Posted by: Debby Carroll | May 16, 2012


Debby Carroll:

Here’s a post from my other blog. You may find this information useful as you plan meals for your family.

Originally posted on The Joy of Fitness:

Adding blueberries to this whole grain cereal lowers the GI number for this meal. Yum!

The Glycemic Index (GI) has a name that is off-putting, to say the least. First, it sounds like something scientific which has no place in the land of the non-geek. Second, it sounds like something that may pertain only to diabetics so the regular person can simply add to the “ignore” list.

That’s a shame because the glycemic index is not really hard to understand and it can be useful to many people who want to eat happily ever after.

Here’s the quick explanation of what the GI is and why it matters to you.

  • You eat.
  • The foods you eat have an effect on your blood sugar level. That effect is measured by the GI.

Here is a very basic explanation, minus any impressive science. You take in food. That food is metabolized into…

View original 979 more words

Posted by: Debby Carroll | March 27, 2012

Parents Flap Their Wings Forever


Image

Recently the P.D. Eastman children’s book, “Flap Your Wings” has been rolling through my brain repeatedly. I keep hearing “Flap your wings, Junior!” It was what I used to say to my kids when they were trying something new. It became part of our family lore, a metaphor for going out into the world to attempt something you were unsure about.

The Junior in the book was an alligator who was raised by loving parents who happened to be birds. If you haven’t read, do so as soon as you can. You’re in for a delight. One message of the book was that if you try something, even something for which you may not be equipped, you might fail, but in doing so you might discover that you’re good at something else entirely. Or, at the very least, the failure won’t kill you and you might learn something valuable. Junior the alligator had parents who wanted to teach him what they knew best — how to fly. Alas, Junior had no wings. So despite the best parenting intentions and the enthusiastic wild cheering on the sidelines (Flap your wings, Junior!), Junior fell from the nest and the sky, failing to fly. Failing miserably but landing, as fate would have it, into a pool of water where, amazingly, in failing to fly he (and his loving, adoring parents) discovered that he was a swell swimmer. “Maybe Junior wasn’t a bird after all,” his mom said, after witnessing his failure to succeed at what they taught him. “No,” said his dad, “but look at him swim.”

So it is with us parents. We flap our wings wildly all of our children’s lives, trying to teach them what we know best. They leave the nest (Seriously, you parents of young children may not think it possible but they will grow up and leave, I swear.) and then we yell, “Flap your wings.” And, if we’ve raised them right, they do. We watch. They soar, they fall, they soar again, they fall again. We watch, we cheer. We celebrate when they soar, we crash when they fall, but through it all, if we’ve taught them what we know, if we’ve shared our lives with them, we have given them the tools they need to lead fulfilling and happy lives.

I believe in this method of parenting. I believe strongly in the bonds that develop from integrating our children into the lives we crafted before our children were born. I even wrote a book about it! But the book ends when the kids are ready to leave the nest and flap.

I didn’t write about what the parents do next, so here comes that bit of advice.

Our children have to find their own safe place to swim or to fly. As loving parents, we taught them to fly but they may be destined to swim and we just have to accept it. Our kids don’t always turn out the way we hoped, prayed, imagined, or wanted them to. That’s not their issue, it’s ours. As parents we must strive to accept the children who fly but we must also embrace the ones who swim.

I’m working on that daily. I flap my wings and cheer my daughters on. Sometimes I can’t help myself, I still encourage them to fly, because it’s so engrained in my view of the world. Then, fortunately for me (and them I suppose), I remember that my view of the world is just that — mine. I rein myself back in and continue to cheer them on as they swim away.

Note: If you’d like to read a lovely review of my parenting book, please visit Dominque Goh’s blog here.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | February 10, 2012

My Parenting Book Hits The Virtual Shelves!


If you enjoy reading this blog or my hubs on HubPages, you’re going to love checking out my new Kindle book, Raising Amazing Kids (…While Having a Life of Your Own). Perhaps you’re thinking, “Debby, I don’t need a parenting book because I know everything there is to know about being a parent.” Or maybe it’s “I don’t need a parenting book because my kids are grown or my kids are already perfect.” (And, if they are, you should definitely write a blog of your own.)

Well, no problem! This book makes an excellent Valentine’s Day gift for someone you know who isn’t as smart as you are about parenting. In fact, wouldn’t you love to give this as a gift to perhaps a friend or someone in your family who just has no clue about how to raise their children? We all know them. We all judge them, right? (Or maybe that’s just me.) Now we can all help them by giving them this fun and easy-to-read book that explains how anyone can be a good parent — even that person without a clue.

Maybe you have an adult child who is about to become a parent. This book will ease anxious minds by explaining how becoming a parent doesn’t have to mean the end of spontaneity. You can be a great parent and maintain the integrity (and hopefully the fun) of the life you had before you had kids.

If you do check out the book, please write a review. I’d love to hear your thoughts. (Well, only if they’re good.)

Posted by: Debby Carroll | December 14, 2011

Guest Post About Birthday Bashes for Your Amazing Daughters


My last post about how much I love my birthday and why I urge everyone to make a big deal about themselves on their birthdays (and to do the same for their kids), resulted in a reader response with an offer to write a guest post about fun birthday party ideas for girls. What I like about her post is that the party suggestions are essentially “homegrown.” No need for big expense in order to throw a great children’s birthday party. That’s my idea of a good time because anything that makes parenting a bit easier and more affordable is a winner. So, without further ado, here is Melissa C’s guest post. Enjoy!

Creative Ideas for Young Girls Birthday Parties

With boys party planning can be as simple as picking a video game theme like Super Mario party and running with it.  Girls can be a little more complex when it comes to planning their special event.  Even if they don’t want a princess themed party, the idea is to feel like a princess on their birthday no matter what.  Here are a few ideas for making your little girl’s day unique and fun for everyone.

1. Spa-Slumber Party

This is good for girls 9 and older.  Make face-masks, towels, nail polish, lotions and cucumber slices.  Enlist another mom or two and share your healthy beauty knowledge with the young ladies.  Show them how much fun pampering themselves and being super girly can be.

2. Tea Party

Have a bunch of absurdly large sun hats available or have the girls borrow one from their mom’s closets and throw your little ladies a tea party.  Mini-sandwiches, cookies, tea-cups and saucers.  Have a lot of costume jewelry and scarves handy for extra flair during dress up.

3. Make a Movie

Of course girls will want to be girls and play at the party, but if you’re a little bit of creative writer, you could stage a movie.  Make sure you have enough parts for each of the girls to play and they will get about equal screen time.  At the end of filming you can let them eat pizza and fiddle around with getting the film up on the TV for everyone to watch.  This will be a great thing to have for repeat viewing for the rest of your daughter’s life.

The only important thing about throwing your daughter a birthday party is that she has fun with her friends and feels special.  Have fun and minimize stress by asking for help from other moms.

If you want to learn more about helping your child learn manners by hosting a birthday party, check out this hub.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me! And You, And Everyone Else…


Happy Birthday to Me With Joni Mitchell Theme

I admit this readily — I unabashedly love my birthday. So, every December 6, I celebrate ME! I have always loved my birthday and once my daughters were born, I passed this legacy on to the next generation of mini-MEs. Why so brazen a birthday attitude, you ask? Here’s the thing. 364 days each year you are no one special. You may think you are hot stuff, but let’s face it, however great you are, there are dozens more a whole lot like you in a whole lot of ways. But, you get one day each year when you are special and you get to celebrate. You could choose any day to whoop it up but why not use the one that was chosen for you? Your birthday should be all about you. Hell, I even endorse a birthday month if you are so inclined.

I have birthday traditions that I’ve developed with ME in mind. Just before my big day I usually get my hair cut so that I’m sure to look my best on MY day. On my actual day, I run five miles just to make sure I still can. (Then I really have reason to celebrate. This year I’m 59 and you better believe that running five miles is something worth celebrating.) Once I have that out of the way, I spend the day doing lovely things for me, or lovely things I’m going to like doing. This year started off great because my sweet husband and daughters launched my celebration two days early, giving me a head start on being fabulously special. The presents were cool (a journal and jewelry made from recycled things) and the cupcakes made by Shira were adorable. (See photo) They have titles of Joni Mitchell songs on them which made them entertaining and meaningful as well as delicious. And, on my big day, I plan to walk on the beach in my favorite place on Earth, the Outer Banks of NC. What could be better than that?

Why am I telling you all of this? The point here is simple. Take your day and do the same. Treat your birthday as the first day of the next year of your life (because it is actually) and then begin anew to celebrate you and your life and make it into what you most want it to be. Encourage your kids to do the same. Make a big deal about who they are on their birthdays. Let them know that a birthday is a great time to take stock of yourself, enhance the things you like, and change what needs tweaking.

Some people eschew their birthday. They don’t want to get older or they’re not comfortable with people making a big fuss about them. I say Bah Humbug to birthday naysayers. First, getting older surely beats the alternative, and secondly, to paraphrase my mother, if you don’t make a big fuss over yourself on your birthday who will? Full disclosure — what she used to say was about elementary school class elections for president — “If you don’t vote for yourself (because one year I told her I didn’t, even though I wanted to win) who would?” The idea is the same, think highly enough of yourself to give yourself one great day dedicated to the wonderfulness of you. If you don’t why would anyone else?

And, also, eat some cake.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Posted by: Debby Carroll | October 26, 2011

Are you there, Mom? It’s me… your kid.


Is Your Family Having This Much Fun?

