Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

How Do You Talk To Your Kids About Terrorism?

I didn’t post a “What Would You Do?” post on Friday because it seemed frivolous after the attacks in Paris. Then, on Saturday morning I opened the Wall Street Journal and saw a photo of a person in a body bag on the cover of the newspaper and a more serious “What Would You Do?” question came to mind: What do you tell your kids about terrorism?

Images like the ones in the Wall Street Journal are everywhere. You can’t turn on a computer, look at a newspaper or turn on the TV without a graphic image of the recent attacks in Paris or Beirut or Nigeria cropping up. And kids are on line all of the time – being bombarded by headlines and images. The image of the person in a body bag was nothing compared to the images my 15-year-old has viewed on the Internet since the attacks.

So, what do you tell them?

My kids were pretty young when the attacks on 9/11 occurred. My older son was 5 ½ and my youngest was only 1 ½. I was watching the Today show the morning of the attacks and actually turned the TV on just minutes before the second plane hit the tower. My older son saw the attack in real time. At that moment I knew exactly what was happening but he didn’t. I thought it was best not to say anything because he was so young so I told him it was a plane crash in an effort to buy myself more time to come up with an explanation that would be age appropriate. Of course, I lost all control over the story once he went to school that afternoon. He heard different versions of the attacks depending on whose parents had told them what.

He came home thinking that Chicago had been attacked and that the planes were bombs.

I didn’t really know what to tell him that would be honest but not too frightening. I certainly didn’t want him to worry about boarding a plane or traveling into the city. I recall not saying much and hoping that because of his age he wouldn’t ask.

I have chosen, through the years, to be fairly matter-of-fact about the news, telling my boys what has happened but not giving them too much frightening detail. Usually they don’t ask too many questions, which I always viewed as a good sign. I should have realized that they were getting their information somewhere else and not discussing it with me.

A few days before the Paris attacks my 15-year-old and I were talking about a video game that he wants for the holidays. I said that it seemed pretty harsh and a little disturbing. “Not more disturbing then the real world,” he said. “This is make-believe. Shooting in movie theaters and schools is real.”

Wow. I didn’t even know that he thought about any of this.

Apparently he worries when we goes to a movie theater, not enough to stop him from going to the movies, but he said that the shooting in Aurora, Colorado is always on his mind when he walks into a theater.

I told him to always sit at the back of the theater and if anyone stands to face the audience he should duck. I thought if he had a plan it would ease his fears. I don’t think I helped.

I don’t want my boys to be afraid to go to a movie theater (or run a marathon, go to a soccer match, see a concert or fly in a plane). I have always talked about those incidents as if they are isolated events. Unfortunately, now it seems that every day brings a new threat and I clearly need to talk about it.

Just last night, my son brought up all of the flights that have been delayed or rerouted in the U.S. over the last couple of days. Of course, we are flying in a couple of weeks and, although my son didn’t say he was worried about it, I still attempted to allay any unspoken fears he may have.  “Little chance of anything happening on a flight to Missouri,” I told him.

“But we are flying out of Chicago,” he countered.

I said something about not living our lives in fear or the terrorists win. Although I do believe that sentiment, I knew it sounded dismissive; I just didn’t know what else to say.

I’m certainly not going to tell my kids to avoid crowds or events on the off chance that a terrorist is targeting that venue, but there is a part of me that wants to bubble wrap my kids and lock them up—keep them away from all danger.

As if that’s possible.

Parents in Columbine and Newtown and even in our small town outside of Chicago thought their kids were safe. All they did was send their kids to school – a place that is considered a safe haven – and the unthinkable occurred.

So, as the unthinkable continues to happen, what do you tell your kids? Do you keep them away from the news (easier when the kids are younger and you can control what they watch)? Do you change your plans? I have a few friends whose kids were planning to study in Paris next fall. At least one of the moms I talked to said she would not let her child go. What would you do? What would you tell your kids to keep them safe?

