Archive for the 'science' Category

01
Oct
11

chatty cathy vs. chatty johnny

As I was researching language acquisition for the last post I did, I found a lot of research on language usage and the subsequent amount of it. Blah. Blah. Blah. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Except. Except… in every single one of the studies I skimmed the scientists were showing that females talked more than males. Girls talked more than boys. Pretty much all the scientific studies showed the same thing: girls spoke earlier, more and had a bigger vocabulary. Except…

Um. No. Clearly these scientists and researchers have never met my children. My male children. All three of them talked early, often and with huge vocabularies, including words like “appeared” and “actually” (pronounced oxually). When big was not so big he never stopped talking, his entire life was a running dialouge. I say dialogue becuase no matter what came out of his mouth I was expected to respond and if I didn’t the conversation took on an urgent tone that I was forced to notice.

Big at 3: Vrooom. Vroom. The car is driving up into the parking garage to park on the top floor. [driving car around as described]

Mom: [silence because honestly I don’t know what kind of response is called for.]

Big: MOM! THE CAR IS DRIVING UP INTO THE PARKING GARAGE TO PARK ON THE TOP FLOOR!!!!!!!

Mom: OKAY! SUPER!

Every single waking moment of every single day I was expected to participate in conversationally; the boy performed no monologues. My brain was over-stimulated and it was the sort of thing that would make a mommy a little cranky. I perfected the least interested response I could. When I was pregnant with Middle and laying on the couch in the clutches of mid-afternoon sickness and Big was desperately trying to include me in a conversation about trains; I came up with this cheat sheet for the direst of times.

first response: Hmmm.

second: hMMmmm.

third: hmmmmMMM.

fourth: hmmmmm?

fifth: hmmmmm!!!

Repeat.

speak no evil, speak a little evil and speak much evil and by evil I mean mostly potty talk.

So of course I would go on to bear two more children who would grace the good earth with their voices that tinkle like bells ALL THE TIME. I was feeling guilty; like shouldn’t I want to be constantly engaged in unstimulating conversation with little people? I asked my therapist if I was secretly totally evil. She said, no. We had a nice dialogue about it. She said the human brain isn’t meant to be stimulated ALL THE TIME. I should tell him that for five minutes I was going to turn my brain off and he could talk, but I wasn’t going to listen. If he wanted someone to listen he should find someone else to talk to, like say his baby brother or his teddy bear. It took him about a week to stop talking to me and expecting a response, but it was damn nice not to be expected to remember where I was in the “hmmm” cycle.

So all these studies are saying that boys talk less than girls and they have evidence and shit and I say, “whatever” because I don’t see it. So I want to know what they think the reasons are, so I know if my boys are freaks of nature and possibly huge moneymakers some day. In The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre she talks about how two separate studies found evidence that pointed in two opposite directions. Super, science, just super.

In the first study researchers decided after following around 22 educated, middle-class mothers of toddlers, both boys and girls about the same age for a few hours every month and tape every word they said, that the moms used the same amount of words with boys and girls, but boys spoke less and used fewer words. They believed that there was something intrinsic that made the boys less verbal (pp. 65-66). However, in a completely different study across more diverse racial and socioeconomic lines showed that the number of words a parent speaks to a child is directly related to the size of the child’s vocabulary regardless of gender. So that means that if you have a very active boy who wants to be outside running around, throwing balls and stuff, you might not choose to take them to the story hour at the library or sit down and read books to them. If you’re doing what they are interested in, or what is easier to do with them, then maybe there’s less language involved.

Now that makes sense. They spend a hell of a lot of time with me and I am a world champion talker. The kind of person that loves to talk. The person that volunteers to get up in front of people and talk. I can’t get enough of it. “Listen to me world!” Maybe because no one listens to me at home. Naw, I’ve always been that way; in theater, forensics (not the CSI kind). LOOOOOVE the stage. My childhood report cards always said, quarter after quarter and year after year, “Becki’s a great student, but she needs to spend less time talking.”

