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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Heather – The Family

I went on tinder to try to get more dates. This was a couple of years ago. I’d been working too much. I just wanted to have more fun.

I got a message and set up a date with this girl. It’s my 5th date from the site, it’s been fun. But this one girl was like one of those love at first sight moments when we met at a restaurant. I saw Heather and she was perfect. I tried to play it cool but I felt like I could just cut ties with all the girls I’ve dated and just commit to her.

Physically she was everything I could ever ask for and exactly my type. Her personality seemed about a 10/10. About 30 minutes into sitting down, we didn’t even order cause we were just talking. The chemistry was as good as it was with my first love when I was 14. It was perfect, sparks were flying, I thought I was done and ready to commit here.

But then she tells me to forget about ordering food, let’s go somewhere else, and she has this idea. She won’t say much and I like surprises so I didn’t ask much. We jumped in my car and drove to this restaurant about 20 minutes away kind of out-of-town. It was half way up a mountain near a ski resort. I’m familiar with the area so no big deal.

We walk in and her family is celebrating her aunt’s birthday. There was only family and a lot of it, about 40 people. She introduces me and everybody was happy to meet me and really nice. Everybody also knew that she was out on a first date. They were asking her stuff like, “Is this the guy?” “Is this your date?” “Is this the one?” All of the sudden I wasn’t so cool and relaxed. I felt pressure to be on my best behavior. It was high pressure to the 3rd degree. But everybody was nice so that helped. We sat down and I started being questioned by her older sister, her aunt, and another lady that I forget her relation to my date. The mom started kind of defending me and telling them to back off and let me eat. But the interrogating continued. After I don’t know how long they turned to my date and jokingly said, “we approve.” Then I was able to kind of get my bearings for a minute.

I was totally off-balance all night, just tense. I was afraid the back of my shirt would get that a big wet spot cause I felt sweat on my back. So the sister brings her cute little girl and let’s me hold her and she and my date started taking pictures of me holding her, and somebody else’s baby boy as well. I started to feel like the tone of it all was that we were a couple. I kind of felt like I was married to her and these nice people were my in-laws.

After a couple of hours probably closer to 3 hours, everybody was kind of tiring out and everything began to wind down, keep in mind her car is still at the other restaurant down the hill. Then her dad suddenly asks me “jokingly,” what my intentions are with his daughter. Though I can’t remember how he phrased the question. Everybody looked at the table looked at me which is about half the people there.

I guess I was exhausted from all the questioning (I was questioned by multiple people, multiple times) and the pressure of it all cause I kind of lost it. He asked the question, I looked across the table at her, and she told her dad to stop it. Her dad smiles and jokingly says that he’d really like to hear my response, and her uncle (I think) also said he’d like to know (jokingly). I looked at my date and said, “Can I talk to you alone for a minute.” To which her dad laughs loudly and says “I made him nervous.”

So everybody is laughing now and I guess it was a big joke. I stood up in place, kind of, it was one of those long bench seats and I couldn’t push it back cause other people were sitting on it. Then her sister (I think) says, “Oh there are no secrets in this family, speak your mind.” People then laugh again and everybody starts making jokes about not having secrets and this man who married into the family somehow tells me that he remembers being in my place and he says, “Let me give you some advice, the best thing to do right now is speak your mind and be honest.” Then others join in and echo his sentiment, all jokingly I think.

So I looked at my date and she says something like, “You can tell me anything here, we’re all family.” She also I think was joking. But I had started to lose my ability to tell when people were joking and when they were serious. So the dad says, “Wait, I haven’t gotten an answer to my question.” So finally I speak directly to the dad and say, “I’d like to discuss that with her first.” But I REGRETFULLY, laughed as I said it. So her dad says, “I asked you first, I wanna know.” I turn to my date and she says something like, “Go ahead you can tell me, I’m a big girl I can handle it.”

So I said ok, and sat down then took a couple of breaths while her dad kind of quieted everybody down. I started with “I think I made a huge mistake.”

It all spiraled down from there. I said harsh things like that I felt like I was having a bad dream where I was suddenly married. I questioned her intentions in bringing me there. I said stuff like, “What were you thinking?” Yes, I liked you, but I just met you, and right now I know your aunt (I pointed at her sitting next to me) better than I know you.”

