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- 04/10/17--13:44: _Janet Jackson May B...
- 04/11/17--12:57: _Dad's Brave Essay A...
- 04/11/17--14:38: _'Vagina Ice Pops' A...
- 04/13/17--06:09: _Mom Turns Her Breas...
- 04/13/17--14:55: _Mom Dies Hours Afte...
- 04/14/17--10:16: _Game Show Lets Guys...
- 04/17/17--05:00: _Why You Need to Thi...
- 04/17/17--13:49: _Photographer Proves...
- 04/17/17--14:47: _Here's Why Melissa ...
- 04/19/17--13:06: _New Mom Irina Shayk...
- 04/21/17--08:35: _Teacher Charged Wit...
- 04/21/17--11:03: _24 Mother's Day Car...
- 04/26/17--15:13: _Mom Goes Viral for ...
- 04/27/17--14:21: _18 Quotes About Mot...
- 04/28/17--10:20: _Why My Kid Won't Be...
- 05/02/17--08:38: _New School Lunch Ru...
- 05/05/17--07:58: _Airline Threatens P...
- 05/05/17--12:40: _15 Photos That Show...
- 05/05/17--13:23: _How You and Your Ki...
- 05/08/17--09:46: _Fidget Spinners Are...
- 04/13/17--06:09: Mom Turns Her Breastfeeding Journey into Incredible Artwork
- 04/13/17--14:55: Mom Dies Hours After Birth Due to Rare Pregnancy Complication
- 04/14/17--10:16: Game Show Lets Guys Judge If Woman's 'Pregnant or Fat' -- Hell, No!
- 04/17/17--13:49: Photographer Proves 'Fed Is Best' With Powerful Photo Series
- 04/17/17--14:47: Here's Why Melissa Etheridge Smoking Weed With Her Kids Is Okay
- 04/19/17--13:06: New Mom Irina Shayk's Post-Baby Body Pic Says More About Us Than Her
- 04/21/17--11:03: 24 Mother's Day Cards From Kids Who Meant Well, But ...
- 04/27/17--14:21: 18 Quotes About Motherhood That Straight Up Tell It Like It Is
- 05/02/17--08:38: New School Lunch Rules Will Make Life Harder for Moms
- 05/05/17--12:40: 15 Photos That Show How Your Kids Really See You
- 05/05/17--13:23: How You and Your Kids Are Under Attack by the New Health-Care Bill
Post by Jeanne Sager.
There's always something sad about seeing a celebrity's impending divorce make headlines, and the news that Janet Jackson and husband Wissam Al Mana are reportedly splitting is no different. The singer just announced three months ago that they'd welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Eissa. Now if reports are true, Jackson will be juggling diapers and divorce papers.
The whys of the split are all in speculation stage -- some reports say it's amicable; some say Al Mana was "too controlling" during Jackson's pregnancy. What's really going on is clearly something only the couple knows.
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Still, the fact that this comes just three months after the singer gave birth (as first reported by the Mail on Sunday) is hardly surprising. Many a marriage has only grown stronger in the wake of a baby's arrival. We're not going to truck with myths about how babies ruin your love life.
But anyone who has given birth knows that becoming a mom tends to put your whole life in perspective. Suddenly the things that seemed important prior to welcoming a child pale in comparison to your number one priority: keeping this little person healthy and safe and trying your best to make sure he or she feels all of your love.
Even the most hesitant of parents tend to become fierce protectors of their children, an empowerment that can enable a new mom to make huge changes in her life ... even looking to divorce a spouse of several years.
Is it motherhood that made Jackson say, hold up, this isn't right, we have to end this? Who knows. It's entirely possible that Jackson looked around her life with little Eissa and decided this is what she had to do to do right by her son, for any of a number of reasons. Or maybe not. Maybe it was just time.
Regardless of her motivation, seeing Jackson go through this in a very public manner can buoy other moms who are nervous about making such a big change right after what some would say is the biggest change of all -- transitioning to motherhood.
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Choosing to seek divorce is scary, but it's also the right choice for countless people, even new moms with itty-bitty babies at home. And while research does show divorce has an effect on kids (how can it not?), the effects tend to be minor for most kids. When it happens with kids as young as Eissa, much of what makes it rough on older kids, such as being surprised by the news or adjusting to significantly new routines, can be avoided. And if you're struggling in life because of your marriage, getting rid of that stress may just make parenting a little bit easier ... for both of you.
Here's hoping Jackson and Al Mana can figure the co-parenting thing out and both find happiness on the other side. That's what little Eissa needs for his parents.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
It's become an all-too-familiar question among many families when someone dies unexpectedly: "Was it heroin?" The CDC estimates heroin-related deaths have quadrupled since 2010, and an increasing number of parents are coming out to answer that question and openly address the loss of their beloved children to the drug. The latest brave parent to do so is Gary Fusz, a Chicago-area dad whose essay about his daughter Lex's descent into addiction has gone viral.
His story starts out achingly familiar for parents: Fusz shares what it was like to be a new dad, to secure his baby girl in her car seat for that first ride home from the hospital, his brain already fast-forwarding through the milestones to come.
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He sounds like every proud dad of a new baby girl.
Because he was.
He shares his pride watching her ride horses and play soccer. He shares how he told her to have fun, how her smile lit up a room.
He sounds like every proud dad of an elementary school girl.
Because he was.
Then the teenage years hit, and he was her sounding board when she struggled with her mom as teenage girls often do.
He sound like every proud dad of a teenage girl.
Because he was.
Then this proud dad, this caring dad had to watch what so many American families have watched from afar: Addiction set in.
"Lex's life changed forever at age 21 with the wrong boyfriend and group of friends, and she made the wrong choice and tried heroin," Fusz wrote in his essay. "I knew nothing about heroin at the time but can say now in all certainty it destroys families, friendships, and takes everything in its path in a downward spiral like a tornado."
