Tag: children

We are in big trouble

| June 30, 2010 | Reply
We are in big trouble

Take a guess . . . what percentage of young adults from Philadelphia would be qualified to serve in the military? 92%? 45%? Now check this out:

A nonprofit group says that up to 90 percent of young Philadelphians are ineligible for military service because of criminal records, obesity or lack of education.

So you’re probably thinking that the problem is with young adults in big cities, but you’re an optimist:

Nationally, the Defense Department estimates that 75 percent of young adults are disqualified from military service.

Ouch. We need boot camp for everyone. We need to put a moratorium on French fries, television and the “war on drugs.”

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If you want to raise your children right, get them cats

| April 29, 2010 | 3 Replies
If you want to raise your children right, get them cats

Parents wonder how their kids will grow up. Will they be kind, smart, generous, or axe murderers? In my experience, the surest way to make sure your children develop compassion, empathy and generosity is to get them a cat.

“Daddy, Daddy!” the kids chorused. “Mommy said we could get a kitty!”

“I told them that if they did chores for 10 days straight,” she said, “each of them could get a kitty.”

We were having difficulty getting the kids to do their chores. My wife had solved both our chores-problem and the kids’ desire to have a pet in one stroke. The kids had wanted another cat since loyal friend Nat King Cat had died.

“Now you guys understand that YOU have to take care of your kitties,” said my wife.

As the result of the “deal,” my kids became chores maniacs. The whole thing smacked of bribery, but the house and kids were cleaner and the kids were happier.

The kittens would stay in the kids’ bedrooms for the first 10 days. After day eight of the chores marathon, we went to find kittens.

[more . . . ]

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Framing the deaths of children

| March 1, 2010 | Reply
Framing the deaths of children

An article at MSNBC caught my eye. The title: “Doctors hastened dying kids’ death, say parents.” My initial reaction was that the doctors had done something bad. The article turned out to be more nuanced than the headline, but the opening paragraph suggested that some doctors were acting nefariously:

It’s a situation too agonizing to contemplate — a child dying and in pain. Now a small but provocative study suggests that doctors may be giving fatal morphine doses to a few children dying of cancer, to end their suffering at their parents’ request.

But then I thought, what if the opposite were true? And then what if the opposite headline read like this:

A provocative study suggests that some doctors are refusing to give enough pain-relieving morphine to children dying of cancer, thereby exacerbating and extending their horrific suffering.

My point is not just to be provocative. Before going further, I should disclose that I am the parent of two young (healthy) children, so this horrid situation is something that I find extremely uncomfortable to even contemplate. Nonetheless, what would I do if I had a a child who was writhing in pain, and who had only weeks or months before he would die? Would it really a bad thing to give that child more pain medication in order to lessen his pain, knowing that it would shorten his already terribly shortened life expectancy?

I am amazed at how Americans make simplistic cartoons out of so many moral dilemmas. We call it “mercy killing,” even when the aim is to reduce suffering. I would never criticize a parent for wanting to relieve a child’s suffering by giving pain medication when that child is dying of cancer. Maybe we need a new language to meaningfully discuss this situation. How about calling it “relieving the suffering of an innocent child.” Why call it “killing” at all? Why even call it euthanasia (literally, “good death”)?

When a child is being non-stop crushed with pain, what kind of parent enhances the pain by withholding drugs in order to attempt to display an incredibly shallow version of moral superiority to others in the community? Shouldn’t the whole focus be what’s best for the child? Is it better for the child to be in excruciating pain, every hour of the day, or to be given relief from the pain, even though it shortens his life? I know that many people disagree with me–they think that any wretched existence is superior to the end of one’s earthly existence. Ironically, most of those people believe in an afterlife. I don’t get it.

When we’re dealing with the family pet, everyone knows the answer. We call it being “humane” to the pet when we choose to painlessly put the pet out of its misery. But somehow, when we are being “humane” to humans, we intensify and extend their suffering. What’s driving this upside-down logic? Are the critics merely having sport with doctors, most of whom are working extremely hard to give the families what they need and want?

This issue is not limited to dying children, of course. Hence the moral second-guessing when sick elderly adults choose to die in far off places like Switzerland.

There are many other ways to needlessly kill healthy children and to make them suffer and to deprive them of healthy minds, but we don’t use the word “kill” when describing legislation that does this. You know . . . legislation that cuts medical care, closes subsidized daycare, fails to fund nutrition education centers, or allows bad schools to continue to operate. Perhaps we should use the word “kill” in those situations, since that word often provokes people to take action.

But I also think that we need to jettison the “kill” language for those gut-wrenching situations where children are dying and parents are struggling to figure out what to do. We should start over when an entirely new language devoid of the word “kill,” because it is the disease that is killing such children, and the parents are trying to deal with the disease. Only with a new language with a more thoughtful version of causation is worth of such situations.

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Hunger and Hypocrisy

| November 24, 2009 | 15 Replies
Hunger and Hypocrisy

Peter Singer offered this challenge in the Oct/Nov issue of Free Inquiry (not available on-line):

Imagine that you are walking through a park past a shallow ornamental pond, and you notice that a child has fallen into that pond and seems to be in danger of drowning. You look around for the parents or the babysitter, but there is no one in sight. What should you do?

Obviously, you should rush into the pond and save the life of the child. But wait a minute–you are wearing your most expensive shoes, and you don’t have time to kick them off. They will be ruined if you go into the pond with them on. Do your shoes make a difference in your decision? Everyone agrees that they don’t. You can’t let a pair of shoes mean more than a child’s life.

So how about giving just the cost of an expensive pair of shoes to an organization that is saving lives in developing countries? I don’t think it is any different than saving the child in the shallow pond. Yes, it is different psychologically but not morally. Distance doesn’t make someone’s life less valuable.

Singer’s implicit assumption is that your dollars are fungible. When you spend a dollar on a luxury, it is dollar that you could have spent to save the life of a dying child. In other words, dollars don’t come pre-categorized such that some dollars can only be spent on luxuries. You cannot escape this logic. Therefore, If Jesus (or whatever God you might believe in) were watching, you closely, and you knew it, you couldn’t possibly pay $300 for a pair of shoes when perfectly adequate $100 shoes were also available and when you knew (as you always do know) that the other $200 could be used to save the lives of innocent children.

I get frustrated with those who think that the commandment “Do not kill” is not being violated by those who spend excessive money on fancy clothes, cars or houses (or buy any luxury) in the same world where children are dying every day and those deaths are preventable.

That said, I don’t think that “Do not kill” is a workable rule. It rings nicely to simple ears because it is phrased uncategorically, but we really need a new rule that recognizes that we are not exactly a nation of murderers when we buy a steady stream of unnecessary luxuries (especially at Christmas time), but it’s something like that when we completely unhinge our consciences from our wallets, which so many of us in sanctimonious American do almost every day.

I don’t really know how to articulate such a rule, but I do want to take this moment to recognize this undeniable fact as part of my “Life is Real” campaign: Every day, most of us in American choose to buy things with dollars that could be used for saving the lives of real children. That’s the way things are down here on planet Earth, and going around claiming that “Do not kill” only means don’t shoot or stab innocent people doesn’t change things one bit.

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Abandoning one’s adoptive child

| October 1, 2009 | 1 Reply
Abandoning one’s adoptive child

What am I supposed to think when a woman steps forward to publicize her decision to give up an adopted child that she had raised for 18 months?

This story leaves me bewildered. I don’t think the story tells me enough to allow me to know what to think. I keep wondering, “What if it had been her biological child? What would I think then? Would I have an opinion in that case, or would I be in this same puzzled/confused state that I’m now experiencing?

How could I possibly render judgment without knowing a lot more about all of those involved? Even though I am sorely tempted to be angry with this adoptive mother at a gut level. But, as indicated in the video, this woman has parented her own biological children too. But that can cut two ways. And why aren’t we told anything at all about the adoptive father and his history and attitudes regarding this baby? And what about the claim that the baby is doing “well” with his new family? That cuts both ways too, in my opinion. What’s really going on here? Were there financial issues? Racial issues? Medical issues?

Such a frustrating story to me. What is the take-away message from this story? It makes me feel like a voyeur and it makes me want to accuse MSNBC of irresponsibly packaging this story.

Note: For those who don’t know me, I am an adoptive parent of two girls from China who I very much consider to be my daughter forever, no matter what happens–and that’s how my wife and I looked at adoption from Day One. I wonder how much my personal history colors my views on this abandonment story.

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Children at Navy Pier

| September 11, 2009 | Reply
Children at Navy Pier

This is a photo I took a few weeks ago during a trip to Chicago with my daughters. More specifically, this was a trip to Navy Pier’s amusement park. My nine-year-old is one of the kiddos in the image:

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An alternative to paranoia regarding the safety of your children: Free Range Kids

| September 5, 2009 | 8 Replies
An alternative to paranoia regarding the safety of your children: Free Range Kids

Remember the woman who was criticized for allowing her highly competent 9-year old boy find his way home on the Manhattan subway? Her name is Lenore Skenazy. She’s a syndicated columnist and she’s not retreating a single inch. She has created a website called Free Range Kids. In April, 2009, she published a book called Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. Here’s how she sums up the widespread American problem:

Somehow, a whole lot of parents are just convinced that nothing outside the home is safe. At the same time, they’re also convinced that their children are helpless to fend for themselves. While most of these parents walked to school as kids, or hiked the woods — or even took public transportation — they can’t imagine their own offspring doing the same thing. They have lost confidence in everything: Their neighborhood. Their kids. And their own ability to teach their children how to get by in the world.

Lenore reminds us to consider our own “dangerous” childhoods when thinking of extending your own child’s leash–and she has drawn hundreds of lively comments. What is general solution?

We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less. This site dedicated to sane parenting . . .

I started this site for anyone who thinks that kids need a little more freedom and would like to connect to people who feel the same way. We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence. Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned. So here’s to Free Range Kids, raised by Free Range Parents willing to take some heat. I hope this web site encourages us all to think outside the house.

This is a well-considered site with lots of ideas for tempering our paranoia about child abductions and sexual predators. Here are a few additional Free Range Children stories that I recommend from Lenore’s site:

The end of the Super-Mom Era.

How cell phones can stunt your children’s emotional growth.

Here’s another article detailing the subway adventure. And here’s Lenore’s three-minute video describing her approach.

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The Right is wrong

| September 4, 2009 | 32 Replies
The Right is wrong

My 10 year old daughter came home from school last week, and while she sat with me eating her after-school snack asked me;

“Is President Obama a racist?” she said.

“No, honey, where’d you hear that?” I said.

“Well, [so and so] said that in class to me today and I just wanted to know,” she said.

“Did the person tell you where they had heard such a thing, honey?” I asked.

“Yeah, [their] grandpa said it,” my daughter replied. “He heard it on TV.”

My daughter and I had a discussion on what is racism, its source in ignorance, and how it’s just plain wrong. We also talked about the TV and radio shows which spread intolerance and bigotry for profit and political gain. My daughter’s eyes glazed over a little, and I said;

“Thanks for letting me know what’s up with you! Go play with your friends!”

Well, I never thought it could happen but, there is obviously no lowest depth of putrid vile chicanery that the far right wing racists will go to block anything that President Obama is up to keep his promise of change in America. Now they’re indoctrinating racism into 10 year old school children.

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Woody Allen on raising secular humanists

| July 3, 2009 | Reply
Woody Allen on raising secular humanists

Woody Allen discusses raising his children as secular humanists:

We’ve raised them, not in any particular religion, but as what we call secular humanists – meaning we’ve taught them to be honest and kind, and to have respect for human dignity and the rights of other people. And, apart from that, we’re trying to keep their minds as open as they can be. We’re trying to educate them by giving them as much information as we can, so that when they grow up, they will be competent to make their own evaluations about what they believe.

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