« Clarence Clemons R.I.P. | Main | Summer Reading List and First Day of Summer Open Thread »

June 19, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

kathy a.

happy fathers' day to the cog dads!

our son's coming by later, and we'll BBQ tonight.

Paula B

Happy Father's Day, guys! Your kids are lucky to have dads who care so much about the quality of their young lives and worry about their future. Just the fact that you're there, involved with them on a regular basis, makes them lucky kids.
I was lucky, too, but know so many people -- especially men under 40 -- who lost their dads early in their lives (temporarily or permanently) to divorce, the military, early death, substance abuse, workaholism or parental irresponsibility.
I raised my son alone, and foolishly didn't think it would matter if he grew up without a father, but found out the hard way how wrong I was. By late teens, my boy had such a big chunk of himself missing, he might as well have lost an arm or leg. It was a hole no mother could fill. Broke my feminist heart, but I couldn't deny the reality of how much he needed his father. Luckily, the man was still alive and willing to step back into his son's life, somewhat. Enough, at least, for my kid to move on with his life. Here's to all you dads!


Happy Father's Day to you Sir C, your son is lucky to have a father like you.

"Adam Raised a Cain" is one of my favorites.


For Father's Day--"Momento Mori--In a hundred years, we'll all be bald". Have a nice day guys. :-)

kathy a.

paula, i'm glad he was able to step back in for your son. sorry about the rough teen years; my son had a rough patch, too, more than his dad and i could handle alone. by some miracle, they are very close now.

like you, i know lots of people who have lost a parent, or for whom the relationship is toxic.


Paula--If it's any consolation, I'm assured by the feature article in the new Atlantic which I haven't entirely finished (have to keep sighing throughout) that no matter what we do as parents…..it's probably not quite right. Article is titled "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy". Its premise is that kids need to learn to tough it out, and fewer and fewer these days have been allowed to do that because we want them to be "happy". Oy.


I haven't read the article, but it sounds like one of those loathsome "trend" articles that are usually based on little or no actual research and exist to endlessly stir up the anxieties of the middle- and upper-classes. I'm not worried about kids whose parents are trying too hard to help them be "happy." I'm worried about kids who are being abused and/or neglected, raised in poverty, exposed to domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse and crime, get caught in the middle of messy divorces, have autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and/or learning disabilities, are forced to go to bad/dangerous schools, etc. There's far too much hand-wringing about the comparatively minor problems of upper class children and far too little concern about the much more severe problems that far too many children are facing in the US. Our child poverty rate (20-25%) is the highest in the Western world. We should be scandalized and ashamed by that, but we aren't.

Sorry, you hit a raw nerve. This is something I feel very strongly about.


Well becky, as a survivor of a household filled with domestic violence, poverty, and with a brother who spent his formative years in and out juvenile facilities landing eventually in a federal corrections institution, I have a few raw nerves about shit too. Like why is one child left as the "resilient" one with another left to spend his life in pain? I know a "trend" article when I see one--thanks for the heads up. I also know that as someone whose general circle of friends includes people who head up programs, in no particular order, for "street kids", at-risk pre--schoolers, school-lunch programs, Head Start and and "alternative school" programs for might-be-dropouts, that plenty of people are "scandalized", and going about the work of supplying remedies.

That said, I don't have any intention of dismissing what you call "minor problems" of upper class children. They're all our children. Sorry.


Hi Nancy, agreed re the problems of upper class children. My issue isn't that they can't have significant problems too, it's that our institutions and our idiot press seem to be much more concerned about theirs (which are often comparatively minor) than about the stuff that the research tells us is truly destructive. I have a similar knee-jerk reaction to trend articles about women, which all seem to suggest that women need to stay in traditional gender roles. My overall concern is that these articles neglect the actual research in favor of pushing elite preferences and agendas, and that there's so much more concern about people with money than about people without. As for your friends who are trying to help, more power to them. I just wish our most powerful institutions seemed more concerned. The amount of garbage that Michelle Obama has taken for her anti-child-obesity campaign (a very serious problem, especially for the non-rich) is pretty revealing I think.

