Raising your children to be good people

helping old lady cross the streetMy parents raised me to be academically successful.  They came from a European milieu that valued intellectual elitism above all other things.  That was my value too, and one I applied to the people with whom I chose to surround myself.

As the years went by, though, I realized that intellectual elites often aren’t very nice people or even very smart people.  All too often, they armor themselves with degrees and disdain.  Some are nice, some aren’t, just like all other people.  When it comes to the ones who aren’t nice, though, what’s so interesting about the intellectual elite is how easily they rationalize away their meanness.  Their knowledge doesn’t lead to morality, it leads to a moral narcissism that sees them as the ultimate arbiters of what’s “good.

Having concluded that my parents’ European elitist values didn’t lead me to the people and places that would have worked best for my life, I’ve tried extremely hard to raise my children to be “nice.”  To me, that word contains within it such  notions as kind, honest, moral, helpful, and loyal.  You don’t have to be the top student or the best athlete, but you’d better not be the kid picking on the unattractive girl or the dorky boy. And when someone asks for help, you give it.

For the children’s entire lives, I’ve operated on the principle that, when it comes to them, I have to “catch them being good” — and that means catching them when they’ve been kind to another person or done the right thing.  I never let such incidents go without saying.

In other words, I agree with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin:

But here’s something depressing: It didn’t work. For their entire lives, I’ve been doing the right things — modeling good behavior (sometimes with great effort, since I’m not an innately nice person) and catching my children (and their friends) when they were behaving well — but it didn’t work. The hardest thing about the last several weeks hasn’t been the inconvenience of crutches, it’s been the fact that my children have been completely unwilling to step up and help out. I have been beyond disappointed. Despite all my efforts, I was unable to counter other influences in their lives, influences that revolve around grades, money, and self-fulfillment through selfishness.

My only hope now is that, once they’re on their own and life has its way with them, my children will discover the same life lesson that I learned: that at the end of the day, the behaviors that you will value most in yourself and in others are the ones that are rooted, not in money or prestige or transitory pleasures, but in innate decency and goodness.

The Left turns the idea of same-sex couples having babies into a shallow fashion statement

Elton John babyLast week, I posited that gay parenting has a problematic biological component that the Left assiduously ignores — or, more accurately, it has a lack of a biological component that the Left assiduously ignores. In any gay parenting relationship, at least one of the parents is a step parent, something that might explain why a recent study shows that children raised in same-sex households are less likely to go to college. History shows that (subject, of course, to individual differences), step parents don’t do as well as biological parents when it comes to the children in their care.

At the time I wrote my post, I was unaware that the New York Times had published a very excited article about gay parenting.  I was probably unaware because it published the story in its “Fashion and Style” section, which I never read.  The Times was just thrilled that affluent, beautifully dressed older gay people could spend lots of money to create children through science, not biology.

Before I address the Times‘ peculiar placement of that article — which is the main point I want to make in this post — I need to address some of the issues about same-sex parenting that the Left refuses to discuss.

In earlier post about issues connected with same-sex parenting, I focused on the possible problems arising from the step parenting aspect of same-sex child-rearing.   Rivka Edelman, who grew up with two fathers, writes about another problem with same-sex parenting — misogyny and misanthropy:

Sometimes I feel like such a stickler. I am not nitpicking when I say there was a mistake in the pages of The New York Times Fashion and Style section, piece, “And Baby Makes Three.”

We must fall on the side of intellectual honesty. That title should have read, “four,” or “five,” if one were to consider the actual human females involved in the production line of surrogacy these days.

The Times’ telling omission reflects something ominous, the deep misogyny of a gay male community, which in turn has been accepted and championed by many people who consider themselves progressive.

[snip]

Well, that dog doesn’t hunt. I grew up in a gay household and I know the arguments better than I know the pledge of allegiance. So save it. All of it– the missives, the threats. Don’t prove my point to people about loving the gay community. They will turn and tear their own to shreds in a heartbeat. Because the fragile narrative has to be protected at all costs. Family is a photo op. And children are props.

Let’s not kid ourselves about the cute photograph affixed to this New York Times article: That kid is not related to both of the “Daddies.” That child has been denied one parent so that men could prove that two men can play at baby-making—and ironically the men needed two women to do it.

The misogyny that Edelman talks about is the erasure of women from the equation.  Who needs women in this brave new world?  What Edelman could also have said was that, when lesbians have babies, men have been erased from the equation.  Who needs men in this brave new world?

When I started reading Edelman’s piece and saw it was about misogyny, I actually assumed it would head in a different direction:  How well does a man who finds women repulsive manage to parent a little girl and how well does a woman who finds men repulsive manage to parent a little boy?

Although it came to me as hearsay, I once heard from a very reliable source (who got it from the horse’s mouth) a dreadful story about a little boy born to one of two women in a lesbian relationship.  Because she was the biological mother, he felt a physical affinity for her and wanted to cuddle her.  Because she found men revolting, she could not bear to have him — her own son — touch her.  When he was a little boy, whenever he sought comfort from her, she didn’t rebuff him directly.   Instead, she held herself rigid (rather like someone with a tarantula crawling up his leg) waiting for the moment he would go away.  (I’ve heard that the same is true for some — not all, but some — women who raise a child who resulted from rape.)

I recognize that anecdote is not the same as data, but I do wonder about the “opposite sex” dynamic in a LGBTQ household.  Growing up in San Francisco, I had many, many gay friends.  The friendships were peculiar.  These men sought me out, which was flattering because these men were intelligent, and witty, and just fun to be around.  (Two of them had a moral decency that still has me rank them among the best people I’ve ever known, and that was true despite the fact that, before I knew them, they had been promiscuous members of the San Francisco leather scene.)  Many, although not all, of them were also complete bitches about women, constantly criticizing how women looked and acted.  It was as if these men were competing with the women, proving through their verbal attacks that they were better at being female than the women were.

My Dad summed it up best for me.  Back in the 1970s, looking at the hideous clothes women wore and the openly gay designers who created those fashions, he asked, “Why in the world would women want to be dressed by people who find them repulsive, or at least unappealing, at a fundamental sexual level?”  Good question and one that should interest all people of good will, gay or straight, who look at the gay parenting trend.

I’ve known fabulous same-sex parents and horrific biological parents.  Again, anecdote is not data, and my incomplete little samples prove nothing.  They just raise questions.  Nevertheless, considering the gay marriage and gay parenting debates roiling our society, it’s criminal that we’re not even allowed to ask these questions.  If we dare to raise them, we’re shouted down as “haters.”

Peculiarly enough, I don’t see myself as a hater.  Instead, I see myself as a “seeker” — someone who is witnessing profound changes in our society and who would like more information about the data underlying those changes. Indeed, when I ask and answer my questions, I come out pretty darn libertarian on the subject of gay parenting.

For example, if I found out that 25% of gay men who parent girls hate their daughters, would I say that’s a reason to oppose all gay men from parenting?  Or, conversely, if 25% of all lesbian women parenting sons hated boys, would that be a reason to oppose gay parenting?  No.  Emphatically not.  In terms of the broad bell curve of all parenting, those numbers, while tragic, are insignificant.  The number of children cruelly abused at the hands of heterosexual parents (both biological and step parents) makes it plain that nature is cruel to children and that the inevitable unlucky ones will find themselves at the hands of cruel, careless, horrible people.

I’d still be libertarian even if solid data showed that, at the highest point of the bell curve, it’s very clear that boys raised by lesbians and girls raised by gay men have significantly worse outcomes than comparably situated children when it comes to drug use, suicide, alcohol abuse, lifetime earning, etc.?  Even with that data, I don’t think that’s a reason to stop child-rearing in the LGBTQ community.  Take away gay parents, and there will still be children, raised in both functional and dysfunctional homes, who turn to drug use, suicide, and alcohol abuse, and who end up in poverty.  There will always be dysfunctional homes and sad children.

If I’m so libertarian, why am I concerned about that fluffy New York Times article and why am I asking the questions in the first place? The answer is that I’m trying to put the breaks on the Left’s thrill-a-minute approach to the sheer excitement of gays having babies.  Let me state again what I said at the beginning of this post: The New York Times put the story about gay designer babies in its Fashion and Style section, along with articles about the latest from the Paris design houses.  This bespeaks a profound lack of seriousness about a very serious subject — namely, the societal embrace (as opposed to the legal embrace) of parenting relationships that may be damaging for children.

Gay parenting as a fashion statement

For those members of the LGBTQ community who desperately want a child, my libertarian soul says “go for it.”  But for those who see — indeed, are encouraged to see — a child as the latest, trendy fashion accessory, I am utterly appalled that we live in a world where no one is standing athwart the barricades yelling “Stop and think about this first.”

When I stop and think about the New York Times‘ latest fashion trend, you know what I think of?  Black teen mothers in the inner city.  In the late 1980s or early 1990s, before political correctness made the topic impossible to raise, NPR did a report about black teen girls having babies. There are still stories about that problem today, but they’re always couched in Marxist terms involving black oppression at white hands. (And, considering the staggering numbers of black babies getting aborted, there are almost certainly fewer black teen mothers, making such stories less compelling.)

What made this “old time” NPR report different, was that it focused on the dynamics within the community itself. What I remember was that the story revealed was that having a baby was a statement about style and popularity. While the boys just wanted sex, the girls wanted those babies. They willingly got pregnant so that they could pick out a cool name (this was the era of those made-up faux-African names), have a baby shower (cool gifts), and otherwise take on the social status of a teen mother who was “hot” enough to attract a guy willing to impregnate her.  It was also a story about low self-esteem and loneliness, both of which these unhappy girls thought would be alleviated if they had a mini-me.

To the extent that the New York Times is using its fashion pages to encourage same-sex couples to have babies, then the LBGTQ baby-making community is no better than the inner city teens at the end of the last century. One does not have babies to be stylish, cool, avant-garde, edgy, or whatever else the fashion mavens want from this life. One has them because biological reality demands it (traditional same-sex couples) or because one genuinely wants the task of loving, caring for, supervising, worrying about, and educating a malleable little creature to become a good adult. It is extremely hard work. It’s a 24/7 job that requires constant vigilance, values, and energy. It’s not a purse that you carry around proudly for a season and then put in the closet.

In addition, if those gays living in their hermetically sealed gay communities (as almost all of my gay friends started to do once they became politically radicalized) feel that their lives are empty, and that a baby will fill in that space, they will learn what those black teens learned:  a baby will not fill the emptiness in your own soul.  Instead, the terrible thing is that you nurture that same emptiness in your baby.

Let me repeat:  Babies are not fashion statements.  But by stifling debate, the Left can sell the notion through its fashion pages.  This is a terrible thing.  How terrible?  You can get some insight into what happens to kids who are born to parents who have them for reasons of fashion, not love, read the chapter about Hollywood parenting in Andrew Brietbart’s and Mark Ebner’s Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon — The Case Against Celebrity. It will make your skin crawl.

A free society lets people have babies if they want babies.  A sick society hides from people the potential downsides of this decision, both for them and the baby, and encourages them to think of babies as nothing more than the latest trendy jacket.

(Note:  Regarding the photo of Elton John, his partner, and their first baby at the head of this post, I should say that I like and respect Elton John.  He’s a grandfather to his own children, but he’s also proven over the years that, after an exceptionally decadent and self-destructive few decades, he’s come out on the other side with a lot of stability and common sense, both of which make for good parenting decisions.)

Living life according to Hillel: “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow”

Old woman walking awayMy mother called me yesterday, her voice shaking with tears.  “I’m in such terrible pain.  I can’t stand it.  I need to see the doctor.”

“Okay,” I said.  “I’ll take you.  When can the doctor see you?”

Mom’s answer made me realize I’d been played.  In a suddenly ordinary voice, she replied, “I already called and he can’t see me today, but he can see me tomorrow.  What time works for you?”

As someone suffering from a few of my own rickety joints, I have no doubt that Mom’s in significant pain and that a codeine shot will help out.  For that reason, I always take her to the orthopedist whenever she asks.  It’s just that I rather resent that she felt theatrics were necessary to get me to “yes.”

These trembling theatrics are what my Mom has always done.  That’s why, even though she’s a nonagenarian, they still bug me.  I can’t slough the tactic off by saying, “At her age, between labile emotions and a sense of helplessness engendered by age, of course she’ll use emotional manipulation.”  The reality is that this is just her way.

When I was growing up, we had a family friend who was wonderfully dramatic.  She easily turned something as mundane as her morning trip to the grocery store into an epic, and always amusing, adventure.  Because she was dramatic, my sister and I called her a drama queen.  What we didn’t realize was that her drama was to entertain, not to manipulate.  Meanwhile, back at home, our mother was enacting quiet little dramas about everything, all with an eye to achieving her ends.  It was very effective but, as you can see, decades later, it still irks me.

I love my mom.  She had a rotten life in many ways and developed survival skills to deal with a broken home, frequent relocations, Japanese concentration camp, the Israeli War of Independence, a frustrating marriage, immigration to a country she basically dislikes, etc.  I respect that, despite those troubles, she spent her entire adult life as a highly functional human being who worked hard, had a wide circle of friends, lived life vigorously, and parented with love and commitment.

Nevertheless, I still don’t like being played.

Despite this gripe, believe me when I say that I’m not making a big deal of yesterday’s phone call beyond whining a bit here.  I’m also using this self-indulgent whine to lead to a larger point.  I firmly believe that, at a certain age, we have to let go of resentments — or at least, as here, turn them into occasional grumbles, rather than life-controlling forces.

More importantly, I believe that, to the extent we don’t like people’s behaviors, it behooves us not to emulate them.  Or, as Hillel said, “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow.  This is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.  Go and study it.”  Thus, while I’m sure I have uncountable failings as a mother, the one sin I never commit is using emotional manipulation on my children.

I routinely try to remind my children about the Hillel principle.  It’s not unusual for them to respond to a scolding by saying, “You and/or Daddy and/or my sibling do it too.”  I then ask, “Do you like it when I (or your Daddy or sibling) do that?”  The answer, of course, is always “No.”  Which leads to the obvious follow-up question:  “Why in the world would you willingly emulate behavior you think is bad?”  I then always add, “Now that you’re teens, you’re old enough to stop just being reactive and, instead, to start making decisions about the type of person you want to be.”

It’s because they are teens, that my kids don’t instantly modify their behavior in response to my little Socratic dialogues.  Nevertheless, I want to plant this seed in their mind:  “You are responsible for choosing who and what you want to be in this life.  If you admire behaviors, copy them; if you dislike behaviors, avoid them.  You cannot in good conscience willingly engage in behaviors you believe are bad simply because ‘other people do them too.’”

***

Here’s an irony.  Just as I finished proofreading the above post, my Mom called.  “I have no pain today, so I guess the doctor won’t see me, right?”  I told her I was so happy she was feeling better.  While she doesn’t miss the pain, I sensed that she regretted that she won’t get to go to a doctor today.  She does love her doctors — and they, bless their hearts, take wonderful care of her.

How can schools act “in loco parentis” when even parents don’t act “in loco parentis”?

Robert Marucci doing his thing to entertain the masses.

Robert Marucci doing his thing to entertain the masses.

“In loco parentis” is a Latin term that translates to “in the place of a parent.”  To the extent it still shows up anywhere today, it shows up in courts when an institution appears on behalf of a child, instead of the parent appearing on behalf of the child.

The phrase used to have a place in education too.  Schools once acted “in loco parentis,” meaning that, when children, including college-aged children, were in their care, the schools imposed the type of rules that parents would be expected to impose.  At colleges and universities, dormitories were single-sex, and there were strict limits admission to people of the opposite sex.  After all, if it was reasonable to believe that Mom and Dad wouldn’t let their 18-year-old daughter “entertain” a man in her room all night, the college shouldn’t let her do that either.  Likewise, if parents were unlikely to approve of their children drinking themselves into a stupor on a regular basis, the schools ought to disapprove of the same conduct.  Boorish behavior, disrespectful language, public nudity, etc. — they all fell under the same rule:  if most parents wouldn’t approve, the college also wasn’t going to approve.

Because American public schools, unlike colleges and universities, don’t offer room and board along with education, the “in loco parentis” doctrine was less visible.  The deal was that the kids went to class, got taught a lesson, and then came home again.  Still, the schools, just as parents presumably would, frowned on public sex, drug use, violence, and obscenities.  In the old days, therefore, schools would not have looked kindly on the discovery that one of the school’s students was a gay internet porn star.  Just as Mom and Dad would be unlikely to invite Linda Lovelace into their home, the school would decline to invite Mr. Gay Porn Star into its classrooms.  Both parents and school would have said that the porn actor was a corrupting influence on the young minds under their care.

One high school in Pennsylvania made the mistake of thinking that it still has a duty to act in the place of the parents.  When it learned that Robert Marucci, an 18-year-old senior, was earning money on the side by having gay sex on the internet, it suspended him.  Because “corrupting others” is no longer an acceptable notion in America’s public schools, however, it based the suspension on the ground that Marucci’s presence at the school was “disruptive,” and interfered with the other students’ ability to learn.  Of course, since it was fellow students who apparently discovered Marucci’s sideline when they were surfing gay porn sites, one suspects that, if preventing “corruption” was the goal, that horse left the barn a long time ago.

How wrong the school was.  There was an immediate uproar.  How dare the school try to shelter students from the antics of a fellow student who strips off his clothes and has sex with men, live and on camera, for money? The school quickly backed down.

All of the above was to be expected in today’s world.  Nowadays, what constitutes unforgivable debased behavior is to say that you believe in heterosexual marriage and sexual relations, support the Second Amendment, and believe that it’s murder to dismember a living baby because the mom doesn’t want it.  (Never mind that most Americans put gradations on the Mom’s desires, showing sympathy when she’s been raped and being decidedly less sympathetic when she expresses horror that an extra baby will force her to shop at Costco.)

What actually surprised me about Marucci’s story is his Mom’s reaction.  As far as she’s concerned, her son is “awesome” (her word, not mine):

Melyssa Lieb, from Cocoa, Florida, said she vehemently supports her son, 18-year-old Robert Marucci, who was suspended from his high school after classmates discovered his explicit career.

‘I think he’s the most awesome person in the world,’ she told WKMG through tears. ‘He stood up and he was the man of the house when I couldn’t be.’

It’s pretty foolish to expect schools to act “in loco parentis,” when parents cheer on their children funding them through pornography.

When Britain, then the mightiest Empire in the world, surrendered to the rag-tag Americans in Yorktown in 1781, a British military band played “The World Turned Upside Down.”  How apt:

On raising boys *UPDATED*

Boys playing cops and robbersOn my Facebook page today, two of my friends put up links with advice for parents raising sons.  One link came from an ultra liberal friend and the other link came from a solidly conservative friend.  There is a vast chasm between the two sites when it comes the types of men each post is trying to create.  I therefore thought it would be interesting to offer the two sets of advice side by side.  Please note that I’ve only included the headings.  You should visit both sites to see the specifics behind each heading.  (My comments, which I hope clarify the more cryptic headlines, are in parentheses.)

First, from “Raising Boys,” a subset of “The Good Men Project”, comes a post entitled Seven Memes That Will Change The Way You Think About Raising Boys:

1. We Need To Teach Boys That Being “A Girl” Is Not An Insult.
2. All Boys Are “All Boy” (e.g., it’s not just rambunctious, athletic boys who are “all boy”).
3. But They Should Not Get Away With Bad Behavior Just Because They Are Boys.
4. We Believe In Men, Their Maturity And Compassion
5. Teach Your Son to Respect Women
6. We Need to Showcase More Multi-Dimensional Boys and Men in the Media (e.g., not just vampires)
7. And One Day Soon, We Will Be Using the Expression “Boys Will Be Boys” To Describe This: (followed by a picture of a trio of boys sitting quietly on the floor pretending to give bottles of milk to dolls)

Second, from “Belief Net,” comes a post entitled Ten Things Every Dad Should Tell His Son:

1. Do Courageous Things
2. Work Harder Than Anyone Else
3. Hang with the Wise
4. Stay Away From Porn
5. Reflect True American Character (i.e, fulfill the Founder’s vision)
6. Assume a Gift Is Hidden (i.e., you have to work to get the good things out of life)
7. Remember that Everything Counts (i.e., don’t live your life making careless choices because you assume something isn’t important)
8. Know that Marriage is a Covenant
9. After You Screw Up, Step Up
10. Focus on Stewardship

I’ve often said that the Left wants to feminize boys, while conservatives should have as their goal taking boy’s behaviors (their energy, their loyalty, their drive to leadership) and channeling them into virtuous values and conduct. These two lists seem to exemplify those different ways of thinking about transitioning boys to men.

