Archive for the ‘Guest Bloggers’ Category

Our Most Popular Posts: Disneyland, Bullying, Girls’ Sexy Costumes… And Some Truly Obnoxious Commercials

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

It’s always interesting to look at the stats for Parent Talk Today to see the list of the most-popular posts. (If you ever want to check out the current popular posts, just look in the right sidebar.)

As we head into 2011, here are the most-popular posts:

For 2011, what would you like to see us talk about here? This is YOUR place to discuss parenting issues, from pregnancy through college. I’d love to have your suggestions. Thanks for all your support!

Bullying Gay Students: A High School Student Weighs In

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

16-year-old Keira Jett’s comment on yesterday’s post was so thoughtful and helpful, I thought I’d post it today as a guest post (with her permission). Thanks so much, Keira!

Thank you very much for mentioning this issue. I think Ladies’ Home Journal did a very good job in addressing such a controversial topic. It shouldn’t matter what one believes or has been taught; we need to support our youth. We teenagers deal with a great amount of day-to-day stress already, along with the idea of college and the future fast approaching. Not one child needs the dark cloud of intolerance and hate hanging over his or her head.

Even if there is no actual bullying going on, the atmosphere of negativity is often present for anyone who breaks the social norm. When kids say things like “that’s so gay” or “fag,” the pressure to fit in or bust is stronger than ever. Whenever I hear someone say anything like that, I make sure the speaker knows I disapprove. I’m not rude, but I have no problem confronting people about how carelessly they have spoken. I discontinue conversation until I get a sincere apology from whomever has said something offensive.

A difference in personal opinion is one thing. Bullying is something else entirely, and it is unacceptable no matter what you believe.

Guest Post: I Was Bullied As a Kid

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Stacy Lipson is a terrific freelance journalist and a woman who’s not afraid to speak up. I’m so happy that she wanted to share this very personal post with you, and I think she sends a critical message to parents.

We need to talk with our kids about bullying. Someone’s children are doing the bullying. Someone’s children are either joining in, standing by and doing nothing or standing up for the rights of the kids who are getting bullied and saying “this is not OK.”

Please take a moment to read about what Stacy went through as a child and a young teenager. Then sit down at the dinner table tonight and talk with your kids. It’s going to take all of us together to make a dent in this very real problem — which can sometimes lead to tragedy.

Thanks, Stacy, for your post.

Growing up, I wasn’t a part of the popular crowd. I didn’t seem to fit in with the other kids. I was terrible at sports, and with big, dorky glasses that seemed to envelop my face, I was a prime target for bullies.

The abuse started in third grade. It began with a small paper airplane that had been tossed into my cubby hole. “You have germs. Stay away from me.”

Later, my classmates graduated to an even better nickname: Stacy Germs. In line for lunch, on the playground, or at class events, my classmates would huddle as far away from me as possible. I felt isolated, alone, and miserable. So I did what any child would do — I told my teacher.

My teacher held a class meeting, in which she discussed how wrong it was to tease others. Still, my classmates’ behavior was clear enough. I wasn’t a part of their group.

As the years passed, I had trouble making friends. Every time I tried to talk with the other children. I would be shunned for being an outsider. Over time, I learned to find solace through reading. My mother would take me to the bookstore and I would spend hour upon hour delighting myself with fictional characters, immersing myself in a world full of literature and knowledge. Yet I was alone, in ways more than one. And I didn’t know how to tell anyone.

By the time I hit seventh grade, I was a walking mess of insecurity. I was desperate to make friends, but had no idea how to do that. At the same time, my body began to change, and the bullying that I had gotten so used to over the years began to turn into a dulling roar — only this time, it was directed at my body.

A neighborhood bully, Arthur, started to sexually harass me on the school bus. The cruel comments he made left me a quivering, crying mess by the end of the day. Day after day, I endured the comments. My sister and brother, who rode the school bus with me, would try to stand up as my ally. Still, their words fell on deaf ears. Even with three voices raised, the other students sitting beside us never said a word. More than once, multiple voices would join in the torment.

As the abuse continued, I found myself wondering if there was something horrendously wrong with me. When I pounded my pillow at night, I wondered what I had done to make them hate me so. Was it the speech problem I had as a child, where I would accidentally slur my words? Or the way I did my hair, pulled up in a ponytail?

I wish I could say the abuse stopped. That an adult stepped in to make it better. But it didn’t stop with the sexual harassment. In gym class, other girls would offer their own version of torture. I began to get teased for the gym shorts I wore, the t-shirts I brought. Slowly, a ball of bitterness began to sit in a hard knot at the pit of my stomach. In class, I was afraid to speak, for fear that laughter would echo throughout the room. I ached to be a part of the social scene. Still, I didn’t know how to get the abuse to stop.

One night I confessed everything to my mother. With heaving sobs, I told her about all of it. She went to the principal, to the teachers, and to the bus driver, but the abuse never really stopped until I turned 16.

After reading recent news reports about the astonishing number of children who have been bullied, and after reading their tales, this is what I have to say to all of the parents out there:

You may think you understand. But you don’t. You can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it. And if you have experienced it, you know how it feels. The anxiety, fear, and sadness that seem to be a part of your daily experience. The wish that some day, not too far off, the abuse would stop. The wish to be someone else.

I don’t like to talk about what happened to me as a child. I never thought I would need to. But I think it’s important for parents to realize that bullying is an epidemic. It’s not going to go away anytime soon, and once one child starts, the rest can join in. It’s time to do something. Children need to realize the power behind their words and actions, and parents need to make sure that their children are listening. Hard.

I didn’t speak up then. I wish I had.

Stacy Lipson is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in regional and national publications. Follow her on Twitter.

Guest Post: Thanks, But My Tween Will Pass on the Hooker Heels and Makeup

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Today’s guest blogger, Jennifer Smith, is mom to a tween girl and a teen boy. She’s a proponent of university-model schools (I want to ask her to blog about that, too!), a world traveler and a freelance writer and editor. Thanks for your post, Jennifer.

Whose job is it to help my 12-year-old daughter make important wardrobe choices? Everyone is eager to help. The malls are selling grown-up mystique to 12-year-olds faster than I can say, “How about a cute t-shirt under
that?”

Magazines and television ads and shows are “helping,” suggesting our kids can be tomorrow’s big pop stars if they dress and move a certain way. And many of the other girls are pressuring those who dress less “cool” to
dress older.

One day recently, I heard a young fashionista ask another tween girl, “Where did you get that shirt?” After the reply that the girl bought the shirt at a nearby children’s store, the fashionista rasped back saucily, “Oh, I thought so.” Sounds harmless enough to a parent, but for a fragile tween, that’s enough to make her want to burn everything in her closet!

Maybe a better question than whose job it is to help my daughter (i.e., market tween fashion to her) is, “Who is going to help my daughter make wise decisions about the way she dresses?” My answer? Her mom. No one else is going to help her navigate these decisions as honestly and carefully as I will. Not her friends, not the other tweens out there wearing full
makeup, hooker heels and skirts cut up to “there,” and certainly not the media.

No one else is going to be honest with her about the pitfalls of dressing too old too soon. With all the messaging encouraging girls to grow up fast, I want my daughter to have time and freedom to enjoy being a girl, playing sports and acting goofy with her friends.

That doesn’t mean she has to dress frumpy; I just don’t want her to dress “sexy,” for crying out loud! There’s plenty of time to grow up, but once those child years are lost, they can
never be regained.

Let’s be parents and take back our right to say “no” to anything that steals the innocence of our girls, including their wardrobe choices. Our “no” to growing up too fast and dressing too maturely is just a “yes” to so many other good things our kids need to be doing right now.

Guest Post: Letter To My Daughter (In The Wake of a Senseless Tragedy)

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I’m so honored to be able to share with you a guest post from Vicky Bell, who blogs over on Vicky Bell’s Blog. This post really touched me, and I will be sharing it with my teenage son. You might want to share it with your kids, too.

Hello my girl,

I  wanted to say hi and tell you how much I miss you and that I hope your classes are going well and that you are having fun, too. But I also have to have a mommy moment —  bear with me here.  I won’t take long, and I won’t be saying anything I haven’t already said in one form or another, but it is important.

You may or may not have heard about the N.J. college student who killed himself last week because his roommate had posted videotape of him having sex with another guy. A terrible, senseless tragedy.

My mommy job requires that I remind you of two essential things:

One: Nothing ruins your life forever. NOTHING.
Two: Nothing ruins your life forever. NOTHING.

If that young man had only waited a couple of weeks, nobody would have cared. He’d have gotten past it.  People have short memories. Life would have gotten better, much better. His parents and friends? They loved him prior to the tape, They would have loved him afterward, too.  A few awkward moments and then life goes on.

