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Cold feet – pre-wedding jitters of the bride, in particular – are a substantial risk for divorce, a new study shows. Here, brides from across America, winners of the 17th Annual Empire State Building & Valentine's Day Weddings Event, posed in their gowns at the 86th floor Observatory, Feb. 13, 2011 (PRNewsFoto/Empire State Building/Bryan Smith/Empire)

Cold feet? Pre-wedding jitters of bride is divorce indicator

By Correspdondent / 09.17.12

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.

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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."

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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.

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China adoption diary: When departure finds a new translation in return (Courtesy of the Belsie family)

China adoption diary: When departure finds a new translation in return

By Gretchen BelsieGuest blogger / 09.14.12

“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.”

Related: Drought in India: Disrupted rhymths of nomadic family life

 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.      

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Blogger Lisa Suhay came home to find Norfolk, Va. Sheriff's Officer Nickolas Johnson on his motorcycle looking like a sentry, guarding three squirrel pups fallen from a nest and struggling in the street. (Lisa Suhay)

Compassion Games: Survival of the kindest right at my front door

By Lisa SuhayCorrespondent / 09.14.12

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.

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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.

The games originated in Louisville, Ky. with Mayor Greg Fischer who was following the Charter for Compassion created by 2008 TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong.

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.

Rescue dog Albie and Wilson's puppy play-date was brimming with romp and shared territory. Hanging out in the backyard and sharing toys indoors, the two labs bonded quickly. (Peter Zheutlin)

Rescue dog: Albie breaks into new territory, puppy play date

By Guest Blogger / 09.14.12

When the good people at Labs4Rescue, through whom we adopted Albie, called and asked if we could help another Lab in need, we said, “yes,” of course. It wasn’t a big request.

A chocolate Lab, who’d come north from the same part of Louisiana as our pup, was going to be fostered in a home not far from ours until a permanent home could be found. But the foster “mom” couldn’t get to the shelter before it closed on the assigned day. Could we pick up Wilson and keep him with us for a few hours?

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When my wife, Judy, and I came home with Wilson we weren’t sure what to expect. Would Albie turn on him in a fit of jealous rage? Would he get territorial about our house and his toys? Would these two male Labs get along or get into a fight? In short, it was just like any other play date we’d arranged for our boys when they were little.

At first, Wilson and Albie could barely contain their excitement. In the backyard they jumped on each other, nipped one another, growled and took turns trying to show each other who’s boss. New to having a dog, it can sometimes be hard to discern true aggression from merely aggressive play, but for the most part it seemed like roughhousing with a few brief moments of, “Hey, that hurt.”

Once inside, we gave them both dinner, making sure to put down separate bowls at the same time and well apart from one another. Then, happily, things settled down. You could almost imagine the two of them, like brothers, sharing the house in quasi-equanimity. As the father of two boys I can vouch that general tolerance interrupted by occasional moments of true aggression just about sums up life with two boys, so this tableau seemed quite familiar. They played some more -- more gently than we saw outdoors -- and they alternately ignored each other and competed for affection; patting one on the head inevitably brought the other.

But the moment of truth came when Wilson helped himself to Albie’s favorite chew toy, which, fortunately, is not our sofa (though he helped himself to that, too, making himself right at home where Albie is forbidden to go). How many of our kids’ play dates ended over the enigmatic concept of “sharing”? How many tears have we seen shed over the equally enigmatic concept of “taking turns”? It was hard enough getting those concepts through to our children; it was surely not something that could be explained to a dog. Remember how proud you felt when your toddler first showed signs of generosity with things he treasured? When, instead of a tantrum, she responded to another kid taking a prized toy by busying herself with her second favorite? Those were occasions for heaping praise.

