October 14, 2014

Cyber Safety - the "Talk"

I don’t know how many of you have been to a talk on cyber safety, but they are definitely worth your time.  I attended one recently and found myself feeling very nostalgic and sad for my kids.  I’m so thankful that I didn’t grow up in this digital world that is so vast and so “public”.  Our kids will never know privacy, ever.  And worse, anything they put out there in cyber space, is permanent.  We constantly hear that their “frontal lobes” aren’t fully formed until they are 25, so how are they supposed to make decisions that we tell them can impact their future and the rest of their life?  We try to teach them that their words and pictures do not go away, but that’s an impossible concept to get across to a kid.  I can’t believe I’m doing this, but do you remember the good old-fashioned telephone and if a boy wanted to call you, he had to get through your parents first?  That awful moment when you call, hear a parent on the other end of the line, and quickly hang up.  That was before caller-id when they could bust you on the spot.  That’s such a huge part of the process of growing up and experiencing awkward moments that shape who we become. Unfortunately, with cell phones and technology, that will never happen to our kids.  Parents are bypassed all day long.  I just read a great article and the author asked the question, “Would the movie The Breakfast Club even exist today”?  Think about it, those kids would all be on their phones, taking selfies and telling everyone on the outside how lame their day in detention was.  They wouldn’t be interacting and actually talking with one another.  They wouldn’t be asking Carl to talk to them about a career in the janitorial arts.  It’s so sad.  I don’t know if this generation has a name but I call them iKids.

One thing this woman spoke about that really caught my attention was family values.  My thoughts immediately went to honesty and integrity.  But the more she spoke, I found myself sinking in my chair.  To be on any type of social media you need to be 13 years old.  And for some reason, I was pretty head strong about that with my daughter and Facebook.  She got her account the day she turned 13 – but here’s what gets me.  For some unknown reason, we let both our kids have an Instagram account, a few years ago (way before they were 13).  I don’t know if subconsciously we had no idea the legal age was 13, or maybe we didn’t want to know?  But her talk made me realize that our kids had to lie in order to get their accounts, which is painful considering the fact that we teach them to never lie.  The direction of this conversation made me very uncomfortable, because it pointed out how easily we can slip, even if we are incredibly head strong parents.

When I got home, I did exactly what this speaker said not to do.  I had a major download with my son right after the talk, because that’s just who I am, sorry. I asked him how he felt about lying about his age to get his Instagram account – to which he replied, “Mom, it’s not like I’m killing anyone, or hurting anyone, I just want an Instagram, and you said it was okay.  What’s the big deal”?  So I told him that the big deal is that it compromises our family values, and if we compromise on some things, how and where do we draw the line.   We ended up having a very good conversation.

She taught us that even if we can’t keep on top of all the trends, we could control behavior.  In other words, we shouldn’t be scared of Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Wanelo, Pheed or Kik, but we need to establish guidelines.  Face it, the hot “App” trends are going to change constantly, depending on what kids think is cool.  We will never be in front of that, but at least we can “Get on the bus”. Don’t even get me started on R-rated movies.
Have you bent any family rules, in order to let your kids have Apps, play video games or watch movies that they shouldn’t be allowed to?  Email me at www.randiccrawford@gmail.com. 

October 9, 2014

Criminalizing Parenting

In case you were wondering, it turns out you can’t parent however you want in 2014.  A 46 year-old woman was recently jailed for letting her 9 year-old daughter play in the park, unsupervised, while she was working. This story comes on the heels of the homeless woman who was arrested for leaving her kids in the car during a job interview. (Sort of ironic since her home was her car). The 46 year-olds’ daughter had been accompanying her to work for most of the summer, bringing her laptop and keeping herself entertained.  Then her home was robbed and the computer was stolen. The daughter asked if she could go to a local park to play while her mom worked.  The park was a 6-minute walk from her house, so her mother agreed.  She gave her daughter a cell phone in case of an emergency, and her daughter was fine for two days.  On the third day, a stranger questioned the girl about her mother’s whereabouts, and then called the police when they realized that she was alone.  The mother was arrested on “abandonment charges”. This woman was arrested, and her daughter was taken away from her, because her daughter was playing in a crowded park while she worked?  First of all, if this “stranger” was so concerned, why didn’t they call the girl’s mother?  What made them call the police?  This morning they reported that a mom in Florida was arrested after her 7 year-old son was found walking to a park alone.  The park was a 15 -minute walk from his home and he also had a cell phone.  A stranger called the police when they saw the boy unsupervised and the police escorted him home where they arrested his mother for child neglect.

What is going on here?  Since when did an unsupervised child playing or walking to a park become against the law?  Is that even a law?  How are kids supposed to learn to take care of themselves and have any independence?  100 years ago these kids would be working on a farm from sun up to sun down, and today they can’t play without a helicopter parent lurking over them?  I used to ride my bike to the lake; 2 miles away, swim all day, and then ride my bike home when it was dinnertime.  I don’t recall anyone ever calling the cops and arresting my mom because she wasn’t with me.  We all did.  I’m truly at a loss as to what law is being broken and how these kids are in such grave danger. 

We expect people to support themselves, but when single mothers do whatever they have to in order to survive, they are criminals?  Look, would I send my 9 year-old to the park all day by herself, probably not.  But I have family, friends, and money to pay a babysitter or an X-box so my kids can stay at home and be entertained.  I have options.  These moms don’t have options.   They are limited in terms of what they can do with their kids, especially during summer.  Summer is supposed to be fun and means no homework and freedom from getting up early, making lunches and having to be at school all day.  But for single working parents who have minimum wage jobs, summer isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  What kid wants to sit in McDonalds all day while their mom works?