This is not to say that I reflexively disagree with the first list. Indeed, I strongly believe in several of the items on that list. It’s just that the list’s purpose doesn’t seem to have as its primary purpose taking ordinary, generic boys and turning them into ordinary, generic, and good men. Instead, its primary purpose seems to be to validate those boys who don’t have an excess of what I call “boy energy” (and I live surrounded by lots of very boy energy) and to insinuate that the best boys are the ones who, rather than channeling their boy energy to a more noble way of being, simply sublimate it altogether.

I probably would endorse the first list if it were merged into the second.  If one successfully raised a boy with all of those principles, what would emerge would be a fully-rounded man perfect for romance novels:  tough, but sensitive….  Back in the real world, however, which is where I live, if I were parenting a completely generic boy (which I actually am) and could pick only one list to use to raise my child, I’d pick the BeliefNet list.  I like that list because it recognizes the reality of boys, rather than trying to force boys to conform to a theory.

I’d also pick the BeliefNet list because the good parts of the “Raising Boys” list can be incorporated as subsets of the ideas in the BeliefNet list.  For example, items 4 and 8 from the BeliefNet list (“stay away from porn” and “marriage is a covenant”) incorporate within them the notion that “girl” is not an insult, that men should be compassionate, and that men must respect women.  Likewise, items 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10 readily encompass “believing in men, their maturity and compassion,” because guys who step up to the requirements in the BeliefNet list will be mature, reliable, honorable and, one hopes, compassionate.

In sum, for me the BeliefNet list looks at boys as they actually are, and prepares them to become the men that they should be.  Meanwhile, the “Raising Boys” list looks at boys as girls are, and prepares them to become the men that, without being homosexual, nevertheless most closely resemble girls.

UPDATE:  With perfect timing, one of my “real me” Facebook friends posted this on his wall today:

Gentleman

UPDATE II: You may also want to read Kay Hymovitz on the damage single motherhood does to boys.

News from the gender-wars front

Boy dressed as girl

The following three articles floated across my radar yesterday. I’ll introduce them, but leave you to analyze them.

The first is from a post that a lesbian wrote regarding her discovery that her son is a boy, not just when it comes to external equipment, but when it comes to behavior too:

One of the guiding principles my partner and I are committed to is raising our kids with as few gender limits as possible. Our intent is not to make them genderless or feminine. We only hope that by giving Avie and his little brother, Izzy, the space and support to grow and explore who they are or want to be without oppressive expectations, gender and otherwise, we will promote a foundation of emotional health for them. (This does not mean we’re raising them without any expectations, just that we’re trying to refrain from imposing those that we believe to be oppressive.)

The second reports on a newly released study about kids and daddies:

Growing up without a father could permanently alter the structure of the brain and produce children who are more aggressive and angry, scientists have warned.

Children brought up only by a single mother have a higher risk of developing ‘deviant behaviour’, including drug abuse, new research suggests.

It is also feared that growing up in a fatherless household could have a greater impact on daughters than on sons.

And the third reports on the expectation that ordinary guys will start to follow the fashion world’s push for women’s clothing on men (an older story, from July, but still new to me):

"Manly" halter top

The “manly” halter top

Androgyny and ‘feminine’ looks are all the rage on the men’s catwalks – but will guys actually wear these clothes? Yes they will, predicts Maya Singer.

As I said, I’m not offering any comments. I think these three things speak for themselves.

Schools and parents who teach children to become chum for bullies

School-bully-001
One of my pet peeves is bullying.  I’m not talking about bullying amongst students, although I certainly don’t like that.  I’m talking about the bullying from school districts and Progressive parents who work overtime to ensure that children are brainwashed into fearing self-defense so much that they would rather be led as lambs to the slaughter than stand up for themselves.  The schools are dividing students into two classes:  the bullies and their institutionally created helpless victims.

I’m fulminating about this because of a story I found in the San Jose Mercury News.  There really was bullying going on — students attacked a 15-year-old classmate — but what makes me crazy is the fact that the mother ordered her child to take a beating, while the child celebrated the fact that it was better to get beaten up than to have problems with the school administrators (emphasis mine):

Ann Benediktsson, a 15-year-old Dougherty Valley High School student, was walking home on Thursday when a classmate approached her to say she would soon face a peer in a fight.

Ann’s mother, on the phone with her at the time, told her two things: Run home, and if a fight happens, do not fight back.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever had to say in my life,” Kate Benediktsson recalled. “I felt useless.”

[snip]

Minutes after speaking to her mother, Ann ran into her peer in a park along with over two dozen other students, waiting to witness the event. While Ann attempted to keep her attacker from pulling her hair and socking her jaw, the bystanders pulled out their phones and filmed. In a video Benediktsson obtained of the fight that she later posted to YouTube, students can be heard egging on the fight, sometimes cheering when Ann’s attacker made contact.

Ann never threw a punch.

“I am proud of how I handled it,” Ann said. “I’m glad I didn’t hit back because the principal and teachers would have just said it was a spat between teenagers.”

I cannot believe that a mother told her child to be a punching bag for bullies.  Moreover, I cannot believe that a mother told this to her girl child. One of the primary lessons women learn in every self-defense class is this:  if you fight back against someone who is assaulting you, you are likely to suffer physical injuries, but you are also much less likely than the passive victim to be raped or killed.

In the African savannah, when lions stalk wildebeests or gazelles, the lions do not like to have to work hard for their meal.  They want the lame and the weak stragglers, not the vigorous animals that put up a fight.  Human predators are the same.  A women who walks with an upright, energetic step, and who is aware of her surroundings, simply isn’t as appealing as the gal shuffling along with her head down.  And if that shuffling gal, when attacked, suddenly finds some gumption and fights back, the predator will often back off in any event and look for an easier victim.  (For more on the psychology of self-defense, I highly recommend Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence.)

The mother in the above news story essentially taught her daughter to be shark chum.  Moreover, while the mother ordered the “principled” stand, it was her daughter who ended up taking a beating.  The daughter was certainly an obedient child, but I do rather wonder if the mother would have stood there that passively if it was she, rather than her child, being attacked.

I wasn’t the only one thinking it’s a bad article that celebrates the next generation of victims.  Although the article garnered only eight comments, one of them was right on the mark as far as I was concerned:

ghosthunter007

sorry but I rather take a suspension and stand my ground than to be hit upon, that is the problem with parents these days oh don’t fight back, I taught my son how to defend himself and in doing so he is respected because those who tried to fight him lost. I hate bullies. Everyone should know how to defend themselves.

Ever since my kids hit school, I’ve given them a single message:  Never be the one to start a fight but, if someone else starts the fight, you make sure to end it.  And don’t worry about the school’s subsequent response.  If you had to use physical force to defend yourself, and if the school attempts to punish you, I will take the school on if I have to go all the way to the Supreme Court.  I’ve never had to make good on this promise, since no one has ever physically attacked my kids.  I suspect that, with my instruction ringing in their ears, they don’t walk around like shark bait.

By the way, I always back up this instruction to my kids by telling them that, had Jews not been conditioned by centuries of oppression to avoid arms, put their heads down, and try to appease authorities, its likely that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.  Please understand that I’m not blaming those victims.  First, no one could ever have imagined what the Germans intended to do.  Second, the Jews’ behavior wasn’t a conscious decision.  It was the result of a thousand years of conditioning.  Israel, thankfully, while not blaming the victims, nevertheless learned the lesson.  Like my children, Israel won’t start a fight, but she will finish it.

Incidentally, reading this news report about a school district’s institutional hostility to self-defense effectively bullying a child into victimhood, a behavior the child’s mother reinforced, reminded me of a post that America’s Sgt. Major wrote a couple of years ago at Castra Praetoria, explaining how to deal with bullies.  I highly recommend it, because it’s both enjoyable and instructive.

I’m very lucky with my children — and I do think it’s because I raise the children with morals, not just rules

My daughter and her brother fight a lot; both of them give me way too much push-back at bedtime; and they’d rather play on computers than do their homework.  Having said that, I realize when I talk to other parents how lucky I am with my children.  What I’ve described are behaviors.  We all have them.  But what makes my kids so great is that they both have a strong moral core.  They may do stupid and irritating things, but they’ll never do bad or destructive things.

One of the things behind that, I believe, is that I tend to focus on Big Ideas.  One of my pet peeves with public school in our area is that it eschews big ideas.  Everything has to be self-referential.  You learn Shakespeare by having the kids do a project where they “re-imagine” Romeo and Juliet in their own high school.  You read books that are all about feelings.  All of the books have messages about liking yourself, or not bullying, or not committing crimes, but none are premised on Big Ideas.  All of them revolve around social dynamics (nice kids will support you, bad kids will hurt you) or getting the correct feeling about what you’re doing.

These books are kind of like Google Map instructions.  You print them up, and they tell you drive 1.2 miles, then make a left turn onto the freeway, then take the 2nd exit and make a right turn at the bottom, etc.  They’re very helpful for that particular situation, but they give you no guidance should you make a wrong turn.  Their very specificity renders them useless at that point.  Having a big map, or even a compass (North?  I’m supposed to be heading north?!) enables you to deal with all situations.

Although my children have been resistant to reading the classics, I feel it is incumbent upon me to talk about Big Ideas.  “Don’t bully” is a rule, not a moral principle.  Discussing with them the differences between Hillel’s and Jesus’s formulation of the Golden Rule has vast moral implications, though.  I find both formulations morally fascinating.  Hillel said “Do not do unto others as you do not wish them to do unto you.”  Jesus said “Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.”  Both versions have profound and important implications for good behavior in a functioning society.  Both offer guidance.  Each needs serious thought to understand and apply.

Girls today, who are bombarded with faked up images of luscious women, and who are told to hate men but to have sex with them at the drop of a hat, get very limited fare when it comes to dealing with these pressures.  Their books have the distraught “ugly” girl who somehow manages to triumph in the end over mean popular girls.  They’re fun to read, but I defy you to find me a real girl who can use the tactics in the books to her own advantage in the real pressure cooker of a real high school.

I grew up reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (a book I doubt any Marin girl has ever read), and found it a very useful moral guide.  Jo and her sisters grapple with poverty, social pressure, impulsive teenage behavior, and poor-decision making, but they do so at a deep moral level.  They don’t triumph because they’re more clever; they triumph, sometimes after years, because they look at their values and determine what is most important to them — and believe me, it’s not being skinny and in with the in-crowd.

Jane Austen’s comedies of manners are also deeply concerned with core values.  Elizabeth and Darcy find each other because, when push comes to shove, they follow the correct societal values.  Elizabeth tries to tame a wayward sister; Darcy comes to the aid of the woman he loves, because he believes that he failed her morally when he did not warn her about Wickham’s true character.  Both come to realize that they were blinded by superficial behaviors, and recognize the other’s moral worth.  Certainly manners matter.  But the fact that Austen’s books include villains who abuse manners as a method of taking advantage of young women too foolish or emotional to separate moral wheat from immoral chaff is core to each of her stories.  They’re not about mere rules, although they take place in a rather rigid, rule-bound society.  They are about core principles that transcend class.

Anyway, today is a funeral day for one of my Mom’s old friends, so I am off, and won’t be back for hours.

Please consider this an open thread.

An excellent forum at the Watcher’s Council regarding the decision to let 15 year olds buy Plan B over the counter

As the mother of the Obama government’s Plan B (aka “Morning After Pill”) demographic, I have strong feelings about the move to let 15 year olds just go to the store and buy the stuff.  The Watcher’s Council has a forum up on that subject and, as always, Council members say the most interesting things — and that’s true whether or not I agree with their conclusions.  You can read it all here, but I’m going to reprint my contribution below:

As the parent of minors, I think it’s appalling. The Left will always justify this kind of rule-making or legislation by pointing to those teenage girls who have dreadful home lives, and are at risk of being physically hurt if they confess to a pregnancy. Yes, those are real situations, but I’ve never seen any evidence that they are anything but a small minority. In the real world, parents whose daughters come home pregnant are not going to be happy, and they may yell at their daughter, but they don’t abuse her. They rally around her. In other words, they are family and they are there for her. (In this regard, I think the movie Juno was pretty accurate.)

The facts on the ground mean that the state’s motive in making birth control and abortifacients available to ever younger girls isn’t because it’s trying to protect a small minority of at-risk girls. Rather, it’s trying to break down the family unit. Sex is a great way to force that schism because, next to hunger, sex is the most powerful motivator. By promising children sex, and lots of it — without any messy consequences such as disease or pregnancy — the state ensures that children look to the state as the bountiful provider. The message is a simple one: We’ll make you happy; your parents will make you sad.

Of course, no one is looking at the very real consequences of the state’s handing out sex like an addictive drug. The state pours toxic hormone soups in adolescent bodies; treats those young bodies with powerful antibiotics; alienates young minds and emotions from those who are most likely to love them; and sends the message that human sex, rather than creating powerful, life-long emotional bonds, has no more meaning than (and about as much charm as) bovine, canine, or feline sex. No wonder the girls who graduate from the hook-up culture in college don’t feel liberated but, instead, just feel used and emotionally frozen. They have been used — not just by the men who get the girls, but by an all-powerful state that has as its goal the end of individuals’ control over their own bodies.

Lastly, there’s also something profoundly wrong about a government that, even as it criminalizes adult men and women who have sex with children, does everything it can to encourage children to have sex. I don’t have a good word to describe that. Revolting? Hypocritical? Sleazy? Obscene? Immoral? I think all apply.

Coincidentally, I just opened an email from a friend alerting me to an article that Melanie Phillips, a brilliant British conservative, wrote about the reason that Big Brother has it in for families. Please read it. It’s very important, and provides a counter-narrative to the state’s claim that parents are a child’s natural enemies, rather than their most loving supporters (in most cases).

The Left uses sex to break up American families

I had an interesting conversation with my mother, who may be 90, but is still sharper than most people you’ll meet.  We got to talking about the Gosnell abortion/murder trial, which came as something of a surprise to her.  Despite the fact that she watches the news and reads the newspaper, she hadn’t heard a thing about it.  That wasn’t a surprise to me.

From there, the conversation wandered to the moral merits of abortion.  My Mom came of age in a time and place when abortion was neither approved of nor frowned upon.  It just existed.  In the turmoil after the war, when people were starving in cities decimated by fighting, having a baby seemed like an impossibility — and it could be a death sentence for both mother and child.  Nobody approved of abortion in war-torn streets, but they didn’t stop it either.

For that reason, it’s always been hard for my mother to understand the fervor Americans feel about abortion.  To her, it just . . . is.  (That’s probably the case for a lot of people who aren’t committed to one side or another of the abortion debate, which is why the media couldn’t risk the Gosnell trial coming into the open, in case it swayed indecisive people into the pro-Life column.)

While Mom couldn’t quite get the morality of abortion, I was able to get her to understand that the modern American state uses abortion to separate children from their families.  We’ve talked before here about the fact that, in California, youngsters under 16 or 18 can’t play paintball, get their ears pierced, or get a fake tan without a parents’ permission.  They can, however, get birth control, get abortions, and get treated for sexually transmitted diseases, all without a parents’ knowledge.  Putting aside the invitation to the worst kinds of child sex abuse, what’s happening here is that the state promises children the keys to the kingdom of pleasure.

Food and shelter are necessities.  Good food and good shelter are pleasures.  But sex . . . there’s the ultimate endorphin rush.  Mom and Dad, being mean, spiteful people, won’t let you have it, and they’ll give you Hell if there are consequences because you ignored their strictures.  The state, though, it puts no obstacles in your path.  Indeed, it helps you along with condoms, birth control pills, patches, and morning after pills.  If you get pregnant, you get the Morning After pill or an abortion, and if you get an STD, it gives you antibiotics — all without the knowledge or consent of the people who, in 90% of all cases care about you most in the world.

The Left claims that this legislated immorality is to protect young girls from abusive parents who will leave them homeless or beat them if they come home pregnant.  (Again, let’s ignore the fact that everything the Left does actually encourages the sexual abuse of children.)  Using an argument that focuses on an extreme minority, the Left has put us in a position that sees all girls and boys in America get to have free sex courtesy of the State.  The state has driven a wedge into the family unit, using the most potent endorphin driver available to motivate and reorient young people.

When I put it that way (as opposed to debating abortion’s morality), my mother suddenly sat up very straight, looked me straight in the eye, and said “But that’s socialism!”  I practically jumped up and down applauding that she had realized what was going on. It turned out there was a reason for her insight.

I’ve mentioned before that my Dad came from a Communist milieu and, while he eventually voted for Reagan, his sister remained a devoted Communist until the day she died.  Although she escaped Nazi Germany and eventually ended up in Palestine (and, after the War of Independence, in Israel), she decided that this young socialist state wasn’t properly committed to true Marxist socialism.  She therefore returned to East Germany, where she lived out the remainder of her life.

She was still living in Israel, though, when my Mom and Dad got married.  One day, when my Communist aunt was present, the subject of children came up.  Mom said that she wanted to wait until she had a nice home of her own and some security before she had children, so that she could have the joy and comfort of really raising her own family.  My aunt was shocked.  “No.  That’s wrong.  The children belong to the State.  You do not have the right to withhold them from the state, which should raise them.”

With this conversation living in her memory, my mother immediately understood the ramifications of a government severing the ties between parents and children.  In some places, such as Mao’s China, it uses coercion.  In America, it uses sex.  No matter the method, the goal is socialist.

Keeping in mind the above, it’s understandable why people who fear socialism (as I do) greeted with howls of outrage the MSNBC contributor who said quite clearly, “All your children are belong to us.”  Melissa Harris-Perry framed it cutely as it takes a village to raise a child, but that soft overlay covers pure, brute-force socialism.  Villages are voluntary communities that share values.  Homes are the ultimate refuge of the individual.  Socialism holds that individuals have no value, except to the extent that they provide bodies to power the socialist state:

Obama’s Department of Justice says mommies are meaningless

I live in an affluent community.  One of the constants in this neighborhood is that, if a family can afford it, the mom retires to take care of the kids.  This is true even if the mom’s salary was comparable to the dad’s.  Often, this isn’t the mom’s preference; it’s the children’s.  Our neighborhood children adore their Dads, but their mother is the pivotal figure in their lives.  The formerly working mom in an affluent neighborhood really intends to go back to work, but it’s hard.  The children want mom to feed them, they want mom to cuddle them, they want mom to cheer on their after-school sports, and they want mom to make them better when it hurts.  They love their dads, but they want their moms.

I know that there are exceptions to what I just wrote.  I know two dads who have been their children’s primary caregivers while mom worked, and they’ve both raised spectacular kids in a very happy way.  These are successful families no matter how you define what constitutes successful parenting.

Nevertheless, you just can’t get by the mom-thing:  Mom carries the baby, gives birth to the baby, feeds the baby, and parents the baby in a different way than even the most loving dad does.  The fact that women are different from men (Viva la difference!) brings a different quality to their relationship with their children.  The fact that a rich community, one with the luxury of choice, opts for the traditional female parenting model, tells you something about the bond between mother and child.  Although intelligent, loving, willing people can come up with different relationships, Mother Nature hardwired moms to be the nurturers.

That’s what I say.  The Obama administration, in a brief supporting same-sex marriage that it submitted to the United States Supreme Court, says different:

The Justice Department presented its conclusions about parenthood in rebutting an argument made by proponents of Proposition 8 that the traditional two-parent family, led by both a mother and a father, was the ideal place, determined even by nature itself, to raise a child.

The Obama administration argues this is not true. It argues that children need neither a father nor a mother and that having two fathers or two mothers is just as good as having one of each.

“The [California] Voter Guide arguably offered a distinct but related child-rearing justification for Proposition 8: ‘the best situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father,’” said the administration’s brief submitted to the court by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

“As an initial matter, no sound basis exists for concluding that same-sex couples who have committed to marriage are anything other than fully capable of responsible parenting and child-rearing,” the Department of Justice told the court. “To the contrary, many leading medical, psychological, and social-welfare organizations have issued policy statements opposing restrictions on gay and lesbian parenting based on their conclusion, supported by numerous scientific studies, that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.”

“The weight of the scientific literature strongly supports the view that same-sex parents are just as capable as opposite-sex parents,” says the administration.

To support this argument, one of the documents the administration cites is a “policy statement” by the American Psychological Association. This statement claims that some studies indicate same-sex parents might be “superior” to mother-and-father families, but then concedes there is little actual data on the results of raising children in two-father households.

“Members of gay and lesbian couples with children have been found to divide the work involved in childcare evenly, and to be satisfied with their relationships with their partners,” says this APA policy statement the administration cited to the court. “The results of some studies suggest that lesbian mothers’ and gay fathers’ parenting skills may be superior to those of matched heterosexual parents. There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

“Studies of other aspects of personal development (including personality, self-concept, and conduct) similarly reveal few differences between children of lesbian mothers and children of heterosexual parents,” says the APA policy statement. “However, few data regarding these concerns are available for children of gay fathers.”

The Obama administration further argues that because California law already permits domestic partnerships in which same-sex couples are allowed all the “incidents” of marriage–including the right to adopt children and be foster parents–that Proposition 8 only denies same-sex couples the use of the word “marriage” and does not change the status of child-rearing in the state.

“Moreover, as the court of appeals determined, ‘Proposition 8 had absolutely no effect on the ability of same-sex couples to become parents or the manner in which children are raised in California,’” says the administration. “As explained, California law, both before and after Proposition 8, grants registered domestic partners the same parental rights and benefits accorded to married couples. And Proposition 8 does not alter California’s adoption, fostering, or presumed-parentage laws, which ‘continue to apply equally to same-sex couples.’

“In light of California’s conferral of full rights of parenting and child-rearing on same-sex couples, Proposition 8’s denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry bears no cognizable relation, let alone a substantial one, to any interest in responsible procreation and child-rearing (however defined),” says the administration. “Indeed, because a substantial number of California children are raised in households headed by same-sex couples.”

Children can absolutely survive without mothers.  In the pre-modern era, the risks of childbirth saw enormous numbers of children orphaned.  Children are resilient.  They’ll survive a parents’ death; they’ll survive both parents’ deaths; they’ll survive good foster homes and bad; and they’ll survive in a two-father family, a two-mother family, or a non-traditional family where dad stays home.  But to pretend that a stable two-parent home with a loving mother providing a feminine role model and a loving father providing a masculine role model is unnecessary and passe is something that could only happen in a post-post-deconstructionist world, one in which a boy can announce that he is a girl and, voila!, that makes it so.

We 21st century first worlders have an enormous arrogance, one that sees us thinking that we can successfully ignore our biology and human nature as a whole.  Just a few examples show how wrong that hubris is.  We think that we control the entire earth’s atmosphere, rather than just have the ability to pollute or keep clean our immediate internment; we think that we can control disease, only to see our antibiotics become ineffective, with viruses such as AIDS sneaking past our “civilized” defenses, and traditional scourges such as TB coming back in new and ever more virulent form; we think that we have reached an apex of civility that overrides the cruel animal in us, only to witness unspeakable atrocities in every corner of the world, in every decade of every century; and we think that we can use our superior abilities, not just to constrain biology, but to ignore it entirely.

Please understand that I do not intend to say here that non-traditional households cannot succeed and that they are unable to create a loving, nurturing environment for children.  I’m just saying that, if history has taught us anything, it’s that it’s utterly foolish to pretend that Mother Nature doesn’t usually get the last word — making it quite wrong and dangerously foolish to create public policy based upon the pretense that Nature doesn’t exist.

Parents are good for children, and children are good for parents (especially selfish parents)

Having babies used to be biologically inevitable.  If you were a woman who had sex, the possibility of pregnancy increased automatically with every act of sexual intercourse.  People have always had birth control (withdrawal, the rhythm method, vinegar-soaked sponges, primitive condoms, etc.) but their success rate was random and limited.

Then came modern birth control — pills, diaphragms, IUDs, quality condoms, etc. — and, for responsible women, sex stopped leading to pregnancy unless they wanted it to happen.

The societal assumption when birth control use surged in America was that women who used birth control would invariably have children.  They’d simply do so on their own time-table, rather than on Nature’s.  Some women waited too long (or just had problems with conception), but science had an answer there too, with increasingly successful fertility treatments, implants, and even complex surrogacies, using a combination of egg, sperm, and womb.

What no one predicted was that, given the choice, women simply wouldn’t want to have children.  This isn’t just because they’re Malthusian environmentalists who are afraid that children will destroy the world.  It’s because they don’t see children as part of their happy (and sometimes selfish) life plan:

For many individual women considering their own lives and careers, children have become a choice, rather than an inevitable milestone—and one that comes with more costs than benefits.

“I don’t know if that’s selfish,” says Jordan, the daughter of an Ecuadoran and an Ohioan who grew up in the South Bronx, explaining her reasons for a decision increasingly common among women across the developed world, where more than half of the world’s population is now reproducing at below the replacement rate. “I feel like my life is not stable enough, and I don’t think I necessarily want it to be … Kids, they change your entire life. That’s the name of the game. And that’s not something I’m interested in doing.”

I totally get that.  As I hit my 30s, I was living the lush life:  good job, good income, nice apartment, quality boyfriend and, when the long work hours were over, a lot of “me” time.  I had no biological clock ticking away.  I didn’t want children.  In general, I’m not that fond of them.  Yet here I am today, completely defined by my status as “Mom.”  What the heck happened?

What happened was that my boyfriend (now husband) wanted children and I wanted him.  The other thing that happened was that I took a long, considering look at all of the older childless couples I knew, who voluntarily stayed childless, and I didn’t like what I saw.  Without exception, these people were more affluent than their peers, they were well-traveled, well-dined, and well-groomed.  They were also rigid, humorless, thin-skinned, and unable to deal with even the most minor crises.  I realized that it’s not just that (g00d) parents are good for children, it’s that children are good for parents.

I hated the baby and toddler years, and they definitely accelerated my aging (chronic sleep deprivation did not agree with me).  I also hated the schlepping, the endless frustration of dealing with toddlers, and the chaos in my once-quiet house.  I don’t like irrational creatures and there is no creature more irrational (from an adult perspective) than a toddler.  Toddlers, of course, function in a completely rational world, defined by their immediate desires, limited understanding, and somewhat magical thinking.

It got easier as the kids grew up, and now I’m in a really great position where I’m optimizing the benefits that come with being a parent.  I enjoy my teenagers, a great deal.  They’re intelligent, loving, funny people and, while I like it when I’ve got my house it myself, I certainly don’t dislike it when they’re around.  I like their friends too, and am very happy to have (no kidding) the most popular house in the neighborhood.  My son, bless his heart, told me that all his friends like to be here because I’m the easiest-to-get-along-with parent they know.  I’m not a pushover — it’s just that, as with politics, I’m laissez faire.  I have a few fixed rules but otherwise, if the kids are not hurting themselves, each other, my dog, or my house, I leave them alone.

Meanwhile, they keep me young.  I hope I’m not mutton dressed as lamb, but I know the games, music, movies, language, clothing (which I don’t copy), and the general culture of youth.  I am not calcified and I am not rigid.  I don’t get hysterical if there’s no blood or vomit involved in whatever crisis arises — and I don’t even get hysterical about blood or vomit.  I just move a bit more quickly to cope with it.

My point is that the selfish person should want to have children.  I believe that my children benefit from my selfishness, which leads me to a benign neglect that keeps them from trying to grow under the shadow and endless wind of a helicopter parent, and I get to stay young, agreeable and adaptable.  It’s a good deal for me, even though the upfront costs (two miserable pregnancies followed by years without sleep, rest, or privacy) were high.

Parenting and the binding of Isaac

A little boy was having problems accepting his parents’ authority.  In response to simple, ordinary parental instructions (“take a bath,” “clear your place at the table,” “do your homework”), the little boy raised fierce opposition:  “I don’t want to,” “You’re not the boss of me,” “No one else I know has to.”  The parents cracked down.  All of his favorite privileges were now gone.  He could earn them back only with several consecutive days of military obedience to orders:  “Take a bath” had to get met with “Yes, sir.”  “Clear your place at the table” also needed a terse “Yes, ma’am” response.

The little boy tearfully acquiesced, but then offered one further complaint:  “You at least give me reasonable orders, Mommy.  Daddy keeps giving stupid orders, like “clean up after your sister.”  I hate that.  He’s testing me.”  If the little boy was looking to triangulate Mom and Dad in order to gain sympathy or leniency, he was looking in the wrong place.  Mom had a simple response:  “Pass the G*d damn test!”

The story I just told reminded me of a another story, a very old one, known to you all:

1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

I actually don’t have a point to make, beyond the obvious:  An authority figure sometimes needs to do something to ensure that the person over whom he exercises that authority truly understands who is ultimately in charge.  It seems like a petty thing, even when God does it, but that’s only when things are going along swimmingly.  When life gets tough, the follower needs to look reflexively to the leader for moral guidance, for justice, and for comfort.  Testing the follower is a way of reinforcing the follower’s understanding of that relationship.

Better parenting through pot. Really?

The sentiments in the article claiming pot is a parenting panacea aren’t that surprising.  Pot users have always touted marijuana’s benefits in the alternative press.  What’s a little surprising about this article, which claims that one man became an infinitely better parent because of his pot use, is that the New York Times published it.

The one fallacy in the article, of course, is the author’s belief that everyone around him is as happy as he is.  One of the things pot does to its users is to give them an inflated sense of their own wisdom and wonderfulness.

I was 14 when a friend told me about the experience that put her off put forever — and that put me off too.  She and a friend had gotten together and smoked some joints.  With their minds expanded by drug use, they started to explore the wonderful mysteries of the universe and the meaning of life.  Soon, they had put together a comprehensive unified theory.  They were so excited by their brilliance (if you can be both lethargic and excited) that they decided to tape-record their conversation for posterity’s sake.

The next day my friend played back the tape recording and discovered this:  “So . . . it’s like . . . everything is real . . . you know?  Like . . . we’re all . . . one . . . with each other.  We’re . . . like . . . universal . . . uh, uh . . . friends.”  And so on, for almost thirty minutes.  Pot hadn’t expand their minds; it had just expanded their egos.

All I know as the parent of young ‘uns who are, sadly, at the age when all their peers are starting to use pot, is that pot use in young people has permanent negative effects on their brains.  After that, everything else about the stuff becomes irrelevant.

I’m a horrible child! I ruined your life! — Turning the abortion debate into the punchline to a silly joke

One of my favorite silly jokes goes as follows:

A man runs into a friend.  “Oh, my God!” he says.  “I just made the most terrible Freudian slip.”

His friend asks “What did you do?”

The man answers, “Well, I was having lunch with my mother.  I meant to saying ‘Mom, please pass the peas,” but what I actually said was ‘You horrible woman!  You’ve ruined my life!’”

I don’t know why I find this joke so funny — beyond the obvious point that what the man said was not a Freudian slip — but I just do.  It makes me laugh every time.

As is always the case, though, Progressives manage to go one better than any joke, but they invariably ruin the punch line.  The latest example comes from Britian’s Guardian, a reliably Left wing publication.  The article is entitled — no kidding — “I wish my mother had aborted me.”  The author, Lynn Beisner, assures us that she’s not one of those sad-sacks who has a miserable life and, therefore, wishes she’d never been born.  Instead, she explains, she wrote the article as a counter to those ridiculous emotional pro-Life stories that revolve around a woman who contemplated abortion, decide not to do it, and raised a child very grateful to be alive.  How disgustingly bathetic, Beisner says:

What makes these stories so infuriating to me is that they are emotional blackmail. As readers or listeners, we are almost forced by these anti-choice versions of A Wonderful Life to say, “Oh, I am so glad you were born.” And then by extension, we are soon forced into saying, “Yes, of course, every blastula of cells should be allowed to develop into a human being.”

Beisner is going to counter this horrible narrative — by pitching an emotional story about how her birth stunted, not her own, but her mother’s life:

An abortion would have absolutely been better for my mother. An abortion would have made it more likely that she would finish high school and get a college education. At college in the late 1960s, it seems likely she would have found feminism or psychology or something that would have helped her overcome her childhood trauma and pick better partners. She would have been better prepared when she had children. If nothing else, getting an abortion would have saved her from plunging into poverty. She likely would have stayed in the same socioeconomic strata as her parents and grandparents who were professors. I wish she had aborted me because I love her and want what is best for her.

Or, to use fewer words:  “I’m a horrible child!  I ruined your life.”

What Beisner doesn’t realize is that she’s not breaking new ground here.  She’s treading the old, hard-packed pro-abortion ground, only in a way that’s more silly than usual.  Because the pro-abortion crowd has always and only focused on the woman (“It’s a woman’s choice”), the issue always has been that the woman gets to ask herself “Will this baby ruin my life?” and then to abort if her answer is “Yes, probably.”

Well, I’ve got news for Beisner.  Babies always ruin a woman’s life.  That is, they ruin the life she knew before babies came along.  Goodbye, lithesome figure!  Goodbye, sleeping through the night!  Goodbye, privacy!  Goodbye, eating a meal without interruptions!  Goodbye, ready money!  Goodbye, dancing all night (at least, without bouncing a crying baby in your arms)!  Goodbye, spontaneity!  It’s all over.  Everything that made for your youthful existence is gone.

What Beisner misses, though, is the “Whenever God closes a door, he opens a window” aspect of having children.  For every goodbye, there’s a hello  Hello, bidding farewell to your immature self and saying welcome to the you that is a fully realized adult!  Hello, to a little one entwining himself or herself around your neck and saying ‘Mommy, I wuv you so much’ — and meaning it!  Hello, to having an incredibly rich social life, one that doesn’t revolve around the drunken hook-up scene, but one that involves other parents who are so glad to welcome you into the Parent Club!  Hello, feeling connected to your country, because it’s not just yours anymore, it’s also your children’s and your grandchildren’s.

Some people are going to be horribly damaged by their inability to turn their backs upon giddy youth in favor of responsible maturity.  But for every one of those people, there’s going to be someone grateful for the love, stability, and meaning that parenthood brings.

The only thing that Beisner gets right (although she fails to live up to her own standards) is that emotional pitches are meaningless, because different people have different emotional responses.  What she When emotions are meaningless, the only thing that matters is principle:  Do you believe that (a) life begins at conception and (b) that this life is immediately entitled to full respect?  If yes, you must be pro-Life; if not, well, then pro-abortion is a reasonable position for you.  But don’t try dressing it up with sob stories about living children or unhappy mothers.

Being honest with children, without abandoning your right as a parent to pass judgment

So much of parenting is about communication.  Because children listen with their hearts as well as their minds, that communication had better be honest.  If it’s not, your child will instantly know you for either a fool or a liar.

Being honest, though, is not the same as being judgmental.  There is a time and a place for both.  Most parents have discovered that, occasionally, passing judgment on someone or something simply encourages a child to push back, thereby turning into a fight something that ought to be a deep and principled discussion.

A good example of the way to be both honest and effectively judgmental (meaning getting your child to acknowledge your principles without pushing back) is the drug talk.  Most parents of high schoolers have made the sad discovery that a certain percentage of their child’s peers are doing drugs.  When you, the parent, hear such stories, you can be simultaneously honest and judgmental by stating your principled position about drug use.  Mine is that drug use is very dangerous for children and teenagers.  Even ostensibly mild drugs such as marijuana have a damaging effect on a young person’s intellectual and emotional development.  (You can imagine the rest of the factual lecture here, because I’m sure you’ve given it yourself.)

What the wise parent avoids, though, is leveling an attack, not against the drugs, but against the drug user.  As sure as the sun rises, if you attack an individual, your child will spring to that individual’s defense:

Mom:  Boy, is that a stupid girl to be smoking pot at her age.

Child:  She is not stupid.  She gets really good grades.

That’s the moment the parent has lost control of the conversation. It’s now going to wend its way through various pointless rhetorical pathways, with the parent trying to prove that a teenager she’s never actually met is an idiot, while the child vigorously asserts that the teen is a paragon of virtue, but for the drug use.

The better way to keep the conversation going is to offer an honest opinion about your emotional response to that errant teen, or your sense of that same teen’s emotional status:

Mom:  That’s so sad.  In her Facebook picture, she looks like such a lovely girl, but drug use, especially when you start so wrong, is damaging at so many levels.  She must be deeply unhappy or insecure to throw herself away with drug use.

Child:  How can she be insecure?  She’s always bossing people around.

Mom:  People who have a genuine, bone-deep confidence, don’t feel the need to throw their weight around, or medicate their insecurities with illegal drugs.  [And so on and so on.]

A parent who is honestly sympathetic to a child’s plight can be judgmental without forcing her child into a defensive posture. Using this technique, you can have conversations with your kids about hard topics – drugs, sex, social challenges – that are deep and without embarrassment, because the kids know that the parent will honestly talk facts, but avoid labels that trigger a self-defense, or peer-defense, mechanism.

Honesty also has the virtue of cutting straight through the euphemisms all people — and especially teenagers — use to hide the fact that a certain behavior is morally wrong or simply degrading. My favorite example of this is the talk I had with some girls I was driving to a high school dance.  They were chatting excitedly about whether or not they would be asked to dance (yes, even in this modern day and age, the boys still ask the girls), and whether they should let a guy freak dance with them.

I couldn’t resist chiming in.  “You know what freak dancing is, don’t you? Freak dancing is when a strange guy masturbates against your bottom.”

From the back of the car came a chorus of disgusted squeals.  “Oh, my God!  That’s so gross.  I’m never going to freak dance.”

(Since they were in the back, they didn’t see my fist pump.)

I doubt I could have gotten such a dramatic, heartfelt response if I’d allowed the girls to think of freak dancing as “just a dance” or tried delicately to address the matter as “a sort of dance where the guy rubs himself against you.”  Also, by going straight to the heart of the matter, without waffling, I also signaled to the girls that the type of dancing they were contemplating is something that they can talk about with me openly, without the need for embarrassment.

I am consistently honest with my children, and I’ve never regretted that decision.  Even when my children catch me being dishonest (for better or worse, I’m a big believer in social lies that enable others to save face when it comes to issues that do not involve core ethics or morality), I explain what my thinking is and why I’m doing what I’m doing.  I’m the magician who shows every aspect of his tricks.  And yet somehow, the magic is still there, because my children have absorbed my morality and values, and apply them to their daily lives.

Ah, Motherhood — the last refuge of . . . Hitler?

Annals of motherhood, through the ages….

Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi:  The exemplar of Roman motherhood who, when quizzed by fellow Roman matrons over her simple dress, unlike their ostentatious attire asked to show her wealth, pointed to her sons and said “These are my jewels.”

Ann Romney:  Mother of five, grandmother of eighteen, breast cancer survivor, and wife of the probable Republican candidate for president, writing about Mother’s Day, says that no matter the money roles women play in today’s society (often simultaneously), “one hat that moms never take off is the crown of motherhood.  There is no crown more glorious.”

Michelle Goldberg, MSNBC commentator, opining about Ann Romney’s view of motherhood:  “I found that phrase ‘the crown of motherhood’ really kind of creepy, not just because of its, like, somewhat you know, I mean, it’s kind of usually really authoritarian societies that give out like ‘The Cross of Motherhood,’ that give awards for big families. You know, Stalin did it, Hitler did it.”

Note to Goldberg:  There is a difference between a mother talking proudly of her contribution to society, and a totalitarian government that ran high class brothels to propagate the Aryan race.  Just sayin’….

As for me, I am truly grateful for women like Michelle Goldberg.  They represent the reductio ad absurdum of Leftist thought, the true purity of an ideology hostile to traditional American values, and as such we should be very pleased that they are willing and able to speak their minds to the American public.

For news about another Michelle, check out this PowerLine post regarding questions conservatives are asking the First Lady.  (Funnily enough, she’s not answering.)

The real threat that the Ann Romneys of the world represent to the statist Left

I’ve been thinking (and if those aren’t ominous words, I don’t know what are).  I’ve been thinking about the Left’s attack on stay-at-home Mom’s, an attack that Hilary Rosen started, and that others have continued.  To refresh your recollection, let’s start with Rosen, who says that Ann Romney “has actually never worked a day in her life”:

While Rosen made a “fulsome” (i.e., offensive, disgusting, and insincere) apology, others doubled down on her behalf.  NOW President Terry O’Neill carefully explained that, if you don’t get paid for your work, it doesn’t count — which is precisely what my liberal Facebook friends have been saying, in an eerie echo of 1960s’ male chauvinist pigs.

The doubling down continued when Judith Warner, who writes for TIME Magazine, agrees that Ann Romney is “out of touch” with most women.  You see, Ann Romney comes from an intact family where the man is the primary breadwinner.  What could be more appallingly regressive than that?

And then, of course, there’s just the ordinary bottom feeder obscene ugliness than routinely emanates from the Left.  This kind of verbal violence is the Leftist equivalent of the old dictum that, if you have the law, argue the law; if you have the facts, argue the facts; and if you have neither facts nor law, pound the table.  If you’re a Leftist, you “pound the table” by calling women the most obscene names possible and threaten them with violence.

That’s the cursory rundown.  Now back to “I’ve been thinking….”  This is not just a war of tired old feminists who are trying to justify the fact that most of them paid illegal, undereducated women, many of whom speak little or no English, to raise their children.  This transcends Leftist feminist sensibilities and touches upon a core issue in statism — namely, who raises the children?

A small, but relevant, digression here:  One of the most interesting books I’ve ever read is Joshua Muravchik’s Heaven On Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. The title is self-explanatory.  I highly recommend the book, simply because it’s so good, but I mention it here because of the chapter involving Israeli kibbutzim, which were intended to represent the purest form of voluntary socialism.  Part of the socialist experiment was that children would be raised, not within family units, but as part of the cooperative.  Only in that way could the kibbutz defeat unhealthy, selfish individualism and assure a new generation of people dedicated to the movement.

Except that’s not what happened.  Some moms were very happy to allow the collective to raise the children.  However, it turned out that the majority of moms, once those mom-hormones started roaring through their bodies, didn’t want their children whisked off to the collective nursery, no matter how nice a place it was.  They’d bonded with their babies, and they wanted to nurture those babies.  The kibbutzim were quickly forced to reconfigure to allow for single family homes.  Had they not done so, they would have lost too many families.

And now, back to the main point….

For the last many years, I have been the single most important influence on my children.  Yes, they go to school (public school, yet); and yes, they both have thriving social lives; and yes, I’ve been unable to insulate them from a Leftist pop culture that is hostile to traditional norms and to conservatives generally, but I’m still the most important person.  Of all the influences in their lives, I am the one who is most present, most consistent, and most trusted.  I’m sure they’ll pull away as they get older, and they may even rebel, but I’ll still be that little voice in their brain, imparting facts, values, and analyses.

I am the counterweight to the state.  Therefore, I am dangerous.  I am subversive simply by existing.  My love for my children is a dominant force that works its way into their psyches and that trumps the state-run schools and the state complicit media world.  Some mothers, of course, are entirely in sync with schools and media.  They happily reinforce the statist message.  But those of us who don’t are a powerful anti-statist force and we must be challenged.

The Left’s problem with Ann Romney transcends her husband’s wealth, her (and his) Republican identification, and her decision to work for her children, rather than for a paying employer.  The Left’s problem with Ann Romney is that she represents the triumph of the individual.  No wonder they hate her so much.

UPDATE:  Welcome, Instapundit and PowerLine readers.  I’m going to go all Beverly Hillbillies and say “Y’all come back now.”  And welcome to you, too, Hot Air readers.  Y’all should also come back now!

Hilary Rosen defenders look to 1960s “male chauvinist pigs” for support

I’m seeing a terribly funny new meme on Facebook, aimed at explaining away Hilary Rosen’s statement that Ann Romney, who raised five children, fought breast cancer, and has MS, has never worked a day in her life. Friends are posting things to the effect that, while parenting is “work,” it’s not a “job.” From this I gather that it’s only a job if you get paid for it.

I’m old enough to recall a time when feminists went absolutely ballistic at men who denigrated their housework by saying that it wasn’t really a “job” because they weren’t getting paid for it. In other words, women trying to defend Rosen’s statement have had to fall back upon what the famous “male chauvinist pigs” of the 1960s and 1970s used to say about women. All of which proves, once again, that there’s nothing more regressive than a Progressive.

Personal morality and responsibility

11B40 asked a good question, which is why I’m so focused on McQueary, when it was Sandusky who committed the crime.  It’s because I have no fellow feeling with Sandusky who, if the allegations are true, is a perverted monster.  I therefore don’t need to analyze my behavior or parenting decisions with regard to his conduct.  McQueary, however, is Everyman.  Each of us could be in his shoes.

McQueary’s response to a horrible, unexpected situation wasn’t perverse or illegal.  Instead, it was just the lowest common denominator of acceptable behavior that an ordinary human could commit.  I have within me the capacity to do exactly what he did — but I want to be better than that.  That’s why I’m also hammering away at columnists who explain what he did, not just to offer explanations, but also to excuse his conduct.  Like them, like all of us, I could be McQueary, but I don’t want to be McQueary.

Perhaps my obsession with this is also because I’m a parent in a morally challenging world, attempting to give my children moral lessons.  That hit home yesterday. As I hadn’t quite made it back to the house when my 12-year-old son got home from school, he called me, his voice trembling with unshed tears. “Mom, I have to tell you this. I need to confess. There was this old guy handing out little pocket Bibles at school [actually, next to the school, on non-school land]. Then, on the school bus home, one of the kids had candy and I wanted the candy and the kid said he’d give me the candy if I ripped up the Bible — and I did. Another boy threw a bunch of Bibles out the window.  I’m so sorry. I know what I did was wrong and I just had to tell you.”

When I got home, my son was still very upset, partially because he knew he’d done something wrong (both destroying a book and destroying a religious symbol) and partially because he was worried about getting expelled from school.  Without actually meaning to, I made him even more upset.  On my way back home after his call, I’d already called a friend whom I knew was taking her kids to a non-denominational youth night at the local church. I figured it would be good for my son immediately to go to a place where the book of God matters. When I mentioned I’d told her, he completely broke down, sobbing hysterically. “How could you? She won’t respect me any more.” (And I can’t tell you how glad I am to know that he realized that what he did would impair his standing in the eyes of the community.)

It got worse for my little guy when I opened my email and discovered an email from a friend and neighbor who didn’t know that my son had confessed, telling me about what happened and adding that several of the children on the bus were quite upset. “Oh, no! None of the parents will respect me anymore. This is horrible. I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean to destroy God’s property.” More sobbing. My son wrote our neighbor an abject apology for having committed an offensive act, and she sent a gracious reply.

I wasn’t pleased with what my son did, but I wasn’t angry at him.  It seemed to me that he was angry enough at himself.  He knew that he’d done an irresponsible and offensive act, although he did so foolishly and entirely without malice.  He also felt very keenly that what he had done might diminish him in the eyes of people he respects and whose respect he desires.

Indeed, I was quite pleased that he was upset and able to identify his own wrongdoing, rather than arrogant and dismissive.  He could have gone the other route:  “It’s just a book, and people who believe in it are stupid, and I should be able to rip up a book if I want, etc.”  That he didn’t, that he immediately realized he’d made a mistake, was a comforting reminder that my son is a fundamentally good person, who is simply a long way from maturity.  He is not, thank goodness, a punk or a sociopath.  A good (not angry or accusatory) talk about decency and respect, a total media blackout for two days, and a rather pleasant evening for him at a church youth group (he wants to go back) were, to my mind, entirely sufficient responses.

What was really interesting — and here we’re back at my whole obsession with McQueary and a society that passes the back and practices moral relativism — was the response from a liberal friend of mine.  Rather than acknowledging that my son had done something wrong, his ire was all focused on the old man who had handed out Bibles.

“That’s illegal.”  ”

No, it’s not.  He wasn’t on school property, and he wasn’t handing out anything that is illegal or that is prohibited to minors, such as drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or pornography.”

“Well, it ought to be illegal.  You can’t just hand out Bibles to people.”

“Um, actually, a little thing called the First Amendment says you can.”

He was shocked.

My friend’s next challenge was that handing out a Bible to school children was entrapment.

“That man was trying to entrap children.  He knew that most of them would throw it away and that boys would play with it.  There’s no difference between shredding it and throwing it in the garbage can.”

My friend was unconvinced when I pointed out that (a) the fact that many children on the bus were upset shows that treating a Bible with disrespect is not a natural or appropriate act and (b) that there is a difference between respectfully disposing of an unwanted item and deliberately destroying it in public view.  Intention matters.  And it was because intention matters that I was upset with my son for what he did, but I was neither angry nor perturbed.  His intentions weren’t blasphemous.  He just wanted candy.

Because issues such as this pop up in one form or another quite often when you have parents, you can see why I think long and hard about the messages we send our kids when it comes to right and wrong, and about responsibility to individuals and to society at large.

What do you all think, whether about my parenting decisions, about my McQueary tie-in, about societal messages, or anything else this post might have brought to mind?

Earning the Mom medal

Every time I return from a Navy League or Navy event, I lament the fact that we in the civilian world do not get to wear our honors and accomplishments on our hats, shoulders, chests or sleeves.  The fact that there is no official boasting mechanism in my suburban Mom life, though, doesn’t mean I can’t simply be like the cock, and crow on my own little dunghill.  Without further ado, I hereby give myself a good Mom award.

Honestly, I’ve really earned it.  Yesterday, my teenage daughter told her friends, “You can say anything in front of my Mom.  She’s never embarrassing and she gives really good advice.”  If I could have that engraved on a medal, I would.

Lest you think I earned that accolade because I’m the type of Mom who coos, “Of course you can have sex, do drugs and spend all my money, darling,” you’d be far off the mark.  In fact, I’m extremely opinionated, in a very socially conservative way.  Perhaps it’s my willingness to be a straight shooter, to shy away from innuendo, metaphor and deep agendas, that makes the children feel comfortable with me.

I find amusing the fact that my kids and their friends so obviously enjoy my company.  Thirty-five years after the fact, I’m finally popular in Middle School and High School.  I’m slow, but I get there!

It’s not always politics. Sometimes we talk family here too.

It would be so nice if my children had inherited only my best qualities, plus their father’s best qualities too.  Then, they would have been brilliant, talented and gorgeous.  But that’s not how it worked out.  For one thing, they’ve got qualities, such as athleticism and self-discipline, that neither my husband nor I have.  (We’re both driven, not self-disciplined.)  Also, they inherited a good dose of our horribles too:  stubbornness, temper, etc.  Both my husband and I have, for these many years, been much more appreciative of what our own parents went through with us.  Bruce Kesler has also been thinking about his mother and her parenting experiences.

The Nanny state makes it impossible to raise children — and then takes them away

Sometimes the matched sets just write themselves.  Both of the articles I’m quoting here are from England.  The first in our set is an article saying that town councils across England are being told that they need to reinstate actual playgrounds.  The current versions, which are the kid equivalent of a padded room, are creating useless human beings:

Old-fashioned playground equipment like climbing frames, sand pits and paddling pools are set to be re-introduced after research found a degree of risk helps children to develop.

For years councils have felt forced to remove older attractions from their sites fearing any potential injuries could result in costly legal battles.

But recent research has shown that children actually benefit from risk when they play as it helps them develop the judgement skills they need in later life.

[snip]

Chairman Bernard Spiegal told the Sunday Times he believed Britain had been obsessed with risk assessment which was having a negative effect on children.

He said: ‘We were crippling their confidence by not letting them learn through experience.

‘We don’t want children losing fingers in badly designed swings or getting their heads trapped under a roundabout. But there’s nothing wrong with a bump, bruise and graze.’

I’ll add that current “safe” playgrounds don’t inspire much energy in the kids. The installations are so bland, the kids get bored quickly, and long for the less rigorous comforts of their computers and TV sets.

Before we head to the matched-set article, just have fixed firmly in your mind that Britain is a country that, out of an excess of nanny state caution, has rendered children’s physical play boring, essentially herding children back to the couch.

If you’ve got that notion firmly in mind, it’s time for article number two, which is harrowing. It all started a few years ago when a young boy banged his head and, because he was angry at his father, called his town’s version of Child Protective Services and accused his father of hitting him. Child Protective Services did exactly what one would expect it to do when dealing with a stable, middle class family — it latched onto it like a piranha or tick, and proceeded to suck the life out of the family.

The family’s sin? The kids are overweight. It’s now come to the point that Dundee’s CPS has announced that it will remove the four youngest children permanently, hiding them from the parents:

Four obese children are on the brink of being permanently removed from their family by social workers after their parents failed to bring their weight under control.

In the first case of its kind, their mother and father now face what they call the ‘unbearable’ likelihood of never seeing them again.

Their three daughters, aged 11, seven and one, and five-year-old son, will either be ‘fostered without contact’ or adopted.

[snip]

Warned that the children must slim or be placed in care, the family spent two years living in a council-funded ‘Big Brother’ house in which they were constantly supervised and the food they ate monitored.

[snip]

The couple have not committed any crime and are not accused of deliberate cruelty or abuse. Their solicitor, Joe Myles, said there was ‘nothing sinister lurking in the background’ and accused social workers of failing to act in the family’s best interests.

‘Dundee social services department appear to have locked horns with this couple and won’t let go,’ he said, adding that the monitoring project caused more problems than it solved. ‘The parents were constantly being accused of bad parenting and made to live under a microscope.

[snip]

Social workers became aware of the family in early 2008 after one of the sons accused his father of hitting him on the forehead. In truth, he had fallen and hit his head on a radiator – a fact he later admitted. However, the allegation opened the door to the obesity investigation.

While the couple admit experiencing what their lawyer calls ‘low grade’ parenting problems, which would have merited support, they were aghast when the issue of weight was seized on as a major concern.

[snip]

The couple were ordered to send their children to dance and football lessons and were given a three-month deadline to bring down their weight. When that failed, the children were placed in foster homes but were allowed to visit their parents.

After the couple objected to this arrangement, the council agreed to move them into a two-bedroom flat in a supported unit run by the Dundee Families Project. They insisted on the couple living with only three of their children at a time.

At meal times, a social worker stood in the room taking notes. Doctors raised concerns that the children put on weight whenever they spent time with their parents, a claim they vehemently denied.

[snip]

Although the children’s weight was the major concern, other allegations were included in a report. It showed that social workers were worried when the youngest child was found crawling unsupervised. The parents point out they were never far away and the flat had no stairs.

They also found her ‘attempting to put dangerous objects’ in her mouth. The family say this is natural in toddlers and she was never successful.

[snip]

The father, aged 56, said: ‘We have tried very hard to do everything that was asked of us. My wife has cooked healthy foods like home-made spaghetti bolognese and mince and potatoes; we’ve cut out snacks and only ever allowed the kids sweets on a Saturday. But nothing we’ve done has ever been enough.

‘The pressure of living in the family unit would have broken anyone. We were being treated like children and cut off from the outside world. To have a social worker stand and watch you eat is intolerable. I want other families to know what can happen once social workers become involved. We will fight them to the end to get our beloved children back.’

You can read the whole litany of social worker horribles here.

Anyone who has read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism will not be surprised by the family’s sufferings.  This kind of micromanagement is precisely what the “loving” nanny state does.  Indeed, think about the fact that Obama’s administration has taken to calling itself your “federal family.”  For those who thinks it’s a figure of speech, it’s not.  Socialist government does not believe that it can trust parents to raise the next generation of cogs in the government organization.

In the same way, anyone who has paid any attention at all to Child Protective Services agencies (in whichever country, and under whatever name they operate) knows that too many of these organizations are much less concerned with protecting genuinely at risk children (the beaten, starved and killed who make periodic newspaper headlines), and are much more concerned with forcing middle and working class families to abandon their parenting role or to risk being forced to hand their children over to the state.

There’s a reason I believe that CPS stands, not for Child Protective Services, but for “Causes Parental Suffering.”

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land, available in e-format for the new low price of $2.99 at Amazon, Smashwords or through your iBook app.

High School Daze

My daughter started high school at our local public high.  It’s a great high school.  It’s got a beautiful facility, high quality staff, all the bells and whistles you can think of, an involved parent body, and a whole lot of very nice kids.  I always knew all that, but I had that information reinforced when I attended my first PTA meeting.

I learned something else at the local PTA meeting:  drug and alcohol use are “rampant” (their word, not mine) at this high school.  By the time the kids are juniors and seniors, there’s a “culture” of abuse.  It’s part of “the fabric” of the students’ social lives.

Part of the problem is the curse of affluence.  The kids have the wherewithal to buy high quality fake IDs and the money to spend on drugs and alcohol.  The other part of the problem is something that never occurred to me — parents.  As I confirmed with some internet searching later, there’s a trend amongst parents to host pot and alcohol parties for their children.  The theory behind these illegal parties is these parents’ belief that, if the drug and alcohol use is done under their aegis, they can keep it “safe” and “responsible.”

Plain common sense tells how wrong this attitude is.  I confirmed my common sense by speaking with my daughter when she came home from school.  I told her precisely what I’d learned, and warned about parties where parents offer alcohol.  She said, “If we hadn’t talked about this, and some parent offered me a glass of wine, I would have thought it was okay and taken it.”  It’s that simple.  If authority figures say something is okay, then it must be.

Amazingly, Disney (Disney!) handles this issue of parental approval surprisingly well in 17 Again.  The plot device is that a man is suddenly transformed into a 17 year old (played by Zac Efron), and finds himself in school with his own children, a boy who is being bullied, and a girl who is dating the bully.  This scene is about condoms (and ignore the execrable Margaret Cho as the sex ed teacher), with Efron’s character watching in horror as a basket of condoms is handed to his own daughter:

Although the movie doesn’t come out and say so, I do believe that someone at the Disney studio disapproved of a high school teacher saying, “To hell with abstinence.  You guys can just have condoms because we’re too weak to stop you from hurting and demeaning yourselves.”

But back to the drug issue.  I also learned that, if my kids throw a wholesome party (a few vetted and trusted friends) and that party is crashed by drug/alcohol users, if those gatecrashers get into trouble after leaving my property, I’m still liable.  (As a lawyer, I knew this; as a mother, I had refused to recognize it.)  The way to short circuit liability is to call the police.  The police representative at the school said kids should know this too, as these events often happen to hapless kids when their parents are away for an evening.  The host kid should feel no compunction about placing a non-emergency call to the police, especially since our local police are extremely nice people.

I thought this was good advice, but I added my own warning to the kids:  If any kid ever uses drugs or alcohol on my property, in the house or in the yard, I will rip that child’s head off and celebrate as I watch the blood splatter on the ceiling.  The kids laughed, but I think they got the message.