RECOVERING HELICOPTER PARENT BECOMES STEALTH BOMBER

Today's the last day of the kids' four weeks of day camp, at their local nursery school. It also marks the successful end of our experimental new approach to extracurriculars: We simply dropped the kids off each day with the people in the T-shirts marked STAFF, asked them how their day was when they got home, oohed at their artworks, and we moved on. We didn't try to find out which colleges the junior counselors attended, we didn't complain if we found out sports was canceled for a day, we didn't ask what other families were packing for their dairy-only, nut-free lunches. We just let them go each morning and enjoy themselves. Last night, we helped the kids prepare thank-you cards for all of their counselors and other staffers, and when we helped deliver them at drop-off this morning, we realized that with the exception of the head counselors, we actually couldn't identify any of the other staff members by name - and, honestly, we felt pretty good about that.

And we've saved up all of our neuroses for Fellow's first-grade teachers.

BROADCAST FELLOW

And now for the latest installment of "Pride or Punishment?": As longtime readers may be aware, there's a TV in the bedroom shared by Fellow and Tiny. It's been in there since before they were born, and there's a pre-existing cable wire, so, bottom line, it's not going anywhere, despite the grim warnings of the American Academy of Pediatrics. And most of the time this isn't a problem: They know their rules and limits and they follow them. For example, they never turn it on without permission. However, Fellow is allowed to have the TV tuned into one of the visually static music stations at the top of the cable dial as he falls asleep at night. (For the past several weeks, he's nodded off to the mellow sounds of Smooth Jazz - no, we have no idea, either.) And this can, on rare occasions, lead to abuse. Like two nights ago, as we were in the living room urging Tiny to fall asleep so we could tune into the Red Sox game on ESPN, already in progress, Fellow rushed in from his room after bedtime to tell us, "Daddy, you said Big Papi couldn't run so fast - but he just scored from SECOND BASE! That's fast, isn't it?"

"Fellow, how do you know he just scored?"

"Um. . . [big smile] I don't know. . ."

So, would it be Pride or Punishment? Come on, folks, it's a pennant race. This is the equivalent of a kid in the 60s secretly listening to his transistor radio under the covers. And who are we to outlaw such a great tradition of American boyhood? We just smiled at him, gave him a kiss, and gently urged him to turn the TV off. And he did.

WE KNEW WE WERE ONTO SOMETHING

The other day, we wrote about our sick-kid TV rules which, to recap, involve the kids getting to watch a lot of TV when they're home sick. Well, here's the science to back us up: TV is more comforting than Moms.

Researchers confirmed the distracting power of television. . . when they found that children watching cartoons suffered less pain from a hypodermic needle than kids not watching TV. Especially disturbing to the author of the scientific study was that the cartoons were even more comforting than Mom.

The Italian researcher who directed the study bemoaned the power of TV to distract children - “I believe that this power must be controlled and reduced," he said - but Dr. Brenda McClain of Yale had a different, counterintuitive take on the results, which parents would do well to keep in mind:

Other studies have found that mothers' and fathers' attempts at comforting often backfire because it makes the children feel that “something must really be bad” if they need to be soothed, said [McClain].

And, of course, Bob the Builder treats you the same whether you're sick or healthy.

TRAGICALLY FOR THE PANDA POPULATION, THIS 48-HOUR WINDOW TYPICALLY OVERLAPS WITH SUPER BOWL WEEKEND

Cover_20060712tai Many of you probably already knew this, but a helpful docent at DC's National Zoo explained to us during our recent visit that among all of the other problems with fostering panda reproduction in captivity is the fact that the lady panda is in estrus only once a year, for a period of about 48 hours! So the fact that any pandas get conceived at all -- such as the National Zoo's adorable little Tai Shan (left) - strikes us as a miracle. And there's been quite a baby boom this year, according to recent reports.

We also discovered that except during that perilously brief mating window, the National Zoo's adult male and female pandas are kept in their own environments, separated by a fence, because, as it turns out, panda Dads just don't take much of an interest in child-rearing. Although the National Zoo's situation is a little unique, in that Tian Tian used to be one of Mei Xiang's backup dancers, so what could you really expect of him anyway?

. . . AND THE JOKE WRITES ITSELF: BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU ENTER HIS BARBER SHOP AND ASK FOR "JUST A LITTLE OFF THE TOP"

We have circumcision on our mind these days -- logically enough, as, God willing, we'll be hosting a ceremony about two weeks hence - but nothing we could possibly plan for Small Fellow 2.0 could match the show they put on in Gornje Lubinje, Kosovo. It's our FD.com Story of the Week:

Every five years, the inhabitants of the two villages, high up in Kosovo's Shar mountain range, close to the boundary with Macedonia, come together for an extraordinary festival. . . . For three days, upward of 3,000 people gather here to feast, sing and dance and take part in traditional Turkish sports, like wrestling. . . But the distinguishing feature of this festival is the ceremony of Sunet, or circumcision, that takes place in one day for all of the host village's boys age 5 or under -- 111 of them this year in Gornje Lubinje.

Yes, it's an all-out cavalcade of circumcision, and this isn't like Shirley Jackson's lottery -- every child gets their cut.

Some parents chose to send their children to be circumcised at the village's clinic. . . . But a vast majority opted to put their children in the care of the nimble hands of Zulfikar Shishko, 69, who normally works in the Ekspres barber shop in the nearby city of Prizen.

For 25 euros each, Mr. Shishko performed the operation in the boys' homes, without anesthetic. He was accompanied by two burly assistants dressed in red aprons whose task it was to restrain the boys during the operation. (''We have a special technique,'' explained Hajrulla Osmani, one of the assistants.)

Armed with a scalpel, a bottle of iodine and some scouring powder to help clean his hands after each operation, Mr. Shishko had the air of man possessed, as he proceeded to circumcise 87 boys in just over 12 hours on Saturday.

YEAH, IT'S A WORLD RECORD -- FOR FREAKING OUT THE MOST LITTLE KIDS

060817_two_headed_hmed_7ahmedium As if we still lived in a world where citizens aspired to appear in, or even thumb through, the Guinness Book of World Records, the World Aquarium in St. Louis has filled a new exhibit with 10 two-headed snakes and turtles, and even hopes to be able to bring in an 11th:

Aquarium officials hope [the] exhibit. . . will prompt the creation of a Guinness World Record for the most two-headed animals on display. "It should be a huge two-headed party," aquarium president Leonard Sonnenschein said Tuesday. Sonnenschein hopes two of the guests will hit it off.  He would like to mate [a pair of] two-headed albino rat snake[s].  "There are no guarantees," he said, "but it's very likely these two could mate and have babies."

And then, with his legacy in the Guinness Book of World Records assured, and an army of four-headed snakes at his command, Sonnenschein can get on with his longtime dreams of global domination.

OH, AND WHEN YOU'RE DONE WORKING ON YOUR STRUT AND YOUR SNEER, YOU MIGHT WANT TO JOIN A VARSITY TEAM, DO SOME PUBLIC-SERVICE WORK, AND -- OH, YEAH -- GET GOOD GRADES

Well, God bless AOL for still even trying to produce original content, we suppose. But this lifestyle guide to help readers "Get Ivy League Prestige in Seven Easy Steps" is fairly mind-numbing even by dial-up standards. The guide suggests that non-Ivy graduates can boost their confidence, and find career success, by just acting like arrogant elitist jerks:

Think your degree from Never-Heard-of-It U. pales in comparison to Princeton? . . . . Now you can employ the same methods as those who graduate those hallowed halls and go on to great success.

Conceptually, it's a little like the classic advice given by the Wizard before he took off in his balloon, and maybe there's something to it -- maybe it would even be good advice for parents of college-bound teens. But then the details just run right off the rails:

1. Feel comfortable in your own skin
  2. Dress your best
  3. Learn all you can
  4. Sound like a natural
  5. Mind your manners
  6. Groom your body language
  7. Act elite, not from the street

 To sum up: "The typical Ivy Leaguer doesn't think about the pedigree and they don't try to impress. It's an aura, and it can be captured."

OR YOU COULD JUST TRY THIS

Wichita teen Jakub Voboril scores a rare exacta - perfect scores on SAT and ACT - then immediately tries to put Stanley Kaplan out of business:

“It’s weird, because before I took it, I checked out a couple books from the library. I expected there to be this big secret that all the smart people had that I just had to read. But I found out there’s not a secret formula. Obviously, you have to pay attention in classes, take classes that are going to teach you what you need to know — that sort of thing.”

August 18, 2006 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS

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