Are We Ruining Our Boys?

In a recent New York Times Motherlode blog post, the author confesses “I’ve Ruined My Boys” as she describes how she has “over coddled” her 6, 9 and 11 year old sons to the point that they are unwilling to do much of anything for themselves around the house. In her post, found here, she confesses that she has “reveled in having them need me so much” but has decided that she is through with waiting on them hand and foot, but worries that it might already be too late.

This post struck a responsive chord. However I have succeeded as a mom, I have definitely failed in teaching my children to fend for themselves domestically. I did not enforce the chore chart or give stars for taking out the garbage. I know my children know how to make up their beds (at least I got that far with them) but they never got gold stars for doing it (or punishment for not doing it). They will wash dishes (i.e., put dishes in the dishwasher) if reminded, but only if reminded. Why is it so hard for some of us moms to teach our children to do things for themselves?

Perhaps some of us, like the blog post author, secretly enjoy being needed. We feel wonderfully efficient and useful when we can quickly dispense with a chore rather than wait have to for our sons or daughters to do it in their own fashion and timespan. As our children grow older and more independent from us perhaps we want to feel that we are still indispensable to them. But if we continue to do the simple things for our children, how will they learn to do it themselves? (Truth be told, they ultimately do learn to do these things for themselves when they have to. But we won’t see it because they only have to when we are not around doing it for them.)

I am sure some of you parents will read this and be completely unable to relate. Your children grew up doing chores, and you were determined to make sure all of them, the boys and the girls, became very responsible domestic citizens and great cleaner uppers. Kudos to you, and please leave comments letting us in on the secrets of how you did this.

But the rest of us can take solace in knowing that we are not alone (and perhaps feel a tiny bit cheered if we are not quite as indulgent as the blogpost author). Knowing how and when to make our kids do things on their own is one of the tough journeys of parenting. We will look further into this issue and provide some tips in an upcoming post.

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Thoughtful Thursday: In Celebration of Women

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday celebrates women. Women of all ages. While we at GCP are generally focused on mothers, today we celebrate all women: Grandmothers, Mothers, Sisters, Aunts, Girlfriends. The village of women. Let these mighty words and the images they evoke lift you up and give you the strength and energy to do all that you want and need to be done. Enjoy.

Ego Tripping

I was born in the Congo
I walked to the Fertile Crescent and built
The sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
That only glows every one hundred years falls
Into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman

I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat’s meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can’t catch me

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother’s day
My strength flows ever on

My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
Jesus
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

I mean…I…can fly
like a bird in the sky…

Nikki Giovanni

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

I Am a Black Woman

I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
and I
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard
humming
in the night

I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I/with these hands/cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat’s swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew….I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior’s beard

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
strong
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
assailed
impervious
indestructible
Look
on me and be
renewed

Mari Evans

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Thoughtful Thursday: On the Road

Greetings from France! GCP is on the road this week, with limited access to the blog, but we don’t want to miss the chance to share a Thoughtful Thursday. Today’s Thoughtful Thursday celebrates vacations, with poems from three very well-known American poets. From Robert Frost comes “The Road Less Traveled”, which we include here to reflect on the joys of following new paths. Robert Louis Stevenson commiserates with all of the young boys (and girls) who complain about having to go to bed while the sun is still up in the summertime, and Mark Twain offers a sweet lullaby for the end of a lovely summer day. Enjoy.

The Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Bed in Summer

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Robert Louis Stevenson

Warm Summer Sun

Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.

Mark Twain

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Thoughtful Thursday: The Pleasures of Reading

Earlier this week the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a policy recommending that pediatricians tell parents to read aloud to their infants from birth. In support of this new policy, today’s Thoughtful Thursday celebrates the pleasures of reading. Hope these poems inspire you to read with your sons (whatever their age). Enjoy.

There is no Frigate like a Book

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

Emily Dickinson

Notes on the Art of Poetry

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,,,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,, ,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

Dylan Thomas

Good Books

Good books are friendly things to own.
If you are busy they will wait.
They will not call you on the phone
Or wake you if the hour is late.
They stand together row by row,
Upon the low shelf or the high.
But if you’re lonesome this you know:
You have a friend or two nearby.

The fellowship of books is real.
They’re never noisy when you’re still.
They won’t disturb you at your meal.
They’ll comfort you when you are ill.
The lonesome hours they’ll always share.
When slighted they will not complain.
And though for them you’ve ceased to care
Your constant friends they’ll still remain.

Good books your faults will never see
Or tell about them round the town.
If you would have their company
You merely have to take them down.
They’ll help you pass the time away,
They’ll counsel give if that you need.
He has true friends for night and day
Who has a few good books to read.


Edgar Guest


Beware: Do Not Read This Poem

tonite, thriller was
about an old woman, so vain she
surrounded herself with
many mirrors
it got so bad that finally she
locked herself indoors & her
whole life became the
mirrors
one day the villagers broke
into her house, but she was too
swift for them. she disappeared
into a mirror
each tenant who bought the house
after that, lost a loved one to
the old woman in the mirror:
first a little girl
then a young woman
then the young woman’s husband
the hunger of this poem is legendary
it has taken in many victims
back off from this poem
it has drawn in your feet
back off from this poem
it has drawn in your legs

back off from thias poem
it is a greedy mirror
you are into this poem. from
the waist down
nobody can hear you can they?
this poem has had you up to here
belch
this poem aint got no manners
you cant call out from this poem
relax now & go with this poem
move & roll on to this poem
do not resist this poem
this poem has your eyes
this poem has his head
this poem has his arms
this poem has his fingers
this poem has his fingertips

this poem is the reader & the
reader the poem

statistic: the US bureau of missing persons re-
ports that in 1968 over 100,000 people
disappeared leaving no solid clues
nor trace only
a space in the lives of their friends

Ishmael Reed

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Fight Summer Slide with Apps and Games

As summer vacations begin, so does the “summer slide”, where our sons (and daughters) lose academic ground during the months they are not in school. Summer slide can result in our children forgetting what they have learned and slowing the pace of their future learning. As a report from the National Summer Learning Association explains, “It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.”

What can parents do to fight summer slide without spending the summer being academic drill sergeants? One way is to encourage our sons to keep their skills sharp with fun apps and games.Commonsense.org recommends “5 Apps to Boost Math Skills over the Summer”, found here, which are both fun and skill building. Does your son want to play outside and/or in the park all day? Check out “13 Dazzling Discoveries Kids Can Make with Outdoor Apps”, found here, to find ways to bring out the budding scientist in him as he spends his days outdoors. Take a look at their “Summer Learning Guide” found here for great games, apps and websites designed to encourage your son to continue his learning over the summer.

We’ve offered you tips on encouraging summer reading in recent posts. Be sure to check out Reading is Fundamental’s article on “What Can Families Do to Keep Children Reading During the Summer? found here.

We’ll keep adding resources as we find them to fight summer slide. Send us your tips!

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Thoughtful Thursday: Ruby Dee

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday pays tribute to the gifted and beautiful actress, writer and activist Ruby Dee (October 27, 1922 – June 11, 2014).

images-2

Here are a few favorite Ruby Dee quotes. Enjoy.

• The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within — strength, courage, dignity.

• God, make me so uncomfortable that I will do the very thing I fear.

• The greatest gift is not being afraid to question.

• Classism and greed are making insignificant all the other kinds of isms.

• You just try to do everything that comes up. Get up an hour earlier, stay up an hour later, make the time. Then you look back and say, “Well, that was a neat piece of juggling there — school, marriage, babies, career.” The enthusiasms took me through the action, not the measuring of it or the reasonableness.

• That’s what being young is all about. You have the courage and the daring to think that you can make a difference. You’re not prone to measure your energies in time. You’re not likely to live by equations.

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Good News from Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy: College Edition

As many of you regular GCP readers may know, for the past 5 year Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy has been sending 100 percent of its high school graduates off to college. (See “Good News on the College Admissions Front”, April 16, 2014.) Recently Urban Prep Academy celebrated another milestone, as the first class of those high school graduates graduated from college. Watch this video of Krishaun Branch receiving his diploma from Fisk University, listen to him talk about his journey to college graduation and be very impressed, especially when you learn of his future plans. See the video here. Keep the tissues handy, you’ll need them.

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Do Violent Video Games Desensitize Our Sons to Actual Violence?

As the shootings in schools, malls, and other public places seem to be happening more and more frequently these days, parents are once again wondering if violent video games, especially the “first person shooter” games which allow the player to travel armed throughout the game and “kill” everyone in sight, contribute to actual gun violence. In the aftermath of these shootings we have often heard the profile of the shooter as a young man who spent a great deal of time holed up in his room playing these games. Are these games, which our children can play for hours, encouraging them to look for violent solutions?

For every study that suggests that there is some causal connection between video games and gun violence there is another which assures us there is none. And considering the millions of games like these sold annually in the US alone, if the connection was absolute the violence would be much more staggering than it is. But as a recent New York Times article found here notes, two new studies strongly suggest that when children play these games regularly over time they become less horrified by violent scenes and have less empathy for people who are affected by violence. A study conducted by Dr. Jeanne Brockmyer of the University of Toledo has determined that teens exposure to violent images over long periods of time can mute the areas of the brain responsible for empathy. And a study recently released by Canada’s Brock University has determined that long term exposure to images in violent video games can stunt a child’s “moral maturity” and take away a child’s ability to feel empathy for people who have been in violent situations in real life.

The natural question for parents of boys who play these games is: how much exposure to these games is too much? Is once a week for two hours a day ok, but three times a week too much? Even though none of the studies have been able to determine this, parents should keep a watchful eye over how much time their children are spending with these games. Common Sense Media (commonsense media.org) has a ratings system for video games that breaks down what will be found in the videos (e.g., violence, sex, language, etc.) and suggests an appropriate age for the players. They also have kids reviews and parents reviews of the game side by side, so that you can read what each generation thinks about it.

GCP readers, what rules do you have in your house about violent video games? Does hearing that continued playing of these games might reduce your sons’ capacity to empathize affect your interest in letting him play as much? If you play these games, how does that impact your feelings about your children playing them? Let us know.

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Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day from GCP! Although we frown slightly at these marketing holidays designed to get you into the card and department stores, we do cheer for a chance to celebrate dads. Great dads are wonderful role models for all of our children, but especially for our sons. Growing up with a father who shows you right from wrong, who teaches you how to be loving but strong, who makes you feel protected and cared for and shows you how to protect and care for others…this is golden for a young man. So to all of you GCP dads out there taking care of business for your sons and your daughters, we salute you, thank you, and ask that you keep up the good work. Today is your day, and we hope that you spend it being celebrated by your families.

And to the single moms, please take this opportunity to thank the father figures in your sons’ life. We know that you hold it down as Mom and Dad so much of the time, but if there are men in your sons’ life who take on any of the roles of a father (and we hope that there are), take some time today to thank them for being there, and as importantly, have your sons thank them as well. It takes a village to raise a child, and there are surely some fathers in your village whose work and caring is truly appreciated. So let them know that you are thinking of them and appreciating them today.

A HUGE shout out to all of the fathers, here and smiling down from above, who have supported and guided and loved their children, both those they sired and those in the village that they helped raise. We are all the better for you!!!

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Thoughtful Thursday: Father’s Day

With Father’s Day coming up on Sunday, today’s Thoughtful Thursday pays tribute to dads. In “Only a Dad” Edward Albert Guest pays tribute to all of the fathers who work hard to support the families who love them. Martin Espada describes witnessing his father’s bravery as a child in “The Sign in My Father’s Hands”. Li-Young Lee passes on a favorite lesson learned from his father. And we end with a classic ode to fathers everywhere, Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”.

Enjoy, and Happy Father’s Day to all of our GCP Dads!!!

Only a Dad

Only a dad, with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game,
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come, and to hear his voice.

Only a dad, with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad, but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing, with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen,
Only a dad, but the best of men.

Edgar Albert Guest

The Sign in My Father’s Hands

—for Frank Espada

The beer company
did not hire Blacks or Puerto Ricans,
so my father joined the picket line
at the Schaefer Beer Pavilion, New York World’s Fair,
amid the crowds glaring with canine hostility.
But the cops brandished nightsticks
and handcuffs to protect the beer,
and my father disappeared.

In 1964, I had never tasted beer,
and no one told me about the picket signs
torn in two by the cops of brewery.
I knew what dead was: dead was a cat
overrun with parasites and dumped
in the hallway incinerator.
I knew my father was dead.
I went mute and filmy-eyed, the slow boy
who did not hear the question in school.
I sat studying his framed photograph
like a mirror, my darker face.

Days later, he appeared in the doorway
grinning with his gilded tooth.
Not dead, though I would come to learn
that sometimes Puerto Ricans die
in jail, with bruises no one can explain
swelling their eyes shut.
I would learn too that “boycott”
is not a boy’s haircut,
that I could sketch a picket line
on the blank side of a leaflet.

That day my father returned
from the netherworld
easily as riding the elevator to apartment 14-F,
and the brewery cops could only watch
in drunken disappointment.
I searched my father’s hands
for a sign of the miracle.

Martín Espada

The Gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Li-Young Lee

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Robert Hayden

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