I talked so much that my fourth grade teacher tied me into my desk with crepe paper so I wouldn’t walk around the room and talk to people. If we would have known then what we know now about suing for pain and suffering…

So the boys have a great role model, if they’d let me get a word in edgewise. Also, I’m not so much into the running around outside and the ball-throwing. I was always reading to Big and dragging him to story hours and anything else that involved me sitting on my ass. It’s gotten harder with Middle and Little because they seem to be more active types. And don’t go around thinking I’ve ruined Big and he’s like a big blob on the couch; he’s a white belt in Tai Kwon Do, but he’s going places.

I know that someday I’m going to miss all these little voices around me. They may be surly teenagers and I’ll have to beg them to talk to me. I videotaped Little yesterday telling me the names of all the Star Wars guys that he knew because it’s just too precious to hear your three-year old recite the members of the Dark Side. That’s not all he says, he says I love you mommy about twenty times a day, but I never have the camera ready for that. That, I’ll never forget.

18
Sep
11

the problem with other

Below is a post that I wrote at my old blog a couple of years ago when I had become particularly annoyed with the lack of understanding on the part of big and middle in the area of language, specifically one single word. Now that I’m all like scientific and shit, I thought I’d revisit this annoyance and see if maybe, just maybe they weren’t really trying to drive me crazy, but were just using their male brains (you know, the only ones they have).

[side note: old blog called The Wiener Mom so all sons were called wieners… you’ll put it together, I know you will]

so glad I'm your mOTHER Big; you've grown so much!

Dear wieners (specifically mine, but all are welcome),

I have come before you today to address a crucial issue in the success of Wiener Mom/little wiener relationships. The future of my goodwill and your continued survival depend upon it.
My dear wieners, we must discuss the meaning of the word “other”. What it means is not that one, i.e. not that hand, the OTHER one or not that foot, the OTHER ONE. When a person has two of something (hands or feet primarily) and the Wiener Mom says “not that one, the other one” she does not mean the SAME ONE, she means the OTHER ONE.

What confuses the otherwise intelligent and capable mind of the Wiener Mom, is how a relatively small wiener can correctly use words like, ACTUALLY, and USUALLY, and even REAPPEARING, but he can not give the Wiener Mom THE OTHER FOOT, even after repeated pointing and wild gesturing, as well as overly clear annunciation, “No, the OTH-ER one.”

Perhaps this is a phenomenon witnessed only in Wiener World, and both wieners and non-wieners in the outside world have a strong grasp of the OTHER one. If so, please give the Wiener Mom your apparently successful strategies before she pulls her hair out. No, the other one.

Love and kisses, The Wiener Mom

Back when I wrote that OTHER blog

So I go through all my boy books and can’t find anything on language processing; a lot on talking (which is a whole OTHER blog post altogether). So I have to turn to the World Wide Webs, which I really hate to do because, really who can you trust, there’s so many so-called experts out there blogging about who knows what. I google it and find a lot of scientific articles and papers and abstracts and there are a lot of numbers and %s and #s and &s and other symbols that start to look kind of math-like so I turn to

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303120346.htm

Science Daily: My source for the latest in Research News to find the answer to this brain buster:

Seems like just the OTHER day

Do boys process language differently than girls?

short answer: yup.

long answer: Boys’ language processing tends to be more sensory and girls’ processing more abstract. So I guess if you think about it, the word OTHER is pretty abstract. It’s not a car or a light saber or a brother or even a wiener. It’s other.

But why, you ask? The researcher from Northwestern thinks that boys may have “some kind of bottleneck in their sensory processes that can hold up visual or auditory information and keep it from being fed into the language areas of the brain.” Which he says may be a result of girls developing faster than boys and may be gone by adulthood, which explains why when I put the Mister’s shoes on, he totally understands the word OTHER. This would also explain why all my pointing and mad gesturing isn’t helping anything; it’s just all getting trapped in  like a traffic jam of sensory information, which for some reason I imagine actually taking place in his neck.

The researcher says that another explanation for why the study showed that boys aren’t as adept at processing abstract language is that they may create visual and auditory associations with a word and it would be kind of hard to create a visual or auditory association with the word OTHER unless it’s your mother pulling her hair out and gesturing to your shoe or screaming “OTH-ER”.

Two years after I wrote that post Big has figured out the meaning of the word OTHER about 94.6% of the time, but now I’ve got Middle and Little to gesture wildly to. Maybe now that I know that they’re not trying to annoy me or ignore me, I could tone down the gesturing and the exasperated sighing. Only for “OTHER” though.

I hold no promises when it comes to “COME HERE. NO I SAID COME HERE. HERE. NO HERE. NEXT TO ME. NO HERE.”

06
Sep
11

the tears of a mom

Yes, it’s been a while. It’s been one hell of a summer. Little and Middle have been locked in daily battle. Middle uses physical tactics; a punch in the gut, a slap to the bare back, a face shove, a kick in the nuts. Little goes with the mental sort of torture, the constant annoyances that build up over time and make it necessary for Middle to use the above methods to get his revenge. Big has just been screaming at them like a teenage girl and hiding in his room reading Garfield comics. I don’t think I ever thought I’d ever say he’d be glad that summer was over, but that kid is glad that summer is over.

There was some fun to be had this summer, like in the water...

and in the mud on West Lawn during construction...

Then there’s me; the chronic daily migraines persist, while the side effects from the medications we’re trying to use to treat the daily migraines cause a myriad of side effects that put me in a bad mood. Ahhhh, summer. Let’s add to this the fact that for all the requests to read my novel I’ve gotten and all the “I love it! It’s witty/clever/well-written” they all end with something about “not in this cautious competitive market blah blah blah.” So, the novel I’ve spent 4 years writing is on its last legs. I’ve got about 15 more possibilities out there and then we put it to sleep. Cryonically of course, like Ted Williams, just in case there’s ever a change in the “market”. I’ve started a shitty rough draft of a new book and it’s coming along so that’s all well and good.

[side note: If you’re interested, I’ll share with you the nastiest rejection I’ve ever gotten from some crazy old coot of a lady from Atlanta who took issue with my usage of the work F*ck in narrative and also the way I decided where to separate paragraphs. She said it wasn’t literature and she ONLY represented literature, which apparently includes cozy mysteries called “Kissing Cousins” but I’m not bitter]

and by burying children in the sand.

yes sir that's my baby. yes sir, her name is "Maybea". So I make up songs about my dog. what's it to you?

The big news this summer was that my best canine companion blew out her rear ACL and had to have it repaired. It happened right at the beginning of summer and for several months it was kind of a watch and see kind of thing. It was almost better and then some damn chipmunk encouraged her to chase it and she completely tore it and flipped her meniscus over. So on August 2 she had to have surgery. The vet called in the middle of the surgery to say they found a growth on the underside of her tongue. We had him cut it out, stitch her up and send the growth away “just in case”. A few days later, he calls. It’s a very aggressive form of skin cancer that rarely shows up in the mouth. It’s not good news. We get an appointment with the vet school at the university. Our vet sounds like the Mary Poppins for sick animals; she’s not. She gives us our options and tells us in pretty plain terms that she’s got about 6-12 months left, no matter what we do; treat her or not. She’s genuinely surprised when I cry.

What does this have to do with the science and psychology of boys? A lot it turns out. Silly me; I was worried about crying in front of them. I was worried about protecting them from my sadness.

Here’s where Dr. Luann Brizendine comes in again, only this time, shame on me, I don’t have the book, I had to return it to the person I borrowed it from. Now, you know I’m normally good about referencing pages and authors, etc. but I don’t have the damn book, so I”ll have to do big ideas this time. We all remember how boys emotional centers are not as well-connected as girls and develop later and all that jazz from previous posts. (if this is news to you, go back a few posts and read in detail, with references). I guess while I knew this was true I hadn’t actually considered what it looked like in action.

I was doing a lot of crying when this news came; I love this dog like crazy. We got her at the Humane Society when she was a puppy and we’ve had her ten years. Since I stay home and work from home, we spend a lot of time together. Sometimes (who am I kidding, often) she’s the only easy thing in my day. Like I said above, I was trying to sob subtly. The thing was though, they didn’t seem to notice. Not at all. None of them. Not even Big (who’s 9 now). Not until Daddy talked to him on the phone and told him that I was sad and he should be extra nice to me. Then he came and hugged me and said he loved me and he was sorry that I was sad and it was very lovely and wonderful and then he asked me if he could use the computer now. Little and Middle showed no recognition of sadness, only recognition that I was still the Mommy that got the chocolate milk and fielded the complaints about the jelly with seeds situation.

