Produced by Gary Drevitch
FREELANCE DAD RETURNS TO DISNEY'S FAMILY.COM—AND YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO
Freelance Dad (aka Gary Drevitch) gets another turn at bat as the featured columnist for Disney's family.com Comment Mania contest, starting today.
As before, we write the column, they post it, and visitors (like you) comment. The comment deemed worthiest wins a fabulous cash-equivalent prize from the House of Mouse. And they love columns that get lots and lots of comments over there. So hop on over and support your blogger. (And tell a friend!)
The subject this time: How Little Guy has successfully avoided getting formally sleep-trained. (Spoiler alert: He throws up!) If you have a chance, come on over and share your sleep-training experiences.
WON'T YOU BEFRIEND US?
Speaking of FD showing up a few years late to the Web-based party . . . in response to popular demand (no, really, there was popular demand—like, three, four guys) Freelance Dad also opened up a Facebook page this week.
We strongly encourage all visitors to FD.com to stop by and befriend us here.
THE FD.COM VIRTUAL REFRIGERATOR (OF HORROR)
Since this seems to be the day for debuting new features here at FD.com, welcome to the first installment of our Virtual Refrigerator, where, from time to time, we'll share the works of Small Fellow, Tiny Girl and Little Guy. (Why is our refrigerator "virtual"? Because we can't actually post any of the kids' work on our actual refrigerator—Little Guy will tear it right off. . .)
First up: Tiny Girl's recent depiction of life in the wild.
Seems her kindergarten class is studying bears this month, and she learned that mama bears have to be very careful to stay close to their newborn cubs, because if they should get separated, the little bears could be beset by packs of wolves, attacked, and killed. Is this really true? We honestly have no idea, but it sure made an impression on her, as can be seen in her powerful illustration below:
When she brought it home, we asked her what her picture showed, and she told us it was a bear cub that got lost from its mommy. (To her credit, on the reverse of the paper, she drew mama bear looking for her cub.)
- So, Tiny, what's happening to the cub in this picture? we asked.
- It's getting attacked by wolves, she told us.
- Yeah. See that orange on the bear's head?
- Um, yeah. . .
- That's the wolves setting the bear on fire.
- . . . oh.
ANOTHER NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION THAT DIDN'T LAST A WEEK
From a paragraph Fellow wrote for school at the end of 2007, recently brought home:
"I will try hard not to hit my sister, because I don't get along with her sometimes."
SMALL FELLOW: NO LONGER AN OUTLIER . . . PART OF A TREND!
The Wall Street Journal's estimable Sue Shellenbarger borrowed the
musical question from "Bye Bye Birdie" for a recent column, "What's
gotten into kids these days?" (Well, close enough.) She claims, with
the help of several studies, that today's pre-school and
early-elementary misbehavior is a different animal than past mischief,
and she advises that if your own child is not part of the problem, you'd better teach him or her to be part of the solution.
SET PHASERS FOR SPUTTERING OUTRAGE
Jeffrey T. Schwartz wins the prize for Lawyer Most Likely to Say, "Hey, Just Doing My Job," as he mounts a doomed defense of the stepfather of Nixzmary Brown in his trial for the murder of his young stepdaughter. Schwartz proposes, in re his client's repeated, brutal beating of the seven-year-old girl, Hey, moms and dads, we've all been there, am I right?, and "You don’t know you’ve crossed the line until you get accused of crossing the line."
The Times held its nose last week and put together a piece on the implications of this argument, finding that there are few laws regarding parental corporal punishment, that prosecutions for its collateral damage are rare, and that several juries have indeed acquitted parents of causing serious injury to their children in the course of punishment. Indeed:
To draw a bright line in the law, said Martin Guggenheim, a professor at New York University School of Law, would be to cross the threshold of what the United States Supreme Court once called “the private realm of family life which the state may not enter,” and to intrude on parents’ constitutional right to raise children as they see fit.
The article is worth a look before giving your own kids an extra hug tonight.
