Category Archives: Parenting

New Captain Mommy! Welcome Alina Adams

How do you drive overprotective parents crazy? Just ask Alina Adams, who recently penned a blog post for about how she lets her 6-year-old daughter stay home alone:

“It’s a big year at our house. This September, for the first time, my 14-year-old began taking the subway to school by himself, my 10-year-old began taking the city bus to school by himself, and I began leaving my 6-year-old at home alone for short stretches.

“As with many of our previous milestones, all came about due to necessity.”

But to look at many of the comments in response to Adams’ post, lots of her readers ignored the word necessity. Adams got people who accused her of breaking the law, who “admired” her for something they themselves would never do, along with some who just thought it was downright reckless of her to admit to leaving an innocent child unattended, where any Tom, Dick or Harry Predator could snatch her away. Adams finds that last one just plain silly. When I interviewed her she dismissed the notion that anyone could find her daughter from the few details she provided in her essay. “How is anyone going to find my daughter from my having written that we live in an apartment in New York? Is someone going to use the internet and come through the computer screen into our apartment?”

Adams didn’t like the criticism but she understands it. As she declares there’s a “definite culture of fear” among parents. Even though crime has gone down and even though many adults remember being left alone themselves as children, somehow it is all different now.

What makes Adams a newly minted Captain Mommy though is the fact that writing about the subject of leaving her daughter at home alone meant that she had to find out if those who accused of breaking the law might have had a point. As Adams writes, “I was pretty surprised to learn that The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone. And that some states even have specific guidelines on the books, as low as 8 years old in many places, and as high as 14(!) in Illinois. (My 14-year-old doesn’t just stay home alone in New York State, he watches his siblings, too!)”

Adams made sure that New York State, where she lives with her family, didn’t have a statute proscribing a particular age when kids could be left home alone, and was happy to discover that she was not in jeopardy of being hauled off to jail. (It is worth noting, that New York does have a law against kids left in cars alone below the age of 8, however.)

Why is Adams so against such laws? As she explained it to me, “I’m not a fan of arbitrary guidelines. I’m against mandatory minimums for kindergarten or retirement. [I’m] against government making that decision because it is an arbitrary rule without seeing what’s going on.”

Adams believes that every child is different making each situation different as well. But that’s not good enough for nanny-statists who are convinced they are “saving the kids” by pushing for these laws. The one-size-fits-all solution is the only one government can handle and so we get rules and regulations that interfere with parents’ choices rather than supporting them.

Mom schools her son’s school on standards

A Florida mom has pointed out the obvious to her son’s middle school: Making Cs and Ds shouldn’t get you on the honor roll. The mom, Beth Tillack had to make a stink with the school and the media, for middle school Principal Kim Anderson to agree that the grades should matter, that receiving failing grades should disqualify him for honor roll and that certainly her son shouldn’t be seeing encouragement like “good job” and smiley faces next to those poor results.

“I immediately assumed it was a mistake. It was glaring in the fact that it said ‘good job’ and then there was a D,” complained Tillack. And she added that the school trying to gloss over her son’s bad grades was only making her job harder as a parent. “How can I get my child to study for a test,” she explained, “when he thinks he’s done enough.

Indeed. As I commented to reporter Liz Fields for this story:

Schachter says the case is also symptomatic of the development of the ‘self- esteem movement,’ or the fact ‘You can’t say something negative because their feelings will be hurt and they won’t overcome a rejection or criticism.’

“The teachers are not doing students any favors by falsely encouraging students,” she said. “They shouldn’t discourage them, but failing to let them know when they are underachieving is not promoting growth. 

Between 45 and 50 percent of students at the school in Dade City, Fla. are on the honor roll, which should have made it glaringly obvious to the principal and other administrators that there was a problem. If half of all students are on the honor roll, standards are obviously too low. Good for this newly initiated “captain mommy” for telling her school to do better.

Making lunch a test for parents

The Wall Street Journal has a story on how making school lunch has gotten too complicated:

Why does packing a kid’s school meal often leave parents feeling frazzled?

With food allergies on the rise, many schools have barred all nut products, not just peanut butter, and sometimes other foods like soy and dairy. More schools also have candy and soda bans. A growing awareness of childhood obesity and nutrition means more parental anxiety around choosing the “right” foods—and making sure it’s stuff the kids will actually eat…..

“I pack [my son] a lunch every day and I hate it,” says Amy Hood, a stay-at-home mother of three from Charlestown, R.I. “It is like laundry. You’re never done.” In January, she tweeted that she had slipped a Kit Kat into her 11-year-old’s lunch: “This is (voice of doom) AGAINST THE RULES. Told him to eat the evidence if confronted.” Her son’s school has a no-candy policy. And while Ms. Hood says she generally packs a healthy lunch, she says she doesn’t “see the problem in a little fun stuff.” (The Kit Kat wasn’t confiscated; her son ate it.)

A Kit Kat is a crime?

We read so often about how badly most Americans eat. We go out too often, or bring in take-out, and we never make our own food. This is supposedly why we are all so fat and will die early of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We are supposedly killing our kids with the junk food we buy them or the fast food they buy with the money we give them because we are too busy working to make dinner.

Now we learn that instead of trying to encourage parents to make healthier, homemade lunch for their kids, schools are bearing down on parents with all sorts of rules for what they can and can’t send. Schools will now monitor what the kids are bringing from home and confiscate the lunch if it doesn’t comply with government-set standards.

Worse yet, some schools are banning homemade lunch altogether because the school can’t control what the kids are getting.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” said Chicago’s Little Village Academy Principal Elsa Carmona. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

But the food in school is terrible. First Lady Michelle Obama came up with new school lunch menus that are forced on public schools and students. The lunch program is so heavily subsidized that schools can hardly resist. Only it turns out that the kids hate the food (and use, ahem, colorful language to express themselves), they throw a ton of it out and are costing schools hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result. Several hundred schools, in fact, have opted out of the national school lunch program because the students hated it so much and it was costing districts thousands.

“Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn’t eat,” said Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year. “So you sit there and watch the kids, and you know they’re hungry at the end of the day, and that led to some behavior and some lack of attentiveness.”

Instead of fighting parents and punishing kids, educators and administrators should be grateful when kids bring their own food and encourage more parents to do the same. So what if there’s a bag of chips with the bologna sandwich. At least the school didn’t have to pay for it and the kid is getting fed. Besides, aren’t schools meant to focus more on what’s going into the kids’ brains rather than their stomachs?

State, doctor say no to swaddling

My baby just started daycare. He is 9 weeks old and adorable. We swaddle him at home, for naps and for his nighttime sleep. We swaddled his 3 siblings as well. Indeed, following Harvey Karp’s advice from “Happiest Baby on the Block” we swaddled for as long as we could because it provided us with a bedtime routine, the babies expected it and they were all sleeping through the night (7pm to 7am) by four months of age. Swaddling works.

When I met with the daycare worker a few days before my son’s first day, she asked if there was anything I wanted her to know or any questions I had about the care she and the staff would provide. I said exactly one thing: “I want you to swaddle him”. She agreed, but too hastily as it turns out because when I brought him for his first day I was informed by the daycare administrator that they could not swaddle the baby without a note from a doctor.

According to the rules set out by “Caring for our Children” which is the daycare bible for state-licensed facilities in Pennsylvania (where we live) a baby may not be swaddled in the daycare without written authorization from a physician. The geniuses who write these rules are convinced that swaddling isn’t perfectly safe (what is?) because the daycare workers could do a bad job wrapping the baby, the blanket could become loose, the baby might roll over into the loose material and then the baby might, possibly, die of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Oh, swaddling improperly might also cause hip dysplasia.

