At first glance, a national, annual anti-bullying program that took place earlier this week appeared fairly run-of-the-mill. Organized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the “Mix it Up at Lunch Day,” encourages students to sit with someone in the cafeteria with whom they would not normally socialize. It’s a way to build tolerance, organizers say, and thus reduce bullying.
While we might be skeptical about the effectiveness of this sort of anti-bullying effort – and we certainly wonder about the social dynamics that go along with that lunch period – it didn’t strike us as all that different from any other anti-bullying program you might see any day, anywhere, in this bully-crazed country.
Except this time there was a controversy.
Controversy, I might add, that sheds light on one of the more interesting tug-of-wars going on beneath the surface of the national anti-bullying movement.
A news story we ran earlier this week looked at how the Mix It Up at Lunch Day became the target of protests by the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group that sees anti-bullying programs promoting “tolerance” as also promoting an “immoral” and “pro-homosexual lifestyle.”
A month before the Oct. 30 event, the AFA began sending alerts to its supporters and encouraging parents to keep their kids home from school that day. It helped organize a telephone campaign against the schools that had already signed up to participate in the Mix It Up at Lunch Day – an effort effective enough that a number of schools asked to be removed from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of participants. The Associated Press quoted Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s director of issue analysis, as saying the Law Center was covering up the “real agenda” of the anti-bullying lunch program, and that efforts like this were “particularly insidious.”
It might be tempting for more liberal types to brush aside this battle against Mix it Up at Lunch Day and assume the controversy stems from the lonely actions of one, angry right wing organization.
This, however, would be a mistake. The AFA is neither alone in its concerns, nor in its growing opposition to anti-bullying efforts.
A recent report by the left-leaning People For the American Way detailed how a number of conservative, “family values” organizations, from the Family Research Council to the California-based Protect Kids Foundation, are increasing their opposition to anti-bullying campaigns – especially those that specifically address the victimization of kids who are, or who appear to be, gay.
Many take the stance like that of the California-based Protect Kids Foundation: “Since directly promoting homosexual lifestyles to children is too controversial, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] activists hide their agenda behind the ‘safe schools’ and ‘anti-bullying’ curricula.”
Other groups go even further in that stance, notes a report by the People For the American Way: “These groups smeared and demonized advocacy groups that collaborate with teachers and administrators in developing best practices to combat bullying, warning that anti-bullying groups would encourage everything from 'homosexualizing' youth to anti-Christian persecution to pedophilia.”
Wow. Somebody – besides us – actually criticizing the anti-bullying movement. But from a whole different angle.
Which is not to say it’s an angle that’s come out of nowhere. Over recent years, the mainstream anti-bullying movement has taken the stance that everyone is at risk of being bullied. This is, in large part, an institutional approach that is supposed to take blame away from the victim, to get away from the “well what did he do to provoke it” perspective.
There are some good reasons for that. But there’s also a problem: A lot of research shows that this idea of equality in bullying just isn’t valid.
LGBT students – and those perceived to be LGBT – face far, far more bullying than straight students, according to numerous studies. A 2009 report on school climate by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network found, for instance, that 84.6 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed at school, 40.1 percent reported being physically harassed at school and 18.8 percent reported being physically assaulted at school because of their sexual orientation. These numbers are far higher – double or even triple – what straight students told researchers they experienced.
(A quick side note here: As we’ve discussed in other articles, “harassment” does not equal “bullying,” at least not if you’re going by the standard academic definition of bullying, which includes repeated behavior and a power differential between bully and victim. But these sorts of stats can help describe a school’s general social atmosphere.)
Given the disproportionate impact of bullying on LGBT students, some researchers say that anti-bullying campaigns lose their teeth when they ignore the sexual orientation aspect of student-on-student cruelty. But focusing on that aspect of bullying is a harder sell in many communities – and often less likely to spark the overwhelming, widespread support of parents, politicians, and educators who have been behind the anti-bullying movement.