Paula B

Nancy and becky, thanks for your comments and support. FYI, my kid finally got his act together, married and now has two baby boys of his own. I marvel at what a good husband and father he is, even though he grew up without a strong male role model. Maybe I got lucky, again.
As for other children born into less-than-ideal environments, I think you're both right. A Kurdish child psychiatrist who treats orphans of the Iraq War, told me a few years ago that some children are born resilient and some are not. Even those who live through horrific trauma can [I don't want to say "handle" it, but they] somehow find the strength to keep moving through normal stages of development. Others get stuck. Conversely, plenty of middle class kids fall apart, even in peaceful, affluent neighborhoods. That being said, I agree we should be scandalized by the lousy situations so many kids are born into. And, I agree we need more (not fewer!) resources for autistic children, kids with learning disabilities, runaways and those who get caught up in substance abuse. These are problems even the smartest and most loving parents can't handle on their own.


Well said, Paula, and the psychiatrist is right about resiliency: some kids just cope better (glad to hear your son was able to get it together). Some situations, however, are just too overwhelming for even resilient kids, especially when there are multiple problems (for example, a kid in a war zone will have a much better chance if the family is supportive).


Becky--"Upper-class" children. I don't know any. The average income, where I live, is well under the 6 figure mark. Well, come to think of it-- there is the couple who own "Christmas Tree Elegance". They did well selling "vintage" Christmas ornaments wholesale.

And my friends aren't "trying to help, more power to them." Our community has absolutely changed due to their efforts. That's the advantage of living in a small city. The results are not only laudable, but palpable and measurable. There is a synergy that actually works and can be seen in motion. That's why local politics is where my energies are mostly expended.

Trend articles about women needing to "stay in traditional gender roles"--I guess I've missed those. What I was trying to say to Paula is, as parents, we just don't know. My family would have been better off "without Dad." What I know is that one does the best one can, and hey, in the end "in a hundred years, we're all bald". op. cit.

Sir Charles

I think it is scandalous that we allow 20-25% of children in this country to grow up in poverty and that 42% of births are now being covered by Medicaid. This just doesn't strike me as the signs of a healthy society.

But I agree that despite the sometimes neurotic quality of upper middle class child rearing in the U.S. that raising kids even in affluent circumstances is filled with worry and pitfalls. You have to try to keep some perspective on such things, but it's not like things don't go awry for the privileged as well -- from mental illness to substance abuse to health problems or merely the mundane bumps and bruises of life, worrying about your children is pretty easy to do.

There is some satisfaction in getting one to 18 -- I keep thinking I'll breathe easy in another six or seven years.

I think back though on being a young parent and I kinow why people worry. My son needed surgery at 2 and 1/2 weeks to repair an intestinal blockage, at six weeks old he stopped breathing on me one night when I was changing his diaper, at three years old he was diagnosed with cataracts of all things, which required multiple surgeries. So it was great to have money and health insurance and the intellectual wherewithal to maneuver through the health care system and get him the best care possible -- but not for an instant did it relieve me of the worries attendant to such things.

I do marvel at the solid healthy specimen he turned out to be.

I will never understand fathers who abandon their children. I'd rather have my arm cut off.


SC--Getting a young person all the way to 24 is still scary and iffy. They all need to get launched, and we must get them to the launchpad. I don't care who or what "class" they are--they are our future.

I guess I should have done an irony alert earlier about the "Christmas ornament" folks. Sorry.

Your son stopped breathing. How unbelievably terrifying. But now he's with his girlfriend--ain't that something? Again-happy Father's Day. And many happy returns.


Oh my lord Sir C, that must have been terrifying. So glad he made it.

I agree with the "neurotic" stuff with the middle and upper class parents, and I think the media's endless parade of "you're not doing it right/enough/etc." articles aimed at this audience is part of the problem. The book "The Culture of Fear" analyzes this all quite well. The media encourages people to worry about very unlikely events--"oh no! Another pretty white girl kidnapping!" and ignores the very real problems plaguing families with limited resources.

Nancy, check out Susan Faludi's book "Backlash" for a good rundown of trend articles reinforcing traditional gender roles, on the basis of essentially no evidence.

Paula B

>>t six weeks old he stopped breathing on me one night when I was changing his diaper<<
The above quote says it all. You were/are a good dad! Hope you get many, many ties and even better thank yous.

As for getting your arm cut off, believe me, if I could have, I would have cut off his dad's arm myself.


Becky--Susan Faludi? "Backlash"? 1991? Sorry, as far as I'm concerned, we've "been there and done that." Very old history for me.

I don't know one person who still hangs onto these issues. I know working women, moms, dads, neighbors, teachers, friends who have all let go of and joined forces beyond these "grievances". Gotta get on with a new reality. Which is--we're all in this together on the left. Boots on the ground--let's get serious.


Sir Charles

Becky, Nancy and Paula,

Yeah, it was one of those exhausting days as a parent -- my wife was getting her MPH from Johns Hopkins and it was one of those freakishly hot mid-May days in Baltimore on the day of graduation -- pushing 100 degrees and I had the little guy in a snugly and we were both hot and tired and cranky by the end of things. We all got home and went to bed around 8:00 -- all of us. I set the alarm and woke up to get him for his 11:00 feeding and laid him down on the changing table to give him a new diaper and he suddenly went absolutely rigid --like he had choked on something.

Not knowing quite what to do I stuck my finger down his throat and said something clever like, "honey, he's not breathing" and ran him into the room with her. At that point he started breathing again -- much to my relief, which really doesn't quite do the sentiment justice. We called 911 and had an ambulance take him to the hospital.

They poked and prodded him for days on end like a bad episode of "House." After five days, one of the residents said "I think he has reflux and actually did choke when you laid him down." Mystery solved after numerous scans, X-Rays, spinal taps, ultra-sounds.

One of the worst aspects of being the parent of an infant in the hospital is that you are frequently required to participate in these procedures. Talk about traumatizing.

When he was hospitalized a couple of weeks earlier for surgery to deal with the blockage between his stomach and intestines, the experience of driving over every evening to see him was enlivened by the presence of this random, serial killing asshole in the neighborhoods between where we lived and where Children's Hospital in DC is:


I was a huge fan of "Backlash" and saw Susan Faludi speak shortly after it's publication. (And yes, I felt vaguely guilty that my first reaction to seeing her was "she's cute.")


I am not sure that I would agree that twenty years later that the issues that Faludi raised so well then have really been resolved. It seems to me that there are still, even in a lot of lieral households, a less than egalitarian split of housework, child rearing duties, and career sacrifices. My wife and I genuinely split things down the middle, but I would say we were more exceptions than the rule even in our highly educated and very liberal cohort.


I am very much on board with the Culture of Fear stuff. I let my son start taking the subway in DC by himself when he was about 12 -- once I was convinced that he would not lose his Metro card or get himself lost. I never worried about other people bothering him.

The biggest thing to worry about as a parent, if you want to worry rationally, is driving. It's one of the reasons I am very pro city living with teenagers. They can be independent without having to get behind the wheel.

jeanne marie

The driving thing scares me, too. Last Sunday, our community lost a very lovely young 23 year old man to a single-car accident on I-81. His parents are friends of ours and, of course, they are devastated. Dad and son were particularly close. It's shocking news, but regrettably not all that an uncommon occurrence.

My almost seventeen year old has decided to postpone getting his license (he has a learner's permit, but hasn't been interested in practicing). I admire him for recognizing that he's not ready and will gladly put up with being the "mommy-taxi". And, heck, in the meantime he's discovered walking and riding his bike. Fortunately, we live in a small city where he can have some independence.

As for the general child rearing discussion, I will head over to read the article at the Atlantic before commenting too much. From my experience, it takes some parenting finesse (learned from trial and error?) to recognize the line between being a "helicopter" parent from one who truly helps his child to be happy, independent, and successful. Sometimes the parent needs to advocate on behalf of the child and sometimes the parent needs to let the child learn from his own mistakes and failures. And, again from my experience, the line may be different from child to child.

But isn't it wonderful that more men are embracing a more involved role in parenting? One of our sons is celebrating his first Father's Day this year. Other than the breastfeeding, he and his wife are equal partners in the daily care of their little boy. Lucky grandson!

A day late . . . but happy father's day to all the cogdads from me, too.

Sir Charles


As we've discussed, I-81 scares the crap out of me too. It's a really nasty road.

