Turn a Boring Summer Day into a $10,000 College Fund!

Written on June 25, 2014 at 11:31 am , by

By Robb Riedel

The rev of a lawn mower. The chirping of crickets. The hypnotic melody of an ice cream truck. It’s official: Summer has finally arrived! Which means the three words mothers dread the most can’t be far behind: “Mom, I’m bored.” It seems by the time school’s been out for a mere week, there’s already nothing to do.

But boredom isn’t necessarily a negative, especially when it could result in winning some cold, hard cash for college. All your child has to do is invent the winning outdoor activity in the Clif Kid Backyard Game of the Year contest. Relish a rare moment of tranquillity by charging your kid with the task of inventing a new, fun fresh-air activity that doesn’t promote violence and can be played by children ages 6 to 12. Your kid might get inspiration from your own childhood, when unstructured time meant heading outside to play tag, build a fort or ride a bike through the neighborhood. Kids can also check out previous finalists’ creations, which include creative games like Tortoise & the Hare Ball and Sidewalk Chalk Adventure.

Go to clifkidbackyardgame.com to enter the name of your child’s game, a description and a photo. The kid who creates the best activity will win a bike and helmet, a special block party for family and friends and, most important, a $10,000 educational scholarship!

There’s no better reason to send kids outside to play! The contest ends July 3, so there’s ample time for them to perfect their game’s rules and submit photos. For more information, visit clifkidbackyardgame.com.


5 Geeky Ways to Get Rid of Clutter

Written on June 25, 2014 at 11:00 am , by

I am in the process of moving. I’m excited about my new house, but the move also has me jumpy. Every time I open a closet, I slam it shut in fear. Out-of-date gadgets, clothes that don’t fit, shoes that were a bad idea and broken purses stare back, accusing me of procrastination. They are right. I don’t know where the time in this house went, but I clearly didn’t spend enough of it disposing of crap I no longer want or need.

I’m not alone. According a new Intel survey, almost half of Americans (47%) keep outdated tech devices long after they are useful. And according to a recent “spring cleaning” survey by used electronics marketplace uSell.com, 68% of U.S. residents suffer from “compulsive gadget hoarding.”

We don’t keep this stuff because we love it and hate to part with it. We keep it because it’s too much trouble to get rid of it, we have sensitive data on old devices that we can’t be bothered to fetch, and we’d rather clean a toilet than wipe those devices clean of that info. It’s the same thing with the worn-out handbagsshoes that looked sexy in the catalog but not so much on a closet shelf, and kitchen gadgets that haven’t been used since the term “gluten” became synonymous with evil.

But reckoning day is here. At least for me. According to Nik Raman, chief operating officer of uSell.com, the trick to getting past my fear of this overwhelming chore is to focus on one item at a time. And I knew just the item. My husband has been hauling around a suitcase-size backgammon board since we met. Inspired by a survey from moving marketing company Our Town America that found that one in three movers admitted to “accidentally losing” a significant other’s prized possession, I started my donation box with the backgammon board. That felt good. Next, since money is a great motivator, I decided to focus on getting rid of junk that someone would pay money for. I started this project three weeks ago. Today my house is nearly Spartan and my wallet fat with cash. I can’t understand why I held on to that stuff for so long. I had a good time getting rid of it and I’ll have a good time spending this cash.

Here are my top 5 strategies for getting rid of junk—and turning some of it into cash or nice new things.

eBay App

I had some kitchen appliances that I hadn’t used in ages which are popular on eBay and not prohibitively expensive to ship. I spread them out on my counter, snapped photos with my smartphone and, with a few taps on my phone, listed them on eBay. Then I put the appliances back in the cupboard. A week and a trip to FedEx later, I was not only $100 richer, with room in my cupboards, but I was also getting happy notes from people who were enjoying those neglected appliances. Fun!

Craigslist

I kept a couch I wanted to replace for two years because it was too much trouble to get rid of. I’d called the Salvation Army, but they wouldn’t take it since it had a small tear in the seat. This, however, is what Craigslist is for. Using the cPro Craigslist app (Apple App Store or Google Play), I took a few pictures of the couch, listed it as “Free” and waited. Within a day, someone took it away in a truck, thrilled to have a beater for the playroom that his kids could jump on. That went so well that I walked through my house snapping pictures of all the furniture I don’t want to move and adding prices and clever descriptions. Every few days, someone shows up, hands me cash, chats for a bit and happily carries off my detritus.

Glyde.com

My son went on a phone-dropping spree, which resulted in a useless smartphone sitting on my desk. He had priced replacing the screen and found out it was cheaper to replace the phone. But used marketplace Glyde claimed that it could sell even a broken smartphone. I entered the model and was honest about its shattered screen. A few minutes later, the phone sold for $45. A few days later, a shipping box showed up in the mail and I dropped the phone in and sent it off.

Twice

Next stop, my closet. It was crammed with clothes that haven’t fit me since I lost those pounds I don’t want back. Some of them were nice labels, though, so I requested a shipping bag from LikeTwice.com. This site buys clean, quality clothing and resells it online. I filled the bag with clean clothes in good shape and dropped it off at the post office. A week later, the site told me I had money to spend. When I get to my new house, I’ll order a few new things that fit.

Amazon

I had a used smartphone that was too old—or perhaps too obscure a brand?— for Glyde or uSell.com. On Amazon, I clicked “Have one to sell?” after looking up the model. I didn’t even have to take a picture. I just typed in its condition and the price I wanted for it. It sold within the hour.

 

Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on June 23, 2014 at 12:36 pm , by

Macaroni and cheese is always a surefire hit. Jazz it up with mushrooms and smoked Gouda and you get our Smoky Wild Mushroom Mac. Instagram user @danabstein made the recipe, which she said was a certified win in her house. She paired the irresistible dish with a side salad—we’re adding bonus points for the great plate and presentation!

Vegetarians, meat lovers, cheese-aholics… There’s something for everyone in this slide show of our favorite mac and cheese recipes.

 

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.


Getting Back to What Matters Most

Written on June 23, 2014 at 10:37 am , by

By Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Hands Free Mama

As my family prepares for an upcoming out-of-state move, I’ve been forced to think about what home means to me. I’ve always believed home is a feeling, not a place. More specifically, home is the feeling of peace and completeness I feel when I am surrounded by the people I love.

But recently, my definition of home has expanded. Home is also living Hands Free.

What began as small changes to let go of distraction, pressure and perfection has become a necessity—like water, air and food. Each day, I need time to connect to what matters in some form or fashion. I need time to rest, laugh, listen and breathe.

Smelling my daughter’s freshly washed hair … feeling sunshine on my face as I wait for swim practice to conclude … jotting down writing ideas in a notebook … tight hugs before we go our separate ways … my Hands Free moments are home to me now.

But I must be realistic. As much as I would love all moments in life to be calm, present, safe and undistracted, it is simply not possible. We live in a fast-paced world saturated with duties, deadlines and devices. In a world inundated with distraction, it is easy to get far from home.

Yet with almost four years’ experience living Hands Free, I am able to detect when I am getting too far from what matters. No longer am I willing to push and pressure and “yes” my way through life to the point that I lose sight of everything that matters most.

Here are some of the difficult truths I say to myself when I am getting too far from home. These “red flags” help me realize when I need to say no, re-establish my boundaries or reassess what matters and what doesn’t.

My distraction radar says:

“You’re overwhelmed.”

“You’re staying up too late.”

“You haven’t sat down all day.”

“You’re eating at the kitchen counter.”

“Your heart is racing.”

“You are complaining more than you are being positive.”

“You are quick to anger.”

“You are bullying yourself.”

“You are trying to do too much at once.”

When I hear these painful truths in my head, I don’t ignore them like I used to. Nor do I make excuses or get defensive. Instead, I do one of the following actions to bring myself back home:

• I lower the bar. I remind myself nothing has to be perfect, just “good enough for today.”
• I turn away from the outside/online world and turn toward my inner circle of friends and family.
• I take a walk. Even 10 minutes of fresh air and time for reflection helps me feel rejuvenated and less overwhelmed.
• I silence the inner critic with three powerful words: Only Love Today.
• I resist the urge to push myself beyond my limits and make a reasonable plan for getting one item accomplished at a time.
• I throw on a hat and stop fussing over my appearance.
• I treat myself with kindness and compassion like I would a friend who is going through a hard time.
• I say, “I cannot worry about that right now,” and stop obsessing over things I cannot control.

Whenever my distraction radar goes off, I try to do one of those things—even if it is for only a few minutes. These actions help me protect what is important in my life and keep me moving forward on my Hands Free journey. My friends, we cannot control all the circumstances of our life, but we can control some. When faced with feelings of being overwhelmed, take a moment to evaluate: Is everything I’m trying to do today necessary? Is there somewhere I can lower the bar? Is the feeling of home in here somewhere? Each day, take one small step toward what brings you peace and fulfillment. This way, you’ll never get so far from home that you can’t get back to what matters most.

 

Rachel is the New York Times best-selling Author of Hands Free Mama. She resides in Alabama with her husband and two daughters, who inspire her daily. You can join her on her journey to let go of distraction and grasp the moments that matter at www.handsfreemama.com

 


Game On!

Written on June 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm , by

Take a break from the heat and save on summer fun at the bowling alley or arcade.

 

Brunswick Bowling Student Ball Pass: One free game a day for kids, June through August, if you become a Bonus Zone rewards member.

Kids Bowl Free: Two free games a day, plus adults can get a family pass for $25.

Dave & Buster’s Arcade: New members of the rewards program earn $10 in games and receive monthly emails with discounts.


What Dr. Janet Wants You to Do for 20 Seconds to Feel Better Now

Written on June 18, 2014 at 6:11 pm , by

How many times have you been hugged today? Chances are even if you’re lucky enough to have been enveloped in the arms of someone you love, you still haven’t been hugged enough. That’s because the more embraces you have, the better it is for your health. Eight, in fact, is ideal. Here’s why:

Hugs are a power boost for our immune system. They decrease stress levels, help fight fatigue, promote well-being, lower blood pressure, improve our cardiovascular system and benefit aging muscles. Plus, there is nothing like a hug to make you feel up when you are down or safe when you are searching.

The science behind the embrace helping to heal both your head and your heart can be summed up in one word: oxytocin. Oxytocin is a chemical that’s released from your brain during the act of hugging, breast-feeding and, yes, sex. Think about the billions of dollars spent on self-help books, vitamins and little blue pills when one of nature’s most potent resources is free and can be plentiful! A 20-second hug, multiple times during the day (as I mentioned earlier, eight is best), is all it takes.

The challenge is to actually do it. Here are some suggestions to get your daily doses in.

1)   Unplug. Make eye contact and just go for it.

2)   Pay attention. Watch how others are feeling. We get so caught up in our own issues that we miss cues from people that we care about showing us they need to be held.

3)   Keep count. When you track and measure a goal, it increases your likelihood of obtaining it.

4)   Don’t be shy. If you have a teenager who avoids embraces, do it anyway.

5)    Draw everyone in. Get your whole family involved. Encourage group hugs.

6)    Press the men. Many dads stop demonstrating affection to their sons as they get older. Don’t let that be the case in your house.

Happy hugging!

Who are you going to hug today? Post a comment and tell me here.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 


Dealing With Bullies (When You Disagree With Your Partner)

Written on June 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm , by

The only thing harder than helping your kid handle bullies at school is helping your kid do so when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page. Our parenting expert, Rosalind Wiseman, received a letter from a woman struggling with just that situation. She has a picked-on kid and a hands-off ex who disagrees with her tactics. Here’s what happened and what you can do to handle similar situations within your family.

Q. “When my son, Nick, told me he was being bullied at school, I immediately called a meeting with my ex-husband, the principal, a counselor and my child. But my ex doesn’t think our son is being bullied. He thinks I just don’t understand “boy world.” The principal was glad the situation was brought to his attention but mentioned that Nick needs to “loosen up” because he doesn’t like to make mistakes and he’s rigid when around other boys. Nick is very upset that I called the school meeting; he also said that even though the bullying subsided for a few days, it has started again. He has begged me not to discuss it again with school officials or with his father. Most recently he asked if he could have liposuction near his armpits because the boys are saying he’s fat. I’ve spoken with my son about bullies. I’ve also talked about the power a bully gets from provoking a desired reaction. Nick clams up and doesn’t want to hear my suggestions. I’m so afraid the bullying will escalate that I’m considering signing him up for a martial arts class, and I even showed him how to physically defend himself last night.”

A: Your parenting dynamic is pretty common, but it makes it much more difficult for your son. The dad wants his son to stop complaining and deal with the other kids (the Boy World thing he wants you to understand), and you want to comfort your child. Both of you are right. Your son, as you and the school agree, is socially inflexible and that makes it harder for him to get along with his peers. But that doesn’t justify the other boys bullying him. He needs social skills and emotional support, and he needs parents who recognize the value of each. But as long as you and your ex have judgments about the other’s point of view (to put words in both of your mouths, he thinks you coddle him and you think he’s callous), your parenting dynamic will make it much harder for your son to learn what he needs to in this situation.

And this is why your situation is so applicable to so many families. The fact is all children are going to experience conflict with their peers. How the adults in the child’s life guide him through the process of responding to conflict is often the invisible force that either increases the child’s emotional resilience and strengthens the family, or decreases the child’s emotional fortitude, makes him more vulnerable to abuse by his peers, causes him to feel ashamed that he is a target, and makes him resistant to asking for help. All that happens while he’s still desperate for the bullying to stop and caught between his parents’ opposing opinions.

Helping your kid navigate his way through dangerous territory doesn’t mean leading him by the hand.

For your son’s emotional well-being and physical safety, you first need to say something to him about your family situation. Something like:

Your dad and I both love you—we just have different opinions about how to help you. That’s one of the reasons why we need to have someone at school help us think through what you need to feel more in control of the situation. But I also want you to know two things: You are always entitled to your feelings. If you’re upset about something, you have the right to be upset. What we want to do is help you decide how to pick your battles. For example, kids putting you down about your body or saying you don’t belong is wrong and needs to stop. But when you’re playing a game with your classmates and you get upset about a rule being broken we need to find different strategies so that you can talk to the other kids in a more effective way, one that doesn’t come across as rigid. That’s what your father and I want.

It’s a hard balance for you—for any parent in your situation. You have to simultaneously give Nick confidence that he can face kids’ cruelty and/or allow him to feel the consequences of his inflexibility (kids reacting negatively to him) so he has the internal motivation and confidence to make things better for himself. And you have to do this all while feeling incredibly anxious and powerless to make it better for him.

Until this becomes a reality, here’s how you can help your child deal with conflicts at school.

Unless you have experiences with the school that demonstrate incompetence or unprofessionalism, have faith in the counselor and the administrator, but don’t hesitate to demand what you need. Ask the counselor (or whomever you’re talking to) to help you come up with three responses you can say when Nick complains about the mean things his peers are saying (like the weight comments). What I say to kids in Nick’s situation (being bullied, but they don’t want to report it) is this:

I’m really sorry this is happening and I wish I could make the problem disappear, but you know I can’t. What I can do is listen to you and help you come up with the smartest strategy for dealing with those kids. We won’t be able to make 100% of the problem go away, but if we can make the problem go down even by 20%, hopefully you’ll feel better and more confident about how you’re handling it. Once that happens, those kids have less power over you.

It’s also time for you to back off from being so visibly involved because your efforts to comfort him can easily come across as coddling. Not only is that embarrassing to your son but it also sends the message that you don’t feel confident that he can handle his problems.

You mentioned wanting him to learn martial arts. So let him research what style he likes. Let him check out a class and decide if he likes the teacher. He needs to start building good relationships with adults anyway. Encourage him to join a class that he likes and let him learn from that teacher. One thing to note: Unless you have martial arts experience, I would avoid teaching him self-defense. Even if you do, I’d still think twice. My husband and I have black belts in multiple styles of martial arts, but when our oldest son was bullied (he was around the same age as Nick, as well as the tallest kid in his class) we didn’t teach him ourselves. Well, we tried a few times, but it always ended in tears and frustration. We trusted in his karate teachers and school counselor, and I credit both for why he is in a better place today.

I am not telling you to stop comforting him. He needs to know he can always go to you. But I am saying, often the most comforting thing a mother can do is to show your confidence that your son has the strength to face these problems with conviction and with the support of capable adults around him.

Have you had child-rearing disagreements with your husband? Post a comment and tell me about it below.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice, here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on June 16, 2014 at 8:00 am , by

Nothing signals summer more than gorgeous ripe tomatoes! Instagram user @shoo_shoobaby did an impressive job re-creating the cover recipe from our July issue—Cherry Tomato Bruschetta. Try your hand at the other dishes that have graced our covers here.

 

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

Pick up a copy of our July issue, on newsstands now, featuring delicious Cherry Tomato Bruschetta!

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Father’s Day Savings

Written on June 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm , by

Celebrate the main men in your life with an array of discounts on last-minute gifts.

 

• Don’t settle for a store-bought greeting with 30% OFF at Cardstore.
*Code: CCG4530
*Expires 6/24

• Create a personalized photo book for 40% OFF at Snapfish.
*Code: BKS40
*Expires 6/15

• Get 10% OFF orders over $75 at Kmart.
*Code: KMART10PSAVINGS

• Score up to 70% OFF select products at Amazon.

• Find shorts and shirts 40% OFF at Target.

• Rent one movie and get 50 cents OFF the second at Redbox.
*Expires: 6/15

• Receive a $5 eBonus Card when you purchase a $25 Chili’s gift card.
*Expires: 6/18

• Collect a $10 bonus card when you purchase a $50 P.F. Chang’s gift card.
*Expires: 6/15


#RealDadMoments: This Father’s Day Ad Is a Real Tearjerker

Written on June 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm , by

Warning: Have a tissue handy when you watch this video.

Much to the chagrin of mothers around the world, “Da-da” (or some variation of it) is the first word many of us utter. And yet the role of dads can be somewhat overlooked in the larger world of parenting. But that doesn’t stop us from calling out to dad when we need help as seen in this Dove ad (the male equivalent of the company’s viral “Real Beauty” campaign).  The heartwarming video captures #Realdadmoments that fathers play in their kids’ everyday lives.

Wishing the father (and father figures) in your life a happy Father’s Day!


Too Sexy, Too Soon: You’re Wearing That?

Written on June 10, 2014 at 11:07 am , by

By Bruce Feiler

My girls are barely in their tweens, but the wardrobe wars have already begun. I can’t win every battle over clothes that are too skimpy, clingy or cheeky, but that’s okay. I’m learning to make peace—well, sort of—with their fashion sense.

It first happened to me last year. My twin daughters, who had just turned 8, came bounding into the room to show off the new outfits they would be wearing to an extended-family gathering. My eyes bulged. The dresses drooped provocatively off the shoulder and offered other peekaboos of their bodies. Sure, I figured I would one day face clothing battles with my children. Politicians aren’t the only ones who draw red lines. But so soon?

As a father, I find these conversations particularly challenging. On the one hand, I’ve internalized all the messages that I should not criticize my daughters’ bodies, compliment them merely for their looks, or in any way stifle their emerging sexuality. On the other hand, I don’t want them to leave the house dressed as pole dancers.

For years, I had what I thought was a sly way of handling this issue. Whenever my daughters modeled a new piece of clothing, I would say: “I don’t care what you wear. I care who you are.” Recently they’ve begun throwing my line back at me: “But I thought you didn’t care what we wear!”

Time to get some new lines.

The issue of appropriate clothing for girls has been the subject of increasing academic and popular scrutiny, fed by the likes of skimpy panties printed with “Dive In.” Abercrombie & Fitch (whose CEO got in hot water recently for saying he wanted to sell clothing only to cool, attractive kids) was forced to back down after marketing “padded” and “push-up” bras to little girls. Walmart bowed to parental pressure and yanked girls’ underwear that was printed with the words “Who needs credit cards…” on the front and “When you’ve got Santa” on the back.

While it’s easy to put the blame on stores, the real issue lies at home. I feel as if I’m constantly struggling with where and when to draw the boundary line. Is this worth picking a fight over? How about that? According to Sarah Murnen, PhD, a professor of psychology at Kenyon College, parents today face greater challenges than in the past because girls’ clothing has become more revealing. Her survey of popular shopping sites shows that a third of items were “sexualized,” including more than half of dresses and two-thirds of swimsuits. This trend is particularly alarming because her research indicates that when adults see girls dressed in sexualized clothing, they take them less seriously. “Teachers might be looking at these girls and assuming they aren’t intelligent,” she says. Still, it’s impossible for kids to withstand sophisticated efforts by corporations that prey on their desire to be popular, says Joyce McFadden, a psychoanalyst and the author of Your Daughter’s Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women. Parents can sometimes compound the problem. “We’re so afraid to talk honestly with our daughters about their sexuality that we end up leaving them out in the cold,” she says.

My wife, who selects the bulk of our daughters’ clothes in consultation with them, admits that she’s less concerned with what a particular dress or T-shirt says about the girls than with what the girls say for themselves. “My goal is to make them feel good when they go to school, so they can focus on what they have to say in class,” she explains. To do that, she prefers to let them pick out clothes they like, even if they’re a bit tight-fitting or short. About those outfits that set off alarm bells (not only with me, by the way, but with my mother- and sister-in-law too), she says, “My line might be drawn slightly differently from yours. I found those dresses to be a little mall rat, perhaps, but not risqué.”

But we agreed that we need to be more prepared for these battles in the future. So I came up with a few typical tween-teen retorts and then asked for expert advice on how to reply.

“Everybody does it.”

“Ooh, that’s a rough one,” McFadden says, “because it’s the precursor to ‘Well, Johnny is freebasing’ or ‘So-and-so gets to stay out until 4 in the morning.’ ” A little pushback—as in, “Well, in our family we do things differently”—is called for here. The critical step is for parents to make sure they are on the same page before approaching their children. Even so, “you’re going to have to compromise on some pieces of clothing,” says McFadden. “I had to give in on push-up bras with my tween. But don’t let these items take over her wardrobe.”

“It’s the only thing they sell.”

According to Sharon Lamb, EdD, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and co-author of Packaging Girlhood, children who make that observation actually have a point. “Still, it’s important to state your values,” she advises. “Say something like, ‘I don’t want to see you and your friends buying into these marketers’ schemes to sell teenage stuff to younger and younger kids. It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The marketers are the body snatchers, and I’m going to fight them!’ ”

“You’re such a square.”

Maybe, but parents need to embrace their old-fashioned standards, Murnen insists. “I told my daughter that I hope she develops a wonderful body image and a healthy sexuality but I don’t think that’s what sexy clothes are doing,” she says. Murnen went a step further and adjusted her own fashion choices. “I’m not a conservative person and I like attractive clothing,” she says. “But I’m careful not to wear styles with sexualizing characteristics because I do feel like I need to be a role model.”

“Mom wears these things, why not me?”

The smart answer is to point out to girls that as they get older, they will have more freedom to make their own decisions. But you’ve got to put your foot down for now. “This generation of parents are such sissies when it comes to setting boundaries,” says McFadden. “They concede to their children’s whims to make them happy, but those children have no internal compass. Limits are what make healthy, happy adults possible.”

“Fine, but I’m just going to change as soon as I get to school.”

When your daughters threaten to peel off layers once they leave the house, it’s time to redirect the conversation. “I would say, ‘I’m not interested in controlling what you wear, but I am interested in getting you thinking about what it means to be an attractive person,’ ” Lamb suggests. In fact, she often tells her college students that the species would die out if boys only wanted to have sex with girls who looked like Victoria’s Secret models. “We’re built to be attracted to people with different looks, personalities, talents, senses of humor and lots of wonderful things, she says.

So back to that family gathering and those barely-there dresses. Our girls were clearly flashing their approaching tweendom, and my wife quickly heeded the message. Shawls were procured, and their outfits instantly became more age- appropriate. A few weeks later, the three of them did a little hunting and located some websites that sold attractive clothing with more modest yet trendy-enough slogans: “I Love Music” and “Bee-You-Tiful” with a bumblebee.

Still, as we’ve been warned, the big battles are yet to come. McFadden encouraged me to stay strong. “Remember, you’re raising two young girls who are going to live a whole life,” she says. “Just because one episode doesn’t go well doesn’t mean an accumulation of similar messages won’t somehow trickle down. Be brave. Let them have the freedom they deserve, but still set guidelines that represent your values.”

When I first became a dad, I figured I would decide on a few core principles, state them firmly, and my children would know how to apply them. Now I realize I was wrong. I have to constantly find new, subtler ways to remind them what’s really important. Sexuality may be the most vivid example of this change. When I was growing up, parents thought the topic could be dispensed with by a single awkward sit-down about the birds and the bees. But these days, sexuality is everywhere. As a result, it’s no longer “The Talk” for parents; it’s a series of talks. It’s a conversation. And it can’t begin when the kids turn 12. By then, it’s too late. Our kids are already tuning us out.

In that way, I’m happy I had this first showdown with my daughters while they were still young enough to listen to me. If nothing else, we got
to practice what’s already becoming our little opera of daily life. They say, “I’m becoming a woman, Dad, hear me roar!” I say, “I’m a square, girls, but I can roar too!” And every now and then, I can even get them to smile, as long as I don’t rub it in that I can still make them laugh.

 

Bruce Feiler is a columnist for The New York Times and the author of the best-selling book The Secrets of Happy Families (William Morrow). 

 


Parenting Confessions: “Mom, Did You Ever Smoke Marijuana?”

Written on June 10, 2014 at 8:00 am , by

By Sue Sanders, author of Mom, I’m Not a Kid Anymore: Navigating 25 Inevitable Conversations That Arrive Before You Know It

“MOM, DID YOU EVER smoke marijuana?” my 11-year-old daughter, Lizzie, asked as we pulled up in our driveway, gravel crunching under the car’s wheels. Her question wasn’t totally out of the blue—we’d just passed a group of teenagers hanging out on our town’s main street, a smoky cloud hovering over them like a mass Schleprock—but I was still caught off guard. My husband muttered something unintelligible and darted from the car to let the dog out of the house. I sat, frozen with anxiety. Do I answer honestly? Or lie? Spinning possible answers like a roulette wheel in my mind, I opted for truth.

“Yes, I did. A long time ago, in high school.” I unclasped my seat belt and turned around to face her. Lizzie actually gasped. “Why?” she asked. She’s the type of kid who likes rules, the more of them the better.

And why indeed? I’d been curious, of course, but I also wanted, desperately, to escape my social awkwardness, the discomfort of living in a small southern city. That town fit me as well as the jeans I wore back then, so tight and claustrophobic that I had to lie down on my bed, exhale, close
my eyes and will myself smaller to zip them up. I guess I also wanted to see what I could get away with. (Quite a lot, it turned out.) Pot was forbidden and illegal—and sure to horrify my straitlaced parents. But mostly it was a social lubricant that greased my rusty social skills: The ritual of rolling a joint and passing it around a room of kids my own age was something I could spend hours doing.

Of course, I wasn’t going to tell Lizzie all this. I wanted to bare my soul but not get naked. I wanted to be candid with her, but I wanted my candor to be rated PG. So I simply told her I’d been curious. I admit, I gave it a little spin. I told her that way back then, marijuana wasn’t as strong as it is now and drug laws were different. I explained that kids can ruin their chances of getting into college or attaining a scholarship if they’re caught with drugs. And Lizzie already takes college, the concept, very seriously. She plans to study writing and cooking. This week, at least. (Not long ago, she wanted to be an elf.)

Shocked, Lizzie rushed into the house and raced over to her dad, shouting, “Did you know Mom smoked marijuana in high school!” He did.

Like so many other parenting challenges, this one thwacked me in the face. I’d been meaning to talk with Lizzie about drugs, I really had, but just never got around to it. Sure, I’d read articles about what you’re supposed to do. Then I’d forget, or get busy folding laundry, or my email would ding. Then again, maybe waiting for the perfect opportunity, the right teachable moment, to present itself is just another way of saying I was wrapped in my cocoon of denial and avoidance. Teachable moments have a way of playing hooky.

Later that night, after Lizzie and I had snuggled together and talked a little more about drugs—I’d asked her if she had any more questions, and she did—

I trawled the Internet, searching for parenting advice on various websites. And I discovered I’d apparently done everything wrong. I was supposed to bring up the subject of drugs way back when my sixth-grader was still in preschool, finger painting and sorting colorful plastic toy bears into muffin tins. I should have discussed “good drugs” versus “bad drugs” with her as I gave her a Children’s Tylenol or Motrin for her fever. I briefly berated myself for not reading more parenting books when Lizzie was younger. See, I’m not a big fan of “experts” telling me what to do— a residual and healthy distrust of authority from my adolescence—but I do believe these guides have their place: as kindling. While newly pregnant, I was given a popular book that forewarned me of all the things that could possibly go wrong with the baby I was carrying, arranged in a helpful trimester format of pure terror. I think it was called What You Expect to Go Wrong Will. But in bypassing this publishing industry of fear, had I missed out on the basic steps of parenting? Was I simply Doing It Wrong?

I closed the parenting website and opened Facebook. It was time to lean on my most trusted source of parenting advice—my friends. And so I posted a status update, a query, asking how other parents talked to their kids about drugs. The postings poured in. Most said they favored being honest about their history and discussing the legal and health ramifications. They warned me off any Reefer Madness fervor or hard-line demand of “Don’t ever do it.” Back in high school, I’d been on the receiving end of “Don’t ever do it.” I can personally attest that approach didn’t work. I didn’t “don’t ever do it,” quite a lot.

All of which confirmed what I already knew. It was better to trust my friends—and myself—than “experts” for commonsense parenting advice. Besides, there seems to be a new expert or parenting philosophy every time I flip open the newspaper or log on to my computer. I won’t always discount what they have to say. But as parents, we have to trust our guts too. Because you can’t plan for every question, and the questions come fast.

The other day, while I was having lunch, Lizzie came into the dining room, face furrowed, and asked, “What’s a virgin?” Choking on my seltzer, I asked what she meant. She went into the kitchen, came back with a container and pointed. “It says right here: virgin lemonade.”

 

This article first appeared in Salon.com.  An online version remains in the Salon archives. Reprinted with permission. 

 

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