Pull out your best pout, scowl, and frown, and get ready to celebrate Sesame Street's National Grouch Day.
According to the Muppet Wiki, "A Grouch's mission in life is to be as miserable and grouchy as possible, and pass that feeling on to everyone else."
Whether on the playground or in the office, kids and adults learn to give cranky people their space – there may be a method to their grumpiness. In fiction, however, everybody loves a good crabby character. Kids adore Eeyore, Oscar, and Viola Swamp. Adults love Archie Bunker, Groucho Marx, and Grampa Simpson.
While grouchiness may not be a personality trait that you hope to instill in your children, there is something to be said for acknowledging the Oscar the Grouches of the world. Their pessimism, while disheartening at times, can offer a much needed reality check.
For kids, these crotchety characters can help children to process a slew of negative emotions that can be overwhelming. They illustrate how one person’s bad mood can permeate a room and begin to spread. What’s more they can model language that kids can use to express their own feelings.
Parents can take advantage of these tales to start discussions with kids about feelings. For young children, happy and sad can be very black and white concepts. More complex negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and frustration can quickly become overwhelming. When kids don’t understand these emotions, they can retreat inward or lash out. Offering kids the chance to explore these emotions through discussion and pretend play can arm them with the necessary vocabulary and coping skills to better deal with them later.
In addition, grumpy character story lines frequently include other characters that offer to help them to feel better with kind words, actions, and just offering to spend time with them. That’s a lesson every parent can embrace.
Banksy, that clever, elusive, British street artist, may have been able to prank most New Yorkers, fooling them into thinking his priceless works were knockoffs sold by a street vendor, but one mom outfoxed the fox buying two of his signed works for $60 after negotiating a 50 percent discount, The Associated Press reports.
A big invisible mom high-five to that New York mom who wanted the works for her kids, according to the Banksy website where the video footage from the Central Park stall was posted.
Because all four of my sons and I are Banksy devotees we have been following the world-famous street artist whose original works have sold for more than $1 million as he performs a month-long "residency" in my hometown, New York.
Sadly, we live in the street-art-challenged City of Norfolk, Virginia where graffiti artists are regarded on par with Al Qaeda and no sooner do I snap a pic of something brilliant than it’s painted over and the artist is Public Enemy No. 1.
My son, Ian, 19, has been a fan of street art and in rebellion to these erasures and the vilification of the artists has joined the cause by adding his own tag BadWolf in cement wherever possible. That’s what happens when Dr. Who meets Banksy in Norfolk.
I turned Ian on to the Banksy film “Exit through the gift shop” which is a gritty, witty, romp through the street artists realm with Banksy painting the picture of his work for us.
Back to Banksy in New York, where daily he day completes a new work and posts it on his website as part of his "Better Out Than In" exhibit. He parked a slaughterhouse truck filled with stuffed animals, a delivery truck housing a trompe l'oeil paradise, and a bunch of graffiti that's been defaced already.
However, the one that is never going to be erased from the minds of art consumers was Banksy’s decision to exploit New Yorker’s cynical side and put his priceless, signed works, out on the street boardering Central Park amid all the faux Gucci and electroplated “Rolex” merch (short for merchandise) and sell them for $60 a pop.
To really make this one stick to our memory banks, Banksy set up a camera and videotaped the would-be buyers and posted the resulting footage on his website.
Watching the video is painful for Banksy lovers and native New Yorkers, of which I am both.
People who probably would have lined up for miles to see his works plough past the elderly man who sits by them waiting in vain for someone to stop.
New Yorkers are trained from childhood not to consider buying from street vendors because they are usually shoddy merchandise that’s a cheap knock-off a more expensive item, or “hot,” as in stolen goods.
I personally would have stopped to long for one of the pieces, even a fake, but not make the purchase because for the mom of four boys, $60 in this economy is out of the question for my budget.
However, as the hours and pedestrians flew by, the video on Banksy’s site shows that the first to stop and buy not one, but two real Banksys was a mom who haggled him down to a 50 percent discount.
The unidentified woman told the vendor she was buying them for her kids, according to MSN.
