Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

I believe in Santa Claus

Posted by sanityinjection on December 25, 2015

For a very long time, parents have struggled over what to tell their children about Santa Claus, and particularly the question: At what age should we tell them the “truth about Santa Claus”?

We know certainly that this dilemma dates back well over 100 years, as evidenced by the now-legendary 1897 newspaper editorial popularly known as “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”. In that piece, which subsequently became the most reprinted editorial in the entire English language, New York Sun editor Francis Pharcellus Church answered a little girl’s letter with an emphatic declaration that Santa Claus not only exists, but that his existence is necessary.

We can certainly sympathize today, 118 years later, with Church’s assertion that the children of that day “have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” Is it wise, we still wonder, to encourage our children to continue to believe in something – or someone – that can’t be seen or heard? (Never mind that most of the religions of the world propose exactly that.)

As is so often the case, the problem lies not in the answer but in the question. In asking what to tell children about Santa Claus, we have created a false dichotomy, in which our children must either believe in Santa as a living being who magically flies around the world, physically enters their homes on Christmas Eve and leaves them presents, or they must reject him as nothing more than a fairy tale for the ignorant. We can hardly be surprised that such a choice is as unappetizing as that rock-hard, decade-old fruitcake that is still being regifted among our friends and relatives every year.

If we want our children to have an adult understanding of Santa, should we not begin by having an adult understanding of him ourselves – one that allows for nuance and incorporates something of philosophy? Church pointed us in the right direction when he wrote that Santa “exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist”. I can recall in my childhood, on Christmas Day there would be presents under the tree with tags that read, “FROM: Santa Claus”, but they didn’t all have my name in the “TO:” line.  Some were addressed to my mother, and some to my father. In this way, I was taught early on that Santa Claus isn’t just a figure who brings toys to children, but represents something much more universal.

Coming as he does at the one time of year when we are encouraged to forget our woes and try to be kind and generous to one another, is it not an honest answer to say that Santa Claus is the personification of the spirit of human kindness, generosity and love – particularly toward children, but really toward everyone? (I welcome you to go back and watch the classic 1947 Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street” and ask yourself if the little girl played by Natalie Wood is the only character whose life Kris Kringle affects for the better.) If we choose to imagine that spirit as a jolly fat bearded man in a red suit, is that wrong? What is the correct visualization of a spirit?

We ought to be able to say, without hesitation, that Santa Claus truly exists as long as we can know the joy of giving; as long as we are capable of feeling love for friends and family, and kindness toward strangers; as long as we have not forgotten that man does not live by bread alone, but that we all from time to time need something – or someone – to inspire us to rise above thinking only of ourselves. People who believe in Santa Claus are people who can love. When parents tell their children about Santa Claus, they are not perpetuating a childish fairy story; on the contrary, they are telling their children about the very nuanced and multifaceted concept of love in a simple way that children can accept and understand. If, as we grow older, we come to have an enlarged understanding of that concept, it does not mean that we must discard or reject Santa Claus, any more than we reject 2+2=4 when we have learned to do algebra. Let us not become so one-dimensional in our thinking that, like Shakespeare’s Horatio, we earn Hamlet’s admonition that “There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

So let me state as vigorously as Church did over a century ago: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. To tell children otherwise is to do them no favor. I am past the age of forty, and I believe in Santa Claus, and I plan to keep on believing in him.

Posted in Current Events, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Quote of the Week

Posted by sanityinjection on August 27, 2009

“Obama didn’t have a father.  Maybe that’s why he sees the government as Daddy.” – Actress/comedienne and Saturday Night Live alumna Victoria Jackson

Jackson isn’t being snide here, she’s being serious. The question of whether President Obama’s unsettled childhood and single-parent upbringing affected his views on the role of government as caretaker is an interesting one and will no doubt be addressed in detail in some 750-page biography written after he leaves office. Jackson’s point is that if we as a society did more to try to encourage two-parent families, maybe we wouldn’t have so many people in need of government assistance.

