Friday, October 31, 2003

In the News

An IEP List of health stories that make you go "Hmmmm....":

1. Reading may be good for kids, but apparently, there are limits: Doctors are blaming the enormous new Harry Potter for causing headaches in children who've read it too voraciously.

2. Scientists say that it looks like it's probably perfectly okay to eat cloned animals. Okay, but you first.

3. Researchers are shocked and dismayed to find that children's bad eating habits sometimes start before the age of two, with even infants downing candy and soda and getting their vegetable allowance from french fries. I guess I shouldn't have such fond memories of driving my son home from early intervention while passing french fries over my shoulder to where he sat in his car seat. I thought I was just driving badly, not contributing to nutritional delinquency. He's my healthy eater now, though, while his sister, who was in a Russian orphanage until age 4.5 and presumably did not make a lot of McDonald's runs, never met a green vegetable she didn't loathe. Go figure.

4. There's a new ailment in town: Hurried Woman Syndrome. Among the symptoms of this syndrome are being tired, moody, and having problems controlling your weight. And here, I thought those things were just symptoms of being a woman with kids and, you know, a pulse.

5. A study shows that women who take care of their grandchildren at least nine hours a week have a 55 percent greater chance of having a heart attack. And also, presumably, of being tired, moody, and having problems controlling their weight. If there really is such a thing as "Hurried Woman Syndrome," you just know kids are carriers.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

National Adoption Day

Thanks to reader Christine S. for alerting me to the fact that November 22 is National Adoption Day, and sending me information on the Web site of the National Adoption Coalition, which is promoting events across the country, including the finalizing of the adoptions of more than 1,000 foster children on that day. November's a big adoption month in my house, since my husband and I spent that entire calendar month in 1994 rolling around Russia, waiting for our own adoption to be finalized. We left on Halloween, and returned home on December 1, and in between we met, wooed, and became parents of the two most important little people in our lives. Sometimes it's hard to imagine, looking at them now, at age 13 and 10, strong and healthy and settled in, that they ever lived anywhere else but with us. At other times, dealing with deep language delays and lingering anxiety and emotional immaturity and fetal alcohol effects, it's all too apparent that their difficult pasts will always be a part of them.

Nevertheless, it's impossible to overstate the value that being part of a family has for children, and so I thank God that He brought our family together, and that a whole lot of new families will be brought together on November 22. If you're planning any events for National Adoption Day, or just want to take the occasion to remember your children's adoption day, write and let me know, and I'll post your responses either in this blog or on the Mothers with Attitude site. Let's all celebrate thanksgiving a little early this year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Too Cool for Ghoul

I guess it's some sort of milestone, the first year your child doesn't want to go trick or treating -- like when she figures out there's no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, or starts requesting personal electronics instead of toys for Christmas. At any rate, my daughter seems to have hit the "Too Grown Up to Dress Up" mark this year, at the ripe old age of 13. I'm not sure whether she really is too grown up for Halloween, or whether she just can't think of a costume, but at least as of today she's planning a pleasant evening at home watching the Disney channel. And it's a little ironic, because according to Ken Swarner's latest Family Man column on Mothers with Attitude, she's already got the perfect costume, just by being her layabout teenage self. So maybe what I'll be seeing on Friday night isn't really newfound maturity, or old-fashioned sloth, or social insecurity, but a sophisticated piece of Halloween performance art. Spoooooky.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Rules of the Game

I've always wondered how it is that kids just seem to know how to play playground games. The same games and rhymes seem to get passed down from generation to generation without anybody particularly sitting down to teach them. There's some sort of cultural osmosis going on here, as if the need to hopscotch were part of our genetic code. Then again, it may just be that kids are quietly checking out Web sites like this one to get all those rules of the game down pat.

The site's called "Games Kids Play," and it made me wish that there were a site that gave the rules of all those other games kids get so good at -- games like, "Today you're my best friend, but tomorrow I won't talk to you, and then the day after that you can be my best friend again," or "We think you're funny sometimes, but sometimes you make us feel mad, and sometimes you make us feel mean, and it doesn't matter that you're always doing exactly the same thing." Because those games must be in a lot of kids' genetic codes, too, but my kiddos' special needs seem to include an inability to play them, or to understand why they must be played.

It would be nice to be able to make some flashcards to help my daughter survive in sixth-grade-girl society, or help my son -- he of the arrested emotional development and imperviousness to physical pain -- understand why people do the things they do. On that latter question, we might get some help from the do2learn site, which has a truly nifty interactive section called "The Feelings Game," complete with faces and scenarios designed to explain emotions to the emotion-impaired. When they develop "The Hurt Your Feelings Game" for explaining middle-school social politics, I'll be all set.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Type A Mom

So I took my kids to the neurologist last week, and for a change she didn't give me a hard time about my son. He wasn't spectacularly well-behaved, but he was a lot better than last year, when he spent the entire visit banging a toy truck against the wall, so good for him. This time, the doctor seemed to take my word for the fact that he doesn't act up as much at home or at school as he does at her office, and expressed satisfaction with his progress. She also mentioned how impressed she was by how nicely and quietly my daughter had sat through her brother's exam.

So far, so good.

I started my daughter's visit by asking her to tell the doctor about the headaches she's been having. I haven't been too worried about the headaches from a health point of view, since they're not strong enough for her to demand pain relief, but they've been great from a self-awareness and -expression point of view. I can speak for her in a lot of things, but not to describe personal discomfort, and so she had to try to describe her headaches to her pediatrician, and then keep a journal with an entry for each headache. And now again, she had to try to describe the headaches verbally, and it was about as good an illustration of how much her expressive language has improved and how much it still lags as you would want to give a pediatric neurologist. She struggled to find the right descriptive words, even cried a little out of frustration, and finally decided that the headaches felt squishy. The doctor and I agreed they were probably stress-related, and we moved on.

The doctor asked how her patient was doing in school, and I told about her starting middle school this year, in a mainstream class with inclusion teachers and an aide. The doctor asked what level she had been tested at, and I related that at her last evaluation she'd been found to have about a third-grade reading level, but that she was doing pretty much the same work as the other sixth-graders. And the doctor said, "Oh. So she's overacheiving."

You can guess where this is going to go.

I rattled on about her seeing a tutor once a week, and playing the trombone so well she made the all-city band, and bowling twice a week and getting good at it, and how hard she works on her homework, and how much she's been reading. I dug myself a pretty good hole. And when I was done, the doctor thought she had a pretty good picture of a quiet, inarticulate girl whose mother pushed her to work beyond her potential to the point of crippling headaches. She told me she would refer us to a psychologist if not for the fact that psychologists don't do too well with kids as inarticulate as mine, and that anti-anxiety meds might be able to help her a lot. And that she wanted to see my girl again in six months (instead of the usual year) to monitor the situation.

So in one hour, I'd gone from an overly permissive mom who would rather let her son run amok than medicate him, to an overly pushy mom who drives her daughter so hard she needs medication to make it through the day. I'll tell you, I was feeling a little whiplash on my way out.

The fact is, though, that I do push my daughter. I can't deny that I do. She needs pushing. She was happy as a clam in her self-contained special-ed class, and would have been exceedingly comfortable drifting along, learning little. I pushed her into the mainstream, and I push her to do extra work so that she can keep afloat. I've strived to be realistic about her abilities -- I always tell her that I don't care about what grade she gets as long as she tries her best -- but I've also always looked for ways to strengthen those abilities. I've certainly pushed her to play an instrument and pursue that through music camp and school band, feeling it was both good for her brain and good for her social life to be involved with music. I've pushed her to do plenty of activities that she was afraid of or worried about, and she's usually been glad after.

Does that make me a driven, overacheivement-demanding, childhood-destroying Type A mom? Or just a hardworking, involved, dedicated mom who wants her child to reach her full potential? Is there a line someplace? Have I crossed it?

Maybe. Sometimes. Maybe it's impossible not to. Maybe that's one of the biggest challenges of parenting a child with special needs -- knowing when to push, knowing when to stop. I've certainly tsked at other parents who expect too much of children who obviously have different gifts than the ones their parents push for. I've never felt a great need to push my son, who obviously will always need a lot of help and supervision throughout his life. I've been happy for him to take it slow, and follow his own developmental path. Maybe because his sister is not so obviously impaired, I've felt the need to strengthen her and give her skills she'll need for a "normal life," whatever that is. Is it giving her headaches? Why not? Goodness knows it's giving them to me.

That night, though, I had a brainstorm. During the exam, when my daughter was describing her headaches, she'd mentioned that sometimes her vision was a little blurry during them, and she had to squint. And later, when the doctor asked about her eyes, I'd mentioned that the opthalmologist had said that she didn't have to wear glasses if she didn't want to, but as she progressed in school and the work got harder, she might find she needs them. She'd had crossed eyes when we adopted her at age 4.5, and though surgery had straightened them, glasses could help relieve the strain of focusing them. I asked my daughter that evening whether she thought wearing her glasses might help her headaches, and to my surprise, she said, "Yes!" So we're going to see the eye doctor on Monday, and get new glasses, and see if that makes a difference.

Of course, I'll have to push her to wear them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Volunteer in hiding

Well, I guess this serves me right for making the big effort to volunteer at my kids' school: I've got to hide from the both of them while I'm on the premises. My daughter's long made it clear that she'd just as soon not see me during school hours, and if we do happen to cross paths, I oughtn't to try anything flagrant and embarrassing like eye contact. But my son's always seemed happy enough to have me working the library desk when he came in with his class -- too happy, apparently. His teacher this year reports that he gets overexcited at the prospect of seeing me, and this causes him to engage in un-library-like behavior like pushing, hitting, talking out of turn, and generally bugging the heck out of everybody. He's not like that in class, she assures me -- just when he's seeing, or going to be seeing, Mom.

I'd like to believe that's not so, but here's where it gets tricky: I've made a big, big deal about behavior analysis, and from a behavior analysis point of view, if there's something that seems to raise the child's stress level to the point where he loses control -- and if you note a pattern of problems surrounding a particular set of circumstances -- you change the environment to eliminate that thing. I never thought that "that thing" would be me, but it's hard to argue against it and for anything else. If I didn't like the teacher so much, I'd suspect she was doing this to get back at me for coming on strong about behavior management; but as it is, I think it's certainly worth withdrawing and seeing if my absence makes his heart grow calmer.

So I'll do my library time when his class isn't, and if I hear his little piping voice coming down the hallway I'll go into lockdown mode and hide away from windows and doors, hoping not to be seen. I'll still be able to contribute to the well-being of the school, and I'll still be able to network with whichever educators I can ambush in a hallway. But as for actually spying on my own personal kids -- do you think the school would allow me to donate a few two-way mirrors?

Monday, October 20, 2003

New on Mothers with Attitude

Three -- count 'em, three -- new columns grace the virtual pages of Mothers with Attitude today: April Cain remembers her son's birthmother in the latest installment of Thinking It Over; Julie Donner Andersen grouses at crabby people in Therapeutic Laughing; and Ken Swarner laments yet another undisplayable set of school pictures in Family Man. And thanks to them, I don't have to actually write anything original today myself! Ah, it's good to be an editor.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Taking togetherness too far

They say that doing things together is what keeps families strong, but maybe they should have specified that this wisdom does not apply to felonies. That fine point was missed by the New Jersey family that, in an attempt to save the family home from foreclosure, armed twin 14-year-old girls with their little brother's BB gun (painted with silver nail polish to look more realistic) and sent them to rob a bank while their mom waited in the getaway car. They apparently didn't getaway good enough, because Mom's now facing a 15-year jail sentences while her daughters spend the rest of their teens in a juvenile facility.

And there's probably a lot to be tsked over here about child endangerment and morality and using kids to commit a crime, but all I can think of is -- doesn't this just sound like the cutest little Olson twins movie? Except in the made-for-kidvid version, the family would stay together, the home would be saved, and nobody would do any time. I mean, hey, the twins' mom stole lots of stuff in "To Grandmother's House We Go," and she wound up with a cute guy and a winning lottery ticket. Are the Olsons contributing to the delinquency of minors, too?

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Not quite wired enough

Our school district has gone into computers in a big way, raising property taxes to outfit schools with big old gobs of technology. The number of computers in the "media center" (formerly the library) at my son's school doubled over the summer, and the one at my daughter's middle school seems far more dedicated to screens than to books. What books there are have been cataloged on a computer system, and that system is set to trickle down to our elementary school this year; the low-tech paper card catalog has already been ditched. The weak point in all of this is that the media centers are under the administration of educators who used to be called librarians, and they didn't go into education to compute. Sometimes there seems to be more technology than anyone really knows what to do with. Fortunately, if the teachers can't figure things out, the kids usually can.

One use I'd love to see all those computers put to is setting up e-mail addresses or web pages for teachers that parents can access. Why don't any of my kids' teachers have sites like this one? A google search turns up a fair amount of web services set up to give teachers free 'net presences, but if our school's got any posted, nobody's telling me. Maybe I should volunteer to be webmaster for whoever'll have me? Or maybe they know what a headache free and open communication with me would be, and just aren't giving me their address.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Is A.D. P.C.?

I've been reading about the Supreme Court's upcoming consideration of whether saying the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional, or whether the "under God" part is an unacceptable bringing of religion into schools. It seems impossible to imagine that schoolkids might not be putting their hands over their hearts every a.m., or will have to recite some sanitized, ACLU-okayed version instead. It's true that I would probably feel differently if I didn't believe in God, and in our nation being under Him; but it's also true that eliminating any reference to religious belief from our schools and our society is going to be a pretty daunting task.

For example: Tonight I was doing homework with my daughter, and her job was to find answers to questions in her textbook. The lesson was on dates -- why we need them, what a timeline's for, how we determine them. One question asked how we number years, and in reading the paragraphs on that subject, it was clear that the answer was "forward and backward from the birth of Jesus Christ." There's really not any more P.C. way to explain A.D. and B.C., and I suppose as long as they don't make any claims about Jesus Christ being anyone's savior it's not specifically religious, but if a kid's going to be disturbed by saying "under God" in the pledge, isn't he going to be upset by this, too? Are we going to be forced to switch to something nondenominational like "Common Era" to avoid lessons like this? I think the founding fathers would be against it, but I'm not so sure about the ACLU.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Child appreciation

I'm really running the gauntlet of child evaluations this week, and it's got me a little on edge. Yesterday was progress report day, and we got through that with relatively little shock and upset. Tomorrow, I have my first meeting with my daughter's teachers, the whole lot of them, regular-education and inclusion alike, and I hope I'll hear what the progress report indicates -- that she's basically doing well -- and not what I usually hear in meetings like this, which is that she's doing well considering. Most desperately, I'm hoping that there won't be a repeat of my meeting with her teacher and instructional aide last year -- the one where I asked the aide what she would be doing to help my daughter, and she looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights. Her inability to articulate what an instructional aide does, exactly, pretty much carried into a whole year of not doing much but hovering and making my girl nervous. This year, there are actual special education teachers in my daughter's classroom doing their inclusion thing, and if they can't explain to me what that is, I'm going to the Board of Ed.

Then, on Thursday, comes our annual visit with the pediatric neurologist. The appointment for my daughter is always a piece of cake, since she can sit through grown-ups talking and follow instructions and answer questions in a way that's pretty appropriate, considering. My son, on the other hand, has no consideration at all, and tends to display his most impulsive, most uncooperative, most out-of-control behavior for this particular doctor. And since she sees him once a year, and only at his absolute rock-bottom worst, I shouldn't be upset that she thinks I'm nuts not to medicate him into a stupor. But I always am anyway. Why can't she just take my word for it that he's doing fine? Or his father's word, or his teachers' word, or his therapists' word? And more importantly, if I have all those words, why do I need this doctor's word, anyway? I guess we all like to think that everybody looks at our kids in the same appreciative way we do. And if they don't, man, I'll tell you, they all deserve bad grades on their progress reports.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Pumpkins with purpose

I've never been a big one for Halloween decorations, much to my kids' chagrin. They're always lobbying for jack-o-lanterns on the steps and skeletons on the lawn, and I'm lucky if I can just manage to get their school Halloween artwork tacked up on the fridge. I'm not particularly proud of the fact that we've never carved a pumpkin together, but given the amount of mess I'm pretty sure my son could make of the seeds and such, I'd probably just go with my own parents' tradition of drawing a face on the thing with a Magic Marker and leaving it at that. This year, in a variation on that theme, my daughter has an extra credit assignment from middle school that involves turning a pumpkin in a globe, complete with latitude and longitude lines and cut-out drawings of the continents to paste on. That's a much better use for the big orange veggie than making a scary face, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm happy to see that her teachers are thinking in creative and hands-on ways. ... In other pumpkin-related news, Ken Swarner's newest Family Man column describes a far more ignoble end to put a pumpkin to than a bumpy, misshapen globe. Maybe next year, if he's serious about keeping his carving knives under of lock and key, he ought to consider turning jack-o-lantern season into an excuse for a good old-fashioned social studies lesson.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Something new

I'm trying a little something new this week: a Web log listing news articles that mention Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. There's been one or two a day so far, and all fairly interesting to me, anyway. (I'm particularly taken with the baton-twirling Washington Miss America wannabe who's taken FAS prevention as her platform.) If this is a topic that interests you, stop by every day or so and take a look. If it proves easily do-able, I'll probably switch Adoption Watch to blog format, too, since I'm the only one who ever seems to post on that message board; and possibly set up e-mail subscription lists to both. 'Cause, you know, with a full-time job and two time-and-a-half kids, I don't have enough to do.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Turn off that cough

Yahoo! Health News today features an article from on "Your Child's Cough," and not a moment too soon. I was poised to call my daughter's pediatrician today to ask about her two-week-old, shallow, barking, not-obviously-health-threatening-but highly-annoying cough, but now maybe I'll hold off. KidsHealth seems to advise that if your kid's not wheezing, feverish, or coughing up blood, you can wait a month or so before calling an M.D. And that, of course, follows my time-honored family wisdom that if you don't have a fever, you're not sick. But my daughter's already reporting that teachers are telling her she should see a doctor for that cough, and kids are teasing her for not seeing a doctor for that cough, and man, the peer pressure on a parent to run to the doctor and demand relief is fierce. If I can hold off 'til the weekend, maybe the dreaded throat tickle will disappear before I get my picture put up in the school nurse's Parent Hall of Shame.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

FAS makes the big time

My husband's a big "Law & Order" fan, but I've long shied away from the show for a couple of reasons -- the twists and turns and questionable justice of courtroom scenes make me nervous; and if I want to read something ripped from the headlines, I'll pick up a newspaper. But here's an episode I may have to make an exception for: one that has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as part of its plotline. The Buffalo News has a nice article about a teen with FAS who was selected to appear in the episode, and it will be interesting to see what spin the show puts on the issue. Since it's tentatively scheduled for the first episode of sweeps, Nov. 4, you can be sure it'll be sensational. Maybe that's a good thing for this swept-under-the-rug syndrome.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Sad news, unreported

I was talking with the mother of one of my son's special-ed classmates the other day, and she asked me, since I'm involved in a lot of things at school and am presumably up on what's going on, whether I had heard anything about a student who was in our kids' class a few years ago. All three kids were still at the same school, but as the whims of self-contained classrooms would have it, all were in different rooms this year. Apparently my son's friend had heard from this girl's sister that the girl had passed away during the summer, and we wondered if it could be true, or maybe just a tall tale facilitated by the girl being transferred to another school. It's not that unusual, after all, for a special-ed child to be at a school one year and just not there the next, with no dire circumstances attached. As the whims of self-contained classrooms would have it.

I hadn't heard anything about it -- not from my son, not from his invisible dog (who is usually my best source for school gossip), and not from any of the mainstream moms through whose circles I pass, along the loop but not quite in it, as I pursue my little on-campus volunteer opportunities, library duty, class parent meetings, book fairs. And I'd like to think that if I hadn't heard, it couldn't be. Surely the death of a 10-year-old child who'd been at the school since first grade, and who had a surviving sibling at the school as well, would arouse some sort of comment among those chattering moms, even if it had happened over the summer. Surely there would be a memo, or a memorial. The death of a fifth-grader's father the year before had prompted a phone-chain effort to make sure her classmates didn't hear it through gossip on the grapevine; wouldn't at least my son and his classmates -- if not the whole student body -- deserve similar respectful information about their friend?

Apparently not. The next time I was at the school I asked around, and indeed, the girl had died over the summer, of causes nobody was quite sure of. The special-ed teachers had taken up a collection in her memory, and the Home and School Association had donated as well, and it was sad but over. And maybe it would have been the same for any student who passed quietly away due to unspecified health reasons during the long school-free summer months. But I tend to think not. I tend to think that you can bus children with special needs into schools, and you can take them to the assemblies and put them in the chorus and mainstream them for a couple of classes and pretend that they're part of the group, but in the long run, if they're not from the neighborhood and not represented in the cliques and the clubs and the coffee klatches and the committees, in some meaningful way they don't really exist.

It's not that unusual, after all, for a special-ed child to be at a school one year and just not there the next.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Survive this

An IEP List for a day off from school, on which I should be spending more time playing with my kids and less time writing about them.

1. I'm all for hands-on science, and anything that gets kids excited about art is a good thing, but really, I think Maggot Art may be going a little too far. We had a maggot problem in our garage a month or so ago, which a week later became a housefly problem of near-Biblical proportions, and I for one would not be that comfortable with hanging colorful maggot trails on my fridge.

2. Since I ranted a bit last week about my similar lack of comfort with my daughter's school's sex-ed video (not sure whether they're using the "birth control is for marriage" or "birth control is for lovers" version, but as a Catholic I'm not particularly comfortable with either one), my attention was immediately grabbed by an article in our local paper on abstinence-only education in a nearby urban school district. Apparently being realistic there has resulted in more teen mothers than they can handle, and so they're going to try being unrealistic for a while. Is it unrealistic for me to hope it spreads to the suburbs before my girl hits Grade 8?

3. While it doesn't specifically mention contraceptive education, the new Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Parenting does offer parents a quick spiel on the birds and the bees. I flipped through this little manual in the bookstore the other day and found it to be surprisingly level-headed for what is basically a humor book, offering sound advice on such tricky topics as disciplining an invisible friend, ridding a bedroom of monsters and bribing for good behavior. It's a pretty good gift for new parents, and more than a few old parents, too.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Social studies

I took my son with me yesterday to run some errands, and at one point we were walking down the sidewalk and passed an older gentleman coming the other way. My boy smiled broadly and said, "Hello, old man!" The man, to his credit, said "hello" back without much chagrin, and I giggled and apologized and loudly told my young man that he'd been rude. He proposed to say, "Hello, man!" in the future, and I suggested, "Hello, sir," and figured the possibility of him remembering that the next time the greeting impulse struck was slight.

We got back in the car and went to our next stop, which was my doctor's office to pick up a referral. My doctor happened to be between appointments and came out to chat, and having never met my son was introduced and said hello. And since he has gray hair, I was bracing myself for another "Hello, old man!" But my guy said "Hello," then paused for a moment, and actually came up with "sir!" The soul of politeness. I was feeling pretty proud of his capacity to master normal civility, but then he had to go and add, as he will, "You're the best man in the whole wide world!" So now we have to work on getting that pendulum to sit squarely between being rude and being absurdly friendly. But one lesson a day's not bad.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Thinking unrealistically

After squirming through a jokey depiction of sex education in school while watching "8 Simple Rules" with my daughter the other night, I got a little look at the real thing while working in her school's library yesterday. Among the videos I was to enter into the library's catalog was one called "Abstinence First!" — and despite the title, the video and its accompanying materials were mostly about alternatives to abstinence, offering information on a variety of birth control options for teens.

The librarian explained that the video had been pulled from the shelf because someone had objected to its depiction of how to put on a condom, and that after being edited for increased discretion it was now once again ready for check-out, albeit labeled FOR 8TH GRADE USE ONLY. So apparently the 11- and 12-year-olds can be spared the contraceptive demos for the moment. And I have a while before my personal 13-year-old sixth-grader will be bringing home questions.

I felt some small measure of relief in that — but should I? As the librarian explained, she doesn't approve of teens and pre-teens having sex, but "realistically, they're going to do it anyway, and they need this information." I huffed and mumbled something about wanting my kids to get that information from me and not from a video called "Abstinence First!" (and apparently subtitled, "And Then, Let's Get It On!"), and she just kept saying yes, but, realistically, the things kids are doing today, and realistically, the problems they're having, and realistically, the information they need to get. And realistically, I felt myself getting older and grayer and more fuddy-duddy-ish with every word she said, and more like an evangelical, right-wing, "take sex education out of the classroom and put prayer back in" zealot than I ever imagined I could.

There was a time — I can still remember it — when I would have applauded this "realistic" approach to giving children the information they needed to navigate the hormone-plagued teen years in a responsible, disease-free and pregnancy-free manner, and scoffed at anyone who unrealistically suggested that these frisky young things be taught to "just say no" to sex. Of course, this was before it was the sex education of my own personal child we were talking about. It's okay, I suppose, for all those other kids to be instructed about condom usage and Pill popping; but the only message I want my daughter to be getting is Thou Shalt Not.

And there will be those who will shake their heads and smile condescendingly and tell me I'm just not being realistic. They will have statistics about sex ed reducing rates of STDs and teen pregnancy, and good for them. But they'll never convince me that telling kids "We think you should abstain, but realistically, we know you won't, so here's lots of info about safe sex" doesn't make them think that teen sex is okay — even put a little pressure on to do this thing that realistically, everybody is expecting. Can't we ever just be black and white about this? I mean, realistically, a lot of kids are going to try drugs, but we don't set up programs in the schools to say, "We think you should just say no, but realistically, we know you'll try them, so here's the right way to shoot up."

But then, you know, I'm a parent. I gave up being realistic a long time ago.