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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for March, 2010

Gender Bias

Posted by Barack Levin on 30th March 2010

I have a boy and a girl and in the last year or so I have noticed something that as a parent disturbs me to the point of irritation.

I think that an example would explain my concern better than any other explanation. Take Halloween and the kids’ costumes. Boys are dressed up as policeman, cowboys or super heroes and girls dress up as princesses, ballerinas or queens. Pretty normal for this age and for such kids, but what does it really tell us.

The underlying theme here is that boys dress up as useful characters of society. They dress up as characters who force the law, help other people, role models and contributors to the society. Girls on the other side are dressed up as pretty little things. None of their costumes shows any hint that they are doing something to contribute society. They all rely on one thing and one thing only – their beauty ad their ability to attract the opposite sex.

But it does not stop only there. When girls grow up, it is seemed that they are constantly being taught by us, the parents, to just make themselves look beautiful and wait for the prince to come and save them. Look at the all the animated films. In almost all of them the girl is this little flimsy thin character (a damsel in distress) who can not make even one single decision on her own and has to wait for the strong man to come and rescue her.

It does not stop only there. Look at kids toys. Girls play with dolls, and boy? They always build something. Again, the same pattern repeats itself. Boy are contributors to society and girls just need to look beautiful.

And this brain washing continues even into adulthood. Young men are expected to ask the women out, propose and take on the financial responsibility. And women, they are taught that they should marry a reach guy. Who cares about love, relationship and equality?

I do understand that girls and women have a tendency towards the arts, design and beauty but still, I want to raise my kids differently.

When it comes to my girl, I expose her to the same things I expose m son so that she can learn that she does not have to rely only on her looks. She has a personality, character, charisma and skills that she needs to find out, develop and achieve great achievements as she grows.

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What is the Real Problem?

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd March 2010

My kids have joined an activity center for spring break. They go there every morning and come back around 1:30 in the afternoon, exhausted. They do not know the other kids at the activity center and need to make new friends. My little girl (4) became friendly with another older girl within 30 seconds after she met her. At the end of the first day, when I stopped by to pick her up, she was chatting with some other friends and they all invited her to play again the next day.

My son (6) was another story. He came home after the first day and said he did not want to go back anymore. When I asked him why, he said: “I did not have fun”. Well, being the father I am, I did not think that his answer made any sense, but than again I did not want to force him to go. I decided I will ask him a series of questions until I get to the bottom of things and if I can reach that point, I might be able to find a solution.

I started asking what he did and he replied that they jumped on some moonwalks, ate, played soccer and goofed around. I asked him if other activities would make him feel better and he said no. I continued to ask him to explain what he did during each activity. I was afraid that he might have been left out and felt ashamed. But no, he joined all the activities and played with other kids. “Did some one hit you?’ I asked, thinking may be this is the reason. “No”. “Did the guide hurt you in any way”, I continued. “No”. “Did you like the food?” the answer was “Yes”. “Did you like the moonwalks?”, “Yes”, he answered. “Did you like playing with the new friends”, “I do not have many but yes, I did”. I was puzzled. I was running out of questions and still everything seemed to be normal. “Did you enjoy playing soccer?” I asked. “Yes”, he answered, “but I did not play much.” Bingo! I was sensing I was on to something. “What do you mean?” His answer surprised me “I was not able to kick the ball too many times”. Now I solved the puzzle. At school he is considered one of the best players, and here he has to compete with older kids who know each other but do not know him. That’s why he does not want to go back. He put it very nicely – he does not have fun. It was nap time and I was already planning my solution.

When he woke up I set him down and told him: “You see, now I understand that you do not have fun because you do not kick the ball enough, so guess what? I got a ball for you to bring tomorrow and play with your friends. This way you can kick as much as you want”. His eyes lit up. He was happy not only about the ball but also about the fact that his dad understood and listened to him and above all solved his problems.

From that day on we never had a problem with him. He loves to go to the activity center and play with the other kids and already made some new friends.

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Jet Lag

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd March 2010

We are an international family and our parents are spread all around the world. As a result, our kids started taking long international flights at the tender age of 3 months. There are international flight and than again, there are international flights. I am talking about the really long ones. The shortest flights we take are 9 hours long and the longest ones are about 14. If you take into account that this is only the actual flight time and not the door-to-door trip, you end up with a total trip around 20 hours easily on the long route. Do not forget that every outbound flight is accompanied very shortly after by an inbound flight and a simple trip to visit the grandparents can easily take 40 hours round trip. Since we knew that from an early age we will be flying frequently with our kids on such long flights, we made the preparations to make these trips as easy as possible for all of us. This is a subject for another post, but our kids are a pleasure to travel with. I have just landed in our destination no more than 36 hours ago. I can never sleep on flights. The noise and vibrations bother me, but the kids, the kids are a different story. For about 2 hours they played quietly and watched some TV. No one even noticed them. After that they went to sleep for almost the full duration of the flight. They woke up 2 hours before landing. Asked to go to the restrooms, for some breakfast and took out some toys. My older son (6) brought a math book with him and practiced for about an hour, my little girl (4) switched between the TV and watching outside the window. Before long, it was time to land and we reached my parents house at 5PM. We took the kids for some bike riding to burn their energy; after all they just spent roughly 14 hours on a plane. At 10 PM we put them to sleep. We had to wake them up at 7AM the next morning for some of their scheduled activities and that was that for their jet lag. Over after one day. It reminded me that another couple we know with kids who always complain that it takes their kids 10 days to adjust to these jet lags and they decided to give up on flying long distances and I feel that there is always a way to get kids to overcome jet lag in a breeze.

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Kids and Homework

Posted by Barack Levin on 12th March 2010

Today we had a parent teacher conference for my son. During the meeting, his teacher suggested that since he likes Math, he should practice some more with a book she has for him. I am generally against giving kids more homework to do. They need some play time too, but I still took it and left it on the kitchen table.

I picked up my son from a friend and brought him back home. I showed him the book and told him if he knows what it is. He told me he did and wanted to have a look. Since in our house, the kids watch on average 1 hour of TV every 2 weeks, they are always engaged in other activities to fill their time and so he started looking into the different chapters in the book. Before too long, he was all excited to solve the math problems and I left him there to do his thing. After about 30 minutes he decided he had enough and went to his room. I bought him a Nintendo DSI recently which he loves, but also knows he can not play with no more than 30 minutes a day. He went upstairs, played a little, and to my very surprise, after about 10 minutes he came back down telling me he played enough for the day and wanted to go back to the math book. For the next hour or so and during dinner, he was solving problems and enjoying (yes, I mean it, enjoying) practicing his math.

It is not the first time I witness my kids relaxed, calmed and patient. They can sit with us and learn something new not for only several minutes but half an hour to an hour easily without fidgeting, screaming or yelling. Just enjoying the time spent with their mom and dad. For me it is a proof that the less exposure to TV and video games a kid has and the more time a kid has with his parents, all of those ADD\ADHD symptoms are just gone away. The calming and relaxing atmosphere, changes their behavior as well.

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Pirates Ahead

Posted by Barack Levin on 11th March 2010

My boy came home today with some new and challenging homework. He was given pictures of ordinary street signs and was asked to find out what they mean. The signs included some basic ones like “Do Not Enter”,” Stop” sign and other familiar signs to him, but some were knew.

We went over the list. The first one showed a triangular yellowish sign with a flame on it.  I asked my boy what he thought the sign was all about he told me it is fire. I confirmed and told him it is a sign for flammable or hot objects. The next one was the same shape but with an lightning rod sign on it. He immediately jumped up and said to be careful of lightening and thunders. Good call, but not accurate. So I had to explain that this sign was electricity.

The next sign was again the same shape, but had a skull and bones on it. It was a danger poison sign and as an adult it was so obvious when I saw it. However, my son’s reply caused me to laugh so hard that I almost peed in my pants. Understanding that these shapes of signs show some kind of a warning, he said without hesitation: “This is a sign for pirates”. I could understand his logic. His pirate book has the same symbol.

After a good and long laugh I explained that this sign is also a danger poison sign.

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My Violent Girl

Posted by Barack Levin on 11th March 2010

My girl came home today with her usual daily report and told me to read it because:” The teacher wrote something for you” and so I did. The note indicated that my little sweet girl was involved in a fight with one of her friends. The note stated that the other friend said something to my girl and my little one retaliated with a barrage of feast fights.

I know my girl and I know that she will not start a fight and decided to ask for her version of the story. What I got was slightly different than the note. She said that the other girl wanted a toy from her and when my girl did not give it to her, she reverted to force, and pushed her. My sweet daughter, who has been trained to face such situations, did not hesitate and pushed her friend ack, hence the note we got from the teacher.

You might ask yourself, how do you know that your girl did not lie to you? The short answer is, I just know it and will gladly explain how in another post.  In this instance, I know that she was not the initiator and that she acted exactly as anticipated. My girl knew it as well and was waiting to see what I would say.

The first thing out of my mouth was: “Give me hi-five. I am very proud of you. You did exactly what you should be doing”. She was pleased. She knew she followed my instructions and true to my words when I told her what to do I also told her she will not be punished in such situations.

The whole incident was soon forgotten, but my girl proved to me once again that I can trust my kids to act the way I think they should even if I am not there and defend themselves against bullies.

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McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s

Posted by Barack Levin on 1st March 2010

I do not believe in fast food. I think it is harmful for the kids, causes them to get abdicated on junk food and does not expose them to healthy foods. As a result, we do not take our kids to any fast food restaurants, not any of the above mentioned ones and not to any other heavily processed, oil dripping and French fries savvy food chain. Since my kids are not exposed to any commercials on TV, they are not even aware of these types of restaurants and I would like to keep it this way.

Today I was taking the kids out to eat at our favorite salad bar restaurant where they serve raw vegetables, soups, whole wheat bread, cheese, fruits and some ice cream. The ice cream is a treat for the kids, because we also limit sugar intake in the house (which means, candies, cookies and ice cream). On the way to the restaurant, my son asked me if I knew what his favorite place to dine was. I thought about it and decided to test something. I said:. “Is it McDonalds?” I wish I could fully describe the look of surprise on his face. “McDo.. what?” he said. “McDonald’s, you know, where you go eat”. He again looked at me surprised. “Don’t know what you are talking about” he replied. “My favorite place is the Sweet Tomato”.

I could not hide my satisfaction. He is almost 6 years old and never eaten in a fast food chain of any kind; he does not even know their names, the menus or their mascots. I feel that I have prepared him well for a life of healthy eating and no (or very little junk food).

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