February 2005


Ad was error in judgment Why would you run an ad depicting a child lying in a pool of blood? I was shocked, then angry, when I saw the image. I was so shocked that I actually flipped the magazine closed to make sure that I was, in fact, reading Chicago Parent. I could not believe it.

Why would you run this ad? I showed it to several friends and co-workers. They reacted in the same manner. Let’s forget about the cause for a second. No one saw or read that. People just focused on the picture and were immediately, visibly upset. 

Because this is a family magazine, I leave it lying around the house. I hadn’t had a chance to read it before my 9-year-old son got his hands on it and came across the ad. He was quite upset and said the ad made him “sick to his stomach.”

As much as we try to protect them, children will still be exposed to violence, whether through video games or TV. But for my child to see an image of another child close to his own age lying in a pool of blood, it was pretty tough for him to handle. I’m just glad my 3-year-old daughter didn’t see it. How does one explain that ad to a child too young to distinguish reality from fantasy? This is not what I’d expect from a family magazine.

Chicago Parent should not be the pedestal on which to launch a campaign with such shocking and graphic images. You made a colossal error in judgment running that ad.  LAURIE HOEKSEMA Hickory Hills

Veganism is not deprivation First, I want to thank you for your lovely magazine. It has been an amazing resource for me. As the mother of a toddler, I look forward to the insightful articles and timely information you provide. Each month, when I pick up the latest issue of Chicago Parent, it is like receiving a gift. I’m sure it is like this for countless others in the community, and I thank you for that.

I am writing in response to Susy Schultz’s piece, “The Vegan Adventure, Part 2,” (From the editor, January 2005). I read it with interest as my husband and I are vegan parents, raising our 2½ year-old son in the same vein. I understand that Schultz’ son took on the vegan diet for a month as a way to challenge himself and see how he would fare without familiar foods. For many people, exploring veganism can be difficult at first as they  might feel as though they are swimming against the tide. Yes, we read food labels, but everyone should (right?) and it gets much easier over time.

After a short while, the challenges of living as a vegan recede, even disappear. I have been vegan for 10 years and I never feel deprived, hungry or missing out in any way. My bright-eyed, vigorous son is a testament to its wholesomeness.

I am so grateful for having discovered this path of fresh, health-promoting food that no being has had to die or suffer to provide. The vegan lifestyle is not about deprivation or rejecting mainstream culture so much as it is about embracing abundance and seizing the opportunities we have as individuals to create positive change with our choices and actions.

I should also add that, in 2005, being a vegan is easier than ever: From veggie burgers and fries to succulent Ethiopian feasts and upscale gourmet meals.

Knowing that we all have to start somewhere, trying a vegan diet for a month (or a day, or a week) is a great place to start. To learn more about local options, check out www.VegChicago.com. It’s a great resource for full-fledged vegans and those who are just attempting to eat more healthfully now and then. In addition, EarthSave Chicago (www.EarthsaveChicago.com) hosts monthly vegan potlucks. It’s a perfect way to meet others in the vegan community. MARLA ROSE Oak Park

Schultz wrong on vegans I was disappointed to read the January 2005 editor’s column (“The Vegan Adventure, Part 2”). I sympathize with Susy Schultz’s desires to help and understand her son.

However, I am angry at the way she described veganism and saddened that Schultz remains ignorant of the connection mothers have with an animal-free diet.

Billions of male chicks are suffocated in dumpsters or ground alive in wood chippers every year because they serve no use for the egg laying industry. Calves are taken from their mothers almost immediately after birth; most male calves are destined to become “veal,” and their lives are devoid of any semblance of happiness or even a lack of suffering. Piglets rarely get skin-to-skin contact with their mothers because of the cages sows are kept in. 

Imagine being a mother whose sons are ripped away from you and smothered or eviscerated as infants, or caged or allowed to see you only briefly and at a distance. Some may say chickens, cows, and pigs are “only” animals, but animal ethologists have documented the ways in which these creatures feel pain, grief and desperation. All mammals have the capacity to feel pain, and female animals raised for food experience this pain doubly when their children are stolen away from them for arbitrary human pleasure.

I can appreciate that Schultz found humor in the frustration of being laden with her son’s choices. Perhaps she should have opened her mind rather than feeling her son “dragging” her behind. Perhaps she should realize that eschewing animal products allows us to alleviate the pain animals experience.

When Schultz repeats the rhetoric surrounding the supposed difficulties of a vegan diet, she perpetuates the stereotype that veganism leaves people hungry and deprived–“starving,” as her son put it (perhaps ignorant of the word’s meaning).  

My family is vegan because we recognize that the suffering of animals isn’t justified by our gastronomic whims and desires. I don’t deny that Schultz cares about her son and tried to give him what he needed; I simply wish she hadn’t used her column as a springboard for convincing people that preventing animal suffering is too much work. AMY L. HAYDEN Woodridge Does unschooling help kids? I almost had to have my eyebrows surgically removed from my hairline after reading Deborah Niemann-Boehle’s essay on “Unschooling” in the January 2005 issue.

I believe homeschooling should be limited only to kids too ill to leave the house, expecting children to determine how, what and when they learn is like asking them to dole out their own punishments for coloring on the walls or slapping their siblings. The structure and social skills I acquired in grammar school far better shaped my life than anything I learned from a textbook. Deborah, what are your kids supposed to do when they grow up and join the real world, get “un-jobs?” LAURA DOYLE Oak Forest Thank you for ADHD article I would like to Jean Dunning for writing such a pertinent and thoughtful article (“Is it Immaturity? ADHD? Or what?” January 2005). I am dealing with this same issue for my son who just turned 6. At the end of the article, Dunning mentions changing her son’s sleep and dietary habits, adding more consistency to her parenting style and finding a receptive and talented teacher. I was wondering if she might elaborate. What are the specific sleep and diet changes? How did she add consistency? What criteria did she look for in a teacher?

My son is in kindergarten and the school may be open to dialogue, but seems to be pushing for a diagnosis of ADHD. NANCY HAGGERTY Missouri City, Texas Product deserves retest I received the most recent issue of Chicago Parent and I was, of course, disappointed to see that our product received a negative review.

The reviewer is certainly entitled to her opinion. However, I am worried that her review may mislead people as to the purpose of the Creative Hands Cool Foam Art Kit, which has been featured in numerous Top 10 toy lists this year.

Her chief complaint seems to be that the product limits children’s creativity. However, this product is designed with a younger audience in mind for the purpose of developing hand-eye coordination, as well as to help children formulate steps in a process.

Although the reviewer’s child is not interested in creating a pre-designed picture, it was not mentioned in the review that Fibre-Craft offers a wide variety of foam shapes and stickers with which children can make their own designs.

A Chicago teacher contacted me in response to your article and said that she uses Cool Foam Art in her special education classroom. I feel this side of the kit was not represented or appreciated in the review by the parent and would very much appreciate the opportunity to present a different viewpoint on our product.

Many parents in the Chicago area receive your magazine, and I would hate for one review to turn people off this product when it can be so helpful, educational and fun to complete. Valerie Sherman Editor, Fibre-Craft Niles

Marijuana hurts teens The high school years can be an anxious time in your child’s life and perhaps yours as well. As teens set their sights on making the grade and making their way in the world, the stresses can begin to add up—and can lead to increased risk for drug use.

Teens are at a critical point in building the academic foundation for the rest of their lives. But, experts agree, marijuana can have a deterrent effect on a teen’s ability to learn and succeed. Consider this:

• Teens who begin using marijuana while their brains still are developing may be more vulnerable to neuropsychological deficits, especially verbal abilities.

• Heavy marijuana use impairs teens’ ability to concentrate and retain information. This can be especially problematic during peak learning years.

• Teens with an average grade of “D” or below are more than four times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year as youth who earned an average grade of “A.”

• The more a student abuses substances, the lower his grade point average is likely to be. Further, those who drink underage or use drugs are up to five times more likely to drop out of high school.

The good news is that teen drug use and underage drinking have dropped in the past two years. Help keep that trend going by staying involved in your teen’s school life. Share these facts about marijuana. Don’t let drugs or alcohol compromise your child’s ability to learn. Be clear about your expectations, because the rules you set and enforce today will make all the difference in your teen’s life tomorrow. For more information, visit www.theantidrug.com. American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American School Counselor Association, The National Center for College Health and Safety, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, National Association of Asian and Pacific American Education, National Student Assistance Association , Partnership for a Drug-Free America, United Negro College Fund, Office of National Drug Control Policy

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