Written on August 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm , by Suzanne Rust
Four years ago, Bruce Ham lost his wife, Lisa, and his three young girls lost a mother, but with love, music and silly moments, their family is still strong. Ham shares their story in his book, Laughter, Tears and Braids: A Father’s Journey Through Losing His Wife to Cancer, and opens his home to us.
Your family, in three words?
My youngest daughter gave me one word, “weird.” I prefer creative, humorous and close.
Although I’ve been told, “Be a parent, not a friend,” I am their friend, big-time. But I also have pretty high expectations. They don’t get away with much. I was once told by my oldest daughter that I was the strictest dad in America. I believe that was slightly exaggerated and specifically tied to a desire to have an extended curfew.
It is critical that we eat together as many nights a week as possible. That’s our time to unwind, share and laugh. Some of our best stories about my wife come out at the dinner table. I try, but I am not a cook. My last-minute go-to food is a store-bought smoothie.
We have an island in the middle of our kitchen, which is smack-dab in the center of our house. That table is the hub: It’s where we eat, where homework is completed, where friends gather, where I write. When Lisa was alive, she always wanted to eat dinner at the island. I insisted on the table in the great room. When she died, it hurt too much to sit at the table with her seat empty. So almost all our meals have been at the island over the past four years.
My girls are very forgiving of my inadequacies when it comes to filling their mother’s shoes. But I have to believe the void that has been left is our biggest challenge. It comes out at times through tears. It comes out at times through frustration—like when they are the last kids picked up at the after-school program because I’m working late or when I totally forget they have a field trip. Lisa would have never forgotten something like that.
I am amazed at the resiliency of my girls. I’m amazed at their flexibility. It would have been so easy for them to shut down or to find a path that wouldn’t have been healthy. Instead, I have three daughters who are strong. One is the student body president. One spends time really trying to love and help others; her heart is as big as the ocean. The other is a comedian and actress. What an incredible combination.
Taking a Moment
I escape through exercise. I jog or go to my room and do push-ups and pull-ups. That’s how I clear my head.
The first three years after Lisa died, I did everything I possibly could to avoid a “normal” weekend. It was just too hard to be in the house that long. It’s easier now. It seems like I’m constantly driving—getting the kids to where they need to be. And about once a quarter, we have a massive sleepover with 15 or more girls at the house. That’s always an interesting evening. We’re also very involved in our church on Sundays.
Lisa had a beautiful voice and so do all my girls. My wife listened to one kind of music at a time. Winter was country, summer was pop, and you didn’t even think about turning on anything but the Christmas radio station after Thanksgiving. But country music most reminds us of her. She loved the Dixie Chicks—”There’s Your Trouble” most reminds us of Lisa.
Remains of the Day
I still tuck each of my kids into bed at night. We laugh, sing, sometimes we cry. With my oldest, we tend to just talk. Sometimes we’ll chat for an hour or more. That is what I most look forward to every single day.
My oldest daughter, Bailey, has Lisa’s leadership skills. She sees a challenge and tackles it. She’s not scared of anything. My middle daughter looks just like Lisa. She has so many of her mother’s expressions and mannerisms; she is a ninth-grade version of her mother. My youngest has my wife’s carefree attitude about life. There isn’t much that gets that kid down. She’s happy, just like her mom.
It’s the little things. I miss dancing with her. She had a beautiful voice. She used to sing along with the radio in the car and I would listen to her. If she knew I was listening, she’d stop. But sometimes I’d act like I wasn’t paying her any attention, and all the while I’d be in wonder at what was coming out of her mouth. I miss that. I miss all her clothes in my closet and her Coco by Chanel. And her flannel pajamas that I used to complain about.
A Mother’s Pride
I think she’d be proud—of her girls and of me. Proud that we’ve put the pieces of our life back together after it all was torn apart. Right before she died, she told me that she had the easy part. That if she died, she would be in peace. She told me that I had the hard part: trying to move on with our three daughters. I didn’t believe her at the time, but now I know what she was talking about. It’s been beautiful to build this sort of relationship with my children, and it’s been very, very hard to move forward.
