Archive for January, 2010

Farting on the couch

January 31, 2010

I once worked with a boy who had a habit, despite lactose intolerance, of being sure to drink a big glass of milk before our sessions.  He would sit on my sorry plaid couch in a decrepit, sometimes leaky, trailer on the edge of the property that held assorted special needs schools and administrative buildings huddling around a cracked blacktop and fart enormously.

This boy had been severely abandoned and had been in the system for six of his fourteen years, bleaks times in which he’d seen a lot of damaging things.  He was quite smart and also quite funny.  He was also more used to the sad reality of his circumstances than I was used to them on his behalf, and he would often challenge me to maintain my empathy—drawing me in with heartbreaking stories of sorrow, and then sending me reeling with his secret weapon.

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Math anxiety is elementary… if you’re a girl

January 30, 2010

A recent AP science story by Randolph E. Schmid suggests that Girls may learn Math Anxiety from Female Teachers.  A cited study showed that at the beginning of a school year math ability was not related to teacher math anxiety, but by the year’s end the more anxious the kids’ teachers were about their own math skills, the more often their female students (and not the boys) endorsed the statement that “boys are good at math and girls are good at reading.”

Given that 90 percent of elementary school teachers are women, and separate research suggests that elementary education majors in college have the highest levels of math anxiety of any major in college.

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Enough

January 29, 2010

The human brain is a funny thing.  I have a house with magazines all over—on coffee tables, on nightstands, in the bathroom and on kitchen counters… but I’m mostly not intending to read them.  Yet when I see a magazine in my kitchen trash, it sometimes calls to me to check it out (it could be that Atlantic I really must get to, it could be breaking news about Victoria’s Secret—that is a magazine, isn’t it?).  This morning it was More.  Now I don’t personally have anything against More, but its tag-line, “celebrating what’s next” struck me as anti-enlightenment.  After all, if Echkart Tolle is onto anything with his Now-Power, then getting more and thinking about what’s next, even if it’s a focus-grouped laser beam onto one’s very own demographic (tips for grey hair, looking good in jeans even if you’re not skinny, etc.)—thinking about the future—is the exact opposite of being happy.

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Who’s counting… sheep? Sleep issues in early elementary age kids.

January 28, 2010

At some point in every child’s development our beds themselves become a boundary, challenging us parents to find the right balance between love and limits in the context of what works for our own families.

A reader inquires:

“We started out attachment parenting – and now struggle with keeping firm boundaries.

But at night, or should I say early morning – and I mean every early morning between 1 and 5 am my six year old son (almost 7) sleepwalks into our room and climbs into bed on my side.  My right arm and shoulder is where he nestles and sleeps the rest of his night.  Incidentally, this is the first place the nurse put him to rest on me after he was born.

I have become an increasingly light sleeper as I continue my journey into peri-menopause, and so am almost always awakened by this phenomenon.  Did I mention it’s every night?  I find my self increasingly sleep deprived, and wondering what to do.  Well, actually I’m torn between enjoying the last years of his babyish cuddling and desperate for a good nights sleep.”

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In the spirit of being the village (and not just saying that it takes one), I turned to my colleagues over at Sleepy Planet, Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack, for true “expert” advice on this topic.

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Kids in media overdrive

January 27, 2010

A recent story in the New York Times by Tamar Lewin, If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online discussed a recent study about how much media time kids are actually getting these days.  The researchers were stunned to learn that, after concluding in 2005 that kids couldn’t be on their computers, TVs, and cell phones any more than they already were (due to the amount of hours in a day), kids increased their media time by an average of one hour per day—and increased overall media intake to as much as sixteen hours per day… by being on more than one device at the same time.

The average kid between 8 and 18 now spends seven and a half hours on their devices; with their multi-tasking, the average kid is packing in 11 hours of content.

There’s not much point in discussing whether this is good or bad—but there is sense in deepening our understanding of our collective world and working to decide for our kids and our families just how much might be enough versus too much.

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The best weekend ever

January 26, 2010

My brother is a great story-teller with a penchant for superlatives who has a way of making everything the best, worst or most (wine, carnival ride, bad stomach moment) ever.

