Staying Positive for Your Older Kids When You Don’t Feel Positive at All

Posted by on Jan 12, 2017 in Parenting on a Daily Basis, The World We Parent In | 2 comments


This would be easier if my kids were younger.

Yes, little kids are perceptive, but it’s possible to paste a smile on your face for them when necessary. You can watch animated movies with them, read picture books and keep your conversation G-rated. You don’t talk about the state of the country or the world because they’re too young to understand that kind of thing, anyway. They know Elsa wants to set her powers free and superheroes go after bad guys. If they do stumble onto anything real in the news, you comfort them, maybe give them cookies as a distraction. Paint the world with illusory bright colors and assure the children the good guys will prevail.

Simplify, reassure, protect. That’s a parent’s job when it comes to the very young.

Adolescents offer a more complex challenge. They are caught in the space between child and adult, and as any parent of an adolescent knows, you can encounter both the small child and the mature adult in the same kid inside of sixty seconds. Anytime you think you’ve figured out which version of your kid will appear in response to any given stimuli, that same kid will prove you wrong. The only constant is that you’ve got to be prepared for anything at any moment. The world is confusing to us adults and we’ve been living in it for decades. It can be exponentially more befuddling to our adolescent kids.

So for those of us presently deeply distressed about the state of our nation and our world: how much of that do we let our older kids see, and how do we balance what we show them with parental reassurance aimed at reassuring the more childish aspects of who they are?

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How to Find Reliable News

Posted by on Dec 6, 2016 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

imagesRemember the old days—you know, October—when you didn’t need to care about the news if you didn’t want to? Those days are over. Even if you preferred to stay away from current events before, we all need to stay informed about what’s happening in our country right now.

But what if you’re not a news geek by nature? In this age of fake news sources, biased media outlets and “everyone’s an expert so long as they’ve got a Facebook account,” how do you know what to believe? I’ve fielded a few inquiries about reliable news sources over the past few weeks. In response, I’ve cobbled together something of a New User’s Guide to Reliable News Sources in an Unreliable Atmosphere here.

Please note what the list below is NOT. It’s not comprehensive. It’s not foolproof. It’s not assembled by an inhuman, bias-free robot.

I’ve selected a few resources to serve as starting points for people who haven’t previously been regular consumers of news and who want to begin to equip themselves with actual facts[1] on a regular basis. With that goal in mind, here we go.

First, a couple of guidelines

  • Is it true? Before accepting something as fact, look to see if you can find a second reliable source for it. This is not as hard as it sounds. Google the “fact” you’ve just read that made your jaw drop. If it’s something that just happened five minutes ago, this might be difficult. But other reliable sources should have it within an hour at the most. Usually it takes only minutes for other outlets to pick up something real.
  • Look for media outlets with a solid reputation for investigative journalism. Sometimes that means they will run negative stories about people you like. Sometimes they will mess up. Always, the questions you want to ask are, how often does a media outlet do the hard work of digging deep and getting the story right? Do they seek out and report the facts?

Reliable media outlets

Print and/or digital editions of print publications

  • It’s 2016, but the old standby print journalists are still, for the most part, doing the best job of getting the story and getting it right. This includes, of course, their digital editions. So a great way to get real, factual news is to subscribe to the print and/or digital editions of one of the major city newspapers, e.g, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, etc.[2] The digital editions of these papers update throughout the day, so you can stay informed as things happen if you choose. (A note about the “bias” that some people will warn you about in these newspapers: most newspapers with sizeable circulation separate their reporting pages from their opinion pages. There are usually different editors for these sections, and the above listed papers follow this practice. The opinion pages may in fact lean in one direction or another politically. The reporting pages focus on investigation and reporting of the facts.)
  • Your local newspaper. Subscribe to your paper, either in print or online, and read it. Know what’s going on in your community. The quality of these newspapers runs the gamut, so again, it’s always good to check what you read with a search to confirm something that catches your interest. Did your representative really say that? Find out for sure before you get angry.
  • Are you really obsessed with what’s going on in Washington? Subscribe to Roll Call and/or The Hill.
  • Online editions of some foreign media outlets can be reliable. Try The Guardian or com, both from the U.K.

Internet-only outlets

  • Wire services, like AP or Reuters. You can download their news apps onto your phone and customize to your interests. Reuters also has a user-friendly site and an RSS option if that’s how you prefer to get your news. (You will also see wire services’ articles in newspapers.)
  • You heard something and you don’t know if you should believe it? Go to Snopes. They may not always have the fastest check on the latest political appointment, but they may, and it will be accurate. Did the President-elect really say those words during that interview in 2014? Is that urban legend about the call coming from inside the house really true? Ask Snopes. (Note: I taught my kids to use Snopes for rumors and urban legends years ago. Don’t ask me if Bigfoot was spotted downtown. Ask Snopes.)
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This President-elect is Different

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments


The beginning of the United States Constitution, the foundation of our republic.

I’ve been absent for a while for health reasons. After Nov. 8, there was also the electoral shock into numbness. Finally, I wrote this. I hope to be back on a regular basis now.

In my inbox, I have a newsletter from a writer I respect, whom I won’t name here. It includes the following:

Maybe your candidate won, maybe yours lost. It’s a system. One side has been in for eight years. Another is going in now. If everyone moved to Canada because they didn’t get their way in this country where everyone has a voice, we’d have very few people left.

… Wake up still happy. Continue your days proud to be American. Take the stance that you will continue thinking positive and pursuing your dreams regardless who is President [sic] or who throws an obstacle in your path. You choose how you think. You choose how happy you’ll be. Nobody else affects that if you don’t let it.


If you believe that what happened on November 8 was simply that one side lost and the other side won, you don’t understand what happened. I’ve supported the losing side in elections before; this is different. Much more was at stake, and what we lost may be so great, I’m not sure it will be regained in my lifetime.

Upon graduating from college a few decades ago, I moved to Washington, D.C. to begin a career in public service. I never doubted that I wanted to work on behalf of my country, because I had studied history and different political systems of both this country and others, and I believed strongly in the virtues of the United States, even with all of its many flaws. I wanted to dedicate myself to be part of the centuries-long process of making our system and our world better. I worked my proverbial butt off for months and landed a job in the U.S. Senate. This was back in the days before “compromise” became a dirty word.

I am an institutionalist. I believe in Congress, the presidency, the judiciary. I’ve seen them work beautifully (okay, I’ve seen them work), and I’ve seen them muck things up. Later in my career, I worked as a civil rights and civil liberties advocate, and my job was to persuade Congress and sometimes the executive branch to see things the way that I and the people for whom I worked did. Sometimes I succeeded. Sometimes I didn’t. Often I was frustrated. But this is our system, and I continued to believe in it and its sometimes ragged march toward greater justice.

Then came 9/11. If you were an adult then, you remember the fear, the horror. And I hope you remember also perhaps the only good thing to come out of that living nightmare, which was the very brief sense that we were one nation in the face of an attack against us. Trying to tear us apart Would. Not. Stand.

We are on the other side of that now.

I am a Democrat, but I have seen and worked with many Republicans I respected. I’ve also seen and tried to work with those I didn’t respect. Throughout the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, I disagreed

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September 11, Fifteen Years Later

Posted by on Sep 11, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

(The Pentagon following the dedication of the Memorial on September 11, 2008)

(The Pentagon following the dedication of the Memorial on September 11, 2008)

Fifteen years later, and this day still brings tears to my eyes.

I’ll never forget the terror of that day. I’ll never forget the fear of something beginning, something unknown and awful, and the feeling of being powerless to stop it. I’ll never forget the sound an airplane makes when it explodes as it rams into a building, the hope that a plane wouldn’t be shot down over my house and kill my unborn child before he’d ever had a chance to live in the world, the surreal quality of trying to drive as close to a closed-off city as possible to meet my husband, his foot not yet fully healed from a recent surgery, as he walked ten miles to escape a city under siege. I’ll never forget so many people dead, so many loved ones whose lives were ripped open. I’ll never forget learning that that last plane was headed for the Capitol, where, if it had hit its mark, it would have killed dozens or even hundreds of people I knew. Where, but for the particulars of day and time, it might have killed me.

I’ll never forget what that day did to a city I love.

But I—none of us—can afford to stay in that place of anger and fear. It is appropriate for a while, but then we must move on. We learn. We strengthen. We warn and we build and we say, “No more.” And we say also, “We are not you. We don’t kill because we can, we don’t hate because it’s easier. We will defend ourselves, but we will also continue to live true to our values: love, freedom, kindness. Diversity. Tolerance of others. When we fail—because of course we do sometimes—we will learn from our failure and become better. And so if you try to change us with your hate and your evil acts, you may shed our blood, but you will not change who we are.”

Never forget that day. Never forget what the terrorists tried to do. Never forget that we must never let them achieve their goal.

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The Trump in the Room: 2016 and our Kids

Posted by on Aug 3, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 2 comments

Image by 11-year-old "Emmie"

Image by 11-year-old “Emmie”

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Don’t ask which elephant. You know exactly what I’m talking about. I mean the elephant causing all the other elephants secretly to fear they are a dying species, while the rest of the animals wonder on a daily basis if they’re going to have any habitat left when all of this is over.

Okay, so I took the metaphor to extremes. But that seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

This election. Good God. Where to begin? This is a parenting blog, so let’s focus on parenting one’s way through Election 2016.

I have a set of principles I try to follow as I guide my kids through learning about the world. As they get older, I try to expose them to more news according to their age and readiness. One kid is more sensitive to images and stories than the other, so age alone is not a sufficient determinant for what each kid can handle. I make sure they know and understand the fundamental values I think are important, but I try to leave room for their own opinions, too. They don’t need to be news junkies, but they do need to know and understand the most important events and issues of the day or week and why those stories matter. I endeavor to present everything in a way that increases knowledge, but doesn’t produce fear. The cardinal rule and value in our house—respect—must be observed by all in these discussions the same as it would be in other contexts.

Election 2016 has thrown this all to hell.

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When a Parent Needs Help: the Uncharted Waters of Eldercare

Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in Parents are People, Too, The World We Parent In | 3 comments


Hi there. It’s been a while. I hope you haven’t been waiting for me this whole time.

Good. Glad to hear it. After all, you have your own family, your own responsibilities, your own life to take care of. And you may have become a bit preoccupied with what’s been going on in the country and the world these last few months. There’s plenty to talk about there. But I’m going to save that for a future post…or twelve.

I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing for the past few months. It has everything to do with parenting, and nothing to do with my kids—except it’s affected them tremendously. It involves seeing to the needs of my own parent—specifically, my father—and getting an education in eldercare in America along the way.

We found suddenly—as so many people do—that my father was no longer capable of living alone. Some signs had probably been there for a while, but we’d missed them. Others he’d hidden, not wanting to lose his independence. But a home accident brought everything into the light, and we discovered that we needed to find a new living and care situation for him, fast. He went first to the hospital, then to a skilled-nursing rehabilitation center for a few weeks, and finally to the assisted-living home we found in a frenzy of frantic searching.

The day-by-day of what happened is too private to him and too lengthy to relate here. But I will share some key points I’ve learned since April:

  • When an elderly parent requires healthcare, you must constantly play the role of advocate. Even centers of good repute sometimes fall back on patterns of care or behavior rather than evaluate each patient individually, and you have to check in with every caregiver to make sure that your parent is getting the care appropriate to her individual situation.
  • You never really know the full story. A parent with any level of cognitive decline for any reason will necessarily have gaps in what he can remember—how that fall happened, how that giant bruise appeared on his leg, what the argument with the neighbor was about. He may tell different stories to different care providers as he tries to work the puzzle, and those providers may or may not confer with each other about the circumstances surrounding your parent’s care. You have to sort it all out and make sure everyone has the best possible information despite what you don’t and may never know.
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