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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Stevenstown 300 - Why Won't Parents Take Responsibility?

Teens do stupid drunken things. They egg houses, they lie, they smoke marijuana, they jump off cliffs into water that is way too far below, they have sex. Part of being a teenager is taking risks.

I wrote a book that inspired this blog. Turns out the teenaged brain is hotwired to do stupid things because the part of it that controls judgment isn't finished growing up yet. 

But there's a big difference between being a teenager who does dumb things and the Stevenstown 300 who broke into a former NFL star's home, and had a giant party, destroying property, peeing all over the place and much more.

These were not smart kids. Holloway had security cameras and he watched the destruction from his home in Florida, put the video up online, and named the kids. He did not call the police and have them all arrested - which would have been easy - and instead told them to show up and help clean up the mess. One kid came.

And the parents of these 300 kids are pissed. Not at their children but at Holloway. They say he violated their privacy - no sorry the iPhone photos and videos negate that. They are suing him or thinking about it. They are threatening Holloway. What kind of a message does that send to the real problem here?

Let's back up. Your kids does something they should not do. You hold them responsible for it. One child showed up to clean up - one out of 300. My kid would have been there with me to watch. And so would all of his friends. Why? BECAUSE THAT IS CALLED RESPONSIBLE PARENTING. Apologizing the entire time to Holloway, to me, to everyone. Taking responsibility for his actions. Period.

We live in a society where we give our kids too much. The good parents struggle to teach them values. Our kids are inheriting the mess we've made for themselves and of the world.

DO YOUR JOB PARENTS. Your kids have to grow up and not think it's OK to break into someone's house and destroy it.


Until you let your kids know that you should have your parenting license taken away. And heaven help those kids later in life.


Monday, September 23, 2013

OK I Give Up Take Arabic!

I thought how can this child learn another language? Seven years of Spanish - just get fluent. But no - my incredibly smart child wants Arabic - and he's doing really well in it.

So it's not just a parent bragging story. Today NPR featured a study from the Hewitt Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado, which looked at genetics versus the environment in teens' ability to learn new things. The conclusion was Learning New Things Gets Harder as Teens Transition from Childhood.

Except in really smart kids - And you know how smart your kid is but the takeaway I got from this article is don't underestimate his or her ability to learn something brand new.

So the next time your not so directed high school or college student decides to master a new instrument, take a new language, figure out how to build a rocket ship - just encourage them. They say that kids are sponges. Teens are too.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Happens When Your Teens' Texts Start Coming to You

Every mom who has ever or wanted to snoop on her teen has dreamed this would happen. Yesterday Verizon Wireless did something - I may never know what - and all of my 17 year-old son's texts started coming to me. He just started college and is away for the first time. I only know what I am told which means I knw next to nothing.

I read several conversations most about doing stuff with each other. Some more interesting than others. A photo that was certainly not meant for me.

The conversation that put me over the edge was the one with his girlfriend who is now at another college. Both sides of the conversation. They both went to college in August. They tried to break up. They got back together. They set guidelines. They will be together until they are not.

As a parent, I'm just so happy that my son's early experiences with a girl were about love - what is evidently a deep and abiding love. That's a wonderful thing.

And I was suddenly a total snoop. I would learn everything I do not know. But suddenly everything they thought, felt, imagined, wanted to do when they are in the same city, and much more, was right in front of me. I mean front and center. My phone would chime and there was more and more and more. Like mom nirvana. But when it started to get intimate I realized that it was none of my business. When did I become that mom?

I texted back to them - "I'm getting your texts." OMG came back, oops came back. Then the real response - "Who is this?"

Not only could I read everything that they wrote but they didn't know I was there or who I was. Holy canoli.

"It's your mother. Can you please make this stop?"

Another string of OMGs and I'm so sorry. Then dead silence as they switched to another medium - Skype I think. We fixed it somehow today.

Monday, September 16, 2013

High School Soccer Mom: It's Make it or Break it Time

I know I grew up in another time, but the pressure on kids to perform these days is going to create a nation of self-obsessed, self-agonizaing, self destructive disasters. There's Instagram and Selfies (the constant art of photographing yourself and posting it on SnapChat or Facebook, etc., and the endless, endless texting. And that's just for starters.

We are at the beginning of soccer season and my daughter as a freshman made varsity and also a club team. She practices soccer five days a week, three hours a day, plays in high school games twice a week, and in club games and tournaments on weekends. And she's only 14.

And this is all in the first month of high school. Yes I know it takes a fiercely competitive spirit and alot of guts and time and patience and practice to be a great player. But what about just being a girl? What about parties and boys and homework and make-up and putting the darn phone down long enough to let the next text come in before responding to the last one?

My daughter puts so much pressure on herself to be great, that when she's not she gets upset. Really upset. Upset as in on the way home from the club game, which can be an hour or two in the car, if she plays badly she cannot be spoken too. She retreats into that place where she will scream at me if I say one word. So I say nothing. Of course it will all come out later so I just wait. But what a miserable car ride - and enough of the darn country music. Would a little bit of something besides the same 10 whiny twang songs hurt? Really?

And then we have the injuries. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, any other superstition you can think of we've been lucky so far. Around us girls are getting concussed (it's become a verb for goodness sake), and tearing ACLs and just falling down while everyone holds their breath waiting for that girl who got hit hard to get up. The fields don't help either. The rich town fields are gorgeous - turf or manicured lawns. The poor town fields are awful and just waiting for someone to hit that badly mowed dying grass wrong and wham. There goes the season.

I am not a pushy parent - and fortunately this year we have great parents and great girls and great coaches and nice teams with good attitudes. But we've seen plenty of the screamers and the crying and the berating and the terrible awful too. Come on people these are just kids - whatever happened to just go out there and have fun?

I suppose I should be happy that my daughter's world is soccer because those who only do it peripherally or not at all are doing things with boys about which I will not speak. Growing up female has always been hard. Now it's harder. At least competitive sports keeps some sort of a balance in their world. And all those rushing hormones have an outlet other than the boy next door.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Miley Cyrus - Don't Your Publicists Have Daughters Too?


Every time I see another Disney princess from my daughters pre-teen years (aka this time Miley Cyrus) trying to break away from her nice girl image and transformed into someone I never want my daughter to behave like I get furious.Not just furious at Miley and the entourage around her who are charging her insane amounts of money for advice on how to take her from the teen to adult market. But mostly at her PR people. Don't you get that parents actually pay attention to this stuff too?

I have news for you folks. There's alluring, there's sexy and there's obscene. Often in an effort to spark a national conversation about your "product" oh no I mean star, you turn away the very teen girls who used to watch her. Any girl brought up with a modicum of decency doesn't want to see Miley do whatever it was she did on the MTV awards last weekend. It's gross, and it can't be good for record sales. Maybe for the short term but not the long.

Let's compare. Miranda Cosgrove, teen princess from the Drake & Josh show which every parent approved of and watched a long side their children. Moved to a show where she was more grown up but still grappling with the issues that a teen girl deals with. Amanda Bynes from The Amanda Show on which she was sweet, bubbly, funny - now transformed into the next generation Lindsay Lohan. Which would you rather have your daughters experience? 

Or are you too busy to pay attention to what your daughters are watching. Even the Kardashians aren't as bad as what some of the former teen idols are doing. At least they are unabashed, ridiculously selfish, overly plasticized versions of someone I would throw rotten tomatoes at. And they got rich doing it. If America wants to watch that crap then let it. But don't take a young girl my daughter grew up admiring and turn her into a porn star at the MTV awards, really?

I am not a prude by any means but we have swung way, way to far towards the othe side of the pendulum. There is a middle ground between a girl who is saving her virginity for marriage and one who is openly available to everyone. And the PR people who orchestrate these events should know better. 

Don't you have daughters too?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Liar, Liar - A Teenager's Life

And the second child has started high school. My children don't lie to me. It''s been a long haul getting to that point but I'm very proud of that. Teenagers lie to their parents - even about things they probably don't have to lie about. Lying is like food to them - it comes naturually.

Why you have to wonder is it like that? I lied to my parents about everything - not that they would have noticed or cared most of the time. They weren't paying attention. We didn't have rules. I have a vague memory of a curfew that may have been midnight but generally they weren't home until after that anyway. Or there was a house full of people who were imbibing in things that everyone in the 1970s embibed in and they didn't remember if or when I walked in anyway.

I remember reading an Anna Quindlan novel about waiting up until really late for her son to come home. And how angry she was when he stumbled in. She had a reason to watch her child like a hawk, she'd lost her husband and two others to a teenage killer who they had taken in because he was a lost child. The only reason one child lived was because he had gone skiing that holiday with friends and her because he left her for dead but she wasn't.

But I digress - I know my children lie to me sometimes. But as my older son went through high school we reached an uneasy truce. He told me where he was, not all of the details but most of them. One night at the end of senior year he wanted to go to a girl's lakehouse overnight. A father of one of his friend's called me and he had just found out where his son was the next morning. I knew where my son was - I'd given permission for him to go. May not have been the best decision I ever made but at least my kid asked and I told him the truth. Many of the others lied to their parents and got in trouble. I was proud of mine.

This decision not to lie took a long time coming. When my son lied he got caught. Not just in a minor way where the neighbor tells your parents they heard a screeching of tires and a bunch of kids go into your house.

He got a summons for drinking at someone's house when the police came and his dad had to go get him. He was doing things he should not have been in the back seat of a parked car and the police knocked on the window. He had a party in ninth grade when I went to NYC on business and another parent called me to check if I knew about it - shut down by his dad in 30 minutes. He was a lousy liar and when he lied I clamped down and he was grounded - not a little but a lot.

My daughter doesn't lie but I think she wants too. She tells me everything - so much that I don't know what I'm supposed to say to other parents. All the other kids lie to their parents. If she tells me she went to a party the night before I cannot say anything because the other parents don't know and she won't trust me. I don't know where to draw the line - I guess if there's danger - real danger that they are all in together.

But it would be so much easier if our teenagers just told us the truth - no matter how good, bad or ugly. There would be trust. There would not be fear. If they are not sure they should go to a party they could ask our opinion. We could tell them they can call us and we can pick them up if there is something going on they don't like. Doesn't that sound so much better?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When Did Prom Become First Wedding?

When I was in high school no one went to prom. It was considered uncool (yes they still use that word today) and we skipped it went out and met up with everyone afterwards. There was no safe, tightly controlled environment and we all did things and drove and I feel blessed to be alive.

But aside from that is it reality TV that has turned the prom into the wedding and the bat mitzvah into Cinderella's ball? Or is all just a pure merchandising ploy to get parents to spend money they don't have on over priced dresses with "The Label" at a time when our daughters are so heartbreakingly beautiful they would look amazing in green garbage bags.

I vote for the latter. Sick to death of reality TV trying to pretend that the people who use spoon fed lines and have just oh so many dilemmas and mini-traumas and not so mini-traumas are interesting. Keeping Up with the Kardashians? Need I say more.

Prom should be an experience - not a designer set. The asks are a big deal now and there is a sweetness to that I cannot deny. My son asked his girlfriend to prom at the scene of their first date - Pot Belly's - with the song they danced to playing - La Bamba - with the management's help. He was supposed to play the song on the guitar and sing it but dislocated his shoulder the night before.

His date's dress will likely be home made, partly because she's an artist and very talented, and partly because by selling her art she is raising the money to pay for the materials. Now that's retro don't you think?

We are eschewing the limousine for the bus and one of the parents will do the 4:00 AM pick-up after the after party.

Can I guarantee it will be a sober evening - not really. Am I hopeful - yes. Can I guarantee my son will not get behind the wheel of a car - definitely. So I can't really rant - except about the money.

And the world that makes our daughters believe that prom is the most important night in their life so far - really - at least until the wedding.

What about celebrating for who we are, what we have, how lucky we've all been and the bright future ahead. A way to say a fun goodbye to old friends on the way to making new ones. Isn't that what prom is supposed to be?