Banned Books Week 2015: It’s Perfectly Normal

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Health & Sleep | 4 comments

BBW-logoWelcome to Banned Books Week 2015! I love Banned Books Week, and not just for the obvious reason that it’s about books. This annual celebration is actually less about books than it’s about freedom of thought, of exploration, and of the opportunity for each person to decide for herself what’s appropriate for her family.

(Look below for an opportunity to enter a Banned Books Week giveaway as part of our annual celebration with Book Journey!)

You don’t want your kid to read something? Okay. I suppose that’s your decision. But don’t tell me my kid can’t read the same book. That’s not your decision. It’s mine, or, more likely, it’s my kid’s. If you don’t believe a particular book that the teacher has selected as part of the curriculum is appropriate or you personally think it has “no educational value,” you are absolutely free to raise an objection. Feel free to discuss it with the teacher. But why should you get to say that none of the kids in a class or a public school get to learn from the book just because you don’t like it?

Each year, I peruse the list of the previous year’s top ten list of banned books and pick one to read and review for Banned Books Week. This year, I knew as soon as I saw the list which book I would read: It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley.

You undoubtedly could anticipate the reason for the challenges to this book before you finished reading its title. Despite its universal application, the book delves into an area of adolescence that makes some adults uncomfortable—even squeamish. Some find it immoral. So let’s look at the book’s approach to the subject.

It’s Perfectly Normal is divided into an introduction followed by six sections: “What is Sex?”; “Our Bodies”; “Puberty”; “Families and Babies”; “Decisions”; and “Staying Healthy.” Together, the material covers everything from the basics of how a baby is made to gender identity to puberty to deciding to have sex to staying safe on the internet to making healthy choices when sexually active. That’s a lot of ground for about 100 pages. Cartoonish drawings of a genderless bee and bird take opposing viewpoints of the material as they accompany the adolescent reader through the pages, with the bird feeling confident about its changing body and feelings, and the bee tapping into a tween or teen’s uneasy side.

There’s much that’s good about this book.

Read More

Let’s Talk About Kids Like Ahmed

Posted by on Sep 17, 2015 in Our Cultures, Races & Religions, The World We Parent In | 0 comments


You know who Ahmed is, yes? In case you don’t because you were asleep for the past thirty-six hours, Ahmed Mohamed is the fourteen-year-old Texas ninth-grader who built a digital clock, brought it into school to show to his teacher and ended up in police custody. Here’s one of the many articles about it.  Go ahead and read it; I’ll be right here when you’re done.

Unfreakingbelievable, isn’t it? Except it isn’t. Ahmed explained his project to his teachers, and somehow, the result of those interactions was that the teachers didn’t believe him and the school called the police who in turn described the clock as looking “like a movie bomb.”

Would the clock have looked like a bomb if it were brought in by a white kid whose last name was not Mohamed? It’s tough to prove, but that’s often the case with racist behavior. I don’t believe for a second that if my white son had brought in this clock, he would have ended up in police custody like Ahmed.

People and institutions have since opened up to Ahmed, hoping to make up for the indignity he suffered. We want to show him that what happened to him at school does not represent who we are as a country. From President Obama to Mark Zuckerberg to Space Camp to administrators at MIT and various other institutions and corporations, doors have opened for him. “You are awesome and you’re welcome here,” said everyone. The future of science, of the world, is his.

Never mind that the amount of pressure this public glare puts on Ahmed must be crushing. Or that at fourteen, Ahmed may not even know for certain whether he wants a life in science. Once he sorts through the tornado his life has suddenly become, he will find himself, unavoidably, with a scar—one that none of these generous offers will be able to wipe away.

Read More

Transition…to Someone Else’s Wise Words About Raising Teens

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

So, how’s that back-to-school thing going?

We’ve had a few bumps here, but what can you expect when transitioning from beachy days, late nights and a slow summer pace to notebooks, schedule conflicts, looming homework, etc.?

With two kids in middle school (how the heck did that happen?), our entire family is in transition. I can’t count how many times I’ve begun to say, “my young kids,” or “my little girl,” then caught myself and dropped the reference to the little kids I no longer have. I see the elementary school bus roll by our house in the morning, and it doesn’t stop. (On purpose this time, as opposed to the numerous times in the past when the driver simply forgot.) Nobody here rides it. It’s a new stage of life for our family, and adjustments are required.

I love my kids at thirteen and ten. But though I no longer panic about parenting like I did when they were infants, I still puzzle over certain, more nuanced questions regarding what I’m supposed to do with these growing people. Offer advice on the problem I see coming, or let things play out on their own? Scold and correct on a particular misbehavior, or decide it’s not a big deal and let it go so that my words have more effect when something more important comes along? Give something that’s been requested, or make them work for it? Help or butt out? Yes, there are guidelines that can help—I wrote about a few of them a couple of weeks ago—but it’s still a challenge every day.

That’s why I want to share with you some wise words I found elsewhere on the web, at Club Mid at Scary Mommy. “How to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Teenager,” written by Michelle Lehnardt, offers some valuable wisdom for any parent looking for guidance and goalposts on raising a teen. I emailed it to myself, printed it out and placed it next to my desk as a reference, and I want to make sure you see it, too. For example, here is point 1:

1. Not Listening

Years ago, I heard invaluable advice: “Once your child reaches the age of 13 or 14 they know your opinion of everything under the sun. Your job from now on is to shut up and listen.” I remember feeling a bit defensive the first time I heard this counsel. I had so much knowledge yet to share! And besides, things change—how would I offer my wisdom on future problems? But there’s the crux of it all. Things change. As adults, we think we know all about the teenage world, but our swiftly moving planet has spun beyond our intimate knowledge of the ’70s’80s’90s. And here’s what I’ve learned: when you take the time to listen, truly listen, your kids will ask your opinion.

To read the rest of this article by Michelle Lehnardt, click here to go to Club Mid at Scary Mommy.


Read More

Telling My Son, “No, you can’t play football”

Posted by on Sep 3, 2015 in Health & Sleep, Out of the Mouths of My Kids | 0 comments

My son is crazy about sports. He’s both a participant and an observer: he plays soccer year-round, and he recently took up a bat and glove for the first time. He can also recite for you the numbers corresponding to every sports channel we receive from our cable television provider.

As obsessions go, I approve of this one. I never have to tell this kid to get exercise. He loves his iPod, but he puts it down without complaint for a game, a practice or because he spies a ball in the yard—any kind of ball. Except for the sex-and-violence advertising and the periodic bad-athlete behavior I find myself needing to explain, I don’t even mind the sports-viewing on television. He wants to watch his favorite baseball team? Nothing wrong with that.

But as I watched my son develop an interest in football as he approached adolescence, I grew uneasy. I want him to be able to explore his varied interests and to take chances as he grows up so he can figure out who he is. But I also want him to learn to evaluate risk and make smart decisions, and as I learned more about the long-term effects suffered by football players exposed to repeated helmet-to-helmet collisions, I realized that I couldn’t say yes to the request I knew was coming.

My piece on my son’s request to play football, my refusal to let him and what happened between us as a result continues at The Washington Post’s On Parenting. Hint: he and I tussled over this for a year. It spilled over into other aspects of our lives. Click here to read more.

Read More

Parenting an Adolescent: 3 Guidelines for When to Step In & When to Step Back

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Growing Up, Health & Sleep, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

The adolescent years are a period when parents gradually hand their children’s lives over to them. As the parent of a soon-to-be adult, it’s often difficult to know when to intervene or when to let your adolescent take control over a particular part of his or her life. How do you decide when to step back and when to step in?

There are no easy answers. But a few guidelines can help:

Safety: Do you believe your child is in an unsafe situation—something that may endanger his or her life or physical or mental health? Do you have real reason to believe your child is using drugs, has been drinking, has been riding in a car with a friend who has been drinking, is planning to go to a house where a party is planned and kids who you know engage in inappropriate activities will be present, etc.? Do you suspect that your child is depressed, or that he or she may have an eating disorder? In situations where your child’s safety may be in jeopardy, always step in. This is where the limited teenage appreciation for real-life, long-term consequences could genuinely hurt your child.

Self-expression: Does your child wants to style his or her hair in an electric-blue Mohawk? Or maybe he or she wants to wear t-shirts with political messages you abhor? Step back.Your child is figuring out who he or she is and these are not permanent changes. Let your teen explore. Make sure your teen knows that even if you don’t like a particular thing he or she is doing, you are still supportive of him or her as a person. However, permanent changes and measures of self-expression that violate rules, such as a t-shirt with language that is banned in school, can be more difficult. These warrant conversations with your child.

My piece on figuring out when to step in and when to step back in your adolescents’ lives continues at Stop Medicine Abuse. Use these guidelines until you find a magic 8-ball that indicates the right thing to do when your kid asks to be dropped off before you’re in sight of the school one minute, demands to know what you’re going to do about her forgotten homework the next, then slams a door in frustration because she claim you always treat her like a little kid. And when you do find that sought-after object, let me know.

Read More

In Which I Learn My Thirteen-Year-Old Has Better Manners than Some Adults

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Parenting on a Daily Basis, The World We Parent In | 0 comments


Adults love to complain about kids’ lack of manners—about kids’ rudeness, their selfishness, their refusal to think of anyone other than themselves. These complaints are sometimes valid. But from what I’ve seen lately, some adults need to think about the messages they’re sending to kids via their own behavior. In fact, I’ve discovered that my thirteen-year-old has better manners than many adults. (And that’s not a commentary on my son’s fantastic manners. This is the same kid whom I just scolded at the dinner table for grabbing his pancake with both hands and stuffing it into his mouth.)

Let’s take a few examples from our recent family vacation. We began a day at breakfast in a restaurant, where, upon exiting, a man twice let doors slam in my son’s face. Yes, this was a minor infraction. But we’ve taught our kids to hold doors open for people immediately behind them, so thirteen-year-old “Jack” found the behavior rude. As he should.

Then we moved on to mini-golf, which is something of a raison d’être for Jack. We were playing a few holes into the wilting hot course, ahead of two couples by a hole or two. I took my turn before my son, so I didn’t see what he noticed, which was a large leather purse sitting by itself at a hole adjacent to ours. He pointed it out to my husband, who recommended that my son take it to the course office. “Jack” picked up the purse and started walking with it toward the office.

I heard a high-pitched, wordless scream behind me. Then: “Stop, stop, stop! That’s mine! It’s mine! Stop! It’s mine!” One of the women who had been playing behind us ran at Jack full-speed, arms waving.

Read More

Help Your Tween Start the School Year Right—with an Organized Closet

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning | 0 comments

Wow, that was fast. Summer is coming to a close, and the school year is upon us. It’s time to see reset sleep schedules, see how many sizes your kids have grown over the summer and buy them new clothes and supplies because inevitably, nothing they wore last year will fit them now. 

But once you buy the new stuff, what will you do with it? 

Today Uncharted Parent welcomes Danielle Hegedus, for, who offers some great tips regarding how to encourage your tween’s independence and start her school year on an organized, positive note by spending a little time on her closet. (You know your tween’s closet; it’s where the scary, fuzzy things live.)

Rubbermaid HomeFree series closet system

(Image: Rubbermaid via

By Danielle Hegedus

Sometimes you have to take a step back and let your kids fly solo. As your child approaches middle school, think about ways in which you can better prepare her to start navigating the chaos of her own life. Help her develop organizational skills to manage her time, chores, homework and extracurricular activities.

Your child’s closet actually factors into a lot of that chaos. Yes, there is always laundry to do, but one of the of the best ways to get your child to start preparing for what each week will bring is to use her closet as an organizational tool. With some simple organizational tips and your guidance, you can help your child breeze through the week, minimizing forgotten permission slips and soccer cleats.

With hectic schedules, “organizing closet” may feel like just another thing to do on both of your to-do lists. Try not to think of this activity as a dreaded chore. Rather, it’s an opportunity for your child to practice her organizational skills and a chance to spend some quality time together.

Prepare for the Week Ahead

Work with your child to help her pick out her outfits for the week on either Saturday night or Sunday morning.

Read More