Archive for the ‘Popular culture’ Category

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

thanksgiving

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. – Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That is how I feel as I read Sunday’s paper. On one hand, the dismal economic forecasts for 2009; on the other hand, the glossy slick ‘door buster’ circulars encouraging us to get up at 4am the day after Thanksgiving.

Our children are watching. We have an opportunity to fight the marketers back. A young mom putting her child into his Spiderman® pajamas said, “I have fought as much as I could, but he lit up when he saw them in the store. I loved watching the joy on his face and I had to get them.”

The desire to elicit joy comes from love. But as we approach the most difficult financial conditions any of us have ever experienced, we cannot do things the same way we have in the past. The need is pajamas; the want is Spiderman® pajamas. The instant gratification of that purchase is momentary and fleeting, for both the parent and child.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, be grateful for what you have. Are any of the items on the circulars glossy pages are among them? Sitting together at the table this Thursday, ask everyone to write down what they are thankful for.

Gratitude is a emotion that can get us through the most difficult times and put in perspective what really matters. Don’t respond to the ups and downs of a turbulent economy; instead be grateful for the people that matter in your life.

Happy (unlicensed) Birthday

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Dora, Thomas, Barney, Hanna Montana, Spiderman, Ironman, Batman, all the Disney princesses, Bob the builder…. The list of licensed characters in our children’s lives is endless.

Marketing is the name of the game and the focus is our kids. As parents, we will spend an enormous amount of money to make sure a birthday party is a complete success in following through on the licensing concept as if Martha Stewart will have a swat team scrutinizing our party theme.

And, if themed party invitations are sent out, you can bet on getting more licensed products as presents in keeping with the theme.

Two major problems here:

1. We’re spending a lot more money on licensed products than you would for plain dishes, plates, invitations, games, etc.
2. You’re telling your child that someone else has come up with a good idea – no need to think creatively since it’s already been done for you.

A recent Wall St. Journal article highlights the problem of trademark infringement. You may be renting the Purple Dinosaur costume, piñata etc. rather than a Barney costume. Though it’s costing you money for the knock-off, it would cost even more for the real (licensed) product. How many of you had to calm down screaming kids because the six foot character that showed up for your party bears little resemblance to the character you hoped would show up.

Simple problem – don’t buy into the marketing of licensed products. You will save tons of money and by taking the cues from your children of what they enjoy, you can create a wonderful party together and will teach your child that his/her ideas matter.

George Carlin was right, we do have too much stuff – Good Lessons from a Bad Economy

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

A classic bit by George Carlin was about having too much stuff.

He was right – we all have too much stuff. What makes us happy is buying more stuff, and then we have to buy bigger houses to contain all our stuff.

If we need to find the good news from a bad economy, it’s this. Look at all your stuff and don’t rush out to buy more. Imagine if you were moving and had to pack things up to a smaller place. What would you take and what would you toss? More importantly, think before you buy, especially when it comes to buying things for our children.

In a year where the scariest three words in the English language are “fill it up” we need to pay more attention to this distinction of wants vs. needs. We don’t need $5 cups of coffee or $2 bottles of water when we’re paying $4 for a gallon of gas and perhaps we don’t even need to use the car as often as we do.

There is a lot of good that can come out of a bad economy – the most important element is simplicity.

Pay attention to the lesson.

Our False Positive Popular Culture

Saturday, June 21st, 2008


It’s one of those news stories you think you didn’t hear correctly. Teen girls trying to get pregnant!

It could have happened anywhere, but the town of Gloucester, MA is now trying to figure out why the teen pregnancy rate is four times higher.

Perhaps as usual, we’re asking the wrong questions:

• We’re trying to understand why over 150 girls under the age of sixteen, which very likely means that over 150 girls, under the age of sixteen were having sex
• We scratch our heads and wonder why girls would make a pact to become pregnant
• We look to point the finger at the school, the community and the parents to see who is at fault
• We debate over the use and availability of birth control and parental notification, when we should educate both
• We question the wisdom of making is easy and fun to bring a baby to high school and park a stroller next to the lockers
• We ponder the self esteem issues of young girls that need to feel loved

We follow popular culture in a ignorant stupor as millions are paid for the first picture of Jaime Lynn Spear’s new baby. No doubt the celebrity babies (see an earlier blog on this same topic) have a lot to do with the romantic notion of having children. This is a case where a positive test result leads to a false sense of reality.

