Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

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.”

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.


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Almost every day I notice something about technology and its intrusion on our species.

The feeling leaves me twitchy, which is the opposite of feeling groovy. Feeling nervous, even jumpy about the upcoming election might be normal, but here’s where it gets downright “nasty.”

The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll — conducted among 1,999 registered voters Oct. 13 through Oct. 15 — shows that Trump’s repeated warnings about a “rigged” election are having effect: 73 percent of Republicans think the election could be swiped from him. Just 17 percent of Democrats agree with the prospect of massive fraud at the ballot box.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/poll-41-percent-of-voters-say-the-election-could-be-stolen-from-trump-229871#ixzz4O6sJNgAE

Now I always thought we could trust in our electorate to bring us the best democracy, with a capital “D,” in the whole wide world. I thought the Trump supporters, fully one third of the voting public, were just delusional about the system being “rigged.” Sure it’s rigged when the polls show their candidate losing, and fine when he was neck and neck. And if somebody says something enough, some people are bound to believe it.

But then I read about bad technology, via a Katie Couric Twitter link to US News. Granted it’s an opinion piece, and Jason Smith uses the word “could,” but it made me think. Maybe it’s not mass hysteria, maybe there is something rotten in Denmark?

U.S. elections offer scant assurance of accuracy or security, and our nation would fail recognized international election criteria that we impose on emerging democracies. This November, millions of Americans will cast their ballots on unverifiable paperless voting computers. These machines incorporate flawed, buggy software that would not pass a college freshman computer science class.  http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2016-10-18/our-election-could-be-rigged-because-of-bad-technology

Today 32 states employ some type of internet voting, and let’s face it, the computers they are using are dinosaurs – think the kind of behemoth we lugged into the Bride’s dorm room almost twenty years ago! Even when I was studying Technology in the Classroom at the Master’s level, we were always told to keep a back-up lesson plan IN PAPER at hand because you never know. Modems can get hit by lightening. Russians or a middle school student could hack them!

And to top it off, after a delightful dueling chef’s dinner last night benefitting “Georgia’s Healing House,” Bob and I sat down to a PBS episode of “GerryRIGGED.” A documentary film featuring politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Tim Kaine who probably didn’t know he would be the Veep pick at the time, explaining how legislators in both houses can redistrict their state to ensure their reelection every few years.

Gerrymandering is the enemy of representative government. It deliberately manipulates the system to take away from voters the very choice that should be a hallmark of our system,” says program producer William Oglesby. “We hope with this documentary to help citizens understand that this isn’t the way it has to be; that the voters have a right to choose their representatives rather than the representatives choose them.”

Needless to say I was up and wandering about at 3 am again. Our country is just like Great Britain drawing lines in the sand of its post-Colonial empire.  Let’s get a few more Republicans over here in District 12 shall we? And VA had a chance at reform, but who would vote for their own demise? Certainly the Old Dominion didn’t.

If you need a respite from politics, and all the mud-slinging of this election, I have a Netflix show to recommend from England. “Black Mirror” (a trope to our attachment to the smart screen) is about how technology is changing the course of human history in a very scary, sinister and smart way. I’ve only seen the first few episodes of Season 1, created by Charlie Brooker, but if you are wondering where our dystopian obsession with devices is going, tune into the future.

Parental warning, the first episode of “Black Mirror” involves a pig in a compromising position. Like any great science fiction writer, the truth isn’t too far off.   http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/10/black-mirror-nosedive-review-season-three-netflix/504668/

Forget the myth of voter fraud, put your feet up and your devices down, talk to your children about kindness and nastiness, and maybe go leaf-peeping this week!   img_5481

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Let’s be perfectly clear. When you become a parent, your job description cannot be Googled. Your pediatrician doesn’t hand you a handbook. Here’s my one big piece of advice – don’t try and be your child’s “friend.” She or he will have grandparents, cousins and friends of their own some day to complain to about all the stupid rules they grew up with; no belly rings, no tattoos; no crying in public – what you didn’t have those rules?

If you’re lucky, your adult child may become a friend. Someday they will thank you for those rules! But I can tell you one thing I’m really glad we didn’t have when my kids were little – smart phones! Because teenagers have been breaking our rules since time immemorial and sneaking out of windows in the middle of the night. Only right here in Blackburg, VA, a thirteen year old girl, a vulnerable liver transplant recipient, arranged on her phone to meet with two VA Tech students outside her window in the pre-dawn light.