So I happened to be reading The Female Brain by Luann Brizendine around this same time and in learning about how girls brains develop I learned a little bit how boys’ don’t. I learned that a girl at 18 months can read the emotion of an adult and know what they need and “caretake”. I learned that it takes boys a LOT longer to be able to read emotions on a person’s face. So couple that with the fact that their emotional centers are less connected and slower to develop, they really just didn’t notice that I was sad.

You know who did? The dog.

Afterword: We went to another veterinary Oncologist and although he agreed with the diagnosis from the non-Mary Poppins vet at the vet school he had a much more positive prognosis. We’ve now been through staging and a second growth, but at the current time, she’s got no decetable cancer in her body. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t microscopic cancer hiding out, but she’ll start chemotherapy on Wednesday and hopefully we’ll blast the hell out of it. Dr. Kai has a positive outlook and for the first time this summer it feels good to have the same.

You can't tell from the picture but I swear to you it was a double.

05
Jun
11

i’m in a boring place, you get a boring post.

I fear you not, brain freeze. You are nothing to me.

So I’ve been down and out the last two weeks with the migraine straight off the bus from Hell. I wake up and within an hour my head hurts. It hurts until I go to sleep at night. It doesn’t hurt when I’m running and for a little while after. It also doesn’t hurt as I’m engaged in the ritual of eating. So, basically if I spend the whole day either eating or running I should feel okay. I have a referral in at the Headache clinic where they are taking an “achingly” long time reviewing my health history and contacting me about an appointment. I’ve seen several specialists already, all of whom say it couldn’t possibly be [fill in the blank with their specialty] that’s causing the pain, it must be [fill in the blank with another doctor’s specialty]. So the little bit of free thought space I have has been consumed by pain or the idea of pain or the puzzle of pain. I found a book in the library about one woman’s quest to find the cure to her epic headache and I brought it to bed to read. The print was too small; it gave me a headache.

All this pain has been confusing to the Mister. He’s never had a migraine and rarely has a headache. He’s rarely in pain. Even if he is; he doesn’t talk about it. He tweaked his back years ago trying to bust open a painted shut window in an old dump apartment we lived in. I know that the pain hasn’t gone away, but he never mentions it. Me? Earlier in my life I would have mentioned it as often as possible, but now my pain has become a sticking point with the Mister. I won’t say it irritates him, but he doesn’t like hearing about it. It bothers him that I’m in pain and no one knows why. He wants an answer now damn it! The last thing I need when my head is working its way toward explosion is to ponder the question, “Why don’t you ever feel good?”  There’s that Mr. Fix It rearing his ever so helpful head again, toting his problem solving tool box.

Ice cream induced pain? No. I feel nothing but chocolatey joy.

My recent life focus on pain made me wonder about pain, migraine specifically. Do women get them more than men? Yes, all the research says yes, but I wanted to know why. Why, when we also get the multifaceted joys of pregnancy and childbirth dumped on our plates do we also get the gift of migraines? The answer I found after combing the internet and reading countless abstracts on articles about this topic, is that no one knows. Yes, more women get migraines than men, about double. But, science has no freaking clue why. Thanks a lot science. The closest I came to an answer was the fact that before puberty boys and girls have an equal chance of getting migraines, but once the hormones kick in we shoot way up. It isn’t the presence of the hormones themselves, more their fluctuation over time. What else did I find out? There’s a genetic component and some PhD student in Australia believes that female’s pesky, extra X chromosome is the culprit, but that’s just an idea presented on a well illustrated Powerpoint presentation. My books had nothing on the topic, but I found the closest thing I could:

are boys and men less sensitive to pain?

The answer according to Leonard Sax, M.D. and Ph.D. in his book, Why Gender Matters, is simply yes. Males are less sensitive to pain than females, but it’s a real neurological difference and not just society’s expectations of how we handle pain. Originally researchers assumed that men and women felt pain the same and were expressing that pain according to societal rules about boys not crying, etc. Now, scientists have research that shows that there is actually a difference in the way the brain manages and feels pain in men and women, particularly in times of stress. Men feel less pain in times of stress, women more. Except in the case of pregnancy; a woman in her second or third trimester feels less pain. The body’s way of getting a woman ready for birth, obviously.

The difference is actually in the cellular structure. And after that point he loses me. He does say however that this difference in cellular structure means that pain may need to be dealt with differently in men and women. Like female specific pain relievers. So all this means that in the end boys and men too are more likely to take risks that may be painful. Maybe this explains why a fun afternoon for my boys is when you can get your brother in a choke hold or kick him in the nuts. It just doesn’t hurt them as much as it would hurt me?  Fine, you guys go out into the back yard and beat each other with wiffle bats for a while. My migraine and I are going up to my dark bedroom and cursing the genetic and hormonal make up that completes me.

20
Apr
11

a mom among men Easter Edition: WRESTLEMANIA SPRING 2011!!!!

Punch this bag just like you punch daddy in the nuts!

Are you ready to rumble? Because, me not so much. The boys? The daddy? Oh yes. Most nights in our house somewhere between daddy coming home and books and snack before bed, some sort of daddy sanctioned wrestlemania commences on the living room floor. The coffee table is moved out of the way, and all the toys are picked up (it’s a great way to get them to pick up their stuff). For approximately 10-25 minutes the four of them have it out on the floor, on the couch, on the arm-chair. What do I do? I leave the room as early as possible and shut the door, trying my damnedest to drown out the screams and thuds. Why? BECAUSE I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT.

When my sister and I were children we created a game called “Make a Fight”. Below is a list of the rules of “Make a Fight”.

NO pushing, kicking, hitting, pinching, biting, punching, slapping, hair pulling, or stepping on.

What could you do when you played “Make a Fight”? Basically just bump into each other with our hands down at our sides, so as not to accidentally break one of the above stated rules (which were reviewed every time one of us asked, “Wanna Make a Fight?”)  This was all the violence we could handle. Now, I do know of sisters that were/are a lot more physically aggressive than we were, but our lack of aggressive play is what makes it so hard for me to get.

Below is a list of the rules for Living Room Wrestlemania:

If you draw blood or heaving sobs you must pause until the injured has been inspected, then you may resume.

Once again, I know that not all boys play like this, but mine do and no offense, they’re the ones I’m most interested in. Mostly because if there is blood, I deal with it.

Picture this without the costumes and body hair (yes, even daddy).

So, needless to say, Wrestlemania is a little much for me. There have been a few times when Daddy has been unavailable I thought I’d give it a go, just to try to fit in, ya know. When in the roman coliseum… This is what I found out: IT HURTS. No one is pulling punches, no one is being gentle, no one is keeping their hands at their sides and just sort of bumping into each other. This is all out war. THEY HURT ME. I have a rule about things that hurt me (volleyball, handball, hitting a soccer ball with my head, etc.) I don’t do them.

My parents came for dinner tonight; the ones that raised two girls. They were slightly shocked at the level of violence our living room is home to. They looked at me more than a few times, like “can you believe this?” Yes, I can, but only because I live with it. I wanted to give them some reasons that this was okay.

So that leads us to the question of the week, actually the all caps statement of the week: WRESTLEMANIA SPRING 2011 (why?)

I started looking for something specific I knew I had read. What I ended up finding were two different pieces of information concerning WRESTLEMANIAS.

Or like this, but without the cage, the audience and the pecs (yes, even daddy).

1. In Leonard Sax’s book Why Gender Matters he talks about research on this topic (the gender difference in aggressive play) done on apes and monkeys (pp. 60-62). There’s a whole lot of scientific yada-yada, but this is my summary: Even in other primates, besides the primates related to me, males engage in more aggressive play than females. This is the most interesting piece; science (like all of it) I guess believes that when you find a behavior across a variety of species, it probably is there for a reason. He gives a variety of reasons, most involving killing smaller monkeys for food: an activity that Wrestlemania has yet to include. AND… it provides a safe and appropriate outlet for aggression.