As the conservative Christian anti-gay groups point out, many anti-bullying curricula address “tolerance” and the need to fight homophobia as part of a more general, and less specific, “safe schools” program. These right-wing groups find this sneaky, and dangerous.
Others might find it dangerous for a different reason. Get caught up in the hype of the anti-bully movement – where every nasty comment is considered bullying, and where everyone, from TV anchors to bus monitors to high school students, is an equally likely bullying victim – and, all of a sudden, you lose focus on those kids who are most at risk.
When he was born, our older son, Danny, now 21, should have come with a warning label that said “sleep resistant.” As a baby and a toddler he fought off sleep like a hockey goalie furiously fighting off pucks. We bought all the “get your baby to sleep” books and tried all the recommended methods to no avail.
I once suggested we leave the books in his crib to see if he could figure it out himself. After all, nothing else was working.
For several years our younger son, Noah, now 17, wandered into our bedroom every night in his little blue pajamas, the ones with the cow-jumping-over-the moon-print, and crawled into our bed.
In part because of our own exhaustion, and in part because he was so darned cute, we took the path of least resistance. But he was a thrasher who loved burrowing his feet into a sensitive part of my body.
Only in the past few years have we enjoyed relatively restful nights uninterrupted by sleepless or sleepy children. Which is why I am now so conflicted about Albie’s new-found passion for our bed.
Albie is our half-yellow-Lab, half-golden-retriever rescue dog, with us now for close to four months.
When the Labs4Rescue folks paid us a home visit before Albie’s adoption, we were asked if the dog would be allowed on the furniture. To be honest, I don’t know if there was a wrong answer that would have sunk our chances of adopting him, but I was quick to say, “No,” because, well, I’m kind of fussy about such things.
The hair! The dirty paws! The ticks and fleas!
It took Albie a few nights in our home to even venture upstairs. Then, for three months, he slept under our bed in what must have felt like a den to him. One night, without warning, he made a leap of faith, literally and figuratively, onto the bed.
He’s not a small dog; he weighs about 70 pounds and takes up a lot of real estate on our queen-size mattress. And once he’s there, parked atop the covers, you can’t pull the covers over you fully, which makes it hard to sleep. And he’s also prone to twitching when he dreams and enjoying a wee-hours-of-the morning scratch fest.
Now, one school of thought is that a dog trying to share your bed is a test of Alpha-ness. If you’re permissive, you lose and the dog wins. But this doesn’t seem to be about dominance or control at all.
I have no idea what traumas, if any, lurk in Albie’s past or if he would even remember them. But I just haven’t had the heart to bounce him back to the floor because I think he finds the bed, and our proximity, deeply comforting.
However, there’s another reason I haven’t kicked Albie out of bed yet: when he’s all snuggled up in bed it’s just about the most precious sight I’ve ever seen.
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.
If you’re a mom (or dad, for that matter), chances are you’re even more prepared. You’ve not only figured out your own look – a combo of funny or scary but still appropriately parental – and have already purchased (or sewn, or gathered) a fantastic outfit for each one of your kids. You’ve plotted with them the best candy routes and know the afternoon start time of the wholesome town Halloween parade.
This is how I imagine it, at least.
Because it doesn’t work like that at our house. Not even close.
Actually, I don’t even have a costume for our daughter, who at 19 months is just the age that greeting cards and catalog ads seem to think is perfect for Halloween dress up. (What’s cuter than a young toddler dressed up like a pumpkin? Or a cat? Or, as Pottery Barn suggests, a $79 Max from “Where the Wild Things Are?”)
I just didn’t get it together this year. And I am feeling pretty darn guilty about it.
But also conflicted.
You see, over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading more and more stories about what I can’t help but feel are really problematic trends in Halloween costumes for kids.
It was the sexualization of little girls that I first noticed. (Our guest blogger, Rebecca Haines, wrote about this in her post a few days ago; it’s also a topic that I’ve delved into in the past – check out our magazine cover story “Little girls or little women? The Disney Princess Effect.”)
