Breaking News: Moms Still Being Judged for Basically Everything

Categories: Parenting Issues

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The latest research on motherhood is a frustrating glimpse into the gap between prevalent sociological attitudes and a little thing called reality. While a record number of American mothers are now the breadwinners in their families — moms are either the sole or primary earner in 40 percent of households with children, up from 11 percent in 1960 — half of Americans still say that children are better off if their mother is at home and doesn’t have a job.

Interestingly, only 8 percent say the same about a father.

If it seems odd that public attitudes about working mothers remains so mixed (I mean, which is it? Are we supposed to “lean in” or stay home? I can’t keep up with how I’m supposedly screwing up my own life and the lives of those around me), the stereotypes associated with single motherhood are even more outrageous. In a recent survey, two-thirds of respondents said single mothers are “bad for society” — and only 30 percent felt that a single mom can do as good a job of parenting a child as two parents.

This, despite the fact that single motherhood is one of the most common “alternative” family arrangements in America.

Even with the negative attitudes associated with single motherhood, 42 percent of unmarried women say they would consider becoming a parent without a partner. 37 percent of women said they would think about adopting a child, while 31 percent would be willing to freeze their eggs and 27 percent to use artificial insemination and a sperm donor.

What’s the bottom line from all these statistics? It’s obvious that our family structures are changing nationwide, and it’s time to catch up with the fact that there really is no one-size-fits-all situation for raising children. Duh, right? We talk about this every time the dreaded “mommy wars” topic pops back up in the news, and yet here the numbers show what we’ve known all along: public perceptions of motherhood remain a minefield of intolerance.

Do you think there will ever be a point where attitudes match up with the reality of the world around us? Where the increasing prevalence of working and single mothers will simply be accepted, rather than judged? Or is this just one of those areas that’s doomed to divisiveness, no matter how our family dynamics take shape?

Image via NovaHokie/Flickr

Childhood Reenactments Are a Hilariously Disturbing Photo Fad

Categories: Funny

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You guys, I feel the need to call your attention to the upsetting trend of childhood photo reenactments. It’s basically just what it sounds like: people are reliving old memories by staging current photos that mimic an image from their childhood, down to the clothing and props, then sharing the results online.

Photographer Irina Werning may have kick-started this fad with her wildly popular Back to the Future scene-recreation series, but wherever this idea came from, I’ve realized that there are many, many, MANY images that look perfectly charming when they involve children … and not so much when adults take center stage.

For instance:

Gah! As if the original image wasn’t disturbing enough? (PS: Is this Bill Gates? DUDE IT LOOKS JUST LIKE BILL GATES.)

First photo: sweet father-son moment. Second photo: just downright creepy.

Foodface children make me twitchy enough. Foodface adults? AGGGGGGH.

Seriously. Stop it. Stop it right now.

I … I … oh dear.

I saved the best for last. And by “best” I mean OH JESUS MY EYES.

The worst part about these is that now that I’ve seen them, I keep thinking of all the silly/adorable/messy/naked photos I’ve taken of my own children — and what those same pictures would look like re-enacted twenty years from now. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

What do you think of these staged childhood photos? Cute? Or creepy?

Images via Jus Sayin

18-Year-Old Girl Arrested for Dating Younger Same-Sex Student

Categories: Parenting Issues, School

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“My daughter Kaitlyn is a wonderful 18-year-old who is not guilty of anything other than a high school romance, but is being prosecuted for 2 felony counts of ‘lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12–16 years of age,’ because she has a girlfriend who is 15.”

This is the introductory sentence on a Change.org petition calling on Florida Assistant State Attorney, Brian Workman, to drop a case against 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt. Kaitlyn is currently facing criminal charges stemming from a relationship she had with a 15-year-old girl at her high school.

Kaitlyn — known as Kate — began dating another girl from the basketball team at the beginning of the school year. Both girls attended the same high school, but Kate was a senior and her girlfriend was 15 and in a lower grade.

