Produced by Gary Drevitch
WE HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE WHEN THE FEDS REFUSED TO ALLOW US TO NAME OUR SON BLACK LIGHTNING
Swedish authorities refused to allow a couple to name their son Superman, as "the name could lead to the boy being subjected to ridicule in later life." Upon hearing the news, the infant burned the local municipal building to the ground with his heat vision.
THE FIRST COUPLE DRAWS THE LINE: NO ON MIDDLE-SCHOOL ORAL SEX, SI ON UNDERAGE DRINKING, FAKE IDS, AND DANCING ON BARS
George and Laura appear on Dr. Phil to talk about their parenting styles. Slate was watching along with all the swing voters. And FD.com has obtained some outtakes:
President Bush: In many ways, a parent is educating the next generation. When one of our girls gets arrested for public drunkenness or using a fake ID, I just want them to learn that they should never find themselves in that situation. I mean, out in public, in a big city where the family doesn't own the cops, that shouldn't happen. Like any parent, I just want them to follow my example. When I was young and irresponsible, no one could even find me . . . .
IN OTHER NEWS . .
IN OTHER NEWS . . . I CAN FLY! I CAN FLY!
Every parent should make an appointment to talk with their child about drug abuse - or at least to sit down with them and watch a young Helen Hunt, high on angel dust, jump out of a high school window. You'll soon have the chance: ABC's Afterschool Specials are coming to DVD on October 12. And more will be on sale soon. Freelance Dad recalls watching some of these specials when they first aired, and reading their condensed scripts out loud in junior high social studies class in the pages of Scholastic magazines. Years later, we produced classroom-suitable adaptations ourselves when we went to work at Scholastic's Big Red Doghouse.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE GIVE YOU THE NEXT GREAT ROLE MODEL IN AMERICAN SPORTS
Freddy Adu, 15 and frisky, lets his hair down at U. Maryland. Apparently, as a millionaire pitchman for Pepsi, Freddy's supposed to be out downing Sierra Mist, not draining kegs. We appreciate the irony in Sierra Mist's home page linking to a feature called "What Would Freddy Adu?" Well, since Freddy is one of the world's most brilliant team players, we imagine that what Freddy would do is take his turn at the tap and top you off with a smile.
IN ONE SEGMENT, GODZILLA FLASH-FRIES COOKIE MONSTER AND TAIL-WHIPS OSCAR'S TRASH CAN INTO TOKYO HARBOR
Japanese TV will introduce its own version of "Sesame Street" next week, with four original characters, each of whom is smaller and cheaper to produce than its American counterpart.
IT COULD BE WORSE. NO, WAIT, IT COULDN'T.
The National Education Association and the National Association of State Boards of Education (is it redundant to add, "who should know better"?) are abandoning all extant responsible pediatric nutritional advice and allowing their obesity and nutrition programs to be sponsored by Atkins Nutritionals.
While Atkins won't dictate the content of the materials (or so it's claimed), its name will be attached to every piece that gets put into kids' hands and that priceless free advertising could be a disaster for some kids. FD has interviewed leading pediatric nutritionists across the country for articles on children's health, and they have all agreed: The Atkins diet is not for children, period. Kids need a balanced diet that includes carbs and the vitamins they carry. The Atkins diet could stunt kids' growth and even lead to kidney problems, as a child's body, seeking carbohdrates for fuel, begins to burn protein for glucose instead.
To express your outrage, we'd encourage you to visit atkins.com and register your opinion on the mother ship's daily poll. Today's hard-hitting topic:
How has doing Atkins changed your life?We're going to have go with F. I feel a little scared.
I feel better about my appearance
I feel better physically
I have more energy
I feel more in control of my life
I feel more productive
IF YOUR OWN LITTLE PAPERGIRL
IF YOUR OWN LITTLE PAPERGIRL IS AS DEDICATED AS BETSEY . . . SHE'LL GET HERSELF ARRESTED
Cumberland County (Pa.) officials couldn't think of anything better to do during a recent flood than nabbing a rogue newspaper delivery gal. After bringing newspapers to flood-trapped families, she was hauled in for, we guess, reverse looting.
