Of the many things to boggle at in the extraordinary email one “bitterly, bitterly disappointed” father sent his three adult children this week, the thing that stood out as the most bizarre to me was that if you get a divorce, you should consider yourself a loser.
Top of the list among the many ways in which retired submarine commander Nick Crews felt his kids had let him and his wife down was that they had four failed marriages.
“It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven and then to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you,’’ wrote Crews, in the email he later published.
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As the second child, I grew up in the shadow of the first one. The photos were fewer for a start. There are hundreds of photos my brother in the family photo box, but not many of me.
My mother had the time and inclination to fill out the ‘baby’s first year’ book for my brother. But she admitted she didn’t do one for me.
There were times when I wore his blue clothes and people would ask ‘how the little fella is today’. So I lost my gender for a while there, but today blue is my favourite colour.
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In Australia, at least one in four toddlers, children and adolescents has a significant weight issue, but as parents it appears we are not so good at identifying this.
In fact, research published in today’s Daily Telegraph suggests that it is not until toddlers turn into obese young children that parents see their child’s weight as a problem. The issue with this is that children and adolescents do not ‘grow out’ of obesity and if they are obese as teenagers, there is an 80 per cent chance they will remain obese for life.
After working in the area of child and adolescent obesity for more than 10 years I feel that I am in a good position to tell you that childhood obesity is a massive (pardon the pun) problem here in Australia. When you see a child who appears to have a little ‘puppy fat’ or ‘muffin top’, you are actually looking at a serious weight issue. Not only are there health and body image issues, but the psychological impact of being obese or overweight - the teasing and bullying that comes with it, or the physical limitations that accompany it, even for young children.
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My son will be 15 months old next week. Fifteen months on and I’m still waiting for the stunning insight to hit. I’m supposed to have a greater understanding of the world now aren’t I?
My empathy is supposed to be of a superior quality to the childless. I’m supposed to be more attuned to the pressures of modern-day living. I’m supposed to be able to look at the child-free with a sense of smug condescension, pitying them for their lack of emotional and practical experience.
Except that it’s all bullshit isn’t it. There are many, many things wrong with Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership, but the fact she doesn’t have children isn’t one of them.
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“I don’t want to alarm you”. That’s what people say whenever they’re about to unload some panic attack-inducing horror on you. It follows, then, that what I’m about to tell you is very alarming indeed. There is something strange and terrifyingly confusing happening in our world.
Two weeks ago, 104-year-old British woman Peggy McAlpine hurled herself off a Cypriot cliff in a bid to reclaim the record she lost to then 101-year-old Mary Hardison some five years ago. She is, once again, the world’s oldest paraglider.
Meanwhile, Chinese grandmother Sun Fengqin, 60, has become became famous for regularly attending pole-dancing classes.
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How would you feel if you found out that your mere existence is such a burden on your parents they want $10 million compensation?
It’s not clear whether 11-year-old Keeden, who has severe brain damage after a rare genetic condition caused a massive stroke, will ever understand what his parents are doing.
Debbie and Lawrence Waller are suing their IVF specialist for “wrongful birth”, claiming he breached his duty of care by failing to take proper care that Lawrence’s genetic blood clotting condition would not be passed on. They say they love Keeden, but wouldn’t have gone ahead with the birth if they’d known because of his suffering.
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Once upon a time, home births were the only option, and mothers and babies frequently died.
Things have changed dramatically since then. Home births are much safer, and much, much rarer. The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics show in 2009 just 0.3 per cent of women had a planned home birth – a total of 863 births. Two babies died.
But home births are still the source of simmering tension; the powerful Australian Medical Association is dead set against them, a very vocal lobby group is angry at recent changes that make them harder, and parents are left to choose between conflicting views and seemingly conflicting evidence.
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Imagine you are the harried working parent of a bustling four-year-old child - unless of course you’re actually in the zone right now, experiencing all those many wonders first hand.
Next year’s the big one. School, and potentially a 13-year stretch of study, social integration, with hopefully some fun and a few of life’s lessons in the mix.
As you’re dropping them off at the local pre-school before zooming off to work, it is time to wonder how much do they really need to learn right now.
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A storm of controversy has been brewing in the US. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say the storm has been dipped in oil and deep fried. Twice.
At the centre of the controversy is a series of ads aimed at tackling the growing obesity crisis in American children.
In one of the ads (above) a young girl stares forlornly into the camera and says: “I don’t like going to school because all the other kids pick on me. It hurts my feelings.”
Another opens with the statistic that 75 per cent of parents of overweight children ignore the problem growing before their very eyes. It’s followed by a scene in which an obese boy sits facing his equally obese mother and asks, “Mum, why am I fat?”. The silence that follows his question is deafening.
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She checks what the time is in their far-flung time zone and then looks into the distance. It is so long since they have been back in this city, back at home. What exotic locale are they exploring today? Who are they spending time with? Are they safe?
These could well be the musings of a parent surveying a nest emptied of backpacking children. But they are in fact the reflections of a child, a middle-aged child left in the wake of the fastest growing class of traveller – The Silver Mobility. The Silver Mobility are superannuated, silver-haired (underneath) and they’ve got very itchy feet. It’s not only pneumonia that hits seniors hardest - wanderlust is just as bad.
The Silver Mobility sweated it out for over 40 years. They sent more of us than ever to private schools, supported more of us than ever through tertiary education, funded unprecedented material comfort, and then they waited for us to move out. And then they waited some more for the ones that moved out, and then moved back, to move out again. But finally, we’re gone. Which means it’s time to dust off the suitcase, fill a few prescriptions for Brufen and Lipitor and get the hell out of there.
