Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good Citizens

I don’t think that anyone who is a mother, republican or democrat can understand in any way, shape or form, the reasoning behind the President’s veto of the SCHIP legislation increase and renewal. There is no excuse, and this unacceptable decision is compounded by the fact that yesterday he requested another $46 Billion to fund the Iraq war. A war that has yet to make any difference in our struggle against an ideology that has no home base that claims no country of origin, no allegiance to a state. Muslim Fundamentalism is not an ideology of Iraq; it is an ideology that lives deep in the hearts of a people who inhabit a multitude of countries and a vast representation of humanity. They do not wear a uniform and carry a passport and hence we can not fight them in a traditional war. I won’t go too deeply into the fact that not one of the hijackers was from Iraq. They were, 17 of them, from Saudi Arabia, our good friends.

I highlight these truths only because I think that we are so quick to loose sight of the important nuances that make our current situations what they are, and we are too quick to believe everything that makes these situations any more palatable for ourselves. We will face choices as mothers in upcoming elections that will call on us all to take the time to really understand the policies we support through the candidates we elect. We must take the time to read, research, ask questions, and demand truth from ourselves and our leaders. We must, in short, be good citizens.

The SCHIP program is one such topic that should require more inquiry and more understanding. We, the collective maternal population must take the time to truly understand what SCHIP does, for whom, and why. If we do not defend the needs of the children who so greatly need our help, who will?

A Brief explanation of SCHIP:

The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, makes funds available to states that have in place federally approved programs providing health insurance coverage to uninsured children. This program gives each state permission to offer health insurance for children, up to age 19, who are not already insured. SCHIP is a state administered program and each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services.
Amounts of SCHIP funds receive annually is determined according to a formula based on the number of uninsured, low-income children in the state and a geographic health care cost factor. Participating states use most of their SCHIP funding to provide health insurance to uninsured children who could not otherwise be covered under the state's plan alone.
In most states the maximum household income allowed is $36,000. If you read carefully, the second paragraph above highlights the fact that states in which there is a greater population of poor children, say Mississippi, may have more children in the program and their threshold for eligibility may be lower than a state like New York or Maryland that has fewer children living below the poverty line, but the cost of living is dramatically higher, hence the threshold for eligibility may be higher. The argument that the program allows families who make $84,000 a year are eligible and therefore the program is flawed is faulty logic and a good game of slight of hand being played by the President. He knows it too.
The reality is that the fear of the administration is that the migration of families who currently choose health care over proper nutrition, safe cars, or other needs would impact the private health insurance industry negatively. Read that slowly, understand it fully.
*President Bush does not want Private Insurance Companies to suffer premium losses as a result of state funded programs that will provide medical care to children. *
Now, think about that. Further, the excuse that this program is somehow the lead in to the slippery slope of socialized medicine is bullshit; Medicare and Medicaid have been around for decades. Ask our seniors where they would be without it and if their fixed income would allow them to move back onto private medical insurance. They could not do it and survive.
Not everyone will agree with my assessment of the President and his policies in the middle east and I make no attempt to hide my opinion, but regardless of opinion on other issues, I believe that this one calls on all mothers to stand up for the voiceless and helpless among us. Understand the issues, write to your representatives and senators and demand that they fight the President on the SCHIP veto.
I live in North Carolina, a big tobacco state. Senator Elizabeth Dole supported the president because she did not want a tobacco tax used to support funding for SCHIP here in our state. WHAT? We don’t want to tax a product that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, contributes to childhood asthma and other pulmonary diseases in an effort to bring health care to poor children. Help me understand that logic. I can not. I simply can not.
SCHIP is one issue among many, many issues that will require your thought, research, understanding and time. Make the time and make it a priority whether you are a Donkey or an Elephant, do it for yourself, and do it for your kids.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Next Generation of Men

I have often wondered if the ability to deal with children is intrinsic in women and a learned skill for men, because by all observable evidence it is. I think that it is similar to the chain reaction vomit syndrome; I throw up when I have to witness anyone but one of my children throwing up. It is some sort of internal primal mechanism that allows us to care for our sick young with out barfing on their heads.
But when it comes to continuous screaming and crying, kicking and writhing, it takes a creature with ovaries to manage the chaos. Women react and respond to outrageous behavior differently than men, and it is not only in matters of unruly children. Women react differently when they encounter road rage, rude people in the grocery line, unexpected home repair issues, etc. Once you roll all of these issues into a category and determine one's ability or lack thereof to deal with them, it is a matter of coping mechanisms--and women have them.

It is not meant to suggest that women possess a superiority over men in a general sense, it is merely pointed out here to illustrate what I believe to be a very important skill to teach our young sons, and a behavior or talent to foster in our daughters. Any mother raising a son(s) and a daughter(s) can attest, they are hard-wired differently at birth, and anyone who is married can attest that those differences become more pronounced with age.

I am not offering clear advice here on how to teach this skill to boys, because I do not know myself how to go about doing it. I only attempt to encourage my son to take his time, to take a deep breath, and to remember that the calamity, no matter how great, can be dealt with. There is always a huge eruption when a piece of Lego goes missing, especially a Lego piece that is part of a Star Wars Clone Battle Fighter (seriously, I know this shit now), and if the matter is not taken seriously and met with complete urgency on my part there will be tears. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth, locusts, perhaps floods. The Universe hates missing Legos. His reaction always seems to me to be so totally overblown, and although my daughter is extremely dramatic (she is four and it is what four year old girls do), her reaction to a similar challenge is never panicked.

I think that at the core of this for my son is that his primary reaction is believing that the situation is hopeless and therefore the only thing to do is panic. What can be done? How will I survive? Instead of realizing that the black piece of plastic that he had in his hand and in his sights 20 seconds prior did not grow legs and walk away. There is no measure of time between 1) Where did I put that? And 2) Holy Shit it is gone, gone, gone forever! There is the tipping point. Male humans do not have a pause. They do not stop, adjust, recalculate, and begin. Can we teach that?

I hope so, I am trying. Women live their whole lives utilizing this process. Stop – I got my period. Adjust – these jeans will not zip today and I must select something else to wear. Recalculate – I think that this “Mamas and Papas” style house dress looks pretty. Begin – I can wear this to the party and everyone will think I am being “hip”. Coping leads to recovery.

I do not think that there is a magic bullet, I know there is no one way to teach the process of challenge recovery to our boys, but there are multiple ways to teach them. I firmly 100% agree with the much celebrated comments made by Sally Field when she accepted her Emmy award: “If mothers ran the world, there would be no goddamned wars.” Because women know how to pause. Can we teach this to our sons? Can we all make a vow to at least try? What if that simple skill alone could become part of the one wish we all have – World Peace?

This is a grand over simplification on my part, but we are growing human beings here--which is no small task. We are helping to create the leaders of tomorrow, men and women. I say let's help them embrace the differences and value the skill sets they hold in common and value and endeavor to learn the skills that they do not. What a wonderful generation that would be.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

crazy mama

It's now official. I am now one of those crazy women you see in the grocery store who talk to and oogle over other peoples babies. You know the ones who have to tell you how much YOUR baby reminds them of THEIR babies when they were little. the worst ones want to hold or touch your babies( I'm not that bad...yet) My friend once had a lady stick her finger in her newborns mouth to help her stop him from crying! SERIOUSLY! Oh she meant no harm, it's just once a mama always a mama.

I can't stand to hear a baby cry. I actually think a two year old temper tantrum is adorable, and I give way more advice than I should to new mothers who are already bombarded with advice.
I can't help myself! I miss the little years and my babies so much.

The other night I came across my journals and it was 4 hours later when I finally put them down. If my house caught on fire I wouldn't think twice about running in to save those precious memories.

Don't get me wrong those journals aren't just filled with the sweet moments. They are also packed with the PMS, pulling your hair out, "I can't do this one more day "moments. I always say if I died suddenly and anybody read them they would think I was loony. But it was all real and writing all the crap down helped me magically change my mood, sort of snap out of myself. I mean come on how hard is life REALLY here for us . I mean really What ABOUT all those starving people in Africa! Get over it, don't take it all so seriously. My entries would start out ... "I can't take it anymore ...blah...blah...blah..". and end "But the birds are singing and the sky is SO blue and I love my life." Those books would literally heal my mixed up mind.

But now that my beautiful babies are pre-teens( and my babies were the most beautiful babies ever, even though you all think that yours are, I'm just letting it known that really MINE were) and I will always miss those little people that I will never see and hold and squeeze again, I'm still really enjoying these new people developing right before my eyes. My son taught me to do a hip hop dance the other day ,and yes I looked like a mom doing a hip hop dance. I remember teaching my mom to do the hustle when I was 11and thinking what a dork! Well now I'm the dork! But at least he still wants to" hang "with me, although for how long I do not know. Someday I 'll be over the top dork and I'll get nothin!

So for all you mamas with littles out there, write it all down ,every bit of it!And laugh at those temper tantrums (it's hard being two)! Squeeze and smell them all you can because when they are 12 they won't let you do that anymore. And enjoy every moment!

Monday, October 1, 2007

One Size Does Not Fit All

Last week, my son got a 100% on his math test. Now maybe for some of you this is a common occurrence but for others, like us perhaps, this is cause to throw a damn party.

The little signs that our son was struggling with schoolwork started in pre-school but became more pronounced in Kindergarten. Then last year, in 1st grade, it was obvious that we needed to do something other than give him extra time to do his work and extra encouragement. I couldn't figure out why my son, who has incredible wit and humor and was so bright just couldn't seem to "get it" when it came to academics and had such anxiety at test time. It broke my heart to see him struggling and to see his self-confidence suffering.

We started with the usual eye and hearing exams to be sure that the problem wasn’t there. It wasn’t. We gave him a modified curriculum and extra tutoring to see if he just needed to catch up. His teacher described him in the classroom as being “out there”. He wasn’t engaging in the classroom, he became easily frustrated with work and complained of being tired. This mirrored what we were seeing at home when it was time to do homework or work on projects.

He was never hyperactive or disruptive but the diagnosis came back – ADHD. The testing process we chose was extremely comprehensive, extremely expensive…and extremely worthwhile.

Now, I had always been one of those moms that thought it was crazy that “all these ADD kids are being thrown on Ritalin” and here was this psychologist sitting across from me and recommending medication for my son. I am a BIG proponent of alternative and holistic care. But after much discussion, research and debate, we decided that we needed to try it at least. The common "starting dose" turned out to be way too much for him. We ended up cutting it in half after only 1 day and found success.

I am not suggesting that medication is the answer for every kid out there who is struggling with ADHD. What I can tell you is that it has worked for MY kid. He can stay focused and attentive in class. He participates in discussion and is engaged, anxious to raise his hand and answer questions. And most importantly? His confidence level has gone way up.

My kid got a 100% on his math test. And the look of joyful pride on his face was worth every anxious moment we’ve had in the last 7 months.

Posted by another Mama