Category Archives: Being a Better Parent

Craving “Constants”

As the oldest child approaches senior year of high school and the youngest breezes through junior high not far behind, a mom can get pretty sentimental, y’ know? It used to be that even when the older child went through big changes, I still felt connected to the “younger child years”, because my kids are four years apart in age.  For example, when Allison became “too mature” to enjoy going to the neighborhood pool every day in the summer, I’d still get to sit at that pool on summer mornings, with other moms of young kids, as Emmie took yearly swim lessons.  When Allison and her friends were old enough to go to the mall by themselves, I’d still accompany Emmie on shopping trips.  I had one foot in kid-land and one foot in teen-land.  But this summer I am acutely aware that I have both feet pretty well planted in teen-land now, and it’s kinda sad. They don’t need me as much.  My oldest had an internship at a local theatre from 10-5:30 every day and used public transportation to get there, and is now in New York City for two weeks taking part in a pre-college program for high school students (yes, I did want to bawl my eyes out after helping set up her dorm room, telling her good-bye, and walking away on the streets of NYC alone, but I also was so excited for her, I held it together).  My youngest has been spending a lot of time away from home by babysitting and being on a swim team, and spending her own money at the mall…without mom in tow.  She recently spent a week in Joplin, Missouri, helping her church youth group repair tornado damage.   Whenever either girl is home and has free time, she usually wants to make plans with friends. 

Some may think I should be doing cartwheels of happiness over their growing independence, and I’ll admit there have definitely been days when I do (well, mental cartwheels at least…I’m a lousy gymnast) but at the same time, summer has called up powerful memories of time spent together, and of me coming up with all sorts of camps and activities for them to do, and there’s an underlying sadness that we’ve passed through a certain point of no return (underscore that with the fact that as this summer began for me, so did hot flashes…)

So with all this change happening, I find myself noticing and taking comfort in “constants”—any place or thing or event or ritual that has been around since the kids were born.  Things that have remained pretty much unchanged over the past 13-17 years.  Which have been hard to find, when I put my mind to it.  We don’t live in the same house…most of the girls’ old clothes and toys and games have been given away (with some exceptions—see my last post)…their first pets have gone to pet heaven… birthdays aren’t celebrated with parties as much anymore (“Mom, I’d rather have the cash instead”) and Christmas and Easter celebrations seem to change every year.  Our annual trips to Grandma’s house in Iowa end this summer, as she’s moving to a retirement community not far from our house here in Texas…heck, even Spongebob has “left the building”, replaced by Tivo’ed episodes of “Dance Moms”. Yes, my husband and I have raised our kids in only one community, but a lot has changed within it as well.  So much of what was a part of our family’s early years has either gone out of business or moved away: Paint ‘n Party; Discovery Zone; favorite restaurants; the shaved ice stand; the neighborhood grocery store, where Allison once fell out of a shopping cart (on Andy’s watch, I might add) and where we knew all the checkers’ names… the neighborhood parks are still there, but the play equipment has been updated with newer, safer, plastic versions, or not replaced at all (no more merry-go-rounds, “jungle gyms”, or rocket ship slides)… I used to find comfort in the fact that the city rec center where Emmie still takes a gymnastic class is the same rec center I took the girls to the splash playground and to “Mommy and Me” classes when they were preschoolers…but the wrecking crews recently set up shop in the parking lot and the facility will soon will be torn down, moved and re-built. 

Geez, isn’t there anything that’s remained the same? I did manage to come up with a few stand-outs, listed here in no particular order:

  1. Luby’s Cafeteria.  Still in the same location, still serving up LuAnn platters. And there are those rolling high-chairs lined up in the corner, just like I remember…
  2. Broadway shows and music.  So glad I introduced Allison to this at around age 2 or 3 in an attempt to expose her to music that both parent and child could enjoy together.  Rock was too adult for toddler ears, Barney was too toddler for adult ears, but selections from “Cats”, “Oliver” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” were the perfect fit.  When little sis came along, she couldn’t help liking them, too.  We still all enjoy going to shows together and listening to the music, and both girls have been in community and/or high school versions of Broadway shows as well. I am so thankful that both high school and community theatre is still thriving in North Texas.
  3. The city library…still there, along with the same librarian and her turtle puppet that still entertains children at “Lapsit” storytime…and there’s still a wonderful  Santa’s Village that’s set up outside the library every holiday season.
  4. Our minivan, still running at almost 214,000 miles.  Purchased before Emmie was born.  And no doubt somewhere in a forgotten crack in that van lurks cookie crumbs from a long ago Happy Meal…
  5. Our church–  though new additions have been built and some staff has changed, many  “constants” remain, like the fall pumpkin patch, Vacation Bible School for kids, Sunday morning pancake breakfasts, and lots of people who have watched the girls grow up.
  6. The 4th of July—Every year we celebrate the 4th of July in the same way: driving to watch a morning parade in the Lakewood neighborhood of Dallas, in the front yard of longtime family friends, and afterwards heading to the park where the parade ends, to endulge in a free snow cone, bottle of water, or cup of beer, depending on preference (and age!) and watch a guy dressed like Uncle Sam hand out awards for the best parade entries.  After that, it’s back to our friends’ home for brisket and a potluck of sides and desserts, alongside many of their other friends and family members.  All their lives, every Independence Day, our kids have sat on the same curb and caught candy thrown from the floats (with the exception of the two times when they were a part of the parade), gathered in the same dining room for lunch, and posed in the same yard for photos.   The same yard where Andy and I sat when we were dating, the same yard where Andy’s late grandmother chuckled as she wore a white straw hat with balloons on top, the same yard where baby Allison and I once wore matching bandana-print dresses.

Yes, amidst all the changes, I’m so glad that some things stay the same.  I don’t know what the experts would say about the value of raising your kids in one to
wn, or keeping the same die-hard car, but plenty has been written and discussed about the importance of traditions, and how if you don’t have any, you should start some.  Traditions “enhance children’s emotional well-being by helping to create feelings of security, continuity and identity,” writes Leah Davies, M.Ed., former Child Development instructor at Auburn University, at her website  I couldn’t agree more. But I would expand that to say that traditions are important to everyone’s well-being…especially menopausal moms of teens.

Outsmarted and Outfoxed: When Kids Call Your Bluff

Dana Macario at the mom blog “18 Years to Life” recently wrote an account of how, to teach her kids to pick up their toys, she and her husband gathered up all the toys strewn about, stuffed them into large trash bags, put them in a closet and told their kids that for each night they picked up the rest of their toys, they could earn back one of the “hostage” toys. Logic would dictate that the kids would want their toys back badly, and it would take so long to earn them back, that once earned back, the kids would think twice in the future about leaving them lying everywhere. Logic would say this was a great way to teach kids a lesson in being neat without having to nag, “Pick up your toys!!”  Only Dana’s kids chose not to earn their toys back. They’d keep leaving out toys, and got them taken away. When one night they did pick up their toys, her husband offered them the choice of a chocolate or a toy, and they both chose the chocolate! So now Dana is left with several bags of unused toys, a less cluttered home (bonus!!), kids who have shown they don’t need a lot of “stuff” to be happy (double bonus!), and an impending garage sale.  Definitely not the outcome she expected, but an interesting one nonetheless.

Dana’s story reminded of me of when Allison was around 10 or 11, Andy and I decided to try something similar in an attempt to get her to keep her room picked up. Too many clothes were lying all over the floor, so we bagged everything up that was on the floor and put it in the attic, and told her that as she kept her room picked up, she would earn back the clothes, one piece at a time.  Surely a clothes fanatic like her would care a lot about getting them back, since all that was left behind were a just a few items. But darned if she didn’t keep throwing those clothes on the floor, and wore the same pair of jeans for about a MONTH, no doubt to show that by golly, no one was going to “make” her do anything.  Seriously! I remember the jeans well, because they had a peacock embroidered on one leg…

I’m a longtime fan of the Love and Logic series of parenting books and CDs, and “logical” parenting in general, but any parent who tries to teach logical lessons needs to realize, if a successful outcome depends on a kid acting in a certain way, the lesson can backfire. But when it’s just the parent involved in a consequence, it works.  For example,  if a child disrespects a parent while a parent is driving them somewhere, the parent can do numerous logical things that are great consequences but that don’t depend on any predictable actions from the child–  the parent can pull over to the side of the road and wait a few minutes or longer until the child calms down;  the parent can turn the car around and drive home, telling the child he/she will not be going to that activity; the parent can say they are not providing transportation to the next scheduled activity, etc.   Nothing is required of the child in return– the parent is simply saying, through their actions, “If I’m not treated with respect while I’m doing such and such for you, then I’m just not going to do such and such.  I’m taking care of myself, I’m not allowing myself to be treated badly.”  Does the success of that “technique” depend on the kid not ever disrespecting the parent again? No.  You hope the child will learn from that incident to be respectful in the future, but if not, you just repeat your actions the next time the disrespect is shown, and are a success every time because you are showing your child that you are taking care of yourself.  And, you are teaching that actions have consequences. 

When kids’ actions are an “expected” part of the outcome, beware. One of Love and Logic’s well-worn “success” stories/teaching tools is how one of the book’s authors used to fight with his kids about bedtime, but everything worked out just peachy keen once he started telling them they could stay up as late as they wanted. The first night of their new-found freedom, they stayed up real late, and were so tired the next day at school, it was a beautiful lesson learned.  No more fighting over bedtime, and the very next night and every night from then on, the kids got to bed at earlier bedtimes, on their own, because they didn’t like the way they felt when they were tired the next day.  Well, la-dee-freakin’-da.  I seriously wonder if that really happened.  Both of my kids, who have very different personalities from each other, often stay up late on school nights, and are very tired the next day, but only once in awhile do they ever put two and two together, that if they got more sleep, they’d feel better the next day.  I quit fighting with them about bedtime long ago, but the “logical” outcome is only a sweet dream…

Kids, God bless their creative, independent souls, are unpredictable, which a lot of parenting authors probably don’t want us to believe.  Many kids will and do outsmart the “pat answers”, the books and TV therapists who think they know it all, and even outsmart us when we think we’ve come up with something original.  That doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying to teach our kids lessons, but when we do we need to have our eyes wide open, being honest with ourselves about our children and thinking about what to do “what if” a child’s actions don’t go as we’ve planned.  Are we really prepared to deal with Plan B?  If not, does our original plan need to change?

My friend Bob once tried to teach a logical lesson to his eldest son.  The son was scheduled to have a much-anticipated out of town sleepover with his younger brothers at Grandma’s but found out, just before he was to leave, that some friends were playing football in the park that evening, and had invited him to play. He badly wanted to go, as he didn’t often get invited to these gatherings and told his Dad that he didn’t want to go to Grandma’s.  His Dad was very disappointed in this but rather than saying flat out no, he told him, “Okay, if that’s what you want, then the entire sleepover has to be cancelled, because you need to be there to help out with your brothers, but you are going to be the one to break the news to Grandma, who is really looking forward to this, and you have to tell your brothers, who are also looking forward to this.”  Bob figured it would cause him to think twice about the consequences of his selfish intentions, and choose to go to Grandma’s.  He thought he knew his son pretty well. But, his son chose football, much to his Grandma’s, his brothers’ and his dad’s disappointment, not to mention his mom’s, who was looking forward to a kid-free weekend!

Some child development experts would say that Dana, Bob and I should be glad our kids “don’t fit the mold”, that they are unpredictable, independent thinkers who think outside the box.  These kinds of kids will be “the leaders of tomorrow” I once read, the entrepreneurs, the ones not afraid to do things differently. 

If that’s really the case, then I guess I’m gonna have two very successful kids in the future, because actions keep defying logic around here on a daily basis…

The Feng Shui of Family Photos

“The realtor has told me to put away any personal photographs,” said Mom the other day.  “Is that right?” I just knew she was going to ask me that.  She’s been asking me a lot of things lately since she just put her house on the market this week– something she’s never had to do before.  At least, not by herself.  But Dad’s been gone for almost nine of the 50+ years she’s been in that house, and the kids all live far away, so it’s been a nerve-wracking and scary process for her.  She phones often.  While I’m no expert, I (and Andy) did sell a house less than six years ago (and shopped for a new one) and last fall, we helped his parents navigate a little bit of their move to “senior living”…

I’m sure my realtor friends would disagree, but I answered her question with a resounding, “NO.”

