Tying up loose ends: a column of many topics

October 31, 2006|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Columnist

Friends and readers often suggest column topics to me. It is a bit like asking a doctor for medical advice while at a cocktail party.

Often, their suggestions can be dispensed with in a couple of thoughtful sentences - hardly enough to fill the newspaper space set aside for me each week - and my response goes something like this:

"Fine. Sounds good. But what is the rest of the column?"

This space is dedicated to those too-brief ideas - some suggested to me, some my own - that don't require much more discussion than is contained here.

God bless Madonna, Angelina and Brad and Meg Ryan, among many celebrities, for sharing their wealth with the world's poorest children by adopting them and bringing them home to Los Angeles or London or Central Park West. But these gestures creep me out.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me to be the human equivalent of visiting the SPCA and going home with a kitten that has been rescued from one of those houses where the old lady had 47 cats.

New York City is exploring a program that would provide poor parents with cash incentives to make the right choices for their children.

Modeled after a successful Mexican anti-poverty program, it would give families bonus money for taking their children for regular checkups and for good school attendance.

According to The New York Times, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is seeking private citizens who would support this program with donations.

No word on whether there would be retroactive payments to parents who tended to their children's health and schooling without financial incentive. Or whether parents who did not would be made to pay a surcharge.

Considering the procession of business bad boys - and girls - getting spanked for cooking the books or spying on their own board members, it is remarkable that any role models at all can be found in the corner offices of corporate America.

Except, perhaps, for Warren Buffett, who has made a ton of money owning a company that owns a lot of other companies.

Buffett set the bar pretty high when he decided to give away most of his billions to worthy causes instead of just making his children and grandchildren rich.

Now, Buffett has warned his top managers in Berkshire Hathaway that unethical behavior cannot be justified just because it is widespread.

In a memo obtained by the Financial Times, Buffett wrote, "The five most dangerous words in business may be `everybody else is doing it.'

"It is a seductive argument," he wrote. "But it couldn't be more wrong. In fact, every time you hear that phrase `Everybody else is doing it,' it should raise a huge red flag."

He suggested the same morality test my mother once suggested: How would I feel if what I did was printed on the front page of the local newspaper?

So, if your kids won't listen to you - I didn't listen to my mother - maybe they will listen to one of the richest men in the world.

A survey of Census Bureau data found that if you are married, you are in the minority.

Of more than 110 million households surveyed in 2005, only 49.7 percent were made up of married couples, according to an analysis reported in The Times. That's down from more than 52 percent in 2000.

The reason is a growing number of Americans are spending more of their lives single or just living together.

Social scientists are blaming the baby boomers - again. They say that we broke the marriage model with all our cohabitation. I am pretty sure that's what our parents said would happen.

Now, of course, all the baby boomers are hoping for grandchildren. The good news is, most of our kids will eventually get married - and pregnancy, either actual or hoped for, is often the reason.

Looking back through the telescope of time, I can see myself as the hyper parent who scheduled a million "enrichment experiences" for my young children because I thought these activities would enhance their physical health, their social development and that it would kick-start their young brains.

Turns out, I should have just left my kids alone to play in the sandbox.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report that trumpets the benefits of unstructured play for young children. It looks like this is just the thing to enhance their physical health, their social development, and kick-start their young brains.

All these years later, I am not sure the busyness I created for my children did much good. And it often made all our lives a misery.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Your pediatrician will be telling you this on your next well-child visit.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear audio clips of selected Susan Reimer columns, go to baltimoresun.com/reimer.

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