There's a pervasive myth about addiction, that it happens to "bad" kids, that it happens to kids who are down on their luck, kids from hardscrabble homes, kids who were never taught any better, kids who never had a chance.
It does happen to those kids.
But then, it happens to kids with supportive parents too, kids who had every opportunity and every chance to succeed.
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According to the CDC statistics, the biggest leaps in heroin usage have happened in demographics society would least expect: among women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. The rates have more than doubled in the past decade for people in the 18 to 25 age range in particular ... people like Lex Fusz.
It may be easier to think of heroin addiction as something that happens to people who don't have a chance, to kids whose parents were never there for them, because it wraps our own kids and loved ones in a shroud of protection. We love our kids. We're there for our kids. It can't happen to them, right?
"I thought about my daughter every day," Gary Fusz wrote, "and every night when I put the phone on my nightstand I was in fear of receiving that call that no parent ever wants to receive."
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Read the comments section on any news report of a fatal overdose, and it's clear those who overdose are often seen as throwaway members of society. But there's no such thing as a throwaway person. People are people, even when they're in the throes of addiction. They may be people down on their luck, people who were sucked into the disease of addiction, but people all the same. And nine times out of 10, they're people who leave behind other people who loved them dearly and would do anything to have them back.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
If you're going to give birth any time ... well, ever ... you need to stop and read this. An Australian dad is getting some serious viral attention for a move that has moms everywhere asking, "Where were you when I gave birth?!" Behold the wonder of the vagina ice pop.
Hold on, there's nothing naughty about this ... because we all know the last thing you have on your mind post-birth is naughty business of any type. Dad Martin Wanless took condoms, filled them with water, and popped them in the freezer. As he says on his much-shared post on Direct Advice for Dads (or DAD), "They're the perfect shape to rest in between new mum's legs and ease a bit of pain and swelling."
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Note he says between the legs, ladies. No one is expecting you to insert them. And, no, you're not the only one who wondered.
We've heard of moms creating "padsicles" to soothe the ring o' fire that is the vagina after birth -- essentially soaking a pad in water and freezing it, then popping it in their undies -- but these condom "ice pops" offer ample new options.
For starters: Finally a use for those condoms that were going to expire! You were going to have to toss them anyway, because you have been pregnant for nine months and you were "trying" before that -- who knows how old those things really are?
And then there's that whole "OMG, it feels like I just pushed a watermelon out of a Cuties-sized hole" feeling that comes after birth. As far as options go for soothing that pain, these are pretty perfect.
Wanless is not actually taking credit for this magic. He says his wife was greeted with a fridge full of ice pops in the hospital, so all the love belongs to the maternity ward nurses on this one.
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Of course, you'll want to check with your ob-gyn for the all-clear to use this handy trick, and you should grab a bit of cloth and wrap it around the condom before placing this in your undies. Just like ice cubes when you're feeling up to something a little more kinky (yes, you'll get there again, we promise!), there's undoubtedly a risk to having something super cold against your super sensitive vulva.
But, provided you get the A-OK from the doc, vagina ice pops for the win!
Post by Jeanne Sager.
Artist Joy Hwang always imagined breastfeeding would come to her naturally and magically. Instead, her nursing experience started off in the opposite way: It was a struggle. She ate her placenta; she drank teas meant to spur milk production; she nursed and she pumped, and she nursed and she pumped. It was only fitting that her first drawing after becoming a mom was of herself, half asleep with a breast pump connected to her chest.
It was the beginning of a long series of images breastfeeding moms have been "loving" and sharing all over Instagram, where Hwang is better known as Mom Is Drawing, the artist who regularly shares hand-drawn reflections on her life as the mother of a toddler named Auri.
Hwang, who hails from Southern California, has designed everything from on-air graphics for MTV to work for museum walls, but since Auri's birth, she's focused mostly on children's illustrations. Her drawings cover a range of motherhood moments, but it's her breastfeeding journey that started it all.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
A rare but fatal pregnancy complication is getting a lot of attention this week. Natalie Cook had given birth just four hours earlier when the 35-year-old suffered a sudden heart attack. Doctors blamed her baby's amniotic fluid, which apparently caused an allergic reaction.
The tragedy happened in July 2014, but Natalie's husband Tim has just recently started speaking out about it. He's trying to spread awareness of amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) or anaphylactoid syndrome of pregnancy, the condition that took Natalie's life shortly after the birth of their daughter Chloe, who is now 2.
If you're pregnant right now, this is the sort of news that can make you anxious about delivery. So what's the deal?
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Doctors aren't 100 percent clear on what happens or why it can cause a mom's health to devolve so rapidly, but typically AFE is characterized by amniotic fluid leaking into a mom's bloodstream -- usually through the placental bed, where the placenta is attached to the wall of a woman's uterus. Some moms suffer minor complications, while others suffer a heart attack and death like Natalie. Unfortunately doctors haven't yet developed interventions that significantly improve outcomes for moms.
But while all of this is unsettling, there is a big piece of the puzzle that expectant moms should keep in mind: AFE is very, very rare.
Statistics are so varied that reports say the condition happens in about 1 out of every 8,000 to 1 out of every 80,000 births in America. That's a huge difference! There's no clear link to what type of birth women have either -- 19 percent of AFE cases occurred during a C-section vs. 11 percent during a vaginal birth, while the majority occur earlier during labor.
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Natalie Cook's death is a heartbreaking tragedy, but it's important to remember the statistics. The likelihood of complications involving AFE is extremely low for most women, but if you're worried, it certainly wouldn't hurt to ask your ob-gyn or midwife for more information.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
A game show that puts women in front of a panel of guys so they can look her over and declare her "fat or pregnant" deserves to sit pretty high on the Internet's growing list of epically bad ideas. But there may be something that deserves equal billing on said list: the way officials at KRO-NCRV, the Dutch TV channel airing Neem Je Zwemspullen Mee (which roughly translates to "Bring Your Bathing Suit" in English), are defending their decision to air the segment.
