Archive for March, 2010

Palette Cleanser!

Wednesday’s post was a heavy bit of griping.

So today, a cute video!

Plus, I’m tired and don’t have any better ideas worked out yet.

Behold the fattest little puppy ever.

And, of course, puppies twitching as they sleep.

No particular reason for picking bull dogs, other than the rule of cuteness that something that looks grumpy while it is tiny is cute.

No Comments

The Internet Won’t Save You

A search for a missing girl in San Diego may have ended today. Chelsea King was, it seems, abducted from a wooded park she was jogging in one afternoon. A registered sex offender has been arrested in relation to the crime. Coming home today, I heard a radio DJ discuss the story and plead to parents to educate themselves about predators in their area via the Megan’s Law database. It kicked off a rant from me in the car, and here’s why.

The internet won’t save you.

The Megan’s Law database is perceived in a flawed manner. It is a website that provides a very selective set of information and does more to inspire fear than it does to prevent crime. I’m going to get to my salient point before I start collecting the wrath of the internet.

No tool will protect your child better than the common sense you have instilled in them. No hand-gun, pepper-spray, karate class or internet database will do more to keep a child away from danger better than a parent passing down the framework for safety and situational awareness. To believe otherwise is to set yourself up for tragedy.

The Megan’s Law database displays the current addresses of registered sex offenders in California. Searching by zip code, you can observe where offenders live by viewing a Google Maps-ish application. Information, yes, but hardly useful. Headshots are shown along with offenses committed, but there’s no real context given. There’s no date associated with or synopsis of the crime. Perhaps the man convicted of statutory rape is the kind of case where it was a consensual relationship between two 17-year-olds. Still a crime… but something that should incite panic in the surrounding neighborhood? How about a frat boy who was made to streak for rush week and gets picked up for the cops and is then nailed for indecent exposure? Menace to society?

Imagine a database where every crime is logged and displayed in a database like this. Let’s say my next door neighbor got into a bar fight after he got back from the Korean War because some guy insulted the Marines. He’s booked for assault. Should I be scared of him? No. But if I open a web page and see a red dot next to my house and open it up to a mug-shot of a man looking angry with bolded text that reads “ASSAULT” — that’s scary. And misleading.

This is all largely tangential, though. That’s a matter of poor implementation. What worries me most is that it seems that the Megan’s Law database is touted as something that will solve problems. How?

Let’s say you live down the street from a registered sex offender. Okay, now you know what he looks like and can keep an eye out for him. Will you be around all the time to watch your child? 24 hours a day? No. So you print out a picture of him and teach your child to stay away from the man. Okay, solid. Will that prevent him, or anyone else, from taking your child when you’re not around? No. You decide you need to move away from this man. Can you find a zip code with no registered offenders in it? No. You want to get preemptive. Can you call the cops about this man? Not if hasn’t done anything. But if he’d done something worth calling the cops about that you witnessed, would you have needed the database in the first place? Not really.

The most dangerous child predators, in nearly every case, are the ones who are undocumented, rendering the Megan’s Law database inutile. The case of Chelsea King is a bit of an outlier. But would knowing that John Albert Gardner III was a registered sex offender have protected Chelsea? I can’t imagine how. Had prosecutors and judges listened to a psychiatrist’s advice to sentence him to a longer stint in jail for his previous offense Chelsea might be safe today, but this has nothing to do with Megan’s Law.

Do not learn to lean on the support of the outside world to raise your child. It’s something I see becoming more prevalent all the time. Kids who cannot focus are not undisciplined, they require meds (yes, yes, I understand that many kids do). Violent children play too many video games. Children who swear learn it from the movies. The assumption is that the parent is powerless to stop these rampant forces out in the world and must lean on outside agencies to sanitize the world for them. Whether it be the FCC or the MPAA or the ESRB or a tool like the Megan’s Law Database, there’s a sense that because these things exist, the burden of effort is taken off of the parents.

The buck stops with you. This is your child. This is your life to protect and to shape and no one can ever be expected to do that job for you. You will never be able to guarantee your child’s safety once they are old enough to be out in the world, but you can tell yourself that you’ve done all you can to make them ready for the life that will surround them.

Do you teach your child to always walk at a red light, that crosswalks are safe and that stop signs are always obeyed? Or do you teach them to look both ways every time?

1 Comment

Man Up

Stoicism is either one of the defining positive traits you associate with a man, or, you know, it’s not.

It’s the classic image of a man: husband or father. Working during the day and coming home to the family he supports, expecting nothing but the silence and reverence he is owed as breadwinner. Watching TV, oblivious to the chaos around him as children play and wife juggles housekeeping and child-wrangling. It’s the man of the stand-up comic’s trope: detached, uninvolved, irritated.

It’s from this mould that it appears that most baby books are written as well. This was the complaint that kicked off my blog, and months of reading later, it holds strong. Even very modern books that could/should very easily aim at both parents write directly to the mother and address her in a manner that suggests she needs to coax and cajole her partner into assistance. Phrases like “I like to give Dad concrete jobs to perform” and “this is a good time to involve Dad” and “give Dad his due, but don’t let his judgment overrule your best instincts” (I had a FIELD DAY with that one) are all over the place.

The leading assumption is that men won’t be able to handle a baby and that an active and participatory father is an aberrance, something to gawk at. This assumption is made on the grounds that men for various reasons will not be able to connect with the baby. They won’t know how to perform the critical functions of caring for a child (changing diapers, bathing, calming). They’ll be overwhelmed by the crying and will only ever be interested in when the next time they can log some sexy time with their lady will be.

Part of what makes me crazy about this is that the presumption implicit in these books is that every mother who produces a child has immediately and without question the best sense of what is best for her child. Simple observation should tell you otherwise. Parenting is a team effort, and not just something that you tag a Dad in for when you’re tired. But I digress…

These books focus on the supposed stoicism of the male as his greatest downfall, with a wink and a nod to Moms who have to steer the unwieldy Cadillac that is Dad through the fatherhood process. What I am gathering about this typical male attribute is that it’s getting a bad rap.

A Dad should be stoic. It’s a pretty critical part of his job, actually. Stoic does not equal disinterested. It does mean that you need to be ready to take one for the team without flinching, though. I am very interested in being an involved father. I want a big part of our parenting effort to be making sure we have as 50/50 a split on the stress and joys as possible. But I can already tell I’m going to need to scale it back.

It’s a lesson that is sometimes a bit more overt in the books you come across, but frequently it’s something between the lines. There are some things that you’re just going to have to take a backseat for. I can already tell you that I will likely be fighting off some feelings of jealously when it comes time for Mom to be breastfeeding with the baby. I can handle not lactating (thank you very much), but nursing is pretty definitive bonding time, and there is a lot of it. And while, yes, I’m sure I’ll be there for it and will observe from time to time, it’s the kind of thing that most moms are going to want to do alone. It takes peace and quiet and focus and the lack of another person sitting a couple feet away giving off a “What about ME? I’m important, too,” vibe.

Sometimes Dad will need to be the stoic and will need to stand off to the side because he can. Mom is going to have a tough time of it, most likely. Her body will be doing some very funky and sometimes unpleasant things to her brain and if what she needs is to snap at someone and cry for no reason she can think of and just plain not want you around for 30 minutes, man up.

I don’t mean peel out in the car and go hit a strip club. I mean realize that what you need to be from time to time is the rock. The same way you hope that your partner can be there for you on a rough day, be there for her. And be prepared for a lot of rough days in a row. You’re a big boy. You can handle it.

1 Comment