Time, You Thief!

After almost a full year of being on college admissions overdrive, I’ve come to the conclusion that Tom Petty was correct: “The Waiting” is the hardest part.

Had you asked this past October, I would have said that getting my daughter to complete her applications was the most challenging of the admissions-related tasks. A few months before that, I would have sworn that convincing her to expand the rather small list of schools she was considering was the most arduous of my jobs. And this time last year, I have no doubt I would have told you that getting my girl to focus on grades and standardized testing was impossibly exhausting.

Now that this is all behind us, I can say with absolute certainty, that the period between December 6 and December 15 (the final week and two days before decisions were released) was by far the most difficult time of all.  And that’s because all we had left to do was wait.  And wait we did. I’ve never known time to pass more slowly—and I’ve been pregnant twice! If you haven’t experienced pregnancy yourself, I am here to tell you that nine months spent walking around with another human being lodged in your gut does not pass quickly.

But this felt worse.

And then, with the click a MacBook Pro trackpad, everything was good again.

I will never forget the moment that my daughter learned that all of her hard work had paid off.  And I will always hold in my heart the memory of the two of us, her hands clasped inside of mine, jumping up and down and screaming in absolute joy. Her dream school said: yes!

And now, several months later, I find that time won’t slow the hell down. The universe is playing a sick joke on me. The days are flying by. In just a few months, my baby will be heading out.

My daughter asked me recently if I would “feel sad” when she is away at college. I responded that I would definitely miss seeing her on a daily basis and would also miss the pleasure (and that is exactly what it is) of her company. I added, making sure to stress every syllable, that as long as she is happy, I could never feel sad.

Now, I have to work on putting that into practice.  And I better hurry… because time is flying.

*sigh*

I was named, in part, for the title of this poem. How appropriate it feels today:

Jenny Kissed Me

by Leigh Hunt

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I’m growing old, but add-
Jenny kissed me!

 

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The Gift of Time

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(source)

Redshirting, a term most often associated with giving college athletes an extra year of eligibility, has replaced the phrase held back when it comes to describing the process of having children repeat their first year of school. I am fine with that, as I’ve long despised the stigma attached to the expression “held back.” My husband and I never felt we were holding our children back from anything; quite the opposite, in fact. We felt we were giving our kids, one who was born in late spring and the other a few weeks before the school year begins, the gift of time.

For us, the decision to have our children spend two years in the 5-6 year-old class was a no-brainer. Did you notice that I wrote 5-6 year-old class, and not kindergarten? It is much easier to redshirt your child when the system to do so is already in place. At the time of my daughter’s enrollment, there were several kids, all born between June and August, who entered her school with the same plan in mind. This made the process easier, as the kids didn’t feel as if they were being singled out. And because the school was private, the curriculum was designed to accommodate the skill set of both older and younger children.

I graduated from high school a few weeks prior to my 17th birthday. I realize now just how very young that was. It wasn’t my intention to graduate at the age of 16. My birthday is in June and I was always on the younger side, but for most of my childhood I attended Montessori where the practice is to mix children of different ages, so age was never really an issue. That was until it was time for me to exit Montessori. The plan was that I would attend the 8th grade at a more traditional school, but I was wait-listed; so I skipped the 8th grade entirely and began high school at the age of 13.

At the time, I would have told you that I was perfectly comfortable with being the youngest in my grade. I could keep up academically–and socially–I would be just fine.

This is what I would say about it now:

~ I hated that I wasn’t able to drive until my junior year and was beyond embarrassed that I had to bum rides from my friends, most of whom could drive a full year before me. As a parent, I am thrilled that my daughter drove before the majority of her peers. I prefer my children being in the driver’s seat.

~Older kids are often put in the leadership position, by both peers and teachers. I’ve never been one to follow, just not who I am, but… as I look back now, I can see that being younger did make me more self-conscious and less likely to take charge. My kids are both leaders, they are very confident, and again, I think that has a lot to do with who they are, but I also believe that being older and having had time to mature, helped.

~I didn’t want anything I said or did (or didn’t say, or didn’t do) attributed to the fact that I was younger.  I never wanted to be thought of as the “baby.” So, I probably did some things sooner than I would have had I been surrounded by people who were my age. Nothing horrible, I’ve always been a rule follower, but I did sneak into R rated movies when everyone else was old enough to see them and I wasn’t.  And I took a joy ride with someone, who while older than me, was still not old enough to be legally licensed to drive. I remember not wanting to get in the car with her, but doing so anyway because I wanted to fit in. I did other things too, but I won’t go into the details here. I don’t see this type of behavior in either of my kids. Again, I think being older means you tend to lead, not follow.

~And while I had good grades, I think maybe, attending the 8th grade would have helped. Pretty sure my lack of algebraic ability can be traced back to missing a full year of math. My kids, on the other hand, both had an extra year to get the fundamentals down–that’s never a bad thing.

If you are facing the decision of whether or not to redshirt your child, I highly recommend reading Malcolm Gladwell’s novel Outliers. Gladwell devotes an entire chapter to how being older benefits male hockey players in Canada. You might not be Canadian, or plan on your son playing hockey, but if you have a child with a summer birthday, I’d say this is required reading.

An article in today’s Daily Beast inspired me to write this post. The author looks at why the practice of redshirting is potentially harmful. You can read that point of view here.

My daughter will be heading to college soon and I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that she will be 19 when she gets there. Recent studies of the brain have shown that the frontal lobe, the area that is responsible for reasoning, is not fully formed until the age of 21–why not give kids a little more time to grow into their brains?

What are your thoughts on redshirting?

Freedom of Choice vs. Freedom from Choice

I was 18 and working at WUOG when the Parents Music Resource Center [PMRC] came into being. Legally an adult, but barely. And while I don’t remember when I first learned of the Tipper Gore led group, I am fairly certain that I joined in when my fellow music aficionados made fun of them. I don’t think my friends and I actually discussed what the PMRC wanted to accomplish, or even why they wanted to accomplish it. That is probably because we were too busy laughing at the PRMC’s belief that we would somehow be harmed because Prince was singing about what Darling Nikki was doing with a magazine.

Twenty-five years later, I have no problem with the fact that the PMRC was successful in forcing the recording industry to come up with a rating and labeling system for lyrical content. I don’t remember buying (or not buying) a record or CD based on this system, but if it helps other parents make informed decisions I am all for it.

It is clear to me, however, that labeling content as explicit or offensive doesn’t stop it from existing. It is great to shine a spotlight on misogynistic, violent and sexually explicit lyrics, but unless you do something to eliminate the root cause of misogyny, violence and oversexualization–nothing will change.

The recent call for a boycott by the Parents Television Council [PTC] against advertisers of MTV’s new and highly controversial series, Skins, reminds me a bit of Tipper and company. In case you aren’t aware, MTV’s programming has raised the ire of not only the PTC, but also of many parents. You can read about it in detail: here. I understand why the content of Skins has parents outraged and concerned. I am just not convinced that getting the show canceled or that boycotting the network (or those who advertise on the network) is the answer.

Censorship doesn’t stop disagreeable behavior. Parents have to parent and society has to change if we want things to be different.

If you want to block MTV, then block MTV. If you don’t want to support advertisers who buy time on the network–then don’t. But, if I want to watch a show with my 17-year-old child and then discuss it, I should be able to do that.

There are people who don’t want The Catcher in the Rye to be read. Do I think Skins is in the same league with The Catcher in the Rye? Heck no. But I do believe that once you support censorship–you support censorship. Hard to put that genie back in the bottle.

Interestingly, many of the participants on both sides of the PMRC argument have now softened or revised their original stand. You can read what they have to say in this article from New York Magazine.

What do you think?

Snooki… Teacher Extraordinaire?

Can’t believe I am going to write about Snooki–again–but I am.  You see, Snooks got very drunk on last week’s episode of  Jersey Shore, and faced a serious consequence.  She was arrested.

Now I know there are those who think there is absolutely no value, other than shock, to shows like Jersey Shore.  People who believe that Snooki, the Situation, and their reality TV brethren have no business achieving 15 seconds, let alone 15 minutes of fame.  And, for the most part I agree.

Last week, however, Snooki demonstrated, in a way my parental warnings can’t, what happens when you cross a line.   And there was nothing appealing about the way she did it.  Snooki looked and behaved like an ass.  My 17-year-old daughter watched, and she too found the behavior to be abhorrent.  I know this is what she thought, because we discussed it.

There are people who believe that children and teenagers should not view programming that is distasteful.  And I agree that subject matter should be age appropriate.  But I also believe that teachable moments come through a variety of venues.  And on Thursday night, Snooki provided me with one.

MTV routinely features shows that appear to reward poor, and sometimes dangerous, behavior.  But… the network also produces a few series that inspire.  If You Really Knew Me, Made and True Life are examples of programs that shine a light, though not always a positive or candy coated one, on some of the real issues and challenges teenagers and young adults face.  These are the shows I want my kids to watch.  Yes, I am actually okay with my teenagers watching MTV–sometimes.

And sometimes, I don’t want them to watch.  But they will.  So, I do too.  And then we discuss.

Do you think TV shows and movies–even those with questionable content–serve an educational purpose?  Would you let your child watch Jersey Shore?

The Gift of Fear

My goal when writing blog posts is to keep the subject matter light and airy.  And 99.95% of the time that’s just what I’ll do–I promise.  This morning, however, I am feeling neither light nor airy, and this post, while not easy to write or maybe read, is what I feel I need to say today.

As local readers know, a 17-year old high school senior went missing this past Thursday.  The young woman, a long distance runner, disappeared while running alone outside on a trail.  Yesterday afternoon, a 30-year old convicted sex offender was arrested in the case, he was charged with first degree murder and rape.

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia.  I have mentioned this in the past.  What I haven’t mentioned is that I grew up in the city of Richmond, not the suburbs.  There was a lot of crime in the city of Richmond in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Some of it violent. Some of it directed towards women.  I remember learning at a very young age what the word rapist meant.  I learned this because the neighborhood rapist decided to target my mother.  He was watching her you see, and she saw him doing so.  As a result, we had a police stake out at my house. I wasn’t there at the time, but somehow my brother and I found out what was going on. My mother was not a victim because she was very smart when it came to personal safety. She was observant and always on guard and she wasn’t afraid to call the police when she thought she was being targeted.

It is not nice to know that the neighborhood rapist exists, even worse to know he is after your mother.  Not terrible either.  I learned at an early age to have a healthy fear of bad guys.  I learned that bad guys didn’t necessarily look like they did on TV.  I was taught never to put myself in dangerous situations.  I was told (repeatedly) what a dangerous situation was. I was raised to call my parents to check in, and often (before cell phones). All of that being the case, I still did stupid things! Nothing that ended in a bad or dire result–thankfully.

My children have been raised with the same type of instruction.  Yet, upon learning that the young local woman was missing, the first response from my 16-year old daughter was something like, “This is La Jolla, that kind of thing doesn’t happen here.” Groan.

I cannot stress enough how important I think it is to prepare our kids for the real world.  Even if that means frightening them a bit.  I was frightened, yes, but I never have lived my life in fear.  There is a difference. Gavin De Becker, a world-renowned security expert and the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Gift of Fear, believes that we all come equipped with the one tool needed to avoid putting ourselves in harm’s way.  He says we are all security experts because of this tool.  He points out that while we all possess it, most of us don’t use it.  The tool I am referring to?  Intuition.

Here is a link to the first part of a special that Prime Time Live aired on De Becker,  his theories about fear, safety and the importance of cultivating intuition.  I understand if you can only take so much of the these kinds of stories and realities and don’t want to watch.  I feel compelled though to share.