What we really need to question is why we are not outraged that so many girls under the age of sixteen are having sex.

Please don’t lecture me on the reality of life. We create our own realities, and we’re so worried about our kids’ self-esteem, that we don’t think about this reality: they are too young to be sexually active. How does that affect their self-esteem?

Parents – talk to your children and be the moral compass in their lives.

Dumbing Down America – Part II

Sunday, June 8th, 2008


You might read this wondering when part 1 happened, so let me fill you in.

Part 1 happened around 1900, when we moved to the Industrial Age. Prior to that, people were farmers and craftsman, completely responsible for production of their own products, meeting with their patrons and getting unfiltered feedback. This gave them complete control and pride in their work.

Then came the factories where the wealthy few decided that it was far more important that people knew only a tiny portion of work in assembly lines as a way to expedite production. They basically wanted us to be robotic – almost dumb so things could be done exactly as they wanted. In order for that to happen, the employee was born, and in the wake of the employee, the manager would soon to follow – just to make sure the employee was performing as expected.

Jump to over 100 years later and we are desperately trying to give people incentives to care about their work. It’s simple: show them the bigger picture and have them understand how their work affects the people they work with before and after the widget hits them on the production line. Ooops! I’m too late for this, we no longer do any manufacturing in the U.S.

So why am I writing about this in a so called parenting blog? Simply because the next wave of dumbing down America is upon us. It’s called product licensing and it’s robbing our kids of any creativity they have. Look at their clothes, shoes, books, anything! Try to find a plain t-shirt, sneakers, coloring books, backpacks, or note pads. Try to get the attention of an adolescent (in fairness, that is tough anytime) but the electronic gadgets rob us of any possibility of having a discussion with them, let alone for them to have anytime to think or dream.

The next wave of dumbing down America will rob our children of the next generation of creative thinkers. That is unless we have the courage not to succumb to the pressure of the next kids show.

Think about it.

Another Reason Families Love Steven Spielberg

Monday, May 12th, 2008

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPTJ4v6KPrg]

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn,
Tell me a truth and I’ll believe,
But tell me story and it will live in my heart forever.

-Indian Proverb

One of the many happy memories I have of my children when they were little, was my son Michael walking around town with a Fedora as shopkeepers would call out, “Hi Indy.” My son loved the Indiana Jones movies so much, that at four-years of age, he wanted to be an archaeologist-adventurer.

A good story teller gets you to believe. As a family, together we enjoyed every movie Steven Spielberg made because you were told a great story and felt a part of that story.

Last night, with children now young adults, we went to the movies and saw the trailer for the new Indiana Jones movie with a fully grown Indiana Jones - and we can’t wait to once again enjoy it together.

Tina Nocera, Founder
Parental Wisdom

Mom’s Job Description vs. Celebrity Mom’s Entourage

Friday, May 9th, 2008

We applaud as they sit on Oprah’s couch just weeks after giving birth back to their svelte bodies as they tell us how wonderful motherhood is. They are celebrity moms, and babies are the new ‘must have’ accessory.

The reason they are svelte and showered is because the adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ has a totally different meaning for celebrity moms. They gush about the joy of having children, as we somehow do without the personal trainer, nutritionist, dietician, stylist – and let’s not forget round-the-clock nannies, housekeepers and nurses that take care of the kids. We’re lucky if we get to use the bathroom alone.

We suffer from ‘momnesia’ where we lose our memories because so much attention is spent on the children. We’re putting a load of laundry in as we get dinner started, homework checked, schedule doctors visits, and fundraise for little league all of which begins after we get home from work. And Microsoft invented multi-tasking?

Our prizes are not awards and our outings are not on the red carpet where the paparazzi fights to take our pictures. But we forever have the mental images of the parks, games, concerts, school plays, graduations and family dinners as we’re blessed with the most wonderful gift – each other.

