Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos. Don’t forget to recommend us!

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed at MotherTalkers:

Do you eat dinner as a family? Multiple studies have pointed out health advantages eating together rather than grazing in front of the TV solo. But we discussed the challenges of herding the family during mealtimes and offered tips on how to make it easier.

We had yet another discussion on how much influence parents should have over their small children’s birthday party invitation lists.

Here is a personal and moving account of what it is like to be adopted and place your own child for adoption. Our “Frog Wife” garnered quite the response.

We had a monstrous discussion on progressive and family-friendly places to live in the United States. I am an east coast transplant who now lives in Berkeley, California. This is what I had to say about it in the thread: “We have been living in Berkeley, CA, for the last 10 years and can’t imagine being anywhere else. It is, for the most part, sunny, green with all the amenities of city life plus open space in the hills. It is progressive and family friendly in that there are many things for us to do like go to the zoo, children’s museums, preschool-type programs and other activities. However, it is expensive and that is a big downside to it and what made us consider Portland (Oregon). It is also a tad crowded. I am surprised by the number of cars here despite having, for the most part, reliable public transportation.” Where do you live? Do you like it?

Here is a hot topic we discussed: Would you buy your teenaged daughter a vibrator? Apparently, Oprah Winfrey and show sex expert Dr. Laura Berman endorsed the idea. I read a re-cap of the show — and ensuing discussion — at the AOL blog ParentDish. Discuss away!

I will be out of town next week and will not post this diary a week from today. I will resume “Weekly Parenting News Roundup” and the accompanying Daily Kos diary on Saturday, May 9. “See” you then!

What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I heart Jennifer Weiner. The author of Good In Bed and Little Earthquakes wrote an hilarious piece about her neurotic friend Elizabeth for Glamour magazine. The photo of the two women is adorable.

Salon’s Broadsheet has a big debate going on about United Airlines’s new policy to charge overweight passengers for two seats. As the long thread pointed out, Southwest Airlines already has the same policy in place, although it is illegal for the airlines to do so in Canada because it is viewed as discrimination.

In case you missed it, Oprah Winfrey pulled her show about the Columbine shootings because it focused too much on the killers. She left a note on Oprah.com. Also in Oprah: Sex expert Dr. Laura Berman — and Oprah — recently agreed that moms should buy their teen girls vibrators. ParentDish had a recap of the fascinating discussion and topic.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Would You Give Your 14-Year-Old a Condom?

ParentDish recently highlighted a couple related debates at the CafeMom blog: Would you give your 14-year-old son a condom? How about your daughter?

While the thread about the daughter sparked twice as many comments, for the most part, parents were willing to give their 14-year-olds the sex talk and birth control. From the daughter thread:

My parents told me it was unacceptable to have sex until I was married, that God wouldn’t like it, that I would disappoint God and them.

I did it anyways. I’m glad I found condoms to use. Teens don’t always listen to their parents.

coutterhill Mar. 23, 2009 at 9:04 PM

if theyr’e gonna do it they’re gonna do it. may as well make sure they don’t catch something that won’t wash off!

igot2 Mar. 23, 2009 at 9:04 PM

Readers at ParentDish, which can sometimes trend conservative, also said they would rather protect their children no matter the gender. Glad to see this paradigm shift from “condoms encourage teen sex” to common sense. What about you? Would you give your 14-year-old a condom? How about a child younger than that?


Late-Night Liberty: Spouses Just Wanna Have Fun Edition

I spotted this piece of news at ParentDish, but apparently the original source is Star Magazine so please do take this with a grain of salt.

Jon Gosselin, the 31-year-old father and star of Jon and Kate Plus 8 fame, was recently spotted partying with some college girls. Here is what ParentDish picked up from the Star article:

Gosselin, 31, reportedly showed up — uninvited — at a bash thrown by Juniata College seniors Erin Albert and Mariel Little last month, and played beer pong with members of the women’s volleyball team. Juniata is in Huntingdon, PA, where Gosselin’s mom lives.

So this is kind of like being in back in college, except for the part about how he’s married and has eight kids. And has a television show about his life.

What to make of this? On the one hand, partying with a group of female college athletes is an incredibly stupid thing for a 31-year-old man to do, regardless of who he is. But Jon Gosselin is a fairly famous guy — even more so in the town where his family lives. To expect that no one was going to notice him wandering into this party, and picking up a ping-pong paddle, is totally naive. Dude!

On the other hand, maybe the guy just needed to get out and blow off some steam.

I just looked at Gosselin’s mug and, man, he looks tired. I don’t blame him for wanting a break, but damn, doesn’t he have any pals his own age to play ping pong with? I am just sayin’….

Still, this writer raised a good question: What do you and your spouses do for “me” time? I only have two kids and I would go insane without it. I do think my husband and I are good about taking turns watching the kids so we can work out. Especially this year, we have gotten in shape because the elections are over and he has been able to watch the kids while I go for a run or pop in my Tracy Anderson DVD.

Occasionally, I will get out with friends like I did this past weekend for my birthday. He gets downtime when I take the kids bowling Friday nights with friends from school and I take them to church on Sundays. He usually rides his bike or plays the piano.

What do you and your spouses do to unwind?


Bathroom Cameras In School

Via ParentDish: Here is a story to put away in the bizarre-o files.

A school in Wales has created a stir for installing cameras in the bathrooms. The school said it undertook the measure to assure children do not misuse soap and toilet paper and to keep horseplay to a minimum. At least one father has withdrawn his 14-year-old daughter over what he says is an “outrageous invasion” of privacy.

Here is what Aeron Rhys, head of Ysgol Dyffryn Teifi School in Llandysul, Ceredigion, told the BBC:

“The CCTV was installed to monitor these areas and it’s done the trick. There’s been a significant improvement.

“Obviously this decision was not taken lightly and cameras were installed in the best interest of pupils.
“It was discussed in school council and with pupils beforehand.”

He said the cameras had been in place for two months.

The leader of Ceredigion council Keith Evans, who represents the town and is a school governor, supported Mr. Rhys’ decision.

“Toilets can be areas where misbehaviour occurs. In this case CCTV was installed, in the main, to overcome concerns about the misuse of paper and soap,” he said.

Mr. White told the Carmarthen Journal that he thought the decision was an “invasion of her privacy”.
“The whole place is like they’re on Big Brother. There are cameras all around the school, outside and in the corridors,” he said.

Ceredigion council said the CCTV footage in the toilets was only examined if an incident was reported.

Does your child’s schools have cameras? What say you about them?


Field Trip To A Same Sex Wedding?

Wow. This story has generated thousands of comments at the San Francisco Chronicle website and ParentDish blog.

A San Francisco first grade class took a field trip to their teacher’s same sex wedding at city hall. It was a surprise planned by the students and their parents — and not something the teacher requested.

Still, two of the students stayed behind with another first grade class as they did not have permission from their parents to attend. Also, this school has unfortunately given fodder to opponents of gay marriage who worry that public schools will teach children that same sex relationships are okay. But many respondents, including Bethany Sanders of ParentDish, had a more thoughtful response:

As a teacher who frequently had to justify my field trips to school administrators, I think this is a gray area, but not because of the gender of the people getting married. Is a wedding an appropriate learning experience for a first grader? As a member of a community, yes. As a school child, I’m not so sure, though the kids did get to take a city bus and visit City Hall, so there’s that.

But as a parent, I probably would have let my child go. An hour and a half out of their day to share such an important occasion with a beloved teacher is worth the lost class time. What do you think?

Good question. I probably would have let my children go on the field trip, although I am not sure if a wedding is an appropriate way to spend school hours. I am also surprised the teacher scheduled the wedding during work hours.

But I completely disagree with the vitriol surrounding this incident or gay marriage, which I believe stems from fear and bigotry. I think people are born gay so this idea that children who hear about gay couples or watch gay marriages are going to become gay is ridiculous.

That said, I do think this field trip treads into a gray area especially since I am not sure it would have happened if the teacher were straight. I can see how it could be interpreted as a political statement, which is inappropriate for a public school.

What do you think? Would you have let your child go on this field trip?


Mother Presses Charges Against 12-Year-Old Son

Via ParentDish: A Longmont, Colorado mom is pressing charges against her 12-year-old son for taking the family van out for a spin and crashing it against someone’s detached garage, according to the Longmont Times-Call.

No one was killed nor injured in the accident. But folks in the Times-Call comments thread as well as ParentDish readers are praising the mom for her “tough love.”

“He said he just wanted to prove he could drive a car,“ Sgt. James Sawinska said.

According to police, the boy had been spending the night at the home of a 14-year-old friend. Sawinska said the 12-year-old had wanted to go cruising and that his friend drove him back home so he could get the van….

The boy was arrested a little after 2 p.m. He was checked out briefly at Longmont United Hospital before being taken to the Boulder County Juvenile Detention Center.

Possible charges include aggravated motor vehicle theft, driving without a valid license, leaving the scene of an accident and failing to notify police, and reckless driving.

According to police, the front end of the van was heavily damaged. The van’s windshield was smashed and still had fence pieces in it, and both passenger-side tires were flat. Police did not know the extent of the damage to the garage.


It’s stories like these that freak me out about impending teenhood. What do you think? Would you ever press charges against your 12-year-old? Under what circumstances?


A Family Section on Airplanes?

This hit too close to home as I just endured a miserable trip with a four-year-old and 16-month-old from Oakland, California to Manchester, New Hampshire. I am still recovering from that one. Gah!

So I was intrigued by Rachel Campos-Duffy’s column in ParentDish about a hypothetical family section on airplanes.

Last month a mom traveling with four kids, including an autistic son and a daughter with cerebral palsy, were detained in Phoenix and not permitted to board their connecting flight to Seattle because her kids were unruly on the previous flight.

However you feel about that incident, a recent study says that 85% of those polled believe that airlines should have a section reserved for adults traveling with children. When I first heard this statistic, I was initially indignant. Our society calls for tolerance of all types of people. What about kids? Should they be segregated like smokers, their cries the equivalent of carcinogenic second-hand smoke? The quality of air travel has declined enough without being forced to sit every flight in the back of the plane next to the smelly bathrooms….

But then I recalled my worst trip ever. I was traveling with my baby and three year-old and we had the misfortune of being seated next to a man who made no bones about his displeasure at being seated next to us – all this before my kids had even done anything. As karma would have it, he was treated to an inconsolable baby. Plus, my three year old uncharacteristically peed on her seat while sleeping. The seat was soaked and the airline blanket I subsequently put under her (what else could I do?) did nothing to mask the smell of urine for the remaining two hours of the flight. Needless to say, it was a long trip to Phoenix.

While I secretly felt that the grumpy old guy deserved it, the truth is that the entire situation was made worse because he was totally stressing me out. If I had been seated next to another parent with kids, I would have probably been more relaxed and better able to calm down my infant.

Amen to that! I, too, had a similar experience on this past trip to New Hampshire. We took a Southwest Airlines flight with a layover in Chicago. On the way to New Hampshire, Ari had an accident and ended up flying the rest of the way with his pants, but no underwear. On the way back home, Eli was inconsolable and the passengers around me were visibly annoyed. “Is she hungry?” one woman asked me. I snapped back, “No, she’s just bored!”

I was at my wit’s end and vowed never to travel alone with the kids again.

But I wonder if our own special section at the back of the plane would make traveling easier? Knowing that the people around me didn’t mind if my baby cried for the duration of the flight would probably take a load off my back. What do you think? Would you want seating reserved for families?

Also, I really felt for the mom and her disabled children who were left stranded in Phoenix. (The link is in the ParentDish story.) It does sound like the children were disruptive to the point it wasn’t safe for them to travel. But what is a mom of a special needs child supposed to do? Never fly? That seems unreasonable.

Is it possible to make the skies friendlier for everyone?


What Did You Do With Your Baby’s Placenta?

Actor Matthew McConaughey, who had a son last month, plans to bury the boy’s placenta, according to the blog ParentDish.

It’s going to be in the orchards,” he told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “And it’s going to bear some wonderful fruit.” The new dad apparently got the idea from a trip to Australia, where he met a tribe who had a placenta tree where all new babies’ placentas are buried.

Honestly, I don’t care what people do with their children’s placentas. But don’t Matt and Levi’s mom, Camila Alves live in a motorhome? Where do they keep that thing — next to the frozen breastmilk in the freezer? I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing sharing a home and parenthood with Matthew means never having a dull moment.

For sure. While the placentas that came with my children stayed at the hospital, I have heard of a lot of traditions around the placenta, including burying it. A former Native American co-worker once told me that her tradition actually cooks the placenta and eats it since it is so full of nutrition for the mother. “I didn’t eat mine though,” she quickly added, after seeing the horrified look on my face.

Did any of you do anything with your children’s placentas? How about other postpartum rituals?


Play-Based Versus Academic Preschool

Via ParentDish: Associated Press writer Nancy Zuckerbrod compared the British education system with that of the U.S..

As she learned while visiting kindergarten classrooms in London where her daughter now attends, U.S. children are actually behind their British counterparts in reading because preschools there are academic while ours are play-based.

Like Zuckerbrod, I was amazed at the high standards imposed on four-year-olds about to attend kindergarten in Britain:

Britain has a national curriculum with specific goals, and schools there are rigorously inspected and evaluated. Most kids enter school at 4, instead of 5 as is the case here, and pre-kindergarten programs tend to be more academic than in the United States. American programs are often more play-based than academically structured, and standards vary widely from state-to-state and between public and private settings.

It’s not an open-and-shut case as to whether one country’s approach is better than another. On a recent international reading test, U.S. fourth-graders and their peers from England had the same results. They weren’t all that impressive. Students from the two countries posted lower average scores than students in Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy and Sweden, along with several Canadian provinces.

In math, kids in the United Kingdom, which includes Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, outperformed their American peers on an international test given to 15-year-olds.

Back on the phone in Washington, I listened as the head teacher suggested sending Olivia back to a “nursery school,” to a reception class, generally the British version of pre-kindergarten. But Olivia is turning 6 this fall. We were being asked to put her with kids much closer in age to her 3 1/2-year-old brother than herself. That was not something she would swallow easily, and should we?

An e-mail from the school followed. It politely spelled out exactly what the kids in that school were expected to master by Olivia’s age: telling time; fractions – whole, half, quarter and thirds; counting by fives up to 50; reading books (something called the pink new level) and starting to write “news” independently.

I thought about Olivia’s school experience over the last year. She planted basil seeds with her beloved pre-k teacher. She learned all about insects, drew a fantastic picture of Saturn, and she definitely mastered the monkey bars.

But she does not know how to tell time, isn’t reading books on her own, and fractions – even American kids in older grades, well into middle and high school, are having trouble with those, according to a recent federal report.

Olivia is now attending a British public school and not the snooty private one that sent her mom the e-mail. Even then, she lags her peers in reading and writing.

What do you think? Is this something the U.S. should worry about?