Posts Tagged ‘Teenagers’

Can you remember what you were like at 15? Great Grandma Ada’s mother, Ettie, was preparing to set sail for America from Russia, alone. My sister Kay was taking care of her invalid mother and her brothers; she had accompanied me to my foster parents house in NJ. She hated to leave me there, but school was about to start. The Flapper still couldn’t walk.

At 15 I was so full of myself. Kay was a glamorous stewardess and my brothers were in college. I already had a boyfriend, and a part in the school play. The guidance counselor hadn’t yet told me my “B” average wasn’t good enough for college. I could walk downtown after school with friends and get a cheeseburger and fries at White’s Drugstore any day of the week. The worst thing I ever did was to tell my history teacher I didn’t like history. He actually looked pained.

Today, a 15 year old Black girl named Grace is sitting in a juvenile detention facility in Detroit. It’s a long story of entanglement with social services and her single mom, but the reason why she’s being held? She didn’t do her online homework after her school shut down because of the coronavirus! Her story was published on Pro Publica:

Across the country, teachers, parents and students have struggled with the upheaval caused by months long school closures. School districts have documented tens of thousands of students who failed to log in or complete their schoolwork: 15,000 high school students in Los Angeles, one-third of the students in Minneapolis Public Schools and about a quarter of Chicago Public Schools students.

Students with special needs are especially vulnerable without the face-to-face guidance from teachers, social workers and others. Grace, who has ADHD, said she felt unmotivated and overwhelmed when online learning began April 15, about a month after schools closed. Without much live instruction or structure, she got easily distracted and had difficulty keeping herself on track, she said.”


We thought the Rocker might have ADHD at that age, we even tried a few months course of medication. When I asked him if he noticed any difference in school, he said he wasn’t looking at the clock as much. 

He wasn’t looking at the clock waiting for a class to be over; he wasn’t counting down the minutes. In other words, as Bob likes to say, his environment wasn’t sufficiently stimulating! We stopped the meds. All he wanted to do was play guitar with his band buddies. In middle school he was making websites for his friends – he could focus for hours on a task IF he wanted to do.

Very much like his father, who had to sit alone in a diner one day to finish a year’s worth of homework! His teacher called him on it – she told him he would stay behind a year if he didn’t hand in his missed homework. Bob was that kid everybody hated, he never had to study. Learning came easy, too easy. Good for Ada, for not bailing him out of that school situation.

I wonder if Grace’s teacher gave her a chance to hand in her homework late? She had violated her probation in April over a Zoom juvenile court hearing, by not getting up for online classes and not doing her homework. Just like many other children of all different colors who were not on probation. I wonder if she were White, would she still be sitting in a detention cell? Would her mother have had the resources she needed to help her daughter?

Try to imagine what two months in jail would do for your fifteen year old self. Now add in a pandemic.

This virus has so many crippling effects on our children. Marginalized kids, who were barely hanging on in school, who may not have a computer in the home, or decent WiFi, or parents with the time and energy to supervise home schooling because they are essential workers, will be suffering if schools don’t reopen. And looking at the statistics in Israel, it would be completely insane to reopen schools as virus cases are rising. https://www.wsj.com/articles/israelis-fear-schools-reopened-too-soon-as-covid-19-cases-climb-11594760001

I live in a leaderless country, with states that decided to put opening bars ahead of opening schools. Mayors who are asking parents to choose between face-to-face and online schooling. Our lives have become a balancing act.

34694B7D-F779-4AD8-9C27-EA3B156DE390 2




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Reddit bans guns sales. YouTube kicks gun fanatics off its site. Florida legislators have raised the age to 21 for buying your first gun, and on and on. Why is this different in our country’s national debate over common sense gun reform? It’s the messengers.

Teenagers have reframed the question; it’s not some esoteric debate about Second Amendment rights, they are simply asking not to be shot in their 5th period Chem class. And if you remember what it felt like to be 16, they actually think they can change the world!

I was 15 when JFK was shot. I was playing field hockey on a grassy high school lot when the milk man stopped to tell our gym teacher what happened; it’s forever embedded in my memory, even though there’s a Walgreens on that site today. We were all in shock, our parents and teachers were grieving. We didn’t see his brother Bobby and MLK’s assassinations in our future.

We didn’t know our generation was about to change the entire American culture with the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation Movements. We didn’t even know about Vietnam, yet.

We walked out of high school over a dress code.

Today teens are digital natives. And Parkland students are leading the charge on Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram to point out hypocrisy in all its many nuanced layers. The latest Associated Press poll tells us 7 out of 10 Americans want stricter gun controls. And look what happened just a few days ago, right after the Bride and her colleagues wrote a certain letter to the editor! http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/379563-republicans-agree-to-clarify-that-cdc-can-research-gun-violence

Republicans agree to clarify that CDC can research gun violence

And so it begins, your grand daddy’s rifle is NOT the same as an AR-15. #ENOUGH is enough and after tomorrow’s March For Our Lives in DC, I believe the momentum will continue. Country music fans and elementary students didn’t stand a chance. But high school students around the country are weaponizing social media, for the good of us all. If Facebook fueled the Arab Spring, imagine what this will do.

Maybe we should put these kids in charge of the Russian hacking problem? I have no doubt they would tell Putin a thing or two!   image


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In the run-up last year to our 50th high school reunion, my best friend could not be found.

Her name was JoEllen, and she appeared in 1962 like me, out of the blue. Only instead of going to Sacred Heart Elementary School, she had attended a private school. But in all other ways we connected. We were outliers, outsiders. My step-father was Jewish, and her parents were Jewish. We didn’t wear the typical public school uniform of the day for girls; girdles, stockings, teased hair and make-up.

We didn’t really fit in with any clique, so we made up our own insulated poetic/drama/dweeb club. We sat with some of the kids going on to college in the cafeteria (the Big Chill), and they graciously accepted us. Two strange blondes appearing on the scene, with no other friends. When I started dating Bob, we became full-fledged members. We felt different, and we dressed differently, in kilts, knee socks and Weejuns. In a sea of beautiful 60s era Mad Men Young Women, who were being told to go on to secretarial school, or maybe nursing, including myself with my paltry “B” average, we acted like we didn’t care what others thought.

Of course all teenagers care deeply, but we had each other as a lifeline. We were inseparable, in fact they called us the Bobbsey Twins.

I thought of JoEllen last night after cleaning up the kitchen and running the dishwasher. Bob walked in for some ice cream, and I said, “The kitchen is closed!” This is what her German housekeeper would say to us whenever I slept over at her house. with a thick German accent of course. We would sneak downstairs later, to raid the refrigerator. Her bedroom was beautifully decorated, with twin beds set at an angle so we could talk all night. I had never before seen matching bedspreads and drapes…

Her father was a doctor, and my step-father was a lawyer and a judge. This too set us apart, nobody wanted the daughter of the town judge to go out partying, drinking beer or stirring up trouble.

I remember once we vacationed in Atlantic City with the Flapper and the Judge, and we put on an accent (what kind I can’t recall) and insisted we were really fraternal twins to every new acquaintance and giggled ourselves silly later. We wore bikinis and that was new and risque. It was pre-Borat hilarity! We had FUN together; she exhibited a kind of strength, and confidence I admired. She was the strong one, and I followed her lead, like Zadie Smith in “Swing Time.”

JoEllen grew up wealthy, privileged to a certain degree having traveled the world. I grew up dirt poor, traveling from my foster home in NJ to the Flapper’s house in PA, and finally settling in with my biological family. Still we were a team, an egalitarian brazen duo, we found a safe harbor in each other, we needed each other to navigate the halls of our public high school. No one could touch us, and now, no one could find her.

I’d heard she moved to NYC and became an orthodontist. That was at our ten year reunion, but she didn’t show up that time either. She’s not on Facebook. Bob is a super sleuth with internet search engines, and even he couldn’t find her. Great Grandma Ada knows everyone and everything about the Jewish community in our old town, and even she didn’t know what happened to her parents. It was a great mystery.

When we find ourselves attending Town Halls without our congressmen present it’s unnerving. Tomorrow night’s Correspondent’s Dinner sans Mr T sends another glaring social signal. Sometimes lines cannot be erased, and the divide in our country grows larger. If you can’t bother to show up, you can’t be bothered with us! Didn’t Woody Allen say, “Showing up is 80% of life?”

When I showed a shred of sympathy for the rude treatment Ivanka Trump received in Germany, I was told she is not worthy. Because of who she is, because of her father. It’s US vs THEM and that’s a recipe for war; it’s universal and compelling. And I’m tired of war. When I wrote for a newspaper, I covered both sides of the river. We have a class and a caste system in this country; and we have a profound problem with racism, which is why our democratic pendulum swung from O to T.

The Sacred Heart nuns taught me to respect everyone, it was the catholic way. And the Flapper told me everyone has a story. At least Ivanka showed up. I found this announcement of JoEllen’s wedding in 1971, there is no mention of her graduating our high school. And then she dropped off the end of the earth. http://www.nytimes.com/1971/08/15/archives/joellen-dicker-wed-to-lawyer.html?_r=0

JoEllen Dicker Trench Coat 20170428


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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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Bob alerted me to an article in November’s Atlantic magazine, “Remember the sexting scandal in Louisa this Spring?”

In fact, I didn’t, but I was all over our town’s famous crime novelist, John Grisham’s blow-up on Twitter about his interview with a British magazine. The one where he said our prisons are too full (true!) with normal, old, white guys downloading child porn (what?). Then he steps in it further by differentiating between 16 year old girls and 9 year old boys…

But that’s not the hot button issue Bob was talking about. He had listened to an NPR interview http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/10/15/356393531/why-kids-sext-describes-nude-photos-as-social-currency-among-teens

…on his ride to the hospital yesterday with the author, Hanna Rosin, of the Atlantic piece on teen sexting: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/why-kids-sext/380798/

Now we all know that teenagers do crazy things, and every generation has to prove their worth by totally rebelling against their parents – with their music, with their language, with a scathing look, or the ubiquitous word of dismissal, “Fine!” Sheer insolence has no better bedfellow than a teenage girl. Still, it’s one thing to grow your hair long and straight, shorten your skirts to the mini-mum, and listen to the Rolling Stones. Or as the Flapper did, bind her breasts, cut and bob her hair, and go out the window to dance to the Jimmy Dorsey Band.

“You come from a long line of rebels,” Mother told me more than once. But of course, we didn’t have smart phones.

Louisa is a sleepy country county, between my edge of the Shenandoah and the big city of Richmond, a mere 10 minute drive. Think Friday night lights on football fields, and the occasional DUI. So it was baffling to local law enforcement to find out A) that they were collecting more and more cell phones because each kid knew 5-10 kids with naked pix on their phones, it was non-ending, and B) that the kids didn’t seem to care at. all.

For the most part, the laws do not concern themselves with whether a sext was voluntarily shared between two people who had been dating for a year or was sent under pressure: a sext is a sext. So as it stands now, in most states it is perfectly legal for two 16-year-olds to have sex. But if they take pictures, it’s a matter for the police.

There is no easy takeaway from this article. Girls take great care in posing for their pix, like Kim Kardashian and her selfie book saga. Boys just point and shoot. And there are those who feel pressured by boys to send sexts, and those who are in a relationship and this just seems to be a part of the mating ritual, no.big.deal. For some boys, the number of naked pictures on their phones is akin to “social currency,” like collecting Pokemon cards.

But for some girls, the less confident, more marginalized girls, their pix are shared without their consent and humiliation follows; certainly setting up an Instagram account on the web takes this into felony territory. But even here, law enforcement wanted to know was this just two brothers playing a prank, or did they have a more salacious motive?

When we over-schedule our teens, when their only free time is spent texting their friends in the middle of the night, then we know something is wrong. Romancing in high school, while no longer done at the corner drug store sharing an ice cream soda, should not be done alone, after midnight, with a cell phone. Parents, teach your children well.

Love is Love but sexting is stupid

Love is Love but sexting is stupid

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Maybe we need to come up with another type of alert when a teenager goes missing. Let’s call it the Black Cherry Amber Alert. Because while network news has been plastering the pretty blonde face of a 16 year old girl from California who was, granted, horribly abducted by a family friend, our local news story is just that, local.

Last weekend, a beautiful African American 17 year old girl from Nelson County VA was going shopping in Lynchburg and never returned home.  2ileopiAlexis Murphy was looking forward to starting her Senior year in high school; she had many friends and was supposed to play in a volleyball tournament this week. Instead, her white Nissan Maxima was found right down the road in Albemarle County, deserted in a movie theatre parking lot.

“Deputies with the sheriff’s office, the Virginia State Police and agents working with the FBI are all working to locate Murphy…” But what would activate an Amber Alert in Virginia? According to a VA government website:

1) The abducted child must be 17 years of age or younger or is currently enrolled in a * * * secondary school in the Commonwealth, regardless of age, and the law enforcement agency believes the child has been abducted (unwillingly taken from their environment without permission from the child’s parent or legal guardian).*

2) The law enforcement agency believes the missing child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.*

3) A law enforcement investigation has taken place that verified the abduction or eliminated alternative explanations.*

4) Sufficient information is available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the child, suspect, and/or the suspect’s vehicle.*

5) The Child must be entered into the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) missing person files as soon as practical.

A local rapper, J Willz, posted this “Gone Missing” music video to YouTube (above, please click to the wordpress website to play) trying to bring more attention to Alexis’ disappearance. And I thought I’d post a picture of black cherry amber. Our prayers are with the families of ALL missing children.


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If I may, I’d like to give you some tried and true suggestions for raising teenagers in the White House.

!) Keep up the no Facebook policy: I’d like to think if there were such a thing when I had teens it would have been verboten, like MTV. Oh and let them watch more than 2 hours of TV a week, maybe 4 not counting sports?

2) Make them pay half for their first car: I know they probably don’t have a part-time job, like working at Starbucks or babysitting, but make it clear you expect a contribution.

3) Set a reasonable curfew: Figure out when the bars close in DC, and make it an hour before that as long as it’s before midnight. We all know bad things happen after midnight.

4) Make no drugs or alcohol a sacrosanct rule: Destroy all paraphernalia you find immediately and have the Secret Service (SS) deliver any drunken teenage boys they might find on your lawn to their own homes pronto.

5) Make no exceptions to Rule #4, except: Have them sign a contract that states they can call you at anytime if they have eluded the SS and are drunk and need a ride back to the White House; no questions asked.

6) Cellphone criteria: There will be NO sexting, instagram or tweeting. Zero, zilch, none.

7) Dating Dilemma: Have a realistic sex talk please, if you haven’t already. Mom and Dad-in-Chief will have to meet and approve of each date; football games, movies, concerts. Of course the SS will have fully vetted said date, and will accompany them. There will be no dating of bodyguards!

8) Lighten up on Health: We all know body image problems may set in when hormones surge. Eat fewer carrots and more pie. Practice yoga and not spinning. Allow NO permanent body changes (such as tattoos or body piercing) until age 18. Wear less sleeveless shirts, those arms are intimidating.

9) Do NOT hire a college counselor: You are an educated woman, surely you can require the dreaded college essay and application packet be delivered on time. Suggested topic: “How to Elude the SS.”

10) Be Proactive: Invite their friends over on weekends, start a bowling league in the basement or set aside an arts and craft’s room near the Blue Room. Keep their friends close.

I hope you take my suggestions freely and without any mental reservations.

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