I’m a better man, a better father, than I ever imagined I could be. When you lose someone you love that much, it puts life into perspective. I treasure my time here on earth. I appreciate the small things, like holding hands or eating dinner with my kids. I work smarter; there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I have much more empathy for others. And I’ve discovered that whatever life throws at me, I can handle—which surprises the heck out of me.
Written on August 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm , by Family Circle
By Barbara McCann
I ran into an old friend, Joyce, at a college reunion a few years ago and she looked so worn out. She shared that her mother-in-law, an active, vibrant 85-year-old, had come for a visit, fallen and was briefly hospitalized. Her return to Joyce’s home started a cascade of exhausting events that Joyce and her husband, Jim, were absolutely not prepared to handle. With their own demanding jobs and active family life, they were at their wits’ end, largely because they lacked the knowledge to navigate the health care system.
Unfortunately, as an in-home health care expert and chief industry officer for Interim HealthCare, I hear stories like Joyce’s every single day. People tend to avoid these tough “life conversations” and not get details about their loved one’s health care plans. But if families talk now, they will be far better prepared to care for an elderly family member when required. Here are four tips for being financially and emotionally ready at the precise moment you may be at your most stressed and vulnerable.
• Ask specific questions about all insurance policies: Where are they stored? What contact information would you need for them?
• Research now what’s covered by insurance—and, more importantly, what’s not. Someone who has been hospitalized, for example, will need physical and emotional attention 24/7 when they get home.
• Plan (and even save) for extra help at home, around-the-clock if necessary. Ask specific questions about when and how long nurses and aides paid for by insurance will actually be there. Think about how you’ll handle unattended time, including nighttime hours, when family caregiver rest is essential.
• Anticipate a loss of muscle strength after hospitalization. Activities of daily living (getting in and out of bed, toileting, getting dressed and fixing meals) may require significant help.
For my friend Joyce, the conversation with her mother-in-law never happened. Life was busy and Mary was healthy—until that fall. After three days in the hospital, Joyce’s mother-in-law returned to the couple’s home with bruises, a sprained wrist and significantly reduced muscle strength. Joyce and Jim thought Medicare would cover everything, but it didn’t. Mary needed help all night long, and Medicare only covers an aide a few days each week and doesn’t provide for nighttime assistance. Jim would help Mary to the bathroom but it was uncomfortable, so Joyce was needed too. All three were up nearly all night.
Jim spent hours collecting information from insurance companies and private agencies about in-home care. But when we bumped into each other at the reunion, I was able to talk to Joyce about options available through Interim. In less than six months, Mary returned to independent living with regular care through us.
Even if Interim isn’t your first choice, know that studies show 82% of senior citizens want to age in their own home and 8 out of 10 patients have improved clinical outcomes with in-home care. It’s far more cost-effective to age in place as long as there are no around-the-clock medical needs.
Families need to discuss now exactly what they want and can afford before emergency strikes, blindsiding them with the emotional, financial and physical toll of caregiving when they are least equipped to handle it and make sound decisions. The trick to a successful caregiver experience is advance planning.
An in-home health care expert and industry source, Barbara McCann is chief industry officer for Interim HealthCare. A former chief clinical officer, she currently represents the company with national and local health policy and health care quality organizations to support the highest standards for quality care delivered in the home.
Written on August 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm , by Family Circle
By Jennifer Ball-Tufford
Last Halloween there was a food drive at the school where I work—boxes set up in the hallways, with cute kid-decorated signs imploring us all to SCARE HUNGER and donate nonperishables for a local agency. On any given workday, I found myself gazing into the bins more than once or twice. Why? Because I like food. It’s like porn to me. I wish I was lying. So when I walked by, naturally I peeked in at the packages.
Dang. Talk about some swanky grocery shoppers at our school. Think “fancy” stuff, as in, organic this and that, and other very appealing deviations from the standard boxes of mac and cheese and spaghetti. There was rice pasta, gluten-free crackers, olive tapenade, artichoke hearts packed in seasoned oil and quinoa. I peered at the contents of those bins like Sylvester ogled Tweety Bird.
Strolling by one day, checking out the bins, I came upon one of the women who helped organize the drive and called out, “Wow! Look at all this awesomeness!” or something similarly enlightening. She beamed at me and said, “I know! The parents at this school are amazing.” As she was speaking, another woman happened by. She smiled at us, like people who see each other several times a day in passing do, and then said this:
“Too bad they won’t know what to do with most of it.”
It was one of those moments in life when your ears hear something but your brain can’t quite process it. I was fairly certain I’d just heard her say what I thought I’d heard her say…but it didn’t really sink in. It floated there, like a film of rainbow-hued oil over a puddle in the street. I spoke up while she was still within earshot, asking, “What do you mean?” I needed an answer, to verify what she’d said and make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. The woman stopped walking and turned toward me, one hand holding a couple of manila folders, the other resting lightly on her hip. She was still smiling. “Those people won’t know what most of that stuff is. I mean, really. Quinoa?”
Yep. I’d heard correctly. Those people.
At that moment, it had been eight months since the last time I got groceries at our local food pantry. Eight months since the long-overdue child support from my ex-husband kicked in. Even though it wasn’t much, it made the difference between being able to buy enough food for the five of us and having to supplement from a food pantry. For that, I’m grateful.
I can still vividly recall my first time visiting the food pantry. I’d driven by many, many times, trying to work up the courage to pull into the parking lot. I’d whisper to myself, “Dammit. I can’t,” and keep driving, home to the barren refrigerator and the Old Mother Hubbard cupboards. Until desperation overshadowed my pride.
Once you get past the hardest part, which is walking through the door, being at the food pantry isn’t so bad. I mean, it’s not something that would inspire one to burst into song and run around high-fiving people, but as far as life experiences go, it’s not terrible. Sure, there’s the heat on your cheeks as you fill out the paperwork, giving these strangers your life history. Telling them how you got into this pickle. This predicament. Explaining what you do for money, how much you get and what you spend it on. But you get used to having hot cheeks. You become accustomed to averting your gaze so as not to make too much eye contact. You eventually become, dare I say, comfortable.
I quickly learned that food pantries are a lot like T.J. Maxx—hit or miss. Some days the shelves are full, and with really good things. Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese. Organic marinara sauce. Fresh vegetables. Whole chickens in the freezer. Brie from Trader Joe’s that’s only two days past the expiration date. Other days, you have to scramble to even get near the required weight of food in your cart. (Yeah, you get a certain number of pounds of food, depending on the size of your family.) Dented cans of creamed corn. Spoiled produce that even the most resourceful broke chef couldn’t salvage. Individual sleeves of saltine crackers. But beggars can’t be choosers, right?
All in all, I visited the food pantry a total of five times over the course of 11 months, confiding in only one friend about it. When I told my kids, I expected them to laugh or get angry or be embarrassed. They didn’t do any of those things. Instead, they helped me put the groceries away, and did so quietly, not saying much other than the occasional “Yum!” or “Gross!” I can recall, on command, almost all the meals I made with food pantry goodies. Oven-roasted chicken with quartered rosemary potatoes. Turkey chili. French toast. More mac and cheese than I care to admit. One of my favorites was an organic risotto, flavored with mushrooms and olive oil.
I wanted to walk up to that woman in the hallway and smack the folders out of her hand. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her as I got up in her face and yelled at her, “You clueless, pretentious b***h! You don’t know a thing about how it feels to walk into one of ‘those’ places and be one of ‘those’ people. You’ve never had to swallow your pride and admit that you need a hand. You’ve never looked at your kids and had to hide your tears because you had no idea how you were going to feed them. You know what? Those people will be grateful to see this food. They’ll be saying silent prayers of thanks as they box that stuff up and bring it home and make it for their families. And they will never, ever forget how it felt to feel so appreciative for something as simple as food.” I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. Instead, all I could muster was:
“I like quinoa.”
To which she replied, “Well, yes, of course. You’re not one of those people.”
If only she knew.
Jennifer Ball-Tufford blogs about divorce, single motherhood and life as a fortysomething at happyhausfrau.blogspot.com. She loves her kids, Louis CK and binge-watching TV on Netflix.
Written on August 12, 2014 at 8:27 am , by Janet Taylor
Parents should always be proud of their children’s academic success, but we also need to acknowledge achievements that can’t be captured on a report card. Beyond smarts lies wisdom. It’s harder to instill but worth the effort and arguably a more important quality.
To help our kids claim that higher learning, we must talk to them about making decisions that are reflective, not impulsive. When 14-year-old Hunter Gandee’s mother shared a dream she had in which Hunter was carrying his younger brother, the teen came up with an idea. He wanted to effect real change for the nearly 800,000 children and adults in the U.S. struggling with cerebral palsy, which his younger sibling has. So he strapped his 50-pound brother, who uses a walker, to his back and toted him for 40 miles in an effort to gain attention for the disease. The two-day hike was reported on national TV and in print.
Another way to guide children toward wisdom is with lessons in self-compassion. They must learn how to be kind to themselves by accepting their failures as well as their successes. That’s what 7-year-old Cameron Thompson learned after he was caught teasing another second-grade boy who brought a Barbie doll to show-and-tell. Cameron still felt bad weeks after apologizing to the boy and asked his mother if he could start an anti-bullying club at school to help teach his classmates how to be kinder. More than 75 kids showed up to the first meeting. With his parents’ help, he also posted a “Confessions of a Bully” video on YouTube. It’s been viewed at least 70,000 times.
Character, they say, is what you do when no one is watching. These kids managed to do the right thing when they were out of sight and when all eyes were on them: undeniable proof that wisdom is achievable at every age.
Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts here. Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written on August 11, 2014 at 4:19 pm , by Family Circle
By Gwen Moran
On the floor of my home office, Chloe, a 90-pound Labrador retriever, is lying on my foot, snoring. For most of the morning, she’s been staring accusingly at me and sighing loudly. I have a choice: move and wake her—and risk her resuming that reproachful look—or endure the growing pins-and-needles sensation. Then I think about her sad eyes. Pins and needles it is. Nearby, I also hear our two cats, Whiskers and Ranger, meowing, in searching mode, carefully scanning every corner of the house for her.
This warm September morning, my menagerie’s favorite human—a fair- skinned, blue-eyed 11-year- old girl named Abby— grabbed her backpack and kissed each of them goodbye. They don’t know she climbed aboard a big yellow bus heading for her first day of middle school; they only know that their playmate and companion is gone. And they’re not alone in wandering around, feeling a little lost. I can’t help but miss her too, wondering how her day’s going.
I finally wiggle my foot free from under our slumbering dog and walk softly to the kitchen. I see Whiskers knocking around a cloth mouse—the one Abby usually throws to him. With no one to toss it back, he gives up and walks away. It’s less fun to play alone. Ranger’s lying on the laundry room floor, curled up on one of Abby’s old T-shirts. The house itself feels emptier without our singing, soccer- playing tween to keep us all entertained. During summer’s lazy days, Abby has more time to dote on her furry companions. When she skips rope on the patio, Chloe lies in the grass nearby while the indoor- only cats stare from the patio door. When we head to the park, our pup’s tail and tongue dance happily as she follows her girl’s every move. When Abby returns indoors to read a book or watch television, the cats curl up on her lap with the dog lounging at her feet, forming a content “pack.”
The pets always miss her presence the most. Abby has raised each of them since they were babies, so it’s not surprising they love her best. The kittens, abandoned in our yard at barely one month old by their sick feral mother, spent weeks in Abby’s bathroom, where she dutifully fed them from a plastic syringe every four hours around the clock. The day we visited the farm where Chloe was born, the eight-week-old pup ran to my daughter and chewed on her long hair, practically claiming her.
Now Chloe’s awake from her nap and her head snaps to the door at every passing noise that might signal Abby’s return. I wish there were a way to tell her she’ll burst through the door— precisely at 3:09—sharing tales of her first day before they all settle down in the dining room while she does her homework. Soon enough the four of us will adjust to our new daytime routine. But for now, we’ll be waiting until she returns home so we can have her all to ourselves again.
