Could Eating More Fish Help Kids With Sleep Issues?

A new study found kids who eat fish once a week or more sleep better and score higher on IQ tests than those who eat less.

How often is fish on your family’s menu? A new study from the University of Pennsylvania published in the journal Scientific Reports found that children who eat fish once a week or more sleep better and score higher on IQ tests than children who never eat fish or eat it less than once a week.
Previous studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna can improve intelligence and sleep, and that better sleep can boost IQ scores. This is the first research that has linked all three components, however. In fact, researchers believe that improved sleep resulting from consuming more omega-3s is what increases IQ rather than the fatty acids themselves.
A good night’s sleep is essential for our children’s health and happiness. Besides keeping a child’s temper in balance, sleep provides many essential benefits for our growing children. While asleep, children process and absorb what they have learned. Their bodies have the chance to recover and repair themselves.
Sleep also plays a major role in mood management. Lack of sleep can lead to an increase in negative behaviors, like anxiety, impatience, aggression, irritability, and poor school performance.
During this new study, more than 500 Chinese children between the ages of nine and 11 responded to a survey about how often they ate fish. When the children turned 12, they completed an IQ test that scored their verbal and nonverbal skills. Children who ate fish weekly scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ tests than those who said they “seldom” or “never” ate fish. “Sometimes” eaters of fish scored 3.3 points higher on IQ exams.
In addition, parents answered questions about their children’s sleep patterns, including how often they wake in the middle of the night and their daytime sleepiness. The responses showed that those children who ate more fish had fewer disturbances while sleeping, indicating better overall sleep quality.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to affect sleep in several ways. Animal studies suggest the potential role of the fatty acid DHA in regulating the production of melatonin, which has been shown to regulate circadian rhythm and improve sleep.
Essential fatty acids have helped produce prostaglandins, which are believed to be the most effective sleep-promoting substance and regulate sleep/wake patterns. Epidemiological studies have also shown a link between increased fish intake and improved sleep in children.
The researchers recommend that parents gradually add fish to their children’s diet, starting when they are young if possible. As long as the fish has no bones and has been finely chopped up, children can begin eating it by around age two.
There are some concerns regarding the toxicity of fish to keep in mind. Decades of industrial activity, particularly emissions from coal-fired power plants, have released mercury and other pollutants into oceans and waterways. Unfortunately, those contaminants can end up in the seafood we eat. Concentrations vary depending on the fishes’ age, diet, region of harvest, and other factors.
Large predatory fish, including tuna, shark, marlin, and swordfish, accumulate considerable mercury since they eat smaller fish. These types of fish pose a significant risk to children. They should eat no more than one serving of canned light tuna per week and should never eat canned albacore tuna, also known as white tuna.
In addition, not all fish contain beneficial levels of omega-3s. According to the Environmental Working Group (ERG), eight of the 10 seafood species most popular in the American diet are very low in omega-3s. Therefore, it is important to evaluate which types of fish to feed your children.
ERG provides an incredible resource called their Consumer Guide to Seafood, which allows you to look up a customized seafood list based on age, weight, and other factors.

What the Experts Say About Keeping Babies Warm in Winter

The benefits to heading outdoors in the winter mean bundling up and heading out. But how do you properly dress an infant for the winter elements?

The weather outside is frightful. Inside it’s pretty frightful too. My older kids are actually trying to climb the walls and the baby will only nap while in motion. Unfortunately, I can only pace up and down the hallway so many times before I start climbing the walls myself. We need to get outside, snow or no snow.

However, since we have a newborn in the house this year, I started to wonder if I should put our snow adventures on hold. Perhaps I should just relinquish my sofa to the kids and let it serve as a trampoline for the next four months while I hang out with the little one in the rocking chair.

I called my pediatrician to ask her opinion on taking babies out in cold weather. “The overall recommendation is we like to see kids playing outside year round,” said Dr. Venus Villalva, a pediatrician in snow-prone Helena, Montana. So no free pass on skipping the snowsuit battle this year. But with winter break temperatures forecasted in the single digits, I wondered how cold was too cold.

It’s difficult to put an exact temperature on when it’s time to stay inside with babies and young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that playing in temperatures or wind chills below -15 Fahrenheit should be avoided because exposed skin can freeze within minutes. My pediatrician’s office doubled down on the importance of paying attention to the wind as it can penetrate clothing, even if the air temperature is warmer.

While -15 F may be far below what any parent finds enjoyable for a trip to the playground, young infants are even more susceptible to the cold. The AAP also notes that, “newborn infants are prone to hypothermia because of their large body surface area, small amounts of subcutaneous fat, and decreased ability to shiver.”

The benefits to heading outdoors in the winter – physical exercise for the whole family, fresh air, vitamin D, a good nap for the baby, not to mention preserving my furniture – mean bundling up and heading out. It’s typically worth it, even if it requires a little extra planning.

The AAP (in addition to every winter fashion guide, as well as your own mother chasing after you with an extra scarf) recommends dressing babies and children in layers. How many layers exactly? The best recommendation is one more layer than you have on yourself.

The types of layers matter too. The conventional wisdom among winter outdoor enthusiasts is to go with three separate types of layers – wicking, warming, and weathering. A wicking layer of polyester, bamboo, or wool (that is, anything other than cotton) keeps sweat off of skin and reduces the chance of hypothermia. The warming layer (or layers) can simply be street clothes – sweatpants, sweatshirts, fleece. The weathering layer, like a snow or rain-suit, should be waterproof if your child will actually be playing in the snow. Look for ones that are long enough to keep snow from sneaking into ankles and wrists, a surefire way to cut any toddler’s outdoor excursion short.

Despite the fact that babies have more difficulty than older children regulating their body temperature, they are often easier to keep warm in the snow. Wearing the baby in a carrier means she can benefit from your body heat. Put on an extra-large coat around both of you to trap heat in. However, don’t forget that a sleeping infant is not moving her extremities, so extra care should be taken to keep hands and feet warm. And an infant will be less able than an older kid to communicate discomfort, so check her temperature frequently.

It’s time to head inside when you get uncomfortable. If you’re cold, baby is also likely to be cold. For older kids, shivering, goosebumps, lethargy, and disorientation are signs of hypothermia and mean it’s time to seek warm shelter immediately. If skin is starting to look red, it’s also time to go warm up as it could be an early sign of frostbite.

After you make it back inside, check your baby’s  belly, hands, and toes. Hands and toes should be cool – not cold or warm. His belly should be warm, not cool or hot. If belly, hands, and toes are too warm, it means he was likely overdressed for the weather. If they’re chilly, warm him up and make a mental note to put on more layers next time.

What was the one piece of outdoor prep my pediatrician reminded me about repeatedly? Sunscreen. For babies older than six months, sunscreen is important even in the winter. Snow can reflect the intensity of the sun’s rays, making sunburn a possibility. Don’t forget sunglasses, either. Even babies can experience snow blindness. Keep an eye out for excessive blinking and crankiness.

Even if you spend more time bundling up than you do outside, it’s worth venturing out a few times every week. Older kids may beg to go build snowmen, but even infants and their parents benefit from a little fresh air and sunshine.

One thing is for certain – nothing makes hot chocolate taste better than a romp through the snow. And I’m guessing babies feel the same way about their milk, too.

How to Cope When Your Baby Totally Hates the Car

The following tricks can help you to find a solution for the pain and trauma of car rides.

There are two types of babies in the world: those who love the car seat and those who scream bloody murder at the mere sight of a car seat. My children fell into the latter category, so I spent years deciding whether or not it was even worth it to leave my house knowing a car ride full of wailing awaited me.
I’m not the only one. Parents are constantly searching for the elusive trick that will make being strapped in a car seat pleasant for an infant. Proper use of car seats helps infants in car accidents, and the rear facing design protects babies’ heads and spinal cords in case of a crash.
Unfortunately, babies don’t understand these benefits. They just know they can’t see mom and no one is holding them.
Screaming babies are hard to deal with all on their own, but the distracted driving that comes with a wailing child in the car seriously augments the problem. We imagine distracted drivers as those who use cell phones while on the road, but a survey found that more than 90 percent of parents admit that a baby crying is a major distraction in the car, on par with cell phone use.
It’s no wonder. Research proves that all humans – not just parents – have a hard time ignoring the sounds of a crying infant. We are primed to help, according to scientists. A parent stuck in a car with a crying infant will likely feel panic, sadness, and fear that can manifest in an increased heart rate and stress. The stress may cause mom or dad to cry as well, as many parents admit to doing when their child’s wailing just won’t stop.
Dr. Teri Mitchell APRN CNM IBCLC explains why a baby’s cries are so hard on parents and babies in these situations. She says the kind of cry a child emits when separated from a caregiver is specific in its demands. “There’s a name for this particular type of cry: the separation distress cry,” Dr. Mitchell says. “It’s nature’s built-in way of making sure that mothers go to their babies and ensure that they feel safe.”
Children whose separation distress is not tended to because parents are stuck in rush-hour traffic will continue to do what is normal for them in this situation: scream. Dr. Rakesh Radheshyam Gupta says that “crying may lead to vomiting in infants and may cause hoarseness of voice.”
The sound of a crying infant is about all a person can handle while driving a two-ton machine at 70 miles per hour. The following tricks can help you to find a solution for the pain and trauma of car rides.

Start strong

Babies who become upset the minute they are placed in the car seat are unlikely to calm down for the remainder of the ride. That’s why it’s important to start off strong by making the seat as comfortable as possible right from the beginning.
Don’t let a baby lean back on the seat straps while loading him. The sudden feel of those obtrusive items on a baby’s back can startle him or cause discomfort, and this can be enough to remind him that he hates the car seat. Instead of trying to juggle a baby with one arm while holding both car seat straps out of the way (impossible, by the way), use LulaClips made by LulaKids.
LulaClips pin to the car seat straps to hold them out of the way while loading or unloading a child from the car seat. This makes the process fast and easy, and it can also help keep a sleeping baby from waking up during the transfer from mom’s arms to the seat.
This ingenious product was one of PopSugars top products of the year, and moms commonly put these items on their must-have lists for little ones.
If your older baby still hates the car, incorporate frequent trial runs into your week while your baby is awake to create a positive association. With the car in park, sit in the backseat and play with baby while she’s strapped in. Move to the front seat for short stints after she gets used to the setup.
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[su_animate type=”fadeInDown” delay=”0.5″]Lulakids seatbelt bloc for kids and carseat clips[/su_animate]

Parent Co. partnered with Lulakids because they know those first hundred car rides aren’t always peaceful.

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Dress for success

Temperature can be a problem for babies when in car seats, but not in the way most parents expect. As opposed to being too cold, many babies struggle in the car because they are too warm.
Babies should never be placed in a car seat wearing a jacket. Not only will they overheat, but the bulk of a jacket keeps the car seat straps from working properly.
Take the weather into consideration, of course, but since the car is temperature controlled, dress the baby in normal clothes and save the jackets or extra layers for when it’s time to get out of the car.

Belt it out

Parents swear by music as a soother for kids who hate the car. One woman confessed to singing “The Ants Go Marching On” over and over again on a short road trip to soothe a screaming infant. Another mom said Christmas music all year long calmed her little one, as long as mom sang along.
Researchers support the idea of using music to calm babies. They found in one study that babies exposed to music stayed calm twice as long as babies exposed to baby talk or adult speech.
Cueing up a playlist of baby’s favorite songs can work, but singing to the baby along with the music has benefits for all involved. Besides calming the baby, researchers think that singing can also calm parents.  Focusing on the rhythm and the lull of the music helps ease the tension that rises when stuck in the car with a screaming infant. It’s a win-win.

Plan around gas

Sure, make sure you have enough gas in the car to get to where you want to go, but also plan around a baby’s gas. A baby who experiences major gas after a meal is not going to like being stuck in a car seat. Plan car rides long enough after meal times for a baby to get the gas out at home when moving around is possible.
Children with reflux also have unique challenges in car seats. Car seats don’t allow them to move freely. They will have problems getting comfortable if they can’t find the right position due to stomach or reflux pain.
One mom found that her son’s reflux took care of itself around the six-month mark, and car rides suddenly weren’t a problem anymore. Waiting for reflux to fix itself is difficult, however, so talking to a pediatrician or finding natural ways to deal with it are preferable. It’s possible that controlled reflux will equal peaceful car rides for all.
Children do grow out of the screaming-in-the-car phase, but these tactics can help move them towards happier car rides sooner. With a little advanced planning, peaceful car rides may be around the next bend.
Lulakids seatbelt bloc for kids and carseat clips

Parent Co. partnered with Lulakids because they know those first hundred car rides aren’t always peaceful.

The Longterm Effects of Childbirth No One Told Me About

What are the longterm impacts that come from discharging an infant out of your uterus? To be fair, they aren’t all bad.

It’s a well-known fact that the effects of pregnancy and childbirth don’t disappear overnight. I remember for a good couple of weeks feeling like I’d been in a car crash. I still don’t quite understand how childbirth can leave every muscle and bone in pain, even your little fingers. And that’s just the beginning.
I’ve never heard anyone talk about the longterm impacts that come from discharging an infant out of your uterus. Even years down the line, these side effects are still very real. Here are my top five effects – and to be fair, they aren’t all bad.

1 | Your body shape changes

People talk about the saggy boobs and the stretch marks, but there’s something I haven’t heard anyone mention: nipples. My nipples are now so big that my toddler regularly kneels on them. WTF? How is that even physically possible? It’s not even a rare occurrence.
Quite often, usually at bedtime, my son ends up kneeling on one or both of my nipples. I would like to point out that I am clothed at said moments. It is bloody painful and usually ends with me yelping in distress and then hauling him off them as he doesn’t even realize what he’s done.
Admittedly, this may be more due to breastfeeding than childbirth per se, but they are pretty closely linked.

2 | Your bones realign themselves

Or, more accurately, they don’t realign themselves. Instead you have to deal with an ever so slightly out of joint pelvis for the rest of eternity.
Side effects include: twinges if you make any sudden twists, and a dull ache in the pelvic area after walking more than 30 minutes on a hard, flat surface. Like pavement, say. Not the easiest to avoid unless you live in a forest.

3 | Your vagina suffers

Like 90 percent of women, I tore during childbirth. Thankfully, a kind midwife sewed me back together. I’ve had stitches before, so I was prepared for it to take a few weeks, even months, for the wound to fully heal. But after a year of putting up with random pains from ‘down below’, I got it checked out by the doctor.
I was reliably informed that it can take two years to fully heal. Two years. Let’s let that sink in a little. (If men’s penises randomly hurt after babies were born, I think we would invest more money in sexual and reproductive healthcare than space travel.)
When the nurse checked out the offending article, she informed me there was, and I quote, “nothing to worry about” – apart from the fact that I keep getting sharp pains around the opening of my vagina.

4 | An amazing/infuriating little follows you around

I think this is perhaps the most overlooked effect of childbirth. The children.
They follow you around and get in the way, often when you are trying to do anything for yourself. This is usually paired with their uncanny ability to detach from you and run in the opposite direction whenever it’s least convenient and most unsafe, like at bedtime, in supermarkets, and on the way to any form of public transport.
The result is you are now never, never alone, and you will never, never get to be your own human again. If you are not physically attached to your child, you are inevitably doing something for them (e.g. washing their clothes, cleaning up their shit, preparing them food, etc.).
The overall effect is a lethal oxytocin-claustrophobia cocktail that you become completely and utterly addicted to.

5 | Your orgasms completely change

This is the best kept secret of the effects of childbirth – an unexpected bonus, if you will, that women get at the end of the hell that is pregnancy and childbirth. I’m not sure of the science behind it because, like most women, I’m not really clear on the science of my own anatomy, and, quite frankly, I never listened to a word my biology teacher said.
I assume, however, that once you’ve used the full force of that mother of all muscles – the vagina – it’s just not willing to lie down quietly anymore. My orgasms are now much harder and deeper, and I can go multiple times. Previously, I was too sensitive and needed a self-imposed pause between sessions. (I guess the ripping and stretching might have removed any over-sensitivity I once had, so it’s all swings and roundabouts as they say).
At least there is one real benefit from the pain of childbirth. Oh, that and the baby. The baby is pretty awesome, too.
Who else feels they are still suffering longterm impacts of birth many years down the line? Please do share. I can’t be the only one.
Can I???

For a Healthier Brain: Less Bacon, More Sleep, and Keep Moving

The good news is there are active measures we can take right now to avoid or counteract beta-amylase production and ensure brain health.

In the 18th century, most people didn’t live very long. Grandparents were few and far between, and there was no such thing as a senior citizen demographic. Being that the average life expectancy was 40 years old, it was unusual to have three generations of one family alive at the same time.
Two centuries later, with advances in public health, sanitation, housing, nutrition, and immunizations, our lifespans doubled. At first, this shift was due to a sharp decline in infant mortality, but by the latter half of the 20th century, a new phenomenon was taking place: More and more people were surviving into their 60s, 70s, and 80s, supplanting all previous longevity statistics.
Today, upwards of 46 million Americans are over the age of 65, gaining approximately five percent every 10 years. By 2060, the number of senior citizens is projected to be over 98 million.
The rise in life expectancy is a good thing. We have our parents and grandparents around longer and can expect the same for ourselves. Old people add dimension to the family unit and enrich the cultural fabric of society. But an older population faces age-related health issues, like certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and perhaps the most worrisome of all, dementia.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms where nerve cells in the brain malfunction or die, impairing memory, thinking, and executive functions. The leading cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
Unlike other afflictions, Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, incurable, and unresponsive to stabilizing chemotherapies. Also unlike other afflictions, it will affect each of us in some way.
Treating and caring for Alzheimer’s patients requires staggering resources, both financial and medical, and it places an incredible emotional strain on families. Right now, one in eight people 65 or older has Alzheimer’s, and cases ratchet up to 50 percent over age 85. With an ever-increasing older population, this disease casts a long shadow on our future.
In an Alzheimer’s brain, abnormal and toxic proteins called beta-amyloids build up in the network of neurons, leaving dead brain cells in their wake. The dead brain cells form sticky clumps, or plaques, which interrupt communication between adjacent neurons, forcing them to wither and twist into tangles.
These tangles trap more plaques, which, in turn, create more tangles, and gradually, the affected brain area shrinks and dies. This tissue trauma triggers an inflammatory response from the body’s immune system, which hastens the deterioration.
Eventually, plaques and tangles destroy all vitality. The brain loses its ability to perform even the simplest tasks, like walking, swallowing, or breathing.
Like any neurodegenerative disorder, reversing or repairing the damage done by Alzheimer’s disease is unlikely. Once nerve cells in the brain lose function, they never regain it. The best hope, given what we know, is prevention. With new understanding about the physiology of dementia, the medical community is now recommending specific ways to stave it off.
The main culprit in brain diseases appears to be the mysterious beta-amyloids, but scientists aren’t exactly sure how or why these rogue proteins arrive. What they do know is that certain foods and behaviors contribute to their accumulation.
According to one study out of Stanford, these lifestyle factors may cause deterioration in the synapses long before any telltale signs of dementia present, which means Alzheimer’s disease may develop far earlier than originally thought.
The good news is there are active measures we can take right now to avoid or counteract beta-amylase production and ensure brain health.

Through diet

There is compelling evidence linking compounds found in certain foods to the buildup of amylase proteins. These compounds, known as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are formed when fat, protein, and sugar molecules are heated at high temperatures. They are particularly abundant in bacon, sausage, fried or grilled food, as well as some cakes, biscuits, and pastries.
Nitrates, which are abundant in preserved and processed food, such as lunchmeat, cheese, cured meat, and beer, chemically react with certain proteins to form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines become highly reactive at the cellular level, altering genes and damaging DNA. Not only does nitrate exposure correlate with Alzheimer’s diagnoses, it is also a known carcinogen.
Limiting intake of these foods and using alternative cooking methods reduce the risk of AGE and beta-amylase production.
In addition to eating more raw vegetables and fruits to maximize antioxidants, new studies show that the Indian spice turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which actually seems to dismantle plaques and tangles.

Through sleep

The health benefits of getting adequate sleep cannot be overstated, and Alzheimer’s prevention can be added to the list.
When a person sleeps, brain cells shrink, making room for an increased flow of cerebrospinal fluid. The brain flushes away disease-causing plaques and tangles, essentially cleansing itself of these toxic molecules.
Studies show people who experienced chronic insufficient or interrupted sleep had higher levels of beta-amylase in their spinal fluid than those who were well rested.

Through movement

It is well documented that exercise improves body function, but now there is evidence that exercise actually protects the brain and decreases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease – by half.
According to a Cambridge study, cardiorespiratory fitness increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex, which is the outer layer of gray matter in the cerebrum. Not only does this thickening ward off shrinkage from degenerative diseases, but it protects a healthy brain from age-related atrophy as well.
Exercise also boosts cognitive recall, eliminates harmful stress hormones from the bloodstream, and regulates blood flow – all of which factor into brain health.
After everything we do to take care of our bodies and extend our lives, it would be a shame if our brains weren’t there to enjoy it with us. When it comes to preventative and proactive lifestyle choices, what works for the heart works for the head.

Discovered: How My Father Spared Me My #Metoo Moment

A grown man had “noticed” me. Was I supposed to want that? To feel flattered? Abandon my teenage suspicion that I was hideous?

