Thoughtful Thursday: Beastly Boys

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday offerings are inspired by “Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls”, a book of humorous poetry about naughty, ill-mannered, even cruel, boys and girls. (It is a great book; hard to find, but worth picking it up if you can locate one.) Most of the poems below are from Shel Silverstein (the author of “The Giving Tree”), who made many contributions to the “Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls” collection. Nothing like some delightfully naughty poetry to spark a young boy’s imagination and feed a wicked sense of humor. Enjoy!

Nothing to Do?

Nothing to do?
Nothing to do?
Put some mustard in your shoe,
Fill your pockets full of soot,
Drive a nail into your foot,
Put some sugar in your hair,
Place your toys upon the stair,
Smear some jelly on the latch,
Eat some mud and strike a match,
Draw a picture on the wall,
Roll some marbles down the hall,
Pour some ink in daddy’s cap –
Now go upstairs and take a nap.

Shelley Silverstein

Early Bird

Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you’re a bird, be an early early bird—
But if you’re a worm, sleep late.

Shel Silverstein

Little Willie

In the family drinking well
Willie pushed his sister Nell.
She’s there yet, because it kilt her -
Now we have to buy a filter.

Harry Graham

Jimmy Jet and His TV Set

I’ll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet—
And you know what I tell you is true.
He loved to watch his TV set
Almost as much as you.

He watched all day, he watched all night
Till he grew pale and lean,
From “The Early Show” to “The Late Late Show”
And all the shows between.

He watched till his eyes were frozen wide,
And his bottom grew into his chair.
And his chin turned into a tuning dial,
And antennae grew from his hair.

And his brains turned into TV tubes,
And his face to a TV screen.
And two knobs saying “VERT.” and “HORIZ.”
Grew where his ears had been.

And he grew a plug that looked like a tail
So we plugged in little Jim.
And now instead of him watching TV
We all sit around and watch him.

Shel Silverstein

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Summer Camp Info

Hard to imagine as frigid temperatures and snow continue to plague us on the East Coast and elsewhere around the nation, but now is the time to focus on Summer Camps. If you are interested in finding out about summer camp options, don’t wait any longer to start your research, as Summer Camp research and sign-up season is well underway. New to the world of camps, and wondering how to find the best one for your son or daughter? Here are some good places to start.

Tips on Trips and Camps ( is a free advisory service that provides advice on overnight camps, trips and summer programs for children from 8-18. They recommend “carefully screened, quality summer programs” in the USA and abroad. Once you register on the site you can choose to receive brochures and DVD’s directly from camps or work with an advisor to determine the camps in which your child might have an interest. Spend some time looking around the site to get a good idea of the many different types of camps available.

Time Out NY Kids offers “Summer camps for kids 2014: Day camps, sleepaway camps and more” found here. This is a comprehensive listing of all sorts of camps in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area.

Wondering if your son can handle sleepaway camp? Here are some articles that can help you figure this out.

Take Parent magazine’s “Quiz: Is Your Child Ready for Sleep-Away Camp?” found here for some guidelines to use to determine if your child is ready for this experience .

“Is Your Child Ready for Sleepaway Camp”, found here, offers parents thoughtful advice on this topic.

The Washington Post’s “When is a Child Ready for Overnight Camp”, found here, discusses how parents can make this determination and how they can prepare their children for their first overnight camp experience.

Good luck with finding the best summer experience possible for your son!

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Raising “Soft” Sons in a Hard World

Ted Wells’ report to the NFL on the Jonathan Martin/Miami Dolphins harassment case presents Martin as an NFL rookie who was tormented both by his teammates and his own inability to fight back. As New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden notes in his column about the report, found here, “The question that repeatedly came to my mind as I read the Wells report is, Why didn’t Martin retaliate? Martin wondered why as well. As Wells wrote, ‘Martin came to view his failure to stand up to his teammates as a personal shortcoming.’”

According to Wells’ report Martin believed his privileged background (his parents met at Harvard as undergraduates) and education hindered his ability to stand up for himself. He blamed “mostly the soft schools” he attended in middle and high school and the “white private school conditioning, turning the other cheek” for reinforcing his self-image as a pushover. Offering tacit support for Martin’s perspective, Martin’s father Gus acknowledged in a text message to his son that he had “punked out many times” when confronted by whites who used the “N” word.

Who among us with African-American sons in predominantly white schools isn’t chilled by Martin’s perspective? And how much are we parents promoting the conditioning he complains about? Many of us have worried about how our energetic and lively boys make their way in schools where their white classmates and teachers may be burdened with perceptions of young black men born of negative media stereotypes: the bad boy, the troublemaker.
We encourage our sons to keep their cool in their response to ignorance or insult; tell them not to give in to an impulse to retaliate with harsher words or fists. We want them to know that they may be perceived differently from their white classmates in and around school and that this is important to remember if trouble arises. We want to shield them from unexpected harm as best we can.

But Martin’s story suggests that these messages can have unintended and terrible consequences. According to the NFL report, Martin reveals to his mother in a text message in late 2013 “I used to get verbally bullied every day in middle school and high school, by kids that are half my size. I would never fight back, just get sad & feel like no one wanted to be my friend, when in fact I was just being socially awkward.”

One can’t know now how much of his memory of these bullying episodes is clouded by his recent troubles. But it is sad and disturbing that he waited all these years to reveal any bullying and its impact on him. And why didn’t his middle and high schools focus on this bullying and alert his parents? His mother flew to Miami as soon as she understood the depth of his mental anguish as a member of the Dolphins, and encouraged him to get professional help. Had she known about this pervasive bullying when he was young (or even his perception of it) you have to believe that she would have tried to get help for him earlier.

We have to do all we can to get our sons to talk to us about their school and social lives, especially when they are in the formative middle and high school years. We also have to spend as much time as we can in their schools, forming our own perspectives of their friends and their life there. And the schools need to see us there, to know that we are focused on all aspects of our sons’ school life. Stories like this make it clear how important it is to do all we can on our own and through the schools to understand what is going on with our boys.

And what if they do tell us they are being bullied? In his column Rhoden recalls that his mother gave him boxing lessons to help him deal with a local bully when he was young. The concept of teaching our sons to stand up for themselves seems instinctively right, but telling them to stand down in the face of trouble feels like a safer way to go these days.

No parent wants to raise a son who is perceived as “soft” because of the difficulties that this can bring him. But for many reasons we also don’t want our sons to start swinging at every slight. As Jonathan Martin’s mother reminded her son in one of their text exchanges, “It takes more strength actually to avoid confrontation.” But we don’t want to have our boys’ self esteem damaged by the feeling that they don’t know how to fight back.

Talk with your son about how he handles disagreements with his friends, classmates, and the mean guys at school. Observe him interacting with his friends, and talk with him about his relationships. Have a casual conversation with him about any interactions that seem troublesome to you. Listen carefully to his perspective. If you sense he is having trouble handling situations, continue to talk with him about them (in a non-judgmental manner) until you can assess whether you need to take further action. Remember that stepping in too soon can give your son (and his peers) the impression that he can’t handle things. But keeping the conversation going at home can give him the platform and the confidence to come to you if he needs help.

Raising confident sons with strong self-esteem is a complicated and continuing concern for all of us, which GCP wants to address. Stay vigilant, stay focused, and stay tuned.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Nikki Giovanni on Love

Today being the day before Valentine’s Day, we can’t help but devote this Thoughtful Thursday to thoughts of love. Here are two Nikki Giovanni poems which speak of love: one of a love to which we all can relate, and the other of “grown folks” love that we’d all be lucky to have. Enjoy, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

Love Is

Some people forget that love is
tucking you in and kissing you
“Good night”
no matter how young or old you are

Some people don’t remember that
love is
listening and laughing and asking
no matter what your age

Few recognize that love is
commitment, responsibility
no fun at all

Love is
You and me


I love you
because the Earth turns around the sun
because the North wind blows north
because the Pope is Catholic
and most Rabbis Jewish
because winters flow into springs
and the air clears after a storm
because only my love for you
despite the charms or gravity
keeps me from falling off this Earth
into another dimension

I love you
because it is the natural order of things

I love you
like the habit I picked up in college
of sleeping through lectures
or saying I’m sorry
when I get stopped for speeding
because I drink a glass of water
in the morning
and chain-smoke cigarettes
all through the day
because I take my coffee Black
and my milk with chocolate
because you keep my feet warm
though my life a mess
I love you
because I don’t want it
any other way

I am helpless
in my love for you

It makes me so happy
to hear you call my name
I am amazed you can resist
locking me in an echo chamber
where your voice reverberates
through the four walls
sending me into spasmatic ecstasy
I love you
because it’s been so good
for so long
that if I didn’t love you
I’d have to be born again
and that is not a theological statement
I am pitiful in my love for you

The Dells tell me Love
is so simple
the thought though of you
sends indescribably delicious multitudinous
thrills throughout and through-in my body
because no two snow flakes are alike
and it is possible
if you stand tippy-toe
to walk between the raindrops
I love you
because I am afraid of the dark
and can’t sleep in the light
because I rub my eyes
when I wake up in the morning
and find you there
because you with all your magic powers were
determined that
I should love you
because there was nothing for you but that
I would love you
I love you
because you made me
want to love you
more than I love my privacy
my freedom, my commitments
and responsibilities
I love you ’cause I changed my life
to love you
because you saw me one Friday
afternoon and decided that I would
love you
I love you I love you I love you

Nikki Giovanni

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Thoughtful Thursday: America

With Black History Month underway, and the Winter Olympics about to begin, today’s Thoughtful Thursday offerings speak to the spirit of America. Here are two poems, one from W.E.B. DuBois and the other from Elizabeth Alexander. DuBois suggests alternative lyrics to a familiar American anthem, and Alexander ushers in our first Black president with a hope-filled view of America’s future. Enjoy.

My Country ’Tis of Thee

Of course you have faced the dilemma: it is announced, they all smirk and rise. If they are ultra, they remove their hats and look ecstatic; then they look at you. What shall you do? Noblesse oblige; you cannot be boorish, or ungracious; and too, after all it is your country and you do love its ideals if not all of its realities. Now, then, I have thought of a way out: Arise, gracefully remove your hat, and tilt your head. Then sing as follows, powerfully and with deep unction. They’ll hardly note the little changes and their feelings and your conscience will thus be saved:

My country tis of thee,
Late land of slavery,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s pride
Slept where my mother died,
From every mountain side
Let freedom ring!

My native country thee
Land of the slave set free,
Thy fame I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
And o’er thy hate which chills,
My heart with purpose thrills,
To rise above.

Let laments swell the breeze
And wring from all the trees
Sweet freedom’s song.
Let laggard tongues awake,
Let all who hear partake,
Let Southern silence quake,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to thee
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing
Soon may our land be bright,
With Freedom’s happy light
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

W.E.B. DuBois

Praise Song for the Day

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Elizabeth Alexander

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Films to See: “American Promise” and “The African Americans”

American Promise: The PBS premiere of “American Promise” happened last night–did you see it? This is the documentary in which an African-American husband and wife filmmaking team chronicled their son and his friend’s journey from kindergarten through high school at a predominantly white private school in New York City. If you missed it, you can catch it tonight at 7pm online on OVEE here: And you can see when it will air again on your local PBS channel here:

The companion book, “Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life” is now available in bookstores and on This book is filled with important and practical information on raising and supporting our boys. You can also check out the American Promise website here and Facebook page here for more information about the film and the book.

The African Americans: PBS recently aired ” The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross”, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s six-hour series which explores the evolution of African-Americans from the origins of slavery in Africa to present day. The entire series is now available on DVD. A great addition to our libraries, especially as we look for ways to enrich our children’s knowledge of our history.

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The Importance of Parent Groups

This past weekend GCP Mom Gwendolyn Adolph hosted the very first GCP live event. She gathered a wonderful group of moms and invited me to talk with them about some of the issues we focus on in the blog. One of the key things that came out of our discussion is how much parent groups can help moms (and dads) stay focused, confident and sane in their parenting choices. We at GCP have been in parent groups for over 10 years and found them invaluable as we faced a variety of issues with our children.

In a post back in 2011, GCP spoke with Patricia H. Shimm, author of “Parenting Your Toddler: The Expert’s Guide to the Tough and Tender Years”, who has organized and run parent groups for decades. Shimm explained why parents should form or join a parent group:

“Parents need a place to talk with each other without their children around in order to become better and more effective parents. Parenting is tough to do in isolation. We all have issues with our children, such as ‘my son won’t sleep through the night’, ‘I don’t like the way my child talks to me’, or ‘This teacher is being unfair to my son’. The parent group weighs in on the issues and offers perspectives and advice. We often can’t solve our own problems, but we can look at other people’s problems and help them with theirs.”

Groups can be small (6-10 members) or larger (15-20). They work well when the people are compatible and comfortable with one another. But don’t try to gather all of your closet friends into a parent group. It is better to have a group of people come together expressly to talk about specific issues who won’t be so tempted by their familiarity to go off topic.

An essential component of the group (however large or small) is confidentiality. In order for everyone to be comfortable enough to speak honestly and candidly everyone has to trust that what she is saying will stay in the room. This is critical. Other important rules: never ridicule someone’s actions or feelings, never embarrass or insult anyone. And laughter is key. We all have to be able to laugh at our mistakes while we get advice about how not to avoid making them in the future.

There was plenty of laughter in the room last week as that great group of thoughtful and focused moms traded tales of raising boys. Hope that they will continue to gather and share. You can read more about parent groups in the original GCP post, found here.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Seahawks Super Bowl Edition

In anticipation of Super Bowl Sunday, GCP went on the hunt for inspirational quotes from some of the Super Bowl players. We found some great quotes from two Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman. Apologies to the Denver Broncos fans, but these two players have made more than their share of inspirational quotes recently.

As we noted in a recent post, Wilson is the quarterback in his second season with the Seahawks (with quite an impressive family history). And for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, Russell Sherman is the Seahawks cornerback whose post NFC championship comments made headlines and drew commentary (some positive, a lot more hateful) from around the world.

Both players are bright and thoughtful young African American men. Here are a few of their more memorable quotes.

Russell Wilson:

I guess I’m an intense guy. I’m one of those guys that’s always in the moment and trying to be focused on what I need to do to be successful and how can I help other people be successful. At the same time I keep my poise though. I’m always relaxed inside. My mind is not overthinking, but at the same time it’s thinking about the right things. Am I intense? Over intense? I think I’m just the right amount, I think.

The separation is in the preparation.

The biggest thing is doing what I do best and that is working hard, every day I wake up and that’s my goal to be on a constant quest for knowledge and do something different, being unique and being uncommon.

I’ve tried to do everything possible to prepare myself and prepare our football team to be great.

I’m not about flash.

I’d rather be called an underdog than top dog.

With my dad passing away, he’s always watching me—a big smile on his face, watching every snap on the 50-yard line.

Every game’s a championship game. When we focus that way, get prepared that way—that this is it, you know, this is the last one, the biggest one—you get ready, you get amped up, you get that laser focus and you’re ready to play.

I have high expectations of myself. I always have, and I always will. That will never waver.

Richard Sherman:

Every game is a championship opportunity.

Work hard. Listen to your teachers. And if you don’t understand a subject, and you want to go back and ask a teacher and wait until your classmates are gone or whatever, if you’re really having trouble with it, don’t be afraid to ask questions about things you don’t understand.

I’ve had my fair share of controversial moments and backlash and critics, and I’ve learned not to take it personally. That’s the only way you can look at it. You have to accept it and not have a negative attitude.

If I could pass a lesson on to the kids it would be this: Don’t attack anybody. I shouldn’t have attacked Michael Crabtree the way I did. You don’t have to put anybody else down to make yourself bigger.

Running in to each other at full speed is not what God intended for our bodies. Everybody knows the NFL stands for Not For Long, so it plays into how you play and how you behave. We each handle it in our own way. You’ve got to appreciate every moment and treat it like it’s your last.

* * * * *
While most of these quotes are about football, many apply to life in general as well. Throw a few of these at your sons (and daughters) while you are watching the game on Sunday evening.

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GCP Buzz: What’s Going On?

Some newsworthy and noteworthy info for GCP parents:

“American Promise” Airing on PBS on February 3: At long last, the acclaimed documentary “American Promise”, which chronicles the journey of two African-American boys from kindergarten through high school graduation, will be aired on PBS on Feburary 3rd at 10pm. Please check your local listings to find your PBS station and confirm what time it is airing in your town. Settle in to watch it next Monday, or be sure to record it so you can watch it at another time. This is a fascinating and compelling film which you should make an effort to see and which you will want to talk about with other parents.

Intensive Small-Group Tutoring and Counseling Helps Struggling Students: An article in today’s New York Times highlights the impressive work being done in Chicago to help close the achievement gap in math that affects an alarming number of African American eighth grade boys. As described in the article found here, the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab provided a program of intense tutoring and group behavioral counseling to a group of low-income ninth and tenth-grade African-American boys with weak math skills and track records of absences or disciplinary problems.

Tutors were assigned pairs of students and worked with them on concepts during their math class. The tutored students showed impressive progress. As the article noted “Those students learned in an eight-month period the equivalent of what the average American high school student learns in math over three years of school, as measured by standardized test scores, over and above what a similar group of students who did not receive the tutoring or counseling did.” These impressive results, which stem from an increased focus on individual needs, encourage educators to move away from the notion that if you don’t reach academically disadvantaged boys by an early age it is too late to help them catch up.

Moreover, these results should encourage all parents to focus on how tutoring can help all of our sons identify academic weaknesses and strengthen them. While tutoring can be an expensive proposition, it need not always be, as there are organizations which offer reduced fee or free tutoring. Look for an upcoming GCP article on this subject.

ISDN Upcoming events: The Independent School Diversity Network, a New York City based alliance of parents and educators dedicated to developing and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in educational communities, is hosting a series of interesting and informative events in the New York City area in February. They include:

Saturday 2/1 1:30-4:30pm– “Me & My Grown-Ups Workshop” for students of color in grade K-4 and their parents at the Nightingale-Bamford School. Advance Registration required. You will find additional including workshop fees here.

Wednesday 2/5 6-8pm– Race and Privilege: Anti Racist Parenting Group. A free monthly meeting for adults. Networking, discussion, guest speakers, workshop activities. Find more information and RSVP here.

Monday 2/24 6-8pm– ISDN’s Annual Spring Forum for Parents and Educators at the Nightingale-Bamford School. This year will feature a discussion of “American Promise Revisited: What can we do about Black Male Student Achievement”?
Find more information and RSVP here.

17 Things Boys Need from their Moms: Finally, a sweet take on the special relationship between mothers and their sons can be found here. How many of these things do you give to your son on a regular basis?

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Thoughtful Thursday: Amiri Baraka

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday is dedicated to Amiri Baraka, the celebrated poet, writer, teacher and political activist who helped forge the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Baraka died on Jan. 9, 2014 at the age of 79.

Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. In 1968 he became a Muslim, changing his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka, which he later shortened to Amiri Baraka. He attended Rutgers University and Howard University (where in 1954 he earned his B.A. in English). He spent three years in the U.S. Air Force, and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. He published his first volume of poetry, Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note, in 1961.

He was well known for his strident social criticism. Throughout most of his career his method in poetry, drama, fiction, and essays was calculated to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of Black Americans. For decades, Baraka was one of the most prominent voices in the world of American literature.

Here are a few examples of Baraka’s poetry. You can read more extensive biographies of him here and here. Enjoy!


A closed window looks down
on a dirty courtyard, and Black people
call across or scream across or walk across
defying physics in the stream of their will.

Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone’s
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk the air.

We are beautiful people
With African imaginations
full of masks and dances and swelling chants
with African eyes, and noses, and arms
tho we sprawl in gray chains in a place
full of winters, when what we want is sun.

We have been captured,
and we labor to make our getaway, into
the ancient image; into a new

Correspondence with ourselves
and our Black family. We need magic
now we need the spells, to raise up
return, destroy, and create. What will be

the sacred word?

Wise I

WHYS (Nobody Knows
The Trouble I Seen)

If you ever find
yourself, some where
lost and surrounded
by enemies
who won’t let you
speak in your own language
who destroy your statues
& instruments, who ban
your omm bomm ba boom
then you are in trouble
deep trouble
they ban your
own boom ba boom
you in deep deep


probably take you several hundred years
to get

Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note

Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus…

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars.
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there…
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands

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