Monday, June 23, 2014

Mom-ents of Truth

The other day, I caught up with an old colleague. We compared notes about the latest marketing trends and quickly moved into more personal territory. The last time we shared an office, our children (three total, his two and my one) were very little. Today, mine is wrapping up her second year of high school and his oldest has just finished college.

Like every conversation I have with parents these days, we were soon bemoaning the pressure we're all under (moms, dads and offspring alike). His take was a little different from mine. He seemed to put a lot of the blame on mothers.

Say what?!

That's right. Today's moms (he specifically said "moms") are helicopter parents. We enable our kids; we don't want them to feel any pain. Because of us, they are not resilient enough.

I see his point, but I don't think it's just moms. In certain socioeconomic groups (upper middle class), I think it's all parents. He may just notice it more with moms because, by and large, moms still do most of the hands-on childrearing.

Of course, this discussion led me to some soul-searching. Am I one of those moms? After this past weekend, I'm afraid I qualify as such. 

In a big way. 

To my daughter's credit, she has had a lot on her plate lately. The fourth and final (Wahoo!) quarter of sophomore year is wrapping up. So, there have been projects and essays, debates and quizzes, last minute reading assignments and ... of course ... finals. Her first test (a tough one), as well as a portfolio presentation for her photography elective, took place Friday.

She had also offered to help her riding instructor by making a slideshow about the stable for a fundraiser. The woman needed it Saturday, and — whether by necessity or not; we'll have to agree to disagree — my daughter started it Friday night. She pulled still photos and video clips together and edited the project in iMovie. Then, she finally (it was quite late) went to bed while the file "exported."

Rousing my overtired teen Saturday morning is never easy or particularly pleasant. It turned into a downright disaster when she realized that the file had crashed overnight and she needed to start over.

Here's a little math for you. She had to leave for the stable (she works there on the weekends) in twenty minutes. But, rebuilding the iMovie file would take about two hours. The solution to this equation? Drama and despair!

"Why did you wait until the last minute?" I asked her.

"It's not my fault!" she protested.

"Well, it's certainly not mine!" I protested back.

Wrong. Apparently it was indeed my fault (as so very much is) because her computer isn't good enough and who gave her the computer? Me. After much ranting and raving (and raging), I took things under control and declared that we would leave ... NOW ... for the stable and her job. Then, I would return home (no Zumba this morning, I guess), build the slideshow, and then drive it to the stable. She pouted most of the way there and left the car without much of a "good-bye." As planned, I drove back home and spent about an hour or so, building a new slideshow in iPhoto as well as locating, saving and exporting the one she had done in iMovie, as well as creating a separate file of photo jpegs, so that the instructor could create something herself if the other two solutions didn't work on her system.

After twenty-plus years giving presentations at conferences, I'm all about audio-visual redundancy and plan Bs.

I loaded the files onto a CD and drove it to my daughter's instructor's house; she had it in plenty of time for her event. I was the hero of the day (in my eyes at least). But, I know (and knew then too) that I had missed a teachable moment.

Or what I think of as a mom-ent of truth.

In hindsight, what I should have done is this. I should have given her a simple choice. She could (a) call the stable owner, explain that her slideshow project for the instructor was delayed and that she would be a couple of hours late for work. Or she could (b) call the instructor, explain that she had overcommitted and that she wouldn't be able to deliver as promised. In either case, she could say she was sorry (she truly was). She made a mistake (she really did). And she would think twice the next time.

I should've done that. But, I didn't. And consequently, if the current wave of critics is correct, my daughter will not grow up to be independent or responsible. I have made her life too easy.

But wait a minute, please. That's not why I did it. 

I did it, quite simply, because I could. There were commitments made and tasks to perform, and given the deadlines and available resources, it made sense for me to do exactly what I did. This was not so much the work of an overindulgent mother, as that of a skilled project manager.

When I see things that need to get done, I get them done. That's who I am. That's what I do. And whether I spoil my daughter or not (I do), and whether I missed an opportunity to teach her an important life lesson (I did), I like to think that I'm also setting a really good example.

There are worse things she could grow up to be than a person who follows through.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Born To Be Bad

When I'm not blogging (or helping with sophomore homework), I run a boutique ad agency. We're small (or, as I prefer to promote us, "nimble"), and we specialize in technology and higher education, with a little retail thrown in. Our budgets are fairly lean and we hold ourselves accountable for our clients' ROI, that's return on investment.

