We Have Ruined Childhood

For youngsters these days, an hour of free play is like a drop of water in the desert. Of course they’re miserable.

According to the psychologist Peter Gray, children today are more depressed than they were during the Great Depression and more anxious than they were at the height of the Cold War. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression rose by more than 60 percent among those ages 14 to 17, and 47 percent among those ages 12 to 13. This isn’t just a matter of increased diagnoses. The number of children and teenagers who were seen in emergency rooms with suicidal thoughts or having attempted suicide doubled between 2007 and 2015.

To put it simply, our kids are not O.K.

For a long time, as a mother and as a writer, I searched for a single culprit. Was it the screens? The food? The lack of fresh air and free time, the rise of the overscheduled, overprotected child, the overarching culture of anxiety and fear?

Those things might all contribute. But I’ve come to believe that the problems with children’s mental and emotional health are caused not by any single change in kids’ environment but by a fundamental shift in the way we view children and child-rearing, and the way this shift has transformed our schools, our neighborhoods and our relationships to one another and our communities.

The work of raising children, once seen as socially necessary labor benefiting the common good, is an isolated endeavor for all but the most well-off parents. Parents are entirely on their own when it comes to their offspring’s well-being. Many have had to prioritize physical safety and adult supervision over healthy emotional and social development.

No longer able to rely on communal structures for child care or allow children time alone, parents who need to work are forced to warehouse their youngsters for long stretches of time. School days are longer and more regimented. Kindergarten, which used to be focused on play, is now an academic training ground for the first grade. Young children are assigned homework even though numerous studies have found it harmful. STEM, standardized testing and active-shooter drills have largely replaced recess, leisurely lunches, art and music.

The role of school stress in mental distress is backed up by data on the timing of child suicide. “The suicide rate for children is twice what it is for children during months when school is in session than when it’s not in session,” according to Dr. Gray. “That’s true for suicide completion, suicide attempts and suicidal ideas, whereas for adults, it’s higher in the summer.” But the problems with kids’ mental and emotional health are not only caused by what goes on in the classroom. They also reflect what’s happening in our communities. The scarcity of resources of every kind, including but not limited to access to mental health services, health care, affordable housing and higher education, means that many parents are working longer and harder than ever. At the same time that more is demanded of parents, childhood free time and self-directed activities have become taboo.

And so for many children, when the school day is over, it hardly matters; the hours outside school are more like school than ever. Children spend afternoons, weekends and summers in aftercare and camps while their parents work. The areas where children once congregated for unstructured, unsupervised play are now often off limits. And so those who can afford it drive their children from one structured activity to another. Those who can’t keep them inside. Free play and childhood independence have become relics, insurance risks, at times criminal offenses.

Tali Raviv, the associate director of the Center for Childhood Resilience, says many children today are suffering a social-skills deficit. She told me kids today “have fewer opportunities to practice social-emotional skills, whether it’s because they live in a violent community where they can’t go outside, or whether it’s because there’s overprotection of kids and they don’t get the independence to walk down to the corner store.” They don’t learn “how to start a friendship, how to start a relationship, what to do when someone’s bothering you, how to solve a problem.”

 

Many parents and pediatricians speculate about the role that screen time and social media might play in this social deficit. But it’s important to acknowledge that simply taking away or limiting screens is not enough. Children turn to screens because opportunities for real-life human interaction have vanished; the public places and spaces where kids used to learn to be people have been decimated or deemed too dangerous for those under 18.

And so for many Americans, the nuclear family has become a lonely institution — and childhood, one long unpaid internship meant to secure a spot in a dwindling middle class.

Something has to change, says Denise Pope, a co-founder of Challenge Success, an organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., that helps schools make research-backed changes to improve children’s mental health. Kids need recess. They need longer lunches. They need free play, family time, meal time. They need less homework, fewer tests, a greater emphasis on social-emotional learning.

