Family and Society: June 2007 Archives

Dawn Eden in Chicago


For all you Chicagoans, Dawn Eden is going to be discussing and signing copies of her book at St. Alphonsus Church in my old stomping grounds on July 10th. It should be a good time!

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Name That Baby

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This is nuts. Neurotic parents paying third parties to recommend names for their babies. Is there any part of parenting we won't outsource?

Some parents are checking Social Security data to make sure their choices aren't too trendy, while others are fussing over every consonant like corporate branding experts. They're also pulling ideas from books, Web sites and software programs, and in some cases, hiring professional baby-name consultants who use mathematical formulas.

Professional baby-name consultants? Seriously? This would be only laughably pathetic if it weren't a symptom of a rejection of traditional family and religious ties.

At our parish, Jenny and I are in charge of a committee that conducts classes for parents who want to have children baptized. One of the things we do is have everybody talk about their own names and the names they plan to give (or have already given) their children. We try to hit the point of having a saint's name, though really I'm equally impressed with couples who have dear family members they wish to honor as with couples who pull them out of the breviary.

Yet increasingly, the answer to "Who are you named after?" will be "Nobody," and on top of the usual angst, tomorrow's teenagers will also have to deal with the fact that, after drafting college students and unemployed poor women to carry them, and before shipping them off to daycare 6 weeks after birth, their parents also PayPal-ed five bills to a complete stranger to draft a naming portfolio. How much more will the insecurity be multiplied when they realize that the appellation strategy consisted of misspelling a perfectly good name and that they are going to spend the rest of their lives paying for their parents' idiocy by spelling their names two or three times to every customer service representative and civil servant they encounter?

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As the father of two boys 18 months apart, this resonates, though I should also point out that on Saturday little Charlie (my baby!) bludgeoned his older brother with a small but dense wooden block.

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Letting boys be boys

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The NY Sun reviews a book that sounds promising.

"The Dangerous Book for Boys" (Collins, 288 pages, $24.95), by the British brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden, is a big red textbook of facts and figures, diagrams and blueprints, games and projects, and history and advice, meant to encourage curiosity, self-reliance, and fearlessness in the male of the species...

If this book ought to worry anyone, it's lazy teachers, cynical marketing executives, drug-pushing psychiatrists, and anyone else who takes advantage of children and the popular nonsense about their fragility and incompetence. The only negative reviews on whine about glaring omissions or that the contents aren't dangerous enough. They're on the right track, but they miss the point: A taste of what's cool and challenging is all that kids need to strike out on their own bruised, scraped, sometimes concussed journeys of discovery...

They've bequeathed our country a textbook for boys who hope to become men, whereas the present system produces boys who can only hope to become older, fatter, more dependent boys. The Igguldens detail the rules of soccer (along with stickball and rugby), but in their section on word origins they also give the etymology and definition of "hooligan," not to mention "quisling," "thug," and "assassin."

And "chivalry." The book is a deeply moral one, which recognizes that just because boys will be boys doesn't mean they have to be stupid or malicious ones. It's never too early to memorize useful Latin phrases or Shakespeare quotations or poems by Kipling and Shelley. Of "Ozymandias," they write, in their lapidary textbook style, "This poem was written as a commentary on human arrogance." Your average elementary school teacher would have complained that the vocabulary is too difficult, or the verse lacking in relevance, which means it isn't about drugs or teen pregnancy. The Igguldens, like most boys, know better.

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Kay Hymowitz and Brad Wilcox encourage the Republican presidential candidates to drop a different kind of f-bomb. Their argument is obviously a winning one, the problem is that they are also correct that the current "top-tier" candidates are in no position to make it.

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family and Society category from June 2007.

Family and Society: May 2007 is the previous archive.

Family and Society: August 2007 is the next archive.

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