Elizabeth Heubeck

Elizabeth Heubeck is a Baltimore Fishbowl contributor and local freelance writer.

Why So Few Teens have Summer Jobs

photo courtesy of parentdish.com.
photo courtesy of parentdish.com.

Making small talk chit chat with an acquaintance recently, I asked her what her teenage daughters were doing this summer. It was one of those pleasantries that just rolled off my tongue without much forethought. I wasn’t prepared for her answer.

In rapid-fire succession, she listed about 10 items on her daughters’ to-do list this summer. Half-listening, I caught the names of a few foreign countries, and I definitely heard the term “leadership summit” and “a few weeks” in the same breath. Huh, I thought. Opening a snowball stand would probably instill a healthy dose of leadership in her teenager. But that’s not really a popular choice these days.

In fact, getting a summer job period is not something that many teens are doing this summer. Fewer than half of young people ages 16 to 24 were employed in July of 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—a much lower percentage than five and ten years earlier—and there are no signs that this statistic will be any different this summer. But it’s not entirely by choice.

While it’s true that some teenagers feel the pressure to spend the summer beefing up their resumes with highbrow experiences like leadership conferences or missionary work in far-flung places for the benefit of college admissions counselors, or perfecting their athletic skills for college athletic recruiters, other teens do want a summer job but can’t find one.

Is the World a Scarier Place Today Than When We Were Kids, or Have We Just Scared Ourselves Silly?

photo courtesy of cleveland.com.
photo courtesy of cleveland.com.

It was Saturday morning, the first weekend of the summer, and our family’s calendar was completely blank. So, naturally, my almost 11-year-old son was looking for a buddy to play with. At his request, I texted the mother of one of his friends (he doesn’t own his own cell phone), asking if her kid was available, and she promptly texted back: “He’s at the middle school playing a baseball game. Tell him to come on up.”

The school is about five blocks up the street, bang a right and head down an alley, then down a brief hill, cross a relatively busy street, and the school is staring you in the face. It’s a 15-minute walk, five or 10 minutes on a scooter. So, I wondered: Do I drop him off, offer to walk with him, or tell him to watch for cars and send him on his way?

In the grand scheme of things, it seems like a fairly insignificant question. My son is a healthy kid with no disabilities of mind or body. He knows the way and can certainly get there unassisted. What’s more, I’ve frequently opined about how, when I was a kid, I rode my bike everywhere whereas, today, kids rely on their parents to do just about everything for them but wipe their…well, you get the idea. But then another voice crept into my head.

“It’s a different world today,” that voice boomed. I’d heard it so many times before that I was fairly certain I believed it. This ‘different’ world, we’re told, is full of child predators and molesters and other freaks and weirdoes, just ready and waiting to gobble up unsuspecting innocent youths.

While these dueling voices duked it out in my head, my son immediately started searching for his shoes and scooter. “Want me to come with you?” I asked. “No,” he said. “I’ve got it.” So, after a pause that felt like a very long time, I agreed to let him go alone. As I watched my son head out the door and reminded him to look both ways, I caught a slight but discernible spring in his step. I wasn’t entirely convinced that he wouldn’t get hit by a car or swept away by a pervert, but I was equally proud of his desire to be independent.

Later that day, after he’d come home safe and sound, I did a little digging around on the Internet to see if I could rustle up some statistics to see if the world really is a scarier place today than when I was a kid, or if we’ve all just scared ourselves silly for no good reason. If you’re on the fence about letting your kid walk to the corner store or ride his bike to the pool this summer, you may be comforted by these findings:

  • Crimes against children have dropped in the last two decades, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center.
  • The rate of overall violent crime (this includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) is about the same today as in the mid-70s, about 500 crimes per 100,000 people, according to FBI crime reports.
  • Crime rates (both violent and non-violent) did climb between 1960 and 1990, but they’ve been declining every year since then, according to UNICEF USA.

So, given that statistics show our kids truly are as safe as we were when we were young, does that change what you’ll let yours do this summer? Will they be a little freer to roam the neighborhood, knowing that their chances of getting mugged are about the same as yours were when you were 11 and you thought the world was yours to discover? Or is your child’s summer far too scripted to allow any unstructured time for independent exploration, regardless of how feel about it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.


