Muslim women in India: Are they like us?

My daughter Lydia, who is two and a half years old, noticed this picture in the newspaper I was reading.  This is a photograph by Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images, as it appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday, February 12, 2017.


LYDIA: Who are they?

MAMA: They are standing in line to vote in India.

LYDIA: Are they like us?

MAMA: Well, they are people.  They live in a country where the grownups vote to choose a president.  They stand in line like we do.  But their country is far away, so some things are different.  They have different people to choose when they vote.  And they are all wearing headscarves.

LYDIA: I wear a headscarf!  It’s blue.

MAMA: These have some very pretty flowers and patterns.  (We admire the scarves until something else catches her attention.)
I vaguely recall that I once tied a blue bandanna around her head.  She has often seen Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women wearing scarves that completely cover their hair.  Are they like us?  Yes and no.  We all are people, and the things that are different between people make Earth an interesting place to be.  That’s not so hard to understand.

Baby’s First Traffic Safety Lesson

Lydia is eleven months old.  Yesterday, we spent some time enjoying the beautiful spring weather in our small front yard.  Lydia studied the flowers.  She picked up dead leaves (functioning as mulch) and examined their lacy skeletons.  She gleefully wiggled her arms amid the arching green leaves of the daylilies coming up between our sidewalk and the neighbors’, and she pulled on some leaves to assess their strength and find the tearing point.

She also spent lots of time sitting or crawling on the sidewalk in front of our yard, soaking up sunshine, saying, “Hi!” to all passersby.  She toddled along next to our neighbors’ retaining wall, which is just the right height to lean her hands on.  Then she ventured across the sidewalk, looked over the curb, and began to reach for an interesting pebble in the gutter.

I said, “No!” and pulled her back.  She looked surprised.  But just then–perfect timing!–a car came rumbling along our brick-paved street.  “Stay out of the street.  The street is for cars,” I told her.  I pointed to the passing vehicle.  “Cars are big and fast.  We stay out of their way.”  She leaned over the curb again.  “No, the street is not for you.  The street is for cars.  The sidewalk is for people.  Stay on the sidewalk.”

I’m going to have to repeat this lesson a zillion times before she really understands–so let’s get started!  It’s complicated: The street is for cars, but when people get into cars we have to step into the street to get there.  The street is for cars, but people can walk across streets, following safety rules.  Lydia will have to learn that she can’t go into the street alone but can go with a taller person.  I know how to explain that.  But for now, I started with the lesson relevant to the present situation: Play on the sidewalk, not in the street.  A few repetitions did the trick for yesterday.  We’ll tell her again next time she approaches the curb. Read more of this post

Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and animals.

***

When my cousin Samantha was three years old and I was in college, I was visiting her family and we were eating chicken for dinner when Samantha asked, “What is chicken made of?'”

Her mother took a deep breath and said, “Well, chicken is made of a chicken.

Samantha’s eyes widened. To make certain she really understood what her mom was saying, she asked, “Chicken, buk-buk?” making a pecking motion with her hand. Her mom confirmed that the meat on our plates was indeed parts of a chicken who once pecked and said buk-buk. Samantha didn’t freak out, but she was surprised and sad and didn’t eat any more chicken at that meal.

The idea that people can eat animals startles many children when they first hear about it. Some parents want to prevent children from knowing that meat is animal flesh until they’re much older, to prevent objections that might complicate family mealtimes. I don’t like the idea of hiding such a basic truth about food from the people to whom it’s served, so I’m glad I witnessed Samantha’s response to this fact a decade before I became a mother; it gave me plenty of time to think about how I would handle my children’s questions about meat-eating. Read more…

Why my kid never believed in Santa Claus

He never believed in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, either.  There are three important reasons why Daniel and I decided, before Nicholas was born, that we were not going to pretend that any of these characters were real.

The first is that we didn’t like the idea of lying to our child.  We felt that claiming these characters were real, when we know they aren’t, would kind of make us feel bad.  Our child should be able to trust us.  Now that we’ve met the individual child we got, we know he’s a very analytical type who easily figures out what’s going on and demands full explanations of processes.  He was hard to confuse with things like Piaget’s famous conservation experiments even when he was a toddler.  The first time he ever saw a stage magician, he immediately started trying to figure out how to do those tricks.  If we’d presented the fables as truth, we’d have been interrogated with years of questions about exactly how those reindeer fly to every house in one night, where the bunny gets the eggs, etc., etc.

The second reason is that we wanted him to appreciate, from the very beginning, that holiday magic is something we all make for one another.  Christmas gifts aren’t brought by a guy in a sleigh to whom money is no object; we spend hours choosing or making gifts for our loved ones, thinking about what each person would like, as a way of expressing our love and respect for each other.  Easter isn’t about a magic bunny who brings us candy for no apparent reason; Easter is about Jesus and the springtime renewal of the world, and Grandma likes to send us some candy.  Losing a tooth is an exciting step toward maturity that is honored with a little treat, and there is a traditional routine for collecting this treat from your parents overnight using a special marsupial (Tooth Beary) crocheted by Grandma.

The third reason is that I wanted to teach my child my religion.  (Daniel does not belong to an organized religion, so the deal was that I could take Nicholas to church and teach him my faith until such time as he might tell me he didn’t believe it and didn’t want to go.  By age 3 he had decided he definitely wanted to be an Episcopalian, and he was baptized.)  If I told him Santa Claus was real, and he then found out otherwise, he would then logically doubt what I’d been telling him about God being real.  After all, the invisibility and super-powers of God are not all that different from what people attribute to Santa.  As I mentioned last week, Nicholas has shown no signs of doubting the existence of God but has remarked on the oddity of people believing in these other entities while not believing in God.

So, without Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, poor Nicholas has had a really dreary, cynical childhood, huh?  Read more…

Answering a child’s questions on human origins

A while back, another mother asked my advice:

Tonight my five year old asked me, “Where did the first people come from?”

“Well,” I replied, “Different people believe different things.  Scientists think that humans evolved from gorillas.”

“What is evolved?”

“That’s when things change from one thing to another, like a caterpillar to a butterfly.  Other people believe in God, that he is up in the sky watching over us all and he created the first people. . . .”

So, what do you say when your child asks you about God for the first time? How do you incorporate scientific evolution?

These big questions are daunting!  Try not to worry about giving the perfect answer the first time; kids come back to these questions again and again.

My son Nicholas asked where people come from soon after he turned 3.  First he was asking how babies are made; I gave a basic explanation that satisfied him for the moment.  Then he asked about death.  A week or so later, he thought of “the chicken or the egg” question and asked how the FIRST baby could ever have been born.  I said something like this:

“Well, we can’t know for sure how that happened because the first people hadn’t invented writing yet, so they didn’t have any way to write down their story. Scientists who have studied the fossils say that all animals are related, and over millions of years, one family of animals kept having babies that were a little more like people than their parents were, and another family of animals kept having babies that were a little more like cats than their parents were, and another family of animals kept having babies that were a little more like turtles than their parents were, and so on until each kind of animal was very different from the others.  There are some things that are still the same among lots of animals, like backbones and fingers.  God is very smart, and maybe God made one main pattern to turn into all the kinds of animals and people.”

That gave Nicholas a lot to think about for a while!

Next time we talked about it, I asked if he would like to hear a story about the first people, and I told him the story of Adam and Eve.  This is consistent with my personal belief that the stories of the Old Testament are traditional legends of our people that contain important truths for us today but are not literally true representations of exactly what really happened.  Nicholas requested “the story of before the beginning” on a regular basis for several years; he enjoyed both my telling the story and my reading it from the Bible.  Not only is it a satisfying story of humans originating from the loving care of God, but it goes on to an important lesson about temptation, obedience, and experiencing the consequences of one’s actions, which led to lots of interesting discussion for us.

As for “when your child asks you about God for the first time” . . . all his life I have spoken of God as if we both know God and God’s existence is simply an underlying fact of reality.  We’ve discussed specifics of belief and practice as they come up, but Nicholas has never asked who/what/where is God.  He did not seem aware that there are people who believe God doesn’t exist until he was in kindergarten, when he commented to me that it’s funny how some people believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy but don’t believe in God–gee, that’s wacky, huh?  (We never spoke to him of Santa or the Tooth Fairy as anything other than fun traditions of pretending.)

I know that many people struggle with the idea that evolution and God-creation are two separate viewpoints.  To me, it’s easy to believe in both: Evolution is God’s Plan.  I love to read the creation story from Genesis because, although I don’t believe it all happened in six days as we understand days, I believe that it unfolded in that general order (there was light, and then there was matter, then water separate from solid land, then plants, then animals, all before people came to be) and that every moment of it was planned, presided over, directed, loved, and approved by God.  All the science is true.  But there’s More.  

(By the way–evolution is not like the transition from caterpillar to butterfly.  That’s one individual changing from one form to another the same way her ancestors did it and her children will do it.  Evolution is a species changing in a way that makes future generations different from the previous ones.)

Telling my child that we are both evolved from animals and created by God worked for me!

Easter: Is it just a believing?

Huh, why am I still talking about Easter on May fifteenth?  Everybody knows Easter was way back in March this year!  Well, yes, Easter Sunday, the commemoration of the day when Jesus rose from the dead, was on March 31, but Easter actually is a season that lasts seven weeks in the Episcopal Church and some other denominations.  Our Easter celebration doesn’t end until Pentecost, next Sunday.  Alleluia!

A few years ago at this time, when my son Nicholas was four, he suddenly asked me, “Is it really true that Jesus got killed dead and then came back alive again, or is that just a believing?”

I was shaken.  I had been so impressed at his developing faith and thought I had done a good job telling the Easter story so that he could understand it, yet he was doubting.  Did he think it was just another story like “Cinderella”?  On the other hand, the fact is that believing is the main point here; we believe because we believe, because we have faith, not because we have scientific proof.  Hmmm, how to answer? Read more…

What to Do When Your Child Witnesses Bad Discipline

If you have any opinions at all about the appropriate methods of disciplining children, and if you are ever anywhere near any families with different opinions, someday you will find yourself in this situation: Your child sees another parent respond to a child’s behavior in a way that your child recognizes as different, which may be shocking or upsetting to your child.  What can you say to help your child understand what’s going on?

My son Nicholas is eight years old now.  We’ve used a mostly gentle discipline approach that focuses on explaining, redirecting, and using these strategies:

We sometimes get fed up and start yelling or say things that aren’t so nice, but we do our best to avoid being really harsh and hurtful, and we don’t hit him.  That means that when he sees another parent using harsh or violent discipline, he expects an explanation. Read more…

How I told my child the Easter story

I am an Episcopalian, raising my son Nicholas (now eight years old) as an Episcopalian, but I was raised Unitarian myself, so I’ve had to figure out a lot of this Christian parenting stuff as we go along.  I’ve talked with some other parents in the same boat, as well as some who don’t belong to a church but want their kids to understand who this Jesus guy was and what it all means–and one issue that comes up a lot is, How do you explain about Easter?

The rest of the story of Jesus is easier: He was born, and he was so, so special!  He brought hope to the world and reminded us to love one another, and we give each other gifts to celebrate that.  Jesus grew up and traveled around teaching the people to love and forgive.  He helped sick people be well.  He taught about generosity and trusting God.

But then the story gets scary and gruesome, and then this complicated thing happened which is often explained as, “God sat back and allowed his own son to be brutally slaughtered two thousand years ago because YOU are bad!!!” which might not seem to make a lot of sense but sure can make you feel guilty in a helpless sort of way, and then this even more complicated thing happened which easily comes across as, “He was only temporarily dead, so rejoice!!  Never mind about those sins,” and somehow it all has to do with bunnies and jellybeans and tulips, and–well, it can be a bit confusing!  I’m still learning to understand it a little better every year, and I am 39 years old.  So how did I explain it to my kid?

I started a few weeks after he was born.  Read more…

You do not know what you are asking.

This fall, our church has launched a new Bible study session, on Sundays between the two church services, to discuss the portion of the Gospel that will be read in church that day.  As Episcopalians, we follow a lectionary that tells us which scriptures to read each day, and this fall the Gospel readings for Sundays have been sequential passages from Mark, so each week we’re getting the next part of that story.

I’ve read the Gospel of Mark all the way through several times, but this time I’ve been especially struck by all the places where Jesus says or demonstrates that the way to get what we need is to ask.  Several people are healed because they asked Jesus to help them.  Jesus asks the disciples to hand over their few fishes and loaves of bread, gives thanks for them, and manages to feed thousands of people.  When the disciples are afraid to ask Jesus what he means by what he’s said, they don’t learn anything.  Jesus says that anyone who calls upon his name (asks to borrow his power) to drive out demons is doing the right thing, even if that person isn’t a recognized disciple.  He says that people who come to him like little children seeking his blessing will receive it.

Over and over, I’m hearing, “Just ask!  You can have whatever you need.  All you have to do is ask!”  I tend to have trouble asking for what I need, and this includes asking God–I often realize that I have been praying for help accepting the situation as it is and doing what I think I’ll have to do, instead of for what I really wish would happen, because I guess I think that’s more humble or polite or something.  This often makes life really difficult for me and leads to my resenting people for failing to do what I hoped they would do, though I never asked them to do it.  I’m working on it!  This Bible study and the discussions we’ve been having–when other people talk about things they’ve asked for and how it worked out–have been helping me a lot.

But a couple of weeks ago, nobody showed up for Bible study except for my seven-year-old Nicholas and me.  Nicholas had attended all the previous sessions, and sometimes when we talked afterward I could tell he’d been listening pretty closely, but he’d never participated much.  This time I was determined to get him involved.  Read more…

Explaining Addiction to a Young Child

You might think that addiction is a topic that wouldn’t come up until children are in late elementary school, going through whatever passes for drug education in their school.  You might be right.  Then again, your child might ask questions at a much earlier age after noticing that someone you know or a television character seems unable to quit using something that has obvious negative effects.  That’s what happened with my child. Read more…

Traffic Safety for Little Kids

We live on a quiet street, but just around the block is the main street of our neighborhood, which has lots of traffic, parallel parking along both sides, and lots of intersections where right turns on red are allowed.  Only some of the intersections have traffic lights and walk signals.  There are lots of useful places within walking distance, and the sidewalks are wide, but crossing the street can be risky.  A lot of drivers seem to think the traffic laws don’t apply to them!

When Nicholas began walking, I saw that he already knew (from being carried by a walking parent) to pause on the curb and look around before stepping into the street.  That was very helpful, but it didn’t mean he actually knew how to cross the street safely alone.  By thinking out loud, I taught him what we look for when we pause on the curb and how we decide when it’s safe to walk.  But informed decision-making ability isn’t the only thing you need to be safe. Read more…

How do you explain death to a young child?

My response to this question won’t work for everyone, but I think most parents can adapt it to explain the beliefs they want to convey to their child.  You also can learn from my experience and avoid leaving out a crucial fact about death, as I did!

Nicholas first asked about death a few weeks after he turned three years old.  I had always expected that the question would come up after he heard about someone dying, but in fact it followed close on the heels of, “Where do babies come from?”–a question I addressed only briefly that first time because Nicholas almost immediately moved on to asking, “How do we make room for new people?  What happens to the old ones?”

I explained that when a person’s body gets old and worn-out, or if a person is so badly hurt or sick that the body can’t be fixed and can’t work anymore, then the person dies.  This means that the body is still there, but the thinking, feeling, active part of the person is gone.

Then I came to the pause pointRead more…

Mama, what happened on September 11?

If you haven’t heard this question from your child yet, you’re likely to hear it any day now.  As the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaches, I’m seeing and hearing more commemoration than in the past eight years.

My son asked about September 11 two years ago when the newspaper vending box showed a solemn, patriotic event and he wanted to know what that was about.  The simple answer is, “Every year on September 11, we remember people who died when our country was attacked.”  That would be enough information for some young children.  As with any sensitive topic, the best approach is to answer only the question the child is really asking.  I am sharing the full “story” I told to Nicholas (who was only 4 years 8 months old but was already a very detail-oriented, tell-me-the-whole-story type of person!) as an example of what you might need to explain to a child, but be careful of heaping them with too many details.  In particular, think about whether your child is really asking, “Exactly what happened?” or, “Why did it happen?” Read more…

Simple Solution to Six-year-old’s Sleep Situation (coming into parents’ bed)

(I had to add some words that don’t start with S to help search engines find this article!)

Our son is six years old and still kind of wishes Mama would stay with him all the time he’s sleeping.  He understands that grownups don’t need as much sleep as children and have other things to do in the evening, so he long ago accepted that although one of us will lie next to him in his bed until he’s asleep, we then get up and leave him alone until morning.  We’ll come to help him if he has a nightmare, nosebleed, vomiting, etc., but in general he’s been sleeping alone all night since he was about three years old.

That changed about six weeks ago. Read more…

Thinking Out Loud

I talk to my kid a lot.  He’s five-and-a-half years old now and has some interesting things to say, but long before he was capable of conversation I talked to him quite a bit.  It wasn’t really a conscious strategy, just that I like having a companion sharing my experiences.  In my own childhood, I was treated as a valued companion by my parents and other relatives, who talked to me as if I were an intelligent person–not an itsy bitsy wuggums who needs baby talk and must be sheltered from reality, not a burden who should be seen and not heard–so it comes naturally to me to talk to kids in a normal way about real things. Read more…

Arithmetricks

For this back-to-school edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, I’d like to share some strategies for learning and doing arithmetic.  Some of these I learned in elementary school, and others I picked up later but wish I had known in elementary school!  I’m now the data manager of a large social science research study, so I use a lot of arithmetic and algebra in my work: I have to figure out what algorithm to type into the computer to get it to do the right thing with the data, I have to check the computer’s results (to make sure that what I told it to do is what I wanted it to do!), and when I see problems in the data I have to figure out where they came from by adding and subtracting the numbers of participants who gave various answers to various questions.  I also use some of these strategies for tasks like figuring out which sale price is a better value, calculating a tip, adding up the boxes and dollars on Girl Scout Cookie order forms, and figuring out how old someone was on a certain date.

Chisanbop is a system for counting to 99 on your fingers.  It’s much more useful than counting your fingers because it not only goes higher than 10 but also represents the tens column and ones column using separate hands and enables you to see what’s happening when you carry and borrow numbers between columns.  I learned Chisanbop in second grade (thank you, Mrs. Boone!), and it was the thing that finally got all that carrying and borrowing business to make sense to me.  I still use it when I’m having trouble keeping track of addition or subtraction in my head and when I need to “hold” a number while using my short-term memory for something else.

Use the buddy system to form tens when adding a long column of numbers.  Each number between 1 and 9 has another number who is its buddy, and when they get together they make 10.  Take your pencil in one hand, and use the other hand to Chisanbop the number you’ll be “holding.”  Look at the ones column, find a pair of buddies, strike out those two numbers, and add 1 on your Chisanbop hand.  When you reach 10 on your hand, write a 1 in the hundreds column, “clear” your hand, and continue.  When you’ve found all the buddies, write the number you’re holding in the tens column, then add the remaining numbers in the ones column in the usual way and write the result.  Move on to the tens column.  Here’s an example:

526
28
86
152
714
412
268
49
+21

In the ones column, we have 6 and 4 (count 1 on your hand), 8 and 2 (2), 2 and 8 (3), 9 and 1 (4).  Write “4” at the top of the tens column.  The only number left in the ones column is 6.  Write “6” under the ones column.
In the tens column, we have 4 and 6 (1), 2 and 8 (2) . . . and that’s all the buddy pairs . . . oh, but 4+1 makes 5 to go with that other 5 (3).  Write “3” at the top of the hundreds column.  Still in the tens column are 2, 1, and 2, so write “5” under the tens column.
In the hundreds column, we have 3 and 7 (1) and another 1 and 4 to go with a 5 (2).  Write “2” under the thousands column.  The only number left in the hundreds column is 2.  Write “2” under the hundreds column.
The answer is 2,256.

Now, wasn’t that easier than “6+8=14+6=20+2=22+4=6, I mean 36, or was it 26 or [sigh] 6+8=14…”?
I had figured this out as a strategy for extreme addition years before my uncle Ken told me the “buddy system” terminology, which had worked well with his kids.  He said that they drew some pictures of 2 and 8 playing together, etc., and hung them up as visual aids to help them memorize which numbers are buddies.

Pennies and dimes are great for visually representing carrying and borrowing problems.  Set out a pile of dimes for the tens digit and a pile of pennies for the ones digit in each number.
For addition: Combine the pennies, count out sets of ten, “take them to the bank” and trade them for dimes, and then count the remaining pennies and write that answer in the ones place.  Now count the dimes and write that answer in the tens place.
For subtraction: Look, you can’t take away that many pennies because you don’t have that many pennies.  Take a dime to the bank and trade it for ten pennies.  Now do your subtraction of pennies and write that answer in the ones place.  Now do your subtraction of dimes and write that answer in the tens place.
You can add dollar coins when you’re ready for 3-digit numbers!

Working from the left is sometimes easier.  When I’m doing arithmetic in my head (or on paper where the numbers aren’t aligned vertically, like in my checkbook), it’s often easier to start from the big end of the number, like this: “526+28?  Okay, 526+20=546; 546+8=two less than 556=554.”  It sounds weird to say it’s sometimes easier to add 10 and subtract 2 than to add 8, but somehow it is!  I’ve read that these two strategies are commonly applied by Japanese students who beat American students in arithmetical speed and accuracy, so even though I can’t explain why it works, I feel that I “have permission” to do these problems a different way than my teachers taught me.

Having trouble remembering the steps for solving a long-division problem?  “Dad, Mom, Sister, Brother” is a mnemonic to help you remember to Divide, Multiply, Subtract, and Bring down.  My fifth-grade math teacher taught me this one (thank you, Mrs. Goforth!), which was particularly easy for me to remember because those were the members of my own household in age order.  It’s really helpful for a kid who is confused about why we’re multiplying and subtracting when this is a division problem–put aside the “why” for a while and pretend you’re a machine doing these processes in your factory, and after you’ve got it running smoothly and have filled a page with these neat-looking tapering structures you now know how to make, then you can think about “why” again and probably find that you understand more than you did.
Look for patterns.  Schools tend to teach this sort of skill as a boring search for the Least Common Denominator–terminology which threw me into despair because “least common” means “hardest to find,” doesn’t it? And I was having a lot of trouble remembering which end of the fraction was the denominator, and when this new skill turned out to be about division rather than any visible fractions, oh man, I was really lost!–but it’s a lot more fun and useful to do informally.

For example, Brand A is on sale at 3 for $5 and has 20 in a package; Brand B is on sale at 5 for $10 and has 25 in a package.  Well, $10 is twice as much as $5, so we could say the Least Common Denominator is $5 (or $1 or 1c!), but really the easier way is to look at how many we can get for $10.  Double the amount of Brand A, and you get 6 packs of 20 which is 120.  $10 worth of Brand B is 5 packs of 25 which is [5×20=100, 5×5=25] 125.  Brand B is the better value.

RELATED ARTICLE: Early Encounters with Variables

Why aren’t we married?

Three years ago, Daniel and I were interviewed by Redbook magazine for an article called “The Changing Shape of the American Family” which profiled several different family structures.  The Alternatives to Marriage Project referred the reporter to us as an example of a stable couple raising a child without being married.  The final article [which, in its online archived version, has a photo of another family next to the text about us!] used only brief and paraphrased excerpts from what we’d said in two phone conversations and a lengthy e-mail interview.  So, in case anyone is wondering why we aren’t married, here’s how we explained it in lots of detail! Read more…

Early Encounters with Variables

I’m a research data manager: I spend my days working on various levels of the process of converting people’s responses to questions into numbers in the computer.  It’s not the career I expected, and it’s not a career most people immediately understand (the scene at my high school reunion: “So Jason is a police officer, and Kyle is a brain surgeon, and Rebecca is a…what did you say, again?”), but I enjoy it.  Funny, I thought I didn’t like math!  But you see, it’s not really about math; it’s about variables.  A recent online mom discussion about whether children should use computers led me to reflect on what I learned about variables at an early age and what my son is beginning to learn now. Read more…

Explaining the G-20 Protests to a Preschooler

It’s been one week since Pittsburgh hosted the G-20 economic summit.  The demonstrations against it and the police reactions to those demonstrations were a lot milder than they have been at previous summits in other cities, but there was some violent conflict and questionable conduct on both sides–check out the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or Pittsburgh City Paper for detailed coverage.

My son is 4 years 9 months old.  Upon hearing that he went to school and I went to work last Thursday–when violent clashes came within blocks of his school and my office–several people have asked me how I explained the situation to Nicholas.  It really wasn’t difficult! Read more…

Circumcision: The Earlier Generation

My article on why we didn’t circumcise our son mentioned that when my partner Daniel learned more about circumcision, he felt “that he was mutilated without his consent simply because of tradition and ignorance” and was so upset that “he wouldn’t speak to his parents because he feared he would yell at them.” As I tried to make clear in the article, we knew that Daniel’s parents had made that decision using the information they had at the time, working from within a culture in which routine infant circumcision was rarely questioned, so it wouldn’t be fair to blame them.

Daniel’s parents wrote a response. It’s so well-written and such a clear presentation of the difference in perspective between 1971 America and 2004 America that, with their permission, we are publishing it as a guest post. Read more…