Saturday, March 28, 2015

Turning Off Violent and Rude Television Programming

Now that my little minion is seven years old, he has outgrown a lot of the cute, educational toddler programming that he used to love and that I used to enjoy watching with him. Shows like "Peppa Pig" and "Curious George" have been replaced by "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", "Sponge Bob" and "Fairly Odd Parents".

There is absolutely nothing of value beyond pure mindless entertainment in the shows that the kiddo wants to watch now. Not only that, some of the programs are disturbing to me. For example, the characters on "Sam and Kat" are just plain rude. I don't want my child emulating that type of behavior with others in real life.

But even more disturbing to me is the inherent violence in programming targeted to young boys. One day I sat next to Christopher while he watched some cartoon called "Teen Titans Go" starring Robin (from Batman and Robin). In this show, Robin woke up, got out of bed, picked up a big stick and then walked around the house whacking people and animals over the head with it and then laughing about it. That was the entire plot of the first five minutes of the show. Hitting and laughing, hitting and laughing, hitting and laughing.

I looked over at Christopher and every time Robin laughed, Christopher laughed. He was enthralled and I was appalled. He thought it was funny to attack people because Robin thought it was funny to attack people. I cannot believe that this show was even allowed to be on the air. For the record, this show lasted for five minutes with us before I stood up and turned of the TV. After that, I had to listen to Christopher scream and cry in protest but I was not going to give in on this because this show was awful. Then Christopher threatened to hit me if he didn't get his way and at that point, I REALLY knew I was doing the right thing. If his response to not getting to see a violent program is to get violent with his mother, then yeah, we need to redirect.

I want to be especially careful with Christopher because he does come from an early childhood of violence and was diagnosed with PTSD at the age of three. I have done a lot of work to undo the tendencies he learned from living in a home filled with domestic violence and I wasn't about to negate all that because society allows total crap to be on TV.

I've done a little research and learned that even if a child has healthy behavioral beginnings, violent programming at a young age could affect them quite negatively. Some of the symptoms I've learned could result are:
  • Increased propensity to violence
  • Callousness towards victims
  • Exaggerated fear of being victimized by violence
  • Depression
  • Isolation
Considering we have had a dramatic increase in the number of violent attacks in public places like schools and shopping malls, I would say that the concerns I have are pretty valid. I've gotta say it all kind of freaks me out now because even if I protect my own child from violent programming, so many people think it's "no big deal" and with violent TV programming so easily accessible, it will only become a bigger issue. This means even if my child isn't violent, he could be in the company of others who are, such as at school or maybe at the YMCA. This is all very scary to me.

I know I cannot control others and can only control my own child. So with that I do what I can just to focus on Christopher's behaviors. For the record, after we turned of Teen Titans Go, I found a documentary on Nat Geo Wild about Nomura Jellyfish that Christopher really liked. Apparently because of global warming, this species of jellyfish is growing to gigantic proportions and Christopher thought they were really cool looking. We talked about global warming after that and although he didn't really completely understand it all, at least the conversation was intelligent. I've also discovered that he enjoys watching "Word Girl" on PBS, which I like for him too. So there are options out there. I simply have to try harder to find them for him. I just hope and wish that other parents are making the same efforts with their kids.

After I finished writing this post, I read on Twitter that a police officer who was a member of the Boston Youth Violence Task Force was shot in the head in a Roxbury shootout last night. The suspect is dead and the officer is in an induced coma, fighting for his life. As if I needed any additional proof that violence has negatively permeated our society, this is it. My thoughts and prayers are going out to Officer John T. Moynihan right now.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Justin Harris Wouldn't Know Christian Values if They Hit Him in The Face

I will be the first to admit that I cannot quote scripture with any degree of reliability. But I will also say that because of a lot of time spent in church both growing up and as an adult, I have a pretty solid understanding of the Bible and the tenets that it promotes. As I understand it, as a Christian you are supposed to be kind, helpful, loving, supportive and to help take care of those who are unable to take care of themselves. Does that sound about right?

These Christian morals forged the foundation of my belief system and were one of the reasons I have always wanted to adopt from foster care. I wanted to give a home to a child who needed love and stability more than anyone. With my little guy here, I feel complete.

That's also why I find people like (R) State Rep. Justin Harris of Arkansas completely morally reprehensible. He and his wife Marsha claim to be Christians. They adopted two little girls from foster care but after six months found it all too hard to deal with, so gave the wee ones to a guy he had actually fired from his business because the guy was unreliable. Hey, I can't give you a severance because you're a terrible employee but here...take these innocent little girls instead. Seems logical, right? The girls were four and six years old and the guy ended up raping one of them. He plead guilty and sits in jail now, where I hope he rots for a very long time. If interested, you can read more about this sad tale here.

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But wait, it gets better. Justin Harris held a press conference proclaiming that HE was the victim, not the little girl who got raped because of of his callous disregard for her safety. He said that he and his wife were forced to abandon the girls because they had severe behavioral issues and DCFS wouldn't help them. He said that the child's pediatrician told them to do this. This is all hard to believe. I call shenanigans on the Harrises "Christian values" for multiple reasons:
  1. It doesn't happen a lot but adoptions do occasionally not work out and state social service agencies have protocols in place for taking back foster children whose adoptions failed, for whatever reason. He claims he was threatened by DCS but I don't buy that for a minute. FYI, good Christians don't lie to save their own hides.
  2. The Harrises claim that they didn't know what they were getting into but the little girls' foster mom says they were told exactly what to expect and said that they had resources in place to help. This is what Cheryl Hart says: "i am the foster mom of the kids he discarded. We all tried to tell Marsha and Justin of the difficulties they would endure with the girls. They would not listen. They kept bragging about their degrees in early childhood development and their experience with children. Plus they insisted they had all the therapists on hand at their preschool to help with their problems. Plus they said God called them to do this and he would get them through anything. We tried to not send the girls there and Cecile Blucker pulled strings and blackmailed DHS workers. I would love to correspond with you about this tragic preventable catastrophe." That is a comment on this petition, which I have signed.
  3. The Harrises continued to cash the subsidy given to them by the state even after they abandoned the girls. Um, fraud much?? I guess they forgot about that whole, "thou shalt not steal" Commandment when reading their Bible Cliff Notes.
  4. Justin Harris is a state representative in Arkansas. One would think that he would use his power and stature as an elected official to unlock doors and change laws, granting more support to families like his own. However, there is absolutely no evidence that he did anything. Instead he introduced legislation that would allow daycare centers and pre-schools not be forced to have sprinkler systems (FYI, he and his wife own a "Christian" pre-school).
  5. And most importantly, there is help available. Lots of it. For free. I know this because I've been there myself. Christopher came to me with some of the same history that these girls had and believe me, I get how difficult it is to raise kids with complex trauma history. I got called home from work one day because my son had threatened to kill his nanny that day. On multiple occasions, adults have had to intervene when Christopher started attacking other children with a stick. All this was very scary to me but you know what I didn't do? I didn't hand my child over to a pedophile. Instead I got him help. A lot of it. There was a point where he received therapeutic services three times a week and I also got him referred to the Boston Children's Hospital Developmental Medicine Center for even more intensive therapy. His behavioral pediatrician there specializes in foster and adoptive children with complex trauma histories and has been an incredible resource for us. The best thing of all is, these services are all free because foster children (in Massachusetts at least) get free healthcare until their 18th birthday. This is done to help incentivize an adoption because let's face is really expensive and these kids need a lot of it. But if you get the services, they really do work. Anyone who has ever met Christopher will tell you that he is a completely different child today, for the better. It doesn't happen overnight and requires hard work and patience. Too bad that the Harrises just couldn't be bothered.
I am so sorry for the two little girls that have had to repeatedly suffer at the hands of people who were supposed to be there and protect them. This story makes me both angry and sad. I can only hope that the media attention this story has generated helps save another child from potential harm. I posted this story to my Facebook page asking people to volunteer time and/or money to children's charities because we need more caring, loving people to ensure the safety of our nation's most at-risk children. I would also like to ask, dearest God, please watch over the foster children who need you and help to keep them safe from harm. Amen.