I think she was humiliated but I couldn’t stop, the more I spoke the more bad stuff came out, total fucking tail spin. I said I want to find someone special but I don’t want to skip the first 29 dates and skip to date 30 which is what I’d done that night.

Then people started interrupting and chiming in and suggesting that she and I slow down and have a real first date. I wasn’t having it, I was out of control. I said, “No, it’s too late for that, I feel robbed here, I wanted to meet this girl, get to know her, date her, and maybe fall for her, but now it’s like we’re engaged and her whole family is here and there are all these expectations. We skipped the getting to know each other, and dating part so I feel robbed.” Then I said yet another thing I regret. I said “It’s a HUGE RED FLAG (with an emphatic gesture) that I asked for minute alone with you to talk, and this is what I got instead.” I added something like “you’re all great and a great family, but the lack of certain boundaries is a huge red flag for me. I would never let my relationship become family business.”

My date interrupts me at this point and says, “Okay, so let’s talk in private, let’s go outside and talk, I’m sorry I didn’t give you that minute, let’s go outside and talk privately, I’ll give you all night.” She was visibly shaken and I could tell tears were inevitable. I stood up again and realizing that I had insulted all of them I just quietly walked out. I felt really bad cause they were all nice and had nothing but the best intentions for me. They love her, and they were literally telling me that I was good enough which should’ve been a compliment, but I somehow took it the wrong way and spat in their face. I didn’t even drink.

I drove home alone in silence.

 

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Sarah Jacobs: How to Stop Having a Favorite Child

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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.

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Wildwood Daze – 1980 – I’ve Had It With This Town

I love the summer. I’ve been dropped here against my will by some other person. My father. I have no control over my life. I have to go to school at a new school as a stranger. I know you have a problem with my dissatisfaction and depression.

I excel in school and start a band. I thrive in this shit hole you’ve dropped me off with no concept of how that will break your son’s spirit.

Janice is off in college so you’re good. If anything is of kilter your going to lose your shit and that is me.

What did you think was going to happen?

Let’s rip the 17-year-old son from all of his friends and his band from Philly and drop him off in Wildwood, New Jersey. A retirement and resort town the you already know is a deathtrap for young people.

You dropped out of high school to get away from this hell hole. You joined the army rather than turn to crime at 17. You fucking asshole that I love.

I get it. I worked in banking just like you for 30 years. You were making a bunch of bad loans at the Provident in Philly and got out when the getting was good.

You retreated to NJ. your little safe haven to escape, but you never thought of what that would do to the children in your life.

The little ones were fine. April and Gabby didnt;t know any better. But I was a senior in high school. I never got to graduate with my friends at Frankford in Philly. I had a band. You destroyed that for your little escape plan.

But what was that. You replicated your life in NJ as the regional manager at First Fidelity Bank. You’re a great manager and a great man. But you really have a taste for some of your employees, man.

I remember telling you about a girl I met once how I was in a relationship and I told you about how I had feelings for her.

You said, “Why don’t you just move on her”

I said: “Because that would be wrong. I’d be cheating on my girlfriend and that would betray her trust in me.”

You were pleased and happy with my answer.

I knew it.. because you could never be that. I could see it in your eyes you were relived that I wasn’t like you in that respect.

That respect.

Bitch, please.

If you’re unhappy in your liffe, divorce mom and just send the check and leave us the fuck alone. Then you can bag Jennifer Sweeten or as you call her “sweet meat” all you want until her husband finds out.

You’ll figure it out.

 

You and your brother Jack were dropped off here after your parents divorced. Nobody got divorced back then.

Why the hell would you think it was a good idea to drop me off in this shit hole?

Wildwood is a glistening sand castle of magical fun and romance in the summer… and then it turns into a bleak shroud of dark depression where there is nothing going on in the winter. It is a desolate hole of isolation that is impossible for a teenager to escape.

Here I am. I know you and there is a part of you that is me. Some great. Some awful. But you have the chore of raising the shitty you and now the shitty son you don’t understand who is too much like your brother Jack.

So if there were any questions as to why Chaz wanted to load up the ’69 Volkswagen minibus and drive across the country to go live in sunny California let’s put all of that to rest right now.

