Browsing category: Parenting Column/Essay

The Kavanaugh allegations dredged up bad memories. But it’s my teen daughter I worry about.

Originally published on September 27, 2018 on Washingtonpost.com It has been 30 years. I thought I had moved on from the painful memories of what I endured in the late ’80s as a student at a small, private college. But my own experiences with sexual harassment and attempted sexual assault — both hazy and razor sharp — have been dredged up along with accusations about Supreme Court justice nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. I am okay now. It is my 17-year-old daughter I worry about. As she embarks on the college search process, I wonder how closely the environment and the male attitudes at elite universities where she is looking resemble those of the 1980s. I certainly was not prepared for them. Before enrolling in a college whose setting could be described as overtly insular and attracting predominantly children of extreme privilege, I hadn’t been exposed to the smug and elitist attitude that festered there among many of its male students. I attended an all-girls’ Catholic high school

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How We Get ADHD Wrong

Originally published in Education Week on February 13, 2018 Today, more than 10 percent of all children ages 5-17 in the United States receive a diagnosis of ADHD, despite the American Psychiatric Association’s estimation that only 5 percent actually have the disorder. The disparity is even starker for boys, 14 percent of whom end up diagnosed with ADHD. My son is one of those millions of boys who have been diagnosed with this greatly overused label. My 15-year-old son has been dubbed a “slow processer”—the kind of kid who tends to stare out the window during class as he gathers his thoughts or daydreams. His reading has hovered slightly below grade level since teachers began assessing it. His organizational habits are less than stellar: Homework assignments, school clothes, sports equipment tend to land where they fall. So, a few years ago, when my husband and I took our son to an educational psychologist (at the suggestion of his middle school’s learning specialist) for

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Are smartphones killing your relationship with your kids?

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on October 26, 2016. For parents of teenagers, it's tougher now than ever to find out what the heck they're up to. Not so long ago, I used to volunteer — selfishly, I'll admit — to play chauffeur to my now-teenage children and their friends. In the pre-smartphone era, acting as carpool taxi driver to adolescents used to allow me to act as a mole of sorts. It's a no-brainer, really. You squeeze a bunch of silly hormone-laden adolescents into a car and, before you know it, they are swapping stories, giggling over transgressions and inadvertently sharing with the unassuming adult behind the steering wheel a healthy dose of what is on their minds, information they might not willingly share with an adult otherwise. Now, the job is all drudgery with no benefits. You sit behind the wheel, the kids get in the car, possibly grunt a greeting, and immediately their eyeballs go to their smartphones, tethered to their hands like an

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The Youth Sports Machine

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on June 2, 2014 Parents of child athletes, take this quiz: Does your child receive lessons from a professional, paid coach in addition to a team coach? Do you routinely travel more than 30 minutes, one way, to your child's sporting events? Does your child's sport schedule conflict with other family commitments? If you answered yes to any of the questions above, chances are your family has also been ensnared in the sport-centric web that's now so much a part of childhood. I know mine has. It's tough to pinpoint how it happens or who is to blame. One day, your kid is a happy-­go-­lucky 5 year old playing tee ball or jumping off the edge of the pool, cannonball-­style. Fast forward a handful of years and those carefree days are likely to be replaced by marathon swim meets, baseball tournaments, year­-round practice and competition that feels very un-­childlike. And it's not just the young players who endure it. Youth sports have

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Making Work Work for Moms

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on October 28, 2015  _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ When you become a mother, you have your choice of umpteen how-to books to guide you on everything from when to change a diaper to how to say goodbye outside your firstborn's college dorm. But try to find guidance on how to blend motherhood with a career, and you're likely to come up short. The workplace certainly doesn't offer any solutions. It's no wonder, then, that Anne-Marie Slaughter's words of wisdom on the topic have been devoured by thousands. First came Ms. Slaughter's wildly popular 2012 essay in The Atlantic: Why Women Still Can't Have it All. Expanding on that essay's premise, Ms. Slaughter last month released a book, "Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family." She tackles, head on, what most working mothers are afraid to say and what non-mothers seem oblivious to:

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A Mother’s Warning: “Moderation!”

