Category Archives: In the news

Is sailing around the world with toddlers ‘reckless parenting?’

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman with their daughters, Lyra, 1, and Cora, 3. (AP Photo/Sariah English. File)
Eric and Charlotte Kaufman with their daughters, Lyra, 1, and Cora, 3. (AP Photo/Sariah English. File)

The Kaufmans are possibly the most talked about family in America. The family of four were recently plucked from their sailboat, The Rebel Heart – their home for the past seven years as they sailed around the world. The boat had lost all its steering and most of its communications six days ago, and was taking on water when rescuers found the stranded family. Making the matter most crucial was the condition of their 1-year-old daughter, Lyra, who was feverish and vomiting from possible salmonella poisoning. The family arrived in San Diego today, and will be taking time to recover before talking with the press.

See the full story here.

The fact that Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, parents of Lyra and her 3-year-old sister Cora, were sailing around the world with such young children is causing a passionate debate among families across the nation. Some are accusing the Kaufmans of reckless parenting, putting their young children in peril by staying at sea when they began having children. Others are applauding the young family for taking on such an adventure.

My take? Every family is different, and every family has their “norm.” For the majority of us, sailing around the world is not something that would be normal for our family. But for the Kaufman’s, they were sailing before the kids were even born. Those children saw being at sea as every day life. It’s no less normal than the families who live in huts in the middle of a jungle, families who have only one parent, kids who live in the projects, kids who live in mansions…. (speaking of which, you should check out the photo project of “Where Children Sleep” by photographer James Mollison for an eye-opening look at the economic differences in families around the world).

This was what the Kaufman family knew – sailing as a way of life.

And bad things happen in families, things we don’t plan for. The Kaufmans didn’t plan for their boat to break down, or for their toddler to get as sick as she did. Houses can burn down, leaving a family displaced. Pipes can break, roofs can leak, homes can be burglarized. Kids can catch colds, catch pneumonia, catch cancer. It doesn’t matter whether a family is on a sailboat around the world or cooped up away from germs in their home. The unplanned can happen.

Did being at sea make it more difficult for the Kaufman family to receive adequate care? Sure. But should they have stayed close to shore once they had kids? I don’t think so. Having been sailing for so long, I don’t believe the Kaufman’s were guilty of reckless parenting. I believe they were including their kids in a lifestyle they had already laid the foundation. And I hope that when little Lyra recovers, the family is able to take to the seas once again.

What do you think?

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The argument for SAHMs, and against Amy Glass

SAHM1

This week, the blogging world exploded when Amy Glass blatantly put down stay at home moms (SAHMs) when she wrote a blog titled “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry“.

Here are a few token quotes:

“Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself? There’s no way those two things are the same. It’s hard for me to believe it’s not just verbally placating these people so they don’t get in trouble with the mommy bloggers.”

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”

What can I say about Amy Glass?

Well, first, what can I say about my own experience?

I am one of the lucky moms who have experienced both SAHM-dom and being a working mom. Both have their perks. Both also have their downfalls. As a working mom, I look with envy at SAHMs. I’m envious that they have time to make their kids lunches every day before school, and are home to help them with homework when the kids get home. I’m jealous that they get to join the PTA, or volunteer in the classroom, or have the time to really investigate what’s going on when Johnny’s grades start slipping. Some of the SAHMs I know are the ones whose kids look the most put together, and have socks that actually match, while you can see my kid’s socks peeking through his holey sneakers because I haven’t actually found the time to take him shoe shopping.

I feel like I’d have so much more time as a SAHM. But then I remember what the reality was.

I did the stay-at-home mom thing in the first year of my daughter’s life, and in the first several months of my son’s. We moved to a new city and I had no friends. I spent my whole day being mom, talking to babies, cleaning up messes, keeping the kids entertained…. I was jealous of my husband who got to go out and make a living and talk to other adults while I stayed home in sweats and smelling of spit-up. I had dreams, too. But those got put on the back burner while my husband became the breadwinner, and I kept the home straight. My expertise became vested in keeping the household running and the kids thriving. But my self-worth? It mistakenly plummeted. I felt like I a big fat nobody. I mean, how do you incorporate your homemaker skills onto a resume? How do you keep up with the world when the majority of your news media exists on PBS, Disney, and Nickelodeon? How do you not feel jealous when you see attractive women exiting their cars to walk towards their big office jobs, wearing pencil skirts and carrying briefcases, when I’m juggling a baby on my hip and breakfast remnants in my hair?

It was our meager finances that finally dictated my need for a job. But honestly, I was relieved to get back to the work force and take a break from the littles. My new job became my vacation from my real job. And whenever I get a little jealous over a few of my friends who are lucky to be able to stay home with their kids, I remember how much I suck at keeping a stay-at-home schedule, and how hard it was to get time off from a job that was pretty much around the clock.

Mom kidsAs I reflect on this opinion that Ms. Glass has, I can’t help but feel like she wrote it simply to attract a ton of attention to her blog, and nothing else. I mean, if you look now, there are more than 10,000 comments both applauding her stance and blasting her words. However, I feel sorry for her too, because it’s apparent she feels the need to bring herself attention by slamming a whole group of people for a significant choice in their life – a choice that means the world to their family.

And I can also only guess that she doesn’t have children. If she did, she’d understand the miracle that exists in their very first breath, and the way it feels to see the world through their eyes, and the Jekyll and Hyde emotions of wanting to strangle said kid when they’re being total buttheads while simultaneously willing to give them her very last breath if it meant they could keep on living. She’d understand the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, of sometimes feeling like the world is on one realm while she’s stuck in the land of tikes, even while understanding that this is where it is most important for her to be. She’d understand what it’s like to give up a career and a paycheck, throwing herself into her child’s future instead. She’d understand that fine balance of devoting time to the family while keeping her self-worth, and the daily struggle of not putting her whole entire identity into being the mom of her child.

I guess I can’t be mad at her, either, though I do feel a little judgey about her writing such an obvious ploy piece to gather hits for her blog. I can’t fault her. I clicked. I read. I’m responding.

Truthfully, no person – mom, or not – should be looked down upon for their life choice if that is what their calling is meant to be. If you are meant to backpack Asia, awesome! If you’re meant to work full time while also raising a family, good job! And if you devote your time to your kids as a stay at home mom, fantastic!

We all would do better to pull each other up instead of putting each other down.

Note: I became aware of this post by Amy Glass when my cousin posted her own rebuttal. She is much more eloquent than I am, and definitely more forgiving. Read what she has to say HERE.

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Even pretend weapons can be dangerous

I have a 12-year-old son who is a 7th grader this year. Like most 7th grade boys, my son’s actions don’t necessarily involve a lot of thought. Just this week alone, he decided that buying and consuming a Monster energy drink right before bed was a good idea, skipping his chores and lying about them being done was perfectly acceptable, yelling at his stepdad would have no repercussions, and leaving the house and not coming back until after 8 p.m. (with no cell phone or note) was okay.

And in the past month or so, he has also pointed his fingers at other cars while I’ve been driving, pretending to shoot at them.

replica gunYesterday, our county was rocked by the news that a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by the police in a southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood. The first reports spoke of a man carrying assault weapons who was shot down. But the developing story evolved, and it became clear that no would-be murderer was killed – it was just a boy, carrying “toy” guns, or rather, replicas of real guns.

I can’t comment on who is at fault in this situation. There just isn’t enough information yet about what went down in the time when this kid was spotted, and when he was fired upon. But I do know that nerves are rattled at the recent news of a boy the same age who brought a gun to his Nevada school, injuring two students and killing a teacher before turning the gun on himself. I know that there are news stories all over the nation of kids who are capable of heinous crimes. And I know that a boy around the age of 13 would think nothing of carrying around a toy gun that looked exactly like the real thing – because they’d WANT it to look like the real thing.

This morning, I sat down with my son and told him about this 13-year-old boy’s death and his family’s tragedy. I took the opportunity to discuss how there is nothing funny about pretend violence – how it can actually lead to something tragic like this. And I laid out some firm guidelines for him:

– Never go out in public carrying anything that might look like a real weapon. Nerf guns are one thing – their bright colors and odd shape makes them apparent they’re just a toy. But anything that is supposed to look real can be mistaken for the real thing, and could get you injured or killed.

– Never point your fingers at anyone else to look like a gun. You don’t know who you’re pointing at, and it could have the real thing pointed back at you in return.

– Always, ALWAYS respect the law and those employed to enforce it.

This boy’s death is a tragedy for his family, and for our community. There are no words to describe the sorrow I feel for everyone involved in this devastating event. Yes, there was a time when a kid wouldn’t get shot for carrying something that is only meant to look like a weapon. But times have changed. Even “just playing around” can be deemed unsafe.

I urge all parents to take a moment and speak with your kids about the importance of weapon safety – even if that “weapon” is just pretend.

My thoughts on Paula Deen

In this publicity image released by NBC, celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show, wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past.  The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a "Today" interview last Friday, said she was not a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
Deen dissolved into tears during a “Today” show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)

Yet another company is pulling their business from Paula Deen, the Southern celebrity chef with a penchant for fried cooking. The tally is out, and as of right now, Sears, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Smithfield Foods, Caears Entertainment, Food Network, and…I’ve lost count…are sending back all the Paula Deen cookware, recipe books, and other Deen products, as well as nixing her spokeswoman relationship in response to Paula Deen’s admittance that she’s used the “N” word in the past.

First and foremost, I do not condone any word that targets a group of people to make them out to be inferior to others. This applies to the “N” word, a word that has a lot of ugly history to it that goes way beyond the color of someone’s skin. This word is linked to how a race of people were treated in history, and brings up many feelings of anger and hurt over the unfairness of that time.

Paula Deen should never have uttered the “N” word. However, this attack against her has GOT TO STOP.

This has become a horrible case of public flogging. She made a mistake. We all make mistakes.

Imagine if everyone had to answer to their shortcomings in this huge of a way. We’d all be out of business, every one of us.

How about instead of raking Paula Deen through the coals, we instead boycott the rappers who sing lyrics that profoundly disgrace women, or the companies who entice our kids to become obese by adding cartoon characters to their sugary foods, or video game makers who create games glorifying torture and mayhem, or the movies that are all about gore and nightmarish visuals? How about companies put their energy towards the mass population of businesses who are holding our society back instead of jumping in on the attack against one woman?

I’m not even a Paula Deen follower, but I think it’s deplorable how she’s had to pay for a mistake like this. The definition for political correctness is seriously backwards when a woman has to pay this much over a word – regardless of the word – and much worse things are still deemed acceptable in our society.

Time Magazine and toddler breastfeeding

Time Magazine is causing quite the stir with the cover photo of their latest issue:

Above, Jamie Lynne Grumet was photographed breastfeeding her 3-year old son, along with 3 other mothers who practice “extended breastfeeding” as a part of attachment parenting – a type of parenting that is on the rise.

“When you think of breast-feeding, you think of mothers holding their children, which was impossible with some of these older kids,” photographer Martin Schoeller said about his extended breastfeeding series. “I liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation.”

Grumet breastfed from her own mother until the age of 6, describing it as “really warm…like embracing your mother, like a hug.” in an interview with Time Magazine’s Kate Pickert. When Grumet adopted her son (then 2, not pictured) from Ethiopia, she was still lactating from her younger bio son (pictured). She was able to form a close bond with her adopted son through breastfeeding. As he began to learn the language, his need for breastfeeding grew less and less. Now at age 5, he breastfeeds maybe once a month.

However, some moms aren’t all keen on the practice of extended breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting, or even of Time’s decision to post such a controversial cover.

Jacqueline Burt of The Stir described how AP brought out her weakest parenting flaws of setting boundaries and feeling mom-guilt when things went wrong, and how it worked up until the time when her kids weren’t supposed to be as attached to her anymore. “Attachment parenting went sour for me when things like preschool and drop-off birthday parties entered the equation. Separation anxiety? You could say my kids had some issues in that area. At that point, I started to wonder — had I done them a disservice?”

Jessica Wakeman of The Frisky comments on the obvious hotness of the 26-year old BFing mom, musing, “I make no judgments about this mother’s attachment parenting or breastfeeding. But I wonder, will the visceral reaction to this provocative cover  — which I would place bets on being covered up at newsstands, a la Cosmopolitan titties —  do more harm to the parenting tactics she believes in than it will do good?”

Lisa Belkin of Huff Post takes issue with the title of being Mom Enough, saying, “I am not Mom enough to take the bait. To accept TIME’s deliberate provocation and either get mad at this woman for what I think I know about her from this photo, or to feel inferior, or superior, or defensive, or guilty — or anything at all, if it means I am comparing myself to other mothers.”

And more often than anything, the comparison to this photo and soft porn has been used.

What’s your take on mothers who breastfeed their babies well into (or past) their toddler years? Is this taking the Attachment Parenting movement too far? Is this helping or hurting children?

Imagine a world where children didn’t die.

Imagine there’s no Heaven.
It’s easy if you try.
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today.
-Imagine, by John Lennon

This was the song that played at the funeral of Jenn Leoy when she died in our 7th grade year. Every time I hear it, I think of her. And it both reminds me how she’s in a place where life is fair and she no longer suffers from the fucked up disease of brain cancer, and that we’re left in a world where awful things happen and children are far from immortal.

I heard this song this morning as I drove from Petaluma to Santa Rosa for my son’s baseball field, the memory of Jenn intermingling with the memory of details Mr. W shared with me about D’s funeral yesterday. I couldn’t be there, but felt as if I were as he let me in on a ceremony that symbolized a sense of closure in 4 years of a beautiful life ended too soon.

The first bit of beauty that came out of such devastation was a family rift mended. D’s father had not seen or spoken to one of his sisters in 25 years. But there she was at the funeral to be a support for her family and her brother. Perhaps this will help them repair the relationship they lost.

D lay in an open casket for the ceremony. Mr. W admitted he’d felt reservations about seeing this child’s body, thinking he couldn’t handle it. I asked him how D looked.

“Peaceful,” he told me.

Frizz, in one of his moments of tenderness, picked up D’s favorite childhood book of “3 Little Monkeys” and read it to D in the casket. The gesture moved everyone around him, and D’s grandmother wanted to be sure that Frizz would read again to him before the day was done. Hearing Mr. W describe this to me, I was glad he could have his son there with him at such an emotional time.

Everyone was having a hard time at D’s funeral. D’s father had many moments of open heartbreak, Mr. W right there with him as he encouraged him to “let it out” as he cried. One of D’s aunts didn’t even harness herself as she let out a flurry of profanities inside the church regarding the unfairness that an innocent child could be murdered. Even the minister appeared uncomposed during portions of his sermon.

After the ceremony, Mr. W and Frizz accompanied the family to the burial. A large pile of dirt lay next to the plot and D’s father was given a shovel. He placed a couple shovelfuls of dirt on top of the tiny casket in the ground before handing it off to the next person. Everyone took turns, suddenly pouring their anger and sadness into each motion of digging the shovel into the dirt and pouring it into the hole in the ground. A call was made and soon shovels were brought for everyone so they could simultaneously get closure.

When it was done, each person was given a balloon in the shape of a Cars character, D’s favorite cartoon. They all stood back in a line against the fence. In front of them lay the expanse of the entire cemetery. The weather was typically beautiful for southern California, blue skies and a balmy 75 degrees. Because Easter is right around the corner, the grounds were especially beautiful as flowers and balloons decorated the majority of the plots from loved ones remembering those who had passed.

D’s family stood there against the fence, clutching the balloons. And then, in unison, they let go. The foil balloons scattered into the air, sending glimmering wishes and final goodbyes to the little boy that had touched so many lives in so little time. The gesture offered a sense of peace amidst the unfairness that overwhelmed the reality.

I’ve heard that we’re all given a purpose in life, and that we will not leave this world until we’ve fulfilled that purpose.  D must have been pretty important to have completed his mission here on earth in only 4 short years.  What an incredible life he had.

An earlier flight was available for Mr. W to come home, and he had no problem switching his flight. Little shoutout to Southwest for being so cool, fairly affordable, and for getting rid of stupid charges for extra bags and flight changes. Mr. W and Frizz were back home by 10:30pm, both grateful to be back after such an emotionally exhausting day. DQ and I had spent the evening before they arrived making banana bread, and we all dug into the warm loaf ceremoniously, not even letting it have time to cool.

That night I lay against Mr. W, his arms wrapped around me in those few moments of togetherness before we fell asleep. I felt so safe, so lucky, so in love. I am  thankful for the comforts I have in life and all I am trusted with. And I took the moment to silently thank God for everything and everyone he has placed in my life.

We are here on earth for only a blink of an eye. Time is precious and not in our control. But while it’s on our side, our time would be best spent loving everyone in our lives, honoring the blessings we’ve been given, and making the most of our days.

Every day is a gift.

Lucky.

Mr. W and Frizz left on a very expensive plane ride this morning to get to D’s funeral in Burbank this afternoon. How much does a plane ride cost when bought two days beforehand? $400. Each.

Thank goodness for credit cards.

I stayed home, mostly because we just can’t afford to buy that many tickets to go, partly because it’s best if an adult can stay here with the kids, and also because I felt Mr. W needed this time to be there with his friend on his own.

Note: I’m purposely not using D’s real name or his family member’s names because I don’t want to end up as a source of information on this case in Google searches. But if you do a search of a 4-year-old autistic boy murdered by his mother in southern Cali, I’m sure you’ll come up with a ton of information on the case.

The latest is that D’s mother is being held on $10 million dollars bail. I’ve never heard of a bail being set that high for a case like this. But they are afraid that if she were to post bail, she’d jump ship and hide out in Mexico. They also have her on suicide watch. D’s mom pled “not guilty” at her court appearance on April 4th, even though it has been documented that she admitted her part in the killing to the officers on duty when she brought D’s body to the station on March 31st. She had told the sheriff that she didn’t believe her son could have a life or future without her, so she decided to kill him.

D’s father is a wreck. He couldn’t even go to his wife’s arraignment. I don’t know much more than that. I have no idea what’s going on in his head, how he feels about his wife, how he’s coping. I just know he’s a mess, but still responsible for picking up the pieces.

I tried to think about what I would do had this happened to my child. I mentioned in my last post that I felt compassion towards D’s mother. I still do. But what if I had lost my child in such a horrible way? Would I have compassion for the person that cared for my child every moment of the day, giving all their energy towards my child, but then taking my child’s life in a moment of insanity?

No, I would not. I wouldn’t even be able to remember all those other times of that person being a good parent because they had stolen a life that should have gone on living.

How do you live your life when your child has been ripped from your reality? When the one little being that depends on you to survive has been killed, how do you even go on? When your identity is wrapped up in being a parent and then your only child dies, what happens to the person you are?

If I were D’s father, I would waste no good thoughts on the murderer of my child.

Mr. W comes home tonight in his whirlwind trip to visit and support his friend. I can only imagine the emotional storm he’ll have gone through in this. I feel so distant from all this – safe in my little cocoon away from murder, heartache, and pain. My kids are healthy and safe. We have a good support system in our house. My biggest worry is adhering to a busy schedule.  I feel guilty to be surrounded by so much that I take for granted while a father is forced to live the rest of his days without his child.

We’re really lucky, you know.