I just read an article about parenting teenagers and how parents and kids drift apart during those years. It’s natural to some extent as teens need to ready themselves to leave the nest, and parents need to ready themselves to let go. But, then I watched a home video of our family on an extended camping trip with our kids when they were 5, 3, and 1. That got me to thinking. We spend so much time with our kids when they are little. We know their every wish and whim and they know ours, as well as our rules and expectations for them. We know this about each other because we take the time to share ourselves with our children and we pay attention when they share with us. As they get older, less of that happens, and the result is that many parents and kids feel estranged from each other during the teen years, just when it’s more important than ever that they stay close. How can we parents stay connected with our kids as they get older and our lives get busier? I think the key remains in our rules, actually. How about forming some rules around availability? Since family time is so scarce in everyone’s crazy schedules, how about if parents look for ways to work “new rules” into their lives as kids get older? While the rules for young kids revolve mostly around safety, these rules would ensure family connections whenever possible. Maybe these new rules won’t make you your child’s new best friend but you’re not supposed to be that, anyway.

For example…

How many nights do you eat dinner together as a family? How about a rule that sets a minimum for that and makes attendance mandatory? We were so lucky that our work schedules enabled us to eat dinner together 6 nights each week as the girls were growing up. It made us closer as a family, I’m sure of it.

No other time to chat? How about no cell phones, or headphone use in the car so that when you’re together on wheels, you talk?

What would you add to this list? As teachers, what would you advise the parents of your students about how to stay connected so that the teen years don’t destroy the relationships?

Shira writes:

Bedroom TVs: Growing up, none of us ever had a TV in our bedroom, and though it may seem kind of silly, it forced us to watch TV downstairs where our parents were. As a result, we ended up watching together more often than not and developed mutual loves of all kinds of shows. It led to spending more time together and gave us something to talk about during a time in a lot kid lives where they think their parents just don’t get them at all. I think I was more comfortable talking with my mother about Ally McBeal than my hopeless crush on Kyle, but at least we were talking. So, since lots of kids have computers in their rooms, you may just have to make a rule about where they can watch programming.

Regarding the headphones in the car, good luck with that. I think I would’ve been a much happier teenager if I hadn’t had to listen to Buffalo Springfield.

Mom Writes: As I recall, it was Leonard Cohen​’s music in the car that would make you guys say, “Open a window, please, I’m jumping out.” The other thing I remember about music in the car is that when we’d put on the radio stations we liked and you guys didn’t you’d use the snow scraper to reach from the back seat to the front to change the station. In the front we’d hear one of you whisper “Get the stick.” That being said, I think listening to each other’s music is a bonding tool, so get over it!

Alexis Writes:

Do things together as a family. Yeah, your teenager will moan about doing it but those are the types of experiences that you remember most later. I remember we went to Italy my senior year in high school and, as spoiled as it sounds, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t understand how beneficial that type of travel is. When we went it was a life-changing experience for me. I realized there were so many other places, cultures, and things to learn about. I think those trips we took were really important because we were constantly working together and spending time together as a family. In the summer we worked in our family business. Because we all worked together we were on the same schedule and spent a lot of time together. Our business was in a resort area so we spent a lot of our downtime together too. Working together put stress on our family at times but it brought us closer together, too. I think when kids get older, parents see their kids changing into adults so it’s hard to feel like you can still do those family things. Your kids have commitments or activities that may differ from what you’d choose so it can be hard. But I think family trips are really important and they end up being the memories that stay with your family forever. So, ignore your sullen teenager, pack up the car, put on your life-changing music that they can’t appreciate, and go do something.

Tamra Writes:

Start a family blog, so you can email your children every day and harass them to write on it about current events and advice. Totally kidding. I think traveling together is really important. We did a lot of it when we were little, and even when we were older and I think it made our family really close – too close some times. We learned a lot about each other and we learned about the world together. Traveling in places you’ve never been before makes you bond with the people you do know and in our case it was each other. We learned to deal with each other’s music on 8-hour car rides, and compromise on what to listen to, some times…I think all the time we spent with each other traveling was a big part of why we are all close and still enjoy traveling with each other. And so what if we have the most miserable video of Alexis when she was dragged on a family vacation? It’s good for a laugh, and look how happy she is now.

Having family dinners without the TV on is a good idea too. I know a lot of families watch TV during dinner, and that might be the only time they’re altogether. If you’re able to get everyone together for dinner, you should probably try talking to each other. It was good for us when we were little because we always had dinner together – even when we were in high school, we almost always had dinner together first, and made plans with our friends afterwards, because we had been having dinner together for so long. It was a good time to learn about what everybody was up to and we saw how much work went into making dinner, and we learned about putting our dishes in the sink – all important skills. You have to do stuff together, even if people pretend they don’t want to. It’s harder to drift apart when you are always hanging together.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | May 23, 2011

If Dylan is 70, Am I Old?


Ah, But I Was So Much Older Then, I’m Younger Than That Now…

That’s the chorus of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages.” It’s one of my favorite Dylan pieces, as I get lost in the lyrics. It’s a phenomenal poem, but it’s that refrain, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” that is on my mind as Dylan turns 70. In 1971, on my college dorm room wall, I hung a Peanuts comic about Dylan as he turned 30 that year. Linus tells Charlie Brown that Dylan is turning 30 and he replies, “That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.” It didn’t depress me. I figured if Dylan was that old (YIKES 30!) and was still so cool and gifted, there was hope for all of us. Listening to Dylan lyrics transported me to a world where I felt older, more sophisticated, and connected with a world larger than myself. I still listen to the lyrics, but now they make me feel younger, more sophisticated, and connected with a world larger than myself.

Oh, the memories this comic brings to mind. Sigh.

Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. I am in some ways, younger than that now because I work at it. As Dylan turns 70, I am thinking about what the number means; what age means. When I was 19 in 1971, I feared old age. I was afraid it would stop me from being the person I wanted to be — vital and engaged. With age came the wisdom to know that’s becoming less vital is not a given. If I continue to fight aging, I don’t have to fear it. I’m not talking about keeping a youthful appearance, although I try to do that too, within reason. (I keep my hair long but I’ve given up mini skirts, alas.) I’m talking about keeping a youthful exuberance. I started running in my 20s to stay vital. I gave it up in my 40s and came back to it in my 50s. It’s part of my anti-aging plan. I try to keep up with technology. I made myself get a Smartphone so that the world wouldn’t move on too fast leaving me in its wake. I eat healthfully because I believe that food fights pain and deterioration of the body. I listen to the music of today’s artists so that I can have some sense of current popular culture. And I do things that occupy my time and keep my brain alive like writing this blog and reading great books. Plus, I try to volunteer my time to causes that I feel passionate about so that passion continues to fuel my heart and soul, despite my age.

All of these things help me be younger now than I was then, in my back pages. The mind is a powerful anti-aging tool. But it takes work. I think that parents set the stage for their children in this realm. If we want our children to age gracefully without fear then we have to show them the way. I’ve tried never to tell my daughters that I couldn’t do something because I was too old. I try not to use age as an excuse. It was a plan I began way back in my 20s. So, I ask you, what do you do to stay young? How will you be younger in the future than you are now? What will keep you vital? And are you afraid of growing older? Why and what can you do to allay that fear?

Tamra Writes:

Moisturizing.

I got carded at a PG-13 movie when I was 23 years old, so obviously it’s working. I hate getting older. I lie about how old I am, and act like I’m 12 so no one will know how old I am. I think being around kids at work helps me stay young, because we’re expected to be excited about little things and be creative – which is good for keeping you young. I go running and try to eat healthy, although I don’t think I do that to stay young as much as I do it to stay healthy and to fit into my nice jeans. I don’t know how you get youngish people to not be afraid of getting old. I think there are a lot of things that people expect from you when you are older, and it’s a lot of pressure. What if you don’t have the perfect job, amount of money, social life, or living situation by a certain time? I guess times are changing (Note the Dylan pun) and those milestones don’t have to happen at a specific time any more, but a lot of young people still go by them, and that can be intimidating. Perhaps we need to remind young people that everything happens for everyone at different times, and it doesn’t matter how old you are (or in my case, how young).

Other ways to stay or feel young: laughing, letting yourself have a good time, trying new things, and if that doesn’t work, just go to a bar where everyone is older than you.

As far as I’m concerned, I turned 21 eight times, and each time was better than the time before, so I guess I am getting younger than I used to be.

Shira writes:

I’d rather live in the present than worry about being older. Yes, I try to eat healthy most of the time and am desperately trying to find an exercise routine that I have the motivation to keep up with, but I have more important things to think about than getting older. My feeling about it is, if you live a life that makes you happy, then it doesn’t matter how old you are. There are certain things that I know will make me happy in the present, and those are the things I try to focus on.

My friendships are very important to me. I grew into adulthood before I learned how to really maintain friends, and I’ve also learned how to distinguish the good ones from the ones that aren’t worth my time. Spending time with people that I have a good time with definitely makes me feel younger. Trying new things absolutely helps keep you young. Whether it’s retrying a food I thought I hated (turns out mushrooms aren’t so bad), or going to a new place, (Hello, New Orleans!), new experiences keep life interesting.

I haven’t gotten carded at quite as many PG 13 movies as Tamra has, but there have been many casual Fridays where I was mistaken for an 8th grader at work, so maybe I’ve got some idea of how to keep myself young.

Alexis Writes:

Are you sure he wasn’t being sarcastic?

