Gaza shootings: When I was 14 | First Dog on the Moon

Wesal Sheikh Khalil was 14 and had already planned her own funeral

First Dog on … being 14

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Think it’s funny that China is cracking down on Peppa Pig? Think again | Phoebe-Jane Boyd

The censorship of childrens amusement for adult aims is an old story, and everyone is at it including us, says freelance journalist Phoebe-Jane Boyd

A girl-piglet and a boy-piglet, a mummy and daddy swine , no LGBTQ characters or focus on race or religion; Peppa Pig isn’t an obvious target for controversy or counterculture adore. At first glance, it could be a pretty solid adult selection for boredom or sleep. Yet the Douyin video platform in China deems its influence to be a potentially harmful one, due to its growing popularity among the country’s shehuiren . That’s anti-establishment” gangster” internet users to some, or people who like memes and get tattoos of asinine cartoon characters because it’s a bit funny to others.

Like people who expend a lot of day on Tumblr, Reddit, or 4chan, ironic Peppa Pig fans likely aren’t a danger to the continuation of humanity as we know it. They might need tattoo-removal services at some phase, but a government forbid on the cartoons they like, as well as their associated hashtags, is a bit much. For many here in the UK, the ban in China has been taken as bizarre and hilarious. Peppa as a figurehead for” unruly slackers”, a cult-like hero calling society’s disaffected to rebel? The cartoon ? It’s always been a pedestrian watch, probably even for the generation of children it was designed for. To kids watching who come from single-parent households, have two mums, or are living in foster homes, Peppa Pig’s cosily conservative household set-up may be as otherworldly as talking animals and rabbits.

But despite Peppa being so safe- almost antiquated, even- all the sniggering about its ban from China’s media platforms is what’s truly bizarre. Because it shouldn’t be surprising at all. A group of adults use the establishment or censorship of children’s entertainment to further their own political and moral values isn’t unheard of; it’s almost de rigueur, everywhere.

Photograph: Alex Segre/ Alamy

There have been understandable examples of censure, such as the episode of the 90 s cartoon Gargoyles on gun crime, which was subsequently cut to remove the blood. Even though blood usually happens after a gunshot. And gunshots tend to happen in television episodes that have been commissioned to focus on handguns. An episode of TaleSpin was also taken off air, in this case because of its terrorism topic. Yes; the adults who made it animated Baloo to fight against terrorism. In a children’s Tv show. Running further back, there’s 1818 -4 7′ s The History of the Fairchild Family’s subsequent fall out of regular circulation … because it included a gibbet-side lesson where small children is shown the hanged corpse of war criminals. Adults of the time wanted infants to know that criminals deserved to be hanged.

If the adults in charge aren’t stealthily dripping their own politics into children’s amusement, they’re banning it afterwards when it includes politics they don’t agree with. This is what media for children is, because it’s generated, and censored, by adults for the adults they want to see in the future. It’s gentle( sometimes not so gentle) social conditioning, and always has been. Politics but, ya know, for children.

The reporting of this ban with its undercurrent of” isn’t China weird and funny compared to us- how ridiculous” ignores all this; how politics are used during the creation of entertainment for children, and afterwards by legislators themselves. This isn’t even Peppa’s first foray into the world of politics; she was part of the promotion of the Labour government’s Sure Startprogramme back in 2010. One episode of the display was banned by the Australian Broadcasting Company for dread it would encourage children to interact with dangerous spiders. The columnist Piers Akerman even accused the programme of pushing” a weird feminist line “. So China’s outlaw is not unprecedented , nor ridiculous. Not even when it involves innocent little Peppa and her brother George.

The innocuous fictional world of Peppa Pig might seem too far removed from our own to become a symbol of unrest, or moral decay in society, but like much media before it, we create it, we consume it, we use it, and we ban it. What is children’s entertainment but a means to prepare our children for the world? And what is the world but a messed-up mire of warring politics created by angry grown-ups? Children need to be ready for this wherever they live- therefore welcomed adulthood, children.

  • Phoebe-Jane Boyd is a freelance journalist who writes on politics and pop culture

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Thousands of Android apps potentially violate child protection law

A study conducted on child-directed Android apps from Google Play Store saw over half may transgress US privacy law for under 13 s

Thousands of child-directed Android apps and games are potentially violating US law on the collection and sharing of data on those under 13, research has revealed.

A study conducted on 5,885 child-directed Android apps from the US Play Store, which are included in Google’s Designed for Families programme, found that well over half of the apps potentially contravened the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act( Coppa ).

” We identified several concerning violations and trends ,” wrote the authors of the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, led by researchers at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.” Overall, roughly 57% of the 5,855 child-directed apps that we analysed are potentially infringing Coppa .”

Among the apps, 4.8% had” are violations when apps share location or contact information without consent”, 40% shared personal information without applying reasonable security measures, 18% shared persistent identifiers with their parties for prohibited purposes such as ad targeting, and 39% showed” ignorance or neglect for contractual obligations aimed at protecting children’s privacy “.

The researchers found that 28% of the apps accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions and that 73% of the tested apps transmitted sensitive data over the internet.

” While accessing a sensitive resource or sharing it over the internet does not necessarily mean that an app is in violation of Coppa , none of these apps attained verifiable parental permission: if the[ automated testing] was able to trigger the functionality, then a child would as well ,” the researchers wrote.

” This is an incredibly important examine that clears demonstrates that many apps for children are transgressing Coppa at a massive scale ,” told Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood.” Many kids’ apps are sharing personal information with third party who do data-driven personalised marketing, the very thing Coppa “re supposed to” guard against .”

The researchers said that Google had taken steps to help enforce Coppa compliance, with the Designed for Families programme that offer developers of children’s apps with information on the law and involves certification that apps comply. But “theyre saying” ” as our results show, there appears to not be any( or only limited) enforcement “.

While the researchers surmised that it is likely that” many privacy violations are unintentional and caused by misunderstandings of third-party Software Development Kitss” that are used to build the apps, they recommended Google to do more active vetting process of apps for Coppa compliance.

The researchers also analysed whether apps with potential Coppa violations were part of the US Federal Trade Commission’s( FTC) Safe Harbor programme, under which developers submit their apps for certification that they are Coppa-compliant. They found that few apps are actually certified under Safe Harbor and of those that are” possible violation are prevalent “.

” Based on our data, it is not clear that industry self-regulation has resulted in higher privacy criteria; some of our data suggest the opposite. Thus, industry self-regulation appears to be ineffective ,” the researchers wrote.

Golin told:” It’s also clear that self-regulation endeavors- both Google’s attempts to ensure Coppa compliance at the app store level and the Safe Harbor certification programme- are failing families. As has been demonstrated time and time again, self-regulation is no substitute for sustained government enforcement .”

Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, told:” For years, the FTC has failed to address how both Google and Facebook routinely undermine customer privacy .”

” However, the FTC has just been through[ an] earthquake-like wake up call, given the revelations that Facebook allowed companies like Cambridge Analytica to seize data on 87 million people … Parents are confronted with a nearly impossible task. Dedicated the predominance of the Google App platform and the best interest young children have in apps, it’s not practical for a mother to have to spend time trying to decipher the complex connects that drive the ad supported App industry.

” That’s why we hope the FTC has finally awoken from its long digital privacy slumber .”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

YouTube illegally collects data on children, tell child protection groups

Android phone makers skip Google security updates without telling users- analyze

How babies learn and why robots cant compete

The long read: If we could understand how the newborn intellect develops, it might help every child reach their full potential. But ensure them as learning machines is not the answer

Deb Roy and Rupal Patel pulled into their driveway on a fine July day in 2005 with the beaming smiles and sleep-deprived glow common to all first-time parents. Pausing in the hallway of their Boston home for Grandpa to snap a photo, they chattered blithely over the precious newborn son swaddled between them.

This normal-looking suburban couple weren’t exactly like other parents. Roy was an AI and robotics expert at MIT, Patel an eminent speech and speech expert at nearby Northeastern University. For years, they had been planning to amass the most extensive home-video collect ever.

From the ceiling in the hallway blinked two discreet black dots, each the size of a coin. Further dots were located over the open-plan living area and the dining room. There were 25 in total throughout the house- 14 microphones and 11 fish-eye cameras, part of a system primed to launch on their return from hospital, intended to record the newborn’s every move.

It had begun a decade earlier in Canada- but in fact Roy had built his first robots when he was just was six years old, back in Winnipeg in the 1970 s, and he’d never really stopped. As his interest turned into a career, he wondered about android brains. What would it take for the machines he made to think and talk?” I guessed I could just read the literature on how kids do it, and that would give me a blueprint for house my language and learning robots ,” Roy told me.

Over dinner one night, he boasted to Patel, who was then completing her PhD in human speech pathology, that he had already made a robot that was learning the same route kids learn. He was convinced that if it got the sort of input children get, the robot could learn from it.

Toco was little more than a camera and microphone mounted on a Meccano frame, and dedicated character with ping-pong-ball eyes, a red feather quiff and crooked yellow bill. But it was smart. Use voice recognition and pattern-analysing algorithms, Roy had painstakingly taught Toco to distinguish words and concepts within the maelstrom of everyday speech. Where previously computers learned speech digitally, understanding terms in relation to other words, Roy’s breakthrough was to create a machine that understood their relationship to objects. Asked to pick out the red ball among a range of physical items, Toco could do it.

Patel operated an newborn laboratory in Toronto and Roy flew up there to watch what he could learn. Observing the mothers and babies at play, he realised he’d been teaching Toco seriously.” I hadn’t structured my learning algorithm correctly ,” he explained to Wired magazine in 2007.” Every parent knows that when you’re talking to an 11 -month-old, you stay on a very tight topic. If you’re talking about a beaker, you stick to a beaker and you interact with the cup until the baby get bored and then the cup going on around here .”

His robot had been searching through every phoneme it had ever heard when it was learning a new object, but Roy tweaked its algorithm to give extra weight to its most recent experiences, and began to feed it audio from Patel’s baby lab records. Suddenly Toco began to build a basic vocabulary at a rate never seen before in AI research. His dream of” a robot that can learn by listening and ensure objects” felt closer than ever. But it needed to feed upon records, and these were hard to find.

An image from Deb Roy and Rupal Patel’s project to record their infant son’s first years. Photograph: MIT Media Lab

No one had ever truly analyzed” in the wild” what happens to a child in those first crucial years. The norm for researchers were weekly hour-long observation conferences- that was how Patel examined the women and babies in her laboratory. If you were going to study the way a newborn learned to talk, you’d require someone eccentric enough to rig up a house with concealed recording devices.

I first heard about Patel and Roy’s experiment while working as a educator at a London comprehensive. Most “of childrens rights” I taught arrived at school aged 11 far behind where they we were expected to be with its own language, and as a novice I struggled to help them catch up. Whereas everything I tried seemed outdated, Roy’s approach was scientific. I hoped his findings would unlock a secret that could help kids to realise their full potential. If we could create machines that learned like humans, could we also develop ones that could help us perfect human learning?

Before pressing record, Roy and Patel agreed some ground rules. The recordings would be available only to their most trusted inner circle of researchers. If at any time they felt uncomfortable with the filming, they would junk the footage. When privacy was involved, the organizations of the system could be temporarily shut down. It was a leap of faith, but they agreed it was worth it. Their experiment had the power to unlock new insight into the workings of the baby mind.

Toco was Pinocchio to Roy’s Geppetto. But whereas he was wondering what real kids could teach robots, I wanted to know if those home videos might hint at how to enhance learn for the youngest humans.

In 1995, two researchers, Betty Hart and Todd Risley, published the results of a study in which they trailed 42 Kansas City families to compare the experiences of preschoolers from poor families with their richer peers. Starting when the newborns were nine months old, they observed them regularly over a two-and-a-half-year period, recording and transcribing all parent-and-child speech during their hour-long visits. The findings were stark. The number of words a child heard by their third birthday strongly predicted academic success aged nine. The difference was scarcely fathomable. They estimated that, at the age of four, the richest children had heard 30 m more terms than the poorest.

” The problem of skill differences among children at the time of school entry is bigger, more intractable and more important than we guessed ,” Hart and Risley told. Their research presented it was worth intervening as early as possible.” The longer the effort is put over, the less possible change becomes .”

If the problem was stark, the solution seemed simple. There was a gap, and it had to be filled with words. Hart and Risley’s findings fuelled a word-rush that suffers today. Across the English-speaking world, mothers flocked to buy flashcards and brain trainers for their tots.

But my experience in the classroom suggested that the interpreting was a little simplistic, equating the development of the human intellect with the inputs and outputs of computers. I suspected that there was more to infant learning than the quantity of words you heard.

A professor of early-childhood growth at Temple University in Pennsylvania, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, seemed to agree. She had written that” just as the fast food industry fills us with empty calories, what we call the’ learning industry’ has persuaded many among us that the memorisation of content is all that is needed for learning success and joyful lives “. She had also written an influential volume that laid out her reservations about the word-rush: Einstein Never Use Flashcards: How Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less. I guessed she might have some answers.

Hirsh-Pasek is legendary in the field of early child development. The writer of 12 books and hundreds of academic articles, she is a recognise faculty fellow who runs Temple’s Infant and Child Laboratory, whose motto is” Where Children Teach Adults “.

At the lab, scientists were putting tiny humen through their paces. Researchers had developed ingenious experiments that measured changes in heart rate to depict some of the things that eight-month-olds already knew.” They know the mobile won’t fall on them ,” told Hirsh-Pasek.” They know that if I drop this plate on the table, the plate won’t run through the table. That’s amazing. They know that if I’m sitting across from you, and you can’t see the bottom part of my body, I still have one .”

Until recently, scientists had tended to think of infants as irrational, illogical and egocentric. In his Principles of Psychology in 1890, William James had described newborns’ experience of sensory overload:” The baby, assailed by eyes, ears , nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great flower, buzzing disarray .” This understanding had contributed to a mechanistic view of learning, and the idea that the sheer repetition of words was what mattered most. But it wasn’t true.

Even in utero, newborns are learning. At that stage, they pick up voices. One-hour-olds can recognise their mother’s voice from another person’s. They arrive in the world with a brain primed to learn through sensory stimulation. We are natural-born explorers, ready made for scientific investigation. We have to understand this if we were to realise our learning potential.

” We enter the world ready to’ read the perfect cues out of the environment ‘,” said Hirsh-Pasek. I believed back to Toco. He read the environment, too- or at least what his eye cameras consider and ear microphones heard. But robots can only reach out in ways they have been programmed to, can only learn from stimuli they were instructed to pay attention to. It restriction them to a small range of experiences that would shape their behaviours. There is no meaning in their methods. Babies, on the other hand, are social learners.

” We arrive ready to interact with other humans and our culture ,” said Hirsh-Pasek. The real genius of human newborn is not simply that they learn from the environment- other animals can do that. Human babies can understand the people around them and, specifically, construe their intentions.

As we evolved, social and cultural transmission became possible. Language was our starting point- the possibility of two beings ascribing a shared meaning to an otherwise abstract notion or symbol. Couldn’t we watch the start of this in babies’ behaviour? Infants under a year shall include participation in proto-conversations with carers. They babbled away, held eye contact, exchanged things, simulated their expressions or actions. They also experimented with tools, sticking them in their mouths, bashing them on things.

At the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Prof Michael Tomasello wrote that our young learn” in an environment of ever-new artefacts and social practices, which, at any one time, represent something resembling the entire collective wisdom of the entire social group throughout its entire culture history “.

If all of us are to achieve our potential as learners, the question we have to answer is how we ought to shape this environment. Human brains have specially adapted to learn. Our long period of immaturity is a risky evolutionary strategy, building us vulnerable early on to predators or sickness, and delaying for many years our capacity to reproduction, but the payoff is immense. We can actively incorporate enormous amounts of the latest information from our environment and social group into our cognitive development.

Scientists have long recognised the nature-v-nurture debate as fallacy. A huge amount of our brain development takes place in the first three years. In those years, the brain grows in relation to the environment, forming itself in interaction with sensory experience. As Hart and Risley demonstrated in their study of the word gap, that experience can have a huge consequence on who that person becomes.

We have evolved to be a species of teachers and learners. Our ability to understand other people arrives around the ninth month, at a few moments in their development at which newborns begin to check the attention of others by holding or pointing at objects. At a year, they can follow another’s attention, gazing at, touching or listening to the same thing. At 15 months they can direct it. Listen to that! Appear over there! Shared attention is the starting point of conscious human learning. It is why infants don’t learn to talk from video, audio or overhearing parental dialogues. We haven’t evolved to. That’s why it matters that we talk to most children. It’s also why we can’t learn from robots- yet.

The implication for understanding how we learn sounds like common sense: each generation ought to ensure the next is immersed in their earliest years in the tools, symbols and social practises of the current culture.

In search of the kind of learning surrounding that might best cultivate our natural abilities, I visited Pen Green Early Childhood Centre, functional specialists centre in early child development in the Northamptonshire town of Corby. The outdoor space was cold and overcast, but that wasn’t deterring the children. By a bamboo bush, two small boys splashed at an ever-running tap.” Don’t get me wet !” they creaked with pleasure. A teacher bent down to convenience a toddler in a” Be Fast or Come Last” T-shirt. Four small girls were deep in a serious conversation while absent-mindedly digging sand into colorful buckets.

Pen Green had a global reputation for excellence in early child development and family support, a prototype that had inspired successive early-years interventions by government, including Sure Start and Early Excellence. I spoke to the director, Angela Prodger. She had just taken over from the legendary Margy Whalley, who set up the centre in 1983. In the 1980 s, Corby was among the UK’s poorest townships, its population of Scottish migrant workers unmoored by the closure of the steelworks for which they had moved south- 11,000 people had been built redundant. The centre was intended as a lifeline for the next generation. Today it serves 1,400 of the UK’s least well-off households.

I asked her about language learning. We knew words mattered, but I’d not heard much talk at playtime.” If we’re not addressing personal, social, emotional development first, you’re not ready to learn ,” said Prodger. She explained that before children could acquire the tools of speech and language, you had to ensure they felt a sense of” being and belonging “. Too often, she thought, our approaches to early learn skipped these steps. It voiced to me like a nice-to-have , not an essential, but research proved otherwise.

In the 1950 s, British psychoanalyst John Bowlby proposed a hypothesi of “attachment”. He hypothesised that babies, unable to regulate their own impressions, were prone to get upset when they were hungry, sad or lonely. A carer was needed to help them “co-regulate” their feelings, which over period would teach the child to self-regulate, provided their early experiences helped them do so. If negative experiences weren’t alleviated with love from a parental figure, they could become established.

Illustration: Guardian Design

The implications for children growing up in poverty-stricken or traumatic surroundings were significant. This was why Pen Green took care to set the being and belonging of its children first. It also explained some of the behaviour at the school where I had taught. Where I’d missed the signs of kids responding to the stress of the environment in which the latter are growing up, at Pen Green they worked closely with carers to ensure children built strong, fostering relationships that would help them thrive in the nursery and ultimately at school. I’d always believed infants want to get wreak havoc. It had never passed to me that they might simply have been conditioned by their surrounding to act in a certain way.” Behaviour is always just a sign of the rights of children trying to tell you something ,” said Prodger.

As we toured the building, Prodger told him that the skill of the practitioners at Pen Green was in learning to attend to “whats going on” in the minds of the kids, and interpreting it as evidence of what the youngsters were signalling, even before they were able to verbalise it themselves. Children were constantly communicating with us, she told me. We only had to learn to understand.

” It’s about seeming ,” Prodger told.” What are the children trying to explore? What are they trying to find out ?”

Creative play is the foundation on which creativity, speech, maths and science are built. If you start too early with flashcards, you lose this developmental stage.” It’s about being free ,” Prodger told.” It’s about risk-taking .”

They take the kids out to the forest a few days a week, light fires, let them experiment with scissors and ride BMX bikes. If they want to be outside, they go outside. If they imagination returning to the snug, where the youngest newborns roll around, that’s where they would go. The surrounding dictates the learning. The adults aim only to connect and share attention with the children. Reading and writing could wait. Nurseries ought to be as social as possible, and follow kids’ leading in their play. Before children can get on with learn, we have to ensure they belong.

The children seemed happy here, learning to belong and laying down foundations for their future success through play. And yet I wondered if we couldn’t do still more to accelerate early learning. The implication of Deb Roy’s robot experiment was that every moment counted. Could we afford to leave so much to opportunity?

” The collision of birth is the greatest source of inequality in the US ,” wrote economist James Heckman. It’s equally true in the UK today, where the strongest predictor of academic achievement is how much your mothers earn. Though two-thirds of our kids attain a C or above in English and maths GCSEs each year, that number falls to only over a third of kids on free school meals. Heckman has also shown that the most effective ways to tackle this inequality is to invest in children’s development as early as possible in “peoples lives”. It isn’t enough to transform schools- we have to start much earlier than that.

At Temple University, Hirsh-Pasek told me that we can’t simply drop kids in front of iPads and expect them to catch up- but that doesn’t mean we should give up entirely on intelligent machines. Some of her lab’s experimentations are aimed at shutting developmental gaps between rich and poor kids. Others encompass topics such as language growth and spatial awareness, and all employ technology in different ways.” What the machine can’t do is be a partner ,” Hirsh-Pasek told me.” It isn’t social. It’s interactive without being adaptive .”

Hirsh-Pasek’s mission was to change the style we thought about learning, especially for the poorest kids.” We had this vision that it was so important to get the basics into poor kids ,” she told me.” We thought we should drop recess- even though we know being physical assistance children learn, helps build better brains. And we thought we should just do reading and maths, and cut off the arts and all this superfluous stuff like social analyzes .”

‘ From the earliest ages, we learn from people’ … Kathy Hirsh-Pasek

It weighed heavily on her. Policymakers and laymen had twisted the science to fit their own aims. No scientist guessed flashcards worked. No scientist believed you should start learning to read and write at an ever younger age. It was a fantasy of governments. More recent research has added depth to the language lessons of Hart and Risley’s Kansas Study. In 2003, the psychologist Patricia Kuhl experimented with teaching American newborns Mandarin. Split into three groups( video, audio and flesh-and-blood educator) only those with a human instructor learned anything at all. In 2010 a study of the wildly popular Baby Einstein vocabulary-building DVDs( Time called them” Crack for Babies “) revealed that newborns who watched them” presented no greater understanding of words from the program than kids who never considered it “. Nor did babies learn words by eavesdropping on parental dialogues or listening to In Our Time on Radio 4, however soothing the mellifluous tones of Melvyn Bragg. More than words, it took a human being for a baby to learn language. They could not learn from screens.

Schools are still guilty of dismissing these insights into newborn learn. Erika Christakis, early-childhood expert and writer of The Importance of Being Little, charts the slow descent in preschool learning from a multidimensional, ideas-based approach to a two-dimensional naming-and-labelling curriculum. Daphna Bassok at the University of Virginia asks if kindergarten is truly the new first grade. The expectation that kindergarteners- aged five or six- can read is now cliche. Yet this is counter to all the evidence. A Cambridge study comparing groups of children who started formal literacy lessons at five and seven found that starting two years earlier built no change at all to a child’s reading ability aged 11,” but the children who started at five arises less-positive postures to reading, and proved poorer text comprehension than those who started afterward “.

These findings are clear: if you start on the decoding before you have an underlying understanding of narrative, experience, sensation and emotion, then you become a worse reader. And you like it less. Treat kids like robots during early learning and you put them off for life.

Instead, Hirsh-Pasek wanted kids to embrace the pleasure in learning and growing up. Apart from kids, her other great love was music. She often used to break into anthem, especially on the phone to her granddaughter.

In her volume, she indicated six Cs for modern learn: cooperation, communication, content, critical thinking, creative invention and trust. Truisms, I had thought, but unlike much education policy, be learned from scientific evidence. If I was to take out one thing, she told, it should be that” from a very early ages, we learn from people “.

It was the same insight that had inspired a pair of suburban scientists to hit the “record” button.

Deb Roy was dressed in black and still looked youthful when we met at MIT. A few flecks of grey in his hair were the only evidence of 11 years of parenthood. Seeming back, the Human Speechome Project– as his and Patel’s home-recoding experiment had been named- seemed a quirk of turn-of-the-millennium exuberance about artificial intelligence. In all, they had captured 90,000 hours of video and 140,000 hours of audio. The 200 terabytes of data encompassed 85% of the first three years of their son’s life( and 18 months of his little sister’s ). But now the footage had been gathering dust.” I still have the whole collecting ,” he said.” I’m waiting for his bridal day, merely to bear the hell out of everyone .”

In a style, it was also a great lost home video. With his team at MIT, Roy had developed new approaches to visualising and examining the data they had captured: “Social Hotspots” presented two tightly knotted lines, visual traces of tender moments in which mother and child came together to chat, learn or explore; “Wordscapes” were snow-capped mountains ranged in all regions of the living room and kitchen, the highest peaks rising where particular words were most often heard. The tools had turned out to be fantastically lucrative as a means for analysing talk on Twitter. Roy and a graduate student had expended the decade building a new media company.

Roy was now back at MIT. His new group was “ve called the” Laboratory for Social Machines. He had given up constructing robots that would compete with humans and instead turned his attention to the augmentation of human learning. What had changed his intellect was the process of actually raising a child.

The first time his son uttered something that wasn’t just babble, Roy was sitting with him looking at images.” He told’ fah ‘,” Roy explained,” but he was actually clearly referring to a fish on the wall that we were both looking at. The route I knew it was not just coincidence was that right after he looked at it and said it, he turned to me. And he had this kind of appear, like a cartoon lightbulb running off- an’ Ah , now I get it’ kind of looking. He’s not even a year old, but there’s a conscious being, in the sense of being self-reflective .”

” I guess, putting on my AI hat, it was a humbling lesson ,” he continued.” A lesson of like, holy shit, there’s a lot more here .”

Roy was no longer sure you could bring a robot up like a real human- or that we should even try. It didn’t seem there was much to gain by developing robots that took precisely one human childhood to become exactly like one young adult human. That’s what people did. And that was before you got into imagination or feelings, identity or love- things that were impossible for Toco. Watching his son, Roy had been blown away by” the unbelievable sophistication of what a language learner in the flesh actually looks like and does “. Infant humans didn’t only regurgitate; they created, constructed new meaning, shared feelings.

The learning process wasn’t decoding, as he had originally thought, but something infinitely more continuous, complex and social. He was reading Helen Keller’s autobiography to his kids, and had been struck by her epiphany at understanding speech for the first time. Deaf and blind after an illness in infancy, Keller was seven years old when she got it.” Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten ,” she wrote,” a thrill of returning supposed; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that’ w-a-t-e-r’ entailed the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my spirit, devoted it light, hope, exhilaration, define it free! Everything had a name, and each name devoted birth to a new suppose. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to shudder with life .”

Roy had recently started working with Hirsh-Pasek, following her insight that machines might augment learning between humans, but would never replace it.

He had discovered that human learn was communal and interactive. For a robot, the acquisition of speech was abstract and formulaic. For us, it was represented, emotive, subjective, quivering with life. The future of intelligence wouldn’t be found in our machines, but in the development of our own minds.

Natural Born Learners by Alex Beard will be published by Weidenfeld& Nicolson on 12 April. To order a copy for PS16. 14, go to

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Jehovah’s Witnesses accused of silencing victims of child abuse

Scores of alleged victims come forward and describe culture of cover-up in religious group in UK

More than 100 people have contacted the Guardian with allegations of child sexual abuse and other mistreatment in Jehovah’s Witness communities across the UK.

Former and current members, including 41 alleged victims of child sexual abuse, described a culture of cover-ups and lies, with senior members of the organisation, known as elders, deterring victims from coming forward for fear of bringing” rebuke on Jehovah” and being exiled from the congregation and their families.

A Guardian investigation also heard from 48 people who experienced other forms of abuse, including physical violence when they were children, and 35 who witnessed or heard about others who were victims of child grooming and abuse.

The stories told to the Guardian ranged from events decades ago to more recent, and many of the individuals who came forward have now contacted the police.

They told the Guardian about:

An organisation that polices itself and teaches members to avoid interaction with outside authorities.

A regulation set by the main governing body of the religion that means for child sexual abuse to be taken seriously there must be two witness to it.

Alleged child sex abuse victims claiming they were forced to recount allegations in front of their abuser.

Young girls who engage in sexual activity before matrimony being forced to describe it in detail in front of male elders.


Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and how do they operate?

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Jehovah’s Witnesses are members of a Christian religion movement. In 2017, different groups reported an average global monthly membership of approximately 8.2 million people, about 137,000 of whom are in the UK.

The organisation is governed by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania corporation, which has its headquarters in New York. It is the primary legal entity use worldwide to direct, administer and disseminate doctrines.

Jehovah’s Witnesses base their beliefs merely on the text of the Bible and ignore” mere human suppositions or religious creeds “. Members reject what they see as the sinful values of the secular world and preserve a degree of separation from non-believers, whom they call” worldly people “.

The congregation is served by overseers, or elders. Only humen can serve in these positions and they are responsible for congregational governance, pastoral run and forming judicial committees to analyse serious sins.

If a Jehovah’s Witness experiences sexual abuse, they are advised to report it to the elders, who will take farther action if there is a second witness to the offence or if the accused acknowledges the abuse. The perpetrator will then be called before a judicial committee.

Someone who commits a serious sin can be “disfellowshipped”. This involves being shunned by the congregation, which for most members includes their immediate family.

2017 was the deadliest year of Syrian war for children, says Unicef

Report advises generation faces psychological wrecking, with most vulnerable the hardest hit

A generation of Syrian children face psychological ruin and ever increasing peril, with child deaths rising by 50% last year and the number of young soldiers tripling since 2015.

A report by Unicef saw 2017 was the worst year of the war for young Syrians, with 910 killed in a conflict that has spared them no mercy and has taken a vastly disproportionate toll on the country’s most vulnerable people.

The figures undermine claims that the war, which will soon enter its eighth year, is losing steam. Those most at risk face escalating menaces of being permanently maimed by opposing, or emotionally scarred by a litany of abuses including forced labor, matrimonies, food scarcity and minimal access to health or education.

” There are scars in children and there are scars on children that will never be erased ,” said Geert Cappelaere, Unicef’s director for the Middle East and north Africa.” The protection of children in all circumstances that was once universally embraced- at no moment have any of the parties accepted .”

Syrian children in numbers

More than 13 million people inside Syria need humanitarian assistance, more than half of whom are children, the UN says. Of the 6.1 million internally displaced, roughly half( 2.8 million) are children. Figures for last year depict an average of 6,550 people were displaced each day in Syria.

During the first months of 2018 there has been a sharp escalation in violence in Idlib, eastern Ghouta on the suburbs of Damascus and in Afrin on the Turkish perimeter. The Syrian regime and Russia have been besieging Idlib and east Ghouta, while Turkey and a proxy Arab force launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in January. There also remains a lethal threat from mines and unexploded bombs left over from opposing in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

In eastern Ghouta a besieged population of nearly 420,000 people, half of whom are children, are suffering a month of airstrikes from Russian and Syrian jets, which are attempting to oust opponent fighters and the communities that support them from Damascus’s doorstep. Calculated death tolls in Ghouta range from 1,000 to 1,300 people. Children are thought to account for at least several hundred casualties.

Reaching children in need has been relentlessly difficult, the UN has said, with requests to deliver aid to opponent communities routinely denied and convoys allowed to enter often stripped of essential medicines. Humanitarian access was denied 105 times in 2017 alone- a year marked by sieges of east Aleppo and east Ghouta, which had both been strongholds of the anti-Assad opposition throughout the war.

Healthcare facilities, including hospitals and ambulance basis, have been repeatedly targeted in eastern Ghouta, recurring a pattern set elsewhere in Syria. In opposition-held east Aleppo, the healthcare network was destroyed before the area was overrun by pro-regime forces-out in late 2016. Last year alone, there were 175 assaults on health and education centres, the Unicef report says.

Medecins Sans Frontieres tells 15 of the 20 hospitals and clinics it supports in eastern Ghouta have been hit by airstrikes or shelling. Local authorities inside the enclave say the healthcare system is being systematically targeted and the capacity to care for high numbers of wounded has shrunk tremendously as a result.

” Their[ Assad regime’s] strategy is brutally clear ,” said Ghassan Chamsi, a resident in the Douma neighbourhood of eastern Ghouta.” They want to terrorise everyone into running for the borders. Either submit, or die. But don’t expect to be treated by our own .”

On almost every economic indicator, children in Syria experienced worse conditions last year than in 2016. The scarcity of food has soared across the country, with the young again suffering most for the absence of adequate nutrition. Up to 12% of young Syrians are considered to be acutely malnourished, the report says.

The psychological impact on young generations who have spent at the least half their lives in conflict, deprived of adequate food, education and healthcare, is among the most difficult risk categories to gauge.

” Their conditions require specialised therapy and services ,’ said Cappelaere.” As children, their needs differ from those of adults: as their bodies and abilities change, so must their care. These children face a very real risk of being forgotten and stigmatised as the unrelenting conflict continues .”

With opposing raging in north and central Syria, the majority of the population displaced and regional powers now more deep invested in the war than before, there appears to be little hope of the humanitarian situation easing anytime soon.

Syrian refugee numbers

Russia and Iran have both strengthened their support for Bashar al-Assad, who was losing on the battlefield until Vladimir Putin sent the Russian us air force to prop up the Syrian leader in September 2015. Iranian-led ground troops have been central to clawing back lost ground, while opposition groups, splintered and divided , no longer pose a sustained menace to the regime.

However, Idlib and east Idlib, despite sustained assaults, remain formidable obstacles to a leadership that has pledged to return all of Syria to central control. As yet, there is no plan for what to do with eastern Ghouta’s population if they are forced to flee. In Idlib, more than 2.5 million people, many of them displaced from elsewhere in the country, are crammed into a small province faced with ever increasing humanitarian needs.

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Kidtech startup SuperAwesome is now valued at $100+ million and profitable

Technology companies like Facebook and Google are scrambling to catch up to the fact that children have joined a web originally built for adults, and are employing it the style adults do — by liking and commenting, sharing, clicking through on personalized recommendations and viewing ads. But the technology underpinning apps and sites built for children can’t operate the same route it does for the grown-ups. That’s where the company SuperAwesome comes in.

SuperAwesome, only less than five years old, has been tapping into the growing need for kid-friendly technology, including kid-safe ad, social participation tools, authentication and parental controls. Its clients include some of the biggest names in the children’s market, including Activision, Hasbro, Mattel, Cartoon Network, Spin Master, Nintendo, Bandai, WB, Shopkins maker Moose Toys and hundreds of others — many of which it can’t name for legal reasons.

Now, the company is turning a profit.

SuperAwesome says it reached profitability for the first time in Q4 2017, and has reached a booked revenue run-rate of $28 million, after seeing 70 percent growth year-over-year.

This year, it expects to grow 100 percentage, with a revenue operate rate of $50 million.

Sources close to the company set its valuation at north of $100 million, as a result.

The company says the transformation to digital is driving its growth, as Tv viewing is dropping at 10 to 20 percent per year, while kids’ digital budgets are growing at 25 percentage year over year. At the same time, the kids brands and content owners are realizing that safety and privacy have to be a part of their web and mobile experiences.

SuperAwesome has flown under the radar a bit, and isn’t what you’d call a household name. That’s because its technology isn’t generally consumer-facing — it’s what’s powering the apps and websites that today’s kids are use, whether that’s a game like Mattel’s Barbie Fashion Closet or Monster High, Hasbro’s My Little Pony Friendship Club or a website from kids’ writer Roald Dahl , to name a few.

Key to all these experiences is a technology platform that allows developers to construct kid-safe apps and sites. That includes products like AwesomeAds, which ensures ads in the kids space aren’t tracking personal data and the ads are kid-appropriate; PopJam, a kid-safe social participation platform that lets developers construct experiences where kids can like, remark, share and remix online content; and Kids Web Service, tools that simplify build apps that require parental permission and oversight.

These kinds of tools are increasingly becoming critical to a web that’s waking up to the fact that the largest tech companies didn’t consider how many kids would be using their products. YouTube, for example, has been scrambling in recent months to combat the threats to children on its video-sharing site, like inappropriate content targeted toward children, exploitive videos, haywire algorithms, dangerous memes, hate speech and more.

Meanwhile, children are lying about their ages — sometimes with parental permission — to join social platforms originally built for the 13 -and-up crowd, like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and

“It’s very easy to come out and beat up Facebook and Google for some of this stuff, but the reality is that there’s no ecosystem there for developers who are creating content or build services specifically for kids. That’s why we started SuperAwesome, ” says SuperAwesome’s CEO Dylan Collins.

Before SuperAwesome, Collins founded gaming platform Jolt, acquired by GameStop, and game technology provider DemonWare, acquired by Activision.

Other SuperAwesome execs have similar successful track records to its implementation of company-building. Managing director Max Bleyleben was COO at digital marketing agency Beamly, acquired by Coty, and a partner in European VC fund Kennet Partner. COO Kate O’Loughlin was previously SVP Media in adtech company Tapad, acquired by Telenor. Chief Strategy Officer Paul Nunn was previously the managing director at kids’ app manufacturer Outfit7, acquired by China’s United Luck Group.

Today, the company’s 120 -person staff also includes a full-time moderation team to review content before it runs public. A need to do more hands-on review, instead of leaving everything up to an algorithm, is something the larger companies have just woken up to, as well. For example, YouTube said it was expanding its moderation squad to north of 10,000 people in the wake of the site’s numerous controversies.

Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say

Children need opportunities to develop hand strength and dexterity needed to hold pencils

Children are increasingly discovering it hard to hold pens and pencils because of an excessive employ of technology, senior paediatric doctors have warned.

An overuse of touchscreen telephones and tablets is preventing children’s thumb muscles from developing sufficiently to enable them to hold a pencil correctly, they say.

” Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago ,” said Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust.” Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not be able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental motion skills.

” To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your thumbs,. Children require lots of opportunity to develop those abilities .”

pencil graphic

Payne said the nature of play had changed.” It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation abilities they need to grip and hold a pencil .”

Six-year-old Patrick has been having weekly conferences with an occupational therapist for six months to help him develop the necessary strength in his index finger to hold a pencil in the correct, tripod grip.

His mother, Laura, blames herself:” In retrospect, I see that I dedicated Patrick technology to play with, to the virtual exclusion of the traditionally bred playthings. When he got to school, they contacted me with their concerns: he was gripping his pencil like cavemen held sticks. He merely couldn’t hold it in any other route and so couldn’t learn to write because he couldn’t move the pencil with any accuracy.

” The therapy conferences are helping a lot and I’m really strict now at home with his access to technology ,” she said.” I guess the school catch the problem early enough for no lasting damage to have been done .”

Mellissa Prunty, a paediatric occupational therapist who specialises in handwriting difficulties in children, is concerned that increasing numbers of children may be developing handwriting late because of an overuse of technology.

” One problem is that handwriting is very someone in how it develops in each child ,” said Prunty, the vice-chair of the National Handwriting Association who runs a research clinic at Brunel University London investigating key abilities in childhood, including handwriting.

” Without research, the risk is that we build too many premises about why small children isn’t able to write at the expected age and don’t intervene when there is a technology-related cause ,” she said.

Although the early years curriculum has handwriting targets for every year, different elementary school focus on handwriting in different ways- with some employing tablets alongside pencils, Prunty said. This becomes a problem when same the children also expend large periods of day on tablets outside school.

But Barbie Clarke, a child psychotherapist and founder of the Family Kids and Youth research agency, said even nursery schools were acutely aware of the problem that she said stemmed from excessive utilize to new technologies at home.

” We go into a lot of colleges and have never gone into one, even one which has espoused teaching through technology, which isn’t using pens alongside the tablets and iPads ,” she said.” Even the nurseries we go into which use technology recognise it should not all be about that .”

Karin Bishop, an assistant director at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, also acknowledged fears.” It is undeniable that technology has changed the world where most children are growing up ,” she said.” Whilst there are many positive aspects to the use to new technologies, there is growing proof on potential impacts of more sedentary lifestyles and increasing virtual social interaction, as children spend more time indoors online and less period physically participating in active occupations .”

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Seen Rain Man? That doesnt mean you know my autistic son

There are no typical autistic people, despite the savant stereotypes. My son is just himself: hes me, with a coating of autism

I am so looking forward to my trip-up with my son next week. First up is Cern, in Switzerland, where my son gets an hour on the Large Hadron Collider all to himself. On Tuesday, it’s off to the National Portrait Gallery in London, where an exhibition of his crayon selfies is on demonstrate( royal attendance is rumoured ). Wednesday he’s being filmed for the BBC completing a Rubik’s Cube with one hand.

Thursday, he’s on at the National Theatre, where he’ll recite the works of Shakespeare from memory. Friday, we’re off to Vegas to win a fortune at blackjack. I’ve bought the matching suits and sunglasses and, get this, he gets to fly the plane home himself.

It is a whirlwind being the father of an autistic child– especially one as multitalented as mine. Some autistic children only have one special talent.

OK, so this isn’t true. I am the parent of an autistic child, and the first question I’m always asked when the subject of my son comes up is: ” Does he have a special talent ?”~ ATAGEND because everyone has read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and insured Rain Man, and presume all autistic children have special powers.

The charm of special powers … Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in Rain Man. Photo: Moviestore Collection/ Rex

My son doesn’t. He’s 16, is non-verbal and his life abilities are rudimentary. He’s on one part of the autistic spectrum. Rain Man sits somewhere else on a little bit made from celluloid.

I don’t expect the whole population to trawl through reams of data, instance analyzes and science newspapers on autism, but at least get to understand the basics. Let’s start with a simple question. Are all neurotypical people- those without a diagnosis of autism- the same? If your answer is yes, proceed directly to the nearest Borg recruiting office. If your answer is no, pat yourself on the back( although it doesn’t make you a genius ).

This is what it does to me- I can’t help it. I get facetious. When, for instance, we were calmly queueing to pay for some apples in Waitrose and my son decided to use them for baseball practice, pitching them wildly into the neighbouring McDonald’s, did anyone smile and think,” Oh, bless him, he’s autistic “? Or when we were wrestling on the floor as I tried to get him to stop attacking me, or when everyone’s food in a eatery is fair game- and I don’t merely entailed on our table- “were not receiving” applause , no One Show researchers begging me to bring him on for a demonstration or recreation of his baseball glories. And I’m not sure his naked trampolining is going to earn him an Olympic medal anytime soon.

Given that it’s simply bad form to tell a well-meaning stranger where to run, I have often resorted to being facetious. When my son was six, I took him to watch one of his older cousins paying football and two girls approached and began talking to him. Of course, they got properly cold-shouldered and inquired of me:” Why does he never say anything ?”

To which I replied:” He does, but only to very pretty daughters .”

But it’s not the way I’ve always dealt with it. As part of a dedicated team raising my son, explaining him to strangers has been exhausting.

So, most often over the last 16 years, I’ve been a model of polite solicitude. Like a strolling GP surgery pamphlet, I’ve divided my reactions into easily digested chunks, subheadings:” What is the Autistic Spectrum ?” and” About Diagnosis “. At other periods, I’ve countered pub banter with” No! Only because your boss is a rude, arrogant shit who won’t look you in the eye, doesn’t mean he’s autistic .” It sometimes feels like an endless battle.

This gets me so irritated because good info is out there in plain sight. On Twitter, on Facebook are millions of genuine first-hand experiences and real, of-the-moment findings. It is thus a 21 st-century species of ignorance, one that masquerades as inquisitiveness, to glean “knowledge” from media that is intended to entertain to form one’s opinion of autism. It is from the “well-drawn” character who fills us with wonder- whether it be standing next to Tom Cruise as he counts cards, or inducing us laugh with their complete lack of social understanding that “misunderstandings” can arise.

Plot devices and stereotypes are not real. You cannot reduce autism to genre conventions , because every person with an autism diagnosis is different. My son is me with a particularly tough veneer of autism: he’s a little bit lazy, determines most things hilarious and is given to bouts of self-injurious behaviour. But he’s not less than me- in any way. He’s not less.

And if you took the trouble to know him, you’d realise that in most routes he is more. That’s the kind of knowledge that everyone needs to have.

It hurts me to have to write this. I don’t like having to speak on his behalf, but he isn’t able to and I detest having to rely on supposition. It would be easier for me to state that he couldn’t care less. But I can’t say that because he can’t tell me. It hurts less when I can provide him with a blithe, devil-may-care attitude to other people’s opinions of him.

Am I overreacting and being chippy? My son’s also Jewish. Would it be OK if a stranger asked in polite conversation whether he was fond of fund? Or asked an equally ignorant is the issue of a Muslim father with regard to one of his children? Of course it would not.

The question,” Does he have a special talent ?” is not sinister in itself, but the ignorance behind it is, because it speaks of a world where just being human and getting by is not sufficient get noticed- a world where even the most vulnerable in national societies “re going to have to” aspire to Britain’s Got Talent to be seen of value.

Shtum by Jem Lester is published by Orion Paperbacks( PS8. 99 ). To buy a transcript for PS7. 64, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over PS10, online orders merely. Telephone orders min. p& p of PS1. 99.

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These are my hardest moments as a mother. What are yours?

Cheeks burning while strangers judge your parenting abilities the child shrieking in the post office line we all have narratives of scarcely holding it together

A week ago, my five-year-old daughter depicted me a map.

It was early afternoon and I was in bed, fighting against a migraine and crossing my thumbs that my ridiculously expensive prescription drug would kick in soon. The migraine had begun early that morning and by the time I picked her up from kindergarten it was relentlessly hammering away at the right side of my skull; bringing with it the strong nausea and aversion to lighting, sound and reek it always does.

I lay down with a cold washcloth over my eyes, and my daughter busied herself with the intricate run of colouring, videotapeing and cutting newspaper into dozens of infinitesimally small pieces that are impossible to sweep up.

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I’d been in my room for perhaps half an hour when I heard the door swaying open and her footsteps pad over to the side of my bed. She tapped my shoulder and pulled the washcloth off my eyes.

” Mummy, I built you something ,” she said in an urgent whisper. I carried myself up to my elbows and took the paper she offered me, a strangely underwhelming thing made up of dotted lines and a few urgent scribbles.

” It’s a map ,” she explained.” It shows you what you need to do .”

Then, patiently, she pointed at one scribble and explained that this was me, in bed. She told me that I needed to get up and used her finger to trace the dotted line resulting from my bed to the second scribble- the stove, as it turns out.

” You need to attain me something to eat and then go here …”- her thumb traced the second dotted line all the way to its final destination-” to my room and read me narratives .”

All at once, this map became everything terrible and wonderful about being a parent.

It was the embodiment of a child’s singular, necessarily self-centered nature; concerned with having their own wants and needs met above all else. It was stark, embarrassing proof that my child felt she needed to draw me instructions for how to properly parent her- to remind me that she needed to eat lunch( of course she needed to eat lunch, how had I forgotten to prepare lunch ?) and wanted to have stories read to her instead of entertaining herself alone.

It was the frustrating result of the contradiction you get are applied to as a single mother, where no matter how much you love your life as two( or three or four) there are times when things just really would work better with another grownup around, somebody to picking her up from school and induce lunch and rub my back and persuade me to take a second pill if the first one hasn’t worked yet, for God’s sake.

I’ve been a single mother since just after my daughter’s second birthday, and this map isn’t the first failed parenting moment I wish could be erased from the registers of time.

There was the period of time when she was two and a half and she wouldn’t wear anything but a puppy attire and I just let her, because it was warm, and she was dressed, and who cares, really?

There was the time she fell down the steps of a stone terrace and sliced her teeth through her bottom lip while I stood just a few feet away, making sure a friend’s wobbly new-walking child didn’t fall.

There was the time that she wouldn’t stop talking during my little sister’s bridal and had to be removed from the ceremony by my brother, constructing the strangest-sounding monotonous groan as she was fireman-carried away under his arm.

For me, every single one of these moments comes down to me running out of something I desperately wish I had more of- period, patience, appreciation, awareness, premeditation, sleep. It’s hard being the only one to predict and remember and anticipate and discipline. Sometimes I would dedicate anything to be able to say to a partner,” Your turning” and check out.

Of course, parenting lows aren’t exclusively the outcomes of parenting solo, they’re the outcomes of parenting while working more than a full-time job, parenting while poor, parenting when your extended family lives a continent away rather than down the block.

Often, these low points are simply an expression of the results of parenting, period. This gig is hard, and it’s sometimes hard to talk about too because the cliches about motherhood are just as tired as we are.

We all have these moments. That’s the admission you pay to join the club of parenthood: the cheeks burning while strangers judge your parenting skills; the child shrieking in the post office line; you doing precisely the thing you judged other parents for in your pre-children life.

Share your story

We all have tales of scarcely holding our shit together( or losing it altogether) and I, for one, would love to hear yours. You can share your hardest moment as a mom through the secure form below( or here if you’re having trouble viewing it ). The Guardian will publish a selection of your narratives.
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