Therefore it makes total sense that a weekend where he and I finally managed to be in the same city for more than twelve hours, ostensibly to convene on how to deal with the angst and frustration of our aging parents and to do a little bonding, team-building, mutual support and strategizing, still had to be the best weekend of this kind ever.

The fact that he brought his youngest kid along, a six-and-a-half-year-old with a spectacular readiness for fun and an inexhaustible wealth of questions (and a great eagerness to discuss poop, and if that was played out, then vomit) truly did make it the best weekend ever (at least until next time we all manage to get together).

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Import/Export—Depression’s now big in Japan

January 25, 2010

I caught an interview recently on “Marketplace” where Kai Ryssdal talks with Ethan Watters about his book, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche.

Watters’ thesis is that mental illness is culturally determined, and that big drug companies have systematically worked to change the way other cultures view melancholy, for example, in order to sell them anti-depressant medications.  He cites Japan as a place where melancholy was successfully reframed as depression, with one anti-depressant climbing to a billion in annual sales once the new paradigm of depression was successfully imported.

Watters claims to not be patently anti-drug companies, mentioning that his wife is a psychiatrist and acknowledging that these medications can, and should, be used to alleviate suffering; mostly he suggests that a diverse perspective on so-called mental illness would be unfortunate to lose in the wake of homogenizing globalization.

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What to be, or not to be, when we grow up…

January 24, 2010

A couple of months ago Motherese took up the question of what we parents might like to be when we grow up, framing things in the context of statistics that suggest that most of us have multiple careers across the span of our modern lives and lyrically looking at roads taken and not taken, particularly in the context of parenthood.

She mentioned playing the game of Life, back in the 80’s when lawyers making $50,000 was big bucks; and it made me think of reading about the president when I was in 4th grade and learning that, back in 1969, the man in the White House made the unbelievable sum of $50,000.

While I have had many different jobs and two fully-defined careers (with enduring curiosity about new paths to explore), I find myself thinking of child-mind and about the fantasies I had as a kid about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

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Tinkle Tinkle Little Star… What to do about bedwetting

January 23, 2010

Amongst the many things I didn’t like about summer camp, being on the bottom bunk below a bed-wetter compromised even the would-be refuge of sleep.  Yet despite fearing that it would leak through the half-inch of a sorry mattress and rain on me, I still felt compassion for the poor fellow-eight-year-old treading up the hill with his soiled sheets every summer morning for the long two months.  I also admired that kid for being willing to go to summer camp with enuresis (although it’s possible that he didn’t want to go any more than I did).

Enuresis (doctor-speak for peeing in bed) is generally considered an issue after five or six years old if the bedwetting happens more than a couple of times per month.  While the experts do not suggest doing nothing at all about it, enuresis almost always takes care of itself over time.

My key voice here is not to advise but to encourage, to give info and provoke thoughtfulness so that parents will trust their own instincts, and also find pleasure and a sense of right-path through whatever is on their plates.

Parenting demands that we connect with our kids, it nourishes us by getting us to engage; talking and thinking about parenting is a way for parents and non-“parents” alike to connect, to discover a shifting and widening sense of respectful and interconnected community.  Even if we don’t have kids, or if our kids don’t pee in their beds, we can still realize that in reading these words we subtly link with those who do care about this issue today, sending compassion and deepening connections that may not be obvious or tangible.  And in being compassionate about those who can’t hold their urine all night, we might heal around the things we have trouble holding, be it anxiety, sadness, loneliness or anger.

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Suicide: What to do when kids say they want to kill themselves

January 22, 2010

I had already been planning on addressing suicidality in children in Privilege of Parenting when the following comment showed up:

“A friend of mine and her family are in pain.  Their 24-year old daughter died last week in an apparent suicide.  She was about to turn in her Master’s thesis, and I don’t think there were any obvious signs that she was depressed or troubled.   She was the oldest of four daughters, the youngest of whom is in elementary school.

Please send healing thoughts to this family.”

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While I would not want to say anything about this specific situation other than I agree that we might all send some love to this family, no matter what the “facts” turn out to reveal, and to which I am not privy, I did want to address the topic of suicide in kids.

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