I salute her not only for her shrewd haggling, but for seeing street art as something that belongs on a child’s wall.
Later in the day others, all non-New Yorkers, followed her example but none haggled as the mom did.
Banksy’s social experiment revealed the desensitization to reality and art of the urban dwellers of my home town.
This piece of performance art also sketched the outline of moms as those who can see the art of getting a deal and the beauty of a spray painted street corner image as something to share with her children.
Ava Sambora, 16, is a fortunate kid not because she got her mom Heather Lochlear's good looks or because her parents held her birthday party at the Four Seasons Hotel but because her parents have managed to give her the daily gift of remaining friends after their divorce.
People like me, who grew up in the middle of an ugly divorce where reconciliation was made impossible by one parent being a violent alcoholic, missed out on one of the most vital experiences of childhood, “family time.”
So I sit in awe of parents like Lochlear and her ex, Richie Sambora, who ended their 13-year marriage in 2007, for their ability to be friends and give their daughter that “family time” experience.
This isn’t just something to be done by the well-heeled, beautiful, and famous people.
My friends, Richard and Cheryl, divorced, have two kids and have remained a family where it counts, in the preservation of “family time.”
They have managed to integrate new relationships and kids into the mix as seamlessly as a master weaver makes a tapestry.
I met them when our sons became best friends 10 years ago and honestly looked at them like a pair of rare birds. I studied them from afar.
Each of them is my friend. Richard is a filmmaker who plays Dungeons and Dragons with my sons. Cheryl is a nurse, but also a talented painter with whom I can sit and talk over a glass of wine.
I have never asked why they split, but from what I pieced together it was sad and heart-breaking as any divorce has ever been.
While I know there were wrongs, slights, and hurts that caused their split, there is no “side” to take because they never, ever say an unkind word about the other whether the kids are around or not.
It is totally out of my personal experience or logic system to see them interact because I grew up in a more typical post-apocalyptic divorce environment.
So the relationship I have observed between Richard and Cheryl has helped me learn about parenting and relationships.
Somehow these two remarkable people see past it all to where their kids are standing and they just put their big parent panties on and got the heck over the anger, hurt and disappointment that comes with divorce.
They did it without being wealthy or famous and that’s why I can salute Lochlear and Sambora, because I know their success was not made of those things as some might believe.
Just look at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes or any other Hollywood break-up to confirm that last statement.
We are always telling our kids to get over their angers and frustrations with friends and even with us.
However, when it comes to an ex-spouse it’s more “Do as I say, not as I do.”
US Weekly reported that Ava posed for pictures with her mom, the former "Melrose Place" star, and her rocker dad at the celebration and all three appeared in "great spirits."
The Bon Jovi guitarist told Access Hollywood last year he and his ex-wife are still a family in the most important sense, family time.
"We're very good. It's actually even beyond for [our daughter's] sake," Richie told Access Hollywood last year. "Heather and I really respect each other, and we've become better friends, I think, now that we're not married."
What Lochlear and Sambora and my friends right here in Norfolk, Va, all prove on a daily bases is that being “one of the beautiful people” isn’t about how you look but how you look at each other after the divorce.
"I Don't Bathe My Baby" is a blog post title designed to entice and annoy if ever one was written. It conjures up images of stark neglect, of a sad little infant huddled in a corner somewhere, covered in a filmy residue, with a stray Snickers wrapper adhered to his forearm.
And of course the blog post is about no such thing. The writer has two other children, she's busy, and the baby seems totally fine getting weekly baths, and seems to smell fine too. Plus:
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no need to bathe a baby every day and bathing that frequently can actually lead to dry skin. As long as you are thoroughly wiping the diaper area, as well as neck and face, then baby is good to go. This makes total sense to me. It’s not like he’s touching every filthy thing he can find or running around and sweating a lot, so spot cleaning should be pretty sufficient.
An ABC report on the blog post describes the reader response to the seldom-bathed baby as an "online firestorm" (which was, of course, "unleashed"). Much of that firestorm, as represented by the story's comments, looks like this:
"LOL thank you! Folks are horrified when they hear how seldom my kids are bathed."
"To all the nay sayers...what are you doing with your infants necessitating a full daily bath?"
"What is your baby doing that you feel they need bathing every day? Even adults aren't supposed to bathe EVERY day."
Presented in opposition to fierce criticism such as:
"That cannot be good for a child. Some parents need to stop being so lazy."
"Lol lazy people!"
"My 6 month twins are prettygnarly by the end of the day, so I always give them baths. It also relaxes them. It is just part of our bedtime routine. To each their own."
Less an online firestorm than an online campfire, but potato, potahto.
Bathing a baby is, on some levels, a symbolic act. Babies are one of the few things we care for that can suddenly become dirty and/or covered in some sort of viscous fluid at any time, including when we're actively cleaning them. As compensation for their infinite abiltiy to self-soil, babies are also smooth enough that they wipe down fairly well, and compliant/confused enough to accept a wet cloth with relatively little resistance.
My wife and I fully intend to bathe our son every two or three days. That he only actually hits the interior of a bathtub – i.e. the now too-small tummy tub or the brand-new inflatable bath insert that he is currently cavorting in under my wife's supervision – every four to five days on average is a tribute to that fact that:
a) as new parents we are pretty darn tired and easily distracted and
b) spot cleaning with wipes and cloths really does go a pretty long way
He does not suffer from dry skin.
It’s October, but it’s still a new school year for us all: teachers, parents, and students. For some of us it’s also a new year in a new school – or the very first school year ever, if you’re just getting started in kindergarten or preschool.
At any rate, we’re all driving “this year’s model” off the show room floor! As we stand here, let’s think about this next chapter in our relationship with school. Here’s a School Principal’s metaphor that might help.
Thank you for making [Insert your school name here] Motors your family’s car company. Yes, we are your new car. However, we are actually an old car, with millions of road-tested safe miles and thousands of (mostly) satisfied customers. But for you, we are brand new.
We smell great. We’re still under factory warranty: tuned up, driving every bit like the car you imagined, getting the gas mileage you hoped for. You haven’t even checked the owner’s manual (at least the guys haven’t), nor filled up your second tank of gas. Your kids have not yet put their muddy feet on the back of the seat. You haven’t changed the oil – yet. You look marvelous in your new car!
But I must prepare you for the following fact: there is going to come a day when you will get your first ding in your new car. Someone in the proverbial parking lot will let a shopping cart hit your driver’s side door and chip the paint. A bird is going to poop on the hood. You are going to park under a tree that drops sticky sap on it. You are going to hit a bump in the road and jostle the passengers. You are going to spill on the front seat, and lose gummy bears down the defroster vent. Your children are going to change the preset radio station buttons.
Try as we might to control your total driving experience, here at Your School Motors, there are many, many factors of this ride that are actually forces beyond our control, or that we will have to analyze together to understanding and mitigate. And appreciate. Mostly appreciate, because the fuel and momentum here is the mojo of childhood and learning. And a sense of joy for the ride. This is a driving experience, after all. We are going somewhere.
I expect that you are going to suddenly realize that maintenance, steering, navigating, washing, vacuuming are required to keep this car looking shiny and new. Your new car is going to get dirty. Don’t be disappointed. Be prepared. Don’t despair. This is normal. And hopefully your friends will say, “that’s a great car! You’re going to get 250,000 miles out of it – easy.” Call up Click and Clack with a Puzzler question. You’ll hear: “You drive a What? That’s a great car. Stick with it. And you’ve actually found an honest dealership mechanic? Way to go, man!”
Fact of life and law of thermo-dynamics caveat: there’s a break-in period for anything new. The time and distance between being smitten in the show room, kicking the tires, or starting the real driving relationship under actual road conditions will vary for each driver. Don’t worry if you are unaccustomed to manual transmission – it’s standard with this package…you don’t want automatic. You have made an informed and intelligent purchase and are paying a fair price for your new education vehicle. Your new school experience can give you years of trustworthy, loyal, wise service. And hopefully you and your children or students will come to feel like the luckiest of passengers and drivers; that your new school will get you where you want to go! Life offers very few such commitments to product and process. The break-in process should be concluded by the time your car is, say, 25 years old, and miles away from school. So it goes.
Did I mention that you got the model with the turbo-charged 6.0 litre V-8, chrome rims, sunroof, moon roof, leather upholstery, Satellite radio, mini-fridge, sound proofing between front and rear seats, seat warmers, deluxe racing paint job – at no additional cost – and million-mile warranty? And a trailer hitch! But please remember that it’s really about the drive train: the power plant, transmission, gearing ratios, torque for all of life’s experiences – the open road ahead. You will be “good to go” on any road!
Full speed ahead! Well, not full speed – actually, watch the speed bumps, stay alert, do not attempt to drive when tired and cranky. Keep it under 15 MPH on our road during school hours. Change the oil every 3,000 miles. Look both ways twice when you turn left out the driveway. See you further on down the road. You all have a complimentary road service protection policy – call if you get stuck. We’ll send the tow truck. There is no E-Z Pass. Beware oncoming extended metaphors. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. “Keep your eyes on the road; your hands upon the wheel.” 10-4, good buddies.
Todd R. Nelson is Head of School at The School in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania.
In the West our kids get snow days, while in Pakistan schools must close due to Taliban terrorism, Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old girl shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out for girls’ to be allowed to go to school in Pakistan, makes this situation more tangible for American parents as she tours the US promoting her book with the message “education is the power terrorists fear most.”
That message should concern parents as education systems in the West fail under freedom’s flag. SAT scores continue decline; 57 percent of incoming freshmen not ready for college, the AP reported earlier this month. Here in Norfolk, Virginia 33 of our 45 schools, 78 percentage, have failed to make full accreditation this year due to abysmal standardized test scores.
This is something I am passionate about not only because my kids’ schools here are failing, but because I have a friend, a woman, who runs a large school in Pakistan. I won’t name her, the city, or school for safety reasons.
We met five years ago when she contacted me about permission to use a peace fable I’d written to combat terrorism, “The Mouse and the Light” as a project with her students. They were turning it into the school play after reading it on MidEastWeb where it was posted by a fan in English, Arabic, and other languages spoken in the Middle East.
We became friends and she’s kept me in the Facebook loop as she struggles to keep her students from being snatched by Taliban forces looking for little soldiers as they try and make their way to the classroom.
Over the years her students have written letters to mine detailing their love of learning. I think their passion for education began with their parents and teachers, but was intensified by all the days their school had to close due to terrorism.
Malala’s story has given me a clear picture of what my friend has had to live with as an educator.
"Exactly 12 months ago, Malala Yousafzai was in the back of an open truck on the way home from school when a Taliban gunman asked for her by name and shot her in the head," according to The Telegraph of London.
Malala is the youngest ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, for her efforts to bring attention to the struggle for women's rights in her homeland.
This week she was on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart talking about the fact that the experience has not stopped her from spreading the word globally that the way to fight terrorism is not with violence but with education.
Most stories about Malala take time to lament failing education systems, poor standardized test scores, and student apathy and compare this young girl's dedication with learning to her often lackluster counterparts in other nations' classrooms.
The Telegraph in London ran the headline, "Malala Yousafzai's desire to learn shames our schools."
Malala assuaged our parental guilt by telling "The Daily Show’s" Jon Stewart, “We are human beings and this is the part of our human nature that we don’t appreciate the importance of anything until it is snatched from our hand.”
The teen is touring the United States to promote her new autobiography, "I am Malala."
“In Pakistan when we were stopped from going to school, at that time, I realized that education is very important and education is the power for women. And that’s why the terrorists are afraid of education. They don’t want women to get education because then women will become more powerful,” Malala told Mr. Stewart.
I want to take a moment to praise both Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafza for instilling the value of education in his daughter and all the struggling educators in Pakistan and other areas where the Taliban hampers education.
