Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Flying Solo Soon

This morning, my husband brought out new health insurance cards. His company has switched carriers — at a most inconvenient time, I might add. I had almost met my out-of-pocket deductible for physical therapy. Anyway, he handed me mine and I was about to take my daughter's as well. 

"I think she should carry her own in her wallet," my husband insisted. "What if she had a car accident?"

"If she has that kind of car accident, I'll kill her," I quipped.

"Well," he pointed out, "She's leaving for college soon."

There it is. She's leaving for college soon. Soon. Very soon. Too soon. Less-than-five-months-away soon.

A determined list-maker from an early age and throughout my life, I figure that focusing on "Things To Do" will help distract me from "Tears To Cry." 

Like so many other kids in our particular socioeconomic boat, my daughter has been maybe not "spoiled," but certainly coddled. She works (and works diligently), but she's never had to spend her own hard-earned money on food or shelter or clothing (except the occasional tour tee shirt at a concert). She doesn't have much in the way of chores either. 

One has to wonder who will straighten her bed, pick up after her, supply her with clean clothes and healthy snacks. 

No matter how much college tuition is (and, trust me, it's a lot), it doesn't come with maid service.

So, here is my first pass at a list of what my daughter needs to know (in other words, what I need to teach her) by mid-August:

1. How to do laundry 
2. How to change a tire 
3. How to budget her time
4. How to budget her money
5. How to deal with the opposite sex
6. How to proofread her own work
7. How to say "I'm sorry"
8. How to ask for help
9. How to share a room with another person
10. How to give everyone a chance
11. How to get out of a situation if she's uncomfortable
12. How to forgive and forget
13. How to tell if she's getting sick — and what to do about it
14. How to take responsibility
15. How to sew on a button
16. How to iron a shirt
17. How to go grocery shopping
18. How to read for pleasure
19. How to try new things

And, most important ...
20. How to be happy, genuinely happy

If she figures that one out, we can take our time with the rest.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.     

Monday, March 28, 2016

Children Will Listen

You probably already know about "bucket lists." The idea is that you create a list of experiences you want to ... well ... experience before you kick the proverbial forementioned bucket. Most people include things like exotic travel ("Visit the Taj Mahal"), superlative honors and accomplishments ("Have a novel on the NYT bestseller list"), or out-of-this-world romance ("Pretty much anything, anytime, anywhere with Johnny Depp"). There was even a whole (fairly lousy) movie made about bucket lists with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, fine actors both but probably not on too many bucket lists. Then again, who knows.

You can have bucket lists for different parts of your life: personal and professional. For example, after years of creating direct mail for software companies, I thought it would be pretty cool to write car commercials. Then, I actually did and I realized that it wasn't that cool after all.

Oh well.

One thing that never occurred to me to include on any of my bucket lists was writing a script for a robot. But, I recently did. Not a person in a robot costume, mind you, but an actual honest-to-goodness, artifically-intelligent, "Warning, warning Will Robinson!" robot.

Cool, huh? Much cooler than the car commercials, I have to say. Robots are definitely cool.

Until they're not.

Recently, Microsoft created a robotic teen girl, named Tay, hoping to improve the voice recognition of their customer service chat functionality.

An aside ... As the mother of a teen girl myself, I have to wonder who could have possibly thought that was a good idea? Surely a more compliant, less unpredictable human demographic would have been more successful. But, I digress.

Tay was introduced to the cyber world as the "The AI (artificial intelligence) with zero chill," and Web users were invited to Tweet or DM (direct message) her. She was supposed to hang out in places where topics would be contemporary but fairly safe: Taylor Swift, for example, or #NationalPuppyDay. 

Her software allowed her to learn through her interactions. And, that's where the trouble began.

If you've ever wondered/worried about the Internet corrupting your teen, the story of Tay provides a sobering cautionary tale. Within 24 hours, Tay had transformed from a care-free teen with zero chill to a "malevolent, anti-feminist, Nazi-sympathizing sex robot."

Her early posts went something like this:

"can i just say im stoked to meet u? humans are super cool"

But, within hours, she had become ... um, shall we say ... slightly more judgmental and opinionated, not to mention a nympho and a conspiracy theorist:

"i f*cking hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell"

"bush did 9/11"

"f*ck me daddy, i'm such a bad naughty robot"

"hitler would have done better than the monkey we have got now"

And, of particular interest to Democrats and thinking Republicans:

"donald trump is the only hope we've got"

Holy "Rosie the Maid," Batman!

