Produced by Gary Drevitch
THIS WEEKEND, ON A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE OF "MEET THE PRESS"
Small Fellow was full of Big Questions yesterday. A sampling:
To FD, soon after attending Sabbath services: "Daddy, God is made up, right?"
Best we could do: "Um, I don't know, Fellow . . . Who told you that?"
To his mom, as we drove past the hospital where Tiny Girl was born: "Mommy, how do you open up to let the baby out?"
Best she could do: "You know, I think I'm going to get you a book about that."
THAT'S OK. WE'LL TAKE OUR CHANCES.
The New York Times warns that raising a genius can be expensive, which will have all the deterrent effect of alerting parents that if they're raising a piano prodigy, it might get noisy around the house.
THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY, YET IT WILL INEVITABLY BE OVERSHADOWED BY THE ADULT FILM WITH THE SAME NAME
Find this article in the paper this morning and share it with your young dinophile: Paleontologists digging in China have discovered a "Jurassic beaver," a mammalian fossil that overturns assumptions about the lowly position of our class in prehistoric times. A Smithsonian curator says the find is a "big deal" because “it gives a hint that early mammals were not just these shadowy creatures at the time of dinosaurs,” but were having their own evolution.
ONCE AND FOR ALL DISPROVING THE PREVIOUS THEORY, THAT THEY WERE ALL JUST "DIRTY OLD BIRDS"
Researchers have discovered the hormone which makes older women so prone to birthing twins. To answer your question, yes, this means you should not assume that every slightly older mom with twins had relied on reproductive technology:
One of the researchers, Cornelius Lambalk, said the discovery helped to explain why there was a surge in the number of non-identical twins born to older women at the same time as their general state of fertility was declining due to age. “This rise has not been entirely due to treatment for infertility,” he said. “About half of the increase has been caused by the number of spontaneous multiple pregnancies probably due to the fact that women are delaying childbirth to a later age.”
A FRESH BATCH OF PUBLISHED GOODNESS
We've finally updated our "Published Articles" sidebar, at right, with a hatful of items that have appeared on newsstands over the past six months or so. A couple of highlights:
* Two "Pop Quiz" celebrity interviews from Scholastic Instructor, the national magazine for teachers. We've been doing this back-page feature for the magazine since the fall, and have posted a pair of our favorites on the site: David Sedaris and Caroline Kennedy. Sedaris you have to click on; he's hilarious. As for Kennedy, we cannot recommend her new book highly enough. "A Family of Poems : My Favorite Poetry for Children" is based on her own family's tradition of children giving parents and grandparents poems in lieu of birthday and other gifts. What we love about the collection is that it proves definitively that actual poems written by great poets are far better for children than the awful stuff publishers try to pass off as children's verse. Have you been wondering when and how to introduce your children to Yeats, Wordsworth, Whitman, Stevens, and company? The time is now, and this book is the way.
* "Foods Under Fire" ran in Parents all the way back in August. It's a look at the foods most likely to cause irrational health scares (bGH, mad cow, etc.), and why pediatric nutrition authorities say you should keep giving your kids milk and meat anyway. What was most interesting to us as we interviewed the experts was their unanimous opinion that you should feed the kids whatever feels right, within reason, but if you're really concerned about fattening them up, STOP GIVING THEM SO MUCH JUICE!
TV: KID-TESTED, ECONOMIST-APPROVED
Big-shot economist Austan Goolsbee (hi, Robin!) reports that the numbers have been crunched and there is absolutely no evidence that watching TV has any harmful effect on small children - at least the couple of hours of PBS/Noggin-style programming your average preschooler absorbs in a typical day. Goolsbee takes a two-pronged approach to blowing up the conventional wisdom: One, he points out that any study that compares kids who watch no TV to kids who watch any TV is worthless on its face, because the only kids who don't watch any TV are rich weirdos, and they don't count. Two, he refers to a statistically valid study of standardized high-school test scores from the 60s that compares the achievement of kids who grew in communities that had TV broadcasts in 1947 with kids who grew up in areas that didn't get TV until 1952, and finds no difference in cognitive ability. So watch all you want; we'll make more.
