2007 Letters to the Editor

December, 2007
"Homework" article begs a few questions

Should we kill homework?” (November 2007) managed to stumble over and around some important factors without really noticing them. These should be considered more carefully before we consider doing away with homework.

One interviewee asserted that, once school is out, there is barely enough time for homework, sports, and dinner, but no one in the article considered how many hours kids burn each week on TV, video games, mall cruising or Web surfing. No one questioned the number of hours devoted to organized sports each week or that, besides practice and games, coaches encourage, or even demand, sports homework, too.

Then there is the question of relative merit. Is it more beneficial for your child to learn to multiply three-digit numbers, or to hit 80 percent of her free throws, or to network with her friends at the mall or on Myspace, or to figure out how to get to the next level in that first-person shooter game? Which carries the most utility in adult life?

None is completely without benefit, but which should have precedence, especially when time is short? Which brings us back to asking the question of why time seems so short; why we’re so busy, busy, busy.

I’ve done my share of “bad” homework. Teachers have bad days too, so even educators would question the utility of some assignments. But in retrospect, those were like, to use sports as an example, practice. We don’t consider wind sprints, stretching or sit-ups a pointless burning of energy. They feed into our fitness level, which makes a difference in the game. In the game of life, in our shrinking world, drills (good or bad) in history, culture, language, writing, math, and the arts all feed into our fitness to play.

There are reasons why our children are not at the top academically, or even in the top 10, lagging behind the children of Slovenia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and so on, but I doubt it’s because ours do too much homework.


December, 2007
China toy scare can lead to stereotypes

I urge you and your writers to clearly state that the problems of poorly and improperly made toys in China are the responsibilities of a few businessmen in China and America and not representative of the people of China. Please avoid quotes of parents or comments that may lead to racism or stereotypes of Chinese or any ethnicities. There are plenty of corrupt business practices in the U.S. but they surely do no represent who the rest of us are! Just because a few politicians support the war does not mean that all Americans are war supporters! It is my personal observation that you seem to promote toys that are made in Europe (Germany, for example) or locally made. While that is great, there is a subtle message to the readers that Europeans and Caucasians are once again superior to those of other countries.

Why don’t you write in your next article about the great toys that are made in China and/or other non-European countries that are made with integrity and are not owned by large American corporations? For example, my children have toys and ornamental bags brought back from China by their grandma. They are beautifully crafted and well-made by the local people there. Your magazine reaches parents and children of all ethnicities and cultures. Please continue to encourage them that a few “bad eggs” are not indicative of the “rest of us.”

Karen Louie


September, 2007
Right online

My ParentMap dream came true! I have been stockpiling every issue to save for the Out & About and Travel advice (and other interesting articles) and have been meaning to clip and file all those incredibly useful ideas for future trips. But now I don’t have to! I can recycle the old issues...it’s all online. Ahhhhhhh! That’s the sound of an appreciative mom with one less thing to do on her To Do List and less clutter. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Kelly Powers
via email

September, 2007
Another option for moms

I enjoyed your article on “mamapreneurs” (August 2007), but I felt you left out a large category of working moms who have gone out on their own. Not all of us have started new companies, but many of us have instead taken our job skills and become consultants to others in our industry.

I feel that you did your readers a disservice by not covering this option. The capital layout and risk involved in starting your own line of clothing or baby food is large and intimidating. Many moms would look at that and think, “No way. I can’t do that.” Reading this article, the reader is left with the impression that you have to take on this level of risk to be a “mamapreneur.”

Another option that provides all the flexibility and benefits of being on your own, but is far less risky, is providing a needed service in an industry you already are familiar with, either because you have worked in it or see a hole in another industry that your skill set can fill. Taking myself as an example, I am an architect and recently left the company I was working for to go out on my own. My work consists of contracting with architectural firms around town who are short-staffed or need an architect with my particular skill set, but for one reason or another aren’t willing or able to hire someone. I also take on small design commissions directly. My initial layout consisted of a laptop, software, a business license and insurance. Not a bad price tag for time at home with my kids!

Elizabeth Maher

September, 2007
Missing some details

While I don’t doubt last month’s cover story, “The Mamapreneur Movement” (August 2007), provided inspiration and encouragement to some of its readers to pursue their dreams of having their own businesses, I, in turn, felt underrepresented and a bit miffed. As a mother of a 5- and a 2-year-old, I have come to rely on your publication as a major resource for family entertainment, as well as a gauge of what creative, intelligent mothers are doing professionally today in the Seattle area. I am disappointed that this time you left out some very important details. By glossing over the hard facts — details like how much savings the featured women had to feel confident in starting up their business, or what their partner’s income is so that they can support their spouse stepping out of the corporate workplace — you end up speaking to an elite group of women who, although they have earned their wings, can afford to take the risk of going out on their own. I appreciate the turn ParentMap has taken in its look at women and children, and enjoyed the recent article on the Family Leave Act and the budding organization MomsRising (May 2007). It’s up to you, then, to please take a more honest approach in covering this kind of material by profiling entrepreneurial-spirited young mothers in their 20’s and early 30’s who haven’t made it big in the corporate world and who would like to take the risk, though they rely on a so-so paying job for the health benefits, paid vacation days and savings plan. Lastly, by providing ambitious, younger women with access or information about mentors such as those whose success you showcased, the road to reaching success in business can be demystified, and children and families everywhere can live more flexible, balanced and healthy lives.

Sarah Kishpaugh

September, 2007
Turn off the TV!

In the article, “TV in kids’ rooms? Why not!” (August 2007), Linda Morgan provided a great synopsis of the current research on children’s television habits and parents’ perceptions about television viewing.

Linda cites a University of Washington study released in May 2007 which reported that one-third of parents believe media exposure helps promote brain development. I was shocked by this particular finding when I read the study in May and was reminded of it again in Linda’s article. But, then, why should I be shocked that parents buy into this brain “myth”? Parents are bombarded with “educational” toys, videos, computer games, flash cards and activity books that claim to make their baby smarter. And what parent wouldn’t want to do everything possible to enhance their child’s development?

I, too, have followed the latest research on this issue. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that watching television at very young ages (under the age of 2) provides any benefit to young children. In fact, there is some evidence that it may cause harm. The best learning toy to enhance young children’s learning and brain development is their parents! Science tells us that, through loving and playful interactions with you each day, your child’s brain is making thousands of connections and is growing in countless ways. Watching television cannot match the level of growth that children experience when they interact with you!

If you want to enhance your child’s learning, turn off the television and computer. Instead, play, talk, sing, read, and cuddle everyday. Parents are children’s best and favorite toy!

Danielle Z. Kassow, Ph.D.
Research Associate
Talaris Research Institute

September, 2007
Recommending bad behavior

I consider it a very irresponsible choice to print the article, “TV in kids’ rooms? Why not!” by Linda Morgan in the August 2007 issue. Quite simply, it is the worst kind of article that suggests categorically that people should ignore research and basically do whatever the hell they please. Morgan states clearly the policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics that TV be severely limited (and not used at all for children 2 and under) and then says ignore it! This is not what parents expect from ParentMap: to be given the latest recommendations by the nation’s experts and then told to ignore it.

Morgan is practicing the opposite of critical thinking and sends the clear message that it is OK to do whatever you want, even if the experts say it is bad. She makes up rules, most of which are the opposite of national recommendations.

I am sure that having her kids holed up in their rooms glued to the TV gives her lots of time to do her own thing. That is her business. But to rationalize such bad behavior and recommend it to others is irresponsible. Parenting is not about doing what you think is right because that is the way you want it, even if the latest research says it is bad. Parenting is about doing everything in our power to make selfless choices that will give our kids the best chance in a very complex and often confusing world.

Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.
President, Speed Learning 100, Inc.

July, 2007
Face the facts about family leave

Bill Muse got it wrong in his response to your excellent article on MomsRising.org (“Mothers’ Rights,” May 2007), which addressed, in part, paid family leave in Washington state. This type of uneducated antipathy toward family- and worker-friendly policy is one of the reasons MomsRising is so important, both as a catalyst for change and to ensure everyone knows the facts about family leave.

Contrary to Muse’s assertion, paid family leave and flexible work options do not increase the chances women and men will leave following the birth of a child. In fact, studies confirm what business managers say: Paid leave helps companies keep good workers and increases productivity and profitability. This point aside, the legislation recently passed in Washington, like that in California years ago, depends on workers, not businesses, to fund the leave. In California, that averages out to about $27 per worker per year, while the original Washington legislation asked for about $40 per year per worker. And it’s not just parents who need this support. The original legislation in Washington also stipulated the leave cover the worker’s own serious illness or time to care for a seriously ill family member, whether partner, parent or child.

In addition, the workers who will be most affected by this legislation are not, as Muse asserts, living in McMansions and sipping lattes. While it is true that “people have been adapting to personal crises forever, and everyone’s situation is different,” it is time we face the reality that three-quarters of mothers are in the labor force, and families are working more hours than ever before just to keep up.

Our ability to adapt, as workers and as a country, has slipped beyond our grasp because we don’t have a structure to support working families, a structure most other countries take for granted. A full quarter of American families with children under 6 live in poverty. In addition, having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” — a time when income slips below what’s needed for basics such as food and rent.  

Using paid family leave for cause, Muse appears to condone workplace discrimination against women who have or may bear children (which more than 80 percent of women do). With four of 10 workers in the U.S. also caring for an elderly parent, I wonder what potential employee will appeal to businesses should the mere possibility of family crisis be used to vet hires. I applaud the legislators in Washington for recognizing that families and children need and deserve support, and MomsRising for helping to make that possible.

Leslie Miller, Seattle

July, 2007
A green resource

Thank you for Natasha Petroff’s article on talking to our kids about climate change (June 2007). I like Mr. Mazza’s take on the issue. Hopefully our kids will grow up with exciting new technologies and more compact, healthy communities as a result of our actions to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. To help parents learn ways they can make a difference, I have a blog on green parenting. Many of the suggestions I offer provide ways to reduce our climate impact — taking public transportation, eating locally grown foods, and buying toys and clothes at consignment stores — and give parents a chance to share ideas of their own.

Kathleen Ridihalgh, Seattle

June 2007
Make America family-friendly

Thank you so much for Kristen Dobson’s cover story on mothers’ rights and MomsRising (“Mothers’ Rights,” May 2007). Families in America are in a state of crisis today, and it is astonishing to me that these issues are so chronically underreported in the major media. Kudos to you for bringing these issues to the forefront of the press! Now that our state is the second in the country to pass a paid family leave bill, let’s hope that politicians on the federal level make 2008 the year of real family values, and address issues like health care, day care and paid family leave. We need to keep the pressure on, and I hope that your story will encourage other families to get involved with MomsRising. We need to demand more accountability from our legislators to make America a real family-friendly nation.

Colleen Butler

June 2007
Pay for your  own leave

According to the article “Mothers’ Rights,” the Washington family leave law is needed because “Many of us are living just one calamity away from financial ruin.” One mother says, “I’m upper middle class, with tons of education, and still we live paycheck to paycheck.” Since when is fiscal imprudence a candidate for government intervention? Perhaps if these mothers didn’t live in McMansions and drive new SUVs, they could put something away for a rainy day instead of demanding the rest of us buy them umbrellas.

The article notes that mothers are already discriminated against at hiring time. Indeed, and think how much worse it will be when every mother (or potential mother) comes with the threat of five weeks of paid leave every time she gets pregnant. (Not to mention the likelihood of losing these employees completely if they decide to become full-time moms.) The family leave law makes non-parents just that much more attractive to employers.

The folks at MomsRising say that motherhood is the most important job in the world. I’ve little quarrel there, but why are these folks then outraged that employers take this other job — the most important one in the world — into account when considering job candidates? Look at this from an employer’s point of view. How dare the state saddle businesses, many of which go under every year anyway, with yet another burden, this one being to play the role of rich uncle.