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There is no ‘right’ to have a child. This seems a callous thing to say, but wrapping any conversation about children up in cuddly pink fleece-lined jumpsuits doesn’t help what has to be a serious policy debate.
While it must be devastating for couples who, for whatever reason, are unable to conceive, there are limits to society’s obligations to help them. Like most controversial health decisions, this is a tale of clashing rights and finite resources.
Last year the Federal Government made changes to the Medicare Safety Net, effectively capping the amount they would pay out for assisted reproductive treatments.
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Ninety-four year old actress Zsa Zsa Gabor’s ninth husband, Prince Frederik von Anhalt, reportedly wants her to have a baby using his sperm, a donor egg and a surrogate mother. Yes, he does. He visited a Beverley Hills fertility clinic for sperm analysis and blood work.
There have been no reports of him also having his head read; however, Gabor’s daughter, 64-year-old Francesca Hilton (a product of Gabor’s second marriage to hotel magnate, Conrad Hilton) has denounced the story as the latest in a string of wild publicity stunts by her seventh step-father.
And while the Gabor-Anhalts gallivant around celebrity baby clinics (if gallivanting is possible when you are just shy of a century, with a partially-amputated leg), my friend – a single mum of two young children – has announced that she has successfully battled cancer at the age of 38. Facing her own mortality, she had to put in place a plan for the care of her children, which involved her parents and her sisters.
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If the internet is to be believed — and I see no good reason why we shouldn’t believe everything we read on the internet — Facebook has become essential to staging a revolution. As the Web 2.0 (or are we up to 3.0?) commentators keep telling us, if you’re planning on toppling a dictatorial regime, then best first spruce up your Facebook profile.
But we in the West who already inhabit the sunny uplands of democracy haven’t been slouches when it comes to using Facebook to effect large scale social change. A case in point: I recently came across a Facebook group set up to fight the good fight against noisy children in restaurants.
I hadn’t previously noticed this scourge, but apparently restaurants across the nation have been overrun by parents. Even worse, these parents, many of whom would have you believe are responsible and upstanding members of society, have been thoughtlessly taking their children along with them.
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‘Delighted when hubby hung his first load of washing on the line,’ noted a Facebook friend. ‘Less delighted when I realised he didn’t use pegs.’
A domino run of comments followed, with women chortling over the guy who didn’t turn the iron on but flattened a shirt with it anyway, and the time a friend bet someone a bottle of Moet her partner wouldn’t notice if she didn’t wash his clothes for ten days.
As far as short cuts resulting in more work go, the non-use of pegs is right up there with the least thought-through of ideas. My 12-year-old did the same thing with her sister’s Pumpkin Patch bikini recently (last seen in the dog’s mouth, as he belted gleefully behind the pittosporum hedge).
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Seen at the local pool: two bikini-clad girls – around 14 - simulating a sex act in the toddler pool, then pole dancing under the toadstool fountain while their delighted boyfriends recorded (and possibly distributed) the footage on their mobile phones.
It wouldn’t have happened back in the day, and that’s not just because we didn’t have the technology for it.
Am I wearing rose-coloured glasses, or were most early-teen girls in the 80s too scared of the Grim Reaper, and just too generally innocent, to put much more than a toe in the water (with a boy or a girl) - let alone cavort around in it in broad daylight like amateur porn stars, then plaster the evidence as far and wide as technology would allow (which wasn’t very far).
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This week online forums fired up with talk about whether or not you should be allowed to film births, after a report it had been banned. I’d like to know why you’d want to in the first place.
I know it’s all about documenting the miracle of birth and so on, but why would you even think about taking a video camera into a
Maybe there’s some confusion with the operating “theatre” concept.
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We’ve had free-range parenting, helicopter parenting, attachment parenting and now we have ``tiger mums’‘.
In case you missed the shitstorm, Yale University Professor Amy Chua has penned a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she says that the recipe for successful child raising involves:
- Never going to sleepovers or playdates.
- Never watching television, playing computer games or choosing their own extracurricular activities.
- Never not being the number one student in every subject except gym or drama, and never playing any instrument other than the piano or violin.
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Between baby bonuses and maternity payments, pushy people and their prying questions, there is too much pressure to push out puppies.
And most of it comes from men.
I get that people want to reproduce. Really.
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There is no point in complaining to my parents about what the Rudd Government has done to people in higher income brackets. My parents paid 60 cents in the dollar, worked a six-day week, raised two kids, five cats (not at the same time) and a dog and still saved for their own retirement.
In fact, there is no point discussing any sort of paid maternity leave system with my parents or anyone else who had children more than 10 years ago. Many didn’t have access to one, they don’t see the need for one and they don’t think mothers today deserve one.
And don’t get them started on the Baby Bonus.
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Narre Warren party animal Corey Worthington has almost completely faded from national memory. Which is a shame, as the kid should at least be remembered for one thing - impeccable comic timing.
One of the finest exchanges of modern television was young Corey’s droll quip to a frustrated Leila McKinnon on A Current Affair when, having banged her head against a brick wall trying to get sense out of this mop-headed ratbag, she asked “ Well finally Corey what would you say to other kids who are thinking about partying when their parents are out of town?”
After a perfect two-second pause Corey replied: “Get me to do it for you.”
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Some of the most vivid memories I have from childhood involved sleepovers at friends houses or having my friends come and stay.
Those moments, when you experience for the first time what it’s like to be without your own parents, and are expected to fit in with families with totally different habits to your own, are incredibly important in childhood development.
But a NSW court has this afternoon put an end to the practice - awarding $853,396 in damages to a boy who fell from a bunk-bed at a friends house. The friend’s parents have to pay.
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