GUESS WHO'S (NOT) GOING ON VACATION
planning our summer vacation, but no matter where we end up going, we
know we won't be taking our nanny along. We've just never seen the appeal of having an extra person tag along as we recreate at
a beach house or other site where the whole idea is for us to really
let our hair down with the kids. Comfort level with
taking the nanny on vacation seems to be one of those absolute divides among
parents - either you can do it or you can't. And as the Times recently
pointed out, you should remember that there are two schools of thought among nannies, too:
Some parents may think that they're offering a chance to go to a new, fabulous place. That may be true, but some nannies can also feel trapped - on call at all hours, with no time alone. While parents may see a beach bungalow as a dreamy place to relax, a nanny may see it as an unfamiliar place where a child has few toys and has to eat different foods. . .
"Remember, the nanny's not on vacation, she's working," said Elizabeth Walsh, owner of NannyQuest Inc., a placement agency based in Atlanta. "It might not be as big a deal for her as the parents think."
OH, AND YOU THINK YOU'RE TOUGH? WHAT HAVE YOU EVER DONE, SHOOED THE KIDS INSIDE WHEN YOU SPOTTED A BEE ON THE PATIO?
We've all read about the mom pumped full of adrenaline who lifted up a tree trunk to free her child trapped under it in the middle of a hurricane (or was that an episode of The Incredible Hulk?). Well, consider Lydia Angyiou your new paradigm of fighting motherhood. The 90-pound mom from northern Quebec just took on an eight-foot-tall, 700-pound bear who was threatening her seven-year-old son as he played street hockey with friends:
She told the children to run and raced around to get between the bear and her son. Then she started kicking and punching the animal, according to police reports. In a flash, the bear swatted her in the face and she fell on her back. With the bear on top of her, Angyiou began kicking her legs in a bicycle-pedaling motion. She was swatted once more and rolled over, but the bear moved toward her again.
Siqualuk Ainalik heard the commotion and came rushing over. Seeing Angyiou wrestling with the bear, he ran to his brother's home, grabbed a rifle and headed back to the street. He fired a few warning shots. The sound diverted the bear's attention from Angyiou just long enough for him to aim and fire again. According to police, Ainalik fired four shots into the bear before it finally died.
Larry Hubert, a local gendarme, stated the obvious, saying, "When your back is up against the wall, I guess we come up with super-human strength." He added, however, that it's rare for polar bears to wander into his village, and that this bear must have been "disoriented," and not looking for food, because "if the bear was hungry, she would have been eaten pretty quickly."
Later that day, Angyiou found a reporter snooping around her home, looking for the secret to her superhuman strength. The fesity mom scared him off, warning, "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
INSPIRED BY 50 CENT, WE'RE PROUD TO UNVEIL THE FREELANCEDAD.COM FATHER-AND-SON KEVLAR COLLECTION
Spike Lee says he's disgusted with 50 Cent and his gangsta persona, which has been taken to such an extreme that the rapper's five-year-old son now wears a bulletproof vest:
"50 Cent has made a lot of money, but whatever you are doing that makes you have to put a bulletproof vest on your 5-year-old son, that's time for some deep introspective s—."
Lee also said that he believes movies like 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" incite violence in the African-American community: "If it's just a movie, would people be shooting in the theaters the opening weekend?" asked Lee, whose own films have urged young men to channel their rage into more productive outlets, like hurling trash cans through the plate-glass windows of reputable pizza establishments.
THANKS, BUT IF IT'S ALL THE SAME TO YOU, WE'LL JUST READ THE ARTICLE
From the AOL home page this evening:
RONALD McDONALD: EUROPEAN NURSEMAID
This McDonald's print ad from Europe is apparently a couple of years old, but we just discovered it posted on Stay Free, the definitive Webzine of the socialist hipster, where they swear it's real and no spoof.
We're thinking there are two audiences for this ad: One (that'd be us) for whom it's a scared-straight campaign instilling a strong aversion toward ever taking the kids to the Golden Arches; and another, raised on McDonald's themselves, who will share in the triumphalism of the image and try to recreate the photo with their own toddler at the neighborhood franchise, at least until the kid starts choking on sesame seeds . . .