According to Kaitlyn’s mother Kelley Hunt-Smith, when Kaitlyn’s girlfriend’s parents learned of the nature of their relationship, they went to the police to press charges — but first, they waited for Kate to turn 18. Cops arrived at Kaitlyn’s home on Feb. 16th, put the teen in handcuffs, and eventually charged her with two counts of felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child. The prosecutor later offered a plea deal of felony child abuse, with two years house arrest followed by one year probation.

Hunt-Smith wrote in a Facebook post:

(…) These people never came to us as parents, never tried to speak to us, didn’t try to get the school involved to speak to us and tell us they had a problem with the girls dating, not one single word. Instead, they set out their vengeance and had my child arrested on FELONY charges. (…) Those parents wouldn’t give up. They were out to destroy my daughter, they feel like my daughter “made” their daughter gay. They are bigoted, religious zealots that see being gay as a sin and wrong, and they blame my daughter.

She adds,

Today, the girls are 18 and 15. We will not discuss the specifics of their relationship or when contact took place between them for their legal protection. Kate’s girlfriend has taken no part in her prosecution and denies she is a victim, but the law grants her no rights in this matter. Kate has offered to permanently cease contact and leave the state if charges are dropped, but that offer has been rejected by the prosecutor and the girlfriend’s parents.

Kate’s family say that while they generally support age-of-consent laws,

… we believe it is ludicrous that a 23-year-old can date a 16-year-old, but two students in the same school and on the same basketball team cannot be in a relationship because of arbitrary age limits. The law needs to change, not only to protect Kate, but to protect the millions of teenagers, boys and girls, straight and gay, whose lives are regularly ruined because parents disapprove of their children’s sexual choices. We want justice for all 18-year-old high school seniors who have undergone criminal prosecution for exercising poor judgement in their dating life. Such students are not predators. They’re just kids.

Kate has been expelled from her high school, but her troubles have just started — if convicted, she could end up in jail or live under house arrest, will have to register as a sex offender, and live her life as a convicted felon. Kate’s family is hoping that public pressure will motivate the State Attorney to offer a different plea deal.

Over 40,000 people have signed the Change.org petition for Kate, and on Facebook, more than 13,000 people have joined the Free Kate group to support the family. It’s clear that a lot of people feel that the charges should be dropped or lessened, and I agree that in this case the punishment truly doesn’t seem to fit the crime.

Still, the fact remains that having sex with a minor is against the law. The ground movement to help Kaitlyn Hunt is clearly focused on the fact that she was in a same-sex relationship — witness the slogan: “Stop the hate, free Kate.” Does her sexuality matter? Would we feel as sympathetic towards Kate if she were an 18-year-old boy in a relationship with a 15-year-old girl? Does it matter that it was a consensual relationship, when one person was a minor? When the very definition of a minor is that they aren’t considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts?

Honestly, I have no answers to these questions, but it’s a scary case that all parents should be aware of. What’s happening to Kaitlyn Hunt and her family is worthy of discussion, if only to clearly outline how the law views young love … regardless of sexuality.

What do you think about Kaitlyn Hunt’s situation? Do you think the charges against her should be dropped?

Image via Free Kate/Facebook

Cruel Internet Photo Memes Can Devastate Families

Categories: Parenting Issues

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Adam Holland’s image has become Internet famous. The widely-shared photo was taken in 2004, when Holland was 17 years old. It shows him holding up a piece of artwork he’d created while attending a class for disabled students at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Holland’s smiling broadly for the camera, and it’s an infectiously happy moment that should have been treasured by his family.

Instead, the photo went viral when Tampa radio station WHPT-FM used it to call out the “Retarded News” page on its website.

Holland, who has Down syndrome, now knows that the nearly ten-year-old photo is making the rounds online thanks to folks who think it’s hilarious to add their own defamatory and obscene messages to his picture. A website called Sign Generator made it easy for people to modify the photo in its “Retarded Handicap Generator” section. A Flickr user in Minnesota repurposed Holland’s photo to include a sexual reference, and the image racked up over 31,000 views.

The extra-awful part about this whole story is that Holland was initially excited to see his image in his local newspaper. His parents had to explain to the best of their ability that the reason the photo was in the news was because people were making fun of him.

Holland’s parents have filed a defamation suit seeking $18 million in damages from three separate parties. It’s something of a legal long shot, since cases of images being turned into memes are notoriously challenging, but I can understand their desire to do something.

What happened to Holland isn’t exactly unprecedented: lots of people have become unwilling viral memes in recent years. Last year, the parents of another girl with Down syndrome endured a lengthy fight with Facebook to get the social media giant to remove cruel images of their daughter. And do you remember the infamous “Star Wars  Kid” whose 2002 video became an Internet sensation? That boy reportedly finished school in a mental health facility, thanks to the harassment he received as a result.

It certainly makes you think about the repercussions of sharing photos online, and how an innocent image can become a humiliating Internet fad. As Woodrow Hartzog, an assistant professor at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, puts it:

It’s difficult to square the interest that we have in not becoming an overnight celebrity with the rights of everyone in America being able to express themselves freely. The downside of being able to harness the power of crowds is that individuals that did nothing to seek any kind of publicity can become the subject of all of the cruelness that exists on the Internet. We don’t really have a good [legal] mechanism for combating that cruelness. (…)

Many would argue that [the lack of legal mechanisms] is a good thing, because it allows us to continue the unrestrained expression on the Internet that we’ve enjoyed thus far. But others have serious concerns about our reputation and ability to control our name, likeness and interest. It’s difficult to grab ahold of that on the Internet.

Do you ever worry about what might happen to the personal family photos you share online?

Image via eriwst/Flickr

Grandparents Think Today’s Moms Are Being Ruined by Parenting Books

Categories: Parenting Issues

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Breaking news: your kids’ grandparents think you’re a dumbass for reading parenting books.

Okay, I’m paraphrasing a tiny bit, but a recent study done by a UK website revealed what many of us probably suspected all along: by and large, our parents think the modern trend of relying on books for kid-raising advice is a bunch of hooey. 62% of the surveyed grandparents said they never read a parenting book when their children were young (probably because they were too busy raising kids in the snow, uphill, both ways), and nearly a quarter believe the advice contained in such book is “no help” — and in some cases, “can actually be quite harmful.”

Not only do I totally believe these statistics, I can actually see how this sort of eye-rolling intolerance happens as time goes on and new parenting trends take place. Even though it’s only been five years since I had my last baby, I already feel sort of curmudgeonly about new-to-me baby-raising methods. Baby-led weaning? Why, back in my day we spooned puréed glop into our babies’ cry-holes, and they learned to like it. We didn’t indulge in this newfangled business of handing our babies a plate of organic crudité as if they were at a formal dinner party, by golly!

Constantly checking in with parenting manuals wasn’t very common when our parents were younger, so it’s no wonder they think the current glut of books on everything from sleep to poop is a little silly. Plus, grandparents often have the double advantage of experience and objectivity — they already know what it takes modern new moms a while to realize: you will go slap out of your mind if you try to adhere to all the parenting advice you read.

In fact, the surveyed grandparents tend to think that instead of buying parenting books, we should be turning to — who else? — our parents. That’s what they mostly did back in their day, after all. When they were young parents, their sources of advice came from:

• Their mother or mother-in-laws (64 per cent)
• Their own motherly instinct (46 per cent)
• A doctor (37 per cent)
• Other mothers or friends (28 per cent)

The founder of the site that conducted the study says,

(Grandparents) feel that new Mums are getting very confused and hung up on advice issued by the overwhelming amount of parenting books out there, not to mention the aggression they face on some parenting forums. We think it is important for mothers to be encouraged to discover their inner instincts - something that parenting books can overlook.

I agree that it’s important to develop your own parenting instincts, but I’m eternally grateful for all the advice — printed, online, or socially-shared — that was available when I was a scared new mom. While following every single piece of advice would be contradictory and confusing at the very least, more information is almost always a good thing. Eventually you learn to take what’s valuable and discard the rest of it.

Would I tell a new mother to toss out her parenting books? Absolutely not. I’d just say that it’s important to find some common sense among all those opinions and recommendations, and that’s not always easy for any mom … no matter what generation she’s born in.

Do you think parenting books are actually causing trouble for today’s moms?

Lotus Birth Trend Keeps Babies (and Moms) Attached to Placentas

Categories: Uncategorized

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Both my sons were born via C-section, and while I could tell you what I felt at the time (a whole lot of tugging, mostly, and the queasy suspicion that a prank-loving surgeon was using a loop of my intestine as a jump rope), the visuals were mostly tidily hidden away behind a drape. Each time I got a quick reassuring glimpse of my goopy, furious, factory-fresh babies — then they were swooped off to a corner for some quick evaluations before they were returned to me, pink and wiped clean and swaddled.

In other words, my experience was about as different from a Lotus birth as you can get.

A Lotus birth, for those who are unfamiliar, is also referred to as umbilical nonseverance. Basically, the idea is for the mother to wait for the baby’s umbilical cord to fall off on its own, rather than cutting it immediately after birth. The cord typically comes off after about three days, but in humid conditions it may take over a week. In the meantime, the mother carries both placenta and child as she waits for nature to take its course. Lotus birth proponents say the practice is not only natural, it provides crucial nutrients to infants and prevents infection and disease.

I never even saw my own placenta during my births. In fact, until this moment I hadn’t even considered what happened to it both times — did they just scoop it out and toss it into a receptacle, or? Well, anyway, I haven’t laid eyes on my own placenta but I’ve seen photos. I’m trying to be open minded, here, but I can’t quite imagine shlepping that thing around with a newborn for days on end.

Perhaps you have questions about the, ah, logistical matters? ME TOO. Here’s what Mary Ceallaigh, Lotus birth advocate and midwife educator, told The Post in a recent interview:

Q: How do you eat meals, go to the restroom or run errands with a placenta attached to your newborn?

The cord usually dries and breaks off by the third day, so no mother would be running errands during that time anyway…hopefully not until at least the fourth week after giving birth! (…)  While the placenta remains attached, it’s kept in a nice cloth, and the cord is wrapped in silk or cotton ribbon. Babies are left on a safe surface or with a caregiver while the mother goes to the restroom. For cuddling and nursing, the placenta pillow is kept near the mother and baby.

Q: Does the placenta start to smell after a while? How soon does it start to smell? What does it smell like?

If the placenta has air circulating around it like through cloth, there’s no odor for the first day. There’s a slight musky smell the second and third day.

After the cord breaks, some mothers like to keep the wrapped placenta in a special place in their bedroom, and if it has not had a salt or herbal treatment and its cloth isn’t changed, it will start to smell gamey, indeed. But the kind of terrible, stinky, decayed smell that some fear is a non-issue when proper procedures are followed. The only time that sort of thing happens is if the placenta is wrapped in a plastic wrap or sealed in a Tupperware container— that is a whole other situation, and not a good one, as the placenta will rot before it dries.

Q: What are the best reasons to practice Lotus Birth?

There’s no wound created at the umbilical site, which lessens the chance of infection. It allows a complete transfer of placental/cord blood into the baby at a time when the baby needs that nourishment the most. Babies’ immune systems are going through huge changes at a very rapid rate when they’re first born. Not disrupting the baby’s blood volume at that time helps prevent future disease.

Ceallaigh also says that the practice of keeping the umbilical intact should concern “anyone who also believes the barbaric practice of female and male circumcision should be eliminated.”

The Lotus birth isn’t really a “new trend” like it’s being referred to in the media lately, but it’s likely that with more midwives and advocates joining the cause, it’s gaining more attention.

Personally, I would never do it, for a few reasons. 1) I don’t really buy the notion that it’s better for the baby. As a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University put it,

… there’s no scientific evidence that leaving the umbilical cord attached to the baby provides any sort of benefit. There has been research in the past few years which found that when doctors delay clamping the cord for three minutes, the baby receives higher levels of iron which prevents anemia, but beyond that time frame, leaving the cord attached to the baby serves no purpose because it no longer feeds nutrients to the baby.

2) Despite Ceallaigh’s claim that “no mother would be running errands” during the first week after birth, the reality is that plenty of us did, and continue to do so. Like for instance if you have an older child? Or you run out of diapers? Or, you know, you can’t stand being cooped up in the house another second? Just saying, life with a newborn is hard enough without dragging a PLACENTA along wherever you go.

And finally, 3) I’m sorry, I know this makes me sound immature, but ewwwwwwwwwwwww. Maybe if a placenta didn’t look quite so much like something out of a horror movie, you know?

Have you heard of Lotus births before? Would you ever try one?

Image via Lotus Birth

Air Travel With Kids Gets More Ridiculous and Awful Every Year

Categories: Parenting Issues, Travel

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Before I took my oldest son on a flight from Seattle to Washington, DC, I bought him a picture book about air travel. It’s a cheery, rhyming story that features cartoon animals enjoying a trip to wherever, and it was apparently published quite a while ago, because it depicts smiling furry stewardesses serving piping-hot food and handing out magazines and blankets.

I mean, come on. Food, blankets, pillows? I’m pretty sure that stuff disappeared from airlines at the same time as the non-plastic servingware, our ability to pack more than a thimbleful of shampoo in our carryon luggage, and our collective dignity in the security line.

9/11 forever changed how we fly, and narrowing profits continue to degrade the consumer experience. But the story of what happened to one family on a United flight from Denver to Baltimore might be the most outrageous example of how truly unpleasant — and inefficient — air travel has become.

Maybe you heard about this bizarre incident? Basically, a family is alleging that when they requested that the in-flight movie be turned off, the captain reacted by diverting their flight.

I know, right??

The PG-13 film was “Alex Cross,” and the parents felt it was inappropriate for their 4- and 8-year old boys. In a letter to The Atlantic Magazine, the family said,

Alarmed by the opening scenes, we asked two flight attendants if they could turn off the monitor; both claimed it was not possible.

The first flight attendant also claimed that the screen could not be folded up independently (which it clearly could) and that even if it could, she would still not authorize closing it because of the passengers sitting behind us. At this point, the passengers behind us spoke up and agreed the content was inappropriate for children and announced it would not bother them at all to switch it off. Both flight attendants, and later the purser, claimed that they have no authority or ability to change or turn off the movie. The purser did, however, agree with us, as did many more of the passengers around us, that it is patently inappropriate to expose children to such content.

We asked if the captain has the authority to address this issue, but received no response. A few minutes later we asked for the captain’s name (I failed to make note when he welcomed us on the PA system), and was told, by the purser, that we will have to ask him ourselves when we disembark.

Throughout these interactions the atmosphere was collegial, no voices were raised and no threats, implicit or explicit, of any kind were made. (…) More than an hour later the captain, [name withheld for now], announced that due to “security concerns”, our flight was being diverted to Chicago’s ORD. Although this sounded ominous, all passengers, us included, were calm. After landing a Chicago police officer boarded the plane and, to our disbelief, approached us and asked that we collect our belongings, and follow her to disembark. The captain, apparently, felt that our complaint constituted grave danger to the aircraft, crew and the other passengers, and that this danger justified inconveniencing his crew, a few of whom “timed out” during the diversion, and a full plane of your customers, causing dozens of them to miss their connections, wasting time, precious jet fuel, and adding to United’s carbon footprint. Not to mention unnecessarily involving several of Chicago’s finest, two Border Protection officers and several United and ORD managers, and an FBI agent, who all met us at the gate. After we were interviewed (for less than 5 minutes), our identities and backgrounds checked, we were booked on the next flight to BWI, and had to linger in the terminal for hours with our exhausted and terrified little boys.

A United Airlines spokesman confirmed the flight had been diverted, claiming that the crew had reported a disturbance involving a passenger. He said the airline had since conducted a review of its in-flight content.

I really and truly don’t know where to begin with this craziness. It’s the sort of thing that makes me even more reluctant to fly with my kids — and believe me, between the draconian security processes, the seemingly inevitable delays and cancellations, and the increasingly uncomfortable (yet horrifically expensive) accommodations, I wasn’t eager to do it in the first place.

I don’t think parents traveling with kids should receive special treatment that negatively affects those around them, but it’s incomprehensible that this family’s relatively simple request — one that their fellow passengers were happy to support — resulted in the plane being diverted. I can’t imagine what the captain was thinking. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for all the travelers on board that day.

It’s just one more story that shows how much things have changed. Flying used to be fun, for kids and grownups alike. These days, it’s an ordeal at best. I wonder how many families are avoiding air travel altogether, simply because so few destinations are worth the effort to get there.

Are you less likely to travel with your kids these days?

Yes, I Want My Kids to Have Access to the Morning-After Pill

Categories: Health, Parenting Issues

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When I heard about the federal judge’s ruling that the most common morning-after pill should be made available over the counter to people of any age — instead of requiring a prescription for girls under 17 — I thought about how I’d feel if I had a young daughter who was faced with the possibility of an unintended pregnancy. Would I want her to come talk to me about it? Ideally, yes. But if she wasn’t comfortable doing so, would I want her to have unrestricted access to emergency contraception so she can take measures to prevent that pregnancy from happening?

Absolutely.

Emergency contraceptives are meant for use within 72 hours after sex but are most effective if taken within 24 hours. That’s not a lot of time to see a doctor for a prescription … then potentially work around a pharmacy’s limited hours of operation.

I’d much rather my daughter — or my son’s girlfriend, as may be the case someday — be able to head off an unwanted pregnancy, rather than deal with the choices available once pregnancy’s occurred. While pro-life groups argue that the morning-after pill is the same as a chemical abortion, it’s not. The drug in Plan B, levonorgestrel, prevents pregnancy by disrupting the natural hormonal cycle and stopping fertilization or implantation. It’s most effective if it’s taken before ovulation, which is why it’s important to take the pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Once a fertilized egg implants, Plan B has no effect.

A poll at Today.com found that while nearly 70 percent of more than 9,500 parents who weighed in agreed with the judge’s ruling, some are vehemently opposed to the decision. As one reader put it,

No drug should be available to MINORS without parental consent. We are responsible for our children in all aspects and held up by society to take care of our children and all their mistakes.

Another reader said the unrestricted access will give young women a false sense of security, and that they should be talking to an adult instead:

If they are sexually active and have a scare and think they might be pregnant, that is the exact right time they should be involving a parent or an adult to evaluate their options. (…) It’s the same issue with drinking and drugs.

I agree that as parents we want our children to consult us when they’re in trouble or facing tough decisions — but if there was a pill that could prevent a hugely complicated, unwanted circumstance caused by drinking or drugs, I’d want my kids to have access to that too.

There are better ways to prevent pregnancy than by taking a $50 morning-after pill, but, of course, they don’t always work. Bad decisions happen. Contraception can fail. Girls can be forced into sex without their consent.  And at the end of the day, for those who are already in a situation where they need emergency birth control, making it difficult to access isn’t helpful for anyone.

What do you think about the morning-after pill ruling? Are you in favor of it being available to young teens without a prescription?

The Steubenville Case & Teaching Kids to Stop Rape

Categories: Parenting Issues

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Jennifer Rowe Walters at The Huffington Post perfectly captures my feelings about the Steubenville rape case fallout:

When you get right down to it, it is pretty heartbreaking to think that we have to teach our sons not to rape and that we have to explain to them that women are their equal and are worthy of their respect — regardless of whether those women are drunk, sober, or something in between. It’s scary to realize that we live in a culture that subtly and insidiously teaches them otherwise.

Exactly. I have two young sons, just seven and five years old, and my brain shears away from the idea that they should be taught not to rape. I look at their innocent, sensitive faces and I cannot picture a reality in which they would ever participate in something like those Steubenville boys did. I can’t fathom what those boys’ parents must have thought when faced with the fact that their sons took disgusting advantage of an inebriated young girl. Like everyone else, I’m shocked by the evidence that dozens of people continued to violate and revictimize the girl after the incident through Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and cell phone recordings.

The details of the Steubenville case have been horrifying and maddening and I imagine every parent has had different reactions. I imagine parents of girls feel the fear of something similar happening to their daughters. I imagine I am not the only parent of boys who found herself thinking, but MY sons would never do that.