Our son has his learner's permit too, but has been dragging his feet on getting his license. My wife is pushing him to get it done -- me, not so much.

Parenting really is an art and a most uncertain one at that. Our children are puzzlingly unique -- you look at siblings sometimes and can't quite believe they come from the same loins, so different are their innate temperaments.

Sadly, I think there is such a huge economic divide on fathers and their involvement in their childrens' lives. It seems that the middle and upper middle class ethos has really changed in terms of fatherly involvement in child rearing. However, among the poor and, to some degree, the working class, there is an awful lot of completely absent fathers. (This sounds like a conservative lament I suppose, but it is nonetheless true.

kathy a.

there are challenges raising any child, some harder than others. it's a relief that mine got through to adulthood. we had a variety of challenges, different for son and daughter, but especially with my son.

becky, nancy, and SC have all touched on extra challenges faced by less fortunate kids and their families -- poverty [and lack of adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc.], chaos and instability, substance abuse, violence, lack of necessary services. the risks for those kids increase exponentially.

for example, things are far, far worse for a kid who is one of many sibs, whose father is absent, mother is an addict, whose household is violent, who does not have enough food, who has learning disabilities and is teased at school, whose family has a history of mental illness, whose neighborhood is dangerous. that's why i feel really strongly about increasing support for kids at risk, not cutting it. these are "our" kids, too, as members of our communities. it's not exactly a victory if they end up dead or in prison.

there is research showing that the risks for these kids are ameliorated by various factors -- some inherent (termperment, intelligence), but having areas of stability and/or safety, having stable adults in their lives, having opportunities to succeed are all important. siblings may have different outcomes because one had more outside support, or because they were too old or too young to get the full brunt of the worst times, or because they had educational opportunities that others didn't, etc.

kathy a.

LATimes reports today that captial punishment costs california $184 million per year, over and above the normal costs of prosecution and incarceration. (the alternative to the death penalty is life without the possibility of parole.)

seems to me that $184 million per year would be better spent on support of all kinds for kids from struggling families in need. the personal and family histories of a great many on death rows nationwide are devastating examples of massive dysfunction.

jeanne marie

amen, kathy

Paula B

double that, kathy.


kathy--did you notice that even Gil Garcetti concurs? Does that surprise you?

Sir Charles


Yeah, the Wal-mart case strikes me as a pretty complex issue. It looked to me like the concurring opinion had a problem with the breadth of the class, but was not comfortable with the majority using the case to really shut down the possiblity of these types of cases.


It seems to me that the time is coming where the death penalty, three strikes, lengthy prison terms for possession, and keeping marijuana illegal are all going to have to be looked at from a budgetary perspective as well as from a criminal justice point of view.

kathy a.

garcetti concurs? holy cow.

he was the DA of L.A. county for years, and L.A. county has the highest population on CA's death row. and yet he opines that "the money would be far better spent keeping kids in school, keeping teachers and counselors in their schools and giving the juvenile justice system the resources it needs."


In the relentless toll of death by a thousand cuts, here's the newest addition to the plan for the women, men and children of Indiana. Next will be plans for turning off the heat and lights I suppose. Such ugliness and unkindness confounds.

Sir Charles


But there's no meaningful difference between the parties. Remember that.

Tell it to all the poor women who won't get free reproductive and other preventative health services -- and their children who won't get nutritional assistance, and on and on.

Maybe Jane Hamsher will take care of them.


SC--You know, the oddity is that these people see this as "limiting services to low-income Americans", yet they don't seem to understand that low-income Americans now exist across a wide swath of the populace. Son's girlfriend, now out of school and holding down two part-time jobs, has no health insurance. Do I want her to have access to Planned Parenthood? Of course (and doing sign of the cross, please, thank you and then some).

The Republican need to just plain misunderstand the real landscape out here is not only mean but bizarre. And perverse. What--they don't have children, grandchildren, extended family? Not to mention fragile constituents.

Sir Charles


Sane policy is no substitute for strongly help opinions and the politics of ressentiment.

Paula B

Nancy---Speaking of turning off the heat and lights, don't count on them to care about anybody but themselves. Along those lines, I had this nightmare last night---
Could this be the GOP's next courageous proposal?
Here's an easy way to save $31.2 billion and then some:
1. Disband NIH and the CDC, then let those smart folks in private industry oversee public health and all medical research. They know better than anyone in government what works and what doesn't.
2. Sell the land. That's a nice piece of property they've got up there in Bethesda, would make a lovely golf course. And the Atlanta site is perfect for condos.
3. Tell people to grow up! We probably don't need to live as long as we do, anyway. Just costs us more money.

Sir Charles


I think there is a glut of golf courses in that area of Bethesda -- Congressional, Burning Tree, Columbia, Chevy Chase, Kenwood, and Avenel are all a stones' throw away.

I suspect that they would go for tract McMansions instead -- with great Metro access. Win/win baby.

Krubozumo Nyankoye

Interesting thread. Before commenting thanks to all for the good wishes on my potential liberation. I don't quite know what to make of it yet because it involves another sojurn to China and that has its risks as well. So it won't be "over" until I actually get through customs and immigration at Miami or LA. Still it is a boost to morale. I haven't any strict accounting but I think I have spent something on the order of 700+ days living in the bush, which is a record for this trip. That is not to say sleeping in hammocks and under tarps in the open air, just in a dusty or muddy tiny town 800 km from the nearest approximation of a city.

The most interesting thing to me about this thread is that virtually all the comments are from mothers and only SC is holding up the father's end. I can't be of any help because I have no children. Then again, to a certain extent, I consider myself communally responsible for all the children in the world. My own parents have been dead for some years so the memories of those interactions, strained and distant as they were from decades past are now frail vestiges of their former passion.

I will offer up though, that the parent child relationship is intrinsically both adversarial and cooperative. It is quite true that there is no single formula, or prescription for how to rear a child in a manner that has good chances of success, and even if there were, there would be millions upon millions of parents who never heard a word of it.

I made a decision at an early age that I had no desire for any children. My rationale was very simple. Since the future of the world seemed so very dubious it was unjustifiable to condemn anyone to having to live out their existence in it. I know that doesn't sound very hopeful. It wasn't then, and it is even worse now.

To all those fathers lucky enough to be able to work their way through the gruelling process of maturation, congradulations. To all those who have in some sense "failed", well, if you did your best I sympathize, and if you just flaked out, you probably deserve the liability.

To put a cap on it, philosophically my genes are of no importance whatsoever. They assure nothing. My deeds may in some sense matter. I have devoted my life to increasing knowledge and bettering the situation of all those less fortunate than myself. So to all you poor parents possessed of only a few progeny, I boast, I am one of the fathers, of the family of humanity.

We have mother's day, we have father's day, when is childrens day?

Sir Charles


You have to keep us apprised of your journey and its progress.

I know we have a few devoted fathers out there who didn't weigh in. Possibly because they were tending to their children.

I think the decision to have or not have children is for some of us quite tricky. It requires you to imagine a couple of different futures and to contemplate how you will feel about something very far down the raod.

Like most parents, I now cannot really conceive of not having my child -- the bonds are so intense that such a things seems, if I dare say, inconceivable. But there were definitely days early on in the grind where I recall thinking "what have you done to your beautiful life?"

Krubozumo Nyankoye

I shall report with diligence if possible. My last trip my WiFi firewall was hammered within ten minutes of lighting up. So that was then end of my Internet connection until I got back to Sao Paulo. Anyway.

I recognize I am a member of a tiny minority. More people, I think, should read "The Selfish Gene" by Dawkins. It is not what you think it is.

The is a large and general culture that supports a thesis that runs something like this... the only way to assure a modicum of security in your old age is to have kids who will take care of you. To some extent that is true still, it was more true the further you go into in the past. I guess I am doomed.

Paula B

None of our kids will take care of us, I assure you. Times have changed. What you describe was part of the culture a long, long time ago, so you're no more doomed than the rest of us. Bon voyage and good luck, KN

Sir Charles

Yeah, KN, I assume that I will probably be doing much longer support with my son than my parents did with me --and they pretty much supported me until age 25.

It's the nature of the times -- and another way in which the children of the professional class are advantaged.

The comments to this entry are closed.