OK, BUT FOR $749, HOW
OK, BUT FOR $749, HOW ABOUT ADDING SOME STORAGE SPACE, GENIUS?
Geir Stokke's visually striking Xplory may be the next hot stroller, and he may be a visionary for positioning the baby higher above the sidewalk than other strollers do, but based on the photos we've seen, storage space seems to be at a premium. We suppose diapers, bottles and groceries may ruin the minimalist aesthetic, but poop smells and screaming babies can just as easily disrupt the meditational vibe. This is why the budget-priced Snap-n-Go, with its massive undercarriage bin, remains the preeminent infant hauler.
NEXT ON FOX: "WHEN ANIMALS DON'T GET THE CHANCE TO ATTACK"
A small item in the Times the other day about relocating the animals from Alabama's Gulf Coast Zoo in advance of Hurricane Ivan's arrival was a rare look behind the scenes at zoo wrangling strategies. For example, yaks and big cats were moved out of their cages to safety before the birds were, because "frightened bird calls frighten the other animals," said zoo director Patti Hall. And then there was this:To guard against an escape, a staff member will point a loaded pistol into the carnivore trailer each time the door is opened. "You cannot tranquilize a lion once it gets too excited," Ms. Hall said. "You have to kill it."
AND I HEARD SOMEWHERE THAT IT'S COMING OUT ON DVD SOON . . .
Chewbacca almost wore culottes. Yoda was almost nine feet tall. The principals take you behind the scenes of "Star Wars." Bone up on your trivia before your kid puts the disk in heavy rotation this weekend.
OF COURSE, WE'D NEVER FEED A TWINKIE TO OUR OWN KIDS, BUT IT'S ALWAYS BEEN GOOD TO KNOW THEY WERE OUT THERE IF WE NEEDED THEM
Hostess is going bankrupt. For reasons we won't go into here, the local Hostess "Thrift Shop" was a formative spot in FD's youth. (Though we never figured out why they called it that. It's not like we ever saw people pulling up with trash bags full of old Ding Dongs to donate.) Anyway, you can honor the threatened tradition by picking up some kitschy merchandise here.
WE PROMISE WE'LL RETURN THEM WHEN WE'RE DONE
The UK suffers a major nappy napping. Jack the Wiper is suspected in the case.
ALSO ON NEWSSTANDS Freelance Dad's
ALSO ON NEWSSTANDS
Freelance Dad's other contribution to the October issue of Parents magazine is a feature called "Smart Daddy Tricks," in which a ten-pack of dads from across this great nation reveal their unique, and uniquely male, strategies for wrangling their tots, from singing a cranky baby the national anthem to taking phone calls on an infant's foot. Other than not being named "Dad's Toolbox," as suggested by its writer, the piece is a lot of fun. But since it will not be made available on parents.com until October 11, we'll put off a more detailed discussion of its specifics until then.
Reebok is recalling 140,000 Allen Iverson model toddler sneakers because of a defect in the tag on the shoe's tongue. The tag can be peeled off, presenting a choking risk. (Insert your own Allen Iverson choking joke here.)
GOVERNMENT OF THE PRETTY, BY THE PRETTY, FOR THE PRETTY SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH
A study from Britain's University of Exeter reveals that newborn babies prefer to look at pretty faces, a sign that our sense of what's attractive may be hard-wired into our brains. In fact, when presented with photos of an attractive and an unattractive face, most babies spent 80 percent of their time staring at the prettier face. This doesn't mean that moms and dad should run to Halloween Hut for Charlize Theron and Jude Law masks. All babies still prefer their parents' faces to any others.
