Q&A: parents sticking up for child

Eric writes:

"I am not a parent yet, but will probably become one soon. I have an question about raising children that I was hoping you could open for debate. I was fascinated by the debate over the peanut allergies on the playground, and this in a similar vein.

I regularly read Wil Wheaton’s blog, and he recently had an entry called The Butterfly Tree (http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2007/04/the_butterfly_t.html). This entry describes one of his memories, where he and his family went to a Parent’s Night, where parents would come to see sort of a "school day lite". And during this, through no fault of his own, Wil gets the equivalent of his name written on the board. I hope you read the entry in full, because I’m doing a bad job of summarizing it concisely, but essentially it’s about the fact that his parents didn’t stick up for him when he was punished (warned or cited really) through clearly no fault of his own.

This story made me think of what I would do with my own kid, if the situation presented itself. And I have no doubt that it will. One the one hand, we can tell that this unfair incident traumatized the kid (not severely, but still), and he was unfairly punished (quote-unquote punished). If I was a kid and that happened to me, I would be very upset not only that I was a victim of an unreasonable accusation, but also that my parents didn’t support me, especially when they were there to witness it. Silence gives consent. So doing nothing, you’re left with the sense that your parents either approve, or are too lazy to do anything about it, that they don’t care. That’s nothing a parent should be known for, especially in an instance that seems to be resulting in inequitable treatment to my child. Fair’s fair, and what kind of lesson am I teaching my kid by not coming to his defense when clearly he was falsely accused? I want to teach him that you should fight against things that are clearly wrong, and not just capitulate.

On the other hand, what good would a confrontation do? What would a parent say to her? What is going to be gained? We know that Mrs. Krocka is probably a witch. Either she’d argue back, or she’d acquiesce, but really, what would get done? And Wil wasn’t really punished anyway. As he says, his name was right back to normal the day after (when the good teacher came back). When you’re a little kid, these things that seem like a huge deal really aren’t. The kid doesn’t know that, but the parents do.

My wife’s a teacher so I know how frustrated they get by constant barrages of ignorant parents who never think it’s their fault their kid’s eating crayons and not really learning anything. I would never want to aggravate a teacher in such a way because I know what they go through, and I know they’re not trying to screw up my kid,they’re just trying to do the best they can.

So that’s the question. Should Wil’s parents have gone back in and argued with the teacher, defending him against an unjust punishment, or write it off, consider it a lesson in life not always being fair. Or am I making too big a deal out of this? :)"

(He signed off with "long time reader, first time writer," which made me feel like either Mike or The Maddog. Awesome!)

It seems to me that there are a couple of elements of this situation that need to be considered separately. One is, obviously, whether the parents should have confronted Mrs. Krocka. But first, let’s talk about the other element, which is how his parents acknowledged Wil’s feelings. In the story they didn’t. That, I feel, is the biggest mistake in this whole episode. The parents should have acknowledged Wil’s feelings, even if they weren’t able to stick up for him in front of Mrs. Krocka. As soon as they were out of the school building, they should have apologized for not being able to stick up for him, validated that he hadn’t done anything wrong, and acknowledged that he was wronged in the situation.

It could have been a really valuable lesson to learn that sometimes you get the short end of the stick, but your parents are still there for you even when they can’t change the outcome of the situation. Instead, he just felt abandoned and misunderstood. It takes so little to make kids feel understood, but it sounds like Wil’s parents were just overwhelmed and didn’t know how to do it.

Now, about confronting Mrs. Krocka. Technically, what should have happened is that one of the other parents should have stood up to Mrs. Krocka, pointed out that she was being really unreasonable and over-the-top, and smoothed over the situation. That way there wouldn’t have been any awkwardness with Wil’s parents sticking up for him, and it would have reinforced the social norm of not picking on innocent kids in the classroom. (Seriously. What was wrong with her?) We should all remember that in unfair situations the bystander has way more power to stop abuse of power than we think. Speak up if you can.

Now, should Wil’s parents have spoken up for him to Mrs. Krocka? In my opinion, yes. It wasn’t like he’d been doing something wrong and knew it and she just came down a little hard on him. He really did nothing and she humiliated him in front of a room full of people just because she could. The only lesson that taught him was that he couldn’t count on his parents.

But I don’t think we can really judge them, because it sounds like they were overwhelmed with their lives and were afraid of Mrs. Krocka. I really do think the other parents should have picked up the slack and stopped Mrs. Krocka from trampling Wil.

