TIME Family

Mother of Toddler With Rare Disorder Fights Daughter’s Cyberbullies

The mother says her daughter is "not a monster"

A 2-year-old girl with a rare condition that affects her appearance, learning abilities and motor skills has become the target of Instagram cyber bullies.

Mariah Anderson recently celebrated her second birthday in Summerville, South Carolina, and was all smiles throughout the occasion, reports WCBD. So when the girl’s mother, Kyra Pringle, shared a shot online from her beaming daughter’s big day, she never imagined there would be a negative reaction.

Anderson was born with Chromosome 2p duplication syndrome, a condition that has affected her development and physical appearance. Unfortunately, when some Instagram users saw Pringle’s picture of her daughter, they did not celebrate the toddler, but instead teased her.

Several users posted memes using Pringle’s photo that poked fun at the toddler’s looks, insinuating that Anderson was ugly or resembled a leprechaun. Sick of seeing her baby girl being bullied by online trolls, Pringle decided to speak out against everyone making the memes and those enjoying them.

“The smile that you guys think is funny or the smile that you guys are comparing to a leprechaun,” Pringle told WCBD. “The things you guys are saying about my child, she’s not a monster, she’s real.”

Pringle hopes her words will help put an end to the harassment so she and her family can return to enjoying their time with Anderson which, because of her condition, could be limited.

“She’s just a joy, it’s a joy to have her right now,” said Kyra Pringle.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

MONEY Wealth

The Super-Rich Have a Racial Wealth Gap, Too

Even at the top end of the economic scale, the financial differences between black and white Americans are big — and they've changed little in 30 years.

TIME Family

My Father Transitioned When I Was a Kid and It Was Nothing Like Transparent

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

When I was four years old, my father transitioned. I wish I could’ve watched a TV show show about a family like mine

xojane

Suddenly, my childhood is trendy. My childhood won a Golden Globe Award. ABC Family is making a reality show about it. But I really knew that my time had come when the Kardashians got in on the action.

Back when it was still indie, back when prejudice was cooler than tolerance, back when the term “cis gender” didn’t even exist, I had a transgender parent. That gives me street cred in the alternative family scene. I can roll my eyes at the fictional, entitled, awful hipsters on Transparent and tell them that freaking out because your father is transitioning in 2015, when you’re adults, is pathetic.

My father transitioned when I was just four years old. I have a few vague, half-formed images of a man with a beard, but no real recollections of the person my mother thought she married, a person who, according to current gender theory, never really existed. That man was just a façade.

I remember that one day my mother told me that my father liked to play dress up, just like I did and that she had started wearing women’s clothes. It made sense to me. Dressing up was fun and boys were yucky, so of course my dad would rather be a girl. The fairytales we read to little girls are stories of transformation: a prince who is trapped in a frog’s body, a pumpkin that turns into a coach. A man becoming a woman struck me as far more plausible.

Eventually, she moved out and my parents got divorced. That was it. There were no family therapy sessions or dramatic confrontations. My mother has always prided herself on being progressive and open-minded. I think she felt that if she allowed herself to express any anger or sadness at the end of her marriage, she would be a bigot. So she took the attitude that it was no big deal. I took my cues from her.

In retrospect, she was too busy trying to pay the bills to dwell on her emotional state. For non-celebrities, transitioning has economic consequences. My father was starting out in academia, which today is one of the most transgender friendly workplaces, but back then, it was career suicide. All of her research appeared to be written by somebody else.

My mother had been out of the workforce since I was born, and had difficulty finding work. We fell out of the middle class temporarily. She hustled multiple part-time jobs until she finally found a full-time position in her field right before I started high school.

There was no vocabulary in existence to describe my relationship with my father. I called her by her first name, which sidestepped the issue of exactly who she was to me. In my mind, she was my father and she was a woman, and those two facts were in no way contradictory.

Other than her gender, she was like a lot of my friends’ fathers in that she was someone who I occasionally saw on the weekends and gave my mother a small check every month. I didn’t particularly enjoy her company, which had little to do with her being trans and a lot to do with her having a lousy personality. She was cold, intellectual, and humorless. She was one of life’s little annoyances, like having to wear complicated orthodontic appliances.

But as I grew older, I transformed from a happy, overachieving kid to a mopey, insecure, overachieving teen. I began to feel self-conscious about my family. I thought I was the only person on earth with a transgender parent. It was about five minutes before the Internet went mainstream, and with a couple of keystrokes, you could discover a subreddit full of people who shared the very thing you thought made you unique.

On the rare occasions that gay people were on TV, they were either dying tragically of AIDS in a very special episode or on daytime talk shows where they were pitted against evangelical Christians who thought they were going to burn in hell. Transgender people were considered outright freaks, if their existence was even acknowledged. I realized that, in the eyes of most of society, I was a freak too.

I felt terrible about the fact that it bothered me, because I didn’t want to be prejudiced. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I was certain my loving but pragmatic and unemotional mother would consider it yet another case of me being a melodramatic drama queen.

In fact, when, as an adult, I told her that I thought maybe my relationship with my father had some sort of lasting psychological impact on me, she was genuinely perplexed. She said, “Why? It was a little weird, but it wasn’t like anyone hit you.”

If I could have watched a reality show about the sort of pretty, vapid, mean girls that I outwardly despised but secretly envied who had a transgender father, it would have made me feel so much better.

I wish I could say that eventually I forged a close relationship with my father. The opposite is true. After I graduated high school and was accepted into the fancy schmancy east coast college of my dreams, we had lunch. She told me that she had deliberately kept her distance from me as a child because she didn’t feel comfortable around children, but now that I was older and smart enough to get into a prestigious school, she wanted to get to know me better.

I was less than excited about the prospect.

In my freshman year, she wrote me a letter berating me for not sending her a thank you note for the $20 she sent me for my birthday. She informed me that since she was paying a portion of my tuition, I owed her regular reports on my life.

She was right. I was a thoughtless, self-absorbed college student. But I had decided that college was the time to reinvent myself. I was going to give up both red meat and my father. I wrote an angry letter back telling her to get out of my life. Half the people I know had similar fights with their families in college and made up a couple months later, but this one stuck.

We never contacted each other again, other than a bizarre incident years later when she wrote a letter to my boss requesting she send her, a complete stranger, an essay about my life. That solidified my belief that severing ties with her was the right decision. But I felt a lot of guilt and shame that maybe I wouldn’t have cut off a cis-gendered relative for inappropriate behavior that impacted my career.

Whenever the subject of my father came up, I just said that my parents were divorced and my mother raised me on my own.

The world has changed so much so fast. The president acknowledged transgender people in his State of the Union address. When he was running for president, he didn’t even support gay marriage. Laverne Cox is a fashion icon. Beneath the sensationalist headlines, most of the coverage of Bruce Jenner’s possible transition has been respectful.

And then there’s Transparent. I could write a separate essay about what a mindfuck it was to watch that show. Suffice it to say that it’s brilliant and that there are eerie superficial similarities between my family and the Pfeffermans. However, the show’s conceit that the children of a transgender woman all have their own gender and sexual issues is so far from my experience that it inspired me to share my story to provide a counterpoint.

Having a transgender parent made me aware at a very early age that there is a wide variety of sexual and gender identities. I knew that I wouldn’t be disowned no matter what mine turned out to be. As it turned out, I could not be more boring.

I am straight and cis gender. I am downright girly. I love getting manicures. I’d dress like Taylor Swift leaving the gym all the time if I had the money. I don’t even have any fetishes. I have never had a moment of doubt about my sexual orientation, nor do I think that my fondness for lipstick and high heels is in any way a reaction to having a transgender parent.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason why I haven’t had many longterm relationships is because of some deep-seated childhood issues. It’s possible. It’s equally likely that I’m single because the dating scene is horrible in L.A.

