Tag: parenting

College Admissions Angst: When Ivy League Dreams Face a Less Lofty Reality

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Harvard Square courtesy Wikimedia Commons

It’s the private school version of a horror story, no chainsaws or severed hands necessary:  the student, in the top five of the graduating class at one of Baltimore’s best private schools, was well-liked by all, spent afternoons practicing music and summers building schools in Latin America. Basically, the student did everything right. The student applied to ten colleges, a reasonable mix of safeties and reaches. And (cue the screeching soundtrack), come May, the student was rejected by every single one of them.

Call it “the curse of the well-rounded white girl” or a plain old demographic shift; in any case, Baltimore parents are saying it’s real, and they aren’t sure how to react.  Do schools need to be doing more? Should parents start caring less? When parents start marching into headmasters’ offices to protest what they see as an alarming trend – Baltimore private school students losing ground in the race for slots at elite colleges – is their concern warranted?

The Cells That Got Away: A Fan’s Notes

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Are we, in fact, becoming our mothers, minute by minute? University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik contemplates the question through a scientific (and poetic) lens.

“You should put your name in,” I said to my daughter Jane the other night at the Stoop show at CenterStage. The host had invited audience members to drop their names into a paper bag in the lobby. Three would be selected to get up and tell impromptu tales after the break. Though 99 percent of the human race would consider this the worst idea ever, Jane went right ahead and filled out a slip. We had a only couple of minutes to talk about what story she might tell; the night’s theme was travel. Last fall, she remembered, her sixth grade science class had gone to Luray Caverns, and somehow she missed the bus. The weird thing was, the teacher had predicted it would happen. “If you’re not there at 7:15 sharp, you’ll be standing on the curb crying,” Ms. Punch told Jane grimly. This seemed so unlikely we joked about it for months. Until it happened.

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While a baby is gestating in the womb, reproducing cells created by the union of its parents’ DNA, some of its mother’s cells sneak in through the placenta. Researchers believe this may help to develop the immune system: “We all must learn to tolerate our mothers,” as an immunologist at the University of Wisconsin put it. After a child is born, these maternal cells remain, multiplying on their own.

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Once I interviewed an author who had written a book about communicating with your adult children. Both of her sons are successful and well-known and she did not shy from bragging about their accomplishments. In fact she might have written the whole book for this reason. I had to forgive her. From the preschool pageant to the summer camp musical, from the high school football game to the Battle of the Bands, I cast my lot with the crazed parent groupies and enraptured cell-phone paparazzi, brows knit, smiles electric, Facebook pages open wide. There is nothing more fun.

Mr. Mom: Daddy Takes on The Mommy Role

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Not to erase the afterglow from moms’ special day yesterday, but the Wall Street Journal reports in a story about fathering that more and more dads are taking on the child care role traditionally reserved for moms.

An excerpt:

Even a casual observer of American family life knows that dads now drive kids to more doctors’ appointments, preside over more homework assignments and chaperone more playdates. Research confirms the rise of co-parenting. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report found that 32% of fathers with working wives routinely care for their children under age 15, up from 26% in 2002. Popular culture has noted the trend, too. Involved regular-guy dads are now commonplace in commercials. In one AT&T ad, a dad diapers his baby while talking sports on his phone with a buddy.

Whether it is because today’s men were raised amid the women’s movement of the 1970s, or because they themselves experienced the costs of that era’s absent fathers, there is little question that the age of dads as full partners in parenting has arrived.

The topic of fathers’ roles will be the subject of a conference titled Fathers and Fathering in Contemporary Contexts to be held next month at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda.

What about you? Do you see more Baltimore dads taking on the primary caregiver role?

Read Are Dads the New Moms? at the Wall Street Journal online.

 

Overnight Parenting Adventure: Spring Break Mega-Challenge

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Mom_doing_it_all

University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik experiences spring break 2012, with all three of her kids in the picture, which may or may not involve the breaking of her house.

If you have reached this level, you have worked your way through decades of preparation. This challenge will require all your skills, as it involves a young child living in the home (“Nipsey”), an older child visiting from college for spring break (“El Capitan”), and the off-screen interference of a third piece of malware, the oldest child, who lives in an apartment full of big-screen TVs and drunken 23-year-olds in another part of town (“Donald Trump”).

There are no other adults on the premises for the duration of this challenge, which begins late in the evening when you are already tired. Like the contestants in The Hunger Games, crawl over to the cornucopia and get whatever weapons you think you may need. Just remember that unlike those kids in the movie, you win only if everyone lives.

10 pm: Bedtime My Foot

Your troubles begin gradually, when Nipsey and her friend staying overnight unleash the usual demands. They want to sleep on the floor in the living room, they want to watch Twilight, they are hungry, they aren’t tired — in fact, they are squealing with manic energy. In addition to the ordinary reasons for opposing these requests, you know that El Capitan and his girlfriend Blondie will be returning from their bar tour eventually, possibly with friends, and will require the living room.

Your resistance is met by your pre-adolescent opponent with a bitter torrent of tears, snooty facial expressions, and melodramatic incriminations. The successful parent must now bellow threats (“I’m calling

Dad Shows Teen Who’s Boss, Shoots Laptop

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A few days ago, we wrote a post on a new book that asserts that American parents have a thing or two to learn from the French about parenting.

Well, here’s something for the French to learn from us.

Gizmodo reports that a dad who found a rude posting his daughter wrote on Facebook took matters into his own hands and fired eight shots into her laptop, so it won’t happen again (at least not for awhile).

If you have teenagers, you probably understand his rage.  If you don’t, you probably think he’s crazy.  

See what all the fuss is about on our video landing on the homepage and let us know what you think in the comments. (Warning: bad language in the video.)

French Lessons

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Forget the Tiger Mom phenomenon. All over the internet now is Pamela Druckerman’s new book, Bringing Up Bebe, which asserts that French parents do a better job of raising children than their American counterparts.

Druckerman is an American who lives in Paris with her British husband and three children — in the book, she regales readers with examples of her own American “hyper-parenting” and asks why we Americans seem to be enslaved to our kids.

“Why was it, for example, that in the hundreds of hours I’d clocked at French playgrounds, I’d never seen a child (except my own) throw a temper tantrum? Why didn’t my French friends ever need to rush off the phone because their kids were demanding something? Why hadn’t their living rooms been taken over by teepees and toy kitchens, the way ours had?” she asks in story adapted from the book for WSJ Online.

Yesterday’s NYTimes review was lukewarm — “Much of the so-called French child rearing wisdom compiled here is obvious,” wrote reviewer Susannah Meadows. Really? I’ve seen too much of what Druckerman describes in my own home and around Baltimore (yes, I mean you, dad at Miss Shirley’s whose toddler kept coming up to our table) to not give it some consideration. Could we learn something from the French?

Are Your Kids Failing Enough to Succeed?

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What if private schools letting kids down by not exposing them to one of the most valuable teaching tools out there — failure? It’s an argument that seems to be cropping up more and more these days, most recently in this week’s Sunday Times Magazine

The article discusses a swanky New York private school (pre-K tuition:  $38,500) and a Harlem charter school, both of which are trying to figure out how to teach kids not just facts and study skills, but also how to be happy, functioning people. The charter school has started handing out “character report cards,” evaluating kids on seven key traits (zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity) that will serve them well later in life. That wouldn’t fly at the private school, though:  “With my school’s specific population,” says Riverdale’s principal, “as soon as you set up something like a report card, you’re going to have a bunch of people doing test prep for it. I don’t want to come up with a metric around character that could then be gamed.”

Yes, this is the world we’ve come to — and perhaps to the disadvantage to those private school kids. If character (perseverance, dedication, the ability to overcome obstacles) matters more for lasting success than IQ (as several studies cited in the article claim), then insulating kids from failure doesn’t allow them to build up that crucial skillset. Riverdale’s principal, again:  “The idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure. And in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything.” But not failing is not the same as being successful or happy; these days, children of affluent parents exhibit “unexpectedly high rates of emotional problems beginning in junior high school.” In other words, high pressure + low tolerance for mistakes + overbearing parents = stressed out kids who never learn to cope with real world challenges.

Do your kids fail at anything, ever? How do they handle it?

Senior Year: A Mom Readies Herself to Let Go

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I am struck by the speed-of-light passage of time these days.  In the last few, Emily has headed off for the first day of her senior year, and she is full of energy, excitement, plans. Meeting other seniors in the “senior parking lot” to put window paints on their cars. Things like “SEN YAS!” and “Class of 2012 Rules!” I know kids have been doing this for generations, but not mine. This is a first, and there is something solid stuck in my throat. There is a direct and inverse correlation between her happiness and my bittersweet resignation. She is emerging, and I am becoming irrelevant. Her start is my finish. At least, in terms of this precious chapter of our lives together. I hear from other parents that life is good, sometimes better, after they go off to college. But the desperation I feel to make each of the next 350 days special, better, how I want her to picture her childhood, clouds any chance of seeing that image. 

Time seemed to stretch out forever when she was little – there was the FUTURE. We were focused on things like reading, dance class, playdates. Now, I find, there is no time. The bell is ringing, and I’m not sure we got it all done! Hands up! Pencils down! Have we said everything we meant to? Done everything we intended? 

When you make your life about someone else’s life, I think it is impossible not to worry what will remain when that person leaves. Our first is not our only, so we really won’t know right away. But I fear my invisibility differently today. Our younger children will grow and leave, too. We’ve always known this. But now, with Emily literally counting down the days, I can feel it – heavy, slick, loaded.

We have taken pictures every 1st day of school for Emily’s entire life, standing in the same spot, school uniform clean and pressed. This morning, she stood in front of the rocking horse, Senior Class t-shirt hitched at her hip, hair neatly twisted, cupcakes in hand. It is a picture I will never forget – my baby’s last 1st day at home. I wish for her every joy, every happiness, that this world has to offer, even if she will go experience them on her own.

Learning to Cope with Autism

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The video “Fixing Autism” on our video landing was sent to us by Mark Kodenski, a partner at Brown Advisory who has a child with autism. It was sent to him by autism awareness activist Adrienne Gleason who got it from former WMAR anchor Mary Beth Marsden’s website RealLookAutism.com, which chronicles her life with her autistic child.

The video features Lou, a father of three whose eldest, Bianca, has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Through a series of index cards, he shares his struggles raising a child with ASD. The Indiana dad writes about his challenges on his blog “Lou’s Land.” 

“My life consists of fighting chaos at every turn and trying to develop routines that will help Bianca to thrive and feel comfortable while trying to ensure that my other kids do not resent their sister for the restraints her condition put on our daily lives.” 

Whether you have a child with autism or not, any parent can identify with Lou’s desire to do well by his child. Take a minute to check out the powerful and moving video. 

Video Spotlight is a new feature on Baltimore Fishbowl that highlights videos of particular interest.  

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