Opinions? Did Wil learn a valuable lesson, or was he left hanging by the adults in his life? How should his parents have handled things?


Breastfeeding and PPD update

CJ over at Light and Momentary writes:

Hey, how are you?  Did you see this study about bfing and PPD?


The EFA info caught my eye since you’ve recommended EFA supplements to the mothers who read your site.  Here’s a quote:

DHA appears to have a role in the prevention of depression, but according to two recent reviews, has no efficacy in treatment of depression when used alone [67, 69]. In the Adelaide Mothers’ and Babies’ Iron Trial, a 1% increase in plasma DHA was related to a 59% decrease in depressive symptoms postpartum [57]. In a large population study, women who consumed high amounts of seafood during pregnancy and had high levels of DHA in the milk had lower rates of postpartum depression [70].

DHA may have another effect that could help prevent depression postpartum. In a study of infant sleep, mothers with high levels of DHA during pregnancy had babies who exhibited a more mature sleep pattern in the first few days of life [71]. The investigators examined the ratio of quiet to active sleep using a monitor placed beneath the crib mattress. A higher percentage of quiet sleep is characteristic of older babies, and is considered a more mature sleep pattern. Babies whose mothers had high levels of DHA during pregnancy exhibited more mature sleep patterns as neonates. The investigators concluded that babies of high-DHA mothers had more mature central nervous systems than babies of mothers who were low in DHA. Although this was not study of depression per se, babies with more mature sleep patterns also allow mothers to get more uninterrupted sleep – and this could have an indirect effect on their mothers’ mental health [71].

Really interesting. I posted this as soon as she sent it to me, so I haven’t had a chance to really dig into the study. Anyone want to start commenting, and then I’ll join in once I’ve really looked at it?

Daring News

After all that angst about how a "dangerous" book for girls could never be as good as the one for boys, it turns out we were wrong. Miriam Peskowitz and Andi Buchanan are going to write The Daring Book For Girls. So no worries! These kick-ass women are going to write a kick-ass book for girls.

I love it when a plan comes together.

In other news, my amazing babysitter has three weeks left with us. If anyone in NYC is looking for someone to start in a few weeks, she’s truly a wonderful person, completely trustworthy, with two older kids of her own. Funny, warm, loving, a litle goofy, totally in charge, with energy to spare. She wants to work for a family in Manhattan so her commute is decent (east side would be great, and UES would be perfect), but her primary concern is being with a family who she’s comfortable with. Email me if you’re interested in more info.

Book Review: Reading With Babies, Toddler, and Twos

Review of Reading With Babies, Toddlers, and Twos, originally posted on my personal blog on June 8, 2006.

I’m happy to be part of the blog book tour for Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos
by Susan Straub and KJ Dell’Antonia. ‘Cause, you know, free stuff. But
also because I think the book is great and fills a big gap for parents
of younger kids who don’t know where to go after Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon. I liked the book so much I recommended it to the children’s librarian at my local library branch.

RWBTAT has three main strengths. The first is that it’s a short
book, written in easily-read and digested chunks. This makes it perfect
for a nursing mom of a baby or a parent of a toddler who can only read
in 5-minute chunks. It’s small enough that you can toss it in your bag
or the bottom of the stroller to read if your kid falls asleep while
you’re out. You don’t have to wade through statistical studies to get
to the tips and tricks for choosing and using books with very small
people. It’s perfectly targeted to a largely sleep-deprived, short
attention-spanned audience.

The other strength is that it’s specifically geared for babies and
little kids. The authors affirm that it’s not just your baby who
doesn’t seem to care that much about books, it’s not just your toddler
who wants to throw the books more than listen to them, and it’s not
just you who feels like reading to your child is a big waste of time
since your child doesn’t do more than gum the book. Their message is
that all that is normal, and it’s part of the process, and if you read
to your kids because you think you have to it’s going to be a
disheartening experience, but if you read because you like to read,
they’ll eventually start to pay attention. It’s refreshing, really. A
book that doesn’t guilt-trip you about how your child will never be a
success later in life if s/he isn’t force-read for an hour every day.

The book’s biggest selling point, though, is the sheer volume of
different lists of books. They have lists of books about colors, books
with baby faces, fairy-tale book, classic books that became TV
characters, lift-the-flap books, books to help with rough bedtimes,
books to help talk about death and dying, and on and on. It’s almost
comical how many lists there are. (I’d make fun of the authors for it,
but I’ve already used some of the lists to update my library reserve
list and Amazon.com wishlist, so I really can’t throw any stones.) Just
when you start to get huffy about "I can’t believe they didn’t put Good Dog, Carl
on the list!" you turn the page and there it is. They even have lists
of favorite books of real-life kids of all (young) ages, from 3 months
to two.

This is a perfect baby shower gift or book to buy for yourself when
you feel like you’re bored with your current repertoire and need a
little guidance about choosing the next round of books. I was happy to
receive the book to review, figuring I’d read it and then give it to a
friend with a new baby, but now I can’t get rid of it. I need the lists
too much.

Q&A: sex at 9 weeks post-partum

Jen writes:

"I’m a new Mom.  Little baby is 9 weeks old.  We’re doing pretty well. I’m keeping my anxiety at bay, reminding myself I am doing a good job and getting sleep when I can.  Routine, going for a walk, sunshine and talking with friends all help.

My issue (or one of them) is this: My husband is desperate to have sex and I just don’t feel like it. In the beginning baby weeks it was that I was too damned tired.  And now its "I never get much time alone.  Where no one wants me."  At night, it feels like the moment I get done breast feeding and putting baby down, my hubby wants some love.

Now, he is a good hubby.  Helps lots with baby. Is sensitive.  Tries hard not to be pushy and tries to understand.  Yet, he feels unloved and misses ‘the old me."  He tells me constantly that I am sexy.  He bought me lingerie and comfy jammies for Mothers Day. He is so happy that I have lost my big belly and have gained big boobs.

The problem I think is me.  I get into bed and I think "I have 3 hours before the next feed."  I need to eat, rest, maybe bathe.  I am not feeling "in the mood."

I think its mainly that I feel pressured even though hubby is not trying to pressure me.  I get reminded of how long its been.  The more I think about it, the more guilty and fretful and pressured I feel.  Ultimately, I would like to just let it go.  I am sure that one day nature will take its course and we will have sex.  I don’t want to think about when, where or how.

Am I completely nuts?  Does anyone else feel this way?  Any ideas for helping me feel better?"

Oh, honey. You’re barely healed. Your baby is still teeny tiny, nursing all the time, not sleeping on a decent schedule. You’re still shell-shocked from suddenly being primarily responsible for another human being 24/7 and realizing your life will never be the same again. You’re exhausted and probably at least somewhat overwhelmed, and really touched out.

Of course you’re not dying for sex.

6 weeks is what they tell you, but that’s just the time it usually takes for the surface hurt of a normal vaginal delivery to heal, and for the post-partum bleeding to stop. 6 weeks does not mean that you’re healed if you had deep tears or an episiotomy. And it doesn’t mean that you’re emotionally in a place in which you need to have sex or even remotely want it.

There’s just way too much going on for sex to be a priority right now for most women.


If your husband wants to feel close to you at the same time he has an orgasm, you could consider giving him a hand job. He could also masturbate while you’re there with him. If you have a huge excess of energy and ambition you might consider oral. But it’s not a reasonable expectation to think that you’d be really into sex right now.


This won’t last forever. In a few months you’ll probably be back on the horse (so to speak) and enjoying sex again. But 9 weeks is still the Red Zone of parenting. It’s overwhelming and exhausting and frightening and makes you bone-weary. Horny? Not so much.

So just hang in there and keep waking up every morning. If you can, try to make your husband feel loved and appreciated. But don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with you if you don’t really want to have sex right now. There’s nothing wrong with your husband really wanting you right now, either. It’s just that your situations don’t match up right now. They’ll get back into sync again.

If you really want to be proactive about the sex thing, do a bunch of elevator Kegels every day. That way, by the time you’re ready to have sex again you’ll have amazing muscle control down there and it’ll be better than ever. But cut yourself some slack right now. And take a nap if you get the chance.

What Boys Should Know By the Time They Become Men

We’ve done the girl book, so now let’s do What Boys Should Know Before They Become Men.

I’ll start:

1. How to sort and wash laundry properly
2. Writing thank-you notes
3. Tying a necktime
4. Talking your way out of a fistfight
5. Winning a fistfight
6. Ending a date politely without promising to call someone you have no intention of calling
7. Roasting a chicken, making risotto, cooking asparagus, and baking brownies
8. First Aid
9. Driving a Manual Transmission Car
10. The Rules of Soccer
11. Telling a Story Effectively

and a bunch repeated from the girl book. Tell me your ideas, too. And while you’re at it, let’s put together a list of books every boy should have read. Here are some of mine:

The first Harry Potter
at least one Hardy Boys
The Boxcar Children
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
Captain Underpants
Charlotte’s Web

I’ll collect all your suggestions for things boys should know and books boys should have read and post them nicely next week. I’ll close comments on this post on Monday.