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Well, I am very proud to say that Albie was perfectly content to let Wilson wail away on his chew toy, and he didn’t even flinch when Wilson plopped himself down on Albie’s L.L. Bean dog bed (and later on our bed here Albie is also not allowed). Is there any doubt that this is attributable to excellent parenting? And while I’m being the proud, pat-myself-on-the-back Daddy…as readers of these columns know, last week we had a growing concern about Albie barking and growling at visitors.

Well, I’m happy to report that the refrigerator repairman was here today, and Albie was totally chill (no pun intended). I think we’re making progress.

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.

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Instagram is no longer exclusive to AT&T and can now be accessed on smartphone models besides the iPhone; A “how- to” demo is taught in New York, April 9, 2012. (Karly Domb Sadof)

Instagram: An app for parents to keep up with their teens

By Guest Blogger / 09.14.12

I first heard about this little social-networking giant when my then-14-year-old suddenly seemed to be taking a serious interest in photography.

Since then, I’ve come to see Instagram as more like the next Facebook than just another cellphone app (FB was smart to acquire it!). It’s almost game-like because it blends photography and socializing in a playful way, and only partly because of all the fun filter options that, with a single click, can almost make a snapshot look like art (then click again to undo and try another look).

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Further adding to its appeal – and this is huge, now, especially for young people – is that it’s on their phones, making digital socializing much more accessible at school and everywhere else. Seems like pure genius to me (I’ve had fun playing with it too).

According to fellow parent Michelle Meyers at CNET, Instagram is also a major workaround for kids under 13, “kept off Facebook by their well-intended parents” – even though they’re supposed to be 13 to use Instagram, too. Their Instagram use is even more elusive because mobile (and now available to Android phones as well as iPhone, iPads, etc.). Though most of them probably have nothing to hide (my son and his girlfriend both followed me the minute I set up my account, seemingly delighted I did), parents can encourage them to turn on the privacy setting that lets them pre-approve “follow requests” so that only their friends can follow them and see the photos they post – my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid shows you how to do that and take a couple other privacy precautions at his

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As for the numbers, Michelle at CNET cites Nielsen data showing that Instagram is the No. 1 photo site among 12-to-17-year-olds, with “1 million teens visiting the site during July,” beating out Flickr, the No. 1 photo site overall (“Nielsen doesn’t categorize Instagram as a social network” site). [See also "Why Facebook for under-13s is a good idea" and "Parenting in the digital age: Major insights."]

 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.

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Jessica Simpson, during the Katie Couric ABC program, showed a baby picture of her little daughter, Maxwell, who happened to be wearing a yellow bikini, Sept. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Disney-ABC Domestic Television, Ida Mae Astute)

Jessica Simpson, Levi Johnston: bikinis, guns, and babies … oh my

By Correspondent / 09.13.12

Thank goodness for the Levi Johnston baby and Jessica Simpson’s baby bikini picture. Even Nick Lachey is helping me out today.

Because I’ll admit it: with baby No. 2 on the way, we’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed at my house. Not that we’re not excited. Really.

It’s just that....  I kind of used up all the parental planning with Baby M. Now we’re just tired. (Sorry, second children out there.) So do we have a name picked out? Cute little outfits in the closet? An idea of where this kid will sleep?  Nope, nope, more nope.

So you can imagine my relief when I checked the news today and found guidance in the celebrity world.

First up, Levi Johnston, the Alaskan who might possibly have been the most relieved man in the country about Sara Palin’s 2008 vice presidential loss.

Remember, Mr. Johnston and Palin daughter Bristol were an item when it became known to the voting public that the unmarried Bristol was pregnant.  The two youngsters appeared in many a campaign portrait, talking about how they had decided to keep the baby and get married. But then Palin and then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain lost, Bristol and Levi split, Bristol had son Tripp, and Bristol started a reality show.  Or something like that.

Then it became known that Johnston had a new pregnant girlfriend, Sunny Oglesby. (He said he “actually loved” this one.  Nice.) And today, we hear that the couples’ new baby girl has arrived into the world and – as promised – she is named after a gun. Awesome, right? Breeze Beretta is the name. (Beretta is the gun part, for all you other pacifist North Easterners out there.)