Gwen Moran is an award-winning writer and creator of Biziversity.com.
Written on August 5, 2014 at 12:18 pm , by Christina Tynan-Wood
“We could pull a Thelma and Louise right here, Mom.” Ava (15) was pointing to the precipice falling away into oblivion before our car.
“I was about to say that!” I answered.
We were climbing into the mountains on our way out of Death Valley, six days into our own epic, life-changing road trip, and relocating from North Carolina to California. Everyone—well, mostly my teenagers—had expressed no small amount of anxiety about our ability to get along in a car for that long. When informed that we planned to drive cross-country with two quarrelsome teens and 60 pounds of stubborn canine anxiety, a few people had suggested that our chances of ending in mayhem and bloodshed were high.
At least one of the trip’s detractors was in the car with us. “I’m dreading this,” Cole (17) had said the night before our departure. “Ten days in a car with my family. What could be worse?”
I didn’t voice my fears but I certainly had them. My kids are so skilled at bickering they could have coached Liz Taylor and Richard Burton for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. My husband, Dan, and I had just packed all our earthly belongings into a moving container, a herculean effort that had left us teetering close to Taylor-and-Burton territory ourselves. I’m aware that moving has a stress quotient that’s right up there with divorce. Was I crazy to think that throwing this road trip on top of the move wouldn’t cause one to lead to the other?
“Maybe we’ll have fun,” the Pollyanna voice in my head ventured.
So I overprepared. I made sure everyone had a working smartphone with data, a tablet and headphones. I made sure the kids downloaded books, movies and music to those devices before we left in case we found ourselves without cell service or Wi-Fi. GM had loaned me a Buick Enclave for the journey as part of its Buick Bucket List campaign. It sports plenty of charging ports, video monitors and space as well as some serious creature comforts, such as heated and cooled seats. The dog would have the third row and each teen a monitor. We were not planning on suffering. Since this particular car does not sport a Wi-Fi connection (though most cars with OnStar will in the future), we packed a NetGear Mingle so that everyone could get online with their laptops and tablets. When another famously quarrelsome couple (Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke) went searching for the source of the Nile, preparation was essential. I told myself the same was true for us. Preparation didn’t guarantee success—certainly not for Burton and Speke—but the lack of it could mean certain failure.
And here we were, six days later, staring into a (stunningly beautiful) abyss.
We’d had to make a few compromises for the dog, but not many. We were able to find beds, TV and free Wi-Fi in places that let our pet stay with us at every stop. It was pretty easy. We simply limited ourselves to two hotel chains and used the Hotels Tonight app, when possible, to secure rooms at a bargain price. La Quinta hotels are always pet-friendly but, from afar and with only a smartphone, it’s hard to tell the difference between the nice properties and the sketchy ones. Best Westerns usually accept pets and are sometimes (I’m talking about you, Best Western near Zion) exceptionally pleasant. We also like KOA’s Deluxe cabins because they’re as nice as hotel rooms and often pet-friendly, plus they offer more space, including a kitchenette and a separate room for the kids. So, with almost no advance planning, we did fine on accommodations.
We also survived vast deserts that lacked not only water but cell service. We were traveling with our phones on an AT&T plan, a Nokia 2520 tablet with 4G on Verizon, and the Mingle on Sprint’s networks. I now know for certain that all claims by cell companies that they have connected the entire world do not include vast stretches of American mountains, plains and desert. But it didn’t matter. By the time we got past Oklahoma, the need to always be connected had drifted away, along with most of the worries that we wouldn’t get along.
When we got to the New Mexico desert, Cole grabbed the Bluetooth connection to the Enclave’s sound system so that we could all enjoy that landscape to the sound tracks to Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns like A Fistful of Dollars. “Is that atmospheric or what?” he asked as we drove over a bridge with desert as far as the eye could see while a train passed beneath us, Ennio Morricone’s music playing full blast.
We survived my husband’s disastrous attempts at hula hoop in Santa Fe, blistering (115 degrees!) heat in Death Valley, our own bad singing and some terrible food. As a family, we are stronger for it.
It turns out this crazy road trip was an excellent idea. My bickering kids got into only a few scrapes. My husband and I have a blast together when we aren’t working so hard. Our post-move aches and pains were soothed by repeatedly alternating the car’s seats between heated and chilled. We saw a dozen places—Monument Valley, Zion National Park, Death Valley and Memphis among them—that were on my bucket list. And we witnessed a few things that none of us expected or really hoped to see, including the Area 51 Alien Brothel (or the gas station portion of it, anyway) and the Continental Divide fireworks and souvenir store.
As we crested that hill with Death Valley below and only my sane driving decisions keeping us from Thelma-and-Louise oblivion, Ava was not suggesting that we end it all in an apocalyptic blaze. She was demonstrating that we were enjoying each other’s company.
“See,” she answered. “I can read your mind. Love you, Mom!” She smiled at me in the rearview. “Who knows you better than anyone?”
Written on August 5, 2014 at 12:00 am , by Family Circle
Have your sneakers been looking a little worn lately? Enter to win a new pair of Asics sneakers for your family by commenting below with your favorite type of exercise! For official rules, click here.
In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, sales of these colorful Asics running shoes (asicsamerican.com, $140) benefit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a nonprofit that raises money for research.
Written on August 5, 2014 at 12:00 am , by Family Circle
Pilot Pen wants to help you stock up for school. Enter for a chance to win a journal, a year’s supply of Pilot Pens and a $300 American Express gift card by commenting below with your must have school supplies. For official rules, click here.
Written on August 5, 2014 at 12:00 am , by Family Circle
Deck out your student’s homework zone with stylish supplies from Target. Enter the Family Circle + Target Homework Station Sweepstakes for a chance to win one $500 Target gift card by commenting below with what school supplies you would buy with the gift card?
For official rules, click here.
Written on July 30, 2014 at 11:31 am , by Family Circle Momster blog
Downsizing can lead to some tough questions. Like, how do you throw out a lifetime of memories?
By Sandra Bornstein
It took me a few seconds before I summoned the strength to open the first box on my cluttered basement shelf. Labeled “treasures,” it was filled with my children’s old drawings and art projects, each one wrapped in white tissue paper. As I started to unpack, memories from my four sons’ early school years raced through my head. Each item made me hopscotch back and forth through time.
There was one—a piece of paper marked with a few colored scribbles—that I couldn’t place. But it brought me back to my eldest son’s preschool years. He rarely sat still and had almost no interest in art.
I found colorful handiworks in another box; an elaborate mask and an assortment of ceramic pieces made me pause. These were done by my other sons—they definitely had more artistic talent than their older brother.
Each one was indeed a treasure. But were they all worth saving?
Early on, I had chosen to hang on to most of my children’s artistic endeavors. I wanted my kids to know that I valued their efforts and was proud of their accomplishments. I knew what it felt like to have one’s creativity shunned. My mother always threw away my art projects the same day I brought them home. I didn’t want to repeat that behavior. Instead, I showcased my children’s artwork for at least several weeks. Some noteworthy pieces stayed on display indefinitely.
Weeks before, my husband and I had decided to downsize. We simply couldn’t take everything with us. Every item in my house had to undergo a new level of scrutiny. I shed a few tears as bits and pieces of my children’s childhood were smashed into black plastic bags.
So much about our decision to move was difficult. My family had relocated to Colorado to be closer to the fresh mountain air of the Rockies. This was my dream house, filled with fond recollections. The home itself was amazing, each room designed for a large family. We spent movie nights gathered around a large screen with a professionally wired sound system. We exercised together in the basement, which was outfitted with fitness equipment. It wasn’t possible to envision that the house would become hollow and lifeless when our kids became adults.
Maintaining a big home once my children were gone was hard enough, but after my husband was in a near-fatal ski accident, it no longer made sense. We had new priorities. We wanted to travel and enjoy the nearby Rocky Mountains.
It took a couple of months to sort through all our things. I discarded the notion that I needed to save an item simply because it might be needed at some unknown future date. I was overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff I had voluntarily chosen to keep. Each week, we filled our two large trash receptacles and the oversize recycling bin.
Now that the tedious and sentimental process of downsizing is behind me—and my husband and I are happily settled into our new, smaller home—I am relieved and content with my decision, as overwhelming as it was at the time.
I am thrilled that I have two less bathrooms to clean and that my vacuuming routine is considerably less onerous. Moreover, I am now enjoying a less-expensive life that includes lower taxes, utility bills and mortgage payments. But most important is the fact that my husband and I have more time and money to enjoy life’s adventures—and to make some new memories in the process.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of the award-winning book May This Be the Best Year of Your Life. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. Sandra currently writes a blog that focuses on life as an empty nester, book reviews, author interviews and travel. For more information visit sandrabornstein.com.
Written on July 28, 2014 at 12:42 pm , by Jonna Gallo
With my oldest son just turning 10, I have a while to contemplate the college launch (gasp!) and furnishing a postage-stamp-sized dorm room. But my sister-in-law is in the thick of it now, since my niece graduated from high school in June and is heading to a state university next month. I know the two of them are trying to figure out what’s truly necessary and what isn’t, given the lack of space. Top Twelve Dorm Shopping Mistakes, written by the two smart moms behind the parenting blog Grown and Flown, has what sounds to me like a lot of sensible advice. My top two takeaways: Make triple-sure your kid knows how to appropriately dose herself with OTC remedies like Advil, and if you’re driving, consider packing in garbage bags so there’s no luggage to store, hogging valuable real estate. Even without college looming imminently for my kid, I found this worthwhile. And in my heart of hearts, given how the past decade has flown, I feel like I’ll need this info sooner rather than later. The impact of that knowledge on my heart is a subject for another day.
For more info on navigating the high-school-to-college transition, my colleague Suzanne Rust has a terrific feature in the August issue of Family Circle, “The ABCs of College.” Read it here.
Written on July 24, 2014 at 11:42 am , by Janet Taylor
To the best of my recollection, I have never met a trust fund kid. I’m sure there are benefits to having a friend who never has to worry about working, paying rent or facing the dreaded “I’m sorry, do you have another card?’ from an ambivalent waitress. He or she might offer to foot your bill or pay for trips and would never squeeze you for cash. Sounds convenient, right?
But perhaps actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was aware of something about trust fund children that I am not. His untimely death resulted in a large sum of money going directly to the mother of his three kids because he refused to put any cash into trusts for them. Reportedly, he told his accountant that he didn’t want them to be perceived as “trust fund” children.
Which begs the question…why?
His decision is not without precedent. Reportedly, Bill and Melinda Gates will leave their children only $10 million each. Warren Buffet allegedly will do the same. On the other hand, Oracle chief Larry Ellison famously began distributing the family fortune to his kids at the age of 18. He didn’t want them to “be afraid of money” but instead wanted them to learn about the ethical and social responsibility that access to a vast fortune entails. Although both dropped out of college, they are hardworking adults.
It’s pretty simple to understand why creating trust fund kids may not be optimal for some uber-wealthy families. The common perception is that money is a primary motivator for hard work. That’s a complete myth. In fact, leading motivators for hard work are caring about customers and clients, having a sense of purpose, passion, an alignment of values, wanting to achieve and just plain having fun.
What’s interesting is that Hoffman made a shrewd declaration of how society endorses the wealthy and privileged at the risk of alienating the lower classes. Perhaps he also wanted his children to learn the value of earning a dollar and, more important, character.
However, character does not come from a zip code. Parents with limited means raise responsible children and struggle with the same parenting issues as middle- and upper-income parents.
For my money, the underlying issue is not related to how much cash we give or leave for our kids, it’s the life lessons we teach them. What kind of role models are we as parents? What kind of respect do we exemplify toward others? How much do we show love to folks in our own households?
Money doesn’t buy happiness. I would guess that a trust fund doesn’t either.
Would you ever establish a trust fund for your child? Post a comment and let me know.
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