But when you are young, you don’t know that even the awkward moments are fleeting. On this,  you just have to trust the old people. Remember when you were really small and cried and cried over something?  Well,  it didn’t last. That’s kind of what it’s like. Awful things happen, you feel like there’s a rock in the pit of your stomach, somehow time goes by and it gets better. I promise you, it ALWAYS gets better.

The students, a girl and boy who were involved in the taping and posting, are being charged with invasion- of-privacy crimes and possibly other things. Their college life is over.  They will have to live with this death the rest of their lives — and their families are devastated. What they did was so wrong, but also so kid-stupid.  Not to mention mean. And so their lives will be different forever. But even so, their families will love them and they will have time enough to hopefully live in such a way as to make meaning from their mistake.

So, my beautiful girl,  never, ever think something is un-fixable. NOTHING you do will ever keep us from loving you. NOTHING you do could be so awful you can’t get past it.

And if someone is mean to you, and it isn’t something you can ignore, seek out people to talk to about it.  Surround yourself with people who are supportive. If you ever need help and don’t know how to ask, try writing a letter instead. And right now, before you might need such help, think about whom you would talk to if needed. In the midst of turmoil, sometimes we don’t always think as clearly. Having a plan makes it easier to find help in crisis. And remember there are always alternatives. Always.

Finally, don’t be mean. Don’t let other people be mean. Stand up for the underdog, protect those who aren’t as smart or confident or easygoing as yourself. Treat people’s feelings like fragile little puppies. If you play with them, be gentle.

I love you so much and I know you really don’t need me to tell you this stuff… But it’s my job.

Love and hugs,
Mommy

— Vicky Bell is 50 years old, married to Jim, proud mom of three grown kids, with a newly emptied nest and the sense that life is a grand adventure. She is also the owner of the Red Lion Paint Store on rt. 206n, Branchville, NJ, home of the 2010 “Art is Local” Project.

The Kissing Hand

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Today I’m delighted to welcome Rania Combs as a guest blogger on Parent Talk Today. The Kissing Hand warmed my heart when my son started kindergarten. I’m so glad to see that it is still helping parents and little ones make that transition as a new school year begins. (And thanks to Rania’s son for being our back-to-school model!)

My 5 year old looked forward to this day for months. For as long as he could remember, he watched his older brother and sister go to “big school.” It was finally his turn to go.

But for me, this day was bittersweet. Although my older children seemed grown-up at 5, my youngest still looks like a baby to me. A part of me wants to hold on tight, turn back time, and keep him small. I know I can’t. I’m grateful for the opportunity to watch him grow.

My son clutched my hand as we walked into the classroom and he sat in the chair that was assigned to him. Parents were asked to stick around for a while so they could fill out paperwork. Then the teacher invited everyone to sit on the carpet while she read a story, The Kissing Hand, out loud.

If you have children, you’ve probably read about Chester Raccoon before. On his first day of school, Chester stands at the edge of the forest and cries. He doesn’t want to go to school, and begs his mother to let him stay home so that he can play with his friends and toys and read his books.

To help ease the transition for Chester, his mom tells him the secret of the Kissing Hand. Spreading his left hand open, she kisses the middle of his palm and tells him that when he misses her, he should press his hand to his cheek and think “Mommy loves you, Mommy loves you” and the thought would fill him with warmth. Before Chester leaves for school, he gives his mom a Kissing Hand too.

All the children sat quietly and listened while the teacher read the story. In the silence I could hear a few parents sniffling. When the teacher turned the last page, she asked the parents and children to exchange Kissing Hands. Then one by one, the children walked away from their parents, exploring the new surroundings.

As I walked out the classroom, I saw my son smiling and talking with a new friend. I don’t think he used his Kissing Hand once today. I, on the other hand, pressed my hand to my cheek before I even left the school building.

— Rania Combs is a mom and an attorney with a Web-based law firm that helps Texas families prepare wills, trusts and estate plans online, without the usual overhead. For more information, visit her website.


Guest Post: Growth Lines Keep a Family’s Memory From Fading

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I’m so happy to share with you a guest post from Gian Trotta, a home-improvement writer who lives in Newtown, CT with his wife and six-year-old daughter. He moved to Connecticut three years ago after completing a gut-level (and gut-wrenching) renovation of a 164-year-old Brooklyn, NY townhouse

When people leave a house, their presence can linger in myriad ways.

In the case of our Connecticut home, a steadily ascending tier of dated lines on the side of one door in our home charts the growth of the previous owners’ two daughters until they were 8 and 10 years old. Dated multicolored pencil, ink and magic-marker lines marked with “A” (for Annie) and “K” (for Katie) showed the girls’ steady ascension over the years.

At times the lines were widely spaced, showing the girls going through growth spurts. At other times, the lines and markings themselves are squiggly and haphazard, as if the measurements were hurried as the young ladies had places to go.

We didn’t push the previous owner to paint over or clean off the lines before we moved in, as we both had more pressing details than the door to attend to in order to make closing. An inspection had showed that the property was in violation of some village codes. Since Michael, the father, was being relocated to Vermont for work, he wanted to sell the house as much as we wanted to buy it. So he and I spent an afternoon drilling anchor posts into the rocky Connecticut soil and running cables over the outbuildings to bring the home up to wind-resistance requirements.

As we worked together, he filled me in with many details about the house, and I half-jokingly told him that we would never paint over the growth lines and he could come back anytime with the girls and resume the measurements.

Repainting the door stayed near the bottom of my punch list as more pressing projects took precedence. After a while, we realized the lines had just kind of … well, grown on us and we did want to remove such a vibrant vestige of the earlier inhabitants’ vitality.

In time, we might just work out a deal to replace the door with a new one and give them the old one to take back to their new home in Vermont. But just the other day, my daughter asked if we could start charting her growth on the door, so I emailed Michael to ask permission if we could add Thea’s height lines to the door. He gracefully granted the request, along with a promise to bring the girls by for a visit the next time they were in Connecticut.

— Gian Trotta is an Associate Editor at Consumer Reports’ Home and Garden section. You can read his blog postings on other home-related issues here.

Another View: One Mom’s Emotional Education

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Guest blogger Darryle Pollack started her blog,”I Never Signed Up for This,” in honor of all the times she has said those words — as a mother, artist, breast-cancer survivor, writer, chocoholic, TV journalist, Yale graduate, procrastinator, and wife (because her husband always says he comes last on her list).

I don’t do back-to school shopping  any more — but I still sense the educational expectations and emotions that arise every September.   The start of a school year summons up strong feelings.  The first day photo op. Proud parents, sweet smiles, sharp pencils.  (Do they still USE pencils?)

For most parents, the feelings are positive: Pride.  Hope.  Freedom.  Sometimes the feelings are not as positive:  If you just sent your kid off to school or college for the first time and you’re worried.  If your kid has a teacher  you don’t like – or is in a school you don’t like – or is put into the wrong reading group.

I feel your pain.  I wish I could spare you the emotional wear and tear and just say it will all work out in the end — because probably it will.

I also wish I could go back and spare my former self some of the drama.

It started from the moment my first child was born when my dad started discussing where she’d someday go to college.  I didn’t buy into this ridiculousness.    (But I was thinking Yale.)

Alli’s education started at 6 weeks. (I would have started sooner but I had a very rough delivery).  I started her in a mommy and me class nearby — to check out the school’s potential as a learning institution.  That was the first of many schools she attended — we’re talking double digit numbers. And that was before kindergarten — when the real nightmare started (a.k.a.  private-school applications).

At the time we lived in Los Angeles. Problem one is that we weren’t in a position to donate a building. Problem two is that there were way too many kids and way too many schools and way too many choices for someone like me — who felt I had to do it absolutely right.  I was so intense and so invested in this process, I felt as if my entire life — and hers — depended on her getting into the “right” school.

Only she didn’t.  She didn’t get into a single school we applied to.  I could hear the gate to Yale slam shut.

I won’t even get into how a parent feels when your kid is rejected from anything, much less at such a tender age.  Alli was 5, happily oblivious that her future success was swirling down the drain.   The grownup was the one who cried.

At the one school I desperately wanted her to attend,  Alli was on the waiting list — along with several other kids we knew.  This was a tiny school — with space for 11 girls in kindergarten. Several siblings were automatically admitted, so god knows how many desperate parents wanted those remaining few spaces.  I hate to make light of something serious — but it was a little like waiting for someone to get hurt so you could get their donated organs.

I grasped onto that one sliver of hope,  pulled myself together and went into the school. I demanded requested to speak to the director to convince her that in the event one of the lucky little girls holding the brass ring decided to let go,  the very first child to come off the waiting list should be mine.

Sitting in the director’s office pleading my case, I did something I would not recommend to parents in the same situation. Maybe I shouldn’t even mention it — this is not one of my prouder moments.

I cried.

Yeah. I said I wasn’t proud of it.

