Monthly Archives: April 2016

Is it just me, or… do all modern pop songs have to use the F*** word?

April 27, 2016

Whatever happened to decency and intellectualism? As far as I’m aware, Spotify doesn’t ‘do’ parental controls. I’m not a prude, and I’m also not the first parent to complain about this problem, but I am trying to rear my kid with a sense of decency and decorum. Don’t get me wrong, I swear like the granddaughter of a general contractor, but not regularly in front of my child. And I don’t consider it hypocrisy; I consider it maintaining a certain level of appropriateness and setting a good example. Girls still have so few competent role models these days who aren’t taking pretty pictures of themselves on Instagram, as the mom, I have to set the bar as high as possible.

Sure I could hand pick bespoke playlists for my 6 year old, but it seems like a huge waste of my time, especially how quickly songs go up and down the charts. We like to listen to the UK Top 50 chart on Spotify but there are only a handful of current songs we can listen to without me jumping up to fast forward to hopefully the next song that isn’t about making that b**** famous and his N****** in the hood. Trust me, Kayne, you are so gangster already based on your delusions of grandeur.

In some chart songs the edited ‘radio’ version is just as good, if not better than the F-word one. For example, our current favourite song is ‘Cake by the Ocean’ by DNCE. The clean edit is just as good with “let’s go crazy, crazy!” but I can’t find it on Spotify even to download separately. However, after just seeing the video, they are no longer my favourite.  Girls in bikinis having a cake fight, really (is it just me, or is this 2016, seriously guys)?

It almost seems like a requirement for these 20-somethings to use f***-ing in their songs (Zayn comes to mind). Is there no other way to show your desire to have sex with someone? I’ve had my concerns for years about the internet and social media completely affecting the, shall we say, normalcy of today’s teens and twenty-somethings current sexual reference points or realistic sexual understandings, and my fears are realised as sex is directly referenced in so many of these lyrics like that’s all they spend their time doing. Maybe they are so lucky, but when I was in my 20s, I had to complete Uni and then get a job. We had to fit the f***-ing in with the rest of normal life. These kids make it seem like f***-ing all day is their normal life.

And sure, with the F-word being just about every part of speech, of course it’s not always used to reference sex. Wouldn’t it be a lark NOT to use swear words in your pop songs and try to put out both an enjoyable and decent album? Like it or not, as artists, you are role models to adults and children. A friend of mine took her 7 year old (who is totally in love with 1D) to a 1D concert and spent the night covering her little girl’s ears because one member spent the entire concert swearing at the audience. Classy. My daughter saw this same pop star on a talk show and said, “Mommy, why does that boy touch his hair so much?” My guess is he thinks he’ll score that much more by doing it. He has no other obvious talents.

I’m sure a lot of moms would thank you big, creative pop stars for considering your youngest fans, and ensuring that your music is properly represented –edited and not – across all the channels to which you license it. It’s time to make Spotify clean up its act.

 

Is it just me, or…are the British strangely in denial of how gross head lice really are?

April 19, 2016

OK, call me an American snob, but I do NOT think it is ‘normal’ for kids to run around with bugs in their hair. I’m from California and much more of a crunchy tree hugger than most, but even I didn’t grow up thinking it was okay to have bugs running amok on my head. The one kid I ever knew who did have lice was literally shamed out of most social circles. Not kidding. I’d like to think the stigma for head lice has evolved a bit, but I’m not sure it has and whilst I, myself, am no longer afraid of head lice, I do harbour resentment toward those who aren’t educated about how to treat the problem and continue to let their kids spread it around.

When my daughter started nursery three and a half years ago about a month in there was a notice, very nonchalantly, put up outside the door stating simply: ‘Nits in the Nursery’. I’d never heard this term before, so I had to ask the headmaster what it meant and he, incorrectly, told me that nits were head lice and that I needed to check my daughter’s head that night. I had her coat in my hand which I was just about to put on the shared coat peg and asked him if they transmitted via coats. He also incorrectly told me ‘no’.

Well, I’ve never made that mistake again. The majority of British adults I speak with about head lice call them ‘nits’ and appear either ill informed or disinterested about head lice facts, their life cycles, and how they spread. What happened from our first exposure to head lice I since perceive as years of hell trying to prevent catching them whilst talking to other parents about how to treat them when their kids were the culprit spreaders. We made it nearly 2 more years before I was doing our weekly routine head check (except I had mistakenly skipped a week when there had been a case of lice in the class, and admittedly I had no idea what to look for) when I found the ever dreaded moving needle in the haystack. But by then I was actually prepared. A like-minded good friend of mine had just suffered through an extreme head lice outbreak with her kid and I had helped her prepare a mini brochure (see a theme going on here) for her daughter’s class. I then found Hairforce – lice assassins! and treated the whole family to a professional head check. Well worth the money spent, plus the owner Dee, is a wealth of information on how to treat and prevent one from ever getting lice again. She’s also a believer in the emotional damage that having lice causes – much more so than most adults suspect.

When any of my American friends with primary aged children move to London, they cannot get their heads around the lack of local concern for the head lice problem. Whilst I no longer need a pint glass of G&T when we have kids in the house with lice (I can spot them a mile away – it’s mostly the double-fisted scratching of the head that tips me off), I still don’t understand why British people seem un-phased by this problem not to mention total time suck. I’ve had some of the school moms call me neurotic. Yes, I guess I am neurotic if that means I don’t want a communicable disease. Have you ever heard of scabies? Some call them body lice, but they are body mites and classified as a STD. Shouldn’t head lice be classified in a similar, noteworthy vein as they, too, are highly communicable? Policy says you have to keep your kid at home until it is treated, and by that they mean a dose of chemicals and wham, back into the classroom. We wouldn’t put up with a scabies outbreak in our kids’ classrooms, or even fleas on on our pets, so why is it okay to return your kid back (often same day) with a potential 7-11 day egg cycle festering on his head? Another British mom I know says when she finds them in her kids’ hair, she just flicks them onto the floor. Sounds pretty hygienic, doesn’t it?

And please don’t try to tell me ‘lice prefer clean hair’. Whoever made that one up clearly had a bad case of lice and then passed around this tid bit out of embarrassment and for some weird reason all the rest of us have held onto it as the new urban legend. Scientifically, lice do not PREFER clean hair. They prefer ANY hair. And if you are regularly involved in say washing and bathing your child, then you would spot a head lice problem. They are not that small. One boy we know has an ongoing problem and it’s easy to see why. He has what can only be described as unkempt and unwashed tresses. No way that the lice comb is going through his hair twice weekly or even once a term. To manage them in British preschools, you have to comb out the hair, comb it out and comb it out again.

Needless to say, we haven’t had lice again. Oh sure, I’ve combed out a random bug here and there, but I check twice a week now – religiously – because it only takes one female. This particular primary school seemed to have a wide spread problem with repeat offenders (my experience says it’s generally the same families who either don’t believe lice is preventable or don’t comb out that exacerbate the problem) so in tandem with one of my British girlfriends (interestingly, she was reared abroad!), we crafted a detailed pamphlet on how to manage, treat and prevent head lice. We also found a pharmaceutical company who was in the process of creating a ‘better than Hedrin’ topical treatment (which incidentally, I don’t necessarily support since combing with a metal comb is all that is needed) boasting 30 minutes on the head, rather than the standard 8 hour overnight treatment. This company was ever-so-willing to come into the school and educate the students, staff and parents on the ‘what’s and how’s’ of head lice management. My daughter still talks about it as they brought in a terrarium filled with hair that was infested with lice! Too cool in a disgusting way for a 5 year old, and just the right amount of memorable to know you don’t want those on your head!

However, I still get discouraged when we have play dates or classmates who seem to have ongoing head lice especially when the parents insist that ‘there’s just nothing you can do’ and that it’s not their fault that little ‘so and so’ at school always has them, so it’s inevitable that their kid will as well. Not True. Lice is in fact treatable. It just takes time. If you know of someone at school who has continuous lice, then it’s your responsibility to tell the headmaster/mistress because lice can also be a problem of parental neglect. When my daughter had her lice outbreak, I combed out just over 20 bugs. Dee at the Hairforce said that was a lot, but some people come in with 250 live bugs in their hair. So, if your kid has double digit live bugs in his hair, consider how much time you’ve been giving your kid lately, or consider that your combing technique is really bad. You can see this many bugs with the naked eye. Another friend of mine is a GP and her daughter got an ongoing case that she didn’t notice until she finally saw nits (the hatched and abandoned egg sacks – and NOT the technical term for a head lice outbreak) growing out half way down her very long Rapunzel-esque tresses. She herself admitted neglect as she was going through a very bitter divorce at the time and had not in fact been paying enough attention to her child. If you haven’t been neglectful and are super fastidious and just can’t seem to fight the lice problem, it’s because you aren’t combing correctly with a metal nit comb. There are many great ‘how to’ videos out there on YouTube, linked here to a particularly well explained combing method. And there’s no shame in admitting defeat and calling The Hairforce, they do this for a living and guarantee 100% results.

I know this rant seems judgmental, because it is. And because every time you fail to comb out your kid’s lice infested hair and then send them to school or my house, you create a 72 hour lock down at our house and a total laundry nightmare. Everything soft has to be bagged so the lice will suffocate and everything washable has to go in at 60 degrees or above. We are not interested in losing 3 days of our lives because you can’t take the time to comb out your kid’s head. Just comb it out folks, twice a week. That’s all I’m asking.

For a copy of my detailed ‘treat and prevent head lice’ brochure, email me. And, Nitty Gritty sells a lovely metal lice comb for around £9.

 

 

Is it just me, or…have celebrities got too much control of the media?

April 15, 2016

Is it just me, or…is that deluded British scientist, Andrew Wakefield, really becoming popularised again in the media by yet another…celebrity?

Fact: the MMR jab does NOT cause autism.