Because I think he might have been. Perhaps he even meant that it takes being older to appreciate being younger. I know there are times where I yearn for the days when having my favorite dessert made my day and my biggest worry was if the boy I liked “like liked me.” So I think maybe we should consider that Dylan had an ironic tone.

As far as staying young I think the thing about it is that because you’re young, everything is new. You are filled with so much anticipation because you’re just learning about the world and how it relates to you. Now that I’m in the thirties I think about growing old a lot and it scares me. I exercise and moisturize for maintenance, yes wrinkles and cellulite offend me and I am trying to combat the inevitable. I think the thing about being young and not knowing anything is that you’re excited for what might await you and as you get older it seems like most surprises are stressful.

I try to do new things and I try to be open to people. This is not easy, we all like things we are comfortable with. I’ve tried new activities, new friends and even new responsibilities at work just to keep the anticipation going and to get things to be excited about. I think it’s easy to fall into a rut so I try to be conscious of that. I think the way to stay young is to do things that make you happy, which usually means doing a little self discovery.

Check in with me at age 31 and see if my thoughts have changed. I’ll be the only one at Happy Hour getting carded.

Embroidered with Dylan lyrics in 1970. Yes, I kept them and yes, they fit.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | May 3, 2011

Help Your Child Do Better in School. Expert Advice


Let’s face it, it might be harder to excel in school than ever before. Case in point, the father of my amazing daughters recently came across his elementary school report card. Under comments, his teacher wrote that she was “looking forward to the day when Ned would remember to bring a hankie to school.” Really? I suspect that most teachers today would give up several paychecks in order to have “hankie-less-ness” be a student’s worst problem.

Your kid is competing with those kids of “tiger” moms, and the kids who have been headed to Harvard since being en utero, and on top of that, school budgets are being decimated, class size is growing, and resources are shrinking. What’s a parent to do?

First, relax. Your kid will be fine. Just the fact that you care is a huge boost to her success. But, to help you along a bit, here are three simple things you can do every day that will matter. You can do all three each day and the whole thing will take less than five minutes.

1. Let her see you reading something– a book, a magazine, a website, anything that can be read is okay. The point is, she needs to see you read. It doesn’t have to be for a long time, but the impact of Mom’s daily reading cannot be overstated.

2. Look at her homework. I’m not saying you must check it (although that’s okay) and I’m certainly not saying you should do it (because you should definitely not do your child’s homework), I’m just saying look at it. She’ll know you care about it and that will matter to her.

3. Ask your daughter to tell you one thing she learned or observed that day. Tell her one thing you learned or observed. This doesn’t have to be a brilliant insight. Maybe you saw an ant carrying a huge crumb across your kitchen floor. Maybe you learned that the term “in utero” is Latin and that’s why spell check doesn’t recognize it. (Okay, those are two things I learned today and that’s without leaving the home.) The point of this is simple. Your daughter learns from you that absorbing knowledge is ongoing, it’s fun, and it’s lifelong.

What do you all think about the best and most practical ways parents can help their kids do better in school? These don’t have to be daily things, just important things.

Alexis Writes: 1. I think parents should make sure they talk to their children. Your kids have a voice and they need to feel heard. Learning  is no longer just spitting a concept back verbatim, it’s understanding how what you’ve learned applies to you. Ask your kids why they like Sponge Bob or what is so cool about Justin Bieber? They really need to be able to think for themselves. Part of that is understanding why you think the way you do.

2. Give your child the gift of independence. Let them pack their book bag, help pick out their clothes, even contribute to making their own lunch. Allowing children to take ownership of themselves is important. Why should you have to do all the work all the time? The earlier they feel comfortable taking responsibility, the more likely they will want to do be responsible for what they learn. It will build their confidence. They will blossom.

3. Encourage your daughter to write at home. Writing is the hardest area to teach because it is usually only addressed in school. Parents are always reading to their kids but often their kids are not writing at home. Encourage your child to keep a journal, it’s great exercise for their brain. It doesn’t have to be something you read or correct (in fact, please don’t correct it) but just provide an opportunity for your girls to put their thoughts down in writing. Don’t read it, that’s not cool. Unless there’s a serious issue, let your daughter have some privacy. She deserves a place in writing where everything is accepted.

Tamra Writes: 1. Read to your daughter. Kids love to be read to. They work hard all day, and it is nice for them to be able to sit back and listen to a story. If you pick a good chapter book, you can read a chapter a night and keep them on the edge of their seats to hear more later. They might even want to read to you. Not only will it help with their reading, but it’s a nice way to bond.

2. Teach them some manners and patience. There is nothing I like better in my class than a polite and patient child. I think being nice is just as important (if not more so) than being able to spell all your spelling words. A little manners go a long way.

3. Give them an opportunity to problem solve for themselves. Don’t solve all their problems for them. Help them solve their problems, don’t just do it without them being a part of the solution. Too often children aren’t sure how to solve their own problems (even if it’s something as small as knowing what to do when a pencil breaks). It is never too early to start learning to solve problems. Forgot to bring their homework home?? Hmm…how can we fix this? Call a friend, do some practice math problems, write all the spelling words you remember, read a story and write what it was about. I think we forget to teach children to be resourceful. Aren’t children supposed to be some of the most imaginative people out there? Let them use that imagination for good.

Shira writes: 1. Listen to music. Music is one of the greatest educational tools there is, and most of the work has already been done for you. Simply putting on music in the car or at dinner can teach your kids about politics, to love themselves for who they are, and can help them develop creativity.

2. Ask them about their day. Kids want to know that people care about what is going on in their lives. Make sure they know that they are important. The kids in my class are constantly trying to share little anecdotes about their lives with me (usually at the most inappropriate time, like in the middle of math class). They just want to know that the adults in their lives care about what they have to say.

3. Communicate with the teacher. Make sure the people at school know that you are involved and care about how your child is doing. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should become a helicopter parent. But as a teacher, I know how frustrating it is to try to reach a parent about their child’s grades or behavior and get no response at all. Not only does it not help me, but it’s really bad for the child. If kids know that their parents and their teacher talk to each other, there’s a chance they will be motivated to try harder in school.

Posted by: Debby Carroll | April 5, 2011

What do you wish you knew in high school?


If you’re like any of the people who attended my 40th high school reunion recently (yes, yikes, I am that old), what you probably wish you knew in high school has a lot more to do with your social life than your academics. Within moments of arriving at the reunion and connecting with old friends, we collectively slipped back into our 16-year-old personalities with one huge difference — we told each other the truth about how we felt (So maybe we lied to each other about how good we looked but we were honest about our feelings. And really, most people looked damn good!). Sharing how we felt was something we were all woefully unable to do in high school. So, 40 years after the fact, we find out that we weren’t the only ones sitting home alone on too many Saturday nights, we weren’t the only ones who thought we were not good-looking enough, or too fat, or had “look away, hideous” acne, or weren’t popular or talented, or athletic, or cool enough to be accepted and happy. We find out that if we hadn’t been so scared in high school it might have been a whole different experience.

Which is not to say that my high school years weren’t fun, because a lot of it was a blast. I had friends, I had a lot of joy in those years. But, there was also a lot of self-doubt and pain and I found out at the reunion that others felt the same way. Maybe we could have avoided that pain if we talked more and perhaps even exposed ourselves (in a good way) to more people instead of suffering in silence. Then again, it’s possible that those years are designed to force us to experience the necessary growing pains to toughen us up for the realities of adulthood. Still, I can’t help but think that if someone had told me in high school that there were guys who secretly lusted after me and were just too shy to speak up, and girls who admired me for being smart and funny, maybe I would have felt better about myself and perhaps wouldn’t have had to face the reality of having no date for the junior prom. (Although that high school horror ended happily because just after the deadline for buying tickets passed, just one week before the prom when I had to accept my dateless status, I met someone, and we enjoyed a really fun time that weekend, after all.)

So, how can parents help kids survive high school? What can we say that will make the experience flow more happily? What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew in high school?

Shira writes:

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a whole lot parents can do to change the high school experience. We have to learn to do that on our own, and it’s definitely not easy. High school is just really, really hard. For the first 2 years of high school, I was shy, painfully shy. By the time I was a junior, I had made a fairly nice group of friends and started to come out of my shell, but looking back, I feel like maybe I wasted those first two years worrying too much about what everyone else thought of me. I honestly don’t think there was anything anyone (especially my parents) could’ve said to convince me that I was worth hearing from until I was ready to believe it myself. The ironic thing is, once I stopped worrying so much about how others saw me, people actually liked me a lot more. And I ended up having a lot more fun.

I was surprised to learn a few years post-high school that my image of myself was totally different from what others saw. I was hanging out with my friend Matt, who’d gone to my high school but that I didn’t end up really getting to know until we went to the same college. We were “reminiscing” about high school, and I mentioned what a shy outcast I felt like for so much of my time in high school. Matt looked at me like I had 3 heads and said “Are you kidding? I thought you were like the queen bee of Cheltenham!” To this day, I can’t imagine what made him think that, but it was interesting to learn.

I guess if there’s one thing I wish I’d known back then, it would be how to tell who your real friends are. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I’m still learning, but I am getting there. As an adult, I’ve come to expect a lot from my friends. My friendships are very important to me, and I’ve learned how to spot the good ones much sooner that I used to. I’ve gotten better at nurturing the friendships that matter, and staying away from the toxic ones. If I’d been able to do that when I was 16, it probably would’ve saved me a lot of heartache.

I am also glad that I never seriously dated any of the people I thought I was in love with in high school, since some of them might be in jail now.

Alexis Writes:

I wanted to write that I wish I’d known more boys liked me. But I decided that was too shallow. But honestly that is what I wish I had known. At my high school reunion someone who was considered to be really cool back then told me he had a huge crush on me in high school. I’m not ashamed to say I felt really validated. I told my friends I was getting a t-shirt made that said that kid had a crush on me and I was wearing it to our next reunion. I mean I was half kidding, but seriously, that was the main thing that I wish had been different in high school — that I don’t really feel like I had enough boyfriends (or really any). I wish it was something a little deeper, but it’s really not.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how my whole experience might have been different if I had known that guy liked me, and maybe it wouldn’t have been different at all.Then I thought that I wouldn’t have felt so bad about myself if I had had that validation. Maybe that would have helped me avoid a lot of body issues. I probably still needed to gain confidence in who I was, though. I felt very lonely in high school. People always used to tell me I was too deep. Maybe knowing that someone was interested in knowing more about me would have made a difference. And the thing is I had a sense at one point that this guy was interested, but I didn’t do anything about it because I was afraid of embarrassing myself.

So I guess high school is like your get-out-of-jail-free card. If you mess it up, you get to graduate and go out into the world and never see anyone ever again in you don’t want to. So, maybe it’s okay to take a few more risks. I’m not going to act like high school wasn’t really hard because it was, but I guess I wish I had taken a few more chances. They might have actually paid off. But I guess hindsight is sort of like cheating because I already know what happens so it’s easy for me to say “put yourself out there more”. But I do think embarrassment is good for the soul. It’s important to realize that embarrassment doesn’t mean the world will end. Making a fool of yourself and living through it is a life skill. Also I think it’s good to know that the label of cool that is so powerful in high school means nothing in the real world. We’re all just people who have to find our niche.

Tamra Writes:

I wish I had known not to take pictures of yourself wearing a bikini, platform sneakers, and red lipstick when you weigh 60 pounds, on a camera that your sister would later take pictures of a high school dance with, develop the pictures and bring the whole roll of film to school for her friends to look through, forgetting that the bikini pictures were in there.

Other than that, I don’t really feel like I needed to know anything else in high school. Most things I was better off not knowing. Sure, I wasn’t the most popular person in the world, but I felt like I had a lot of friends that I genuinely liked (even if I don’t like them now), and there were boys that liked me (although totally didn’t like them), but I really don’t feel like there is anything I would have needed to know to make it a better experience or more valuable. For the most part, I did what I wanted to do because I wanted to do it. I wasn’t too concerned about what other people thought of me (no more than any awkward teenager), and I discovered a love of faux fur and sequins.

I’d say there are things I wished I had known when I was in college, but high school, I feel like I had enough information, except for that whole bikini situation – not good.

I also wished I had known to appreciate “fruit and vegetable packs” in my lunch, because I hate making lunch now, and everyone knows I like a good side dish with my main meal. Even though sometimes mom would cut apples on an onion cutting board, it was a good idea in theory.

Mom Writes: Well, I guess my girls prove the theory that parents can raise kids in exactly the same way and still they turn out differently. Clearly, Tamra was more comfortable with high school and somehow managed to escape unscathed. Or, maybe Alexis and Shira are just deeper. Who knows? Still, as a parent, what I’d encourage all parents to do is to work really hard to keep the lines of communication open when your kids are in high school. If they’re not Tamra, they’ll likely need to chat. Well, that and don’t cut their apples on an onion cutting board or ten years later, they’ll still be complaining about it, despite the fact that you actually made their lunches well into their high school years!

Posted by: Debby Carroll | March 18, 2011

Dear Mom, You’ve Hlepd Me Enough!


When Tamra was in first grade and just learning how to write, she wrote the note above. It was on a day when I was particularly busy and/or distracted and I guess she was asking me to do something for her or with her and I just didn’t have the time at that moment. She asked repeatedly (you know how some kids are broken records when it comes to that sort of thing) so at some point I guess I just FIRMLY told her to stop asking because I just didn’t have the time to help her just then. I wasn’t much of a screamer (believe it or not with three kids) so my very firm answer probably scared the crap out of her. She disappeared into her room and wrote the note (in crayon and not in a pretty color so it really ripped my heart out) and slipped it under the door. “You’ve hlepd me enough” was her way of saying with a bit of an angry attitude, that she didn’t need me after all, she’d figure out whatever it was on her own. And, I suppose she did because she’s 28 now and just fine.

But, it makes me wonder — what is enough when it comes to being a parent? Look, I know I’m somewhat annoying, and way too much in everyone’s business, and a bit over-functioning as a mom. I send too many meant-to-be-helpful emails about job openings. I offer opinions even when I’m not asked. I give unsolicited advice despite the hundreds of times I’ve explained to my girls that no one really wants advice. And while I can easily identify my friends who suffer from the same affliction (I’d name you but you all know who you are), and swear I’m not as bad as they are, I admit I am an addict and could probably benefit from a 12-step program for mothers of adult children who can’t back off.

But, secretly — well not so secretly because I’m putting it on this blog– I do it because I believe I’m helping my daughters and that I still have wisdom worth imparting. I don’t think I’ve yet “hlepd” them enough.

Girls? What do you suggest to us moms who may be confused about when enough is enough?

Tamra Writes:

First of all, I’m 27, and for that matter, if anyone asks, I’m 21, so let’s just set that straight.

I think that if you are going to be an overbearing mother, and let’s face it, there’s a lot of you out there, that you need to at least be prepared to have people be annoyed with you. People don’t generally like to be told what to do, especially if they didn’t ask. Since I am not currently in an argument about something that I didn’t ask for advice about, I guess I am able to think more rationally, but I think that a lot of times, I want the advice, I just don’t want it when it’s being told to me. I want to hear it, I want to complain about hearing it and get angry, and then later, when I’m ready, I can think about it and decide what to do. The fact that you overbearing mothers sometimes expect instant gratification when you’ve butted in, is really not a realistic expectation.

My advice, not that you asked, is continue to give the advice, but know when you’ve really crossed your boundary, and don’t expect to be greeted with open arms and lots of gratitude, at least not right away.

When people feel like they are in crisis, the last thing they want to hear (at least for me), is someone’s simple solution. When you feel like your world is crashing down, sometimes you just want someone to say, “You’re right, your life is a mess, how do you go on each day?” Rather than some rational “take action” advice, which I’ll probably do after I have a meltdown. I think if mothers are able to keep a good boundary, they might even find that their children actually ask them for advice before they have to butt in.

I guess I was a little premature to declare at the age of 6 that I had enough hlep. I think everyone always wants hlep, whether they think they do or not. My advice (again, who’s asking?), tread lightly, and just don’t get too frustrated when you get hung up on or receive a nasty email about how you are ruining your child’s life and owe them for all of the therapy sessions they’re going to need.

Again, I’m not 28.

Alexis writes: Judy Gold (a comedian who is also a lesbian) once said this about her children “I feel bad for my kids. I mean they have two Jewish mothers, wouldn’t you kill yourself?” It’s true that mothers get a bad rap for being too involved in their children’s lives. But it’s hard, they’re mothers, are they supposed to just stand by and watch their children make horrific mistakes?

I think giving advice is a lot like being a good comedian– it’s all about delivery and timing. Even the funniest joke can be completely unfunny if told at the wrong time. Advice is the same way. I agree with Tamra that when we children confide in our parents about things, we are probably (at least indirectly) asking them to weigh in about the issue, even if we don’t realize it. But even the best piece of advice can be misconstrued into the rudest comment if it’s not discussed at the right time. Tamra is right about instant gratification, mothers are not comedians who will be getting a laugh instantaneously proving that what they said was good. Chances are the closest thing to instant response the advice-giving mom is going to get is an abrupt hang-up.

It’s our instinct as adult children to prove to our parents that we can take care of ourselves. I think that sometimes people feel that if they need to ask their parents for help all the time, they’re not really independent. And let’s face it–there are plenty of adult children out there who rely too heavily on their parents. So it’s a slippery slope for us too. If we need your advice all the time are we really mature, functioning adults? Try to keep that in mind when you talk to us.

So, mothers, my advice for you is to weigh your words carefully. Try to dispense your life lessons in a way that doesn’t make a person feel like if they don’t take your advice you’re judging them harshly (which you probably are but you can pretend you’re not). Watch your timing and delivery, and try not to get too upset about putting us in therapy (if we have health insurance it’s not that big of a deal). You’re a parent so it’s your job to guide us.

By the way, Mom, tell Tamra she’s not 21. She might need some advice about embracing her age.

Mom writes: Well, first, I did screw up remembering Tamra’s age correctly. And secondly, I’m pretty sure it’s that kind of advice that might elicit a less-than-grateful response from Tam.

Ned writes:

I usually like to weigh in after everyone has given their opinion and although Shira has not yet responded, it seems that you all have a pretty good bead on the over-functioning parent. All three of you tell us a lot of stuff, so deep down you probably want our opinions. Your mom and I often say that none of you initially takes our advice, because you need a little time to think about what we suggest. I can’t say that you always do what we say, but I respect most of your decisions. When I stick my two cents in (I actually think my advice is worth at least double that), I try to make a point of not really getting too emotionally involved in your responses because it’s not going to be pretty and I want to avoid an argument. I try to get in and out of there quickly. But your posts show how wise you have become, probably from listening to our good advice. So maybe I should start asking for your advice. Maybe not. And really, I think I have hleped you enough.

Tamra writes: Your mom.

Ned writes: Tamra, don’t get me started.

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