Things to Read - Six Interesting Articles From Around the Web (Overprotected Kids, World Resources, Average Kids, Happy Teens, Army Wives, & A Reluctant Pop Star)

1. (Overprotected Kids) - Atlantic Monthly published a fantastic feature article on the Overprotected Kid (which is really worth reading in its entirety).

"It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. One very thorough study of “children’s independent mobility,” conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now it’s even lower. When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them?

. . . .

One common concern of parents these days is that children grow up too fast. But sometimes it seems as if children don’t get the space to grow up at all; they just become adept at mimicking the habits of adulthood. As Hart’s research shows, children used to gradually take on responsibilities, year by year. They crossed the road, went to the store; eventually some of them got small neighborhood jobs. Their pride was wrapped up in competence and independence, which grew as they tried and mastered activities they hadn’t known how to do the previous year. But these days, middle-class children, at least, skip these milestones. They spend a lot of time in the company of adults, so they can talk and think like them, but they never build up the confidence to be truly independent and self-reliant."

2. (World Resources) - In How the World's Resources Aren't Running Out, the WSJ focuses on how differences between economists and ecologists affects everyone's worldview.

"This disagreement goes to the heart of many current political issues and explains much about why people disagree about environmental policy. In the climate debate, for example, pessimists see a limit to the atmosphere's capacity to cope with extra carbon dioxide without rapid warming. So a continuing increase in emissions if economic growth continues will eventually accelerate warming to dangerous rates. But optimists see economic growth leading to technological change that would result in the use of lower-carbon energy. That would allow warming to level off long before it does much harm.

. . . .

Part of the problem is that the word "consumption" means different things to the two tribes. Ecologists use it to mean "the act of using up a resource"; economists mean "the purchase of goods and services by the public" (both definitions taken from the Oxford dictionary).

But in what sense is water, tellurium or phosphorus "used up" when products made with them are bought by the public? They still exist in the objects themselves or in the environment. Water returns to the environment through sewage and can be reused. Phosphorus gets recycled through compost. Tellurium is in solar panels, which can be recycled. As the economist Thomas Sowell wrote in his 1980 book "Knowledge and Decisions," "Although we speak loosely of 'production,' man neither creates nor destroys matter, but only transforms it."

3. (Average Kids) - I loved (and related to) this blog post from Sweet Fine Day titled "What's Wrong With Being Average?"

"How do you answer this question when it’s asked by your 10 year old? Especially when you were raised in a pretty typical Asian-American household where average wasn’t acceptable? (There’s a reason why those Asian parent memes are funny) Because truthfully? Despite how I was raised and despite whatever struggles I have with it myself, the answer is . . . nothing. There’s really nothing wrong with being average. So I did the only thing I could when I was caught off guard when asked that question point blank during a confrontation about homework – I didn’t answer, mostly because I didn’t know what to say at that moment.

. . . .

Turns out I’m that mom who gives her kids extra writing assignments during school vacations and downloads practice tests to complete on the weekends leading up to the state tests. Really didn’t see that coming, but I still don’t consider myself a “Tiger Mom”. I think there is a line between encouraging your children to do their best and pressuring your kids to succeed beyond what they’re capable of, and I don’t plan on ever crossing it. But I’m still trying to figure it out and I’m sure I’ll make a few mistakes along the way. What worked for me, how I was raised, and how I performed in school are the not the standards that I should hold my kids to because the girls aren’t me. I do, of course, want my kids to do their best and succeed, but by whose definition of success am I measuring? It’s different for everyone, isn’t it?"

4. (Happy Teens) - It's nice to know that meaningful activities protect the brain from depression (now I just need to find some meaningful activities).

In a new study, researchers aimed to figure out how the tender brains of adolescents reacted to the more bacchanalian rewards, like video games and drugs, versus the more pro-social ones, like “helping others in need, expressing gratitude, and working toward long-term goals.” Would the teens who get their jollies from volunteering be happier, in the long run, than those who live only for Grand Theft Auto?

. . . .

It turned out the teens who had the greatest brain response to the generous, family-donation financial decision had the greatest declines in depressive symptoms over time. And those who got a boost from the risk-taking game were more likely to have an increase in depression. The types of rewards the teens responded to, it seems, changed their behavior in ways that altered their overall well-being."

5. (Army Wives) - Simone Gorrindo published an excellent piece, on Vela, about being both a writer and an army wife.

"Wife is worn in this world as a badge of honor, and, for the most part, rightfully so: the Rangers are the only unit in the army that has been deployed nonstop since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and throughout it all, the wives have held it together, raising kids, holding full-time jobs, waking to their children crying in the night, having to look them in the eye and answer the question, “Why is Daddy always leaving?” It’s exhausting stuff, and I was particularly pleased to see one wife, a good friend of mine who’s endured more than ten deployments, receive two awards recently. It doesn’t happen often enough; it should happen more often. There’s nothing wrong, absolutely nothing, with this status, and I am honored to carry it. But it’s still a possessive title, perhaps illustrated most directly in our subtitles: we’re dependents, our presence in this world is sponsored. To access any information, to make a medical appointment, we don’t give our social security numbers but our husbands’. Without the number, we’re cut off, cut loose, and it’s hard not to think how precarious this standing can be; it’s hard not to think that this isn’t my world, that I’m just a guest in it.

I won’t be a Ranger wife forever. And then, what will be my “brand”? Who will I be? How much, in making this transition, have I left behind, not just as a human being but as a writer?"

6. (A Reluctant Pop Star) - And, finally, the New York Times Magazine interviewed Sia Furler, a top 40 song writer and a hesitant (possible) pop star. The piece is an interesting read regarding the perils and high points of "success" (link via Read.Look.Think).

"In recent years, [Furler] has become a one-woman hit factory, working with Kurstin and others to write songs for artists like Christina Aguilera and BeyoncĂ©. And her hits — including Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” and Eminem’s “Beautiful Pain” — seem to roll off something of a pop-music assembly line. Furler wrote Rihanna’s “Diamonds” in 14 minutes.

. . . .

“Maybe I’m embarrassed because I’m writing something so cheesy. Then something like that experience will happen, and I’ll realize maybe I’m not as stupid as I thought — and maybe people aren’t as stupid as I think. It occurs to me that there is value to what I do.”

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