It started when I went to find her a cat costume. Baby M loves kitties, including but not limited to ours, and since I am not most creative Halloween costumer in the first place I thought that’d suffice.
Now, there are some really cute toddler cat costumes online. But there are also a whole lot of short skirts and “pretty kitties” and pint-sized models holding their tails just so. Eeww. And powers-that-be help you if you veer from household pets into some of the fairy or Tinker Bell costumes out there. Or any other of the sexy-vampires-in-training outfits. For my baby girl? No thank you.
So I turned to more traditional fare. What about witches? Goblins? Super heroes? (Does anyone make a Captain No outfit? That’d be appropriate.)
And what I found was scary.
I mean that literally.
There are some incredibly freaky outfits out there for the under-five set. The Associated Press wrote about this the other day, detailing how gory costumes once reserved for preteens are now increasingly sold for toddlers – think Freddy Krueger and Chucky in blood-splattered pint-sized packages. Even the “sock monkey,” apparently, is being sold in kindergarten size as a bloody zombie sock monkey costume.
Yikes. For real.
Because, while I realize I sound like a total drag here, I just can’t get excited about exposing our daughter to blood and gore and sexuality and anonymity. I mean, that’s why we don’t let her watch television.
Moreover, many children her age get confused and troubled by strange changes in environment. While it might be empowering for her later to chose a costume and take on a different identify for a day, and while it would certainly be cute for us adults now, why force her into what, at this age, is an unexplainable – and likely very scary – situation? Or, for that matter, teach her that it’s OK to go up to random people’s doors, ring the bell, and take whatever they give you? (Again, cool for older kids, impossible to explain to younger ones.)
She is at a stage, I decided, where this Halloween thing just doesn’t make sense.
She is also at a stage where she fights like a marine when I try to put on her shirt and pants. The idea of trying to stuff her into a snowsuit of a cat or dog costume – even the cute kind – makes me shudder.
So those are all of my excuses.
But I’ve got to say, this morning I feel a little disappointed. She really would have been cute. And all her little friends are doing it.
Maybe there’s time to run to Target or something after all. (Is that where you get kids costumes?) We’ll just avoid the bloody, sexy baby witch number.
Happy Halloween, everyone.
This is usually time for the celeb mommies-to-be to wax poetic about just how much they have loved being pregnant, how those nine months of creating new life was about the most magical experience they could imagine. Maybe they’ve already started working on their new maternity clothing line.
So, when I read that actually, Ms. Mowry feels like she has been pregnant forever, I took notice.
Really? Because that sounds down right ... normal.
I quickly looked up the blog the “Sister, Sister” actress writes for “People.” Sure enough, Mowry acknowledges that in these last days leading up to her due date (tomorrow), she has had enough. She has been Googling old wives tales about how to induce labor naturally.
Not that she’s going to try all of those methods, or even expects them to work.
But it’s better than focusing on the sleepless nights, trips to the bathroom, problems with spicy food, and all of those first-time parent-to-be concerns, such as “Am I going to totally mess up this mom thing?”
“At this point you can either laugh or cry,” she writes.
I feel that way now, and I’m just starting my third trimester.
Mowry, for one, says she has chosen to laugh. Which would raise her to the top of my favorite-celeb-mom list, if I kept one.
(Take that, Reese Witherspoon in your one month post-baby skinny jeans.)
(Style Network viewers might remember watching Tia in the lead-up to the birth of her baby boy last year; the reality show "Tia & Tamera" followed Tia’s pregnancy and Tamera’s wedding planning.)
Already, Tamera Mowry says, she is learning some of the major lessons of parenting: patience, and the acceptance that really, you have very little control.
“If I have yet to learn patience, my son is in the process of teaching me now. I have learned that I am not in control and that he will decide when he comes. However, I have not been as receptive as I want to be to his timing. If I am completely honest … at this stage, I want this baby out!”
That, my pregnant friends, is a celebrity role model.
