Chicago Parent Staff


Beware your surroundings

Note to the fathers of little girls who insist on bringing them into public men’s rooms: please make sure the urinals ARE NOT BEING USED before you parade your daughter in front of exposed, embarrassed gentlemen. I had one father bring his 3-year-old moppet in to wash her hands while I stood several feet away, doing what comes naturally. The child and I made eye contact in the mirror and stared at each other in utter horror while the unphased father proceeded to wash his daughter’s hands, seemingly oblivious. Please make note of your surroundings.

Chuck Nicoletti
Park Ridge

Misleading vaccines

We read with interest your most recent edition (April 2008), including the article on Dr. Bob Sears’ book
The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for your Child. The interview with Dr. Sears has several points regarding vaccines which are not only misleading, but disregard the scientific research on vaccines. The Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is very concerned that recommendations such as those found in Dr. Sears’ book and repeated in your article will place kids at risk for diseases—horrible and life-threatening diseases that child health advocates have worked hard to eradicate over the last 100 years.

While it is true that the immunization schedule has become more complex in the last 20 years as a result of new vaccines, it is these new vaccines that resulted in significant declines in serious diseases such as meningitis. The recommended immunization schedule is developed by the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices. This council is comprised of the nation’s experts on immunizations. Most of the members of this council are parents themselves and are well aware of the impact of their immunization recommendations.

When Dr. Sears asserts that there is "not much scientific proof" that giving kids vaccines as currently recommended is safe, he ignores the diligent work of the council and the overwhelming evidence of experts that these vaccines are safe. Furthermore, the Institute of Medicine has clearly concluded that there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Delaying this vaccine will only result in a large group of kids susceptible to a serious illness like measles. And in this day of international travel, it would not take much to introduce measles into a community.

We do agree that it is very important for parents to question those of us entrusted with the medical care of their children. We encourage parents to educate themselves on these important issues and we welcome any dialogue with them to address their concerns. It is our desire and duty to provide them with sound medical advice based on all the scientific research that is currently available. The current immunization schedule is based on that science.

Dennis L. Vickers, MD, MPH
Secretary, Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Father of a fully immunized child

Not-so-green birdfeeder

I was appalled to read Caitlin Murray Giles’ recommendation—in the "Growing Up Green" issue (April 2008) no less!—not only to feed birds seed from a recycled milk carton bird feeder, but to "paint the entire container brown" with acrylic paint.

She suggests we "cover the container with craft glue and decorate with twigs and sticks." If we’re to completely cover it with twigs, there is no point whatsoever in painting it with anything, regardless of color. Also, acrylic paints, like most nail polishes, may sometimes be touted as non-toxic, but neither humans nor birds need flecks of acrylic in their food. Instead we could and should eliminate acrylic completely from children’s art supplies.

Seed feeders do not take into consideration the nutrition birds get from insects, worms and berries. Putting out seed does not encourage children to learn what each species of bird eats as the seasons change. It is a simplistic action which encourages the birds to become dependent on humans and confuses them if we go on vacation or forget.

Giles suggests hanging the feeder from a tree branch with sturdy string, but offers no suggestion of what shield to use to prevent squirrels from coasting down the string and right into the feeder. She makes no mention of cleaning up spilled seed, which is vital to deterring rats, opossum and other pests that are drawn to these easy meals.

Good Earth stewards know that if we plant and maintain a variety of native plants we and our kids will have a better chance of seeing a variety of native birds (and butterflies). We now know, for example, that planting buckthorn is a mistake because it leafs out sooner in the spring and has stiffer stems than native hawthorn. Both apparently good attributes of buckthorn in fact encourage birds to build their nests sooner and lower down, which in turn makes their nestlings easy prey for marauding cats and other predators.

Leaving out seeds is something that is often promoted as a simple kids’ activity. As with any number of apparently Earth-friendly actions, we must look beyond the easy answers to the bigger picture.

Maja Ramirez
Master Gardener/TreeKeeper #467/
Master Food Preserver

Kids Eat Chicago

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