MAMAS, DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO READ SEVENTEEN

It’s Fashion Week in New York City, and all the editors of our most influential women's magazines are coming out to review the new collections and decide what to tell girls to wear next season. Atoosa Rubenstein, editor-in-chief of Seventeen, viewed designer Bryan Bradley's runway show the other night, and had this to say:

"I feel like I want to start starving myself so I can wear those clothes now."

That's right, girls. This spring is going to be all about bare shoulders, hot colors, and binging and purging.

ALSO, MAMAS, WHILE YOU’RE UP, DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE CHILD MOVIE STARS – OR, IF YOU DO, FOR GOD'S SAKE DON’T LET ANNIE LIEBOVITZ PHOTOGRAPH THEM FOR VANITY FAIR

020806_3Speaking of fashion, Tom Ford appears on the cover of the new "Hollywood" issue of Vanity Fair, alongside naked starlets Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley. Inside, Ford praises child star Dakota Fanning, claiming that she's "graced with the face of Michelle Pfeiffer, Jodie Foster and Uma Thurman combined." He went on to add, "Plus, she has the arms of Kermit the Frog. So basically, she’s the whole package."

COME TO THINK OF IT, MAMAS, DON'T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP AT ALL

Newsweek has a compelling "My Turn" column this week by Kathy Sena, who writes of how, at age 12, while hanging out in the mall, she walked off with a man who told her, "You're very pretty. You could be a model, you know . . . . I'm a photographer . . . . Do you want to go have a bite at the coffee shop and we can talk?" Simple as that, she was sitting across from him at a diner as he told her, "One thing you need to know: In my photography, all the models are nude, and you'd need to be comfortable with that. But you have a beautiful body, and ...":

But I wasn't a little kid, I told myself. Of course my friends and I would never fall for a guy's "help me find my lost puppy" ploy in the park. Of course we'd never approach a talkative stranger in a car. This was different. I was practically a teenager, for heaven's sake. Couldn't I take care of myself? Wasn't I a good judge of character? The guy sitting across from me wasn't some creep in a trench coat. He was charming. And cute. And he looked at me, as he drank his coffee, in a way that made me feel quite grown-up.

Sena says she got up and ran away as soon as the man mentioned nudity. But her honest tale of a savvy kid whose better judgment was eclipsed by a simple compliment from a predator who didn't look the part should make everyone think twice about the age we assume our kids are ready to be out by themselves:

These days I watch over my own child and try to teach him to be savvy about the small part of the world that holds true evil. But I also try to preserve the enthusiasm that makes a kid feel that delightful things could be right around every corner. It's a tightrope all parents tiptoe across as we search for balance. As we read the morning paper or watch the evening news. As we hug our children and hold our breath.

AND IN THE CATEGORY OF CHILD-ENDANGERING FORMER TEEN STAR, THE GRAMMY GOES TO . . .

The LA County Department of Children and Family Services now says it will investigate the incident in which Britney Spears was photographed driving while holding her infant child in her lap. (You can see the picture here.) Spears claims in a statement that, "I was terrified that this time the physically aggressive paparazzi would put both me and my baby in danger ... I instinctively took measures to get my baby and me out of harm's way..."

Well, sure, the last thing you'd want to do is put the baby in any kind of unsafe situation.

February 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE GIVE YOU AMERICA'S MOST UNCOOL KIDS

A class of Florida elementary-school students have refused to sell chocolate bars and potato chips as a means of raising money for school trips, because the school had taught them that those foods were unhealthy:

"If they tell us to don’t eat junk food and then after school we sell it, that disobeys what they said," said 10-year-old Daphnie Auguste, a member of the defiant class of 19 gifted fourth-and fifth-graders at North Side Elementary.

[UPDATE: Veronica Atkins, widow of the fad-diet doctor, has put up $16,000 so that the kids can go on their school trip to Washington, DC, without having to peddle junk food. She is also pledging $32,000, to be shared equally by all of the other kids in the school, pending their agreement to stop shoving the refuseniks' heads in the toilet.]

. . . AND A FEW OF THE DUMBEST

A couple dozen underage East Grand Rapids, MI, students face disciplinary action after parents and school officials found they had posted pictures of themselves online drinking alcohol at a party. This is an example of that whole school-administrators-monitoring-your-kids'-MySpace-pages-to-catch-them-admitting-wrongdoing issue you're going to be hearing more and more about in the months and years ahead. Inevitably, the Supreme Court will weigh in on whether schools can punish kids for non-school-related offenses they talk about on their blogs. In fact, the parents of some of the East Grand Rapids students have already appealed their punishment, which amounts to a two-week ban from extracurriculars.