The leaves are starting to fall from the trees in Beijing, but there are no crunchy piles for children to jump in. In China, leaves are immediately swept up by the legions of workers who attack them with ragged-edge straw brooms that look ready for a Halloween witch.
But daily life in China’s capital city is not especially Halloween friendly, even though you’ll see occasional decorations. In a local mall, pumpkin decals cover the sliding glass doors under the heading, “Amazing Halloween.” Inside the mall is a large display with plastic pumpkins and a fake-looking haunted house façade. Meanwhile, the expat-friendly restaurants are advertising Halloween parties for children and teenagers.
But try to find some candy corn in this town. The Chinese don’t quite get our western obsession with sweets. “Fruit is Not. A. Dessert,” my daughter’s friend Emily says drily. What I wouldn’t give for those little “fun” sized boxes of malted milk balls. One mother plaintively asked on one listserv: “I am looking for a bakery that can make Halloween cupcakes and treats for my child’s school…Also, is there a store that sells bags of Halloween candy?” So far, no one has responded to her. Another friend has spent the last week or so hunting for a costume for her two-year-old. “I may just have to paint whiskers on his face and let him wear kitty ears,” she says with a sigh.
Our expat-heavy apartment complex celebrated Halloween in our own way. It took place on the Saturday before Halloween, Saturday being a more-convenient time than the middle of the week, in the same way many Americans push their Thanksgiving celebrations to the weekend after the fourth Thursday to accommodate schools and work schedules.
Where we live, called Seasons Park, one mother took on the thankless task of organizing the Halloween party. After she ran the party last year, the management suggested that one party was enough and she should forgo this year’s gathering. They claimed the festivities were “not harmonious,” an irony not lost on all of us who had lived through a week of Chinese new year fireworks set off outside our bedroom windows starting at 6:30 a.m
This mother’s reaction was to promptly plan this year’s event. Interestingly, the e-mail she sent out to our apartment complex got positive responses from about 50 Chinese families and only 15 western ones. Part of the advertising problem is that posters she put up inside the complex’s 24 or so apartment towers are promptly removed, so word got out by listserv, e-mail, and conversation.
All this is happening in the context of the looming 18th Party Congress, set to begin Nov. 8. The Telegraph writes, “China Cracks Down on Dissent as Handover of Power Nears,” and describes a number of dissidents and petitioners who have been locked up or asked to stay away from Beijing. That article, not surprisingly, takes almost a minute to open online, even with a VPN that allows users to log on to Facebook and Twitter, still banned in China. In fact, the Internet runs more sluggishly these days, which always seems to happen when China is undergoing big things like leadership changes.
Even the American Chamber of Commerce seems a little, well, spooked, sending out this message about an Oct. 30 event: “the Women in Technology Panel will not be hosted in the Google conference center due to security issues. This event will be rescheduled to a new date and venue, and the details will be announced shortly.”
Back in our little expat haven, the plan was for the little ones to gather in the amphitheater in the center of the complex where they could admire each other’s costumes, pretend to eat a healthy snack, and then go door to door to collect candy. They had a list of apartment numbers where people have agreed to hand out treats. We’ve managed to find some miniature Snickers bars, individually wrapped marshmallows, and something called Trolli sour fries, which are yellow sugar-coated candies that are supposed to resemble a packet of French fries. Don’t ask.
The trick-or-treat portion of the holiday has also lost a little of its punch, since the treats are only being given out by pre-approved families, and no one dares to toss toilet paper over the gingko trees or egg the local Sichuan restaurant.
Despite the tame nature of the festival, the party (not the Party) was cut short this year. Management is concerned, the Halloween planner writes by e-mail, that “we will look like a protest in the election year and somebody could call the police.”
But in truth, the celebration was pretty subdued – unless you count the little boy who refused to don his incredibly cute homemade helicopter costume, preferring to push a stroller down the sidewalk. He'll be a rickshaw driver instead, his mother said with a shrug.
