Monthly Archives: June 2009

Teaching Children About the Fourth of July

July Fourth.  The birthday of our country.  The anniversary of our independence made official.

How does a parent teach their young children about the reality of such a holiday, before images of barbecued burgers and dogs, vast quantities of alcohol consumption, red-white-and-blue-decorated desserts and burning up money (otherwise known as purchasing and setting off fireworks for quick, cheep thrills) take over?

I have to confess, I didn’t grow up in an overtly patriotic family.  My parents aren’t the type to profess “I’d die for my country” and, quite frankly, neither am I.  That being said, and despite my occasional criticism of trends I see happening in our country, I am thankful to live in a place where I have access to more freedom, choices, independence and good health than women do in almost any other country around the world.  I know these freedoms have come at a price, and I don’t discount that in any way.

So, even though we are not a military family, we do not have a long list of soldiers in our immediate family tree, we don’t have an American flag hanging out front of our house year-round, and I, personally, am not an American history buff, I still value the meaning of our Independence Day.

Knowing what the Fourth of July represents, I struggle to explain to our children its’ significance and why they ought to care about it beyond anticipating a day of summer cook-out feasting, staying up far past their bedtime, and watching the sky light up with blasts of psychedelic colors.   How do Andrew and I relay to them that “independence” means we have a political system in our country that, in theory, gives each and every adult the opportunity to voice their opinions about how things ought to be run in the country in which the live?  How do you explain to a child that, because of this level of independence and freedom, each of my children–boys and girl, alike–gets to go to school as far as they possibly desire to go; that they are assured against slavery, disease, poverty and homeless because of the opportunities their father and I have taken advantage of and used in our favor to provide ourselves and our children an excellent standard of living?  How do we possibly explain to them that they are, without a doubt, amongst the luckiest few across the globe…and so much of their good fortune stems from actions of their fellow country men and women over 230 years ago?

We can’t.  Obviously.

But, Andrew and I can start by ensuring our children know that the Fourth of July is more than a free-for-all party:  it’s a birthday party for our country.  It marks the day our nation changed to become (in some instances, for better or for worse…but mostly for the better) the kind of place it is today.  Not unlike Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day, it is a day to give some sort of homage to the Americans who came before us, who worked for the freedoms we enjoy today.f

On a much smaller scale, I can relate to the idea of working for freedoms–that’s what we, as childbirth educators and supporters of normal birth do on a regular basis:  we strive to gain birthing women in our culture access to better care, better care practices, and opportunities for better birth experiences that will last them a lifetime and influence their perceptions of themselves as women and as individuals (not to mention the peace of mind related to choosing safe birthing practices).

So, whether I exemplify for my children being on the front lines of the normal birthing front, or teach them about the people who were on the front lines of establishing freedom for this country, it’s important to me to teach them that working toward a cause that you’re passionate about, and that will benefit others, is an important, lasting endeavor.

How are you spending the Fourth of July?  More importantly, how do you teach your children about Independence Day?

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Why Don’t School Buses Have Seatbelts?

While driving behind a school bus today, watching the apparent elementary-aged, summer-school-goers hop from one seat to the next, bopping each other on the head with fists, standing up in the aisle and, in one kid’s instance, hanging half a body out the window,  I was reminded of a question that intermittently frequents my mind, one I ponder ever time  I also find myself wishing the Bozeman School District had a better bus transportation system:  Why don’t school buses have seat belts?
Turns out, I’m not the only person wondering this.  If you google that very same question (yes, I am using google as a verb, here) you will retrieve no less than 119,000 search results.  I found a decent discussion about the topic here, but am still left feeling unsatisfied with the answers.

Below are excerpts from the discussion referenced above, along with my (admittedly) self-indulgent responses:

“In short…..[the kids] use the seat belts as weapons.

1. They used them as whips, and the metallic latches have proven to be very dangerous to make cuts, puncture eyes and the sort.

2. They use them as strangle devices, putting them around the necks of other children.

3. Is almost impossible to make them use the belts.”

So, is the use of a school system bus seat belt as a whip or a noose not grounds for suspension or expulsion?  Seems to me kids would learn their lesson pretty quick if the first time they were caught weaponizing a seat belt they were kicked out of school for a little while (with all the unsavory consequences that go along with that).

“In many instances seat belts would not have prevented the serious injuries that occurred in school buses. These involve direct intrusion into the bus of an object such as another vehicle or, for example, a steel plate from a passing truck. There are, however, individual instances where seat belts could have prevented injury. They involve rollover, ejection and impact with other passengers or the bus interior.

There are, then, cases where seat belts could enhance safety. The U.S. has installed seat belts in small school buses (less than 4536 kg GVWR) since the mid 1970s. U.S. states New York and New Jersey install seat belts in all buses and Etobicoke in Canada also has them in all buses. New Jersey has specific requirements for seat belt use as well as their installation.

Aside from large pieces of metal or…whole CARS…entering a school bus in a serious (and statistically unlikely) accident, what about the more likely types of injuries that could EASILY occur in a less severe accident?  Such as head and neck injury from whiplash or a child’s head hitting the hard side of the bus…broken arms/legs, etc. from being thrown out of the seat onto the floor, into the hard seat back in front of them or (again) the side of the bus?

“…cost was the first and foremost issue. as it was with air conditioning.”

Hhhhmmm…really?  So, if a school bus were to get in a significantly bad accident and a child were to be thrown from the bus (a good college friend of mine died in an accident having been thrown from a bus…so don’t tell me  it can’t happen) would makers of school buses still say the cost of installing seat belts is too much?  Is the life of a person a lesser cost to pay than a system-wide installation of safety gear?

I guess I just don’t get it.  But, then again, because I don’t get it (and because our system here in Bozeman is set up such that kids of all ages…from kindergartners through high school seniors…ride the same bus to and from town from any given neighborhood)  I will continue to drive my child(ren) to and from school, risking playing the role of an overprotective parent, until something more reasonable comes to fruition.


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Birth/Breastfeeding Survey Update

Wowy-wow-wow!  We’re on a roll!

With now almost 100 responses to this survey, about medical interventions during childbirth and breastfeeding practices, the thing is finally going viral!  (Andrew, are you proud of me for using this techy term?)

Rather than list off all the locales we now have represtened, I’ll do the opposite:

Out of the fifty United States, plus territories, there are only 19 16 states left unaccounted for:

Alabama
Delaware
Guam
Hawaii (come on, folks.  I’m part Hawaiian!  Make me proud here!)
Kentucky
Maryland
Mississippi
Missouri
Nebraska
New Hampshire (someone from the Kerry family?  Anyone?)
New York
North Dakota
Northern Marianas islands
Ohio
Oklahoma
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
South Dakota
Tennessee
Vermont
Wisconsin

After scanning the list, think very carefully:  do you know one single woman who’s given birth in the past five years who lives in one of these states?  Do you know more?  I want every state to have the chance of being represented in this survey.

This survey is about having a voice.  It is about tracking how we’re doing and what we are doing as the current childbearing generation.  How are we doing?  What are we doing?  Have you taken the time to browse other people’s responses?
What are you seeing?

I am certainly noticing a variety of trends in the responses but I will leave my complete analysis to another day.  But you know what I think is utterly and totally cool?  All sorts of birthing women are represeted here:  hospital birthers and home  birthers.  Water birthers and…um…dry birthers (is that an appropriate term?).  Women who experienced a bunch of medical interventions and women who had none are equally present here.  As are those somewhere in between.

While almost all of the responses are from women with some amount of breastfeeding experience–that number varies widely too. (Note:  women who did/have not breastfed their chil(ren) need not feel excluded from taking this survey.  Your input is valuable to me too!)

So thank you all for the gift of your time, consideration and answers.  Keep up the good work.  Keep spreading the news on this survey.  Keep thinking about the associations suggested in the questions contained in the survey.  What patterns do you see?

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On Fathers and City Underwear Ordinances

Did you get wind of this story out of Brokksville, FL?  Apparently, there must have been a problem with city workers showing up for work with foul language on their clothes, an excess of piercings and…yes…an absence of underwear.  Resultantly, the city passed an ordinance that “prohibits exposed underwear, clothing with foul language, ‘sexually provocative’ clothes and piercings anywhere except the ears.”  It also outlines personal hygiene practices like the regular use of deodorant.  Apparently, repeat offenders can be fired if unable (unwilling) to abide by the recently passed rules.

My question?  Is it really the role of government (even on the local level) to dictate whether or not people wear underwear to work?  How much of a problem was occurring that prompted this action?

In more uplifting news, President Obama delivered an address to a group of teenagers and community leaders on Friday at the White House, regarding the importance of fathers in the lives of children–initiating a country-wide discussion on a topic that is near and dear to his heart.

As we all know from discussions and platforms that circulated during the election, Obama was raised by a single mother, his father having deserted his family when he was two.

I’m glad to see the Commander in Chief using his public position to bring this important issue into the spot light.

I am ever-so-thankful to have grown up in a household with two parents present, and am exponentially more thankful that my children will have that same opportunity.  Good job to Obama for caring about this issue amongst all the other issues he is faced with on a daily basis.

Happy Father’s Day (tomorrow) to all the daddies out there…

(And to the city workers in Brooksville, FL…happy underwear wearing!)

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There is a Time For Everything

Do you ever feel like your body just works better…or worse…at certain times of the day?  Do you find yourself warm in the morning, cold in the afternoon, or altogether different right before and during your period?  Have you ever been faced with the question of when you’d like to schedule surgery, a root canal, or how to redesign your daily schedule to include regular exercise, but felt at a loss for coming up with what feels like a good answer?

This Redbook magazine article, featured on msn.com, answers those questions and more.  Turns out, because of hormonal fluctuations, our bodies tend to perform better…and worse…at different tasks, depending on the time of day/night.

The article, The Best Time of Day to Exercise, Take Vitamins, and More Health Moves, addresses additional topics like: when to schedule doctors appointments, when to weigh yourself, when (and why) to drink a glass of cranberry juice and how to take the best advantage of the different segments of your menstrual cycle.

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Listen…What Do You Hear?

Listening to the rain against our south-facing living room window and the constant stream of music from our wind chimes out back.  A summer shower.  A summer wind.  Beautiful.

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IVF, Sextuplets, Rampant Opinions

Surprise, surprise…even the UK deals with fertility issues in the media like we do.

Check out this story about sextuplets (reportedly conceived withoutthe aid of IVF) born at 28 weeks in a Belfast, Ireland, hospital.

And, for a great sense of the debate going on in the UK about IVF, check out this“round up” of opinions expressed through blogs and on-line communities.

I am thankful to never have had the need/desire to engage in the whole IVF process.  If you’ve read my book you’ll know that for Andrew and I, our story was quite the opposite.  I’ve had several friends go through IVF for their desperately-wanted children and, having watched the physical and emotional rollercoaster that accompanies such a process, and I sure can understand the basis for the debate on a number of levels.

First of all, I have to say, as a part of my own belief system,  I think there is a greater plan out there–call it God’s Will, the force of the Universe, the alignment of the Cosmos…however you wish to label it.  In my belief system, things happen (and sometimes don’t happen) for a reason…but that reason can sometimes be impossible to understand when in the thick of things.

For example:  could it be possible that some couples are unable to conceive their own biological child because the Cosmos–God–Allah–whatever–recognizes the need for parentless children to be adopted?  Or does the delay of children entering a family allow for other unresolved issues to be addressed first?  Is it possible that heartbreak, devastation and remorse in one chapter of a person’s life ultimately builds strength, perseverance and wisdom…better preparing them for the joy, success, and triumph that will come in another phase of life?

Thus defines the slippery slope of medically-aided conception:  how does one determine which scenarios represent a person/couple/family who are going against the grain of destiny, and which child-seeking people are going through that very same process because they were meant to?  Can we argue that the science of IVF is a God-given knowledge base that was meant to be integrated into humanity’s perpetuity?  Or is it the final example of “playing God” that just can’t be acceted/tolerated?

I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions.  I am not cavelier about the ease my husband and I had in conceiving our three children.  Nor am I insensitive to those couples/individuals who struggle for years to conceive just one child.  Ijust know there continues to be a huge, world-wide debate about these issues.

What are your thoughts/opinions/experiences?

 

*thanks to milkuk for bringing these articles to light through her tweets at twitter.com/milkuk

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