So, when I see some of today's TV spots that cost hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars, I'm always a little surprised. Sure, I'd like to have carte blanche to create my own 60-second Cecil B. DeMille, but the left side of my brain would surely interfere. "Do we really need all those special effects?" "Is a Rolling Stones song in the background absolutely necessary?" And "Couldn't that money be used for something more important?"

No, no and yes.

Often, I just shake my head and wonder "What were they thinking?" I imagine the creative team somehow selling the most outlandish idea to a roomful of clients. In fact, a current campaign is baffling me these days. Not just because the creative is corny (it is for sure, and it's also downright creepy), but because I think the ads are sending a bad message about human nature. 

The essence of the campaign is that some people are just born cleaner, whiter and well ... better. 

Hmmm. Me no like.

The series is from the household product Mr. Clean. The brand itself focuses on a fictional character, a bald white guy in a spotless tee shirt with a single shiny gold hoop earring. In the new spots, however, Mr. Clean has been given a backstory. 

"No one can say for certain where he came from, but they're certain he was born to clean. See, while most little boys always find ways to make messes, he always found ways to get rid of them ..."

The mixed media spot (live action except for a very eery computer-generated Mr. Clean) starts off with a Supermanesque storyline. The baby shows up at the worn out couple's home on the prairie. Sure, they take him in, but apparently he's their new houseboy. (Child labor laws, anyone?) He goes to school, travels the world and becomes the zen master of "getting rid of grime." And, of course, "He wasn't doing it for himself; he was doing it to help others." The saga is paid off with the tagline "When it comes to clean, there's only one Mister."

Why does this bother me so much? Maybe because of the animation (seriously, it reminds me of David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth — any minute I expect Mr. Clean to take out his contact lenses and shine his red extraterrestrial eyes at us). Maybe because the brand is boasting too much.

Maybe because if there is a shred of actual human nature behind all of it, I'm doomed.

You see, my own teenage daughter is very zen about grime as well. Zen as in, nothing about dirt or disorder disturbs her in the least. Her room is cluttered, her bed unmade. There are soiled dishes on her desk and nightstand. And, her bathroom (thank goodness our house has more than one) is a fragrant mix of teen facial products and discarded riding clothes and boots. Kiehls Blue astringent topped with sweat, mud and manure.

Someday, if baby Mr. Clean shows up on my porch one evening, I'll make sure he's safe and sound. Then, I'll call child protective services.

As soon as he's finished with my daughter's room.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Candidates and Cargo Pants

We were returning home from a weekend in New York. As we crossed the border and got onto the Mass Turnpike, we put the radio on and I heard that Hillary Clinton would be signing copies of her new book in Harvard Square the following week.

I immediately sent myself an email reminder. There was no way I was going to miss it.

Several years ago, I was one of those people who felt, not just sad that Clinton pulled out of the presidential race but, downright betrayed. Not by her, certainly. No one could accuse her of giving it any less than her all. I was angry at my country — a place that is made up of slightly more women than men (just under 51% according to the 2013 Census), but still couldn't accept a woman in the White House. I was particularly bitter about my own friends and their half-assed excuses:

"Hillary isn't electable."

"She's too harsh."

And my favorite, "I have nothing against a woman president. Just not that woman."

Well, I was pretty excited by the prospect of meeting that woman. The tickets would go fast (Cambridge is a very blue town in a very blue state), so I asked my team of experts for help. My husband and teenage daughter are concert groupies (different bands for sure, but same level of dedication). They are adept at scoring even the most elusive tickets. I was advised to go onto the event website just before the sale started and then hit "refresh," "refresh," refresh."

It worked!

I was so startled when the screen suddenly came up asking how many tickets I wanted (limit: 2) that I almost hit "refresh" again. But, I didn't and within a minute or so, my transaction was complete. Good thing, because within three minutes or so, the event was sold out.

On the order page, on the confirmation page, on the tickets themselves and on multiple email reminders to come, I was given a list of rules surrounding the event. When we could line up, when we would get wristbands, when the doors would open. What we could — or more specifically could not — bring in with us. No bags (even purses). No cameras. Everything had to fit in a pocket.

I joked to my husband that between IDs, wallet, car keys and phone, I would have to wear cargo pants.

"Not a pretty look," he texted back.

Nevertheless, that's what I ended up wearing. Black silky cargo pants (with generous pockets) and an embroidered white blouse. I also wore comfortable shoes. Even with tickets in hand, we'd be standing on line for a long time.

My husband is a Hillary supporter, but we agreed that it would be better to use the second coveted ticket for our daughter. She was very happy to forego homework and she was a lot less stressed about what to wear (probably because all of her things ended up in my pockets). 

By the time we got to Harvard Square, the line stretched the equivalent of two and a half blocks. (It snaked back from Mass Ave, past the Harvard Crimson, the old Hasty Pudding and the Harvard Lampoon, as well as many coffee shops to which we did not go, having been warned that there were no restrooms in the bookstore.) Over the nearly three hours we waited, the line continued to grow. In fact, we were (as our wristbands indicated) numbers 430 and 431 out of the thousand who attended.

There were secret service, which was very cool. And metal detectors. There were Cambridge police officers too. But despite the barricades and checkpoints, the atmosphere was like a party. Like a party of smart, determined women. (I would say the female/male ratio was about 10-to-1.) The conversations naturally drifted toward our childhoods, our education, our experience with feminism. 

And our utter support for the yet undeclared candidate we were about to meet.

Finally, we got into the bookstore itself, only to find that the line snaked through virtually every bookcase. There was an excited buzz that, despite official notices to the contrary, HRC was posing for selfies. Unfortunately, the rather humorless men and women there to protect her soon put a stop to that. But, we were still pretty thrilled.

Ms. Clinton was absolutely lovely. She cordially thanked me for coming and signed "Hillary" in bright blue across the front page of her book. (Apparently we're on a first name basis now. Me and my BFF Hill.) I thanked her back (for too much to get into), but my daughter was less tongue-tied.

"I just wanted to tell you that 2016 will be my first presidential election. And, I'm going to vote for you."

Hillary smiled broadly and then laughed. "How old are you?" she asked.


"Well, that's just great. You have a good summer."

We were politely, but firmly, moved along and neither of us could stop grinning until we reached Panera and our after-hours dinner.

It continues to amaze me that my daughter, who is too shy to speak up at book club or join a cafeteria table of classmates she only sorta, kinda knows, holds her own with rockstars.

And future presidents.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sophomore Slide

Only seven days, two hours and thirty-eight minutes left (not including Saturday and Sunday), and my teenage daughter will be released from the bondage known as sophomore year. She would be completely elated — if she weren't so completely overcommitted and downright exhausted.

In the next week and change, she has regular old homework, a major paper due and five final exams. She also has two different part-time jobs and a concert. Plus, she has to pack for a vacation that starts the day after school ends.

And, last but by no means least, she has The Rime of the Ancient MarinerYou know ...

"Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink."

Always looking for a soapbox, I will (once again) protest the utter absence of women authors — or in this case, even women characters — on the Honors English reading list.

Back to the topic at hand; the end of sophomore year. I feel sorry for my daughter; I really do. But, this is not the time to give in to sympathy. Rather, I must remain ever vigilant, honing my maternal nagging skills (which are quite accomplished already) to their very sharpest. My daughter has worked so hard and done so well for so long. This is the last gasp, the grand finale, the final quarter, the ninth inning.

Enough with the metaphors, mixed or otherwise. I think you get the picture.

The thing is, in her head, she knows there's more to do. But, in her heart, she is done. D. O. N. E. Done, done, done. And so are all her classmates. Besides a challenging curriculum, they've had to deal with school board politics, new rules from a new administration, bomb threats, dress codes, and their first taste of standardized tests. 

All in all, sophomore year has been a suckfest. And now?

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

As if my poor daughter needed another albatross around her neck.

Friends of mine advise me to leave her to her own devices. After all, she's done well so far, right? If she did crash and burn, it would be a good learning experience. Blah blah blah.
These friends fall into two categories: childless and multichild. The first don't understand the pressure. And the second gave up a while ago.

