|PARENTS: QUIT TRYING SO HARD|
Economics professor Bryan Caplan has advice for all those stressed-out parents in the world: Lighten up, you don't matter that much. As the father of twins, Caplan has immersed himself in twin research, which imparts this lesson: "With a few exceptions, the effect of parenting on adult outcomes ranges from small to zero," he writes in the Wall Street Journal. Studies have found that even identical twins raised apart can end up as similar as they would be had they grown up in the same home ... with the same parents. Parents obviously change kids—"the catch is that the changes fade out as kids grow up." Caplan sees too many parents turning parenting into a joyless chore—endless activities for the kids, no-TV rules, etc. These parents are noble but misguided, he contends. "High-strung parenting isn’t dangerous, but it does make being a parent a lot more work and less fun than it has to be," writes Caplan. The flipside of his philosophy of "Serenity Parenting": People who aren't tired and stressed as parents can have more kids.
|DEBATE OVER CHOCOLATE MILK IN SCHOOLS|
Should kids be allowed to drink chocolate milk, which often has more calories per ounce than Coke? Fairfax County and Washington, DC, schools banned it outright last year, and, shockingly, not everyone was happy. Parents, nutritionists, and, of course, special interest groups lobbied for its return. One popular argument for the sugary beverage? In addition to fat, sweeteners, and calories, it includes calcium and vitamin D—and it's the only way to get some kids to drink milk and, thus, get its essential nutrients, reports the Washington Post. More than 70% of the milk sold in school cafeterias is flavored, and the milk processors' group claims that if flavored milk is removed, students drink 37% less milk overall. Thanks in part to all the pressure, Fairfax County—which serves 62,000 gallons of chocolate milk a year—will reintroduce it in school cafeterias, but with some changes: less fat, and sucrose instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Those tweaks have appeased some critics, but others argue that a different sweetener doesn't rescue a drink whose calorie content hasn't changed. Says one healthy school lunches advocate: "Trying to get students to consume calcium by drinking chocolate milk is like getting them to eat apples by serving them apple pie."
|10 HIDDEN BENEFITS OF HAVING CHILDREN|
Children lower your blood pressure
A recent study conducted at Brigham Young University found that parenthood may actually help lower your blood pressure. Researchers at the school hooked up 200 married men and women to blood pressure monitors for 24 hours and found that couples with children had significantly lower blood-pressure readings than those without offspring. "While caring for children may include daily hassles, deriving a sense of meaning and purpose from life's stress has been shown to be associated with better health outcomes," says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead researcher. "This doesn't mean the more kids you have, the better your blood pressure. The findings are simply tied to parenthood, no matter the number of children or employment status."
Children entitle you to major tax savings
It used to be the only way you could make money off of your children was by sending them into the coal mines. But now, thanks to the IRS, your children allow you to qualify for some very valuable tax savings -- a notable hidden benefit of having children. According to one recently published study, the average family can save $3,500 per year simply by claiming child tax credits, education credits, and child- and dependent-care credits. "These tax credits shouldn't spur you to have a child," says U.S. tax attorney Roni Deutch, "but since the projected cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is just shy of $200,000, parents need all the help they can get."
Children get you better parking
Shopping with children is seldom easy, but there is one enormous perk to taking your rug rat to the mall: better parking. Many shopping centers, grocery stores and factory outlets now have parking spaces reserved especially for families and pregnant women. Not only are these spots conveniently located, but they're also usually vacant. As an added bonus, you can also drive in the HOV lane on your way to the store since even the smallest newborn legally counts as a full-fledged passenger.
Children keep you sane
Contrary to popular belief, children don't always drive their parents crazy. In fact, researchers at Taiwan's Mental Health Foundation claim they may even keep their parents sane well beyond their years. The organization recently interviewed 1,084 randomly selected senior citizens and found that seniors with no children scored 6.4 points lower on a mental health questionnaire than elderly subjects with children. "The results shows that people who have children are happier and have greater satisfaction and emotional well-being than those without children," says Tom Yang, the study's lead researcher.
Children renew your thirst for knowledge
Anyone who has children can attest that their child's favorite word is "why." Kids constantly want to know the answer to a variety of head-scratching questions like, "Why do a cat's eyes shine in the dark?", "Why does it smell so fresh after it rains?" and "Why do Mommy and Daddy always lock their bedroom door on Tuesday nights?" You may not have the answer to all of these queries (well, two-thirds of them anyhow), but they're sure to get your wheels turning as you attempt to formulate a plausible-sounding response. As your children get older, you'll also get to brush up on your education by relearning your multiplication tables, the names of every state bird and the capital of Liechtenstein (it's Vaduz, in case you were wondering).