When considering the entire story…how Wakefield’s 1998 unfounded paper started a horrendous backlashing of uninformed people from stopping their children getting vaccinated from measles, mumps and rubella based on falsified research, I can’t help asking now, after all this time and the countless hours of campaigning the medical community has done to rectify this really silly mistake, how is it that uneducated celebrities have really got a hold of the attention of the masses on this one? (And yet, I still can’t see how Trump has made it this far, so…maybe it IS just me).

First and foremost, it’s difficult to believe that anyone wouldn’t just quickly Google the World Health Organisation’s website and get the stats on just how effectively it can be shown how vaccines save lives and have eradicated many diseases globally.

Part of the problem is that government regulated mass childhood immunisation (MCI) programmes are controversial because they only work if a large percentage of the population complies (we call this phenomenon ‘herd mentality’), potentially compromising a child’s consensual rights. On the other hand, dissenters such as those with strong anti-conformity or religious convictions (some of whom object to the perceived permissiveness of the HPV vaccine for sexual activity in teenage girls!) might compromise the livelihood of hundreds or thousands of children by spreading often deadly viruses that could otherwise have been prevented. But eradication of preventable or deadly viruses is a priority for the WHO as they are committed to stopping the needless suffering of children. And in that regard, the WHO does not require any explanation as to why immunisation is a public health priority. Mass immunisation is a proven success. The WHO helped eradicate smallpox with an aggressive vaccination program despite anti-vaccinator arguments that better hygiene and clean water were responsible. Also, other successful vaccination programmes, for example the 1995 introduction of the varicella ‘chickenpox’ vaccination in the USA, reduced annual cases from roughly 4 million to less than 400,000 per year.

Another problem is unreliable information and celebrities abusing their ‘celebrity’ by spewing uninformed propaganda into the media. Many parents these days glean vaccination information from these and various other unreliable Internet ‘medical’ sites. Additionally, unreliable media coverage, stemming from celebrities such as former Playboy Jenny McCarthy, connecting the MMR vaccination with autism caused a serious reduction in vaccine uptake in the late 1990s which in turn ended up high jacking the WHO’s mission of measles eradication. So will once again the government and local authorities need to convince parents there is not a better alternative to vaccination now that mega-celebrity Robert DeNiro is questioning it?

I can’t help but look at the education levels of the anti-vaxxers  in the celebrity community. Specifically: McCarthy (failed to graduate Uni) and Robert DeNiro who attended prep school, but dropped out at 16 to pursue acting. When did our culture become so in awe of these poorly educated celebrities who claim to know more about science than actual doctors or the WHO? Does an acting career and extreme wealth now trump research, education, facts and peer review?

Regularly, when considering immunisation, people are more willing to give into something they perceive as risky if they believe there is no alternative action (Spier, 2001). California’s recent foray into making this generalization work well for them has been working well for the Netherlands (with a high vaccination uptake) for some years as they have operated on an ‘opt-out’ only policy. And yes, there are problems with vaccinations (it’s rare, but my next door neighbour died from a Flu jab) and the WHO, an organisation that operates as the health arm of the United Nations imposes significant political pressure on itself to meet targets such as polio eradication. Additionally, both failure to meet targets and clearly communicate its objectives, for example the negative media coverage the WHO received during the H1N1 pandemic, causes an expensive cycle of programme doubt which initiates a new and unnecessary need to re-market vaccination programmes from the beginning. With diseases like polio still needing global eradication, there is no time to re-market measles as viruses like HIV and malaria are beginning to take global precedence. Let’s not let measles slip back into this category.

Vaccination has become an unnecessarily political debate that stops programme momentum and causes harm primarily to its youngest victims. From personal observation, when my child was 1, she contracted chickenpox whilst living in the UK as the NHS does not vaccinate against varicella. Getting anti-vaccination information from the NHS was nearly impossible. However, once retrieved, its argument is medically sound, yet the Department of Health’s decision to not enforce this vaccination is politically motivated due to the post 1998 MMR media fall out. As a parent, one would never want to see her child needlessly suffer when modern medicine has made this illness preventable. Clear communication and education from government and the WHO from the onset – whether it’s a relatively new vaccination like varicella or for a pandemic like swine flu – is key in parental support and advocacy of vaccination programmes and local/global uptake.

Don’t get me wrong, I get that university isn’t for everyone and that’s not my point. For example, I married someone who didn’t attend and who is highly successful, obviously the two things are not necessarily related. But using the media as a global platform to espouse your own, unfounded, personal beliefs or doubts lacks that certain je ne sais quoi…shall we call it that educated edge, and is just plain irresponsible as a revered celebrity. I also understand how some could say then that blogging is in the same category. Kind of. However, any way you look at it, it’s hard to dispute the hard facts of science, especially in the form of verified research and effective medicine. From a sound point of view, one must side-step politics and even personal convictions and surrender ‘faith’ to the system believing that medical and technological advancements will prevail in the future thus preventing deadly viruses.

Today’s tally: Science = 1; anti-vaxxers = 0.

Notes:  Spier, R. E. (2001). Perception of risk of vaccine adverse events: A historical perspective. Vaccine, 20, 78–84.