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Monthly Archives: October 2011

#ThreeMinutesApart

Would you give birth in an art gallery?  On purpose?  I’m guessing no.  Nor would I.  But then again I wouldn’t post a photo of my fetus on Facebook.  Call me a traditionalist, but I consider medical tests to be somewhat personal.  Sonograms and birthing are two sides of a similar coin (and not just in the procreational timeline.)

Birthing as “art” is pretty low on the Gypsy-Rose-Lee-having-no-talent rung of performance art.  Unless the “artist” did it while playing the trumpet, dancing, or adorned in light bulbs, I’m not sure it counts as a talent.  I’ve seen enough bad acting in my life to know that talent often need not get in the way of being on stage.  I would venture that our Lamaze performance artist is a subscriber to the “if it happens to me, it is interesting” school of thought.  But all art is some form of exhibitionism, isn’t it?  I’m less concerned with her personal display than I am with the sonogram as baby photo.

Medical test photos on Facebook are creepy.  A) it’s way too personal b) it’s a fetus, not an infant, anything could happen g-d forbid (which is why the test was done in the first place!) c) what in the world is the poster after as a response? “Oh your blurry blob looks just like you!”  After seeing one of these test results posted I started counting the years to my first colonoscopy.  Brace yourself world.

There are some out there who may not be ready to share their sonogram photos with the world.  Why, you ask?  Well because they conceived last night, so for them it is a photo of the pee stick.  That’s right.  Every friend and virtual friend can now see the results of a pregnancy test.  (I so wish I was being facetious, but oh my dears, I am still scrubbing my eyes.)  Remember when you didn’t discuss your pregnancy until the end of the first trimester?  Pish posh and rubbish.  I’m willing to venture that right at this moment, someone is updating her status with; “my temperature is elevated and the lights are dimmed.”

How did we develop this insatiable need for an audience?  When did the miracle of life diminish in its gravitas?  How is creating a life, not enough?  I struggle to resist my knee jerk reaction of pinning this on immaturity.  But I simply can’t help but equate this behavior with a toddler announcing to a group of adults that she successfully went potty.

 
 

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Demons Are Prowling Everywhere*

Did you know you can childproof every single electrical outlet in your home for just $20 each?  And a $30 bracket will harness that lightweight (unsightly) lethal flat screen television?  There are also electric cord shorteners, doorknob covers, toilet seat locks and childproof window treatments.  Remember when everyone was up in arms over the (now quaint) childproofing of pill bottles?

It seems that while I was quietly mastering the push down twist of my vitamin bottle, the world has become a perilous, Raiders of the Lost Ark place for small children.  Evidently even baby monitors are lethal.  An aside; I never really understood the baby monitor.  How big is someone’s home that they can’t hear the ear piercing cry of a child?   Or are they used to quell paranoia?  What is that baby saying about you while it feigns a nap, huh?  While we’re on the subject of my limited understandings; what’s with the toilet seat lock?  Is it a drowning concern?  A flushing of valuable items concern?  I am in need of enlightenment.

The advent of those little plastic outlet covers have no doubt saved many little ones from electrocution.  (Reportedly, they are too difficult for today’s parent to use and hence the $20 per outlet solution.)  Kitchens and medicine cabinets will always demand rethinking.  Unless your little one has rappelling gear, moving everything on up should solve any problems.  When my brother was at his most dangerous and destructible, cleaning solutions went into the upper cabinets and foods went into the lower.  It went well until we awoke to find him happily playing in a pile of grains on the kitchen floor.  That night, hook and eye locks were installed on the kitchen doors.  Problem solved.

Like exposure to dirt and germs, children need minor controlled exposure to cause and effect.  A bump on the head, scraped knee, burned finger tip are the ways we learn our (and the world’s) limitations.  Might I suggest that parents who feel they are living in a house of horrors, introduce themselves to a playpen.

Wait for it.  There it is.  “THERE IS NO PRICE ON SAFETY!”  Look, I am safety girl.  I took Robin’s admonition to Batman to; “buckle up for safety” quite seriously.  But I also am a disciple of the principles of cost/benefit ratios.  Confiscating my room service pots of jam are not keeping the passengers on my commuter flight any safer.  That confiscation served to entertain a bored TSA elder in a one-horse town.  Turning one’s own home into Fort Knox also contributes to a false sense of security.  But even more detrimental is how it initiates an imbalance into the home.  (Brace yourself, there’s gonna be outrage)  Children don’t pay the rent/mortgage, adults do.  It is the adults’ home and the children live there.  If you’re still reading, why not set the tone when the little one first arrives?  The baby can be contained (infant seat, playpen) both for his/her safety and your sanity.  The world (particularly the corporate world) loves to make new parents feel insecure.  The unsolicited advice starts pouring in at almost the moment of conception.  May I please (perhaps be the first) to tell you that you are doing everything right.  People have been surviving childhood for a very long time.  Parenting is not a spectator sport.  Relax, go snuggle with your little one in your home filled with sharp edges, it will all be fine.

*Stephen Sondheim – Sweeney Todd (1979)

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Childhood

 

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Educated Consumers

The White House announced a new program (last year) to ease student debt.  The plan (to start in 2012) would allow graduates to pay 10% of their discretionary income for 20 years.  Any remaining student debt would be “forgiven.”

The amount and proliferation of student debt has grown to ridiculous proportion.  But why in the world should we address this after the fact?  Why are students incurring debt that might have to be forgiven in 20 years?  Either they accrued too much debt, or they accrued too much debt for their chosen profession.  I suggest educating the consumer is a much more effective solution than debt forgiveness.  Like the mortgage crisis, many are buying a product incompatible with their means and needs.

Imagine how easy it is to get caught up in the college selection frenzy at 16 or 17.  It is often also difficult for adolescents to consider shades of gray in decision making.  There will always be more than one way for them to accomplish their educational goals.  If I may, I’d like to offer a little food for thought:

  • Transfer, transfer, transfer.  Two years in a community college (particularly one with a reciprocal agreement with a prestigious university in the area) will save almost 50% in costs.  The degree from the 4 year school (attended for the last 2 years of study) will be exactly the same as the one given to 4 year students.
  • Stick to your own kind.  Do not attend state schools in other states.  State colleges and universities can be wonderful.  They can also be as expensive as a private school for out of state residents.
  • Live at home.  I’m not interested in hearing about the missed social experiences of dormitory life.  That’s not the goal of education.  If money is an issue, would you rather the person living in their childhood room, a college student or a 30 year old trying to pay off a student loan?
  • Consider your major.  I know it’s hard to think ahead as a teenager.  But teens can be savvy consumers.  What kind of degree is worth the associated cost?  A B.F.A. for a total of $40K might be a better choice (for some) than a B.F.A. for $200K.  Better yet, a B.A. for $40K with an Arts major, may be the best investment.
  • Know what you’re buying.  Does the college/university have a robust alumni network or career services?  How is their reputation in your chosen major?  What leadership or research opportunities are available at the school?

Forgiving debt is not sustainable and does nothing to ensure that people are getting the best education they can afford.  The skyrocketing cost of higher education aside, student debt exists in the same realm as consumer or housing debt.  I’m not suggesting a cash only society, but debt should always be incurred thoughtfully and judiciously.  During a time of economic uncertainty and high unemployment, when the next generation is not guaranteed a better standard of living than the one before them, attention must be paid.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Education

 

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The Boobie Tube

More than half of American babies watch television for about two hours a day.  One third of babies have televisions in their bedrooms.  Babies.  Those under two years of age.  What little I know of human development, I’m guessing they are not using the remote.  This suggests that an adult is turning on the television for the baby.  I have so many questions I hardly know where to start.

I think I understand the concept of putting a baby down in front of a television.  It has to do with giving the adult a reprieve, yes?  May I suggest a moratorium on the demonization of the playpen.  You remember the playpen?  It is a box filled with toys, books, and cuddly things that kept tykes safe.  It was how we controlled their environment, versus gating and locking our environment.  Babies could happily entertain themselves while floors got cleaned or adults took showers.  Now, if my presumption is accurate, that television is being used in lieu of a playpen, I have to ask; what show is being watched?  Does it matter?  Is it just the sound that is pacifying the babe?  If so, how about music and a busybox?  Forget the quality of television for a moment.  Can anything be gained, developmentally, from staring at a screen?  (That is not a rhetorical question.)

The nursery television leaves me a bit more confused.  What in the world is going on there?  Is the baby being left alone with the television on?  To what end?

Before you think I am anti-media or (gasp) anti-television, let me assure you I am most certainly not.  At 14, I ecstatically received a hulking 35 inch wood-framed black and white television set.  Painted yellow.  That only got channel 7, which was fine as this was during ABC’s heyday.  For my 16th birthday my wishes were granted with my very own portable television, which received all seven channels!  I brought it with me to college.  I love t.v.  It’s one of my best friends.

What I don’t love is blanket social inequities.  According to the Kaiser Foundation, in families with incomes under $30,000, 64% of children younger than 8 had televisions in their rooms.  In families with incomes above $75,000. the number drops to 20%.  I doubt 100% of the blame shouldn’t be placed upon the importing of cheap electronic goods.  It certainly doesn’t help that a television is no longer a luxury item.  But perhaps something larger is at play.  Even back when televisions were far too dear for the middle-class, Muffy and Biff were not squired away in their nursery watching television.

While I shy from being an alarmist, I truly suspect that there is something a tad sinister in play.  “Progress” has brought us inexpensive food-like substitutes, flavored “drink” and access to electronic noise.  There is a school of thought that maintains that the plethora of liquor stores, cigarette ads and cheap goods in low-income neighborhoods is part of a scheme to quell the underclass.  Television is a very effective pacifier.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Childhood, Media/Marketing

 

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I Spy

I fancy myself somewhat of a student of human nature, with a major in motivation.  I’m fascinated by what compels people to behave in certain ways.  I find myself devising plausible scenarios when people behave in an unorthodox fashion.  That older woman biting my head off when I tried to be of assistance?  Well, in my little fiction, she has just been informed by her ungrateful children that they are moving her into a nursing facility.  She knows she can take care of herself and doesn’t want anyone suggesting otherwise.  See?  Isn’t that more palatable than “people are just nuts?”  Of course some people are just that.  Nuts.  I don’t spend my days making up little stories about the man on my corner peeing into the telephone kiosk (it’s not just Superman that mourns the end of the booth, ya know.)  I accept that there are those around us that live in an alternate reality.  But most don’t.  Most of us are socialized people living mostly well adjusted lives.

Like the good student I am, I conduct research (a.k.a. eavesdrop) and devour data to develop and support my theories.  It’s not all drudgery however.  For example, the wedding announcements can be fun and educational.  These pages are to me, what petri dishes filled with rapidly multiplying cells are to a biology student.  Where to begin?!  A cursory glance (which may be dictated by a pressing Sunday morning schedule or hangover) of just the photos is a good start.  About 40% of the photos don’t warrant a second glance.  But the rest are a veritable National Enquirer of intrigue.  My personal favorites are when the two can’t even stand to be near each other for the photo.  Their heads actually crane towards escape.  But fun as photo analysis is, and trust me it is, it’s for amateurs.  The real meat and potatoes is in the narrative, that is where the cavalcade of clues convene.  Thankfully, there are a fair amount of lovely stories that foretell great promise.  I do enjoy trying to discern the family’s take on the nuptials.  On average I surmise that every month, two of these families are sitting shiva.  But far more often, after reading about the families and the intended, it’s seems the marriage was always an inevitable.  The neurosurgeon/lawyer’s medical ethics professor daughter marrying the medical school dean/foundation director’s Doctors Without Borders son?  Yep.  There is even a seasonal predictability; those in their 20s-30s marrying in summer, more mature couples in fall and winter.  The only real surprises are when the announcement mentions the couple courting while married to other people (wince.)

This past Sunday I read with enjoyment of the couple planning to marry at the Four Seasons.  The gentlemen had been together ten years!  Somehow, I gleaned from that they had been waiting for New York to legalize their nuptials.  In my little (sorely misguided) mind, I had assumed that a restaurant wedding would be a sedate family affair to celebrate a well established relationship and their new marital journey.  Wrong.  I mean “sleeping through the final exam” wrong.  Showing up to the wrong class all semester, wrong.  The sedate wedding?  For 650?  With music by Aretha Franklin?  Did I miss something?  Should the biographies including a degree from the French Culinary Institute and some philanthropic work clued me in?  In my defense, nothing about the serving on the board of the Highline or Wildlife Conservation Society, screamed Page 6 to me.  I am left to conclude one of two things.  1) For some people a six figure wedding (including the cost of the publicist) IS a sedate and solemn affair OR 2) the wedding announcements are not a good primary data source.  I am not willing to consider the possibility that it’s time I changed majors.  It’s simply not an option.  The study of human behavior is how I navigate the world.  It is how I find my way and protect myself.  I’ve no doubt that for the next few days I will be stumbling about my world in a mild stupor.  In my fragile state, I will try to remember to steer clear of the phone kiosk.

 
 

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