Still, the lead scientist in the study says that our hard-wired preference for pretty gives attractive people a leg up in all walks of life."Research has shown that if you have attractive individuals, people judge them to be more honest, trustworthy and better in terms of time-keeping - any positive attributes are more likely to be associated with such attractive individuals . . . . There’s no doubt that attractive people tend to do better in life than less-attractive people - nobody ever said evolution was supposed to be fair."This research bodes well for Tiny Girl's future, as well as this performer's chances of winning the next several Academy Awards for Best Actress.
WELCOME BACK Freelance Dad is
Freelance Dad is back from the Jewish New Year break and ready to blog anew. Today is also the first day of school here at FD.com headquarters. Small Fellow began his second year at Preschool State, in Classroom 8, which he'll be happy to tell you is the highest numbered room they've got. Harrumph!
We have high hopes for the school year. Fellow is planning to try out for the school Climbing team and, yes, it's an election year, and, yes, there may be a run for Teacher's Pet in the offing, depending on who else declares for the race. Stay tuned.
JUST LIKE "CELEBRITY POKER SHOWDOWN," EXCEPT WITH NO CELEBRITIES, NO POKER, AND NO SHOWDOWNS
Freelance Dad has two pieces in the October issue of PARENTS magazine. The first is an item on the "Dads" page about playing cards with preschoolers, called "Deal her in." The article points out that while your youngster may be too young for Texas Hold 'Em, you can still introduce him to card games, starting with the classic Concentration. To play it, start with a dozen pairs matching in color and rank (red sixes, black aces, etc.), mix them up, line them up facedown, and play. At each turn, a player turns over two cards. If he makes a match, he takes another turn. If not, he flips he cards back over and the next player goes. As the child gets the hang of it, increase the pairs until you're playing with a full deck.
WARNING: If you don't pay attention, a well-rested preschooler with a full stomach and an empty bladder CAN beat you at this game. (Or so we've heard . . . )
Once you've got Concentration down, move on to games like Go Fish and the regrettably named trio of Crazy Eights, War, and Old Maid. (Or, as we call them here, Special Eights, Coalition Skirmish, and Library Lady.) If you need a refresher on the rules for any of these games, visit this site and click on the Game Rules Archive.
Note: We strongly discourage parents from using "kiddie" decks of cards that substitute puppies and dolphins for hearts and spades. There's no card game you can't make work with a regulation deck, and besides, why put off that special moment when your son looks up at you and says, "Daddy, why there's a knife in this king's head?"
"THIS IS LIKE DISCOVERING PLUTONIUM - BY ACCIDENT!"
Good Lord, this is brilliant - Energizer has come out with a flashlight that works with either D, C, or AA batteries. The Quick Switch was apparently slated for a mid-September launch, but the company just sent a couple of truckloads to Florida to aid hurricane victims. If you're like us, your cabinet is well stocked with batteries of different sizes at all times, and your flashlights are checked regularly. But the rest of you should run out and get yourself one of these flashlights ASAP.
MILLION DOLLAR IDEAS, PART THREE
Inspired by Energizer's Quick Switch, I propose that some enterprising inventor get down to his basement and create a Tickle-Me Elmo doll that doesn't work no matter what size batteries you put in it.
OH, YOU THINK THAT WAS MUPPET BASHING?
Then you're really not going to like this site.
IF LITTLE SALLY PRACTICES REALLY HARD, AND NEVER ADVANCES TO ANOTHER INSTRUMENT, ONE DAY SHE COULD PLAY LINCOLN CENTER, TOO.
Quartet New Generation is a "recorder collective" that had its New York City recital debut earlier this week. The Times article on the group is eye-opening - who among us thought that people could actually make careers out of playing the humble recorder? But what really caught our eye is that, in the Times photo, the gal on the far right looks for all the world like she's pleasuring Freddy the Flute from "HR Pufnstuf."
IN OUR "EDUTOPIA," R2D2 SERVES US LUNCH, PRINCESS LEIA TEACHES BIOLOGY, HAN SOLO IS THE COOL SUBSTITUTE, AND CHEWBACCA DRIVES THE SCHOOL BUS THAT TAKES US ON A FIELD TRIP TO THE CLOUD CITY OF BESPIN
Shockingly, George Lucas has a different vision of the perfect school. His foundation, instead of devoting all its considerable resources to salvaging the last film in the seriously tarnished "Star Wars" sextet, has launched Edutopia, a new magazine devoted to the cutting edge of education reform. In an interview in the debut issue, Lucas advocates teaching children "nonwritten communication," presumably because he's been burned by so many written reviews blasting his last two movies . . .
Still, the new magazine has promise, and subscriptions are free -- if you qualify. FD first attempted to sign up as a parent in a school system with 50,000-plus students, but received a reply that that didn't qualify us for a free subscription. So we tried again, this time as a "commercial publisher" of educational materials (which is true enough). That did the trick. We will be reviewing upcoming issues of Edutopia for the FD.com audience, so stay tuned.
WE'RE SHOCKED. SHOCKED! Last night,
WE'RE SHOCKED. SHOCKED!
Last night, as Tiny Girl suffered through an especially painful bout of diaper rash (by the way, if you use anything other than Triple Paste on diaper rash, it's possible you may not love your children), we allowed her to watch the PBS Kids cable channel for a little while. As if we had just rubbed his magic lamp, Small Fellow instantly materialized at her side to watch along. They watched for about 20 minutes, and then we got Fellow ready for bed and had this conversation:
Daddy, did you know that Chuck E. Cheese has pizza for kids? And that they have all kinds of other things for kids? We should go to that place. We should go on Friday.How did Fellow learn about Mr. Cheese's chain of fine dining establishments? Well, CEC is a "sponsor" of PBS Kids programming, which allows the chain to run brief "donor acknowledgements" before and after the channel's shows. (PBS Kids runs no ads during programs.) These spots, according to a 2001 Mother Jones article, "may identify companies and brands, but not promote them or make comparative statements about them. PBS . . . restrict[s] their length to 15 seconds, requir[es] each to contain a message of 'support for kids and education' and prohibit[s] mascots, 'spokescharacters,' or pictures of products that may cause kids to ask their parents to buy for them."
And yet, in that 15-second sponsorship spot, Fellow grokked that Chuck E. Cheese was a colorful, kid-friendly restaurant that served pizza and all kinds of other things that children like.
We're not here to bash PBS. We and the kids enjoy their shows and find them educational. But the ads are hard to swallow, and they are ads, seamlessly inserted between shows, and as colorful and appealing as any spots on Nickelodeon or Fox. We'll leave the real protests to groups like this one. But we are more than a bit resentful that PBS feels like they can pontificate to kids (and parents) about the evils of advertising on its Web site, while simultaneously putting those same kids up for sale to corporations.
At the very least, FD would suggest, our federally-funded friends at PBS should be required to include material on its Web site directly addressing the fact that its shows feature ads. Their teaching materials advise parents to mute the ads whenever they watch TV with their kids. PBS should be required to give the same advice to viewers of that Chuck E. Cheese spot.
NEWSWEEK TO PARENTS: DROP DEAD!
NEWSWEEK TO PARENTS: DROP DEAD!
Killer hurricanes, an ugly presidential campaign, and 1,000 dead American soldiers in Iraq were not enough to bump the week's most important story from the cover of Newsweek: How to Say "No" to Your Kids. This sprawling suburb of an article boils down to: Hey, come on, guys, stop buying your kids so much stuff! Especially you rich moms! You're, like, so making it hard for the rest of us to say no! With heartbreaking tales of parents losing fierce battles to prevent their credit cards from buying iPods, Xboxes and other gewgaws, the magazine bemoans a generation of parents utterly lacking in values raising a marauding band of whiners who stand poised to destroy America's standing in the world.
