Category Archives: children

Expectant

Yes, it’s official now – I am expecting Baby No. 2. Well, most of you probably guessed from my post “Pregnancy is not an illness“.

This now explains why I had to quit Missing Link a few months back. I have been finding it very hard to operate normally with “morning” sickness and the debilitating tiredness that pregnancy brings. Worst of all, I have had to run out of class mid-lecture on one occasion. Oh well, they are a nice class, very polite, they didn’t say anything about it.

Fortunately, I am now feeling a lot better – still not 100% yet, but I reckon I’ll be pretty good in another week or too (touchwood).

I find that I get more anxious about the state of the world when I’m pregnant, and particularly just after I’ve given birth. Last time, I would cry at news stories of abandoned children or children caught up in war. I had to stop watching the news for a month – there was just too much sad and bad stuff. It must be the hormones – they make you want to mother everyone in the world. So I’ll try not to let my blog become too anxious and neurotic!

Our daughter is very excited about the prospect of being a big sister. Some days she thinks it will be a boy, some days she thinks it will be a girl. She hopes Baby will come out and play blocks with her – I’ve had to explain that Baby won’t really be able to play or even do very much when he/she comes out, but when Baby gets bigger, I’m sure he/she will want to play.

I’m really fascinated to see whether this baby will be like our daughter or totally different. My sister and I are very, very different in many ways (although, naturally, we’re also very similar in many others). I can’t wait to meet him or her! So it’s all exciting.

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Filed under childbirth, children, motherhood, pregnancy

Teaching by example

A science teacher friend told me that “teaching by real life example” is all the rage these days. People have to run around the room pretending to be electrons, rather than learning about electrical current in the abstract. It’s supposed to make learning more “approachable” and easier. A creditable aim, but I am afraid that I have always despised that kind of teaching. It treats people like idiots, incapable of understanding abstract thought. And personally, I learn far more by learning the abstract concept. (Well, I’m an academic lawyer, of course I love abstract concepts.)

It seems that perhaps I am not alone in learning more readily by being taught an abstract concept.

A recent study suggests concrete examples may actually impede students from learning an abstract mathematical concept. The New York Times article explains:

In the experiment, the college students learned a simple but unfamiliar mathematical system, essentially a set of rules. Some learned the system through purely abstract symbols, and others learned it through concrete examples like combining liquids in measuring cups and tennis balls in a container.

Then the students were tested on a different situation — what they were told was a children’s game — that used the same math. “We told students you can use the knowledge you just acquired to figure out these rules of the game,” Dr. Kaminski said.

The students who learned the math abstractly did well with figuring out the rules of the game. Those who had learned through examples using measuring cups or tennis balls performed little better than might be expected if they were simply guessing. Students who were presented the abstract symbols after the concrete examples did better than those who learned only through cups or balls, but not as well as those who learned only the abstract symbols.

The problem with the real-world examples, Dr. Kaminski said, was that they obscured the underlying math, and students were not able to transfer their knowledge to new problems.

“They tend to remember the superficial, the two trains passing in the night,” Dr. Kaminski said. “It’s really a problem of our attention getting pulled to superficial information.”

The researchers said they had experimental evidence showing a similar effect with 11-year-old children. The findings run counter to what Dr. Kaminski said was a “pervasive assumption” among math educators that concrete examples help more children better understand math.

But if the Ohio State findings also apply to more basic math lessons, then teaching fractions with slices of pizza or statistics by pulling marbles out of a bag might prove counterproductive. “There are reasons to think it could affect everyone, including young learners,” Dr. Kaminski said.

As a teacher, I’ve always been a big fan of keeping it simple, and getting across the basic concepts. Seems like maybe I am on the right track. So I won’t be getting my class to pretend to be Torrens land titles or mere equities any time in the future.

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Filed under academia, children, education, psychology

God’s law and the law of the State

What happens when you have a particular group in society who are not minded to follow the law of the State, but prefer to follow God’s law as they interpret it?

Recently this question has come up in relation to Sharia law, particularly after the Archbishop of Canterbury said that some aspects of sharia law would inevitably be adopted in Britain. But the question doesn’t just arise in relation to Islam. Many religions have a group within who prefers the laws of God to the laws of the State. For example, orthodox Jews in Australia may take some disputes between one another to the Beth Din, a religious court where rabbis hand out judgment. And some indigenous Australians may prefer that a dispute be dealt with under traditional law rather than “whitefella law”.