I e-mailed Husband immediately.  Look, I wrote, we’re not stuck with the celebrity names of Apple or Shiloh!  

He has ignored me.

But what to do with outfits? Or lack thereof? Here is where one of our favorite pregnant-turned-mama celebrities comes in. Just when you thought the critiques of Jessica Simpson’s procreating body were at an end, now we get a Simpson baby picture that has sparked new controversy.

See, during an interview with Katie Couric, Ms. Simpson apparently showed a baby picture of her little daughter, Maxwell, who happened to be wearing a yellow bikini. The onlookers were appalled. Cute? No!  Outrageous!  Who puts a baby in a bikini? They asked.

Everything that is wrong with the sexualization of young girls and inappropriate clothing is wrapped up into this one Simpson baby picture, if you go by the reaction. The yellow bikini, they said, was even worse than that bikini onesie of which we’ve heard so much.

Hey, I’m impressed that the woman gets clothes on the baby at all. At our house we’re having a shirt strike. Whatever, I figure, the weather is still warm.

But at least I have some fashion ideas for Baby 2. 

And then, of course, there’s the new Nick Lachey baby. In case you hadn’t heard, singer Lachey and his wife Vanessa Lachey had their first child yesterday.

RELATED: Are you a 'Helicopter Parent?' take our QUIZ!

(Connection, for those of you who try to ignore all this sort of thing:  Mr. Lachey is the ex-husband of Jessica Simpson. Coincidence? Hmmmmm.)

The name is Camden John Lachey. 

There’s not a whole lot to say about that one, really.  Just that it turns out that people have babies every day, even the rich and famous people. And somehow, they make it all work. Ish.

Which, I’ve decided, is my celebrity takeaway for the moment: I can simply stay in pregnancy denial for another few months. 

Happy Beretta-Maxwell-Camden Day.

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Chicago teachers strike: A woman pushes a stroller past a group of public school teachers picketing outside Amundsen High School, Sept. 10, 2012. The school is one of more than 140 schools in the Chicago Public Schools' "Children First" contingency plan, which feeds and houses students for four hours during the teachers strike started by the Chicago Teachers Union Monday. (AP)

Chicago teachers strike: Mom’s long view of city’s work stoppages

By Guest Blogger / 09.12.12

In the 1980s I covered three Chicago teacher strikes as an education reporter for a community newspaper. Today, 25 years after the last strike I reported on, I am watching as a parent.  

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what is different about this strike, and I’m not sure that watching it from this parental angle is what makes it different. Two things have changed: In the 1990s, most of the issues were around salaries and benefits. And in those days parents were largely on the sidelines and the children were in the middle.

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Today, both the teachers and the Chicago Board of Education say that it’s no longer about the money. It’s about class size, standardized testing, charter schools, and teacher evaluation.  It’s about a steady stream of policies – from charter schools to more tests to abruptly shutting down schools without parent involvement. Parents understand gang boundaries; the suits downtown do not. 

Parents get it. Most have experienced that hollowed out feeling on the first day of school when leaving a wide-eyed six-year-old in a classroom with 35 other six year-olds and one adult. We learn about “high stakes testing” when we see the 10-year-old worry over a test that will determine whether or not he or she gets into a selective enrollment middle school, which would ensure a similar enrollment in high school, which would have a direct impact on where he or she went to college. For some kids, it determines whether or not they go to college.

And they want more tests? Parents see how these tests shape their education long before they even have to take them. Preschoolers and kindergarteners suffer lockdowns with no recess, quiet lunches, no music, or dancing, or loud talking while the Big Kids take the test. They practice filling in Scantrons and watching the clock in first grade. I told my frustrated first-grader to take his time with his math homework, and then learned he was just practicing timed tests. We understand “Race to the Top” better than our elected officials think we do.