I spent the next couple months checking out every public and private school within the Los Angeles county limits. And then  over the summer we got a call and Alli did end up at that very school where fortunately the administration had the vision not to punish a child because of the lunacy of a parent.

Years later, the same experience was repeated — different school, different city, different ending. (That time I didn’t use the water works.) I have to admit it hurt a little less in the second go-around.   Time — and cancer — helped put things in perspective.

For the schools it was always a numbers game. For me it was always emotional.  It took a lot of years and lot of tears until I finally shut down the drama department. I’m over the angst. Both my kids’ educations are ongoing — and I’ve been educated, too.  I’ve learned to go with the flow and not to get all emotional about it.

Even though Alli never did go to Yale.

I wish life came with a lesson plan.  I wish 5 year olds never had to be rejected from anything. I wish all kids could get the education their parents hope they will get. But even when they don’t, there is something to be learned — if not in school, then from the experience. Mostly to enjoy those precious moments in September and every moment possible the rest of the year. And keep tissues handy.

A Smart Mom’s Guide to Kids and Chores

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Today I’m happy to introduce guest blogger Cindy Ward. Cindy is the mother of three boys, ages 6, 4 and 2 — so we know she could use all the help with chores she can get! I thought her suggestion regarding giving her kids new “responsibilities” with each birthday was so smart. Thanks, Cindy, for sharing this!

We give our kids a new chore (although, we call them “responsibilities”) on their birthday. The logic goes that as you get older you’re capable of doing more things and should be able to help out more around the house. They’re pretty eager to prove to us that they can do these bigger things, and we get the chance to prepare them for real life.

So far, I’ve tried to come up with things they can do for themselves. This way each kid has the same expectations for the same age (always trying to keep things fair…). Here’s what we’ve done so far:

3 years: Put your dirty clothes in the hamper. (I safety pinned ribbon pieces to the hamper sides so they know how to sort properly.)

4 years: Carry your dishes over from the table after every meal.

5 years: Brush your teeth, comb your hair and get dressed independently. (Even though they could do these things earlier, it became their job so I don’t need to nag before school. Kindergarten seemed like a good time to start these good habits.)

6 years: Make your own bed in the morning.

Our family also has a special “boy of the day.” This kid gets privileges and additional responsibilities. He gets to have his story read first, gets to pick the fruit for lunch, etc. – but is also responsible for feeding the dogs, setting the table, running upstairs when I forgot the baby’s diaper, etc. (If I gave one kid the job of feeding the dogs – something they love to do, or the job of getting his teeth brushed first – something they fight us on, I’d never hear the end of it.)

This lets them take turns with the “fun” and “not-so-fun” jobs, and has ended lots of squabbling around our house. It also keeps me from relying on my oldest when I need help. (He’s the fastest, needs the least direction and it’s easy to go to him for an extra hand. But he was starting to resent being asked all the time, and the other two didn’t have the same serving heart.) It lets everyone help out mom and get the praise.

P.S. Kathy here again. Just wanted to let you know that Cindy is also the creator of Milkshake Nursing Covers.Check ‘em out! These adorable cover-ups are perfect for nursing when you’re out and about, and they’re affordable and come in lots of cute patterns.

Guest Post: A 16-Year-Old’s Take on “All Sexed Up For 8th Grade Graduation?”

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

I’m so happy to be able to share a terrific guest post today. Keira, who is 16, is the sibling of one of the 8th graders who was promoted at our local middle school on Tuesday night. This is in response to yesterday’s post on that event. (Let’s just say it prompted an interesting discussion!) I think she has a great perspective — and a heck of a lot of maturity. (I also think if every high school student in our town was as articulate as Keira, our English teachers would we thrilled.) Take it away, Keira…

As a 16-year-old girl who was there at promotion, I must agree with you. It’s disgusting. My year was even worse. I don’t understand how the parents of these girls let them walk out of the house looking like that.

I would never let my own daughter display herself in such an inappropriate fashion, nor would I ever feel okay dressing myself that way. Ever. It doesn’t matter if you’re thin and cute and want to show off, or if you’re not-so-thin and still feel like you need to show it all or fit in or whatever. It’s simply not okay.

The women in my life have shown me how to be modest and that one attracts people with how they dress. Obviously, we should not judge people by how they look. I’m not advocating that at all. I’m just saying that the girls who dress like they want a certain kind of attention will get it.

And for a 14-year-old  girl fresh out of junior high, that’s never good.