Category: Parenting

A Little Prick

A Little Prick

Sometimes I fret that I spend too much time on the fence, but immunisation is a no brainer. The science is sound and it turns out that a little prick can do even more than prevent terrible disease.

New Scientist Magazine reports that a recent study into the side effects of vaccines have had a “wider ranging influence on our immune systems than we ever imagined.”

A study undertaken by Danish Professor Peter Aaby and colleagues in Africa has shown that measles vaccination also reduces death in all other infections by a third by reducing the instance of pneumonia and diarrhoea. The vaccine teaches the body how to combat other infections.

peter aaby measles immunisation
Peter Aaby with Manuel Fernandes

In the west there is evidence to suggest that some vaccines help reduce the effects of eczema and asthma. These unexpected bonuses are known as “non-specific effects”.

Scientists have been noticing these non-specific effects since the early 20th century but no one has taken much notice until Peter Aaby’s work in the West African state of Guinea-Bisseau.

If you are on the fence about immunisation, follow the science. Use Google Scholar and read the meta studies. The Australian government website, Immunise Australia has some useful information as well. Follow the link to New Scientist for more detail.

immunise tshirt

Milk and Cookies and Vegas

Milk and Cookies and Vegas

Sensible friends today come in the form of Trip Advisor strangers. The thing I love about Trip Advisor is that you generally visit the page when planning a trip and who doesn’t love a trip to anywhere?

Rob and I have been talking about this one for a decade, since we sat on a veranda in Bali on our tenth wedding anniversary sipping champagne from our treasured “bride” and “groom” glasses. We decided back then that if we made it to twenty years we’d go to Las Vegas and get married again in the cheesiest ‘wedding’ ceremony we could find.

That time has come. A lot has happened in our twenty years together. There’s a time for knuckling down to the hard, often happy, sometimes sad business of raising a family….and there’s a time for fun.

I’ve been angling for a drive-thru ceremony but Rob’s insisting on an Elvis celebrant who looks and sounds nothing like Elvis. We’ve booked a couple of nights at the Bellagio as it seemed to embody everything that is wonderful about Vegas – majestic fountains, close to the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, a volcano, “fun with guns”, Rod Stewart, and the Colosseum. Who needs Europe?

Before Vegas we’re taking a road trip from San Francisco down the Big Sur with a couple of overnighters including a quaint little place in Carmel that serves milk and cookies with their turn-down service. Adorable.

The children will fly themselves over to meet us in Los Angeles. A week in West Hollywood (WeHo!) is about as close to camping as we’re likely to get, I think. Some of you might think this is a bit sad but I think: Santa Monica Boulevard baby!

welcome las vegas


Clever Man: Man Up.

Clever Man: Man Up.

“Poor Rob” as people sometimes refer to my husband has a terribly sore back. He recently had to forgo several days of surfing while on a surfing holiday. This is him after a recent visit to the physio:

sore back

Coincidentally, at this time his buddy (today’s Clever Man) Henry Willis has been expounding the virtues of the Standing Desk, something he has had great success with himself.

standing desk 19th century

Rob has leapt to his feet fast on this one, and ordered a standing desk from Bad Backs, According to Henry if you have a sore back, walking into the store is as exciting as it was walking into a lolly shop as a kid.

msf standing desk RN

Ernest Hemingway was a big fan:

art manliness ernest hemingway

The article itself was on a fabulous website that is going to take up a good chunk of today’s online surfing time if you’re a fella:

The Art of Manliness

art of manliness logo man

The site is filled with wonderful, manly advice. Who has experienced the floppy fish or too strong handshake? Who worries that we’re not shaking hands enough anymore? Here’s how to do it right:

art manliness handshake

There is a whole section on relationship advice such as Being Neighbourly, How to Communicate Your Needs in a Relationship, How to Create a Lifelong Brotherhood and my favourite: Fathering with Intentionality: The Importance of Creating a Family Culture:

“Understand this: A family culture happens whether you’re consciously creating it or not. It’s up to you and your wife to determine whether that culture is of your choosing. If you want a positive family culture, you must commit yourself to years of constant planning and teaching. A culture isn’t something that’s created overnight; it requires daily investment. But the payoff is definitely worth it.”

art manliness breakup

Do you actually know the right way to break down a door? It could come in manliness break door

Yes, it is manly to carry a handkerchief like our fathers and grandfathers did. You’re not likely to be robbing a stage coach but there’s something rather attractive in a Don Draper sort of way about a man whipping out a handkerchief to mop his brow.

Art Manliness handkerchief

Not sure how to dress for a particular occasion? It’s all sorted here. There’s even a how to on shoe shining, which buttons of a jacket to do up and what to wear when an invitation says formal, semi formal or smart casual.

Art Manliness Casual Office

Thank you to our manly Clever Man Henry for this little gem of a website and for easing Poor Rob’s pain.




My corner of Australia is rife with head colds at the moment. I tried to dodge the one after me but have succumbed gracelessly. Winter is officially upon us and while is sunny and crisp, bugs abound, so I’ve had time to lie around reading the paper and surf the world-wide web.

Because of all this downtime, I made it all the way to the technology pages of the newspaper and discovered a couple of interesting blogs:

STFU Parents is hitting the news at the moment as the blog author, Blair Koenig has just released a book of her posts. People send in snips from social network sites like Facebook and tumblr with parents’ status updates that are the very definition of TMI (too much information).

There are entire categories for different over-sharers, such as Sanctimommy (my personal favourite), Onesies, WTF of the Day, Woe is Mom and MommyJacking, where someone may post a note that they got a job promotion and in comes mommyjacker with a comment about how that’s “nothing compared with raising kids!”.

stfu parents stfu momyjacker 1

Then there is the Gross Out Factor section, not to be viewed while eating.

stfu parents gross

Most of we Generation X-ers who are on Facebook, the last of the adults to reach adulthood without the Internet, know that there is a line not to be crossed when it comes to over-sharing – so far I haven’t had any look-my-toddler-pooed-all-over-the-room shots show up in my news feed. Then again I have very few friends whose kids are still toddlers these days.

But is there a place for mummy-sharing online that isn’t going to get you a featured spot on STFU Parents? It’s a question Koenig gets asked often. Can I share my ultrasound photo or is it going to end up here?

As she says “We’re entering a new phase where placentapics may occasionally inspire more organ appreciation than nausea.”

Good thing or bad thing? It’s up to you. I agree that we are becoming more desensitised to the over-share than we used to be however for some this is the forum for which mums and dads share baby news with their distant family.

If the snippets of parents who should probably not own a computer or smart phone (or be parents) fills you with dread for the future of civilisation at this point, perhaps don’t read on.

The Bun in the Oven section of STFU, Parents is just plain gruesome. Here we have the pleasure of mu-to-be Stormie’s update regarding the approaching birth of baby Memphis by C-Section:

stfu parents c-section

You don’t really get the whole picture just by reading these snaps. What makes the blog un-put-downable are the comments by Koenig that accompany each morsel. Her writing is clever and funny and while cutting she isn’t cruel. More incredulous.

The other blog is Reasons My Son Is Crying by Greg Pembroke, a 32-year-old New York father. If it wasn’t so funny it would almost qualify for a spot on STFU Parents, but as you look at each photo and the caption it gets funnier and funnier. Pembroke has two little boys and has started a blog in which he captures a photo of one of the kids in tears along with a single sentence caption describing why.

This one is titled “his sock wouldn’t come off”:

why my son is crying sock

Others have captions such as “A fly landed near him”, “He saw a beetle”, and “I wouldn’t let him get a tattoo.” The blog has only been around for a month or so and has already gone viral and earned him a spot on Conan O’Brien. It’s raised some interesting discussion about bringing parenting to the online world. Is Pembroke damaging his little fellas in some way by publishing their every tear? There are plenty of mommy bloggers up in arms about how despicable this is, and others who see it as harmless fun:

At GeekMom in the comments section of a blog post entitled 3 Reasons To Detest “Why My Son Is Crying” Suburban Snapshots writes:

“Let’s not assume that the rest of these kids’ days aside from the 4 seconds it takes to take and post a photo of their tears is not spent full of love, reassurance, giggles, discipline, play, and everything else that nurtures kids. I’d guess that they spend a LOT of time laughing, because their parents clearly have excellent senses of humor. I’d rather my child be raised knowing how to laugh at herself than raised to write blog posts critiquing the parenting of strangers.”

While Lisa Quimby counters with:

“What a despicable thing to do to a child! Toddlers face each day being shorter, slower, weaker and less coordinated than most everyone around them. They are trying to figure out the rules of a world that seems so unpredictable. Of course there will be meltdowns when expectations (a favorite cup, for example) aren’t met. As parents, it’s up to us to recognize the struggles that seems so small to us and help our children learn to handle their emotions. If we don’t treat them with respect, how will they learn to respect others? And what about when this kid grows up and finds his crying toddler face all over the internet?!”

My vote goes to Pembroke who told

“Kids have meltdowns 20, 30 times a day. You can drive yourself crazy or you can laugh and just accept it.”

He is now taking submissions if anyone reading this happens to have a camera and a crying toddler on hand…

As for frowning at Pembroke or laughing with him, I’ll take laughing. He sounds like a genuinely nice guy having a bit of fun with sweet, normal little boys.

Perfectly Perfect Parents

Perfectly Perfect Parents

There’s nothing like a tropical holiday with the whole extended family to bring ones parenting skills out of soft focus and into the bright sunshine. I’m wondering if there’s a statute of limitations on how many times I can say “I think she’s just very tired” when I’m actually thinking “my six year old is simply a rather unpleasant child. Sorry!”

A tad ironic then that the one article I printed from The Atlantic Magazine for fun holiday reading is called How to Land Your Kid in Therapy by Lori Gottlieb, my new parenting pinup gal.

I’m typing this on an iPad so will keep it short (first world problem in a third world country…) and there will be no links or pics as my other first world problem is a third world Internet connection.

Gottlieb, a therapist and mother, writes about how being the perfect parent can really stuff up a child. At university she and her colleagues were taught to always focus on how a lack of parental attunement affects a child, but after seeing countless young adults on her couch who had come from spectacularly attuned parents and who were sad, adrift, lost, Gottlieb began to wonder if being too attuned had its own bag of problems.

Being a crappy parent will do your child no favours, but being a perfect parent could stuff them up too. It seems Donald Winnicott was on the money when he coined the phrase “good enough mother” in the 1960s. On a side note, do have a read of his work if you want to follow this further. His work on the real self and the false self is very good.

I have a bit of a beef with “happiness” and the desperate, relentless pursuit of it I see everywhere. As Gottlieb writes “nowadays it’s not enough to be happy—if you can be happier. The American Dream…has morphed from a quest for general contentment to the idea that you must be happy at all times and in every way.” This has been championed by books like The Happiness Project, where happiness is good but more happiness is even better!

if you want happy kids to grow into happy adults then one of the worst things you can do is deprive them of sadness. It takes a conscious effort to allow your child their unhappiness, disappointment, even despair. When they are young it seems natural to be the fixer. We scoop our toddler from a fall and comfort them before they’ve had a chance to work out whether or not they are really hurt. I’ve tried not to do this, but I have. I get scared when I see my kids feeling devastated, wretched, sad. I worry I won’t be able to fix them, when in fact it’s not something that should even be fixed, but more something for a parent to guide a child through and perhaps hold their hand to just let them know that while their sadness is normal and difficult, you’ll be there to watch over them while they feel it.

There’s been a lot of talk for several years now about letting kids get dirty. Let them play in the mud and eat a snail, it strengthens their immune system to be exposed to a bit of filth early on. Gottlieb quotes child psychologist Dan Kindlon, as saying that if a child can’t experience painful feelings, they don’t grow psychological immunity.

Parents call the school if their child doesn’t get on the school soccer team, if they have a run in with another child. What you get in this sort of environment eventually is a teenager with no experience of hardship, Gottlieb writes. We are raising teacup kids.

When I was training for my first marathon (see how I managed to work that into an article on parenting? Still got it), I hired Pat Carroll to give me training advice via email. He assessed me, through my stats and personal info as a “teacup” marathoner. He explained that a marathon is like a dishwasher. It’s full of teacups and mugs. The mugs are tough as boots while the teacups are delicate flowers who have to be careful of overtraining and getting injured.

By saving kids from small growing up pains, we set them up to shatter like delicate teacups when they’re bigger and the pains are bigger and we are no longer around on a daily basis to smooth the path ahead for them. Better to let them grow up with a few chips and superglue.

So how do we not be perfectly perfect parents? I don’t know: after the kids headed off to the waterbom park this morning, I went into their hotel room and neatly folded all their clothes and popped them away. Just to make their happiness that bit more happy. According to Kindlon, this sort of behaviour is “parental over investment and is contributing to a burgeoning generational narcissism that’s hurting our kids.” I completely agree. But I also just didn’t want the room cleaner to see how disgustingly messy they actually are.

The final word seems to be “our children are not our masterpieces” a relief for both parents and kids I imagine.

%d bloggers like this: