Category Archives: boys

The Open Post

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by Stacey

We returned from our trip back east on  Saturday, this time with plenty of diapers in our bag. Forgetting the diaper bag on the way out was definitely not our greatest parenting moment. But taking our almost-four-year old son Sage on a train ride to New York City and then on a subway ride to Brooklyn, I think counts as one of our better ones. We capped it off with a trip to the New York Transit Museum which had a bunch of old subway cars we could explore and a real city bus Sage could pretend to drive.

Sascha stayed home with his Grandma and got to go the grocery store. It was okay. He likes to sit in the cart and make faces at people.

How was your holiday? Got any good family stories to tell? 

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Behavior Problems and School Success

by Stacey

Two new studies shed some positive light on irksome behavior problems in young children. According to this article in the NY Times, one study showed that kindergartners who are identified as troubled do as well academically as their peers in elementary school. The other study found that children with attention deficit disorders suffer primarily from a delay in brain development, not from a deficit or flaw.

In one study, reported in the journal Developmental Psychology, an international team of researchers analyzed measures of social and intellectual development from over 16,000 children, the article says. Kindergartners who interrupted the teacher, defied instructions and even picked fights were performing as well in reading and math as well-behaved children of the same abilities when they both reached fifth grade, the study found.

In the other study, researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health and McGill University, using imaging techniques, found that the brains of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder developed normally but more slowly in some areas than the brains of children without the disorder, the article says. The disorder, also known as A.D.H.D., is by far the most common psychiatric diagnosis given to disruptive young children; 3 percent to 5 percent of school-age children are thought to be affected.

Doctors said that the report, being published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, helps to explain why so many children grow out of the diagnosis in middle school or later, often after taking stimulant medications to improve concentration in earlier grades.

[G]overnment psychiatric researchers compared brain scans from two groups of children: one with attention deficit disorder, the other without. The scientists had tracked the children — 223 in each group — from ages 6 to 16, taking multiple scans on each child.

In a normally developing brain, the cerebral cortex — the outer wrapping, where circuits involved in conscious thought are concentrated — thickens during early childhood. It then reverses course and thins out, losing neurons as the brain matures through adolescence. The study found that, on average, the brains of children with A.D.H.D. began this “pruning” process at age 10 ½, about three years later than their peers.

The article says that about 80 percent of those kids with attention problems were taking or had taken stimulant drugs, and the researchers did not know the effect of the medications on brain development. Doctors consider stimulant drugs a reliable way to improve attention in the short term; the new study is not likely to change that attitude.

This all seems like good news for kids. It’s good to know that kids are learning what they need to know even if they’re wiggling and protesting along the way. As for ADHD, seems like it would be a relief to know there’s a good chance your child will outgrow it over time. The article says that three out of four kids with the disorder grow out of it.

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Filed under boys, child development, drugs, education, family, fears, girls, kids, mental health, parenting, preschool, psychology

It’s Official!!

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by Stacey

Our ten-month old baby “Sasha” is now our ten-month old baby “Sascha!” On Wednesday, my husband and I took him downtown to the County Court to change the spelling of his name. In the photo above Sascha waited to appear before the judge along with a bunch of other unsavory characters.

You’d think with nine months to contemplate the arrival of a baby, we would have gotten it right the first time. But we were completely stumped for a boy’s name up until the very end of my pregnancy. We stumbled on Sasha through a conversation with my Fussbucket partner Kristin and another good friend. It was a name we both immediately liked a lot.

What a relief, we thought, and didn’t give much attention to the spelling. Later we learned there’s “Sasha,” as in the Russian nickname for Alexander. There’s “Sacha,” as in the now-famous comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. And there’s “Sascha,” which my mom suggested and is a variant of the Alexander nickname. That’s the version we like best so we decided before he gets all attached to Sasha, we’d make the switch.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the other spellings too. But we were running into the problem of people thinking he was a girl because of his name. This happened a few times when people saw his name written down and so it got us thinking about whether we should try to masculinize it. When I showed Kristin the new spelling she said, “It’s chunkier,” which sealed the deal for me. And by the way, we’re not the only ones who have a boy named Sasha, Sacha, Sascha, who are having this problem.

