Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Get A Job!

I was driving my younger son and his friend to soccer practice when they both started lamenting how busy they are this summer. My son’s friend is starting driver’s education as soon as soccer ends because, as he explained with a touch of sarcasm, “I can’t have one day with nothing to do.” My son groaned in sympathy. “I know,” my son added. “I don’t have a single day off this summer.”

Insert eye roll here.

I have no sympathy for this complaining. First of all, taking driver’s ed and playing soccer were my son’s requests, not mine, (as if I want another teenage driver in my house!) and, more importantly, he was complaining about being bored two days after school was out!

It would be great if he could have one of those idyllic 70’s summers. I can picture it perfectly: he would yell up the stairs in the early morning to say goodbye to me, the screen door slapping behind him before I can react. Then he would head to his best friend’s house on his bike and they would wander the neighborhood picking up other friends while looking for something to do, eventually following the railroad tracks to find the body before Keifer Sutherland and the other greasers could find it.

Oh wait. That’s the movie, Stand By Me.

All kidding aside, I wish he could have one of the carefree summers of my youth.

But he can’t.

They no longer exist.

Unless we parents collectively decide to yank our kids out of ALL activities my son will be home—alone—playing video games and watching YouTube videos, all day, EVERY DAY while his peers continue with their extensive summer plans.

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This trend is not going anywhere especially if you factor in the get-into-college-summer-resume-building frenzy of activities that all high school teenagers seem to be involved in.

My son is a rising high school sophomore and according to the Internet (where everything is true) my son should be on a service trip in Guatemala or working on a novel or starting a company in our garage (although that would be nice…).

With nothing but soccer and driver’s education on his agenda, his college admissions resume will be light.

There go the Ivy’s.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of a new book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” and author of The New York Times article, “What’s Your Teenager Doing This Summer? In Defense of ‘Nothing” wants parents to take back summer. She encourages parents to jump off of the get-into-a-good-college bandwagon and let “summer feel like summer again.”

She believes that free time will morph into time spent “cooking, biking, building models, drawing, talking to Grandma, reading books from the library, keeping a journal, feeling bored, making money mowing lawns or washing cars, noodling around on the piano or the guitar, learning how to drive, going for a swim, daydreaming in the hammock, lying on the grass staring up at the clouds.”

Hmm…I don’t know many teens who would fill their days daydreaming in a hammock or talking to their grandparents. I know my kid wouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree that teens should not spend their summers padding their high school resumes but should they really spend their summers doing nothing?

I have a better idea: let’s tell our teens to get jobs.

Not an “internship” at a family friend’s company but a real job. Preferably an annoying job with a bad boss, mean customers and a lot of responsibility.

This works on so many levels. Not only will your teen have some activity to fill his days but, if you, or your kid, care about the whole resume-building exercise, he will develop skills he would never develop if he was on a 3-week trip to the Galapagos Island with a staff to help him navigate the experience.

Maybe, because I’ve been through the get-into-college rodeo already, I recognize that the over-priced, completely scheduled, 2-week summer service trips and the full-time internships that Lythcott-Haims mentions aren’t fooling any admissions counselors.

What stood out on my older son’s resume wasn’t his two-week trip to a tropical paradise to tag turtles (yes, we were those parents) but his summer jobs as a baseball coach and a camp counselor for nine-year-olds. Talk about developing communication and problem solving skills! And those were just the skills needed to deal with the parents.

But, and this is important, he didn’t get those jobs with an eye towards his high school resume; he took those jobs to make money and because he likes kids. The rest (the experience, the learned skills, the connections) was just a bonus.

So, when your kid asks to go to Hawaii for three weeks to help the dolphins or you feel the itch to sign your kid up for one more learn-to-code class, hand your son or daughter the Help Wanted section from the local paper instead.

Then start planning your trip to a tropical paradise with the money you will save.

What are your teens doing this summer?

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When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

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When you were little did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?

I mean really know? And, more importantly, is that what you became?

I wanted to be, among other things, an investigative reporter, a flight attendant, a ballerina, a meteorologist (not the “weather girl” on the news, but the person who actually predicted the weather – as if that’s a real job!), a lawyer, and tall.

At least I got to be a lawyer.

I can honestly say, though, that with all of my potential careers I never once contemplated the path to get there. I just thought that I would go to college – because that was what I was supposed to do – and then I would find a job – because that’s what I was supposed to do. I moved through my education believing that I would find a job somewhere, doing something, even if it wasn’t the perfect job because that’s what we were supposed to do.

Even when I started law school I never contemplated the possibility that I wouldn’t find work after graduation.