We are all so stressed out about grades, transcripts, college admissions. We know better, but we still fall prey to the anxiety, the all-or-nothing sense of pending doom. In just the last week, I've heard two different cautionary tales about promising kids who didn't get in to any of the schools they applied to because of one lousy grade or one botched exam. 

Meanwhile, my daughter's doing her own math. I got a text last week (midday, from school — don't get me started) that read:

I know this is bad but hear me out, if i get a 50% on my chem final i will still have an A- for my final average in chem and thats all colleges see

How to respond to that? At first, skimming as I multitasked, I thought she was telling me that she got a 50% on a test she had already taken. (I almost had a heart attack.) Once I understood, I was impressed by her math and by her  proactive calculations. At the same time, I was distressed by her lack of drive (and non-pursuit of excellence). I know she's not as concerned (obsessed, okay, the word is obsessed) about good grades as I was. But, seriously.

After all, what did she expect me to say? "Good job, girl! Go for that 50% then!"

Sorry. I'm trying not to nag. But, that ain't never gonna happen.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

There's A Gun To Our Heads

When my daughter was little, we had this terrific pediatrician. Every year, in addition to checking her height and weight and overall health, he would talk to her. He asked her questions like ...

"Do you have a bike? Do you always wear your helmet when you ride it?"

When she was about six, he asked her about playdates.

"Have any of your friends ever shown you a gun?"

I think I snickered and the doctor turned to me. "You'd be surprised," he said. "There are more guns around than you might think." He proceeded to explain that when he first joined the practice in our town, he visited the police department and asked them how many gun permits our community had. The officer on duty didn't know, but promised to look into it. 'Turns out the number surprised them both.

"Let's just say," explained the officer, when he called a few days later, "If we're ever invaded? We'll win."

Here's what the pediatrician told my daughter. "If any of your friends ever says, 'You want to see my daddy's gun?' you say that you don't feel good and need to call your mom to pick you up."

I thought this was brilliant advice. But, I also thought it was unnecessary.

Now, I'm not so sure.

I grew up in midtown Manhattan. As an adult, I moved to a tiny town up the coast from Boston. The kind of community where you know your neighbors, people leave their doors unlocked, and you're perfectly safe walking around at 3:00 a.m. (I don't know why you would since nothing is open after 10:00 p.m., but you'd be safe if you did.)

Starting a family, living in this quiet place reassured me. I always assumed that I was keeping my beloved child out of harm's way.

So did a friend of my sister's. An actress from New York, she thought her children would be safer outside the city. So they moved. To Newtown, Connecticut. 

That horrific tragedy should have been an anomaly. But, there have been 74 school shootings since Newtown. 74. The unspeakable has become common occurrence. Of course, there are those who refuse to acknowledge that statistic. Apparently a shooting on school property but out in the parking lot shouldn't count. Neither should an incident when only adults and not students are killed. Or when the shooter commits suicide.

Really? I'm so sick of the gun manufacturers, lobbyists and enthusiasts (all those people who are "packing and proud of it") using Orwellian doublespeak — and their utter refusal to help address this. So is every mother I know.

"The right to bear arms" is a man-made maxim. The second amendment was a response to the British government forbidding the colonies to form an armed militia. It was 240 years ago and the arms in question were muskets and rifles, not automatic weapons.

Even if you want to uphold that archaic bit of the Constitution (which is supposed to promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all of which, I would argue, are threatened by the proliferation of guns), why not add some civilized level of control like background checks, waiting periods and gun-free zones (children's playgrounds, for a start).

I'm tired of the NRA holding our country — and especially our children — hostage. And, I'm not alone. Take a minute and watch.

I encourage every person who reads this to do something about it right now. Join one of the many organizations trying to affect gun reform. Contact your CongresspersonSenator, the President or Vice President. If enough of us do, maybe they will listen.

After all, most of them are parents too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Testing 1, 2, 3

If you're the kind of person who likes organization and planning ahead, and if you're also the kind of person who suddenly finds herself with a teenage daughter ... well ... you can just kiss all that order good-bye. The thing to keep in mind is that your life and (especially) your schedule are no longer your own.

About three weeks ago, my daughter sent me a text from school. (This, btw, happens all the time. Not just with me and my daughter but with every mom and every daughter I know. It continues to surprise me that the school lets kids text while they're in class. Sheesh! But, I'll stop before I sound like an even older old lady than I actually am.) Here's the text:

can you sign me up for world history sat? i'm late so there will be a late fee

There was a little emoticon sad face referring, I assume, to the additional fee. (No "Hello," though. No "Thank you.") 