SO A WHOLE NEW GENERATION CAN WONDER, "HEY, I COULD'VE SWORN SPIDER-MAN COULD TALK"

9893In the most exciting DVD box-set release since the first season of "The Muppet Show" came out a few months ago, "The Best of the Electric Company" went on sale yesterday, featuring Mute Spider-Man, The Adventures of Letterman (narrated by fresh new face Joan Rivers), Morgan Freeman's "Easy Reader," and more. This was hands down our favorite PBS program as a kid, when it aired right around dinnertime; we remember always telling Freelance Mother to hold on a minute as we eagerly awaited the Mute Spider-Man adventure which typically closed the show. Our fear, however, is that today's kids will find it fairly dated; much more than "The Muppet Show," this is blatantly a product of the 1970s. We'll have to try it out and see.

WE PLAN TO WRITE A MUCH MORE EXTENSIVE RESPONSE TO THIS COLUMN, UM, RIGHT AFTER WE WATCH "LOST"

Ann Hulbert's latest piece in Slate's "Sandbox" series examines whether there's really a "Boy Crisis" in American education, and concludes, Not necessarily. But her conclusion offers some fairly meaty food for thought, and some support for what we've been contending since September - that Small Fellow should be getting more homework from his kindergarten class, simply for the development of the routine:

What's truly at stake for American children may not be the intricacies of neural wiring, but the rudimentary habits of working. Citing a recent study by two psychologists (one of them Martin E. P. Seligman, author of Learned Optimism), Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews called attention to evidence that self-discipline—in particular, a capacity for deferred gratification—may be the best predictor of academic success, better than IQ: Do your homework, and plenty of practicing, before you watch television or sit down to play Xbox. That sounds, I know, like irresistible grist for an argument about whether and why girls might have an innate gift for just that kind of goody-goody, grindlike behavior, but let's not start it. It's a disservice to girls to portray them as destined for diligence, as though conscientious effort were a second-rate recourse for slower or steadier minds, rather than what is really is: a crucial choice that helps ensure long-term success. And it's an even bigger disservice to boys and their college prospects to reinforce the idea that discipline and self-denial are sissy stuff.

February 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

YOU REALLY WANT TO SOOTHE OUR NERVES? THEN WE'VE GOT SOMETHING FOR YOU TO HOLD

Everybody loves last week's item about how the touch of a spouse's hand can bring an immediate level of relief to their ill or stressed partner. And being quite sentimental and spouse-friendly ourselves, so do we. In case you missed it:

The women received significantly more relief from their husbands' touch than from a stranger's, and those in particularly close marriages were most deeply comforted by their husbands' hands, the study found . . . The findings help explain one of the longest-standing puzzles in social science: why married men and women are healthier on average than their peers.

SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT WITH THE KIDS DURING THE CURLING MATCHES

The Winter Olympics begins next week, and tens of millions of Americans are preparing to baffle the Hell out of us by sitting rapt before their TVs to watch the women's figure-skating finals and find out who'll be headlining Disney on Ice in 2008. But if you're looking for a truly inspiring Olympic story, why don't you tell the kids about the late Jack Shea, who in 1936 was America's top speed skater - and a defending double-gold-medalist - and became the only non-Jewish athlete to stay home instead of competing in the Winter Games at the German resort of Garmish-Partenkirchen, as a protest against German officials who had already passed the laws which would lead to the Holocaust. The Jewish Week tells his story well.

DON'T BE ALARMED - THEY STILL HAVE MOZZARELLA STICKS, PIZZA, AND CHICKEN NUGGETS ON THE MENU EACH MONTH   

Only six years after LA made the switch, New York City's public schools are dropping whole milk from their cafeteria iceboxes and will go exclusively with 1% and skim (plus the hugely popular low-fat chocolate) from here on out. Some critics worry that kids raised on whole milk at home will reject the taste of low-fat milk. On the other hand, once a child turns 2, there's no reason their parents should be giving them whole milk anyway, and while skim milk may register as a different taste, most kids shouldn't notice a switch to 1% - unless you tell them it's different, and their natural rejection instinct kicks in. Still, the dairy industry is outraged that the city has made its switch, and has at least one good argument in its favor:

"Milk consumption in this country is in a 20-year decline because of competition from soft drinks; obesity is on the increase," [an industry representative] said. "I don't know how you can take a decreasing graph and blame obesity on this product."

He's got a point. Still, dropping full-fat milk shouldn't hurt anybody.

February 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

NEXT UP ON THE SCOTTISH HEALTH HIT LIST: SUGAR FROSTED NESSIE FLAKES

Scottish health officials have sparked a nationalist outrage by declaring that the country's national dish, haggis -- a sheep's stomach lining stuffed with offal, oatmeal, onions and seasoning -- is too high in fat and sodium, and that children should eat it no more than once a week.

Haggis was placed on a "restricted" list of foods issued to nurseries, playgroups and childminders as part of a drive by the Scottish Executive in Edinburgh to improve the health of pre-school children under five.

Just to review: Scotland is a country in which children under five typically eat sheep's stomach linings stuffed with offal, oatmeal, onions and seasoning. Which is why we'll be vacationing at Cape Cod once again this year.