When the 1987 strike ended, some say it was parent outrage that forced the two sides to settle. But that happened three weeks into the strike. Parents have been angry about tests and class size for years, and seeing this taken to a national discussion has been somewhat cathartic.  

On the third day of the current walkout, parents from the private University of Chicago Lab schools – where Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his kids – joined teachers on the picket line at the school where Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent his kids before he went off to Washington. They volunteered at the hastily organized camps in a nearby neighborhood club for parents who don’t want to cross the picket line. “Our teachers don’t get subjected to these evaluations and our kids don’t get tested the way they do in public schools,” said a parent volunteering at the camp whose children attend the Lab schools and not public schools. She just wants to support parents in this crisis.

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Apparently Mr. Emanuel’s disconnect extends beyond public schools teachers and parents.

These past few days have been difficult as parents scramble for short-term solutions and pray for longer ones. I won’t predict how long the teachers will stay out, or what the outcome will be, but I hold out hope, remembering that the long strike in 1987 resulted in school reform. That reform created Local School Councils (LSCs) where parents worked with teachers, they hired (and fired) their principals, and approved the school budget. The long-term result is that parents are very involved and have a lot invested in the issues on the table. Mayor Emanuel doesn’t understand that the outrage of parents won’t come three weeks into the strike; it’s already there.

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.

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Camie Goldhammer, chairman of the Native American Breastfeeding Coalition, held her daughter Johanna, 6 months, after testifying before the Seattle City Council, April 9, 2012, on a municipal law that would make it illegal to discriminate against public breastfeeding. (AP)

Breastfeeding professor: Students get lesson in nursing debate

By Correspdondent / 09.12.12

So, an American University assistant professor breastfeeds her baby in class. Before you know it, there’s a Washington D.C.-meets-academia scandal at hand, complete with dogged journalists, passive-aggressive official responses, outraged defensiveness, female body parts, and a nice dose of commentary about concepts like “white privilege” and “gendered essentialism.”

It all makes me incredibly tired. And squeamish.

Not, mind you, because of the breasts involved. No, it seems to me that we should just get over our cultural issue with those. (And that goes for the people who don’t think women should be seen nursing their babies, as well as for the in-your-face, here’s-my-breast lactation soldier. I’d venture that we can all just relax.)

But squeamish I feel. 

In large part, I’ll admit, this is because the student journalists involved in this kerfuffle (“The Eagle,” the university’s student newspaper, plays a leading role) remind me of my own career as a college gumshoe, and it makes me want to cover up my ears and say “la la la” until the image goes away. 

But there is unease for other reasons. When I read assistant professor Adrienne Pine’s essay on the website, entitled “The Dialectics of Breastfeeding on Campus: Exposéing My Breasts on the Internet,” I couldn’t help but feel that somehow we’re all missing the point.

To back up here, in case you missed the news reports about this: About a month ago, on the first day of her course “Sex, Gender & Culture” (I love that detail), Professor Pine, a single mother, woke up to find her baby daughter with a fever. Stuck without child care – she didn’t want to bring a sick baby to day care – Pine had the choice to either cancel class or take her daughter to work with her. She chose the latter.

So, the baby spent the 75-minute class either on Pine’s back, crawling around the floor, or being held by a teaching assistant. At one point, Pine nursed the infant. 

“When Lee grew restless, I briefly fed her without stopping [the] lecture, and much to my relief, she fell asleep,” Pine wrote in her essay. “The end of class came none too soon, and I was happy to be able to take the bus home and put my sad baby in bed where she belonged. It seemed like things had gone as well as they could, given the circumstances.”

