Yet another question for which I am totally unprepared

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It is a typical afternoon. I have to pick Em up from school and then swing over to put gas in the car. If it ends up snowing as much as I think it might, then the last thing I want to contend with is the insanity of Montreal gas stations in the morning.

She hops in and begins the rambling debrief of her day. If you know the mind of an 11 year old, the abilty to leap from topic to topic with absolutely no linearity of thought is breathtaking. She crams everything into under five minutes - social problems, homework, gossip, opinions AND her sing song version of whatever song is "cool" at this point.

I only half listen. It is difficult to keep up with her mind, and I am lost in my own world of nearing the end of this phase of writing. I am living in theory of mind and meta-cognition in the academic parition of my mind. That, jumbled with Vygotsky and the social origins of human conciousness make me a little foggy when faced with real world issues. Like say Eating, or Bathing.

I pull up to the gas station and wait behind a woman who seems confused as to why she has pulled up to the pump.

"Lady", I say in the car, "One would think that you had a firm grasp on the Hows and Whys of a gas station before you got here. Get a Move on!"

Emily laughs.

"You're kinda cranky", she laughs.

"No, I don't think so - but COME ON! It's a gas station. You drive up, you get out, pay and pump gas. There is no philosophical component to this exchange."

We listen to the radio. I wait, staring at the back of the minivan. The driver finally seems to decode the mystery of the Gas Pump and finishes.

I pull up and open my door.

You'd think that with the number of times this kid has ambushed me with questions, I would have learned to expect the unexpected. But I never do.

"Hey Mom - You're turning 40 this year right. Is it true that you stop getting your period when you turn 40?"

My door is open and I have one foot out of the car. The best I can do is to say, "What?"

Em: "Doesn't your period stop when you turn 40?"

Me: "It's called Menopause and we will talk about it when I get back into the car after pumping the gas - just give me a few minutes..."

I stand outside in the cold pondering the question. Honestly, I don't know all that much about Menopause, but I am pretty sure that my upcoming birthday doesn't signal the end of my fertility. Furthermore, my Mom didn't really talk about her menopause so I don't have a real good family historical record. All I know is that my crazy ass mother got REAL crazy and ditched her husband of 20 years to act like she was 19 and wear belly shirts.

I finish with the gas pump and get back into the car.

Me: "When your period ends, it's called Menopause and while the age for every woman is different, it doesn't usually start until you are closer in age to 50, so I have a few more years left before I am in Menopause. Why?"

Em: "I just thought it ended when you turned 40. And maybe you wouldn't be so cranky near your period."

Me: "Nope. It doesn't work that way. It takes time for your body to rev up to having a period, and time for your body to wind down. And I am not that cranky near my period. But if I am, I suggest you just keep it to yourself if you know what is good for you."

Bruised Ego

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ego is a funny thing. Usually, just when I think I am past it, it jumps up and smacks me in the face.

Of course, because I believe that I am so very good in so very many ways, I can be easily shocked when someone doesn't just naturally acknowledge the quirky greatness that is ME.

Also of no shock to any of you, I don't run with the "Big Dog" mommy blogger crowd anymore. By my own choice I stepped back, over and out and frankly have not regretted the decision. I am all right with not writing books or spending every moment of my day devoted to my blog ...which isn't to say I don't love you all. I DO. But just like Mommies have real lives which don't involve their kids, so do I have a life which doesn't involve Blogging. I'm too busy with my man-whores and abuse of perscription pills.....I kid, I kid.

Again, a Choice. No condemnation there for those who chose to put their energy into those venues. But it just ain't Me.

I resist being part of a crowd in some odd and fundamental way. It seems to be ingrained in my DNA, and I imagine that my ancestors were the tenacious people who kept saying "Hey, let's see what that is Over THERE..." or "Hey, cook it and let's see what it tastes like...." or most of all "Hey, You're kind of cute, wanna roll in the hay?"

Not the ones who said "Watch this" before being eaten by the alligator hiding in the mud....My genetic marker is of those who watched those peeps get eaten and then said "I don't think that was a good idea and we should avoid poking the mean gator with a stick....and you wanna roll in the hay before we go cause we're down a member now?"

Now, the honest truth is that I am a bit of an attention whore. Who has two thumbs and loves attention? That's right. MEEEEEEE, That's who! I suppose my therapist would tell you it comes from my seeking recognition and approval and then punishing myself so the rejection and disapproval running right behind feels less painful.

And I am not saying she isn't on to something there, but Dude. I don't want to have to work too hard for it here. If I make the most tenative of movements out of the cave, I expect the person towards whom I moved to rejoice. And Rec-O-Nize.

It's the curse of the talented but crazy.

Don't poke me or shine too bright of a light ONTO me, cause I will bolt under the permafrost with a bottle of gin and a demerol drip only emerging when everyone has cleared the hell Out. Of course, don't ignore me either cause then I will get all supa-needy and offer to show you my boobs.

I wonder if I will ever get past this feeling in my life. It is a massive pain in the ass to live betwixt and between. It has not, does not, and will not serve me in my very promising academic career any more than it has served me in this Blog-o-verse. I am, as my advisor tells me, doing "Innovative and Brilliant research". I am, as my dear Internet friend tells me a "very talented writer" (Smooches to the dirty slut who told me that - she gets to totally see my boobs next time she sees me)....

My problem? An ego that is simultaneously too big...and tender to move out further into the world at large. Paired with some kind of genetic resistance to playing like a nice girl while channeling my inner ennui, it is a minor miracle that I have survived to adulthood, married and reproduced; let alone managed any KIND of professional career.

And here is where I throw an Edna St. Vincent Millay reference at you:

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

A Parable

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

One of the many gifts I have been given as an educator and edu-carer for other peoples children is the gift of perspective. There is very little about child development and the educational process which I believe is set in stone. Furthermore, when you toss family dynamics and cultural, religious or moral values into the mix - Well. You have a billion right ways to raise a child.

One of the gifts I have been given as a Researcher and Academic is skepticism. Not disbelief, but skepticism. Until I have done my own research, I rarely assume what someone else has done meets my standards of academic rigor. That doesn't mean that I have to re-do Piaget's conservation experiments to believe his results. (Although, as an aside, these are Fascinating things to do with your own child - like a living textbook in action) Furthermore as a researcher, I have been taught to Look at any data or study and SEE if the data stands up. Who paid for the study? Was it purely an academic study or grant-funded by a specific group? Is the Primary Researcher a true "expert" in his/her field? And most importantly - Who will gain and who will lose with this study?

In every research project lies the very real possibility that harm can come from your results. Intentional or not. The researcher should be vetted and held accountable for the results of the data AND the interpretation of the data.

This is why - as a whole - Ethical, conscientious researchers are careful...very,very careful about making broad statements. If I say, for instance, that car seats Kill infants and every parent who places their baby in a car seat is taking a 50-50% chance with the life of their child - you would assume that I had a whole hell of a lot of data from which to extrapolate these claims, right?

What if I failed to mention - or failed to highlight - that the data I collected was of infants whose parents were drunk at the time of the accident? That My data Set was of 10 babies...5 of whom died in the crashes, and five of whom did not.

In truth, it IS 50%. And In truth, all babies were in Car seats when they died.

Now, what if I failed to mention that I did this research after getting a grant by the anti-car seat lobby? People who were trying to get laws passed, or repealed so that they would monetarily benefit from babies not being in car seats? Perhaps they are auto makers and the harnesses cost an extra 10 dollars per car to install. If you project to manufacture a million cars at 10 dollars saving per car ... Well, it is cost effective for me to give you 4 Million dollars for a study to save a net gain of 6 Million for Myself, isn't it?

But of course, the news that CAR SEATS KILL BABIES is sexy. Sexy in that news business kind of way. Sexy in that "I bet we can really crank up our viewer or readership by printing/reporting this" kind of way. And really sexy in that "We can prey on the deep fears of every parent that they are doing it WRONG" kind of way. Sexy in the "Maybe we can even try to tie it into the unease of a post-Watergate and Vietnam generation that corporations lie and governments and authority are not to be trusted" kind of way.

Oh, yeah. This becomes big news. People split on this issue. Friends split into car seat versus non-car seat people. Mothers have out and out arguments with other mothers. Parental Judgments reign supreme. Maybe even Oprah does a whole Show about the dangers of car seats!

But I - the researcher - knew that this was all bullshit. I knew how to conduct a proper experiment. I knew I was being paid and continued to be paid to be the front line Expert for a specific point of view. I knew my study could not be replicated because the results were...well, kind of made Up or at the very least Badly mangled as to skew them. However, for 12 years, parents held up my study as the reason - the EVIDENCE for why they didn't use car seats. In those 12 years, the rates of children dying in car crashes has indeed risen, but I mean - who is to say that this wasn't just an unfortunate side effect? In fact, I bet the government and manufacturers of car seats manipulate the data to make it seem more than it really is.... And anyway, my lawyers have told me not to comment, and my bank account is safe - so really, what is to be done?


I knew that this MMR link to autism study had been discredited ages ago. I mentioned the flaws in the data methodology and design to hard core true believers who preached to me about the chances I took with Emily. I also pointed out that the reason vaccinations had been discovered was because Millions of children DIED from these diseases. Walk into any old Boston cemetery and find the gravestone of a mother - now find how many of her children lived Past the age of 5. Odds weren't good.

I explained the concept of "herd immunity" - how these diseases were now re-emerging and were becoming more dangerous to the people least able to manage the disease - Pregnant women, Infants too young to be immunized, elderly and immuno-suppressed people (Why yes, children on chronic asthma medication, I am talking about you!).

Did it matter? Did logic and common sense and the history or human kind mean anything to the true believers? Hell No. Did the fact that their decision was putting MY child and the general population that much more at risk mean anything? Nah. They had their parental rights and they were doing what THEY thought was best.

But now? The research is False. The doctor Lied. For his own personal profit and gain. Not because he cared so deeply about children with autism or any link between a vaccine and the (most likely genetically based) disorder. He - and the others who have profited by propagating a lie ( Um, Jenny McCarthy? Totally looking at You) - are going to defend themselves with silence. After preying on ANY parents worst fears - the ones around taking care of our children , of doing the best for them - and perverting them into profit while both actively selling a lie - Or not being intelligent enough to educate yourself about the philosophy you espouse?

My contempt is not great enough.
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