WE'D CERTAINLY NEVER DO THIS—FELLOW HAS ALWAYS WORN HIS PATRIOTS GEAR WILLINGLY
Speaking of corporal punishment that doesn't rise to the level of prosecutable offense, a Wisconsin DA says that a local dad will not face charges for this incident:
HEY, NEW YORK CITY TEACHERS: EVER PONDER WHO'S MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR STRUGGLING STUDENTS' POOR TEST SCORES—THE KIDS, THEIR PARENTS, THE SYSTEM, OR YOU YOURSELF? STOP WONDERING: JOEL KLEIN HAS YOUR ANSWER
New York City has embarked on an ambitious experiment, yet to be announced, in which some 2,500 teachers are being measured on how much their students improve on annual standardized tests. The move is so contentious that principals in some of the 140 schools participating have not told their teachers that they are being scrutinized based on student performance and improvement.
While officials say it is too early to determine how they will use the data, which is already being collected, they say it could eventually be used to help make decisions on teacher tenure or as a significant element in performance evaluations and bonuses. And they hold out the possibility that the ratings for individual teachers could be made public.
“If the only thing we do is make this data available to every person in the city — every teacher, every parent, every principal, and say do with it what you will — that will have been a powerful step forward,” said Chris Cerf, the deputy schools chancellor who is overseeing the project. “If you know as a parent what’s the deal, I think that whole aspect will change behavior.”
The article details the vehement opposition of the teacher's union, as it should. But here's a few other questions: Let's say the city makes public the data of all of its teachers. Will the data be based on whether students' scores improve under that teacher (the system used for the city's recent hopelessly-out-of-context school grading system), or whether the students are simply achieving high scores (of course, also an out-of-context rating)?
And what of this: Again, say these ratings are made public. Say I'm a neighborhood activist group in an outer borough. Say I see that my kids' school has a preponderance of poorly-rated teachers as opposed to the Upper West Side. How soon do I file my class-action suit claiming that my kid and other kids in my neighborhood are being unfairly shortchanged by a system that refuses to send its best teachers our way?
Or this: I'm a lunatic Park Slope parent who only wants the best for my boy, even though I couldn't get him into St. Ann's. Then I find out that Sally Horshack's daughter got herself an A-rated third-grade teacher while my kid was assigned to the D-rated instructor down the hall. When can I start my letter-writing campaign?
This idea is 30 kinds of bad, which is several more kinds of bad than the school grading system, because its threatening individual careers, rather than building reputations. Looks like it's happening anyway.
OR MAYBE THERE'S HOPE AFTER ALL
Meet the early frontrunners for FD.com's PTAs of the year: The moms and dads of Manhattan's PS 40 and PS 116, who say they'll keep their kids out of school on the days that their classes will be aksed to take a "field test" of standardized tests—in other word, as an anti-testing advocate put it, "tests to figure out how kids will test on tests."
Freelance Dad, aka Gary Drevitch, has a cover story in the new issue of Jewish Living, on the country's best Jewish sleepaway camps. Researching the piece was an eye-opener for us: We never much enjoyed sleepaway camp, with its communal pots of mac-and-cheese, its weeks-long waits for Red Sox scores and standings from snail-mailed newspaper clips, the reeds shoved up our nose by the bullies, etc. But there are people out there, lots of them, who really, REALLY love their old camps. And there's certainly good reason for parents to love them, too: As Jerry Silverman, director of the Foundation for Jewish Camping, told us, “Camp is the best insurance policy available for parents who care about their children’s Jewish identification. The secret ingredient is 24/7 immersion. Jewish camps create a safe, and sacred, place for kids to come together.” So happens, a boatload of Jewish communal research backs him up.
(Article not available online, but may be in the future.)
SCIENCE PROVES IT: RANDY NEWMAN WAS RIGHT
Short babies got no reason, short babies got no reason to live:
Boys who are short at birth have double the risk of attempting suicide as adults even if their growth "catches up" in childhood, a study suggests. Those under 47cm (18.5 inches) were found to be at highest risk. The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says poor foetal growth may have long-term effects on brain chemistry. . . . Low levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which have been linked to aggression and suicidal behaviour could be the key, the researchers say.