And after finding her body across the state line, prosecutors found out about her murderers, both student predators, David Eisenhauer, 18 and Natalie Keepers, 19, by searching their cell history:

But the prosecutor said messages on the girl’s phone led to the suspects, and accused the college freshmen of deciding together in a fast-food restaurant that Eisenhauer would cut her throat. Defense lawyers argued that Keepers’ mental health could unravel behind bars.” http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/state/both-tech-students-plotted-to-kill-girl-prosecutor-says/article_0ea7ac28-cbb3-11e5-8e92-ef91c22cfffe.html

Now this young college woman, Keepers, someone with such promise who wanted to study aerospace engineering, is asking the court to allow her to take ALL her anti-anxiety medicine in jail…so she can get a tattoo?! Of a semi-colon…maybe she’ll write the next Orange is the New Black screenplay?

I had never heard of the App Eisenhauer and his victim were using to disguise their communication, but Kik is basically a way to disguise messages and photos, so naturally teens love it, it’s virtually impossible for parents to monitor. And there’s the problem. Because if I did have a teenager now, you can bet I’d have all their passwords and be randomly monitoring them! I may masquerade as a liberal, free-thinker type, but my inward tiger mom would take over for sure. And I’m not just talking about girls, young boys can be fodder for digital predators too.

“When you give your kid a phone, ‘it’s almost like taking your front door off your house'” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/02/04/kik-messaging-app-scrutinized-wake-va-teens-murder/79826224/

Last year it was Snapchat, and you can be sure next year there will be a new messaging App for teens, a way to evade their parents’ eyes and rules. While we were in Puerto Rico, we visited a man who was expecting his young grandchildren to arrive soon from Maryland. I looked at his tropical oasis with a beautiful, completely open, unfenced pool. Wasn’t this a hazard? He said of course they kept eagle eyes on the children, but he only had three rules for them:

  1. Be a good listener
  2. Be careful
  3. Make good decisions

My brother Michael had a saying for his kids, “Always do the right and proper thing.” In this day and age, when young women may now have to register for the draft along with young men, http://bigstory.ap.org/a3a36a7b1fa74379910088d9220994b8 I would only add one more rule about smart phones.

Do something, anything people. Put them down at dinner? Leave them charging in the living room and not next to their bed? Delay giving your child a phone for as long as humanly possible? If we parents and grandparents can’t model sane, non-addictive cell phone usage, why should we expect the same from them?

The snow is almost gone, the mountains are back into focus. I am heartsick for those parents. I’d like to not write about anymore missing girls, or some stranger luring them out of their house through an open window.  IMG_3804


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Today is the next to the last day of Hannukah! How is this possible? I haven’t made latkes yet, or baked dreidel cookies. Times like these make me think about time; like why is the trip driving home always faster than the trip going to a place. It was the exact same amount of miles, it just seems faster.

Anyway, welcome to the seventh installment of Ada’s Yiddishisms. This one is about time, in a way:

Farshlepteh krenk

A drawn-out illness, neverending…

My niece told me about a TED Radio Hour podcast about adaptation, so yesterday I listened to it while I went through some motions at the gym. This I do on a regular basis so as to avoid a farshlepteh krenk. http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/455904076/adaptation

It was fascinating, and since I now have to put prednisone drops in my eye every four hours, my ears perked up at this story. A boy was born with cancer of his retinas (stay with me now) so that by the age of 13 months he had to have both eyes removed. He was blind and the first thing he did in the NICU after surgery was climb out of his crib and explore his room!

His TED point was that his parents never treated him as if he was special. They let him grow like a normal boy and explore his world. And so he naturally adapted to the darkness in the same way bats get along flying at night, echolocation – “…the sonarlike system used by dolphins, bats, and other animals to detect and locate objects by emitting usually high-pitched sounds that reflect off the object and return to the animal’s ears or other sensory receptors.”

In other words, he naturally adapted as an infant by clicking his tongue.

What does this have to do with a neverending illness you might ask? It made me think that some parents might immediately do everything in their power to shield that blind baby, to try and make his world carefree. They would emit sympathy from others, he would be labeled, classified and codified.

Some parents create a sickly child, where there is none.

Still, this month is the neverending season of joy, right? If you happen to be going through something hard right now, just remember that December can amplify those feelings. And that it is only one month, 31 days. And we are halfway there. And the second half goes faster!

Let’s hope you don’t come down with an illness, even a short one, over the Holidays, but if you do these two Jewish doctors will be working on Christmas day. L’Chaim!


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Halloween this way comes. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of my Facebook friend’s grandchildren dressed up like little pumpkins, monsters and Olafs…and if you don’t know who he is, well he’s like Frosty the Snowman. Only he’d rather be sunbathing.

After years of buying mini-candies and waiting for some Trick or Treaters, we’ve given up hope. Our dirt driveway is too long and too far off the beaten path for children. I would usually stuff my face with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and call it a night. Admittedly, these delightful morsels are the best thing ever invented as a chocolate delivery system, which is exactly why I never buy them. You believe me, right?

When I was little, my Slovakian foster mom Nell would dress me up as a gypsy. I didn’t really know what that was, but I enjoyed putting on make-up and wearing jewelry. At some point, usually in Middle School, our children all rebel and want to design their own Halloween costume. This should make life easier for the parents, but actually it becomes much harder.

I hate to sound stereotypical, but let’s get real – the boys all want to be villains or zombies, and the girls say so long to the princess look and decide to be sexy starlets. Not all, but certainly you’ve seen gangs of pre-teens roaming your neighborhood dressed like Whitey Bulger and Taylor Swift? You can see I’m off by a few decades; the Bride would chose to be some version of Madonna, and the Rocker?

He could get creative. A pirate, a gangster, a zombie. Surprisingly, never a rock star.

But this is their chance to try out being a “bad boy.” Because once they hit high school, the road narrows and their destiny can get kidnapped by peer pressure and the need to belong. Boys learn to ignore their emotions, they are taught not to smile. In most public high schools they have two paths – the sports route or the party route. And the party route can be dangerous. Some can never recover from that road. They wind up dead at 27.

My Rock Star was voted “Most Changed” in high school, probably because he didn’t fit into a neat category for this preppy, suburban school. He went his own way, he stayed true to himself and played guitar at every dive on the Jersey Shore. He found other outliers to jam with and by the time he graduated from school, his original metal band, Hypon, was in high demand, and he was their business manager and website developer. I only offered them snacks in the garage.

Did I wish he’d play baseball and want to go into finance? Sure, but that’s not our job as parents. We have to sit back once our kids become teenagers and marvel at who they are becoming, and continue to nurture their dreams. Not ours. If we did our job right in those critical early years, we can pat ourselves on the back. The pirate, wizard and Star Wars character will morph into the leading man of their own unique story.

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While watching part of the GOP debate, I started to feel like that Angry character in the movie Inside Out. The one with fiery hair and a voice like Lewis Black. In the continual news coverage of Trump’s performance, I thought something is missing. Now we hear Hillary calling it out, the unbelievably, unimaginable gall of Rubio to tell us all that his Catholic faith informs his public policy – ie sorry no abortions ladies, life begins at conception, oh and btw, that he would make no exceptions for rape or incest.

And so we see again, ten men discussing womens’ private parts. But as Elizabeth (yes we’re on a first name basis) said, did they fall down and hit their heads and wake up in the 1950s? Because I lived through those years, when young women were butchered in backyard alleys, when they were sent away in shame to deliver a baby and hand it over for adoption, when they were rendered infertile and sometimes died. When women had no voice at all, none. Some women did the “good” thing and married the guy at 17, if he was amenable.

Today, young women are supposedly given condoms in school at a certain age and told how to use them. Of course this is all according to a state-sanctioned sex-ed/health curriculum, that varies from California to New York. Some states prefer to teach about waiting for marriage. But, girls can walk into a drug store and buy a Plan B pill if the condom failed…in fact, they still could walk into a Planned Parenthood clinic and get a shot a patch or a pill to prevent conception. But not if these ten men on stage have their way, clinics will cease to exist for reproductive health care – in other words, it’s the poor, the marginalized, the girls who could never in a million years talk to their parents about sex, these are the girls who will suffer.

Then this morning I read this: “Letter to Our Daughters: Do Not Be Good.”  The author, Megan Bergman, is writing about becoming a teenager to her pre-school daughters: http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/letter-to-my-daughters-do-not-be-good/

You are entitled to the Dark Poetry Stage, and although it’s going to hurt like hell when you push me away, it’s necessary. (I hope I’m there to be pushed, and return doggedly.) I’m raising you to be independent beings, not fleshy basement-dwellers who play video games and pound energy drinks while the sunny world goes by. Or girls who try to appease my ego by being conventionally “good” and who then have to forge a secret rebellion. No! Rebel in the open.

I want you out in the world getting the good stuff. I want sun on your skin and banned books in your backpack, and when I’m old and diapered I want you to walk into my house, turn down the George Michael songs, and tell me about all the incredible discoveries you’ve made about the planet and yourself. I want you to tell me about your mistakes, heartbreaks, dreams, and plans. Those things are your engine. In my life, failure has been a much better engine than success. Artistic and personal.

George Michael doesn’t do it for me, maybe the Stones? My generation of women wrote the Book “Our Bodies Ourselves” because if we can’t control our body, how can we take control of our own lives?  We don’t need to cover our hair, we can dye it blue. We can go to a movie like Trainwreck and celebrate our badasses.

Because being good isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: when it limits our choices; when it keeps us subservient; when it cancels our dreams.

We don’t have to take typing in school and end up in a Mad Men office anymore. We may even get equal pay for equal work soon! I went to Catholic school AND camp. I was taught to be good above all else. And believe me, throwing off those shackles felt amazing. Rubio and his ilk would like to put those chains back on, but he doesn’t know that young women today will never allow that to happen. After years of being dressed in a beanie and uniform, I allowed the Bride to wear whatever she wanted to school. It was the late 80s, think Dirty Dancing, and she was killing it!

Note to my daughter – remember your grandmother was a Flapper, remember this when the Love Bug turns 11, it’s a magical age.  Cute Kids

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When you see an obese child, what do you think? Do you immediately blame the parents, and/or poverty? There is no fresh produce to be found in their neighborhood, or maybe you think the parents are just lazy…What if we make school lunches more nutritious. Let’s get Jamie Oliver into every school cafeteria and teach those lunch ladies how to steam vegetables! Get a communal garden going outside the gym!

I find it fascinating that the GOP is all about getting government out of our way for free enterprise. They start yelling “fascist” whenever Mrs Obama wants to see kids get off the couch and move, or a school system tries to change what a school lunch may look like – don’t tell us parents what to do with our kids! Get government out of our lunch boxes!! We know what’s best for them, and if a parent wants to leave a gun lying around well…and then I picture a two year old yelling I WANT TO!!

Bob tells me he rarely mentions weight to one of his patients, after all he is not a family practitioner. But when he sees a severely obese child, he may say something to the parent in the ER. Because this is such a serious health risk, he risks that patient’s dismal satisfaction score. Not all doctors have the courage to tell a parent they are endangering their child’s health. Luckily, the rate of childhood obesity in this country is finally leveling off:

After a steady rise for many years, the number of calories American children take in each day is going down. Childhood obesity rates, though still too high, have now leveled off, and are starting to go down in some populations. The 5 billion school lunches served each year are more nutritious than they were a decade ago. Children are eating less processed food and drinking less sugar-sweetened beverages and full-fat milk.  http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/30/opinions/clinton-brown-healthy-kids/index.html

So yes, we can put juice in vending machines and model a healthier diet for our youngest children: by including them in food prep and offering fresh, real food; by sitting down to dinner as a family (an almost insurmountable task these days); by going to farmer’s markets or even helping them plant their own little tomato plant in a pot. I’ve mentioned my neighbor Kath the food blogger before. I love the way she has introduced real food to her toddler, he http://www.katheats.com/ways-motherhood-has-changed-me

Still, I think about how my Foster Mother Nell really didn’t cook, she would jokingly say she could open a can. Women in the 50s were sold that bill of goods – TV dinners on a tray, canned vegetables with marshmallows. Life was supposed to be “easy” for the 50s housefrau. They grew up watching their mothers actually grind meat on the dining room table, and wash clothes by churning them through a semi-automated washing machine, or maybe they were hauling clothes down to the creek? Why shouldn’t they get to vacuum in high heels!

And all I ever ate for lunch in high school was tuna sandwiches and potato chips, followed by a cheeseburger at White’s Drug Store immediately after school, with fries dipped in gravy… SO, canned food, semi-fast food, and I was never fat, in fact I made spaghetti for myself at night cause I thought I was too skinny! Those were the days, before babies, before menopause packed on the pounds.

We can all teach ourselves to prepare a healthier diet, we don’t need an RD to work up a meal plan. If there are no markets with fresh veggies in our neighborhood, we could plant some in pots. What we cannot and should not do for our kids is model complacency. What my generation had was the ability to walk to school, to go out on our bikes after school and not come home till twilight. We had the freedom to move, which this next generation may lack.

Kudos to the city planners and engineers who are redesigning parks and playgrounds all over the country. And bravo to the police who are walking beats and making neighborhoods safer and crime-free – not by stopping and frisking but by stopping and talking.

And maybe we could have a course at the police academy on nutrition?

Basil is ready for Pesto

Basil is ready for Pesto

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