Malala told the BBC about how the Taliban changed education in her valley, “In the month of January 2009, they said that no girl is allowed to go to school. And at that time I said, ‘Why should we be silent? Why don’t we speak up for our rights? Why don’t we tell the world what is happening in Swat.’ And I did not want Swat to be a next Afghanistan.”
As parents and educators we read all this and are left wondering if there is a way to motivate students that doesn’t involve being on the Taliban hit list.
Malala’s story is a powerful one. Maybe we need to reinstitute bedtime stories for our teens and talk about this one tonight, together.
A new study suggests that 9 percent of youths aged 14 to 21 admitted to some kind of forced sexual contact (using anything from guilt to physical force) and that half of them blamed their victims. And as is generally the case with self-reported findings like this, the true numbers could be larger.
The study of 1,058 young people, by researchers from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, Calif. and the University of New Hampshire, also found that perpetrators of sexual coercion and/or violence reported greater exposure to violent X-rated content. This isn't proof of causation, but is certainly intriguing for parents and policymakers who are trying to disentangle the relationship between media consumption and bad (or even criminal) behavior.
That this is important should be self-evident, but the study does a good job of quickly explaining its own significance:
With more than 1 million victims and associated costs of almost $127 billion each year, sexual violence is a significant public health problem. In addition to societal costs, the impact on the individual can be high, including increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, physical health problems, and suicidal behavior.
The study also illuminates the way in which victims and perpetrators relate to one another, and how far behind law-enforcement is in terms of addressing the problem of coerced sex and sexual assault:
Three in four victims (73 percent) were a romantic partner. Sixty-six percent of perpetrators reported that no one found out about the perpetration. Contact with the justice system was uncommon: 1 percent of perpetrators reported police contact and 1 percent an arrest.
The results throw yet more fear and chaos into the already dark maelstrom of teenage sexual behavior. The hormones, intense emotion, and sloppily byzantine social relationships of adolescence are pressurized and poisoned by the general atmosphere of "abstinence-only" policies in lieu of education and highly sexualized popular entertainment – which makes coming of age in America about as easy as shooting Category 5 rapids while floating in a frying pan. "No means no" seems simple enough, but in an era when "50 Shades of Gray" passes for a major cultural accomplishment, it's easy to see how the message can get lost or distorted.
The study's data (presented in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics) is wide-ranging, and it maps onto a broad spectrum of teen contact that ranges from classic, innocent teenage bumbling (a mis-timed or otherwise awkward attempt at a kiss) all the way up to premeditated rape.
And as such, it seems likely to spark conversations evocative of the early '90s controversy over the Antioch College sexual offense policy, which called for explicit verbal consent for any and all levels of physical intimacy. To recap: The New York Times gently castigated the policy, saying "legislating kisses won't save them from themselves," and the director of Antioch's sexual offense prevention and survivors' advocacy program responded "that we are not trying to reduce the romance, passion or spontaneity of sex; we are trying to reduce the spontaneity of rape."
In short: It's complicated. And in an era where sexting (and all manner of Internet-assisted sexual blackmail and revenge) is a fact of life, and when bullying is constantly discussed and deconstructed, the study will likely add both heat and light to an already intense discussion.
It seems clear, however, that the issue is a serious one, and one that doesn't go away when high schoolers become college students; we need only witness the recent Georgia Tech fraternity e-mail advising members on how to use alcohol to lure "rapebait" at parties. And in as much as "she was drunk, so she consented" is used as an excuse for assault, the study shows that blaming the victim is common enough to be routine:
One in seven perpetrators said they were not at all responsible for what happened. Accordingly, more than 4 in 5 perpetrators said the victim was at least somewhat responsible for what happened.
More data is the starting point. Education, public discussion, and increasingly clear guidelines seem to be among the remedies that may help reduce - but certainly not eliminate - the number young adults crossing the line from "it's complicated" to something coercive and even dangerous.
Often I am stopped in the street by random people who usually point to my hijab and ask in a loud, slow voice, “Where are you from?”
When I reply with a straight face, “I am from here, where are you from?”, they are usually taken aback and continue to make more loaded and ignorant comments like “Oh, that’s why your English is so good!”
I understand that some people may be curious as to why I cover my hair, but there are limits to when such questions can be asked. Having friendly conversations with co-workers, classmates, and neighbors about hijab while getting to know one another is absolutely fine. In the freedom of America, this shouldn’t become an interrogation of my Muslim beliefs in the supermarket checkout or on the treadmill at the gym.
RECOMMENDED: School dress code: Top ten offenses
But that’s what it sometimes becomes as in the case of a Muslim student at Hampton University, in Hampton, Va., who was recently asked to provide documentation of her Muslim faith in order to be photographed in hijab for her school ID. Otherwise she would have to remove it.
Melonna Clarke brought back a written note from her local mosque stating that she is indeed a Muslim and that the hijab she dons is part of her religious identity.
This comes just a couple of weeks after retailer Abercrombie & Fitch settled a lawsuit filed by a Muslim woman for refusing to hire her because of her head scarf.
And a couple of months ago, a law student was asked to remove her hijab while taking her Massachusetts bar exam.
Why is a piece of cloth that Muslim women choose to wear over their head such a big deal? Why is it used to encroach on and inhibit their educational and career-related endeavors? We hear of a countless stories of Muslim women being singled out and harassed simply because of one way they choose to observe their faith.
American-Muslim women come from diverse racial, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds – some choose to wear the hijab and others don’t, but either way, this factor should not be considered the sole or most significant marker of their personhood and individual identities.
When I first moved to South Carolina from Ohio a couple of years ago, I worked at an office at the school where I was studying for a Master’s degree. A couple of weeks later, a colleague told me how another co-worker was surprised I was hired because I was wearing “that thing” on my head.
Americans should feel comfortable practicing any religion the way they please and not feel threatened or burdened by what they do or do not wear.
RECOMMENDED: School dress code: Top ten offenses
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. Aya Khalil can be contacted at www.ayakhalil.blogspot.com.
In findings that should come as a surprise to no one who has worked a job while a spouse took care of the kids (or vice versa), a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey has found that parents ranked child care as #1 for activities found to be "very tiring."
My wife and I work from home, and so we don't see a work/child separation – just a constant game of "OK! your turn to take care of the baby while I get some work done..." punctuated by the occasional happy family walk or outing to a baby-friendly eatery. But among our friends who have gone back to work, there is an almost universal anecdote – the sense of guilty relief felt by those who move away from near full-time child care back into the working world, with its ordered ritual and ample opportunities for uninterrupted adult conversation.
That written: It's an important corollary that parents also rank child care at the top of "very meaningful activities" (above leisure, housework, and paid work in that order) – exhausting or not, it's clearly meaningful and important.
Child care is also – and as a new parent, I personally have no way of understanding what's going on here – apparently not very stressful for parents:
Only 3% of child-care activities are rated as “very stressful,” compared with 4% of leisure activities, and 5% of work-related activities (housework and paid work). Instead, parents report that they are “not stressed at all” in 52% of child-care activities, compared with 20% of paid work and 37% of housework.
This may have something to do with older children not screaming at high volume and/or, like toddlers, constantly seeking out caustic cleaning chemicals and shallow-but-dangerous bodies of water.
The report indirectly opens the door to an important conversation about how child care workers are paid and treated, however – the stress of the nanny's or day-care worker's job can hardly be overstated, but the pay can hardly be understated.
As per BLS employment statistics, child care workers make a median wage of $9.38 a hour – better than some fast food jobs, but not dramatically so. Taken along with the general treatment and pay of American teachers versus their Asian and European counterparts (US teachers get middling pay for punishing hours), it raises some important questions about what, precisely, we mean when we declare "children first."
The BLS report also raises some interesting points about gender roles. The "How Moms and Dads Spend Their Time" segment of the survey may or may not surprise you: dads spend nearly twice as many hours on average per week working; moms, by contrast, spend nearly twice as many hours on average per week doing house work (17.4 hours versus 10.0) and child care (13.5 versus 7.3). For those righteously irritated by the inherent gender inequality, grab hold to this: the amount of time dads spend on child care and housework has gone up considerably in the past half century.
Dads spend about half as much time as moms on physical care of the kids (changing diapers, dressing the child), half as much on managerial (organizing a schedule, etc.) and half as much on educational care. But when it comes to recreational time, dads catch up, putting in 2.2 hours a week to mom's 2.5.
Not surprisingly, according to the Pew Research report on the study: "Mothers report feeling 'very tired' in 15% of child-care activities, and fathers feel this way in 6% of their child-care activities."
For what it's worth: I'm doing my part to boost the numbers of exhausted dads to a gender equality-friendly level.
If you want a really scary kid favorite for the Halloween table forget making Jell-O worms and pick up some fast food chicken nuggets; according to a study by Mississippi researchers, some brands contain enough creepy-crawly chicken parts to send chills up the parental spine.
For the record, we knew about this back in 2010 when parents first saw the viral photos of extruded pink goop known as MSP (mechanically separated poultry) which according to the USDA is made by mechanically separating eyes, organs, cartilage, and other scraps from carcasses and processing the sludge with salt and flavor additives into chicken nuggets kids love.
Yet researchers in Mississippi are still able to shock the world with the news that samples taken from two fast food chains in Jackson were 40-50 percent muscle, and the remainder was fat, cartilage, and pieces of bone. McDonald's switched to all white meat back in 2003.
So technically it is “chicken” just not any of the parts we would ever choose to serve to our children.
"What has happened is that some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it, and still call it chicken," lead author Dr. Richard D. deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, told Reuters Health.
The truth hurts even more as deShazo points out the obvious, "It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar, and fat that is a very unhealthy choice. Even worse, it tastes great and kids love it and it is marketed to them."
Mr. Oliver painstakingly demonstrated for a group of elementary school kids how fast food nuggets are made. He chopped up a raw chicken, removed all the “good meat” we normally use and held up the carcass. The kids all squealed in disgust.
It was looking good for Oliver as he put the carcass into the food processor and then strained the pink goop through a sieve.
He mixed in chemicals and flavor boosters while explaining how gross and unhealthy it all was as he flattened the new “dough.”
Here’s where he lost them.
He took out a cookie cutter and popped out two “nuggets” which he dusted with bread crumbs and fried in oil.
While we have yet to invent smellavision, I could see it coming as soon as the kids inhaled the scent of salty, fatty, connective tissue and breadcrumbs frying.
Sadly, Oliver was blind-sided as he triumphantly pointed to the abomination that was turning a golden brown and said, “Now, who would still eat this?”
Without the slightest hesitation every hand shot into the air.
Oliver is so badly shocked that he keeps trying to get the kids to see the error asking, “Is that good food or bad food for you?”
Oliver: “Why would you still eat it if you know it’s bad?”
Boy #1: “Because we’re hungry.”
Boy #2: “I’m just hungry.”
Oliver tells the camera later on that no matter how rational we try to be with kids “we have brainwashed them to like it if it’s in that friendly little shape.”
Author Anna Lappé and the Food MythBusters project premiered their second short movie earlier this month exposing what they say is “the manipulative marketing machine parents are up against in their struggle to keep their kids healthy, calls on the food industry to own up to marketing’s role in driving the epidemic of diet-related diseases.”
“Big Food spends close to $2 billion every year telling kids and teens what’s cool to eat through advertising, promotions, and sponsorships,” according to Lappe’s press release. “Meanwhile, across the country, fast-food chains are crowding out grocery stores and supermarkets, narrowing the healthy food choices available.”
Seeing all this information makes the battle seem unwinnable for parents like me who too often succumb to the affordable and battle-free nuggets and burgers.
However, I think we can fight and win against these odds because history is on our side. Look at all the seemingly impossible odds that have been overcome against other ingrained, well-financed and insidious regimes.
Are we seriously going to tell ourselves that our nation could overcome slavery, the Great Depression, and child labor in sweat shops, but we can’t beat some clown with a nugget?
Parents shall overcome marketing and we will do it one child and one healthy meal choice at a time.