The deadly nuclear family

Sarah Schoener writes in the Opinion Pages of the New York Times “After spending two years studying services for domestic violence survivors, I was surprised to realize that one of the most common barriers to women’s safety was something I had never considered before: the high value our culture places on two-parent families.imgres

“I began my research in 2011, the year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than one-third of American women are assaulted by an intimate partner during their lives. I talked to women in communities that ranged from a small rural mining town to a large global city, in police stations, criminal courts, emergency shelters, job placement centers and custody proceedings. I found that almost all of the women with children I interviewed had maintained contact with their abusers. Why?

“Many had internalized a public narrative that equated marriage with success. Women experiencing domestic abuse are told by our culture that being a good mother means marrying the father of her children and supporting a relationship between them. According to a 2010 Pew report, 69 percent of Americans say single mothers without male partners to help raise their children are bad for society, and 61 percent agree that a child needs a mother and a father to grow up happily.

“The awareness of the stigma of single motherhood became apparent to me when I met a young woman who was seven months pregnant. She had recently left her abusive boyfriend and was living in a domestic violence shelter. When I asked if she thought the relationship was over, she responded, “As far as being together right now, I don’t want to be together. But I do hope that in the future — because my mind puts it out there like, O.K., I don’t want to be a statistic.” When she said this, I assumed she was referring to domestic violence statistics. But she continued: “I don’t want to be this young pregnant mom who they say never lasts with the baby’s father. I don’t want to be like that.” Continue reading “The deadly nuclear family”

On gendering childhood chores

It was the headline that made lazy teens worldwide shudder: Spain is to introduce a law forcing children to do chores, as The Guardian reports:images-1

“Now, if you’re thinking it seems more than a little heavy-handed to legally codify the responsibilities of under-18s in private households, then I agree, but check your liberal sensibilities for just a moment. There’s a surprisingly progressive detail in the Rights and Duties of Children Bill that’s worth noting: the “co-responsibility in caring for the home and performing household tasks” shall be carried out “regardless of… gender”.

“Hurrah! Reading the sex equality provision for these put-upon kids made me cheer, because its opposite has such dire consequences: gender inequality in childhood leads to stultified, ill-equipped adults.

“Its effects have certainly been noticeable to me. While my own household was fairly progressive, many of my friends, both male and female, were inculcated with gender stereotypes inside their homes from a young age.I can remember the visceral, fist-clenching resentment I felt whenever I alone was asked to cook and lay the table, while a young male friend was allowed to continue watching telly, or, at a push, was asked to zoom around the garden with a mower or wield a drill.

“The “male” tasks always seemed so much more fun. More sporadic too: John might be asked to fill up the log basket by the fire once a week, but Jane was expected in the kitchen every evening. Continue reading “On gendering childhood chores”

The allowance gap

Nearly 70 percent of boys say they get an allowance, compared to just under 60 percent of girls, according to a new survey from Junior Achievement.images-1

But unfortunately, it’s not likely because boys do more chores. One study found that girls dotwo more hours of housework a week than boys, while boys spend twice as much time playing. The same study confirmed that boys are still more likely to get paid for what they do: they are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing chores than girls. A 2009 survey of children ages 5 to 12 found that far more girls are assigned chores than boys. A study in Europe also found fewer boys contribute to work around the house.

And it’s not just that boys are more likely to be paid by their parents, but they also get more money. One study found that boys spent just 2.1 hours a week on chores and made $48 on average, while girls put in 2.7 hours to make $45. A British study found that boys get paid 15 percent more than girls for the same chores.

Young girls suffer a wage gap even when they leave their home in search of wages. Despite the fact that the vast majority of babysitters are girls, the few boys who take on those jobshave higher hourly rates.

A chore and wage gap for young girls may seem trivial, but they are both problems that only grow as they age and the socializing children experience at home may contribute. Asking girls to do more chores without paying them teaches both genders that women are meant to do unpaid work. And when they’re older, far more women will end up doing housework than men. Mothers spend nearly double the time on unpaid work in the home that fathers do each week. On an average day, nearly half of women do housework compared to 20 percent of men, and on the days when they do those activities, women spend more time on them, on average. Meanwhile, fathers manage to find three more hours of leisure time.

At the same time, a record number of families is relying on women’s wages as the main source of income. Yet women are paid less than men in nearly job and at every educational level.

More at: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/23/3430025/gender-gap-allowance/

Brain fountain of youth

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Shannon, a 14-year-old who lives in Massachusetts, has amblyopia, a condition sometimes referred to as “lazy eye.”

You can’t tell by looking at her, though. Unlike some amblyopic patients, whose eyes visibly wander, Shannon simply has extremely poor eyesight.

Patients’ best hope for correcting amblyopia is before they turn about 8 years old. Those who don’t get treatment early enough—or for whom treatment doesn’t work—usually end up living with the problem forever.

Shannon is one of those people. Her entire life, she’s worn glasses with a thin non-prescription lens on one side, and a thick corrective lens on the other. As a toddler, her parents tried to make her wear therapeutic eye patches, but she would fling them off.

A few months ago, Shannon enrolled in a clinical study at Boston Children’s Hospital for which she’s taking donepezil, a drug that’s typically used to treat Alzheimer’s. Donepezil is a cholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it increases the amount of acetylcholine circulating around nerve endings. It’s been shown to improve memory function in some patients with dementia.

But of course, Shannon doesn’t have memory problems. Her team of doctors is instead using the donepezil to encourage her brain to learn new skills as quickly and nimbly as an infant’s would. Shannon’s vision has improved markedly over the past four months, her mother told me by phone. Continue reading “Brain fountain of youth”

On guarding children

To most parents and caregivers, worrying about children seems the most ” natural” of instincts, especially these days.  After all, the world is a much more dangerous place than it was when many of today’s adults were growing up  Right?

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Wrong.

In recent decades sociologists, criminologists, and media scholars have been noting a curiously contradictory phenomena.  As rates of violence, drug abuse, poverty, and crime  have consistently continued to decline in nearly every category,  public worries about these things have skyrocketed.  And children have always been  a lightning rod for social anxieties of all kinds.  Hence, fears of internet predators,  child abductions,  and schoolyard shootings  are at an all-time high–– and as a consequence youngsters are now watched and guarded at unprecedented levels.  In an essay  entitled “The Overprotected kid,” appearing this week in The Atlantic , Hanna Rosen  discusses the downside of America’s current obsession with childhood risk and safety,  as briefly excerpted below:

“A trio of boys tramps along the length of a wooden fence, back and forth, shouting like carnival barkers. “The Land! It opens in half an hour.” Down a path and across a grassy square, 5-year-old Dylan can hear them through the window of his nana’s front room. He tries to figure out what half an hour is and whether he can wait that long. When the heavy gate finally swings open, Dylan, the boys, and about a dozen other children race directly to their favorite spots, although it’s hard to see how they navigate so expertly amid the chaos. “Is this a junkyard?” asks my 5-year-old son, Gideon, who has come with me to visit. “Not exactly,” I tell him, although it’s inspired by one. The Land is a playground that takes up nearly an acre at the far end of a quiet housing development in North Wales. It’s only two years old but has no marks of newness and could just as well have been here for decades. The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek. “Why are you rolling tires into the water?” my son asks. “Because we are,” the girl replies.

“It’s still morning, but someone has already started a fire in the tin drum in the corner, perhaps because it’s late fall and wet-cold, or more likely because the kids here love to start fires. Three boys lounge in the only unbroken chairs around it; they are the oldest ones here, so no one complains. One of them turns on the radio—Shaggy is playing (Honey came in and she caught me red-handed, creeping with the girl next door)—as the others feel in their pockets to make sure the candy bars and soda cans are still there. Nearby, a couple of boys are doing mad flips on a stack of filthy mattresses, which makes a fine trampoline. At the other end of the playground, a dozen or so of the younger kids dart in and out of large structures made up of wooden pallets stacked on top of one another. Occasionally a group knocks down a few pallets—just for the fun of it, or to build some new kind of slide or fort or unnamed structure. Come tomorrow and the Land might have a whole new topography. Continue reading “On guarding children”

Raised by the internet

imagesRecollections of strict, unaffectionate parents were more common among young adults with an unhealthy attachment to Internet use, compared to their peers, in a new Greek study.

Reuters reports that “Young adults who recall their parents being tough or demanding without showing affection tend to be sad or to have trouble making friends, and those personality traits raise their risk of Internet addiction, the researchers say.

“In short, good parenting, including parental warmth and affection, that is caring and protective parents, has been associated with lower risk for Internet addiction,” said lead author Argyroula E. Kalaitzaki of the Technological Education Institute (TEI) of Crete in Heraklion, “whereas bad parenting, including parental control and intrusion, that is authoritarian and neglectful parents, has been associated with higher risk for addiction.”

“Research on Internet addiction is still relatively new, and there are no actual criteria for diagnosing the disorder, though there are many inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities in the U.S., Australia and Asia. Some of the studies done to date suggest that kids who have trouble relating to others in person might be at higher risk for a problematically high level of Internet use. Those who are socially withdrawn or lonely might also be more likely to spend excessive time online. Kalaitzaki’s team predicted that the way kids bonded with their parents would predict aspects of their personality as young adults, which in turn would predict their likelihood of Internet addiction.

“For the study, more than 700 young adults at technical schools, all around age 20, filled out questionnaires during class time. They answered questions about their feelings of loneliness, sadness and anxiety, and about their Internet use. They also answered questions about how they recalled being brought up during their first 16 years of life. In Greece, previous studies have found that between 1 percent and 8 percent of teens are addicted to the Internet. The current study classified almost 2 percent of the men and 0.6 percent of the women as severely addicted, according to the results published in Addictive Behaviors. Continue reading “Raised by the internet”

TransActive Education and Advocacy

“Transgender first-graders aren’t the problem. Uninformed adult are,” writes Leela Ginelle of TransActive Education and Advocacy (http://www.transactiveonline.org/index.php) in today’s Advocate.images-1

As California prepares for a fight over AB 1266, which affords rights to transgender students, issues of gender identity are likely to land in the national spotlight in coming months. As Ginelle continues:

“Our culture doesn’t wait for newborns to tell us what gender they are — we decide for them and then put it in writing. As soon as transgender children can speak, however, they correct us, and, increasingly, their parents listen to and affirm them. As we’ve seen recently, this can lead to confusion and even conflict among less-informed adults.

“When Colorado 6-year-old Coy Mathis tried to use the girls’ restroom at her school, the district attempted to block her, leading to a case that drew national attention. The district thought a transgender girl wanting to use the girls’ bathroom was a little weird or that other people might or that someday it might be.

Transgender people have long been stigmatized as mentally disordered. But an outside observer of this case, in which a public school legally fought to prevent a grade schooler from using a bathroom, might draw different conclusions as to who needs help. And they might have a point. TransActive Education and Advocacy is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit that offers counseling and services to transgender children and their families, and trainings to schools, corporations, and other groups. When families contact us, their children are often displaying depression, and that’s common. Eighty-three percent of trans children and youth report ideating taking their own life, and 32 percent report at least one suicide attempt. Suicide is the number 1 cause of death among transgender youth. While every case is different, the cause of these children’s distress is not their transgender identity. Commonly, rejection by their families and the wider community is at the root of their issues. This rejection, a product of blind antitrans prejudice, founded on generations of unquestioned beliefs regarding gender roles, deviance, and “normalcy” and bolstered by a relentlessly negative media, is as pervasive as it is baseless. Continue reading “TransActive Education and Advocacy”

kids don’t seem to be at school or work

images-1About 15 percent of American youths between the ages of 16 and 24 do not work or attend school, according to a new study released Monday and discussed on ThinkProgress: ‘ The report, from the Opportunity Nation coalition, underscores how economic mobility is increasingly out of reach for the millennial generation.

“These six million idle young people are concentrated in states with lower incomes and higher unemployment rates. In Mississippi and West Virginia, one in five young adults are idle. The worst states for youth opportunity are Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico. Urban residents are also disproportionately affected; Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Houston, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles each have more than 100,000 youths who are unemployed and out of school.

“These troubling numbers cannot be chalked up to laziness or lack of talent, Opportunity Nation notes. The economic recession and sluggish recovery have hit teens and young adults hard, squeezing them out of the workforce even as higher education becomes less and less affordable. Young workers who do manage to get a job are often the first to be laid off when businesses face budget troubles. This effect has lasted long past the initial financial crisis — youth employment sunk to its lowest level since World War II last year.

“Meanwhile, staying in school is becoming harder for many low-income Americans. Millions of teens from poor families have had to sacrifice their educations as parents lost their jobs in the recession or had to take on multiple low-wage positions to make ends meet. College is increasingly a pipe dream for this group, as tuition costs explode and financial aid stagnates. A record number of students are now in debt, but can’t find jobs that match their degree. Continue reading “kids don’t seem to be at school or work”

Spanking and adolescent aggression

images-1A recent long-term study confirms that physical punishment of children contributes to later aggression, often manifest in teenage years

Looking at data collected in the early 2000s, the study reveals that a decade later such children have behavior problems. Not only did behabvior become a problem, but spanked children also had lower vocabulary skills,  as reported in a Reuters story today

“Think spanking will help teach an out of control child to stay in line? A new study suggests the opposite may be true. Researchers found kids who were spanked as five-year-olds were slightly more likely to be aggressive and break rules later in elementary school. Those results are in keeping with past research, said Elizabeth Gershoff. She studies parental discipline and its effects at the University of Texas at Austin. “There’s just no evidence that spanking is good for kids,” she told Reuters Health.

“Spanking models aggression as a way of solving problems, that you can hit people and get what you want,” Gershoff, who wasn’t involved in the new study, said. “When (children) want another kid’s toy, the parents haven’t taught them how to use their words or how to negotiate.” Despite mounting evidence on the harms tied to spanking, it is “still a very typical experience” for U.S. children, the study’s lead author said. “Most kids experience spanking at least some point in time,” Michael MacKenzie, from Columbia University in New York, said. “So there’s this disconnect.” His team used data from a long-term study of children born in one of 20 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. The new report includes about 1,900 kids. Researchers surveyed parents when children were three and five years old about whether and how often they spanked their child. Then they asked mothers about their kid’s behavior problems and gave the children a vocabulary test at age nine.  Continue reading “Spanking and adolescent aggression”

It’s not enough, dad

A new American Time Use Survey shows that men are doing more around the house, but in most cases not nearly enough.images-2

Dads devote more time to caring for children and keeping up the house than they did decades ago, reports today’s Los Angeles Times: ” They spend almost as much time as moms romping with kids in the yard or on the rug. But as dads step up, moms are still wiped out.

“Whether at work or at home — and even at leisure — mothers feel more exhausted than fathers, a study shows. Despite strides toward gender equality, mothers still shoulder much more work at home, especially when it comes to humdrum tasks such as changing diapers and doing the laundry, the Pew Research Center found in the study based on the American Time Use Survey.

“Dads spend almost the same amount of time as moms in terms of playing with kids,” Pew research associate Wendy Wang said. “But they do less in other areas of child care.”

‘For instance, mothers logged more than twice as much time doing “physical care,” such as changing diapers or tending to sick kids. That could be one reason dads find child care less tiring than moms do: Mothers are more than twice as likely as fathers to feel “very tired” during child care.

“Mothers also did more cooking and cleaning, while fathers did more household repairs and maintenance, such as mowing the lawn. All in all, American moms still spend almost twice as many hours on housework and child care, on average, than dads do. Fathers, in turn, spend much more time at work outside the home than mothers do.