“Don’t take down any photographs unless you really want to,” I said.  “I think it’s wrong that they always tell people to do that.”  I mean, have a heart, realtors. Home sellers are often already going through an emotional upheaval in giving up such a big part of their life—why make it worse by asking them to put away small, cherished mementos? While realtors may have some kind of data or “realty science” that tells them they need to make a house as generic as possible in order to sell it, I challenge that science.  Because whenever I’m in a house, whether it’s visiting friends or relatives, passing through on a charity “Tour of Homes”, or looking at one to buy, I think the personal photographs that may be on the walls and shelves are just as interesting, if not more, than any granite countertop, walk-in closet, or “hand-scraped hardwood floor”.  And whenever friends or family are visiting our house, I’ve noticed they are drawn to the few photographs we have on display.    

My theory for years has been that personal photographs give a house a certain “spirit”, a certain air of happiness and positive attitude.  They make a house a “home”.  And after doing a little research, I discovered I’m not alone with those thoughts.

Feng Shui practitioner Ken Lauher says on his website that photographs, especially when people are shown happy and smiling, “are a great way to increase the positive chi in your living space and bring your environment into alignment with your true self and your goals.”  Beliefnet Editor Laurie Sue Brockway is quoted in a blog post at beliefnet saying that “images of loved ones and real people add a touch of warmth to a home” and recommends using certain types of photos to enhance certain spaces, such as photos of children to bring good energy to your “creative area”, photos of loved ones and ancestors to help “heal and connect us to the power of our lineage” in the family area, and placing “couple photos”, like a wedding photo, in your bedroom.

Some Native American tribes and several other cultures have believed, ever since the camera was invented, that “photography steals the soul” and because of this belief, they refuse to be photographed.  Well, I don’t think it exactly steals the soul, but good photography can certainly share it.

I just know that I smile and I feel good when I see, within a frame or tacked to a corkboard, images of people acting silly while on vacation, or happily holding children and grandchildren, or posing for a family reunion portrait…I even like to see the sweet progression of those awkward smiling posed school photos.  Surely a family’s photos help a realtor sell a house, creating an atmosphere that stays with the buyer and softly whispers in their ear, “Nice people lived in this house.  Nice people raised a family in this house.  Nice people had good times in this house and took care of this house.  And doesn’t this house seem even nicer because of that?”

True, decorating magazines will tell you that too many personal photographs in a home can look tacky or cluttered, like when they’re piled on a piano or fireplace mantel.  But the more houses I visit where they break that “rule”, the more I disagree with that one, too.  For example, one of my siblings has a gorgeously decorated, uncluttered home, worthy of any Elle Decor or Southern Living cover, yet what’s one of its focal points? The refrigerator, which is covered in small clear plastic “fridge frames” with beautiful photos of family and friends.  Fun to look at, and a great “conversation piece”.  One cannot help but smile when looking it over, and I’m so glad it’s kept “fresh” with new photos.  Definitely adds to the “positive energy” of the house!

I realized recently that I’ve gotten way too lax in my own home when it comes to photos.  No, I’m not talking about scrapbooking again—I’m still several years behind with that.  I’m talking about doing something, anything, with new photos once I create them.  Back in the 35mm film days, I took every roll of finished film to the drugstore to get developed, and an hour or a couple days later, everyone in the immediate family would see each one.  We’d send some to relatives, put some in frames, put some in a photo album…  But for the last decade that I’ve had a digital camera, with a memory card that can store hundreds of images, “if I have the time” I unload the photos to my computer, and then “if I have the time” (and enough ink, and photo paper), I print some with my own printer.  Meanwhile the photos keep piling up in the camera and on the computer, and no one gets to see them.  And a whole lot of picture frames sit empty, inside a cabinet.

Before I catch up in my scrapbooks, I’ve decided to make an effort to get more photos “out and up”.  No, I’m not going to cover my fridge with them (Andy would have a cow) and I just cleared piles of sheet music off the piano so I don’t really want to cover up all that newly clean space with photo frames. But our upstairs walls have pretty much been bare since we moved here, so… I’ve been having fun (and some huge laughs) going through my stored photos, deciding what to print, dusting off my unused digital photo frame (who knew it could be so cool?) and buying mats for those lonely old frames in the cabinet.  It’s time to fill up those walls.

My belief is that as the kids, Andy, and I pass the photos on our way to our rooms each night, we will glance at them and feel good, maybe even smile, maybe even have sweeter dreams.  And when we head out in the morning, we’ll see them and smile again, and maybe start our days a little happier because of it.  And when friends and family see them, they’ll smile, too.

“Spending Quality Time With A Teen” is Not an Oxymoron– When You’re Volunteering Together

When my kids were much younger, I was asked by a friend if I’d like to join The Junior League in our suburban town.  I was flattered she would consider me, but after looking at the membership requirements (i.e. time commitment)  I almost laughed in her face.  Going crazy trying to squeeze in freelance writing work and keep my house managed with two kids under the age of six, I couldn’t imagine also having the pressure of performing  a certain amount of required service hours and getting kicked out if I didn’t.  How did my friend do it with two young children herself? (Um, on second thought, I think having a nanny and housekeeper probably helped her a lot…)

Fast forward about eight years, and another friend is asking if Allison and I might want to join her chapter of National Charities League Inc., a nationwide organization that involves mothers and daughters (in grades 7-12) working side-by-side doing philanthropic work in the community and also being involved in cultural and social activities together as well.  I had balked when we’d been asked a year earlier—there was that phrase “required hours” again, in the membership information, and our schedule seemed busier than ever before.  But this time when we were asked, Allison really wanted to do it, and so I said yes. Not just for the social activities that I knew she wanted to be a part of, but also because she and I had seen organizations on the NCL list of philanthropies for which she had already been interested in volunteering, such as Special Olympics, and so I thought it would be a great way for her to do this, and a learning opportunity.   Oh, I knew I’d learn something, too, and help those in need—I’ve been a volunteer in every community I’ve ever lived in, since I was a teen.  But I had no idea it would provide me with some rare opportunities to spend “sass-free” time with my daughter, really fun quality time, without the usual parent/child tug-of-war.  And now that I’ve got two teen daughters in the organization, I see the benefits of volunteering alongside them even more.

See, doing volunteer work with your child helps each of you see each other in a different light, in different ways.   For example, I knew Emmie had a heart for animals, but to hug and hold a shaking dog who’d just arrived at the animal shelter and talk to him sweetly for an hour until he quit shaking—who knew? And I knew that Allison was interested in helping the disabled, but to actually have a knack for it, to work with all ages and be able to interpret what someone with severe speech impediments was saying when no one else could—who knew?

