Thursday, September 17, 2009

Boy, Girl, Gay, Straight, I don't care...

Our second child was born yesterday, and upon learning that it was a boy, one family friend responded, "Oh, as the father, you must be pretty excited to finally have a son!"
I'm like, "What, do I look like some kind of meathead? I don't care if it's a boy, girl, gay or straight. As long as it's healthy and happy." (You can imagine how mortified my devoutly Catholic mother was to hear that.)
"Don't you at least want someone who will carry on the family name?"
"First of all, it's just a name," I replied. "Secondly, that's not even our real name."
"What's your real name, then?"
"I have no idea," I said. "No one knows."
"What do you mean? How could no one know?"
"See, most Filipinos will proudly explain that the reason they have a Spanish last name is because they had a Spanish ancestor, like a hundred generations back," I explained further.
"What, are you saying that you don't have any Spanish ancestors?"
"Probably, maybe some haciendero who took a servant as his mistress. But the real reason we have Spanish last names is because the Spanish colonial authorities got sick and tired of trying to figure out the indigenous surnames. So, back in the 1800s, they gave the natives a list of Spanish names to choose from."
"I had no idea."
On another note, I suggested giving the kid my wife's last name, since we named him after my late father-in-law. But my wife said it was bad enough that she never changed her name. She didn't want her in-laws a reason to resent her.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conditional Parenting

There was an interesting article in the NY Times today about "conditional parenting," which the author describes as a style of child rearing in which parents "turn up the affection when they’re good, withhold affection when they’re not." The author points to evidence that this parenting style may create more compliance in children, but that it also creates more psychological issues when children become adults. The author criticizes Supernanny Jo Frost and Dr. Phil as people who advocate for conditional parenting. This article is currently the most popular on the NY Times site.

The author doesn't say much about his style of "unconditional parenting," only that "In practice, according to an impressive collection of data by Dr. Deci and others, unconditional acceptance by parents as well as teachers should be accompanied by “autonomy support”: explaining reasons for requests, maximizing opportunities for the child to participate in making decisions, being encouraging without manipulating, and actively imagining how things look from the child’s point of view."

I don't know about this. If anyone has ever tried to "reason" with a three year old as to why he shouldn't hit his baby sister, it doesn't work. Kids are kids. They think differently from adults. They haven't yet developed higher logical skills, and at their young age, they shouldn't need these skills.

I like Supernanny. She uses the time out, then she follows it with an explanation. I agree that there is probably psychological damage that comes from punishments, but I wonder if the damage is worse than running a home with no discipline. I know lots of parents who never discipline their kids. I also know parents who threaten their kids but never follow up. While I strongly disagree with spanking, and while I see the problems with conditional parenting, I think the alternative to conditional parenting is much worse. I think it should be possible to use a time out without expressing a withdrawal of love.

What are your views on discipline?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

BENTO CROSSES OVER


What’s for Lunch? Enter the Bento Box, a Touch of Japan - NYTimes.com

This is a cute story but here's my sneaking suspicion...given that the NYT is one of the constant sources of anxiety for status-conscious, upwardly mobile parents/couples (and moms in particular), I just imagine this will set off a small wave of women thinking, "now I have to master making bentos for my kids/husband? FML."

Just saying.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

BACK TO BIRTH ORDER

18 and Under - Birth Order - Fun to Debate, but How Important? - NYTimes.com

Speaking of Breakfast...

According to the New York Times, the country's largest food manufacturers are rolling out a new food-labeling campaign called Smart Choices, which is “designed to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices.” And guess what made the list of so-called "Smart Choices"?

Froot Loops.



Eileen Kennedy, the president of the Smart Choices board -- and also the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University -- has defended the labeling of this fluorescent breakfast treat as a healthy alternative to other products, telling the Times that Froot Loops is "better than other things parents could choose for their children."

I know what she means. There are far worse things to feed your kid, such as the KFC Double Down Sandwich, deep fried butter, Hydroxycut, rat poison, poo, etc.

But isn't that like saying we're going to give an Oscar Award to Vin Diesel just because others (e.g., Larry the Cable Guy, Justin Guarini, Willie Aames) are even worse actors?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Part of a Nutritious Breakfast

I don't know why, but I thought making breakfast for my kids would be easy.

My childhood breakfasts consisted of leftovers from the previous nights' dinner (invariably, Chinese food) -- my parents ignored my pleas for "normal" breakfast items like Froot Loops and Pop Tarts (both, I reminded my mom and dad, are part of a nutritious breakfast, goddammit). "When I grow up," I seethed, "I'm going to let my kids eat WHATEVER THEY WANT."

It's obvious now that I jinxed myself.

I start each morning with high hopes that my four-year-old will feel like eating something easy to prepare. And by "prepare," I mean "dump into a bowl."

He, on the other hand, approaches breakfast like a seasoned hostage negotiator. Or hostage-taker.

Crossing my fingers, I shoot first, with an all-too-cheery "How 'bout some cereal for breakfast?"

"What else do you have?" he fires back.

"This isn't a restaurant." I inform him. He stares at me blankly, expectantly -- a well-honed tactic to elicit an offer of a breakfast alternative. It works. "You can have toaster waffles," I add, reaching for the freezer.

"Nah. What else?" He adds a sweet smile. Cunning.

I roll my eyes. "Nothing else. That's all we got, buddy."

"Okay, then I won't eat anything."

That won't do; my wife would have my head. Conceding defeat, I mutter: "How about a scrambled egg?"

"OH-kaaay, but with toast. HALF a piece of toast. And not too crunchy -- it has to be kind of crunchy, but still a little soft. And I want to scramble the egg."

He does, and I cook it. I cut and toast the bread. I load it on a SpongeBob plate. It is as perfect as I can make it.

"Daddy, you didn't cut up my egg!"

I cut it to ribbony shreds with the edge of a fork, and set the plate down again. "Eat!" I command.

He sits and stares at his breakfast, expressionless, motionless. Finally, he sighs: "Nah. I'm not hungry." Pause. "I want a banana and some cheese. Cheddar cheese, not string cheese. You gave me string cheese last time, and I hate it."

As our early morning stalemate continues, our nineteen-month-old stands up, having wriggled free of his high chair restraining belt. He starts screeching and flicking Cheerios onto the floor, demanding fruit. "FWOOT. FWOOT. FWOOT." (This kid is, we've decided, a lacto-carbo-fruitarian: He ingests nothing but dairy products, simple white carbs and fruit. He disdains vegetables and meat; if we try to hide a speck of chicken or a pea under a spoonful of macaroni, he spits it out.) Finally, he settles for a few grapes, a sippy cup of milk, a piece of his brother's uneaten toast, and a handful of almonds.

His big brother, meanwhile, has finally eaten a couple of bites of his scrambled egg, and has devoured an entire banana. He's also munched on the Cheerios left on his baby brother's tray.

On the plus side, I suppose the kids are getting what they need for breakfast: "a combination of a healthy carbohydrate that offers fiber and a protein food." According to nutritionists, picky kids don't have to eat traditional breakfast items; rather:

Leftover beans and salsa or a grilled cheese and turkey bacon sandwich on whole-wheat bread with a piece of fruit on the side are other good choices; even leftovers of lean meat or chicken from last night’s dinner, along with toast and fruit, do the job. Nut-butter sandwiches are great if made with higher-fiber breads and low-sugar fruit spreads.
So guess who's having breadsticks, cream cheese and prunes tomorrow morning?