"YOU LEFT YOUR KIDS AT HOME TO COME TO THIS SHOW? WELL, I THINK YOU'RE A DISGRACE! THEY SHOULD TAKE YOUR KIDS AWAY FROM YOU! THAT'S RIGHT, I SAID IT! AND ANOTHER THING: MY BOYFRIEND IS NOT THE FATHER OF THIS BABY I'M CARRYING! AND I'M NOT ASHAMED!"

In a classic example of life imitating . . . whatever it is you call the Jerry Springer Show, an Illinois mom recently left her three kids (the oldest of whom is three) home alone to attend a  Springer taping in Chicago. The oldest child eventually left their apartment to seek help from neighbors, who called the cops. The mom ended up being out from 3:30 until midnight, was arrested upon her return, and has now been sentenced to 30 days. According to her arrest report, she told officers:

"I didn't think I'd be gone that long. I thought I would be back earlier."

Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!

TONIGHT ON NIGHTLINE: HOW LONG SHOULD YOUR CHILD'S TEACHER BE ALLOWED TO VIEW PORNOGRAPHY ON HIS SCHOOL COMPUTER BEFORE IT'S CONSIDERED A FIRING OFFENSE?

According to Milwaukee-area columnist Bruce Murphy, one minute, seven seconds is not nearly long enough. In this column penned after an award-winning high-school science teacher/Scoutmaster/coach was fired for being caught looking at porn - "and not child pornography" - for 67 seconds, Murphy wrote:

There was no allegation that any student saw the pornography Zellner viewed. There was no evidence that Zellner’s job performance was in any way affected by a one-minute peek at pornography. What’s next: firing people for having bad thoughts? . . . .

It is no secret that the pornography industry is a massive and growing one or that we are awash in sexual content generated by movies, TV, music and especially the Internet. An awful lot of people of all colors, creeds and ages find this material interesting. If we are to fire every employee in America who has viewed pornography for 67 seconds, we won’t be left with many workers.

Um, Bruce? We've toiled at one job or another for about 15 years, and we've never really worried about being caught looking at porn at work. Thing is, you've got to kind of consciously go to the porn to look at it, and, yeah, crazy as it may seem, the schools (and lots of private companies) do seem to frown on that. That's why all the helpful blogs employ the NSFW label . . .

February 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

AS A FAMILY WHO LOVE EACH OTHER, WE WILL:
* NEVER LOOK TO THE TIMES THURSDAY STYLES SECTION FOR PARENTING ADVICE
* NEVER CLAIM THAT OUR DISTRACTED, DISRUPTIVE KID IS REALLY AN "INDIGO CHILD" WHO WILL SOMEDAY SAVE THE WORLD WITH HIS HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS -- IF ONLY THE REST OF US WOULD JUST LEAVE HIM ALONE TO PERCOLATE

The latest random parenting fad fired into the zeitgeist by the New York Times Thursday Styles section is the family constitution, which many self-help-addicted moms and dads draft together each January instead of catching up on "Monk." These mission statements, many of them straight out of Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," feature accountable, achievable, real-world goals like "listen to each other intently" and "support each other in everything good."

But actually, Covey himself warns potential lawmakers that "a mission statement without specifics is just platitudinous," and we've taken his advice to heart in drafting our own constitution:

Article One.      Use forks at the table.
Article Two.     Keep water in the bathtub.
Article Three.  Don't hit so much, if you can avoid it.
Article Four.    Wear underwear to bed.
Article Five.     Come on, why can't you put your shoes away?

Indigo Children and family constitutions will be tough to top, but could this be the week that the Thursday Styles section reaches the mythical Zenith of Nonsense? Check tomorrow's paper to find out.

YEAH, THE HEADLINE -- "Dr. Seuss does what NBA defenses can't: Stop LeBron" -- MAKES IT SOUND LIKE LEBRON JAMES CAN'T READ DR. SEUSS. BUT HE CAN. REALLY. SO WIPE THAT SMIRK OFF YOUR FACE.

A_lebron_2751 ESPN.com follows NBA superstar LeBron James to an Ohio elementary school where he read some tongue-twisting Dr. Seuss as part of the league's estimable Read to Achieve program. But they might have come up with a less cringe-inducing art project for the kids to do after the reading:

After the reading session, he and the kids used construction paper, pipe cleaners, ribbons and other art supplies to decorate Seuss-inspired crowns for "King James."

SO, DADS, KEEP YOUR WIVES AWAY FROM US MAGAZINE, BECAUSE ONCE YOUR GAL GETS A GLIMPSE OF ANGELINA'S "BUMP," SHE'LL BE DYING TO GO THROUGH CHILDBIRTH AGAIN HERSELF - JUST FOR THE STYLE POINTS

The Associated Press jettisons shame today and offers the public this piece on how sexy celebrity moms and their "little bumps" are making pregnancy stylish again and turning fashion-forward, self-esteem-backward women across the country on to the idea of reproduction.

February 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS