Things to Read - Five Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on a Mass Murderer, Seasons, Female Speakers, Funny Babies, and an Anti-Holiday Rant)

1. (A Mass Murderer's Father Speaks) - Okay, so this was DEPRESSING and also really scary. Andrew Solomon describes a man who knew his son was different (and the family sought help), but was never violent. Well, until he was.

“And talk about talkative: man, that kid, you couldn’t shut him up!” Peter said. . . . They would talk about politics. Adam was a fan of Ron Paul, and liked to argue economic theory. He became fascinated with guns and with the Second World War, and showed an interest in joining the military. But he never talked about mass murder, and he wasn’t violent at school. He seldom revealed his emotions, but had a sharp sense of humor. When Peter took him to see Bill Cosby live, Adam laughed for an hour straight. He loved reruns of “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Get Smart,” which he would watch with his dad. One Christmas, Adam told his parents that he wanted to use his savings to buy toys for needy children, and Peter took him shopping for them.

. . . .

Peter and Nancy, who remained amicable in dealing with their children’s needs, looked into special schools, public and private. Peter went to a meeting of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) to talk to adults on the spectrum and to try to imagine a life for his son. He hoped that “eventually we could get him into GRASP and he would form relationships and maybe get married to somebody else with Asperger’s.” Nancy considered moving to a town fifty miles away, where the school system had strong programs for children with special needs, but concluded that the disruption involved would cancel out any benefits. She briefly enrolled Adam in a Catholic school that seemed to offer more structure, but that didn’t go well, either. Fox recommended homeschooling, arguing that the disadvantages of sending Adam to a regular school were worse than those of isolating him from his peers. From eighth grade on, Nancy taught Adam the humanities and Peter met with Adam twice a week to handle the sciences.

. . . .

Peter and Nancy sought professional support repeatedly, and none of the doctors they saw detected troubling violence in Adam’s disposition. According to the state’s attorney’s report, “Those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior.” Peter said, “Here we are near New York, one of the best locations for mental-health care, and nobody saw this.”

. . . .

"Peter declared that he wished Adam had never been born, that there could be no remembering who he was outside of who he became. “That didn’t come right away. That’s not a natural thing, when you’re thinking about your kid. But, God, there’s no question. There can only be one conclusion, when you finally get there. That’s fairly recent, too, but that’s totally where I am.”


2. (Seasons) - On Saturday the temps neared 70 degrees, then on Monday a huge snow storm caused schools to close for the day. So Zadie Smith's Elegy for a Country's Seasons really struck a cord with me this week.

"There is the scientific and ideological language for what is happening to the weather, but there are hardly any intimate words. Is that surprising? People in mourning tend to use euphemism; likewise the guilty and ashamed. The most melancholy of all the euphemisms: “The new normal.” “It’s the new normal,” I think, as a beloved pear tree, half-drowned, loses its grip on the earth and falls over. The train line to Cornwall washes away—the new normal. We can’t even say the word “abnormal” to each other out loud: it reminds us of what came before. Better to forget what once was normal, the way season followed season, with a temperate charm only the poets appreciated."

3. (Female Speakers) - Mary Beard's article on the Public Voice of Women really made me think (and cry). and think and cry. Even now, how everyone mocks "mommy blogs", but nobody ever takes a swing at daddy blogs (or maybe I'm just oversensitive on this issue).

"This ‘muteness’ is not just a reflection of women’s general disempowerment throughout the classical world: no voting rights, limited legal and economic independence and so on. Ancient women were obviously not likely to raise their voices in a political sphere in which they had no formal stake. But we’re dealing with a much more active and loaded exclusion of women from public speech than that – and, importantly, it’s one with a much greater impact than we usually acknowledge on our own traditions, conventions and assumptions about the voice of women. What I mean is that public speaking and oratory were not merely things that ancient women didn’t do: they were exclusive practices and skills that defined masculinity as a gender. As we saw with Telemachus, to become a man – and we’re talking elite man – was to claim the right to speak. Public speech was a – if not the – defining attribute of maleness. A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman. We find repeated stress throughout ancient literature on the authority of the deep male voice. As one ancient scientific treatise explicitly put it, a low-pitched voice indicated manly courage, a high-pitched voice female cowardice.

. . . .

But the more I have looked at the threats and insults that women have received, the more I have found that they fit into the old patterns I’ve been talking about. For a start it doesn’t much matter what line you take as a woman, if you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it, it’s the fact you’re saying it. And that matches the detail of the threats themselves. They include a fairly predictable menu of rape, bombing, murder and so forth (I may sound very relaxed about it now; that doesn’t mean it’s not scary when it comes late at night). But a significant subsection is directed at silencing the woman – ‘Shut up you bitch’ is a fairly common refrain.


4. (Life with a Baby) - And now for a (much needed) funny read - The Ugly Volvo's description of life with a baby had me laughing like crazy.

"9:40 Sit on the floor and clap, hoping to teach baby to clap. Baby will not clap. Go online and Google, “How old babies start clapping?” and read article saying they start to do this more between 9 and 12 months. (Baby is 11 months old)

9:43 Spend the next few minutes going, “Well sh*t, maybe there’s something wrong with the baby. He should be clapping more.”

9:47 Remind myself that he seems really well-adjusted and happy so maybe he’s just a late clapper.

10:05 Get bored of playing with baby. Attempt one of the things from overzealous to-do list. Baby immediately crawls out of my vision and begins eating dog food. I abandon list and pull the dog food out of his mouth. He becomes sad. I cheer up baby by pretending to eat his hands.

10:20 Baby and I look at and point to the fan for a while, going, “Where’s the fan? There’s the fan.”

10:40 Feed baby while listening to public radio. Halfheartedly debate calling in to the Brian Lehrer show and giving them my opinion on something related to the Superbowl for no reason other than wanting to talk to an adult."


5. (An Anti-Holiday Rant) - And finally, I found Kristen Howerton's anti-holiday rant both hysterically funny and completely correct. Please, let's all take it down a notch (not all the way down, just a notch) okay readers?

"This past Sunday was St. Patrick's Day, a holiday I had completely forgotten about until my oldest stumbled out of bed and into the living room at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday night while we were watching SNL. "Can I help you guys hide the gold coins?" he asked. The WHAT? "The gold coins. I know the leprechauns aren't real. I know it's you, like Santa. So I want to help you. I can make the leprechaun trap, too."

We told him to go to bed and then looked at each other with exasperation. Gold coins? A leprechaun trap? Is he serious? When I was a kid we celebrated St. Patrick's Day by wearing something green. THE END. I had noticed that over the past few years, our kids were getting some grander ideas from school. But I didn't think that we needed to replicate these experiences at home.

Apparently, the children believed that we did.

All four of them woke up and came into our room like it was Christmas morning.

So. Many. Expectations.

All of which were dashed.

. . . .

Fellow parents: St. Patrick's Day is supposed to be a "phone-it-in" holiday. Yes, I've turned into a bit of a grinch, but SERIOUSLY WITH THE HOLIDAY OVERKILL. It used to be Christmas was the main event, but now it's as if every holiday must be at a Level 10. And if Christmas wasn't already hard enough as a parent, someone also decided that we have to move an Elf around every day, into creative tableaus? And then someone else decided that the Advent Calendar was A Thing beyond a simple religious observation and now involves some kind of gift each day leading up to Christmas?

And about a month after having survived that whole mess, we've got Valentine's Day, which has became The New Halloween, because God forbid you send a simple store-bought card. You'd better include some candy or your child will be shunned. Shunned! One of my kids came home with not just a candy from each class, but a WHOLE FREAKING GOODIE BAG from each student."

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