I asked our pediatrician to write the note the daycare required to swaddle my baby but the doctor refused. She says that the American Academy of Pediatrics “doesn’t recommend swaddling after two months of age.” Do these geniuses think my baby isn’t crying anymore after two months? No matter, the doctor has refused to sign the letter.

Terrific. I’m having my rights as a parent trampled and my baby isn’t sleeping well at daycare.

In March, Melinda Wenner Moyer wrote about how this was going to be a problem. And presto, she is proved correct.


Socializing through play

From my post for National Review’s Home Front:

How often do you read an article and then have the author’s assertions prove to be correct the very next day? “Rarely, if ever,” would have been my answer before I saw evolutionary psychologist Peter Gray’s piece “The Play Deficit.”

Gray explains that kids today are having a hard time successfully growing into adulthood because they are overprotected, over-pressured, and are not given enough time for free play. It is a grim assessment that caused me — the mother of four young children — a lot of anxiety. But the very next day after reading the article I found that something Gray described actually happened among my kids. It was a revelation…..

If Nanny Bloomberg were your dad

The New York Post recently reported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is going to be a first-time grandpa when his 30-year-old unmarried, equestrian daughter Georgiana gives birth this coming winter. The mayor’s spokesman told Page Six that Bloomberg “is thrilled and can’t wait to meet his first grandchild.” Nice that he’s so eager, but if your dad was the Nanny of New York City who’d spent the past decade banning “bad” habits and mandating “healthy” behavior, you might have a bit different perspective.  Imagine a conversation between daddy and daughter regarding the pregnancy. It might go something like this:

Dad: Hi Georgie. How are you feeling?

Georgiana: Fine Daddy, thanks.

D: What have you been eating?

G: I’m trying to keep it healthy, dad. Breakfast was vanilla yogurt, granola and berries. I’ve stopped drinking coffee. I’m only drinking water and juice.

D: I know you take care of yourself, but haven’t you been following my effort to stop New Yorkers from eating too much sugar? Fruit juice, yogurt, granola? You know how much added sugar those things have? Recent studies have shown that sugar is so “toxic” you might give birth to a baby prone to obesity if you don’t watch out.

G: OK, dad.

D: Remember what I said at the press conference when that stupid judge overturned my soda ban? “I’ve gotta defend my children, and you, and everybody else and do what’s right to save lives…Obesity kills.” Lay off the sugar, ok?

G: OK, Dad.

D: What about other meals?

G: I’ve stopped eating fish because of the mercury. So I’m eating hamburgers and steak for the red meat and lots of hard, pasteurized cheeses.

D: That’s too much salt, darling. Don’t you remember my former department of health chief Thomas “sourpuss” Frieden? He’s now director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and he says that almost a million people a year die from heart attacks and strokes due to overindulging in salt. They don’t actually have proof that salt is directly responsible for all those deaths, of course, but it is obviously really, really bad to eat too much salt.

G: OK, Dad.

D:  Georgie, the news says you aren’t taking any time off from horseback riding for the baby.

G: Yes, dad.

D: Well, if you aren’t going to take time off, how will you exclusively breastfeed? I’ve been working very hard to force mothers into breastfeeding by putting formula under lock and key at city hospitals. I’m doing that because breast is best! Just like my Latch-On NYC campaign says, mothers can save their newborns from diabetes, obesity, ear infections and protect their immune system with breast-milk. Formula is basically poison.

G: OK, dad.

D: OK.

G: I do have a question for you?

D: Shoot.

G: I know you and mom are divorced but you were married when Emma and I were born and I’m just wondering whether you think it would be better for the baby if I were married to the baby’s father [my boyfriend, fellow equestrian, Argentinian-born] Ramiro [Quintana]?

D: Sweetheart, you know that I love and support you no matter what you do right?

G: Yes, dad.

D: But really I can’t tell you what to do.

G: Uh, thanks Dad.

State is better than parents?

This promo from MSNBC could not be more perfect to illustrate just what this blog and soon my book Captain Mommy vs the Nanny State are all about: