Category Archives: Parenting

Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving, 2016

“There is a Santa Claus but it’s an idea, it’s not a person. Santa Claus is doing good things for people, just because; and so long as you keep doing that throughout the rest of your life, there will always be a Santa Claus”

Rebecca Watson relating her father’s words in SGU#74

Santa with Soul

I find that atheists and skeptics generally step on the sense of wonder in their haste to squash pseudo-science, religiosity, false-piety and fear-mongering.  I understand their goals and for the most part agree with their principles if not their ham-handed practices.

One of the subjects that gets trodden most savagely in the dust of shattered illusions is the story of Santa Claus.  I’ve lost count of the number of people (Penn Jillette in particular) who have specifically targeted Santa Claus in their personal lives, trumpeting raising children without fostering a belief in imaginary beings. I couldn’t disagree more.

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as Christmas, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the dull central Texas winter days. I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant.

My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of their heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

(courtesy Berkeley Breathed)

You can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

It is a game, the same game it has always been. A game shared by adults and children down through the years whether they knew it or not.  It can be a fun game or a hurtful one, but it is a game; as an inveterate gamer myself, it’s one I’ve come to enjoy now that I understand it.  It can be a valuable teaching tool when used correctly, and a crushing burden when used incorrectly. So play it wisely, always with the knowledge that a game should be fun. If it isn’t fun and you have a choice, why play?

(compiled from two previous posts. 2006 & 2012)

Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving

Santa with Soul

Continuing the trend of all that is old is new again, this one was first written in 2006. As I mentioned in a post a few years back, I find that atheists and skeptics generally step on the sense of wonder in their haste to squash pseudo-science, religiosity, false-piety and fear-mongering.  I understand their goals, and for the most part agree with them in principle, if not agreeing with their often ham-handed tactics.

One of the subjects that they tend to stomp on mercilessly is Christmas as a christian holiday, and the figure of Santa Claus in particular.  I’ve lost count of the number of people (Penn Jillette in particular) who have specifically targeted Santa Claus in their personal lives, trumpeting raising children without fostering a belief in imaginary beings. I couldn’t disagree more.

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as Christmas, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the winter (Winter in central Texas is a frame of mind more than anything else; it certainly doesn’t have much to do with the weather) I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant.

My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of their heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

(courtesy Berkeley Breathed)

Oh, you can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus, and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, and how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

Willful ignorance? If you like, call it that. It is a game, the same game it has always been. A game shared by adults and children down through the years whether they knew it or not.  It can be a fun game or a hurtful one, but it is a game; as an inveterate gamer myself, it’s one I’ve come to enjoy now that I understand it.  It can be a valuable teaching tool when used correctly, and a crushing burden when used incorrectly. So play it wisely, always with the knowledge that a game should be fun. Otherwise, why play?

On the Third Day of Christmas

“There is a Santa Claus but it’s an idea, it’s not a person. Santa Claus is doing good things for people, just because; and so long as you keep doing that throughout the rest of your life, there will always be a Santa Clause”

– Rebecca Watson (the Skepchick) relating her father’s discussion SGU#74

Despite creating a draft more than 6 months ago in order to update and combine my previous rantings on the subject of Christmas lists, Day Two and Santa Claus, the new version never materialized (I blame an obsession with World of Warcraft. It’s a handy excuse) and now it’s once again after Christmas and no Christmas post this year.  My apologies to anyone expecting one.

I have been listening to back issues of the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe lately (much like I went through all the Freethought Radio after I discovered it) and I made it a point to get to a Christmas release before Christmas Day. It was a nice treat, discovering the above quote in episode #74.   I have long thought that skeptics and atheists take too narrow a view of the world, and the need for fantasy material that drives the mind of the average child. 

…I would balk at feeding my children stories like Rebecca’s family does (the entire exchange in that section of the podcast is hilarious) but then we keep a very large library of YA literature in the house for a reason. Both The Wife and I are voracious readers and have been all our lives. The escape provided by Harry Potter, The Lightning Thief, and old standbys like The Lord of the Rings are a necessary part of a developing imagination.

Christmas: Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving

Re-publishing this one from 2006. Brought a tear to me eye…

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as ‘Christmas‘, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the ‘Winter’ (Winter in central Texas is a frame of mind more than anything else; it certainly doesn’t have much to do with the weather) I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant. My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the Holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the Holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of his heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for his charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

Oh, you can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus, and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, and how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

…And that’s real magic.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas: Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving

Last year I went on a rant concerning the meaning of Christmas, and the debt that we owe to our nation’s founders (it’s a strange juxtaposition that seems to reoccur every year; a Holiday event that has been hijacked by religion, and a nation in similar straights) and I followed that up with a short rantlet for the well meaning christians and their attempts to set me straight after reading the initial rant.

This year, I think I need to target some of the well-meaning people who share my lack of faith, but figuratively throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Recently I was listening to PennRadio (actually it was November 2nd, but that was too early to write The Christmas Rant) and listened to an hour’s worth of broadcast on the evils of Santa Claus and lying to your children. Personally, I’ve never heard a more hard-hearted hour of radio in my life. Destroying the wonder in the mind of the child. Telling them that the hard, cold world around them is all that there is, so get used to it. How does the imagination grow, constrained by such a weighty burden as that?

Let me tell you a story. The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant. My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the Holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the Holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of his heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for his charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

Oh, you can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus, and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, and how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

…And that’s real magic.

Merry Christmas!

School Choice; the Way of the Future?

In the continuing saga of “The Libertarian Failure that Wasn’t“; I offer further proof that Michael Lind, in his article “The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics“, is engaged in nothing more than a hatchet job.

First, a short quote:

[T]he US public has rejected every element of the libertarian counter-revolution. The first proposal voters rejected was the privatisation of schooling. Because US education policy is dominated by states and cities, this issue was fought at the local level. It turned out that most conservative Republicans as well as Democrats were content with their suburban public schools. Again and again, voucher proposals went down to defeat.

I’ve dealt with the blanket accusation concerning the libertarian counter-revolution here; the subject of vouchers, however, deserves a more thorough rebuttal.

Cato recently released a damning review of the latest negative poll results concerning support for voucher systems. “What the Public Really Thinks of School Choice” reveals the fact that Americans support school vouchers at higher levels than ever in history, depending on how the question is asked. It’s just that the people funding the polls don’t want to ask the right questions.

When asked (in a separate Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation poll) “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose any school, public or private, to attend using public funds?” 60% of Americans favored vouchers. This is one of the highest levels of support that vouchers have ever seen. And yet, when asked (in the more widely publicized PDK poll) “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?” 36% favor vouchers. The difference in wording purposefully slants the results in the direction that PDK wishes. Why do I say that? Because PDK used different language on their earlier polls, until the results flipped in favor of vouchers. They’ve used the revised wording above ever since.

The group that funds the negative polls, PDK (Phi Delta Kappa) is a gov’t school advocacy group interested in promoting the gov’t monopoly on schooling. And what is being left out are the facts concerning cost, and access to superior schools.

Cost analysis of Washington DC’s voucher system shows that it saves the district millions of dollars and would continue to do so if expanded to cover all the schools in the area.

Voucher programs would immediately provide access to better schools for parents who take an interest in their children’s education. Sites like Great Schools rate your local schools based on performance (or whatever criteria you wish to sort by) providing the information a parent would need to make an informed decision.

[charter schools (the closest thing we have to vouchers in Texas) routinely outperform gov’t schools located in the same areas of the city. Concerned parents should make the effort to find charter schools in their area and make a stand for their children’s education. If you can’t find a charter in your area, and/or you feel you are equipped to teach your own children (as someone quipped when I sent them this entry “Aren’t most parents also conscripted teachers as soon as the infant kids realize they have the power to communicate?” Why, yes they are. Some of us just don’t feel that we are knowledgeable in enough areas to do the job all by ourselves) you might prefer homeschooling as an option. Homeschooled children routinely outperform all other groups on standardized tests]

However, groups like Phi Delta Kappa and the NEA don’t want parents to be able to make those types of informed choices. The official reaction to John Stossel’s “Stupid in America: how lack of choice cheats our kids out of a good education” (his latest broadside on the problems in the US today) outlines the stark truth here; teachers and administrators alike are hostile to any criticism of them or the schools they operate.

It should be painfully clear to anyone who watches the program that the teacher’s answer to your objections is the same one they give your children. “Sit down and shut up. We know what’s best for you”.

Personally, I was released from that kind of prison quite some time ago. I paid my debt to society for being born, graduated high school and was allowed to go on and do something with my life. I wouldn’t willingly sentence my children to similar confinement.

No, Mr. Lind. Those of us who are informed on the subject of schools are not content with the current offering. We are looking for something better, and vouchers might just fit the bill.

Who’s birthday is it, again?

I like to experience my birthdays in a low-key fashion. No party, no celebration, just some quiet time at home. It took years to convince the wife that I really didn’t need a surprise party on my birthday (I’ve since found out that she does, so I dutifully attempt to plan one each year) it was just too unnerving, wondering when I was going to be ambushed. It’s been several years since the last party, and I haven’t missed it.

This year we went to Schlitterbahn for my birthday. How’s that for low-key? Well the kids loved it, and they are what is important to me these days.

So, I’m finally sitting at home enjoying my well earned quiet time, and the phone rings. It’s my mom. My mom who is in California with her mom, on my birthday. Not here with me (not that it’s surprising, but the next part is) on my birthday, but in the even more distant (from Mom’s locus operandi) California, for her mom’s birthday. This is when I find out, for the first time, that Grandma’s birthday is the day after mine. You’d think someone would have mentioned it, wouldn’t you?

Not if you knew my Grandmother. This is the woman who was lovingly referred to as “The Wicked Witch of the West” for most of my childhood years. This is the woman who, when informed of the wife and I’s impending wedding plans said “I wouldn’t bother”. The grandmother who doesn’t even know that she has grandchildren living in my house. The only reason I ever had kind words for her was because she was married to my sweet old Grandfather. Him I’d take time to talk to, or go out of my way to visit (it was on one of those visits when the wife earned the animosity of the rest of the family by putting the wicked witch in her place. It’s funny how family can be endlessly cruel to each other, but can’t abide it when it comes from the figurative outside) he’s been gone for several years now.

I generally keep track of birthdays. Whether or not someone celebrates their birthday it remains an important day in a person’s life and I like to know when to pass on birthday wishes if I’m presented with an opportunity. Consequently I was a little surprised that I didn’t have Grandma’s birthday noted in my calendar even with the past relationship that we have had. A fact that I laughingly related to my mom, along with the fact that I didn’t even have contact information for her to append the birthday to because I couldn’t imagine why I would ever need to talk to her.

Mom’s response? “Well here she is wish her a happy birthday”. I could hear my mental fabric ripping at that point. My side of the conversation went like this;

Hi, Grandma. Happy Birthday!”
“Yes, today is my birthday, and yours is tomorrow, isn’t that funny?”
“You didn’t know that today was my birthday?”
“Yes, I’m getting forgetful these days, too. Well, talk to you later.”

My mother calls me on my birthday so that I can wish a happy birthday to a relative that I literally, mercifully have not thought of for years. A grandparent that hadn’t bothered to remember or mark the birthday of a child of her only daughter. Ever. As in; never called, sent gifts, nothing. Not for any of the grandchildren in my immediate family, ever. That is how I will remember her, and I’m reminded of this fact on my birthday.

Thanks Mom. I think I’ll surprise her with a suitably equivalent gift next year. A car repossession, or perhaps an IRS audit. Something that reflects the thoughtfulness of the gift. From now on, on my birthday, I will be reminded that the WWW’s birthday is the very next day. Something to truly look forward to.

At least mom called. I guess.

Does Fatherhood Make You Happy?

‘Time’ has once again proven why I don’t bother with their publication. Here’s a quote from the article in question:

Studies reveal that most married couples start out happy and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives, becoming especially disconsolate when their children are in diapers and in adolescence, and returning to their initial levels of happiness only after their children have had the decency to grow up and go away. When the popular press invented a malady called “empty-nest syndrome,” it failed to mention that its primary symptom is a marked increase in smiling.

OK, I’m not going to pretend that the wife and I don’t look forward to the day when the children are grown and out of our hair. But I’m also not going to share in the modern myth that you stop being a parent just because your children aren’t pestering you with “what’s for dinner” every night. Once you have ’em, you don’t get rid of ’em (if you do, it’s generally something they give lengthy prison sentences for) So I would highly recommend that people who don’t love children, not have children.

Yes, I am happy being a father. No, it’s not the bungee jumping ecstasy that is measurable through endorphins in the brain. It’s a lot like the question “do you enjoy your work?” Well, I don’t need to wear rubber lined underwear on the job, but I come back to do it every day anyway, if you get my drift. But then I’m weird like that; I actually enjoy doing housework, too.

Can parenting be tedious? Without question. Would I trade one moment of time with my children for anything else on the planet? Not on your life. You have to take the long view (something that is falling farther and farther out of favor these days) when observing things like parent/child interactions. The minute by minute chemical traces don’t capture what it means to see them born, learn to walk, learn to talk. Watch them go off to school, loose their teeth and grow them back; simply to change from the helpless tiny little things they start off being, to become people like…

…like you are. To know that, like your parents who nurtured you, you’ve added to the world in some small way yourself. You won’t find that recorded in the chemicals in my brain, but I assure you, it’s there all the same.

McDonald’s gender issues

Pressed for time (leisure time, what’s that?) we pull into the local burger place to get the children something to eat. The son always wants a kid’s meal; the daughter has outgrown all that ‘baby stuff’ and gets salads these days, but that boy wants his prize.

Now, I’ve spent untold hours of my life repeating to them “I don’t buy food for the toys, you get a toy with the food” (trying to avoid that “But I got this one last time” argument. It’s never actually worked, but…) only to be asked the following by the window attendant “…Is it for a boy or a girl?”

The McDee’s place frequently does these targeted marketing promo’s with the kids meals. They give the boys trucks or weapons to ‘play’ with, and they give the girls dolls or fluffy bunnies to nurture. AS IF the boys couldn’t do with some training in nurturing, or as if girls don’t have any interest in trucks. (or weapons) Not that McDee’s is the only place with problems. I witnessed a parent LOOSE IT once at the counter when the truly apologetic teen in the spotless uniform offered her son one of the ‘girls toys’ with the explanation “this is all I have left”. She drug her son screaming and stomping (her, not her son) out of the restaurant, but I think the child would have been happier to have the ‘girls toy’ than to listen to mom make a fool of herself in public.

For as long as I’ve had children I have fought a loosing battle not to go to McDee’s. I don’t eat there, but the children beg endlessly to go (television marketing goes a long way) and, really, one burger is pretty much the same as the other. When the window attendant asks the question, I won’t answer it directly. “A truck toy” or “A doll toy” is the best they ever get from me (I have driven on an order when the attendant presses me for a girl or boy answer. There’s always another McDee’s not too far away) They’ve actually started noting it on the register ‘Truck’ and ‘Doll’, which displays on the order screen, but the person on the loudspeaker inevitably asks ‘girl or boy’.

You’re probably wondering where this is all going at this point. Well, I’ll tell ya.

Gave in to the begging again tonight, wandered by the local McDee’s. I pull up to the drive through window and notice that they’ve changed the marketing promo to “Cars” (the new Pixar film, I’ll be seeing it) and they give these cars to both genders of children. Here they’ve built up this 15 year legacy of properly filing the children away in their correct gender roles, only to blow it with this new promo that features ONLY CARS.

Cars for girls.

Fire that new marketing director. He’s clueless. The next thing you know, they’ll be giving ‘dolls’ to boys instead of ‘action figures’.

Violence on Screen or that Crying Baby Behind You?

So the talking heads on the morning show brought this New Mexico story up. I didn’t hear it, I’ve gotten in the habit of not listening to the local AM talk station in the morning (well, until after 2, actually) The talking heads (local and syndicated) have become increasingly disconnected from reality.

I’m reasonably certain (knowing the on air personalities involved) that the facts of the story got left in the dust fairly early on, and the on air conversation probably revolved around teens and the ‘R’ rated movies that they “Shouldn’t be allowed to watch”.

The fact remains that the theater in question excluded a young couple from bringing a baby into the movie, and does routinely exclude all children under the age of 6 from ‘R’ rated films at night. I’m certain that the majority of the clientèle thanks them for this, too.

…but not because of their “concern for the children” as these poor misguided souls are:


Yay!! Wish they would do that all over, especially here! IMO no children should be permitted admittance to any rated R movie period! I am sick and tired of going to an R rated movie and dealing with kids of all ages. Forget the yip yap, giggling and the up and down, it is just disgusting and pathetic that their are “parents” that would expose their children to certain movies. And people wonder why kids are now so desensitized and screwed up.


…All of which amounts to junk science and unsupported theory, and not much else. They’ve never proved positive linkage between viewing violence on screen and exhibiting violence as a person. My children both played ‘first person shooters’ while sitting on my knee in front of the computer. Neither of them shows any inclination towards taking a gun out and shooting people.

Parenting is the missing link. Most people, Sgt. Sam most prominently, don’t know anything about parenting. (Ask Sam’s wife if you don’t believe me. I doubt he ever changed a diaper. Typical mother/father relationship of his generation? Mother says “Wait till your father gets home!” as a last ditch effort to maintain control) It hasn’t got anything to do with control, and everything to do with setting limits, interpreting experience (what ‘education’ really should mean) and guiding the child to the right behavior. If you have a teenager that doesn’t already know the basics (like, “it’s not OK to shoot people”) it’s already too late.

If I want to take my children to an R rated film, that would be my business. I’m sure that the other theaters in the area are glad of the business turned away from “Movies 8”.

OTOH, if I want to enjoy a film without distractions, it’s good to know a theater that enforces rules concerning them, whether the problem is talking teenagers or crying babies. Too many theaters won’t do anything about it.

Alamo Drafthouse and the Galaxy are both pretty good about it.


You children must have gotten a lot of love. Unfortunately, many children do not get the emotional reinforcement they need.
As far as the “positive” linkage goes, the TRUTH is that science doesn’t yet understand consciousness, therefore, to say that there is no definitive linkage between violent media content and violent behavior is incorrect.
I do agree with a movie theater policy that bans young children after a certain time. I wish more people realized that media saturation is not a positive force on a child’s psychological development.


Which backs up the “junk science and unsupported theory” statement. I put very little credit into current thought on addiction as well. People will say “I’m addicted to X” just to absolve themselves of responsibility for X behavior. Granted brainwave patterns change, I’ll point right back to your statement concerning consciousness. The linkage is based on theory and junk science.

There is more proof that evolution exists than there is for violence in media having the broad detrimental effects that it’s being blamed for. Or that addiction is the bane that it’s being portrayed as. It’s rejected there and supported here. I just love unsupported emotional arguments.

OTOH, theaters are free to conduct business however they wish, or they should be. The unattended children will just go somewhere else, do something else, if the theaters are closed to them. Is that really where ya’ll want this to go?


When I talk about addiction, I’m talking about the chemical “habits” that establish cognitive circuits. Ever wonder why people can be addicted to gambling, or sex, video games or consumer spending while no “drug” is being used? What we casually call “addiction” is actually a process by which our neurons form behavior circuits. In other words, addiction helps the brain form behavior habits. This is why so much in our society can be “addictive”. Our brains supply “reward” chemicals to correlate chemical experiences. Its these chemicals and how they define consciousness that science doesn’t understand. Science does know more about consciousness than you average conscious or semi-conscious American. Let’s face it, people are just chemical robots anyway…


What you are talking about isn’t addiction. The junk science types have lumped it in with addiction because it gets more play there.

Work for a few years on a several pack a day cigarette ‘habit’ and then try and quit. You’ll see what a real chemical addiction is like. For that matter, try eliminating caffeine from your diet for a few days (even more dramatic and doesn’t require forming new ‘habits’) when the lethargy kicks in and the headaches start, remember what it was like to do without that console game for a few days. Pales in comparison, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s not really a chemical addiction.

And let’s correlate this properly. You’re argument proposes that people can become habituated to doing violence themselves because they watch it on TV. I’ve watched Looney Toones all my life and I’ve never once been even tempted to drop an anvil on someones head. The argument is fallacious. It’s only because it’s ‘for the children’ that it continues to play.

I submit that ‘for the children’ we should open theaters to teenagers who are wandering the streets bored looking for trouble. Play whatever movies that will keep their butts in seats and let them watch all night for free (I can hear theater owners heads exploding as I type this) At least they aren’t out experimenting with drugs or joining gangs or whatever else they could be out doing while we are ‘protecting them’ from the violence on the screen…

None of this is what the original article was about anyway. The children that the theater is excluding are under 6. They are trying to cut down on ‘crying baby’ issues, not protect the children from becoming habituated to violence.

Yeesh.