To Tell or Not to Tell Your Child?

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

4012904148_ddded1b10d_oWe are all flawed beings.

Those of us who have been on the planet a few decades or so have presumably identified at least a few of our individual flaws and, hopefully, have taken some steps to ameliorate them. It’s a well-known benefit and irony of age that years bring wisdom that would have helped us in our youth. Oh well, at least we can employ our wisdom in our own lives going forward, and we can pass on what we’ve learned to our kids.

But what about the independent flaws we see in our children?

Our kids are as human as we are—as we once were. They possess flaws and weaknesses, some tiny personality quirks, some significant shortcomings, that interfere with social interaction or academic success or some other life skill or function. I’m not writing here of diagnosable disorders or disabilities, but rather of individual personality traits we all must learn to manage—once we identify them. Everyone has strengths; everyone has weak points.

What should a parent do when he believes he has identified something in a child’s emotional makeup that his child needs to work on? Should the parent tell the child (in a constructive, loving manner)? Or should he work around the edges, continually suggesting ways to handle one situation after another whenever he has the chance without tackling the underlying characteristic head-on?

Rather than subject any actual child to public scrutiny to illustrate my question here, I’ll pull an example from my own life.

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Giving a Teen Some Room–at the Doctor’s Office

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Growing Up, Health & Sleep | 2 comments


All of parenting is a slow exercise in leaving the room, so your child can stand without you.

This withdrawal begins—when? The first time your baby picks up a Cheerio and puts it in his mouth, then thinks in whatever infant language he’s got, “Hey! I can do this by myself.” Or maybe it’s when she crawls away from you for the first time, and you wait for her to look back over her disappearing shoulder, but she doesn’t. Perhaps it’s even the that first time he cries in his crib, and you’re in the middle of doing something else—can’t you even go to the bathroom, for goodness sake—and you can’t get to him for a few minutes and a tiny bud of realization sprouts in his mind that no, you won’t always provide instantaneous solutions. It begins early, and you keep backing away, step after step, until your baby is an adult who has taken complete responsibility for himself.

One of the challenges of parenthood is trying to figure out which steps to take away from your child when. How do you know when to let a kid own a piece of her life—when to butt out? My kids are only thirteen and ten, and already I have found myself physically clapping a hand over my mouth to hold back words I want to say but have decided my kids don’t need anymore. You insist on wearing shorts when it’s only forty-five degrees out? You know what, son? You’re old enough to decide. If you’re cold, then you’ll figure that out on your own. I’m out. (On the other hand, if it’s five below and frostbite is a danger, then stop arguing and put on pants. You’re still young enough that I can require you to take measures to avoid hospitalization. Also, don’t be an idiot.)

A few weeks ago, thirteen-year-old “Jack” was scheduled for his annual physical. In case there is anyone who doesn’t remember, if you open a thesaurus to the word “awkward” or “uncomfortable,” you will find, “thirteen years old.” Overall, Jack seems to be handling the age light years better than I did, but still: a physical is about one’s body, and it occurred to me that the last person in front of whom a thirteen-year-old boy wants to talk about his body is probably his mother.

I spoke to him in the car a few weeks in advance. “Jack, you know I’m always happy to talk to you about anything, answer any questions you may have.”


“Well, your annual physical is coming up soon. This is your time with your doctor. After we talk about the basics and a couple of questions I have for her, if you want to ask her anything or talk to her about anything without me in the room, just say so and I will leave.”


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7 Rules for a 10-Year-Old with an Email Account

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in Education & Learning, Kids & Technology, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

iPhone work

Approximately three years ago, then ten-year-old “Jack” asked me if he could have an email account. I reacted as any parent would when her first-born stretches into uncharted territory: I peered into the future, envisioned every kind of horror that lay in wait, freaked out, then accepted reality and gave the kid an email address along with a list of seventeen rules to guide his behavior. My elder child, who thrives on structure and always likes to know where he stands, has managed his account well, and we all survived.

Now my younger child has reached the age of ten, and it is time for her to acquire an email address, too. Not because ten is a magic number, but because my husband and I have begun to find ourselves in situations where we would like our daughter to be able to exchange texts with us. We don’t think Emmie needs a cell phone yet, but she can text us via wifi on her iPod if she’s equipped with an email address. (In case you’re wondering: yes, we are aware that we are providing the catalyst for what will undoubtedly be a lifetime of nonstop texting. Well, someone had to do it.)

“Emmie” likes structure, too, but not in the same way Jack does. Seventeen rules would overwhelm Emmie, and she would end up following none of them. So while Emmie receives her email address with the same expectations with which Jack received his, for Emmie I trimmed the list of rules to seven. I explained to her that these rules are designed to keep her safe and to make sure she treats other people with the same consideration with which she would like people to treat her. We discussed the meaning of each rule when I gave her the list, and I provided examples to illustrate my points.

Emmie’s 7 Email & Texting Rules

  1. Protect your personal information. Don’t send anyone your last name, phone number, address, birthday, social security number or anything else private via email unless we tell you to do so.
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Passover, Version T(w)een.0

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Growing Up, Holidays, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments


The Venice Haggadah of 1609. The Haggadah is the book followed at the seder, or the Passover meal, to tell the story of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.

Passover is less than two weeks away, and if you celebrate the holiday at your house, you know what that means: it’s time to clean out the pantry, remember where you put the good china and bug all your friends to see if you can assemble eight days’ worth of palatable recipes.

(Also, for those of us living in certain parts of northern New England, we engage in the annual hunting ritual for Passover food in grocery stores, best if approached as a drinking game. Each inquiry about Passover products met with a blank stare requires one shot of Manischewitz wine; every “Pass-what?” equals two shots. Sorry, but you have to drink the bottle if you’re directed to matzoh that states on the box, “Not kosher for Passover,” or to the deli case featuring “Ham for your Passover table.”)

So wrong

So wrong

In years past, I’ve offered “A Passover Seder Survival Kit” for families with young kids, as well as some of my personal culinary tactics for getting through the holiday. (Nutella still figures prominently in my Passover diet.) If you’ve got small children, then please do click on that link above for some ideas on making it through the seder with your sanity intact.

We’re in a different place in my family now. I’ve got a newly minted teen and a tween. (It scares me every time I write that.) They don’t need plague bags at the seder anymore, or a Sesame Street video to entertain them if the discussion goes on too long.

In fact, my son, “Jack,” is now officially an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community. To my husband and I, that means he can make his own decisions about whether or not to follow the dietary laws of Passover when outside of our house. So although I communicated to Jack that of course, my preference is for him to keep Passover, I figure it can’t hurt to provide him with some tangible encouragement. (Because, yes, it’s all supposed to be about religion and the history of the Jewish people, but let’s face it: it won’t hurt if the food is good, right? Of course right.)

Here are my plans for Passover T(w)een.0, ending with my newest strategy for Pesach culinary happiness:

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Harry Potter and the Infinite Bag of Miracles

Posted by on Mar 18, 2015 in Education & Learning, Out of the Mouths of My Kids, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

JH, reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Just when you think you’ve seen all there is to see from J.K. Rowling’s books of magic, it turns out there’s another spell in there, just as compelling and even more surprising than the ones you know.

Stories of kids who entered the world of Harry Potter as reluctant readers but emerged as bookworms are, by now, legend. It’s not possible to tally the number of kids who have obsessively consumed all 4,100 pages of the boy wizard’s story, or the number of parents who have witnessed their children’s transfigurations firsthand.

I can now be counted among these parents. In my house of bibliophiles, where books count as both décor and activity, only nine-year-old Emmie has resisted their pull. Plots could not hold her attention; characters might interest her for a chapter or two, but then she tired of them and lost the volumes that contained them under the clothes, drawings and general mess in her room.

Until now.

Emmie had been introduced to Harry Potter in second grade by her then-teacher, a self-professed Harry Potter fanatic. Emmie loved the books so much that we read the third book together the following summer. But after I told her that the fourth Harry Potter book included slightly stepped-up violence and “a little boy-girl stuff,” she decided she wasn’t quite ready for it. I agreed, and we thought no more about it.

But a year later, I told Emmie I thought she was ready for the fourth book. In fact, given how much she’d enjoyed the first three, I told her I thought she ought to read it. I even offered to read it with her. But every time I raised the topic, she refused.

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Benign Rolandic Epilepsy, Thank Goodness

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in Health & Sleep | 2 comments

The central sulcus, or Rolandic fissure, of the brain

The central sulcus, or Rolandic fissure, of the brain

Back in November, I wrote in “Wanting Answers, Finding Questions” about the seizure my nine-year-old daughter, “Emmie,” suffered. It came seemingly out of nowhere; to our knowledge, she’d never had one before. (I referred to it then as a grand mal seizure, but I now know it was actually what’s called a tonic-clonic seizure.) The weeks that followed made us feel like we were traveling through a maze characterized by a set of unmarked doors at each turn. Each door we opened only led to rooms with more doors, and we feared as we moved forward that our ultimate destination would turn out to be a dark, ominous place.

But we were lucky.

The maze of diagnostic tests and consultations led to us to the room of benign rolandic epilepsy, something none of us had heard of before. Given all of the terrifying possibilities raised by a sudden, significant seizure with no prior history—I won’t list them here; I’ll let you imagine them, as we did—this was one of best answers we could have received to the question, “What happened?”

Benign rolandic epilepsy (also known as Benign Rolandic Epilepsy of Childhood, or BREC) refers to a type of epilepsy originating in the rolandic area of the brain, which controls facial movements. During seizures, kids may experience facial twitching, numbness or tingling, they may have difficulty speaking, and they may drool due to an inability to control the mouth muscles. In some kids, the seizures can spread from the rolandic area to the rest of the brain and induce tonic-clonic seizures with more generalized symptoms: unresponsiveness, muscle-clenching in the whole body, whole-body convulsions and disorientation when they regain consciousness. BREC seizures often occur in sleep, though they can occur during awake hours, too (as Emmie’s did).

The best thing about BREC? It is a childhood-only disease.

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