The Death of a Dream and The Adult-Parent Line

We went to my sister’s house this past weekend to celebrate my two nephews’ birthdays.  We had a reasonably good time, but there were two snags.

The first involved my older nephew (who we’ll call A).  He just turned 5 and wasn’t playing nicely with NHL or JSL.  For example, he has one of those pop-up play tents.  At one point, NHL, JSL and I were inside it together.  He walked up and pushed the tent over on us.  Then, when JSL walked out of the tent, A pushed him down so his head hit a table.  After making sure JSL was ok (he was), I politely told A that that wasn’t nice and JSL could have been hurt.  A responded by putting his foot on my face (yes, touching!) and saying "Smell my feet!"  Then he stuck his tongue out at me.  NHL told A that he was being bad and had to go to a timeout.  I corrected NHL by telling him that only A’s mommy or daddy could send him to a timeout.  I couldn’t do that and NHL certainly couldn’t.

NHL had said that he didn’t want to come to the party because he remembered A being mean to him at last year’s party.  Now he’s totally convinced that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with A.  This saddens me.  When I was growing up, my family was never very close.  My youngest cousin was 5 years older than me and we saw them only once per year.  To this day, I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t tell all of my cousins apart.  I wouldn’t be able to name their wives and kids if you made it multiple choice!  When I was a child, I made a pledge to myself that my sister and I would be different.  We would see each other often and our kids would play together.

The reality, however, is that we only get together once or twice a year.  When we do, our kids don’t play well together.  A & NHL are seven months apart, so age shouldn’t be *that* much of a factor.  NHL is going to be even more leery of spending time with A now and it really pains me.  I’m just glad that they get along with their cousin on my wife’s side.

But the bad playtime between NHL and A wasn’t the worst incident that day.  That distinction goes to my sister’s husband’s friend S.  She is, as my parents put it, "bossy," but what she did transcended bossy and crossed a line.  She threatened my child with punishment if he didn’t perform an action.  Specifically, she told him he wouldn’t get any cake if he didn’t help clean up.  (This is one example.  She did this many times that day.)  Not only did she do this, but NHL was already helping to clean up.  (Which couldn’t be said for A.)  And, just to toss some additional salt in the wound, she did this while B was standing directly in front of her!  B was dumbstruck by the audacity of a person who wasn’t NHL’s parent or teacher… who wasn’t even a RELATIVE of NHL, threatening to punish NHL *RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIS MOTHER*!

Can you tell I’m really mad about this?  After the party, I told NHL that what she did was wrong.  Adults can and should help control situations with kids.  If you see a kid running or beating up another kid, you’re more than welcome to stop the action and tell the child that said action is wrong/dangerous.  That’s called being an adult.  You can ask my child to help clean up a mess.  That’s being an adult also.  But telling my child that not doing what they say will result in the loss of something is crossing the line.  Only parents (and a few others) can do this.

Not only are her punishment threats hollow (would she have seriously kept us from giving him cake?!!), but they weaken any punishment threats we might make.  NHL might reason that S told him he couldn’t have cake and yet he had cake, therefore, when Daddy says "No TV", he can watch TV anyway.  She’s lucky that we were too shocked to actually respond.  Next time, I assure you, we will respond and will put her in her place.

How do you handle it when your children don’t get along with close relatives?  Have you ever had an adult cross that parental punishment line?  How did you react?

Kids’ Culinary Frontiers

Every morning, I read the comics online.  I find it a good way to ease into my day.  Today’s Calvin and Hobbes struck me as all too familiar.  The scene (in case takes it down after 30 days) is set with Calvin asking his mother what’s for dinner.  Calvin’s mom responds "Tortellini."  Calvin, clutching his neck in disgust, yells "Oh, no.  Not Tortellini.  I hate tortellini!!  Oh, gross!  Yecch! Tortellini."  Pinching his nose shut, he continues: "Nothing is more disgusting than tortellini!! Can’t we have something else?"  When Calvin’s mom tells him "No", Calvin proceeds to the dictionary to look up just what Tortellini is.

This struck me as familiar.  I love to cook.  Often, I’ll try new things.  My most recent culinary experiments involve lentils.  Inevitably, however, NHL throws a huge stink over the food.  If it isn’t on his "approved foods list" (not available for parental viewing and subject to change without notice), he simply won’t eat it.  The most we can do is get him to agree to a "No Thank You" bite.  Of course, he then tries to pass off the minimum amount of food in his mouth as his No Thank You bite.  No, NHL, one solitary lentil in your mouth is not a "bite."  If we do coax/threaten him into eating, he’ll eat very little and then tell us he’s full.  Of course, two seconds later he asks if he can have dessert.  Kids must have Main Meal stomachs and Dessert stomachs because the former is inevitably full while the latter is on empty.

