Three things I learned this month
Monday, February 25, 2008
1 Good labels aren’t necessarily good. Mom called me the studious one, the laid-back, easy-going homebody. My little sister, Lisa, on the other hand, was the spitfire, the hard child.
We laugh about those labels now because they were so true. But when I read Debra Gilbert Rosenberg’s piece this month on labeling, I had to wonder if the labels Mom attached to us as little girls helped make us into the women we’ve become. I still would rather curl up with a book and a warm blanket while my sister is always up for an adventure, no matter the risks.
Like many parents, I find myself affectionately labeling my own kids. Marty is the perfect child, Arlee is a little lovebug and Zoe is the clown. With Rosenberg’s advice ringing in my ears, I decided to watch to see if my kids might unconsciously be trying to live up to their labels. The verdict: They just might be.
2 Juvenile justice needs attention. I never want my kids to end up on the wrong side of the law anywhere, but especially not in Cook County. Writer Jerry Davich gives a brief glimpse inside the infamous Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and it’s not pretty. I’m not soft on crime, but I am soft on taking care of kids to the best of our collective abilities no matter what they are accused of doing. For too long, the conditions at the juvenile center haven’t merited our attention—that’s how it earned one of the worst reputations in the country—as we assume these are bad kids who deserve what they get. But we need to start paying attention, whether we live in Cook County or not, since crime knows no boundaries. We need to focus on helping the kids now, whether psychologically, emotionally or physically, before they become hardened criminals beyond saving, costing us millions in tax dollars every year. While we ourselves can’t help the new court-appointed administrator clean up the system, we certainly can lobby our policy makers and purse-string minders to do more to advance cutting-edge juvenile justice programs in Illinois.
3 I need to learn IM soon. Writer Chris Bonney shares with us that more than 40 percent of teens use instant messaging to avoid awkward conversations. Where was IM when I was growing up? Seriously.
He tells us research is still being done on the impact of how avoiding face-to-face interactions now will affect our kids’ ability to communicate when they are older, even when they are parents themselves. For right now, we need to figure out how to embrace IM while still teaching kids our "old-fashioned" values and ways of communicating. That means many of us will have to step outside our comfort zone and enter our kids’ world to bridge the gap between technology and communication. I know it’ll be a challenge for me, since I can’t seem to figure out IM-speak for what I have to say, but I also know that for the sake of my kids I need to understand their world.
As always, I love to hear from you about the things you learned this month, whether in this month’s magazine or simply as you go about your daily adventures in parenting.