In other Sascha news, he’s big into feeding himself in the highchair and has even taught himself a little trick! It’s called, watch-me-balance-my-food-on-my-head!

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He’s also crawling! Sort of. He seems to be doing the same thing his older brother did, which is a kind of sitting scooch. Must be genetic. From my husband.

Congratulations Sascha on all of these milestones! We love you!!!

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Health Briefs…Through the Years

by Stacey

Lots of good stuff from the November issue of the Journal Pediatrics.

Let’s start with the babies. One new study called Are We Overprescribing Antireflux Medications for Infants With Regurgitation? shows that babies who are treated with drugs for gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, may not actually need the medication. According to the study abstract, “The majority of infants who were prescribed antireflux drugs did not meet diagnostic criteria.”

Researchers conducted esophageal pH monitoring (measuring the reflux or regurgitation of acid from the stomach into the esophagus) of 44 infants in a New Orleans medical center. Each of the children had persistent regurgitation. The study showed that while only eight of the infants had abnormal pH levels indicating GERD, 42 of 44 infants were on antireflux medication. When medication was withdrawn from the infants who did not meet GERD criteria, reflux symptoms did not worsen.

My son Sage was a “persistent regurgitator” as an infant. Oh, he regurgitated all over the place. On me, on himself, on the floor, on the furniture, on the airplane, you get my drift. It was a mess. Our pediatrician diagnosed him with reflux, but since it wasn’t the painful kind, he didn’t mention anything about treating him. I’m glad too, because what did I know? Probably if he had told me that Sage needed medicine for his constant barfing I would have given it to him. Do no harm, doctors, do no harm.

Now on to the little guys. Another study called, Early Violent Television Viewing Associated with Later Anti-Social Behavior, found a link between violent television viewing by preschool boys (ages 2 to 5) with antisocial behavior at ages 7 to nine.

According to the study abstract, researchers reviewed data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (a nearly 40-year study of 8,000 U.S. families) on 184 boys and 146 girls. The data review found a link between pre-school-age boys watching violent programming and antisocial behavior at ages 7 to 9. There was no link found between non-violent television viewing and antisocial behavior in boys or girls, or violent programming and anti-social behavior in girls. The study authors say the findings are significant as early childhood aggressive behavior is often a predictor of violent behavior in youth and adolescents.

I couldn’t make my way online to the full text of the article so I’m not sure what violent TV means or what defines antisocial behavior. Neither sound good. Sage doesn’t watch “tough movies” as he calls them. But his imaginary friend Hippy does. According to Sage, Hippy likes “the punching kind.” Yikes. I just hope Hippy’s parents are prepared to deal with the fallout.

And finally, a new study entitled Shorter Sleep Duration Is Associated With Increased Risk for Being Overweight at Ages 9 to 12 Years, found that kids this age who did not get enough sleep were more likely to be overweight by sixth grade. According to the study abstract, shorter sleep duration in 6th grade was independently associated with a greater likelihood of kids being overweight. Shorter sleep duration in 3rd grade was also independently associated with being overweight in 6th grade, independent of the child’s weight status in 3rd grade.

Conversely, for every additional one hour of sleep in 6th grade, a child was 20 percent less likely to be overweight in 6th grade; every additional hour of sleep in 3rd grade resulted in a 40 percent decrease in the child’s risk of being overweight in 6th grade.

For me sleep deprivation translates into energy deprivation which I try to make up for by eating sugar. I can’t believe the sweets I pack away when my kids’ sleep is chronically interrupting my own. Maybe that’s what’s going on. Or maybe the kids in this study were squirreling away boxes of cookies that they ate in the middle of the night by flashlight under the covers. After the insanity I’ve witnessed around here over Halloween candy, I’ll believe anything.

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Toys for Girls and Boys

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by Stacey

The toy company Hasbro has recently gotten stuck in a scary 1950’s time warp. According to commercials for a new toy called Rose Petal Cottage, little girls can play happy homemaker with all the benefits of laundry machines and state-of-the-art kitchens. Thanks to Catherine Price from Salon’s Broadsheet for the tip. She explains:

According to the commercials, one of the best parts of the Rose Petal Cottage is that it gives your little angel a chance to practice her home-decorating skills. I’m not kidding. Click on the video link, check out the one called “Dreamtown for Moms,” and watch as the toddler rearranges her sofa and crib, presumably to make room for a teddy bear muffin party.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t encourage kids — both boys and girls — to dream of having their own homes, families and baking sets. I’m just surprised at how unabashedly anachronistic this one seems — I mean, couldn’t you balance out the scene of her doing laundry with a shot of a pretend computer? Or a desk? Or maybe, I don’t know, a book?

I have to admit, I like rearranging the furniture as much as the next gal, messing with my home decor if you will. But here’s where I draw the line: “In the commercial called “Dreamtown for Kids,” an overly enthusiastic singer croons, ‘I love when my laundry gets so clean/ Taking care of my home is a dream, dream, dream!'” Sorry, but singing about the laundry just isn’t credible in my book. Thankfully Price adds this verse: “Rose Petal Cottage is so pink, pink, pink/ As a toy for girls, it stinks, stinks, stinks!”

Hasbro doesn’t stop at stereotyping little girls. They’ve also got some new marketing for their line of Tonka trucks that’s based on the tag line “Boys: They’re just built different.” Again, Price explains:

In the ad, a little boy presents his bemused mother with a bouquet of flowers he has pulled out of the lawn and then tramps back outside, leaving a trail of dirt in his wake. The ad continues with scenes of little boys riding through the house on their Tonka trucks as the narrator explains reasons that the trucks are perfect for boys. “With the Tonka Scoot N’ Scoop, they can play their way,” she says. “It’s built around what he does naturally.”

What exactly is it that boys do naturally? According to the commericial, riding through the house on a toy truck chasing the family dog and busting through a pile of pillows presumably set in place on the floor by mom. Or as Price puts it, “whatever the hell they want.” She adds: “It’s quite a different scene from the muffin-baking, home-decorating, laundry-doing world of responsibility going on in the Rose Petal Cottage.”

Price is careful not to bash the idea that boys like to play with trucks or girls like to play with playhouses. And of course, that’s true to some extent. My son woke up one morning in love with garbage trucks and went on to love every other truck on the road along with anything else that moved through space via wheels, engines, sails, or motors. That boy loves him some transportation.

But he also loves to bake and cook. He’s psyched about the new kid-sized broom we just got him. And he’s very gentle with his baby brother who he likes to help wash in the tub. He even told me that he likes to play with the dollhouse in the childcare room at my gym.

I wonder what he would think if he saw these ads. Would he decide that just girls play house and just boys play trucks? It would be a reasonable conclusion. The thought of it makes me sad.

I think Price sums it up well. She says that ads have an effect on people’s self-perception and kids are particularly open to learning to want what they’re told they should want. “So I don’t like the fact that while the girl is shown meticulously rearranging her living room furniture, the boy is deliberately messing up the living room as his mother smiles in the background with a look that all but says, “Boys will be boys!” To which I would respond, sure — but boys and girls will also live up to the expectations we place on them. So we’d better be careful what those expectations are.”

What do you all think? Do toys reflect the larger culture? Are our kids going to grow up to be like Ward and June Cleaver? Or are these just a couple of random toys in a sea of plastic fun?

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Boy Scout Badges RECALL

By Stacey

Well this is downright depressing. The Boy Scouts of America said Thursday that a painted badge commonly worn by some of its youngest scouts is being voluntary recalled after a test revealed high levels of lead in the paint.

Guess where they were made. Come on, I’ll give you one try… ding! ding! ding!

According to this AP story, as many as 1.6 million of the badges may be affected by the recall.

The badge is plastic and is given to Cub Scouts, who are usually between the ages of 7 and 8, the article says. The badge has a yellow and blue border, includes a picture of a bear and wolf and reads “Progress Toward Ranks.”

The badges are supplied by Kahoot Products Inc., based in Roswell, Ga. The company is calling for a voluntary recall of the badge and asking parents to take them away from their children.

No illnesses have been reported, the article says. The lead paint was discovered during a testing of Boy Scout products.

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Life in Boytown

by Stacey

I live in Boytown. One husband, two sons, and three male cats. My husband, being the biggest and oldest kid among them, loves sports. The kids follow suit and the cats couldn’t care less. Mostly I don’t mind the sports thing. I grew up with a brother and a dad who love sports too, so I’m used to weekend games on the television. I can easily jump into the excitement of a really good match.

But now that football season is here, I’m not so sure. Watching my son watch these grown men hit, push, and shove each other makes me wonder if the lessons we’re trying to teach him about gentleness among friends will be overridden by the sight of burly tough guys beating the crap out of each other. And the fans are cheering! Grown-ups no less!

Now in the wake of this summer’s headline grabbing news about Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and his involvement in dogfighting, I’m realizing there’s an even bigger problem. For those of you who missed it, Vick was arrested and pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges. Not only is he awaiting sentencing in December, the National Football League has suspended his career indefinitely.

No doubt, animal abuse is a horrible thing and Vick’s punishment is deserved. But Sandra Kobrin points out in a column for Women’s Enews, that many more professional athletes have committed spousal abuse, a fact that has not generated the equivalent outrage. According to Kobrin, “Beat a woman? Play on. Beat a dog? You’re gone.” Oh brother.

According to Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL’s Player Association, “the practice of dog-fighting is offensive and completely unacceptable.”

I just wish the NFL had the same outrage toward spousal abuse and other forms of domestic violence. But they don’t. Not by a long shot.

Scores of NFL players as well as players from the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have been convicted of domestic abuse, yet they play on with no fear of losing their careers. Most pay small fines, if that, and are back on the field immediately.

Partly this can be explained by the fact that animal rights groups went ballistic over the dogfighting scandal. Kobrin notes that well-funded organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have demanded a boycott of companies that continue to sponsor Vick and they are bombarding the NFL with letters demanding a no-tolerance policy when it comes to cruelty to animals by football players. Vick has already lost most of his sponsorship deals worth millions of dollars.

Apparently women’s advocacy groups haven’t mustered their strength in the same way and players in the NFL who have been convicted of spousal abuse or domestic violence have not received suspensions from play. Disappointingly, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association aren’t any better, Kobrin says.

Last summer Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher Brett Myers assaulted his wife on a public Boston street and was charged with assault and battery. Major League Baseball did not penalize him, shrugging it off as an off-field incident. Are they saying a player needs to abuse his spouse during a game to get sanctioned? If so, just how does that work?

Jason Kidd of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets pleaded guilty to spousal abuse in 2001. Was he punished by the NBA? No.

The Sacramento Kings’ Ron Artest was suspended last season for 72 games for fighting in the stands. In March he was arrested for domestic violence. For that he got what amounted to a hand slap; an immediate two-game suspension and a $600 fine for a player who makes several million a year.

All of this is terrible. It certainly doesn’t make me want to encourage my sons to look up to these guys, which is what kids do. They want to be these all-star athletes. Even Vick, stupid as he must be to do what he did, knows that kids look up to him. In addition to making apologies to Atlanta Falcons teammates, his coach and the National Football League, Vick also said he was sorry “to all the young kids out there for my immature acts,” according to this CNN story.

So what to do? Being a sports fan has many good points too. It fosters a sense of community and hometown spirit. And it will give my husband a lifetime of conversation starters with his sons in case he ever needs them. This isn’t to mention the fact that loving professional sports will likely translate into wanting to play sports which I also believe is good for their mental and physical health.

What do you all think? Is this a case of a few bad apples or is professional sports rotten to the core?

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