Someone at Capri Sun is Thinking Free-Range Thoughts

Hey folks — Let’s not get into a discussion of whether any child NEEDS to be drinking a foil-pouch drink. Let’s just enjoy this ad. I did! – L.

The New Nanny Norm?

Hi Readers!Here’s a little snapshot of life in these times:

Our  beloved nanny who worked for us for five years — Joan — recently called to say she’s on the job market again. She’s been working for the family after ours for the past decade, and they’re helping out in her job search, of course, but could we help, too?

With pleasure! I put a notice on a local parenting site: “Our extremely kind, smart, warm, funny, organized nanny seeks new full-time job.” I got a call from a woman who had been tasked by her pregnant daughter-in-law to help out in the nanny search.

Great! I told her how I’d met Joan when I was home on maternity leave and hanging out at the same playground where she took the kids she was baby-sitting at the time. We became friendly, and I dearly wished she could be my kids’ nanny — that’s how much I liked her. Then, lo and behold, the family she was working for moved away, just as I was getting ready to go back to work. Such serendipity! Joan came to work for us, and I got to be a happy, non-stressed mom going back to my job, because I felt my kids were in such capable hands.

The lady on the phone was listening to all this but finally interrupted: “So you say she hasn’t worked for you for 10 years?”

That’s right.

“Well, then she hasn’t worked with a baby in that long?”

No, I explained. The “new” family she went to work for eventually had three kids. The youngest is 4 or 5, so she worked with a baby about three or four years ago.

“I’m sorry,” said the caller. “This isn’t going to work. My daughter-in-law wants me to find someone with recent baby experience.”

“Well, four years is kind of recent, isn’t it?” I swallowed and tried not to let my voice go shrill. “I guess I should have mentioned that Joan didn’t only help raise my kids, she’s raised four of her own. The youngest is in college now. So it’s not as if babies are something new to—”

The woman apologized again: “I see what you’re saying. Believe me, I understand. But my daughter-in-law made me promise to find someone who is up on the latest baby information.
You know, so much has changed in just the past few years. She wants a person who’s up-to-date on all the new things. This is such a crucial time for the baby’s development.”

New things?

If there’s a spanking new version of the Diaper Genie or the car seat (and I’ll bet there is), I’m sure Joan could master it. But is there really a “new” way to raise a baby? Has human evolution taken a sharp turn in the past 36 months? Do nannies and parents really have to be up on the latest studies, products, programs, manias and mantras to do their job “right”? Does that mean anyone who raised her kids before 2012 did it wrong?

The grandma couldn’t hold out anymore. “I completely agree! But there’s no way I can tell her this. I promised I’d look for someone with recent baby experience, and I have to shut my mouth.”

That I understood. It is hard for anyone (especially a mother-in-law) to tell a new parent anything that isn’t in the latest book or magazine. And it is hard for a parenting magazine not to endorse all the new products and programs that grace (and pay for) its pages. And it’s hard for the media not to flog some new, surprising study as the most important stop-whatever-you-were-doing-before thing to do for your kids.

But the latest, greatest thing to do for your kids is also the oldest and boldest: Trust yourself; trust your kid. Babies do not need everything to be perfect. And besides, whatever is “perfect” today may be denounced tomorrow. (Remember when we were supposed to use trans fat-filled margarine instead of butter?)

Thank goodness that our kids are far more resilient — and brilliant — than pop culture tells us they are. Believe it or not, they don’t even need a black-white-and-red heartbeat-playing mobile above the non-drop-side crib.

The grandma apologized again, and we said our goodbyes. Off she went to find the “perfect” nanny. And even though that means Joan is back on the market, it also means she dodged a bully. Er, bullet. – L.

P.S. If you live in Manhattan or Brooklyn and are looking for a great nanny, feel free to drop me a line here or at heylenore3@gmail.com . 

“When Dick and Fannie became Rick and Frannie” – Guest Post!

Hi Readers! I’d never yeard of Enid Blyton, but I’m sure a lot of you have. So enjoy this essay by Kate Browne, a journalist based in Sydney, Australia. Kate is the mother of two little girls and hopes to cure them of their Disney Princess obsessions one day. She can also be found blogging, occasionally, at tigersandteapots.blogspot.com! – L

When Dick & Fannie Became Rick & Frannie, by Kate Browne

When I was a kid one of my favourite writers was Enid Blyton, the much loved British children’s author. Her books featured terribly English children having terribly marvelous adventures in the 1940s and ’50s and have sold over 600 million copies worldwide.

As a youngster in Australia I devoured her books, and the ones I loved best were The Faraway Tree series, where three young children (Fannie, Bessie and Jo) move to the country and discover an enchanted wood, including a magical tree. The kids, and sometimes their cousin Dick, regularly headed off to the woods for adventures.

If that wasn’t cool enough, at the top of the tree magical lands came to visit. Some were nice, such as the Land of Take What You Want, and the Land of Treats, while others struck a delicious fear into my 5-year-old heart, particularly the land of fearsome Dame Slap, who wasn’t averse to doling out corporal punishment to anyone naughty.

Another thing I loved about these books was the almost entire absence of adults. While the children’s mother popped up occasionally to demand that they do some household chores, they were often then rewarded entire days in the deep, dark woods, unsupervised.

Now I’m a grown up with a 5-year-old daughter.  Keen to share the Enid Blyton love, I took her to the local bookstore to buy a new copy of the Faraway Tree, as my childhood copy had fallen apart. At bedtime we opened the book, so excited, but from the first page I knew something was horribly wrong. In this new version Jo had become Joe, Bessie had become Beth, and worst of all Fanny was now Frannie and cousin Dick had been turned into some kid called Rick.

It seems that an overly politically correct publisher somewhere down the line had decided that the names Dick and Fannie (giggle, giggle) were far too rude for today’s small children. Outraged, I head to the internet for more info.

Thanks to Wikipedia, the picture becomes clearer. Sometime in the ‘90s the names were changed by the publisher because of their “unfortunate connotations.” For good measure Jo became Joe because that’s a more common spelling these days, and Bessie became Beth because it’s more contemporary. What’s even worse is when I read that the fearsome Dame Slap is now the totally lame Dame Snap who instead of smacking children, she just shouts at them.

I take the book and chuck it in the recycling. While I can manage to change the names back to the original ones as I read to my daughter, I don’t think I’m up for revising an entire chapter of Dame Snap back into Dame Slap. And who knows what other overly PC touches I might find further into the book –- would the land of treats now be the “Land of ‘Sometimes Food,’” or even “The Land of Fruits and Vegetables”?

Of course, as I’m ranting and raving, my daughter wonders, “Mummy, what’s wrong being called Dick and Fannie? I think they sound nice.” And that’s why I realize I’m so mad. Apart from messing with a childhood classic thanks to an adult’s perspective on these names, suddenly it’s an “issue.” I’d never thought twice about the names when I was a kid, either. It’s only when I became an adult that they became funny and or rude. So now I have to have a conversation about dicks and fannies. Great.

And that’s just the problem. When we start projecting our adult perspectives onto the world that kids live in things can get more confused than if we’d just left them alone. And where do we draw the line? Should Jane Austen’s “Emma” become “Britney” to make it more “contemporary”? How about Tom, RICK and Harry?

And as for Dame Slap turning into Dame Snap, my daughter sums it up perfectly: “That’s dumb.” So now I’m off to search eBay for some old editions of Enid Blyton tales — Dicks and Fannies and all.

A Public Grammar School Where Kids Can Build Forts at Recess

Hi Readers! You’re not dreaming. There’s a public school — albeit in Australia — where a few years ago the kids noticied some leftover building materials  and started spontaneously building forts during recess. And, as Time Gill notes on his fab Rethinking Childhood blog:

To its credit, the school reacted not with alarm, but with interest. Staff could see that good things were happening. Some made connections with their own childhood memories of playing in the creeks, bush and vacant lots of their neighbourhoods.

