Uncharted Parent on PBS NewsHour

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

It happens every presidential election cycle. National and even international media gather in New Hampshire for the first-in-the-nation primary, and if you move, you’re apt to be interviewed.

Lisa Desjardins of PBS NewsHour came to my house a few days before the primary to interview me about my thoughts regarding state of the middle class as it relates to the Democratic candidates for president. The piece below includes more than just my perspective, and if you stick with it past the 4:10-minute mark, you’ll get to see and hear not only my views on the presidential race, but my kitchen, my family and what we ate for dinner.

The voting is over here, but most of you have yet to go. Make sure you get out and vote—and take your kids to the polls with you if you can!

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A First-Hand Lesson in Making a Difference

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

Microphone

How many adults don’t participate in politics at any level because they think, “What’s the point?” And how many kids learn powerlessness in the face of government bureaucracy before they even reach voting age?

What if kids learned how to effect change before they even made it to high school? What if they could get a real-life lesson in how this happens, and what if they could even participate?

Some kids in my town got this chance this week. In a classic budget dispute, it came to light that the town budget committee, looking to make some cuts from the schools, had floated a proposal to cut the Chinese-language program. Chinese is currently taught in grades 7-12 and is one of four foreign languages taught in the middle and high schools. As my eighth-grade son and a number of his friends are in their second year of Chinese study, this development immediately grabbed my attention.

The lesson began.

With the help of a friend and her son—the latter is my son’s friend and also in his Chinese class—we assembled a list of kids and parents connected to the Chinese program. By the end of the day, we had contacted as many people as possible connected to the program, filled them in on the situation, asked them to attend the next budget meeting and provided them with additional information. My son and his friend spent considerable time over the weekend preparing remarks to explain to the committee why they had elected to study Chinese, why they ought to be allowed to continue and why it would be unfair to discontinue the program now. They also talked to their friends about the meeting to gin up additional support.

At the budget committee meeting Monday evening, kids and parents who opposed cutting the Chinese program filled the small meeting room.

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Here Comes High School

Posted by on Jan 27, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up | 1 comment

high school sign sm

Tonight I attended the high school curriculum meeting for the parents of next year’s ninth-grade class, which includes my fourteen-year-old son.

Holy hell, when did my son get old enough for high school?

This is, of course, impossible. If I dig deep enough in his room, under the underwear and soccer uniforms strewn across the furniture, the shin guards and bedding on the floor (I don’t ask why), I’m certain I’ll find a leftover dinosaur or two from that old obsession. I know he no longer sleeps with the privileged quartet of stuffed friends that he used to consider sacred, but I also know they still live in that room. They’re just tucked into a corner of a bookshelf where he can pretend he doesn’t want them anymore. So “Jack” doesn’t cuddle with me any longer or call me “Mommy.” I can still trick him into get a hug when I really want one.

Next you’ll be telling me he’s going to be driving before I know it.

Oh, wait. He will.

I’ve got a secret to reveal about parenting my son at this age—actually, both him and my ten-year-old daughter. I love this stage of parenting. I waited for this. When I envisioned being a parent prior to becoming one, this is the kind of role I imagined.

To be clear: there has never been a moment in which I did not love my children. And I am not so foolish as to believe that everything will be clear sailing from this time forward.

But patience is not even close to my most abundant virtue, and the world of babies and toddlers was not the easiest world for me to live in.

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First in the Nation

Posted by on Jan 20, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

NH Presidential Primary Marker

Over the past several weeks, I’ve traveled out of my home state of New Hampshire a few times, and I’ve spoken with quite a few folks here who are visiting from outside the state. A number of people have asked me what’s it like to live in New Hampshire during primary season, so I thought I’d devote a post to answering that question.

A little background: it’s 2016, which means it’s a presidential election year. (You knew that, right? Don’t tell me if you didn’t.) Each of the two major political parties—the Democrats and the Republicans—must elect its candidate to square off in the general election in November. These primaries begin, by tradition, with the Iowa caucus (this year on February 1) and the New Hampshire primary (February 9). Campaigning seems to start the day after the previous presidential election, but it begins in earnest at least a year before the primary. As the date gets closer, campaigning ramps up.

Because Iowa and New Hampshire go first, our states’ contests have a lot of influence. Presidential hopefuls want to win right out of the starting gate, or in a weird year like this one, they at least want to do very well. So the candidates spend a lot of time here, and they tend to have solid ground organizations with paid staffers and volunteers trying to round up support.

What does that mean for the New Hampshire citizen? Here’s what life looks like on a daily basis:

  • If the phone rings, chances are it’s not a friend, relative, or someone trying to sell you something. It’s either: a) a campaign looking for support of one kind or another; or b) a poll.
  • The phone rings every evening with political calls. We can get as many as four or five calls each evening. This goes on for months.
  • Personally, I have established rules for answering polls. I do take some of the them; I consider it a responsibility that goes along with the privilege of living in the “first in the nation” state. But I will only answer one poll per night. I will only answer polls administered by live humans—no robots. And I won’t answer them during family dinner. (Hey, if I miss one, I can just pick up the phone twenty minutes later when the next pollster calls.)
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The Lecture Years

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

Susi and Mom

 

“I want to talk to you about heroin. Our state is in the middle of a terrible epidemic.”

“Did you see that story about the kid killed in that horrible crash on the highway? You know they were drinking before they got in the car, right?”

“I want to talk to you about consent, and what it really means.”

“Your body has changed a lot in the past year. I suspect you’ve got a lot more changes in front of you this year. Let’s have a quick chat.”

“The only disease they mentioned in your health class was AIDS? We need to have a talk.”

“Another unarmed, young black man was killed by a police officer. Why? Well, let me explain what’s been going on.”

“So here’s the thing about the recent burglaries on our street. The way they’ve occurred—it was probably people looking for cash or things they could easily sell to get cash to buy drugs. Because this is what happens when people get addicted to drugs.”

“All of those people are fleeing terrible violence in the Middle East—mostly Syria—and Europe doesn’t know what to do with them. No one does, including us. Many of them have died. There is a history…”

“Do you have any questions about _____?”

Silence.

If you have a teenager living in your house who loves to discuss topics ranging from difficult to embarrassing with you, then you aren’t cringing right now. Also, please call me and tell me what that’s like. Because I haven’t got a clue.

My own teenager, fourteen-year-old “Jack,” is of the eye-rolling, oh-God-not-another-Talk-please variety. When he hears anything in my words or inflection begin to veer in the direction of a Talk, I can see his upper body subconsciously settle into place. He’s learned he will receive Talks whether he wants them or not, so he tries to prepare himself and hopes the imminent one will be quick and that he won’t have to answer too many questions.

I deliver my brief lecture, punctuated with “uh-huh” and “no” from Jack whenever required. If I ask him for more, it’s like I’ve asked him to solve the problem of time travel. (Actually, he’d probably prefer I ask him that.) Occasionally I can lighten the atmosphere with a joke—presidential politics comes to mind—but that’s not always the case. When I’m satisfied I’ve been understood, I ask if he has questions, he says no, and one of us leaves the room.

Obviously, this is not the way I’d like for these things to go. But I can’t ignore these topics. Jack is not a little kid anymore.

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5 Things I Accomplished This Holiday Season

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Growing Up, Holidays, The World We Parent In | 2 comments

liste

Welcome Back! I hope your holidays were a welcome respite from the craziness of the rest of the year. Or, if you like to keep things going at a good clip, I hope you eggnogged-gifted-skiied-partied-relatived-toasted-feasted-gingerbreaded until you could barely eek out a “Happy New Year” when the time was right.

As for me, I managed to squeeze a few parenting-related accomplishments under my expanding belt this holiday season. Some I anticipated; most I did not. Here goes:

  1. I taught my fourteen-year-old son how to binge-watch a TV series into the late hours. I’m so proud.
  1. I got a glimpse of what my ten-year-old daughter will look like when she’s sixteen via the dressy pants, blouse and shoes I bought her to wear for her fifth-grade chorus and band concerts. It was tough to find appropriate clothing that wasn’t awash in glitter, but when we finally did—wow. Who is that sophisticated kid?
  1. I decided that my goal of changing my lifestyle in several ways to be healthier overall by my next birthday wasn’t challenging enough, so I ate my way to a few extra pounds in December just to make things more interesting. Okay, so it wasn’t so much an actual decision as it was outright gluttony. Alas, the result is the same.
  1. I talked to my kids about Donald Trump. Why is this an accomplishment?
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Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 25, 2015 in Holidays, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

Image courtesy Saratica via Flickr.com.

Image courtesy Saratica via Flickr.com.

It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. The world feels kind of sad and scary right now, not joyous and abundant like it should when the holiday season commences.

Maybe that’s appropriate. It’s worth noting that joy and abundance aren’t always present for many people. As we revel in our holiday feasts this week, let’s take a moment to think of those close to us who aren’t as fortunate and those far away who feel less secure than we do. How can we meet deprivation with open hearts? How can we meet those who sow fear and destruction with determination and reason? And how do we teach our children these things without frightening them beyond measure when we’re so afraid and uncertain ourselves?

Heavy thoughts for Thanksgiving week, but it’s a heavy November. At Uncharted Parent, we’re going to enjoy our turkey and trimmings, but we’re also going to talk about what we might do to help others this holiday season. It may not be much, but goodness knows the world can use any help it can get.

Uncharted Parent wishes everyone a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

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