Parenting news roundup: Taylor Swift, Michelle Obama and bullies

This week's roundup spotlights stories on Taylor Swift's breakup, bully mania sweeping the country, and Michelle Obama on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' chatting about teenagers and being a mom – That's right. The Modern Parenthood weekly news roundup is the new Friday family tradition.

Reuters/MTV
Our parenting roundup includes Taylor Swift's recent breakup, as part of this week's coverage. Here, Ms. Swift in a scene from her new music video, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Aug. 28, 2012.

Here at Modern Parenthood we’re always keeping an eye on the news, and especially on those stories that might be of interest to parents and families. But to be honest, we don’t get the chance to share all the nuggets we see from around the country and beyond. There are just too many of them.

This disappoints us. Because we think there can be a lot to learn – or at least enjoy – from the strange, the local, the controversial, and even the fluffy.

We thought about how we might fill this gap, and decided that maybe we could just slip some of these in for you on Fridays. You know, when nobody’s looking. 

So here, without further ado, is our solution: the Modern Parenthood weekly news roundup.

Oct. 21 - 26
With election coverage and hurricane predictions dominating the news cycle, it’d be easy to ignore some of the parenting stories that emerged earlier during the week. Such as the southern California school yoga controversy.  (“Yoga controversy??” I thought when I first read the headline.)

Child’s pose
Yes, you thought a downward dog was just a downward dog. Not so, says a group of parents in San Diego County. The Associated Press reported earlier this week that a number of moms and dads with children in the Encintas Union School District are calling free yoga classes there unconstitutional for “indoctrinating youngsters in eastern religion.” The parents have threatened to take legal action if the classes do not stop, saying that school should not use taxpayer money to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism.

The school district, for its part, has insisted that religion does not play a part in the yoga classes, and that yoga at this point is a part of mainstream American culture.

Next up, parental worries that some coaches treat football as a religion, too. 

 Bully the bullies?

As if we needed more proof that we’ve gone nuts over bullying: Earlier this week, a New Jersey mom and grandmother allegedly boarded a school bus to confront the boys they say had been bullying their 9-year-old daughter/granddaughter. Rebecca and Stephanie Sardoni deny that they accosted the boys, but Rebecca (the mom) was charged with simple assault, criminal trespass, and making terroristic threats for allegedly yelling at and slapping the boys, while Stephanie (grandma) was charged with criminal trespass.

Whatever actually happened on that bus: certainly seems like it could have been handled with a bit more class. But with all the rhetoric about bullies and bullying out there, we can’t say we’re surprised.

Reading is believing
Just when you were bemoaning how kids these days don’t know the pleasure of enjoying a good book, the Pew Research Center this week released findings from a new study on “Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits.” Turns out, it’s not the young adults that aren’t reading – it’s the older folks.

Pew found that 86 percent of Americans aged 16 to 17 had read a book in whole or in part in the past 12 months, as did 88 percent of Americans aged 18-24. The numbers drop from there. The least likely to have their nose in the pages were those aged 65 years and older. Only 68 percent of them had read any part of a book in the past year.

(In these numbers, Pew did not make a distinction between reading on paper versus e-reader.)

Swift exit
We’re the first to admit it: When you’re in your late teens or early 20s, you make some silly choices about life and romance. Maybe you switch classes so you’re more likely to run in to that guy. Maybe you turn down your dream job because you can’t stand the idea of living across the country from that girl.

If you’re 22-year-old country music star Taylor Swift, you can buy a $4.9 million beach house in Hyannis Port, Mass. to have some digs closer to your 18-year-old boyfriend, Conor Kennedy

Nothing’s too much for summer love, right?

As news spread this week about the Swift-Kennedy breakup, some wondered about that house. Will Swift have buyer’s regret? Or will the singer still enjoy vacationing in the northeast? Maybe she and Conor will even rekindle their spark next summer, once it’s yachting season again.

More important, we think, is the lesson that young romance can – and often should – be temporary. This is not cynical but sweet. Even Swift, multi-millionaire pop star that she is, is figuring it out. This is a good model for girls who are too often showered with the white dress, happily ever after fairy tales.

And a reminder not to close on the house.

Look interested, kids
Parents of teenagers, don’t despair. If you are struggling with “the look” – and if you’re a parent of a teenager, you know what I’m talking about – you are in good company. (For other people, it’s the I’m-so-bored-you’re-so-lame-wish-I-was-texting look.) Last night, First Lady Michelle Obama admitted on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that sometimes even the President needs to urge 14-year-old Malia and 11-year-old Sasha to “just look like you’re listening to me.”

“That was the instruction before he gave his speech to the DNC,” Ms. Obama told Kimmel. “We’re back stage and they’re playing around and they’re laughing and they’re giggling and he said, ‘Just act like you’re listening to me.’”

“But were they listening?” Kimmel asked.

She paused briefly and put her hand out in an “eh” gesture.

“Barely,” she said.

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