Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Helicopter Parenting Destroying Entire Generations!









Newsflash: Doing your kids homework will never get them into a good school. If you buy their way in, they will fail anyway. Side note: Because these kids come in lacking in any self sufficiently, yet are pressured to do well by their parents, more than 30% load up on the Adderal. Just letting you know. Many of them become extremely depressed because they know they had every advantage and are still failing. "Lurking beneath of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student's inability to differentiate the self from the parent."  These kids can't problem solve, cope with minor setbacks, don't know what makes them happy and rarely know who they are.

I understand some parents do this to "protect" their kids and some others do this as an ego-extension of themselves. The bragging! And now social bragging. Endless. How much can we as a society tolerate? I don't care that your daughter won the gymnastic nationals, or she's doing print modeling in between piano recitals, or that your son has a 4.9 but working toward a perfect 5! I still don't respect you as a parent because your kid is miserable. 




I've written about this before but this is great article by an ex-Stanford dean who witnessed first hand the overprotected kids that enter college only to fall apart. Read here.  I see it all around me, and we see this in the media, flooded with pictures of celebrities and their over-indulged kids who will never understand what it feels like to actually earn something. Then these same parents are surprised when the kids flail at school, away from mom, dad, tutors, assistants, and so on.





Clearly I am against any of this hyper-parenting. I know where it comes from ("I wasn't really parented by my hippy-dippy mom and I will give Chuckles everything I never got") and also have seen where it goes ("Mom, tell me again how to work a subway because the cabs are ignoring me. I feel so rejected. Can you fly out here?")





I've been parenting for a while, and I suppose I'm what you call a "let them break an arm" parent. I told my daughters as much when they were age three:

"Girls, you need to understand I will not be a typical mother. In fact, consider me an aunt. You'll have to figure things out on your own." Guess what, they did. They're independent but also compassionate. They have weird hobbies like reptile collecting. They seem to find outlets for all of their various interests. My house is messy, but there you have it.

They have zero interest in my opinion on most matters, they trust their own. They wouldn't dream of me ever helping them with homework.

"Honey, do you need help with that math that makes zero sense to me? I can switch you back to old school in no time."

"How about never!"

They laugh. They run circles around me. They steal my phone and make movies. They think I'm lame. And I happen to think that's healthy. But we also all adore each other, we bake, shop, go on adventurous hikes, look for wild animals in hiding, snare stray cats, surf, (well they do) and Apples to Apples somehow never gets old.

Why on earth would parents NOT want their kids to learn from their mistakes, get disappointed, cry, bawl their eyes out, and learn to get over it; stumble, fall and be okay? To experience life? It's called balance and the kids will be fine. Let them get a damn D! Take the training wheels off before they are 12. How old is this kid?



In this in-between place, I never have to worry whether or not my kids are spoiled, over-pampered, lacking in confidence, or incapable of taking care of themselves. What I get in return is a life. Everybody wins.

It will be curious to see what happens to this next crop of extremely over- indulged kids. This is the generation following the ones already out there.



In my opinion one of the most loving things you can do for your children is let them grow up.

Rhonda Talbot on helicopter parenting insanity, parenthood, millennials, raising kids, college, independence.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

On The California Drought Crisis, Flashback, Marin County, Jerry Brown, Sam Shepard and Me





"The California I knew is gone, doesn't exist... little pockets, farm country....fresh produce stands with avocados and date palms. An artichoke for a buck. All wiped out now."

This post is not in any way to make light of our California drought situation. But it's impossible for me to not do the deja vu stumble.  I'm a product of the 1977 Marin County "Emergency" drought, where drastic measures had to be taken or the state would simply burn to the ground.

Jerry Brown was a younger, hipper Governor then. I was living with my mother in Tiburon, she was somehow an interior decorator and I was a kid plotting my move to anywhere else but Marin. For example, every morning, because my mother didn't believe in curtains I was forced to wake by sunlight at approximately 6:00am.



As a pre-teen, I thought this was bullshit. I needed that extra hour before school. Get curtains!

Mom: We are not shutting out the majestic glory we get to momentarily be part of.

She was already drinking coffee and drawing blueprints for some boutique. She never went to design or architectural colleges, so her money-earning ambitions remained a mystery.

Mom:  Honey, get up. The sun is out. Splendor awaits. Take a one minute shower, dash out, leave it running and I'll pop in.


During this time, the new water rules were: basically you couldn't use water. Which meant, you were not suppose to flush the toilet until five uses, one quick shower a week, there was the same 25% cut in water supply... or,

"The Family That Showers Together, Doesn't Go To Jail!"

The slogan might have been, "The Family That Showers Together Stays Together."  That is so perverse, even by the low moral standards of the Mariners, the locals quickly changed it.




Jerry Brown, 77, mandating the 25% ^ ^ ^ among other restrictions. ^ ^ ^ If you abused your water usage, not only were you fined, but potentially looking at 30 days in the slammer.  My mother took this all very seriously and would sometimes throw a nerf ball at my head if I showered too long. She also had a thing for Brown and a probable hook-up. Back then he was like Ryan Gosling. But in the power seat.


His water ration for the week.
People were concerned about the water, but not that much. Many would wash up in a San Rafael city fountain then go listen to Bonnie Raitt at Sweetwater in Mill Valley.  The older folks just went to bed.




The street signs kept going up, some were rather inappropriate using images from that book The Joy of Sex. Some trying to be clever.



I don't think Jerry Brown sanctioned these signs, but people posted them everywhere, all over Main Street and into other cities.

It appears he's using a similar handbook for our current crisis.  This is not a horrible thing, everyone needs to conserve and shut their fountains down. Over 80% of CA water goes to agriculture, but I suppose every drop helps. Other efforts, however, are mandatory. There needs to be a better long-term solution than short term regulations. Listen up engineers. Be a hero. Everyone get involved. There needs to be more talk about desalination.  Go here. 




Okay, back to 1977, Main Street sort of looks the same, ^ ^ ^ minus the fancy stores. Incidentally Mom created the interiors of nearly all those shops. Again, a mystery. She went on to become an unlicensed therapist with a decent book of clients.

Mom: It's amazing what people will tell their designers. Now I'm in a position to help them proper and get paid.

Of course no one was going to shower with their family, or not flush their toilets. But to do their part, everyone did carry around flasks of whiskey and sit in hot tubs. We all wanted a hot tub.



The restaurants did not put water on the table, unless you were Sam Shepard, because he's god. And was also a regular at Sam's, the local, well, watering hole.  He was an great guy, and I talked to him often because my mom would drag me there so she didn't have to drink alone.



Sam often saw me in a corner doing homework while he was writing Pulitzer winning plays. I didn't know who he was, just another sweet guy at Sam's. I was working on my college essay, yes early, but I was anxious to move on.


Sam told me I was off to a good start. He told me to figure out what I find curious, then mention in my letter both the subject of curiosity and the professor who would be teaching this to the Freshman. I would eventually do that and not on a napkin.

I would later find out that a very young Sam had a romance with Patti Smith (connection one) and he also has a musician son, Walker, whose band The Down Hill Strugglers, play "down home folk." There is a great scene in The Notebook with Sam Shepard, everyone is dancing to banjo/fiddle music, (connection two.) These connections are the majestic fabric of my life.



As a "teeny-bopper" I was curious why there was a water shortage at all given we were surrounded by so much.


My walkway to the bus every morning. ^ ^ ^

My mother explained the difference between salt and tap then offered she preferred wine, so she wasn't part of the problem anyway. All of our ferns had long died from neglect. We were winning.

Year later, here I am all grown up, explaining to my kids why we are installing drought resistant grass, but the kids seem to be armed with knowledge because I get yelled at the most.

"Turn off the faucet, Mom!"

When I tell my kids why there are no decent oranges or lemons, I sound exactly like my mother back in Tiburon. There have been subsequent droughts but I didn't have kids then. Somehow the impact isn't felt as much. Because well, pasta, laundry, long-haired twin girls.

If it gets to that point, of "The Family That Showers Together Doesn't Go to Jail!" just get yourself a hot tub.  Like these fellas.


Maybe stick to coconut water.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Mystery of Einstein





When I was eight years old, my mother handed me a slip of paper with an Einstein quote: “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.”

Why she gave this to me and not her other five children remains unclear. Perhaps she saw my disillusionment with the rat-a-tat, airless echo of school, the Catholic Church, the Sunday roast dinners and our predictable life. I had been punished a number of times for staring out the school window day-dreaming about who knows what, maybe stink bugs. Then came the thwack of the ruler, held by a tight-fisted, chalky nun who sent me off to kneel on the concrete hallway floor for two hours. I would later go home and draw pictures of nuns being kidnapped, held in dark closets, being starved, begging for mercy. I hid the stories under my bed, accompanying the other stacks, all concerning some level of inequality.

During this time, music and freedom called my mother to another place, a more hopeful existence where she wouldn’t be a “wife.” She was a hippy to my father’s buttoned-up businessman. My mother did not have many heroes, as they were fleeting and then dead: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedys. But there was something about Einstein that settled into her very core, then mine.

A new life began and I took Albert along as a companion

In the early 70's, she had had enough. She confided in me: “We are leaving. Tell no one; your sisters won’t understand. Your father will return to an empty house, to complement his empty existence.”
Then: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Don’t forget that. Ever.”

Thus began my own obsession with Einstein. I tucked these quotes into my grandmother’s jewelry box, which she had given me just prior to her death.

Legions of people remain enamored by this brilliant man, not just for what he discovered, accomplished and how he radically changed the world, but because of his childlike innocence, his unlimited curiosity, great humility, a legacy of words that continue to endure. When you ask a complete stranger who defines genius, they might reply, “Oh, Einstein.”

And he was a rascal, with wild eyes, the mop of hair, his crumpled clothes. This made him real for the rest of us. I began to collect quotes and read about him in libraries. His humor brought me great comfort. He wasn’t some impervious man one couldn’t access. He didn’t believe in separating himself from others, and in fact loved sharing his ideas, while helping others expand on their own. He was approachable, both alive and dead.

Born with a kind of eternal intelligence, his curiosity about all things began to emerge at age four. While examining his father’s pocket compass, Einstein was baffled. What was causing the needle to move? The empty space made no sense to him. He began to build models and mechanical devices for fun. He wanted answers. Age 10, he met Max Talmey, a poor, Jewish medical student from Poland, who introduced him to science, math, philosophy, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Euclid’s Elements, which Einstein dubbed “the holy little geometry book.”

He was brilliant in his own way

As a boy, his father knew little Albert was gifted, and perhaps because the elder Einstein (an engineer) had failed at so many businesses, he insisted his son stay in school. He enrolled him in a school in Munich to pursue engineering, but Albert was frustrated with the educational system. He clashed repeatedly with the authorities, resented their teaching style and wrote about how schools were essentially killing the creative spirit and curiosity of its students. He was 15.

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” When I read this in junior high school, I could finally relax. The simple statement brought along a universe of vindication because I simply could not understand the entire educational process of rote learning. It was too boxed in, too impersonal. I realized I would have to find my own way intellectually alongside the traditional, through books and lectures by Rollo May, Erich Fromm, B.F. Skinner, Timothy Leary and Marshall McLuhan.

I was no genius, simply curious and bored with school. Given the number of times my gypsy mother moved us, staying on track in class made me weary. Another school, another teacher, another set of young people I would have to navigate somehow.

Why has Einstein resonated so deeply with me and so many others? Among the world’s most brilliant minds, he continues to inspire. What of da Vinci, Tesla, Newton, Hawking, Aristotle, Edison, Cervantes? The list goes on. They too share not just powerful minds, but an endless pursuit through curiosity and instinct. They knew knowledge was important, had to be learned, but could only get them so far. The rest is mystery.

Einstein embodies the mystery. So many of his ideas, beyond his incredible discoveries in the world itself, which ultimately turned the world on its head, contain room, empty space, air to breathe. His equation, E = mc2, may be the most famous equation in physics, eventually setting the stage for the development of the atomic bomb and nuclear power plants. But had he known where this was going, he said, he should have become a watchmaker.

To this day, his theories inspire advances in science, astronomy and physics, as well as from philosophers. I keep a tip sheet of quotes tacked up near my computer and read one every day. It really doesn’t matter which one, as they all carry great meaning. With each read I come away with yet another interpretation.

Einstein would go on to fail countless exams when applying to higher learning institutions. Yet, he continued exploring, reading and taking great interest in other’s concepts and ideas. He did eventually get accepted into the Polytechnic in Zurich. He wanted more knowledge and continued developing his own theories and expanding others.

His instincts propelled him yet further
He never lost his ability to stay curious, intuitive and of course, humorous. Despite his apparent genius, upon graduation he could not get a job and landed at the patent office, only to be overlooked for a promotion because he had not managed to grasp machine technology. But it was there that the 26-year-old developed further radical notions in his spare time by analyzing various patents. And he never stopped writing about his findings.

Finally, with some recognition, he left the patent office, and by 1908 was considered as one of the world’s leading scientists. He went on to become a professor in Prague and Berlin, and ultimately became famous a few years later when his theory of relativity at last made a permanent impression on the world. Ten years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

For many years after, he traveled the globe, lecturing. “Of all the people I have met, I like the Japanese the most, as they are modest, intelligent, considerate, and have a feel for art,” he wrote to one of his sons. This is the statement that captures the man himself. He maintained his own humility until the day he died. He was a genius, but also a gentleman, a humorist, altruist, artist and a great believer in love. “How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”

The entire universe was Einstein’s canvas, and he made this world relatable to all of us. He said so many things and has been attributed for many as well.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey

Of all the great brains, his would be the one cut into 240 pieces, kept in jars, cardboard boxes, often hidden, studied under microscopes. Bits of his grey matter still remain at Princeton University. All those years of cutting, probing and analyzing amounted to little new knowledge of the human mind.

The contradiction rattles the very jars into a pulpy mess, if only because it contradicts what Einstein tried to impress. Stay curious and questioning; love the mystery. Conventional knowledge, though essential, is finite. Imagination is not. This is what Einstein embraced. Perhaps the lore of his brain in a jar helps prolong the iconic myth. In his words: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and strand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

Recently, while driving my own ten-year-old girls to school, I said, “Remember, imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Through the rear view mirror, I watched them both roll their eyes in that “Please mom, just drive,” kind of way, as they said in unison, “OK, Einstein.”