“Earlier rounds of the survey, sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, yielded estimates on how Americans spent their time. But the 2010 survey, which included more than 4,800 parents, was the first to ask how people felt during different activities. For Rosie Arroyo-Carmona, the schedule starts at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t end until 11:30 p.m. or midnight, she said. The Burbank mom and her husband both juggle jobs in the nonprofit sector with caring for their baby daughter. Because her husband travels more than she does, Arroyo-Carmona often takes charge of feeding and bathing the baby. After the baby falls asleep, she puts in another few hours working from home. When a bit of free time arises, “I think that I could get something done, or I could get some rest,” Arroyo-Carmona said. “I always choose to check something off my list.” Two years ago, a Boston College survey of mostly white-collar fathers found that although nearly two-thirds said spouses should split child care equally, only 30% said it actually was divided that way in their homes. Even when parents try to share work equally, many moms say they end up doing more. Continue reading “It’s not enough, dad”

ADHD labels and gender

A girl with ADHD may be labeled Chatty Cathy — the enthusiastic school-aged girl who is always telling stories to friends. Or she could be the daydreamer — the smart, shy teenager with the disorganized locker, repots WebMD:

“But what happens when she grows up? Or when her ADHD isn’t diagnosed until she’s a woman? Is her experience different from what men with ADHD go through?

“In some people, the signs of ADHD seem obvious — fidgeting constantly, difficulty paying attention in school or at work, and leaving tasks unfinished. For others, particularly those without behaviors problems, ADHD may be more difficult to diagnose.   The symptoms of ADHD may mimic those of other conditions, and sometimes the signs are subtler and harder to distinguish. One psychiatrist, Daniel Amen, MD, believes that to get a truly accurate diagnosis of ADHD, it is necessary to look inside the…

“The issues adults with ADHD have mirror those in the population as a whole, says Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, a psychotherapist in Boca Raton, Fla. For example, she says men with ADHD tend to have more car accidents, suspensions in school, substance abuse, and anger and behavioral issues, compared to women with ADHD. But men are more prone to these kinds of issues in general, regardless of ADHD. Women with ADHD are more prone to eating disorders, obesity, low self-esteem,depression, and anxiety. But they do in the general population, as well.

” These challenges also often play out in different areas of their lives. Men with ADHD may have problems at work, unable to complete their tasks or getting mad too easily at subordinates, says Anthony Rostain, MD, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to see conflicts at home. Kathleen Nadeau, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland in Silver Spring, says her female ADHD patients, especially mothers, come to her in a “constant state of overwhelm.” Continue reading “ADHD labels and gender”

The kids may not be all right

Despite recent gains against substance abuse by American teens, hundreds of thousands of them use marijuana and alcohol on a given day, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.images

On a typical day, WebMD reports, “an estimated 881,684 kids aged 12 to 17 smoke cigarettes, 646,707 use marijuana and 457,672 drink alcohol, according to a report by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“The number of teens smoking pot on a given day could almost fill the 250,000-seat Indianapolis Speedway two and a half times, the report pointed out.

“This data about adolescents sheds new light on how deeply substance use pervades the lives of many young people and their families,” SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release. “While other studies indicate that significant progress has been made in lowering the levels of some forms of substance use among adolescents in the past decade, this report shows that far too many young people are still at risk.”

“The report also said that on an average day:

  • 7,639 kids aged 12 to 17 drink alcohol for the first time,
  • 4,594 use an illicit drug for the first time,
  • 4,000 use marijuana for the first time,
  • 3,701 smoke cigarettes for the first time,
  • 2,151 misuse prescription pain relievers for the first time. Continue reading “The kids may not be all right”

Early indicators of creativity

A gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields, according to a study published Monday in the journal Psychological Science.images-2

As discussed in today’s New York Times, “the study looked at the professional success of people who, as 13-year-olds, had taken both the SAT, because they had been flagged as particularly gifted, as well as the Differential Aptitude Test. That exam measures spatial relations skills, the ability to visualize and manipulate two-and three-dimensional objects. While math and verbal scores proved to be an accurate predictor of the students’ later accomplishments, adding spatial ability scores significantly increased the accuracy.

“The researchers, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said their findings make a strong case for rewriting standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to focus more on spatial ability, to help identify children who excel in this area and foster their talents.

“Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don’t capture with traditional measures used in educational selection,” said David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. “We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.” Continue reading “Early indicators of creativity”

Stay out of politics, kid

By a 2-to-1 margin, 64% to 31%, Americans would not like their child to go into politics as a career. The results are the same whether the question is asked about a “child,” a “son,” or a “daughter.” There has been little change in the percentage of Americans who would favor a political career for their son or daughter over the past two decades.

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The results are based on a June 20-24 Gallup poll, and find generally little change in the desirability of politics as a profession even as trust in government and confidence in political institutions, particularly Congress, are low.

The largest demographic differences among major subgroups are by race, with nonwhites much more likely than whites to say they would like to see their son or daughter go into politics. This is not a reaction to the fact that the current president is black, as Gallup has found that same racial difference when the question was asked in the 1990s when George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were president.

The racial differences may be behind the slight tendency for Democrats to favor a political career for their sons and daughters more than Republicans do, with a larger party difference for daughters. There are also small, but not necessarily meaningful, differences by gender and being a parent of a young child.

The 31% of Americans who favor a political career for their son or daughter can be seen as an average because respondents answer the questions differently depending on the order in which they are asked. Specifically, Americans are significantly more likely to say they would like both their daughter and son to go into politics when they are asked about a daughter first.

When Gallup asks about a daughter going into politics first, 37% say they would like to see their daughter go into politics. But 37% also say they would like to see their son go into politics when asked about it after being asked about a daughter going into politics.

In contrast, when Gallup asks about a son going into politics first, the percentage wanting to see their son go into politics is 12 percentage points lower, at 25%. And the percentage wanting their daughter to go into politics is lower, at 26%, when asked after the question about a son going into politics.

 

More at Gallup: http://www.gallup.com/poll/163373/child-avoid-career-politics.aspx?utm_source=tagrss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syndication

Gender in a Lego world

images-1It’s obvious from walking through a toy store that LEGO has focused its licensing and product development around boys.

Today’s CNN.com carries an article on how LEGO is shifting on gendered products––driven, of course, by a profit motive.

“To capture the girl market, LEGO created the alternate, girl-only world of Heartlake City for Friends instead of incorporating more females into existing LEGO sets. LEGO says the line was one of its most successful to date, “surpassing early projections to triple the number of girls building with LEGO bricks” in 2012.

“But that still leaves the market wide open for children such as my daughter, who want more female “minifigs” in gender-neutral packaging. Instead, LEGO clearly distinguishes which sets are aimed at boys or girls, and our children take in the colors on the packaging and placement on the shelves through a cultural lens. They get the message loud and clear. LEGO is the second-largest toy manufacturer in the world; gender parity matters in a product that is consumed and loved by so many children. Continue reading “Gender in a Lego world”

Women, children, and potatoes

Who knew there was a potato war and that poor kids and their moms were the victims?images-1

According to current numbers, Americans eat (or attempt to eat) 112 pounds of potatoes per capita last year. But lately, according to NPR today, “the potato industry has been playing the part of jilted lover and taking its heartache to Congress.

“The National Potato Council is saying the U.S. Department of Agriculture “discriminates” against fresh, white potatoes. Huh?

“Back in 2007, the USDA ruled that women and children enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, couldn’t buy potatoes with the program’s vouchers. Instead, the nearly 9 million WIC participants, who have to be poor and at risk of under- or malnutrition to enroll in the program, are given a monthly benefit ($10 for women and $6 for children) to buy any fruit or vegetable except white potatoes.

“This month, industry groups persuaded some members of the House Appropriations Committee to introduce an amendment to change that — by permitting states the option to include potatoes in their WIC programs. The potato lobby is also hoping to change the final WIC rule on what foods are eligible for the WIC benefit. USDA is taking comments on it until June 29. Continue reading “Women, children, and potatoes”

Kids and gender non-conformity

From the time they are born, we put our boys in blue beanies and our girls in pink ones. So begins a piece in today’s Washington Post: “It’s a societal norm, an expectation even, that you just are what you are born — a boy or a girl.images“From early on, we divide toys and activities by very distinct gender lines, with superheroes and trucks and muck on one side and princesses and dolls and all things frilly on the other.
“Many children land, enthusiastically, on the expected side. Others dabble in both “girl” and “boy” things. But what if your kid, even from an early age, mostly showed interest in doing opposite-gender things? More importantly, what if they wanted to BE the opposite gender — or a less-defined mix of both? And what if they wanted to test those limits in public places, like school?”Would you let them?”It’s not, of course, that pat of a process. Parents don’t just decide to let their kids switch genders. But, whether parents are dragged through the process, or if they decide to work it through more openly, more kids are challenging the boundaries of traditional gender, and going public at younger ages. And they are doing so with the guidance of a growing faction of medical experts who no longer see this as something to be fixed. Last year, the American Psychiatric Association removed “gender identity disorder” from its list of mental health ailments.  Continue reading “Kids and gender non-conformity”

Defending Ronald

McDonald’s Corp. Chief Executive Don Thompson, presiding over his first annual shareholders meeting since taking the helm of the fast-food chain last summer, defended the company’s efforts to market to children, reports the Wall Street Journalimgres

“Several speakers associated with Corporate Accountability International, a nonprofit corporate watchdog that put forward a proposal calling on McDonald’s to conduct an assessment of its nutrition initiatives, accused the company of contributing to the country’s obesity problem by targeting children, particularly minorities. McDonald’s CEO defended mascot Ronald McDonald, saying the fast-food chain isn’t the cause of obesity.Mr. Thompson, McDonald’s first African-American chief executive, said the criticism hits close to home and staunchly defended McDonald’s marketing practices.

“We are not the cause of obesity. Ronald is not a bad guy,” Mr. Thompson said Thursday “He’s about fun. He’s a clown. I’d urge you all to let your kids have fun, too.” Continue reading “Defending Ronald”

Dangerous kids

Now don’t laugh at this. Apparently more and more parents are showing up at the emergency with injuries inflicted by their kids.images-2

Although much attention is paid to the safety of infants and toddlers, their sudden jabs, bites, head-butts and kicks can inflict injuries on caregivers, usually parents, reports today’s New York Times. ” After her 2-year-old daughter “clocked” her under the eye, leaving a significant shiner, Alaina Webster, 31, coined a term on her blog to describe this common problem: “unintentional parent abuse.”

“In a “public service announcement” on the blog, Absolute Uncertainties, Ms. Webster called for battered parents to rise up: “Will you fight back against the 2-foot 6-inch tyrants taking over our subdivisions, or will you continue to let unsuspecting parents be beaten into submission simply for loving their child too closely?”

“According to emergency room physicians, pediatricians and other experts, U.P.A. is no laughing matter. With unpredictable infants and toddlers, meals, bath time or even cuddles can go terribly wrong. Though statistics for injuries caused by young children are difficult to find, parents routinely suffer concussions, chipped teeth, corneal abrasions, nasal fractures, cut lips and torn earlobes, among other injuries. Continue reading “Dangerous kids”

“Accept” and “tolerate” not good enough

Last month U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) reversed his stance on gay marriage, largely because his son is gay, and although I felt like I should have been happy about it, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, I’m happy that there is another senator willing to support the civil rights of all U.S. citizens, but my knee-jerk reaction was, “Oh, you support gay marriage now because it directly affects your family? Well, guess what, Mr. Senator: The rest of our kids matter too.” I know that that thought was not generous, and I’m not proud of it, but my frustration is real, and the problem of homophobia is real, reports Huffington Post

“Then U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) made his own announcement. It turns out that he has a gay son too, but his opposition to marriage equality is not going to change. He also made a point to say that he loves his son. A few days later his son did an interview in which he spoke about how his father loves him and is incredibly tolerant. Now I wasn’t frustrated; I was furious. I was furious at this father for putting his politics before the rights of his kid, and I was furious that his child felt the need to defend his father when his father sure as hell isn’t defending him.

“But when I let my temper simmer down and took a step back, I saw that this is an issue that goes far beyond two GOP politicians and their kids.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to hear from gay kids all across the country. A lot of them don’t have supportive families, but some do. I cherish the good stories, but there’s often a moment in those good stories that makes my heart hurt: when they tell me how happy they are that their parents “still” love them — because all those kids knew that not loving them was an option. Continue reading ““Accept” and “tolerate” not good enough”