In saying that, I am acknowledging how difficult it is for a single parent to raise a child. There are of course people who do so successfully, and they are amazing and admirable. But we should not, based on a minority of remarkable individuals, have come to the point where we now view single parenthood simply as a “lifestyle choice” that is no better or worse than anything else. A single parent family may be the best (or only) option when one parent is deceased, has abandoned the family, is abusive or has deleterious issues such as drug or alcohol abuse. That’s in sharp contrast to the young women who believe that they can have a child, career, and active single life all at once. Experience suggests that when you try to do too many things at once you end up doing some of them badly.

If you think I am exaggerating the prevalence of this view among women, you haven’t been to the movies or watched TV lately. And let’s not forget last year’s “Gloucester dozen.”

We are told that preventive medicine can reduce the need for emergency medicine. and economic opportunity can reduce the prevalence of crime. We are encouraged to shift resources to such preventive measures. Why then, is it incomprehensible that shifting resources to the encouragement of stable, two-parent child rearing can decrease the need for government social services later on? Is there not a similar savings to be had?

You may well ask how we are supposed to go out about this. After all, we believe that people have the right to make their own choices about partnership and reproduction. But a good start would be to stop treating those areas of life as simple vehicles for self-discovery that are devoid of consequences. Maybe sex education classes could include the idea that you should only have as many children as you can financially support. Maybe our television and movies could revive the idea of parent characters as models to look up to (in the vein of June Cleaver, Mike Brady, and Bill and Claire Huxtable) rather than bumbling buffoons to be sneered at.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Myron Rolle: A parenting success story

Posted by sanityinjection on May 27, 2009

Unless you are an avid college football fan in general, or of Florida State in particular, you have probably never heard of Myron Rolle. I hadn’t, either. But Myron’s story is an instructive one in ways that having nothing to do with sports.

Myron was the starting safety for FSU for most of three years. Normally, such a player would be headed for the NFL. And indeed, Myron has a top-level athletic trainer to help him do just that.

But Myron is not your average football player. Many college football players struggle to graduate, or leave school to go pro without graduating. They often major in fields such as “excercise science” and avoid taking rigorous courses. Myron didn’t choose that path. His major was pre-med, and he not only graduated from FSU – he graduated with a full courseload in only 2 1/2 years. Now instead of heading for the NFL, he’s headed to Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar to prepare for what he hopes will be a career as a neurosurgeon AND a pro football player. He intends to return after a year to play in the NFL. How’s that for ambitious?

Of course Myron is not the only college football player who is smart and has big dreams.  What seems to be unusual about Myron is his work ethic (in non-athletic as well as athletic pursuits) and his maturity level as far as planning for his future rather than simply living for the moment as many 22-year-olds would be. Myron’s hero isn’t a rapper, a football star like Terrell Owens or even someone like Barack Obama. He’s a gangly white dude named Bill Bradley, who successfully enjoyed a career as a nationally known pro athlete and a nationally known politician.

The question that arises after hearing Myron’s story is: Why is Myron poised for such maturity and success while so many athletes his age are getting in trouble with drugs and thugs and fathering children out of wedlock?

There are many answers, of course. Some of Myron’s fine qualities are probably inherited. The fact that he is an immigrant from a poorer country (the Bahamas) probably also serves to motivate him. But I would argue that the biggest factor in Myron’s success to date is probably his parents – Beverly and Whitney Rolle. Mr. and Mrs. Rolle instilled their children with values of respect and discipline, but also devoted themselves to nurturing their children’s minds as well as their bodies. And the proof is in the pudding, as Myron’s siblings are doing well in their own lives.

Myron Rolle is merely an extreme example of a pattern that emerges over and over again. When a child is raised by two parents who are both heavily involved in his or her life, who teach by setting a good example for their kids to follow,  who stress the importance of moral values and education – such a child is far more likely than not to achieve success in life. It doesn’t matter whether the family is rich or poor, black or white, religious or secular. It is past time for our society to acknowledge that this is by far the most successful model for child-rearing and hold it up as a desirable goal. Although there are heroic single parents – many who didn’t choose that status – who overcome many challenges and raise fine children, we have to stop pretending that single parenthood is an equally valid and desirable choice. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests otherwise.

We must also reject the even more disturbing trend in which parents expect schools to raise their children for them. Today’s schools have become day care facilities, doctor’s offices, therapists, police and everything else besides institutions of learning, because parents cannot (or too often will not) take responsibility for their children. If you think I am overstating the case, ask a teacher. They see it every day.

Wouldn’t it be great if, when we teach our kids about sex and pregnancy, we also teach them that being a parent is about more than popping out a kid, feeding and clothing them and hoping they turn out OK while going on with our lives just as we did before?

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

So close, but they just don’t get it.

Posted by sanityinjection on April 9, 2009

From the Denver Post comes the story of Gregg and Jaylene Christoffersen and their teen daughter Dena. (No relation to songwriter/singer/actor Kris Kristofferson.) The story is a familiar one: teen racks up huge phone bill from text messaging, parents go ballistic. I posted a similar story a while back.

In this particular case, 13-year-old Dena had sent some 10,000 text messages in one month, costing Mom and Dad $4,756.25. Worse yet, she’d been sending most of them at school, causing her to cease paying attention to her schoolwork and her grades to drop from As and Bs to Fs in only two months.

Dad’ s immediate reaction was to take a hammer to the offending phone. Dena’s been grounded until the end of the semester and her grades are improving. And the phone company, Verizon, is willing to adjust the bill to a more reasonable figure.

So you’d think all’s well that ends well, right? Parents take responsibility and straighten out their kid, right?

Until you read the last line of the story:

“The Christoffersens are asking school administrators at Johnson Junior High School to crack down on cellphone use during school. “

Oh, for God’s sake!

It’s bad enough we expect our teachers to educate our kids without sufficient pay, resources, or parental support. Now they are in charge of keeping our cell phone bills to a reasonable level, too? Stop trying to make parenting your kid someone else’s responsibility!

The school’s only legitimate interest is if the cell phone activity creates a disruption in class. If so, then they have a right to confiscate the phone until the end of the school day, as has been done with all manner of objects since time immemorial. It is not the school’s job to force Dena Christoffersen to pay attention in class or do her parents’  parenting job for them.

I realize that there are plenty of school systems that ban cell phone use at school, and that’s fine. But they shouldn’t be doing it because some parents are pissed off at their daughter’s outrageous phone bill. Sorry, that is not the school’s problem, Gregg and Jaylene, it’s *your* problem. You’ve managed to act like adults in taking the necessary steps to address the problem, now complete your journey to maturity by accepting complete responsibility for *your* daughter.

What’s next in this society? Parents bring a screaming baby into a restaurant, get flack from other diners, then ask the restaurant to post notices to warn idiots like them against bringing screaming babies into the restaurant? That seems to be the direction in which we are headed.

Posted in Domestic News | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

A parenting lesson for the 21st century

Posted by sanityinjection on January 12, 2009

Susannah Cahalan of the New York Post brings us a postmodern parenting fairy tale. It seems that California father Greg Hardesty was more than a little shocked when he got the monthly statement for his teenage daughter Reina’s cell phone and discovered that she had registered 14,528 text messages in one month. The statement was 440 pages long.

Fortunately for Hardesty’s cardiac health, he has an unlimited texting plan, so the massive amount of text traffic did not blow out his bank account. Nevertheless, like any father, he wanted to know what all this texting was about. So he asked his daughter in a way that was sure to get a response – He texted her.

It turns out that Reina has a core group of four friends and they all text each other constantly. The girls know they have unlimited plans so they are not being careless with their parents’ money.

So nobody got hurt – and yet, Hardesty and his wife have imposed soem restrictions on Reina’s cell phone usage as a result. Why? If no damage was done (financial or otherwsie), why inhibit the girl’s texting? It’s natural for young girls to want to chit-chat with each other at lengths that seem unbelievable to adults. Even Dad sends a fair amount of text messages on his own phone.

The answer is that Hardesty correctly recognized that his daughter’s behavior has reached obsessive levels. In order to reach the total listed above, Reina had to send on average one message every two minutes every hour that she was awake – even during classes and mealtimes. She texted about 14 times as much as the average for a teen her age. During her birthday party, Reina spent much of the time texting her best friend – who was sitting right next to her.