Challenge Success also works with parents, encouraging them to get together with their neighbors and organize things like extracurricular-free days when kids can simply play, and teaching them how not to intervene in normal peer conflict so that children can build problem-solving skills themselves. A similar organization, Let Grow, helps schools set up unstructured free play before and after the school day.

Dr. Gray told me it’s no surprise that the program, which he consults for, has been well received. “Children are willing to get up an hour early to have free play, one hour a week,” he said. “It’s like a drop of water if you’ve been in the desert.”

These groups are doing important work, but if that kind of desperation is any indication, we shouldn’t be surprised that so many kids are so unhappy. Investing in a segment of the population means finding a way to make them both safe and free. When it comes to kids, we too often fall short. It’s no wonder so many are succumbing to despair. In many ways, America has given up on childhood, and on children.

 

This blog has been dating and relationships for years. Should I start to write some more self help pieces like this?

 

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Sarah Jacobs: How to Stop Having a Favorite Child

Check out her company here: Giftninjas.co 

I’ve invited a guest writer to post an article here on phicklephilly. Please welcome this new talent to our audience. Likes, comments and follows are always welcome!

Thank you, Sarah!

Family dynamics play a huge impact on how children are formed into adults. Research shows that our birth order also has a hand in how we turn out. The oldest child may take on a leadership role in the family, while the youngest may be the most carefree. Extended family members and our interaction with them also adds up into the mix. One other factor also is how we perceive favoritism among siblings. We often see the one who gets away with most as the most favored one, while the one where a much higher form of expectation, be it in academics, good behavior, even in household chores, is often perceived as the more unfavored child.

Though parents may try to deny it, there is always a favorite child in the family. When you read mommy confessions in parenting forums, it is very common to hear mothers admit to having a preferred child. When we think back on our childhood, we often remember a time or two where we feel that our parents may not have been totally fair to us. While favoritism is common, it often shifts from one child to another, depending on who is “better” on that day or time. However, favoritism can be damaging when it is centered solely on one child, leaving the other siblings
with feelings of rejection.

As a parent, you might not be conscious on playing favorites, but the sad thing is, children often perceive it even if parents don’t admit it. Signs of favoritism may include letting a child get away more often than the other children, how you talk and interact also shows which child makes you more relaxed and calm. Your expectations and how you talk about your children to others also shows if there are any favorites. It may not be honestly admitted, but our how we play favorites
will always have a way of showing.

Jeffrey Kluger, author of “The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters
Reveal About Us,” cites that the favored child can have problems when they grow up. They might suffer severely when they fail to meet expectations. This is simply because they grew up overconfident, with feelings of entitlement and the thinking that they can get away with anything. While those children who felt rejected for being the less favorite could have unresolved feelings of anger and often feel inadequate.

For parents to avoid hurting their children unintentionally with favoritism, the best way would be to admit to it, and to be honest about it. Parents are just humans and will also have their own set of biases and preferences, and if there is a child that seem to match up with their parent’s personalities, it would be hard not to show more attention to them. Handling favoritism is not denying its existence. It is vital to accept it as a reality and doing ways on how to make it work for you and your children, and not break apart your family.

There should also be a clear avenue for expressing feelings and emotions. Often, when children feel that parents are being unjust, they would clam up and bottle up their hurts inside. This often would flare up into unintentional bouts of anger and bad behavior. Parents should make it a point that children grow up without fear of expressing themselves. Though children might not understand things clearly, having them express themselves will also allow parents to be able to explain the situation better and be able to clear up any misunderstandings.

Lastly, parents can learn more about their behavior towards their children from others. Most parents get defensive when well-meaning people tell them something about how they handle their children. While there might be those that are just being judgmental, there are those people that really do care and are really trying to help. Parents who are open minded and are willing to listen to others will more likely be able to check and adapt behaviors that can prevent obvious favoritism.

Building a family and raising children is a tough job. While having favorites may not be avoided, parents can show their love to their children in different ways, and their love for them is the same, and never less.