Remember, we’re in this together so the next time a three-year-old is having a meltdown at the checkout line at Target, ask the mom if she needs a hand. Let’s not judge each other’s choices about working or staying at home, or how we spend what little time we have. Just give a nod, a smile and sometimes an encouraging word – after all, we share the world’s greatest job title – Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Tina Nocera
Founder, Parental Wisdom

Beating the Bullies

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is estimated that each school day, over 160,000 children stay home because of bullying.
Since many of us have experienced some form of bullying we know that the power of the bully is diminished when there are no followers.

Each day, when your child leaves for school remember to give them a hug to let them know they are loved. In a more subtle way, encourage their own personal power, and as you discuss the kind of a day they had over dinner, listen carefully to what they say and know when to step in when they need you.

Here is a high school student’s college admissions essay that I had to share:

“If I held the thermometer tightly in my hands, I could raise the temperature just enough so that I could stay home from school without my parents being concerned enough to take me to the doctor. This worked in the past, whenever I felt the need to fake an illness to get a break from being teased at school.

I had resigned myself to the fact that the teasing had to be my fault. Perhaps I should have raised my hand less when I had the right answer. Perhaps I should have laughed at the joke, even if I didn’t think it was funny. It was about fitting in. Although it was fairly constant, the teasing was subtle, too subtle to report without making me sound like a wimp.

One day everything changed. It happened as the 5th grade lined up for library. John was short by 3rd grade standards. He wore very thick glasses, and was not able to stand up straight due to some sort of spine curvature. This made him a prime target for the bullies. The teasing inflicted on John was much worse than anything I had experienced. But on that particular day, some of our classmates started knocking on his front and back to laugh at the sound that resulted from the plastic plates he wore under his shirt. It was more than I could take.

I don’t know where it came from, but I became almost ‘Hulk-like’ with anger. To this day, I honestly can’t say if I stood up for John because of the cruel punishment he was getting, or if I was finally dealing with the fact that neither of us, or anyone else for that matter, deserved to be treated that way. I stood in the middle of the cool kids, only a bit taller than John, and let them have it. My voice was loud and cracking, and my cheeks were flushed, but I somehow found the words that had been buried inside me for the entire year. ‘Do you like being mean? How would you feel if you were in his place?’ I was so afraid it would slip that I was really referring to the way they treated me, but fortunately I didn’t. When I finished, one kid made a joke, but the rest were quiet and looked down. The crowd dispersed as the teacher came around, but she never did understand the minor commotion.

We are now in our senior year in high school, yet John and I have never spoken of that day. Sometimes he will give me a little smile as we pass each other in the hall. Perhaps it’s my imagination but I have to believe he stood just a bit taller from that day on. I know I did.”

Tina Nocera
Parental Wisdom

You are beautiful!

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

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Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.
- Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC)

They called her Sunshine, the nickname given to Stephanie Kuleba, 18 because of her brightness, blond hair and personality. The South Florida teen died Saturday, about 24 hours after corrective breast plastic surgery. Gone are the hopes and dreams of a high school senior. All because of a reaction to anesthesia, proof that there’s no such thing as a simple procedure.

With all the things we need to tell our girls as they grow up, we need to let them know they are really beautiful.

Counter the myths of the beauty industry as few people can be a size 2. The beauty standards are too high for even the supermodels to follow, since most are photo-shopped.

Where does real beauty come from? Knowing who you are, and being happy with that.

Thank you Dove for reminding us of that. Please watch this [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaH4y6ZjSfE ].
Love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment.

Don’t you want to be an accountant?

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

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“Consider a career you may have never imagined,” and the discussion begins. Corporations such as Deloitte are reaching out to high schools to persuade students to join their ranks. Their objective is to convey the benefits of working with sponsor companies. They do this by drafting curricula, lesson plans and equipment with the hope of creating a pipeline of workers far into the future.

Businesses are now influencing schools in a way that is much different than when businesses simply wanted students to become customers. This is in response to a fearful shortage of workers from the coming labor force.

Some are worried about a commercial agenda influencing schools, and the potential loss of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

On the plus side, students that may not have any idea what to do with their life, may get on an ‘express line’ to a career. It can also finally answer the age old question kids have when learning math and science, “When will I ever use this?”