I’ve read The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious.  While I’ve tried some of those recipes to mixed success, I don’t like the idea of hiding the foods from my son.  I don’t want him growing up thinking that  chicken nuggets and pizza are the best foods out there and vegetables are to be avoided as much as possible.  I also don’t want to have to make two different menus every week: One for B and me and one for the kids.  While, I might give them a pass on some of my dishes (say the ones that go heavy on the heat), I want that to be the exception, not the rule.

I also want my kids growing up knowing that trying new foods is a good thing.  To this end, I’ve tried to break a long-time hatred I have for all things coconut.  (History Time: At a friend’s birthday party when I was young, I was served coconut cake.  That night, I got really sick.  It probably wasn’t the cake, but my young mind formed a strong bond between coconut and feeling awful.)  I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t like it, but I don’t loathe it anymore either.

How do you get your children to eat healthier?  How do you get them to eat what you put in front of them without hours of screaming back and forth?  Most of all, how can you get little ones (specifically ones 5 years and ones 19 months old) to try foods that they’ve never tried before without first assuming that they are going to taste awful?

The Facebook/Breastfeeding Controversy: A Dad’s Perspective

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a controversy brewing about Facebook deleting photos of breastfeeding mothers.  The controversy stretches back almost 1 1/2 years ago.  Kelli Roman posted some photos of herself breastfeeding her child.  Those photos were deleted by Facebook because they claimed that nipples and/or areola could be seen.  In other words, they regarded all bare breast photos as sexual in nature even if a baby was attached to the breast.

There has been a lot written on the subject from the perspective of moms (either ones who have nursed or who are nursing).  To list a few:

I haven’t read much from the Dad point of view, so I thought I’d give mine.  My first attempts to write up my thoughts resulted in a rambling post.  Upon reflection, I realized that is because this subject touches on a number of subjects.  Therefore, I’m going to break this issue down into into four separate sections: The Sexuality Of The Female Breast, How Much Breast Is Too Much, Context In Content Blocking, and The Morality Of Breastfeeding In Public.

I. The Sexuality Of The Female Breast

Many of the comments I’ve read about the female breast seem to take one of two extremes.  On one side, the commenter (usually a woman) declares that the female breast’s only purpose is nursing.  On the other side, the commenter (usually a man) declares that the female breast is all sex-object and nothing else.  Sometimes, they will grant it a temporary stay for nursing purposes, but only if the breast is hidden away from view.  Neither of these are my entire view.  While, I, like most men, find a woman’s breast to be a sexual turn-on, I also realize that the female breast is designed to be more than mere eye candy decoration.  It is also dedicated to feeding infants.  I have no problem with body parts having dual roles.  A woman’s vagina has a sexual role and is quite instrumental in childbirth.  A male’s penis has both a sexual role and a waste disposal role.

In addition, the mere display of a body part isn’t enough to judge whether it is sexual or not.  The display of a breast in the course of showing women how to check for breast cancer should not be considered sexual.  The display of a female breast during a demonstration of proper bra fitting would not be sexual in nature either.  Thus, a photo of a woman’s breast is not necessarily a sexual image.

Society seems to dictate that the breast should be hidden away (even in instances of breastfeeding) because it is a sexual object.  This is a self-fulfilling statement, however.  It is mainly a sexual object *BECAUSE* it is hidden away.  Go back a century or two to when women wouldn’t be seen outside showing any ankle and ask people of that time why they thought a bared female ankle shouldn’t be seen.  I guarantee that the response would have been that the female ankle is sexually alluring and thus should be hidden away.  When ankles became common to see, legs became the alluring object.  When legs revealed themselves, the belly gained prominence.  As each body part showed up more and more in public life, it lost being seen solely as a sexual lure.  If women were to commonly walk around topless, the breast would lose much (if not all) of it’s role as a sexual lure.  Yes, there would be an increase in teenaged boys drooling on street corners in the short term, but after awhile, society would move on.

II. How Much Breast Is Too Much?

The crux of the matter, as far as Facebook is concerned, is whether the nipple and/or areola were shown.  But why those parts?  What is it about that area that turns an otherwise TV-worthy breast into an object to be shunned away?  Why is a woman in a barely-there bikini perfectly ok, but a slight hint of nipple/areola not?  And it’s not just a nipple/areola, but a female nipple/areola.  As a man, nobody would bat an eyelash if I posted topless photos of myself.  But show a female’s nipple/areola and a firestorm erupts.

This isn’t just limited to Facebook, but is a problem nation-wide.  WItness two incidents.  In 1999, Lil’ Kim showed up to the VMA music awards in an outfit that exposed her entire left breast, save for a piece of fabric that covered her nipple/areola. While this provided fodder for some late night comedians and some hushed whispers from some folks, it passed by without sparking a major incident.  The incident wasn’t even shown live so plenty of opportunity for censoring her exposed breast.

Flash forward to 2004.  Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson are finishing their halftime routine during the Super Bowl.  Justin reaches over and rips away part of Janet’s wardrobe which "malfunctions" and shows her nipple/areola.  As could be predicted, a huge firestorm of protest erupted calling for fines and investigations.  The amount of time between the revealed nipple/areola and Janet covering herself up? 9/16 of a second.  Yes, apparently, the female nipple and areola is so powerful that barely over half of a second of viewing it causes immeasurable harm to people.

I’m guessing that the people who protest the showing of nipples and areolas (for any purpose) think that any exhibition of those pieces of skin have latent sexual meanings.  However, ask your average guy and they’ll tell you that they aren’t turned on merely by a nipple, but by the entire breast.  If anything, Lil’ Kim’s wardrobe choice had more sexual potential than Janet’s minimal exposure.

Time had an interesting observation in their article Facebook’s War on Nipples.  They noted that Thomas Beatie, the woman who had a sex change operation, became a man, and then became pregnant, was allowed to show his (formerly her) nipples were perfectly fine to show on Facebook (not to mention in magazines and book covers).  This despite the fact that he still had female sex organs and was still able to deliver a baby.

Just like the presence of a breast doesn’t indicate that the image is sexual in nature, the mere existence of a female nipple/areola doesn’t mean that the photo is sexual in nature.  This leads to the next section.

III. Context In Content Blocking

I’m not a big fan of content blocking.  All too often, valid content will be swept up with the "undesireable" content and blocked.  Blocking all instances of the word "breast" for example, would block not only descriptions of sex acts involving breasts, but medical articles on breast cancer, and recipes involving chicken breasts.  Similarly, blocking all images involving a full female breast (even where "full" is defined as "showing the nipple or areola") will not only block photos that are sexual in nature, but also photos of breastfeeding mothers, medical instruction pamphlets, and artistic images that are not obscene.  Clearly, Facebook is applying their policy too rigidly and needs to consider the context behind the bared breast.

IV. The Morality Of Breastfeeding In Public

This is actually a side issue in some ways as Facebook does not appear to intend to comment on the appropriateness of breastfeeding in public.  However, the issue rising is inevitable given that breastfeeding photos are being banned.  Breastfeeding is regarded as the best feeding method for infants by nearly all medical professionals.

As long as a woman breastfeeds, she will encounter situations where her child is hungry while in a public place.  I’ve heard suggestions that women should just feed the kid prior to going out or leave the kid home.  Both of these suggestions ignore the reality of having children, however.  Infants need to feed every 2 or 3 hours.  So you could easily feed your child before you head out and still get caught in public needing to nurse.  As for leaving your child at home, this assumes that you have someone to watch your child.  Many people don’t have this luxury and leaving your infant home alone for a few hours is a sure way to get a visit from Child Protective Services.  (Rightfully so.)

So what are a breastfeeding mother’s options should she be caught out when her child needs feeding?  One option is to pump milk ahead of time.  The problem with this is that it requires advance planning that might not be available.  In addition, it imposes a "breast pump tax" on nursing mothers who want to go out in public.  This only leaves the option of a mother nursing her child in public.

I have heard some ridiculous assertions from the anti-public-breastfeeding crowd.  Everything from equating breastfeeding with public smoking (come back to me when breastmilk routinely squirts across the room and is somehow tied to cancer), claiming that the women just take off their shirts in public (I have yet to hear of one breastfeeding mother who takes off her entire shirt/bra in a public place to breastfeed), to even a statement that breastfeeding mother "getting their jollies" by nursing their kids (Oh, so my wife’s yelps when our sons bit down weren’t cries of pain… good to know).

The more reasonable (relatively speaking) people who oppose breastfeeding in public state that it isn’t something they want to see.  They would prefer that the woman take her child into the restroom to breastfeed or, failing that, nurse under her shirt.  There are problems with those suggestions, however.  Restrooms are dirty.  I don’t care how often the cleaning crew goes through there, they are inherently dirty.  I know I wouldn’t want to eat a meal sitting in a restroom stall.  Why should an infant eat his/her meal there?  As for "nursing under the shirt," this is impractical too.  There likely would not be enough room under a woman’s shirt to cram the infant’s head.  Either the woman’s shirt would rip or the infant would suffocate.  Neither of these is very desirable.

There’s a simple option available to the people who are uncomfortable seeing a woman nursing, however.  Don’t look.  Nobody is forcing these people to look at a woman breastfeeding.  Merely stating that you don’t like seeing something isn’t a reason to hide it.  I, for example, don’t like seeing people wearing skin-tight clothes.  It just doesn’t look attractive to me.  However, I’m not about to tell them how to dress.  They’re free to wear clothes as loose or as tight as they want.  I’ll just look the other way.  If someone doesn’t like the sight of a woman breastfeeding, that’s perfectly fine.  Just don’t look.

In the end, I think that Facebook needs to revise their policy to take into account the context behind the bared breast.  Yes, some bare breast photos will be sexual in nature.  Facebook wouldn’t get any argument from me if they blocked those.  Not that I have anything against sexual images, but if it is their policy to block sexual images, that’s what you need to work within.  A photo of a woman breastfeeding is not sexual in nature and so shouldn’t be removed.

JSL/Daddy Bonding Time

Last night, B’s parents took her and NHL to see Disney on Ice (check as I’m sure my wife will post pics/videos soon).  JSL and I stayed home.  JSL wanted to watch TV.  Usually, this means recorded episodes of Blue’s Clues.  As I didn’t want to deal with tons of different Blue’s Clues episodes, I I looked through our DVDs to find a nice, long Blue’s Clues movie.  Instead, I happened upon "What’s the name of that Song?" from Sesame Street.  The DVD featured Super Grover and Elmo on the cover.  As soon as he saw it, JSL started chanting "Grover! Grover!"  So in went the DVD and we sat down on the couch to watch.

As the movie commenced, Super Grover is flying above the city wearing his helmet, cape and G on his chest-plate.  JSL chanted "Grover!  Hat!"  Yes, JSL, Grover is wearing a hat.  He watched the movie enthralled by it all.  He did get a bit annoyed when Grover wasn’t on screen though.  That’s my boy!  (I loved Grover growing up.  I had a stuffed Grover that I carried everywhere.  He’s still my favorite character.)  At the end, he kept pointing and laughing as Super Grover flew past the screen.  Then he signed and said "More!  More!  Grover!"  So we watched it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  Yes, that’s 5 times.  I assure you, I *DO* know the name of that song as well as all of the lyrics and everything every character says.

During our bonding time, I decided to do a photographic experiment.  I found a sturdy perch for my camera, set the timer to 10 seconds, and took photos of JSL and myself.  JSL laughed whenever he saw his photo on the LCD screen.

Of Wandering Toddlers and Harnesses

I never thought I’d be the type of dad who’d harness his kids.  I’ll admit it.  I always used to look at kids on a leash and think “Boy, does that look demeaning.  What kind of parent would do that to their kid.”  Now I know.  The kind of a parent whose kid insists on wandering off!

Last week, JSL gave us a scare.  We were in the mall picking up some photos.  My in-laws had taken NHL with them to another store and B and I were watching JSL.  When we were done, we started walking off.  I let JSL stretch his legs and walk with us.  He did well at first, but then I saw him duck between some clothes racks.  I quickly went after him, but he was gone!  B calmly noted that the coats were moving.  There he was in the middle of the coats “playing hide and seek.”

Later that same day, as we were leaving the mall, I was getting coats on everyone.  NHL and JSL were nearly all set.  I zipped up NHL’s coat and off shot JSL away from us.  I calmly called him back, but he didn’t listen.  Then I walked after him.  He went about twenty feet down the store, turned down an aisle, looped around, and was going to go down another aisle before I caught him.  Clearly, had I not chased after him, we would have lost him completely.

NHL had always insisted on holding our hands when he began walking.  This was likely a byproduct of his hypotonia causing balance issues.  Holding our hand helped provide stabilization.  Even if he took off on his own, he wasn’t too fast so we could easily grab him.

JSL, however, is a little power walker.  Seriously, he swings his arms like he’s power-walking now.  It’s amazing the speed he can get and how silently he can slip off.  So I’m doing when I never thought I’d do and shopping for backpack harnesses.

So far, I have two in mind.  The Eddie Bauer Harnes Buddy looks interesting and is kind of cute.  On the other hand, the SafeFit Boy Backpack with Harness seems a bit more functional, if not as cute.  Any suggestions for giving a little walker the freedom to walk without letting him get lost?

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