In yet another story that combines the Gay Uncle’s dual interests in children and automobiles (remember, he’s also the author of Stick Shift, Vanity Fair’s weekly online car column), Gunc has recently discovered that the best-selling car this past year was not one produced by the Big 3 (a.k.a. the Big 1 + Big Bankrupt 2). Neither was it a Japanese model, or one from some upstart automotive country like Korea. Nope. Rather the top selling car was this awesome, sporty, red two-door, the Little Tykes Cozy Coupe. It’s been a rough year for the auto industry, but this must be some devastating news, even for them. No less so because as they try to innovate and match the changing tastes of the fickle American consumer, the Cozy Coupe has been virtually unchanged since it was brought out over thirty years ago. No airbags. No side-impact beams. No emission controls. No brakes. (Unless you count junior’s footsies, which power and stop the car, Flintstone-style.) Moreover, guess what? The dumpy little piece of plastic is manufactured right here in the United States, employing our local laborers and poisoning our local streams with its effluents, instead of killing some poor Chinese kids. Go America! We’re still tops in something. Gunc is uncertain if the Obama administrations new “Cash for Clunkers” law will pertain to this vehicle, so he’s not certain you can get some incentive to purchase a new one. And it might not work out so well for your commuter duties, unless you’ve recently been laid off and don’t have anywhere to be. But he feels that you could do worse than stimulate the economy by running out and buying one for the kids. So long as your house is not at the top of a steep hill.
According to a piece the Gay Uncle just read in the New York Times, our nation’s pediatricians are recommending (through their affinity organization the American Academy of Pediatrics) that doctors and schools get involved in helping to prevent bullying. They’re pushing a protocol that has been developed and proven to work throughout Scandanavia, one that focuses on activating the perception of bullying as a problem that affects everyone, and thus requires everyone’s participation in order to solve–not just the bullyer and bullyee, but also the “bystanders”. Gunc applauds this. When he began running his school fifteen-plus years ago, he implemented a policy that required all kids to be aware, and mandated reporters, of incidents of exclusion and cruelty, and had his staff involved in providing not only remedies for these transgressions, but also guided suggestions as to how the problem could be solved differently in the future. In other words, a three-phase process that included: 1) A clear policy that provided a role for all members 2) Recourse for when issues arose and 3) Constructive discussions and modeling to help all members through their like problems in future situations.
Sadly, it seems the AAP’s recommendations–like most policies in this country–are REactive instead of PROactive, and where they’re not, they tend to focus almost solely on rescuing the “victim” of the situation, and make no recommendations for how to help the “perpetrator”. (Sort of like how we handle incarceration.) The Gay Uncle is hardly a forgiving person at heart, but he understands that young kids not only need lots of chances in order to understand, incorporate, integrate, and synthesize new rules, they also need to be repeatedly absolved of their minor sins (and even, sometimes, some of their seemingly major ones) and given additional opportunities to practice things the right way if we want them to grow up into reasonable humans. Which, he thinks, is kind of the long-term point of childhood. A zero tolerance approach to bullying is a compelling goal. But in attempting to achieve it, the G.U. believes in being much more tolerant, and in providing skills to everyone involved. Kids grow up to be much more understanding and forgiving if they’re understood and forgiven. This goes for bullied and bullier and bystander alike.
Some readers took issue with Gunc’s recent suggestion that parents take some time out to balance their micro-managing and hovering with some “me time” (and by me, he doesn’t mean the G.U.; he means YOU.) So he thought he would provide further explanation of why this is important.
While it is against the law in many states to leave a child under eleven alone, it is truly criminal for you to wait until they’re that old to take some time for yourself. There is no way that you can perform optimally at any job without breaks–let alone a job that runs 24/7 for your entire life. Being a parent shouldn’t be seen as a selfless act of martyrdom any more than not having a child should be construed as selfish. It’s a decision. And like any decision, you should be allowed to react to, resent, or regret it, so long as you don’t do it too often (boring), with too much vehemence (dramatic), or in front of your kid (cruel and borderline abusive). Taking time out from parenting–alone, with friends, at a government bunker–keeps you in touch with yourself. Without this outlet, you are likely to derive you notions of self-worth solely from your child. They cant, and shouldn’t, be the only source to deliver this to you.