The execs at the TV channel claim the segment is "satirical" and "a way to laugh off all kinds of prejudices" -- despite a petition to have the program yanked from the air.
Ah yes, the age old: Hey, ladies, can't you just take a joke?
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We can't, nor should we have to accept "I'm joking" in the face of bad behavior, despite centuries of people attempting to get out of trouble by claiming their intentions were comedic.
We see it all the time: The guy at the office asks if you're on the rag, and when you threaten to call HR, he claims it was a joke. A bunch of white college kids sport blackface and claim they're not racist, they're kidding!
Comedy can be used to take a deeper look at dark issues in society, but it takes skill to do so deftly and reverently, to truly move the conversation forward. There's no skill involved in placing women in the center of a room and treating them like pieces of meat, judging their worth based on appearance for laughs.
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A segment like this isn't just in bad taste. It's cruel, and it's dangerous in a world where eating disorders quite literally take lives. It's also sexist. Can't imagine seeing a show that puts a man in the center of a bunch of women who get to judge the size of his package (or his beer gut) getting the green light? It wouldn't be. It shouldn't be. But then, this show shouldn't have been green-lit either.
Casting this as satire and continuing with similar segments (they've also aired one that featured contestants judging whether a woman's breasts were real) makes it clear the creators are not taking seriously the damaging effects their show could have on countless people (women and men both) in the viewing audience or on the show itself. Their pat "it's satire" response is nothing more than a brush-off, an "oops, we got caught, let's see how we can make ourselves look less sh-tty," rather than a true acknowledgement of the feelings of the aggrieved parties and consideration of the facts at hand.
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Until people stop hiding behind "it's a joke" every time they do something stupid, society will remain stuck in this gray area where it's okay to judge a woman based on the size of her stomach, and when she complains, she's cast as humorless for not "taking the joke."
Post by Jeanne Sager.
Can we talk about vaccines for a minute without getting heated? Yes, it's one of the most contentious topics parents talk about these days, and for good reason: We all care about our kids' health. But if you're in the "let's shame people for not vaccinating" camp, you're making a huge mistake.
Hold on. This is not to say that people shouldn't vaccinate their kids. Statistics from UNICEF estimate that if every kid in the world were vaccinated with existing immunizations, 25 million lives would be saved by the year 2020.
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But when parents make decisions about their kids, they tend to do so because they think it's the right thing to do. So, it's no surprise that scientists studying the conversations parents are having around vaccines have found that you can't shame parents into the practice. In fact, when researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute looked at a vaccine promotion program in their state designed to reduce "vaccine hesitancy," they found the most effective means to get parents to say "yes" to immunizations was hearing other parents talking simply and honestly about why they do so.
Got that? It's not "you're an idiot who is killing your child." It's "hey, my kid got the flu shot for the fourth year in a row today!"
It's kind of like every other discussion about parenting, right? If you insult a mom or dad right out of the gate, they're going to grab their kid and their kids' marbles and hightail it off the playground. Wouldn't you?
No one wants to hear someone else tearing his or her parenting apart.
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In many other areas of parenting, most of us are a bit gentler (most, not all). If a mom posts a photo on Facebook of her newborn baby sleeping in a crib with bumpers that look to be a SIDS hazard, a few parents will leap to criticize her. But the general public will hem and haw, wondering how to broach the topic to keep the baby safe without making the poor well-meaning parent feel like she just tried to murder her own baby.
She's not. You know that in your heart, right? She's just trying to make sense of all the myriad decisions and headlines relating to parents, and it's 99.9 percent likely she just missed the update that the bumpers that were okay 10 years ago are not okay anymore.
In many ways, the same goes for vaccines. There's more press, yes, and it's possible that an anti-vaxxing parent or a parent who is simply skeptical has fallen for some hoo-ha on the Internet. There's plenty of it flying around.
That said, they're not evil incarnate. They're not trying to kill their kids. They're doing what they think is best for their own children.
If you want them to jump on your bandwagon, the least you can do is speak to them they way you'd like someone to speak to you. It may not work. Then again, if they run out of the playground, with their toddler in their arms, you won't even get a chance to pitch them your take on the whole thing.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
As a photographer, Mikaela Bodkin says her favorite sessions have always been those that are just "raw emotion." So when moms started reaching out, asking her to take photos of them feeding their babies, she wanted to get right to the heart of the matter. The result? Fed Is Best, a series Bodkin has started to reflect the variety of ways a baby can be nurtured in the early days.
So check out these gorgeous photos that celebrate all the ways moms feed their babies.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
It's legal for recreational use in eight states and legal for medicinal use in dozens more, so it's no surprise more parents are coming out to talk about smoking marijuana. And the way singer Melissa Etheridge sees it, there's nothing wrong with smoking up with your kids ... the adult ones, anyway.
The singer has been a vocal advocate of cannabis usage since her battle with breast cancer in 2004. Not only did it help her deal with the side effects of chemo, but she said it helped open her mind to new ways of thinking.
And now that her two oldest kids are 18 and 20, Etheridge says she's been known to take a toke or two with them, telling Yahoo! it brings the three of them closer.
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If you're feeling the urge to judge, quickly take note of Bailey Jean and Beckett's ages. They're not little kids. No one is handing drugs out on a playground.
Etheridge makes very clear in her Yahoo! interview that she doesn't share her stash with her younger kids, 11-year-old twins Johnnie and Steven. In fact, she tries not to smoke it in front of them, although they do walk in at times (as kids do).
"This is medicine, and they see an herb and they see that's where my medicine is. I treat it just as any other medicine in the house, just as a bottle of vodka would be, you know, 'This is for Mom; you don't [try] this. When you're grown-ups, you can deal with that.'"
It's how we treat a number of privileges of adulthood -- from alcohol to driving -- so why not weed? Especially when legalization is a growing trend?