And, when you volunteer together, while you and your kids are waiting to high-five a Special Olympics runner when he crosses the finish line or while you’re organizing craft supplies to help kids make hats at a local arts festival, you talk. While you’re driving around delivering Meals on Wheels to senior citizens, you talk some more.   And after you’ve stuffed  school supply bags for children from abusive homes or sorted books at a hospital “children’s library”, you go to lunch at that new burger joint you’ve always wanted to try.  Or get some frozen yogurt.   And you talk some more.  And when you get back home and things get back to the routine of “mom’s uncool and unreasonable”, you know that all hope is not lost.

I highly encourage parents to set up regular community volunteer work with their children, either through an organization like NCL (for moms and sons, the equivalent is Young Men’s Service League), or Scouts, or church, or simply on your own or with a group of friends.  Several organizations have volunteering opportunities for kids under 13 and the opportunities expand as kids get older.  And if possible, find an organization that holds you accountable for contributing a certain amount of your time.  Huh? Me endorsing “required hours” for busy parents? Yep, especially when you’re working with teens.   I mean, think about it (and a lot of parents would probably agree): If a parent sets up a volunteer opportunity on their own, it might be pretty tough to get their teen to actually wake up on a Saturday to go and work at a shelter, charity 5k, etc.— especially if it’s with a PARENT.  It could turn into a nag-fest.  And if the teen was asked to set up the volunteer opportunity on their own to have more “skin in the game”, many would not take the first step.  But there is something very motivating about having to check in online and report hours to an Hours Committee, who, in our group, are usually moms we know.  And it’s motivating to commit to a volunteer job by signing up online through our chapter’s web calendar, a calendar that all members can view. For some volunteer work within our chapter, several moms and daughters are needed at one time, and for those jobs, we know that others are expecting us to be there and help out.  They’re helping to hold my teens and me accountable. 

But, not everyone lives in a community with groups like this.  If you do set up something on your own and need a motivator for your child, possibly tying service work to allowance might be good (must do chores and an hour of volunteer work with you every two weeks to receive full allowance?), or certain “extra” privileges at home could be granted for community service work—staying up later on weekends, extra hour of computer time, etc. (but never punishments for not being charitable—you want them to be excited about helping others). Of course, in time, the hope is that the good feeling they will get from helping others (not to mention the fun spent with Mom or Dad) will be inspiration enough to turn them into lifelong volunteers.

As they approach college, there is one more motivator: getting to list community service on college and scholarship applications.  Many older teens scramble to find ways to volunteer and “beef up that resume”.  But parents shouldn’t get lost in the rush– take advantage of this new-found motivation and spend some quality time with a kid who’s leaving home soon.  Try to work side by side with them as they put in these hours.  Don’t look at volunteer work, as I’ve seen some parents approach it, as a way to keep kids busy and “out of the way” so you can concentrate on doing other things.   Yes, I know as well as anybody that being around a teen for any length of time can be an emotional drain and a downer, but if you never volunteer alongside that teen, you’re missing the chance to have an “up” experience with them.  Yes, there have been times when I’ve still had to nag, and yes, there have been times when my oldest has wanted to quit after doing this for almost four years, but she stays with it, probably because she remembers that every experience we’ve had volunteering together has been positive, even when we’ve driven 15 miles in the rain to find that an event was canceled. 

Because when that happened, we still got to talk during the long drive. And since we’d already set aside three hours in our schedules that day, we still ended up spending the time together—at the mall.

A Scary Lesson in Door-to-Door Sales

NO SOLICITORS. Those are two words my Girl Scout troop doesn’t like to see when they go door-to-door selling cookies, but I’m finally going to print them out on my label maker and post them by my own doorbell today, and hope that in the future, the football players, Scouts, Campfire Girls and other well-meaning kids will simply email me, as some already do, when they want to sell me something.  Because there’s just been too many not-so-well meaning door-to-door salespeople in our area lately, and I’ve had enough.

You’d think I’d have had enough long ago, since I’ve hung up on probably thousands of telemarketers (or fought with them– remember the Gay Marriage telemarketer?) and I’ve had every nut in the candy dish knock on my door since I’ve been a work-at-home mom for almost 15 years.  One memorable snaggle-toothed saleswoman slurped her bottle of miracle cleaning product in front of me after she demonstrated it on my front door handle, to prove to me that the product was non-toxic; another salesperson told me that I, pregnant with Emmie, was abusing my unborn child if I didn’t buy his water purifying system.  And even though I think I’m a savvy consumer and can easily say no after all this practice, several times my heartstrings have been tugged and I’ve been “suckered” into buying something I don’t really need, especially when it’s an older teen or twentysomething who says they are in the area raising funds for college, “and just need to close two more sales to get that scholarship”.  But really, it’s time to say “no more”, for our family’s safety as well as to teach our kids the right thing to do in the future when they are on their own.

I should have had the “No Solicitors” sign out a couple months ago, after two muscular guys came to our door saying they were raising funds for a select LaCrosse team.  These were not teens or college students, these guys looked like they were in their late 20s or early 30s. They didn’t have anything that made them look official, I don’t even think they had a clipboard.  (Of course I never open a door to a stranger– I talk to them through the glass/screen door or even a window, and my kids have seen that and we’ve talked about that.)  I said I couldn’t donate anything at this time and wished them well.  But I was definitely suspicious.  Things didn’t add up. Why would older guys need to go door to door for a sports team? If they’re working adults playing a sport on the side, what would they need to raise funds for, anyway? I concluded they were casing the neighborhood, trying to find out who was home and who wasn’t, so they could go around back and break in, and I let Karl, our neighborhood crime watch captain (and the police) know about them, and Karl alerted our neighbors.

