In this episode, the Betts had a parade for their nephew JohnPaul, who once embraced his namesake saint in Rome and has now become a US Army officer. Plus a daughter’s birthday, a Mother’s Day out, movies recommended and shows not recommended, and remembering to give a reason for your hope with gentleness.
On the latest episode of Raising the Betts, the Betts are back and rebutting a Harvard Law prof’s attack on homeschooling; catching up on bird-watching and outdoor adventures; and watching shows (Ahem, Tiger King) and reading new books. Plus, the road to Emmaus and the Eucharist.
Melanie posted a link on her Facebook page to Amy Welborn’s post on how she’s traveled with her sons in recent years all over the world. That sparked a question from one of her friends how so many of her friends manage to afford all the travel they do while she never seems to have the money or time for travel.
Many of the answers were instructive. Some simply said they were for all intents independently wealthy. Others pointed out that they were the recipient of largesse from family members or they lived in proximity to vacation destinations or that they didn’t go on big interesting vacations. (There could be an interesting, separate discussion, by the way, on how social media can distort our perception of what is normal or what “most” people we’re connected with are able to do.)
That got me to thinking about our own opportunities for travel. Certainly, in the past couple of decades I’ve been to Europe a handful of times, but all of them for work, for World Youth Day events. Melanie went to Europe several times years ago, during college and just after, either for semester abroad or backpacking from hostel to hostel. But other than that, we’ve spent our time here in the US.
Together, we’ve visited her family in Texas many times. When we were dating and first married, we traveled to Texas every year around Christmas, but once we had more than a couple of kids that became prohibitive, even with financial help from her parents. Since 2012, we’ve only been back twice, once for Melanie’s brother’s wedding that year and then last year for her parents’ 50th anniversary.
In 2014, we drove to northern Virginia for a vacation, visiting my mom and sister who were living there at the time, sleeping in my sister’s basement. We’ve also stayed in a lakeside cabin a couple of times, a beautiful house that we couldn’t afford normally, but which was made available both times through the generosity of a friend. We’ve also camped in Maine several times, a few days at a time. And last year we took a long, two-week road trip through 10 states, where we stayed with friends, stayed in a cabin paid for by Melanie’s parents, at an AirBNB partially paid for by her parents, and camping out several nights.1 Read More and Comment
While I am on record about favoring smaller government and in general I applaud President Trump’s recent proposal to downsize and merge some federal cabinets and agencies, something about the merger of the Departments of Labor and Education stuck in my craw.
What bothers me is how the idea betrays the current belief—which crosses party lines—that education is about raising a new generation of employees and workers.
Among the specific proposals outlined is a plan to merge the departments of education and labor into a single Department of Education and the Workforce, or DEW. The combined agency would oversee programs for students and workers, ranging from education and developing skills to workplace protections and retirement security.
We hear all the time that we need to have better schools for our children so that can have better opportunities for jobs. We see parents fretting over pre-school programs in order to ensure their children can go to the right colleges and get high-paying jobs after graduation. But is that really what education is? Is education primarily just another name for trade school?
Yes, I want my kids to have every opportunity to live out God’s plan for their lives as adults, to be able to provide for themselves and their families, to contribute to society. But I also want them to be good people. I want them to be thoughtful, intelligent, and curious about the world. I want them to enjoy the beauty that surrounds them in nature and in music, art, poetry, and books. I want them to know what it means to be a good spouse, a good parent, a good neighbor. I want them to understand history in order to make wise decisions about the future.
Education isn’t about sitting in a school for 12 or 16 or 20 years in order to secure a career. Education is about human formation, about learning to think, to know, and how to ask questions. Education is about becoming a better person.
Government is perhaps one of the worst instruments for doing any of that and the higher up the government food chain you go, the worse that it becomes. Because education is about forming individuals, whereas the federal government only sees statistical millions.
It would be better if the plan was to eliminate the federal Department of Education all together and re-examine how we go about educating children in this country. But, alas, given the state of politics today, we’d be lucky to see these two cabinet agencies merge.
Sometimes you see a news story and you realize that the people involved have their heads so buried in the own worldview that they can’t see how asinine the situation is.
That’s the first point at which someone should have questioned the artistic director’s judgment.
They included in the play a scene in which an adult man gets naked in front of the audience … of children. Is this not indecent exposure in front of children? This is the second moment someone should have stepped in. Of course, when some board members objected, it wasn’t because of the nudity per se, but because they weren’t consulted first. It’s really about turf, not appropriateness.