I was walking when I received the message and I thought that thanks to the miracle of modern mobile I would be able to register her for the test from my phone.


Turns out, when you go online to the College Board (the organization that manages all the standardized testing), you practically need security clearance from the CIA. Not only do they warn you that the process takes 20 minutes, but you have to upload an official photo of the test-taker (would that be the testee?). I didn't have one handy and when I went to get it, I timed out. So, the 20-minute process was more of a 38-minute process. The late fee wasn't so bad, but finding an available venue proved to be.

My daughter's high school was no longer available (read, "sold out," like a Rolling Stones concert, although probably quieter and with less drugs). None of the schools in a 5-mile radius were available. Or a 10-mile radius. Or 20. Or 50. I found a location in Rhode Island, one in New Hampshire, and one in Maine. So what did I do? Booked a different location in New York. It's my hometown and we were planning a visit anyway.

We drove down Friday afternoon, arriving at about 8:45 pm. My daughter had to arrive at the downtown high school early (early, early), so we went to bed soon after. The next morning, we took two subways (and an unexpected cab; one "local" turned out to be an "express") and arrived exactly when the official paperwork said to be there.

I guess the official paperwork didn't know what it was talking about. We stood outside the school (with about 1,200 other nervous teenagers) for 40 minutes. Finally, a guard came by and asked all the "subject SAT" people to go on in. I gave my girl a quick squeeze and headed off.

The test was supposed to be an hour. Some quick math and I predicted she's be done by about 9:45. This gave me 75 minutes to explore Chinatown and the lower Eastside. I timed it well and arrived back at our meeting place (Union Square park) at quarter to ten. In some ways (although not in the way that mattered most), my timing was perfect. I had just sat down when I received a text:

hi mom, it's me we haven't started yet

Uh-oh. I had at least another 60 minutes to kill. I bought an iced decaf with soy milk and trolled around the Nordstrom Rack, which was just opening. Eventually, I found a couple of those free newspapers and sat and read them. Finally (a mere four hours after we'd arrived for her one-hour test), I received the last text:

leaving now will meet you in park

'Turns out my daughter and another 35 students had spent the first two hours sitting in a school hallway (where my daughter had the pleasure of seeing not one, not two but three gigantic cockroaches). Apparently, they didn't have enough proctors. This was inconvenient for us, but would have been downright maddening if my daughter, like many of her fellow test-takers, had been there to take multiple exams.

This was her first SAT, and the way I look at it, the system let us down in more than a few ways.

Why did no one (neither her guidance counselor, who has her class schedule, or her AP World History teacher) clue us in to the fact that it would be a good idea to schedule the exam this spring? She learned about it, by accident, in the cafeteria. Thus the late fee (and proverbial fire drill).

Why did more than a thousand kids have to stand online outside the school when they had arrived on time, as requested?

Why were there not enough proctors?

And why were there more than enough cockroaches?

The SATs are terrifying enough. It seems to me that all the additional angst could have been avoided. Except, maybe the cockroaches. It's NYC, after all. 

I think we'll stay closer to home the next time.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Say Good-Night, Gwyneth

Only 3 more weeks of school. Well, 2.6 if we're being picky (and believe me, at this point, my teenager is being picky). As per usual, the summer looms ahead with too many plans. It will be here — and gone — before we know it.

Recently, I thought about all the movies that I loved when I was a teen (and in years since) and how few of them I've been able to share with my daughter. 'Wouldn't it be fun to have a family film festival?' I thought. We could take turns choosing the movies. (Or, I'd be perfectly happy to curate the entire thing. Control freak, much? Much!)

Of course, I haven't quite gotten up the courage to suggest this fabulous idea to my fabulous offspring.

"Why?" you may ask. Hmmmmm, let's see. Sarcasm. Eye-rolling. Audible groans. Interminable excuses. 

Still, I can't help but think about all the wonderful movies I could share. Two of them (not in the top five, maybe, but definitely on the list) would be Shakespeare in Love and Emma. William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Elizabethan and Georgian. Gwyneth Paltrow and ... Gwyneth Paltrow.

Uh-oh. Academy Award aside, is it really responsible of me to expose my daughter to a certifiable loon? Sure, she's pretty. Sure, she's talented. But, has she gone off the deep end? 


Here are some examples of what I like to think of as The World According to Gwyneth:

On working mothers:

"It’s much harder for me. I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening. When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult."

On divorce:

"We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner."

On her net worth:

“I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year.”

On the voices in her head:

“I’ll never forget it. I was starting to hike up the red rocks, and honestly, it was as if I heard the rock say: ‘You have the answers. You are your teacher.’"

On nutrition:

“I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.”
“I’d rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin.”

And, this week's contribution, on the emotional life of water:

"I am fascinated by the growing science behind the energy of consciousness and its effects on matter. I have long had Dr. Emoto's coffee table book on how negativity changes the structure of water, how the molecules behave differently depending on the words or music being expressed around it."

For more of Gwyneth's wit and wisdom (and weird), you can subscribe to her newsletter GOOP. It's good for a laugh — just park your brain outside for a little while.

I hate to suggest silencing any woman, but Ms. Paltrow isn't doing anybody any favors. Most of her opinions are harmless. Despite her utterly out-of-touch judgmentalism (“Every woman can make time [to work out] — every woman”) or her antiquated notions about skin cancer (“We’re human beings and the sun is the sun—how can it be bad for you?”), underneath it all, Gwyneth is just like you and me.

“I’m just like any other regular mum; cooking, cleaning, wiping butts, picking up after kids, being a wife and helping the kids with their homework. Mind you, I’m terrible at maths. I can’t even do my six-year-old’s maths homework with her.”

So I will try not to hold Gwyneth up as a role model for my daughter. But, will I boycott her movies going forward? Depends on the projects she chooses.

Shakespeare and Austen trump a very silly actress any day.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Un-app-etizing News

Y'know how everyone is a perfect parent ... until they actually are a parent? When we were "dinks" (dual-income, no kids), my husband and I found it very easy to pass judgement on our friends who had already taken the parental plunge. We would never let our toddler eat junk food between meals. We would never be bullied into anything by a six-year old. We would never let our fifth grader wear something like that to school. 

We would never let our teenager have unlimited access to iPhone apps.

Actually, that last one wasn't on our mind at all. Our friends who had children five and ten years before us didn't face the same challenges we do where personal electronics are concerned. Sure they had PCs, but the whole smartphone thing is a fairly new phenomenon. And one that makes it fairly difficult (read, impossible) to assert any kind of authority or control.

There was a time (not so long ago) when I was feeling rather self-satisfied that my teen daughter and I were Facebook friends. Let me tell you ... Facebook is so yesterday! Sure, my daughter is still on Facebook (you sort of have to be), but her activity there is fairly superficial: sharing photos from horse events, wishing people "Happy Birthday." Her real life (well, her real digital life) takes place elsewhere.

Here are some of the latest apps that have replaced Facebook in terms of teen activity. If you don't know them, don't worry, your kids do. 

Oh wait, strike that. If you don't know them, your kids do. Go ahead and worry.

Kids can post pictures that then "disappear." In theory, this makes the app safer than a more permanent place like Facebook. In reality, it encourages otherwise cautious kids to experiment with sexting and bullying. And, guess what? Nothing on the Internet ever really goes away.

Burn Note
This one's the same premise as Snapchat but with text messages instead of pictures. Same benefits. Same issues.

A popular messaging app with 120 million (MILLION!) users, Kik "lets you connect with all your friends, no matter how you meet them – at school, on your favorite social app, or in an online game." Your username can be whatever you like, which encourages anonymity (and all the questionable behavior that tags along with it). Since no one knows who you really are, it's a great place for pedophiles. Bonus!
Another anonymous site (do we see a pattern emerging?), lets users post questions and answers. Great for sharing information, right? Great also for bullying, unfortunately. Although the site is based in Latvia, it's very popular with teens in the U.K. And, sadly, there have been several suicides there linked to it.

Yik Yak
Another anonymous site (yes, definitely a pattern), Yik Yak is in some ways even worse because it geotargets users. You see comments posted by people in your own community — in most cases, your high school. This "local bulletin board" brings the bullying right into your backyard.

I've just scratched the surface here. There are so many others (and, sadly, more being developed every day). Vine, Wanelo, Oovoo, Tumblr, Omegle, Pheed, Instagram, Whisper, Speak Freely, the list goes on and on.

If you have the wherewithal, ask your daughter or son to give you a tour of their smartphone. Then again, if they know you're coming, they can easily hide any apps they don't want you to see. In fact, there's an app for that. It's called ...


If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Daddy Daycare

I don't like it when men make stereotypical generalizations about women. "Women are too emotional." Or "Women can't drive." Or "Women in powerful positions are bitches." So, I hate to fall prey to the same kind of thinking where men are concerned. For this reason, I have resisted writing about a phenomenon I witness constantly. But, after what I saw yesterday, I can't hold it in any longer.

It seems to me that most men (notice, I said "most," not "all"), are completely oblivious when it comes to safeguarding the young children in their charge.

There's a reason why Hollywood and Madison Avenue have returned time and again to the humorous concept of "Daddy Daycare."

Before I begin in earnest, let me apologize to all the really wonderful fathers I know. I have dear friends who are stay-at-home dads, and know countless others who attempt to pick up the slack in two-income families. Yes, I know you try. Yes, you're doing your best. And, I love you for it.

Okay, so here's what I saw yesterday morning.

On Saturdays at my local YMCA, there seem to be an inordinate number of fathers with little ones in tow. No mum in sight. I don't know whether these are divorced dads multitasking (getting in a workout on their court-appointed visitation day) or working dads giving their wives a break. Regardless, there are dozens of them and they all seem to have something in common. 

They are clueless.

Yesterday, I saw a man carrying his child into the Y in an Ikea bag.

Really, the little kid was stuffed into one of those oversized blue plastic totes that you pay for at the checkout in Ikea. They are strong enough for a box of coffee table, but a squirming toddler? I was dumbstruck. This was definitely a new something-or-other.

Usually, what I see is kids racing ahead of their dads, across the road and up into the front door. Sometimes I see fathers loading a car seat into their minivan, not realizing that their other two children are racing around said vehicle — in a busy parking lot and well under the sightlines of other drivers. Once, I was leaving after a workout and I saw a tyke on a tricycle peddling like mad and heading for the curb. "Red light! Red light! Red light!" shouted his padre (at least 40 feet behind him). Sure enough, the child went right into the road. Good thing I saw him. Good thing I anticipated his shall-we-say insubordination.

Good thing I'm a mom.

Sorry to generalize again, but from my close observation (and personal experience), mothers hold onto their kids. I held onto mine. It didn't stunt her confidence in any way. She's sixteen now and she's as independent as anyone could ever want their teenager to be. (She was also never found under anybody's car, thank-you very much.)

As my daughter has learned to drive over the past several months, I've tried to explain the difference between following the letter of the law and having a sixth sense about what's going to happen next. For example, you're driving along and you have the right of way. But, up ahead, you see a person coming to a stop sign and you just know they're not going to stop.

It's kind of the same when you're a mom. I point it out when I see it. "That guy," I'll say, "Doesn't have a clue where his son is." Of course, the dad in question has some vague sense that his kid is behind him. (Sitting on the pavement, playing with ants, in the middle of a driveway.) But, for a mom, that wouldn't cut it. We need to see our children, touch our children, create a physical barrier between our children and danger.

It makes me crazy — and these aren't even my kids. Dads, please, pay attention. Moms, please, nag your head off if you have to but make your partner promise to hold onto your precious son or daughter. And, drivers, please slow down when you see a child. They are small. They are fragile. They are likely to move in quick and unexpected ways.

I did say that there are exceptions, and I'm happy to put my husband into that category. Not only did he take great care of our daughter (he was always one for the classic piggyback or shoulder ride), but his instincts extended beyond our immediate family.

When our daughter was about nine months old, we went to Greece for a couple of weeks, leaving her with my mother. One evening, we were sitting in a taverna on a beach and a small child toddled past us and walked right off the patio. She would have dropped about four feet except that my husband, quick as a flash, had reached out and grabbed her. He swooped her up, turned her around and she toddled back into the restaurant. My husband never even missed a beat.

There was no question in my mind, he had become a father. And, for that one moment, he was a mother too.

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