(Un)Happy Holidays

30 12 2015

The Holidays — the six weeks of Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and New Years — are a magnifier. In general, happy people get happier, sad people get sadder, lonely people get lonelier, etc.

For some, life is going pretty well, and the holidays are the most wonderful time of year, chock full of sentimental decorations, music, food, smells, and traditions that celebrate love, peace, family, friendship, and all that is good in life. The holidays are the icing on a good cake. Bring it on. All of it.

For others, the holidays are not so happy. Instead, it is a time full of the most painful reminders of what is not present in their lives.  Read the rest of this entry »





Celebrating Our Families Online

14 12 2015

DSC05328 copyMy boy had a great soccer season this year as a junior; the kid can flat-out run, and he loves to fight for the ball. He was voted by his teammates as Hardest Worker on the team and will be a captain next year. More importantly, he’s an A student and is enjoying his teachers. He loves to play electric guitar, and he’s really funny when you get to know him. He’s a renaissance man. He makes us proud in the way he goes about his business every day.

IMG_4381And then there’s my girl. She’s pretty special too. Everybody loves her, and that’s not an overstatement. She loves her high school classmates, and they love her. She gets high fives and hugs all day long. She smiles as much as anyone I know and loves to tell jokes to anyone who will listen. All of her teachers adore her; even the school’s security guard says she brightens his every day. She is kind, loves to share, and totally digs just being herself, especially when she is playing in the marching band or doing her thing in theater class.
Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.06.31 AM

My wife deserves the credit for those two. She’s the real brains of the operation at home. She genuinely cares for people, and they sense that immediately. I wish I had her way with people. Plus, she’s smart and incredibly hardworking. It doesn’t hurt that she’s naturally pretty. She doesn’t need any makeup or a hairdo to look great. I think it’s her smile that’s so attractive. Or maybe it’s her ability to talk with anyone about anything in such a way that they feel important. I marvel at her.

Too much? I would think so, if I were reading this from someone else. At times, I hate when people humble-brag like this.

It’s that time of year when our mailbox is full everyday of glowing family photos and newsletters. Facebook is aglow with beautiful pictures and sentiments of family bliss. Everywhere you go, there are people you know, walking in a Winter Wonderland of happiness and family togetherness. It’s just too much sometimes.

Read the rest of this entry »





The Social Combat of Being 13

12 10 2015

A New World Order for Young Teens

tired stressed girl7th and 8th grade is when the social life of a child amps up in three ways: importance, intensity, and consequences.

At 13, a child’s social standing becomes extremely important to them, as it has become more important to all the other 13 year olds. For some, it is the most important aspect of life itself. Most teens would rather go without food and shelter than suffer any sort of social trouble.

At 13, a child’s feelings of insecurity, awkwardness, and fear are at an all-time high. The hormones are raging, the insecurities are constant, and the emotional swings are intense. The biggest concern of every day is how to get through that whole day without any public embarrassment. Their fears are fueled by the intense anxieties of their peers. It’s a sea of fears as far as the adolescent eye can see. Read the rest of this entry »





The Work Hards

3 10 2015

There is a strange insult on youth athletic fields these days.

“Don’t be such a Work Hard” is a slam that is meant to mock the hardest working players at practice. In most cases, it’s more a tease than a direct insult, but we all know that “I was just joking” is no joke.

GH_FBALL_2_1“Yeah, he’s a Work Hard” is meant to discourage the sort of aggressive play that requires extra-hard running, physical contact, and mental intensity. It’s a sarcastic swipe at the up-and-comers. Often it comes from the older or starting player who is feeling the pressure of a younger harder working player. It’s a way of saying, “Dude, take it down a notch. It’s just practice. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.” In most cases, the coaches are not aware of it because it is said out of their earshot. 

This attitude of entitlement and laziness has no place in youth sports. It’s an insidious message to young kids that says, “Talent is better than effort. Hard work is just annoying.” It’s an elitist attitude that says, “Hey, back off, this is my position on the team. You aren’t entitled to it. Your extra effort reveals your lack of talent.”  It represents all that youth sports should NOT be about. Read the rest of this entry »





Why Are All the Kids Indoors?

19 07 2015

 

In the middle-class family-oriented neighborhoods around me, I just don’t see kids outside much. It’s rare to see a kid on a bike, much less playing a game in the yard. There are schools all over the place, so there must be thousands of kids nearby, but they are invisible.

I see a few at the local swimming pools, but not en masse, not like they were 20 years ago. I see a few at the shopping malls, but it’s nothing like in the 1980’s when the malls were the center of teenage social life. And I see them in cars riding with mom, but their faces are always angled downward toward some mobile device.

Sure, there are the soccer players on the artificial turf, lined up for competition, but their play is hyper-regulated by rules, refs, coaches, and parents. Organized sports are terrific, but it’s not the only way or even the best way for kids to be outdoors.

Where are the explorers? Read the rest of this entry »





Your Family. Your Culture.

14 04 2015

The most common theme among parents of young teens lately is that they want to live differently than the culture. Most parents do not want their kids to ingest the current culture of materialism, comparison, busyness, and anxiety. They don’t like what the culture is teaching and demanding.

People-Mag-CoverMost parents want to be connected with their community, but they don’t want to live just like everyone else (too busy and too anxious). And they certainly don’t want the values of the pop culture to become the values of their children. On the other hand, they don’t want their kids to be social freaks, always on the outside looking in. It’s an everyday dilemma.

Without a doubt, it is difficult to grow up well when immersed in today’s youth culture, which is filled with empty entertainment, rampant consumerism, unhealthy body imagery, and every type of narcissism. It consumes them and then uses them as consumers.

It is so rare to get wisdom from youth pop culture today that it actually makes the news. Recently, Robert Downey Jr., the actor who plays Ironman in the Avenger movie series, said at the MTV Movie Awards“I advise you to dream big, work hard, keep your noses clean, be of service, and because you can, define your generation.” This was a shocking statement because it is so countercultural in the Hollywood / MTV world. The cultural norm is the opposite: have fun, be sexy, and take everything you can from this life.

But it’s not just youth pop culture that is toxic; it’s everywhere. It’s in the cafeteria, on Instagram, in the classroom, and in other families’ homes. The culture is teaching our kids to always look good, have all the right gadgets, and be the best at everything, in order to keep up with everybody else. It’s a culture of discontentment, comparison, and competition that is making our kids more anxious and less happy than ever. It’s never enough. It’s an insatiable more.

As a concerned parent, the question is, “How do you create a family life that is what you want?”  Read the rest of this entry »





If You Have 4th-8th Graders…

26 02 2015

…you should watch this 2-minute video that explains “early adolescence” and the need for doing things a little differently.








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