People have been adapting to personal crises forever, and everyone’s situation is different. Why does anyone think that five weeks leave is a one-size-fits-all solution to any family’s woes? Maybe I’ll need five months off, maybe five years. Whatever my problems, they are not my employer’s. Shifting some of the cost of parenting onto businesses isn’t simply unfair; it burdens parents and those of child-bearing age with a liability they might not want. You think unemployment among working moms is high now? Just wait till this law is passed.

Bill Muse

June 2007
Taking issue with the HPV story

I recently read the article in the May 2007 issue of ParentMap by Sally James regarding Gardasil. I need to let you know that it is among the most inaccurate and irresponsible articles I have ever read. The article is full of inaccuracies and paints such a rosy picture of Gardasil, it left me wondering if Sally James received a stipend from Merck to write the article.

For example, Sally James states that “there are no serious side effects reported for the Gardasil vaccine.” That is simply not true. There have been several injuries reported from the vaccine. And even if there may not have been enough injuries to be convincing for Ms. James, it’s still irresponsible to make the statement as a reporter, because the truth is simply that Gardasil has not been studied long enough to know whether or not there are serious side effects. Almost 100 percent of the state governments that initiated a mandate for Gardasil have all retracted their initiatives because they realized that Merck was going after their profit too fast and not enough was known about the potential side effects of the vaccine.

You should have reported the other side of the story. Gardasil only protects against four of the dozens of strains of HPV. And even against those four, it could be as little as 35 percent effective. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.
It would be worth reading the recent article in the May issue of Mothering Magazine called “Guard Against Gardasil: Could the New HPV Vaccine Cause More Harm than Good?” That was a responsible article about the vaccine.
You should be ashamed for having published such blatant pharmaceutical company propaganda.

Daniel Pitt

Editor’s reply: The FDA and the CDC both state that while some side effects to the vaccine have been reported, they are not serious. Since James’ article was published, a new study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) questioning the effectiveness — but not the safety — of the vaccine, especially among women already exposed to HPV.

May 2007
Finding nature close to home

Thank you for covering the vital and intriguing issue of "nature-deficit disorder" in Kathleen F. Miller's article, "Why your child needs more time outside" (April 2007). Ms. Miller quotes the Wilderness Awareness School's program director as saying that when kids encounter the environment "it's most often not about their neighborhood or nature in their backyard." Yet ironically, when Ms. Miller suggests several avenues for parents to help their "wired" youngsters "get wild," none are in the city (even the Science Center's summer camp is in the suburbs). This can only serve to further the impression that the environment is something "out there" that one must get in a car (or on a ferry) to experience. Yet nature is all around us, in our backyards, urban streams, parks, and green spaces.

The Homewaters Project is a local educational nonprofit that provides hands-on investigations of nature in the city for school kids from fourth to twelfth grades in Seattle and Shoreline. Founded in 1992 (as the Thornton Creek Project) by teachers who wanted to give their students real-world experience of classroom science concepts, Homewaters programs this school year will allow 2,000 children to use their natural curiosity to explore urban ecology and draw their own conclusions about the relationships between human actions and watershed health.

As they investigate the natural world and our interdependence with it -- right in their home neighborhoods, backyards and parks -- young people in Homewaters Project's field investigations discover not only the joy and fascination of the ecological wonderland all around us, but that their actions make a difference in the health of their own communities. We don't need to drive or ferry kids out of the city to foster a sense of wonder, hope and the power of each person to make a difference.

Chris Page
Executive Director, Homewaters Project


May 2007
More ways to 'think green'

I was delighted to see so much good information on "greener" lifestyles ("Think Green," April 2007). It is true that many people are thinking about the world their children and grandchildren will live in. It was also great to read the article about Water 1st International, which gets at the underlying challenge for people like us lucky enough to have been born into water and food security. We need to understand that our burden on the planet is way heavier than that of the family of six in Ethiopia, which means we should be having fewer children. In the meantime, we can at least think about the things we can do less, the green things that really matter. Rethink our relationship to our cars... think carpool only. Think about that woman walking 14 miles every day for water the next time we crave a soda that isn't in our refrigerators and contemplate a "quick trip to the store." Rethink our vacations, fly rarely. Finally, stop equating more with better, stop shopping for fun, and start finding people who share interests in exploring local parks, walking or doing home crafts such as quilting and knitting. For folks who are eager to understand, there are loads of materials now, from Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth to Bill McKibben's Deep Economy.

Andrea Faste

May 2007
A gift of love

Thank you for validating parents' concerns about discipline (Postings, "Discipline Doubts," March 2007). Issues around discipline are some of the most frequent questions that parents and parenting professionals ask us at Talaris Research Institute. Discipline actually means "to teach," yet the term is often misunderstood to mean "punishment." This confusion speaks to the struggles that parents face when dealing with discipline and their children. Talaris Research Institute recently posted a new Web article: "Setting Limits: Why Discipline with Young Children Is Important." In this article, I explain the meaning of the term discipline, why discipline is important, and I offer discipline tips for parents. The article can be accessed at: talaris.org/research_jan2007.htm. I also offer this advice to parents: Don't give up! Your child needs your help in learning how to control his or her own behavior. As challenging and exhausting as discipline can be at times, your persistence in dealing with discipline issues will help your child get ready for school and life. Also, talk to other parents that you know. Ask them what has worked for them. Parents can be great sources of information and support for other parents. Discipline is not an easy task. It is a long-term job, but it is also a gift a love.

Danielle Z. Kassow, Ph.D.
Research Associate
Talaris Research Institute
Seattle, Washington

April 2007
A friendly connection

Thank you for including Friend to Friend in your article, "Volunteering with babies and toddlers" (December 2007). Today we matched our third mom and her child to visit at a Bellevue Assisted Living facility. The other two were matched in Bremerton and Seattle. This is truly awesome.

Marilyn Soderquist
Program Director, Friend to Friend
To volunteer, call 1-888-383-7818; friendtofriendamerica.org

April 2007
Inspiring young artists

I wanted to thank you for the excellent February 2007 issue dedicated to promoting arts education. Arts education can happen anywhere, not just at schools or in the home -- every object we surround ourselves with can be read as a work of art. Families can take a walk and reflect on the artistic composition of a flowering home garden or the architecture of a neighbor's house. At the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, young learners can look at a Native American basket and think about not only its utility, but its artistry as well -- what are the colors, the designs, the textures, the materials? Each year over 20,000 children come to the Burke to learn about cultural arts, reflect on what they encountered at the museum, and find a sense of self in the arts and cultures of the world.

I hope this issue inspired parents to expose their children to art from an early age, whether it's "doing" art, "seeing" art, or just simply talking about it -- and museums are a great resource for exactly that kind of experience!

Myriam Gabriel-Pollock

February 2007
Peace education is critical

I applaud ParentMap newsmagazine for their excellent coverage of peace education in the November issue ("Teaching Peace"). Education is a means of uniting people, nations and, most importantly, children and youth around the globe. Global citizenship is no longer an extracurricular activity. It's one of the most important ways to build bridges between communities of the world. We're very fortunate to have so many wonderful organizations dedicated to the well-being of our planet located right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Lori Markowitz
International Program Manager
Bridges To Understanding

February 2007
Creating future philanthropists

Thank you very much for using the December issue of ParentMap to focus on "The Spirit of Giving." I was excited to see that the Ages & Stages section of the magazine was devoted to philanthropy at every grade level.

As an increasing number of schools begin to have service learning requirements, the task of locating organizations that strengthen their communities through direct service and education seems to become more difficult. Penny Harvest, a program of Common Cents and Fremont Public Association, teaches young people about philanthropy and service during their formative years. This truly amazing program allows youth of all ages, cultures, and economic backgrounds the opportunity to collect pennies and turn those pennies into grants for community organizations.

If we work together, we can create a vast generation of future philanthropists.

Maryellen Ferro
Program Coordinator


Originally published in the February, 2007 print edition of ParentMap

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