 

Author Bio:

Sarah Jacobs is an experienced writer who loves creating articles that can benefit others. Shehas worked as a freelance writer in the past making informative articles and fascinating stories. She has extensive knowledge in a variety of fields such as technology, business, finance, marketing, personal development, and more.

Check out her company here: Giftninjas.co 

 

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Cherie – Chapter 40 – Once You Go Black…

I haven’t seen Cherie in a month. I don’t realize this because I have been busy with Ambria. Filling in the blanks of our relationship. There aren’t any blanks, per se. I love Cherie with all of my heart. I do. She’s an extraordinary being that I have had the honor of meeting and somehow she has fallen in love with me.

She wants nothing from me. She’s working so hard on finishing her education, and the great job at CHOP and of course raising her son. She rocks. But lately it all just seems to be getting to her. It’s like she’s at her breaking point.

She moved back in to her parent’s house a awhile ago. Good thing is, you’re with your family, and that creates unity, and you can all lean on each other and help one another. But I’m learning more and more about the family.

She has a great relationship with her mother and younger sister. But she has an older sister who doesn’tt live with them, but lives with her boyfriend. What Cherie told me today, was that the older sister lived out in California and had two kids. But she got into a relationship with some whack job, (I don’t know if he’s the father of the children. Somehow I think that he’s not.) He was abusive to her, and beat her up a few times and she fled back to Pennsylvania to escape from getting killed by this asshole.

The kids are being raised by the grand parents now. But everybody pitches in. But here’s the rub. Older sister isn’t raising her kids. In my eyes she’s dumped them off on the grandparents. But here is the worst part. She’s pregnant again and is keeping the baby. If you can’t take care of the two kids you’ve got, why the fuck would you bring a third one into the world?

Cherie will be graduating from Temple in a year, and will have her degree. I think when she does go back to school she won’t have to deal so much with these kids. She’ll be studying and going to school full-time and working.

Her son is 6 years old and smart as a whip. But I know from the stories that Cherie’s told me that she’s spoiled him and regrets that. Plus he’s the eldest of the kids, so he leads the other two little ones into chaos. But if all of these kids are acting up like animals, someone isn’t doing their job in the discipline department. His dad isn’t around enough and the kids are maniacs and I think it’s really getting to Cherie. But she created him. The great thing is, it’s shown her what a challenge parenting a child can be, and she NEVER wants to do it again.

That’s good for me. She has all the qualities I like, smart, sexy, and sweet. She has her youth and a slamming body. She’s at the age where most women start hearing the ticking clock and all become desperate to get married and have children. Cherie has already been a mother for the last 6 years, and she is DONE.

My daughter Lorelei is 20, and I’ve been done for years. Lorelei’s great and comes and goes as she pleases and is a good kid.

I should just get a vasectomy tomorrow!

Cherie loves me for reasons that are pure and I want that. Cherie is a perfect match for me. A fun girl that’s not around all of the time so I can have my alone time and my social life with my friends without worrying.

She’s been stressed and super busy and so have I. I understand why she was pissed when she didn’t hear from me. She told me she doesn’t want to get hurt so she put up a wall. We resolved it all over the phone a week ago and all is forgiven, but we did discuss it more when she came down to the city today. We both feel recharged and the bond between us is even stronger now.

She didn’t get down here until 7:30pm and she’s tired. We walk back to my apartment so we can relax. It’s been hot lately, so when I left my house to come out and meet her at her car, I left the AC on. So the bedroom is nice and cool when she gets there. I light a candle and put on some soft music. (Pandora – Music for Lovers station)

She takes note that I’ve gotten her some fresh candy on the table on her side of the bed.

Hopefully when she goes back to school and gets her schedule we can figure out ways we can spend more time together. Even if it’s just a lunch or a cup of coffee. We just need to stay connected. Maybe a nooner when Lorelei is not at the house.

Cherie loves me so much. I can just tell. She’s such a good woman. Can you imagine if I end up having a girlfriend who is a doctor?

We chat on the bed and hold each other as we get comfortable. She knows what’s coming. It’s inevitable, and she needs it.

“You have such lovely eyes, Cherie.”

“You’re blue eyes are much more beautiful.”

“They’re only beautiful when they’re looking at you.”

We get undressed and for the next few hours we do all that stuff that we both love to do so much with each other.

Take it Billy…

 

 

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Tammy – Crazy Baby

“You know you want to have a baby with me…”

Here’s an interesting short one that I connected with on the online dating site, Clover. I connect with many women on these dating sites, but rarely do we actually meet up. I could press and make it happen, but most of the time I’ve found that it’s a waste of time. The majority of women on these sites are just boring people that I end up buying drinks for. If they were better and more interesting people, they’d be in a meaningful relationship by now. (What does that say about me?) That or they would’ve simply given up and settled into grinding mediocrity like most people I know.

But occasionally one comes along on one of these sites that seems so nuts I have to showcase her insanity for your entertainment.

Alright. Let’s start with her profile.

Tammy

26 / Female / Straight

Stockton, NJ

Serious Relationships Only, Fitness Singles, 90’s Babies

 

That’s it. That’s all her profile says. There are 3 pics and nothing more. We matched because I just swipe right on everyone on Clover to hopefully meet some quality people.

Here is the conversation that ensued after we matched. It went on over the course of several days.

Tammy: “Hi, You have kids?”

Me: “1 daughter, 20.”

Tammy: “Wow. Where is her mom?”

Me: “She lives in New Jersey. Daughter lives with me.”

Tammy: “Wow. What happened to her mom?”

Me: “We divorced back in 2001 and once my daughter turned 18 she was out of that hell too.”

Tammy: “Well. She still see her mom? You want more kids?”

Me: “She does occasionally and no I don’t want anymore children.”

Tammy: Why? You don’t want to have any with me? I know you want one with me.”

Me: “What makes you say that?”

Tammy: “I know you want one with me, you hide it.”

Me: “Really? Well tell me a little more about yourself, Tammy.”

Tammy: “I’m a 26 year old female. 5’4″ tall. 120 lbs. I am working at TJ Maxx processing shoes.”

Me: “What do you like to do in your free time?”

Tammy: Play Wii on TV, do puzzles and watch movies and walking and shopping and cooking.”

Me: “You seem nice. What prompted you to swipe right on my profile?”

Tammy: “I want a long time relationship and to have kids.”

Me: Have you ever been married?”

Tammy: “No. I want to be married to you.”

A day goes by…

Tammy: “Why aren’t you talking to me?”

Me: “Because I’m at work.”

Tammy: “Oh, ok.”

Me: “Have you been on many dates on this site?”

Tammy: “Ok. I want to be with you.”

Me: “We should meet up and go on a date then.”

Tammy: “I will tell you when I’m free.”

 

And I never heard from her again. She also blocked me for some reason. I hope you can all imagine how heartbroken I was to find out I would never have the opportunity to marry and have children with this mentally challenged stranger that lives 80 miles away from me in New Jersey.

 

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Marigold – Good German Stock

I’ve known her since she was 21 and now she’s a mom!

I met Marigold when she was only 21 years old. That was back in 97 when she worked for me as a teller in my bank branch at 10th and Snyder Aves. in South Philly. They would sometimes send her to another branch to help out, so I didn’t see her all of the time. She always seemed smarter and sharper than her peers. I really liked her. (Tall blonde. Good legs.)

We would sometimes go to lunch and it was always nice to spend time with her outside of the bank. Marigold eventually left retail banking for a better job. I remember she always dated high-end wealthy or affluent men. She wasn’t a gold digger or anything like that, just knew how to date a better class of men than most girls her age.

We kept in touch and would occasionally meet up for lunch or drinks to catch up. At one point I was living in New Jersey and she was living in the Fairmount area for Philly. I was married back then. Years later I was working in Philadelphia, and she had moved to New York. So that kept us apart except for the random visit. I later moved to New York for work and she was then living in Newark, NJ with her boyfriend of several years. That was just a few train stops beyond where I was living at the time. So we got to hang out every once in a while.

I remember attending her bachelorette party. I was the only guy invited. Just me surrounded by a bunch of women. It was awesome! She and her fiance married at city hall but then had a big reception down in the Bowery of NYC. I took my then girlfriend Jackie, who was a second generation girl from Haiti. She was a lawyer on Wall Street. She wanted to get married and have children so badly, I think she scared me off. Lorelei was enough kid for one lifetime for me.

I eventually moved back to Philly and took a job at a local digital publication. I didn’t see Marigold as much as I would have liked to, but we always managed to get together at least once or twice a year. Then she moved out to Lexington, Kentucky. Her husband is a professor at the University of Kentucky, so out they went. he’s a great guy. Everybody loves Don.  Men and women alike. He’s so cool that he’s never minded me hanging out with his wife. Cassandra works as a financial broker, so technically she can work anywhere. I have known Marigold twenty years now, and I’m sure hasn’t been a fan of living out in the midwest. She’s a city cat like me and probably misses living in a metropolis. I would bet that at some point they’ll come back.

She has a little son who is now six years old and two daughters that are about two and a half. They are fraternal twins. They all have white blonde hair and look like the perfect little Aryan family. They’re all really cute. I think the son could have used a bit more discipline to keep his behavior in check, but he’s not my child. I know for a while about a year ago, cassandra was losing her shit having three little kids to take care of everyday. That was real challenge for her. I think it aged her.

I was down at our shore house a few years ago to see my father and she visited with her son. She wanted to meet my father that I always spoke of fondly to her. She wanted to see his train collection and also wanted her son to see it. It’s pretty spectacular. I’m glad she finally got to meet my dad. Her life with her father had always been a challenge. I believe he was bi polar and struggled with alcohol. I remember even in her twenties she was taking care of him. Writing out his checks to pay his bills, etc. that must have been a lot for a young girl to bear. I may have fucked up some things in my life, but I was always capable of taking care of my daughter. Girls need strong dads. I may not be the strongest father, but I was consistent with Lorelei. I also wasn’t a crazy asshole like her mother, so that’s part of the reason Lor has decided to live with me.

I am writing this because I am about to go see her and her daughter tonight. She’s visiting Philly for a couple of days to see everybody, and this must be my night.  I will finish this piece upon my return.

I got to their hotel at 5pm. They are staying at the Courtyard at Marriott. It’s a nice hotel right near City Hall. Originally that building was built in 1926 as a government annex to City Hall for over 60 years. In 1990 it was acquired and renovated by Marriott. The marble floors and three chandeliers in the main lobby are all original. It is the largest Courtyard Marriott in the world.

Just thought I’d give you a little Philly history there.

I go up to her room, and her little daughter is on the carpet playing with her maryjane shoes. She’s so cute and social. I know it’s been a stressful drive up from DC today for Marigold. They were down there visiting with Don’s family for the holidays. Marigold is happy that she only has the one child to look after for the next couple of days. She is relieved that her husband and his family will get to spend time with her son and other daughter. Three little kids are a handful, but getting a break and only having to look after one is much needed on her part.

I hand Marigold a skinny joint. She’s delighted. She hardly ever smokes weed so she says she only needs a tiny bit to get lit. She excuses herself and heads to the bathroom to toke up. I’m just chilling on the couch sipping a glass of wine. I tell her to run the fan in the bathroom to draw out the smoke. I hear the fan go on followed by coughing.

Moments later, Marigold reappears, smiling. “Thanks, I needed that. Do my eyes look stoned?”

I assure her she looks fine. We get her little one in the stroller and head downstairs in the elevator. I’ve decided to take them to Zavino at 13th and Sansom. It’s a small place but we’re in a nice little booth in the back. I had called ahead to hold a table and they were very accommodating. They take the stroller and hang it in the back.

We settle into our seats and order some wine. I know they all love pizza and that’s why I brought them here. It’s really good brick oven pie here. They have this location and a bigger one out in University City. Their happy hour is pretty solid. We got two pies (they’re small) eight bucks a piece and the wine was only five bucks a glass. For a nice place like this in midtown village, that’s a good deal.

We had a nice dinner without incident. Her daughter was well-behaved. The food was great and the service on point. I was happy to see Marigold and share this moment of repose with her. When we finished, she insisted on paying the bill. I left the tip. I walked her back to the hotel and we called it a night. It was a great two hours to catch up with my old friend. She said she couldn’t wait to snuggle up with her little one, smoke a little more grass and fall into the arms of Morpheus.

I love Marigold like a sister.

 

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My Family – Lorelei – Life with Lorelei

She’ll always be the apple of my eye.

One of the joys of my life is my daughter Lorelei. She lives with me here in Philly and it’s great. She is twenty now, and has lived with me for almost two years now. She has a very sweet and chill disposition. Lor is very unobtrusive. She works as a food runner and hostess at a restaurant here in the city. She seems to like it well enough. They serve some vegan cuisine and she likes that because she’s vegan herself. This is a choice she has made on her own.

She usually is home from Monday or Tuesday night until Thursday or Friday. Then she’s gone. She goes and stays at her boyfriend’s mom’s house the rest of the time. Mostly weekends. Which gives me a break. Not that I don’t want her there, but I still enjoy my solitary life and it’s nice to just be at one with the bat cave and Netflix.

She has been into something called flow arts lately. Actually, she’s been doing it for a while. I got her a hula hoop that lights up with LED and strobe lights in it. She has gotten really good at it and does it at concerts and festivals she and her guy attend. They’ve been together two years now and they seem happy. They like to do all of the same things, so that’s good. He’s a good kid and he’s good to her. I approve.

She also recently got a flow wand. This is a little more complex. It’s about a foot and a half long. It has strobe and LED’s in it as well. It’s on a string that is threaded through a hole in the upper third of the wand. She swings it around and it appears to be floating. The way the lights are programmed, when it’s swinging vertically around her it leaves these trails of images in the darkness. Like Pikachu, or flames, or signs of the zodiac. It’s really cool! She’s had it for a little over a month and has become very proficient with the wand. Recently, she was even in a music video performing her hooping. You can actually watch that video at the bottom of this blog.

Sometimes, she’ll come home and we’ll just chat. It’s really nice. How many dads get the opportunity to sit down and just shoot the shit in a real way with their daughters? There’s none of the sanctimonious “How was your day?” crap. What we talk about is real. Life. Work. Family. Life challenges. Friends. etc. It’s a rare thing, but I get to do it at least once every other week. What kid even wants to be around their parents at that age? So I feel lucky. We have a solid honest connection. I know I’m doing the best I can as a father, and she chooses to be here with me. She won’t always be with me. But at least I have this time with her.

Lorelei recently changed up her hairstyle. It’s long on the top, but shaved on the sides.

Sort of like this, but longer on the top.

Image result for blonde hair long on top shaved sides

Well, she’ll pull the long hair up onto the top of her head in a hair tie. Then she’ll ask me to come in with my electric beard trimmer, and shave the sides. I have a good eye and a steady hand, so I’m sort of her part-time barber. I’ll go along the sides and shave it all down so that it’s even. “We’re like a Latino family, Daddy. Doin’ each others hair.” She says, I laugh. I wonder where she got her sense of humor?

There are just some simple moments that happen on a weekly basis. Trish brought up a wooden chest for Lorelei to put her clothes into. (See: Trish – 2012 to Present – The She Wolf) She was dressed really hot, so maybe she had just come from a date. I’m in my office in the back room typing away. Music is on, and the next thing you know Lorelei and Trish are in my room. Trish is digging into my candy, Lorelei is hooping and looking at herself in the mirror. We’re all laughing and talking. It’s great. I’ve got a roof over my head, my daughter is happy and healthy, and I’m pals with my neighbor.

Life is good.

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