2. In Louann Brizendine’s book The Male Brain the talks about the benefits of play time with daddy (pp 88-89). All this rough and tumble and kicking in the nuts actually is good for them. I don’t know if daddy would agree about the nuts part, but shouldn’t he like buck up or wear a cup? A research study in Germany followed a group of boys over fifteen years and found that the boys who had engaged in rough and tumble play with their dads had higher self-confidence in adolescence than those who didn’t.

Or this, but without the body weight and the diaper; well just one diaper (NOT daddy).

So… This means that the Wrestlemanias continue and I disappear into my office and read PerezHilton.com or spend way too much time on Facebook. When they’re done kicking each other in the nuts and becoming more self-confident I collect them, dust them off and give them a kiss. Hopefully that’s helping too.

19
Mar
11

why can’t mister fix it just shut it?

The Mister I married turns out to be Mister Fix-It. And I don’t mean in the put up a ceiling fan, rotate the tires, get the legos out of the sink drain kind-of-a way. Although he does all those things and more. I mean that he wants to fix me. He wants to fix all my problems the second they leave my mouth, his brain is processing the solution. Except I don’t want a solution. I don’t need a solution. My recent moaning about being stuck in the house with two small boys in the grim winter months was met with this response:

“Just get in the car and start driving and then when you get someplace, hike around.”

Mmmmm. No. Okay so not only do I now feel like a lazy ass sort of a mother, apparently I also hate nature. I didn’t want this brilliant solution to my vent on boredom and laundry and playing Dora Chutes and Ladders (with a two-year old CHEATER, yea I said it). What I wanted was for him to say, “Aw honey, that must suck for you.” But in a totally genuine way, with some concerned brow furrowing and maybe a hug to wrap it all up.

What I got was what he would do and does. On weekends he and his buddy and five boys age 10-3 set out to build a campfire someplace and go traipsing through streams. There’s oreos involved and partially warmed/blackened hot dogs on sticks. And everyone comes home happy, stinking like high hell of the nastiest campfire ever for some reason, but happy. So he figures if it works for him, why not for me too?

The boys out on one such "solution". All you need are rubber waders, firewood, large sticks, a lighter, newspaper, winter clothing, rubber boots, hot dogs, marshmallows, ketchup, water bottles, sleds, hammocks, and a keen interest in having your spirit broken by a group of boys using big sticks to poke a fire.

This is what one of my mothers in arms would have said, “I know right, I was so totally bored yesterday I was picking up dog poop in the back yard to have something to do!” I don’t actually know any valley girl stay at home moms, but we would totally be on the same wavelength if I did. Why is it that another woman knows just what to say and my Mister hasn’t the slightest clue? I know that this is almost a stereotype or urban folklore or something, but is there an actual reason? That brings us to the question of the week:

Why can’t Mister Fix it just shut it? Once again I turn to the wise Louann Brizendine and her book The Male Brain (p. 95-99). Could there possibly be a real, physical difference in how we deal with problems? Is it more than just feelings and listening and a deeper understanding of our partner? Yea, it turns out it’s a lot more than that crap.

So it turns out that our brains actually process emotions differently. Basically as I understand it (and that’s not saying much- I only signed up for science seminar for the field trips, I have no deep interest or even sub basic understanding of science.) this is what is happening in the Mister’s brain and in mine:

Mister Fix It’s Brain: I complain/bitch/moan and the system he uses for processing emotions switches on. Very soon after that, like immediately “the analyze-and-fix-it” part of his brain switches on (p. 97, Brizendine). One of the characteristics of this system is it creates a strong boundary between the man’s own feelings and someone else’s. This system allows Mister Fix It start to solve the problem immediately without being bogged down by the emotions of an outsider. Once Mr Fix It’s brain starts to search for a solution, he has left emotional empathy behind and has ceased to notice my moaning and tearful declarations of incompetence. So in conclusion, Mister Fix It only feels emotional empathy for a split second, before his brain switches over to problem solving mode.

Wise beyond my years

My Brain: I also have two systems for processing emotions, but unlike Mister Fix It I spend a much looooooonger time in the emotional empathy system commiserating with my sistas. Much like my above mentioned valley girl friend I spend a long time caring about how the other person feels, noticing their sad sally face,  interpreting their moaning, and saying things like “true that” rather than, “now see this is what you do: just start driving…”

So I told Mister Fix It what I wanted him to say. I understand that his brain processes this stuff differently than mine does, but since I’m trying to understand and listen thoughtfully to his multitude of solutions to my ills, I also want him to occasionally try to hold that in and just say, “Honey, you’re right that sucks.”

