Browsing category: Opinion/Essay

The Tragedy of Baltimore’s Dawnta Harris

Originally published on May 3, 2019 By now, most of us have seen the mug shot of then 16-year-old city resident Dawnta Harris taken after his arrest for the felony murder of Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio along with burglary and theft. In it, Dawnta looks tough. But if you look closely, his eyes, which refuse to meet the camera, seem fatigued — far more so than any 16-year-old’s should look. His mouth is closed, as if purposely resisting expression. This image stands in stark contrast to the description of Dawnta’s face when he sat in a Baltimore courtroom this week and received a guilty verdict that could be followed by a sentence of life in prison. According to news reports, he “slumped and began crying.” When I learned of Dawnta’s reaction upon hearing his verdict, I too welled up. Perhaps it’s a natural instinct: As the mother of a 16-year-old son, I feel protective not only of him but, by extension, all teenage boys who are trying to find their way in a

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UMD Students Deserve Better

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on December 13, 2018. Like countless other parents of college-bound high school seniors living in Maryland, I started steering my daughter toward her state’s flagship university last year, when we began talking about college options. The

University of Maryland, College Park, with its strong academic reputation — it touts itself as “one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities” — and reasonable price tag, seemed like a no-brainer. But in light of recent preventable student deaths there, I’ve begun to feel that by pushing for my daughter to attend College Park I’m leading her into the path of a formidable safety hazard. It is almost impossible to live in Maryland and not have heard of the tragic death this summer of

Jordan McNair, a former College Park student and football player who collapsed during a routine practice and died two weeks later. Had the adults in charge of the players’ health at that

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

Originally published on September 27, 2018 on 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

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The voyeur vacation: How much of your friends’ fabulous trips do you really want to see?

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on August 23, 2018. It’s the middle of August and, so far this summer, I’ve seen the Dead Sea, the Tuscan countryside, a quaint village in England and some ancient-looking towns in Italy. But the most exotic place I’ve actually visited is my backyard which, I will say, is rather lush and lovely after all the rain we’ve had this season, especially when looking up at it from a prone position in my swinging hammock. As for all these fantastic aforementioned places, culled from vacation photos posted on Facebook by my social media “friends,” I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I grasp that a stunning sunset is worth sharing, as is the view from a high mountaintop resort. And when I glimpse photos on Facebook of picturesque European villages dating back thousands of years, I can almost see myself strolling through them. Similarly, I practically taste the authentic Italian cuisine pictured on the plates in these pictures, even as I wonder:

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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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Could a Food Pantry Be in Your Future?

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on May 12, 2017. As I was placing jars of spaghetti sauce on the shelf of a local food pantry one recent weekend, a man of slight build who appeared to be in his 50s peeked his head in the doorway and asked: "How well are the shelves stocked today?" I assumed he was a volunteer or employee of the food pantry, until he elaborated on his inquiry. Because you can only receive one allotment from the food pantry per month, he explained, it's best to come when the shelves are well-stocked. At that moment, I spied his empty, oversized backpack. Only then did I comprehend that he was there to get food for himself. I paused for a couple seconds, admittedly shocked that the gentleman before me — who looked and sounded like he could be my neighbor, kids' teacher, or anyone else I routinely encounter — relied on a food pantry for groceries. When I recovered, I stammered: "You're in luck. The shelves are overflowing." And indeed they were. In

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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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