Monthly Archives: May 2007

nature deficit disorder

by kristin

when i was a little kid, i spent a lot of time outside with my friends. unsupervised. we made witches’ potions out of dirt and juniper berries, jumped out of trees and roamed the woods and canyons near our house. i walked to the bus stop a mile away from home and held my own with the big kids waiting there. we went on excursions to the haunted house nearby, throwing rocks into the yard and hoping someone terrifying would appear. once i fell into a river on a bike and managed to pull the bike back to shore all by myself. when i look back on my childhood, i’m stunned by all the freedom i had to explore the world, all the power i was given to make real decisions about my day. sure, some of my choices weren’t so great, like the times i lay in the road playing chicken with approaching cars. but i survived them all and i’m better for it.

and then i look at my own kids, my hothouse flowers. when we are outside, it’s in highly groomed “natural” spaces like parks or backyards. i hover over the girls constantly, babbling about safety and scanning the environment for predators, bullies and dangerous playground equipment. i control when we go, how long we are there, what they can do and when we will leave. their explorations are limited to digging in the sandbox, chasing some crows and finding a bug or two. at night, after they are safely tucked away in their beds, i read (ok, skim) books like last child in the woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. i lament all the ways my kids are being deprived and renew my commitment to give them some nature.

which is absurd.

and just the way it is for many kids today, especially those living in urban environments. this micromanaging seems to be part of parenting in today’s world. i can’t imagine saying goodbye to a six-year-old sadie as she heads off on her bike for a day of self-generated adventure. i can hardly imagine letting her walk to the corner store as a teenager, and by then, there will probably be a GPS chip implanted in her shoulder. it’s easy to blame this scenario on the media’s relentless reporting of rare and terrible stories about bad things happening to children. but that seems too simplistic somehow.

i can’t figure out why things have things changed so much a scant thirty years later. maybe we’re subconsciously preparing our children to live in a bio-dome on mars with tape recordings of birdsongs and mechanical beetles climbing up plastic trees. if that’s the case, my kids will be right at home.


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Filed under education, fears, kids, life, nature, parenting, play, safety

Peace Mom Goes Home

by Stacey

Peace activitist Cindy Sheehan who became the public face of protest against the war in Iraq has decided to call it quits. Sheehan’s son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan was killed in an ambush in Baghdad in 2004. He was 24 years old. Soon after, his mother spent a month waiting outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas for a meeting with him to discuss her son’s death. The meeting never took place, but the vigil launched Sheehan into the spotlight where she remained until now.

On Memorial Day she posted a “letter of resignation” on the political blog DailyKos in which she explained her decision. Of the many reasons she cited, I found this the most distressing.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried ever since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

My heart goes out to her. Of all the players in this disasterous war, I have always thought that Sheehan represented the unassailable. I often think of the parents of the soldiers in Iraq. How worried they must be, all the time, for their child’s safety. How their hearts must race whenever someone knocks unexpectedly at the door or the phone rings at an off hour.

Now she’s headed home to California where it sounds like she’ll spend time with her family and friends. I wish her peace in her heart and am grateful for the peace she fought for in the world.

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Filed under family life, fears, kids, life, love, media, parenting, politics

hiking haiku

by kristin


walking down the trail
has become impossible
focus, kid, focus

what’s your haiku for the day?

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Filed under art, kids, life, parenting

Lessons from the Game of Life

by Stacey

How much can we really learn about the meaning of life from a roll of the dice on a board game? A recent article in the New Yorker explores how games of “life” reveal society’s answers to such questions as, what are we living for? And today’s version, due to come out this summer, is a little unsettling.

In 1860 Milton Bradley invented the Checkered Game of Life. This was the precursor to the modern game called Life that many of us grew up with. Bradley’s game departed from other games of life in one crucial way – it viewed life as a combination of circumstance and shrewd judgement. Other games, such as the New Human Game of Life, assumed the meaning of life was to get to Heaven; whoever dies first wins. In Bradley’s game, the goal was acquisition not salvation. Whoever gets a hundred points first wins and all you get in the end, is Happy Old Age.

Then, in 1960, the Milton Bradley Company released a centennial version of the game called simply, Life.

In Life, players fill teensy plastic station wagons with even teensier pastel-pink and blue plastic Mommies and Daddies, spin the Wheel of Fate, and ride the highway of Life, earning money, buying furniture, and having pink and blue plastic babies. Along the way, there are good patches: “Adopt a Girl and Boy! Collect Presents!” And bad: “Jury Duty! Lose Turn.” Whoever earns the most money wins. As the game’s ad slogan has it, “That’s Life!”

Just for kicks I searched out the 1960s commercial for Life.

Love those glasses. Life was criticized for being too focused on cash, but it’s also disturbing to think that there is only one path to follow and we should all be striving for the same things.

Unlike the Checkered Game of Life, Life is a journey along a (mostly) fixed path, where only one thing matters. [It] is essentially about fate – not whether you are fated to enter Heaven but whether you’re fated to retire to Millionaire Acres.

This summer, a new version of the game is coming out called The Game of Life – Twists & Turns.

The Game of Life: Twists & Turns is not a checkerboard of choices; it’s not a fixed and fated path. There is instead a plethora of paths. The game board is divided into four squares – Learn It, Live It, Love It, and Earn It – through each of which a colored path snakes its way. Players decide how they want to spend their time – going to school, having kids, hanging out, travelling, whatever.

In this game, there are many places to begin, but there’s no end: no Finish, no Happy Old Age, no Heaven. Nothing. “This is actually the game’s selling point,” the author writes, “it has no goal. Life is … aimless.”

Yikes. And apparently there is no moral underpinning. “You get as many points for scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, or for donating a kidney to a loved one, as for getting a PhD.”

Is this the philosophy of our time? Does donating a kidney really not mean anything more to a person than scuba diving? What do you think?

An interesting aside, Milton Bradley himself said at the end of his life that he derived the most satisfaction not from fame or fortune, but from his longtime involvement in the burgeoning kindergarten movement of his time.

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by kristin

thumbing through this month’s vanity fair, i found this photograph and can’t stop looking at it:


maybe it’s because gelsey kirkland is aging. her life story is fascinating. but mostly, it’s because this image looks like motherhood to me, especially the mothering of girls. the crone with all her experience, all the dances she’s already had. the transference of vitality to the young girl, getting ready to take off and do her thing. but the part that gets me most is the relationship between the two of them, all those complex emotions expressed in a single gesture. man, i love this picture. i’m going to put it on a t-shirt. and then get sued by the photographer.

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Filed under art, girls, kids, life, love, parenting, relationships

News of Interest

by Stacey

Scanning the news, Mary Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Samuel David Cheney yesterday in Washington, DC. I wish her and her partner well and welcome them to the wonderful, terrible world of parenting.

But what is with the elder Cheneys? Just following the birth, the evil vice president and his wife Lynne posed for a professional photograph with their grandchild. It’s been clear for awhile now that the Cheneys support their daughter and accept her lesbian relationship. So how can they also be a part of political party that HATES their daughter, despises her way of life, claims that this grandchild will have personal problems because he is raised in a homosexual household, and would refuse her and her partner the important legal rights afforded to those of us who happen to be straight and choose to get married? I don’t get it. I guess it’s the same mentality that allows them to push for war as long as it’s someone else’s kid whose going to risk getting killed or severely maimed. Enough with these people. I can’t wait until they are no longer in office.

Which brings me to my next topic: the upcoming presidential election. The Washington Post ran a brief story on its politics blog called The Fix on how women voters view Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House. They combined two polls from February and April, ran the numbers and came up with an analysis showing Hillary is popular among young women voters, but not as much among women her own age.

Clinton runs weakest among her contemporaries — women between 50 and 64 years old (Clinton is currently 59 years old; she turns 60 on Oct. 26). In that subgroup Clinton takes 31 percent of the women’s vote compared with 25 percent for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), 18 percent for former Vice President Al Gore and 12 percent for former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.).

Her strongest demographic subgroup is women between the ages of 18 and 39. Clinton takes 45 percent among that demographic to 22 percent for Obama, 12 percent for Gore and 10 percent for Edwards. (Interestingly, Clinton also runs strongest among men aged 18-39; she polled 40 percent in that group.)

The blog writer speculates that young women “tend to see Clinton as an iconic figure, a pioneer who has overcome a series of personal challenges to now be in contention to be the first woman ever elected president.” That’s how I see her too. I don’t know yet who I want to see as the Democratic candidate. But I do think it is very exciting to have a woman who is so clearly capable and qualified in the running.


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sparkly light

by kristin

sitting in a hot tub at the dreamy olympus spa, i told my friend about sadie’s playdate problem: lately, when her girlfriends come over to play, sadie checks out their outfits and insists she needs to wear the same thing. if we can’t find a purple leotard with a skirt that doesn’t pull off and leopard spotted flip flops and a yellow headband, she ends up naked and crying alone in her room. not so good, right? so i’ve been trying to find the language to talk to a three-year-old about being herself in the presence of others, a conversation i planned to have ten years from now. we landed on the idea of listening to her “sparkly light” as a euphemism for her own voice, instinct, self, what have you. aside from the occasional “my sparkly light says i need another popsicle”, this idea seems to work. i’ve noticed a reduction in the playdate freakouts and the concept seems to invigorate her. “sparkly light, should i jump off this rock? yes or no . . . it says YES! (jump off huge boulder almost breaking neck)”

as i talked with my friend, one of the other ladies in the hot tub listened in on our conversation. she began telling us her story about raising her now-33-year-old daughter. “i programmed my daughter from an early age to look to me,” she said. “i told her, ‘mommy is your best friend. no matter what you do, where you go, mommy is your best friend.’ and when my girl was a teenager, she trusted me. when she got into trouble, she called for me.”

so this raises some interesting questions. we’ve all heard that refrain, “you are not your child’s friend. you are their parent.” i’m supposed to create boundaries, set limits and refrain from crashing her high school parties in a miniskirt. yet, i am her best friend, dammit. i’ll do anything for that kid and i want her to come to me when she needs help. in these early brainwashing years, do i teach her to listen to herself or listen to me? can her sparkly light and i co-exist? and who wins when we don’t agree? mommy or sparkly light? or maybe some weird hydra thing named sparkly mommy or mommy lite?

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Filed under child development, education, kids, psychology