Shame on the Boy Scouts of America.

There are few things in life that render me speechless. But I’m pretty much without words after hearing of the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to continue with its policy of denying membership to gay boys, and forbidding gay and lesbian parents to volunteer within the organization.

Really? REALLY?

I acknowledge that BSA is a private organization and, as such, they have the right to decide who’s allowed in. What bothers me is that the BSA is supposed to be all about raising future leaders.

Future leaders of what? Hate? Discrimination?

In its mission, the BSA claims to believe that “helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.”

How, exactly, does setting an example of bigotry create a responsible society?

Cooper’s been a Cub Scout for a couple of years now, as are many of his friends. They seem to have fun and it always struck me as a good program — skill-building, having fun, learning how to be confident and how to do good things for others and the community as a whole. But I must have missed the asterisk after that last part – helping others, unless those other people happen to be the gays. Then, not so much.

I don’t know if any of Cooper’s peers are gay; I don’t know if any of their parents are. I don’t really care. But it’s outrageous to me to imagine a scenario when, a few years down the road, as one of these dedicated Scouts working toward his Eagle status comes out, and is summarily thrown from the program he’s been committed to for his whole young life. Or that a kid’s parent might be denied an opportunity to lead and teach, just because of who she loves.

Ray and I had been wondering lately if Cooper was going to do scouting next year — last year, there were so many conflicts with his other activities, he hardly got to participate. Did it make sense to sign him up again?

I found my answer. I don’t want my son to learn lessons of bigotry. I don’t want him to learn a culture of hate. I refuse to let him belong to a group that discriminates.

I know that our local pack has nothing but the best intentions and goals, with dedicated volunteers, and an awesome group of parents and young people involved in the program. This is not about those people. They are good people and they are kind and teach my son fine lessons of volunteerism and character; they are not the problem.

But by keeping my son in scouts is hypocritical. Would I allow him to play on a baseball team that only let white kids join? Or attend a school that said “no Asians”?

I won’t do it.

Shame on you, Boy Scouts of America. And, you just lost one incredible kid.

On distracted driving: A teen’s conviction, and what we should learn from it

Earlier today, a Haverhill, Mass., court convicted teenager Aaron Deveau of  motor vehicle homicide for texting while he was driving. It is one of the first cases of its kind following the state’s new law that bans texting while driving. The 18-year-old was allegedly texting, and it was this distraction which caused his car to veer across the center line and crash head-on into another vehicle. That car’s driver, 55-year-old Donald Bowley, suffered massive injuries and died after 18 days in the hospital. The court judge sentenced Deveau to one year in prison, suspending the rest of the concurrent sentences from the verdict.

The only positive thing in such a horrible situation is that maybe, just maybe, people will start thinking about their actions behind the wheel. To me, the idea of texting — which requires the use of both hands — while driving is just plain dumb. But then again, I’m not a teenager who uses texting as a primary form of interpersonal relationships. Maybe some of those teens, also new to driving, will hear of this case and see the possible consequences of this kind of distracted driving. I hope so.

Then again, maybe it’s not just teens who need to pay attention. Even if you don’t text, you are probably just as distractible when you’re behind the wheel.

Think about it. How often do you glance away to change the radio or fiddle with your iPod settings? Or turn to talk to your passengers — or the kids in the rear seats? Or let your eyes linger over a neighbor’s pretty new landscaping? Or peer through the sunroof at the amazing sky at sunset?

In that instant, the world can change.

A number of years ago, I had just picked up the younger kids from preschool. It was an almost unbearably beautiful day. I had to drop something off at Town Hall, and took an atypical route home, up a pretty main road, the sort that garners my town all kinds of notice. The kids were bouncy and ready to get out and play. We were listening to music, singing along, laughing. Mitzi was unusually active, unbuckling herself and standing up a few times, ignoring my eyes in the rear view mirror and my repeated command to sit down.

Finally, I couldn’t take it — I turned around and raised my voice. And that’s when the crash happened.

The car in front of me had stopped short because the car in front of him had stopped to suddenly turn into the library driveway. I had looked ahead in just enough time to know that, despite slamming on my brakes and turning the wheel, there was nothing I could do to stop the impact. Nothing.

In the end, luckily, blessedly, no one was seriously hurt. Though I was driving at about 30 mph, the airbags did not go off. The kids had a few seat belt bruises, and I had a cut on my leg. More fortunate were the passengers in the other car — my car was bigger, heavier and I really smashed the holy heck out of the rear end. The passengers were all seniors, and a couple were taken to the hospital as a precaution (thankfully, none were hurt).

That accident lingers in my mind every day — I am even more cautious behind the wheel, and am a little paranoid about driving. I still have the occasional nightmare about it, and never take for granted that we all walked away.

Because, instead of hitting a car, it could have been a person I struck while distracted behind the wheel. I could have killed someone.

Today’s verdict is a sad one. One life lost, another irrevocably damaged, just because of a little stupidity, a bad decision, and a moment of distraction.

I hope at the very least we can all learn something from this story. When I first sat behind the wheel of a car, excited and eager, my mom, who was teaching me to drive, put her hand on top of mine and said, “This is a deadly weapon. Never forget that.”

She was right.

Parent Fail Update….

Well, it came to light yesterday that the Camden, New Jersey, man who put the baby in the washing machine — an incident making headlines following a surveillance video posted online — was not in fact the baby’s father. He was the boyfriend of the baby’s babysitter.

So, there you go.

I’m going to stick with giving him the award, though. A dude like that totally deserves an ass-on-a-plate recognition — the babysitter does, too, for that matter. Though in her case, I’m not sure whether she deserves it for what happened, or for dating a guy like that.

The WTF? Parent of the Day winner!

Congratulations to the anonymous Camden, New Jersey, father on winning my

WTF? Parent of the Day  contest!

WTF Parent of the Day Award

Genius dad thought it would be fun to put his toddler inside a washing machine at his local laundromat. Hey, why not? It’s the perfect place to play peek-a-boo (except for the oven, which kids really love, too, unless you can squeeze them into the microwave, ’cause that’s way better).

It’s all fun and games — until you happen to shut the machine door. Which then locks. Which sets off an automatic wash cycle in which your baby is spun over and over like a dirty sock. Woo-hoo! Bring on the party! Seriously, better than Space Mountain.

Fortunately for dad, workers at the laundromat were able to free the child after a few minutes. The child was not hurt, but police, who say what happened wasn’t criminal, are looking for  the family to make sure. And, why don’t they already know who the family is?

Because the story came to light after a surveillance video was posted on the Internet and garnered over a million views.

Which makes me wonder — did the laundry staff who discovered the video really think it was better post it online instead of, oh, I don’t know,  calling the cops? Maybe they called the cops first, then posted the video while waiting for the cruiser to arrive? “Ha, baby in a washer, a regular laff riot!”

for stupidity above and beyond

For this, the laundry workers earn a Special Medal of Stupidity!

It’s a mystery, what goes on in the minds of people who care more about online guffaws and website hits than they do for other people.

In all seriousness, I’m really glad the child wasn’t injured. And I’m sure the father feels horrible beyond belief about what happened. All parents make mistakes — but when it comes to our kids and major appliances, well, I’m pretty sure that knowing to keep the two separate is a no-brainer. Isn’t it?

When “Bully” hits home, Mom’s on red alert

Last week I wrote a post about the soon-to-be released movie, “Bully,” and why it deserves a PG-13 rating, not the R rating it has been given. Apparently, due to the publicity given this issue, and to the activist teen who has organized a petition to the MPAA to change the rating, the MPAA has agreed to rescreen the movie  and discuss its original rating.

All good news. Because I stand by my belief that this is a movie for young people, not only for those 17 and older. A PG-13 rating would open the doors, both in families and in schools, for kids in high school, middle school, and even upper-elementary, to see this film and have an important — perhaps life-changing — dialogue with other kids and adults about the horrors of bullying that exist in our schools and communities.

Then, in a fender-bender of karmic, cosmic, ironic come-back-and-kick-you-in-the-ass-whatever-ness, on the day I read the news story about the possible consideration of changing the ratings, I had a very disturbing bit of news. World-rocking news, to say the least. Suddenly, the issue of who would able to view this gut-wrenching documentary took on a whole new spin.

My child is the target of a bully.

My child.

She is bullied.

Every day.

And I had no idea.

The bully is a boy in her class, one we know well. And it’s somewhat easy to understand, given what he’s gone through, that he might feel powerless and angry and frustrated and jealous of happy families, and needs to take out all those feelings on someone else. I’ve seen him grow from a little boy who liked to help in the garden and build rock walls and offer to help clean up, I’ve seen him grow from that little boy to this hard-shelled kid almost afraid of being nice because nice is what gets you hurt. My heart breaks for him; my backyard lemonade and microwave popcorn during playtime with my kids only goes so far.

All this makes it worse. It would somehow be easier if the bully was a stranger, a child unknown to me. Then I could rant and rave and be furious and not try to understand the bully at all, because who cares about him, just leave my kid alone. I could say that about a stranger. Now I have sympathy thrown into the emotional stew, and it’s hard to swallow.

My child has been silent all along, except for the occasional outbursts when the kids in the backyard don’t get along, which happens sometimes with kids in backyards. I knew nothing about any of this until a meeting with my child’s teacher revealed the daily incidents that had been going on and lead up to this point that official action is being taken. The teacher pointed out that my child is clearly a strong person, shrugging off most of what’s been going on, but we agreed that no matter how strong, she shouldn’t have to do any shrugging, because no matter how much you shrug, when you’re a child, that constant chipping and chipping at your emotions and soul is going to have some kind of effect at some point, possibly turning your once-strong sense of self into a puddle of doubt and despair.

I will do anything I can to prevent that from happening.

In the semi-darkness of the bedroom after the house was quiet, my child and I talked. We do this, often, have whispered discussions in the safe cloak of the nighttime. But that was the first time the topic was bullying. We talked other times, again and again. Things are in motion to try to change the situation, and I hope my child feels supported by the adults who are coming together to help (including the bully’s caregivers).

My heart breaks for both of these kids, though obviously in different ways. And while I don’t think that watching the movie “Bully” would make the pair hold hands and skip together through a field of daisies….it could provide a common ground for them to understand what the other is suffering. But, being well under age 17, neither may get a chance to see if I’m right about that understanding (but I’m pretty sure I’m right about the skipping).

I don’t know.  Bullying is pervasive and real, whether big and brutal with hallway attacks and online viciousness, or small and personal, when a one-time friend turns on you and cuts you down repeatedly until you are a ghost of who you were. There is no easy fix, no simple way to stop kids from being mean to each other.  But adults and kids alike need all the tools they can get to at least try. “Bully” could be one of those tools.

For now, with communication open and clear among the adults, and a possible truce in play between the bully and my child, given the extra kindness I’ve seen at the bus stop the past few days, I can hope we are on the right path to ending the bullying here.

But I’m still on red alert.

 

 

Why kids won’t get to see “Bully”, why they should, and what you can do about it

Sometimes, I am absolutely, completely, mind-blowingly befuddled by the total insanity of well-meaning parents.

At the end of March, a documentary will be released to select theaters around the country, a film that could contribute tremendously to the fight to end the epidemic of bullying in our society.

Unfortunately, the people who most need to see it — kids in upper elementary and middle school — won’t get to.

Recently, the MPAA slapped an R rating on the acclaimed movie, “Bully,” because of language concerns.

Filmed over the course of one year, the documentary follows five families suffering the pain, violence and, for not one, but two families, the tragic results of bullying — the suicide of each of their sons. The film shows students at school and on the bus tormenting each other with words and fists; kids tell their stories and how they feel; and adults are presented in both the best and worst light.

I imagine that a few f-bombs might get dropped here and there, especially in the scenes where kids are whaling on and screaming at their victims. But apparently such language is inappropriate for kids to see. (Since the rating was limited to language only, I guess the brutality of the bullying is less disturbing than some cursing. Who knew?)

MPAA ratings are determined by what amounts to a focus group of typical American parents, culled from communities around the country, who decide how most people will feel about images. They are not connected to the film industry. According to the MPAA site, “Their job is to rate each film as they believe a majority of American parents would rate it, considering relevant themes and content.”

A quick scan of the ratings of last year’s R-rated titles shows that almost all of the ratings were given for reasons such as “strong sexual content,” “extreme violence,” “bloody violence,” “disturbing images,” “drug use,” “graphic nudity.”  Hardly any movies are given the dreaded rating for language only — other than “Bully,” some of last year’s big language offenders included “Carnage,” “Evil Things,” and “House Arrest.”

And, in case you didn’t know, here’s the explanation of what an R rating means, according to CARA (The Classification and Ratings Administration): CONTAINS SOME ADULT MATERIAL. PARENTS ARE URGED TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE MOTION PICTURE BEFORE TAKING THEIR YOUNGER CHILDREN WITH THEM. GENERALLY, IT IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR PARENTS TO BRING THEIR YOUNG CHILDREN WITH THEM TO R-RATED MOTION PICTURES.

The MPAA ought to reconsider the decision, and give the movie a PG-13 designation. The R rating virtually ensures that most parents will not even consider showing it to their kids, and no school in America could get approval to use it as a worthy teaching tool in their classrooms.

CARA defines PG-13 as: PARENTS ARE URGED TO BE  CAUTIOUS.  SOME MATERIAL MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE FOR PRE-TEENAGERS. Films such as “Batman,” “Captain America” “Cowboys and Aliens” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” have garnered that somewhat more family-friendly PG-13 ratings, making them more appealing to parents.

Surely there are things more terrible than hearing a bullied 12-year-old drop a few F-bombs after he’s been brutalized on the bus for the 30th morning in a row?

On the other hand, a tortured 12-year-old is a pretty terrible image. Sadly, it’s one that a lot of kids see each day.

(I’m pretty sure a few of them have also heard an F-bomb or two. I mean, we hear “Moves Like Jagger” nine hundred times on the radio every day, and it’s pretty clear that all my kids know what that bleeped out word is, even if they don’t understand what it means or why it’s naughty.)

Okay, we all want our kids to NOT swear. I don’t curse in front of my kids, and they know better to even think about letting one slip out of their own mouths. But in the context of the bigger message of this movie, I could overlook a few inappropriate words.

Because, in the end, it’s about who should see this movie. Grownups can benefit from it, sure, especially those who shrug off bullying with phrases like “kids will be kids,” and “I was bullied and I survived, whatever, suck it up.” Others, who would do anything to stop the torture, will weep for these children — as we do whenever we read the newspaper or when our own children come home in pain — and perhaps become doubly inspired to effect change in their communities.

But the real audience for “Bully” is kids — those who will identify with all the players, from the victims to the bullies to the onlookers who ignore what’s happening.

Kids know who in their world is bullied. Maybe a movie like this would show them they are not alone, that they can make change, that what they experience is not a solitary, inescapable existence. That it doesn’t have to be like this. That the next time they walk past a bully terrorizing another kid, they should do something other than look the other way.

This movie won’t eradicate bullying, any more than having an entire elementary school student body hold hands and sing Kumbaya will. But a movie like this can start an honest conversation between kids and the adults in their lives;  witnessing real people in aching, and sometimes all-too familiar situations, can empower kids far more effectively than a study guide or once a month health class can.

A concerned teen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has drafted a petition to ask the MPAA to reduce the rating from R to PG-13, so that more kids will be able to see it. When I signed it, over 130,000 people had also added their support.

Check out my links and see if you agree — if you do, why not sign the petition?

I appreciate the MPAA parent group who act as watchdogs for our families. But this time, they would do better to care more about our children’s bodies and souls than about the effects of swearing on their tender ears.

Today, Tim Thomas, you are no hero

It finally happened.

Ice hockey has become a Thing in my house.

I guess I should have seen it coming. We live in Massachusetts, after all, and kids around here seem pop out at birth wearing skates and cheering for the B’s. But I am not from here. I haven’t skated since I was a kid — neither has Ray, who grew up in New York. We’ve never gone to a rink as a family, though Mitzi has gone a few times with friends. As far as watching sports on TV, hockey is about as popular in our house as cricket.

So far it’s just Cooper who’s been growing increasingly interested over the past couple of years, mostly because a few of his friends play (I applaud their parents — aside from the expense of equipment and ice time, those early morning practices are enough to earn you sainthood). Last year he mentioned once that he wanted to give it a try, then never brought it up again. I sighed in relief. Hockey Mom was not my destiny.

This year, though, with the mild winter and new playmates, Cooper, a natural athlete (which is honestly just the truth, not bragging) has had a lot of opportunities to play street hockey. He asked for a net and stick for his birthday, and his generous grandfather complied. It’s now hulking in the basement, and we upstairs are constantly bombarded with the wap, wap, wap as he slapsticks puck after puck. So far, he’s managed to avoid any windows.

Also for his birthday, he’s asked for hockey trading cards to add to his collections of baseball and Pokemon cards so carefully catalogued in three-ring binders. And he wants a jersey of some Bruins player. I know he told me the name, but it wasn’t one of the two I know. I haven’t really remembered a hockey player since I had a teenage crush on Ray Bourque (who was very cute) even though I don’t think I ever actually watched him play a game. He must have been featured in 16 Magazine or Tiger Beat.

All hockey, all the time — all of a sudden.  

So in his emerging hockey obsession, last night Cooper sat through the evening news, refusing to come to dinner, because he wanted to find out why Tim Thomas did not go to the White House to meet the president. I wouldn’t let him miss dinner, so we had to DVR the broadcast.

We still haven’t watched it, but now I have to figure out how to explain to my almost-nine-year-old son that this newfound sports hero was having a moment of selfish brattiness. That the only American citizen on the team couldn’t move beyond his politics and  let his country congratulate him and his teammates on a wonderful accomplishment. That this athlete’s behavior diminished what should have been a singular moment of celebration for the championship players — instead of applauding the men, everyone is now focusing on Thomas’s all-about-me petulance.

Yesterday, Thomas missed the save, the opportunity to show young fans everywhere how to express his personal views to the leader of our country without tantrum or negativity. He missed the chance to show kids democracy in action, as well as showing them that talented and respected athletes, the heroes they worship to passionately, can use their fame and skills to make a difference.

It’s a shame. Cooper loves sports and he loves heroes.

Luckily, Tim Thomas, there are plenty of choices for my son. Today, you’re not one of them.