Now the artistic director is screaming censorship because he wasn’t allowed to parade a naked adult male in front of children, he’s been laid off (maybe temporarily, maybe not), a board member has resigned, and the cast and staff are on strike.
And those of us who are actual parents are aghast at the whole thing. What kind of parent would take a child to one of Boston Children’s Theatre performances now given their display of an appalling lack of judgement?
Meanwhile the director is defending his decision to include the nudity.
“We do have shows that are much more traditional children’s fare, and we also do shows that challenge the boundaries of children’s theater,’’ he said.
Why? Why do you need to challenge the boundaries? The boundaries are there for a reason, to protect children and their innocence. This part of the wider trend in society to further sexualize children at younger and younger ages. After all, they want to start sex education in kindergarten. I wouldn’t doubt someone is already doing it. By high school, we just assume that they’re having hookup sex and there’s no use expecting them to do otherwise.
Judge a society by how it protects its children. In our society, if they survive legalized abortion, they can expect have their innocence and childhood assaulted well into their extended adolescence in their 20s.
Time magazine’s “gender and sexuality” columnist Stephanie Fairyington thinks it’s a shame how technology has simultaneously made it easier for unfaithful spouses to find opportunities to cheat while making it easier for the jilted spouse to find out about it.
Despite the frightening and ever-expanding ways to electronically snoop, in order to fully modernize marriage we need to resist the degrading urge to spy on our spouses and acknowledge, in radical opposition to our times, each individual’s right to privacy within matrimony, including the right to act in our own sexual and romantic self-interests independent of our partner’s knowledge or consent. (Bear with me.) (Emphasis and parenthetical in original)
Once you’ve deconstructed marriage, unmoored it from its foundations, and stripped it of its very meaning, what’s left to be faithful to? In the end, what will be the point of marriage at all, in this twisted world view?
At the end of May we purchased a new family vehicle, a 2015 Ford Transit Wagon, to replace our aging Buick Terraza minivan. It’s quite the upgrade.
We’d had the Buick for about 10 years and we have been talking about replacing it for the last five years. The biggest problem was that even as a minivan, it’s capacity was limiting. We literally could not fit another child into the car and even with just the five kids, we moved Isabella out of her booster and Sophia and Ben out of their car seats into boosters before we were supposed to. We couldn’t take long road trips because the poor kids were so cramped and there was no place to put stuff. But we managed to endure until we took the Buick in for some repairs. Our great mechanic told us that we need to replace struts, wheels, and brakes and do major work on the air conditioner, all of which together would cost about $3,000. Truly, it was time to move on.
I knew we needed to move up to a larger vehicle and because the Transit was Ford’s newest version of the full-size van we settled on that, finding a couple of recent vintage with low miles locally.1
There’s a lot to like about the van. It doesn’t have a lot of frills, but it does have a very nice rearview camera in the bumper. If you’d asked me whether it was something I would want in a new vehicle I’d have said No, but after a couple of months with it, now I want it on my Honda. The camera is especially useful on the Transit because there is almost no view out of the back window. The design of the pillars in the rear doors is unnecessarily bulky, I think, so you can hardly see anything. But with the rear camera and the very nice side mirrors, that’s not a real issue. The side mirrors offer both a big straight up rear view mirror and a concave mirror that lets you see all around the side, removing blind spots, but also making parking within the lines easier.
The view from the driver’s seat is pretty good overall. It sits high up and the front windshield is a large expanse of glass, while the nose of the van is quite short, giving you an excellent view. There are several storage space and cup holders in easy reach of the driver and front passenger, but not much storage in the back and while there’s several cup holders in back, not one for every seat.
There are only two windows that roll down, the front passenger and driver and only half of the windows roll down. It’s kind of odd how much of the window doesn’t go down.
The passenger version of the Transit comes in a number of seating configurations, holding up to 15 people, but ours seats 10.2 This gives us a big space right inside the sliding door, behind the front passenger where we can put all kinds of gear. The nice thing is that the two in car seats, Anthony and Lucia, are right behind the driver and passenger. In the next row, Isabella, who used to be cramped in the middle in the back of the old car, now has a glorious row to herself. And Sophia and Benedict are in the back without anyone competing for arm rests.
As a full-size van, we have new considerations like the height of the van. It’s taller than the minivan at 6-feet, 11-inches and won’t fit in some garages, a problem which Melanie ran into recently. And it’s certainly bigger all around when you’re maneuvering.
Overall, though, it’s been a very nice upgrade so far. I wish we could have done it earlier. I’m looking forward to really putting it through its paces in August when we take it for a week of camping.
- I think we got a pretty good deal on the van we purchased, if the sour looks and attitude of the finance manager were anything to judge by. He was especially unhappy when I got him to admit that the “couple bucks a month” extended warranty would be $5,000 extra — and he was going to finance it to boot! No thanks. ↩︎
- It can come with seating for as few as 8. To seat 12, you need the long wheelbase version and for 15, you need the extended-length version. ↩︎
Alison Gopnik argues that we shouldn’t use the word “parenting” to describe the act of raising a child. After all we don’t turn “husband” or “wife” into verbs. But the use of “parent” as a verb suggest that we’ve turned it into a job with tasks that can be followed to arrive at a desired result, like a cabinetmaker building a chair.
“The promise of ‘parenting’ is that there is some set of techniques, some particular expertise, that parents could acquire that would help them accomplish the goal of shaping their children’s lives,” she writes. But that would only work if children were a “thing”, a machine whose nuances could be learned. But that doesn’t work. Not even if you think of them as incredibly complex machines. Yet this is what very often how we see other people around us, as bundles of facts and inputs and outputs and data. I know I often feel like a faceless bundle of systems whenever I enter the healthcare realm.
People, including children, are spiritual/physical hybrids who are constantly shifting and changing and each one is utterly unique. You can’t read a manual or take a class that teaches you the successful technique for raising a child, because it’s impossible for such a thing to exist.
We’re supposed to “be parents”, not “parent”. A parent is someone who is, not just someone who does. We learned to raise children by being raised, by seeing other children raised, by participating in the raising of other children in our families, by being around and seeing the children in our community being raised.
Finally. For years, Melanie and I have bemoaned the lack of an app to help parents track their children’s sicknesses over time, like heir temperatures and what medicine you gave them and when. It’s especially difficult when you’ve been up all night and you have multiple kids sick at once. And then you’ve both been giving out the meds.
It looks like Feevy is the answer.
The app lets you track a child’s temperature on a graph over time, so if you take their temperature every few hours, you can go back over all of your recent readings and see if their temperature is holding steady, trending up, or trending down at a glance. You can also add things like medications that you’ve given them and when, so you make sure not to give them too much in too short a time period, and add notes about how your child is feeling at various intervals.
It lets you sync the data with someone else as well! It’s $2 right now. iPhone and iPad only.
At the end of another disastrous Supreme Court term, one in which the judicial giant, Antonin Scalia, was lost, the Court handed down a terrible decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy that overturned Texas’ law that put abortion clinics under the same sort of regulations that other surgical clinics have to abide by. This sets back the cause of saving live of babies yet again and puts even more women at risk of another Kermit Gosnell mass murder situation.
It’s been a year since the end of the previous Supreme Court term, in which they disastrously created a constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex and so I wanted to revisit some of my thoughts from then to show how terrible the current bench is and why it’s so important we get better justices.
"In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were." – Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing in the majority opinion of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.
Yes, that's called "children". The whole point of the State protecting and promoting marriage was to protect and promote children, which are vital to the continuation of the State. But ever since we legalized contraception, divorce, and abortion, we've eroded the reason and meaning of civil marriage. So now we come to this: Marriage now exists to magnify the most important thing of all: The All-Glorious Me! And children, for many people–heterosexual and homosexual alike–exist for the same reason: to reflect on Me! and how they make Me! feel.
The State will soon issue each of us a reflecting pool in which we can gaze at ourselves to our heart's content while everything crumbles around us, unheeded.
(Yes, infertile unions are still valid civil marriages because they bear the potential and the meaning of childbearing. It's a complicated philosophical thought. Just turn on MSNBC and don't worry about it.)
Let’s also heap scorn on Justice Kennedy's purple prose at the end of his majority opinion: "Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness." Yep, that's right. Suddenly the US Constitution's job is to ensure that people aren't lonely.
It's not the Nanny State. It's the Yenta State, validating your love and making sure you aren't lonely.
By the way, I wonder how all those happily single people feel about being "condemned to live in loneliness."
Finally, a few quick thoughts:
- It’s time for the Church to get out of the civil marriage business. See the Justice of the Peace to get the legal document, then go to the church for the sacrament.
- Homosexuals make up less than 3% of the population of the US. It’s not going to be a large number of marriages. But be prepared for advertisers and Hollywood to have them show up everywhere.
- We lost this battle when no-fault divorce was legalized and with the acceptance “sweet mystery of life” clause (so-dubbed by Justice Antonin Scalia) in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, not coincidentally also written by Kennedy: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” By that way of thinking, anything at all is permissible.