Clean is Sexy and 58 Other Bits of Advice for Young Men

Lisa writes: Our brilliant friend, Becky Blades, has just published her gorgeous book of advice for young women, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone. Nestled among her beautiful pages were 270 pieces of advice that mothers would give, if they thought their daughters were listening. As a mom with boys, I simply had to weigh in with my own advice for young men.

clean is sexy, advice for young men

If you need a graduation gift for a young women, go right now and buy her book.  If your life is filled with boys staring into the precipice of adulthood, stay right here, read on and then give us your thoughts. Here is what Mary Dell and I might say to our nearly grown sonsif they ever start listening.

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Ready for Takeoff? Facing the Question with Autism

April 2 is the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day and organizations around the globe will raise funds and awareness for the condition that now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys.  This is a cause near to our hearts and Grown and Flown asked two mothers of grown children with autism to share their stories this week. On Monday  we featured Liane Kupferberg Carter’s writing and today, we are honored that Susan Berger, author of the blog, Berger’s Blather offers this heartfelt post:

young adult, teenager, autism

My 19–year–old son is almost ready to launch.  Well, that’s what I tell myself. “Almost,” as in “You can do it,” “You’re nearly there,” has become my lifelong one-word personal prayer. My son is on the cusp of leaving home, the pivotal step toward the rest of his life–ordinarily an expected and desired move most parents and young adults strive for.

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Loosening the Ties that Bind: Growing Up with Autism

April 2 is the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day.  Organizations around the globe will raise funds and awareness for the condition that now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys.  This is a cause near to our hearts and Grown and Flown asked two mothers of grown children with autism to share their stories this week.

We have read Liane Kupferberg Carter for years and hope that her writing, below, will touch you, as it has both of us:

Liane Carter, autism, Autism Awareness Day

I don’t know how to do this.

There’s no book for taking the next step. No Fiske Guide to Colleges. No Barron’s. When our son Jonathan was preparing to leave home for college, we had a whole shelf of books to guide our family.

There’s no book for our autistic son Mickey, who is turning twenty. No U.S. News and World Report ranking best vocational opportunities; no handbook rating residential programs for developmentally disabled young adults. We’re making it up as we go.

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Rules: the Fewer the Better

Lisa writes: My kids did not have curfews. We had no rules about where they were supposed to do their homework or even when. There were no real rules about food, dress, chores, or even tidiness. We bought a dog without extracting a single promise from our sons. This was not an oversight as I had grown up in a home with a litany of rules. On the other hand, my kids had strict rules about computer use, bedtime, manners, academic and athletic endeavors and, above all, lying.

rules, street sign

When and how we make rules for our kids is one of the trickiest aspects of parenting. Enforcing and altering them is the other tricky part. Rule making is not something to take lightly or to try and do on the fly. It is important that we have a philosophical underpinning to the constructs we set for our kids.

Yet for me, the number one rule was: make as few rules as possible. It was, I believe, a risky proposition, one about which I received a great deal of criticism, but I believe it has merits.

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Parenting: It Is Not My Job

Lisa writes: It is not my job.

Being a parent is a really tough job. Many argue that it is the toughest job. Yet, speaking only for myself, I made parenthood far harder than it needed to be by taking on jobs that were not mine. My job is to love and care for my kids, to make them feel safe and teach them to navigate the world into which they will venture. My job is to teach my sons the set of values, rightly or wrongly, that their father and I hold dear. My job is to launch educated, good, responsible men.

girl in snow

That is a tall order without adding a whole list of other parenting challenges, that frankly I am not certain can be achieved.

It is not my job to find my child’s “passion.” Passion by its very nature is deeply personal and individualistic. One person simply cannot find it for another. If my kids want one, they will have to find their own Not everyone has a passion and the notion that everyone does is a middle class artifice of the late 20th century. I promise, many people have lived and died having wonderful lives without beholding a “passion.” I do not have a passion, and honestly, I am okay.

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Time to Redecorate the Empty Nest

Mary Dell writes: Our college kids and young adults come in and out of our homes but we tend to leave their childhood bedrooms frozen in time, shrines to their younger selves. But once they depart for their own nests, isn’t it time to take a hard look at the space they vacated and redecorate it for our primary use? These photographs by Dona Schwartz of parents moping in their children’s abandoned bedrooms motivated me to get to work on our son’s room now that he has his first job and first apartment. (Yeah! and Yeah!)

Lyn Peterson

My friend and neighbor, Lyn Peterson, is the founder of Motif Designs, a Scarsdale, New York, design company.  She is also an author, mother of four, and grandmother to three. She has first-hand knowledge of these transitions in her own household and has helped hundreds of clients transform their homes as their children grew up and out. She offers her advice here:

Mary Dell: How can we convert a “child’s” bedroom into one that reflects her collegiate status, rather than that of a little girl?

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The Myth of Protecting My Children

Lisa writes: It is a pivotal and excruciating parenting moment when we realize that we cannot protect our children from the world’s evils. For those of us who parented through the 90’s and 00’s, it feels sometimes like we have been bombarded with events that reminded us of this heart-clenching fact.  Although one of the hardest things in parenting was letting go of the myth that I could protect my children, there was something even harder yet to come.

Myth of Protection, memorial fountain, Dunblane massacre, Dunblane, Scotland

For my family the dissolution of this myth began on March 13, 1996. I had two children in nursery school and another closing in on his due date.  The kindergarten classroom massacre that morning in Dunblane, a small Scottish town, sent me reeling as I could not find a single excuse why my sons, being educated in a small English town, could not have been in harm’s way.  Parents were frightened, a nation grieved and the only hope we could hold onto was that such acts of unspeakable evil would rarely, if ever, happen again.

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New York Times Features Grown and Flown on Cheating at School

One day separates kids from winter break and soon, final papers and exams will be over and done with. Report cards arriving in inboxes or mailboxes will provide not only an assessment of the fall, but also an opportunity to discuss the grades earned and the integrity behind the effort. Today in The New York Times Motherlode blog, educator, author and parent, Jessica Lahey addresses academic honesty and cheating at school. She quotes Lisa’s Grown and Flown post on the same topic and gives parents the tools they need to tackle this uncomfortable but important subject.

Pinocchio, cheating at school

Here are some of Jessica’s observations about why students cheat:

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Ten Reasons Millennials Need Good Manners

Lisa writes: I have been on the receiving end of a serious amount of eye rolling when reminding my sons about good manners, thank you notes and proper etiquette.

thank you note, good manners, etiquette

They have ignored me or given me the time-worn, and I believe inaccurate, argument that things have changed. I am not buying it, and here is why.

A few reminders for my sons:

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Getting Kids to Work Harder in School: A New York Times Motherlode Rebuttal

Lisa writes: This week on the New York Times Motherlode parenting blog, author/teacher/parent Jessica Lahey* wrote her regular Parent-Teacher Conference column on the question “How Can You Make a Student Care Enough to Work Harder?” The post argues that parents of an unmotivated high school student who has failed a midterm exam should “back off” and allow the student to feel the natural consequences of his poor performance.  While it is an intriguing question, I find myself in sharp disagreement with Jessica, and the many experts who appear in the New York Times column alongside her, about getting kids to work harder in school.

 

school, motivating students

 

Most of the commenters seemed to disagree with the educators as well. Many parents deal with this issue at one time or another and struggle to know what is best. We would love to hear from readers about their experiences.

1. Do kids care about school and does that matter?

The first problem lies in the question. It would be great if kids cared about school. It is pure joy to see your child find a subject or teacher who captivates him and then watch his immersion into a new field of learning. Although we cannot force our kids to be interested in something or make them care about a certain subject or class, we can make them care about doing well. And sometimes, that will just need to be enough.

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Neither Bad People Nor Bad Parents

Lisa writes: Would you lie for your kid?  Cheat? Steal? My guess is that for most of us there is a point where we would do each of these things.  There are conditions, like famine and war, where we would leave our morals behind and act on our protective instincts to assure our children’s survival. But in real life, the one where we get up and go to work and the kids go to school, most parents, I believe, hold onto their moral compasses acting neither as bad people nor bad parents.

Lisa Heffernan and Jennifer Breheny Wallace

Saturday morning I was on Fox and Friends with guest Jennifer Breheny Wallace, discussing the recent New York Magazine article, “Is Ethical Parenting Possible?”  In Lisa Miller’s article she asserts that,  “Parenthood, like war, is a state in which it’s impossible to be moral. Worse, the moral weakness of parents is always on display, for children bear witness to their incessant ethical hairsplitting.”

Here I have to disagree.  Parenting is not a war, in fact it is the very opposite.  In parenting there is no enemy.  We may feel pressure, but we are not being attacked. There are no short burst of firepower, but rather a sustained multi decade long process of nurturing a helpless infant into a self-sufficient adult.  There are high points and low points but there is certainly no moment when we can claim certain victory and walk away.

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Take Your Child To Work Day, In Reverse

Lisa writes: According to The Wall Street Journal, the generation that invented “Take Your Child To Work Day,” is hoping their offspring will return the favor.  An article in the Journal this week discussed the practice among many large companies of involving parents in their child’s employment. And by child, I mean adult.

Corporate giants, like Google and LinkedIn, have held “Take your Parents to Work Day,” a sort of cosmic payback for the generation that so enjoyed the annual rite of taking their kids to work.  One large insurance company invites parents of interns (again, just noting these are adults) to open houses so that they can become familiar and comfortable with their college children’s workplace.

take your child to work day

This is wrong, as they say, on so many levels.

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10 Changes in Parenting in 10 Years

Lisa writes: I always thought that you needed to be very old and very cranky to begin a sentence, “When my kids were young….” It turns out the urge to look backwards can overwhelm us even before our kids have left home. If you see a crazy middle age mom running over to her younger counterpart and ranting about parenting past…well that just might be me.

At the risk of sounding both old and cranky, I cannot but help but remark on a few notable changes in parenting, some good, some bad, all worthy of note.

parenting, baby boy

 

1. When I held a child I looked into his face or at what I was doing with him

Had the iPhone been invented and if technology had allowed me to, I would have certainly checked emails and texted friends, often ignoring the child at hand. Every time I see a young mom with toddler in one hand, gazing at her cell phone in the other, I want to rush over and remind her that everything that child is learning about human interaction she is teaching him right then and there.

2. There were very few parenting blogs

The Motherlode at The New York Times was still five years away. Without bloggers, I did not have access to the wealth of parenting information, camaraderie and conversation that exists today. On the other hand, I had far less with which to compare myself and feed my insecurities.

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12 Most Mutually Beneficial Reasons for Joining the PTA

Mary Dell writes: I survived my term as PTA president. Without a doubt, it was one of the hardest jobs I ever signed up for, including those I got paid to do. My family questioned my sanity, wondering what led me to jump into the deep end of parent volunteerism. I had my own doubts, too, often when I was on the recipient end of an unhappy mom’s rants.

kids art, 12 Most, joining the PTA
In retrospect, I found great value in answering the PTA call for help and recommend it to others, if done for the right reasons. Here are 12 Most Mutually Beneficial Reasons for Joining the PTA.

1. Be a fly on the wall

Going to your children’s school to work as a volunteer gives you a fly on the wall perspective. You get an unscripted view of everyone from the principal to the custodian. It is fascinating to watch the kids who are practiced in ignoring parents on campus; seeing them in their element is priceless.

2. Pitch in, meet the players, make connections

Examine your motivations. Good reasons are to help shoulder the burden of work and to become acquainted with the school, teachers, and other parents, especially those who have kids the same age as yours.

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Why We Don’t Need Family Dinners

Lisa writes: I moved heaven and earth to get my family to the dinner table all together on an almost nightly basis, believing that in parenting terms, this was the Holy Grail.  Turns out, I was wrong.

Google “Family Dinner” and you will find a raft of articles claiming that if you eat dinner with your kids they will be less likely to use drugs or get into trouble and more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. Other studies suggest regular family meals are associated with improved academic performance.

family dinners, eating dinner with family

I had read these articles and heard this received wisdom and never questioned why the 20 minutes that it takes three teenage boys to wolf down a meal and jump up in time to be scolded for not clearing their place, could have such a profound impact on my kids later lives.  It turns out that it doesn’t.

Web MD suggests that family dinners reduce stress and tension at home.  But given how much I have stressed about getting us all the to table at the same time, I am pretty sure that this could not be true either.

On Fast Company, Laura Vanderkam suggests as an alternative family breakfast. After all, we are all there in the morning and everyone has to eat, she argues.  In my house, only three of the five of us eat in the morning, one leaves before the others awake and one eats in the car…not really a solution.  But was a solution needed?

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