The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Tag Archives: Children

Today in fat hatred (and hating on children for good measure)

Also today in pig-headed ignorance, and today in ignoring science, and today in failing to think through consequences, and today in hating on children.

F for fat: obesity on report cards?

A CHILD’S weight should be included in their school report as part of a radical plan to tackle the obesity crisis, according to [Professor David Penington] who led Australia’s successful response to the AIDS epidemic.

I find this mindblowing, not just for the complete disregard for science, but for the astonishing idea that it’s a good thing to shame children about their weight, and that somehow, magically, this will make them thin and happy. It doesn’t work with adults because (a) shaming just upsets people and (b) shaming does not result in weight loss and (c) weight loss does not lead to better health (just google “obesity paradox” and you will find the evidence), and it works EVEN LESS with children because….. (hold your breath, here’s a giant reveal that seems to have escaped Prof. Penington), CHILDREN DON’T GET TO CHOOSE WHAT FOOD THEY EAT.

As parents, we impose our own lifestyles on children. The children in my house? They’re great at argument (conceptual, inferential, evidential, you name it – they argue it and yes, this is a problem from time to time), but sports, well, whatever. They play a bit and we go and cheer them on, but really, it’s just not a big deal. That’s because in our house, discussion is a Big Thing. But they miss out on sport, which is a large part of many families in New Zealand, because it’s just not a big deal around here. They are deeply influenced, and the patterns of their living set for a long time to come, by the way that Mr Bee and I live.

And the type and amount of food they eat, and the exercise they do, or don’t do, is deeply influenced by us. They have no responsibility for what does into their lunchboxes. That’s MY responsibility. I’m the one who buys the bread and the sandwich fillings, makes the muffins, ensure there’s some fruit and some yoghurt on hand, so that they can make their school lunches.

So when Prof. Penington sets out to shame children, not only is he doing something that is completely ineffective anyway, but he totally missed his target.

I’ve had enough of teachers and doctors and (alleged) experts filling the school curriculum with do-gooding nonsense, which only leads to children coming home and trying to get their parents to change. But exactly how much power do children have to change their parents anyway? Very little indeed. It’s an intolerable burden to place on children. I think Prof. Penington must hate children too.

Cross posted

Dangerous women and “the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”

Cross posted

People that the Vatican thinks should be disciplined and silenced: nuns who work on poverty and social justice issues.

CHICAGO — A prominent U.S. Catholic nuns group said Thursday that it was “stunned” that the Vatican reprimanded it for spending too much time on poverty and social-justice concerns and not enough on condemning abortion and gay marriage.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” a central plank in its agenda.

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by U.S. bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals” — is unacceptable, the report said.

People the Vatican promotes and places in positions of authority: priests who actively lie and cover up for other priests who rape children.

The Catholic primate of all-Ireland has said that he will not resign as Church leader despite revelations in the BBC’s This World programme.

It found Cardinal Sean Brady had names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

However, he did not pass on those details to police or parents.

Not only did he not pass on the details to police or children, but he actively coerced the children into staying silent. And he has LIED about the support the children were given.

Sean Brady’s role in the affair became clear in 2010, when it became known that he had been present when the abused boy was questioned.

He claimed, however, that the boy’s father had accompanied him, and described his own role as that of a note-taker.

However, the BBC This World investigation has uncovered the notes Cardinal Brady took while the boy was questioned.

The child’s father was not allowed in the room, and the child was immediately sworn to secrecy.

The story about Sean Brady will make you sick. And he’s still making excuses. He says that he wasn’t the only one who knew. In other words, it was someone else’s responsibility. And he claims that he had no power to do anything in any case.

“The commentary in the programme and much of the coverage of my role in this inquiry gives the impression that I was the only person who knew of the allegations against Brendan Smyth at that time and that because of the office I hold in the Church today I somehow had the power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975.

“I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my Bishop had limited authority over him. The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order.

He is completely wrong about that. He always had the ability to go to the police, instead of participating in covering up a crime, and enabling a rapist to carry on raping children.

And he is now a Cardinal in the Catholic church.

So on the one hand, all those wretched women who dare to spend their time and effort working on issues of social justice are dangerously out of line and need to be reprimanded and controlled, and on the other, a man who participated in covering up the rape of children and is still making excuses for his behaviour, is given a position of high authority in the church. He is an “authentic teacher of faith and morals.”

I do not think that phrase means what the Catholic church hierarchy thinks it means.

Previous posts on the Catholic church and its protection of men who rape children:
Out of touch
Can the Pope be impeached?
They could always turn themselves in
Chanting the script from Rome
Sez it all.

Paid parental leave

Cross posted

A local journalist contacted me for comment on paid parental leave.