WE SWEAR, THE MORNING SHE TURNS TO US FROM AN EERILY GLOWING TV AND SAYS "THEY'RE HERE," WE'RE MOVING THE HELL OUT OF TOWN
Tiny Girl's imagination has really kicked in, or she's receiving
nocturnal visits from the restless denizens of the ancient Indian
burial ground in the basement. For a couple of weeks now, she has been
waking up each morning and emerging from her room to initiate such
unsettling conversations as:
"Daddy, did you fix your foot?"
"My foot? What do you mean, did I cut my toenails?"
"No, did you fix your foot! Your foot was broken yesterday."
"Who told you that?"
"Yeah, my wife - my wife who lives in my stomach."
WINNER OF THE FD.COM PRIZE FOR THE PRODUCT WHOSE TARGET AUDIENCE WE ARE LEAST LIKELY TO RUN INTO AT WORK
Meet "May God Bless You, Little Grace - The most lifelike Early Arrivals doll ever!" This pretty preemie can be yours for $129.99 - that's just 5 installments of $26.00 - "And guess what you'll discover when you go to change her diaper? Her perfect little body is anatomically correct!"
WE'RE STILL HOLDING ONTO HOPE THAT SMALL FELLOW WILL AT LEAST ENJOY THE "SPIDEY SUPER STORIES"
The Sunday Times' take on "The Electric Company" DVD release confirms our fears - that it may be so dated as to be unwatchable for today's kids. Reviewer Claire Dederer screened it for her own children, who responded to a typically dada skit with a dismissive, "Can we turn it off now?":
I can only conclude that "The Electric Company" benefited hugely from market monopoly. It was the only thing on. We felt attached to it because it was just for us, the kids who were too old for "Sesame Street." We were thrilled to be catered to. Here were grown-ups dancing and singing and putting on wild shows, all for us. My kids don't love "The Electric Company" because they don't have to. We loved "The Electric Company" because we had no choice.
WE WERE 11, WE ENTERED A SCIENCE FAIR WITH THIS NOVEL IDEA: SINCE YOU
GET A SPARK WHEN YOU SMASH TWO ROCKS TOGETHER, WHY NOT BUILD A POWER
PLANT WHERE YOU'D HARNESS THE ENERGY OF SMASHED ROCKS? HOWEVER, SINCE
WE HADN'T CONSIDERED SUCH QUESTIONS AS, HOW DO YOU POWER THE MACHINES
TO SMASH THE ROCKS, WE DIDN'T WIN ANY RIBBONS
And that story popped into our head as we read the Journal's article the other day about politics and the science fair. Turns out evolution-hating home-schoolers like eight-year-old Ashley Slattery are pushing for a place beside the atom-splitters, frog-dissectors and protein-inhibitors who typically dominate the competition:
Jennifer Slattery hopes the judges don't bully her daughter Ashley during next month's Northwest Louisiana Regional Science Fair. The 8-year-old will show an antievolution project that won her a prize at a local home-school science fair. She dripped water on rocks for two months to see how fast they eroded. Based on the speed, she says she found support for the idea that the Earth isn't 4.5 billion years old, as most scientists hold, but 6,000 years old, as young-Earth creationists believe. "We're not expecting to win," says her mother, but Ashley disagrees, saying: "I at least want a medal."
THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS THING WRITTEN BY A TIMES COLUMNIST LAST WEEK HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PRESIDENT, IRAQ, OR MUHAMMAD CARTOONS
Clyde Haberman's Metro column this week opened with a fairly stunning story: His daughter had been riding in a cab with her four-month-old. When she reached her destination, she paid the driver and got out to retrieve her stroller from the trunk, leaving the door open and the baby in his car seat on the back seat. And then the taxi drove off - door open, baby on board. Mom chased the cab for half a block before it stopped and she could rescue the boy. So, you might ask, what was Haberman's column about? In a nutshell, this: Don't you just hate it when cabbies talk on their cellphones while they drive? As if to emphasize how much he'd missed the point, Haberman wrote, "This is not an exercise in cabby-bashing."
No, that would be if they drove off with our kid in the back seat . . .
WHICH IS WHY WE'RE TRAINING SMALL FELLOW FOR THE MATH OLYMPIAD
Our friends at Parents magazine
reported in February (article not available online) that if you want to prepare
your kid to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics, the coaching, travel
and equipment will run you in the neighborhood of $295,449. Better hope she gets a Nike deal.