This past Saturday afternoon, the dogs started barking as a large, tall, 20-something young man began walking up our front walk.  Andy was out back doing yardwork and as I watched the young man approach, I asked Emmie to please go lock the front door, as she was closer to it.  I failed to tell her “screen door” and as he got to the doorstep, she proceeded to look at him and shut the main door in his face. Not wanting her to be THAT rude, I was apologetic when I went to see what he wanted, talking to him through the glass.  Not a good way to start.  Fifteen minutes later, I had purchased a $40 magazine subscription.  His soft-spoken spiel about growing up in a tough New Jersey neighborhood and how he had only been in Texas a couple days and was part of an organization trying to help kids stay on the right track– well, it got to me. I wanted to help him.  He said he got extra points because I chose to donate the magazine subscription to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.  When we were finished with the transaction, he asked if he could buy a bottle of water from me, that he was thirsty, and (with the door still locked of course and him on the front porch) I brought him one, but didn’t charge him anything for it.  Emmie stood next to me and witnessed the whole thing.  As he walked away, I had a feeling, that even if I’d helped him out in some small way, that most of that money was probably going to a not-so-great organization, and that the Boys and Girls Clubs of America would never see those magazines… 

The next day, with receipt in hand, I checked out the organization’s website and Googled to find its other websites and mentions as well.  All of the websites were poorly put together and half-finished, but from what I could tell, it’s an “entertainment” company based in Detroit, that brings in kids from tough neighborhoods with the promise they are going to give them an opportunity in the rap music and film/TV industries, build their self esteem, and give them a chance to turn their lives around.  It says nothing about how these kids will be brought to other cities to sell magazines…when I clicked on one of the workable links to see the company’s “music videos”, there was one finished video, called something like (I’m not kidding) “Ax Murderer”, featuring two black rappers and showing a fat guy in a welder’s suit and mask tying up young white women and acting like he was attacking them with an ax, and also attacking a young white couple sitting in a car.  Gulp.

I don’t know how he knew, but…last night, Andy asked me if I’d bought a magazine subscription from a door-to-door salesman over the weekend. “Yes,” I admitted, and before I could tell him about my folly, he showed me breaking news online from a local TV station– a resident of a nice neighborhood about 8 miles away from us had been stabbed in the face when he refused to buy magazines from a door-to-door salesman “who said he was with an organization”, and around the same time, a door-to-door saleswoman named Tontanisha was arrested for threatening a homeowner in the same neighborhood when they also refused to buy magazines.   I made sure to tell Emmie, and Allison, and I’m alerting Captain Karl, once again.  

Like Andy says, door-to-door sales wouldn’t exist if people would just quit buying in that way, just like panhandling for booze money will stop if people quit enabling.  But because there’s always a soft heart and a fool around every corner, it all continues… apparently at a frenzied pace now that spring has sprung and north Texas is in the midst of a narrow window of decent weather…

Just this morning, I heard the young, married, bright, mother-of-two manager of a local coffee shop excitedly tell a customer about the vacuum cleaner she had just bought from a door-to-door salesperson.  “My husband didn’t want to listen to the presentation, but I talked him into it,” she said.  “When the salesman vacuumed our mattress and we saw all the dust and crud that came off of it, my husband and I were amazed, and so we bought one,” she said.  The customer’s jaw dropped as she told him the price.  “We had to take out a loan in order to afford it,” the manager continued, “but at least it will last a lifetime.”

Potty (Mouth) Training Revisited

I watched with interest all the hoopla last week about the little girl on the ABC-TV show “Modern Family”, who was depicted as cursing on last week’s episode (or is it “cussing”?).  See, “using swear words” had already been a “hot topic” around our house this month.  In the wake of the episode, which was entitled “Little Bo Bleep”, I found lots of online psycho-babble by professors and other experts chiming in about how swearing is, among other things, a natural part of early language development, cathartic, and helps people tolerate pain.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think most people already know that.  And we also know something else the experts were saying, that, just like in the Modern Family episode, little kids use swear words without really knowing what they mean, and get a kick out of adults’ reactions when they use them, and so they’ll say them again.  “Modern Family” was just art imitating real life.  (Does that mean the Parents Television Council, the group who first caused a stink about the show, is not made up of real parents? Sometimes I wonder…) But what I really wanted to know amidst last week’s jaw flapping was how real parents deal with swearing by children and teens.  

When we first heard four-letter-words spoken in the teen years by our oldest, our stance was to ignore them, just like we’d ignore insults, to lessen their “power”, hopefully communicating the message that “if you’re trying to get a reaction out of us, it’s not gonna happen”, which would hopefuly lessen their occurance.  Some “experts”, like the parenting coach at The Huffington Post, would agree.  Well, this stance worked okay— there wasn’t a lot of cussing… but it was still happening.   (I think, whether they get a reaction out of adults or not, teens feel “grown up” when they cuss, especially in front of adults, and that’s a reward in itself!) One day Emmie came to Andy and I and said, “I don’t want to live in a house where there’s cussing, it’s not fair that Allison doesn’t get in trouble, and you know I’d get in trouble if I did the same thing!!” And we said, “You’re right,” because she was.  (Besides, I suddenly pictured two kids swearing in my house instead of one, and it wasn’t pretty.)  And so we changed our stance. A few weeks ago, we told the girls we weren’t allowing cussing in the house anymore, and that if they decided they couldn’t communicate nicely with words, then we’d take away their other main form of communication– their phone.  “F that!!!” said Allison. Au revoir, said her phone.

“But they’re just words! What’s the big deal?” she said.  We explained that every place, every group of people has their own rules, and that in this house, we’ve decided we don’t want to hear cussing anymore. “I don’t think your school wants to hear it in the classroom,” I said, “and I don’t think your church youth group allows it, either!”  More cussing followed, but I think she’s finally gotten the message, now that her phone has been gone over two weeks.

Are we being ridiculous? Is this a battle most other parents choose not to fight?  I checked on, a great gathering site for moms of all ages and stages, to see if there was any current buzz about swearing.  There were a lot of posts and comment threads about the topic– one in particular among “Moms of Teens” had about 40 different parent replies, and it looked like the majority of those parents don’t allow swearing, especially when it’s directed at someone. 

While I don’t believe we need to tell kids that all swearing is wrong, we can teach them that not everyone wants to hear it, even some of their own peers, and that unless you know someone’s boundaries on the subject, it’s best to keep your four-letter favorites private.  (I’ve known of people who have lost jobs because they thought that swearing during a business meeting would make them appear “tough”!)  Kids might also be encouraged to come up with different words or phrases that can help them “let it all out” without crossing the line.  (I’m sure my kids get sick of hearing me say, “Oy vey!”)  I’ll never forget the time, while I was growing up, when a neighborhood friend told me that she’d come up with a way to “cuss without cussing”.  “You just pronounce the words differently!” she announced proudly.  “So now I can say ‘FEWK’ when I’m mad and I won’t get in trouble!!”