I did notice a man in a dark suit walking officiously away toward the end of the gathering, which drew about 200 people, mainly Chinese. I heard that the organizer, decked out in purple balloons to look like a bunch of grapes, was told it had to end at 5:15 promptly. And it did.
We immediately got several rounds of trick or treaters, who yelled "HELLO!" and grabbed handfuls of candy from the bowl I held out even as I said, "Yiga! Yiga! Just one!" Their parents stood in the elevator door snapping pictures of the whole scene.
So what started out as potentially threatening, ended up with the usual mob of toddlers dressed up like pumpkins and pirates. And I decided not to risk showing up at the party as the Dalai Lama. Now that would have been spooky.
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. Debra Bruno blogs at Not by Occident.
For years, families struck a balance between store-bought and homemade Halloween costumes. But these days, do-it-yourself Halloween costumes are out; store-bought costumes are a $2.87 billion business.
What does this mean for consumers? Well, for one thing, we’re seeing a lot of costumes that reproduce tired gender stereotypes. Sex sells, and in an $8 billion seasonal industry, it seems designers and retailers are maximizing profits by creating more and more “sexy” costumes for women and girls.
In today’s relatively new, hyper-commercial Halloween, it’s become an expectation for females to dress in sexually provocative ways – even when costumed as, say, a children’s cartoon character, like Nemo from "Finding Nemo," or a mundanely macabre item like a body bag. Are you a man? Your body bag Halloween costume will resemble an actual body bag. Are you a woman? The ladies’ version of a body bag costume will be (drum roll…) a skimpy dress with a hood that zips over your head. Seriously.
Adding insult to injury, the definition of “sexy” applied to the majority of women’s Halloween costumes is appallingly narrow. Tiny dresses with a lot of revealed skin available in a very limited range of sizes make it clear: Mainstream, readily-available “sexy” costumes aren’t being made for the full-figured, despite the fact that a size 14 is the average American woman’s size.
The typical sexy Halloween costumes divide women and shortchange young girls by conveying the same old message: If you don’t fit our society’s narrow beauty ideal, this culture doesn’t want to think of you as being sexually desirable. So you’d better focus on your appearance above all else. Note that even the new “sexy” costume for Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid is scaled down, available in tiny sizes, even though the original character from the film is a confident, full-figured woman – which seems really incongruous.
Unfortunately, as parents of young girls know, today’s girls’ Halloween costumes are highly sexualized, too. This reinforces the same unhealthy messages about what female bodies are considered desirable and undesirable in our culture.
Although the issue is not just with costumes modeled after sexualized dolls, Bratz and Monster High costumes are a perennial source of concern; several years ago, in her book "The Lolita Effect," Gigi Durham wrote:
"Last Halloween, a five-year-old girl showed up at my doorstep decked out in a tube top, gauzy miniskirt, platform shoes, and glittering eye shadow. The outfit projected a rather tawdry adult sexuality. “I’m a Bratz!” the tot piped up proudly, brandishing a look-alike doll clutched in her chubby fist. I had an instant, dizzying flashback to an image of a child prostitute I had seen in Cambodia, dressed in a disturbingly similar outfit."
But, no – even the most inane girls’ costume ideas are rendered in skimpy styles, calculated to be provocative. From sexy witches and sexy vampires to sexy crayons, costumes that encourage young girls to sexualize themselves are everywhere.
No wonder some are complaining that Halloween has turned into “Happy Sexualize our Daughters Season.” Ugh.
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.
Gloria was classified as a Category 1 hurricane. At the time, it was the first major hurricane system to reach the Northeast and move inland in more than 20 years.
Over the next few days, Hurricane Sandy, another Category 1 storm, is expected to wind its way up the east coast, probably dealing out the most damage to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
As parents hit the bottled water aisle at the grocery store and monitor the storm’s path, their children are listening in the background.
How can parents help their kids to process these kinds of events realistically without frightening them unnecessarily?
