The ‘Sick Kid’ Dance Every Parent Recognizes

We’re in the bathroom because it’s the only room with a door, and we’re whispering. “Well, she did say her stomach hurt last night. What if she has to spend the whole day on the couch, no TV?” The other parent nods. “Right, OK, that sounds good.”

It’s a dance parents around the world know all too well. The kid says they’re sick, but how sick are they, really?

Sick enough to miss a day of school? Or just sick and tired of having to get up early and hoping for a day off worksheets? [Read more…]

This Fear Is Parenting

Little-girl-runningI still remember every time the seatbelt tightened across my chest on that ride home from the hospital. On a good day, it takes less than half an hour to get from there to our house.

The day we drove our newborn home, it took closer to an hour. Each time the wind blew, it seemed, my husband stomped on the brakes. The belt tightened across me. My one hand clenched the car seat next to me, the other hovered just above her body in its Winnie the Pooh sleeper, feeling her breathe. [Read more…]

Stop Using Your Kids to Deny LGBT People Their Rights

Gay-Hands“What do I tell my kids?” It’s something I’ve heard over and over from the opposition to equal rights for folks who are LGBT.

Every time this disenfranchised community gains an inch in the mile-long road to equality, the sturm and drang rings out from frazzled straight parents, sure this will set their lives on end.

What do I tell my kids about the two men holding hands? What do I tell my kids about that person entering the bathroom with a little sign on the door that matches their gender identity? What do I tell my kids about the two ladies who are getting married?

Well folks, what do you tell your kids about straight folks, about cisgender folks?

Do you go into a discussion of anatomy or intercourse when you see a man and a woman holding hands? When you see someone who you assume is cisgender walking into a bathroom? When you get a wedding invitation for a straight couple? [Read more…]

These are the Children in a Small Town

spuddies“Do you know everyone?” the girl asks. I shrug. “Close enough,” is the answer, as I turn to the next child on line to buy candy from the AYSO soccer concession stand.

“What would you like?” I ask, tacking on that child’s name too.

Names matter.

Remember how special it felt as a kid when an adult knew you by yours? You puffed up with pride, feeling like a grown up or a celebrity (nearly the same thing when you’re too young to drive). You felt, if just for a moment, like you mattered. [Read more…]

How to Spot a Fake News Article

newsWell, it’s finally happened. America is being forced to face up to the fact that the Internet is rife with fake news designed to incite our anger and divide us. After years of being blasted on social media with a never-ending slew of misleading memes, downright fraudulent articles and Photoshopped images, we’re now seeing article after article that decries the fake news factory that’s left America unsure who to trust.

A column I wrote for this newspaper in the summer of 2012 warned people who say they don’t need newspapers because they have Facebook were in for a rude awakening. I wish I could take a bit of delight in being proven right, but there’s little to be found in an America as divided as the one we’re living in right now. It’s harder still to be dancing a jig when you find yourself arguing with people you care about because they’ve shared blatantly false information, and become an unwitting victim in yet another internet scam.

Fake news has divided a country, and it’s dividing friendships and families.

I don’t know how to fix them. But as someone who’s worked in traditional media for 18 years, digital media for eight, I do know how to avoid becoming another member of the scam factory: [Read more…]

Stop Donating Food You Hate to Poor People

groceries‘Tis the season when those who have the means (and frankly, the heart) donate to food drives. Granted, we should be keeping families, especially kids, who go hungry in mind all year long.

There are 13.1 million children under 18 in the United States who live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life (per Feeding America). They need our help all year long, but we are an imperfect society. We tend to wait until there’s a holiday staring us straight in the face to remember that those of us who are lucky enough to have dinner on the table every night should be sharing the wealth.

So here we are. The holidays are upon us, and there are boxes set up in the banks, the post offices and right at the grocery store with huge signs marked “food drive.” What better time than the present to do something for someone else? [Read more…]

Teaching Kids to Look for the Helpers Isn’t Enough

Fred Rogers with the Neighborhood Seen on his show. ONE TIME USE

Fred Rogers with the Neighborhood seen on his show.

There’s an old Mr. Rogers quote that’s often brought out in tough times. If you want to get technical, the quote belongs to the mother of the TV personality best known for his cardigans and puppets, as Rogers related her telling him as a child to “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

I’ve quoted Rogers and paraphrased him often over the years. As parents, we’re tasked all too often with having to talk our children through trauma, and his advice is both comforting and actionable. They don’t have to sit there alone and afraid. They can do something and turn to someone. [Read more…]

No, I Didn’t Unfriend You Over Politics

hammerThere’s nothing like politics to divide a country, and this political season has been nothing if not divisive. It’s no wonder Facebook’s “unfriend” function has been getting a bit of a workout in recent months.

There are even widgets you can use online to find out if your friends have “liked” a candidate, so if you’re the type who disposes of people based on their preferred president, you can get it over with quickly.

I’m not one of those people.

I unfriend, sure. But it’s not because of who got your vote on November 8.

If push has come to shove, and I’ve decided it’s finally time to give you the heave ho, politics has nothing to do with it.

It’s the way you talk to people and about them.

It’s because you used cruel words or shared sexist and racist memes … or both.

It’s because, when someone mentions you might be wrong and presented you with solid facts (links to scientific or historical evidence), you responded not with facts of your own but nasty words and innuendo.

I can take facts. I don’t need to take attacks, not on Facebook, not in a space where I’m engaging with people for the sake of a little community.

I don’t unfriend people on Facebook because they disagree with me. If I did, life would be boring indeed (and frankly, I’d be very, very lonely).

We need people who think differently from us to challenge us and make us better. Sometimes they will present us with new knowledge that will broaden our horizons and make us think differently. Sometimes we’ll just agree to disagree. Hopefully even the latter makes us think.

Still, this election season has driven me to take extreme actions, not because of politics, but because of what they’ve brought out in people.

The people who have no qualms with sharing discriminatory photos and riling up hate. The people who use racial epithets and homo- and transphobic language.

People who do these sorts of things will tell you they say things other people are afraid to say, that they say “what they think.” (Sound familiar).
That’s a right largely protected by our first amendment. But while we are all guaranteed a right to free speech, nowhere in our Constitution does it say that you have the right to be a jerk and not be called to the mat for it.

So go ahead. Be rude and incite hate on Facebook. Don’t be surprised if your “friends” opt out.

But let’s be clear: It has nothing to do with politics.

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A Letter to the Mother of My Child’s Bully

sad-girlShe doesn’t cry about it. That’s not her way. She gets angry though; a slight deviation from the righteous indignation of tweenhood. She doesn’t like being called names or being lied about.

Would you? I don’t think you would.

I wonder though: Do you call your children names? Is that why they are so mean to other kids? Or are you the other sort of mother, the one who can see no fault in her kids, the one who is slowly building an ego so large it will one day explode? [Read more…]

They’re Going to Need This When We’re Gone

crazy-kids“One day you’re going to want to remember this moment,” we tell them. The looks on their faces make one thing clear: both the 7-year-old and the 11-year-old think we’re crazy. The 2-year-old just wants to drink his yogurt drink in peace.

We are undaunted. We will get this photo if it kills us (and quite possibly them).

“Please,” we beg. “Just sit there. Just for a minute. No, not even a minute. Just pretend you like each other for a second.”

Their butts hit the seat, and I hit the shutter at rapid speed. [Read more…]