Whatever works, I thought…but somehow, it just didn’t seem very cathartic…

Helping Kids Study for Tests: Just Do What You’re Told and No One Gets Hurt

I did something last night I’ve never done before– I helped two teenagers study for semester final exams, at the same time.  See, this is the first time for Emmie to have an exam week like this, and we discovered yesterday that today, she and her sister both have finals in similar subjects– for Emmie, Texas History, and for Allison, U.S. History. So last night, I asked them if they needed anyone to quiz them on definitions or dates or anything. “We can sit in a circle and I can fire off questions to each of you, and when it’s not your turn, you can figure out if you know the answer, too, or just listen.” Surprisingly, they were enthusiastic about this, and so we sat in the living room, dogs and all. To my left, I’d fire off questions about early Texas Indian culture to Emmie (“Were the Tiguas sedentary or nomadic? How did they get food?”) and to the right, questions about everything from the American Revolution up to the 1940s to Allison (“What is isolationism? How did Duke Ellington affect American culture?”).  I felt like Alex Trebek. But only because I was the moderator.  Not because I knew all the answers like Alex (did you know he speaks six languages?). When Allison didn’t know the answers (she hadn’t printed all of them on the test review sheet), I wasn’t much help. Not only did I not remember “for sure” the outcome of the Scopes Monkey Trial, I couldn’t remember a.) if Susan B Anthony only worked for the right of women to vote, or was a champion of other women’s rights; b.) what was contained in the Pure Food and Drug Act and c.) what caused the Spanish-American war.  It was close to 10 p.m., and she was getting frustrated with me, and with having “tech issues” in trying to look up some of the answers online, on her phone.  “Geez, Mom, weren’t you taught any of this????” Um, I only remember having a really boring U.S. history teacher in 9th grade and that’s about it, I told her. We had to memorize a ton of facts and couldn’t wait to empty it out of our stressed heads when the semester was over.  And anything that was left, well, it’s been 35 years…

“Why do they have us learn all this if we’re just going to forget it!!?!” said Allison. Good point, I said. 

Meanwhile, Emmie was knee-deep in hunters and gatherers.  “Mom, it’s my turn!!”

Okay, okay.  “What was the name of the Indians who lived in the Coastal Plains and how did they adapt to their environment?” I asked, squinting at the review sheet. After a few more, I commented that it was sad that the Apaches, Comanches, Tonkawas and Kiowas had to make their living partly by raiding camps. Emmie looked like she was going to blow a gasket (in addition to being tired, she also had a headache).  “Mom, they’re Indians!!” she exclaimed.  “What do you expect?! Just keep asking the questions on the review sheet!!!” Of course I had to point out to her that she was stereotyping, and that she’d previously described other Indian tribes who got along just fine without being criminals, and that not all Indians were scalpers and bandits.  I think she understood my point and we moved on…

Even though helping my kids study for tests usually subjects me to ridicule and disdain, I still partake in it once in awhile because I always re-learn something I’ve forgotten or learn something I didn’t know (The pilgrims were sick, dying and depressed when they first sighted our shores? Lindbergh once lived on an island? Who knew…and of course, learning Texas history is always a new adventure for us northerners…). 

But probably the best part about helping kids study for tests, in addition to spending some quality time together and providing them with feedback, is that when you ask a lot of questions (whether you really don’t know something or not ) and your kids are suddenly in the position of teaching someone instead of someone else always teaching them, it’s one of the best ways that they can solidify facts in their brain.  Well, that is, when they get the facts straight.

“YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT BIG STICK DIPLOMACY IS?” marveled Allison at one point last night after one of my questions.  She eloquently went on to explain to me how Teddy Roosevelt carried a big stick and would shake it or bang it when dealing with ambassadors from other countries, to make the point that America was tough, as opposed to President Taft, who just wanted to throw money at other countries to keep the peace– a.k.a. “Dollar Diplomacy”.   

You don’t say?! Interesting! Well said!

I went to sleep feeling good that I had helped my kids learn by getting them to help me learn, to engage in a conversation with me about history rather than just having them regurgitate facts.   But today I looked up info about Teddy Roosevelt, and, um, he never actually carried a big stick.  It was part of his favorite phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” and it was a metaphor about his get-tough foreign policies…but he didn’t actually carry one…or bang one…

Guess I better stick to letting PBS and good books help me re-learn history from now on…and an occasional episode of Jeopardy…

Too Many Wimps, Not Enough Warriors

Sometimes it takes awhile to get inspired to write a post and sometimes a topic just keeps bugging me until I do something about it. One that has been knocking on my door a lot lately is the topic of doing the right thing when you view an injustice or crime or something just plain wrong, especially when it involves a child. Do you stop it from happening? Do you call police? If it involves bad parenting, do you say something to the parent? If you catch the child doing wrong out of sight of the parent, do you let the parent know later? What do we teach our children about “doing the right thing” and how do we act ourselves?

Of course, the highly publicized Penn State/Jerry Sandusky case brings up some of those questions. After assistant football coach Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky allegedly committing child sexual abuse, he responded in what I would call a wimpy (not to mention, I think in some states, criminal) way– he waited a day, then told a supervisor about it and then did nothing further, kind of like, “Well, this could really hurt the football program and I really didn’t want to tell on my friend Jerry but I told someone, so thank goodness it’s not my problem anymore.”

Headlines next told of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, who’s been accused of abusing young ball boys in the 80s.  Audio recordings have surfaced that reveal his wife, Laurie, knew about the abuse, some of which allegedly took place in her home, and did nothing to stop it.  Evidently she told one of the victims that she probably would have done something to stop it if he’d been a girl.  Wow, I bet that brought him comfort.

Then this morning on the radio, I heard a news report about a four-year-old local boy who wandered away from his private school and got on a city bus, rode around awhile, then got off at a random spot.  No one, not even the bus driver, asked him why he was alone or where his parents were, except for one rider who exited the bus at the same time, asked him a few questions, and called police, keeping him from crossing a dangerous, busy street.  While his school is apologizing for its lack of supervision, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is defending its bus driver, saying, “There are no age restrictions” on who can ride a bus alone.  Are you kidding me? Does that mean a two-year-old or even a baby can just crawl up the bus stairs and take a joyride anytime he/she wants without the driver doing anything about it? A horrible response from the transit system, as well as a horrible lack of concern by the passengers and bus driver, but I guess that’s just the norm these days, huh?

