Being raised in an all-female, post-divorce household, I was part of the man-hater's club that believed men were incapable of "real" parenting skills. Just look at our culture and see how commercials, movies, and cartoons frequently paint fathers as loveable, but incompetent nitwits.
Now that I am the mother of four sons, ages 8, 13, 17, and 18, who will someday be in this role, I feel the need to give Papas back their John Wayne meets Father Knows Bestness, starting with my own husband.
Of course he has his moments that are worthy of a sitcom. An example might be putting a timid autism spectrum eight-year-old who just learned how to swim out in the ocean, tethered via his little ankle to a “supertanker” Dewy Weber surfboard and launching him onto a wave without a life jacket, alone!
I didn't learn this story all at once, mind you, but in jubilant pieces from the child when he jetted in the front door and began to disrobe in a sandy trail of tale.
"Pop tied me to the big board and the leash wouldn't come offa my ankle and I got dragged under and had to not panic," Quin, 8, crowed. "And then I didn't drown! Pop is awesome !"
In my entire vocabulary, the word "awesome" was not even a distant competitor for the space following the words "Pop is." My top pics were: bonkers and doomed.
Yet who could argue with the glow of accomplishment on our youngest son's face? He was empowered. He was stoked. He was trailing sand all over my floors because my husband doesn't believe in towels, snacks, chairs, or umbrellas at the beach. My husband packs for a day at the beach by checking to see if he has his surf wax.
"Awesome," I said to my son. "So you had a good time?" To which he answered the same exact pronouncement he has always made each and every time my spouse has taken the boys on an adventure, "It was the best day ever!"
However, the boys never, ever want to go on a Papa outing. They dimly recall the fear, pain, small injuries, and emotional trauma associated with "adventure time." My husband is always forced to bluster and insist until they capitulate. He laments this, groaning what all good fathers groan at such times, "I failed them. Where did I go wrong?"
Somehow they always come back in exaltation, having mastered something new and we can only assume death-defying. Then it's always "awesome." I think this is akin to the way women "forget" the pain of child birth and go ahead and have several more, as I did. Boys would never grow into men if they didn't have that nagging feeling that the adventures with Papa were going to be dicey, but worth the x-factors in exchange for bragging rights. I often stumble upon a whispered conversation, smothered laughter, among the boys that includes the words, "Remember that time Papa made us..."
My still boyishly handsome 48-year-old husband with his too-long-to-be-a-professional-adult blond hair, sails small terrifying boats in races come rain, shine, darkness, or leakage. We lived aboard a sailboat with the first two sons and sailed from New Jersey to the Gulf coast of Florida and lived like hippies for five years.
He rushes out to surf with dolphins that I think are sharks. When there's a hurricane he walks the boys to the river's edge to see the gleam off the teeth of the storm. He hikes, bikes and is the front page designer for a daily newspaper, which I see as the most life-threatening of his passions.
He and our four sons have a love/hate relationship over the outings and yard chores, as is common with strong male personalities all under one roof.
While I razz his methods and their apparent madness, I admit they are worth every drop of sweat wrung from me these past 18 years.
My own parents divorced when I was 10, my brother was 5. My brother was raised in a loving home full of attentive females. My mother commuted to work from New Jersey to New York. At home my grandmother, great-grandmother and I all raised my little brother like a flock of nervous hens.
Last week my brother went to jail for the second time. He went to jail for allegedly beating my 81-year-old mother. That isn't because of anything my mother and our women did wrong or failed to do. It's what my father did and didn't do that manifested this. It is the example he set. My father taught that women were worthless, but worth hitting in times of frustration.
My husband teaches our sons, "Help your mother" and "Don't speak to your mother in that tone, she's my girlfriend." My boys would protect me like lion kings and I have my husband to thank for setting them on the path to being good men.
While I realize that could sound like an indictment of single mothers in the world, the truth is that it's an endorsement for good fatherhood. It's a standing ovation for fathers who take time to teach kids to play chess, an instrument, or to do homework. It’s a trophy for dads who spend time with their little girls doing all those same things and teaching them that girls can do anything. It’s the raw genius of letting kids get wet and muddy doing things that make this mom pale.
As I buy more sunscreen, bandages, towels and once again remind my spouse to take his cell and check in with me, I know in my heart that all the worrying means I can relax. The boys are in good hands with their Papa because he's one of those men who knows Father's Day is everyday.
It seems only yesterday that the helpful folks at Amazon.com were telling me, via my e-mail inbox, What Moms Really Want for Mother’s Day. Helpful items, these were, such as vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, cake decorating tools and even a breast pump.
But time passes quickly. It is June. Almost Father’s Day. Which means that there is new information out there about parental desires – this time, dad's. And here’s what I’ve been learning, from Amazon and the other five billion junk e-mails I get daily:
Dads, it turns out, Really Want electric shavers. Because, you know, dudes love getting personal grooming items as gifts.
But they also want digital cameras and new clothes and watches and even the Rosetta Stone language CDs. Items that are educational, outward-focused and enjoyable to the recipient.
A bit different than the Mom’s Day collection, I’ll say.
(C’mon Amazon, you’ve got to have some women’s studies majors working for you somewhere. Does it have to be like this?)
The suggestions do not end there. Which is fortunate for those of us who are still searching for the perfect gift and think Rosetta Stone is a bit out of our price range.
According to the online marketer, you can “Delight Dad with a Gift That Shows You Know Him Well.”
I followed the link, of course. And then I was confronted by a choice:
Is Husband “DIY Dad” (who wants a drill), “Dapper Dad” (a tie), “Media Mogul” (some sort of tablet device), “Gadget Dad” (I don’t even know what was in the picture), “Sporty Dad” (golf clubs), or “The Hobbiest” (another digital camera)?
I searched mightily for “Tired Dad,” or “Overwhelmed Dad of a Toddler,” or even just “Sweet Dad Whose Family Loves Him,” but alas, they were not options. No, apparently the nation’s 70 million fathers (24.7 million of which are part of married-couple households with children under 18, according to the US Census Bureau) fit into six nice categories.
So once again, I have ended up stuck.
And, to be honest, a bit annoyed at the commercial hype that surrounds what should be holidays that celebrate life’s sweetest relationships.
Because while I can readily admit there are a number of more important things to grump about today (Syria? Wildfires? The economy?) it seems a bit of a bummer that with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day comes a barrage of advertising that not only reinforces all sorts of gender stereotypes, but teaches us that the best way to honor our parents, husbands, wives, whomever, is with stuff. And not just stuff, but the stuff “everyone” wants.
So I’m still looking for a good father’s day gift.
If anyone finds out that Amazon is selling naps, let me know.
In fact, Behr has a whole Disney Princess-Disney Color catalog with color names such as Fairest of Them All, Tink Pink, Glamorous Glow, One Enchanted Evening, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Blue.
The catalog describes the Disney Princess bathroom: “Relax in rooms as pretty as a princess. Surround yourself in a setting as cheerful as her smile.”
And, of course, the Disney Princess bedroom: “In Sleeping Beauty’s room, everything is enchanted. What better place to dream?”
Sleeping Beauty’s room, pictured in the catalog, features Disney Princess paints, pieces from the Disney Princess Furniture Collection, Disney Princess bedding, and many other Disney Princess products.
While there seems to be a Disney Princess version of nearly everything, the idea of Disney Princess interior paints may come as a surprise. What’s going on here?
Brands, Megabrands, and Lifestyle Brands: How Disney Princess Works
My students and I recently screened the Media Education Foundation documentary "No Logo," based on Naomi Klein’s book of the same name. In the video, Ms. Klein explains why consumers and critics wind up protesting certain brands.
Klein says that the insidiousness of brand marketing is at the root of most protesters’ concerns. Brands are no longer seeking popularity; instead, Klein says, they “want to be everywhere and be everything.” In so doing, a brand becomes a megabrand.
Because of this outlook, Klein says, megabrands (and megabrand wannabes) regularly ask questions like, ”If it’s a line of clothing, can it be a house paint?”
The answer, of course, is yes. Megabrand Ralph Lauren makes clothes, home goods and, yes, house paints. Even though Ralph Lauren paint looks just like other paints that cost significantly less, the Ralph Lauren brand has enough perceived prestige to make it appealing to brand-conscious consumers.
In this way, megabrands – by being everywhere and being everything – become something even bigger: they transform into lifestyle brands.
Lifestyle brands are brands that permeate every aspect of a consumer’s lifestyle, such that the brand identity is intertwined with the consumer’s personal identity. Virgin is the quintessential lifestyle brand, illustrated by its subsidiaries list, which includes everything from music to travel to wine. A consumer with a strong preference for a megabrand’s products and services may think, “This is my brand,” or “This brand is part of me.”
Disney Princess as lifestyle brand
Like Disney as a whole, the Disney Princess brand has been following the megabrand playbook for years. The result is that in the past decade, Disney Princess has become a lifestyle brand, completely intertwined with little girls’ identities. Disney Princess is not just about the movies and the toys; it’s about food, clothing, and home goods, too. At this point, there are Disney Princess products available for just about every aspect of life, from diapers to wedding dresses.
If Disney wants its princesses to be everything and be everywhere, then of course your home’s walls are in its sights. As a special bonus, the Disney Princess paint catalog is a vehicle for the cross-promotion of other products, like Disney Princess bedding and furniture collection – a nice example of what marketers call “synergy." Jack Wayne, of Demand Media, defined synergy this way:
"When synergy happens, one plus one no longer equals two. It can equal three, four, five or more. Synergy in marketing is when two marketing initiatives create a response greater than the sum of the combined response the two would have elicited alone."
Synergy is basically the holy grail of integrated marketing campaigns – and Disney Princess is absolutely synergistic. As a collective, it’s worth much more than the sum of its parts.
Just check out your local Home Depot for more details on the synergy of the Disney Princess paint line.
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.
There are many fortunate youngsters who have a father available and able to provide the support and guidance that is part of that role. There are other children whose fathers are either unavailable or unable to provide that support.
For years I worked in a community where the presence of a father in the family was not common. For reasons of health, incarceration or economics many children did not have the luxury of that guidance. This role was sometimes filled in part by pastors, coaches, teachers and grandparents.
But in other families, big brothers served that role with amazing love and maturity.
I have watched with admiration as big brothers escort little siblings to school, checking their backpacks, adjusting their jackets and then going off to their middle schools. I’ve watched them pick the younger ones up from school and walk them home, often holding the tiny hands. These little fathers have risked appearing uncool, as they pass through their neighborhood with younger ones in tow. Some do it with such a sense of responsibility and dignity that they rise above any peer judgment.
In stores I’ve watched them hold and take care of the little ones while Mom took care of the shopping. At home these big brothers may be combing hair and fixing breakfast while Mom works an early shift. At some schools older siblings serve as translators to help the parents in teacher meetings.
These young men must correct, encourage and even dry the tears of little one. When Father’s Day comes around, when those younger siblings are grown enough to appreciate the gift, I hope they will thank that brother for being a little father. These young men have made a huge difference in the lives of their siblings. It may have seemed that it was just what they were supposed to do, but often what we are supposed to do is also something very special.
To those many little fathers, “Happy Father’s Day.”
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Susan DeMersseman blogs at Raising kids, gardens and awareness.
Last week, we wrote about an English teacher named David McCullough who gave an unusual commencement speech for students graduating from his Wellesley, Mass., high school. It has become known on the Internet as the “you’re not special” speech because that’s one of the main tips McCullough passed along to the class of 2012.
“And now you’ve conquered high school,” he said, “and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building... But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.”
Yesterday, McCullough (son of the famed historian of the same name) went on television to defend his message.
“My intention was a little hyperbolic drollness to get their attention so they would be paying attention by the end when I told them what I really wanted,” McCullough told CBS news.
Indeed, check out some of McCullough’s closing words:
“Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion – and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special. Because everyone is.”
I admit to being a bit surprised that McCullough felt he needed a defense at all. His words were refreshing, honest and beautiful. (Except for a few unnecessary digs at my Baltimore Orioles.)
And they were timely.
Because, as the overwhelmingly positive reaction to McCullough’s speech shows, we are in the midst of an “everyone is special” plague; one that is not doing any favors for kids, their parents or their future employers.
(Note to the graduate here: At your first job interview, don’t tell the boss that you’d like to be in her shoes in three years. Or that you’re not the ‘office kind of person.’ Really.)
In their book “The Narcissism Epidemic,” authors Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell have a chapter entitled “Seven Billion Kinds of Special.” (This book, I will add, is one of the best parenting reads out there. Even if it’s not really a parenting book.) They take aim at the same phenomena that McCullough discussed in his speech and argue that our cultural habit of telling every child that she is special does quite a lot to lower achievement and lessen empathy. (Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman argue a similar line in their popular book, “NurtureShock.”)
“Feeling special is narcissim – not self-esteem, not self-confidence, and not something we should build in our children,” Twenge and Campbell write. “You can tell your child she is good at math, or that she will be good at math if she works hard, without telling her she is 'special.' Feeling special may give people a grandiosity-tinged sense of comfort, but in a real world of collaborating with others, waiting in lines, and getting cut off on the freeway, it just leads to frustration. And it is unlikely to lead to respect for others.”
They note that teens who feel too special – those who really do see themselves as different and special compared to their peers – tend to have more depression and struggle more academically.
Twenge and Campbell make clear that they’re not telling parents to withhold love and affection from their kids. Quite the contrary. And sure, your child is special to you. But the overall Lake-Wobegon “everyone above average” approach to raising kids? Not so helpful.
They also explore how counter-cultural the “you’re not special” message can be.
“We are a nation fixated on the idea of being the exception to the rule, standing out, and being better than others – in other words, on being special and narcissistic – and we’re so surrounded by this ethos that we find it shocking that anyone would question it,” they write. “Fish don’t realize they’re in water.”
Which is perhaps why McCullough’s speech has gone viral.
Because much of his talk, to me, at least, seems to be calling out some obvious truths:
“You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. ... We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement."
And that goes well beyond high school students.
We don’t know what we appreciate more: the news coming out of Britain that Prime Minister David Cameron accidentally left his 8-year-old daughter at a pub, or the overwhelmingly sympathetic reaction from parents to this all-too-close-to-home oops.
There was the risk, of course, that the story of Cameron and his wife, Samantha, forgetting elementary school-aged Nancy (each one thought the girl was with the other), would result in a wave of tsk-tsking; a chance to revel again in how some other parents – even the PM and wife! – just don’t add up.
(As in: Sure, I might be looking at my iPhone too much during the day, but at least I haven’t left Baby M in a bar. Yet.)
But no, the news of what some UK publications have dubbed Cameron’s “Home Alone moment,” has unleashed a wave of stories from other parents who have left their kids at malls, at work, outside the grocery store, even at a fishmonger.
“I am worried about how I will explain my purchases to my wife,” Tim Dowling wrote in The Guardian, explaining this last scenario. “I am specifically wondering how to answer the question: ‘Why did you buy two-dozen goose barnacles?’ I can't say, ‘Because I wanted the man to think I knew what they were.’
To my surprise this is not the first question my wife asks me when I show up at the playground. The first question she asks is: ‘Where is the baby?’ For a brief second I have no idea what she's talking about. What baby? Then I drop my barnacles and run, as fast as I can, all the way back to the fish shop.”
We love these stories. Not because we’re advocating leaving the kids at the rest stop, mind you. But because the overwhelmingly non-snarky reaction reflects some of the loving truths of parenthood:
We love our kids. Truly, deeply, passionately, beyond what we ever imagined before we had them. We can also totally goof. Especially when the kids outnumber us. Even if we’re the Prime Minister of Britain. (Who has three.)
And when we mess up without causing much lasting damage – well, it could be a lot worse.
As Katie O’Donovan, from the website Mumsnet, told The Telegraph of London: “Whether you are Prime Minister, a teacher or stay at home mum, being a parent is really busy and can be really chaotic.
“We all have stressful times with our kids when we lose them or forget about them temporarily, it’s one of those things that happen to the best of us.”
As for 8-year-old Nancy: Reports say she was just fine, and was helping out the pub staff when the panicked Camerons returned looking for her.
My husband once said to me that it doesn’t make sense for him to buy me a gift for Mother’s Day. Why? I’m not his mother. I got the message. He’s not my Dad. So on Father’s Day, I don’t buy him anything, either.
I don’t ignore Father’s Day, but follow this philosophy: A gift for Father’s Day should in spirit, at least, come from the child. Together, a Mom and even a very young child can produce something meaningful for a Dad. Call us boring, but my son and I have been giving my husband the same gift for Father’s Day since 2009. Each year, we make a stepping stone using cement mix and primarily my son’s feet.
We started this tradition when Simon was 18 months old. The first time, a pre-teen, who was a mother’s helper, assisted. She held Simon as I pressed his feet into the cement, then I washed off his feet. I put Simon’s name and the year in it and created a butterfly and blue sky with pieces of stained glass.
In 2010, when Simon was 2 1/2, I added a mosaic turtle and sky. This time, though, Simon was old enough to help press in the mosaic pieces. He also could follow instructions to stand in the cement on his own.
Last year, at 3 1/2, Simon took more ownership of the project. He pressed marbles he picked in assorted spots around his footprints in the stone. He helped me stamp his name and the year into the stone. He, with gusto and giggles, likes standing in the cement and counting to 10 as I make sure every one of his toes shows up.
This year, Simon is the main designer. He told me what he wants on the stone besides his feet. I won’t say because I don’t want to give away the surprise. My husband has said he would be happy with this same gift for years to come. It has turned out to be a gift for the family. We look at the stones each year and see how much Simon is growing. Each stone, too, shows his growing independence as I contribute less and less to the design. As his feet grow bigger, only his footprints may be there at some point. And, as he reaches adolescence, he may ask to abandon this tradition in favor of something else.
If Simon wants to spend his own money to buy his Dad a gift, that’s fine. But for now, I prefer our approach to spending hundreds of dollars or more on a gift that comes more from me than my son. For the very first Father’s Day gift, I took Simon to a paint-your-pottery place. I held him as the store assistant put paint on his feet and pressed the feet against a pot for a plant. Simon was just five months old. He giggled because the paint tickled his toes. That year, we also gave his Dad a balloon, which Simon quickly adopted as his.
Two of the stepping stones sit by our front step because they need sealant. One of them cracked last year. The third stone – made that first year – is amazingly the hardiest. It sits in front of the herb garden that my husband, with help from Simon, plants each year.
The best way to celebrate a Dad seems obvious to me: Let the child play a role in some way. A 4 year old can’t really go buy Dad a grill or even a tie. Some mothers may eschew crafty gifts. Try cooking something together or don’t try hard at all. The best gift, of course, is often the simplest: Spending the day together.
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. Linda Wertheimer blogs at Jewish Muse.
The final season of the hit reality show "Teen Mom" begins tomorrow. This means viewers who appreciate a good train wreck can watch the full unraveling of star Amber Portwood, who was ordered last week to serve a five-year prison sentence on drug charges.
Ms. Portwood, who would have been able to avoid incarceration if she had completed a rehab program, told Good Morning America that she had been so depressed that she tried to commit suicide, and that she decided going prison would be the best thing she could do for herself. This despite the fact that she (of course, since this is why she’s “famous” in the first place) has a little daughter.
Now we get to watch the whole downward spiral leading to this mental state. Gee, sounds like great entertainment.
I know we’ve written about this before, but does anyone else out there find this a bit uncomfortable? Or just downright sad and depressing?
Last week we wrote about how the horrified glee directed toward the Bad Mommies of reality television seems like a social release valve for the stressed-out, anxious style of American parenting that's so common today.
But today I was wondering whether there could be any other purpose served by these tragic examples, perhaps something more positive.
As it turns out, there may be. According to a survey that came out last month by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the MTV shows in which Portwood has appeared – “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” – have, for the most part, convinced other teens that pregnancy and parenting are really, really hard.
Within the survey, 77 percent of teens said that the shows helped them “better understand the challenges of pregnancy and parenting.” That’s probably a good thing, a reinforcement to the overall decline in US teen pregnancy rates. (Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a record low birth rate for girls aged 15 to 19, at 34.3 per 1,000. These 2010 figures reflected a 9 percent drop from 2009 among teens 18-19 years old, and a 12 percent drop for 15 to 17-year-olds.)
Of course, the survey’s remaining 23 percent say Portwood et al make “pregnancy and parenthood look easy.” And adults are more skeptical about the shows’ cautionary messaging; 48 percent of adults thought the shows made pregnancy and parenthood look easy. (In fairness, though, there was not an option to say that the show didn’t impact one’s perspective at all.)
For the majority of teens, then, maybe Portwood is encouraging good choices.
OK, a bit of a stretch, but we’ll still take it.
Even with the "Teen Mom" influence, though, (whatever it may be) parents are not off the hook. In that same National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy survey, 38 percent of teens said that parents have the most influence on their decisions about sex, compared to 9 percent who said “the media” had the most influence. The second highest influential group was “friends,” at 22 percent.
Nothing in a recent survey by the national youth sports franchise i9 Sports that asked kids about their youth sports experiences surprised me in the least:
– Eighty-four percent said they have, at some point, either quit or wanted to quit a team.
– More than a third have witnessed a verbal argument between adults at their games.
– A third wished adults didn’t watch their games because the adults put too much pressure on them or make them nervous.
A decade ago, while researching a story on youth sports for the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, I watched as a group of middle-aged men literally bid for the services of 12-year-old boys to play on their Little League teams, using points allocated by the local league.
Because points could be hoarded for future seasons, some were holding back waiting to build their dynasties. This “draft” was an annual ritual virtually unknown to the larger community and it took place in a poker game like atmosphere.
These men were already competing with each other, before the season even began. And once the male competitive ego enters the youth sports equation you have a recipe for disaster in which the needs of the children become subservient to the needs of the adults.
Bob Bigelow, a former first round NBA draft pick who played four NBA seasons, has been on a mission for two decades to give the games back to the kids. In speeches around the country he tells his mostly male audiences that their competitive egos mean nothing to the process and if they aren’t smiling at least 90 percent of the time they ought to resign.
Mr. Bigelow decries youth sports systems that seek to stratify young athletes at a very young age in the never-ending search for “talent.”
He wants to abolish all-star teams, travel teams and “elite” teams for kids and he wants adults to understand that all their brilliant coaching is usually well over the heads of the kids.
Developmentally, younger children don’t yet have the mental processing skills that allow them to understand position play in games like soccer and basketball where you have many players and a ball in constant motion. This is why 22 six-year-olds in a soccer game will all congregate near the ball.
And if you don’t understand that, you’re only going to be frustrated, and that’s likely to lead to some unhealthy interactions with the children.
Above all, Bigelow wants the kids to have fun by their definition, not the adults’.
Shortly after my youth sports story appeared in print, I attended a league meeting in the town where I’d watched the “auction” for young players. Routinely, there were always a couple of kids deemed at tryouts not to be Major League material (Majors being the Little League level where most 12 year-olds play).
Those few who didn’t make it were usually crushed that they’d no longer be able to play with their peers and lost interest altogether.
Why not allow all 12-year-olds to play in Majors? I asked.
Incredibly, one long-time coach had an answer: Because, he said, it would dilute “the product” on the field.
When middle-aged men with general manager fantasies talk about the “product” when they’re coaching 12 year-olds you know you have a problem.
The days when kids organized their own games on the sandlot are long gone for the most part. Now adults in thousands of communities across the country spend untold hours organizing games for kids, and insinuating themselves into every aspect of the youth sports experience. Most are well-intentioned to be sure, but if you ask me what’s wrong with youth sports today, the simple answer would be this: adults.
This week, a farm dog in the west African country of Ghana is being praised as a hero hound after saving the life of an abandoned two-week-old baby. Madam Rosemary Azure, a regional director of health in Ghana, told the Ghana News Agency that the dog apparently found the baby under a bridge in the northern part of the country near the regional capital of Bolgatana. Rather than abandon (or eat) the vulnerable tot, the dog curled up next to him for the night, refusing to leave his side.
A search party (looking for the dog) found the duo the next morning. The dog's owner had become worried that the pooch hadn't returned home, and had gotten a group together to look for the pup through through the nearby woods and fields. They spotted the dog under the bridge, and then saw that a baby was nuzzling into its fur.
Authorities say they have taken custody of the child and are investigating how he got under the bridge in the first place.
There have been a few such doggy heroes in Africa.
Perhaps most famous is the Kenyan stray now known as Mkombozi, who was foraging for food in 2005 when she found an abandoned infant girl in a plastic bag. Mkombozi (which means “liberator” in Swahili) carried the baby back to her own litter of puppies – across busy roads, through a barbed wire fence and into one of the impoverished neighborhoods of Nairobi.
The dog became a national hero after residents heard the baby’s cries and found Mkombozi protecting her. People still talk about the Mkombozi. When I was reporting in Kenya earlier this year at least a half dozen people asked whether I had heard of her.
We wonder what honors are in store for the Ghana pup.
As for the baby – he’s apparently doing OK after his night with the pooch. That’s one sure dog person in the making.