Yes, I was young and stupid and a couple of months before law school graduation—when I still didn’t have a job—I realized my naivete.

I’m so glad it took that long.

As a freshman in college I never once thought I better not switch my major from business to journalism because I’ll never get a job. If I really thought about the lack of job prospects in college and law school I would have been paralyzed.

Enter my 19-year-old.

He recently returned home from his freshman year in college with a lot of angst about his major. He didn’t like his biology classes as much as he thought he would but he didn’t want to switch majors because he thought this was a good path to get a job.

Who is this kid??

My husband and I have never told our kid that he should set his sights on a “practical” major (although my husband has suggested that he take some business classes but my son is like me and just hearing the words “Accounting 101” puts him to sleep).

Now, I know that taking some business classes can’t hurt but the Liberal Arts student in me sees as much value in a writing class or an improv class as Stats or Econ.

It’s a good thing my kid is thinking about his future but I don’t want him to stress out about finding “his thing” at 19. That’s what he said, “Science is my thing. What else will I do?”

A thing??

I didn’t realize you were suppose to have “a thing” as a freshman in college. When I started college I thought college was the time to figure out your thing, and also meet people and be inspired.

I started college as a business major because I thought it was a practical choice. I think I was two weeks into business ethics and accounting when I jumped ship and switched to Liberal Arts and Sciences. I knew what my thing wasn’t: it wasn’t being an accountant or a marketing executive. I shared my experience with my kid and tried to explain to him that it is just as important to know what you don’t like as it is to know what you do like.

Yes, I know that the current job market sucks and college is very expensive so taking random classes with no definable path is not always prudent. But I don’t want my kid to keep taking classes in a field he is not interested in on the off chance that he might get a job in a field he has no interest in. Chances are that he will end up getting a job in a different field entirely and what a waste of time and money.

But that’s just me.

When I was in college there were definitely people who knew exactly what they were going to do with their lives and they did it. My brother was always going to be a doctor and he is. But I also know an English major who wanted to write the next Great American Novel but started a hedge fund instead, a music major who went into medical sales instead of cutting a record, and an education major who started a yoga studio. They are all very successful and extremely happy with their choices. They also have great skills, interesting hobbies and maybe even a new chapter waiting for them when they grow up.

As for me, I still don’t know what, or who, I want to be when I grow up – right now it’s a toss up between Emily Blunt and Emma Stone.

I have a better chance of being tall but I’m keeping my options open.

What about you? What did your career path look like?

The Truth About Parenting…and Dogs

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My oldest child was born during the Stone Age of Parenting.

Way back in 1996, when he was born, the Diaper Genie was a new-fangled gizmo and Pottery Barn Kids was a pipe dream for those parents who didn’t want to decorate their children’s rooms in glaring primary colors. There were no YouTube videos to show me how to properly swaddle my baby or give him a bath; parenting blogs—those now ubiquitous havens of compassion and commiseration—were non-existent; and the parenting section in my local bookstore consisted of a couple of shelves of paperback books shoved in the back of the store.

How did we survive, you ask?

Well, we did have multiple copies of What To Expect the First Year sent to us by well-meaning friends who knew we needed some guidance but I also had my mother, my mother-in-law, aunts, uncles and friends who offered first hand accounts of how they had weathered the new baby storm armed with nothing more than a burp rag and a handful of Cheerios.

They rarely offered unsolicited parenting advice and when they did it focused on how not to coddle your kid, as in: “If he doesn’t want to eat what’s in front of him now, he will when he gets hungry. Stop making him a special meal!”

Sage advice.

But, as my son aged and our second child was added to the mix, the amount of available information about how to raise our children began to grow as well.

I no longer had to seek advice from someone I knew—I just had to ask Google.

Even when I didn’t actually want advice, though, I couldn’t escape it. Everywhere I looked there was always some article, study, or blog post telling me what I could be doing better or, more often, pointing out what I had already done wrong and leaving me with the impression that there was no way to fix the damage.

For instance, I remember being thrown into a tizzy by the Atlantic Monthly article entitled, “The Overprotected Kid.” Naturally, I was compelled to read the piece, what with the words “kid” and “overprotected” in the headline (“overprotected” being code for “parenting failure” two words I find unable to tear myself away from).

Somehow an article about creating a different type of playground that would allow kids to experience “independence, risk taking and discovery” turned into how I robbed my now teenaged children of the ability to take “reasonable risks,” which stunted their healthy childhood development and will ultimately result in their inability to leave home and have happy and productive lives (my take, not the author’s).

It was easier when I didn’t have a clue.

Of course, I could just stop reading lifestyle magazines and avoid parenting websites, but I seem to stumble on parenting pieces in places I would not normally have expected to find someone spewing parenting advice—the front page of The New York Times, the business section of The Wall Street Journal, even People magazine!

If I had been bombarded with all of this info before I had kids I may have written off the parenting gig and just bought another dog. (No one has accused me of being a sucky dog owner…yet).

But, alas, we can’t return to the Stone Age so we have to adapt. I could disengage from all social media, avoid the Internet and don blinders to avoid eye contact with parents who want to discuss the latest new parenting study – a suggestion proposed by Sarah Miller in her satirical New Yorker piece, “New Parenting Study Released” or…I could treat my kids like I treat my dog.

Because, although there are plenty of things I could teach my dog, I don’t view his inability to learn something as an indictment of my dog training ability. I also recognize that my dog’s inability to fetch will not have repercussions for his future. Even if he doesn’t learn to get my newspaper he will still lead a happy life…asleep at my feet, a tummy full of dog treats.

We should all be so lucky.

 

 

 

The BM* Phenomenon

Has this ever happened to you?

You hear a word or you come up with an idea and suddenly that word or idea is EVERYWHERE!**  You think it’s some kind of sign – it must be – because what are the chances that you would come across an article or see something on television that addresses the very point that you were just contemplating!

It kept happening to me this past week. Was it the universe answering all of my questions or was it just a coincidence??

You decide…

  1. Last week, over breakfast, my younger son and I were discussing the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, and I mentioned that I would have had such a dull life if I hadn’t gotten married and had children. Cut to two hours later at the health club when this line flashed across one of the TV screens:

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”

Hmm…

That was a quote from blogger, Amy Glass, an unmarried woman without children, who wrote her opinion about how married women with children are failures. Apparently the universe was telling me that I will NEVER be exceptional because I got married and had kids, but does that mean that I will also have a dull life?

2. Later that day I started writing a piece about my younger son who, I’ve decided, really needs to lighten up. As he’s “matured” he has lost his devilish spark. His teenage snarkiness and insecurities have dulled the twinkle in his eye and, EVERYTHING is embarrassing to him – if I dance around the kitchen, even if no one can see me, he is mortified. And he used to be the one to break into song and dance on the street.

I actually typed out this sentence: my younger son has lost his joie de vivre. Shortly after writing that sentence I took a break to read a couple of emails and scroll through some posts and I read this piece: “6 Qualities Kids Need to Succeed — and One They Don’t”. And, what was the number one quality? That’s right: joie de vivre!

What are the chances??

Was this another coincidence or was the universe telling me that I need to get my kid to dance in the street and sing at the top of his lungs—embarrassment be damned?!

3. A short while later I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about how, everyday, there is a new formula for raising successful children. And, I mentioned, that I was finally ready to embrace the whole Tiger Mom approach even it was so contrary to encouraging a joy of living in kids. Lo and behold, the next article I read was, “What Drives Success?” in the New York Times, co-written by…Amy Chua, aka The Tiger Mom!

Uncanny! Was this supposed to be my blueprint for success?

4.  And finally, in a moment that was clearly more Tiger Mom and less joie de vivre, I was yelling at my oldest son about his first semester final grades. Not the non-stop, berating kind of yelling, but a lecture IN A REALLY LOUD VOICE. I have no idea what got into me because a) he’s a senior and his college applications are done so there isn’t much that I can do about it and b) he doesn’t care because he is a second semester senior and his college applications are done and there isn’t much he can do about it. When I finally came up for air he turned to me and said, “You know, yelling doesn’t help. It never has.”

In a huff, I stomped off towards the kitchen and there, sitting on the counter, was a neatly folded copy of the Wall Street Journal with an illustration of a woman yelling at a child bearing a headline that screamed at me: “Damage Control: Talking to Your Child After You Yell.”

A sign?! I wasn’t sure until…

I checked my twitter account after I read the article and saw this tweet from Today Moms: “STOP YELLING! To make kids listen, Dr. Phil says, try a whisper”.

I admit I was starting to get a little paranoid. I was beginning to wonder if I was part of an experiment where I was being video-taped and someone was intentionally feeding me information via the Internet to get a reaction (yes, I do watch too much television, thank you for asking).

What do you think? Is the universe speaking to me or is it a sign that I should just stop reading?

*Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. What did you think it stood for??

**The phenomenon, in case you are interested, is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or “frequency illusion” which is the illusion that something which has recently come to your attention suddenly seems to appear with higher frequency shortly thereafter.

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