I do credit my father for a lot of my positive traits. She gave me the gifts of resilience and self-reliance. She taught me not to make assumptions about people based on their outward appearance. Most importantly, she taught me that I could transform myself into whoever I wanted to be. That gave me the courage to conquer my shyness and pursue my most grandiose dreams.

Writing this has been scary. I’m worried that my friends will think I’m a liar and a coward for hiding this aspect of my life for so long. I’m worried that I’ll be branded transphobic by the Internet for saying that my individual experience with my specific parent was not as wonderful as a basket of puppies sitting under a rainbow, or that I’ll be accused of mis-pronouning for using the phrase “my father.”

I’m concerned that potential dates will google me and be scared off. Based on past experience, the quickest way to get rid of a guy is to tell him. My theory is that it touches on every man’s fear of something happening to his penis.

But I hate the idea that a deliberately awful fictional family is going to be the image that most Americans have of the children of trans parents. I also realize that my fears are largely irrational and that keeping this one part of my life secret has, in a very Oprah way, kept me from being my authentic self.

Sara Bibel 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 Family

Dad Will Raise Quadruplets Alone After Wife Dies in Childbirth

Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015
Nicole Todman—AP Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015

"I went from having the best day of my life to the next morning experiencing the worst day of my life"

For one father, the happiest day of his life quickly turned tragic.

Carlos Morales, 29, was left devastated when his wife, Erica, died of blood loss on Jan. 16 while giving birth to their quadruplets two months prematurely.

“I went from having the best day of my life to the next morning experiencing the worst day of my life,” said Morales. “My four babies came into the world and then my wife died.”

But all four babies, though tiny at between two and three pounds apiece, were healthy — and Morales has since been taking baby-care classes at a local hospital. “I need to be prepared,” he said.

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Read the entire story at People.

TIME Parenting

6 Things You Should Know About Young Girls in School

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One day your child feels like part of the gang; the next she’s been elbowed out of the lunch table or left off the invitation list for a birthday party. Here’s what you need to know to get her through the clique years—and endless exclusive photo tagging—with fewer scars.

1. Cliquishness is ingrained—and it starts early. “We come from a hunter-gatherer society,” says Julie Paquette MacEvoy, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College who studies children’s social and emotional development. “There was a greater chance of survival if you were part of a group. The urge to form cliques is evolutionarily ingrained.” By toddlerhood, this behavior starts to show up. A 2014 study published in Psychological Science showed that children as young as two will mimic their behavior to match that of their peers so they don’t stand out from the crowd. And not long after toddlerhood, we’re able to pinpoint the person in our group with whom we’re closest. “I don’t think we ever stop using that label [best friend],” says Rosalind Wiseman, a parenting educator and the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes ($10, amazon.com). Why are we so attached to it? “We need to have the sense that we matter. If we have a best friend, that means we count to someone.” And though children today certainly won’t perish if they don’t have a core group of buddies, there are benefits, like a boost to self-esteem and a sense of belonging, says Wiseman. Also, it just feels good to be included. That’s why it’s so painful to be left out.

2. There are two types of dominant personalities. They typically emerge during middle school: one is positive and fun to be around, and the other is influential but also manipulative, says Brett Laursen, a professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University. If your child hangs out with a manipulative leader, she may feel demeaned fairly frequently. What helps: emphasizing the importance of thinking for herself and being her own person, not merely the sidekick of a bossy pal. “Have conversations about when it’s OK to give in and when it’s not,” says MacEvoy. For example, it’s fine to let the group’s leader decide which movie to watch if you don’t care, but it’s not OK for the queen bee to determine on her own who’s invited to go to the movie. If you happen to have a child who’s the leader of her clique, you can help her cultivate empathy by regularly asking her how her friends are feeling and doing.

3. Cliques can be physically painful. Research shows that exclusion triggers activity in the same part of the brain that controls physical pain, says Judith V. Jordan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. For some kids, ejection from a friend group can be more painful than being rejected by a crush because that pain involves only one person. “When you’re pushed out of a clique, that’s an entire group of people who don’t value you, care about you, or want to hang out with you,” says MacEvoy.

4. Your child’s pain is easy to downplay—but don’t. Yes, you know clique trouble is a universal experience and we pretty much all survive. But it’s important to take your child’s grief seriously. If the situation seems to demand it, ask teachers for help in making sure the exclusion isn’t overt or cruel. (Have them keep an eye out for bullying and name calling.) At home, listen to your child’s daily recaps (if she’s willing to share) and empathize, says MacEvoy. Tell her you understand why she’s so upset and that you would be, too. But don’t go that extra step of disparaging or belittling other kids. As much as it may feel good to both of you in the moment, it sets the wrong example and could make reconciliation difficult for your child later.

5. Role play at home will make school easier. To help make the days ahead feel surmountable, ask your child if she would like to talk through hypothetical social scenarios. What should your child do if she has to eat lunch by herself? (Maybe she can read a book while she eats, or you two can talk about who else she could approach.) What should she do if one of the girls says something mean to her? (Walk away.) For younger kids (up to around age 11 or 12), this exercise tends to feel empowering, says MacEvoy. Teenagers may find it cheesy; offer them an ear instead. If there’s potential for your child to patch things up or make amends, discuss the reasons for the exclusion in the first place. “Often it involves a member of the opposite sex—especially in adolescence—or just sheer jealousy,” says MacEvoy. If your child offended just one member of her clique (and the rest of the girls are excluding her as an act of solidarity), encourage your kid to talk to the person with whom there’s a real problem. If they can make up, it may be possible for the whole group to get back together, albeit with a bit of tension in the ranks.

6. Sometimes you just have to find new friends. When a group has truly caused pain—or formally ousted your child—she may have no choice but to leave it behind and seek out new friends. If she’s feeling intimidated (and who wouldn’t be?), talk about trying to make just one new friend rather than entering a whole new clique. Think about it: There’s a world of difference between eating lunch alone and eating lunch across from someone else. Having additional friends is great, too, but children are much less lonely when they have even one supportive friend, says Steven R. Asher, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. It’s ultimately up to your child to find this new buddy (or buddies), but you can lay the groundwork. Nudge her toward a club, a sport, a volunteer activity, or even an after-school job where she can meet peers with similar interests. And take heart in the knowledge that this lonely state isn’t forever. Faris and his colleagues conducted an eight-week study in which they asked kids in the 8th through 12th grades to name their best friends every few weeks. “We found a shocking amount of turnover,” he says. In other words: Your child may feel excluded on Friday, but that doesn’t mean she’ll still be on the outs come Monday morning.

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This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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MONEY TV

Nickelodeon Thinks You’ll Pay $6 a Month for a Netflix for Preschoolers

Blue's Clues
Nick Jr. Blue's Clues

If you think your toddler needs more screen time—and if you somehow don't already have more than enough child-friendly streaming options—Nickelodeon has the product for you.

This week, Nickelodeon announced that it is launching a new app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, available at Apple’s App Store starting March 5. The app will be a subscription video service called Noggin—the same name of the cable TV channel that was a predecessor of Nick Jr.—and it will offer as much ad-free viewing of “Blue’s Clues,” “Little Bear,” and other preschooler fare as your little one’s eyeballs can handle, at a price of $5.99 per month.

As Variety noted, “Nickelodeon continues to grapple with ratings declines at its traditional TV network, owing to viewers seeking video content on new kinds of screens.” In a recent week, Nickelodeon’s ratings among kids were down 35% compared to the same period a year ago. So you can’t blame the Viacom-owned network for trying to do something to boost its audience and revenues.

But who is going to pay $5.99 a month this service? Starting at just $2 more monthly, you can be a subscriber to Netflix, which has plenty of content for children of all ages—it’s even been adding reboots of kids’ shows like “Care Bears,” “Magic School Bus,” and “Inspector Gadget”—as well as movies and shows for adults. The vast majority of consumers who are intrigued with streaming already subscribe to one or more service, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (free for Prime members), or Hulu Plus, all of which have sections full of kids’ content. There’s also plenty of free kid-friendly streaming video out there (PBS Kids, for example). Finally, if you have a pay TV subscription that includes Nickelodeon, as most packages do, you can download the Nick Jr. app for free and watch unlimited, ad-free full episodes of “Dora the Explorer,” “Bubble Guppies,” and such.

It’s unclear, then, why all that many families would need to pay another $6 a month for yet more preschooler streaming content.

If there’s a parallel in the industry, it’s CBS All-Access, the subscription streaming option that also charges $5.99 per month—and that many observers assume will fail. At least the CBS product is targeting adults, most obviously folks who are big fans of the network’s shows, such as “The Good Wife” and various versions of “CSI” and “NCIS,” as well as older programs like “Brady Bunch” and “Star Trek.”

CBS All-Access has some hope of attracting grownup subscribers who are picky about what they watch and who like CBS’s programming. But how many preschoolers do you know are picky about what they watch? Most of the kids we know are more than happy to be allowed to watch something—anything—on the iPad while their parents enjoy their meal at the restaurant.

TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like a German

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An American mom finds some surprising habits

The first time I went to a playground in Berlin, I freaked. All the German parents were huddled together, drinking coffee, not paying attention to their children who were hanging off a wooden dragon 20 feet above a sand pit. Where were the piles of soft padded foam? The liability notices? The personal injury lawyers?

Achtung! Nein!” I cried in my bad German. Both kids and parents ignored me.

Contrary to stereotypes, most German parents I’ve met are the opposite of strict. They place a high value on independence and responsibility. Those parents at the park weren’t ignoring their children; they were trusting them. Berlin doesn’t need a “free range parenting” movement because free range is the norm.

Here are a few surprising things Berlin parents do:

Don’t push reading. Berlin’s kindergartens or “kitas” don’t emphasize academics. In fact, teachers and other parents discouraged me from teaching my children to read. I was told it was something special the kids learn together when they start grade school. Kindergarten was a time for play and social learning. But even in first grade, academics aren’t pushed very hard. Our grade school provides a half-day of instruction interrupted by two (two!) outdoor recesses. But don’t think this relaxed approach means a poor education: According to a 2012 assessment by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, German 15-year-olds perform well above the international average when it comes to reading, math and science while their more pressured American counterparts lag behind.

Encourage kids to play with fire. A note came home from school along with my excited second grader. They were doing a project on fire. Would I let her light candles and perform experiments with matches? Together we lit candles and burned things, safely. It was brilliant. Still, she was the only kid whose parent didn’t allow her to shoot off heavy duty fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Let children go almost everywhere alone. Most grade school kids walk without their parents to school and around their neighborhoods. Some even take the subway alone. German parents are concerned about safety, of course, but they usually focus on traffic, not abductions.

The facts seem to be on the Germans’ side. Stranger abductions are extremely rare; there were only 115 a year in all of America, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Justice study. And walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility” as the researchers call it, is good for kids.

Party when school starts. One of my Berlin friends once told me that the three biggest life events are Einschulung (starting first grade), Jugendweihe (becoming a young adult) and getting married.

In Berlin, Einschulung is a huge celebration at the school—on a Saturday!—that includes getting a Zuckertute—a giant child-sized cone filled with everything from pencils to watches to candy. Then there’s another party afterwards with your family and friends. Einschulung is something children look forward to for years. It signals a major life change, and hopefully, an enthusiasm for learning.

Jugendweihe happens when a child turns 14. It involves a similar ceremony, party, and gifts, marking the next stage of growing up. With all the negativity heaped on adolescents, there’s something to be said for this way of celebrating young adulthood.

Take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious on Berlin’s numerous playgrounds. No matter how cold and grey it gets, and in Berlin it gets pretty cold, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own.

Which brings me back to that dragon—since moving here, I’ve tried to adopt some of the Berlin attitude, and my 8-year-old has climbed all over the dragon. But I still hesitate to let her walk alone in our very urban neighborhood.

I’ve taken one small step. I let her go to the bakery by herself. It’s just down the stairs and one door over. The first time she did this, she came back beaming, proudly handing me the rolls she bought herself.

I figured there was no need to tell her that her American mother was out on the balcony, watching her the whole time.

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MONEY kids

Shocker! Tooth Fairy Surveys Can’t Be Trusted

girl holding up tooth
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The big lie about the Tooth Fairy—one of the big lies anyway—is that the reports about how much a child gets under the pillow after losing a tooth are meaningful.

According to the just-released Original Tooth Fairy Poll from Delta Dental, losing baby teeth has gotten significantly more lucrative for American kids. The survey, based on input from more than 1,000 parents around the country, indicates that the average gift left by the Tooth Fairy for a lost tooth was $4.36 in 2014. That’s up from an average of $3.50 in 2013, representing an increase of about 25%.

Based on the data, kids who live in the South have more valuable teeth than their counterparts nationally: They average $5.16 per tooth left under the pillow, compared with $4.16 and $4.68 in the Northeast and West, respectively. Children in the stingy Midwest, on the other hand, receive only $2.83 per tooth on average.

The poll is being presented as a positive economic indicator, with the idea that the Tooth Fairy becomes more generous hand in hand with households getting raises and a surging stock market. “Kids are benefiting from the recovering U.S. economy,” the press release announcing the poll states.

It should be somewhat worrisome, then, that another Tooth Fairy payment study has it that the amount of cash kids get for losing teeth has been on the decline. The Visa Tooth Fairy Survey shows that American children received an average of $3.70 per tooth in 2013—not far off from the Delta Dental estimate of $3.50—but in 2014 that figure dropped 8%, to $3.40. That’s nearly a full $1 off the Delta Dental figure for 2014.

The results of both surveys are in agreement that the Midwest pays the least for lost teeth, but in the Visa poll, it’s the kids who live in the West, not the South, who are most spoiled with premium payments under the pillow. Children in the West average $3.60 per tooth, according to the Visa survey, followed by the South and Northeast (about $3.50), with the Midwest at the cheap end ($3.10).

Why are there such disparities between the two surveys? Among other reasons, outliers, in the form of households that pay big bucks for baby teeth. A few years back, for example, instances of tooth rewards hitting $20 and sometimes even $50 a pop began surfacing. “Only” 3.6% of Visa survey respondents said the Tooth Fairy Left $20 or more in 2014, a fall from 6% the year before. The most common gift, named by one-third of those polled, was just $1. So the outliers sure seem to sharply skew the average upward, far above the median or typical Tooth Fairy payment.

A large portion of respondents in both polls, meanwhile, said that the amount of cash one had on hand had a big influence in how much (or little) was left under the pillow. It also must be mentioned that a decent portion of those polled won’t remember exactly how much was left each time the Tooth Fairy visits, and/or that they’re fairly likely to recall the Tooth Fairy being more generous than she was in real life.

All of which indicates that Tooth Fairy payments—and surveys about Tooth Fairy payments—are pretty darn random. Shocking, we know.

TIME Parenting

A Different Way of Talking to Kids About What They’re Wearing

73979189
MGP—Getty Images

For parents, talking to kids about clothes usually involves questioning the warmth, propriety, cleanliness or sanity of what they’re wearing. But there’s another, less familiar — and possibly more useful — way to discuss an outfit.

Kelsey Timmerman, author of Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories and People That Make Our Clothes, wanted to see where his clothes came from. Reading the label on his favorite T-shirt took him to Honduras, where he met workers at the factory that made it. Trips to Cambodia, where his favorite jeans were made, and China, the source of most flip-flops, followed. “It doesn’t come from somewhere,” he says. “But from someone.”

Talking to kids about where their clothes came from can make something abstract — life in other countries — more concrete. And it’s a fun way to engage kids of all sorts of ages in a discussion about the world.

Timmerman and his elementary-school daughter have a bedtime tradition of looking at where her clothes are made. “It’s a simple act, just looking at the label, and letting your mind open up to think, these pajamas came from Bangladesh, which is on the other side of the world,” Timmerman says. “You’re never too young to be amazed by that, and explore what it means.”

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Middle-school students “can go a little deeper,” Timmerman says, using the labels on their clothes as an opportunity to learn about the demographics of other countries. Parents can ask questions like “How do you think life is different than it is here?”

High school students, Timmerman finds, are ready for conversations about the deeper implications of global commerce, like child labor, and the big differences in income between different countries. A great conversation-starter there, he says, is photographer Peter Menzel’s Material World, which shows families from different countries photographed with all their possessions.

Students can sometimes feel powerless when they confront these realities, so Timmerman says it’s important to let them know they can make a difference. In the past, schoolkids have helped bring fair-trade practices to athletic gear and school uniforms. “Students,” says Timmerman, “have really led the way on a lot of these issues.”

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After Having Three Miscarriages, I’m Pregnant Again

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

How do you emotionally prepare to lose a pregnancy, and at the same time prepare to keep it?

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Throughout my early twenties, when anyone (usually my mother) asked whether I wanted kids someday, my attitude fell somewhere between ambivalence and outright disinterest.

Then, one breezy October morning, that changed in an instant, like a switch had been flipped. It was a Saturday, and my would-be husband and I were taking a walk after eating breakfast at our favorite Manhattan diner. It was a handful of days before Halloween, and there were all these little kids dressed in the costumes that they couldn’t wait to wear. There was one toddler in a fireman outfit, and it just killed me with cuteness. I WANTED ONE.

My ovaries betrayed me, and from that day on I became a touch obsessed (understatement) with pregnancy and babies.

Fast-forward through a few years of neurotic baby-planning and menstrual cycle-tracking in Excel spreadsheets, getting married, and a move from New York to Chicago — I was 27 years old, right on time according to my perfectly optimized reproduction schedule, and my husband and I were finally ready.

I became pregnant in our first month of trying, which was a surprise since all of the literature tells you not to expect immediate results. We were as happy and nervous as you’d expect any couple to be during the beginning of a first pregnancy. (Technically this was my second time getting pregnant, but the first time I had an abortion, and the differences in experiencing a wanted versus an unwanted pregnancy are so huge that, for the sake of this story, I’m going to treat my first intentional pregnancy as my first pregnancy.)

Starting around six weeks, my morning sickness became intense. I woke up every day dry heaving, and if I wasn’t constantly forcing snacks into my face (so much hummus!), I’d be throwing up within the hour. It was barely manageable. I was exhausted.

At eight weeks we saw a heartbeat on our first ultrasound, and I had no doubts that my sickness was worth it — the risk of miscarriage drops significantly once you’ve seen a heartbeat. Up to this point everything seemed normal.

Around nine weeks I had a little spotting. I was assured I shouldn’t worry about it since it was light, temporary, and painless — first trimester spotting is common. Around 10 and a half weeks, at another doctor’s appointment, the heartbeat was a bit slow, though not that abnormal, so we scheduled a follow up visit for a week later. At 11 weeks and five days, we went in for another ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. The fetus had died.

This was a “missed miscarriage,” meaning I never had any bleeding or pain to signal that something was wrong. I scheduled the procedure for the following day, and after it was done I felt as awful as I’ve ever felt in my life — utterly empty and weak. I’d followed every pregnancy recommendation, taken every precaution, and we still don’t know what went wrong. We probably never will.

The healing process involved me being a hermit for a few weeks, refusing to leave the apartment unless I absolutely had to. My husband did his best to console me with all the pad thai and bacon pineapple pizza a girl can eat. I listened to a lot of Björk (she can get you through anything, I swear), and watched all of Netflix’s sappiest offerings. I cried and cried and cried.

Friends did their best to support me, and I felt loved, but it was hard to accept their help. The hospital encouraged me to join their miscarriage support group, but I didn’t. The unflattering truth is, I didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s problems, even if they were similar to my own. In a way, I think I wanted to feel special and unique in my suffering.

My best friend dragged me away to a vacation on the lake, and that helped.

Slowly, I felt better. Maybe we should have waited longer, but after a cycle had passed I felt ready to try again, and I got pregnant right away.

At six weeks, I miscarried again. Unlike the first time, I knew what was happening when it started. The blood and cramping weren’t all that severe, but this clearly wasn’t just a little light spotting.

At this point, while it obviously sucked what I was going through, it wasn’t necessarily a cause to assume something was wrong with me — repeated miscarriages aren’t medically considered worth investigating until you hit the third one in a row. My healing process this time was essentially the same as the last. Tending to my little deck garden became a particularly soothing outlet for me. We waited a cycle, and I was eager to get back on the horse.

For a third time, I got pregnant in our first month of trying. Just call me Fertile Myrtle. This one went almost identically to the second pregnancy, ending in a miscarriage in the sixth week. The difference now was that it was time to run medical tests, looking for all kinds of horrifying conditions that I shouldn’t have Googled while waiting for the results.

Every test came back negative, which was both good and bad. On the one hand, it’s good to know I don’t have any major life-changing medical problems (at least nothing they found), and on the other, we still have no answers. I lost three pregnancies, and I have no idea why.

After the third miscarriage, we waited longer to try again, but I still got pregnant on our first go — Fertile Myrtle strikes again! As I write this, I’m eight weeks and one day into yet another pregnancy. We had an ultrasound appointment yesterday, and we were able to see the heartbeat.

My doctor said that everything looks normal, and I wish I felt more reassured, but I’m still worried. Every day that passes raises the stakes. Every time I pee I’m paranoid, checking the toilet for blood. I love to think about baby names, but I tell myself I shouldn’t. I’m trying my hardest to be calmly ready for another miscarriage, but how do you emotionally prepare to lose a pregnancy, and at the same time prepare to keep it?

I’ve spent almost 32 weeks out of the last year stuck in the first trimester of pregnancy, like a messed up version of Groundhog Day — Bill Murray didn’t have to do it pregnant. Lots of women wait to announce their pregnancies until after 12 weeks for fear of miscarriage, and because of the pressure that results from friends and family who, purely out of love, have heavy emotions riding on the outcome of your pregnancy — something over which you have limited control.

Obviously, I’m not taking the secrecy route. There’s just no way I can keep this big part of my recent life to myself. It’s not like I’m telling the grocery clerk, “Guess what? I had a miscarriage! And I’m pregnant!” but it just comes up sometimes in conversation, and it feels unfair to keep this quiet for the sake of other people’s comfort.

The fact is that even though most people mean well, it’s generally pretty awkward when you tell them you’ve been pregnant and you don’t have a kid. They look at you with incredible amounts of pity, like you’re some sad, abused puppy, instead of a basically-okay adult person telling them about a recent experience.

Understanding, empathetic people who say things like, “Oh wow, I’m sorry, I bet that’s hard,” or, “What was that like?” are in the minority. The more common reply is along the lines of, “Well, I’m sure it will happen when it’s meant to be.”

I HATE THIS. You have no idea if I ever will be able to carry a pregnancy to term, so quit making diagnoses of my destiny. What are you, a fortune teller? One friend who knew about my past abortion asked me, “Well, do you think this happened to you because you had an abortion?”

NO, I DO NOT. In fairness (?) to her, the only reason I’d told her about the abortion in the first place was because I knew she’d disapprove but be too Minnesotan to say anything . . . so maybe I brought that one on myself.

From where I sit, most secrecy comes from a place of shame and fear of social rejection, and we all know how society treats women who don’t fulfill its standards for being baby factories. But women should not be blamed for miscarriages.

We aren’t shamed into hiding other struggles in our life, like illness or the death of a loved one, because we know they’re not our fault. Miscarriage should be treated the same. There are places in the world where women are in jail for having miscarriages, as well as states in the U.S. that have taken steps towards criminalizing the death of a fetus.

It’s important that we open up the dialogue about miscarriage — they’re enormously common, and hardly ever talked about. They are nothing to be ashamed of.

Sarah Bourne Zethmayr wrote this article for xoJane.

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