Hey, Bill Murray: Todoay’s My Favorite Holiday! The Underdogs of Groundhog Day

Groundhog, Wildlife, Nature, Rodent, Fur, Ground, GrassYes- it’s Groundhog Day!

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, but February second was a BIG deal in my elementary school.  I remember cutting out brown and green circles and assembling a construction paper masterpiece whereby Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his sleepy little hole to announce if we have to deal with six more weeks of winter.  I even recorded a children’s album when I was a, well, child that explains it:

On February second, Mr. Groundhog will come out.

He’s been asleep all winter, now he wants to look about.

If he doesn’t see his shadow, he will stay outdoors, it’s clear.

‘Cause on February second, Mr. Groundhog will appear.

The mind’s an amazing thing.

There’s another reason I love Groundhog day: it’s the most underrated holiday… ever.  Think about it: this little furry guy gets to decide if we’re in for six more weeks of crap weather — sleet, freezing rain, howling winds and snow; not to mention huge heating bills — or balmy, flower laced gentle breezes.

It’s a holiday rooted deep in German culture, based on both Pagan beliefs and scientific calculation that we are half way through winter, staring with the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

But I love it simply because even though it’s a deeply symbolic day that’s been reduced to a radio DJ’s content for one morning out of 365 days, it still remains, undefeated.

Growing up, *I* was an underdog.  I was underestimated.  I was made a spectacle by my peers.  I was not given the respect I deserve.  But I’m still here, undefeated.

Cheerleaders, Football, College, NflSo I’m here to shout out loud and proud that I LOVE YOU, PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL!  YOU ARE MY HERO!

Make it your #153Promise today to stand up for the Groundhogs in your world.  Let those Invisibles know that you value them.  Give them the pride and dignity they deserve.  Help an old lady across the street.  Tie a little tyke’s shoelace.  Buy a homeless person a cup of cocoa.  Or stop what you’re doing for a moment when your child has been calling your name for the umpteenth time and listen to them.  Better yet, YOU take the initiative to coax them out of their hole and ask them how they’re doing and to tell them about their day… and listen to them.

Even if there are six more weeks of winter, your heroic efforts may just keep you heart warm and toasty until Spring.

Crocus, Flower, Spring, Bühen, Purple

Out of the Mouth of Babes: Inheriting Opinions from the “Media” of Parenting

I’ve been on a roll regarding the topic of what’s passed down from parent to child, and this post is no different.  I think it’s because I’m fascinated about how children develop and the role we as parents play in that process.

I’ve been a teacher, director and coach for over a decade and a half, so I’ve had  interactions with thousands of kids ranged from 11 to 18.  It’s amazing to me what kids:

  • don’t know (I can teach that.)
  • actually know (I can test that.)
  • think they know (I can challenge that… or can I?)

It’s the third category I’m going to discuss in this post.

Hand, Puppet, Snowman, Political

When kids know or don’t know facts, it’s my job as an educator to document these proficiencies or deficiencies and fill in the gaps with the content of my subject matter.  Schools also are to model good behavior and positive character development: be polite; don’t bully; clean up before you leave…  But it starts to get very dicey when a student professes a certain opinion and they are convinced that it is the “Truth.”  What do I do with that?  What do I do when that opinion may step on the toes of a certain population?  And especially when I suspect they have adopted that opinion from their parents?

The media bombards our senses with a skewed representation of reality masquerading as fact.  I think many adults know by know that Fox News is slanted to the Right, for example.  And we tend to gravitate to the media’s spin that confirms our own pre-existing bias.  But young people are not that savvy.

What we need to understand that WE as parents are “the media” to our children.  They look up to us and respect us (whether or not they eat their vegetables, clean their room, or expect “No” for an answer).  So what spin are we putting onto their young, malleable minds?

It becomes very obvious during election years.  When a 12 year old begins talking about immigration or terrorists and what to do with “those” people, he/she is getting that from somewhere… and unless they have CNN feeds downloaded onto their tablet/ipod/cell phone, chances are, they are picking up on your political views.

I’m not about to step in and micro-manage your dinner table conversation (hopefully you are having them), but I do ask you to make the 153Promise to realize that whatever you say, your children will absorb and repackage in their own way.

Have you discussed Caitlin Jenner?  Donald Trump?  The Pope?  Syria?  Are your children around?  What messages are they internalizing?  Is it age appropriate and fair for them to have those ideas in their head?  How are they fitting your political opinions into their understanding of the world?

Opinions may not be genetic, but they are definitely inherited.  Consider making the 153Promise to give your children a fair and balanced view on topics so they can sort it out on their own.  Or if it’s too much for them to handle, you may want to censor yourself in the future.

Like it or not, your kids will go into school parroting what you say at home.  What do you want coming out of their mouths?  Is it true?  Is it kind?  Do they know the difference between fact verses your opinion?

What “Parenting Media” do you want your children to inherit?

Kisses!  XxXx

Cell Phone Angst… and Challenge

How old are your children?  When did they get — or do you plan to get them — cell phones?  Why?  Smartphone, Woman, Girl, Iphone, Apple Inc, Touch

I ask because I fail to see cell phones improving the quality of life in tweens and teens.  Rather, I only see anxiety and a giant paradox regarding cell phone communication: the more kids use their phones, the less connected they feel to the people with whom they are supposed to be communicating.

I’m going to put my Teacher Hat on for this post and speak from the perspective of the educator.  Here is what I am seeing during the school day:

  1. Texting each other the first and last few minutes of class.  About what, I can only guess, as I cannot legally go into their devices… (But YOU can… if you dare.)
  2. Taking “selfies” and/or “Snapchatting/Vining,” then obsessively checking to see how many “likes” they are getting.
  3. Increased requests to leave the class to “go to the bathroom” or “get a drink.”  Presumably to use their phones so they don’t get in trouble during class.  I can’t tell them no, but they are losing instruction time, as their trips are longer than necessary to sneak in a few more texts.
  4. More requests to text parents because they “forgot” something.  This irony is that the more they rely on texting parents, the less they need to communicate with their families BEFORE  and AFTER the school day is in session.
  5. Notifying me that they need to go to the office to pick up something… presumably because they just got a text saying their item from #4 was just dropped off.

(On my own time, I even saw a post on a Moms’ FB group asking what other mothers would do if they saw test answers on their kid’s phone!)

You may ask why I don’t just have a policy… I. DO.  So does the district.  But if/when I go to enforce it, I have been subject to major tantrums.  And this is not just from the students.  I have been accused of “stealing” property when I confiscate the cell phone, enforcing the policy, and then returning the phone at the end of the day.  I have been called a “train wreck” and was told that I “need mental help.”  There have been threats on my job and my life.  I have been the victim of theft to retaliate against me.  All because I have asked that phones are out of my classroom.  I have a thick skin, and administration supports me, so I just handle it like the strong human I am.  But what concerns me more are how the STUDENTS are actually suffering.

Some students are so dependent upon their phones that asking them to part with them for the 40 minutes I have them for class is almost impossible for them.  So I implore all parents…  Please do not contribute to the angst.  I am only asking for two things:

  1. Tell your kids that you do not want them using them during classes and if you get a report from their teacher that they were seen out, you will suspend them from their phone for a day… then week… then moth… then cancelled.
  2. Tell them that you will no longer be available to them DURING the school day. (Or if that’s not doable, at least only during their or your lunch for a one-time contact point to send or receive a communication.)  That means you’ll have to do a better job of planning rides, and they will not be able to have you run them forgotten items.
Portrait, Face, Pale, Expressive, Eyes, Nose, MouthBlame the teachers.  Blame your boss/job.  Or even tell them you are making the 153Promise to them that you want them to spend the school day concentrating on… school and not on social drama.  Explain to them that the more you rely on the cell phones, the more anxiety it actually causes because it’s no longer a communication device- it’s an enabling device that’s preventing them from developing good habits of planning, self-reliance, and security/trust among family members.
So I’m throwing out another challenge: enact the two rules above.  Just like the Bus Challenge, I am going to suggest that the more either you or your child balks at the “Phone Challenge,” the more you may need to add it to your lives.  I’d love to know who does it and how it goes!
Kisses!  XxXx