Dear "World's Meanest Mom" --
I know that's what you called yourself in that ad you placed in your local Wyoming newspaper. The one that reads "VERY mad mother selling 16 yr. old son's 1993 Ford Ranger. Drove 3 mos. before son forgot to use his brain and got caught driving drunk. $3500 OBO. Call meanest mother."
I am guessing you don't really believe that. The Internet tells me that you are a trucker in Greybull, Wyo., which means you are likely one tough woman. You also know that the mix of alcohol and steering wheels can be lethal, and that owning a pick-up is a privilege.
I suspect you use "meanest" sarcastically; it's probably what your boy is calling you. But I feel like you know what he can't yet know -- that the most important thing a parent can do sometimes is be mean. Being mean might keep them safe and even help keep them alive.
Your ad is one in a long line of very public declarations by parents that their children probably thought were mean. There's the eBay post that Dawn Meehan created to sell the Pokemon cards that her children snuck into her shopping cart when she had explicitly said "no." There's Tommy Jordan, the Laptop Shooting Dad, who put eight bullets into his daughter's computer after she ranted about him on Facebook. There are all those fathers who have posted videos of themselves destroying their children's cellphones -- one because his daughter "sexted", another when he received a bill for nearly $5000 for 10,000 texts sent on a phone that quite purposefully had no texting plan.
In all those cases public opinion was, shall we say, divided. For every online comment nominating Jordan "Father of the Year" there was one that suggested he be reported to Child Protective Services. In your case, though, everyone seems to agree. A local radio station put a picture of your ad on their Facebook page a week or so ago, and more than 5000 people have chimed in to say "Go you." (61,000 "liked" it.)
Part of the difference has to do with distaste for making parenting so very public. Anger at the techno-bashing dads was not about the punishments, but about the exhibitionism with which those punishments were carried out. (The violence had something to do with it too; I'm pretty sure you can take away a phone or laptop without destroying it first...)
You, on the other hand, didn't seek attention. And you certainly didn't make a YouTube video of yourself shooting the beejeezus out of the pick-up. You simply took out an ad -- an actual classified ad in an old-fashioned local newspaper -- and did what a parent should do.
I hope you sell your truck. I hope you take the money and invest it at a conservative interest rate in your son's name, and then use it to help send him to college. I hope one day, when that part of his brain that moderates risk finally matures, he thinks to thank you.
And I hope that all the readers who already are sending their thanks, the ones who are marveling that stiff-spined mothers like you still exist, will take heart from your example. Responsible parenting doesn't have to mean telling the whole world where you draw the line.
But it does mean making it clear to your child.
Also on HuffPost:
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In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new figures on autism spectrum disorder in the U.S. and they were up: 1 in 88 children is now believed to have autism, compared to the previous estimate of 1 in 110. Experts attribute much of the increase to better screening and diagnosis, AP reported, but that does not mean the findings aren't cause for concern. "Autism is now officially becoming an epidemic in the United States," Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, said at a news conference.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey from July found that 1 in 13 pregnant women in the U.S. drink alcohol. And of those who said they drank, 1 in 5 admitted to going on at least one binge -- having four or more drinks at once. A study that came out a month later found that drinking during pregnancy has long-lasting effects on children's size.
More and more kids are swallowing batteries, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found, sending thousands of children to the ER each year. Between 1997 and 2010, nearly 30,000 kids up to age 4 were taken to the emergency room for battery related injuries, MyHealthNewsDaily reported in August. More than half of the cases involved small, circular button batteries.
In August, the American Academy of Pediatrics -- the U.S.' major pediatrics organization -- revised its policy on infant male circumcision, saying that the health benefits outweigh the risks. But the new guideline stopped short of recommending it routinely, stating instead that it should simply be available to parents who choose it for their sons. To the great surprise of no one, the policy was an immediate source of debate, with one "intactivist" leader telling HuffPost that the AAP had failed to address what she called the "real risks and harms of circumcision."
Also in August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that more moms in the U.S. are breastfeeding their babies. Some 47 percent of moms breastfed their babies for at least six months in 2009 (the latest year for which there is data). That's up from 44 percent the year before. "The headlines 10 years back were, 'Mothers don't breastfeed enough; Is something wrong with mothers?'"Dr. Alison Stuebe, an OB-GYN and assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina told HuffPost. "We've recognized that this is crazy. Let's fix the system rather than going after moms.'"
The number of kids and teens being prescribed antipsychotics has soared, an August study in the Archives of General Psychiatry found. Psychiatrists now prescribe the drugs in one out of every three office visits with children, and increasingly for off label use -- namely, the treatment of ADHD. The latter in particular, experts told HuffPost, is cause for serious concern: "Although antipsychotic medications can deliver rapid improvement in children with severe conduct problems and aggressive behaviors, it is not clear whether they are helpful for the larger group of children with ADHD," study author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, said.
Nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, is a good way for women to manage some of the pain that accompanies labor, a Cochrane review from September said. Though it's not at all popular here in the U.S. -- only 1 percent of women use laughing gas during birth, compared to the 60 percent of women who have an epidural during vaginal delivery -- the review concluded that it is both effective and safe for mom and baby.
Though sleep training can be a source of contention among parents and parenting experts alike, an Australian study published in September concluded that two of the most popular methods are perfectly safe. "Controlled comforting" (basically a modified form of cry-it-out) and "camping out" (when parents sit in the room with their babies and pat or comfort them, but do not feed or cuddle them to sleep), did not have any impact -- good or bad -- on children when researchers looked at them at age 6.
They're still rare, but severe complications from birth are on the rise in the U.S., Reuters reported back in October. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that between 1998 and 2009, the rate of major complications, including things like severe bleeding and kidney failure, essentially doubled. Though experts stressed that most women who give birth are perfectly fine, there has been an increase in women giving birth at older ages, as well as women who are obese or have certain health conditions that up their risk, such as high blood pressure.
Research published in October in the journal Pediatrics showed that boys in the U.S. are entering into puberty at ever earlier ages: On average, boys are starting puberty six months to two years sooner than previous data showed. The study, which is among the first to look at the issue of early-onset puberty in boys, found that white and Hispanic boys now start to show signs of puberty when they are 10, while African American boys may start to show signs when they are 9 years old. What exactly this means isn't yet clear, study researchers said, but it flags an issue that warrants further investigation.
A lot of parents limit the amount of TV their kids watch each day, but research published in October found that many are nonetheless exposed to a lot of it -- in the background. The study, which ran in the journal Pediatrics, found that kids are generally exposed to at least 4 hours of background TV per day (meaning it's on in the same room they're in, even if they're not watching directly) and children under the age of 2 are exposed to 5.5 hours every day.
A November study in the journal Human Reproduction caused quite a stir when it suggested that SSRIs, a type of antidepressants, may increase the risk of complications when taken during pregnancy. Problems include risk of miscarriage, birth defects, neurobehavioral problems and more, the study researchers said. But there was significant push back from many mental health experts who rushed to write letters to the editor saying that the study ignored the many risks of untreated depression.
In November, the March of Dimes released its annual preemie birth rate report card and, overall, the news was good: The U.S. preterm birth rate was the lowest it has been in a decade, dropping to 11.7 percent. While that is certainly welcome news, the U.S. still has a long way to go, March of Dimes experts told HuffPost. Overall, the country still only earned a "C" and only four states (Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire and Maine) earned an "A."
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