In other words, Reina’s texting was getting to the point where it was preventing her from fully experiencing the rest of her world. By setting reasonable limits on her usage of the phone, Reina’s parents aren’t punishing her. They’re parenting her.

Posted in Current Events, Domestic News | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Try to understand, people: It’s not about hurt feelings!

Posted by sanityinjection on October 16, 2008

It’s been a busy day.

The latest comes to us from the Fort Myers News-Press, with a story about the arrest of a 9-year old girl on felony battery charges after she uncontrollably hit, kicked and spit at her teachers. Read the article, and pay particular note to the reader comments at the end:

Nobody seems to dispute that the child was out of control. Clearly, the school called in law enforcement because they were at their wits’s end. Officers responding had to charge the child in order to arrest her both for her safety and everyone else’s. I have no doubt that police handled the child appropriately as a juvenile – I doubt she was thrown in “jail” with the drunks and petty criminals. The felony charges legally enable the state’s youth/social services and mental health services to get involved to try to help this child – and clearly such help is needed. There is nothing that prevents the DA from dropping the charges if the child gets the help that she needs, and I expect that’s what will happen.

What is particularly disturbing, however, are the comments from readers who seem to think that the most important consideration is the “feelings” of the mother! To wit:

“You are all very good at judging this woman and her child for the worst. You all better hope that
you are never in her situation because only then will you know what she is feeling right now.” -Joan24

“Without the community as a whole recognizing the problems and insisting on the school reforming their policiies, this type of thing will continue and worsen. Instead of pointing fingers, you should all be thankful you aren’t walking in this mother’s shoes and never will…The person in the most danger IS the child with the diagnosis FROM the teacher and other students….you have NO idea what a family goes through and you shouldn’t pretend that you do.” – Jacqui7315

How does one twist things around so that the biggest problem here is insensitivity to the mother??? Gosh, I’m sorry if she was offended or embarrassed by her little angel being carted off to the police station. Never mind the fact that the mother, for whatever reason, has failed (perhaps with the best of intentions) to get her daughter the care she needs. Never mind that calling in law enforcement may ultimately *help* the girl. No, what counts is not the child’s welfare, but we must never embarrass or offend the single mother of a special needs child.

Let me be even more blunt: If your child is violently out of control, I don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re offended or embarrassed by whatever steps need to be taken to protect both your child and those around her. You, the parent, have failed and you need help. That’s not a moral judgment, just a fact. Some mental illnesses are more than parents can handle without help from trained professionals.

Unfortunately, the women I’ve quoted above seem to be projecting their own experiences onto the case, and reacting as if their own parenting were being called into question. To which I can only respond: Not everything is about YOU! Nothing should come before the welfare of the child, and if that bruises your self-image as a martyr mommy embattled by an ignorant and uncaring world, too flippin’ bad.

Posted in Domestic News | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Someone needs to tell Bob Geldof that charity begins at home

Posted by sanityinjection on July 23, 2008

Amanda Platell has got a superb column up today in the Daily Mail concerning the recent near-death experience of 19 year old British celebutante Peaches Geldof, daughter of Bob Geldof. Basically, Ms. Geldof came close to killing herself with drugs, and 24 hours later was posing for the camera at a movie premiere as if nothing had happened.

Platell makes the point perfectly: Having suffered from a family member who died of a drug overdose, no one should understand more than Geldof the importance of keeping his daughters off drugs. But Geldof has been so busy gallivanting around the world raising money for the poor starving people of Africa that he has effectively allowed the paparazzi to raise at least one of his daughters. Being a single father is not easy, and there is no way to guarantee your kids won’t do drugs no matter how well you parent them. But actually having some idea what they’re up to on a daily basis might have been a good start.

Some will object that Ms. Geldof is a legal adult and can do what she wants. OK, but Daddy is the one controlling the purse strings – if she’s buying drugs she’s buying them with his money.

It’s worth noting that thousands of young people overdose on drugs every day. Most of them don’t get any media attention. In a perfect world, we would be paying just as much attention to the ones that don’t happen to be rich, white, and achingly pretty.

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »