Chum Stew: Interesting Links and News You Can Uze … and a bit more

Observation StewI’m home today with a cold, and I have loads of interesting news chum links that have no coherent theme, so let’s just get them out there (h/t to Andrew Ducker for a few of these). Oh, and with each, you’ll get a little bit more.:


Written and Spoken Media

userpic=booksThis collection of news chum brings together a collection of articles related to media of various forms:

  • “This is NPR”. Looking for a new job? Here’s one for you: you can be the announcer who reads the sponsors and says “This is NPR” at the end of Public Radio programs.
  • Paperback Writer. QANTAS airlines is commissioning paperback books. Specifically, they are commissioning books designed to take a single flight to read. Though the books for short flights are meant to be read continuously, for long flights, they are factoring in the thought that passengers will most likely put their book down for food and naps. The target audience for the campaign is Qantas’ Platinum Flyers, who tend to skew male. A range of popular airport genres including thrillers, crime and nonfiction are included, with titles such as “City of Evil” and “Australian Tragic.”
  • Feeding the Trolls. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know I find reading comments on news articles infuriating because of the trolls. Here’s an interesting article where one fellow got fed up sufficiently that he went and interviewed the troll.  What I found interesting was that the troll was just like you and I, and he was doing it just because he found it fun.
  • Cutting Up Paper. Last weekend was the congregational meeting at our synagogue. The outgoing president was presented a beautiful papercut by the husband of one of our Rabbis (the official title is “Mr. Lucky”, derivered from something the now ex-husband of one of our favorite rabbis said when asked what you call the husband of a rabbi — his response… “Lucky”). Isaac, the artist, posted a picture of the papercut on the website along with an explanation. I particularly like how he used cut-up synagogue promotional material.

Bonus Media Item: “Star Trek: Into Darkness” – The Spoiler FAQ. I hadn’t had a strong urge to see this picture, even though I grew up with Star Trek and loved the franchise. Reading this, I think I’ll wait until it is on the small screen.


Secret Rules of Parenting

Today, as I ate my lunch, I really thought about writing about the Anti-PowerPoint Party or the fact that watches are making a comeback… but my mind kept going to the Secret Rules of Parenting.

You know the book. The one they give you when you have a kid that tells you all the stuff you have to do. What? You didn’t receive a copy? Guess what? Neither did I. But we all pretend to have the book. It’s like the book in Xanth that teaches you not to show your underwear.

What brought this to my head is an argument that has been going on with my teenage daughter. She wants a second hole in her head. To be precise, a second hole in each ear. I can’t see the point of it, and my wife hasn’t been in favor of it. This, of course, goes to the first rule of parenting: Always Present a United Front. If my wife is against it, as far as anyone knows, I’m against it.

Now my daughter has thought she should get this second hole as a reward for academic achievement; most recently, her getting 5s in AP US History, English Language, and Art History and a 4 in AP Chemistry. Laudible achievements of which I’m proud. But does one pay for grades? I don’t. I personally feel that if we’re giving her something we don’t really want to do, she should give us something she doesn’t really want to do (in this case, Confirmation-equivalent). Of course, she doesn’t see it that way, and this has led to all sorts of dramatus teenagus to try to convince us. This, of course, triggers the second rule of parenting: Even if you convince us, we won’t say “yes” as a result of drama and histrionics. To put it in words of the toddler years: Temper trantrums don’t get you what you want. You might very well convince us… but we’ll decide when we say “yes”.

This brings up the subject of boundaries. Boundaries are good things for children: You must be home by 10pm. You can’t date until your 15. I’m sure we all remember the boundaries our parents set, and when we were younger, they actually gave us comfort (and often an excuse to get out of what we didn’t want to do, such as when we told the person we didn’t like, “I’d love to go out with you, but my parents won’t let me date yet”). But as we got older, we began to chafe at the boundaries. I’m sure we remember how that irritated us; more importantly, we remember what happened when we violated the trust of those boundaries (I know I still remember what happened when I got home late without calling). What we don’t realize as kids that that our parents set these boundaries often because they don’t want to see us hurt or damaged irreparably: there are bad things that happen to teens, there are things people do to their bodies that are not repairable. The boundaries are set of out of love. Teens don’t see that: they just see the (to them) unreasonable restrictions. This, I think leads to the third rule: Boundaries are important, but learn to see and hear the other side, even if you don’t agree. Boundaries are essentially a line of trust; the hardest part of parenting is learning when to expand the trust boundaries to someone you’ve seen do stupid things. [I always think of the Loving Spoonful song “Younger Generation”, which says (paraphrased) “I’ll do everything I can do to teach my son to be a man, and still he’ll stick his fingers in the fan”].

My daughter has also been upset with us because we didn’t put her in loads of dance classes when she was younger; we let her be a kid. I’m sure that, if we had, we would have a complaint from the other direction; i.e., that she was overprogrammed. As we know, hindsight is always 20-20: we can see, looking back, what we should have done… but we had no way of knowing. We should have saved in this way, we should have put her in that class, we should have bought this and not bought that. However, without a time machine: you’re stuck with your mistakes. All you can do is move forward and attempt not to repeat them (unlike what the government does). You must trust that you’ll learn from them and things will work out. To put it as the fourth rule: You’re gonna make mistakes and do the wrong thing, and somehow the wash is still mostly clean.

Lastly, throughout this discussion, my daughter has been attempting to discussing things with us as a rational, educated adult. Guess what? 90% of the time, that’s what she is: a delightful reasonable young woman who is wonderful to be around. But what she forgets—and what most teens forget—is that she’s not a fully mature adult. Adolescent judgement doesn’t fully mature until the early 20s for most young women (it is later for men, and I’m sure some will argue it is never achieved). This means that there are times where your teenager will be making bad or ill-advised judgements and will be absolutely convinced it is the correct thing to do. Often, this is the result of peer pressure (and of course, to go full circle, “everyone has multiple piercings these days” is one of the key factors that started this in the first place). Peer pressure is what leads to the inevitable parenting line, “So if all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?”. This leads to the penultimate rule, which I could write as “Remember your teenager is not mature”… but that’s not right. This is because even parents can make bad decisions. So let me phrase this fifth rule is: Learn to trust in the judgement of someone more mature than you.

What is the last rule? It’s what I alluded to at the beginning: There is no secret handbook of how to be a parent. We’re all flying by the seat of our pants and trying to do our best. Cut us some slack.


The Princess Phase

Today’s reading of the news uncovered a Newsweek article that addressed the same question as an earlier NY Times article. This isn’t a surprise, as both were reviewing the same book, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein. The articles explored the question: Do little girls always go through a “princess” phase, where they want to dress up like a princess? What is the drive that leads to this?

I think it is an interesting question. I’m trying to remember if my daughter had such a phase. I think so: I do remember her dressing up in Barbie heels at one point. But she was never attracted to the traditional Disney princesses waiting for their Prince Charming. She was more in the latter-day princess mode: the bookish Belle, the tomboy-ish Lilo, the adventurous Mulan.

So what do you think? Is the pink and princess a phase that every little girl goes through?

P.S.: FYI, evidently pink is the in-color for 2011.

P.P.S.: Do read the linked articles. They address the question: Can pink frilly dresses and magic wands really harm young girls?



[Want your own rant? See the Rant Meme: This rant is for jumbach (James Umbach on Facebook), who wanted a rant on “Kids these days and their lack of respect for elders. Like, OMG!!”. Remember: the rant meme is a great creative writing exercise. Just follow the instructions and post it to your own journal.]

[He walks out, with a soapbox. He sets it on the ground. He climbs up on it, and speaks…]

In the musical “Bye Bye Birdie”, there’s a song called “Kids”, with the refrain, “What’s a Matter with Kids These Days”. In the musical “Flower Drum Song”, the adults sing about the problems with “The Younger Generation”, while the kids complain about “The Older Generation”. You don’t get what I’m talking about do you?

Hmmm. Let me try another approach, and quote Rodney Dangerfield. I get no respect. No respect at all.

If you look at kids these days—and I’m not just talking about teenagers—you’ll find there is a distinct lack of respect for their elders (I’ve made it to over 50; I think I’ve earned the title “elder”). Whereas when we were growing up, adults were always Mr. or Miss/Mrs…. or if you knew them well, Aunt and Uncle. Today? You’re lucky if you get called something that isn’t four letters. What adults said was respected and given due consideration before it was ignored. Today, it is just ignored.

Adults are taken for granted. We are the taxi, the restaurant, the cleaning staff, the laundry staff. We supply the technical toys and the Internet access that makes a kids life possible. We pay the cable bills and the phone bills. We provide them with clothing and field trips and with food. Boy, do we supply them with food! Yet do we get any appreciation for this? No. We even have to buy our own cards for Fathers Day and Mothers Day.

Now, when I was a kid, we knew how to respect our parents. We listened to them. We did what they said. We feared and respected them. Of course, that’s because we knew if we didn’t they would be the crap out of us. Ah, the good old days. Respect built from fear.

But kids today. How do we gain that respect back? Fear isnt’ the answer. Respect out of fear is meaningless. We want respect out of love.

Let’s look at this another way. One big item in the news this week was the release of the entire series of “Leave It To Beaver” on DVD. Eddie Haskell was polite… but was he respectful? No. The Cleaver boys were more respectful, because they listened to what their parents said. Respect is built not on the things we do, but on how we say and act. We earn our respect by giving respect back, by giving good advice, and by being parents—being there to listen, being firm when necessary, and providing that safe harbor. Ultimately, kids aren’t respectful to their parents because they know they can; because they know home is a safe place where they don’t need that respectful facade.

I’d rather have the respect where my child knows they can talk to me about any problem. That’s more important than any card.

[He carefully climbs off the soapbox. He picks it up, and walks offstage.]


Teens and Maturity

Recently, I’ve been caught up in the story of Abby Sunderland. For those not familiar with Abby, she’s the 16 year old teen from Thousand Oaks, who set sail in January from Marina Del Rey, CA, with a goal to circumnavigate the world non-stop. She had to pull into Cabo for repairs in February, resetting that as her start point. She had autopilot trouble in April, and pulled into Capetown SA for repairs. She’s been keeping a blog of her trip.

Yesterday, her parents lost communication with her, and two of her emergency manual beacons were set off. This prompted a lot of worries and search planes to be set out. The good news is that she’s fine, but the ship lost its mast (which is why satellite communications went down). Rescue ships are on their way; they should be there in 24 hours.

So, going to the title of this post. Look at any of the news reports on this, and you’ll find two camps of comments: Those that are supportive of Abby, and those criticizing her parents for letting her go, to the extent of wanting legislation or licenses to prevent this. To the latter group I say: “Shut up.”.

As a parent of a teen, I know how mature my child is. I’ve seen teens that are immature, and teens that are 34-year-old in teen bodies. I know that if my daughter set her mind on something like this, she would approach the problem logically and maturely. Additionally, there would be the fact that she would be safer isolated on the ocean than on the streets of our cities. In the case of Ms. Sunderland, I think she has already demonstrated her maturity by knowing when she had to give up on part of the dream to safely make repairs. She showed maturity through her activation of the beacons instead of trying to bluster through. Reading her blog you get the sense of her levelheadedness. You can see why her parents trusted in her ability to do this.

Am I saying that every teen should able to do this, or encouraged to try? No. I’m saying that we shouldn’t lump all teens together, and if a teen wants to achieve a dream, we should trust the parents to gauge their maturity.


The Day Will Come…

This summer, nsshere has been taking summer school at her new high school. One of the classes she has been taking is life skills, which isn’t what I thought it would be… but is really study techniques and how to pick a college. So she’s been going through all sorts of college decision tools, and coming up to us afterwards and saying, “Dad, I’d like to go to <insert school here>”.

Many of the schools are back east. Many are private.

No, we don’t have enough money saved for a private school for her, but she is learning about scholarships, so if she addresses that hurdle, there’s a bigger one I’ll have to face. Her moving out. Yes, this is four years away. But still, as a parent, it is a hard thing to contemplate. She’s actually a neat person to have around the house, and I enjoy talking to her.

So, on the one hand, I want her to go to the school of her dreams, whereever it is. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind her going to CSUN or UCLA or any school in Southern California, just so she’s close by.

I guess every parent faces this. I guess, as children, we never realized what our parents went through when we moved out.*

(*: unless, of course, your parents actually wanted you out of the house. You get the clue when you come home from High School graduation and find your room packed for you.)


Do “Missing Child” Posts Work?

Taking a quick look at the news while reviewing my document, I ran across this fascinating article. It appears that someone decided to test whether missing children posters work. They hired an 8-year-old actress, sat her in the mall along, next to a missing child poster with her picture. Her father sat a discrete distance away, just watching what the crowd did. Most people just ignored the poster and the girl. But at least no strange men approached her. The latter former is sad; the former latter is good.