WE SURE CAN! IN FACT, WE JUST SAW THIS MOVIE—AND IT WAS AWESOME
If you're like us, you probably passed on reading the recent Times piece on "conceptionmoons," or getaways for couples eager to reproduce. But if you did, you missed out on both the FD.com Quote of the Week—and the runner-up. See below (emphases added):
“There’s no evidence that by going away it somehow intrinsically increases pregnancy rates,” Dr. [David] Adamson [president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine] said. But, he added, “If it increases the frequency of intercourse, then it’s probably helpful” . . . .
Kyle McCarthy, the editor at familytravelforum.com in New York, a resource for traveling parents and families . . . was a little wary of vacations specifically designed for spawning: “Can you imagine a cruise ship where everyone around you is trying to conceive?”
THIS IS GREAT NEWS FOR US—WE'RE A "SCREAMING NURTURER" OURSELVES
Dr. Gail Saltz stopped by the TODAY Show recently to make America's moms and dads feel bad by telling them that their various parenting styles are responsible for the children's inevitable bouts with obesity:
Most parents . . . don’t realize that their overall style of parenting also appears to correlate with obesity in their child. . . . many parents don't practice enough "tough love," and don't place many demands or expectations on their children. The demand-free style of parenting is called "permissive." If you think you are a permissive parent, watch out: Though you may be warm and loving, you are not teaching your child to manage his or her desires and wishes. . . This style of parenting correlates with childhood obesity, but so do other styles. On the opposite end of the parenting style spectrum, an authoritarian style (having high demands for self-control but without being warm or loving) and a neglectful style (having few expectations for self-control but also not being warm or loving) also correlate more highly with kids being overweight.
So what's the healthiest style of parenting, then? It's something called authoritative parenting. . . moms and dads expect their children to exhibit self-control, but at the same time, remain warm and loving toward them. This method is the only style not linked to weight issues in children.
Each week, Freelance Dad, aka Gary Drevitch, writes a news quiz for teenagers which is then posted on PARADE magazine's Web site. It's just like a grown-up news quiz, except there's a question about "High School Musical" every week. (Go ahead, try it. We bet you get 10 out of 12.) As we sat down to write this week's quiz the other day, we drafted a question about the Oscar nominations, specifically, which of the Best Picture nominees was a comedy about teen pregnancy. Then we realized our potential pool of multiple-choice decoys included "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men."
So we rewrote the question. . .
THE FD.COM REVIEW: "MOTHER LOAD"
We regrettably missed old friend Amy Wilson's one-woman show, "Mother Load," during its initial run this past summer. But we were able to catch the performance at a special showcase last night as Amy prepares to take her monologue on the road. If the show should come to your town (follow its itinerary here), don't miss it.
In a tight, frequently hilarious 70 minutes, Wilson takes us on a
sometimes painfully frank tour through fertility treatments, pregnancy,
birth, breastfeeding, reflux, play groups and nursery-school aps,
without ever losing her sense of humor. (Best line: An admissions
director trumpeting her nursery school's diversity, which runs the
gamut from "families who have summer homes in the Hamptons. . . to
families who have summer homes in the Catskills.")
The true focus of the show is how an insecure new mother is pushed
and pulled by the incessant (and here, offstage) voices of parenting
books, magazines, researchers and coaches, constantly telling her she's
a bad parent if she does X or doesn't do Y. In the end, happily, our
heroine decides to listen to her own voice and find her own way. . .
In other words, this is the show the Park Slope Moms don't want you to
(Amy also blogs about her family and her show here.)
Freelance Dad's latest piece for Disney's Family.com, "Guests at the Funeral," continues its run today as that site's showcased "Comment Mania!" essay. The response has been terrific so far, so our thanks to anyone who has gone from this site to that one to post their own comment (and potentially win a fabulous cash-equivalent prize!).
