Friday, April 16, 2004

It Might Be Time to Talk to Your Children ... 

This article about a 17 year old is nothing short of scary. CNN reports that the child tried to hire a hit man to kill his mother because of family problems.


We really need to get a hold on our kids and correcting them when you can still lift them (i.e. a toddler) will make your life much easier than trying to establish rules, authority, and respect in them as teenagers!!


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Fake News Aplenty - Part II 

I asked a good friend to read the Fake News Aplenty post (see below). She is married, completing her Ph.D. in chemistry, and may have children in the next few years. I listened to her reply and believe that I need to connect a few dots for understanding. My earlier post/argument was more theoretical than practical. I will make the practical argument now.

I am NOT arguing against women in careers. I am NOT arguing that a woman's primary role is to have babies.

The question is not about denying women any career opportunities. If you re-read, I hope you find that what I am questioning is society NOT addressing real women's issues. Women who have babies late need a change in social policy. As people ask us "can the Americans taxpayers afford the war in Iraq?", I am asking can the American taxpayers afford the additional medical care required to support late life pregnancies? If we say yes, then we need to start paying for it. If we say no we cannot afford it, then we are going to have to make changes to the career paths of young ladies. If we are not going to pay for extended hospital stays for older mothers and more neonatal care for infants of older mothers, then we have to have fewer older mothers. We need to pay for older mothers to take maternity exercise classes. We need to make maternity leave a sliding amount of time based on medical condition. We need to have more hospitals with NICU facilities.

A woman's health is different. We are learning now that women are MORE at risk for heart attacks and heart disease. Women are more likely to suffer from late life bone disorders. Women are more likely to die or suffer complications from later life pregnancy. Medical facts.

You need do know that Julie was 32 when we decided to have our first child. Julie not only had a BS but also went on for a dual Masters in sacred music and religious education. In order to pay for seminary, she entered a contract that required her to work four years in the Mississippi conference of the UMC (there was no provision for maternity leave). The UMC contracted with a young lady with full knowledge that she could not feasibly have a child until she was 29 (18+4+3+4). That is 4 years beyond her prime child bearing years and the UMC made no accommodations for her whatsoever. They turned a blind eye to it. She was treated the same way they treat the janitor who needed no college training. Does anyone ask or care that we continually have a living wage debate at the University of Tennessee based on a stereotypical single mother with 3 kids and no college experience? No. Why? Society did not care that the uneducated janitor has children or is going to have children. We did not ask her age and make any accommodation for her. Yet, WE all complain about having to support her or the university not supporting her. Using the same logic, if a young lady has attended college, we argue that employers should NOT ask her if she has children or is going to have children (this is a big issue in the hiring of teachers). Why? Because if the young lady is thinking about starting a family she might not get the job. Why? Because the employer does NOT want to pay for or make any accommodations for maternity. How can we allow young women to be in the workforce and not expect their presence to have a cost? We complain about rising tuition and university fees/costs and do not want to pay more. Yet, we want the university to pay janitors more. We then look at the commercial sector and demand that they ignore the costs of having female employees while not passing the cost on to us the consumers. We have some policies in place (Family Medical Leave Act) but the safeguards are not working. We are not actively protecting a woman's place in society. We are actively ignoring the difference between men and women. That is not justice for women.

Why do we force women to compete for careers during their prime child-bearing years? Should we as a society not look at other policies for changes if we want to continue having young women in the workforce? During World War II, industries set up child care facilities and schools onsite to accommodate female employees which were needed. Only in the stock market bubble of the late 1990's did industry really flirt again with this idea. I doubt (and I read about this every day) that there are any major published studies of employer-sponsored child care since the tech bubble burst in 1998. Prior to that time, there were occasional stories of tech industry employers having first class, exotic child care facilities. Since the market correction-crash-explosion (whatever we should call 1998), what has happened quietly behind the scenes to those child care perks? It would not be surprising to see that many employers either went bankrupt or have eliminated those programs. Why? Because they had to pay for them. The employers were only courting female employees when the industry really needed extra employees. When jobs were eliminated, the cost of female employees was a decisive factor. Why are we not pointing fingers in this situation?

We, as a society, have to make accommodations for young women to have children during their prime child bearing years. Ignoring the problem (as the news story did) cannot help. I can offer ideas for policies changes. But all I have heard is collective denial of the existence of the problem and condemnation of the alternatives. How can we allow for both child bearing and career? Despite multitudes of pontificating on both sides, I have yet to hear the base problem addressed in a rational, practical, and effective manner.

The Pledge of Allegiance and Non-custodial parents 

Well, yes and no. Actually, mostly no.

Wendy McElroy has a running commentary at ifeminists.com that covers social issues directly related to gender. She has an opinion piece on the currently pending Pledge of Allegiance case before the US Supreme Court. Generally, I follow the arguments presented in ifeminists. On this occasion, I disagree.

