mituns: (towers)
2013-09-05 08:58 pm

Thomas the Tank Engine and Legitimizing Terrorism

For many small children, particularly boys, Thomas the Tank Engine is an absolute favorite. Asher is no exception. For little boys, there is something particularly fascinating about machines and machinery and watching things do work. Even with all the cute faces, it's no surprise that the Thomas stories (actually called "The Railway Series") were originally created by a man (the Rev. W. Awdry) for a boy (his son, who was quite ill).

Now, I know Thomas has been criticized by some for, among other things, being "imperialistic", "patriarchal", "capitalist", etc. There is even the charge that the compliment of "really useful engine" is somehow a right-wing conspiracy to get kids to believe that their worth lies in their usefulness (though, personally, I'd have to argue that that is more in line with Marxist ideology, and it certainly isn't Christian).

In any case, even though from Season 3 on, the television show has wandered further and further afield of Rev. Awdry's stories, and now at Season 18 or so, many of the storylines have gotten very thin, I consider Thomas, in general, to be pretty harmless fare, and typically suitable for the little ones.

However, after watching the Thomas film "Day of the Diesels", I can tell you that if I can help it, the movie will not get shown again in this house.

On the surface, it seems like the story is one that has been an integral part of children's storytelling for ages. Thomas' best friend is a little green engine named Percy. Upon the arrival of two new engines to the Island of Sodor (where the engines live and work), Percy is sad because he feels like Thomas' time is being monopolized by these two new engines. Sensing his weakness, Diesel comes over to Percy to convince him that the Diesels all want to be his friend.

Percy knows he ought to be wary of the Diesels (after all, he's always been warned "Diesels can be devious") but he decides to follow Diesel to the Dieselworks, where he is apparently accepted into the Diesels' circle of friends. However, for the most part, Percy is being used, particularly by the terrifying Diesel 10, in order to wreak havoc on the steamworks and get to Sir Topham Hatt.

From the synopsis here, it's still a storyline that could be pulled off. However, there are a lot of disturbing elements which are thrown in the mix of this film. (Yes, there are "spoilers" in the coming paragraphs.) First of all, the Diesels are portrayed as an oppressed race. Despite the fact that the Steamies (Thomas, et al.) are on good terms with diesels such as Mavis and Salty, and they don't like most of the diesels because of the way the Diesels treat them, the movie really seems to try to push that the Steamies don't like the Diesels simply for the fact that they are Diesels, that is, the Steamies are discriminating against the Diesels. This is reinforced by all of the Diesels whining about how Sir Topham Hatt "only cares about" the Steamies and how much nicer the Steamies have things than the Diesels do, and how the Diesels have to make do without a repair crane, etc. Percy then feels it is his job to try to "rectify" the situation by doing things such as convincing Kevin (the Steamies' repair crane) to sneak away to help the Diesels.

Now Diesel 10 is the ringleader of the Diesels' devious deeds. Once Thomas comes to see the Dieselworks, he is locked up in a shed and Diesel 10 "accidentally" manages to set a fire that will be the end of Thomas if it's not put out. (Why the filmmakers thought this was appropriate for preschoolers is beyond me.) While the Steamies are busy trying to fight the fire at the Dieselworks, Diesel 10 leads a troop of Diesels to the Steamworks to "take over", though in reality, they are just trashing the entire place. Once the Steamies have taken care of the Dieselworks, they have to confront the Diesels over at the Steamworks. Once the Diesels have been taken care of (to some extent) Sir Topham Hatt makes an appearance explaining that it was always his plan to fix up the Dieselworks, but that these things take time.

There are so many weird messages in this film, it's really hard to note all of them. First of all, if the Diesels are really being discriminated against, why did the film portray them, ultimately, as fitting into every negative stereotype that the Steamies had of them? Why, then, does the movie end with a "new era of understanding and cooperation" between the Diesels and the Steamies? Apparently, the problem wasn't that the Diesels continue to be devious, but that they were simply misunderstood. Despite nearly causing Thomas' demise, Diesel 10's only punishment is that he has to clean up the mess in the Steamworks. Would not a more logical punishment have been either to permanently bar Diesel 10 from Sodor or to "send him to the smelter's"? Instead, the Diesels get their new Dieselworks, and since the old one has burnt down they get it right away as well. The only lesson here is that the next time they want something that they don't get immediately, all they have to do is terrorize Sodor, and eventually they will get it. That's a lesson we surely want all children learning, isn't it? Unfortunately, it's a lesson that too many people around the world are using to their own ends.
mituns: (Default)
2013-05-24 12:37 am

Toddlers & Liberals, pt 2 (or so)

First of all, a big shout-out and "Thank you!" to Bookworm at for her lavish praise about my last post. I'm still blushing. I guess the inspiration for it came from having lived most my life, like Bookworm, in a place where people are overwhelmingly politically liberal. For all their talk about caring about others, when one tries to (non-politically) bring up a topic where someone has been done an injustice (because you'd think, "hey, those caring liberals"), the response is usually a pat, "Well, sucks to be them" or "I'm glad it's not me!", which pretty much ends the conversation.

But here's the real post: :)


About an hour after lunch the other day, I went into the kitchen to fix myself some tea, and Asher followed me, wanting a treat.

Now, he had eaten really well at lunch, saving no room for a treat right after lunch, so I had no problem giving him a treat at this point.

Tabitha, seeing this, asked me, "Mommy, can I have some candy like Asher?"

I replied, "No. He didn't have his treat right after lunch, so he's having it now. You had Sweet Tarts."

She interrupted me, "No, not Sweet Tarts. Bottle caps. And I didn't have any bottle caps."

At this point, I really wanted to laugh, but it took some doing to calm her down and to explain again why she wasn't getting a piece of candy at this point in the day. Children, by nature, are self-centered. It's a part of self-preservation. As children get older, though, it's the responsibility of the parents to teach children a code of morality, at the very least. However, at her age, she still basically understands right and wrong as "this is a yes-yes" and "this is a no-no" in the sense of things that she is or is not allowed to do. When it comes to things like answering my question about whether she already had candy, she understands that how she answers will bring about one of two results - a "good" result and a "bad" result. By saying she has not had candy, she is hoping for the "good" result. At her age, I don't even think it's quite fair to call it lying.

During the first Presidential debate in 2012, Mitt Romney made a hard-hitting point that just because somebody repeats something over and over again, as children do, it doesn't make it true. Yet it seems like there are more and more adults that have never lost that self-centeredness, and have never learned the morality in the difference between a right and a wrong answer, and answers which they hope will produce a "good" outcome or a "bad" outcome. My opinion is that this is probably why we have so many shameless pathological liars these days - and the sad thing is that they're probably not even aware anymore of what the truth is. (Could this also be called "result-oriented approach"?)
mituns: (Default)
2013-05-19 04:40 pm

Bryeon Hunter

If Asher were to see the "missing child" poster of Bryeon Hunter, I'm sure he'd be excited. After all, Bryeon is wearing Lightning McQueen pajamas, and for little boys of a certain age, Lightning McQueen is pretty exciting. When we go shopping, Asher manages to see his favorite characters all over the place, be it the videos themselves, clothes, party favors, or coloring books, and I always need to keep an eye on the cart to make sure that he doesn't lunge out to grab things like this.

When I see the same poster, I see a dear little child, very close in age to my own son, who already looks apprehensive about life.

And it's no wonder that this little child would, considering what his "mother" and her boyfriend put little Bryeon through. In the end (allegedly), they beat him to death, dumped his little body in the Des Plaines river, and then lied about it, claiming "three Hispanic men" made off with him.

The sheriff's office, along with volunteers, searched the river for Bryeon's body, but with storms and a swelling river, didn't find it.

Enter Robert Larson. Now, he doesn't come into the situation as a complete stranger to search and rescue, being as he trains dogs to be able to search out survivors of catastrophes and bodies (when it comes to that), but as a man, and as the father of a young boy himself, he made it his mission to find the body of Bryeon Hunter. Eventually he did, after pouring hundreds of hours of his own time into the effort. He believed, as decent people do, that even if there was nothing more that could be done to help Bryeon in life, his little body still deserved some form of respect - the same sort of respect his caregivers did not give him in life. As he said, too, there is nothing that this little boy could have done to deserve what happened to him. As much as I've dealt with plenty of frustration as a mother, I also know this to be fundamentally true.

Unfortunately, there are far too many children who live through situations like this, and the problem is only getting worse. One of the biggest factors in child abuse is the lack of an intact family, but particularly in cases where there is a mother and a "boyfriend", the chance of child abuse skyrockets. This is no exception.

Of course, this is an inconvenient fact for many, and even in the article linked to there, one of the women interviewed didn't want people to think that she was saying that people ought to "go back to the past" where there are mores about marriage or sexuality or cohabitation. Yet it seems to escape most people that these mores, whether they came about by religious influences or not, were there, in particular, to help protect who were the most helpless in such situations.

And of course, there seem to always be the people who would like to scream "racism" in every situation. One of the most tired arguments is that had the mother had more "support" things wouldn't have turned out this way. One can't be serious in saying that $50 more a month on her EBT card or "greater access to daycare" would have changed much about the kind of monster of a person she turned out to be.

Yet it was a total stranger, a white man, who spent hours and hours trying to give her son some shred of dignity that she could not afford him. As with people who screech about abortion, that "all pro-life people care about is the baby being born, not the mother or the child growing up", this is patently false. I'm sure that if Bryeon's "mother" had shown up on Mr. Larson's doorstep, out of the blue and asked him to take her son because she couldn't, he wouldn't have turned her away; in fact, the hours it might have taken to help find someplace better for this little boy would be much easier than spending so many hours hunting for a body. But it didn't need to be Mr. Larson either; I don't know anyone who would have turned away a child in such desperate need, and I do know of others who actually have been there to take in kids whose parents, for whatever reason, couldn't take care of them for a time. People do love and care about little children, regardless of race, and it's a shame that we live in a day in age where this is a point that needs to be made in the face of all the race-mongering that goes on in our society.

God bless Mr. Larson, who not only had the ability and the opportunity to do good, but also the will to actually do it. I commend him greatly for it. Mr. Larson's compassion for this little boy also reminds me of a woman - Mary Peck - who made it her mission to claim and bury the remains of 4-year-old Jerrell Willis, whose mother and stepfather beat him to death, and then dumped his body under a bridge in Philadelphia. Nobody knew who this little boy was, and so she waited seven years to be able to do this, burying him with a headstone, something that she would eschew herself. She never knew what his name really was, as she died before the case of this child's death was solved. Even as a widow battling cancer, you can't convince me that she wouldn't have helped that little boy in life, had she been given the chance. (Mrs. Peck also reminds me of Joseph of Arimathea, in her "quiet way" who is celebrated by the Orthodox today.)

At the very least, it is faith that gives us some comfort in knowing that these poor children are with God, where their unbearable pain is no more. In the meantime, let us resolve to also do what we can where we can.
mituns: (czech cross)
2013-01-27 12:24 am

Fallow are the fields

Just a thought, so bear with me...

The generation who came of age in the 1960s in the US are probably the last ones who still majorally attended church on a regular basis. Their children, in which generation I belong, were the ones who were taught what a drag it was to go to church every week, but may still have gone now and then for Christmas, or when in the company of grandparents. Furthermore, we still understand certain Biblical references, such as "the good Samaritan" or "the prodigal son". The children of my kids' generation, though, are ones who, I would assume, not only have no experience with church, but also don't even understand the most basic principles set forth by Christianity.

On one hand, we can complain about "losing the culture"; on the other, we need to understand that the fields are fallow, and we are being called, as the apostles were, to spread the Gospel to the ears who have never heard it.
mituns: (Default)
2013-01-26 12:47 pm

Sofia the First (Lessons taught early)

Sofia the First is a brand-new show from Disney, which debuted Thanksgiving weekend, and has begun a weekly run. From an adult point of view, everything about it screams formulaic Disney - Sofia is a little girl who has lived a normal life until her mother marries the king, and now she has to deal with learning about being a princess while dealing with her step-siblings, talking animals, magic jewelry, big poufy dresses. Of course, Tabitha loves it.

On a recent episode, Sofia, along with her step-sister, are going to have a sleepover. Of course, the step-sister invites other princesses, but Sofia invites a couple of her commoner friends. Conflict ensues as Sofia's friends, instead of trying to be more like the princesses, run rambunctiously around, roll their hair up in pine cones... . Finally, after Sofia begs them to behave themselves for the ball, they walk out because they are "bored". Sofia has to run out after them, and apologizes. The moral of the story, of course, is "you can't change who you are" and that everybody should be accepting of everybody else.

I, on the other hand, saw it a different way. Even though nothing the girls did was terrible, being invited to a sleepover in a castle, one ought to have expected that they would have been on their best behavior, which they obviously were not. Sofia's pleas to them to act better fall on deaf ears, and when they partially comply, at the ball, regardless of the fact that Sofia is finally a little happier, they leave because they don't like being "bored". That hardly seems like the actions of true friends. To make matters worse, after Sofia begs them back, the princesses come back and want to do the crazy things too because they are also "bored".

Every one of us is created to be unique, and there is value to learning to love and respect people for the people they are. However, this philosophy has been twisted by many to make it seem that what people do cannot be helped because of the people that they are. Therefore, in this case, the girls cannot be expected to behave better because they are commoners, and the better behavior would be a betrayal of the girls' "self". (And who wants to be mistaken for stuck-up rich people?) As such, we cannot make any judgement on the girls' behavior, because their behavior is a function of who they are, and not to like the behavior is not to like them. And so, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is not at all possible in this situation.

These are the messages that are being broadcast to the littlest sets of eyes and to the youngest minds, and this sort of messaging is effective. I'm not saying that this alone would have me forbid Tabitha from watching it again, but even at three, recognize what this message is, and know to rebut the show as we're watching. As a matter of course, I talk to her about lots of things, including what is expected behavior in places. I know she understands, too, because just the other day she started talking to me about the things she can do in church. This isn't to limit her "fun" or "who she is" but to teach her to walk in the ways of a more fulfilling life.
mituns: (towers)
2013-01-24 05:40 pm

Snort, a mean red dinosaur (In a spirit of "fairness")

My kids have a book by Sandra Boynton called "Dinos to Go", which, like many of her other books, is very cute, amusing, and smartly written. The book has seven very short stories about different dinosaur characters. One of the characters is about a dinosaur named "Snort". The beginning of his story begins "Snort. A mean red dinosaur. Always gets his way..." The picture is of this dinosaur, which is big and red and mean, who is holding three ice cream cones while two smaller dinosaurs cower in fear without any ice cream.

I saw this picture many times without giving it a second thought. Of course, the implication is that because Snort is mean and bigger than the other dinosaurs pictured, he must have swiped the ice cream cones from the smaller, weaker dinosaurs pictured there.

I was somewhat upset with myself for having fallen into this trap so easily. There is no reason that Snort couldn't legitimately have three ice cream cones, and that the "meanness" is not sharing, rather than that the others had something taken away. There is no reason, either, if Snort got the cones legitimately that he is obligated to share with the other dinosaurs. (Think "The Little Red Hen", for example.) Yet, when most of us see a picture of three "people" and three things, the automatic reaction is that it is only "fair" that the items be split equally.

Fairness, in some sense, though, is a principle for small children. Children come into the world completely self-centered, and completely incapable of providing for themselves. Parents, then, are forced to divide resources, especially when there is more than one child, in a spirit of "fairness", which is probably the first introduction for many children to thinking about somebody other than themselves. To consider others is a difficult concept, and even children who are quite small concern themselves in "fairness" not so much because they want the other child or children to have something, but because they do not want to end up receiving less than the "competition". This sort of mindset is heartbreaking to see in so many adults these days, who sit around and complain of inherent "unfairness" because they feel like they have not been given the same sorts of things that they assume have been given others.

As people grow and mature, what one has ought to be less of what one is given, and more of what one has earned. In this sense, even if there is "fairness" in the circumstances in which one begins, logically, there will be a greater inequality between where people 'end up' because different people are going to use the gifts they have been given differently. To use a Biblical example, again there is the parable of the man who gives his servants talents to care for while he is away. The servant who got the most received 10, which was ten times more than the servant who received one. After the master came back, the servant who had 10 had also earned 10, and so now had 20 times what the servant who received one talent and buried it had. When it was revealed that the one talent had been buried, the master took it away and gave it to the servant who already had 20. In the spirit of fairness, was it unfair for the master not to have given his servants the equal amounts to invest? Was it later unfair for him to have not "spread the wealth" by taking from the servant who had done the best and not having given it to the servant from whom very little could be expected? (After all, this had to be the reason that he only got one talent in the first place!) Or was the master the most fair of all here, rewarding the servants who had worked hard and worked smart and punishing the one who squandered the opportunity given to him?

My point here is not to overreact about a page in a children's book, but rather to point out that as children are developing their sense of different concepts, such as fairness, it's important to keep watch on how these concepts are being shaped. I hardly think that just because the children see Snort with the three ice cream cones that they will be joining Occupy Wall Street as soon as they are old enough. However, I also believe it is important to understand that these types of messages make their way through even to very young children, and as parents and adults, we need to help guide our children's attitudes to see more than just "It's so unfair - so and so has more than I do".
mituns: (Default)
2012-12-20 04:26 pm

A generation of emotional children

When 10-year-old Ashlynn Connor killed herself just over a year ago, the immediate reaction was that it must have been bullying that caused it.

However, according to the final investigative report, bullying wasn't a major factor in Ashlynn's death. Instead this was a girl who was living in a home with adults who weren't themselves completely stable, no father around, and six siblings who, among them, have three different last names, none of which was the same as Ashlynn's.

Although Ashlynn may have had difficulties with people, and had asked to be homeschooled, in third grade already, she had told a boy that she considered to be her boyfriend, that if he would ever break up with her, she'd kill herself. Not only is this a sign of somebody who is controlling, but it is also an indication of someone who has serious issues.

In these articles, we find out too, that Ashlynn's mother had attempted suicide twice, and with the second time, her children found her and had to get her help. Upon hearing that Ashlynn was dead, her grandmother had to be restrained to keep her from slitting her wrists.

I'm sure that it is true that mental illness does run in families, but I have to wonder what percentage of that is due to the mental illness actually being passed down, and how much is due to the children of mentally ill people being stuck in a home full of madness and picking up many of those bad habits in large part because they don't know any better. I cannot imagine that in Ashlynn's short life that there was any way that she could have learned to handle her emotions and dealings with people in any sort of constructive way. Her mother said that she had complained about people being mean to her, but with a child that is so developmentally comprimised emotionally, it seems as though she had a very hard time dealing with the normal ups and downs of what is life.

However, I hardly think that Ashlynn's case is unique, although her story is more "spectacular" than most. In the last 30 years or so, there has been a shift in society, from where parents expected children to learn to live with and overcome personal adversity, to a point where all roads need to be cleared in order to protect a child's "self-esteem". Of course, children do need support and guidance in learning how to deal with the outside world, but by not allowing them to learn how to do a little fending for themselves, even when they are little, they never learn how to do it, and we are left with what we have today, which is an untold number of adults who have grown up, but remain emotional children.
mituns: (Default)
2012-12-19 03:51 pm

Attitudes toward children

One of the things that I learned in elementary school is that the Puritans regarded children as evil. This fact was framed as one of those "absurd facts" that teachers use to try to get kids to remember things, and I suppose that in my case it worked. What I didn't understand then was that this attitude was an extension of Calvinist theology which states that man is totally depraved, and unable to do anything to seek or know God.

Just for the sake of argument, though, if this were the case, then how is it possible that even in the Bible, children are considered one of the greatest blessings, and Jesus himself said that we must all come to Him as the little children do? People "ooh" and "ahh" over new babies, and in a Judeo-Christian society, those who do malice toward little children are considered the lowest of the low. Even in church, small children are often referred to as being "innocent".

However, as most people who have children can tell you, even if they are referred to as "innocent", small children have a capacity for almost anything, from total selflessness to utter destruction - often within the space of a very short period of time. Take Tabitha, for example. Just the other day, she sat down to "read" Asher's favorite book to him. She got frustrated and two minutes later was ready to hit him because she didn't like that he picked up a certain toy. (With instances such as the latter, it almost makes one think that the Puritans were right!)

As parents, the greatest charge that we have been given is to raise our children right. This means loving them, of course, but it also means constantly instructing them and having them practice doing what is right. Children are not born with common sense, nor are they born with any sense of that there are any other needs than their own. They learn things extremely adeptly, not just from being told what they should do but by experiencing the example that others - and in particular their parents - do.

I do not believe that anyone is necessarily born good, nor do I believe that anyone is born evil. I believe that most people are born with the capacity to do either, and most of us probably end up somewhere in the middle. However, a person's experiences as a child will weigh heavily into the choices that he makes whether to follow the good or to do evil. In a culture that rejects God, it is no wonder that there seem to be more people who embrace the capacity to do evil, whether we are referencing the tragedy in Sandy Hook, or the killing fields of Chicago.

Of course, with such an event as Sandy Hook or Columbine, there are plenty who are using it as an opportunity to call for more gun control. To quote a blog, no law can abolish the human capacity for evil. As Christians, not only do we have to pray, but we need to be raising our children in a Godly fashion, and, if we can, giving a little bit of extra support to those children who might not otherwise have a good example of how to go about building a life.
mituns: (Default)
2012-12-17 01:45 pm

The slaughter of innocents

For most people who observe Christmas, whether in church or just as a holiday with presents, the holiday is a joyous occasion. However, there is one part of the Christmas story which is largely forgotten, and which can be found in Matthew 2. (NIV here)

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

And so it was that with one of the most joyous events in the history of the world, there was also great pain and mourning for all the little children who were slaughtered on the whim of a tyrant. In the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre, many people are trying to reconcile the incredible pain of this horrendous tragedy with the joy of Christmas. However, even from the Bible itself, we see that this has always been so, and that despite the incredible sorrow, we should still continue to live with joy.

(The traditional estimate of the toll of Herod's purge is 14,000. The Eastern Orthodox Churches commemorate this on December 29th - just four days after Christmas. Also, a haunting icon in commemoration. )
mituns: (Default)
2012-11-15 10:55 pm


Tabitha, at not quite three, often amazes me with the things she can do if she puts her mind to it. I bought a set of "Very Hungry Caterpillar" frameless puzzles that were on sale a few months ago. Tabitha tried them out, and they were way over her head, even with help. I tried to keep them out of sight afterward, since any toy around here with multiple pieces has a propensity for ending up dumped out all over the floor.

Recently, the box with the puzzles has been moved, and so Tabitha begged and begged to play with the puzzles again. I finally relented, and we went through putting the four puzzles (ranging from 9 to 16 pieces) together. She paid attention, and seemed to understand some of what I was trying to explain to her about pieces with the caterpillars "little red head" having to go together, but the shocking thing is that now she can put all four puzzles together without any help.

Of course, she's no expert yet, and a lot of what she does is see tabs and holes and try to fit them together irrespective of whether it logically fits, but that's a skill that takes time to master. She does recognize when things fit together, and she's happy to get them done, because then she can take it apart and start a new one.

I can't help but think of the many little kids who even come into kindergarten not having experienced things like putting puzzles together. Many kids, even if they have had puzzles, has there been anyone around to help explain the task and set their mind on it, rather than just saying, "here kid, play with this". As adults, it's nearly impossible to sit down with a new computer program and use it with any sort of competence without some sort of instruction or guidance. How much harder, then, for children to know what to do with so many things in this world without a little help - and how much further prepared for life the children are who have had the help to get them started!
mituns: (Default)
2012-11-07 04:29 pm

The next four years (and beyond)

In the final days of the 2012 campaign, I happened across a picture of Mitt Romney embracing his grandson, Parker, which can be found at the following address: Photographs capture moments, and in this moment, the unconditional love that Mr. Romney has for his grandson is apparent to all but the hardest of heart.

I recently read the discussion that Dr. Paul Vitz gave to Socrates in the City regarding the importance of fatherhood, and how a child's father is an incredibly important influence on how the child relates to the world, and more importantly, God. In hearing more about Mr. Romney's family, it becomes blindingly obvious that he has lived a life of value and virtues, and that his sons, now grown, have benefited tremendously from this, as he did from the example of his own father. A child that does not have this very often grows up in rebellion, raging blindly, flailing against an "unfair" system, rejecting all the traditional values that he did not have the opportunity to experience as a child. Furthermore, many of these people never truly recover from the effects of a "stunted" childhood.

Getting back to the picture of Parker Romney, though, I have to wonder if there was any time in President Obama's childhood where there was somebody who would do the same for him. I know he had a stepfather and a grandfather, but the way the younger Romney is being held, it presupposes a relationship of pure love and mutual adoration. As with Mr. Romney's own children, I have no doubt that young Parker is growing up with love and support and character, and will almost certainly be successful in whatever endeavor he chooses.

I am disappointed, to say the least, that President Barack Obama was re-elected. So much of his campaign was hinged on the politics of divisiveness and envy. He preaches to (at least) two generations now that have suffered incredibly from the absence of parents, particularly fathers. My generation was one of "latchkey kids" and this one is one of single moms and daycare. And so it is no wonder that his message resonates with a large percentage of the population. Our challenge going forward is not so much political as it is cultural: We need more men like Mitt Romney so that we have fewer children like Barack Obama.
mituns: (Default)
2012-04-19 12:33 am

He must be a comedian...

...because saying things like that, he'd surely get laughed out of here!

Recently, the "comedian" Bill Maher made the comment about Ann Romney that she's not had to get out the door at 7am for work. (No, I'm not using some of the more "colorful" language.) This comes on the heels of another Democrat operative, Hilary Rosen, claiming that Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life", despite being the full-time mother to five boys.

As I said before, these comments would be hilarious were it not for the fact that these people, even if they don't believe them, expect others to.

In the ensuing furor which has surrounded these comments, nearly everyone involved has made the admission that, of course, being a mother is hard work, but the debate then swirls around to how that compares to the hard work of the career world.

One of the things that is so very striking about human children is how much help they need and how long they need this help. Tabitha is a very independent child, and at two, she has a lot of motor control and has a huge vocabulary, but if you leave her alone in a house, she can't take care of herself for more than a few minutes at a time because she has no common sense. If she finds food, she'll pick the ice cream over vegetables every time. Asher is acquiring more motor skills, but he'll choke on the first thing that he can get undetected into his mouth, including candy wrappers and his sister's barrettes. This isn't even mentioning the fact that as both of them are in diapers, both need help in that respect.

As their mom, a good portion of my day is devoted to just the essentials of raising children. As more people had children around them, this was once much better understood. Even in those "repressive" shows of yesteryear, mothers were not portrayed as people who sat around and did nothing while the children moved around them, but rather as busy people who had to take care of their homes and family.

However, as we as a society separate motherhood from actually caring for children, the perception of value falls, because we're saying that caring for children is something practically anyone can do. I feel like crying when I see the signs for daycare providers advertising placements for children from "6 weeks to 6 years". I know people who have done daycare, and who love the children they take care of dearly. Nevertheless, daycare is not the best place for little kids.

Now Bill Maher tries to say that Ann Romney doesn't know what it's like to have to be out of the door by 7am for a job. Has he had to be responsible for anyone else besides himself when he's going out the door? How about getting five little boys ready for school by a certain time? When I leave to go somewhere, not only have I had to have taken care of myself, but I've had to find outfits, socks, shoes, sippy cups, snacks, diapers, etc. for two other people. For people who have their children in daycare, not only are they trying to make that 7am deadline themselves, but they're probably trying to get two or three or four people ready to go by 6:30am, so that there's enough time to drop the kids off at daycare first. If the kids are cranky or don't want to get up or get dressed, that's too bad because there's a schedule to adhere to here, and mommy's boss might not understand why she's late again and feeling terrible because her two or three-year old doesn't want her to leave for the day.

My kids drive me nuts sometimes. They need a lot of help. I'm only starting to be able to carry on conversations with my oldest. However, my husband and I are doing the things necessary so that I can stay home with them during the day because we believe it's the best for our kids. I don't get paid, and there are a lot of things, like picking up the living room floor for the 10th time that day, that I don't really need my college education for. It still is work though, and it doesn't run on a 9-5 schedule with nights, weekends, and vacations off. I'll be here when I'm sick or injured, or when one of them starts crying at 2am... and 4am... and 5am... The reason why these comments have gotten so much attention is because they are so ridiculous, and thankfully, most people in the US still have some understanding of the work it is to be a mother.
mituns: (czech cross)
2012-03-04 10:06 pm

Sunday of Orthodoxy

In the Orthodox Christian tradition, today is the first Sunday of Lent, a day called the "Sunday of Orthodoxy" or "The Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy". According to OrthodoxWiki, it is the celebration of the victory of the iconodules over the iconoclasts by the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Therefore, the service is to commemorate the restoration of icons for use in services and private devotional life of Christians.

One of the common practices on this day is to have the members of the parish, or the parish children, process in or around the church carrying icons. Icons are considered to be "windows to heaven", so to speak, not to be worshipped themselves, but to serve to remind the faithful of those who have defended the Faith, and often died in the process.

The priest who gave the homily spoke of an old widow in Albania, who, in the early 1990s had her house ransacked by military police who came in and destroyed all the icons in her home. As they were leaving, she told the soldiers that they forgot one, and so they went back into the home to search for it. They could not find it, and as they were about to leave again, she told them that they had missed it. Again, the soldiers went through the house and found nothing. Finally, she told the soldiers that she was a living icon of God, and upon hearing this, the soldiers beat her badly.

We are created in the image and likeness of God, "living icons", if you will. As I watched the children process around the church with icons, it became clear why a secular society would be entirely hostile to children: As children, they are closer to God. They carry in themselves something holy, a birthright that many adults have either forgotten, or have sold for a single bowl of soup. In the Gospels, when the children are being shooed away from Jesus, he reprimands those doing this, saying, "Let the little children come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven". In my own experience, I've seen this myself; my daughter, not even being two, intrinsically understood things about God that nobody had ever told her. In this fallen world, the Truth which the little children bear witness to cannot be borne, and so the world must do its best to do away with as many children as possible. No wonder having more than an "acceptable" number of children these days seems more and more a political statement!