“Mom, I want to be discovered by a famous director.” My daughter said this with her head just reaching over the kitchen counter, her nine-year-old face still broad, rosy, and freckled.
As jarring as it was to hear this from her as we learn how exploitive Hollywood has been of many young women and men, I know that my daughter doesn’t know anything about Harvey Weinstein or Brett Ratner or Kevin Spacey. She was expressing a common enough fantasy: I want to be a movie star!
But I felt the kind of horror that comes from knowing too much – the same kind I felt when she got the Barbie Malibu Dream House one Christmas and, instead of beachy girlfriend fun, all I could imagine was Barbie and her starlet friends doing tiny lines of coke off the smooth surface of the fuschia patio table.
Although I have never actually found myself at such a party, I did grow up on the far edge of Los Angeles. And I was a girl who was once discovered by a famous director.
Thirty years ago, I sat alone in the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica while my father and his fiancé made reservations for their wedding guests across the room. I was 15, bored and sour, when a man at least 25 years my senior walked over to me.
“I noticed you,” he said, before diving into his credentials, a rush of words strewn with shiny gems I was meant to recognize: “Robert Downey, Jr.” and an upcoming film, “The Pick-Up Artist.”
I was not made up to look older or even appealing. Dragged out early on a Sunday morning, I had showered, left my hair wet, and thrown on a tired blue Esprit polo shirt. I was tall for my age, but I had to have looked young.
I remember him having dark hair and being wide, but my own appearance is more vivid to me. I remember it clearly because, afterward, I had wondered what I had done to invite this attention.
His list of accomplishments was so long that he never had time to address his interest in me. “I’m her father,” my Dad said, suddenly at my side. Dad was shorter than the other man, but he was forceful enough to rattle him.
“I saw her…I live in the hotel…Robert Downey, Jr.…”
My father chopped the air between the man and me with his open hand. “I forbid it,” he said.
The chop carried dramatic heft for a small gesture. It would only become more dramatic in the many re-tellings of the encounter: a tale of an over-protective father in the Spencer Tracy mold with the cad shuffling off in defeat. I didn’t even have a speaking role.
What would I have said, unsure as I was of what had happened?
A grown man had “noticed” me. Was I supposed to want that? To feel flattered? Abandon my teenage suspicion that I was hideous? Was this how film careers actually launched?
My Dad must have suffered his own momentary confusion, because as we prepared to leave the hotel, he offered to leave his card for the director with the concierge, in case he had stood in the way of my stardom.
I declined, as I sensed he had hoped I would.
A year or so later and a little more sophisticated, I picked up my parents’ Spy Magazine because it gave me a whiff of the East Coast snark for which I longed. The March 1987 cover read “Director James Toback is The Pickup Artist.” Remembering the man who had found me in the Shangri-La Hotel lobby, I flipped to the article.
The bulk of the piece was a chart documenting the experiences of 12 women with the director, all of which began much as my brief meeting had: an approach from a stranger, a list of his credentials, often including Downey and “The Pick-Up Artist”.
The women in the article were adults without their fathers in tow, so the interactions went further – meetings or calls with deeper discussions of potential film projects, but with Toback also asking explicit questions, suggesting sex, and being rejected. He had even invited one woman to his hotel in Santa Monica.
As I read, two realizations dawned: This was the man who discovered 15-year-old me, and this man had wanted to have sex with me.
My father had not protected me from a heartless film industry that would leave me merely disappointed. He had protected me from a sexual predator. I was at risk in a way I had not understood…sensed maybe, in the ickiness of that meeting, but definitely had not understood.
I felt a flash of shame, that I had been so naïve, but also that I could inspire such repulsive behavior. (And his behavior as detailed in the article was repulsive. To one woman he had offered, “Just touch my nipples, and I’ll come.”)
I kept the magazine from my father and never told him about it. I was too embarrassed to even be perceived as a sexual being by him, let alone one who had attracted a predatory older man.
Of course, now, when I picture him holding his firm open hand between Toback and me and saying, “I forbid it,” I understand that he had known what was happening all along.
Thanks to the Los Angeles Times reporting the sexual harassment claims of 38 women against Toback this fall, I was finally, at 45, able to talk to my father about it. We spoke the way we usually do about current events – with shock, outrage, and humor. But I also acknowledged that he had protected me when I needed him to.
That discussion and this whole fall of #Metoo has helped me let go of any lingering shame I felt for inadvertently inviting the sexual interest of James Toback, not to mention a few other men over the last 30 years.
My father’s words rang in my ears for years after I heard them, when I was a young woman working in politics, receiving a suspicious invitation to discuss my career over dinner, or pouring martinis ordered for me by a “mentor” down the sink of the ladies restroom. I had needed protecting, but my dad also taught me to do it for myself.
I hope this year marks the beginning of a new era, when my daughter will feel safe pursuing her dreams, and I will feel safe letting her, even if they lead to Hollywood. In my kitchen, I side-stepped both her wish to be discovered by a famous director and my own story. But we did talk about why it would be fun for her to be an actress. She is only nine after all.
In a handful of years, I will talk about my experience in frank terms with my daughter, and that those conversations will not be about her vulnerability, but her control – and her own ability to forbid.

An Unexpected Threat of False Teeth

Around five or six, your teeth start falling out and everyone makes a fuss again.

“If your teeth fall out due to negligence, I am not buying you new teeth.”
I said this. I actually said this. I was standing to the side of the bathroom sink, while my son, standing on his tiptoes, rinsed the toothpaste out of his mouth. He had not spent what I deemed to be enough time brushing his upper incisors.
One morning last week, while we were waiting for the school bus in the bright natural light, I noticed yellow stuff on them when he smiled at me. It could’ve been Cheerios, but still. I didn’t want to take any chances.
My son is seven. I’m not sure he knows what negligence means. Also, he may not have been aware that you can, in fact, purchase new teeth. So my warning may have backfired. He might now just think that he can scrimp on the brushing because there are new teeth for sale somewhere in Target.
“I brushed a long time!” he said.
I nod. Sure. A long time. Next time, I’m setting the timer. “I want to see that brush touch every tooth tonight.” I sent him downstairs to finish getting ready.
Adults get funny about teeth.
When you’re a kid, teeth aren’t a big deal as far as caring for them. You grow them, and folks make a fuss.
“Terrence got his first tooth!”
“Look how hard Emily can bite Mommy’s finger now!”
It seems like growing teeth is as easy as planting pumpkin seeds and watching them come up. Then, around five or six, your teeth start falling out and everyone makes a fuss again.
“Randall lost his first tooth!”
You get paid for the tooth that falls out. There’s even a special fairy dedicated to collecting these tiny lost gross things. Teeth, it seems, are magical, easy to grow, and it’s no big deal if you lose one.
Unless you’re an adult. And you split a tooth in half chewing a Tums. Or the dental hygienist mentions how interesting it is that your back teeth are so much yellower than your front. Not that either of these things have happened to any adult I know.
(I blame whitening toothpaste and lack of mindfulness. Someone needs to invent a mindful brushing guided meditation.)
But teeth are important and we should fixate on them. There are studies tying oral hygiene and gum disease to heart health, for goodness’ sake. Gum germs can allow harmful bacteria into other parts of the body, causing pain and infection. Also, bad breath. It alienates friends and potential life partners.
Still, I never thought I’d be threatening my son with not buying him dentures. That night, I set my iPhone timer as I made him brush each tooth, one at a time, with his fancy-schmancy electric toothbrush.
He sighed and shimmied from foot to foot, but didn’t go as far as roll his eyes at me. But I could tell he didn’t get it. Teeth are like everything else when you’re a kid. Stuff just seems to take care of itself, when really, there’s some adult obsessing behind the scenes about fluoride, floss, and your whole darn future.
Which, of course, unquestionably, depends totally on your teeth.

Let's Talk About The Slump

To any mother out there who has in the past or is experiencing the slump – or any mental health challenges for that matter – let’s talk about it.

Across the globe, we are finally starting to talk about mental health, discussing the many challenges, triggers, and internal conflicts that can affect anyone at any time. I’m not in a position to discuss the politics surrounding mental health funding or, indeed, to discuss anything on a clinical level.

However, I am someone who has relied on mental health services and I’m lucky to say that I’ve received enough support to keep me sailing through life on board a relatively happy ship. That being said, all sailors experience rough waters and we all know it can be a struggle to stay afloat. It’s an ongoing challenge and can often lead to something I want to talk about, something I call “The Slump.”

On paper my life is damn good. I’m not going to reel off the checklist of positives, that’s not what this is about. Like many of you reading this, I acknowledge that I’m privileged in life: I have money to pay bills, I can afford food and a roof over my head, and I’m blessed to have my beautiful children. That’s more than a lot of people in this world. So why do I sometimes feel so blue?

Firstly, I find it strange that knowing your fortunate in life can make you feel guilty for experiencing a slump. It seems that the pressure to appreciate life and be thankful for opportunities can make us feel as though our issues are worthless and that we are self-absorbed.

When you compare my problems to the relentless violence and famine faced by millions every day, they do seem utterly minuscule. However, like everyone in this world, I only experience life through my own filter and can only process, understand, and relate to what I’m exposed to. Everything in my world is my own reality, just like your world is your reality.

Like many mothers, the majority of my thoughts are consumed by day-to-day life admin: ensuring the children are clean, fed, and safe. It’s repetitive, and that in itself brings new challenges and demands within the family. For some the daily pressures within the family unit are enough to trigger the onset of a slump, for others it can be external factors infiltrating the family that initiates a low mood. The family is always the center; it will always be affected in some way even when it’s not the cause.

It’s frustrating when people assume the slump is something that can be shifted easily, or can disappear by “snapping out of it.” Just so we’re clear, my interpretation of the slump is a person who is functioning and still able to enjoy things, but is in a permanently low mood. I genuinely believe it’s time for people to openly talk about this state of mind, not only to lessen the isolating feelings of sadness, but to act as a therapeutic measure. 

So here I am, shouting to the world, “I’m in a slump but that’s okay!”

It’s okay to not feel great all the time. It’s okay to cancel commitments and do the bare minimum for a while. It’s okay to focus on yourself rather than feeling the need to cater to others around you. It’s okay to ask for help and rely on other people.

Mothers are like rocks – we appear solid but can crumble. Crumbling isn’t a sign of weakness as the rubble remains strong. Always remember that once the moment has passed, we reform and solidify once again.

On some occasions I’ve been unable to piece myself back together without help. It’s important to state that it’s not okay to ignore signals of a downward spiral. It’s also not okay to close down communication. Staying vigilant to a depressive mood is vital to your wellbeing and if you start to feel persistently sad, be sure to seek professional help.

To any mother out there who has in the past or is experiencing the slump – or any mental health challenges for that matter – let’s talk about it. Let’s not dismiss it, let’s not make light of the impact mental health issues can have on your everyday life. Share your story, talk about what you do to try and get out of the mindset. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling the way you do.

Your life matters. Your emotional state matters. Regardless of all the terrible things that happen in this world, your mental health is not to be downplayed or ignored, no matter how picture perfect your life may appear to others.

The Benefits of Letting Grudges Go

Consider that the harmful effects of long-standing grudges also hurt those we most want to protect: our children.

You may be at work, at home, or in a waiting room when the mental video clip starts rolling – the one highlighting the slights behind that grudge you hold tight. Painful memories cycle before your mind’s eye, reminding you of just how justified your grudge is – from the time the relationship-assailant started flinging barbs your way to the final affront that became the proverbial last straw in your association with him or her.
The more your thoughts stir up old wounds, the more you grow from annoyed to seething. The clip ends with you declaring that you are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” or some other line-in-the-sand-drawing proclamation. Pulse racing and teeth clenched, you steel yourself to strike back hard if someone dares to utter the overly simplistic suggestion to “just let it go.”
Why should you “let it go” when you’ve been wronged and, potentially, wronged for a long time by a relative, friend, or co-worker?
Well, you may just want to let go of your grudges, not for the sake of letting the offenders off the hook, but to stop the damage that grudges can cause to your emotional and physical well-being. Moreover, reclaiming your sense of wellness helps to ensure that of your children’s, who are watching the way you handle adversity and taking cues from you on how to manage their own conflicts.

Holding onto grudges hurts you, emotionally and physically

On the surface, nursing a grudge can feel like the right thing to do. After all, grudges signal that someone has crossed a line with us, that our dignity matters, and that we had the strength to stick up for ourselves, either by distancing ourselves from the offender or being guarded and combative whenever the offender is near.
However, once we shed the armor of our indignation, we find that holding a grudge doesn’t heal the underlying injury. In fact, stewing over past slights causes us to remain stuck in feelings of anger, resentment, and vengefulness. These feelings of unforgiveness then compound the emotional harm by leading to anxiety, depression, or stress which, in turn, can cause us to approach new relationships with defensiveness and distrust.
Moreover, the negative feelings sustained by our long-held grudges can take an enormous toll on our physical health. Research has found that people who maintain long-term grudges experienced higher rates of a host of ailments, namely: heart disease, cardiac arrest, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, arthritis, back problems, headaches, and chronic pain.
Given this profound mind-body connection, holding onto a grudge (no matter how seemingly justified) is not worth the damage to our relationship with others, our emotional well-being, or our physical health. If that isn’t reason enough to let go of our rancor toward a transgressor, consider that the harmful effects of long-standing grudges also hurt those we most want to protect: our children.

Our grudges negatively affect our children, too

Choosing to nurse a grudge can induce such stress and depression that it can negatively affect the way we parent our children. “Make no mistake, parental stress has an impact on kids,” advises Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist who notes how often her young patients tell her how stressed-out their parents are.
In particular, stressed parents exhibit less patience with their children and are quicker to yell at them. Stressed parents are also quicker to yell at each other, at times within earshot of the children. As a result of this heightened tension in the home, children experience their own stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions.
If your grudge is also causing you to be depressed, consider that studies have shown that depression negatively affects our parenting, as well. Depressed parents are less emotionally engaged with their children and less likely to adequately socialize children. This, in turn, puts the children at a disadvantage in achieving normal emotional development.
Even if a parent isn’t stressed or depressed by a grudge, the time that a parent spends dwelling on a grudge means less time spent on fostering an emotionally positive home for a child. According to Dr. Gail Gross, a family and child development expert, emotionally engaged parents who create a home that is “deliberately filled with warmth” enhance a child’s emotional well-being, temperament, and ability to cope with stress.
Aside from being impacted by a parent’s disposition, children are also significantly influenced by the way their parents interact with others. Children watch how their parents react to difficult people, and often imitate parental behavior when they find themselves in similar situations. This is a sobering thought for any parent bent on maintaining grudges.
Considering the influence we have as parents in shaping our children’s emotional well-being and behavior, it is incumbent upon us to serve as better examples by adopting an attitude of forgiveness.

What forgiveness is and what it isn’t

Whether you decide to forgive your transgressors for your children’s sake, your own sake, or because of your spiritual beliefs, forgiveness does not mean excusing the harm done to you. Forgiveness also does not require associating with the person who harmed you.
Instead, forgiveness means consciously choosing to let go of hostility towards an offender, whether or not the person apologized, for the sake of moving on from the offense. Importantly, as you shift your thinking away from anger and toward forgiveness, you will stop viewing your past through the lens of how you’ve been victimized.
Adopting a forgiving attitude brings with it significant benefits. Among them:

  • Reduced anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved hearth health
  • A stronger immune system
  • Reduced hostility toward others
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Healthier relationships
  • A greater sense of peace, hope, and joy
  • More restful sleep

How to adopt an attitude of forgiveness

No matter your age, you can choose to reap the benefits of a forgiving attitude at any time. The following tips can help you start incorporating forgiveness into your thoughts and actions:

1 | Reflect on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the grudge

Have a final “sit down” with everything the offender did that upset you, reflect on why it hurt you so much, and examine how you’ve reacted to the wrongdoing since. The goal here is not to re-traumatize yourself, but to understand your reaction to the offense and give yourself the compassion your offender did not.

2 | Consider that the offender might actually deserve your empathy

Is the offender herself a victim of abuse or mistreatment? If so, the offender’s behavior toward you may have been less about hurting you and more about the offender’s misunderstanding of what constitutes acceptable behavior.

3 | Accept that the offender may never own up to the pain he caused you

If the offender is aware of how deeply he upset you and still has not sought amends, let go of the expectation that he will – or can – take responsibility for his behavior. Letting go of this expectation frees you from being disappointed each day that your much-owed apology doesn’t materialize.

4 | Choose to genuinely forgive

When you forgive someone to please your spouse or to keep others from feeling uncomfortable, true forgiveness cannot take root. Instead, forgive because you are determined to move on from past hurts – whether or not you choose to reconcile with the offender – and because you want to stop any emotional or physical damage the grudge may be causing.

5 | Commemorate the forgiveness

Forgiving someone who caused you pain is a big step forward that deserves commemorating. If contacting the person who wronged you is unwise or impossible, commemorate your decision to forgive by confiding in someone else whose guidance you trust, or by writing down your reasons for choosing to forgive.

6 | Forgive yourself for holding a grudge

Whether you’ve recoiled from a hurtful situation for several weeks or several years, forgive yourself for taking as long as you took to consider forgiveness as a way of dealing with the offense at issue.

7 | Seek help if the grudge you want to let go of won’t let go of you

If you are unable to release a grudge after sincere effort, consider seeking guidance from a spiritual leader, a confidante, or a mental health provider.
Releasing your hostility toward someone who hurt you can help you see that transgressor as human and flawed, potentially leading you to regain affection for that person, says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The John Hopkins Hospital. In some instances, this may pave the way for a reconciliation.
In other cases, reconciliation may be impossible because the offender has passed away, or undesirable because the offender is still abusive or refuses to admit the wrongdoing occurred. Even if reconciliation is not the goal, however, adopting an attitude of forgiveness is a worthy pursuit for its bounty of benefits.

Manage your triggers: Grudge-avoidance through slight-avoidance

An ounce of (grudge) prevention is worth a pound of (forgiveness) cure. To prevent foreseeable slights from accumulating into the basis for a new grudge, take proactive steps to avoid situations you know will end up making your blood boil.
For example, if you have a friend who is consistently and unapologetically late, avoid planning time-sensitive activities with her. If a relative habitually makes comments at your expense, avoid being alone with him, call him less, or put him on speaker when he calls if you think doing so will discourage him from making insulting remarks. If a co-worker has a reputation for stealing credit from others in the office, document all of your hard work and loop your boss into your progress as often as possible to claim all credit due to you.
People will do things we find offensive or downright infuriating all of the time, whether those people mean to upset us or not. It’s easy to make these slights larger than life by replaying them in our thoughts, over and over, until our sense of indignation practically screams that a grudge is justified.
However, you can choose to stop the reel, take steps toward forgiveness, and consider how to better manage your triggers going forward. Think of the health benefits that forgiveness brings to you. If that doesn’t stop the tape, think of the health benefits that forgiveness brings to your children.

Could Daycare Surveillance Actually Be a Bad Thing?

More and more childcare facilities are investing in software that allows parents to log in and watch their kids in real time. Could there be drawbacks?

More and more, daycares and childcare facilities are installing CCTV cameras and investing in software that allows parents to log in and watch their little one in real time. Some parents love this new technology and enjoy being able to check in on their child during the school day, but others worry that these surveillance systems may have negative implications.

As a former teacher, I have some reservations about the idea of parents being able to watch a class. I worry about it violating the teacher’s privacy. There are lots of things that go on in a classroom that don’t involve children at all.

Overworked teachers will often eat, mark books and papers, prepare for classes, and even change their clothes in an empty classroom. While a classroom is certainly a shared space, it’s also the place where a teacher spends the majority of the day and should therefore offer some measure of privacy.

Another concern is the potential use of the recorded images. The companies that produce this technology are quick to point out security features and password protections, but passwords can be shared, computer screens can be left open, and screenshots can be taken and disseminated elsewhere. This technology could lead to a situation where anything that now happens in that class is potentially available to view in the public sphere.

Some may think this is acceptable and even preferable. Why shouldn’t classrooms be open? What do teachers have to hide? If only exceptional levels of teaching and learning are taking place, why does it matter if they are open for observation?

Here are some reasons it does matter. First, exceptional levels of teaching and learning are not happening every minute of every day. Even award-winning teachers have off days.

Second, I’ve witnessed a variety of occurrences in classrooms that would benefit from the relative privacy of a closed door: For instance, a teacher suffering from a diabetic seizure, an out-of-control child punching another student, an older student losing control of his bowels, small children changing their clothes for a school play, a student disclosing abuse, or a teacher finding out about a death in her family.

It’s easy to see how any of these scenarios would be problematic if filmed and viewed publicly.

Whenever a teacher is observed by either a colleague, administrator, or by a group of parents during a school open day, it inherently changes the nature of their lesson. They are bound to experience some anxiety, as anyone would when being monitored. More importantly, it interferes with the normal camaraderie between teacher and students.

Teachers, of course, expect regular observations and appraisals by administrators and use feedback to improve their teaching practice. However, constant monitoring can be draining. Working to appear professional, teachers may seem stiff in comparison to their normal classroom persona and, in doing so, damage the rapport with their class.

Teaching is a performance. We become attuned to our unique and familiar audience. Throwing in a constant unseen viewer changes the dynamic of that performance.

Educators might also feel self-conscious about some of the more animated yet effective parts of their job. Teachers routinely sing, dance, make animal noises, pull faces, and put on character voices – all of which may suddenly feel embarrassing in front of an adult or unknown audience.

Like it or not, every teacher also usually has one parent that acts as a thorn in their side. These surveillance systems may encourage difficult parents to micro-manage every aspect of a teacher’s performance, which goes a long way to stifling a teacher’s overall effectiveness.

Although these issues concerning teacher’s privacy and dignity are close to my heart as a former educator, the protection and welfare of children is even more important to me. Here, too, the use of surveillance in the daycare and school classroom is deeply troubling.

In group settings, people very quickly fall into assigned roles. There’s the quiet and thoughtful ones, the leaders, the motivators, the organizers, and unfortunately, there are the maligned, the blamed, and the ‘naughty’ ones.

Children (no doubt motivated by what they see from parents and teachers) quickly work out which of their classmates are behaving and which are not and often gleefully relay this information to their parents. For a poor child to be labeled as a “problem” is damaging enough, but imagine if that child knew that groups of parents were watching his every transgression, or if every time he made a mistake there was an audience ready to criticize.

Children can become typecast in behavior roles, which can be almost impossible to escape. This reputation follows them from class to class, from grade to grade.

The act of observing bad behavior also becomes a shaming mechanism. This can lead parents to think it’s within their right to admonish a student simply because they witnessed an event, even though they were not present and perhaps don’t understand the context or other drivers.

Mike Holiday, a parent and homeschool educator, is very concerned about the issues of privacy posed by surveillance in the classroom. “A camera in the classroom might put everyone on their best behavior. But the possibility of abuse of power is too great. It is also a huge step towards legalizing other invasions of privacy.”

Parents witnessing stigmatizing behavior problems is bad enough. Add to that the bystanders who believe they understand an entire incident simply because they’ve watched it on-screen. Sometimes seeing isn’t believing. A camera angle can make all the difference. A critical event that happened off-screen may not be taken into consideration, and therefore, viewers who think they have the whole story simply don’t.

Some parents may use the camera as a control device by telling their children, “I’ll be watching you.” This can do irreparable harm to the authority of the teacher within the classroom. Perversely, this can be used as a control device by the teachers themselves with such statements as, “Your mother can see what you’re doing.”

Even more worrying is a tactic witnessed by Kristi, from South Carolina: “The teacher told the kids that Santa watched them through the cameras.” Kristi approves of the use of cameras in the daycare center for visual records in case of incidents or emergencies. But she’s opposed to “the teacher indoctrinating the kids to think surveillance is okay.”

Another area of concern is for those children struggling with developmental or learning difficulties. Surely those students’ privacy is violated if all parents can see which reading group they’ve been assigned to or how much help they receive or if they are sometimes unable to participate in an activity.

Zaida, a mom of two girls and inventor of the Wiggletot Diaper Changer, has other concerns about “the effects of Wi-Fi on thin skulls.” Besides these oft-debated health concerns, she also points to the danger of children having their otherwise private school day dissected by their parents. “Having a parent report back on everything they think wasn’t appropriate or should have been changed in a child could lead to an increase in anxiety in kids.”

Unfortunately, not all children live in caring, loving homes. To that end, most troubling of all is that the use of surveillance could lead to the dissolution of the classroom as a safe space. For children of abuse or neglect, the classroom can represent one of the few places where they are protected, nurtured, and can receive love, attention, and care.

That, if not for any other reason, is compelling justification for keeping classrooms camera-free.

The use of cameras in educational and childcare settings can have benefits. Some parents who are nervous about leaving their children for the first time with strangers may find that this technology puts their minds at ease. Parent Arlene Guzman Todd explains, “I am a big fan of the cameras, they helped provide a feeling of security and allowed me to build trust by watching the caretaker’s interactions with my children.”

There are also situations where parents and carers may not be physically able to see their children, such as in the case of divorce, separation, or when a military parent is deployed. This is the case with Arlene’s husband, an active duty service member. “The live feeds allow him to check in on the kids regardless of what part of the world he is in,” she says.

One school district in Pennsylvania has been trialing a new app that has proved popular with both teachers and parents. The Classroom Dojo program functions like a closed-circuit Twitter account. The teacher can use the app to post photos and positive updates throughout the day, making the parents feel informed and included.

Melissa Fullerton, Director of Communications & Community Relations at Governor Mifflin School District, reports that the result has been that “[t]he ongoing feed of positive and day-to-day updates has led to a noticeable decrease in parent frustration and negative communications.”

The difference here seems to be in the concept of control and consent. There’s no live feed. Furthermore, the teacher can choose when to share updates, exactly what to show, what to exclude, and what days and times are going to best showcase the class and the learning that is taking place. (Friday afternoon after Phys Ed, for example, would probably not be an optimum viewing time.)

We should work toward a balance between maintaining appropriate privacy and respect in the classroom whilst also creating an open and inviting environment for parents.