My personal opinion is that as long as the law of God does not transgress fundamental human rights, then parties can consent to that particular law binding their actions. It is rather like an agreement to arbitrate in a contract where any disputes are referred to a mutually agreed arbitrator. The problem occurs when a particular practice or punishment which is said to be required by the law of God or tradition is illegal under the laws of the State: eg, stoning, spearing through the leg, promise of child brides etc. My personal opinion is that such things should not be allowed. The issue is slightly more vexed with indigenous tradition than it is with other religious laws because indigenous people didn’t “choose” to move here and to be subject to our laws, they were imposed upon them from colonisers. Nonetheless, as I have explained in one of my very early posts, as a feminist, I just cannot countenance the assault and rape of a teenage “promised bride” by her tribal husband, for example. Cultural relativism be damned.

It is a difficult question however, because it is a balance between religious tolerance and universal human rights (which should apply to all, regardless of race or religion or anything else).

Consequently, I was really interested to read this article in Slate about the American legal system and the Amish and the Mormons. I hadn’t really thought deeply about the conflict that would arise between State law and the traditions and laws of these two groups.

Amish are Anabaptists of Swiss-German origin who live in separate communities. They dress in conservative dress, do not use much modern technology and do not educate their children beyond 8th grade because of the “worldly values” they might learn. Study is focussed on the Bible, and children are expected to work in the fields with their parents once they leave school. They do not believe in Social Security, and do not either make payments or accept payments from the government. The educational practices and expectation that children will work in the fields has brought them in to conflict with US education and child labor rules. In Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 U.S. 205 (1972) three Amish parents were fined by the Wisconsin authorities for taking their children from school before the age of 16, but the US Supreme Court ultimately upheld the right of the parents to do this. Amish refuse to participate in wars, and their conscientious objection has also gotten them into trouble. As the article in Slate observes, the Amish have been given a fair degree of latitude, in part because they are peaceful and because they have managed to broker compromises with the State.

Mormons are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. They believe in the Book of Mormon. The Church of the Latter Day Saints officially abandoned polygamy after pressure from law enforcement in 1890, but some other fundamentalist groups continue to practice polygamy. The practice of taking multiple wives and taking child brides has brought the Fundamentalist Mormon Church into conflict with the law. In the last few weeks, Texan authorities raided a Fundamentalist Mormon compound after a 16 year old girl called authorities to say that she had recently borne a child to her 50 year old husband. Other US States are concerned that this raid may ruin their efforts to make Fundamentalist Mormons trust them and cooperate with them. As the Slate article outlined, a large raid on a Short Creek Fundamentalist Mormon community in 1953 was ultimately counterproductive. The Slate article concludes that the Mormon groups are in a different situation to the Amish:

But the fundamentalist Mormons groups are in a state of evasion. The ban on bigamy functions as a zoning ordinance: Plural marriage is fine in isolated communities, but not in Salt Lake City, and certainly not on TV talk shows, as Tom Green found. So long as the fundamentalists remain in hiding, the extreme ugliness of conducting raids creates a form of tolerance. They are thus in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” state of legal limbo that could break open at any time. They are outside the law in a different way.

It will be interesting to see whether the Texan raid is counterproductive or forces the Fundamentalist Mormon church into submission.

These situations remind us that the conflict between God’s law and the law of the State has many facets, and there are different ways of resolving the issue. Have a read of the Slate article and see what you think.

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Filed under children, christianity, feminism, human rights, indigenous issues, islam, judaism, law, marriage, politics, religion, society, tolerance, USA

Pregnancy is not an illness…

…but sometimes it sure as hell feels like it. Boom tish!

When I was having my daughter, we had a trainee midwife attending us as one of her “case studies” for qualification. She had a sticker or something with the motto “Pregnancy is not an illness”. From this you could tell she was young, idealistic, totally delightful and had never had a child herself. I always wanted to add the punchline above, but I restrained myself. After all, I had no idea until I had become pregnant myself.

I have to say that I was gobsmacked by how unwell I felt when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had blithely expected that I would carry on life as usual, and work up until the day I had her, but it didn’t work out like that. I ended up leaving work early. I know some women who haven’t felt ill, and others who ended up having to be hospitalised because they were so sick, so it really does depend on the person.

The worst of it is that the really sick period (5 weeks to 14 weeks for me) is when you aren’t supposed to tell anyone. So you can’t explain to anyone why you’re turning green at the sight of a cup of coffee, or you have a sudden insane desire for Pink Lady apples all the time. (Mmm, that yummy pink crunch!)

Any expectation that your life will go back to normal straight after having a baby is also misguided, in my opinion. I’ve heard of a barrister struggling to Court to make an appearance one and a half days after giving birth, which just seems insane to me. In fact, from the way it was reported to me, it was like a competition: “X came back 2 days after she’d had hers, but can you believe it, Y beat her and turned up 1 and a half days after she’d had her baby!” Seems like a pretty stupid kind of competition to me.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the reports that Cate Blanchett is to take part in the 2020 summit two weeks after her third baby is due. That seems like insanity to me. The only way in which she could possibly manage it is to palm the child off to someone else for most of the time. And even then, she’ll still be feeling a little sore and sorry for herself. If she’s trying to breastfeed, she might need the baby brought in and out of the summit. Or I guess she could take the child to the summit, but it’s very difficult to concentrate on work-related matters when you’ve got a beautiful newborn there demanding your attention. At least, that’s my experience. And I wouldn’t have it any other way: this new person has come into your life and you want to get to know them.

Cate might miss out on her new child for nothing anyway: this 2020 summit sounds like a bit of a furphy to me. A case of letting people talk, and then just going on as normal afterwards. It reminds me of Charles II’s strategy with Parliament – he got them to fight and talk amongst themselves, while he got on with ruling the country. Mind you, Parliament had an equally dismissive idea of him: “Give him a whore and a side of beef and he’ll be happy.” Lovely.

So, despite thinking of myself as a feminist, I’m just not sure about Cate’s appointment to 2020. She’s a great actress and all that, but her attendance so shortly after the predicted birth of her child gives a message to women that, yes, you can just get back to things straight after having your baby. This might be the case if you have a phalanx of nannies and other support people, but for most normal people, the process of having a child is an exhausting and all-engrossing one which does affect your capacity to work. Even if you’re not unwell and tired during the pregnancy itself, you are likely to be sore and tired after the birth (whether natural or caesarian). And babies are made so that they cause us to focus a lot of attention on them when they are born. And you know what? That’s natural.

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Filed under breastfeeding, childbirth, childcare, children, feminism, motherhood, parenthood, pregnancy, society

Clowns sicken young patients

I’ve written posts before about my deep and abiding hatred of clowns. Once on a plane, that movie Patch Adams was showing, featuring Robin Williams as an unconventional doctor who wears a clown outfit. I tried to keep my eyes closed for most of it after I saw him wearing long shoes and a red nose. My thought at the time was that if any doctor dressed as a clown came near me, I’d run screaming and probably take a turn for the worse.

Apparently I’m not alone. My Mum sent me this article about a British study which shows that kids between the ages of four and sixteen have an almost universal dislike of clowns, and many children find them scary. Clowns in childrens’ hospitals do not cheer the children up, and are more likely to scare them.

Penny Curtis, one of the researchers, is quoted in the article as saying:

“As adults we make assumptions about what works for children. We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable.”

They should employ me as the “cheerer-up” at hospitals. I certainly wouldn’t assume that people would be amused by clowns. And there’s no way I would inflict clowns on patients, whether child or adult. Who actually finds clowns funny? Sometimes I wonder.

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Filed under children, clowns, crazy stuff

Waxing lyrical

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I’ve never understood the appeal of the Brazilian wax. In fact, I’m a bit disturbed by the thought that there might be guys out there who prefer women to be hairless. Do these guys like to imagine that the woman is very young? Erk.

There is a piece in The Age today about Brazilian waxes for teens and pre-teens. The piece references a site called girl.com.au which touts itself as “Empowering girls worldwide”. The site has a feature on Brazilian waxes. I thought I’d go have a look. I was horrified. It explains the concept as follows:

Removing all hair from the vagina area, the Brazilian Wax although sadistic in nature is surprisingly not as painful as you might think, to some.

My first comment is that this is an appalling sentence. (Yes, I’m a pedant). My second comment is that I have my legs waxed and it hurts! And once my sister persuaded me to have a bikini wax…owch! Not the kind of thing you want sensitive girlish skin to undergo. I think I’ve made the right decision to avoid Brazilian waxes. The piece goes on to describe the process in ways that make it sound like some kind of torture or violation:

Brazilian waxing involves spreading hot wax your buttocks and vagina area. A cloth is patted over the wax, then pulled off. Don’t be alarmed if the waxer throws your legs over your shoulder, or asks you to moon them, this is normal and ensures there are no stray hairs. A tweezer is used for the more delicate areas (red bits).

EEEK! Doesn’t sound very empowering to me. Apparently if I wanted to become a model this would be a “must”, but fortunately, I got over that particular desire at the age of 13.

I think they have changed the most offensive part of the feature since Dubecki wrote her article. Dubecki says that the site says “Nobody really likes hair in their private regions and it has a childlike appeal”, but the site now says, “Nobody really likes hair in their private regions and this removes it.” Nonetheless, it’s still pretty full on. It suggests that “nobody” likes people who have pubic hair and that “everyone” is removing it.

I suppose it’s all about what you’re comfortable with. I can understand wanting to remove leg hair, and if my 15 year old daughter wanted to wax her legs, I’d let her, with parental supervision. However, I don’t think I’d allow it before the age of 14. Also, if my daughter wanted to shave her underarms, I’d let her. It would be hypocritical of me not to let her do these things because I do them myself.

But I draw the line at Brazilian waxing. The skin there is particularly delicate. And that area is private. It is a sexual area, in a way that legs and armpits are not. There’s no reason to undergo Brazilian waxing unless one is (a) wearing very revealing clothing or (b) exposing that area to others. I just don’t think that it’s appropriate for young teens to do either. Furthermore, I don’t want my daughter thinking that there’s something wrong with her when she hits puberty and gets pubic hair. The inference is that an adult body is somehow dirty or wrong, but girlish, thin and smooth is “sexy”. It’s just a continuation of the idea already present in the media that only girls are attractive, and that a womanly body (with curves, breasts, pubic hair) is ugly. I don’t want my daughter to believe that. And I’d encourage her never to undergo the process described above.

As I’ve said before, there are some very confusing messages out there for young girls these days. Girls’ magazines seem to assume young girls will be wearing makeup and revealing clothes before hitting their teens. Let’s not beat around the bush. Makeup, revealing clothing and waxing are all designed to make a woman more sexually attractive to men. Do we really want 8 year olds doing things which are ultimately designed to make them sexually attractive? I don’t. No wonder Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant at the tender age of 16: to be rather crude, she looks like “gaol bait”. If we sexualise girls at a young age, we shouldn’t be surprised if they then go out and behave in a sexualised manner.

I really don’t want my daughter to go out and explore her sexuality until she’s ready. And I want her to be comfortable with her womanly body when she grows up. Now, I think that’s an idea which is truly empowering.

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Filed under children, corporate paedophilia, feminism, media, morality, motherhood, parenthood, sex, sexuality

What, no Bertha?

According to the Brisbane Times, the top ten girls’ names of 2007 are:

1: Ella (419 born)
2: Charlotte (340)
3: Mia (321)
4: Emily (312)
5: Isabella (307)
6: Chloe (301)
7: Sophie (254)
8: Ava (253)
9: Lily (239)
10: Olivia (232)

We almost called our daughter Ella, but I’m glad that we didn’t in light of this list. There was a girl with the same first name and surname as me at one of my schools, and it caused no end of confusion.

Here are the boy’s names:

1: Jack (503 born)
2: Lachlan (418)
3: Riley (380)
4: Cooper (372)
5: William (358)
6: Joshua (343)
7: Thomas (325)
8: Samuel (278)
9: Ethan (273)
10: Ryan (268)

I know a few boys with those names too. 

When I first fell pregnant, for some reason, my husband decided it was a boy, and he wanted to call it “Liam” in honour of a Valentine’s Day prank which he played on me. He sent me spoof e-mails from a secret admirer called Liam, causing me to get rather freaked out and ring him at work, whereupon he had to confess.  But we then found out our baby was a girl and called her “Bertha” until she was born. Thank goodness that didn’t stick (apologies to any Berthas or persons related to Berthas out there). 

At my English school, there was a definite class divide in names. This meant that there was a rather boring pool of names to choose from. There were no less than 6 girls (out of 60 in our year) with variations on “Clare/Claire”. Some names which are regarded as normal in Australia were regarded as “townie” names at my school. My sister and I were lucky not to stand out in that regard.

Has anyone read Freakonomics on the science of names? It’s an interesting read. Some names stay popular, others become passe. It confirms my thoughts on the trends of names of upper middle class English school girls. Some of it seems to be class oriented – parents give their children “aspirational” names – but then for the more educated or more upper class, those names become “tainted”. And I guess some names become dated. I had a great aunt Gladys, but I don’t know of any baby Gladyses. Who knows why some names do date and some don’t?

Sometimes I think English naming traditions are a bit boring. Apparently in Communist Russia, new revolutionary names were invented, so a child might be called Dazdrapertrak (meaning “Long Live the First Tractor“) or Barikada (meaning “Barricades”). I’m sure my Russian friend told me of a girl called “Nuclear power” or something like that. I’ll have to get the story off her. In Mongolia, if parents lose their first child, they give the second child a terrible name to scare off the spirits: eg, Muunokhoi (meaning “Vicious Dog”). Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ll be borrowing any of those names any time soon for any future children…

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Filed under children, crazy stuff, parenthood, society