But then a college newspaper reporter e-mailed.  And here, Pine gets snarky.  See, according to Pine’s recount of the e-mail, this reporter, Heather Mongilio, asked to talk about what happened in class, while saying that she understood “the delicacy of the matter and I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

Pine wrote that she was “shocked and annoyed” at the e-mail’s anti-woman implications, that nursing her baby would be considered “delicate” or “uncomfortable.”  Later, as Ms. Mongilio pursues her story – even having the nerve to try to interview Pine in person! What shoddy journalism they’re teaching over there – Pine becomes ever more offended, writing disparagingly about how the young reporter called her breastfeeding in class an “incident” and how the student newspaper overall was anti-feminist. (She quoted a rather unfortunate and unrelated date rape column to prove her point.)

Meanwhile, the university has not appeared particularly pleased with its professor, noting in classic institutional language that perhaps sick babies do best at home. According to the Washington Post, here’s part of the university’s position statement: 

“A faculty member’s conduct in the classroom must be professional. Faculty may maintain a focus on professional responsibilities in the classroom by taking advantage of the options the university provides, including reasonable break times, private areas for nursing mothers to express milk, and leave in the case of a sick child.”

There’s a lot wrong with all of this.

Firstly: Sure, the young reporter’s questions show a good deal of naiveté. Just because breastfeeding involves breasts doesn’t mean that it is an uncomfortable topic. And just because a situation involves breastfeeding doesn’t mean that it’s really about nursing – here, for instance, we have many deeper issues about women’s employment, child care access, and work-family balance, particularly for single moms. 

But the journalist is a student. It’s hard to blame her for not navigating in the most academically-accepted or progressive way what is surely a culturally fraught topic. After all, we're in an environment where a woman nursing her toddler is featured on the cover of Time magazine and a woman nursing her baby is kicked off a Delta flight. 

Then we have the professor, who, understandably, seems annoyed that this personal experience has become so publicized. But do we have to get all nasty about it?  Pine wrote that she had a disinclination to use her daughter as a teaching tool, which, again, I get. But why not, once the baby’s in class, anyhow?  Rather than getting her back up, Pine could have used the chance to have an open, detailed, and kind conversation with a journalist who had a mouthpiece to the university community.

And then there’s the university response. In a lot of ways, it seems pretty darn progressive. In its statement, it marks off all the boxes of a good-for-families workplace – flexibility, nursing facilities, and so on. But clearly, in this situation, its policies weren’t enough.

So where does that leave us?  With everyone peeved. 

Everyone involved in this story seems to be trying to do the “right” thing. But there is massive disconnect, along with a good dose of frustration.

And this, perhaps, hits at the root of the difficulties surrounding parenthood in today’s working American culture. Which is why, I think, I am squeamish.  By turning this into the latest breastfeeding controversy, with outrage all around, we are missing a chance to have a deeper, inclusive discussion about those unresolved challenges.

In this July 30 photo, Dave Krepcho, director of the Second Harvest Food Bank in Orlando, Fla., looked over a supply of goods that had arrived at the food bank. In the past four years, food distribution to 500 pantries, shelters, and other relief agencies in the area has increased 60 percent. (AP)

Poverty rate unchanged: Mom says hard times teach her kids compassion

By Lisa SuhayCorrespondent / 09.12.12

The overall poverty rate in 2011 remained at a record level – 15 percent of the American population at or below the annual income of $23,021 for a family of four, new data from the US Census shows. It was statistically unchanged from the 15.1 percent in the previous year. Blogger Lisa Suhay comments on how families in that 15 percent cope, and a bi-product for her kids is compassion.

I just spent several exhausting, sweaty days helping friends divest themselves of a huge chunk of their worldly goods. They were moving into a small condo across town, having hit a crater in the financial road and been forced out of their rental house.

I saw the excited avarice in the eyes of my sons as they were gifted with DVDs, books, and clothing. And I had to take the time to help them understand that these gifts came from someone’s misfortune and the price of those things was compassion for those in dire straits.

After the talk, I didn’t have to ask my sons to toil in the dead heat (the electricity in the neighbor’s house was shut off so there was no air conditioning) with us as we packed, sorted, and loaded vehicles bound for various places like Hope House Thrift Store and The Park Place Clothes Closet. They could have given all of their belongings to friends, put things on consignment or eBay; instead, the family chose to let others benefit from their loss.

"I think it's easier to part with some of these things if I know someone will really love them like we did," my friend said. "It helps to know they're going to good use."

It's interesting how unforgiving society has become about people who lose their homes, businesses or can't pay for something. It reminds me a bit of when children learn to play chess. As soon as a beginner slips up and moves a piece wrong, the opponent is almost sure to shout, "You can't make that move! He's a cheater!"

I always have to stop the action and explain that sometimes people make errors, but that doesn't mean they did it to make us unhappy or to cheat us.

My choice to be a freelancer so I could stay home five years ago when our youngest, now eight, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Aspergers Syndrome came back to slay us financially as the economy withered.

Last month we had one terribly rough week that left me counting my pennies at the supermarket. I came up short and had to ask the cashier to remove an item from my purchase. Two women behind me were annoyed that I was holding them up. "Just put it on your card," one said, exasperated. "You'll just have to come back for it later." The other woman muttered, "Jerk."

I had my 8-year-old with me, learning on the front lines, and had to turn to them and clarify that I simply didn't have a penny beyond what was in my purse, and we would not be coming back for the ice pops I had thought we could afford that day. I apologized and blinked back a big old flood of tears.

The women were unmoved. "Well, next time learn to count before you hold everyone up!"

Being humbled is a huge advantage in life because it opens your eyes and shuts your mouth. You really can't experience that kind of thing week in and week out, that kind of gutting, and not stand by a neighbor who is in financial disgrace and distress.

Before sinking to the no-ice-pop level, I might have tended to avoid people in financial trouble because it's just too scary. Fear tends to hide our social skills. When it's a neighbor, it's literally too close to home.

Very few neighbors helped; only a few even spoke about those moving. Part of that may have been an effort to be polite, but mostly it reminded me of the Shirley Temple film "The Little Princess" where the child goes from rich and adored to impoverished and shunned when her military father is reported missing in action and her bills go unpaid. She was still the same child, only now she was scorned, an outsider, perhaps carrying the disease of poverty.

The writer Douglas Adams would have called it a case of a "somebody else's problem" field. In his books, when something that is just too strange or frightening appears, people automatically don't see it because their brains protect them.

Having experienced joblessness, a brush with foreclosure and making pasta into an ongoing food adventure, I should probably be one of the main somebody-else's-problem-field generators, but I have always been pretty socially backward about most things. I am a journalist. We run toward fire and explosions, dodging all the sane people who are trampling us trying to head the other way.

You might even say I see life through everybody's-problem glasses.

When you run toward problems, you get the chance to report back what you saw. Hence I am here to tell you that in the end, my friends survived the social apocalypse.

They are good people, and they, like our nation, will rise again, stronger, better and even more giving for having been humbled, hurt, and doubted.

Until then, while we may not be comfortable running to help, perhaps at least we can steel ourselves not to walk away from our neighbors when they need us.

Morning wars – those important negotiations about food, clothing, and homework – can get out of hand if Mom doesn't find the right regimen for détente. There's six times the value in finding that regimen for Karoline Byler – mother of sextuplets – shown here shuffling her kids into the first day of kindergarten Aug. 20, 2012. (Kathleen Flynn/Tampa Bay Times)

“Morning wars” détente: Surviving bad socks and permission slips

By Guest Blogger / 09.11.12

In the front hall of a grade school one morning, I heard one mother say to another, "She's the person you should talk to." She was pointing at me. The woman she spoke to was upset. As the school psychologist, I am often sought out in such situations. After 20 years in this school, I'm asked for advice on everything from how to cure nose picking to easing the hurt of family breakups.