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on March 20, 2016

Moderation!" This was my mother's parting word to me as I'd breeze out the front door on a Friday or Saturday night, ready to conquer the world, or, rather, our small, suburban town. As a teenager, I never gave my mother's warning much thought. I'm not even sure I stopped to think about what it meant. I had no reason to listen to my mother, or so I thought. I considered her a relic from the Stone Ages — from her manner of dress (extremely conservative) to her understanding of modern social mores, including those surrounding consumption of alcohol by teenagers. I was quite certain she never drank alcohol as a teenager. I still believe that to be true. At the time, I thought this fact was in my favor: I assumed my mother didn't recognize the signs of a teenager who'd been drinking. As do most parents, my mother wanted to assume the best about her children. In retrospect, her seeming naivete didn't

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Bedroom Wars: are they worth waging?

Originally published in Baltimorefishbowl.com, December 29, 2014 It’s a universal, timeless battle borne between parents and their teenaged children. No, it’s not an argument over drugs, alcohol, sex, or loud music. And while it may not be as dangerous or controversial as any of these hot-button topics, it’s nonetheless the target of many heated discussions and even angry shouting matches between parents and teenagers. Still in the dark? The subject under scrutiny is the state of teenagers’ bedrooms, often perceived by parents as sloppy, cluttered, and, at times, downright disgusting. The inhabitants of those same bedrooms, however, rarely see them in the same light. In fact, they seem to have no problem lounging about on an unmade bed, sticky mugs and crumpled up empty snack bags stuck to the night stand, books dropped on the floor instead of placed on a book shelf, dirty clothes littering the floor and piles of clean clothes shoved into a corner of the room—rarely if ever

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My daughter needs the h1n1 vaccine: why can’t she get it?

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun, October 25, 2009 I'm beginning to think I'd have better luck finding a needle in a haystack. But I'm not looking for just any old needle. I want one loaded with the vaccine that I'm told will guard my asthmatic daughter from developing the swine flu, or H1N1. According to scary media reports, she's a prime candidate for complications of the virus. Based on these vivid accounts of the flu's effects on vulnerable populations, it doesn't take much for me to imagine the stubborn bug burrowing deep down into the recesses of her lungs, causing uncontrollable coughing, labored breathing, and ... well, I don't allow my mind to wander any further than that. As a mother, I have to just focus on how I can prevent these ugly scenarios from playing out. I have to get her vaccinated  quick. Trouble is, I can't seem to make it happen. I'm not sure why the H1N1 vaccine is so elusive. Those same news reports that warn of dire complications from H1N1

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The Bullying Goes On: From Hi-tech tactics to simple, animal-like behavior

Originally published in Baltimorefishbowl.com, October 16, 2014 Cyberbullying is the latest buzzword in the war against bullying. School-based lectures and wide-scale campaigns denouncing cyberbullying have beaten the message into adolescents that posting mean stuff online about someone you know can be extremely painful to the victim, resulting in despair, isolation and, in extreme cases, suicide. But the bullying goes on. Sure, many teachers and parents are doing their darndest to keep close tabs on cyber nastiness. But let’s face it: When it comes to technology prowess, most kids are light years ahead of adults, and can oftentimes delete hurtful cyber messages long before parents or other authority figures catch on. Meanwhile, as adults search (often in vain) for signs of cyberbullying, old-fashioned forms of bullying continue in full force. They might be dated, but they still hurt. Take exclusion, a subtler form of bullying that tends to fly under the radar of authority

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Wake Up, Parents: Teens need their sleep

Originally published in Baltimorefishbowl.com, October 30, 2014 Waiting for a youth baseball game to begin, I whiled away the time talking with a guy whose kid seemed to have a lot in common with my son: Same age, shared interests, similar school curriculums. Before long, the conversation turned to homework. “He’s working his butt off,” the dad said. “Up ‘til 11 most nights, oftentimes up at 5:30 and back at it again.” As in 5:30 a.m. “Huh”, I responded, stifling a wordier retort. But my mind was anything but quiet. Is this guy kidding? I wondered. And if he’s not, why is he letting his pride and joy, a kid who’s barely in middle school, regularly sacrifice a quality night’s sleep by cutting it short two to three hours? But here’s the really weird thing: I was pretty sure I detected a hint of pride in the guy’s voice, like he was bragging about his son’s intense work ethic, his drive to stay ahead—or at least afloat. I’m a stickler for a good night’s sleep, especially for

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