Please read her post before proceeding any further.

The case is part of the ongoing struggle within society over a non-custodial parent's rights in the event of divorce or estrangement, particularly in the cause of fathers' rights.

No, it is not. The case was focused on the separation of church and state. Not parental rights. Mr. Newdow brought parental rights into the matter by fathering a child out-of-wedlock and then battling in court over custody and then bringing a lawsuit on behalf of a child for which he did not have legal standing.

In my view, the original case initially was not about separation of church and state. Mr. Newdow is not asserting that any church is being recognized by the inclusion of under God in the pledge. He is arguing (I have watched him debate this point on C-Span) that recognition of God cannot be allowed. That is not separation of church and state, that is the separation of theism and state. You may call this a minor technicality, but I see it as something wholly different. Mr. Newdow’s argument is that the US Constitution and the Amendments bar the US government from acknowledging God. The founders (in my opinion) were not barring the acknowledgement of God. They were barring the establishment of a state religion. That is not moving to the point of barring the US government from acknowledging God as the foundation of faith.

On Dec. 4, 2002, the 9th Circuit Court found that Newdow retained certain parental rights and noted, "California state courts have recognized that noncustodial parents maintain the right to expose and educate their children to their individual religious views, even if those religious views contradict those of the custodial parent or offend her."

Given that the California courts are not always in agreement with the other jurisdictions, I do not doubt that in California Mr. Newdow has the parental right to educate his daughter (term used loosely) to his religious views. But he is not educating his daughter to his religious views. He is arguing about the acknowledgement of God in the Pledge of Allegiance. He is also going against the wishes of the custodial parent of the child. The mother is now a person of faith and does want her child to say the under God portion of the pledge. What legal standing do the courts in California take on which parent must be heard on this issue? The custodial parent wants the child to say under God and the non-custodial parent does not want the child to say under God. Which parent is legally right?

Ms. McElroy’s argument is that the non-custodial parent has a right that outweighs the custodial parent’s right. That just defies legal precedent. It is simply not a matter of non-custodial parents having certain rights in her argument. In this case, she wants the non-custodial parent to not only have veto power over the custodial parent, but the non-custodial parent should also have unrestrained rights to pursue courses of action on behalf of the child that the custodial parent is adamantly against.

Newdow also altered his challenge, undoubtedly to make his position before the court more secure. The lawsuit was no longer brought on his daughter’s behalf but on his own as a parent.

If he altered his position to that of parent, then the Supreme Court must rule first on his standing as a parent, then on the merits of the case. Mr. Newdow shifted the focus onto his standing as a father by his actions. The US Supreme Court may very well dismiss the case or not rule on it because of Mr. Newdow’s legal standing as a parent. BECAUSE LEGAL TECHNICALITIES ARE WHAT THE US SUPREME COURT RULES ON EVERY DAY.

Will there be any fallout because of this case and possible ruling on the matter of non-custodial parents? Possibly. The change may be a national legal precedent for decisions that the custodial parent can make and not be challenged by the non-custodial parent. Obviously, that is why child custody decisions are so important and emotionally charged.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Fake News Aplenty 

I was watching a family and home show carried by a local network affiliate this week. There was a news header that caught my attention. My wife, Julie, must have overheard and came into the living room to see the report. The topic was a hot new research report on timing of additional pregnancies. Great risk, important information, must see, etc... Alarming news was recently reported by a major medical researcher concerning the timing of pregnancies following a previous pregnancy. The news - well -

As it turns out, there was no NEWS. It actually turned out to be OLDS. Physicians have always warned mothers to wait an appropriate amount of time to conceive after a delivery. Nothing new there. The other broken leg of this story was that waiting too long between pregnancies was dangerous. According to the obstetrician instructor at a major research hospital used for the report, the only real concern is that some mothers are much older and therefore at greater risk for complications. Beyond the hype of a news story, it turns out that there was no news. The report presented the following NEWS: mothers should wait the prescribed amount of time after delivery to conceive and that mothers who wait too late in life to have children are at greater risk. If you want to read the entire report, you need to go to a bookstore and purchase the Big Book Of Duh, Unabridged, Vol II.

The best moment of the report was the trailer by the local host (the story was piped in from the national network). She said that for the best advice on the matter women should speak with their physician's because all bodies are individual and all decisions are individual. Hmmmm. True.

Hype for news. Not the story I want to discuss. Prime child-bearing years (18-25) are medical constraints, not social movements. A woman's health does not adjust for social movements. Women out number men in college and university enrollment with the gap only getting wider. The outcome being that young women spend the first four years of their prime child-bearing years in college. Then, they must spend the next several years gaining the necessary experience to launch a career. They have already lost the PCB years and are now in a higher risk pregnancy bracket. At some point, they will face the dilemma of having children late in maternal life. That could be the news.

I am NOT advocating a return to the imaginary good old days. My point being, that prime child-bearing years are medical constraints. Social policymakers have simply chosen to ignore medical science. We need as a society to realize that our previous decisions and trends are placing the lives of our mothers, sisters, daughters, children, and grandchildren at risk with every late pregnancy. We need to ask, is it really necessary for every student to prepare for college (Great Britain)? We need ask why so many teenagers are being asked to learn geometry to become a mechanic? We need to ask why college takes four years? We need to ask why we allow a person to drive and have sexual intercourse at 16; vote, buy cigarettes, and join the military at 18; and buy alcohol at 21; while never asking why so many age declinations? Should we allow post-menopausal assisted birth or in vitro after 40?

I jested earlier about not understanding daylight savings time. I asked one of my friends why we still observed daylight savings time when all tractors have headlights? You should see the look in their eyes. For the first time, they questioned a policy which had been accepted without reflection. Why don't the workers who need daylight just get up for work whenever daylight occurs? We are not making more daylight with the policy. We are not stretching the day. Is one hour a deal breaker? We are simply making the rest of society get up one hour earlier or later. Why? My National Guard unit deployed to Germany to support the mission in Bosnia in 1996. As we were all from Mississippi, we had never heard of a snow delay. In Mississippi, the one day every five years when snow occurs, our policy is to shut down. In Germany, they had to have a policy that worked for snow or be prepared to shut down 5 months a year. The first time we had a 1 or 2 hour snow delay, we were amused. The first time we really had a big snow during the daytime, we could not respond to all the traffic accidents and began responding only if injuries were involved. We can only imagine what that day would have been like had the snow occurred during the early morning rush. Snow delays make for a sound policy. If it snows, all workers have extra time to report and give the road crews time to clear the snow for travel.

It is easy to ask why daylight savings time or why not have a snow delay? But, why K-12th grade? Why not move girls more quickly through school and university? Why should all high school students prepare for college? Should we consider moving more boys to PE since more men will have manual labor jobs? Should the government shift large funding to support tax breaks to employers who support a woman's choice to stay home after maternity leave? What if employers hire a women under contract to not work for 5 years and then assume a role with the company? Would we save money in health care by reducing the number of high risk pregnancies?

You may react to the hypothetical questions. I am NOT presenting ideas or alternatives. I am asking you why do we not ask why? Why do we force women to compete for careers during their prime child-bearing years? Please feel free to consider this conundrum. Or, tune in to the local network news.

The World Through a Child's Eyes 

In all my study about children and their families, I hope that I never forget the wonder with which children discover the world around them.

My wife and I had the opportunity to keep a friend's 3-year-old on Friday night. (With his parents' permission) We took him to essentially a Service of Darkness that a local Methodist church does. The entire evening is filled with sounds and sights and a dramatic recreation of the hours before the crucifixion of Jesus. (It is not at all a graphic representation i.e. The Passion of Christ.) The service proceeds from a marketplace type setting in their gym to the Crucifixion in the sanctuary (which is very dark).
In the marketplace the child enjoyed the sights, sounds, and feels (e.g. modeling clay to represent a pottery shop). However, most interesting to me were his questions and experience once we were in the sanctuary. It was amazing to see him attend to the atmosphere and keep his voice and body movements small. He also asked questions about the actors emotions--trying to identify them. At the end of the service, we sang a hymn and left (silently), it was interesting to watch him enjoy the song and try to maintain the atmosphere around us.

I hope that you remember how amazing the world is around us and see it once again through the eyes of a child. Also if you are a parent remember that children are seeing this world for the first time, take the time to share their experiences. Not only will you get the chance to spend these eye-opening moments with your child, but you may be surprised about what you start noticing.

Easter isn't even safe... 

I was amazed to read the following cnn article on a easter egg hunt in Michigan. If you don't know by now, children participating in a church easter egg hunt at a local elementary school found 2 loaded guns and a bb gun. Although the incident itself was appalling, I was more distressed when I read that someone (I think probably one of the children) picked up one of the guns--which was inadvertently dropped and went off. It is amazing that no one was hurt.

In no way am I saying that we should abolish the second amendment, however, I am suggesting that we as adults take more time and responsibility in teaching our children about guns. Not only should we use the safety devices available to us, but take the time to talk to children about your gun if they ask questions. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT HIDING YOUR GUN OR AMMO IS NOT A VALID WAY OF SECURING YOUR GUN AND PROTECTING YOUR CHILD. Children have a wonderful way of finding the things that we try to hide.

Whether you choose to own a gun or not, please talk to your children about the above scenario and what they should do.

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