Children make you sexier
Think puppies are the ultimate chick magnet? Think again. Any father will tell you there's no better way of attracting attention from the fairer sex than by strolling through a park with an adorable baby. Heck, even an ugly baby will do the trick, since most women are responding more to the father's sense of dedication and maturity than they are to the fruit of his loins. Who knew that a $200 stroller could elicit more oohs and aahs than a $200,000 sports car?
Children give you an alibi
Single men often complain that their friends with children never have time to hang out. And while there is some validity to that observation, they fail to realize many parents use their children as a convenient excuse to get out of unwanted social events. So, if your buddy tells you he can't attend your Jersey Shore marathon because his son has Tibetan whooping cough, there's a very good chance he didn't want to go in the first place.
Children increase your self-esteem
Anyone who has children knows firsthand the satisfaction you get from being told you're "the best daddy in the whole world." Those kinds of positive pronouncements can have a profound effect on your self-esteem, allowing you to accomplish tasks you previously thought were impossible.
Children remind you to stop and smell the roses
When was the last time you gazed at the stars or lay on your back watching the passing clouds? Kids engage in these kinds of wholesome activities all the time, and in doing so, they invite you to join them as well. You'll be amazed at how your cynicism and natural defenses will magically melt away after you begin seeing the world through a child's eyes.
Children make you happier
Parents have long suspected that their offspring make them happier, and now there's finally proof to support their claims. A new study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research has found a direct correlation between children and happiness for parents over the age of 40. Researchers surveyed 200,000 parents in 86 countries between 1981 and 2005 and found that from age 40 on, parents with one to three children were considerably more content than childless couples. After age 50, mothers and fathers were happier than childless couples, regardless of the size of their brood. The reasons for the findings aren't entirely surprising, since most children become easier to care for as they grow older. "Children may be a long-term investment in happiness," says Mikko Myrskyla, the author of the study. "Seeing the age trend of happiness independent of sex, income, partnership status, and even fertility rates shows that one has to explain it from the perspective of the stage of parents' life." These findings seem to be consistent with a recent Newsweek poll in which 50% of Americans said adding new children to their family tended to make them happier. Conversely, only 16% said that adding new children had a negative impact on their lives.
|CAR THIEF ASKS COPS FOR GAS VOUCHER|
An Indiana man was arrested after he allegedly showed up at a North Dakota police station in a stolen car looking for help to buy gas. The 19-year-old man from Charlestown, Indiana showed up at the station Monday morning asking for a gas voucher. Police work with a local charity to provide such vouchers to people in emergencies. The man told police he was trying to get to Wisconsin to attend a funeral. When the car he was driving turned out to be registered to a convenience store, authorities checked and discovered the vehicle had been stolen. That put an end to the gas voucher discussion. Officers took the man to jail.
|ANOTHER TEACHER IN TROUBLE FOR MOCK SLAVE AUCTION|
Perhaps it would be a good idea to skip the mock slave auctions while covering the Civil War. Parents are in an uproar after yet another elementary school engaged in such a lesson, this time in Norfolk, Virginia, on April 1. Jessica Boyle told all the black and mixed-race students in her fourth grade class to step to one side of the room, while the white students took turns "buying" them. The class is about 40% black and 40% white, the Washington Post reports. After the complaints started coming in, the principal wrote to parents and acknowledged that, “The lesson could have been thought through more carefully, as to not offend her students or put them in an uncomfortable situation." A spokesperson adds that Boyle, who had been teaching in Norfolk for six years, had never conducted such an auction before, and that "appropriate personnel action is being taken." Click for the tale of a similar mock auction out of Ohio.
|25% OF US HAVE MORE SYMPATHY FOR CONFEDERACY|
In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released yesterday, roughly 25% of Americans said they sympathized with the Confederacy more than the Union in the Civil War. Among white Southerners, that figure soars to nearly 40%. Among all respondents, a full 42% said slavery was not the main reason the South seceded. The results “show that there are still racial, political, and geographic divisions over the Civil War,” said CNN’s polling director. Broken down by party, most Democrats said the South seceded to keep slavery legal, while most Republicans said that was not the main reason. Roughly 80% of Republicans also said they admired Confederate leaders, though a nearly identical 79% said they admired Union leaders as well.
|DOC ASSAULTS PATIENTS, SAYS IT BURNS CALORIES|
When weight loss Dr. Arie Oren sexually assaulted one of his patients, he had a reason: "If you have an orgasm, that would burn 200 calories," he reportedly told her. Oren, 64, was arrested for multiple counts of sex assault; he allegedly grabbed one victim's breasts and told another patient, "You’re getting an extra special treat for losing all the weight," before using a massager on her genitals. Says the DA, "A number of [the victims] used the word ‘creepy’ to describe his conduct," NBC Philadelphia reports.