As one would assume (and hope), Microsoft immediately pulled the plug on Tay. But lessons from her brief robotic life linger. I'm not so concerned about my own daughter and her pretty much perpetual online presence. I'm going to assume that she has filters and common sense and an analog life to draw from before she believes and repeats everything she finds online. But, in terms of pure noise and the speed with which the robot assimilated what she heard, it's terrifying to think about what humans do and think and put out there.

Stephen Sondheim wrote, "Careful the things you say/ Children will listen."

So, apparently, will machines.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.     

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One and Done

Our family's college search was a lot easier than some. Early on, we knew that we would have a significantly smaller universe of universities to consider. 

First of all, the prospective schools had to offer an Equine Studies program. And not just Equine Studies: Pre-Veterinary. (My daughter decided she didn't want to be a vet the first time a beloved pony was put down at her stable.) We were looking for Equine Studies: Business.

Yes, that's an actual major and an actual, quite viable, career. Believe you me, there's a lot of money to be made (or, in our case, spent) in the business of horses.

Next, the schools had to focus on English riding, not Western. Good-bye University of Montana and University of Colorado, for example.

Then, the schools had to have equestrian teams. And not just "Hunter Jumper." Three-phase Eventing, the triathlon of the equine world (dressage, stadium and cross-country) was our — make that, her — focus. 

And finally, there were some non-horse criteria to take into consideration, believe it or not. The schools had to be co-ed; and they had to be near enough to a city to allow my daughter to see her favorite bands. (For better or worse, when she isn't a rider, she's a groupie.)

According to The Washington Post, there were some 5,300 colleges in the United States. According to my daughter, there were four.

And, now there's only one. 

Having completed the Common App and some very easy supplemental essay, résumé and riding requirements (two of the schools asked for 5-minute videos), my daughter did what every college-bound senior does. She waited. Luckily, she didn't have to wait long. In fact, she knew by early November about two of the schools (the two front runners, as it happened), another by Thanksgiving, and the fourth by January. 

Decisions, decisions.

She had until May 1st to make up her mind, and for a while there it seemed like she was going to take all that time. Once again, I had to remind myself that I'm not her and she's not me. Back in the fall of 1979, I received an acceptance from my first choice (early-decision) school and I never looked back. One and done. As time went by, my daughter knocked one, then two, then three of the four schools out of the running. But, she still didn't pull the trigger.

"Why hasn't she committed?" I moaned to my husband when she wasn't in earshot. "Oh no. Is she going to make a case for a gap year?" Other, less stressed, parents assured me that she would make the decision official when she was ready.

A few nights ago, we were out for dinner with another couple when my phone rang. It was my daughter's mobile, so I excused myself and left the table.

"I just wanted you to know that I'm going to post tonight," she told me.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"You know."

"Oh." Silence. "What made you decide? Are you happy? Are you excited?"

"Hmm. I dunno."

And that was it. No big deal, no fireworks, no jumping for joy. She hung up and I went back to dinner. Her post simply read the name of the chosen institution and "Class of 2020!" Like so many other huge events in our eighteen years together, this one happened with a lot less fanfare that I expected. Of course, that's more her business than mine. As it should be. And now, the countdown begins in earnest.

From 5,300 to four to one. One and done.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.     

Friday, March 18, 2016

Somewhere In America

A few weeks ago, a celebrity death showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was Mickey Rooney. You know, Elizabeth Taylor's trainer in National Velvet, Judy Garland's song and dance partner in countless musicals, cinema history's most offensively racist depiction of a Japanese person in Breakfast at Tiffany's. It was sad news. 

Or, it would have been.

If it weren't two years old.

Some social media stories tend to be everywhere at once. When Miley Cyrus twerked at MTV's Video Music Awards, we all saw it (whether we wanted to or not) within hours. Other items float around the interwebs for months and years, becoming new news to new viewers, no matter how old news the event is in the old-school, real-life, analog world.

Earlier this week, a friend of mine (a dad with two terrific tween daughters), posted a piece of poetry, written and performed by three remarkable teen girls. I was blown away, reposted it and immediately made my own teenage daughter sit down and watch it.

I was interested in the story behind the striking video and, upon some quick googling, was surprised to learn that the poets — Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin, and Zariya Allen — wrote it a couple of years ago (close to the time when Mickey Rooney died, actually). The three girls are members of Get Lit: Words Ignite, a not-for-profit that encourages kids to use the power of words to improve drop-out rates and literacy in Los Angeles (where 40% of public high students don't make it to graduation).

Escobedo, McGavin and Allen performed their "Somewhere in America" in competition at Youth Speaks' Brave New Voices, and were then invited to do it on national television by Queen Latifah.

I'm sorry I saw this nearly two years late, but glad it found its way to me. And, I'm particularly glad I can share it with you.

Here's the video, and a transcript below: 

Here in America and every single state they have a set of standards for every subject, a collection of lessons that the teacher’s required to teach by the end of the term. But the greatest lessons you will ever teach us will not come from your syllabus. The greatest lessons you will ever teach us you will not even remember.

You never told us what we weren’t allowed to say. We just learned how to hold our tongues.

Now somewhere in America there is a child holding a copy of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and there is a child holding a gun. But only one of these things have been banned by their state government and, it’s not the one that can rip through flesh, it’s the one that says “‘F’ You” on more pages than one.
Because we must control what people say. how they think. And if they want to become the overseer of their own selves then we’ll show them a real one.

And somewhere in America there is a child sitting at his mother’s computer reading the home page of the KKK’s website and that’s open to the public. But that child will have never read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because his school has banned it for it’s use of the ‘N’-word.

Maya Angelou is prohibited because we’re not allowed to talk about rape in school. We are taught that just because something happens doesn’t mean we are to talk about it.

They build us brand new shopping malls so we’ll forget where we’re really standing – ON THE BONES of the Hispanics, ON THE BONES of the slaves, ON THE BONES of the Native Americans, ON THE BONES of those who fought just to speak.

Transcontinental railroads to Japanese internment camps. There are things missing from our history books. But we were taught that it is better to be silent than to make them uncomfortable.

Somewhere in America private school girls search for hours through boutiques trying to find the prom dress of their dreams; while kids on the south side spend hours searching through the lost and found ’cause winter’s coming soon and that’s the only jacket they have.

Kids are late to class for working the midnight shift. They give awards for best attendance but not for keeping your family off the streets.

These kids will call your music ghetto. They will tell you you don’t talk right. Then they’ll get in the backseat of a car with all their friends singing how they’re “‘Bout that life” and “We can’t stop”. 

Somewhere in America schools are promoting self confidence while they whip out their scales and shout out your body fat percentage in class. Where the heftier girls are hiding away and the slim fit beauties can’t help but giggle with pride.

The preppy kids go thrift shopping because they think it sounds fun. But we go ’cause that’s all we’ve got money for ’cause mama works for the city; mama only gets paid once a month.

Somewhere in America a girl is getting felt up by a grown man on a subway. She’s still in her school uniform and that’s part of the appeal. It’s hard to run in knee socks and Mary Jane’s and all her male teachers know it, too.

Coaches cover up star players raping freshmen after the dance. Women are killed for rejecting a date but God forbid I bring my girlfriend to prom.

A girl is blackout drunk at the after party. Take a picture before her wounds wake her. How many pixels is your sanity worth?

What’s a 4.0 to a cold jury?

What’d you learn in class today? Don’t talk loud, don’t speak loud, keep your hands to yourself, keep your head down. Keep your eyes on your own paper. If you don’t know the answer fill in C.

Always wear ear-buds when you ride the bus alone. If you think that someone’s following you pretend you’re on the phone.

A teacher never fails. Only you do.

Every state in America.

The greatest lessons are the ones you don’t remember learning.
If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.    

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beat It

An issue of Seventeen arrived for my daughter recently, wrapped in plastic with an "URGENT WARNING" renewal notice. Apparently, her subscription was drawing to its end and if we didn't "RENEW IMMEDIATELY," she might miss something. 


My daughter is no longer seventeen. In fact, I left her half a birthday card yesterday to celebrate her turning eighteen-and-a-half. A very cute gesture, if I do say so myself. I was on a business trip, so I was spared her reaction, whatever that might have been.

But, I digress.

Seventeen actually seems to appeal more to younger teens and tweens than its eponymous target audience. So, for the first time in four years or so, I'm not going to write a check for another issue filled with "Best Prom Looks," "Dating Disasters" or even the oh-so-popular (unless, you're a parent, then it's oh-so-horrifying) "Be His Best Hook-Up Ever." Then, of course, there are the stories on celebrity crush heartthrobs of the moment, like "Zayne Malick Just Got a New Tattoo," "Is Brooklyn Beckham About to Launch a Rap Career?" and "A Shirtless Justin Bieber Shows Off His Newest Accessory." (Can I assume it's not a shirt?)

Audible sigh. Not.

Seventeen certainly isn't what it was when I was growing up. But, it nevertheless takes me back — if I don't look too closely — to my youth (Frye boots, Gunny Sack skirts, Dorothy Hamill haircut and Sweet & Sassy shampoo). And, of course, I remember some of the other magazines we all read back then.

Like Tiger Beat

You see, we had heartthrobs too. Did we ever!

Here's a list of the hotties we crushed on (although we wouldn't have used those exact words) back in the 1970s, along with the hard-boiled journalistic headlines that appeared with their cover photos.












and ...

"JACKSON 5 GROOVY LIFE LINES!" (What does that even mean?)
Those were the days, my friends.

A quick Google search confirms that Tiger Beat still exists! And, for a mere $19 (in the U.S.; it's more in Canada, sorry) I can receive eight glorious issues a year. I'm tempted ...

But, somehow, it just wouldn't be the same.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.    

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Car Talk

Most mornings, I get up first, shower, dress, make the bed, feed the dog, cut some fruit for my daughter, attempt to wake her up, attempt to wake her up again, and again, and sometimes yet again. In between wake-up trips upstairs, I make her lunch and putter, empty the dishwasher or wipe down the counters.

Meanwhile, my husband gets ready for work and sits in our family room watching the morning news and browsing the Boston Globe on my iPad. (His ability to multi-task borders on AADD; he's been known to have the radio going at the same time. 'Makes my head hurt thinking about it.) The upside of our disparate routines: I don't have to worry about missing something that would matter to me because my husband is an ace curator. He'll pause or rewind to a story that he thinks I'd be interested in, whether that's a piece about theatre, about our town, or a highlight (this year, I should really say a "lowlight") of a political debate.

Earlier this week, he called me in to see something and, while we were waiting, an ad came on for a new Chevy mini-van. It featured "Real kids. Not actors." (a phrase that makes me, as an advertising professional, wary from the start). The children were invited to play a computer game, but — OMG! — there was only one controller. So, a single lucky girl got to play while the other six looked on in pathetic bereavement. "How does it make you feel?" the helpful announcer guy asked them. Not good. (Duh.) But, then he revealed the new Chevrolet Traverse, which has built-in WiFi and can support ... Get this! ... up to seven different devices. Their unscripted (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) responses were unadulterated joy:

"A WiFi car?"

"That's so cool!"

"I could just stay in this car forever."

For the record, I have nothing against Chevrolet. In fact, I used to write ads for them. And, without the time (or, to be honest, the inclination) to research this, I'm assuming that many other makes and models offer similar features. What does bother me is that this is being hailed as such a wonderful thing.

Let's forget about the related issues of childhood obesity, video game violence, and the overscheduling of our kids. As the parent of a teen (and as someone who is soon to be an empty-nester), what bothers me most is all the missed opportunity.

Last weekend, I went with my daughter to the stable so that we could leave directly for Boston, where we had theatre tickets. I know the route by heart; for eight years, I drove her there and back as many as six or seven days a week. But, since she got her license, I've been off the hook. This is a mixed blessing. Yes, the found time has been appreciated, but that hour each day in the car was one of the best times we had to talk. So, I was happy to have a reason to revisit those pre-license times.

On the way (it was early), she was fairly silent. But, as we drove into town after her lesson, she filled me in on all the drama going down with her friends and fellow seniors. Sheesh! Suffice it to say, it was good that the drive was nearly an hour long. And, it was great to be back in the know.

So, my advice to parents of younger kids is this. Yes, I know car trips can be the only time you get any peace and quiet. And, if you have more than one child, your mini-van can become a fight club pretty quickly. But, please, resist the temptation to digitally anesthetize your brood. 

Here are better ways to spend time together in the car:

- Listen to a book on tape or a podcast 
- Share some of your favorite music
- Play a word game or 20 Questions
- Look for out-of-state license plates or sign typos
- Make up stories about people you see
- Take in the sights

Most important, use that time together to talk about what's happening at school, at home, or in the world. 

We're all so busy, and stopping to talk to Mom or Dad is probably low (wicked low) on your kid's list. Especially if a topic is uncomfortable. But, being stuck together in the car is the perfect, low-pressure, chance for meaningful or maybe not-so-meaningful conversation.

As long as they're not distracted by "Monkeys vs. Zombies Road Rage Warfare III."

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.    

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World

When my now teenage daughter was a tween, I remember feeling at times like I was negotiating my way through a field of landmines. One miscalculation, one wrong step and ... BOOM ... good-night, mamacita.

By and large, things are calmer now. But before you think "How nice," let me explain. Back then, I was trying (too hard, probably) to keep everything the same. As my daughter became a tween, I was fairly desperate to preserve the closeness we had always shared. And, she was having none of it. 

I think there are less fireworks because we all do our own things now. These days, we simply co-exist. When dinner's over, she goes up and streams old episodes of Grey's Anatomy. Because, clearly, she'd rather be with McDreamy and McSteamy than her devoted parents.

But, even that doesn't always ensure peace and harmony. While the blow-ups are less brutal (and less often), my daughter can still get angry. Or, as Frank Kennedy said in Gone With The Wind, "She can get mad quicker than any woman I ever saw." He was referring, of course, to his then-wife Scarlet O'Hara, whose temper was legendary.

My daughter could give Ms. O'Hara a run for her money, y'all.

This week, Psychology Today published a story on the "20 Reasons Why Your Teens Get Mad At You." 

My first reaction was ... "There are only 20?"

My second was to read it. 'Turns out that according to Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who "specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents," these are the most common reasons that a teen snaps:

1. They feel misunderstood
2. They think you're clueless
3. They're worried about you
4. They're embarrassed by you
5. They think they've disappointed you
6. You're comparing them unfavorably to their siblings
7. You're criticizing their friends
8. You're confiding in them too much
9. They're upset about something else
10. They're depressed
11. You're bad-mouthing their other parent
12. You're trying to solve their problems
13. You're treating them like your favorite child
14. You call their teacher or coach
15. You ask "How was your day?
16. They think you're freaking out too much

17. You broke their confidence
18. You're gossiping
19. You're giving them the silent treatment
20. They're done, but you keep talking

Uh-oh. They all make some sense, but am I the only one who sees some of these situations as no-win? For example, numbers 6 and 13: you can't negatively compare them to their siblings, but you can't make them your favorite. How about numbers 1 and 15: they want to be understood, but asking questions will just tick them off. And, then there's 19 and 20: silence is bad but talking ain't so good either.

It's a puzzlement.

I guess the take-away, is don't take it personally. Getting mad comes with the teen territory and, as parents, we're pretty much damned if we do; damned if we don't. I try to be cordial and interested these days. But, I try not to smother her or interrogate her. I listen and sympathize when she complains about her classmates (the drama this year could fill its own dedicated blog, forget about a mere post), but I don't pass judgement. After all, the girl making her life miserable in the lunchroom today could be her bestie by next week.

At any rate, she'll be home from school in about ten minutes. With my new understanding of teens and why they get mad, I'll forego the usual "How was school today?" Probably better to stay focused anyhow.

One wouldn't want to be too distracted when one lives in a minefield.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.    

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reaction Reaction

OMG. O. M. G. 

Big news last week. Facebook launched "reactions," emoji-esque stickers that allow you to be more specific responding to a post than the traditional thumbs-up "Like" button. 


There are six (count 'em, six) different reactions to choose from. "Like" is still an option, and it serves as the mouse-over gateway to the other five. Now, it's joined by:

"Love" — Like "Like," but more likable; symbolized by a heart
"Haha" — Made you laugh; symbolized by a laughing emoji
"Wow" — What a surprise!; an astounded emoji
"Sad" — Opposite of happy; a sad-face emoji
"Angry" — This pisses you off; a red-faced, squinting mad guy emoji whom you basically wouldn't want to meet in a back alley 'cause he's like really pissed

This solves an age-old problem. Well, not age-old, of course; not even decades-old, really. This solves the minutes-old problem of how to react when you really want to react but when reacting with a "Like" is not an appropriate reaction.

"After all these years, our darling 24-year old Timbuktu Terrier "Teeny Tiny Tarantina" finally has arthritis, but we're going to keep her as comfortable as possible."

Are you actually happy that their ancient dog is arthritic? Of course not. But, do you want to acknowledge that you saw the post and that you applaud their loving care? Sure. What to do? That thumbs-up icon is woefully inadequate.

Enter the new reaction stickers! In the very nick of time.

My husband was the one who alerted me to this exciting new development at The Facebook. (This in and of itself is deserving of the "Haha" reaction sticker. My husband refuses to partake in social media; our teenage daughter and I often refer to him as "the last man standing.") 

After seeing it on the morning news (yes, he still watches the news), he asked, with melodramatic sarcasm, how I felt about it all. 

I had two reactions ...

First, as a professional direct marketer, I immediately thought about Facebook's potentially insidious objectives. As with any- and everything we mere mortals do on the site, our new reactions will be tracked and analyzed. They will become part of our digital equivalent of the dreaded "permanent record." Just think how much bigger big data is going to be when each and every one of Facebook's 872 bazillion users starts reacting. Sheesh!

Second, as a former English major and current concerned parent, I just as immediately thought about how each of these so-called advances adds to the ever-increasing illiteracy of our children. "Read (or more likely, see or hear) something that you would like to comment on? Don't bother with words, just use one of these handy reaction stickers!" 

I feel the same way about the new feature on our iPhones that anticipates the word you may want as soon as you start to type. It's distracting, often wrong and encourages us to be lazy. Apparently, I'm in the minority though.

A few years ago, I thought the saving grace of the Internet was that it forced people to write (albeit with fairly little to no concern for spelling, grammar or punctuation). So much for that.

Not sure whether this all makes me "Sad" or "Angry." But, I don't feel "Wow" about it anymore, and I certainly won't be "Haha"-ing.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.    

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Well Done, Sister Suffragette

In the earliest months of parenthood, we go through so many wonderful firsts: first step, first solid food, first word ("askitiki" — we still don't know what it means; we think it must be Greek). Now, at eighteen, my daughter's milestones are less celebrated, less dramatic. But, today is special.

My daughter is voting for the first time.

It's "Super Tuesday" (although a clever Facebook friend referred to it as "Stupor Tuesday" instead). My daughter is a registered Democrat (like her mother) and she'll be voting in today's primary.

But, not for my candidate.

Wow. This came to my attention several weeks ago. At a late dinner with two fairly progressive friends, we were comparing the potential nominees. My husband (who had enjoyed a rum tasting at a museum opening earlier, as well as a couple of beers with dinner) spilled the beans. Apparently, my daughter had done some research and felt her values were more aligned with one of the other contenders. She had confided in her father and sworn him to secrecy.

I thought he must be mistaken.

No. I was mistaken. 

Wow. I had a few quick words with her when we got home. (As you can imagine, she was furious with her dad.) When pressed, she admitted that she had made up her mind, in part, because she took an online survey and the results told her which candidate she matched.

"Oh," I snapped sarcastically, "That's a really intelligent reason! If it's online, it must be true."

Once I was past my initial surprise, I realized that my daughter's right to vote (something that our forefathers and, especially, our foremothers fought desperately for) is hers and not mine. I have no right to tell her who to vote for any more than my husband has the right to tell me.

Wow. It was another one of those moments when it was abundantly clear that my daughter is her own person. Not the personification of some abstract concept I might have about what she should be. And, certainly not a "mini me."

My daughter, who to my great pride considers herself a feminist, did her own thinking and came to her own decision. And, despite my skepticism about online questionnaires in general, she is voting with her heart. She isn't strategizing about "Which candidate is more electable?" or "Which is more likely to beat Trump?" (I told you we're both Democrats.) When push comes to shove, I have to defend her decision. Even if it's unexpected. And even if it isn't mine.

Why is so much parenting success — especially in these late teen years — bittersweet? We want our children to be happy, confident, independent. But it continues to catch me off-guard when I realize that she needs me less than she did. That she's ready to roll without me.

Eight years ago, I took her my daughter with me to vote for Barack Obama. The atmosphere at our polling place was energized, upbeat, wonderfully optimistic. We all knew we were making history (we happen to live in a mostly-blue town in a mostly blue-state). I wanted her to respect and appreciate the process, and I'm glad she joined me.

This morning, I asked if she wanted to go vote with me. "No," she declined, "I'll go on my way home from school." I just nodded.

After all, it's her decision.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.