Parental leave ‘affordable’

A Manawatu academic and advocate for women’s rights has slammed the government for threatening to veto moves to extend paid parental leave, accusing it of ignoring the needs of babies.

Professor Deborah Russell, a lecturer in accountancy at Massey University, working mother and a feminist blogger said while affordability was an issue, there was always a way if the need was great enough.

“We need to have a think about what are the important things to afford and at the moment we are not very good at directing funds towards small children.”

Dr Russell said if parental leave was extended it might encourage fathers to share more of the load of early childcare, giving them a chance to bond better with their children in the early stages of development.

“Women normally take the parental leave and the childcare duties and that can have a long term impact on their careers. If we extend paid parental leave to six months men might take it up or share the leave and so we lose that gendered dimension.”

Just to be clear, I’m not actually a professor, and given that the paper contacted me, rather than me contacting the paper, that word “slammed” is exciting, but perhaps not quite accurate. However, the journalist represented my views very fairly indeed, and captured the two ideas I most wanted to get across.

1. Childcare is heavily gendered, with women more-or-less always being responsible for it. This shortchanges both women and men. Women lose income and career progress, and men lose connection and confidence with small children. More paid parental leave might enable more men to share the childcare in those early weeks and months.

2. Saying paid parental leave is unaffordable only makes sense if we regard it as something that has to be funded in addition to everything else we already fund. If we were willing to re-examine all our existing spending commitments, such as giving farmers a tax break on the emissions trading scheme, and the lack of means testing around New Zealand superannuation, then it might turn out that more paid parental leave was affordable afterall.

The Sunday Star Times reported today that more and more women, and some men, are giving up paid work because childcare costs are simply too great.

Working mothers caught in childcare trap

The story is familiar: by the time a family pays for childcare in order to enable both parents to earn income, nothing is left over from that second income. It is simply too expensive. This certainly gels with my own experience, and with the experiences that other women have reported to me. Just last week, one of my cousins told me that she gave up on returning to her interesting job when she realised that she was looking around for cheaper childcare. Given the nature of her job, and the extent to which her partner travels, she needs bullet proof childcare, the sort where she is able to call half an hour before she is due to pick her kids up because an urgent task has come in. That kind of childcare is simply not available at a price where she will have money left over from her salary.

But there is a curious anomaly in our funding of childcare and education. As it turns out, for many parents, the turning point is when their children head off to school. School is virtually free, “donations” and stationery aside, and it is freely available to every five year old in the country. We fund reasonably comprehensive childcare and education for five year olds, but not four year olds. The anomaly exists for historical reasons, but it seems to me that it could usefully be reviewed. Just like our existing spending could usefully be reviewed, both a part of a national conversation about what kinds of support we want to see young families getting.

Bad parenting. Alternatively, good parenting.

Cross posted

It has been one of those days. I had a mass of administrivia to get through at work, and half way through, I got a call from my girls’ school: Miss Ten the elder was feeling queasy and could I come and pick her up. Yes, I could, in half an hour. Frantic rush to get the trivia done, and I got to school an hour or so later. Working at home for the rest of the day.

After school, I had to get Ms Thirteen to her drama class. I left the Misses Ten together at home, as is my usual practice. The law in New Zealand says that you may not leave a child:

“without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child, for a time that is unreasonable or under conditions that are unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances.”

I figure that the girls are fine at home alone, together, for 10 or 15 minutes, as I run their elder sister somewhere.

We’d been gone for about three minutes when my mobile phone rang. Ms Thirteen answered it. It turned out that Miss Ten the Elder had thrown up, and Miss Ten the Younger was caring for her.

Bad mother moment.

I was back home five minutes later after dropping Ms Thirteen at her lesson (Greenhills is not large, and we are very conveniently located). Miss Ten the Younger explained to me how she had looked after her sister, and cleaned up after her, and settled her on the sofa with a bucket and a towel.

“Well done,” I said to her. “You did very well.”

“I knew you would say that,” she said.

“Well, yes,” I said. “But *you* knew you did well, and you did do very well, and it’s important for me to acknowledge that.”

She nodded.

They both coped very well indeed. And of course, that makes me much more confident about leaving them at home, knowing that they can, and will, cope with minor disasters.

I have loved every stage of my daughters’ growth, from their baby sweetness to their toddler learning to the first days at school. And I’m loving this stage, as they become increasingly independent. That is my hope, that together with my partner, we will be able to work with and guide our children so that they will be able to grow into competent adults.

For a meditation on loving children, check out my friend Denny’s thoughts about her children: In praise of a wise woman. The ‘wise woman’ of Denny’s post is not her, but that soubriquet fits Denny too.

Get those children walking

Cross posted

Oh, the old “All those fat children should walk to school and get off my road” debate again… The Dominion Post has a front page article this morning: Why don’t children walk to school?” Apparently most children are driven to school, including 50% of those who live within 2km of their school, and only 35% walk or bike. This is a BAD THING.

The reasons for children not walking to school are to my mind, obvious. Time, and safety. If you are in paid employment as well as parenting, then time counts. Even twenty minutes walking your children to school is a huge impost in the mornings when you are racing to get to work. I’ve written about it before:

If it’s not the children who are at fault, it must surely be their parents. They are the ones who won’t take 20 minutes out of their mornings, or afternoons, to ensure that the children get to school safely, on foot. Never mind that many families need to have two income earners, just to pay the cost of housing and food. Two incomes means two jobs, and frantic mornings trying to get everyone cleaned, dressed, fed, lunches made and school bags packed, all while trying to ensure that both adults can get to work in reasonable order, and hopefully, on time. Twenty minutes may not sound like much time, but it is a huge chunk out of a busy morning. Yet somehow, the “children should walk to school” brigade think that parents can just dream this time up out of nowhere.

And let’s not forget that some parents are told very clearly that they ought to be working. sole parents are perhaps the busiest parents of all. And now here’s yet another thing that they ought somehow to be doing.

Then there’s safety. Getting across busy roads is a difficult task, even for adults. And it’s not just roads that are problematic: children are typically totally unaware of driveways, and cars reversing out. Yes, the driver of a reversing car is responsible for ensuring that she or he doesn’t run over any pedestrians, but that legal nicety is of little comfort when you are confronted with terribly injured children. There is a vicious circle here: driver awareness of pedestrians and cyclists would be better if there were more pedestrians and cyclists on the road, but the numbers are so low that at present it is simply dangerous to be out there, so the numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are decreasing, so awareness drops even lower and it gets more dangerous, so even less children walk and bike. The problem is well known.

Those points are obvious. But there are some other issues that might be raised. Children’s age makes an obvious difference. We live near one of the local highschools, and every morning, we see hordes of teenagers trudging along the nearby streets, and virtually no congestion outside the school gates. The article in the Dom Post notes that 70% of five year olds are driven to school, but only 42% of eleven and twelve year olds. My guess is that one critical factor in determining whether children are driven to school is the age of the youngest child in a family.

Second, parents are given competing directions about what to do with their children. On the one hand, we are told that we should make our children walk to school, but on the other, we are told that we are not allowed to leave our children unsupervised. So it’s okay to send your child out alone to walk to school, but it’s not okay to leave them at home alone.

Third, my guess is that many adults live within easy walking distance of their workplaces (the article seems to have two distances in mind: 2km for easy walking, and 5km for possible walking or riding), yet there is no pressure on them to leave their cars behind. Yet it would be just as easy for adults who don’t have responsibility for children to take the extra 20 minutes in their day to walk or bike to work. But as usual, it’s just so much easier to ladle blame and shame onto parents and children.

Disclosure:
My children walked to school in Adelaide, where we lived about 600m from the school, and the children could use a controlled crossing to get across a very busy arterial route.
We drive our children to school here in Greenhills, where we live about 3km from the school.

Making them conform

Cross posted

The Dom Post Saturday magazine had an angsty article about school uniforms last week (not on-line), with the usual pros and cons. Easier for parents vs reducing individuality, cost vs cost, fewer playground comparisons vs colours that do not suit my child. My children have attended both uniformed and non-uniformed schools, and as a parent, I can see advantages either way. On balance, as a parent, I really don’t care.

But as a citizen, I care deeply. Here’s what one principal said in favour of school uniforms.

“There is no doubt in my mind that a uniform does two things: it creates a sense of belonging and equality in the playground, and creates low-level compliance that says they are part of something bigger than themselves. There is a sense of being part of a community and there are rules.”

Great! Let’s force all those kids into a mould, tell them what they should look like and how they should behave, and turn them into yet more foot soldiers for compliance and obedience and fitting in and doing exactly what everyone else is doing, and subordinating yourself to some great society in the sky.

I have long known that schools are sites for reproducing conformity, but it’s rare to have it stated so explicitly. Yes, I do find school uniforms terribly convenient, and yes, I think that there may well be a reduction in some of the issues around peer pressure if the kids are all wearing the same clothes. But these advantages are as nothing compared to the huge harm of deliberately shaping children into rule-following units.

And as a parent, I care very much about my children being forced to fit into particular patterns of behaviour. No matter how much I encourage my daughters to explore new ideas and new ways of thinking, their schools shout back at them that they must conform, and must fit in, and must be like everyone else. Heaven help the child who is in the least bit different from the norm.

It’s almost enough to make me want to home school.

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