-lived. The Chinese take a man at his word.
Now, when 7:30 p.m. rolls around – a stretch by the American definition of “afternoon,” – Bao Yi and our West Highland terrier wait patiently at the upstairs window, watching for a flash of colored T-shirt making its way up the side street. The combination of lusty barking and joyful Chinese shouts make for a wonderful homecoming.
As parents, we spend so much time being told we must work to make our children smarter, faster, better, stronger, and leaner, there’s some relief in a “reality game” being played out over the next week in Seattle: The Compassion Games - Survival of the Kindest.
There may not be gold medals, but organizers and parents hope the result will be a community populated with those who have hearts of gold.
It’s great to see a national movement that adds "be more compassionate" to the list of parenting to-dos.
The event challenges residents to act and inspire their neighbors and children to make their community a safer, kinder, better place to live through volunteerism and random acts of compassion.
Fischer is part of the international Compassionate Cities campaign, an international movement to enact The Golden Rule around the world. Fisher then threw down the gauntlet challenging other municipalities nationwide to out-good-deed them: “I’ve said from Day 1 that we’re going to pursue being recognized as the most compassionate city in the world – and if that prods other cities to try to outdo us, then ‘Game On.’ In a competition centered on compassion, everyone wins!”
Compassionate Louisville participants amassed over 90,000 volunteers performing over 100,000 hours of community service during its one-week Give a Day program in 2012.
Seattle is the first to accept the throw-down in this fight to the friendliest and their goal has a twist, engaging children and families.
And Rita Hibbard who has stepped-up in a big way after her community suffered a double tragedy on the same day in May of this year at two separate coffee houses. In one the man was captured after killing four and leaving one person critically injured inside Cafe Racer, a peaceful coffeehouse in the city's University District. A second shooting, about a half-hour later near downtown Seattle, left a woman dead, according to published reports.
In one incident the shooter was described by Hibbard as “a mentally ill man who felt shut out”
“Since then,” she says, “I hear so many people saying ‘I want to do something, but I don’t know how or where to start.’ So this is a way to make it easier for everyone to get engaged.”
Part of that support effort comes from a Seattle group called the Community of Mindful Parenting, “an online community of expectant moms, parents, grandparents, extended families and friends with the goal to nurture powerful relationships between parents and their children.”
Their goal is to empower parents of children under 8 years old to become more effective, mindful and compassionate in raising their kids. They offer classes in Listening Mothers and Reflective Parenting, for long-lasting emotional health.
I just signed myself up for SuperBetter, which is free, and gave it a test drive. It’s not what I expected and that’s a good thing.
I’d expected it to be another smarmy video game and instead it’s a really unique concept that I am going to talk to my sons (ages 8, 13, 17 and 18) about tonight.
The game is designed to bridge the virtual and real worlds via “power packs” and “challenges” that have all ages doing everything from Googling pictures of their favorite things to promote emotional resiliency, to stretching, writing thank you notes and getting out there and rolling up their sleeves for charities like The United Way's public service projects.
As a mom who knows her high schooler needs community service credits as part of graduation requirements this is the best news I’ve had all week. It’s made better by being something I think we can transplant to our city as a family and community effort.
Louisville and Seattle may be kind, but we a pretty tight military and university community here in Norfolk, Va, and I think we could well be the next big winner of the Compassion Games.
Just this morning I had an example of why our city should participate when I returned home from walking my son to school and saw Norfolk Sheriff’s officer Nickolas Johnson was on his motorcycle looking like a sentry in front of my house. I was expecting the worst, and instead found he had spotted three squirrels pups fallen from a nest and struggling in the street. He’d called it in to Animal Protection and was standing guard, directing traffic around them.
Let my City Council be forewarned. There’s a new Sheriff in town coming to ask everyone to play nice and put compassion on the agenda.