Ready or Not, Here Comes Summer

credit: azdailysun.com
credit: azdailysun.com

Ready or not, summer break is right around the corner. While my kids for have been counting down the days left of school for weeks, if not months, I’m a tad more ambivalent about the 12 weeks of summer that lie ahead.

Okay, I’ll be honest. I try to put summer vacation out of my mind until the very last moment, like the first day of summer break. That’s when I wake up and, instead of shuttling everyone off to school before settling down in my quiet, peaceful basement office for a long stretch, breaking only for a quick lunch where I feed just myself, I rise to find my children assuming it’s okay to lounge around all day and wait for me to feed them breakfast, or watch Sports Center for hours on end, or bicker with one another—just because.

This behavior drives me to the breaking point by about day three, whereas my husband, who has off most of the summer, possesses a Zen-like ability to tune out completely the alternate chaos and slovenliness surrounding him. While my husband taps at his computer or reads the paper in apparent peace and solitude, I play the role of drill sergeant. Out of my mouth spews a tirade that, by summer’s end, becomes like a repetitive news feed that goes something like this, in no particular order: You’re old enough to make yourself breakfast. Get out of your pajamas; it’s noon. No electronics before you read something. Stop bickering. Make yourself useful. Do something. Generally, my rant falls on deaf ears.

Bryn Mawr Dedicates Quadrangle to Long-term Supporters

credit: Laurel Weijer
credit: Laurel Weijer

Bryn Mawr’s Carey Quadrangle looks like the perfect oasis for sitting under a tree and losing oneself in a good book, or even a textbook. That’s probably what M. Carey Thomas, one of the founders of the Bryn Mawr School, would have thought had she been alive to witness the quadrangle as it was dedicated to the Carey Family and the W.P. Carey Foundation on May 8, 2013.

Thomas, a nineteenth century pioneer in women’s education, believed that girls deserved the same educational opportunities as boys. Though the abundance of all-girls’ schools in Baltimore today makes it hard to imagine, Thomas’s view was fairly radical for her day. Her vision helped found Bryn Mawr, the first college-preparatory school for girls in Baltimore, in 1885.

Just as Bryn Mawr continues to educate girls in the same spirit upon which it was founded by Thomas and others, The Carey family has sustained its support of the school. Four generations of Carey women attended Bryn Mawr. Recently, the W.P. Carey Foundation bestowed a $1.5 million gift to Bryn Mawr’s endowment.

“The Carey Family influence on Bryn Mawr has been truly exceptional,” said Headmistress Maureen E. Walsh in a press release. “Beginning with M. Carey Thomas, the Carey Family has consistently shown their generosity and dedication to Bryn Mawr and to our mission of educating girls. We are proud to name the Carey Quadrangle in honor of their remarkable contributions.”

Local Couple Supports Breakthrough Food Allergy Research with Golf Tournament


new golf header

Imagine living with the constant fear that your child may unknowingly eat something that contains a given food, even just a trace of it, to which he is severely allergic. Within minutes the adverse reaction takes hold: the child’s throat swells, making it difficult to breathe. If emergency assistance is not delivered immediately, the situation can quickly become life-threatening.

These angst-producing circumstances are becoming increasingly common. Nearly 6 million, or 8 percent of children, live with food allergies, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education Network. And the numbers are rising. Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of peanut allergy among children appears to have tripled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Olga and Charles Paterakis know all too well the gut-wrenching fear induced by childhood food allergies.

Their 15-year-old son Evan was born with six food allergies—to egg, dairy, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts. He has outgrown some on his own. He is still severely allergic to shellfish, as the family discovered when Evan, just a few months ago, ordered fish at a Florida restaurant that was unknowingly brushed with a sauce containing shellfish, despite the family’s explicit communication with the waiter when ordering. Severe vomiting and an anaphylactic reaction followed, requiring a rush to the nearest ER despite his use of an Epi-pen (a device that looks like a giant needle and delivers a dose of epinephrine to combat an acute allergic reaction).

Then there’s Evan’s dairy allergy.

Thanks to the Paterakis’ pediatrician and allergist, Robert Wood, M.D., Evan can now freely eat food containing dairy products. “His confidence skyrocketed after he knew he could eat pizza at birthday parties, cake if he wanted,” Olga Paterakis said.

Playing Baseball in a Lacrosse-Crazed Town

Peter Heubeck at bat.
Peter Heubeck at bat.

I once found myself walking past a varsity lacrosse game at an area independent high school and, in doing so, felt a sudden urge to genuflect.

I suppose it was a knee-jerk reaction left over from all those years during my childhood attending mass on a weekly basis. The environment at the game possessed the same feeling of reverence. You could have heard a pin drop—until one of the teams scored, of course. Then, the outburst was deafening.

To say that Baltimore is a hotbed of lacrosse would be somewhat of an understatement. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Johns Hopkins Lacrosse Team represented the U.S. in both the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. Or perhaps it’s because Baltimore’s Bryn Mawr School formed the first ever women’s lacrosse team in the 1920’s. Baltimore is also the home of US Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body; the Lacrosse Hall of Fame; and a lacrosse museum. Oh yeah, Lacrosse Magazine is based in Baltimore too.

Given the myriad ties that Baltimore has to the sport, it stands to reason that each spring legions of local parents impress upon their young children the grandeur of lacrosse, hoping their offspring will turn out to be as skilled at the game as they once were, as they believed themselves to be, or as they wished they had been. But wait. What about baseball?

A Rite of Passage: Clothes Shopping with Adolescent Daughter

credit: fanpop.com
credit: fanpop.com

Sometimes I long for the days when I’d bring home a couple bags of clothes from the mall, plop them onto my daughter’s bed, and handily close that shopping chapter until the next season. Outfitting a pre-teen adolescent girl is an entirely different story.

It’s loaded with potential pit falls and firestorms, many of which have to do with, in the eyes of my daughter, how frustratingly little her mother or school administrators know about fashion. I knew that going into it, so it was with great trepidation that I approached the Towson Town Center Mall with my daughter last Saturday. In our favor, we arrived before the crowds and scored an amazing parking space, which seemed like good karma. But whether it was enough to overcome the obstacles that lay ahead I couldn’t say.

A College Reject Speaks Out


Suzy WeissNow that college acceptance and rejection letters have been digested, the time is right for a little levity and perspective on the subject of college admissions. High school senior Suzy Lee Weiss’s article, published in the Wall Street Journal last month, delivers just that.

In case you haven’t read her article, To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me, which has gone viral on the Internet, it’s worth a read—especially if you’re a college-bound student or the parent of one. 

Weiss’s tongue-in-cheek rant over her purported misgivings regarding what she should’ve done to get into the college of her choice include, but are not limited to, the following: starting a fake charity, raising awareness of Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter-Syndrome, getting adopted by infamous Tiger Mom Amy Chua, and snagging an internship with a title like “Chairwoman of Coffee Logistics.”

Boys’ Behavior Predicts Grades

boys vs girls
credit: Gluckstein.com

It’s official: Boys generally get worse grades than girls not because they know less, but because of their behavior, say researchers in a new study.

The research, led by Christopher Cornwell of the University of Georgia, followed almost 6,000 students in grades one through six. It evaluated grades of boys and girls and compared them to standardized test scores. The findings?

Proposed Ban on Russian Adoptions Will Harm Kids



Russian baby

On a rare balmy day in mid-December, I was sitting on my front porch soaking up the distant rays when I looked to my left. A few houses down, I saw my 18-year-old neighbor, home from his first semester in college, putting up Christmas lights on his family’s front porch. He looked a little more filled out and mature than when I’d seen him just last summer. And here he was back at home for winter break, helping his family get ready for the holidays. A smile spread across my face—I’m a sucker for heart-warming scenarios like this.  I bristle to think how different this young man’s fate would be had he been a toddler now, instead of in the 1990’s, when his American parents adopted him from a Russian orphanage.