I love you, you selfish, self-serving prick.

I really do.

Thank you for teaching me to read. Thank you for all of the books. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for teaching me to ride a bike. Thank you for teaching me how to catch a fish. Thank you for teaching me to drive a car. Thank you for teaching me about wine, art, and literature and film. Thank you for teaching me about women. (To an extent) Thank you for everything.

I’m not going to mention all of the bad stuff here.

All ready did some of that.

 

Time to load of the 69 VW minibus and head to California.

 

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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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Racquel Writes! Mothering from the Sidelines

via Mothering from the Sidelines

 

http://www.racquelwrites.com

 

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Christmas – 2018 and Beyond – Part 4

The kids pick me up and I’m stupid happy to see them. Lorelei’s boyfriend has the coolest car. It’s a black ex-law enforcement vehicle. So it’s a Crown Victoria, Still has the bigger motor, spotlight, the special suspension, and the battering ram on the front.

So technically, he can never be stopped by the cops for ANYTHING.

I love this car and I love the identity tied to it.

They’ve been together for 4 years and everybody loves Liam.  He’s a great guy and if he can put up with my daughter were good. (LOL!)

Oh course we have to stop at Wawa because they need coffee. (These kids and their lack of energy today!)

We drive to Janice’s house and I love that Liam is on point and I literally have to do nothing but provide banter.

It’s so relaxing. Just to be.

 

We figure out parking and all stroll up to the house.

We enter though the garage as everyone does. I decide to make a grand entrance and start with the opening bars of Andy Williams:”The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

My cousin exclaims that’s her favorite holiday song and immediately hugs me.

 

The party is in full swing. I hand Tom his mystery bottle of booze and we scatter to talk and mingle with everyone..

 

I don’t have to get into detail here because that’s our time, but it was amazing to see what’s left of my entire family.

Me and all of my sisters. They’re all amazing women. I love all of my brother in-laws too. The nieces and nephews. My daughter! So good!

 

Janices’s son got engaged to his lovely girlfriend. I adore them both and wish them nothing but health and happiness. (I’m not going to say anything about grandkids, but by writing this I already did!)

 

It was magical day as it always is thanks to Janice who has kept the Christmas candle burning after all of these years.

That event on that Sunday IS my Christmas now. Without that party, Christmas would simply be a day when nothing’s open in Philly to me.

So thank you so much Janice for the incredible party you put together every year for all of us.

It means the world to me and it’s all I have left of anything that resembles the incredible Christmases we all had as kids with mom and dad.

Those memories are locked in home movies but even clearer for me in my own mind. I have all of details right here. More vivid than any 8mm film could tell. Sadly those will go with me when I pass. But… Our Christmases where so epic someone should have made a film about them.

Didn’t Janice get a Volkswagen Rabbit one year? lol!

But all kidding aside, my dad loved Christmas so much. He passed 2 years ago but if he were still around I’m sure mom and dad would love to see that we’re all still together and still celebrating the season.

I thank my sister Janice for keeping that flame still burning.

 

I’ve stuffed my head with tons of food, and they’ve packed tons of cookies and goodies for my trip home, but my ride needs to roll so I have to leave.

I bid farewell to all of my brethren and off we go.

I’m the old guy in the back of the cop car going to the train station.

 

What a great day.

 

Christmas for me is now complete.

I’ve seen everybody in my family and the feeling is pure bliss.

I have a Tupperware container full of cookies baked by my sister April that is the EXACT recipe for my mother’s christmas cookies. They taste exactly like them and every bite brings me back to our time in the kitchen with mom at 312 Magee avenue at christmas with my sisters and my mom.

Every bite is worth s fortune.

Better than money.

 

The kids drop me at the train and the beauty of it all is that it’s perfectly timed.

I love that.

I literally pass my ticket and step on the train.

In 30 minutes I’m back in the majestic bubble of Rittenhouse.

I feel the rush of returning to my sweet city after and incredible day that couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s so good, even I couldn’t have written this level of joy.

 

I get home and settle in.

It’s 6:30pm. I’ll watch some christmas shows and have a cocktail.

A quiet night of love and refection.

 

4 hours later…. my phone rings.

 

WTF?

 

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