Something to Read Until I Get Back

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in The World We Parent In | 1 comment

I’m going to be away for a few weeks due to a death in the family. Until I get back, here’s a column I wrote last week for the Concord Monitor about Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chávez’s campaign to “Ban Bossy.”

‘Ban Bossy’ campaign misses the mark

For the Monitor
Thursday, March 27, 2014
(Published in print: Friday, March 28, 2014)

Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, and Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of America, want to “Ban Bossy.” They say the word “bossy” is most often aimed at girls and women who exhibit assertive behavior, and this accusation discourages girls from ultimately becoming leaders because they feel compelled to keep quiet in order to be liked.

I want to support Sandberg and Chavez’s campaign. I really do. I understand that language matters and that words have the power to hurt, to hold back and to oppress. I applaud the motivation behind the “Ban Bossy” campaign; how could I not support an effort to encourage more girls to recognize their own capabilities and fulfill their potential? I even get the need, in our attention- deficit era, to condense any message into a hash-taggable, Vine-usable, 10-second-spot-explainable kernel. #BanBossy. Anything more complicated, and you risk losing a significant chunk of your audience.

But crafting a catchy message isn’t enough. That message’s call to action ought to be one that can make a real and positive difference, and that’s where “Ban Bossy” falls short.

(Click here to read the rest of the article.)

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My Next Read: It’s Not What You Think

Posted by on Mar 25, 2014 in Education & Learning, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

I love reading. I can’t wait to pick up my next book, open the cover and see what world I’ll be taken to next. Who will I meet? What will I learn? How will it make me feel?

I’m not feeling the same sense of anticipation about my next read, however. This one is a self-appointed assignment, and it requires a battle plan. Spring is in the air (I know, it’s hard to tell, but put on another sweater and look at the calendar), and it’s time for baseball. This year, that means I’ll be reading Baseball for Dummies.

After you stop laughing at me, you might ask why I would do such a thing. The answer, of course, is because I’m a mom. My son has decided to play baseball, and here’s what I know about the sport: pitcher, batter, umpire, hits, strikes, bases, home runs, walks, signals, slides, chewing tobacco. Steroid scandal. (Every sport has a scandal.) World Series. Major leagues. Minor leagues. Little League. Batter batter batter. Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Peanuts and Cracker Jack.

How am I doing?

I’m not a sports person. But I want to support my son in his new sport and be able to talk to him about it, so I need to learn about baseball. In addition, let’s face it: the best way not to be bored by something is to know enough about it to become mentally involved. Right now, baseball doesn’t hold my interest at all. But maybe if I actually learn enough about the game to be able to follow what’s going on, my perspective will change.

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This Week’s Episode of “Talk to Your Kids” – Marijuana Candy

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Health & Sleep, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

THC candy

There’s such a thing as marijuana candy?

Yes, there is. And you should tell your kids about it, so they don’t accidentally ingest it and end up in the hospital, like Trish Reske’s son.

I confess I was completely ignorant about the incorporation of tetrahydrocarabinnol (THC), the psychoactive substance in cannabis, into snack bars, chocolate bars, gummy-type snacks, etc., until I stumbled across a couple of articles and blog posts from February I’d somehow missed. These snacks are currently being marketed in Colorado, where retail sale of marijuana is legal, and online. Manufacturers claim not to be targeting children with these products; they say they are only trying to reach people who prefer to ingest pot rather than smoke it. But the colorful candies, sweet flavors and often vague labeling leave both kids and unsuspecting adults looking for a quick bite vulnerable to getting something more than they bargained for.

Take a look at the packaging for Wana Jewels, a gummy-like, THC-infused candy. If someone offered your child a handful of these, would she suspect they were laced with pot?

THC candy

What about these?

 THC candy

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Hello, Middle Age

Posted by on Mar 11, 2014 in Parents are People, Too | 0 comments

Sepia hat and middle aged woman - self portrait

Hello, middle age? I’d like my right eyelid back.

Not the one I’ve got now–the one that appeared suddenly one morning in February 2013. This one has no crease in it and only my eyelashes prevent my open lid from swallowing my eyeball entirely. No, I’d like to have back the one I lived with through the great majority of my life thus far, the one with a deep crease and a lot of space between the crease and brow. My eyes had been one of my best features, and I’d prefer not to mess that up. K?

Yeah, that doesn’t seem to be working out so well. Instead, some days, my left eyelid shows signs it may soon succumb to the same gravity as my right. On the upside, I suppose I’ll at least not be lopsided when that happens.

What’s this about? I acquired my first gray hair (white hair, actually) at twenty-six, and the overall transformation is very gradual. I’ve been neither surprised nor unprepared. But the onset of true middle age seemed to occur overnight, and it involves things like my eyelid. This was not in the memo.

In the same month my eyelid turned pouchy, the five pounds I’d alternately been adding and dropping for years acquired permanent resident status and settled around my midsection, an area that had been thin through the previous four decades of my life. Those five pounds brought a few friends with them, and I nearly passed out as I tried in vain to zip pair after pair of jeans. Finally I stashed the lot in a plastic bin and bought an entirely new wardrobe of pants.

Middle age, it turns out, is expensive. Wait. They charge you for this?

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Possibly the Most Uncomfortable & Necessary Conversation I Will Have with My Son

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

“It’s time for another talk about men and women. No, not that talk. We’ve already discussed the basics. This is a conversation you weren’t expecting, but it’s one you need to hear. It’s part of what you need to learn as you grow up.

“We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about treating girls and women as people, not as objects to be conquered. We need to talk about rape so you know what it is, so that as you begin to become interested in other people sexually you understand how to treat them with respect, not as mindless, heartless objects. I know as you get older and develop new relationships, you’ll want to continue to treat people with respect, just as you do now. So that’s why we’re having this conversation.

“If a girl says no, you don’t have consent. If she is unconscious, you don’t have consent. If she is too drunk or stoned to give you a coherent answer, you don’t have consent.

“If a girl wears a short skirt, or high heels, or a low-cut blouse, she is not ‘asking for it.’ The same is true for a girl who flirts with you or with someone else, or with several guys. It doesn’t matter if you’ve bought her dinner or anything else. You are never ‘entitled’ to sex. And no girl or woman ever deserves to be raped. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Anyone who says this is looking for an excuse to demean women and exercise power over them. You ought to be secure enough in who you are as a person not to need to push women down so that you can step over them. Be better than that; I know you can, and I know you are.

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“What Will You Be, Sara Mee?” – How a Book Can Help Connect a Child to Her Birth Culture

Posted by on Feb 24, 2014 in Adoption, Our Cultures, Races & Religions | 0 comments

As an adoptive parent to a child whose origins lie in a culture different from my own, I try always to keep my eye open for things, however small, that can provide links from our culture to the place and customs my daughter had to leave behind. Such items aren’t substitutes, of course; there is no such thing. But by providing bits of concrete details–descriptions of holiday celebrations, tastes of traditional foods, videos of cities and countrysides she’s never seen–I hope to give her the beginnings of a multi-sensory story about the place and people who make up her beginnings.

I spied What Will You Be, Sara Mee? a few months ago while perusing a list of Korean children’s books before Lunar New Year. The picture book tells the story of a young child’s tol, or first-birthday celebration. The first birthday carries great importance in Korean culture because historically, many children never survived their first year. While conditions have obviously improved dramatically, the tol continues to be celebrated with much fanfare. At the center of the tol is the toljabee ceremony, when the birthday child chooses one object from an array set before her. Tradition holds that this object will determine what the child will be when she grows up–a pen means she’ll be a scholar, a bank note means she’ll be wealthy, a bow means she’ll be a warrior, and so on.

Until I discovered Sara Mee, I had never seen a children’s picture book, in English, about a tol. I ordered Sara Mee immediately, even though at age eight, “Emmie” is really a little too old for the book.

Emmie is not too old, however, to see this bit of her own story told in a larger, “this is part of the world around you” fashion.

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How We Talk About Caffeine in Front of Our Kids

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Parenting on a Daily Basis | 4 comments

Mommy needs coffee


“I need a cup of coffee. Don’t talk to me until after my first cup.”

“I’m dragging this afternoon. If we don’t stop at Dunkin’/Starbucks, I’m not gonna make it.”

“I need some caffeine.”

Who has said any of these things in front of their kids? Who has said all of them? My hand is up. What about yours?

My older child is twelve, which means that I’m just beginning the perils-of-adolescence years in earnest. If I could dip my kids, Achilles-style, into some solution to ward off in particular the dangers of substance abuse, I would do it immediately. (And then, having learned from Thetis’s mistake, I’d turn them over and dip their heels in, too.) But I can’t do that. I can only talk repeatedly about alcohol and drugs, point out examples when I see them locally or in the media, try to model responsible behavior and talk about it, until we’re all tired of the discussions. Then I’ll talk some more, and hope all the words have the desired effect.

Maybe it was all the repetition that caused me to catch the inconsistency in my message one sleepy afternoon not long ago. I blinked a few times, trying to wake myself up, and said, “Man, I need some caf–”

I succeeded in waking myself up.

What was I telling my children? In expressing to them, as I did frequently, that when tired I needed caffeine, I was telling them that when my body was in one state, I could take a drug in a form that was pleasing to me, and the drug would alter that state. I had been sleepy, but now I would be awake, alert and better equipped to face my responsibilities and planned activities for the rest of the day. All I required was a moderate amount of a substance–a drug–to do the trick.

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