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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Last weekend, as we were rolling into our new home in Nashville, we heard about the death of Mayor Meghan Barry’s only child Max. Her son died of an overdose at the age of 22 in Colorado. I have to give Mayor Barry credit for being honest and open about his death; drug addiction is an insidious disease, an equal opportunity killer. Too often parents feel shame regarding this issue, and the stigma only grows in the dark.

Bob has always said, “There are no fifty year old addicts.”

“Our family would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and would respectfully ask for privacy as we mourn the loss of our child and begin to understand a world without his laughter and love in our lives,” the Mayor said in a statement.

Almost every American family has been touched by this epidemic. If you don’t have a family member who is suffering or recovering, you most certainly will know someone who does. And when I told the Bride about Meghan Barry’s tragedy, she was shocked and saddened. They met at a medical conference just last year and she has a lot of respect for the Mayor. .

My daughter is currently on a beach vacation and not in Nashville, so lucky for her she’s been media-free. She asked if it was opioids and I didn’t know; the fact is an addiction is an addiction, is an addiction. Heroin, pills, alcohol? In my mind, your drug of choice is secondary to the disease. Although politicians would like to blame the current opioid crisis on the health system, I think we need to dig deeper.

While we were discussing the rain in Florida and the grandbabies, the Bride told me about a book she’s reading, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” by Brene Brown. The author is a story teller and a researcher, her area of interest is what makes a person’s life authentic? And what does shame have to do with it? To reference my previous post – how does one remain real in this world?

“Participants who were living “amazing and inspiring lives” reported embracing imperfection and vulnerability and being grateful and authentic. As Brown writes, they talked about these things “in a way that was completely new to me.” These participants were living life and loving with their whole hearts.”

Before you tell me this sounds like a jewelry commercial, think about it for awhile. Once you have a child, you will become as vulnerable as a newly hatched soft shell crab. You will wake to a whimper, sit up all night with a fever, and foolishly try to shield your child from the rough parts of life. If you had a child who had to learn from his own mistakes, you know what I mean. But protecting a child too much can interfere with their growth. It’s a delicate balance, parenting.

Brown talks about cultivating three things –  courage, compassion and connection. Once we send our children off to school, these qualities may become elusive in our Kardashian culture. I just heard of parents in NJ who are suing a school system for not addressing the bullying their daughter was receiving. Instagram and Snapchat were weaponized by her peers. The 12 year old girl eventually killed herself. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/02/after-months-of-bullying-a-12-year-old-new-jersey-girl-killed-herself-her-parents-blame-the-school/?utm_term=.ffbf01eb5a92

This was SIXTH grade, in the town right next to our hometown.

I don’t know if Max Barry was bullied in school. I don’t even know if he suffered from a mental illness. But I can tell you this parents, if you keep those lines of communication open, if you can manage to stay connected to your children, they might just stand a chance. Disconnect from your cell phones and don’t worry about being the “perfect parent,” there is no such thing.

And have courage if your firstborn is starting Kindergarten this month!  IMG_1031

 

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The Love Bug’s little brother does everything she does. He’s a copycat.

“What’s a copycat Nana?”

“A copycat isn’t really a cat,” I told the rising Kindergartener, “it’s someone who likes to do whatever you do; when you try new foods, he tries new food. When you build a fort, he wants to help. When you put on your shoes, he puts on his shoes, even if they go on the wrong feet! That’s OK, cause he did it himself.”

It was time to put on our shoes and get into the car. Even though summer has arrived with its hot, sticky days and fireworks filled nights, there is no time to dawdle. The Love Bug shrugged her shoulders and pulled her shoes slowly out of the bin while watching her brother do the same. As they sat together on the floor, and I wondered if we are raising a generation who will never learn how to tie their shoelaces (thanks velcro), I heard her say to him,

“I hope they don’t have cupcakes.”

And maybe it’s all the children’s books I’m reading lately, but I thought to myself, “What a great title for a book!” This has been an exceptionally busy weekend, capping off an incredibly busy week. What with basketball practice, and basketball games, and pre-school camp with her brother, we are a family on the move. Not a lot of time to swing on the porch or play in the pirate sandbox.

And now it was Sunday, the Bride was heading off to work, and we were going to yet another birthday party! Bob and I didn’t go to the party on Saturday, but we were looking forward to seeing the family of this particular three year old. They are our grandchildren’s Godparents. And I knew they had created a childhood paradise under the shade of an ancient tree in their urban backyard, complete with chickens, a water slide and a huge screened-in porch off the kitchen.

We had one of those back yards in the Berkshires. Bob built a zip line through the trees on the edge of a bird sanctuary where guinea hens would come and peck under our feeder. And though I wasn’t known for my cupcakes, I would bake the occasional carrot cake with toasted coconut cream cheese frosting. The Bride loved helping in the kitchen, especially cleaning out the frosting bowl with her fingers.

I’m happy to see this love of pastry making continue since the Bride will often whip up a batch of cookies on the spur of the moment with lots of help from her children.

I looked down at my Granddaughter and smiled. I asked her if they had cupcakes yesterday. She told me the whole birthday story, which led to an astonishing snippet of insight into an almost five year old mind. I loved listening to her take on the summer social season. Every now and then her brother would interrupt with an anecdote of his own.

I realized suddenly that these children were growing up in a city, with all that entails. Trips to science museums and art galleries and libraries where a Nashville Ballet dancer performs along with a reading of Ferdinand the Bull.

The Story of Ferdinand is an example of a young protagonist who grows up very comfortable in his own skin and with his own decisions, but is soon confronted with difficult situations that challenge his peaceful way of life. Young children can use Ferdinand’s story to confront their own questions about ethical dilemmas. Each question set deals with the larger issue of how we make choices in our interactions with others…                          https://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/BookModule/TheStoryOfFerdinand

When her Mommy got home from work, the Bug dragged her into their backyard where the Groom had installed a basketball hoop! She made eight baskets! Her Dad is an excellent coach. We’ve been doing a lot of counting lately, every day it’s a different color car after they strap themselves into their seat belts. Only black was too hard, because there are so many black cars you could hardly catch your breath.

Turns out the birthday party had a soaker hose strung between trees. And they didn’t have cupcakes, they had cookies!  IMG_0789

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve always said it’s easier for a woman in our golden years, or silver years, because we have always had certain routines. Centuries of domestic duties, child and elder care responsibilities. Maybe it’s just my generation, but for the most part we were the gardeners and the gatherers, we kept the home fires burning. Some men do, however, take up cooking and laundering once they retire, if they don’t find themselves “consulting” on a golf course.

Our last night in Nashville, I found myself frying up some catfish and shrimp for a crowd. And although I was in pain from a fall off a step, I was happy to be useful. Having a purpose, isn’t that the raison d’etre for woman and mankind?

But for young women today, the roles are not so clearly drawn. We raised our daughters to believe they too could be President one day (say this aloud again and again please); women could bear the babies and bring home the bacon. Anything. Was. Possible. I told the Bride again and again. Books advised them to Lean IN, and maybe their pay wasn’t quite up to par, but opportunities were endless! Of course, money helps…

And wealth, a staggering amount of wealth may not bring you happiness, but it certainly helps with childcare. Strangely enough, I understand how Ivanka Trump could praise her daddy at the Berlin G20 Women’s Summit. Next to the leader of the free world, Angela Merkel, Ivanka spoke of empowering women everywhere, and said she thought the media was giving her father a bad rap. It’s not his draconian policies or paternalistic pugilistic attitude toward women, it’s the big bad media.

“He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive. I grew up in a house where there were no barriers to what I could accomplish,” Ivanka told a German panel. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39704840

She actually grew up in several houses, with many helpers, cooks and chauffeurs and a daddy who treated her like a real princess, in a tower. He left her mother when she was ten years old for a younger model and shipped her off to a boarding school five years later. Which is most likely why the German audience audibly groaned when she defended her father and her upbringing.

After all, how many women are struggling single-handedly to raise their children and put food on the table in our country? At least in Germany, parental leave is a tangible thing – 14 months of paid parental leave after having a baby, for both or even one parent… And once they go back to work? The German government is dedicated to provide childcare for its children, so that women and men can return to work. In fact, if there are no available kinder-spots, parents can actually sue the government! https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/01/german-childcare/512612/

Of all the president’s men, I am at least slightly optimistic about Ivanka. She talks a good game about empowering women, and I want to believe her. She has her father’s ear, though exactly what her role will be in the White House is anybody’s guess. Remember that FDR was born to the carriage trade, but had the courage to steer us through the Great Depression and understand the working class. Maybe Ivanka will help us pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which just passed in Nevada this March without much fanfare.

Or will Mr T, like King Lear, give away our kingdom to the highest bidders and his two sons, turning away from Cordelia/Ivanka in the end? I hope she comes back from Germany soon, to steer her aging father away from the precipice. And his Twitterfeed.

Here is Nana doing preschool pickup, #beforethefall.    IMG_0360

 

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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.

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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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