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Date archive for: June 2009

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Off-Leash Kids

Weekday morning, early summer, my kids are playing outside. Not in the backyard. Not in our enclosed, danger-proof, visible-from-every-window backyard.

They’re cavorting out front. Where there are driveways, blind corners, and a teenaged neighbor with a Pontiac and a lead foot. Where there may be oleander. Or vicious dogs. Or a gun-toting, candy-dangling, meth-addled pedophile.

Maybe not. But from where I sit at this computer, I can’t see my kids. And though it makes me sound deranged, I admit this simple scenario puts me on edge. It fans a smoldering lump of fear deep in my gut. As they explore the world beyond our porch, their voices grow fainter, and the voice in my head grows louder: “Lady, you ain’t doing your job.”

Am I insane? Yes. Also no.

Journalist Lenore Skenazy says such parental paranoia is the common and natural result of sensationalistic media reports on ghastly kidnappings, gruesome murders, and freak accidents — all of which make society seem far more dangerous than it actually is. Her book Free-Range Kids argues that Americans have become so unnecessarily fearful for our children’s safety (kneepads for crawling babies? helmets for wobbly toddlers?) that we suck all the joy out of both parenthood and childhood.

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Fathering Females

When I was born, the doctor misspoke. “It’s a bo… ,” he told my parents, “a girl!” I work hard to avoid pondering what it is the guy thought he saw. My dad was surprised to feel a twinge of disappointment. “It only lasted a split second,” he assures me. “And I probably wouldn’t have felt it at all except for Dr. Slip.”

I don’t begrudge him his momentary grudge. As the mother of boys, I know that being a yin and begetting a yang can make a parent uneasy. My boys like to beat on things, jump off stuff, and generally behave in confounding ways. And when I shepherd my three-year-old to the bathroom at 2 a.m., I’m ill-skilled to help him aim. Or shake. You might as well ask me to repair a blown head gasket.

Thus do I feel a certain kinship to the fathers of daughters. Girls are complicated, and raising them is tricky — especially when your model for “father” is the fella who taught you to throw a long bomb and “take it like a man.”

I know a guy who cursed when he found out his wife was pregnant with a girl. “I remember distinctly yelling ‘#@$%!’ in the muffled cone of silence my car offered,” he said. “At the time, it was just one more thing that I felt was not going my way. I would come to the realization years later that it’s your child’s personality you fall in love with, and it’s irrelevant what that personality is attached to.”

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Gay Marriage in the Midwest

We used to be the shizzle. Remember? For decades, California was the nation’s pacesetter. The birthplace of Barbie, blue jeans, and the birth control pill, the Golden State prided itself on dragging the rest of the nation into tomorrow. Or, at the very least, into Tomorrowland.

Faced with decisions like, “Shall we elect a glute-flexing cyborg as governor?” and “Should we light up the country’s first medical marijuana initiative?” we grinned our laidback grins, sipped our Left Coast syrah, and said, “Sure! Why not?”

We were the heralds of “hot.” The harbingers of “hip.” But no more.

Last week, our high court handed that mantle over to a pot-bellied, farm-belt state called Iowa. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Whereas California’s Supreme Court voted to uphold a ban on gay marriage, Iowa has been marrying gays since April.

They’re not the only ones. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont have given their blessings to gay nuptials, too.

But Iowa? The court’s decision was unanimous, and emphatic. Stephen Colbert joked that the ruling makes sense. “There’s nothing else to do in Iowa: shuck corn, drag race, pound a sixer, shuck more corn, propose to your football coach.”

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