Read more about the effort here. And let’s hope this movement BUILDS! (Yes, pun intended. With me, puns are almost always intended.) – L

Etan: The End

Readers – As I”m sure almost all of you have heard, there has been an arrest, 33 years too late, of a man who confesses to murdering Etan Patz.

In the wake of 6-year-old Etan’s 1979 disappearance came the era we are living in to this day, the “Don’t let your child out of your sight, he could be snatched like that little boy” era. It’s an outlook reinforced daily by the media (“Up next: Children at risk!”) and the marketplace (“Buy this! Your children are at risk!”). It has been embraced by schools (“No walking allowed! Your children are at risk!”), and day care centers (“We have cameras everywhere. Your children are at risk!”), and by the law (“No letting your kids wait in the car. Your children are at risk!”). In short, the fact that we can see Etan even with our eyes closed has allowed the fascism of fear to flourish.

Knowing how he died provides cold comfort. I’m also not sure there’s any way to make a murder “meaningful.” But it does make me want to take action. For the sake of the next 33 years’ of children, I want to help our culture regain  its perspective. We remember this tragedy more than a generation later precisely because things like this do not, thank God, happen all the time. We cannot raise our children as if they do. And we can’t organize our lives around avoiding random, rare, heartbreaking events. Lisa Belkin makes this point movingly in her Huffington Post piece today.

Let me repeat the words another writer sent here a few weeks back: Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.

Let’s not prevent it in Etan’s name anymore. – L.

School Nurse Watches Boy Lose Consciousness Because “Inhaler Form Not Signed”

Readers — The very best thing about this horrifying story (tweeted about it the other day) is this perfect comment about the school nurse who watched a boy slip into unconsciousness because of a form not signed. (It didn’t even matter that he had his medicine with him and the medicine had his name on it):

Policy is meaningless if it is followed in blind obedience without consideration of the full consequences of not deviating.

Right! I think that a lot of what is driving us all crazy about incidents like this, and Zero Tolerance absurdities, and even CPS travesties, boils down to that simple problem: Blind obedience. So the question is:

How do we RE-AUTHORIZE people to use their brains and hearts?

That’s a really key issue. It’s the issue when guards won’t let a young boy  use the community center bathroom because it’s after hours. It’s the issue when a school suspends kids for a “prank” that’s really a morale booster. It’s the issue when a parent gets a ticket for letting their kid wait in the car, even though the child is safe and comfortable. Blind obedience to overarching laws written  with an eye to avoiding lawsuits, or an eye to uber-safety.

We have to change the laws and we have to change the mentality of the people enforcing them. Any ideas of how to get there are greatly appreciated. – L.

Furor — and Aftermath — Over Suspension of Biking Students

Hi Readers! Quite a few of you sent in this story, now gone viral, about the high school principal who suspended upward of 6o students for their “prank” — a mass bike ride to school. As WOOD TV reported:

Seniors called police for an escort, and even called Walker’s mayor, who rode in the parade.

“Police escort, with the mayor, who brought us donuts. …The mayor brought us donuts…” said a group of seniors following the ride.

But school official weren’t told in advance, hence the word prank, and were not happy with the event.

They kicked the seniors out of school for their last day and threatened to keep them from walking in graduation ceremonies set for May 30.

The principal was upset not only because the ride led to traffic snarling (and principal snarling, apparently), but also because, “”If you and your parents don’t have sense enough to know your brains could end up splattered on Three Mile and Kinney, Fruit Ridge, then maybe that’s my responsibility.”

Or maybe it’s not. Maybe things that go on outside of school have nothing to do with the principal. And maybe people who are 17 or 18 and are responsible enough to call the police AHEAD OF TIME are responsible enough to take a bike ride. And maybe bike riding is GOOD.

All these points seem to have occurred — belatedly — to the principal who has since issued an apology. Mostly it seems she was taken by surprise and overwhelmed with worry. In the cold light of dawn (and massive media attention) she realized this was not truly a “prank.” It was the way we’d like our kids to act pretty much all the time.

So — hats off to the biking seniors, and to a  principal willing to do the brave thing and say, “I was wrong.” Everyone is growing up so fast! – L.