Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘children’

I’m listening to Terry Gross’ interview with Bo Burnham, who wrote and directed “Eighth Grade,” his first feature film. He’s talking about social anxiety and social media and the confluence of our hyper-connectivity and how it’s different growing up today.

Burnham was an early YouTube star, in high school, performing his own satirical songs in his bedroom. The songs went viral, he went to MTV, and the rest is history.

‘The digital gap used to be between those people who grew up before computers and smartphones and those who were digital natives. Now, there’s a gap between those who grew up with Facebook and those who grew up with Snapchat and Instagram.’

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/27/680356663/director-bo-burnham-on-growing-up-with-anxiety-and-an-audience

The Rocker was born in 1984, and I vividly remember taking him out to a greasy spoon breakfast in Little Silver, NJ. We ordered Western omelets, with a side of their special waffle fries and bacon. A group of middle school boys drove up on their bikes, dropped them in the dirt and plowed into the restaurant giggling and pushing and shoving. They sat down in a booth and flipped open their phones. The Rocker looked me in the eyes and said,

“Ma, I’m glad we didn’t have cell phones in school.”

He was home from college for a break. Having breakfast together again was a ritual I’d been missing. As a toddler, I would happily make him breakfast number 1, and breakfast number 2, because his motor ran fast. The future Rocker was always hungry for action and adventure, but mornings were sacred. His big sister would go off to school and we would have a slow start to a jam-packed day.

If he ate a great morning meal, or two meals, then food for the rest of the day was optional. Remember, my foster parents belonged to the “Clean Plate Club.” Food battles would not define my parenting style!

I can also remember that day on our deck, overlooking the Blue Ridge, when the Rocker told me that Facebook was so over. He and Aunt KiKI signed me up for Instagram – she took my picture in a sun hat and he picked my moniker – it was love at first sight.

So who could blame me if I thought our L’il Pumpkin should be the next YouTube star?

Have you heard of Ryan, the 7 year old making gazillions of dollars opening up toys, screaming with delight, and playing with them? His mama started uploading his videos to YouTube when he was 4, and by last year he had made 22 Million dollars!

“What’s almost as baffling as the amount of money that Ryan has made before his eighth birthday is why today’s kids would rather tune in to watch another one play with toys than play with toys themselves. The answer, it seems, is that today’s kindergarten set lives vicariously through Ryan.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/maddieberg/2018/12/03/how-this-seven-year-old-made-22-million-playing-with-toys-2/#1ecce4d54459

He’s had 26 Billion views on his channel, “Ryan Toys Review” and now he’s got his own toy brand at Walmart. He is a part of what’s known as “Unboxing” in advertising slang; people who film themselves opening mostly tech things and demonstrating how to use them.

The Bride looked at me with horror. Her child? A YouTube star?? I guess it is different for kids growing up today on social media. Their parents are on a spectrum of embracing technology with them, to becoming Luddites. Forging an identity online, counting followers to validate your existence, finding out you missed the big 8th grade party on Insta.

IF you could live your life without an audience, would your life still exist?

IMG_4372

Read Full Post »

We picked up the L’il Pumpkin at school mid-morning. It was going to be a fun day, going to the Children’s Theatre to see The Little Mermaid, then lunch and on to Hannukah. But we had a long holding session in the lobby before the play with a few other schools, so I headed over to the large center table covered with paper, crayons and writing prompts.

“Ariel and her father the King are having trouble understanding each other. What do you wish adults could understand better about children?”

“What do you think,” I asked my little grandson.

“Listening,” he said without missing a beat.

And a light went off; I thought about the term “active listening,” like some ancient artifact that had washed ashore in my brain, back before parenthood. While studying child psychology, I knew even before reading a text that some people are checked out when it comes to their kids, and some are just naturally checked IN.

This was long before we had tiny smart phones to ding and buzz our attention away from our children. Just as we need context to read and comprehend, we need to hear between the lines in order to communicate well with little people. Sure meltdowns can happen, but if we are paying attention, we can usually avoid them.

I was recently involved in a conversation with one of Great Grandma Ada’s friends. He had been a professor at Vanderbilt in his youth, now well into his 90s he liked to paint beautiful, vivid landscapes. I was aware of how effortlessly we spoke, and it’s hard to remember what exactly we spoke about, but it started with Brexit. The rare thing of beauty was that here was a man who was listening – he wasn’t turning his head away, or nodding, or looking at his watch. He was engaging, and our words flew elegantly back and forth.