IN JUST UNDER THE WIRE, THE 2007 PARENTING STORY OF THE YEAR
We're late to the game posting this one, we admit, but if there's even a small chance you missed the Christmas-week story about the 6-year-old Texas girl whose mom helped her win a makeover and a pair of "Hannah Montana"/Miley Cyrus tour tickets by penning an essay for a national contest about her dad losing his life to a roadside bomb in Iraq, then we want to share it with you. Of course, the girl's father is not dead, not a soldier, and not in Iraq. So the tickets went to someone else, and the little girl's mom non-apologized while sitting beside her lawyer and psychiatrist on The TODAY Show, insisting that she meant "no disrespect":
". . . . It was not my intention to mislead. I just wanted to help my daughter write a compelling story. There is no more compelling story than the struggle and sacrifices of our military and their families. I apologize to our military and their families.”
But here's the highlight for us [emphasis added]:
Asked how she explained the events to her daughter, she said, “I told my daughter the truth. I told her we wrote an essay and they said it was a lie. And I refused to accept the tickets. I told her there will be another time.”
IN OTHER DISNEY CHANNEL-RELATED NEWS
We've long been troubled that Sharpay is Tiny's favorite character
from the series, and once tried to explain to her that Sharpay is, you
know, is bitch on wheels (well, words to that effect). But then Tiny
asked us if we thought she should like Gabriella the most instead.
Never wanting to dictate role models to her, and frankly not finding
Gabriella to be a vastly better choice than Sharpay, we told her that
no, she can choose to like whoever she wants. We did tell her that our
own favorite character is the earnest and talented songwriter Kelsi, but that's been a hard sell.
For one thing, there's no Kelsi doll. . .
ADMIRABLE CHILDREN'S BOOK AWARD NODS
The Washington Post has a nice piece on this year's Newbery and Caldecott award winners, announced yesterday. The Newbery went to school librarian Laura Amy Schlitz of Baltimore for "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village," a collection of monologues published by Candlewick several years after it was pulled off the slush pile, and which will now become a best-seller. (The holiday-season rave from the Times Book Review won't hurt that cause, either.) We haven't read it ourselves, but plan to pick it up ASAP, along with Caldecott winner "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick, an ambitious, semi-graphic novel about an orphan who lives in a Paris train station. (See Times review here.)
MANHATTAN'S ELITE PRIVATE SCHOOLS: SCREWING WITH THE RICH FOLKS' HEADS SINCE 1804
The gatekeepers at the Independent School Admission Association of Greater New York want parents to know that "first choice letters" to their offices this season will absolutely, definitely "not be encouraged." "Not be encouraged"!? Oh, do we love these guys. As the Sun reports today on page one, where they place a private-school admissions story about once a week, this edict's vague language, during an admissions season that promsies to be the toughest ever, has hedge-fund wives in a tizzy: Should they follow the new guidance and refrain from sending a first-choice letter? Or would they be suckers for doing that because everyone else is still going to do it? Delicious. And as the Sun correctly points out, if most parents do withhold first-choice letters, then their nursery-school directors' recommendations to private schools becomes all the more critical. Hope the amaryllis plants you gave your directors for Christmas have bloomed by now, ladies!
CONSUMER OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK
Dear Horizon Organic,
Thanks to America's popular growth-hormone scare, Freelance Mom has us buying exclusively organic whole milk for Little Guy these days, despite the fact that it costs 75% more than the stuff we were raised on (and still drink), so we frequently pick up your products at our local grocery. Now, we know that you boys love America's children, its cows, and its environment, but we've got a pair of gripes, both packaging-related, that we'd like you to see if you can't address:
1. We appreciate that you're probably accomplishing six kinds of reducing and reusing by intentionally making your half-gallon cartons as flimsy as possible without actually dispensing the product to us in funnel-shaped newspapers, but here's the thing: If the carton leaks, then the milk spills out, or goes bad quickly, or, worse, needs to be transferred into a glass container that will eventually need to be washed, using up vital natural resources. Further, when a consumer encounters one of your leaky cartons, as this one does on about a weekly basis, he's much more likely to crumple it up and shove it in the trash in a burst of righteous fury than to properly rinse and recycle it. So, all things considered, it'd probably be better if you used cartons that can, you know, hold liquid.
2. We love a good prank as much as the next guy, but when we bought a plastic gallon container of Horizon Organic labeled "Milk" the other day, we naturally assumed it was whole milk, which is what the toddler drinks, because the label DIDN'T say "Non-fat," "Skim," "1%," or "2%." Last time we checked, the Geneva Convention for Dairy Labeling stipulated that whole milk and ONLY whole milk should be sold in containers labeled plainly "Milk." So imagine our surprise the next morning when we took the container out of the fridge to pour Little Guy a bottle and found, in tiny yellow letters on the back "Nutritional Information" label, "THIS IS NONFAT MILK." Horizon, is this something you do every once in a while just to amuse yourselves—teasing the consumer because you know that any single grocery probably sells only one brand of organic milk and if a family's all a-scared of the hormones, they're going to purchase your goods no matter how cruelly you mislabel them? We think that's likely, so don't forget the old saying, "Fool us once, we buy another brand."
WE LINK, YOU DECIDE
We've noted many times that autism-related issues are not our expertise, but we feel it's worth passing on potentially significant news reports when they come along. And so this item from the AP the other day:
Autism cases in California continued to climb even after a mercury-based vaccine preservative that some people blame for the neurological disorder was removed from routine childhood shots, a study has found. . . Doctors said that the latest study added to the evidence against a link between thimerosal exposure and the risk of autism and that it should reassure parents that vaccinations do not cause autism. If there was a risk, the doctors said, autism rates should have dropped from 2004 to 2007.
In a related story, despite emotional protests from parents of autistic children, the state of New Jersey is likely to mandate that all children who attend preschool or day care in the state be given an annual flu shot.
THE GUYS FROM THE "SAW" FLICKS HAVE NOTHING ON PBS
If anyone out there made it to the end of "The Medicated Child," this week's "Frontline" special on the rise of AD/HD diagnoses and psychotropic prescriptions in children, please fill us in on how it all turned out, because we had to turn it off in a cold sweat about 15 minutes in. This is honestly terrifying television for any parent. Watching as the producers track both skeptical and credulous moms and dads on their parallel, inevitable journeys into the heart of pharmaceutical darkness is eerie and tragic and one hopes the program will inspire more parents and policy-makers to ask tougher questions about the use of antpsychotics on pre-psychotics.
You can watch the full program online—and you should. Online, it's broken up into chapters so you can take a break between segments and, you know, watch an Andy Griffith rerun or something to soothe your nerves before diving back in. The Frontline site also has a scrupulously responsible "Parents' Guide" well worth a few minutes of your time if you've ever worried that it was time your child got with the program, stepped up, and collected his diagnosis and psychotropics.
IN A RELATED STUDY, MASTURBATION WAS FOUND TO BE LESS EMOTIONALLY FULFILLING THAN MAKING LOVE
The active video games played on the Nintendo Wii console may provide more exercise than its Microsoft rival the Xbox 360, a small British study has found, but they are not a substitute for the real thing. Researchers studied six boys and five girls ages 13 to 15 . . . . At rest, the children expended an average of about 72 calories per hour. Playing the Xbox game increased the average to 107. Wii tennis consumed 179 calories per hour, and Wii boxing 174 — both significant increases over the Xbox game. But a game of doubles tennis in the real world used 318 calories per hour, and punching a boxing bag 382. . . . “Wii gaming actually turns over more energy than sedentary gaming, but not as much as authentic sports,” said Gareth Stratton, a co-author of the study.
HOLIDAY GIFT-SEASON DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR
Yunice Kotake's twin daughters in San Bruno, Calif., would be fast friends with Little Guy. Ms. K recently purchased a Fisher-Price "Knows Your Name" Dora Cell Phone for the girls, she told the Times, but:
. . . a few days later, she returned the play phone to a local Toys “R” Us, after she found that the girls seemed to prefer their parents’ actual phones. “They know what a real cellphone is, and they don’t want a fake one,” Ms. Kotake said.
This is not a groundbreaking revelation, but it seems to take children about four months to figure out that there's a vast difference between their bulky, primary-color play phones and mom and dad's sleek silver Palms and Pods. In fact, Litte Guy has developed a very special Sixth Sense, albeit one that's vastly less spooky than the kid in the Bruce Willis picture had: He finds hidden remotes.
OH, THIS COULD GO HORRIBLY WRONG ABOUT 35 DIFFERENT WAYS
A musical based on “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank is to open next month at the Calderon Theater in Madrid . . . . It is adapted from the account written while Anne and her family hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. Jan Erik Dubbelman, who heads the international department of the foundation, said: “This production respects the message of tolerance, within the tragedy, that we want to keep alive.”
We just hope there's not going to be a chorus line of Dutch collaborators high-stepping outside the window of the Secret Annex while singing, to the tune of "Be Our Guest":
She's up there!
She's up there!
Put our theory to the test
Grab yoursleves a blunderbuss, Herren,
and we'll provide your guest!
THE NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ED—RATTLING YOUR CAGES SINCE 2007
We've already vented at length in this space about the intellectually dishonest school "grades" the NYC Dept. of Ed foisted on an unsuspecting public last month. But here's another example of the contempt the department's leaders have for its parent constituents and the educators who serve them:
James S. Liebman, the schools’ chief accountability officer and the architect of the report cards, said that he welcomed the dialogue. “I have a number of e-mails that start with, ‘How could my school get this grade?’” he said in an interview. “And that’s exactly the right question.”
SO PUT ON YOUR PAJAMAS, BRUSH YOUR TEETH, AND PRAY—THAT YOU DON'T GET FAT
At this point, it isn't news that a lack of sleep has a direct correlation to childhood (and grown-up) obesity. But note anyway the conclusion drawn by this study, which found that "[a]fter controlling for sex, race, maternal education, sleep problems like nightmares and other variables . . . for every hour that sleep time declined over the three years, children were about 40 percent more likely to be overweight":
The protective effect came mostly from earlier bedtimes rather than later wake times.
You know what that means, don't you, moms and dads? That's right: It's on you. Get 'em ready for bed and get 'em into bed, if you want them to retain their sleek 5T figure.
Although it's tough when you're up against the likes of Fellow and Tiny. Here's a story: The other morning, we decided to be nice to the kids and drop a couple of candies in their lunchboxes. Checking the "snack bag," we found the sandwich bag where he had put a trio of leftover packs of Chanukah gelt a couple of weeks back. But now they were gone. Odd, that. Later in the morning, in our own bedroom, we found a pile of familiar gold wrappers in the trash can. When interrogated, Fellow—confident (as it turns out, rightly so) that his ingenuity would trump our desire to punish him so long after the fact—freely admitted that he had secreted the candies in his room the day before and then shared his booty with his little sister after we leff them in bed. Though we shouldn't have been too upset, he advised us, because he had re-brushed his teeth after devouring the sweets . . .
YES, HE'S STILL A SWEET FELLOW
It's been said that we're sometimes a little hard on Small Fellow on these pages, but we're truly quite fond of the boy, and sometimes even proud. To wit: We've been shlepping him to chess tournaments around the neighborhood for a year-and-a-half, watching him consistently win about half his games, eagerly awaiting a breakthrough that would put him in trophy contention. Well, this past Sunday, he finally did in fact win all four games he played, equaling the best record of the day in his K-3 group, though finishing in third place after tiebreakers (based on the relative strength of opponents played by the players who registered perfect scores). And for all his loudly expressed hopes of winning all four games earlier in the day, when it came time to claim trophies, he was actually much cooler about it than we were. Truth be told, we were pretty much a bawling mess by that point. But we did manage to snap this photo of Fellow with his individual trophy and his team's first-place plaque.
Freelance Dad (aka Gary Drevitch) gets another turn at bat as the featured columnist for Disney's family.com Comment Mania contest.
We write the column, they post it, and visitors comment. The comment deemed worthiest wins a fabulous cash-equivalent prize. So hop on over and support your blogger.
The subject this time: Having Tiny and Fellow at Freelance Grandmother's funeral, and the question of whether it's appropriate to have preschoolers with you at the cemetery. (Spoiler alert!: We say it is.)
EXHIBIT A IN THE CASE AGAINST KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT'S GOOD OR BAD FOR YOU TO CONSUME
We love whole milk but we've drank 1% for years now because we don't want to become another obese statistic. And now we're going to get prostate cancer for our trouble? Well, that's sure a swift kick in the, um, prostate . . .