Dangerous books, continued

Sorry about the no sleep/poop questions again today, but it seems like everyone wants to talk about this stuff.

I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments from yesterday yet, but it looks to me like we didn’t actually create the counterpart book to the dangerous book, but instead created a What Girls Should Know By the Time They Become Women book. A lot of the stuff we listed isn’t necessarily stuff kids should experience, but things adult women should know.

So, three things about that:

1. If you want to keep posting things a girl should know by the time she becomes a woman, post them in the comments of that post, and I’ll cut and paste them all together into a nice big centralized list. I’ll close comments on Thursday afternoon and get the list up over the weekend.

2. Should we do the same for boys? Not things boys should do while they’re boys, but things they should know by the time they become men. I’ll post that post tomorrow, so please think about it and comment (I’m going to post "How to sort and wash your laundry properly" so you don’t have to).

3. I figured there were 20 books a girl should have read by the time she becomes a woman, but didn’t have a specific 20 in mind. Post your suggestions here. The ones I can think of right now (in no particular order) are

  • The Boxcar Children (the original, not this newfangled series)
  • any Nancy Drew* involving lots of Bess and George and very little Ned
  • Little House on the Prairie (yes it’s racist, but that’s part of what you talk about when you read the book with your daughter)
  • Julie of the Wolves
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Gone With The Wind (aka What Not to Do)
  • the first Harry Potter
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Westing Game
  • Go Ask Alice

If I think of any more I’ll put them in the comments. Dispute me and add your own, please.

* And when you originally read them didn’t you think of Nancy’s father, Rivertown lawyer Carson Drew, as an old geezer? Now I’m thinking he was probably a hot smart widower in his 40s and the equation is completely changed for me.

The (Hypothetical) Dangerous Book For Girls

OK, people, you found me out–I think there are inherent differences between boys and girls. But that’s a discussion for another day.

I wonder if a lot of the debate about TDBFB can’t be divided down the lines of what sexes our children are. It seems those of us with boy children are thrilled to have something specifically for them. And, yes, my older son by now wouldn’t be interesed in something marketed to girls, and is waaaay more intrigued by something specifically for boys. (Let’s not forget that publishing is about marketing nowadays, first and foremost.) School and most social systems are geared for girls, and I love the idea that there’s a book that’s giving him permission to be a little wild, instead of telling him it’s wrong for him to want to do dangerous things.

People with girl children just want something cool and dangerous for them (including frequent commenter enu, who went to the same women’s college I did, which is how I know her). It seems to them that the title of the book is exclusionary, and they wish that their girls were being encouraged to do more dangerous things, too.

I don’t think that wanting your girls to be able to do more interesting things than sitting around playing with American Girls means there’s something wrong with having a book for boys. The problem is that the corresponding book for girls doesn’t sound like it’s going to be Dangerous. So, let’s be the change we want to see in the world. What would you put in The Dangerous Book For Girls? Here’s my list:

1. Changing a Tire
2. The Basic Etiquette of Introductions
3. Building a Solid Treehouse
4. Protecting Your Personal Space on the Subway
5. Breaking a Concrete Block with your Head
6. Spanish Phrases Every Girl Should Know
7. Driving a Manual Transmission Car
8. Walking Gracefully in High Heels
9. Maintaining Control of the Story During a Press Conference
10. Hustling Pool/Poker/Darts
11. The Basics of Digging to China in Your Backyard
12. Skateboard Jumps and Tricks
13. The Solar System
14. The Basics of Sewing and Seaming (including How to Pick Clothes that are Comfortable and Flatter Your Body Shape)
15.  The US States and Canadian Provinces with Capitol Cities
16. Morse Code
17. How to Tell if a Boy is Interested in You and What to do About It
18. The Rules of Soccer
19. Baking a Flaky Piecrust
20. Horses
21. Defending Yourself Against Bullies of Both Sexes
22. First Aid
23. Basic IM/Text Etiquette
24. 20 Classic Books Every Girl Should Read
25. How to Solve a Mystery

Anyone else want to play?

Book Review: The Dangerous Book For Boys

Review of The Dangerous Book For Boys

I adore this book.