WELL, THAT'S THE NICEST THING ANYONE'S SAID TO US THIS WEEK
Karen Quinn, former private-school placement advisor and author of "The Ivy Chronicles," a novel about competitive private-school admissions, writes that she now realizes she didn't have to pay all that money for private elementary school for her kids after all. In fact, she has been amazed to discover, there are apparently a number of public schools every bit as good as your average $26,000-a-year private institution: "Who knows, your publicly educated child may very well outperform his private-school counterparts." Also, Quinn has learned, there are stairways all over the city that lead to subterranean tunnels in which people can board trains for a nominal fee and be transported uptown, downtown, even to the outer boroughs, at speeds at least as fast as private taxis can achieve.
CORCORAN GROUP REAL ESTATE - NOW OFFERING A FREE BABY WITH EVERY HOME PURCHASE
We admit, it's quite a tempting offer.
SO, DOES THIS GO UNDER THE CATEGORY OF ADDING INSULT TO RESPONSIBILITY, OR ADDING PATERNITY TO INJURY?
The state of Maine recently settled a class-action lawsuit over illegal strip-searches of state inmates; 1,350 people shared $3.3 million in the settlement. But nearly 300 of them, deadbeat dads all, were forced to hand over their shares to cover child-support payments.
WE HAD TO DRAW A LINE SOMEWHERE, SO WE'VE REFUSED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE TEACHER'S LOUNGE SUSHI FUND
If you're like us, you're a public-school parent shelling out hundreds of dollars to fund teaching assistants, school-supplies, field trips, snacks, and other projects for your child's classroom. And you're probably happy to do it. But Edutopia recently took a look at this phenomenon, and raised all the right questions:
Given how many formerly "basic" programs are now being funded by parents, shouldn't we be looking more closely at what's not in state and federal funding that ought to be? What happens in neighborhoods where parents don't have $1,500 to lay annually so there can be an art program, to say nothing of 2:00 pretzels? And just how far will parents go to improve their kids' schools?:
... The Family School, in Eugene, Oregon, for example, couldn't afford to pay for the extra hours it needed from its part-time math teacher. Instead, parents tapped their own veins -- literally: They held a blood plasma drive. "I suppose the metaphor had some appeal for us -- you have the feeling that this is so ridiculous, this is so pathetic, that here we are," says parent Catherine Flynn, who found herself lining up outside a blood bank in 2003. The blood drive -- which raised roughly $1,500 toward the math teacher's salary -- is just one of dozens of fund-raisers (including organic-spaghetti dinners and family carnivals) that the parents at this school, located in a low-income neighborhood, organize every year to raise $8,000 to $12,000 to pay for extra teacher hours. "These are not frills," Flynn says.
Coming soon: Neighborhood dads lining up at a sperm bank to raise funds for new textbooks, with the catchy title "Seed for Read," or perhaps "The Spill That Pays the Bill."
YES, WE KNOW YOUR QUESTION, AND, NO, WE'RE NOT GOING TO GO THERE
In what her doctor called a "million-to-one" shot,
... a woman who weighs 37 pounds, stands 3 feet tall and uses a wheelchair has given birth to her first child. Eloysa Vasquez, 38, suffers from Type 3 osteogenesis imperfecta, a disorder that makes bones soft and brittle . . .
Well, we think that's great news, and there's not a single other thing we need to find out about this story.
THE FREELANCEDAD.COM AWARD FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE GOES TO THE LOWELL SPINNERS
The Class A Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League - a Red Sox minor-league franchise -believe Little League should be fun for all children. But being forced to wear a uniform that goes against a boy's beliefs can instead make it a nightmarish experience affecting his mood, diet, and sense of identity:
. . . General manager Tim Bawmann said many children in New England are devastated when they are assigned to be on a team called the Yankees.
So the team has made a remarkable offer:
... if youth baseball leagues across New England change the name of a team from the Yankees to the Spinners, Lowell [will] pay for new uniforms.
Bravo, Spinners. Bravo.
WE BELIEVE THE BOY - SHE PROBABLY TOUCHED HIM FIRST
A six-year-old Brockton, Massachusetts boy has been suspended for three days for sexual harassment after he put two fingers inside a classmate's waistband. (The boy says she touched him first.) The AP correctly reports that "experts say only in rare, troubling cases can children that young truly sexually harass one another." But Brockton's code of conduct defines sexual harassment as “uninvited physical contact such as touching, hugging, patting or pinching.” The code does not go on to state, "Repeated offenses may lead the offending child to be tried as a witch by the gentlemen of the county and if found guilty, to be burnt at the stake."
The sexual harassment charge of course is nonsense. But it does make you feel for the challenge primary teachers face. Kids put their hands on each other all the time; establishing a clear line where you will discipline when things get out of hand must be tough. Fellow was walking home with a friend from school last week, and when we said goodbye, he gave the girl a hug, which she was happy to share, but then he asked her for a kiss, she said no, and he was somewhat upset - and disturbingly persistent. Yet when you're 5, you've spent your whole life being told to give everyone who comes into and out of your life "a kiss and hug," so it's not surprising that the idea gets taken to school. A puzzlement.
THIS DOESN'T BODE WELL FOR JERRY'S SENATE CAMPAIGN
Cheerleaders at a Sarasota (FL) high school wanted to invite a local celebrity to "host" their upcoming school dance, and wouldn't you know it, Jerry Springer agreed. Upon hearing the good news, school officials immediately withdrew the invitation. The principal did not pick up the microphone at a school assembly later that afternoon to yell at the girls, "All y'all are a bunch of skanks and hos! That's right, I said it!"
IF SHE DIDN'T WANT HER SIX-YEAR-OLD TO RECEIVE SO MANY PRESENTS, WHY DID SHE INVITE 25 KIDS TO HIS PARTY?
There's certainly a point to Emily Bazelon's recent Slate essay on limiting the number of birthday presents her child receives - and we're pretty sure it's that she wants us to know that she's a better parent than we are. And it was certainly kind of Slate to give her the space to state her case, but we'd like to offer a rebuttal.
In a nutshell, Bazelon's dilemma is that her six-year-old's birthday comes so soon after Chanukah that she frets about him receiving so many fresh presents at his party:
When my kids receive more than one present at a time, they can barely take note of what they've been given. The act of tearing open boxes overwhelms their curiosity about what's inside. They always want more, more, MORE! It's a binge, and it can't be good for them.
OK, but since you're so sure he's not paying attention anyway, why not just let the kid open all the presents, which is undeniably great fun for him, and then put a bunch of them aside to be introduced later in the year, like everyone else does? Oh, right. That wouldn't make for much of a column. Better to try something superior and wacky . . . So Bazelon introduces the children's party "book swap," in which each kid brings a book that they swap with a friend, in lieu of a present for the birthday boy, and then everyone's happy - with the possible exception of the kid hosting the party. Shockingly, her son eventually balked at this format, so this year, Bazelon searched for a way to adapt it:
We could tell Eli that he would have to donate some of his presents to a charity, but that felt rude to the kids who'd given the gifts . . . We could also tell Eli that he could keep the presents and in exchange we'd give money to an organization for needy kids—a sort of birthday tithe. But while that's a great idea for a bar- or bat mitzvah, it seems pretty abstract for a kindergartner, especially one whose net worth is a handful of change. . .
I had a proposal. We'd have the book swap. But we'd also let Eli choose five friends who would each give him a present. We would supply books on these kids' behalf, so we wouldn't have to ask any parents to ante up twice and there'd be enough to go around. . . He went for it, if grudgingly. In the invitations describing the book swap, we'd explained that we were trying to avoid a post-holiday second deluge of plastic. (Eli's birthday is in January.) In the e-mail to the parents of the five present-givers, we told them to go nuts. They were happy to play along.
Let's see, what could possibly be wrong with this solution? Anybody? Anybody? Yes, you in the back row. . . That's exactly right: The problem is that 20 of the 25 kids coming to the party - and their parents - are being told that they are her son's second-tier friends. And that's . . . yes, go ahead . . . Correct again! It's unspeakably rude! Thank you for playing.
WHILE WE WELCOME THE RETURN OF KEN, WE HAVE TO ASK: WHO ARE THE MARKETING WIZARDS WHO DECIDED THAT A LEATHER BIKER JACKET GOES WITH A MESSNEGER BAG AND CARGO PANTS?