Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Goat Bandit Girls

They might have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for that pesky neighbor. The one who called 911 to report a curious sight; something that seemed out of place for this quiet neighborhood in Mankato, Minnesota: two young girls, in their pajamas, walking down the street in the middle of the night, with a goat.

Apparently, the 911 operator found that a bit odd as well and sent an officer to investigate. (Though in my neighborhood, you might have to through in two chickens and a donkey before it raised anyone's eyebrows.) When police arrived, they found the odd trio just as it was described, and decided to ask a few questions. The girls tried to explain that the goat lived in their closet, and that they routinely took it out for late night walks. Nothing out of the ordinary here . . . just two girls and their goat, out for a midnight stroll. The officer wasn't buying it. He walked the girls home and talked with the parents. Forget about police videos of car thieves or drunks falling over -- I want to see taped footage of how that conversation went down.

As it turns out, the step sisters, ages 6 and 7, had attended a birthday party at the Sibley Park Zoo earlier that day, when they had apparently grown so fond of the goats they decided they would take one of them home and keep it as a pet. (No word on how they smuggled the goat out of the petting zoo.) I must give them props; as a child I surprised my parents with snakes, rescued baby birds that were stashed away in strange places (usually not at the same time), but a goat? That takes ambition.

All things considered, getting caught as they did is probably for the best. Something tells me that a goat in the closet wouldn't have turned out too well in the end. If somehow the trip-trap of hoof prints coming from the bedroom didn't alert mom and dad, trying to explain why you got hungry and ate holes in all your school clothes would have been a dead give away. Although having a goat in your closet might have provided a credible excuses for why you home work got eaten . . . assuming, of course, your teacher bought into the whole goat in your closet story.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How to Forgive a Shark

When six year old Lucy Magnum was recently bitten by a shark as she boogie-boarded in the shallow waters off the North Carolina coast, she was understandably upset. Thanks to her parents, who acted quickly to get her out of the water and applied pressure to the wound, Doctor's were able to save her leg.

Recovering from her wounds in the hospital, Lucy angrily declared: "I hate sharks. I like dolphins way better." But once her parents explained that the shark had simply made a mistake and didn't know she was a human when it bit her, her attitude changed: "I don't care that the shark bit me," she told her mother. "I forgive him."

It is an amusing story, but we grabbed on to it because it nicely illustrates an important principle of psychological healing: the manner in which you frame experiences can completely alter a child's emotional reaction to it.

People can behave like sharks sometimes in that they often make mistakes that can cause others a great deal of pain and suffering. Yet how you explain those things -- as either the product of intentional malice or the misunderstanding and imperfections of flawed humans -- will determine whether a child finds a quick psychological recovery, or stays stuck in a ruminative state of negative emotions that stays with them well into the future.

Children will suffer injustices in their lives at the hands of others. Yet when they do, parents routinely cause their child far my harm than the event they are concerned about by modeling reactions that teach them a negative, stigmatizing or destructive way of relating to that event. Remember this: while experiences are limited in nature, a child's interpretation of that experience, which is largely garnered by the attitude of adults, will endure well into the future. Whether a child continues to be bothered by a negative experience often has little to do with the event itself, and everything with how parents teach them to relate to that event.

Just like sharks, people sometime make mistakes in the way they act. And just like it feels worse to think a mean-spirited shark is out to ruin our fun at the beach by trying to eat us on purpose, it feels worse when parents react to a child's other negative experience with explanations that involve intentional malice or other stigmatizing ideas. So be very careful in how you teach children to interpret the world. You want them to live in a world where good people sometimes make mistakes, not one where sharks are out to gobble them up whole.

Monday, August 1, 2011

School Bus Fees

It's a sign of the times, parents in Indianapolis, Indiana will now have to pay for school bus privileges for their children. Franklin township Community School Corp outsourced its busing duties After running into financial difficulties. Parents in the district must now pay an outside firm more that $400 a year for each child to have them taken to and from school. Angry parents packed a town hall meeting to question why the district wasn't tapping it's 17 million dollar rainy day fund to pay for it's own transportation. I guess they figured the school teachers already paying out of pocket for most classroom supplies, and parents around the country filling in for other budget cuts so their school can keep basic services such as a library, why not try to tap that stone for just a little more blood.

We have also learned that Douglas County School District in Colorado, charges it's students for bus rides and will be starting their second year of this pay for the ride program when school starts August 10th.

Off topic, yet interesting:

Biologist from the university of California, Dadis, have discovered that Western Scrub Jays hold funerals. The birds will gather in large crowds around dead comrades and voice themselves loudly. Their calls are different than those that alert of predators, indicating a unique ritual. Interestingly enough, they also held gatherings around deceased birds of other species. Though their calls weren't as robust as when it was their own kind.