The Dangerous Book For Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden is a compilation of stuff boys (and girls, too, age 8 or so on up) should know. Things like Morse Code, how to make a battery, the rudiments of English grammar, how to tie knots, insects and spiders, how to build the best paper airplane in the world,the fifty (U.S.) states, making a periscope, Latin phrases every boy should know, fishing, etc.

I’m not sure there’s anything more I can even say about it that reading the table of contents wouldn’t cover. It’s just awesome. My 5-year-old is a little young for it, but he’s been scrutinizing the drawings of the Seven Wonders of the World and asking me all sorts of questions about them. He keeps flipping to the chapter on making a pocket light and reading slowly through the instructions. He’s looking at the chart of naval signal flags and puzzling out what makes them different from each other. He’s excited about building a treehouse from the instructions some day.

I think I’m going to start giving this book as a baby shower gift for people who are having boys. I’m definitely giving it to my dad for Father’s Day. And there are at least three adult male friends of mine who are getting it for their birthdays this year. I usually pass on review books I get, but I’m keeping this one for sure, and my two boys will probably end up fighting over it in 40 years.

This may be the worst book review ever, because I’m just speechless with delight at the book itself, and there’s nothing I can possibly say about how perfect it is. I dare you to get it and not think it’s fabulous. (Oh, and I just looked at the Amazon review, and it turns out that Conn Iggulden is extremely hot. Bonus points for the book, IMO.) I dare you to get it and not spend three hours reading it before you fork it over to your child. Now I’m going to go so I can read through the "Books every boy should read" chapter.

Q&A: hand problem

Amy writes what she calls "a cautionary tale":

"My 22-month old has
a serious hand obsession. I know I created this problem, but now I
don’t know how to fix it. When she was a few months old, she had more
than the usual sleep issues, and the only way I could get her to sleep
was by letting her grip my hands tightly while she drifted off. This
continued, as I continued to rock her to sleep (and…I still do rock
her to sleep, but that’s another issue…although maybe the two are
inextricably intertwined). Anyway, now hands have become her security
objects. She wants "a hand" when she’s in her stroller, her carseat,
falling asleep, pretty much any time she gets a little bit anxious or
needs security. If it were a nice, gentle hand holding thing, that
would be kind of sweet and less problematic, but it’s very aggressive
and involved– kneading and pinching each finger almost to the point of
breaking skin, pushing back fingernails. It’s really painful. I’ve
tried to get her attached to various stuffed animals and blankets, all
to no avail. Do I just go cold turkey on the hand thing and not let her
hold my hands at all, or should I slowly ease her off of it, letting
her hold my hand only when she’s falling asleep? Or is there some other
solution?  We only semi-jokingly talked about buying a prosthetic hand."<>

You have to admit, it is a little bit funny. I was feeling all cocky about what I was going to tell Amy until I got to her last sentence. "Crap," I thought. "Now I guess I can’t tell her to get a prosthetic hand and try that."

In a follow-up email, Amy mentioned that her daughter still liked to be rocked and have a bottle as part of the bedtime routine, which, in conjunction with the hand thing (and I can’t stop laughing thinking about a toddler holding onto a prosthetic hand to fall asleep) makes me think that her daughter needs a lot of tactile stimulation to go to sleep.

So I’m wondering if there’s some way Amy can create enough tactile stimulation for her daughter to go to sleep that will also take Amy out of the loop. It would be nice if it was sustainable long-term and easily replicable when away from home.

The first thing that came to mind was a massage pad, to replicate the experience of sitting in the fancy massage chair at The Sharper Image. That would definitely give her some tactile stimulation. I don’t know if you want to spend $50 to try it out, though. (It seems like a lot to spend on trying to get a toddler to go to sleep, although it seems kind of cheap if someone’s going to buy that pad for me.)

A more accessible solution might be to heat one of those buckwheat pillows in the microwave to make it warm, and see if she’ll hold on to that. It would be heavy and solid but pliable like a human hand, and would be nice and warm. And if she doesn’t use it, at least you can use it yourself to soothe your tired, aching neck.

Or you could just go cold turkey. If you’re going to do that, I’d probably keep the rocking and the bottle for the time being so everything doesn’t change all at once. And if you do go cold turkey, talk about it during the day for a few days before you start. 22 months is old enough to understand that she’s a "big girl" and doesn’t need the hand anymore, or whatever you’re going to tell her to spin it. But giving her the advance prep and the chance to talk about it for a few days is going to make it easier emotionally for her when it’s gone, even if she does cry and complain.

Think about Amy’s hand problem, and tell her what you can come up with.