Granted, the Etheridge kids are both younger than the 21 age limit in most states that have signed off on recreational marijuana usage, but then they're doing it with their mother, which puts it into that gray area wherein an 18- or 19-year-old has a beer with Mom and Dad, learning responsible alcohol usage. It would be interesting to see laws address that area and acknowledge that parents can help their kids learn to bridge the gap between not using and using responsibly. Not to mention Canada's expected to make 18 the limit when legalization goes into effect in 2018 ... and both kids qualify.
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Etheridge is clearly committed to looking at marijuana as something that needs to be treated with respect and not abused by her kids, which isn't anything to sneeze at. Kids -- even adult kids -- can't help but be affected by the way their parents role model behaviors with drugs and alcohol.
And while the Etheridge kids might like smoking with Mom, the fact that she's so cool with it could end up turning them away from the drug entirely. Statistics from states where marijuana has been legalized have shown that usage among teenagers has actually decreased since regulations went in place. After all, as soon as the old folks start doing anything out in the open, the kids go running.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
A month after Irina Shayk gave birth to her and Bradley Cooper's first child, the incredibly private supermodel popped up on Instagram this week chilling out in a bikini at the pool. It may sound like something absolutely normal to do when the weather is nice outside, but Shayk's already being treated to a healthy dose of mommy judgment with some skinny shaming on the side.
The image above was shared by Shayk with the words "pre-sunset #currentsituation" and a few emojis. She doesn't say "I abandoned the kid with a nanny," or "LOOK AT MY SUPER SKINNY BELLY!"
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And yet there are hundreds of folks tearing Shayk down. The general sentiment can be summed up with this comment:
"Wish celebrities would focus on their children and not be so into their looks so soon after having a baby."
Does anyone else sense someone's projecting a wee bit? Shayk doesn't seem terribly focused on her looks -- at least not any more than anyone else whose job is intrinsically tied to his or her appearance. Her caption said nothing about her "post-baby body." There were no calls for applause for her washboard abs.
Yes, Irina Shayk is thin. She's thinner than the average American woman (who is a size 16 even when she's not one month postpartum). So what? Her body is her body, and that body is not affecting you one bit.
Surely there is the celebrity advantage here -- she can afford personal trainers and folks who can watch the baby while she works out. Then again, genetics surely play a role too. Science has shown a very clear link between our genes and our weight.
These are things we all need to keep in mind when we look at magazines showing off "perfect" bodies. It's easy to look at them and allow the demons in our heads to whisper, "You could look like that too; why don't you?" It behooves us to quiet them with facts and science.
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It also behooves the magazine publishers and beauty and fashion advertisers out there not to focus on manufactured beauty ideals, not to Photoshop models so they're nearly unrecognizable, and not to push impossible standards onto the public. When someone else is focused on making "thin" seem like it's the only way to be, it can have damaging effects on a huge sector of the population, both female and male.
But it's not Shayk making a big deal of her size. She's not pushing herself out there as the role model for postpartum life. She's not the infamous "Fit Mom" who lashed out at other mothers for not trying hard enough to be thin.
She's a woman who posted a photo of herself existing. If her existence feels like a personal affront, that says more about you than it does about her.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
In the sort of news that has parents everywhere in sheer panic mode, a Tennesee health sciences teacher has been arrested a month after police say he kidnapped one of his students and dragged her across the country. Police allege 50-year-old Tad Cummins took a 15-year-old girl from her hometown in Tennessee in March and drove her all the way to California, where he was caught hiding out in a remote cabin this week.
The girl is now safe -- thanks to an eagle-eyed Good Samaritan who called in a vehicle that matched a description on the Amber Alert -- and Cummins is behind bars, charged with aggravated kidnapping, sexual contact with a minor, and taking a minor across state lines to have sex (the latter is a federal charge).
If you're wondering how a high school teacher turns into an alleged kidnapper and keeps a child captive for more than a month, you're not alone. Officials at Culleoka Unit School in Maury County, Tennessee, are under a lot of scrutiny right now over how they handled a student's allegation that he or she saw Cummins kissing the girl.
According to reports, Cummins and the teenager both denied the allegation, and Cummins kept his job -- although with reprimand and a recommendation that the student be removed from his class -- for another two weeks. This is despite reports that he admitted the girl was "a really good friend and she does leave her other classes to come see him when she needs someone to calm her down."
It's hard to say from the outside whether or not the school's actions were appropriate. It would be surprising if they don't end up in court over how it all went down.
But the whole case does bring up a fraught question about what should be considered appropriate between teacher and student. Kidnapping and carrying her across the country? Of course not. But friendship?
It seems that was okay enough for this teacher to retain his job -- at least for several weeks.
As parents, we want our kids to be able to turn to their teachers, to trust them and to feel like their teachers have their back. Kids spend much of their waking hours inside schools. If they can't turn to a trusted teacher when they're struggling, that could leave them feeling isolated.
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And yet, teachers aren't just typically older than students (although the age gaps are smaller with high school students and teachers who are new to the job); they're also in a position of authority over kids. Any so-called friendship that springs up is going to be uneven, putting kids at a disadvantage.
If a teacher is calling a kid his or her friend, it may be a harmless usage of the term. But at the very least, it's a red flag that bears deeper investigation. Teachers should be teachers, not friends.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
Every year when Mother's Day rolls around, the kids get busy with crayons and scissors and start making mom a Mother's Day card. The results are usually sweet. What's not to love about a little one making something nice for mom? But every mom has that one card that turned out a little ... funny.
Kids have a way of making us laugh, even when it's unintentional. Take an awkward drawing that may or may not resemble a part of the male anatomy here and throw in some, ahem, questionable misspellings, and handmade Mother's Day cards can have moms rolling.
Don't believe us? Here are 24 unintentionally hilarious cards that moms have gotten from their kids on the big day!
Post by Jeanne Sager.
It's late at night, and you know exactly where your child is ... she's hunched over her homework because even though she's been home from school for hours, she's still got piles of work to do. What do you do? If you're blogger Bunmi Laditan, you play the mom card. Laditan, who rose to popularity as the very funny writer behind Honest Toddler, shared a homework refusal note she sent to her 10-year-old's teacher this week that's quickly gone very viral.
In it, Laditan tells the teacher that her daughter will not be doing all the homework in her backpack anymore because she needs time to "just be a child," and two to three hours of schoolwork is stealing that time away.
"My kid is done with homework," writes Bunmi in her Facebook post sharing a screengrab of the email. "I just sent an email to her school letting her know she's all done. I said 'drastically reduce' but I was trying to be polite because she's finished."
writes: "...Over the past four years I've noticed her getting more and more stressed when it comes to school. And by stressed I mean chest pains, waking up early, and dreading school in general." Mom continues:
She's in school from 8:15am-4pm daily so someone please explain to me why she should have 2-3 hours of homework to do every night?
How does homework until 6:30, then dinner, then an hour to relax (or finish the homework) before bed make any sense at all?
Is family time not important? Is time spent just being a child relaxing at home not important? Or should she become some kind of junior workaholic at 10 years old?
Already shared nearly 9,000 times, the post is drawing debate from folks who agree heartily with Laditan and those who say homework is important for kids, and teachers know best.
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Of course, teachers know a lot about how to educate kids. They go to college specifically to learn best practices, and there are hundreds of thousands of caring, intelligent, innovative teachers out there.
But teachers are not the ultimate authority in a kid's life. Parents are. When our kids are coming home with so much homework that they can barely find time to eat dinner and take a shower, let alone spend time blowing off steam, it's on us as parents to step up and say something.
In some cases, the teacher may not realize just how challenging the work can be for kids. Letting them know your child is spending hours hunched over worksheets may well give them information they can use to adjust their assignment procedures.
If they don't listen? Well, that's where parents need to remember that it's okay to be firm and okay to disagree with your child's teacher. In general, we should be supporting one another, working together for a child's best interest. That means backing up the teacher who says write 10 sentences when your kid wants to write five, or saying, yes, Mrs. Jones really does need you to sit quietly during the morning announcements.
But the support goes both ways. Teachers need to be cognizant of a child's home life, aware that parents and kids need some time with no schoolwork, just as they themselves want to step away from it all. Kids need time to run around the backyard and blow off steam, to eat their dinner, to cuddle on the couch with Mom or Dad or a sibling, to take a bath, to snuggle in bed for story time.
Those are all important parts of development. Education doesn't supersede them.
That's not just a parent's perspective. The experts agree. One study in 2015 found the average elementary schooler gets three times the amount of homework he or she should be getting.
Both the National PTA and the National Education Association recommend kids do about 10 minutes of homework per grade level. A first grader would do 10 minutes, a second grader would do 20, and so on. At 10, most kids are in fourth or fifth grade, which means they should still be doing less than an hour's worth of work at night -- not two to three.
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If the teacher isn't listening to the experts, parents don't have to sit by and watch their kids suffer. Send an email! Write a note! Be polite, as Laditan was, but be firm. Kids can't advocate for themselves in this arena, but that doesn't mean they should have to stress themselves out just because "my teacher said so."
The teacher is in charge of the classroom. But you're in charge at home. Act like it.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
Here's the funny thing about Mother's Day: The stores are chock-full of cards full of mushy, gushy sayings about what it means to be a mom. Some of them are true, certainly. Being a mom takes a whole lot of love. But you know what else makes it worth being a mom? All the laughs!
Motherhood is often pretty darn hilarious! And when it isn't, we could all use a bit of humor to get us through. So what better way to celebrate moms than with some funny -- or at least very real -- quotes about motherhood?
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Have a laugh on us, Mom!
Post by Jeanne Sager.
When I heard Jay Asher's bestseller 13 Reasons Why would soon be hitting Netflix, I poked around in my attic for my copy of the book and slid it onto my daughter's bookshelf. She's 11, almost 12, and I had a feeling she'd likely be asking if she could stream the show sometime soon. She sped through the story of Hannah Baker's suicide and the cassette tapes she left behind, finishing the book off in less than two days. But when she came asking to tune in on Netflix, I had to break the bad news: You can't watch 13 Reasons Why.
Because of the serious subject matter, I previewed the show and decided it wasn't one my tween should see. Yes, even though she's read the book.
Though the book also tells the story of a teenager's suicide, follows most of the same characters, and includes some disturbing details about what happens to Hannah along the way, there are stark differences.
Chief among them: Hannah's suicide on screen is incredibly detailed and drawn out, forcing viewers to take in everything. Rules that dictate how journalists should report on suicide warn against graphic details of how it happens because it increases the chances of suicide contagion, the very real incidence of people exposed to suicide doing it themselves.
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A show that's aimed at teenagers, a group that is already prone to suggestibility in ways that older people are not, should not be amping up the risk factors.
That scene alone is one that gave me pause, along with graphic rape scenes.
This may seem odd. After all, I allowed her to read a book about a teen who was raped and committed suicide, a book that I had read myself and knew was going to include difficult themes.
But I've always remembered something once said to me by Katherine Paterson, former ambassador for young people's literature for the Library of Congress. Paterson wrote The Bridge to Terabithia, another novel for kids that includes the death of a child. I interviewed her years ago, for a website that's long since been defunct, about the dark subject matter she includes in some of her novels, and I asked how she compared that to violence on TV or in video games.
Her response was that when children read a book, they must use their imaginations to help paint a picture of the action, whereas with a movie or video game, the action can go well beyond what a child can imagine. In other words: Age and experience tend to limit what a child takes from a book, but that's not necessarily true of something like a Netflix series.
When I handed my daughter the book, I knew that she would be reading about something difficult. I also knew it was a topic that she could handle, at least as far as her imagination could take her, and it was a topic we couldn't delay any longer.
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We need to start talking about it now because while she's at an age when suicide is the third most common cause of death (this is true for the 10 to 24 age bracket), most parents don't talk about suicide. If mine did, I don't remember it.
What I do remember is the day I got a call from my cousin. She asked if I was sitting down.
She told me that earlier that day one of my best childhood friends had committed suicide.
I was 19.
He was 21.
I'd been just a few thousand feet away, sitting in my office, when it happened. For years, I blamed myself. I still struggle with guilt over the last few months of his life.
His life and death were nothing like Hannah Baker's, and yet watching the series, I was struck with horror by the way drawing the book out into hour-long episode after hour-long episode made me feel like the show was attempting to justify suicide, to make it appear as though it was something a teenager was "driven to," a direct cause and effect.
There are suicide risk factors parents should know about, warning signs parents should look for.
But no one is driven to suicide, nor is there any one direct cause. As a statement from the National Association of School Psychologists points out:
The series does not emphasize that common among most suicide deaths is the presence of treatable mental illnesses. Suicide is not the simple consequence of stressors or coping challenges, but rather, it is most typically a combined result of treatable mental illnesses and overwhelming or intolerable stressors.
There's also something about the show's long, drawn-out process of revisiting Hannah's life in 13 tapes that makes it seem less like a heartbreaking story of a desperate teenager and more like a game of revenge.
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Perhaps it's Hannah's glib tone, the way she talks about her bullies as if she's constructed the ultimate eff you to respond to their behavior.
Suicide is not revenge. Suicide is not about someone else. That romanticized narrative is dangerous for kids who are already in a naturally narcissistic stage of life, and who are struggling with their independence and ability to deal with the people who anger them. This show has provided them with a fantasy, wherein suicide ends with your name on everyone's lips and the people who hurt you being punished.
But it's just that -- fantasy. There's no coming back from suicide. There's no winning. When someone has killed herself, she is gone, and the people who love her are destroyed.
Currently schools across the nation are sending letters home to parents, warning them about the show. My daughter's school hasn't done so, but I don't need it to. I've seen the show. My daughter won't be watching ... at least not now.
Maybe she will when she's older and better able to separate fact from fiction, more adept at handling very real, in-your-face graphic scenes. But for now, the book has done what it needed to do. It's opened up a conversation about a very important topic in our home, one that I hope other parents are having with their own kids.
If you or someone you know needs support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386, or text "START" to 741-741.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
If you're a parent whose kid comes home spinning tales of the wondrous foods served up in the school cafeteria that you refuse to serve at home, brace yourself. Your job is about to get even harder. The new White House administration has taken aim at one of former First Lady Michelle Obama's best known initiatives -- America's school lunch program -- and things are about to look very different in Lunch Lady Land.
In a press release literally titled "Ag Secretary Perdue Moves to Make School Meals Great Again," the USDA laid out a new plan to roll back healthy mandates.
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First up? Schools will no longer have to meet a July 2022 deadline to reduce sodium levels in the foods served to kids. Also out is the requirement that schools serve breads made with whole grains. Schools will also be allowed to serve flavored milks -- yes, that means chocolate milk -- so long as the milk is 1 percent.
The reason for all of this change? Well, they can't just come out and say it's because they don't like what Mrs. Obama was up to, so they're claiming that they're making food more kid-friendly so the kids won't go hungry.
"This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals," Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says in the press release. "If kids aren't eating the food, and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition -- thus undermining the intent of the program.”
That's right. After countless nutritionists have spent decades telling moms, "Just because your kid asks for junk doesn't mean you have feed them junk; act like an adult," the US government is telling us all, "Eh, we're just going to let the kids have the crap they want; at least they'll eat it!"
Way to make Mom the bad guy all over again.
As if it wasn't hard enough having to tell little Johnny and Susie, "No, you can't buy ice cream every day, even though the school sells it as an extra," now schools are being given leave to skimp on the nutrition in even the basic meal.
Not only is reducing the nutritional value bad news for the 30 million kids who eat school lunch every day -- especially the millions for whom it's the only solid meal of the day -- in terms of what's in their bellies when they walk away from the table, it sends a dangerous message.
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We send our kids to school to learn, and not just in the traditional classroom setting. Kids learn friendship on the playground, good exercise habits in gym class, and eating habits in the cafeteria. What habits are they picking up in a cafeteria where they're served little but empty carbs?
That's not a rhetorical question -- scientists have studied it, and the answer is "bad ones." Not only are kids drawn to junk food, but Yale researchers found that getting hooked young is tied to a higher risk of chronically unhealthy eating into adulthood.
It's something many a '70s or '80s kid, raised on SpaghettiOs and Kool-Aid, knows all too well and why we try to do better for our kids.
But it's a whole lot harder for moms to fight the good fight, packing lean, hormone-free turkey on whole wheat with a bottle of cold water, when her kid is insisting on eating the Wonder Bread slathered in butter with a side of soda that her best friend had yesterday. It's one thing to say, "So and So's mommy and I make different lunches." It gets more difficult to stand on a moral high ground when it's the school, a supposed authority, side-eyeing nutritional standards.
The sad fact is, school lunch is already problematic in countless school districts whether you're looking at extreme cases like the Georgia school caught serving funnel cake as a breakfast food last year or the average uninspired menu of beige chicken nuggets with a side of beige mashed potatoes. Change in the school lunch program is needed.
But kids don't need someone to make school lunch less nutritious so they'll eat it. They need the government to take Mom's side and set out a healthy program that will help them learn to make healthy choices as they grow up.
After all, we're the adults.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
Quick! Do you know your rights on an airplane? What about the rules for traveling with your kids on a plane? After the ordeal one Southern California family went through on a Delta flight out of Maui this week, you might want to brush up on what's recommended for flying with little ones.
Because their flight was over-sold, Brian and Brittany Schear say flight attendants told them their 2-year-old would have to vacate a seat they'd paid for, and he would have to sit on their laps instead. The toddler was in a car seat, so the parents refused to move him. But when they refused, Delta staff was not happy.
Because the couple had paid for the seat in the name of their eldest son, Mason, who'd instead caught an earlier flight so his little brother could take his seat, the staffers told them they didn't have the right to use the seat they'd paid for -- the seat being occupied by Mason's toddler brother. Delta staff threatened to have the parents arrested and both the little one in the seat and their other young child hauled off to foster care if the couple didn't put the toddler on Mom's or Dad's lap.
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In the YouTube video, you can hear Delta staff say, "… a federal offense, and then you and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be in foster care."
"You're saying you're gonna give that away to someone else when I paid for that seat? That's not right," Brian says.
The airline staff is also clearly heard telling Brian that his family is violating airline regulations by having a child under 2 years of age sitting in a seat by himself -- which is completely untrue!
You can see much of the confrontation in a video the Schears family shared on YouTube:
Scary stuff, right? The family did end up getting booted off the plan, but fortunately the threats against them (i.e., their kids getting taken away) proved false.
And while there's been substantial debate over whether the couple's changing out which son sat in the seat technically falls under the airline rules, here's something that's not up for debate: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advises AGAINST what the Delta attendants were telling these parents they had to do.
According to the FAA's guidelines on flying with children, "The safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap[.] Your arms aren't capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence."
In fact, the FAA also advises parents seek a discounted fare from the airline because buying your child his or her own seat is the only way to use a restraint system -- like Brian and Brittany's son's carseat.
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Technically these are guidelines, rather than ironclad rules, but considering they come from the FAA, they hold some water. They're certainly worth taking a quick screenshot of to pull up on your phone (or printing out ... yes, people still do that) before your next flight.
And if that's not enough, you can also take a screenshot of your airline's rules. In the case of Delta, it's recommended that "you purchase a seat on the aircraft and use an approved child safety seat" for kids under age 2.
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Ironic, huh? Now if only this couple had had that information handy when someone was threatening to take their kids away.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
As moms, we tend to see ourselves in a harsh light. Even when we're trying our best, we never quite feel like our best is good enough. The good news? Our kids see us in a different way. But don't just take our word for it ... have you ever taken a peek at the photos of you that your child took on your phone, or with their little toy camera?
We decided to ask moms if they have ... and the response was overwhelming! Not only do these moms have photos their kids have taken of them, but those photos tend to be some of their favorite pictures of themselves because they offer a different, kinder view. Take a look ... and then take a peek at what your child's view of you is from their viewpoint.
Post by Jeanne Sager.
News that the House of Representatives passed a bill to rescind the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has been rocking social media this week, and it's left moms and dads across the country on tenterhooks, wondering what the Senate will do. If the senators approve the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that curried favor in the House or something like it, what happens to health insurance for our kids? For us? For women and families in general?
A lot, says Caitlin Donovan, director of outreach and public affairs for the National Patient Advocate Foundation.
"Women and children would be disproportionately affected by the cuts in this bill," Donovan tells CafeMom. "For instance, for some reason the cuts to Medicaid received a lot of attention a few weeks ago during the first iteration of the AHCA, but has disappeared a bit from the conversation this time. We should absolutely be talking about those cuts, because women make up the majority of Medicaid recipients, and often their children are covered under the program too. Cutting Medicaid cuts health care for women and children."
What's more, Donovan says the bill will allow states to waive something called the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) package, which required insurers to include maternity coverage -- something she says most pre-ACA plans sold on the individual market did not include -- as well as breastfeeding assistance, free breast pumps, and wellness care for women and kids (aka those well care visits a child generally gets around his or her birthday each year).
And even if you have employer-based insurance and your state doesn't buy into the AHCA waiver of the EHB packages, you could still face a problem because larger employers will be able to choose what state in which to base their insurance.
"That state's decision, for instance, to waive EHBs would affect employees in all states, not just those who are physically residing in the state," Donovan explains. "For instance, even though I live in New Jersey, my coverage is through a plan based in Virginia. Thus, Virginia's determination would affect me, even though I do not live there."
Darcy Zalewski is one of the hundreds of thousands of parents weighing that concern today. She's on an employer-based plan, albeit one that's based in a different state because her husband works remotely for his employer.
She's afraid to go to the doctor right now, afraid that she'll be diagnosed with something that might be considered a preexisting condition under a new law and preclude her from getting insured down the road.
"If the AHCA passes the Senate, I am afraid of what that will do to my family's health insurance coverage," the mom of two from Wisconsin tells CafeMom. "Our health insurance has changed a few times in the past two years due to company acquisitions. What if that happens again and our family is denied coverage?"
Darcy's daughter gets speech therapy classes, which are funded by Medicaid -- a program the AHCA, as it is now, would potentially gut. And both of her kids have benign heart murmurs, which would qualify as preexisting conditions if her husband were to change jobs and the family saw a lapse in coverage.
"It worries me how these changes will make it increasingly difficult to receive affordable quality health care, if any at all. And this is only how my immediate family would be affected," Zalewski says. "These changes will negatively impact extended family members and friends as well."
That's an understatement.
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Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, drawn up on an earlier version of the AHCA, indicate some 24 million Americans stand to be living without health insurance by 2026. When you consider the population is about 321 million people, we're talking 7 percent of the population having no health insurance at all. That's 7 out of every 100 people you know.
And that's not including people who will have insurance but will see their rates skyrocket and face a long list of conditions that will not be covered.
One report from the AARP estimates that insurance for people in "high risk" pools -- including the elderly and younger people with health conditions, like a child with autism or a mom with diabetes -- could be facing yearly premiums of $25,700. That's more than half the average household income -- $53,179 -- in America. And that's just for one person. That's not a family plan.
And lest you think "Oh, I'm healthy, I'm not high risk," the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has created a list of conditions that were considered preexisting in the individual market before the ACA, and could under this new plan allow insurers, depending on state waivers, to refuse coverage if you change plans or have a lapse in coverage by an employer.
"Before the ACA, even the definition of a 'preexisting condition' would vary from state to state," Donovan says. "For instance, in some states you would have to be medically diagnosed with the condition to have it count. In others, if the condition existed, even if it was asymptomatic and undiagnosed, it would still count. Terrifying, no? Those type of rules allowed insurers to even deny coverage to newborns with congenital conditions."
And depending upon the state, even those plans provided by an employer could essentially impose lifetime coverage limits, ban caps on annual out-of-pocket costs, and opt out of essential benefit coverage.
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That could create issues for pregnant women; according to figures from the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute, women could faces surcharges of as much as $17,060 for pregnancy under the new plan depending on their policy and state in which they live. Meanwhile the Guttmacher Institute estimates cuts to family planning services will result in 128,000 more unintended pregnancies, including 57,000 more unplanned births and some 55,000 more abortions (and, yes, the plan also includes policy to seriously restrict abortion access).
On the flip side, people trying to conceive could face more trouble on the AHCA as the KFF list of medications that could be denied by insurers includes Clomid, a popular fertility drug. Also on the list is genotropin, a growth hormone often used for kids who are having growth difficulties, as well as popular autism and ADHD meds.
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In a statement shared with CafeMom, nonprofit health-care watchdog group Families USA also warns the ACHA will allow "states to opt out of ACA protections that prohibit insurers from ... selling low-quality coverage that does not include 'essential health benefits' -- like hospitalization, mental health services, and maternity and newborn care."
For families who depend on Medicaid -- one fifth of all Americans, according to KFF figures -- the future is likewise uncertain. The AHCA proposes an $880 billion cut to the program over the course of 10 years, a figure that's estimated to cost 14 million Americans their insurance. Also nestled into that is a drastic cut to special education -- after all, schools depend on Medicaid reimbursement as part of providing services to kids, to the tune of $4 billion a year.
All of this begs the question: What can parents do right now?
The future of the bill now rests in the Senate, which means calling and writing to your senators to let them know what you think of the AHCA. What should stay, what should be cut? Let them know -- here's all of their phone numbers and contact information!
Post by Jeanne Sager.
You can't go far in a school building these days without tripping over a fidget spinner. The small devices are either lifesavers or giant nuisances -- depending on who you're asking -- and they're everywhere. Which is quickly becoming a problem for kids like sixth grader Morgan Cash -- kids who truly need a fidget spinner to get through their day-to-day.
If you haven't already seen one (or 100) in your neighborhood, a fidget spinner is a small, handheld device with paddles that can be spun around -- kind of like a ceiling fan. The idea is that someone who suffers from a sensory processing disorder or similar condition will find comfort in fiddling with the device, resulting in a calmer, more focused kid.
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"Some kids just need to move in order to self-regulate," explains Megan Wessman, a physical therapist from upstate New York who works with children with a variety of sensory needs. "Whether that involves a Move 'n' Sit cushion, therapy ball chair, a Theraband around the chair legs, or a fidget spinner. It is the same as the person who jiggles their leg when sitting, plays with their hair, or clicks or twirls pens."
"Scientifically they don't really know what causes sensory integration dysfunction," Wessman says, but it's a very real issue for hundreds of thousands of kids. "Sensory integration dysfunction can be a part of many diagnoses (i.e., ADHD, autism) or be a stand-alone diagnosis."
Morgan Cash is one of those kids with a verified diagnosis. He's autistic, and he has what's called an individualized education plan, or IEP, on file at his northern Virginia school district. IEPs fall under federal special education law, and teachers are required to follow them. In Morgan's case, that means allowing the 12-year-old to use a fidget toy at school, incorporating it into sensory breaks and classroom time alike.
"He uses the spinner as a tool -- not a toy -- and as a calming device," says mom Jessi, who writes about Morgan on her Facebook page, Deciphering Morgan. Using the toys also prevents Morgan from self-injurious behaviors like dermatillomania (skin picking), due to the toy's gyroscopic effect and the fact that it keeps his hands busy, she says.
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Jessi is autistic too, and she uses her own fidget spinner to help with anxiety. "I have Asperger's and oftentimes will become overwhelmed from noise and unfavorable sensory input," she explains. "Because I like to balance the spinner on my fingers, I have to be steady and calm. It's akin to meditation for me."
But one kid's comfort object is another kid's toy.
Like Jessi Cash, Rebecca Plaisance fought to get fidget toys added to her 12-year-old son's IEP, as they help with his fine motor issues and decramp his hands for writing. But when her Charlotte, North Carolina, school allowed all kids to use fidget toys, she said things went "crazy." Suddenly everyone -- diagnosis or not, IEP or not -- had a spinner, and all the kids in her son's all-boy class were fiddling away with their fingers instead of concentrating on schoolwork.
The rampant usage by kids who don't have a diagnosed need has led to fidget spinners being banned in classrooms across the country; teachers writing viral blog posts about their misuse and distracting qualities in the classroom; and social media buzzing with parents comparing the devices to other middle school fads like water bottle flipping and slime making.
That's where moms like Jessi Cash get angry. Her kid's fidget spinner isn't a fad or a toy, but when neurotypical kids get hold of the devices and use them as toys, her son's usage gets lumped into the "distraction" category, too.
After years of fighting tooth and nail for her kid to get the school to address Morgan's needs in his IEP, Cash finds that seeing kids who don't have sensory issues using the spinners -- and prompting the bans -- is frustrating.
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"I can see where these are distracting," she says. "People aren't used to sensory tools, which is what these are meant for. However, it stings when I hear people calling these things 'stupid' or 'unnecessary' because it's simply not like that," she says.
Finding a way to balance classroom distraction with kids' very real needs is "tricky," Wessman admits. But simply banning fidget spinners won't get to the root of the problem for a kid who's found success using the device.
"Whatever behavior the fidget was used to correct will come back into play," she says.
Therein lies the rub ... for teachers, for parents, but especially for the kids whose diagnostic tools have become hot, hot, hot. When fidget spinners are treated like toys by their peers and those peers' parents, their very real needs get brushed aside.
As Jessi Cash says, "My largest hope for this 'fad' is that people understand these aren't toys, they're tools, and parts of the population genuinely need them."