In this case I found that the mother was upset over one of the most common parental struggles: "the morning wars," those upsetting conflicts over getting children off to school on time.

The first mother was right. I was the person to talk to. Not just because I was the school psychologist but also because I was a veteran of the morning wars. In fact, that very morning I had just come from the front – with my own children.

These battles arise for all kinds of reason. Often it is finding, as you run out of the house, that a permission slip is missing or a special supply is required for that day. I'm sure I'm not the only mother who has learned, at the last second, that an empty milk carton was needed for that day's art activity. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has scrambled around pouring a half gallon of milk into every little jar I could find.

Prepare the night before

Over the years I've heard many stories from parents, most about clothing, breakfast and papers. From these parents I have also learned a few solutions. The overriding one is to do everything you possibly can the night before. A common clothing issue is having only the scratchy T-shirt clean enough to wear, then having to dig in the dirty clothes basket for the least dirty soft T-shirt. Or it may be the wrong socks.

I'm certain there were knights who spent less time looking for the Holy Grail than I have spent looking for socks that didn't have that uncomfortable seam in just the wrong place. Wearing them inside out helped a little. Then my daughter turned 6, which seemed to cure a lot of things.

Years ago I heard a well-known psychologist speak about his own children's resistance to getting dressed and how he once took them to school in their pajamas (no wonder we psychologists have the reputation we do). Nowadays such a strategy might get you reported to the authorities, even if it made you a hero to other parents.

Choose your battles

At a recent parenting workshop, a mother offered, almost apologetically, that she warms her daughter's clothes in the dryer. It makes them feel cozy and makes the child hurry to get them on before they cool off. The mother of a middle school student subscribing to the "choose your battles" approach occasionally allowed him to sleep in his clothes. She noted that he looked no different from his rumpled peers, and he passed the sniff test. Following the "do everything you can the night before" policy, a father shared his tip with glee: "My daughters have to set their clothes out the night before, or else I pick what they wear that day. And they know I don't have very good taste."

Battles over what to wear can sometimes be addressed by a simple housekeeping task. The mother of a first-grader rearranged the closet and drawers. Having a party section and a school section allowed the child to choose without being lured by one of those pretty little organza numbers.

The mother who was in the hall that morning did come talk to me. There had been a battle, with mom and daughter parting in tears. "I know it's silly, but I want to go into class and see that she's OK and tell her that I love her and that we'll work this out." I understood how she felt, but I couldn't offer her that option. Instead I went into the class and found her child playing happily with a classmate. The mother was relieved, and said she would try later to collaborate with her daughter on ways to make mornings go more smoothly.

Kids often have good ideas about the morning routine, though one mom reported that her child's suggestion was to put the toothpaste on the brush the night before (points for good intentions).

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Getting homework papers into the backpack the night before can prevent battles. Special places for such things as schedules and permission slips also help. Some families have a resource folder with information they will keep and a separate one for forms that need to go back to school.Getting kids to eat something nutritious is the battleground in many homes.One friend found a partial solution in the container section of the supermarket. She bought little plastic containers and measured out servings of cereal in some and ingredients for smoothies in others. It helped to have the children participate in choosing and preparing their breakfasts ahead of time.

Consistency is helpful

On some mornings, no matter what strategies you have in place, separation may be difficult. Transitions can be a big issue for little kids. From the comfort of their bed, from the dream world surrounded by their stuffed animals, from the familiar warmth of their home, from the arms of their loving family into what can be a challenging and stressful place – yikes! For these children, a consistent routine is often helpful. Set out clothing, have little containers of breakfast ready, have a special spot for backpacks and permission slips.

But on some days, no matter how well you are prepared, there will be morning wars. On those days the best strategy is to simply hold on to your sense of proportion. Life is short; childhood is shorter. Keep in mind that one morning, years from now, in a very quiet house, you'll wish you had a permission slip to sign at the last minute or a milk carton to empty into a dozen small jars.

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.

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