Maybe someday it will naturally glide off of his tongue, but for now it sounds like the recently memorized one-liner of a middle schooler in their first stage performance.

I’ll take it, at least I don’t have to just start driving…

You whippersnappers with your rock and roll and your ripped up jeans. Hogwash I tell you.

09
Mar
11

What happened to peace, man? (or how George Lucas has ruined my children)

strong in you, is the force little

What percentage of my daily conversation involves the word blaster? I’d say 50%. What about rifle? 42%. How about pistol? A whopping 60%!

Within the last year my boys have one by one become enamoured of all things Clone Wars; not Star Wars mind you. Don’t try to pull out any of your childhood knowledge of Leia and Ewoks. Very uncouth. The Clone Wars is the Pre-Star Wars stuff. It’s located somewhere between Episode 2 and 3. Anakin (a.k.a Darth Vader for all of you old people) is still on the good side. We’ve yet to see Order 66, so the clones have not yet turned to the dark side and the Jedi population is flourishing. I can not believe I know all this. It’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the kind they probably have on Hotha (ha!). So what draws my boys to The Clone Wars and I mean really draws? We have videos, books, action figures, lego guys, computer games, comic books and even fruit snacks. And weapons. A full arsenal of plastic weaponry. A blaster that in all it’s glory is actually longer than little is tall. He stands and holds it and my heart breaks a little. I always think of the child soldiers of Rwanda with their tiny bodies and big guns. Of course the plastic blaster situation is not nearly so dire or horrifying.

Their play revolves around the Clone Wars about 85% of the time and when it doesn’t it’s some offshoot of the Clone Wars, like Jedi Garfield and the Sith Nermal or something like that.

I don’t get it. It’s good vs. bad. Light vs. Dark. Clones vs. Droids. It’s always one vs. another. Someone is always the hero and someone is always the bad guy. Except when nobody wants to be the bad guy so the good guys fight. Usually it’s not too hard to get middle to volunteer.

When I was a girl I played veterinarian and teacher. I may have occasionally played Buck Rogers, but I was always the damsel in distress (cringe). I don’t understand their obsession with all this good vs. bad stuff, so I tried to learn more…

Dare you cross me, dark lord?

This week’s question: What happened to peace, man? had a very interesting answer. I gathered information on the topic from The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D. and The Purpose of Boys by Michael Gurian.

Brizendine shares scientific research on the male brain throughout different parts of a man’s life. This is what Dr. Brizendine had to say; during the period she calls the juvenile phase, boys are experiencing a higher level of a hormone that builds their brain circuits for “boy” behaviors (winning, chasing, protecting, defending, wrestling). by puberty this hormonal level will decrease rapidly and instead be replaced by a twentyfold increase in testosterone.  So there’s that trade-off… Boys already have 10 to 20 times more testosterone than girls, so multiply that times 20 and you’ve got a lot of  Terminator movies.

To take this brain research further, Gurian extrapolates on what these brain differences mean in a boy’s life, particularly his sense of purpose. This age range is a time when Gurian believes that boys are trying to build their self-esteem by finding their own magical powers and being a hero. They’re acting out their own hero fantasies and while doing so feeling more powerful themselves. I think this quote says it all:

“Boys are searching for their own power to help others by identifying with those that help… They are gaining courage to become important young men by watching and enjoying heroes who are constantly tested and challenged.” (Gurian, p. 38)

Brotherhood means nothing in the fight against the dark side!

That totally and completely sums up The Clone Wars. Those people are ALWAYS fighting with someone, and for a very good reason (like intergalactic peace). They battle and win, but also lose sometimes. I guess there’s an important message there too. You can bet that those Jedis and the ultimate fighting clones, built from the DNA of a bounty hunter (just the thing I want my three-year old to be well-versed in).

I suppose this helps me understand what the draw is but just once in a while could we please play veterinarian? Pretty Please?




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