My older son wants to study abroad in Europe next fall as well. Initially he had suggested attending a program in a small town in Italy and I scoffed. “You want to be a in a big city! Go to Rome!” I told him. Now I’m not so sure. Sending him to a little town in the middle of nowhere sounds pretty appealing to me right now…


The Truth About Parenting…and Dogs

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.”


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.

Parenting Disconnect

Of all the things that I thought I would need to teach my children, using a payphone never broke the top 500.

Why would I need to teach them to use a payphone? Doesn’t the phone have instructions written on it? Who doesn’t know how to use a payphone?

But then I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how New Yorkers needed pay phones due to the spotty cell phone service and lack of power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s recent devastation. Apparently, many 20-somethings had never used a payphone before and they weren’t sure what to do.

I was appalled at first but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I have not needed to use a payphone in over 20 years so why would someone 20 years my junior need to?

And, more importantly, why would my kids need to use one?

In the time it would take my kids to find a working pay phone they could ask someone to use a cell phone unless, like the people in New York and New Jersey, there was no cell service or no electricity to charge their phones.  I know that my kids would figure it out but it made me realize that what I needed to explain was the finer points of making a collect call (because, really, who has change for a call anyway?).  I don’t think my kids have ever needed to call an operator or even know what an operator does.

To test my theory, I just asked my 12-year-old how to call the operator:

Me: “If you needed to call the phone operator what would you do?”

My Kid: “Why would I need to call the operator?”

Me:  “Humor me. What would you do?”

Kid: “I guess I would push ‘O’. But why?”

Me:  “What if you didn’t have any money but you needed to make a phone call?”

Kid: “Why would I need money to make a phone call?”

Me: “What if you didn’t have a charged cell phone?”

Kid: “I would ask someone if I could borrow theirs.”

Me: “What if you weren’t with anyone and you needed to use a payphone?”

Kid: “Where would I find a payphone? Couldn’t I just find a store that is open and ask them to use the phone? I’m a kid, they would let me.”

At least I know he’s thinking.

All of this made me wonder about all of the other things that I never thought that I would need to teach my kids. I don’t mean programming the VHS recorder or slicing a mango with just a knife,

I’m talking about skills that I never thought my kids would need given our technological advancements but maybe I should teach them anyway. Here are just a few:

  1. How to read a map. My kids think that GPS is all you need but there have been plenty of times when the very pleasant voice on my phone is telling me to turn left but doing so would land me in someone’s front yard. Besides, as we all know, cell service is not a given.
  2. How to use an encyclopedia (and do research) that is not on-line. I know this is something they should learn at school but I swear I haven’t seen my kids go to the library to do research since 2nd grade. Besides, I love encyclopedias. I used to read them for fun (seriously). Using a microfiche machine would also fall into this category.
  3. How to use a phone book. My kids probably don’t know where they are or why they would use one when they have access to computers, smart phones and tablets. But what if they are stuck at a diner/gas station/truck stop in the middle of nowhere and they need to use a payphone to call for a hotel room/ tow truck/food delivery? Yes, they can read so, yes, they could figure it out but forcing them to look up a number in the phone book might not be such a bad thing.
  4. How to use a fax machine. My 12-year-old and I were watching the movie, Air Force One, and one of the characters used a fax machine to send a message to the White House because the fax machine was on a separate line from the phones. My son asked whether anyone uses a fax machine anymore. My mother and father-in-law still have one but we don’t.  I just scan, .pdf and email. I have, however, needed to fax something so maybe the kids should know how…just in case they find themselves without the ability to scan, .pdf and email.
  5. How to start a fire without matches, a gas-powered cook top or a lighter. No power. No gas. Freezing temperatures. Enough said.
  6. How to sit at dinner without pulling out your smart phone. Ok, this one is not an actual skill (or maybe it is) but it is a necessity. I was at brunch with my kids the other day and neither one of them could sit still and have a conversation without texting or having a screen in front of them. Granted, the adults eventually pulled out their phones but I’m sure the adults could engage in conversation even if they didn’t have an app to fall back on (at least I hope we could).

What would be on your list of skills that you thought you would never have to teach your kids?


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