sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

September 9, 2014

Things I Learned This Summer

1. The reassuring wisdom of Darling Husband is immense. Darling Daughter won a coloring contest this summer. She’s not without an artistic streak, but in the case of this particular project, she dialed it in. When we turned in her work, we thought she would learn a lesson when she finds out that she blew it because she didn’t do her best. Imagine our surprise when DH received a message that she got first place in her age category. Oh no, is she going to rest on her laurels now?
We congratulated her, but then told her that she needs to consider that not enough kids entered the contest, and that she needs to try harder next time if she wants to keep winning. I guess I have my issues. After a few days DH told me to chill: She learned an important life lesson, that, as Woody Allen said, 90% of success is showing up.
“Although,” DH quickly added, “Woody Allen tried to take his words back and made an entire documentary to repudiate it. Not to repudiate that he slept with his daughter or anything like that, but to repudiate that he believes that 90% of success is showing up.”
2. To further quote my husband, if open concept homes are such a good idea, how come nobody thought of it before? These days flippers try to demolish every wall in the house, save bedroom walls. Open concept houses look nice and zen, and they sell like hot cakes because buyers find it easy to imagine themselves living in spacious, light-filled homes.
The reality of living in them is different, and once moved in, owners begin carving out rooms of their own, mancaves, and other areas to escape family members. Also, open concept homes are not good when it comes to containing mess.
3. Who is Joel Gott?
4. Local governments can be pretty darn ridiculous. We decided to remove an old chimney on our roof, and the contractor told us that because it’s visible from the street, he’s not comfortable working without a permit. So I went to the City Hall and payed a hefty fee. The clerk told me about the paperwork I’m required to submit.
“Do you know Photoshop?” She inquired. She asked me to take pictures of the roof from various vantage points and submit them for review together with the pictures where the chimney is photoshopped out.
After I turned in my paperwork, they sent letters to our neighbors asking if they don’t mind if we remove the chimney. Next they told me to post the permit application in front of our house and mail them the picture of the posted permit.
Finally, the City Hall also wants to know if I plan to close the gaping hole in my roof and how.
5. Who is Joel Gott?
6. нет пророка в своем отечестве. I’m Putin’s troll. Or so say some of my compatriots when I point out certain… Problems with their understanding of the place where I happen to be born and raised. The place happened to be eastern Ukraine.
Everything Ukraine is pretty much inside baseball. What I hear again and again that there once was a country called Ukraine that Russia took over, starved a whole bunch of Ukrainians and brought Russians in their place, and that’s how Russians ended up in Ukraine. It’s true about Holodomor.
I do believe that we should had dispatched Kissinger to negotiate unified unaligned Ukraine and to assure Russia’s assistance in the Middle East. To risk a nuclear war (or even an economic downturn) over strongly Russian-leaning regions in a country with intractable corruption and social problem and no unifying national identity does seem a bit excessive to this blogger — and that’s why I’m Putin’s troll.
DH, again, quips that he’s still waiting for his paycheck from ZOG, and now where is his paycheck from FSB?
7. We have a new neighborhood school now. It the old one was Tijuana meets Hanoi, the new one is Portlandia. I have to say I prefer the latter because something like education does take place in it.
8. My children got in trouble this summer for simulating a gun with their hands and saying “Poof!” Daddy explained that when he was young, he had a holster with two guns in it and he played World War Two with his brother. Ah, the good old days!
9. Encouraging an ostensibly independent 7-year-old to walk down the block on her own can be a challenge these days. At first DD like the idea, but after some consideration she said “who’s going to watch me?” I told her that when I was her age and I wanted to play, I didn’t pester (ok, I used different language) my mom about my availability (her language) for play dates, I just went outside.
Next thing I know, she rolled on her scooter out of the park. That’s more like it.
…we are not fully moved in and unpacked. My desktop is not configured yet, and I hate typing on my mini, so I can’t say I’m back to blogging.

February 11, 2013

Cotton Mather Parenting

Filed under: Bay Area politics, parenting, politics — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:59 pm

With the push for gun control under way the stories about children punished for pretend play involving guns are pouring in.  Iowahawk calls it what it is, government-sponsored and media-promoted hysteria:

Lefties are fond of lecturing (and writing books, and plays, and movies) about the famously dark days of McCarthyism, where right wing Bircher paranoiacs supposedly were looking for a ‘Red under every bed.’ I suppose to a certain extent they had a point, but the sum total impact of that brief 50’s reign of terror seems to be that a couple of Hollywood writers lost screenplay deals.

Contrast that with our new age of left wing paranoia. Now that the national boogie men are Gunnies rather than Commies, there ain’t no bed, or closet, or playground safe to hide from our brave safety crusaders. No one is above suspicion, and so holy is their cause that even crayon-scrawled representations of Demon Gun must be banned. Obviously, we have to arrest children precisely because it’s For The Children. Welcome to New Salem, with the Reverend Piers Morgan as our new Cotton Mather.

Some individuals were living this hysteria for years if not decades.  Here is last year’s advice column from J, the Bay Area Jewish weekly.   First the question:

We thought we’d skirt the issue with our pro-peace, “use your words” and gender-neutral parenting, but alas, our 4-year-old boy wants a gun.  We cringe at the thought, but can also see that he has never wanted anything else with this kind of intensity. Help! Puzzled in Piedmont (Piedmont is a tonier East Bay suburb, – ed.)

Being pro-lasting peace, pro-gun and into gender-functional parenting (I made this one up), I would advise the PIPs to think about the nature of their son’s intense emotions and question their own deeply ingrained assumptions about society.  This would be an honest thing to do because leftists profess to believe that babes have a lot to teach us about the world and that it’s always good to question received opinions.  The columnist Rachel Biale, however, issued a different verdict:

On gender issues, I advise parents to offer, as I did with my children, a full spectrum of toys and activities without gender-pegging: boys with dolls, girls with hammers, etc. I have never encountered parents flummoxed because their daughter wanted a gun. (Please let me know if your experience is different!)  I myself remember vividly how I insisted on playing soccer with the boys and wanted a bow and arrow for Lag B’Omer.  My father was a carpenter and physicist; in those days in the kibbutz you could be both. So he made me a beautifully carved bow and explained the laws of physics governing the arrow’s trajectory and speed.  I even announced in third grade that my name was now Danny and I was going to be a boy.  It lasted till fourth grade, but never in that whole period (nor before or after) did I want a gun.

All snark aside, her dad sounds cool.

I grew up in a culture where toy weapons were commonplace.  I was a girly girl, and I don’t remember myself wanting plastic guns, but I’m pretty sure I played with them every now and then.  If Robert Louis Stevenson is any authority on the subject, boys and girls do play together, often exploring marshal themes.  His absolutely cheek-pinchingly darling poem Marching Song from “A Child’s Garden of Verses” features “great commander Jane” who gayly leads the boys on a war pass.  I take it Ms. Biale’s childhood was not much different.  For one, she implied that it would had been normal for a kid in her community to ask for a toy gun.  And for another:

Our kibbutz was on the Jordanian border and guns were part of everyday life. This is still the case in Israel today. Soldiers on their way to and from home carry a gun, as do other security personnel. But when it came to raising my children here in the United States, without even noticing, I adopted the common American Jewish aversion to guns. (Jews have the lowest gun ownership rate in America.) I, too, felt very uncomfortable with the idea of my son playing with guns.

Whatever happened to multiculturalism?

I do believe boys love toy guns so much because they offer an important avenue for mastering aggression through play. Pretend combative play — cowboys and Indians, space aliens and humans, cops and robbers and superheroes armed to the teeth — is important for  the maturation and “civilizing” of boys.  Allowing opportunities  for play that channels aggressive fantasies reduces the amount of actual aggression toward other kids.

Do tell.  It probably helps to reduce the amount of inwardly aggression as well — if am to take a guess.

That said, it’s important to uphold your values and recognize when something is too uncomfortable and disturbing for you.  It’s perfectly fine to let your child know there are things you find objectionable and don’t want in your house. For example, some parents feel this way about pet rats.  We told our son: “We really, really don’t like guns.  They hurt and kill people.  We don’t want one in our house, not even a play gun.”

The antiquated United States Constitution tells us nothing about the rodents, but, for all I know, the vastly superior founding document of the European Union might have something to say on that subject.  I can see not wanting a rat, but, on the other hand, what if there is a near-extinct specie of rat, and a family gets both a male and a female vermin and tries to get them to breed?  What do we think about that?

But we did let him get a  sword. Why?  Mainly, because it didn’t make us cringe in the same way a gun did and let him deal with aggression through play.  We explained: “Swords are a bit like old tales from ‘Once upon a time.’ A long, long time ago, people used them to fight. But, nowadays, people don’t use swords to kill.” No doubt there is a bit of rationalizing here, but this offered a middle ground we could live with.  Our son, after graduating from swords to the World Wrestling Federation, abandoned these pursuits and grew into a very peaceful, unaggressive person, who does his “fighting” for justice and civil rights in the court of law.

Just about every family I know is cool with plastic swards, but wants no gun toys.  Why, what’s the difference?  One is a lethal weapon and another can shoot blanks?  Nothing against swords or wrestling, but target shooting does promote patience and concentration.

I have no idea what Ms. Biale means by “‘fighting’ for justice and civil rights in the court of law”, but countless books were written on the subject of verbal aggression in Ashkenazi diaspora.  No amount of verbal aggression absolves a man (or a woman) of the moral responsibility to defend himself, his friends and family.  And by “defend” I don’t mean “litigate”.

What does the sword-and-wrestling diet do to children anyway?  I’m not claiming to know what the youth of today think about the 2nd Amendment, but it’s useful to turn to the guardians of the illicit, namely Urban Outfitters, for clues.  Here, at Edge of the Sandbox, we don’t pretend to understand where irony ends and self-loathing begins when it comes to Urban, but the firearms-related gimmicks, currently occupying their sale racks, are hard to ignore.

Shot glasses — Get it? Get it? — are on sale for $7.99

A cooler. I don’t know about that one.

“Freeze!” ice tray is my personal favorite. On sale for 7.99, accompanied by a very interesting video

For a good measure they had a grenade decanter. Being a middle age vino, I don’t know about this one either.

Either the kids sense that guns are not as bad as their parents told them, or they are being defiant or both, but they are not indifferent to the allure of fire arms.

Here is my previous post on anti-gun agenda placement in Parents magazine.  Koch brothers, either one of you, where art though?

UPDATE: Linked by Legal Insurrection — many thanks to Professor Jacobson.

November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:41 pm

I am most thankful for my family and my country.

My daughter is in kindergarten right now.  Her school’s greatest selling point is multiculturalism, i.e. loads of immigrant children.  The nice thing about multiculturalism are the occasional gems.  DD struck up a  friendship with a very sweet girl of Vietnamese dissent whose grandfather was a pilot for the South Vietnamese Army.  He spent four years in prison after the North took over.  So now we have playdates with a good family.

Maybe I’m the wrong person to write a Thanksgiving post.  In my wasted youth I frequented clubs where people hid in dark corners, and I think Florence King is just oh so cool.  And maybe it’s the wrong year to write a Thanksgiving post.  But, on the other hand, I am thankful for my family, and if you are going to buy “With Charity” on Amazon, go to Legal Insurrection first (or Instapundit, or any other blog that actually gets paid for amazon clickthroughs — OK, I am a failure as a misanthrope).

Being on the free-ranging side of parenting, I didn’t teach my daughter much academics when she was in pre-school.  Now she’s learning to read and write her first words (“I”, “see”, “like” are among them).  “I’m really good at the ‘I’ one,” she tells me.

She colored a book with the story of the Pilgrims in her class.  “When the pilgrims came to America, the people who were already here helped them out,” she tells me. “So mommy, when you came to America, did daddy help you?”  Hmm… I suppose the answer is technically, no, because at the time daddy hardly paid any federal taxes.  Being refugees we were eligible for a variety of entitlements, including, in my case, paid-for college education because my parents, who found jobs relatively quickly, had no income to report for the years we weren’t residents.

But it’s not the free education that I value most about America, it’s the air of freedom, the ability to make my own choices — and take responsibility for the consequences.  This is still a big free country, with the best political system ever devised and the most spirited citizenry.  Obviously, there are serious problems with my state, much of it has to do with a large unassimilated immigrant population, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, and I wouldn’t want to raise my family in any other nation.

June 5, 2012

Stay at Home Moms

Filed under: feminism, parenting, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:19 pm

When I re-read my old posts about politics, it feels like the events I wrote about happened a decade ago.  If, however, I look at my posts about parenting, it all seems current. it doesn’t mean that I’m going to be blogging more about parenting because I rarely have much to say on that subject.  But a few days ago Dr. Sarah gave me an idea for another parenting post.  She was kind enough to read my entry on Bryan Kaplan’s book “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” and leave a response.  Dr. Sarah objected to the idea that women and women alone should expect to take some time off work to care for young families:

Why, of course *she* [is]. After all, the other parent involved, what with being male and all, couldn’t possibly be expected to split the job when it comes to taking time off work for young children. Why is it universally assumed that parental leave for small children should be exclusively a woman’s job?

I responded:

It doesn’t have to be a woman’s job, and often times it’s not, but it just makes more sense when it is. And in many middle class families it starts early on. In most cases breastfeeding is cheaper and easier than formula, and it is, unless you are a freakazoid, a woman’s job. Expressing milk is annoying and creates additional tasks (freezing, warming up, cleaning containers) for the whole family. Most stay at home parents are moms, so it’s not unusual for dads to feel out of place when everyone sits in a circle nursing contemplating their episiotomies. And so on. Not to mention that nurturing hormones do kick in.
Beyond that, the father’s role in socializing children is different from that of mothers.

To which Dr. Sarah said:

I agree that breastfeeding becomes a lot more difficult when the woman is the one who continues work, but that’s only one of the many factors to be considered. In our situation, I had a job I loved while my husband had a job he hated – and had a chance to take voluntary redundancy from. The advantages of us doing it that way round well outweighed the inconvenience of expressing milk and washing bottles.

Alternatively, for many couples it could potentially work out well to alternate time off. So, for example, if a couple are planning to space their children three years apart, she could take the first 18 months of each stretch while he takes the next 18 months. Obviously, this would only work if they had careers from which it was easy to take multiple breaks. But, even if they don’t do it 50:50, he could still consider being the one who stays home after the youngest child hits one and the mother no longer needs to be around full-time to breastfeed.

There are all sorts of possible permutations, none of which would be a one-size-fits-all rule for any family but any of which would work better for many families than either leaving it all up to the woman or opting for early childcare. I find it a great shame that more couples don’t consider them.

While it’s none of my business how people decide to run their families, I’m going to tell my daughter not to expect her husband to take paternity leaves, and I’m going to prepare my son to be the sole provider for his wife and kids.  Why should they assume otherwise?

The example cited by Dr. Sarah (“I had a job I loved while my husband had a job he hated”) is one of those exceptions that proves the rule.  Sure, the way she described her situation, it makes sense that her husband became a stay at home dad.  This example doesn’t render the stay at home mom model insufficient.

Dr. Sarah family is unusual because in most cases both parents have pleanty unpleasant experiences at work.  Even when the mother loved her job before she had the baby, it is not at all clear that she will love to return.  At some point in pregnancy, the hormones do kick in and her priorities may shift.  While I keep hearing from moms who cry when they drop off their kids at daycare and head to work, dads never divulge.  It could be that they are just as devastated, but, being being stoic and all, don’t let on.  Or else it’s just different with women. I’m sure there are some isolated examples of families where fathers are far more nurturing than moms, but they are just that — isolated examples.

Aside from woman’s wishes, as a practical matter it makes sense for a nursing mother to stay at home.  As I mentioned in my initial response to Dr. Sarah, it’s easier on the family unit and on mom and dad’s social life –whatever the latter amounts to shortly after the birth of the baby.  Of course, the challenges to stay at home dads are not insurmountable, but they are challenges, and they do add up, particularly considering that men have their own unique needs.

So, yes, if mother loves her job and can’t wait to return and the dad hates his and wants to nurture, the family might decide that dad will stay with the baby.  In this particular case.  I suspect that in this Great Recession dads care for children because they lost their job while mothers managed to remain employed.  Such an arrangement is nothing to celebrate.

Then there is the question of what the family unit is all about.  The way we think about it, me and DH are a team.  We help each other, minimize work for each other and maximize our income.  It’s not girls against boys, not “I took some time off, so now is your turn”.  We most certainly don’t compete with each other, as I hear some couples do, over who makes more money.  If there is a lull in my career, doesn’t mean that he has to interrupt his.

I admit in our case it was a no-brainer that I would be the one staying at home not only because I’m the mother, but also because his salary was so much higher.  I pity today’s young women who are making more money than their male counterparts, which means, in the event they decide to marry the man whom they outearn, they will have to return to full time employment post partum.

Men and women are not interchangeable, and a father’s role in his children’s upbringing is different from that of the mother.  Father has to set the example of stoic masculinity, to teach his sons to be men, and to show his daughters what men are like.  This doesn’t mean that they are not allowed to help around the house or give a bottle (or that mothers can’t pack heat), but that on the whole a father’s obligations transcend nurturing, and that perhaps we shouldn’t ask them to be mother surrogates.

I don’t think decisions like who gets to stay at home should be guided by considerations of equality of condition.  What I mean by “equality of condition” here is making sure that both the husband and the wife work equal amount of time outside the home.  I find this “equality of condition” approach a little geeky because it ignores what men and women want.  More importantly, decisions about family should be made based on what is good for the family unit, not how to advance the feminist movement.

I am going to tell my daughter to reasonably expect to take a decade off work to be with her children.  I’m also going to encourage her to chose her career wisely.  My grandmother used to talk of occupations that are good for women — the ones that allow flexible hours.  Thankfully there is more and more of them now, not to mention that many employers allow work from home.  If she must become a stock broker or a physics professor, then be it, but she needs to have a clear idea about what she’s choosing.

May 14, 2012

Attachment Parenting Proponent Calls for a Halt in the Mommy Wars

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 1:34 pm

This Mother’s Day, Time magazine published an unflattering cover story about attachment parenting.  The shock-rock cover certainly made a splash.

Are you mom enough?

So long as they are not insinuating that Ann Romney, whose essay was published in the same issue, is somehow a part of attachment parenting movement, I’m totally cool with the existence of the story.  Mrs. Romney could not have been an “attached” mother because the first edition of William Sears’s The Baby Book, the “bible” of the movement, was published in 1992, and Ann had her last child in 1981

Anyone not sufficiently disturbed by the Times cover is free to meet Veronica, SFW but probably NFTFON:

Turns out, the attachment types weren’t pleased with the story.  Katie Allison Ganju (via Instapundit) even called for a passive resistance “I Am Not Mom Enough” movement to end mommy wars unpleasant magazine covers once and for all.  Is it passive-aggressive of her?

From what I can tell (this non-attachment parent is in a time funk and didn’t read the feature) Time lashes out on the overindulged, overinvolved, overbearing approach to parenting so many moms embraced in the last 20 years.  Ganju has been a vocal proponent of it.  Here she is, for instance, singing praises to a hippie midwife.  She is a widely-published authority on breastfeeding who had recently admitted to being unable to breastfeed her last child.  Together with attachment guru Dr. Sears she wrote a book on  “instinctive” parenting.  But if her trademark style of parenting is, as she says, instinctive, why do we need a to buy a manual on it?

In The Baby Book Dr. Sears proposed a rigid set of guidelines that moms must follow.  The set of rules he outlined is very specific and highly demanding — extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, sharing a bed with children and so on.  If any one of his commandments alone does not seem like a big deal, they do add up.  Mothers working outside of the home in particular might find the regime undoable.  More to the point, Sears’s directions are focused on minutia.  If putting a 10-pound baby in carrier and walking around in 90 degree heat all day long is a mother’s idea of fun or makes sense logistics-wise — then, by all means, go for it.  However, it’s not medically necessary, and it’s not required for what psychologists call attachment.  So putting the child down to give oneself a break won’t do any harm.

If I were to try to point out to an attached mother that, for instance, bonding immediately after birth, while certainly nice, has not been shown to have any long term consequences, they often get defensive.  In their eyes, stating that fact makes me judgmental; why don’t I leave them and their families alone.  Hard core lactivist types recommend shutting down everyone, including grandmothers, deemed insufficiently committed to breastfeeding.

I belong to the noted early childhood development specialist Tim Gunn’s school of parenting.  My motto is “Make it work!”  There are wrong approaches, to be sure, but there is more than a single correct way of raising kids.  All of them are different and each will defy the experts at least once.  Even then, economist Bryan Kaplan raised doubts about the extent to which parenting methods matter at all.  Separated at birth studies are pretty uncanny in proving that so much of how the children turn out depends on genes.

We women talk about our experiences and readily dispatch advice.  We are proud when our kids do well, and are let down by other mothers’ bragging.  There is nothing unusual or evil about it.  The foot soldiers of attachment get pretty evangelical about Sears.  They hang on to his every word to the point of utter silliness, like they would have you think that strollers are the Devil.  They make sure the rest of us are aware of their superior motherhood.  Which elevates their commitment to the status of mommy wars (to be sure, the whole concept is larger).  This is not media invention.  Mommy wars are real, and evangelical proponents of attachment are the aggressor.

Ganju is one of the generals of the movement.  If she has any problem with the substance of the feature or the cover of Time magazine, she didn’t go on record with it.  She did write a short note to the point that the “shameful” graphic does not reflect the reality of breastfeeding mothers.  True.  I breastfed my babies, but I don’t recognize my kind of parenting in this picture.  I don’t find the photo offensive or misleading, however, because it correctly reflects on the reality of attachment mothers.

When Ganju got her thoughts together, she said this:

With its much-discussed, inflammatory “Are You Mom Enough” cover this week, TIME became just the latest big media brand/publisher to laugh all the way to the bank as we moms dance and jab and argue endlessly on camera, just as they set us up to do. Only instead of this series being labeled “mommyfights,” we get a title for our own media-manipulated, ever-escalating grudge match that’s far grander and more violent sounding: we get “the mommywars.”


Let’s turn May 13, 2012 into the day when individually and collectively, we all say enough. The day when we end these godforsaken, destructive, exploitative and made-up “mommywars” once and for all by sitting down wherever we are and simply refusing to engage any further.

In other words, she’s concerned that somebody might make a buck debating the phenomena.  As you might have guessed, I don’t have a problem with capitalism.  I do, however, have a bit of a problem with hypocrisy.  Ganju made a name for herself as proponent of sensationalist and out of medical mainstream parenting practices.  She made a buck on it, too.  And now that a prominent publication came up with a gross-out cover and pointed out the folly of her chosen parenting ideology, she’s digging up her inner pacifist.  This is pretty rich.

Katie Allison Ganju certainly has a way with words.  I don’t doubt that when it comes to issues that matter, she’s a great mom.  But the advice she dispatches is frequently wrong, her faithful are a self-righteous bunch, and me and people who think like me should by no means feel shy to point it out.

April 16, 2012

How to Afford the Luxury of Not Working at Home

Filed under: parenting, politics, Soviet Union — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 1:53 pm

Confirmed: “natural” is in the eye of the beholder.  In September 2007 Vogue printed Rebecca Johnson’s piece on Michelle Obama, a shortened version is available online (I hope they won’t disappear it).  Barack Obama claimed that his family didn’t have “the luxury” for Michelle to stay at home, but The interview, titled The Natural, confirms that Michelle — how should I put it? — pretty much hated stay at home motherhood with every fiber of her being (via Political Junkie Mom):

Every year, Michelle Obama considers quitting her job and staying home full-time to take care of her children. “It was a gift having my mother home every day. I want my kids to feel that way,” she says. But having experienced the pleasures of work outside the home, she is reluctant to give up her independence. “Work is rewarding,” she says. “I love losing myself in a set of problems that have nothing to do with my husband and children. Once you’ve tasted that, it’s hard to walk away.”

Then, too, there is that little-discussed fact that staying home with children can be—how else to put it?—less than intellectually stimulating. “The days I stay home with my kids without going out, I start to get ill,” she says. “My head starts to ache.” When she mentioned it to her mother, Marian Robinson told her daughter she didn’t think Michelle could handle the boredom of staying home with kids. [Cursive mine, — ed.]

Naturally, cum laude Michelle preferred to work for the Chicago machine.  The Lonely Conservative comments:

Look, there are days when kids drive even the most perfect, loving mothers a bit insane. Nobody can deny that. But for someone with a six figure income to classify the choice of staying at home to raise her children as a “luxury” is disingenuous at best.

Every once and a while we all need a break.  Actually, we need a lot of breaks, even if we don’t describe our aversion to spending time with our children in such tactile terms.  Perhaps Obamas who found child-rearing too difficult of an undertaking can show some respect for women who actually did it.

Anywho, I am lucky to have my mother come over every week, as expected from a Russian granny.  In the Soviet Union we were practically raised by our grandmothers.  In the four decades following World War 2, Soviet women had very long maternity leaves after which they had to go back to work full time.  Now, one of my grandmothers managed to be a homemaker, which was unbelievable.  My mom likes to say that she and her husband lived in the 20th century as if it was the 19th.

My mother worked out an agreement to work half a day, which was also unbelievable.  I didn’t know any other kid who had it so sweet.  One of my earliest memories is sitting with my grandmothers and waiting for her to come home in the middle of the day.  All other kids were tended to by babushkas or were in daycare and kindergartens.  My grannies were of the opinion that day care was low class, and I started kindergarten at 4, a year later than everyone else.  It was pretty much a factory of conformity and despair, which is a different topic altogether.

Although my daughter started part time pre-school when she was ready for the social experience, we have no sitters and no nannies.  I had an opportunity to hire a trusted Russian woman with a nursing degree, but passed.  Money is one reason, another one is that we prefer family members taking care of each other.  My children had developed relationships with people who love them more than anything else in this world and who will be there for them until their death. I’m not against sitters, just pro-granny.  I think people who can afford sitters should hire them — along with maids, gardeners and other service providers — to give themselves a break.

I was eager to leave home as a teen, and moved out when I was admitted to a university.  My experience is fairly unusual considering that even in this country Russian kids don’t move out until they get married.  Living alone, or at least far from parents, can be great fun for people in their 20s, but once we get on the breeding path, it’s reckoning time.  Thankfully, I didn’t move too far.  Balancing family and opportunity is something for young people to consider.

Since many Russian American women are able to pursue both carriers and motherhood because they have grandmothers tend to their children, I was intrigued by the role of Mrs. Robinson, Michelle’s mother, in the upbringing of her children.  Turns out, it was not a big one.  Here is the clue:

To keep things as normal as possible, Michelle’s mother will soon be retiring from her job as a secretary at a bank—in order to help watch the Obama daughters, Malia, nine, and Sasha, six.  [Cursive mine, — ed.]

So basically, while Michelle entertained herself with the Chicago machine, the Sasha and Malia spent their formative years in the care of strangers.

UPDATE: Forgot to include this portrait of “natural” motherhood: matching daughter’s clothes to self.  Anyway, one example of many.

Obama matching outfit

Yahoo comments: "Put on your to do list: Mother-daughter matching days". Oh come on, stay at home moms, don't be party poopers.

January 22, 2012

Helicoptering Son’s “Gender”

Filed under: parenting, politics, society — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 3:33 pm

Here’s a crowd-pleaser if there ever was one:

It’s a boy! And he’s five. Beck Laxton, 46, and partner Kieran Cooper, 44, have spent half the decade concealing the gender of their son, Sasha.

Laxton might think of Cooper as a “partner”, but for the rest of the world he’s either a husband or, considering that marriage is a patriarchal, homophobic institution, a baby-daddy.

“I wanted to avoid all that stereotyping,” Laxton said in an interview with the Cambridge News. “Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid. Why would you want to slot people into boxes?”

Good question.  Male and female are only boxed in bureaucrat’s paperwork because in real world sex differences are a source of creativity and joy.  The only individuals stereotyped in this news story are the Cooper/Laxton family — or whatever social unit they consider themselves to be — who sound like people who took one Gender Studies class too many.

Laxton, a UK-based web editor, and her partner, Cooper, decided to keep Sasha’s sex a secret when he was still in the womb. The birth announcement stated the gender-neutral name of their child, but skipped the big reveal. Up until recently, the couple only told a few close friends and family members that Sasha was a boy and managed to keep the rest of the world in the dark. But now that he’s starting school the secret’s out.

Note how it’s somehow up to Sasha’s mom and dad to reveal their boy’s “gender”.  I’m surprised the boy didn’t divulge because unless the five-year-old is not potty trained, he must know.  The idea that Sasha doesn’t talk about being a boy is a bit strange because pre-schoolers tend to be all but obsessed with such matters.  I can’t say I pushed my daughter towards pink tutus, but that’s all she wants to wear.  And while my son imitates his big sister, he exhibits an inexplicable (to me anyways) fascination with trucks.  Early childhood is when gender-specific behavior is most stereotypical, and I pity the parents so blinded by their ideology that they are incapable of enjoying that stage.  I worry about their children.

Sasha dresses in clothes he likes — be it a hand-me-downs from his sister or his brother. The big no-no’s are hyper-masculine outfits like skull-print shirts and cargo pants. In one photo, sent to friends and family, Sasha’s dressed in a shiny pink girl’s swimsuit. “Children like sparkly things,” says Beck. “And if someone thought Sasha was a girl because he was wearing a pink swimming costume, then what effect would that have? “

A boy in a girl swimsuit?  I think sunbathing vacationers can tell the difference.

Gender is frequently defined as a social construct whereas sex is biological.  Sasha’s sex is male.  There are different ways of being a man — a gentleman, a warrior, a scholar, etc — that’s your social construct.  I hope Sasha doesn’t rebel against his parents by keeping a harem full of hijabed concubines.

Sasha’s also not short on dolls, though Barbie is also off limits. “She’s banned because she’s horrible,” Laxton says in the Cambridge interview.

In other words, he can be a like girl as long as he’s not too much like one.  Talk about freedom to choose his gender!

On a macro level she hopes her son sets an example for other parents and makes them reconsider buying their own sons trucks or forcing their daughters into tights. She’s seen how those consumer trappings affect how and who kids play with in the sandbox.

Children in pre-industrial societies still play with toys, so I’m not sure what the horrid gender self-segregation has to do with consumerism.  Girls tend to nurture dolls, it’s hormonal.  Boys usually like large moving objects, it could be the hunters in them.  Boys and girls naturally gravitate to kids who share their interests.  To deny children something as innocent as gender play is cruel.

But the sandbox is just a precursor to the classroom. When Sasha turned five and headed to school, Laxton was forced to make her son’s sex public. That meant Sasha would have to get used to being a boy in the eyes of his peers. Still, his mom is intervening. While the school requires different uniforms for boys and girls, Sasha wears a girl’s blouse with his pants.

“I don’t think I’d do it if I thought it was going to make him unhappy, but at the moment he’s not really bothered either way. We haven’t had any difficult scenarios yet.”

The mom let her guard down here.  A boy expressing his desire to dress like a boy is, for her,  a”difficult scenario[]” something to overcome.  She’s a selfish ideologue who wants to control every aspect of his being to deny his natural desires.

Last year another couple, Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, of Toronto made a similar decision when they had their baby, Storm. At the time, certain psychiatric experts voiced concern over their decision. “To have a sense of self and personal identity is a critical part of normal healthy development,” Dr. Eugene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, told ABC News. “This blocks that and sets the child up for bullying, scapegoating and marginalization.”

At which point the parents run to state and local bureaucrats and demand “anti-bullying” human sexuality classes in kindergarten.

But as parents well know, bullying is hard for any child to avoid. It’s more important to raise someone who’s confident enough in himself to overcome peer pressure. It’s also important to have his parents have his back (remember the mom who defended her son’s choice in a Halloween costume?) Maybe Sasha’s early years will be character building, maybe he’ll have a higher emotional quotient being raised with dual perspectives on gender. Or the reverse could be true: Sasha may have less of a formed identity because of his upbringing, and feel angry at his mom for dressing him in flowery shirts and telling the world about it. Then again, maybe he’ll get over it.

I have a feeling Sasha already formed his identity, even with his family standing in his way.  Five years is pretty old no not know that men and women are different.  I’m sure there is a lot going on in that family that the article didn’t report on.  I’m sorry this boy can’t have a normal childhood.

Much has been said about today’s parents being hell-bent on controlling every aspect of their children’s lives.  Laxton and Cooper outdid us all by precluding their son from saying: “Mommy, I’m a boy!”

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