Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Speaking of sins

July 4, 2010

One wise physician tells Roman Catholic youths “If you are going to commit the sin of premarital sex, please commit the sin of birth control, so that we don’t have talk about the sin of abortion.”

You may have seen articles about those denominations which have adolescents take vows of chastity until marriage and participate in a ceremony in which they receive a flower. Statistically many of those youths wind up pregnant because they are not prepared for the moment when the hormones and passions overwhelm the intellect and conscience.

Advertisements

Childhood and violence

March 30, 2010

My response to a Facebook post of a children’s school play which is shockingly violent and murderous and uses forms of profanity in the dialogue. This is a children’s production of Scarface.

http://www.break.com/index/scarface-school-play.html

I certainly understand why you would see this as shockingly wrong and I do not blame you for your reaction. But in all honesty, as I watch this, I reflect that the children are merely imitating the adult world of entertainment.  I was the very first of the television generation in 1954. Every morning at 5am I would watch old WWII news reels. I could not wait for WWII so I could be a true manly hero and kill Germans and Japs.  Since 1954 I have seen 10,000 different ways to commit homicide, genocide and even intergalactic planetary destruction. I have watched political candidates campaign on the strength that they “actually defended” us by blanket bombing villages of women and children.  Perhaps the adults simply encouraged the children to be dramatically creative and it is the children who naturally chose the theme. We are horrified whenever we see children exposed to violence and sex. And yet the real world is run by very violent and very sexual adults. IF it were the case that these children later reflected that violence is a poor solution to life’s problems then perhaps we might see this academic exercise in a different light. If adults are sincerely horrified to see children using profanity (albeit bowdlerized) and dwelling upon killing and sex then perhaps we should start with ourselves. Gandhi said “We must ourselves BECOME that very change which we wish to see in the world.”

Christopher:
William – “What we have here is a failure to communicate”

I’m not horrified in reality, but simply amused. This particular form of mock horror is something of a Gen-X signature, indicating a cynical worldliness in reaction to a thing we believe would be clearly contextually inappropriate had it’s participants or architects only had the distance to see it in proper perspective, and is usually conveyed by dramatic over-exaggeration.

This is why we have things like Demotivators, Fail Blog and Regretsy. We celebrate the inadequacies of Man…. See More

Thus, something we would find that confirms those inadequacies in a particularly amusing and/or counterintuitive manner becomes the “Worst. Thing. EVAR!!!!” (one can throw in a deliberate misspelling and extra punctuation as an additional cue that one is not, in fact, serious in one’s objection, but I tend to think that gilding the lily).

There’s also a somewhat deliberate suspension of disbelief simply in order to experience the thing as reaffirming one’s view. We *want* this to be a fail because it would speak so elegantly about the logical absurdity of the ‘Free to Be You and Me’ Boomer mentality, that this is the world their abandonment of standards and quality for personal fulfillment handed us. So we ignore the fact that the video seems staged and is almost certainly deliberately viral and play along, becoming willful participants.

William:
Or it could possibly be that in this particular instance you are wrong and I am write but it is our nature to feel very uncomfortable about being wrong and we scurry about gathering many reasons and justifications why we really were totally correct, perhaps brilliant, yet misunderstood through some shortcoming in our audience. If you are indeed right and I am lacking then I have at least helped you to belatedly elaborate your real thoughts on the matter. But does the failure of communication lay at your feet or at mine? Notice that your opening sentence is rather vague on that point.

You are an excellent friend to have on Facebook for a fellow Johnnie because you make me think and serve as a sparring partner to exercise my declining intellect. I am just trying to have some fun rattling your cage.

My Fan Letter to Mr. Rogers

September 2, 2009

Here is a letter I wrote to Mr. Rogers on 12-15-2000. He wrote a reply. He read all of his mail and answered it personally.

Dear Mr. Rogers,

I am 50 years old (male). I did not begin watching your show until I was in High School in the mid 1960’s.

For the past several years, I have wanted to write you a letter of praise and thanks.

Today, I saw your program on PBS Television, and I decided to search the Internet, and find your email address.

When I was in high school, I would come home in the afternoon feeling nervous and pressured by the academic demands placed upon me. I would turn on your show, and instantly feel a calm and a peace, a tranquility which your show and your personality inspires. Although I have not had time to view your show regularly through the years, any time I did tune in I always perceived this same atmosphere of peace and tranquility. And also, I might add, a sense of moral and ethical strength, of purity and integrity and most importantly EQUANIMITY (an even keeled spirit in the face of all things).

Two years ago, I had to settle my late mother’s estate near New Haven, Connecticut, where I grew up and first saw your show. The day before I sold the house that I grew up in, I saw my next door neighbor, now quite elderly, making his way to his mailbox with his walker. I went to say goodbye to him, explaining that the house was being sold. He had moved into that neighborhood in 1955, when my parents bought that house across the street from him. I grew up and went to school with his son. As I said goodbye to him that day, the last thing he did was look at me with a smile and a twinkle in his eye and he sang the beginning of your theme song, “Won’t you be my neighbor.”

Obviously, many adults watch your show as well as children. I think this is a great tribute to you and your program. The episode that I happened to see today featured the young boy who was handicapped and in a wheelchair. As I watched him, I realized how foolish I am sometimes in my own life, feeling sorry for myself over the little problems and frustrations that I experience. We all realize that there are those in this world who face far greater problems, and face them from infancy onward, and yet they manage to be courageous and optimistic about the blessings that they do have. We all know this ‘intellectually’ but few of us know this ’emotionally’. I am quite certain that these are some of the very messages which you seek to convey to your audience.

In my Internet search today, I came across some biographical material about your own life and education. I had not realized that you pursued a vocation in the ministry. But I am certainly not surprised to learn of your religious background, since the feelings I have always had from your show are ones of a deeply spiritual nature, yet totally free of any sectarian or doctrinal overtones. I now realize that this too is a great tribute to your success; to convey a spiritual message without appearing ‘religious’. Perhaps that is the highest form of religion that there is. Perhaps the very meekness, gentleness and compassion which you convey every day in your program is a ‘living icon’ of that Personality which you yearn to proclaim and about which you are perennially, tactfully silent.

Several years ago, I noticed a news item that you were involved in some litigation to protect your name from unauthorized misuse in the media. My first thought was simple “Yes. He should. Mr. Rogers stands for something important, and no one should wrongfully misuse that name or image for purposes contrary to Mr. Rogers’ goals and standards.”

I do hope that this little email of mine can reach you personally, Mr. Rogers. I realize from reading your biographical info that you have no shortage of awards and commendations for your life’s work. You do not know me personally, and yet you have been a part of my life since I was very young. Yet even the holiest of temples is built up by individual stones. I am sure you have touched the lives and hearts of several generations now, young and old. And the seeds which you have patiently sown these many years will surely take deep roots in the fabric of our society for generations to come. And your values and ideas, so subtle and tactful as to be almost subliminal, will shape our world for decades, perhaps centuries to come.

I did not want to reach the end my life without having expressing my thanks to you. Of course, many individuals touch our lives, especially in this soon to end 20th century of unprecedented media and communications explosion. Such personalities as yours and others become perhaps larger than life, larger than your own individuality. I am sure that the gravity of this responsibility, the weight of this public image, has been trying for you at times. And yet, our world needs larger-than-life heros and icons, even though we are “vessels of clay”. I think St. Paul wrote somewhere, “God places His treasures of gold in vessels of clay”. I just want you to know that there are people out here who know your job has not been an easy one, living in the public eye, and you have surely made your own personal sacrifices and suffered in order to achieve your goals. But from where I stand, it looks like you have done your work masterfully. I am quite certain in my heart that one day you will hear those cherished words “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If anyone deserves to hear them, it is certainly you. You have been a shining beacon in what is otherwise an often dark and sinister television medium.

God bless you Mr. Rogers! It has been an honor to know you over these many years.

Homework Pros and Cons

August 31, 2009

This is a PLURK.COM thread posted to by various high school teachers

Pros and Cons: Should Homework be Abolished? Alfie Kohn’s RETHINKING HOMEWORK.

http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/rethinkinghomework.htm

Comments by various posters:

Homework should be logical not worksheets! Creating and developing multimedia projects not memorizing facts.

I believe some homework is important to practice skills, sharing learning with family, and develop responsibility. Guidelines of 10 min per
grade level is good. Being read to or reading independently should be in additioin to this. When homework becomes a battle between child & parent, something is wrong with the system and should be explored and rectified.

Also, homework should be checked but not used as a grade since it is impossible to tell if the student did it.

We don’t include homework in our gradebook, but are told by the high schools that we don’t give enough. They say we’re not preparing our students well enough for high school by not giving them plenty of homework now. They average 3 hours a night at HS

*sigh* we assign roughly 1 – 1.5 hours of homework per night. Now this is flexible, since we assign it over the entire quarter, but it works

out to about that per night. And that’s focused work. I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m tired of this debate. Ours is not trad work.

Wow! 3 hrs/night? How about extra curricular activities? Aren’t we looking for well rounded citizens?

If my kid got 3hrs/night I’d be talking to teachers about why and what is the value of giving such work!

I can’t wait to see the responses. For the record, I am all for getting rid of homework. As a matter of fact,

I very rarely give any homework to my students. If they don’t finish classwork they may have to finish at home, but I don’t give homework.

I had TONS of homework from 7th grade through 12th grade in a public school sys in CT I am age 60 and I still have occasional nightmares of school anxiety during sleep As a Junior in Highschool, I would arrive home at 3:30pm exhausted, eat dinner, go to bed, get up midnight, and study til time to leaveInAM

I think homework should only be assigned when necessary to provide practice for skill acquisition – not necessary in all content areas

This is an interesting topic. I posted the plurk page link on Facebook, but I think because it is a PRIVATE plurk, others cannot read

I agree we need to rethink homework but not whether we should or shouldn’t but more at what we do with it. To often homework is used to fill

class time or repeats learning that has already been accomplish or to introduce a lesson only to create fear for the student.

abolished? no. carefully constructed, necessary, and meaningful? YES.

For me the new illiteracy issue is computer internet illiteracy. Free Wi-Fi and lowcost computers should be available to all.

In 1960 my Mom had to buy a $2000 World Book Encyclopedia, because we lived far from the small seedy public library with limited hrs.

I carried SO MANY books to school each day that my arm and posture were affected.

Now, with Internet, search engines, CD’s and Memory sticks, expensive bulky textbooks are unnecessary!

The problem with homework is that if the child knows how to do the work, it’s unnecessary torment, and if they don’t know how to do it, they don’t have a readily available teacher to assist. As a parent, I don’t like having that responsibility passed to me for two reasons. One, I’m a lousy teacher. There’s a reason I didn’t join the profession. Two, I don’t know every subject. Never took Spanish, for example. I think the school day should be extended until 5:00, with the last couple of hours being ‘independent work’ but with teachers available for extra assistance.

I’m not a fan of homework as busywork or as mere extension of the homework. Homework should enrich and expand exisitng knowledge, and then it should stop.

8th Grade Existentialism

August 25, 2009

Written: Sat Jul 13, 2002 9:03 am

When my stepson was in 8th grade, I saw a copy of Camus’ novel, “The Plague,” on his desk, and I was startled to think that such a book was required reading for an 8th grader, so I asked him “are you reading this for school?”

He became alarmed and said “Is it a bad book?” (he was worried that it was something he shouldn’t be reading).

I said, “No, it’s a fine book. I’m just surprised if they require you to read it.” He explained that it was not required reading. He simply chose it on his own because it seemed interesting.

He then asked me “What is surprising about an 8th grader reading Camus,…. what sort of writer is he?”

I said “Well, Camus is an Existentialist of sorts.”

Then he asked, “What is an Existentialist?”

I answered, “Aha, that is a very interesting question! Let’s look up Existentialism in the encyclopedia. But I guarantee you that when we are done reading the article, you will see that basically, it will say that it is hard to define Existentialism.”

We read the article on Existentialism together, and when we finished, he agreed that it didn’t really explain what Existentialism is.

I tried to explain, “If you keep reading lots of books by
Existentialists like Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, etc., then, very slowly, you will perhaps change and see the world through the eyes of the Existentialists, and you too will be Existentialist in your thinking. Similarly, if you read lots and lots of Plato’s dialogues, you will possibly slowly change and begin to see the world in Platonic terms. You are
Roman Catholic and have always gone to Catholic schools, so you see the world through the eyes of Catholicism.

So, then he asked, “Well, is that GOOD?” (i.e. is it good to see the world through the eyes of Existentialism.)

I answered, “It is not a matter of being good or bad, as if there is only one right way to see the world. BUT, I will say, it is far better to see the world through SOME kind of eyes, with some kind of perspective, be it Existentialist, Platonic, Roman Catholic, etc., then to not look at the world at all, and go through life with your eyes closed.”

That was an eighth grader’s first venture into existentialism.

====================================================

The Dead Baby Factory
(poem based on an actual event with my step-son)

I remember how easily you laughed.
You laughed at the drop of a hat.
You laughed at the slightest thing.
When I was 49 and you were nine.

The TV groaned as usual.
The newscaster spoke of tragedy.
The death of many infants:
A pharmaceutical error
In quality control.

The TV voice
Repeated ad infinitum:
Dead babies….
…Babies dead
….Babies died
…Dying

You starred blankly,
Immune to daily tragedy
Frankly, in a trance.

But I began to sing a silly song,
and dance a senseless dance:

“Oh, the dead baby factory,
Crunch those babies,
Grind them up,
Squish them,
Scrunch them…”

You laughed until you cried.
You rolled upon the floor
Beyond control.

Life is senseless.
We are senseless too.
We laughed ourselves senseless.

The more I sang and danced
The more you laughed.
Because you laughed,
I sang and danced all the more.
You doubled over
Rolling on the floor.

Laughter, song and dance
Until you pee your pants.

Human life IS, in reality,
A “Dead Baby Factory”,
Except they age the product
Until it’s slightly elderly.

With Ernest and Julio Gallo
We can say:
“We sell no wine before its time.”
But today we are having a special:
Buy one baby,
Get two free.

The shortest verse in Scripture:
“Jesus wept.”

And, as we danced and sang,
Those babies resurrect
And sing and dance with us
Clapping and keeping time.

Macabre or debonair?
I guess you had to be there!

The tragic and comic blur.

And there we were,
Lost in a moment of childhood,
Forever found,
Throwing humor
Against horror
And winning,
Sartrean humor
Against the anguish
Of senseless existence.

And there we ever are
In that lost and found collection
Realm of the trans-eternal
Moment of recollection
In life’s department store.

We are there right now,
Staring the Void in the face,
Beware be damned!
And back it stares at us and grins
And grimaces
With fun-house mirror faces.

We dance and sing with Nietzsche.

Well, why not?
Life is peachy!

– written (5/06/2003)

Oh, to be a child again!

August 13, 2009

http://geriatricmama.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/im-jealous/

I stumbled across this excellent page in my efforts to understand the proper use of TAGS in WordPress. I posted a link to this page on my Facebook and Plurk where there are many parents and a few teachers. Here is the link which led me to your page:

http://en.wordpress.com/tag/parenting/

My amateur advice to bloggers is to think up some meaningful tags and plug them into the above link, to see if the tag has been used and HOW it has been used.

For example, I wrote a blog in praise of the late Mr. Rogers who hosted a children’s television show for many years. When I visit the tag:

http://en.wordpress.com/tag/mrrogers

I discover that most the the blogs there mention him only in passing, and mention him with a tone of ridicule.

I did find that a tag of “shortstory” does exactly what I want for my several short stories.

http://en.wordpress.com/tag/shortstory

Regarding the nature of childhood, take a look at

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,993868,00.html

Author Edward Jones is winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, The Known World (Amistad; 388 pages)

The first line of Jones’ novel is, ‘You never get over having been a child.’

Advice To My Stepson In College

August 10, 2009

The other night, as your mother was going to sleep, she said to me, “Promise me only one thing, that if I die, you will help my son to finish college.”

I answered her, saying, “I will always help him in any way I can.”

Of course, I am not wealthy so I am limited in the ways I can help you.

But I hope I have helped you these past 10 years by example.

It is very likely accurate to say that during the years you have known me, since you were age 7, there is hardly a day that you have seen me without a book in my hands, first thing in the morning, or last thing at night. And perhaps you have noticed that I never dress up and leave the front door without having at least one little book
in my pocket (though often I have two or three). What you have seen in my daily life is a valuable lesson of example. Try to always learn something new and different each day and even each hour if you find the energy and discipline to do so. Try to do this throughout
your life, and not just during your years of formal education.

Each of us is given only so many minutes in life (though no one may know exactly how many), but try to use each minute wisely.

Be proactive and do not procrastinate. Finish work first (and start early), only then should you feel free to play and relax.

Before you utter any sentence, any statement, any remark, think first of the consequences, for once something is said, you may never take it back. Also, have an eye and mind to the quality of what you say.
If you always strive to say a few new and fascinating things, then you will not only uplift and possibly change the lives of those who hear you, but you will definitely grow and profit yourself, since you will always be pushing yourself in the direction of quality of thought, quality of speech.

I shall always remember the day when you were about 8 or 9 years old. I watched you toss a small ball against the wall and catch it for over an hour. When you had finished your pastime and turned to me, I scolded you gently by saying “You have just spent an entire hour tossing that ball, and you have nothing to show for it, nor are
you any happier now because of your activity, but are still just as bored. But IF you had spent that hour reading, or viewing something educational, or engaged in a meaningful discussion, why then you might have something of great value, and you would definitely no longer be bored, since you would have something of interest to occupy
your mind.”

Words are very powerful. God chose to incarnate as Word or Logos. Words can wound. Words can heal. Words can create. Words can destroy. Make words your tools. Make language your friend.

An education is nothing more than learning to use words. If you can recall the proper words on a black sheet of paper, you can pass a Law Bar exam or earn a CPA. If you say the proper words in the proper way you can win elections.

Make words your friends and companions and language your tool and weapon.

====================================

(here is the reply):

Thank you so very, very much for the kind words of advice. They seem to come at the most fitting moment too, for I am reading your words right now, as I sit alone in my dorm, trying to figure out ways to keep myself motivated and inspired to continue to work hard. Well, your advice of trying to keep learning as a main focus in life pretty much made that task a lot easier. Really, thank you very, very much for your E-mail.

I know I never say it to you or Mom enough, but I miss you, and I really do love you. I don’t know if I could ever really express to you, in person, how happy and how grateful I am to have you two as some of the greatest influences in my life…when I’ve tried in the past, it only resulted in my becoming overwhelmed with emotion, and
then petering out. I really don’t know of any other set of parents that could have done a better job than you did on me.

Thank you, both of you, so, so much.

Tribute to Mr. Rogers

August 9, 2009

Here is a letter I wrote to Mr. Rogers on 12-15-2000. He wrote a reply. He read all of his mail and answered it personally.

Dear Mr. Rogers,

I am 50 years old (male). I did not begin watching your show until I was in High School in the mid 1960’s.

For the past several years, I have wanted to write you a letter of praise and thanks.

Today, I saw your program on PBS Television, and I decided to search the Internet, and find your email address.

When I was in high school, I would come home in the afternoon feeling nervous and pressured by the academic demands placed upon me. I would turn on your show, and instantly feel a calm and a peace, a tranquility which your show and your personality inspires. Although I have not had time to view your show regularly through the years, any time I did tune in I always perceived this same atmosphere of peace and tranquility. And also, I might add, a sense of moral and ethical strength, of purity and integrity and most importantly EQUANIMITY (an even keeled spirit in the face of all things).

Two years ago, I had to settle my late mother’s estate near New Haven, Connecticut, where I grew up and first saw your show. The day before I sold the house that I grew up in, I saw my next door neighbor, now quite elderly, making his way to his mailbox with his walker. I went to say goodbye to him, explaining that the house was being sold. He had moved into that neighborhood in 1955, when my parents bought that house across the street from him. I grew up and went to school with his son. As I said goodbye to him that day, the last thing he did was look at me with a smile and a twinkle in his eye and he sang the beginning of your theme song, “Won’t you be my neighbor.”

Obviously, many adults watch your show as well as children. I think this is a great tribute to you and your program. The episode that I happened to see today featured the young boy who was handicapped and in a wheelchair. As I watched him, I realized how foolish I am sometimes in my own life, feeling sorry for myself over the little problems and frustrations that I experience. We all realize that there are those in this world who face far greater problems, and face them from infancy onward, and yet they manage to be courageous and optimistic about the blessings that they do have. We all know this ‘intellectually’ but few of us know this ’emotionally’. I am quite certain that these are some of the very messages which you seek to convey to your audience.

In my Internet search today, I came across some biographical material about your own life and education. I had not realized that you pursued a vocation in the ministry. But I am certainly not surprised to learn of your religious background, since the feelings I have always had from your show are ones of a deeply spiritual nature, yet totally free of any sectarian or doctrinal overtones. I now realize that this too is a great tribute to your success; to convey a spiritual message without appearing ‘religious’. Perhaps that is the highest form of religion that there is.

Perhaps the very meekness, gentleness and compassion which you convey every day in your program is a ‘living icon’ of that Personality which you yearn to proclaim and about which you are perennially, tactfully silent.

Several years ago, I noticed a news item that you were involved in some litigation to protect your name from unauthorized misuse in the media. My first thought was simple “Yes. He should. Mr. Roger’s stands for something important, and no one should wrongfully misuse that name or image for purposes contrary to Mr. Roger’s goals and standards.”

I do hope that this little email of mine can reach you personally, Mr. Rogers. I realize from reading your biographical info that you have no shortage of awards and commendations for your life’s work. You do not know me personally, and yet you have been a part of my life since I was very young. Yet even the holiest of temples is built up by individual stones. I am sure you have touched the lives and hearts of several generations now, young and old. And the seeds which you have patiently sown these many years will surely take deep roots in the fabric of our society for generations to come. And your values and ideas, so subtle and tactful as to be almost subliminal, will shape our world for decades, perhaps centuries to come.

I did not want to reach the end my life without having expressing my thanks to you. Of course, many individuals touch our lives, especially in this soon to end 20th century of unprecedented media and communications explosion. Such personalities as yours and others become perhaps larger than life, larger than your own individuality. I am sure that the gravity of this responsibility, the weight of this public image, has been trying for you at times. And yet, our world needs larger-than-life heroes and icons, even though we are “vessels of clay”. I think St. Paul wrote somewhere, “God places His treasures of gold in vessels of clay”. I just want you to know that there are people out here who know your job has not been an easy one, living in the public eye, and you have surely made your own personal sacrifices and suffered in order to achieve your goals. But from where I stand, it looks like you have done your work masterfully. I am quite certain in my heart that one day you will hear those cherished words “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If anyone deserves to hear them, it is certainly you. You have been a shining beacon in what is otherwise an often dark and sinister television medium.

God bless you Mr. Rogers! It has been an honor to know you over these many years.

Children’s Questions About Sex

August 9, 2009

Child’s Question: Where was I when you and mom got married?

Father’s Answer: A part of you was in mommy and a part was in daddy?

Child’s Next Question: Where was my HEAD?

My reaction:

It may be more prudent to provide children with accurate information when they request it, to the level which they can understand. What you said IS clever, but obviously part of your cleverness is your success in being accurate, in a sense, but evasive and deceptive in a larger sense of OMISSION. With all the media available to children, they will put two and two together and figure out a lot. So, they may look back on such evasive answers and feel that you were less than honest, or perhaps they will sense some level of shame about simple facts of life. My step son is now 25. I came along when he was 7. I always treated him like an adult with each question that he asked. My approach seems to have worked out ok so far. I think he always felt that he could ask me about anything and I would give him an honest, sincere answer and not talk down to him as a second class intellect. My parents, in the 1950s, gave me evasive answers. In retrospect, I felt betrayed.

I grew up in the 1950’s. EVERYONE answered children in that fashion, and did so, because it was a time and culture in which one could NOT say the word “pregnant” on the Jack Paar Tonight show. You must say “expecting”. Words like “pregnant were considered filthy.

We lived in a world of euphemisms. When I was age 5, my mother scolded me for saying that someone was “stupid.” She explained that stupid is a naughty word, and that I should instead say that someone is “silly.”

When I was age 10, I received a megaphone for Christmas (how DUMB is THAT to give a kid a MEGAPHONE). So, of course, I decided to begin reading GENESIS aloud into the megaphone. When I got to the part that says “Adam knew Eve and she conceived” my mother came storming out of the kitchen to stop me. Then, she paused in mid air like one of those Bugs Bunny cartoon double-takes typical of Daffy Duck or Elmer Fudd or Porky Pig or Wiley Coyote…. she was upset that I was saying something improper.

Parent: She is only age 3

Response:

I was curious about the age, and assumed she must be very young. I am not criticizing you. Like I said, I lived in a generation of parents who spoke about storks, cabbage leaves, tooth fairies, etc. But it is an interesting topic to blog about. When my stepson was age 4, his mom HAD to take him to day care. She felt that she HAD to tell him a lot of things about a problem which is an obvious concern in these times, e.g. “if ANYONE ever touches you down here, even if it is a relative, you MUST tell me, and even if they tell you something bad will happen, you still must tell me… etc.” So, at age 4, he knew a lot about sexuality because of all the concerns about the problem of abuse. I have vivid memories from age 3 and 4. She now has notions that her head was one place, while her body was another. I don’t know if that is preferable to simply hearing something different and more accurate. I know I harbored misinformation from the age of 4 that did me more harm than good.

I know there are whole series of books and videos, perhaps on the Teletubbie level, designed to answer toddlers curiosity about gender and toilet and birth and other mysteries. I have no idea if they are beneficial or harmful. The only real wisdom I ever remember about children’s questions is this: “If they ask something, they are ready to learn something. Give them little increments of accurate information, until they seem satisfied. When they stop asking, then they know enough for now, and dont need further info or greater detail.”

Obviously you can’t turn the clock back and relive the moment. But, suppose your answer had been “You were not born yet.” Now, the ball is back in the child’s court. Perhaps she will feel satisfied with that answer. Perhaps she will ask something about what it means to be born. If she did ask that, you might show her a picture of an expectant mother and say, “see, the baby is in the tummy.” She might be content with that information, and stop asking questions. If she questions what that means, or how the baby gets in the tummy, then you might say “Well, lets get a book and see what it says, because books are the best way for us to learn things.” Now, each step of the way, you have given a reasonable true answer which is not misleading or evasive. And her questions might have turned to the nature of books, and why they are the best way to learn things. This line of dialog avoids notions of disembodied heads.

Parent: Perhaps you are over-analyzing.

Reply:

I went through St. John’s. The word “over-analyze” has no real meaning for me. I read Denniston’s massive tome on Greek Particles. How many jumping jacks, push ups, sit ups are “too much?” Ask Jack LaLanne who is doing them in his 90s. This is what I do every day. No one “pushed my buttons”. I stumble across an interesting topic, and then I try to think deeply about it. Look at my posting history for 10 years on the internet. This is my mental habit. It is neither wise nor foolish. It is just what I am, my nature. Who knows, perhaps something that I say will help someone to make a decision in some future circumstance. Or perhaps I am misguided and will cause harm by expressing my opinions. To overdo anything means in some sense to do harm. More dangerous than the unanswered question, is the unquestioned answer.

I did think that this three-year-old must be rather brilliant to deduce that her head was in one place, while the rest of her was somewhere else.

Piaget devised an intelligence test for small children, in which the child is show a short squat cylinder of water, which is then poured into a tall slender container (giving the illusion of MORE water). The child is then asked which container held MORE water. A 5 year old in India pointed to the first, squat container, now empty. The psychologist asked her “Why?” The child said not a word, but dipped her finger into the empty container, to moisten it, and then touched her finger to the dirt floor, and held it up to demonstrate that, indeed, more water had been in the first container, for some drops still remained.