Of course, that’s probably what the parents of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond believed. It’s uncomfortable to push past the point of believing your child to be incapable of an unspeakable act, but it’s our job. As Walters writes,

But it’s our reality. And, because of that, it’s our responsibility as parents to teach all of our children that actions have consequences and that even the brightest future isn’t worth more than the dignity of a fellow human being to remain whole and unharmed.

Madga at Ask Moxie wrote an amazing open letter to her sons about stopping rape, which reads in part,

Not everyone you know has been taught all the stuff we’ve talked about. You are going to know people, and maybe even be friends with people, who think it’s ok to hurt other people in a lot of ways. One of those ways is sex. I know you’re going to hear other boys say things about girls, or sometimes about other boys, that means they don’t care about those girls’ feelings or bodies. When you do, I need you to step in.

We can’t control our children’s actions, but we have the opportunity to influence. To teach, to talk, to listen. If there’s anything positive to come from the godawful Steubenville case, I hope it’s in the discussions that are happening now. And the powerful messages against victim blaming, like this one.

Has the Steubenville case influenced how you plan to talk to your kids about rape?

Image via YouTube

Holiday Overkill is Almost Enough to Make Me Sick of Chocolate (Almost)

Categories: Holidays

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People. St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to be a “phone-it-in” holiday. Yes, I’ve turned into a bit of a grinch, but SERIOUSLY WITH THE HOLIDAY OVERKILL. As if Christmas wasn’t already hard enough as a parent, someone also decided that we have to move an Elf around every day, into creative tableaus? (…) And less than a month after having survived that whole mess, we’ve got Valentine’s Day which has became The New Halloween, because God forbid you send a simple store-bought card. You’d better include some candy or your child will be shunned. Shunned!

Oh how I got a kick out of the above post from Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan, even though I myself am guilty of having turned December into a daily where’s-the-Elf? extravaganza. (To be clear, our Elf only moves around the house. He does not engage in elaborate prop-heavy, Pinterest-worthy shenanigans, thank you very much.)

I was just thinking about my increasing holiday ennui a few days ago when my seven-year-old schooled me on St. Patrick’s Day. Apparently the latest thing for this holiday involves leprechaun pranks, in which children must run around the house all day identifying all the things the leprechaun has messed with. “Was that picture crooked last night?” my son shouted excitedly.

“Uh,” I said. “I guess not. Wow, it must have been … the leprechaun.”

Like Kristen, the extent of my experience with St. Patrick’s Day involved maybe wearing an item of green clothing. (And in later years, drinking green-tinted adult beverages.) I’d never even heard of Ashton Kutcher-esque leprechauns before this month.

It seems like I was just in the midst of helping my kids assemble the 19471059751832 Valentines’ they had to bring to school (okay, I’m exaggerating. But two kids minus fine motor skills plus large classrooms = me sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by a pile of store-bought cards wondering why in HELL I bought the kind that required folding and sticker assembly), and now I’m staring down the Easter bunny barrel. Baskets, toys, candy! “Fresh takes” on the classic egg hunt! Next-level egg decorating!

Of course, we all have the right to celebrate or not celebrate holidays the way we want. No one’s forcing me to decoupage a Martha-Stewart-worthy basket of eggs this weekend, and it’s a damn good thing, because I don’t even know what decoupage MEANS. But it’s interesting that there seem to be two different trends going on with holidays and kids. On the one hand, most schools have shied away from traditional holiday celebrations, and some expressly ban things like costumes or candy. We live in a multiculturally sensitive, religiously diverse, and increasingly allergenic society, after all.

On the other hand, kids still bring home messages from our culture, and it seems like our culture is getting more and more caught up in the commercial, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses side of the holidays. I’m not saying it’s impossible to resist — but for me it definitely results in some crabbiness. As Kristin puts it,

Wouldn’t we all be just a little happier if we returned to the slacker days of store-bought valentines and kit-dyed eggs and JUST WEARING A GREEN SHIRT AND CALLING IT A DAY?

(Word.)

“Maybe the leprechaun HID something special for us,” my son said last Sunday, in hopeful tones.

“I doubt it,” I replied. “But you’re sure welcome to look. Maybe start by cleaning out your toy box.”

Have you noticed an increasing ‘holiday overkill”?

Image via Pinterest

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