2008 Letters to the Editor

September 2008
The eyes have it

I have enjoyed reading your magazine for many years, and look forward to it every month. Thank you for including the article “Does my child need glasses?” in the August issue. As a parent of two children with vision concerns, I know how extremely important it is for parents to understand the central role healthy vision plays in a child’s development.
The article states that one in 20 children is born with amblyopia. This is a staggering number. Loss of vision in the eye can be the result of undiagnosed amblyopia — as is the case with my husband. Parents need to know the importance of regular and early eye exams for ensuring their children’s vision is developing properly. When there is a problem, early detection and treatment are an effective means of correcting a vision condition like amblyopia.
While I somewhat agree that most parents instinctively know if something is wrong with their child, as Dr. Lenart says, health-care professionals shouldn’t ask parents to rely primarily on parental instinct for something as important as a child’s vision. Vision is such a large part of a child’s development — why leave it up to chance? Vision is as important as nutrition, sleep habits, speaking, walking, hearing and all the developmental milestones that are discussed in pediatricians’ offices.
Thanks to a public health program called InfantSEE, parents don’t have to leave their children’s vision to chance or instinct. InfantSEE provides a one-time, no-cost eye health and vision assessment for babies ages 6 to 12 months of age. Parents can learn more at www.infantsee.org. You’ve started an important dialogue about children’s vision. Knowing that early vision care is such a vital part of a child’s development is a message every parent needs to hear.
—Sam Ames

September 2008
Love the ‘tidbits'!

All I have to say about your September issue is: Thanks for the tidbits! After receiving your magazine each month and honestly rarely getting a chance to read through it before putting it in the “to be read” file on my desk, and tossing the previous month’s (unread) issue out, I had time just after the first drop-off for school this week to read it through. And I loved it!
The tidbits weren’t significant until I found myself really thinking about that “40 minutes a day” suggestion in the Relate section (“Make time for your partner”). The article really hit the nail on the head for me and I didn’t realize it until my husband walked into the house. Then, I realized what reading to my daughter every night since birth has done for her — and how my older children are such amazing readers — possibly because of that family habit. Linda Morgan’s article (“The best way to boost your child’s writing”) gave me a chance to pat myself on the back and say to myself, “See, it was worth a little more patience at the end of the day since 1992!” How great is that?
The tidbits on my stressed-out tween, who would kill me if this got out, were great, too (“The stressed-out tween”). I have found myself finding more time to ask a few more questions and spend some fun time with him, amidst the craziness.
There are many other ways the issue helped and I just wanted to say thanks! Keep up the good work on behalf of hard-working mothers everywhere!
—Patty Lazarus
Mercer Island

August 2008
We’re blushing

This publication is great! I’ve never been so impressed with everything in a publication, especially one for parents. I’m a new parent as of April of this year, and I just read my first issue of ParentMap. Wow: That’s about all I can say. I’m recommending it to all of the parents I know in this area and I’m sending copies to my friends in New Mexico, which is where I moved from in January. I love the layout, the articles based on age, the compilation of baby/kid stores, the recommended book list, everything. I’m also very impressed with your website. I hope this publication continues to put out issues of the quality of the June issue. Thank you so much for creating something that’s a pleasure to read; something that’s fun and interesting and educational without being condescending or negative.
I feel like I had a great conversation with a friend and that I need to share that conversation with more friends.
—Mari Budlong
Marysville, WA

August 2008
Got Gottman

Thank you so much for your lecture series. My husband and I attended John Gottman’s “Making Marriage Work,” and I left feeling so grateful for not only my wonderful husband, but my community as well. ParentMap provides tremendous resources to help us succeed, including suggestions for wonderful places to go. Last year, we took your suggestion and went to the North Cascades Institute Family Getaway. The monthly calendars suggest wonderful weekday opportunities and again, your lecture series gave me wonderful tools on how to be a better mother, partner, friend and lover. Thank you so much for all you do for our community.
—Wendy Nathan
West Seattle

August 2008
Food for thought
I want to thank Lora Shinn for sharing her story in BabyMap (“Slow parenting: Does mellowing out make sense for your baby?”) and bringing attention to the value of slow parenting. Like Lora, I think there is so much pressure on parents to focus on “doing” in the service of helping our children grow and develop, rather than the value of simply being together in a moment-to-moment relationship. Where does this attitude come from? Is it the fear that we don’t know enough?
As a mother of a 10-month-old, I know I often felt frightened during my pregnancy and first months of motherhood about whether I would be a good enough mother and whether my baby would have all that he would need to develop well. These powerful feelings were at odds with what some may expect of an OB/GYN physician; I was supposed to be knowledgeable and confident, right? Not so. Instead, I found myself to be an ordinary mother, full of anxieties, uncertainties, hopes and dreams, in need of others with whom I could share my experiences, explore their meanings and reflect on my choices. In this, I found Listening Mothers to be extraordinarily helpful.
For those who may not be familiar with this very helpful program, Listening Mothers offers new mothers the opportunity to gather each week for eight one-and-a-half-hour sessions of sharing and exploration about the emotional and mental life of mothers and babies. I found it to be of tremendous support in finding my own way in mothering and valuing the unique relationship I was in the process of developing with my newborn son. I ended the group feeling more secure as a parent and less susceptible to the fears and doubts that may drive the “culture of hyper-parenting.” I invite others to check it out at www.listeningmothers.org.
Thanks for providing parents with such valuable food for thought.
—Ambre Olsen, M.D.

April 2008
Not for moms only

Your magazines and Web site are fantastic – well designed and full of great, timely information. I can’t thank you enough for providing one location for so many of my parenting questions. Your weekly emails save me so much time, and I tell anyone who’ll listen about you.
Oh, and another thing, thanks for calling it “ParentMap,” not “MommyMap.” It supports dads as parents, not baby sitters for when mom’s away. Keep up the great work!
—Lisa Anderson

April 2008
Compassionate listening

I was so pleased to see the large feature article on the Dalai Lama’s visit and the Seeds of Compassion event ("Teaching empathy," January 2008). However, I was surprised that no mention was made of the Compassionate Listening Project (compassionatelistening.org), which for many years has been sharing tools to increase compassion and empathy in our communities and the world. These teachings are based on the work of international peacemaker Gene Knudsen Hoffman, herself a student of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Thank you for your wonderful publication!
—Laura Wall

April 2008
Creating world citizens

We appreciate your article “Teaching empathy: Seattle launches a compassion movement.” It’s great to see people come together to share their stories and work together to help children become empathetic adults. Exposing children to languages and cultures is another wonderful way to teach compassion and to nurture an understanding and respect of others. We are fortunate to live in an area with great resources – from our rich cultural festivals to the many family-friendly ethnic restaurants to the new language programs starting in Seattle schools. At Sponge, a children’s language center in Seattle and Issaquah, our goal is to create a fun and natural environment for young children to learn language and culture. We believe this fosters compassion and offers kids a chance to participate in the larger world. We look forward to sharing in this ongoing dialogue on raising young, sensitive global citizens!
—Jackie Friedman Mighdoll
Founder, Sponge

March 2008
Pediatricians can help spread empathy

As a parent of three boys and as a pediatrician on the Eastside, I have great respect for ParentMap. You have a consistently great source of information and ideas, and, more importantly, a way to connect families to additional resources that can be overwhelming. Your Preschool Preview Night and Pathways lecture series are outstanding ways to organize great resources in our communities and provide access to the general public.
I am currently planning a conference for pediatricians throughout the Pacific Northwest for our group, the North Pacific Pediatric Society (NPPS), which is one of the oldest pediatric societies in North America, predating the American Academy of Pediatrics. I hope to develop a central theme of education on the factors that promote psychosocial resilience in children (and families), and exploring the science and practice of “immunizing” kids against the growing prevalence of emotional and social dysfunction.
Your article on “Teaching Empathy” (January 2008) was exhilarating to read, because it is what I hope is part of a greater movement of awareness and prevention, with effective tools that will help us vaccinate our children against a world of increasing complexity and challenge. In short, I am hoping to inspire pediatricians to ask what we can do to make the overall health of our children our greatest concern. We need to lead in the movement to foster emotional and social intelligence and skills, and move beyond the model of screening and treating for psychosocial and mental health issues.
—James Chattra, M.D.
Pediatric Associates, Redmond

March 2008
Defining compassion
I am the Personal Emissary of Peace for the Dalai Lama and co-founder of Seeds of Compassion. I read with interest the article “Teaching Empathy.” I would like to thank you for your interest and education to the public regarding early childhood matters, empathy and compassion.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one of the most sought-after speakers in the world. He travels 10 months per year, speaking all around the world. While the Dalai Lama is from Tibet and does represent Tibetan Buddhism, the primary reason that people seek to hear him speak is his focus on human values, religious harmony, global peace and compassion. The January article implied that His Holiness' trip to Seattle was relating to teaching empathy. I know this is a fine point, but His Holiness does not speak or teach about empathy. He teaches about compassion. This is important because empathy relates to a feeling we have for others, while compassion is about the action we take to help others. In order to actualize the full potential of humanity, we must do more than feel for others. We must act compassionately toward each other to draw the interconnection and sense of belonging together as one family of humanity.
I bring this up because it is so important to understand the nature and the opportunity with the Seeds of Compassion program coming to Seattle on April 11-15. His Holiness has literally hundreds of requests each year to speak, which is why he is booked many years in advance. In addition, the Dalai Lama very rarely comes to any one city to speak for more than a day or two. His Holiness inserted a five-day stop in Seattle into his schedule because of the incredibly important nature of the Seeds of Compassion program. Seeds of Compassion is the first and only program focused entirely on children and planting seeds of compassion beginning at birth.
—Lama Tenzin Dhonden
Co-founder, Seeds of Compassion

March 2008
Let kids be kids
As an educator, I was pleased to read your February article on “The Play Debate” (February 2008). Teachers, parents and students all feel the pressures of society's ever-increasing expectations in the schoolhouse. However, I was quite taken aback after reading a paragraph that characterized me as a principal who “suggests children enter kindergarten equipped with specific, well-defined skills.”
Many times parents ask me to give them advice on how to best prepare their little ones for school. It's such a complex question, because I know they are looking for an answer that ensures academic success, and so my first response is usually, “Read, read and read with your child.” Not only is reading such an important moment for bonding with children, but also it helps develop in them a place where imagination takes over - not to mention a great vocabulary. But of equal importance are helping children understand how to get along well with others, to share toys and materials, and that there will be 25 other children in a classroom who will also demand the teacher's time and attention. I let parents know that, for safety reasons, it would be important for their child to know their first and last name, how to assert themselves with an adult by asking for help and to follow safety rules, such as walking in a line in the halls, and holding hands and looking both ways when crossing the street. When pressed to tell them what their child should “know” academically in order to be successful, I will tell them that it's smart to work with children on learning basic colors, and shapes, or to practice counting Cheerios with help. None of these skills are essential to an entering kindergartener, because these are the skills that we are responsible for teaching them. And, while I understand the anxiety that parents are feeling for their children, I believe it is so essential for us to let our kids be kids. They must find joy in whatever it is that they are learning. I know that if we are thoughtful, we can engage young children in the learning process and nurture their spirits to be kind and caring individuals at the same time.
—Clover Codd, Principal
Loyal Heights Elementary School, Ballard

February 2008
Great writers!
I picked up the December issue in Borders today and just wanted to let you know I found so much cool stuff I would never have known about otherwise. I’m hoping to go on a tour of the chocolate factory and maybe take in some of the holiday activities listed. Andie Ptak’s article on winter solstice (“Celebrate winter solstice”) was also a great read. You have such talented and informed writers that it’s a real pleasure to read ParentMap.
—Heather Larson, Federal Way

February 2008
Does religion matter? Not really.

I do applaud you for including an agnostic in your article about faith (“Does God Matter?” December 2007). However, to say that the values common to two Christians, a Muslim and an agnostic “look suspiciously like traditional God-associated behavior” implies that we all simply imitate ethics that were put in place earlier by religion, or that the underlying human tendency toward ethical behavior is somehow dependent on ideas about God. I have to assert that a number of key societal values preceded religion. Though religion may be an effective tool to teach, enforce and reinforce norms, our most basic ethics are not unique to our species and have in fact evolved along with behaviors like tool use.
A cursory survey of anthropology demonstrates that most groups of people often create religions, apparently to aid in social cohesion (community), especially in pre-secular cultures, where religion serves as law. It also reaffirms that regardless of which God, gods or spirits they invent, most people have an innate sense of ethics. Recent research with primates and rats demonstrates that “values” such as altruism and even a sense of fairness evolved long before we began weaving stories about our gods — unless the capuchins have tales they haven’t yet told us.
While some benefits of faith are compelling, especially community, the parents attending Mars Hill and the mosque in particular should pray their child is not gay — or push their faith communities to reinterpret their dogma. Tragically, not all religious communities are truly inclusive. That is why I sigh when I hear parents exposing their children to a dogma, then claiming that their children have free choice in matters of faith. As rich as many of our old traditions are, they are unfounded and often divisive. I pray — to no one in particular — for a community nurtured with rationality, hope and love for all people. That’s what many of us in this unchurched region are building — one nation, indivisible. Can I get an “Amen”?
—Lee Sledd, Ruston

A common experience

I just wanted to thank you for the article “Does God Matter?” (December 2007). I would have been really frightened to address such a topic, so I am impressed at your courage and the skill with which you addressed this issue.
So often I find myself feeling ostracized about belief or situation, only to discover that I am very similar to a large number of people. It is comforting to me to feel like I have a lot in common with many other parents.
—Celeste Richardson, Seattle

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