You don’t have to be a Disney princess to get into hot water with your parents. The L’il Pumpkin told me he was glad Ariel smashed the magic shell containing her voice, thereby breaking the sea witch Ursula’s spell. I thought about the many voiceless women, throughout his/herstory, who were destined to live a constrained life; tied up in apron strings, never learning to drive a car (like Nelly, my foster mother), living in a “Doll’s House” like Nora herself, or Shakespeare’s Rosalind before her.

I hope our grandson grows up to be a good listener, to be a mensch. Watching him skip back to our car, holding Bob’s hand in the parking lot, my heart melted a little.

IMG_4303

 

Read Full Post »

I love seeing the flood of Back-to-School pictures on my Facebook feed. First graders and first year in high school, they all look so fresh-faced and eager; but I guess if your child has been dreading the start of school, well, the first day might be different. Maybe she/he has experienced bullying? Or maybe, the sheer number of school shootings has them worried, do they really feel safe at school?

Not to worry, Betsy DeVos is considering using our tax dollars to fund arming our teachers and training them to carry guns… against all sane advice to the contrary from law enforcement, pediatricians and teachers’ unions. Our children are now practicing “active shooter drills” the way we had fire drills.

Our government has also approved a 1.8 million dollar grant for “School-Age Trauma Training,” ie to teach kids what to do to help their wounded friends. First Aid for First Grade. And now, bless our hearts, the Department of Education is considering using federal money set aside for “Student Enrichment” to fund gun-toting teachers.

I thought student enrichment meant field trips or maybe a special gifted and talented program? Maybe some band instruments? How about after-school-programs???

I was student teaching when Columbine happened. I’d gone back to graduate school and was placed in a middle school for a year. I remember the shock in the teacher’s lounge, a place I rarely visited. I remember the way the disaffected loner students retreated further. That feeling of helplessness, foreboding. Columbine happened nearly two decades ago, and here we are.

Those of us who do NOT watch Fox News on a feedback loop day after day may be wondering how we can continue, as a nation, to allow school tragedies like Newtown and Parkland to continue unabated. I was surprised to read that the DOE has already allowed teachers to carry guns in 14 states! The stranglehold of NRA money fuels a corrupt system that is uniquely American. Out of 23 countries with the highest-income in the world, the USA stands near the top of a deplorable list: 82% of all gun deaths – 90% of all women killed by guns – and 92% of all children killed either accidentally or on purpose by a gun.

Media reports of school shootings capture headlines, the way a lone suicide with a handgun never will. And yet, suicide is the most prevalent reason young people die in this country. But the heck with universal background checks and banning assault weapons or stopping loopholes in the law that allow spousal abusers to purchase firearms. Let’s just put more handguns in school, shall we? https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45288773

Betsy, Betsy, Betsy please reconsider your boss’ insane idea.

IMG_3117

 

 

Read Full Post »

There was a time in my life, well probably more than one time if we count near-miss car accidents, when I thought I might die. It was a year between the births of my two children; the last miscarriage was brutal and I ended up back in the hospital with sepsis. My roomie was an older Polish woman who spoke very little English, still I understood her. She had me fetch her rosary beads out of her purse and asked me to pray with her.

The words flowed easily from my mouth, hailing Mary I thought about how comforting it was for her and me! And just the other day with Great Grandma Ada, I happened upon another set of wooden rosary beads. She told me a woman had given them to her in Africa.

But it was the picture this morning on my social feed of rosary beads that are being confiscated at the border of our country that sent chills down my spine. How can this be happening here? Will rosary beads pile up in an exhibition, like so many gold teeth or shoes in Auschwitz, in some future museum to our Central American immigrants?

When border patrol agents separate young children from their families, they are not just inflicting harm, they are telling the world that we allowed this…here. And I cannot.

Even though Mr T’s job approval rating has gone up to 45 percent with HIS “zero tolerance” policy, and who ARE these people…I cannot abide by it.

Even when Pro Publica released an audio tape of children as young as 4 – our Pumpkin is almost 4 – crying for their parents while a guard says,

“We have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.”

I will not accept this. We need to call Flake, Collins and every single GOP legislator with a phone and a conscience. We need to rally the White House. We need to give to RAICES Texas to help fund legal services for immigrant families! https://actionnetwork.org/groups/raices-refugee-and-immigrant-center-for-education-and-legal-services

We need to be the conductors of compassion and stop this insane policy. Because praying can only get you so far. We know that one young girl has been raped by a guard – https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2018/06/17/texas-deputy-accused-sexually-assaulting-4-year-old-threatened-mom-deportation-sheriff-says

When will a child die of an asthma attack in the heat, in a cage? Because we know this will happen.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/whats-really-happening-asylum-seeking-families-separated/

What will you do?

Df7dfmcWAAEIbJ_

 

Read Full Post »

Basketball for a four year old? Well, the Love Bug is almost five and will be starting Kindergarten soon, and she definitely is tall for her age. A mom in her preschool class recruited her for the summer league. Still, it was hilarious watching her team play back to back games last night. Some girls keep their arms up and run, some actually grab the ball and dribble, and some have learned to shoot!

Followed by another Predators win. Pittsburgh 1, Nashville 4 SCORE

Yes, I’m in Nashville. And who knew TN had an NHL team, right? https://www.nhl.com/predators Everywhere we went people were wearing their logo – that’s a saber-toothed tiger I think?

With two major sports teams in town, and lots of gorgeous parks, three YMCAs and a Greenway and city bikes, I was surprised the Music City came up only 42 on the American Fitness Index (AFI) list of healthiest cities this year, http://www.americanfitnessindex.org. It is based somewhat on per person spending on parks and obesity-related diseases. Number 1 this year is Minneapolis, so here’s a big shout out to my brother Dr Jim! And congrats to our friend Steffanie, an elected Commissioner at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board!

On the nine hour drive to TN Bob and I listened to a This American Life podcast titled “Tell Me I’m Fat.” https://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/589/tell-me-im-fat

It was about fat shaming and women telling their stories of acceptance and/or denial. One categorized the condition, saying some just have to lose 20 lbs, some are Lane Bryant fat, then there are the morbidly obese. She called herself “super morbidly obese.”

One woman lost weight fast with a little help from phentermine, and she’s still taking it only now she copped to having to buy it in Mexico or online…

I looked at Bob, and he said she may actually be damaging her heart. That same woman longed for her former fat self, the happier, less worried and uptight model of her thinner self. She felt less authentic, like an imposter in a thin-suit. She worried her husband never would have dated her former self…

Wanting to stay strong, ease my back pain and lose that final 10 pounds…I found myself on the stationary bike at the Y yesterday, and I started talking with the woman next to me. We talked about travel and our kids, she’s about to be a grandmother and just had knee replacement surgery. We had such a good time talking and biking and our workouts flew by so fast we agreed to meet for coffee! We had an instant connection, both of us had married our first loves, only her hubby is an NFL coach!

For years I’ve been going to a gym in VA and never met anyone. Maybe it’s because I don’t play tennis, or maybe it’s because I just didn’t try. I’ve got a new attitude, thank you very much Patti LaBelle and Nashville.  You’re just a small town, with mighty miniature basketball stars wrapped up in a big shiny predator bow.

Here is the little hoopster helping her baby brother start preschool! IMG_0744

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Insisting I get back to “normal,” I found myself on a bike at the gym reading the New Yorker. It’s the latest issue and the extremely long, entangled article titled, “Are You My Mother?” (a gay couple, an adoption plan, and a brutal custody battle) by Ian Parker held my interest; so much so that I would have never have left the bike if not for my aching back! New York family law was in the midst of defining what makes a parent for same sex couples – biology, adoption, support, intent? After all, it is a bit tricky.

Still I had two mothers long before it was even possible with open adoptions, LGBT rights, and the latest in reproductive wizardry. My mothers had made an arrangement in 1949; Nell would care for me while the Flapper was recuperating from her injuries. My biological mother couldn’t afford to pay her and she didn’t offer. I found out later the Flapper was receiving a small stipend from the state of PA as a widow with children, but my foster parents never asked for money. No papers had been signed, only an oral contract asking Nell NOT to adopt me.

In this Brooklyn case of two mothers (Hamilton v Gunn) there was also no contract signed. Two women were a couple who had planned to adopt, it was an international adoption and so one had to “pretend” to be a single heterosexual woman, only before the adoption became final these women broke up. Pure and simple – they were no longer a couple, yet the one woman, Hamilton, who had begun the process of adoption still wanted a child. And so she continued and brought home a boy from Ethiopia. They had never married, though one claimed they’d been engaged.

For years the previously romantic couple continued their friendship, naming the other woman, Gunn, the boy’s Godmother, To complicate matters, this other woman continued to help financially and also to babysit at times. It wasn’t until Hamilton decided to return to Great Britain where she would be able to find work and be close to her family that Gunn sought out a lawyer, thereby striking new territory in parent equality cases – many times while reading this article I thought to myself, if this had been between a man and a woman what would have happened? Why is a same sex couple treated differently by the courts?

In most family law cases it comes down to this: what is the best decision for the child! This best-interests rule is dubious at best. Hillary Clinton wrote in 1973 that the rule is used as “…a rationalization by decision-makers justifying their judgements about a child’s future, like an empty vessel into which adult perceptions and prejudices are poured.”   http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/22/what-makes-a-parent

Who will be able to afford the best schools, the better vacations, etc and most commonly it was the marginalized parent without resources who would inevitably lose. The women’s movement gave us some freedom, but made mothers who traditionally hadn’t developed a career outside the home, more vulnerable in family custody hearings by granting more rights to fathers. Remember the movie Kramer vs Kramer? That scenario scarred me for life.

In the end, Gunn lost her case because the judge said that their plan to adopt had terminated – that it had not “continued unabated.” The little boy would get his passport back, but since Gunn has appealed the ruling, there will be no flying away to England in the foreseeable future. So the lawyers get richer and the child is stuck in limbo.

In cases like these, I am always drawn to the Biblical story involving two mothers and the sound Judgement of Solomon. I want to believe the real mother would naturally give up her child in the end, would never allow a sword to be used, even in the metaphorical sense. Maybe that’s because I was always going back and forth, between two mothers, two states, two very different temperaments. With Nell and Daddy Jim I had the unconditional love of two parents, and for that reason the Flapper never insisted I return to her. She worked hard, she moved to NJ, and she waited, until it was my decision.

And in my opinion, love, like the definition of family, is expanding all the time.

IMG_0103

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

The Bride and the Original Groom are trying to decide if the Love Bug should start Kindergarten early. On the one hand she IS ready, but on the other hand she would be among the youngest in her class. With her summer birthday she is just two weeks shy of the deadline for turning five. Oh, and she would be the tallest.

Right before our four year old Bug was scheduled to stroll across the lawn throwing flowers this month at Uncle Dave and Aunt KiKi’s wedding, my daughter was having second thoughts. Maybe this is too much, she might suffer from performance anxiety. She might refuse to walk, or stop mid-stream and run away, or maybe just collapse in a puddle of tears. These things have been known to happen. Like me, my daughter likes to examine every scenario before plunging into deep water.

Probably she was remembering her own walk down an apple orchard hill to her Groom. Her flower girl at the time, three year old cousin V, was so immersed in her task, it took her quite awhile to find the Officiant, her Grandpa Hudson. V was steadfast in her circuitous route, and eventually placed flowers on Hudson’s feet! It was a magical beginning. So spontaneously, the Bride asked our little flower girl if she wanted her to walk alongside her as she was throwing her petals.

“No Mom, I’ve got this!” the Love Bug said. And she pushed her little hand out, palm up in the universal sign of “Talk to the Hand.”

And I thought of my four year old Bride, who always stood with her hands on her hips. The leader of her pre-school pack, a determined future collector of bottle caps on the schoolyard playground, and later, much later a healer of any and all people, young and old, rich and poor.

Our little flower girl did an outstanding job!

When educators evaluate a child’s readiness for school, their ability to listen and take direction, to be attentive, is rather low on today’s list. In fact, it’s rated #9 of the “Ten Kindergarten Readiness Skills Your Child Needs:” right after #8 “Reading Readiness,” and #7 “Cutting,” aka playing with scissors.

# 9 Attention and Following Directions
Read lots of stories with your child and work up to reading longer chapter books, one chapter each night or as long as she remains interested and focused.
Give your child two and three step directions. For example: “put on your pajamas, brush your teeth and pick a book to read.”
Play Simon Says with two or three step directions. For example: “Simon Says jump up and down and shout hooray.”
 https://www.education.com/magazine/article/kindergarten-readiness-secrets/ 

But I wonder if maybe we should be evaluating the parents’ readiness to part with their child for Kindergarten. Some parents never do, and home-school their children. Some parents wait a year, until their child is six or even seven to start Kindergarten, particularly for their sons. As Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out in his book “Blink,” this gives a boy the decided advantage in sports. He will be among the biggest, and strongest of his team members. The advantage to waiting for a girl is not so clear.

Will the Bug become a world-class volleyball player? She loves gymnastics, and enjoyed ballet lessons. I remember dancing with the young Bride every year in the Nutcracker with the Berkshire Ballet. Traipsing out to Becket, MA with her for Friends of Jacob’s Pillow meetings. Wanting her to love dance the way that I loved movement of every kind. But one day she came to me and said, “I can’t take any more ballet lessons.” She had too much homework, and she was riding horses at a stable near our home. She was almost afraid to tell me since she knew how much dance meant to me, and she also knew this would not be her passion.

Parents cannot see into the future, we can only take our best guess when we make life-altering decisions. In hindsight, I wish I had held the Rocker back a year for Kindergarten, until he was six, but then would he have become such a talented musician? Would his life have taken a different path? At times like these it’s best to turn to your heart and read poetry, like Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

davecaitly-246-2

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: