08 October 2010

Prudential and The Class Action Lawsuit

When you enlist in the armed services, one of the first sets of paperwork you'll fill in during training is for the Servicemember's Group Life Insurance (SGLI). It is still optional and sadly, many young enlistees opt out of it - to their families' detriment later down the line.

I, however, did not. I carried the highest premium I could (which effectively made me worth a whole lot more dead than alive) and I even carried the SGLI Spouse policy (therefore making my husband worth far more dead than alive too - call it mutually assured continued existence if you will). (I kid!!!)

I had no idea, however, what games Prudential has been playing with our money. And I also had no idea that once the company was contacted to pay out, the beneficiary could also opt for lump sum payment or payment over time, as this rather less than objective article states. It turns out that the plaintiffs in this case were allowed to choose for themselves even though the form has never changed and we, the servicemember's, make that selection when we fill it in.

I don't know how I feel about this. For one thing, I didn't even know that Prudential was the insurer. It was just the SGLI and I paid 37 bucks a month to have it. I wanted to know that my family would be very well kept if the worst should happen during a deployment, a training accident, or, for that matter, any accident.

I suppose I do feel like we're being used as a money market for this company if these allegations are true. We're a profit maker. And I loathe the idea that my money has earned them money that my family could certainly use and would most certainly never see if the worst happened. The average age of the policy holder is probably around 22 or 23. Healthy kids, too. There is some risk here yes, but it seems to me that the risk is nominal compared to the rewards this company appears to be reaping.

I also feel like I should have known about this when I elected to carry the SGLI. It may have made me think harder about it and perhaps even made me shop around way back when I first elected to carry it (I carry life insurance through work as well and it does NOT cost me 37 dollars a month for a nearly identical pay out - that just dawned on me actually...). Something stinks here and I hate feeling like I've been had simply by virtue of my profession and my concern for my family's financial well-being if they lost the primary income earner.

I suppose it will be interesting to see how this all plays out - and another lesson to be added to the ever expanding Box of Lessons to Pass Along to My Offspring.

06 October 2010

Who's Really the Nincompoop Here?

First, let it be known that because I have the sense of humor of a 4-year old, the word nincompoop still cracks me up. Mostly because it contains the word, "poop". Obviously, that, coupled with my obsession over all things helicopter parenting meant that I had to read this: Are We Raising a Generation of Nicompoops? It is currently the most e-mailed article on Boston.com - and has been for over 5 days.

On reading however, I was sorely disappointed in what I found. Rather than another interesting commentary on the ill effects of helicopter parenting as children come of age, it was an unintentional slam on the parents themselves. So, I thought it would be fun to dissect the article here (feel free to play along and add your two cents!):

1. Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter "literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else."

My Thoughts: Um...your daughter literally will not know how to use a can opener if she's never been shown. Clearly, you have one in your home because you have inferred here that not all cans in your larder have pop-tops. You have witnessed the dejected sag of her slender shoulders as she realizes that, yet again, she is foiled by a can and may not partake of her snack of choice. And yet...you have not stepped in to demonstrate the fine art of utilizing the most ancient of all tools - the can opener?!

You, Ma'am, have failed.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 1

2. Teenagers are so accustomed to either throwing their clothes on the floor or hanging them on hooks that Maushart says her "kids actually struggle with the mechanics of a clothes hanger."

My Thoughts: You allow your kids the luxury of throwing their clothing on the floor. I will assume here that you pick them up for them. You've given them pegs to utilize. You admit to have seen them struggle with a hanger. Please see comment #1. Again, Ma'am, you have failed.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 2

3. Many kids never learn to do ordinary household tasks. They have no chores. Take-out and drive-through meals have replaced home cooking. And busy families who can afford it often outsource house-cleaning and lawn care.

My Thoughts: How? Why? Our toddler has "chores" if you count the fact that we ask her to put her sneakers in the hallway after she takes them off, and we ask her to clean up her toys at the end of the day. I'll have her put her dirty clothes in her hamper and she throws away rubbish without being asked. Age appropriate chores, but in a sense, chores nonetheless.

Drive through and take away are luxuries - expensive and unhealthy ones 9 times out of 10. Even families I know who have 12 hour days before they get home and start dinner typically cook, especially now, especially in this economy. Granted, that's anecdotal. But it's my experience and the concepts in this paragraph are so foreign to me that I'm afraid the parents lose this round again. Clearly, chores and home cooked meals can happen. These parents simply choose to not have them happen.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 3

4. "It's so all laid out for them," said Maushart, author of the forthcoming book "The Winter of Our Disconnect," about her efforts to wean her family from its dependence on technology. "Having so much comfort and ease is what has led to this situation -- the Velcro sneakers, the Pull-Ups generation. You can pee in your pants and we'll take care of it for you!"

My Thoughts: So, Miss Maushart is actually trying to wean her family off of the technology that she chose to raise them with. Interesting. That aside: Velcro is great for right now. Our 2 year old can fasten her own shoes. However, I do note that shoes with laces are still in great abundance (and velcro was around when I was a wee lass, yet I still know how to tie my shoes...) and as kids age, there's nothing stopping a parent from buying them.

Pull-ups factor heavily in our lives at  the moment - or perhaps they don't? After all, it's only during very long car rides, naps, or bedtime that Miss A wears them. She's getting goood at this "using a toilet" thing. And she's only 2! Imagine that. Teching a kid that peeing in your pants isn't for life...wow.

[sigh] This is really getting depressing.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 4

5. The issue hit home for me when a visiting 12-year-old took an ice-cube tray out of my freezer, then stared at it helplessly. Raised in a world where refrigerators have push-button ice-makers, he'd never had to get cubes out of a tray -- in the same way that kids growing up with pull-tab cans don't understand can openers.

My Thoughts: OK. Really?! 99% of the homes I've been in, either my own or friends' or acquaintances, have normal fridges with freezers that require ice cube trays. In fact, my own fridge does have an ice maker (though it's not an "in-door" model), but we have no water line to connect it to. So, we use ice cube trays. Just like most of the canned goods in our larder, and so many others, require an opener (have you noticed that a pop top actually adds a buck or more to the price?!), so we must suffer in what's apparently viewed as neolithic servitude - slaves to our manual kitchens that do nothing for us, never mind wipe our bums too.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 5

This is too depressing. I think I'll stop here and call it a loss for the parents.

Now, while I'm the first to gleefully admit that I can't wait to be of that age where I can scream at kids to get off'n my lawn...and I've certainly been known to go off on my own, "KIDS THESE DAYS CONSARN'T" rants and raves (usually after a cherub-faced 6 year old tells me to "F**k off"), I will also be the first to come to the defense of the youth of today when they are unfairly maligned.

It's not the kids who are the nincompoops here. It's the parents who never taught them; who never made the time; who value the material and ease over anything else. I also suspect that the number of kids who are like those in the scenarios culled from the original article and noted above is vastly smaller than those who aren't - and it's totally unfair to use them to paint a generational picture like this. Let's call it like it is: There Is a Generation of Nincompoops Passing Their Nincompoopery Along to Their Offspring.

04 October 2010

Making Sense of the Senseless

I'll be the first to admit that when violence grips the most violent parts of this fair metro area of mine, I'm rarely surprised and never truly shocked. Even when it hits close to home, at the other end of the city, I'm not surprised. After all, the truth of the matter is this: I don't feel safe in my neighborhood, particularly after dark. There are a large number of addicts living around us and, while our street is generally safe and neighborly, 30 seconds around the corner(s) yields another place that is not.

I was, however, angered at the brief but seemingly random spate of violence that my own community experienced over Labor Day weekend - 24 hours of gun violence that left 3 people dead, in two unrelated shootings. The first happened about half a mile from our house, the second happened closer to home - and that headline is already too old. Within 48-hours of that event, a second man died from his injuries.

My anger has barely calmed to a simmer if only because our Mayor has dismissed these acts as "some bad actors who came to Malden", and said nothing more. There have been no updates on the investigation(s) and I suspect that we'll never know whether anyone will be brought to justice in the case of the victim from Stoneham.

Almost a month later, a section of Boston that I've never visited and probably never will...a section that I've always seen as dangerous and no stranger to the violence that's making it's way to the suburbs of Boston (can our community truly be a suburb when it's about 3 miles from the city-proper's limits, 2 T stops away, and the skyline is quite visible from certain vantage points? Boston is eating it's suburbs like a beast, incorporating them into itself...), experienced an event that rattled me. Last week, 3 men, 1 woman, and 1 toddler were gunned down in the streets. All but one of the men was killed, and he is currently on life support, not expected to live.

Boston Globe columnist, Brian McGrory, summed up my feelings about this better than I ever could have. A child killed in his mother's arms; men stripped naked and shot in the back of the head in the dark of night, on the streets...

It's too surreal. Just like a firefight just down the road from where I live is too surreal. Nevertheless, both events happened.

I understand the price we pay in choosing to live in an urban area - crime will be more in evidence, including violent crime. I don't understand the stubborn silence of my mayor and his persistent refusal to acknowledge a significant increase in crime in our city or at least parts of our city. I don't understand the extremely foreign feeling act of ultra-violence that occurred in Mattapan last week - almost a culmination to a growing number of depraved murders this year in Dorchester and Roxbury.

Mostly, I don't understand how, as my own daughter grows, to even begin to talk to her about these types of things that she will see and hear about. The crack heads and heroin addicts we see too often are easy topics to handle. Even the not-so-surreptitious drug deals on the corner can be dealt with fairly simply. This other stuff though? I can barely wrap my head around it. I'm not sure I could possibly explain the why's and wherefor's of these acts.

It's not about gun control. It's not even about crime control. There are far more deep seated issues that ultimately drive people to commit these most vicious of crimes or have to battle for their lives in self-defense (though a gunfight in a tight, urban neighborhood, even when it's home or self-defense, is still a dangerous venture for anyone to engage in what with stray bullets and all...).

Moving is not an option nor is it a solution. I suppose the best I can do is the Right Thing (as Top Telly used to say to me. Constantly.) where our daughter is concerned - and give her the tools she needs to navigate all of this. After all, soon, the cameras will be gone. In the case of our Labor Day Extravaganza, they left in what seemed like minutes after arrival, especially as it became clear that Mayor Howard is no Mayor Menino, and has not spoken out and demanded justice at any cost. No news there. Just another day in Malden. But in Mattapan, after all the outrage has been aired, all of the talking heads have said all that they can say, life will go on as well.

How much will any of these events, here or there, change anything? The best we can do is keep on teaching - street savvy, street smarts, and keeping away as best one can from a lifestyle that begets violence.

It's all I can think to do.

01 October 2010

This week has been longer than most. Obviously, since it's been 10 days since my last post and for that, I am a bad blogger. Seriously though? M and I were just talking a little while ago about how loooong this week has been - and not in a good way. We were sagging with relief at it's end, breathing deeply, when what should we hear from another room? "Uh-oh. Mommy Daddy I have a pooop!"


As we flew in to the bathroom, we were greeted by the following scene: A pull-up on the floor. A poop...next to the potty. On the floor. A girl-child with her pants around her ankles and her mouth completely covered in...black?

I did not even know where to begin. Clearly, she had been eating markers. Clearly, she had missed the potty but tried really hard not to. Clearly, I should not have been trying to take a moment's worth of deep breathing before she was in bed.

M went to work on the poop on the floor. I went to work on her face. And then checked myself and cleaned off her bum. And then her face. But here's the dirty secret about Rose Art's water soluble, washable markers: THEY AREN'T. Even after the bathroom and the girl-child's bum were de-poopified, the face, the teeth, the tongue...were not.

I don't think I've ever had her brush her teeth for that long. Or rinse and spit so many times.

It seemed a most fitting end to this work week though, arguably one of the longest work weeks in the history of work weeks. Truly, there is nothing more perspective inducing than seeing your toddler literally covered, head-to-toe, in a giant mess.

I'm grateful that it's over.

The ray of sunshine in all of it? The fact that she really did try to make it to the potty in time. Were it not for the fact that I forgot to lift up the lid on her little pot, she probably would have done well. So, I do take that responsibility.

It's time to breathe out now.