What ever happened to “It Takes A Village to Raise a Child”? Shouldn’t we all do the right thing and care about not just our own children, but about all children?

Well, many of us have stories of “doing the right thing” when it just doesn’t work out quite like we’d expected.  Friends have told me about getting yelled at by parents they didn’t know when they’ve told them their child was hitting another at a playground. I once had a mom not believe me when I phoned to tell her that her 4th grade daughter had somehow gotten around our online parental controls and we’d caught her looking at pornographic websites on our home computer (“My child hardly knows how to work a computer,” she said, “and if she did this, it’s the school’s fault because it must have been learned on their computers!!”) and she was still not quite believing it when the child admitted to the principal that she learned about the websites from a boy, her next-door neighbor (“Well,” the parent told me later, “my daughter said that your daughter begged her to go to those sites.”).  

I will never forget reading, several years ago, about a local pharmacist who was taking part in a health fair at a local hospital.  His displays kept getting touched and jostled by a disabled and hyperactive child who was at the fair with her mom.  He’d told the child to stop and then said something to the mom about watching her child.  The mom went home and told her husband, who came to the fair, confronted the pharmacist, and proceeded to beat him up, kicking him viciously in the stomach, the head, everywhere,  while a crowd watched and did nothing to stop the attack. The pharmacist later died of complications from his injuries.

Should he have just kept quiet and said nothing to the child’s mother? And what about that crowd of onlookers (who no doubt would have been happily capturing the incident on their cell phones had cell phones been around at the time)? I’d like to think I’d have bravely stepped forward to scream at the kicker, risk life and limb to pull him off the victim. But would I?

While I’ve never been in a situation like that, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve wimped out and taken the “path of least discomfort”. I once waited several months, until the schoolyear was almost over and other parents had started coming forward, to report the behavior of a jr. high teacher who was routinely walking out of class and leaving the classroom unattended for long periods of time, telling the students to just ask each other if they had questions about their work, both during regular classtime and tutoring sessions.  The principal and counselor told me they wished I hadn’t waited so long.  But… she was an award-winning teacher…  and the kids said they felt sorry for her because they’d seen her cry a lot and they thought she was having personal problems…  and I kept hoping things would get better. I “just didn’t want to cause trouble”…

North Dallas writer and mom Ruth Ann Janson wrote in a Dallas Morning News column recently that
when parents don’t step forward to confront other adults about how they’re treating children or how their children are behaving, that it’s similar to bowing to peer pressure, and similar to not standing up for someone who’s being bullied– two things we tell our children NOT to do.  “When parents choose not to lead by example in these areas, they are sending their child a clear message, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’,” she writes.  She talks about the many times we’ve probably seen a child in a car and not wearing a seatbelt, yet to avoid conflict, nothing is said to the driver, even though not having a child in a seatbelt is illegal, not to mention dangerous.  I could definitely see me not saying anything in that same situation, whether I knew the driver or not, thinking, “That’s their child, that’s their business.” 

Yet, is it? Isn’t this non-confrontational, “circle the wagons and take care of only my own” attitude that pervades our society how we eventually get tragedies like that at Penn State? 

If there’s one good thing that can come out of all these crazy headlines, it’s that maybe they will cause us all to take stock of our values and become more of a culture of courage.  Do we show it enough in ourselves? Do we keep persevering even when our courage isn’t rewarded? And do we foster and reward it in others, especially our children? Out of all the qualities the Oz travelers requested from the Wizard, courage may just be the most important. 

The Unbearable Lateness of Being: Breaking the Tardy Habit

I’ll never forget it.  I was in first grade, and it was the last day of school.  My teacher, Mrs. Cook, was wrapping things up for the day and passing out things for us to take home, like art projects, old papers, etc. “I’m going to pass out the attendance cards for you to take home to your parents,” she announced.  “Some of you have no tardies, and some of you have a few.  SOMEbody in here has been late in arriving to class TWENTY-ONE times! Can you believe it?” We all dropped our jaws.  We couldn’t imagine who that was.  After the white, 3 x 5 cards were distributed, I looked at mine.  In the blank next to the word “Tardies” was a penciled “21”.  The 21-timer was ME.  I was mortified, and even more mortified was my mom, since she drove me to school, sometimes in her nightgown and robe, rushing to get me there (and I lived less than a mile away).  “I had no idea you were late that many times,” Mom said.  “I never heard the bell ring.”  And the teacher had never said anything to me or my parents about it, but had been quietly writing it all down, all year.  So much for helping a kid learn and improve!

Over 40 years later, I’m still late to things probably about 60% of the time, even when I think I’ve carefully planned ahead.  My teen’s rate of being late is even higher, that is, whenever there are not harsh consequences like those imposed at her school.  At home, we’ve had to leave her behind at times when we can’t wait any longer (if you’re a longtime blog reader, you may remember the time she had to bike the 2.5 miles to church after the rest of us had left…). Emmie is much better about being on time, although as I type this she is serving day 3 of a 4-day “lunch detention” for being late to her science class four times.  “Mom,” she says, “I literally walk through the door right as the bell rings and my teacher still counts me tardy!”

Is being habitually late something in our genes, or skills that weren’t taught and passed on through generations? An article at says that some experts believe we can be hard-wired for lateness, something embedded deep in our brains.  I have a feeling that at one point in his life, my dad may have battled lateness because by the time he had me, he was uber-on-time everywhere he went.  For example, if an airline told him to be at the airport two hours before check-in, he’d be there with three hours to spare.  I’ve often thought that planning to the extreme like that might be the only solution for folks like me—just plan to get places way ahead of time, and take a book along.  Only when folks like me try that, stuff always seems to get in the way…

Dad always used to tell me when I was growing up, “You’re going to be late to your own wedding!!”, so when that day finally arrived, I was determined to prove him wrong.  I got to the church with one of my bridesmaids at least three hours before everyone else, so I felt pretty good about that—until Andy pointed out that I was still delayed a few minutes in getting dressed and being ready when he knocked on the Brides’ Room door to take me to the photo shoot (we took pictures a couple hours before the ceremony)…

