04/30/2012 07:10 pm ET

Parenthesis: The Best Of The Mom And Dad Blogs This Week

This week on Parenthesis, we sympathize with The Didactic Pirate's math homework troubles, ponder the possibility of blogging selflessly with Her Bad Mother and share a GeekDad blogger's shock about a hurtful, sexist sweepstakes.

Dad, the Math Doofus
Still helping your sons and daughters with their math homework? Savor your perceived omniscience while it lasts. On DadCentric, The Didactic Pirate describes the day his daughter moved beyond the realm of his mathematical expertise, leaving him to scramble in the hope that she'd have an epiphany before the extent of his ignorance was revealed. If you've ever tried to help a kid with algebra -- or approached parents with a tricky assignment yourself -- this post will make you smile:

Had we finally reached the event horizon, the day when my daughter had to solve math problems that her father was too simple-minded to do? Was it time to confess to my daughter that her dad is, in fact, nothing more than a Math Doofus? And would that mark the end of my role as authority figure, advice giver, sage, prophet, Guy With All the Answers To Everything?

Striving for selflessness

Blogs can be powerful tools for raising awareness. In the past month alone, we -- and thousands of others -- have learned more about conditions like Smith-Magenis Syndrome and Spinal Muscular Atrophy through the efforts of blogger parents who want to share their children's (often heartbreaking) stories.

But where is the line between public service and personal profit? Should it matter if a blogger is getting something (tangible or not) in return for blogging about a cause or charity she cares about? Catherine from Her Bad Mother has republished a post on on the potential moral pitfalls of "doing good online," which examines these questions.

I have, in the past, written about my nephew, Tanner, who is dying of Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. I have told myself that I write about him to raise awareness of, and money for, DMD. I have told myself that I write about him to work through my feelings about what he is going through and what my sister is going through and what our family is going through. ...

[B]ut… writing about [subjects like this] means other things, too. It brings opportunities, adventures. In the case of Tanner, it boosts blog traffic, and comments. And that’s where I start to worry. Because although increased blog traffic means that more people are seeing his story, it also means that more people are seeing me, and I never want my motivations to become confused in this regard.

"[L]ooking to our own good in the service of some greater good isn’t wrong," she notes. In fact, it might be impossible to avoid ("we’re self-interested creatures"). "But I think that it is important that we examine our motivations whenever our own good becomes a factor -– a factor that we can see and recognize as such –- in deciding how we will act."

Ellen Seidman double whammy

This week, Love That Max's Ellen Seidman probed the background of two viral phenomena related to children with special needs.

First, she spoke with Public Health professor Dr. John R. Lutzker about New Jersey dad Stuart Chaifetz's decision to send his son, who has autism, to school with a wire. (If you haven't seen the heart-stopping video monologue in which Chaifetz explains the entire experience, watch it immediately.)

Among other things, Lutzker told Seidman:

"While I can't interpret this situation, what I can say broad-scale is that education has become lower-valued and the resources may not be there. There is nowhere near the training there needs to be, both in terms of sensitivities, recognition and skills that all teachers — special needs or not — need."

Seidman also responded to a second (meaner) Internet sensation -- the story, reported in The Sun, of 16-year-old British teenager Heidi Crowter, whose picture has been co-opted as part of an odious meme that mocks people with special needs (Crowter has Down syndrome). Seidman writes:

For those people who've commented that there's nothing wrong with casually using the word "retard": I wonder if they'd see anything wrong with what happened to Heidi. That's the thing: Keep using the word "retard" as a joke and it perpetuates the idea that those with Down syndrome and other special needs are worthy of being made fun of.

A very sexist sweepstakes

Can't girls like "Star Wars," too? GeekDad guest blogger Michael B. Eisen describes the reaction his daughter -- an ardent baseball, "Star Wars," and video game fan -- had when she saw an ad for “The Ultimate Father-Son Sweepstakes” online.

While technically, anybody could enter to win the "Kinect Star Wars"-themed contest's two sets of MLB tickets, the advertising campaign was clearly targeted to boys and men alone -- a fact both Eisen and his six-year-old registered with frank dismay.

I was dumbfounded, and was sure I must have been reading it wrong. There was no way Major League Baseball, who have made a serious effort to reach out to their female fans, would slap my daughter in the face this way. But it said what it said. ULTIMATE FATHER-SON SWEEPSTAKES.

So I explained it to her. And she began to cry. “Why,” she asked through her tears, “is it only for boys? I like baseball too.”

If Eisen is anything like Mur Lafferty -- whose rousing letter to her daughter we highlighted here last week ("You change their mind by showing them how being a girl is awesome. You show them by not hiding, by not being demure.") -- his daughter will get all the support she needs.

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