Archive for Popular culture

Perfect Example of a Missed Opportunity

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In a less than courageous move, the South Plainfield NJ Board of Education reversed a decision by school administrators to ban from the graduation ceremony a group of students who came drunk to the prom. Students signed a pledge to arrive at their prom alcohol-free but at least some came “visibly inebriated,” a spokesperson said.

The students’ parents protested the ruling and threatened to take the issue to the state commissioner of education. The board then reversed the decision.

I don’t blame the Board of Education for not having a backbone, though it is obvious. I blame the parents for not having the wisdom teach their children a life lesson so valuable it could actually save their lives.

The question a parent should always ask is, “what is the worst that could happen?” For parents of the students that had the nerve to come to the prom drunk might actually cause them to learn about consequences.

Let’s focus instead on the majority of the students in South Plainfield High who deserve to enjoy this wonderful milestone despite this minority of the student population creating such a distraction.

Kudos to the teachers who are fed up with a system that caves to loud parents who don’t seem to know any better.

This could be urban legend, but the following is supposedly the answering machine message the Pacific Palisades High School (CA) staff voted to record on their school answering machine system. This came about because the school implemented a policy requiring parents to be responsible for their children’s absences and missing homework. The school and teachers are being sued by parents who want their children’s failing grades changed to passing grades even though those children were absent 15 to 30 times during the semester and did not complete enough school work to pass their classes.

“Hello! You have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist you in connecting to the right staff member, please listen to all your options before making a selection:
To lie about why your child is absent, press 1
□ To make excuses for why your child did not do his work, press 2
□ To complain about what we do, press 3
□ To swear at staff members, press 4
□ To ask why you didn’t get information that was already enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers mailed to you, press 5
□ If you want us to raise your child, press 6
□ If you want to reach out and touch, slap, or hit someone, press 7
□ To request another teacher for the third time this year, press 8
□ To complain about bus transportation, press 9
□ To complain about school lunches, press 0
□ If you realize this is the real world and your child must be accountable and responsible for his/her own behavior, class work, and homework, and that it’s not the teachers’ fault for your child’s lack of effort…hang up and have a nice day!”

We have a bill of rights. We need a bill of responsibilities. -Bill Maher

Exerpted from Because Kids Don’t Come with Manuals®:Contemporary Advice for Parents by Tina Nocera

What do you think about this issue?

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Are You Not Entertained?

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Standing on the checkout line at the supermarket I can’t help but wonder…what if aliens landed here in search for intelligent life and turned to the media? They would see a civilization poised to watch the ups and downs in scrutizing detail of other people’s lives.

This reminds me of that great scene in Gladiator where Russell Crowe (who looked amazing by the way) turned to the crowd after killing his tenth consecutive opponent and cried out, “Are you not entertained?”

Why are we fascinated with the lives of other people, especially the challenges they go through. I don’t get reality TV, especially why you would let someone else with a camera crew of a dozen people into the privacy of your home and your life? Our words do not match our actions. Ask people what is most important to them and they will immediately reply, “My family!” Ok, so then why would you put them on display? For what purpose?

Sorry folks, but you will never see my family’s reality show, and I won’t be watching theirs. I’m making the choice to focus on living our best life.

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Today – modern villages are needed to raise a child

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Not too long ago, I was presenting a parenting seminar at a local mom’s group. At the end of the discussion a very pretty and very pregnant mom raised her hand. “Does it get any easier?” In unison, all the moms in the room said, “Yes!”

It turned out this teary, exhausted mom was two weeks away from having her fourth child and busy caring for her five-year-old, three-year old, and 18-month old children, with no help.

I knew this community, and interestingly part of the town’s name was ‘the village’ so helping was second nature to them. Going out on a limb, I asked this mom if she had ever been on the ‘giving’ side. She nodded and explained how she had run a program at church that helped members in need.

Why is it easy to help others, yet difficult to ask for help?

As the African proverb suggests, it does take a village to raise a child. Today’s villages use modern tools such as Google Calendar. Volunteers sign up to make meals, coordinate trips to doctors and guarantee sufficient coverage. For families dealing with family illnesses, or financial struggles the situations are tough, but not insurmountable. They are in temporary need of help and fortunately, people rally to their aid.

Other families that need help are high profile such as ‘Jon and Kate plus 8’ and next we’ll meet The Hayes Family on TLC’s ‘Table for Twelve’ but because collectively, we like these families, they get help from sponsor companies providing vans, homes, diapers, juice, clothes, etc.

Compare that to Octomom, where simple math meets complex issues.

The simple math is:
• 0 job for the sole breadwinner
• 1 single mother
• 6 siblings
• 8 newborns
• 14 children in total
• 15 minutes of fame

The complex issues are:
• Should someone lacking the financial means have 14 children?
• Who was a right to say how many children someone can have?
• Should a potentially dangerous medical situation be allowed?
• What about everyone else who would love to have more children, but feels financially restricted have to pay for someone else’s decision to have 14 children?
• When and how often should a child advocacy agency step in to check on the care the children are getting?
• Who are we to judge?

For now, I hope the surrounding community and sponsor companies help, despite the fact that Nadya Suleman is hardly an ideal spokesperson. It’s not about her; it’s about the babies, and their needed care. Much like a teenage pregnancy, the situation is not ideal.

The controversy and questions will go on, and babies will do what they always do, grow and thrive while the adults are busy talking. We have to realize even though we seriously question her state of mind, and her ability to handle this tremendously difficult situation, she is after all, their mother.

Be kind for everyone you meet if fighting a hard battle. – Plato

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Sorry if I’ve caused you any grief

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Apologies can be sorry things as we’ve learned over the past few years as ‘celebrities’ such as Spitzer, Madoff, ARod, Blagolveich, Michael Phelps, Chris Brown, etc. fall from grace.

Even in my local town, the former treasurer of an elementary school Mother’s Club was recently sentenced to four years in prison for stealing approximately $136,000 of school proceeds during a five year period.

You don’t have to a victim to feel victimized. We find ourselves waiting for the next news story to break as we build protective walls of distrust.

What do our children think? What can we tell them and teach them about these blunders headlining the news?

Do what you’ve always done – teach by your example and don’t expect celebrities to be role models – that is your job. Be the kind of role model that does your personal best and doesn’t look for a silver bullet to meet unrealistic goals. But at the same time, don’t set unrealistic expectations for your children.

• Don’t fight to have them in the honors class if they really don’t belong there
• Don’t argue that the high school coach should give them more playing time if they aren’t the best players
• Don’t challenge the director of the play if the lead went to another child

It’s about putting the right person in the right job.

Which brings me to a person who said he was “simply doing his job” when he miraculously landed his 100,000 pound jetliner in the Hudson without losing a single life. Capt. Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger said he trained his whole life for that landing, as he shared the credit with his crew.

Imagine if Sully hadn’t earned his wings, done the work and was put in the job without the right skill set – the story would have had a different ending. Instead, he did it the old fashioned way; he did the work.

The people your kids look up to should be real, make real mistakes, and most importantly recover from them. The best lesson to teach your kids is that you don’t drown by falling in water, but by staying there.

I don’t have to know you to know that you, like me, have made more than your fair share of mistakes. Let’s enter a new era of responsibility and accountability and sing that old classic to our kids – – “just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”

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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

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Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. – Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That is how I feel as I read Sunday’s paper. On one hand, the dismal economic forecasts for 2009; on the other hand, the glossy slick ‘door buster’ circulars encouraging us to get up at 4am the day after Thanksgiving.

Our children are watching. We have an opportunity to fight the marketers back. A young mom putting her child into his Spiderman® pajamas said, “I have fought as much as I could, but he lit up when he saw them in the store. I loved watching the joy on his face and I had to get them.”

The desire to elicit joy comes from love. But as we approach the most difficult financial conditions any of us have ever experienced, we cannot do things the same way we have in the past. The need is pajamas; the want is Spiderman® pajamas. The instant gratification of that purchase is momentary and fleeting, for both the parent and child.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, be grateful for what you have. Are any of the items on the circulars glossy pages are among them? Sitting together at the table this Thursday, ask everyone to write down what they are thankful for.

Gratitude is a emotion that can get us through the most difficult times and put in perspective what really matters. Don’t respond to the ups and downs of a turbulent economy; instead be grateful for the people that matter in your life.

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Happy (unlicensed) Birthday

Dora, Thomas, Barney, Hanna Montana, Spiderman, Ironman, Batman, all the Disney princesses, Bob the builder…. The list of licensed characters in our children’s lives is endless.

Marketing is the name of the game and the focus is our kids. As parents, we will spend an enormous amount of money to make sure a birthday party is a complete success in following through on the licensing concept as if Martha Stewart will have a swat team scrutinizing our party theme.

And, if themed party invitations are sent out, you can bet on getting more licensed products as presents in keeping with the theme.

Two major problems here:

1. We’re spending a lot more money on licensed products than you would for plain dishes, plates, invitations, games, etc.
2. You’re telling your child that someone else has come up with a good idea – no need to think creatively since it’s already been done for you.

A recent Wall St. Journal article highlights the problem of trademark infringement. You may be renting the Purple Dinosaur costume, piñata etc. rather than a Barney costume. Though it’s costing you money for the knock-off, it would cost even more for the real (licensed) product. How many of you had to calm down screaming kids because the six foot character that showed up for your party bears little resemblance to the character you hoped would show up.

Simple problem – don’t buy into the marketing of licensed products. You will save tons of money and by taking the cues from your children of what they enjoy, you can create a wonderful party together and will teach your child that his/her ideas matter.

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George Carlin was right, we do have too much stuff – Good Lessons from a Bad Economy

A classic bit by George Carlin was about having too much stuff.

He was right – we all have too much stuff. What makes us happy is buying more stuff, and then we have to buy bigger houses to contain all our stuff.

If we need to find the good news from a bad economy, it’s this. Look at all your stuff and don’t rush out to buy more. Imagine if you were moving and had to pack things up to a smaller place. What would you take and what would you toss? More importantly, think before you buy, especially when it comes to buying things for our children.

In a year where the scariest three words in the English language are “fill it up” we need to pay more attention to this distinction of wants vs. needs. We don’t need $5 cups of coffee or $2 bottles of water when we’re paying $4 for a gallon of gas and perhaps we don’t even need to use the car as often as we do.

There is a lot of good that can come out of a bad economy – the most important element is simplicity.

Pay attention to the lesson.

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