Is there anything a chronically late person can do? Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out, says on that first you need to figure out what kind of late person you are.  She says there’s a difference between people who are late by varying amounts of time, and those that always run, say, 10 minutes late.  The former is a “technical” reason that might be able to be cleared up with more realistic time expectations; the latter has underlying psychological reasons.  “If you are literally always 10 minutes late,” says Morgenstern, “it’s psychological. You’re arriving exactly when you want. The question is ‘why?'”  The article goes on to say that it could be leftover rebelliousness from your youth, or the inability to get moving unless there is an adrenaline rush to push you. (Hmmm…not sure exactly which camp I fall into there…)  Diana DeLonzor, a former late person and author of Never Be Late Again, says in the article that there’s another type of latecomer, kind of a composite of those mentioned by Morgenstern: “the producer”, who gets an ego boost from getting as much done in as little time as possible. “Many late people tend to be both optimistic and unrealistic,” she said, “and this affects their perception of time. They really believe they can go for a run, pick up their clothes at the dry cleaners, buy groceries and drop off the kids at school in an hour. They remember that single shining day 10 years ago when they really did all those things in 60 minutes flat, and forget all the other times that everything took much, much longer.” (Yep, and probably forget that the street lights don’t usually all turn green like they did on that day…I think I’m a “producer”!)

The WebMD article says that the majority of people who are late fear boredom, and can’t stand the thought of being somewhere early with nothing to do (yeah, that’s me, too, when I don’t have a book or a pen and paper or a working cell phone…)

Both Morgenstern and DeLonzor offer some helpful suggestions, like keeping a written log for a few days of the actual time it takes to do everyday tasks, so you can better estimate time in the future.  Or always having something absorbing and meaningful to do while you wait.  Or making yourself walk out of the door at the time you plan to do so, and not get distracted by answering the phone or doing other last-minute things.  I would offer another hint to go along with that–  to find your keys and gather everything you need to take with you an hour before you need to leave, and put it in the car (the girls and I never plan for this “last minute gathering of stuff” and even if we’re dressed on time, it can really delay things as we rush to grab everything, not to mention we end up forgetting stuff).

The folks at offer some good suggestions specifically for kids who are chronically late, such as making them pay for lateness (5 minutes off of their computer or video game time for every 5 minutes that they’re late somewhere) or allowing them to suffer the natural consequences of being late, like being benched from playing in a game or getting a tardy slip.
One strategy that has worked around here, the few times I’ve used it, is simply giving a false time about when we’re supposed to arrive somewhere, for example, telling Allison something starts at 5:30 even though it starts at 6. That’s worked wonderfully, although I’m not sure it’s teaching the right coping skills since technically she’s still running late when we get there right on time!

But I really do want to equip my girls to be successful adults, and if I want them to be adults who get places on time, then first and foremost, I have to be that kind of adult.  They need to see me making an effort to change if I’m going to expect them to do the same.  And right now, having dramatically altered my eating and exercise habits for almost five months, dropped two sizes and lost 13 pounds, I’m feeling pretty capable of change! 

So how do I propose to be a more punctual person? Through writing.  I plan to get places 15 minutes ahead of time, and later, write about what happens in a journal.  Both the good stuff, and the crazy stuff that might get in the way.  Mostly for my own use, but because I know that others struggle with this same issue, I’ll post an update on the blog at some point.  And if that doesn’t help me be on time, then I’ll increase the time frame to 30 minutes.  Will I be bored out of my mind as I wait? Doubt it.  Something just tells me that it’s going to be very interesting.  I may read 10 more books in a year as a result. Or make a new friend.  Or pray more.  Or have the most buffed up fingernails in town.

At the very least, I will be on time. I hope my kids notice.

Nurturing Addiction: Parents Who Allow Teens to Drink

In my “Uncool Mom Manifesto” on the right hand sidebar of this blog, I talk about how some parents worry so much about being “cool” that they hurt their kids in the long run. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with parents who proudly say, “I’m letting my teen drink, but they’re going to drink at home, where it’s safe, and we can monitor them.”  As if they’re quoting
some parenting guru or some other wise sage that has told them this
somehow teaches kids “smart drinking skills”.  And what a bonus that
they’re seen as “cool” by the kids, and they feel good (and probably “young”) that they can toss back a brew side by side with their teen and their teen’s friends.  Ah, gotta fit in that quality bonding time however you can get it, huh?

I was reminded of this while texting Allison after the Homecoming Dance had ended on Saturday night.  “How’d it go?” I wrote.  One of the first things she told me was that a party bus full of kids got busted for alcohol soon after it pulled up. Allison and the rest of the students waiting in line to get in saw police and principals talking to the driver, and personal belongings being taken off the bus. Later she told me it was sad that those kids had to be drunk before they ever arrived.  I agree.  While I don’t know if they drank first at an adult-supervised home party, I can’t help but wonder about that, and remember those we have heard about that make the news, and those that don’t make the news.  Adult-supervised drinking goes on everywhere, from the rich doctor’s family who was indignant after police found private schooled teens passed out by their swimming pool, to the public school teens whose tragic car accident was fueled by drinking, drinking that is rumored to have begun hours earlier at a parents’ happy hour. 

Who ever started the misguided parenting advice that somehow it’s beneficial for kids to try drinking in the “safe” confines of their home? Why would anyone believe this? I still hear people to this day who say they’re planning to do this when their kids become teens!!! Those of us who know better know that this is wrong, because, not to mention the tragedies that have happened, we have seen the “adults” who come from those kinds of parents– often they are “drinkers”, who drank a lot in college, and who care way too much about drinking as an adult.  Now there are statistics to back us up: a recent Columbia University report makes it clear that teens who use tobacco, alcohol or drugs have a MUCH greater chance of becoming addicted than those who try them first as adults.  Science has shown that because teen brains are still forming, addictive substances do far more damage to those developing brains than at later times.  As Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow explained it in a summer 2011 column, “Tobacco, alcohol and drugs all set their hooks quicker and deeper in the adolescent mind.”  The age factor is dramatic: kids who use addictive substances before age 18 have a 1-in-4 chance of becoming addicted; by 21, it drops to a 1-in-25 chance.  Amazing, but sadly true, and many of the “party animals” from my high school years really did become alcoholics.

Don’t accept experimentation as “just part of growing up”, wrote Blow. 

Delaying the use of addictive substances for as long as possible should be a high priority of parents and pediatricians, says the study.

And just because you may have survived teen drinking unscathed doesn’t mean your child will.