Whatever. The article is, of course, correct, although we strongly doubt that it has put its finger on a problem unique to this time and place. Of course it does no one any good to spoil children by buying them everything they want. It costs too much, for one thing. And it teaches kids all the wrong lessons, while setting them up to become adults no one likes. But these are not exactly groundbreaking discoveries.
FD's take? Buying everything your kids want doesn't stop the whining. But saying "No" to them doesn't stop the whining, either. Still, it is cheaper, so we'll sign on for that second one.
NOW AVAILABLE FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE ALREADY SURRENDERED
VTech has introduced the first video-game system for preschoolers, the V.Smile, whose dubious benefits are already being debated passionately, according to an article in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal (not available online). According to the VTech Web site, buying the V.Smile console is a win-win situation. . . especially for VTech:
Kids love video games. Parents want their kids to love learning. With V.Smile everyone gets what they want!Well, when you put it that way, how can we disagree. Hey, we love beer. And our kids love Clifford. So, why don't we just fill a Clifford Thermos with Sam Adams and have a party? Everyone gets what they want!
The Web site details 3 available games, one each based on The Lion King and Winnie the Pooh, along with a non-Disney alphabet game. Of course, for kids in the target audience (age 3 and up), the games offered for free on sites like pbskids.org and noggin.com would seem to fit the bill well enough. On the other hand, they don't come in a bright orange console, so there's that to consider.
THANKS TO HIS CLEAN TEETH AND PROPER UPBRINGING, ONE OF JANE BRODY'S SONS WILL BE PRESIDENT IN 2041. TUNE INTO THE WB SUNDAY NIGHT TO FIND OUT WHICH ONE.
She's at it again: In her "Personal Health" column on Tuesday, Jane Brody of the Times proposes a significant, expensive rethinking of medical advice on infant and toddler dental care, apparently just so more families can get in line with her own neuroses.
Brody suggests that a child's first dental checkup should come well before the age of 2, advice that contradicts the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends a first visit at around age 3, the age when all 20 baby teeth should be in place. Brody's advice also contradicts the advice of our own pediatrician and pediatric dentist. So what's her source? Life experience:
Having spent much of my childhood . . . in a dentist's office getting cavities filled and crowns and bridges installed, I was determined that my sons would enjoy a better fate.. . . I had read an article by a pediatric dentist admonishing parents . . . to take their toddlers to the dentist for the first time at or before the age of 2.Yes, but do you have any more recent authority for this advice?
Now, however, pediatric dentists suggest an even earlier first visit.And Michael Eisner suggests that parents buy more Mickey Mouse sheets, but you could argue that he has a financial interest in it. Still, other than the advice on first dental appointments, Brody's article is worth reading as a general review of infant and toddler dental care, although there's no real news here: Clean infants' gums with cloth or gauze; don't let infants fall asleep sucking on a milk bottle; and brush toddler's teeth with non-fluoride paste - although our own pediatric dentist suggests that water is probably about as good as non-fluoride paste in cleaning kids' teeth.
RULE OF THUMB: IF ANYTHING YOU'RE DOING COULD BE THE BASIS FOR A TV MOVIE, YOU'VE CROSSED THE LINE
Jeffrey Zaslow has a fascinating column in the Wall Street Journal this week about fathers dealing with changes and new boundaries in their physical relationships with their daughters. Having a daughter who is only a year and a half, these concerns are still in the future for us, but we imagine we'd sympathize with the dads quoted who regret having to give up that tactile connection to their daughters. A piece worth reading for all dads.
JUST THINK OF IT AS
JUST THINK OF IT AS "MENTOS COMMERCIALS: THE ANIMATED SERIES"
From Iceland, the nation that brought us Bjork, comes "Lazytown," a new series for children on Nick Jr., which will inspire kids to get off the couch! and do something! like sports! or . . . sports! With mesmerizing colors and songs that don't quite rhyme, it's sure to hypnotize your toddler, stigmatize your husky schoolboy, and generally baffle any North American adult who comes into contact with it. Yes, it's "Lazytown"!