Fred Savage baby, holiday shopping and more: Our parenting news roundup

Fred Savage baby announcement, pols Joe Biden and Cory Booker try living like the people by shopping at Costco and going on foodstamps, US birthrates plunge, and ... in the best news for parents child sex abuse crimes drop.

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    Fred Savage Tweeted his baby announcement on Nov. 26. Here, Mr. Savage in Los Angeles, Nov. 29, 2012.
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Fred Savage, of “Wonder Years” fame, made a cryptic birth announcement via Twitter. Vice President Joe Biden and Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker decided this week to go shopping with the people. And new reports show both birth rates and child sexual assaults are down.

Yes, it’s time for our Friday parenting news wrap up – a helpful guide for those of you who might have missed the news, or just spent this week in a post-Turkey (or family gathering) haze. 

The price is right...
If you were a Washington, D.C. parent and had decided Thursday morning to head to Costco to grab a jumbo pack of, I don’t know, Honey Nut Cheerios, you may have well run into fellow shopper Joe Biden. As in, Veep.

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Yes, the second in line to the presidency made an appearance at the store’s opening, pushing a shiny, new, extra large cart in order to grab some cookies, kids’ clothing, fire logs and – he’s one of the people, after all – a new flat screen television.  (He did decline a set of new tires, saying he didn’t drive anymore, but what can you do.)

As The Monitor’s Peter Grier wrote in the Decoder Wire, there are plenty of reasons Mr. Biden might have wanted to do a Costco run, ranging from political reward-giving to promoting urban business development. But we at Modern Parenthood wonder if there’s something more: With the mom vote proving so important this past election, and pundits focusing on the so-called “Walmart Mom” in particular, maybe Biden wanted to show that he knows how to bargain shop with the best of them.

If that’s the case, though, he’s still no match for Newark Mayor Cory Booker. That same day, Mr. Booker told the Associated Press that he will live on food stamps for a week, starting Nov. 27.  He has challenged Twitter followers and even some celebrities to join him in the effort – part of a campaign by a number of public figures to show the difficulties of living on government assistance. (In New Jersey the monthly food stamp benefit is around $134 a month.  Booker says he will be limited to $1.40 per meal.)

Next week, the pols reveal their favorite couponing strategies.

Sexual assault down
Here’s a positive, if sober, news item that came out this week: Researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center said that data coming from a number of sources seem to indicate that sexual crimes against children have declined significantly since the 1990s.  Violent crime overall has also dropped during this period, but there are conflicting reports as to whether physical (not sexual) child-abuse has declined.

Some of the stats: 

  • FBI statistics based on local law enforcement crime reports show a 35 percent drop in sex crimes overall between 1992 and 2010; with 50 percent of rape victims younger than 18, these numbers suggest a drop in child assaults.
  • The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, showed a 62 percent decline in substantiated sexual abuse between 1992 and 2010.
  • And the National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence, conducted in 2009, found that 2 percent of children ages two to 17 had been sexually assaulted, down from 3.3 percent in a survey five years earlier.

Sexual assault statistics (and local crime statistics overall, for that matter) are notoriously problematic as far as accuracy and reporting go.

Still, we’ll take it.

No baby boom here
Feel like all of your friends are giving birth these days? Are the post-work get-togethers dwindling? Is holiday party chatter veering dangerously away from hip new restaurants and adventure travel  toward strollers and preschools?

Well, we’re here to say that, yup, it’s just you.

A new report from the Pew Research Center, putting together numbers from US Census data and National Vital Statistics Reports from the US Centers for Disease Control, says that the birth rate last year was the lowest in recorded history. Immigrant women having fewer babies was the main reason for the drop, Pew says. (The birth rate for US-born women has been declining for a while.) You can check out our piece on this here for more details.

Get out the vote: Pink LEGOs versus the 7-11 Slurpee Maker
Each year before the holidays, in a mocking companion to the Toy Industry Association’s Toy of the Year Award (aka TOTY), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood presents its TOADY Award.  (That’s Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young Children, if you couldn’t figure out the acronym on your own.)  The group tries to pick the worst toy of the year out of a disturbingly large choice of items that either promote the sexualization of children or push branded and screen-time based entertainment at the expense of other sorts of play.

Now, you can vote among the finalists. These include the LEGO Friends Butterfly Beauty Shop, in which girls can play with shapely LEGO figures at a LEGO hair salon, helping them “get primped and pretty” or “shop for makeup and hair accessories.” (“How do you turn one of the all-time great toys into a TOADY contender?” the advocacy group writes. “Give it a makeover!”)  There’s the Put Me In the Story App by Jabberwocky Kids, which allows children to insert themselves as the main e-book character in a choice of otherwise classic children’s stories.

And, perhaps my personal favorite in the age of obesity, the 7-11 Slurpee Maker by Spin Master, with which kids can make their very own Slurpees. Awesome. Health concerns aside, though, it’s the branding that got the Slurpee Making nominated for a TOADY. The toy comes with the 7-11 logo, and a coupon for a free real Slurpee. 

Voting is open through Dec. 5 on The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood website.

Baby tweet

And because we admit to indulging in celebrity baby news now and then...  Fred Savage – who, I admit, in my mind will always be Kevin Arnold of the “Wonder Years” – has a new baby son. Or so we assume, from a Tweet the actor sent out Nov. 26. The character-limited announcement included a snapshot of a baby’s hand and the words “he’s here.”  No public info yet on when the baby was born or the name. Mr. Savage and wife Jennifer already have a 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. 

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