TIME safety

FOMO Is Making Teens Terrible Drivers

The pressure to be "always on" is leading young people to take their eyes off the road

A frightening amount of drivers will fess up to texting while driving. One recent survey found that 70% of people will admit to using their smartphones at the wheel. Now a new study goes beyond bad behaviors to investigate the motivations behind them. When it comes to teen drivers at least, it appears the culprit is an ascendant cultural plague: FOMO.

FOMO, an acronym for fear of missing out, is not just another cloying bit of slang, report Liberty Mutual Insurance and the non-profit SADD, an acronym for Students Against Destructive Decisions. In their study of 1,622 high school juniors and seniors around the country, teen drivers said they feel pressure to respond immediately to texts even while driving and that they can’t help but peek at their phones when notifications pop up in their apps. The expectations of their “always on” lifestyles, the researchers say, have “potentially deadly consequences.”

“Today’s hyper-connected teens … may be more plugged into their devices than the actual driving task,” says William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in a statement. Teens may struggle to attend to everything they should on the road even without a smartphone, he says, because they are less experienced drivers. Once a device is thrown into the mix, messages and updates and videos and tweets become additional competitors for their attention, along with the radio, the climate controls or the hundred things happening outside the car.

In the study released Tuesday, more than half of teens said they text while driving in order to keep their parents updated and about one-fifth of them said they believe their parents expect a response within a single minute, even when they are at the wheel. (For their part, nearly 60% of 1,000 parents also surveyed for the study said they do not have a set expectation for response times.) About half of teens said they text more when they’re in the car alone than when others are in the car with them. The most popular apps they said they used while driving break down as follows:

  • Snapchat: 38%
  • Instagram: 20%
  • Twitter: 17%
  • Facebook: 12%
  • YouTube: 12%

The list highlights that, like older drivers, teenagers aren’t just texting while driving. They’re watching videos and taking selfies.

The feeling that they must like an Instagram photo or reply to a Facebook comment the moment it’s posted not only makes teenagers distracted, the researchers say, but may contribute to their general fatigue. In their survey, 58% of teens said they had either fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel, and about half of them said they get only three to six hours of sleep per night during the week, often because they’re up staring into their smartphone screens. The effects of driving while sleepy, the researchers point out, are similar to those of driving under the influence; 24 hours without sleep can be the equivalent of three cocktails.

SADD was founded to stop young people from drinking and driving but has expanded its mission to combat an array of things that undermine young people’s health and safety. Their experts suggest parents act on data like this by talking to their kids, making it clear that it’s fine not to respond while they’re en route somewhere and making sure they get a decent amount of shuteye each night. “Today’s parents are juggling their own busy schedules, and too often young drivers’ risky habits go unrecognized,” says SADD’s Stephen Gray Wallace in a statement.

It appears they should also continue to pound away at the message being trumpeted by everyone from trauma centers to wireless carriers: It’s dangerous to use your phone while driving, and despite how you might feel at the time, whatever it is can wait. Nearly 90% of the teens who said they use apps on the road also said they consider themselves “safe” drivers, the study found, as did 60% of those who make calls. While many said they’re texting with purpose—to coordinate an event or update a friend—nearly 20% say they text while driving “just for fun.”

“It’s critical that parents focus on pinpointing these dangerous driving habits early on,” says Wallace, “and have frequent conversations with their children about what safe driving really means.”

TIME Family

Balloon Released at Father’s Grave Amazingly Comes Back Home

An Oklahoma widow and her daughter who spent their first Father’s Day without dad this year released balloons and a message at his grave site — and may have gotten a “message” back.

The pair was stunned when — after leaving the cemetery, running a few errands, and driving 25 mile back home — the balloon’s note showed up at their house.

Sandy and Saige Seibold are still mourning the loss of Johnny Seibold after he died following a battle with pancreatic cancer earlier this year…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Family

Thousands of Women Will Breastfeed in Public to Kick Off World Breastfeeding Week

Women around the world raise awareness about breastfeeding

Thousands of mothers around the world will breastfeed together for one minute in public on Saturday, to raise awareness about breastfeeding.

The worldwide event, called the “Big Latch On,” is part of World Breast Feeding week from Aug. 1 to Aug. 7, started by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The annual event, launched in 1992, is a partnership of global organizations looking to promote breast feeding around the world. Each year, the week is organized around a theme, and the theme for 2015—”Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work!”—is designed to help promote policies that make it easier for women to breastfeed and work at the same time. This year, the week will be celebrated 176 countries.

Guy Ryder, director-general of the International Labour Organization, a specialized agency of the U.N., has said that the issue of maternity protections and work is a priority for improving gender equality around the world: “globally more than 800 million women workers, or 41%, still don’t have adequate maternity protection,” he said.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months of an infant’s life.

TIME Family

A Mom Called the Police on My 3-Year-Old Son After a Playground Accident

playground
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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

"She wanted to press charges," the police officer told me. I'm not sure if he meant against me or my pre-schooler

xojane

I wasn’t sure whether or not to write about this. I generally prefer not to write about my son, out of respect for his privacy, and I don’t want to put myself in a legally questionable situation by writing about what happened. But it’s been several days since the incident and I’ve still got a crazy cocktail of rage, panic, and sadness churning inside my chest and I don’t know how else to get it out.

Here’s the short version: A mother called the police after my son and her daughter collided in a playground accident. That really happened. He’s 3.

The longer version is this: I was sitting on a bench, in a spot where I could see the entire circular track the kids scoot and ride their bikes around. When my son didn’t complete his lap in a timely manner, I stood up to look for him and saw him standing with a family including several children. He’s extremely social and often stops to talk and make friends, so I assumed he was just chatting with them.

A minute or so later I heard him yelling “Mommy, Mommy.” I ran over to find two children sobbing hysterically, a little girl and my son.

A woman sitting nearby volunteered, “I saw the whole thing! They ran into each other. They’re both just scared.” I gathered my son into my arms and comforted him, telling him it was OK, that it was an accident.

“I didn’t mean to knock her over,” he sobbed. He then repeatedly tried to apologize to the little girl and her mother, who ignored him. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he sputtered over and over.

“Is she OK?” I asked the little girl’s mother. She told me her tooth was wiggly and bleeding. My son was still hysterical, so I picked him up and started to move to another corner to continue calming him down.

The other mother motioned to me not to leave.

“What do you want from me?” I asked her. “It was an accident.”

I didn’t mean it in a sarcastic way at all — I wasn’t sure if she wanted money, or my contact info, or in what way she expected me to help. I was (probably stupidly) prepared to do what she asked for. The last thing I expected was what she said next.

“I called the police.”

“YOU CALLED THE POLICE?” This is the point at which I have been mentally punching this woman for days now.

“Your son hit my daughter,” she said. “I called the police.”

At that moment, my internal Mama Bear rose up to her hind legs and bared her claws. “He’s 3 YEARS OLD. It was an accident,” I snarl/yelled. I have never in my life felt a sense of assertiveness so strong for my own self, but when it came to my kid, I felt an unprecedented sense of agency and strength. I knew I would stand up for my child in absolutely any way needed to protect him.

“She’s crazy,” shouted the witness. “I saw the whole thing. They ran into each other. It was a total accident.”

I asked the witness if she would stay until the police arrived, then scooped up my hysterical 3-year-old and marched to the other end of the playground, where I stewed as he asked questions like “Why did she call the police? Am I going to jail? Is the little girl OK? Is SHE going to jail?”

When the police car rolled up outside the gate of the playground area, I let the woman tell her side of the story before walking over to talk to them.

“It’s my son,” I volunteered. “He’s sitting right there, in the green helmet.”

“Look,” the police officer tried to explain to the other mother, “I can see him crying from here. It was an accident. It’s not like he did it on purpose.”

The mother, who had a shaky command of English, then leaned down to her daughter and asked her to translate to the police that “the mother” (me) hadn’t shown up for 10 or 20 minutes after the accident, which was a complete lie. I’d actually been running my stopwatch as my son went around the track so I know it hadn’t been more than 2-and-a-half minutes since he’d set out.

Again, the police explained that it was an accident and there was nothing they could do about it.

“It’s a park,” said the officer from before.”Kids are running around all over the place here.”

They offered to call an ambulance for the injured little girl, which the mother accepted. I stayed back while they loaded her in and finished their interactions.

From my vantage point I could see another family member or friend who had been with them telling her version of the story to a large crowd that had collected. From her broad “wooshing” hand gestures, I could see that she was intimating that my son was some sort of reckless danger to society on a 3-wheeler scooter. I somehow managed to not stomp over there and ask her to stop regaling the park with stories about my 3-year-old son at least until he had stopped sobbing.

When the family was on their way, I asked the police officers if they needed my information or anything. They said no. “She wanted to press charges,” he told me. I’m not sure if he meant against me or my pre-schooler.

“I can see the woman over there telling everyone the story…” I began.

“Yeah, he’s a maniac, right?” the police officer said winkingly, before he and his partner headed on their way.

It’s been a few days since this happened, and my son seems to be fine. He got a scare, but he’s back on his scooter and hasn’t mentioned the incident again. He’s always been very conscientious about watching out for pedestrians while on his scooter, but it can’t hurt for him to be even more so. We haven’t yet been back to the area of the park where the collision happened, but I think that’s more because of my fear than his.

Because while he’s fine, I’m not. I’m furious. And I’m scared. My black son just had his first police interaction at age 3.

I have tried to be understanding of the panic the other mother probably felt when her daughter was hurt. My son knocked his teeth back into his gums in a fight with a slide and had to be held down in the ER while he got stitches where he bit through his own tongue. I know how it feels to be scared for your injured child. I feel terrible, as did my son, for the little girl who was hurt.

It’s still hard for me to understand how a fellow mother could call the police on a sobbing 3-year-old. But I want to believe that she simply didn’t know what to do, and called the police out of fear and confusion. I even want to believe that she was trying to lay the groundwork to sue me, that she wanted money. I want to believe those things more than some things I could believe.

I’m glad the police were reasonable and straightened things out. Perhaps in this instance, it was best they were there to handle what was obviously a touchy situation. In this instance. This time.

But to be the mother of a black son is to be scared for them, constantly. Black mothers know this better than me, have known it for a long time. I am not the person to tell that story.

I don’t know if there was a racial component to what happened this time, but I can’t help but flash forward to someday when someone may wrongfully point their finger at my son again, someday when he’s not an adorable 3-year-old, someday when I’m not there to speak for him.

And I think that’s why my guts are still roiling days later, why I am still feeling emotional about an incident that everyone seems to agree was crazy, but over now. That I shouldn’t let it get to me. It got to me. I’m not over it. I wish I was.

But if nothing else, I am glad I felt that Mama Bear rise up inside me. I am glad that I knew, in that moment, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would and will always do anything, ANYTHING to protect my son. Because, unfortunately, he lives in a world where he needs a little extra protection.

Emily McCombs wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Canada

Pressure Drove Daughter to Slaughter Parents, Friend Says

Jennifer Pan received two life sentences for the murder of her mother and attempted murder of her father

In January of this year, a 28-year-old Ontario woman, Jennifer Pan, along with her accomplices, received two life sentences for the murder of her mother and attempted murder of her father in a staged home invasion robbery in 2010. However, it is the story written by one of her high school classmates, Karen K. Ho, for Toronto Life last week exploring the back story of how Pan got to that point that has Asian Americans and Asian Canadians talking about the horrific case again, in the context of high expectations from immigrant parents and the pressures of the model minority myth…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

 

MONEY Family

The Hidden Upside to Living With Mom and Dad

Recent college grads may think living at home is less than ideal, but it has its advantages.

CNN’s Christine Romans thinks it’s the perfect solution. If you’ve just graduated from college, there’s a good chance you’ve got at least a little bit of debt. Romans advises you to take a year at home to save up money, start paying off your loans, and get on your feet financially. But don’t stay forever, she says. Make a plan – you can even sign a contract – with your parents on what responsibilities you’ll take on, and how you plan to be out of the house before two years are up.

Read next: Why Millennials Are Better Off Waiting 10 Years to Buy a Home

TIME Parenting

10 Pieces of Classical Music Your Toddler Will Love

Wooden scroll double bass classical music
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A sanity-saving playlist

Listening to classical music with your toddlers can boost brainpower.

Not theirs. Yours.

As a parent of a child under the age of 5, I know you can only spend so much time listening to “We Are the Dinosaurs” on repeat before your neurotransmitters suffer irreversible damage.

But if you can get your young kids into classical music, you can swap out that Laurie Berkner for some Beethoven from time to time, say during a long summer vacation drive, and earn your brain a musical respite. And they’ll be primed for more interesting musical taste down the road.

The key is to start with the kind of orchestral works your toddlers are most likely to get into on their own. That means short, melodic and upbeat.

Here are 10 kid-tested pieces of classical music to try.

1. Carmen Overture, Georges Bizet

The plot of Carmen, one of the most popular operas of all time, may be R-rated, but the wordless overture is fun for all ages. Alternating between military pomp and a romantic melody, the piece is perfect for marching around the living room.

2. In the Hall of the Mountain King, Edvard Grieg

Grieg later admitted that he hated this piece for its cheesiness, but that’s exactly why your kids will love it. My daughter and I pretend we’re sneaking into the troll king’s castle during the slow start then running away during the brash finish.

3. William Tell Overture, Gioachino Rossini

Rossini’s final opera was supposed to be a serious drama, but these days it’s mostly remembered for an overture used as the theme song to the “Lone Ranger.” Kids will like the fast-moving catchy melody, which suggests the feeling of riding on horseback.

4. The Flight of the Bumblebee, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

This is another classical work that kids immediately understand because it is so literal. The speedier modern interpretations, especially, bring to mind a bumblebee, the kind of everyday insect that kids have probably seen firsthand.

5. Radetzky March, Johann Strauss I

When Austrian military officers first heard this upbeat march, they began spontaneously clapping, a tradition that is kept alive by audiences today and on most recordings. It may take younger kids a while to learn to clap on the beat, but they’ll enjoy figuring it out.

6. An Der Schönen Blauen Donau, Johann Strauss II

The junior Strauss’ most famous work, known in English as The Blue Danube, has the stately air of a fancy ball. If your toddler can’t get enough of the coronation day dance in Frozen, this will be a popular song to listen to while twirling around the house.

7. Hungarian Dance No. 5, Johannes Brahms

Thanks to his famous lullaby, Brahms was probably already your child’s favorite classical composer as an infant. This Hungarian dance, particularly in the peppy orchestral versions, will make him popular in the toddler years too.

8. Hoe-Down, Aaron Copland

The final section of Copland’s Rodeo ballet is great for toddlers who like to troop around the house in a cowboy hat talking about Sheriff Woody and Jessie the Cowgirl. Their attention may wander at times, but the central riff returns soon enough.

9. The Barber of Seville Overture, Gioachino Rossini

If you’re middle-aged, your first experience with classical music was probably seeing this piece performed by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Even without the slapstick visuals, there are enough fun moments in this piece to keep young kids engaged.

10. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Though not as danceable as some of the other songs on this list, Mozart’s famously light piece is engaging and energetic. Toddlers who have already gotten into orchestral music through the rest of this list will appreciate it.

 

TIME Parenting

What It’s Like to Raise a Son From Behind Bars

I basically raised him over the phone

I’ve been in and out of jail since I was 13. My last stretch was four years: one at Rikers Island, about two at Greene Correctional Facility, and I bounced around a couple of others. I got locked up for running one of the largest drug delivery services in New York City. I was charged with kingpin conspiracy, a felony for controlled substance.

I got caught with a kilo and a half of cocaine and a whole bunch of money. My team did about 40 direct drug sales to a federal agent. I was making millions as a teenager. It went down in 2009 as one of the most significant cases, because I was young, and everybody working for me — about 20 people — was in their 40’s and 50’s.

My son Cathaniel was 1 when I went in and 5 when I got out. I basically raised him over the phone — talking to him with his first words, helping him with homework, teaching him the ABCs. That’s how I raised him: over the phone and when he would come to visits. Since he grew up with his mom, and didn’t have me around, he’s not athletic like I was as a kid. I just wasn’t there to show him the guy role.

Communication

I talked to him on the phone pretty often: every three days. When I was in a prison really far upstate, we had phone limitations. We could only speak on the phone every two weeks for around five minutes at a time, so it was very limited at that time. I sent him pictures. I paid people in prison to draw pictures of me and him. I would have people draw him cartoons that I’d send him.

A lot of inmates make money in prison by selling artwork. The price for a portrait of my son and me varies depending on where you’re at. Rikers Island was more expensive, and it cost 50 bucks. Once you’re upstate, you can get it wholesale, and somebody will do it for like 10-20 bucks. I’ve seen people get portraits of their kids — tattoos on their bodies — for like 25 bucks, whole-body pics.

Some guy taught me how to do a picture frame out of chip bags. I would get a bunch of Doritos, open it up, flip it inside out, and use the metal foil. We’d cut them out in pieces and make a picture frame by interlocking every little piece. Then you tie it up with a little string of thread.

Visitation

My ex-wife brought my son over at least once a week to visit me at first when I was at Rikers Island. We actually got married at Rikers Island. Then, once I’d gone upstate, the visits became limited. She didn’t drive, so she didn’t have a source of transportation other than the bus to get up there, so I saw my son about once a month. The last year I was in prison, I probably saw him twice the whole year.

On Rikers Island there’s a table in the visiting room inmates can’t cross, and the visits are 2 hours. I would sneak him in food, like, Snickers bars and Reese’s Pieces. I could hug them over the table and have my son sit on my lap, but I couldn’t walk around with him. Once you get upstate, you have more breathing room. They have a playpen area for the kids. I would take him out there, walk around the little house, watch cartoons, hold him, play LEGOs, and read him a book. When I was upstate, they were six-to-eight hour visits and just better.

The problem is that once you have to say goodbye, you can’t see him anymore. That’s when he would cry and be stressed. He would be like “When are you coming home, daddy? I want you to go home! Let’s go home!” And he would try to pull me, and I was like, “I can’t. I can’t.” And he would just start crying.

That’s when that realization hits: “Damn, I’m stuck.” It’s just frustrating. You can’t break out. You can’t do nothing. You’re state property.

Between me and my son it was very hard. That was like a knife being stabbed into my heart. Him seeing me in the situation I was in was very sad for me, and I had this sharp pain in my chest. I was super disappointed. I thought I’d let him down.

My dad was in my life, but he worked a lot. I didn’t really see him a lot, but at least he was in my life. Being a dad for me was like, “Damn, I really messed up. And I can’t do nothing about it. I just got to deal with this situation.”

At the beginning, I was super cold-hearted when I was in the street. I didn’t really care about anything. What really hit me hard was when I got that deep emotion from my son crying in the visiting room. That’s what really made me say I can’t go back; this has to stop. Not only for me, but I got to show him an example and help him out.

Leading By Example

When I grew up, I knew my family loved me, but they never told me they loved me. I stress that fact that I love my son. I hug him and show him way more emotion than I received as a kid. I feel like that’ll keep him out. I spoil the hell out of him, which is not a good thing, but it feels like I missed all this time of his life, so when he asks me for something, I owe him. My ex-wife hates it and says, “Don’t do that.” So I’m sneaky, and I’ll hide it.

Cathaniel is an incredible kid. He’s super smart. He’s going to a really good Catholic school. I was a totally different child than him. I grew up running the streets when I was five years old. He’s sheltered and has the iPad and video games. I was hitting the streets, not going home until late. I was not scared of going downstairs and running around. It’s a whole different generation now.

I take him to my studio. He sees what I’m doing. He sees the transformation that I’ve had. He sees me on TV. He knows my story. He works out with me. He wants to do what I’m doing. Sometimes he tells me to hold the phone and record him because he’s going to try and do pushups or one of the workouts I do. And he’s like a little chubby butterball, but he has fun, and he’s cute.

The best I can do is show him an example of how to be a productive citizen and live the right way. I could be the greatest role model, but it takes just one temptation from some peers for him to fall into the wrong habits. I don’t see it in him, doing anything wrong like I did, but you never know.

He could go to school someday, and one guy will be like, “Hey, you want to smoke some bud?” And he could follow that way of life. The best thing I can do is just show him a good example today and talk to him. At the end of the day, it’s up to Cathaniel.

Coss Marte is an ex-convict who has, since his release, founded ConBody, a successful boot camp-style fitness and nutrition counseling service based on his experience in prison. This article originally appeared on Fatherly

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TIME Family

How to Balance 2 Careers in a Family

It has to be an ongoing conversation

If your family isn’t just “me, the kid, and my partner,” but, rather, “me, the kid, my partner, and both our careers,” then you’re probably in the midst of a Flying Wallendas-like balancing act trying to keep everything on track. But figuring out whose career should take precedence in a family is never simply about dollars and cents.

“[It] can change, day to day,” says certified coach Rachael Ellison, whose practice focuses on strategic business consulting, executive coaching, and countless discussions about this exact topic. When talking through it with two working parents, she encourages them not to think about it as a one-off decision but an ongoing conversation about “who should lean into their career and who should lean back.”

And, if you feel weird subjecting your marriage and career to therapy with a certified coach, remember: “It’s not therapy. It’s a planning process.”

Nobody with kids has time to read the whole Internet. Sign up here for Time for Parents, a weekly newsletter with only the worthwhile stuff.

Stop Making Assumptions

“These are conversations that people avoid having,” Ellison says. “Everyone kind of expects that the other one understands whose career should take precedence.”

If one of you has agreed to stay home and put a career on pause, have you talked about how long they’re comfortable doing that? If one of you is working more to accommodate a paused career and missing events or milestone because of it, have you talked about whether or not it’s worth it?

If the answer to questions like that is “Kinda?” then you have a bumpy road ahead. Even if you’re the next president and she’s Betty Draper, you both need to communicate what the other wants and expects.

Focus On The 5 Ps

These conversations are complicated because they affect your time, relationships, even where you live — so Ellison recommends breaking them down into 5 key areas:

  • Parental — Kid-related. Who’s packing lunches? Which days are soccer practice? Does the kid prefer bath time or doctor’s appointments with a particular parent (be honest)?
  • Professional — Work-related. Do you plan on moving if you land that dream job in Dallas next year? Why is your dream job in Dallas? Reconsider Dallas.
  • Personal — Whatever keeps each of you sane: golf, the spa, running, The Annual Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw. These things are essential and need to be accounted for.
  • Partnership — Lovelife. Don’t let the kid suck all the oxygen out of the conversation. Factor in the time and financial considerations to maintain the things you need as a couple, because the conversations get way more complicated if you’re divorced.
  • Practical — Everything else. Does gentrification mean you’re going to get priced out of your neighborhood? Will your aging in-laws need to move in with you? Is that a goiter developing on the dog?

Take The Long View

If your wife is a teacher, plan on childrearing duties shifting around her in the summers. If you’re a CPA, plan on shifting household duties around, say, every spring for the rest of your life. Is the kid about to start kindergarten, and how does that affect your finances? Does one of you want to go back to school for that MBA?

Get a sense of not just the year-in, year-out stuff, but what your lives will look like in five, 10, even 20 years out.

Take The Short View

“Breaking down those big-picture issues into manageable topics is what’s most important here,” Ellison says. “As long as both want to/need to stay in the workforce, then you’re ultimately making a decision around how the little things are covered.”

Who makes breakfast in the morning? Who’s doing drop-offs and pickups from school on Tuesdays, and should that change on Wednesdays? Once there’s a general understanding of each other’s future, navigating the daily hurdles comes easier. Keep in mind this is a “process,” Ellison advises,”not a decision that’s made categorically and finally.”

One last bit of advice: Nothing ruins date night like inventorying five years of ambitions and obstacles in order to assign spousal duties, so carve out a specific time to have these conversations. Like dental exams, appointments with the proctologist, or that conversation about porn you’ll soon have with your kid, it can be painful, but it’s for the best.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

Malala’s Dad: How I Raised a Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Malala Yousafzai and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai at the first Global Citizenship Commission in Scotland on Oct. 19, 2013.
Andy Buchanan—AFP/Getty Images Malala Yousafzai and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai at the first Global Citizenship Commission in Scotland on Oct. 19, 2013.

"She's leading and I'm one of her supporters."

Before 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, she ran her acceptance speech by one guy: her father Ziauddin. After all, it was Zia’s support for the rights of girls in Pakistan’s Swat Valley that inspired his daughter to write about life under the Taliban for the BBC. Zia encouraged Malala as she rose to international prominence through her own advocacy and, when the Taliban retaliated by shooting his daughter in the head, he left behind the school system he oversaw to be by her side in England throughout her remarkable recovery. So, what do you say to your daughter right before she becomes the youngest Nobel laureate ever?

“I kissed her on the head and wished her the best of luck,” he says with a chuckle. “That’s it.”

In your TED talk, you discuss your desire to contradict the powerful forces that define “honor” for boys and “obedience” for girls in your culture. Where does this desire come from and why don’t more fathers in the Swat Valley have it?

Generally, these two values of honor and obedience, outwardly they look positive. But in the context of a patriarchal society there are issues. Boys inherit from their forefathers that their sisters are like their honor. Whenever anything happens, they are incited and they bully their sisters, they even kill, if they find their sisters having an illicit relationship with boy, or anything that is not acceptable for their society.

The other value, which we call obedience and which is taught to girls — they should always submit to whatever is done to them and they have no right to say anything. If they are married very early or if they are married to anybody they don’t like, whatever rights are violated at home by their brothers, they are supposed to be submissive.

Why did I have this desire in me to change this? When I saw the suffering of the people, of women especially — and even the boys suffered — because I saw many couples who were killed in the name of “honor killings.” They suffered because this value of obedience or this value of honor, it was misused. There was naturally a desire in my heart to change this situation.

You ask why many fathers aren’t like me, the reason is that many people in society — whatever society they’re in — they like to live in-line with existing values and norms. It’s very easy to live as all other people live and to believe we are the victims of whatever happens in a bad society. It’s very difficult to challenge those norms and values which go against basic human rights.

You were very aware that your beliefs regarding women made you a target for groups like the Taliban. How did you weigh that risk against your need to encourage Malala to speak her mind and live her life as she saw fit?

I always challenged the Taliban and challenged the terrorists when I was working as an educator and as a human rights activist in Swat. [At one] very big gathering of parents and students, nearby the stage there was a man with a small girl child in his lap. During the speech, I just took her in my lap and I asked the people would you like to die, or to keep your daughters ignorant? And the gathering raised their hands and said no, we will die for the right of our daughters’ education. It was so inspiring, so motivating.

I encouraged [Malala] to speak, but I never thought it would come with such a big risk. I never thought that the Taliban would come to kill a child, especially a woman. Because I know that most of them, they are from Swat, and they are Pashtun, and it is culturally unacceptable that you attack a woman, and you attack a child, so Malala had two cultural protections. I can say that I misread or miscalculated the ethics of the Taliban, and what happened, that was horrible.

What about with your wife? How did the two of you assess opportunities like her invitation to blog for the BBC, when doing so came with so much inherent risk?

To be honest, we never thought that it was an opportunity. I think we took it as a call of duty. Because, being concerned residents of Pakistan and Swat, we thought that it’s our duty that when our basic rights are being violated and heinous atrocities and heinous crimes are inflicted against the people of Swat and they are victims of inhuman atrocities and barbarism, we thought that it is our human responsibility to speak against all of what was happening with our people. And my wife, to be honest, she is a very courageous, a very brave woman, and she always stood for truth. As the Holy Quran says, righteousness, the truth, it will come, and falsehood will go, because falsehood has to go.

Now that your daughter is as engaged in the issue of equality and empowerment for women as you are, what have you learned by watching her work?

I think that now she is more engaged than me, to be honest. Before, I was a leader of my small community in Swat. I campaigned for education, I campaigned for women’s rights, I campaigned for children’s rights, and because of living in the same environment and having an inborn passion for human rights, Malala joined me as a companion in that campaign. But when Malala was shot, she was reborn. Now, she’s leading and I’m one of her supporters. There are millions of supporters and I’m one of them. I have found her more successful than me, wiser than me, and more resilient than me. I have learned from her many things. I think for a father, maybe, a father always teaches. He’s supposed to teach. But, I learn from my many students and particularly from her, I learned how to be fair and honest to one’s own self, and how to be fair and honest to others. And I learned from her how to be clear in vision, and in one’s objectives. So also I have learned from her how to be beyond the greed of fame and name, and how to be sincere and simple.

You’re a pretty brave guy in your own right, but what have you learned about courage from Malala?

I think we might best look at her journey before the attack on her life and after the attack on her life. I really have found her braver than myself, to be honest, because I remember that when we used to go to different seminars and different conferences and we used to speak for the right of education, I used to compromise. I used to tell her “Oh, look Malala, don’t name the Taliban, they’re terrorists, don’t name them because they’re dangerous people.” And when she stood at the podium she named them always, in spite of my advice not to name them. And after the worst kind of trauma that God should protect every person, every child, from … she had the resilience and the courage to stand again and talk with more courage, more commitment, more resilience, for the right of children, for the right of women, and for the right of education. So I think that it’s really inspiring and I can simply say that she’s braver than me.

What advice do you have for a father whose children are in a situation similar to Malala’s?

I would advise the leaders of all those communities who are in conflict, all those countries that are in conflict, or suffering from terrorism: Don’t be hypocrites and don’t be apologetic about terrorism, and don’t be cowards when it comes to your children’s rights. Be brave, and stand for your children. It’s your duty, not your children’s duty. Don’t fail them. It is the society’s elders’ duty, to protect their children, and to make the right decisions that their children should be safe. I don’t wish any father to be in the situation in which I was.

What’s it like to watch your daughter accept the Nobel Peace Price?

It was a moment of honor. I was thinking that this girl, she is getting the Nobel Peace Prize, and she belongs to a nation that is notorious for terrorism, and now this 17-year-old girl, she is raising the flag of peace. Peace and education. In her own region, 400 public schools have been bombed, and she is raising the torch of public education and the flag of peace, and she is there to lead the world. It was a moment of real happiness for me, I think for a father, what could be more than that?

This article originally appeared on Fatherly

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