During Hurricane Gloria, I vaguely recall jumping as claps of thunder rattled the house and recently liberated tree branches whipped past the living room windows.
However, most of all, I remember a sense of delicious exhilaration as I sat with my family in the midst of deafening darkness, frightened yet safe.
Since then, I have experienced some crazy weather events. In fifth grade, Hurricane Bob uprooted a massive willow tree in my back yard. Lightning struck the hood of our family car while we were driving down the highway during a vacation in Florida, and in high school, an ice storm transformed the trees to glass.
Still, that memory of Gloria has persisted brightest, and I feel a bit of nostalgic excitement every time I hear of a coming hurricane.
While Sandy’s official status toggled back and forth over the weekend between tropical storm and hurricane, meteorologists warned for days that whatever it is could merge with another storm or two in the Northeast creating a massive, snowy hurricane that could last for several days.
Meteorologists have been predicting that if the perfect conditions converge, the Northeast could experience flooding characteristic of a 100-year storm.
Already, news images of flooded villages in the Caribbean and reports of more than two-dozen deaths credited to Hurricane Sandy are setting the tone for the storm’s arrival in the northeast.
On the one hand, fear – tempered by common sense – of the forces of nature does save lives. It informs building codes, emergency preparedness plans, and evacuation routes. Claps of thunder and sudden flashes of lightning keep kids away from windows and close to loved ones.
However, fear loses its usefulness if not balanced by that common sense. Adults are able to process the media hype that comes with big storms because we have a historical context in which to place them. Chances are that we have been through this before, and we know from experience that we will be safe, as long as we take a few precautions.
Young children need to hear this message explicitly.
Chances are, no matter how careful parents try to be, kids will come across images from the Caribbean and hear talk of the impending “Frankenstorm.”
Parents can be ready with assurances that they will be safe together.
This week, we read about the murders of two young girls, Jessica Ridgeway, 10, in Colorado and Autumn Pasquale, 12, in New Jersey and realize the pain their mothers must feel at having lost their daughters. Then we see the mothers of the killers who turned in their own sons for these heinous crimes: We must try to hold on to our own humanity long enough to feel for their different kind of parental loss.
Mindy Sigg’s 17-year-old son confessed to the abduction and killing of Jessica in Colorado. According to published reports, her son Austin Reed Sigg is charged in the death of Jessica and in a separate attack on a 22-year-old runner, who managed to break free, in May.
Prosecutors say he confessed in both cases after his mother phoned police and he turned himself in. Investigators allege there is overwhelming DNA evidence against him. He was ordered held without bail; prosecutors are expected to formally charge him next week.
In New Jersey, Anita Saunders turned in her two sons, ages 15 and 17, for murder after reading their posts on Facebook. Her boys are now charged with murdering 12-year-old Autumn, allegedly lured to Saunders’s home by her sons with the promise of new bike parts.
These mothers, who turned their sons in for justice and perhaps for their sons’ own good, made personal sacrifice that is difficult to imagine, yet it is the ultimate act of parenting.
I have four boys, and if one were the victim I would find it impossible to see the child who had killed him as human, let alone as someone’s child. I would find it nearly beyond reason to feel sorry for the murderer’s mother, but I would be grateful beyond imagining to her for giving me my child’s killer.
Both of these mothers, Ms. Sigg and Ms. Saunders, did what was right for society by turning their children in to police. I have seen that kind of sacrifice and wrenching personal pain on my own mother’s face. Because of that I can see in them, the truth of their position as parents who did their best, but still their child failed the humanity test.
For close to 20 years I have stood by my own mother as she wrestled with the decision, time after time, of whether or not to call police when my younger, mentally ill brother, committed violent crimes. She would never call when he beat her or stole from her but when he, at age 23, described to us how he had attempted to strangle a pregnant teenage runaway, Mom and I turned him in and testified against him before a New Jersey Grand Jury.
Mom was devastated, but hoped by doing the right thing she could get help for my brother. And I hoped we could finally stop jumping each time we opened the newspaper, concerned that someone was harmed by someone we love.
It wasn’t the end.
The victim ran away again before the trial and my brother was released. He is now free, age 42, homeless somewhere in either New Jersey or New York and, given his string of arrests for more violence, I believe is dangerous. I know that she will be the one to turn him in if it happens, but it's hard to contemplate her, at age 82, having to do that again.
Prayer is all we have now and the knowledge we have done the right things by standing with the victims and not our own flesh and blood.
Back in 2010, Susan Jackson famously turned in her son Jason, then 28, for a double-murder in a drug deal gone bad. He pleaded guilty and was given a life sentence.
At the time she told reporters, "He's my child. I still love him as a mother loves her child, but I can't condone what he's done.”
In all these cases, and many more not in the headlines of the moment, the child failed the parent, but the parent did not fail to retain her values. In the end she kept right on parenting, leading by example even when leading meant walking through the fire with only hope to cling to for emotional survival.
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.
Here at Modern Parenthood we’re always keeping an eye on the news, and especially on those stories that might be of interest to parents and families. But to be honest, we don’t get the chance to share all the nuggets we see from around the country and beyond. There are just too many of them.
We thought about how we might fill this gap, and decided that maybe we could just slip some of these in for you on Fridays. You know, when nobody’s looking.
So here, without further ado, is our solution: the Modern Parenthood weekly news roundup.
Oct. 21 - 26
With election coverage and hurricane predictions dominating the news cycle, it’d be easy to ignore some of the parenting stories that emerged earlier during the week. Such as the southern California school yoga controversy. (“Yoga controversy??” I thought when I first read the headline.)
Yes, you thought a downward dog was just a downward dog. Not so, says a group of parents in San Diego County. The Associated Press reported earlier this week that a number of moms and dads with children in the Encintas Union School District are calling free yoga classes there unconstitutional for “indoctrinating youngsters in eastern religion.” The parents have threatened to take legal action if the classes do not stop, saying that school should not use taxpayer money to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism.
The school district, for its part, has insisted that religion does not play a part in the yoga classes, and that yoga at this point is a part of mainstream American culture.
Next up, parental worries that some coaches treat football as a religion, too.
Bully the bullies?
As if we needed more proof that we’ve gone nuts over bullying: Earlier this week, a New Jersey mom and grandmother allegedly boarded a school bus to confront the boys they say had been bullying their 9-year-old daughter/granddaughter. Rebecca and Stephanie Sardoni deny that they accosted the boys, but Rebecca (the mom) was charged with simple assault, criminal trespass, and making terroristic threats for allegedly yelling at and slapping the boys, while Stephanie (grandma) was charged with criminal trespass.
Whatever actually happened on that bus: certainly seems like it could have been handled with a bit more class. But with all the rhetoric about bullies and bullying out there, we can’t say we’re surprised.
Reading is believing
Just when you were bemoaning how kids these days don’t know the pleasure of enjoying a good book, the Pew Research Center this week released findings from a new study on “Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits.” Turns out, it’s not the young adults that aren’t reading – it’s the older folks.
Pew found that 86 percent of Americans aged 16 to 17 had read a book in whole or in part in the past 12 months, as did 88 percent of Americans aged 18-24. The numbers drop from there. The least likely to have their nose in the pages were those aged 65 years and older. Only 68 percent of them had read any part of a book in the past year.
(In these numbers, Pew did not make a distinction between reading on paper versus e-reader.)
We’re the first to admit it: When you’re in your late teens or early 20s, you make some silly choices about life and romance. Maybe you switch classes so you’re more likely to run in to that guy. Maybe you turn down your dream job because you can’t stand the idea of living across the country from that girl.
Nothing’s too much for summer love, right?
As news spread this week about the Swift-Kennedy breakup, some wondered about that house. Will Swift have buyer’s regret? Or will the singer still enjoy vacationing in the northeast? Maybe she and Conor will even rekindle their spark next summer, once it’s yachting season again.
More important, we think, is the lesson that young romance can – and often should – be temporary. This is not cynical but sweet. Even Swift, multi-millionaire pop star that she is, is figuring it out. This is a good model for girls who are too often showered with the white dress, happily ever after fairy tales.
And a reminder not to close on the house.
Look interested, kids
Parents of teenagers, don’t despair. If you are struggling with “the look” – and if you’re a parent of a teenager, you know what I’m talking about – you are in good company. (For other people, it’s the I’m-so-bored-you’re-so-lame-wish-I-was-texting look.) Last night, First Lady Michelle Obama admitted on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that sometimes even the President needs to urge 14-year-old Malia and 11-year-old Sasha to “just look like you’re listening to me.”
“That was the instruction before he gave his speech to the DNC,” Ms. Obama told Kimmel. “We’re back stage and they’re playing around and they’re laughing and they’re giggling and he said, ‘Just act like you’re listening to me.’”
“But were they listening?” Kimmel asked.
She paused briefly and put her hand out in an “eh” gesture.
“Barely,” she said.
As Halloween approaches next week, all eyes have turned to another “H” – the incoming hurricane christened Sandy that experts are warning could affect the entire East Coast and, if it meets up with a cold front, combine to create a powerful storm.
As I was growing up on Cape Cod, hurricane warnings would often go out in the fall, but we were lucky enough never to get really slammed by one in my lifetime. I was only a toddler for Hurricane Bob, the last big one, so have no memory of it. According to my parents, my dad was at work, doing his usual night shift at the local newspaper and my mom took me down to the basement just in case, where I apparently thought it was just normal basement playing fun time and spent the time absorbed in my mini basketball hoop.
Hurricane Irene did mess with our plans slightly last year when it struck New York City during the week we were moving my younger sister into college at Fordham University. It was still calm skies when we were unloading possessions into the dorm building, but the dire weather reports and the state of emergency declared for the city didn’t exactly create the calm atmosphere one would hope for in dropping a child off at college for the first time. RAs assured us that the school had taken every precaution to keep the new freshmen (the only ones at the school for the week) safe, but my parents and I still stayed glued to weather reports the night after we dropped off my sister. Luckily, the area where her college is located wasn’t badly affected.
And now Hurricane Sandy, which has been nicknamed 'Frankenstorm,' is heading up from Florida and Georgia, with experts predicting it (or she, if you prefer) could arrive in New York or New Jersey on Tuesday.
How bad will it be? It seems like hurricanes are notorious for weakening at the last minute or veering off somewhere else. But just in case, here are some Red Cross-recommended tips for you and your family if you and the kids are in the house when the storm hits.
With your family, create or remind yourselves of a disaster evacuation plan if you all need to quickly get out of the house. Have two separate meeting places that everyone knows about, one close to the house and one far away from your neighborhood in case the emergency is widespread and it’s unsafe to stay in the area. Also establish someone living far away (a far enough distance that they wouldn’t be affected by the weather, if possible) as an emergency contact person.
Make sure each family member knows how to turn the water and electricity on and off, but only shut the gas off if local authorities ask you to do so.
Create a kit with emergency items and store it in a water-resistant container – it should contain enough supplies for at least three days. Pack water (enough for each person to have a gallon of water a day), non-perishable food like peanut butter and canned fruit, a radio, flashlight (with replacement batteries), a first-aid kit, a sleeping bag for each person, extra cash, medicine (especially any prescription items you or the kids need), and important papers like birth certificates.
If there’s a hurricane watch for your area, keep the radio on and listen to updates and fill up your gas tank as well as closing your doors and windows, and cover windows with wood if possible. Bring indoors items from outside like bicycles and garden tools.
If there’s a hurricane warning, an evacuation order is more likely, so be ready to leave at any time. Turn off appliances if the power goes out to avoid a surge when the electricity returns and avoid standing or sitting near windows, glass doors, and skylights.