Seriously, when did we start criminalizing parenting?  This mom isn’t giving her 3 year-old beers in a sippy cup.  She isn’t sexually abusing her child or using him/her as a punching bag.   This is a mom, doing her best to support her family on the money she earns, and giving her child a little freedom along the way.  Why aren’t the cops spending their time going after the real scumbags?  Lord knows we have enough of them. When did we become the “Nanny state”?  And why do strangers immediately want to dial the police rather than help?  Why do we jump to demonize someone before knowing any of the facts? 

I’m outraged and I hope you are too.  Do you think these moms should be arrested for abandonment?  Email me at www.randiccrawford@gmail.com.

June 23, 2014

Graduation 2014

Knowing that graduation was fast approaching, I wanted to write something about the experience.  At the beginning of the year, I went to our school’s Open House and silently wept most of the night because this was our daughter’s last year in this school.  She basically grew up with this community of people that have become like family to us.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how sad I was going to be when the day finally came that she would move on to high school.  It was just yesterday that I sent her off to pre-pre-school at the tender age of 2.  What was I thinking?

When she was only 4 years old, the school told me that she had mastered everything at and was ready for Kindergarten.  My husband and I had nothing to compare it to, and she was our oldest, so we went with their advice. This is funny, I remember that we had a birthday party for her within the first two weeks of starting school, and she received birthday cards that read, “Happy 6th Birthday”.  It took my husband and me a few moments to understand that she was the only child who was turning 5 years old.  Our daughter is (and has always been), the youngest kid in her class. So many people analyze the pros and the cons of holding their child back, but we never did.  We took the advice from her pre-school and sent her straight to kindergarten.  We both worked full time, and frankly, we never gave it a second thought.

Fast forward to this past weekend, and here she is, 13 years old, and she just graduated the 8th grade.  She’s officially going to high school in the fall and that’s something that I always thought happened to other people.  Now I’m one of them.  Crazy, I know.  But here’s the strange part.  On the day of her graduation, I wasn’t emotional, crying or freaking out.  In fact, she was so happy that it made me happy.  I looked at her with so much pride, that crying wasn’t an option. To know me is to know that I worry about things that haven’t even happened and may never happen.  I create scenarios in my head and then I worry about them, and they are all fiction?  Don’t ask...It’s a terrible quality, and one that I need to work on.

I went to a party with my husband the night after the graduation, and heard varying degrees about how scary high school can be.  People all like to say things like, “Oh Randi, there’s sex and drugs everywhere, you just have to hope you’ve done your job”. Or you might take to two parents (of the same child), and they each have a completely different take on what it’s really like when your kid starts high school. One parent will tell you the horrors while the other tells you that it’s the greatest thing that’s happened to their family.  I’m confused.

Last year, I spoke with a good friend whose daughter had moved on from our school to high school with so much grace.  I asked her how she was dealing with it.  She looked at me and said, “Randi, this is life, would you prefer that she was held back?  You want her to move forward.  Stop worrying about what could happen, it’s not going to do you any good.”  I walked away from that conversation thinking that she was a lunatic.  How could she think that I wouldn’t worry that my daughter was going to high school (in a year)?

Fast forward to this past weekend.  I saw this same mom and reminded her about our conversation.  She had remembered it and asked me how I was dealing with the process.  I suppose she was right.  It’s surreal that I’m old enough to have a kid going off to HS in the fall, but here we are.  We can’t worry about what hasn’t happened, or try to think about everything that could happen.  This is life and it’s full of change and risk and opportunity and as I type this I’m getting nauseous.  OMG I have a kid going to HS in the fall.

Are any of you here yet?  Email me at www.randiccrawford@gmail.com.

June 9, 2014

How Should We Define “Student Athlete”?

Have you seen the movie, “The Hunger Games”?  The scene where Katniss Everdeen is paraded in front of thousands of people, with her long dress that bursts into flames while she’s twirling round and round like she’s on top of the world.   But in reality, it’s all for show and what lies beneath is dirty and ugly.  That’s sort of how I feel right now.

I love watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament more than any sporting event there is, but when I read that Shabazz Napier told reporters “He sometimes goes to bed starving because he can't afford food” it caught my attention.  Obviously he’s not starving, but I thought to myself, could this be partially true?  As I started digging, I realized that I was opening Pandora’s Box.  The subject of whether or not a “student athlete” should be paid is not black and white.  In fact, I learned that the term “student athlete” is the center of the controversy.  A “student athlete” at a Division I school receives a world-class education for free, in exchange for his talent on the court, plus an opportunity to showcase his talents.  Not to mention the players are treated like Gods around campus.  That’s the “flaming dress” part, here’s what I found when I looked behind the dress.

I spoke with a good friend, (Tom Greis) who went to Villanova with my husband and I, and played basketball.  Today, he’s an incredibly passionate sports fan who has walked a mile in these kids’ shoes.  He believes that student athletes are indentured servants, and he gave me some things to consider when sorting this out:  Men’s college basketball & football generates billions of dollars every year, with money coming from: ticket sales, sporting good stores that sell player’s jerseys and memorabilia, video games (my son has all of them at $59 a pop) using the likeness and numbers of the athletes, corporate sponsors who provide shoes, clothing and drinks, and the biggest revenue provider, television.   And with all the billions being generated, the “student athlete” sees none of it.  Now mind you, a “student athlete” is not allowed to go out and earn money using his likeness and/or his number.  Does that seem right to you?   Now hold on before you say, “Wait a minute Randi, they are getting a world class education, publicity on national television, and have the possibility of going pro”.  There’s much more to the story than all the glory.

There’s a misconception that a full scholarship takes care of everything including simple things like gas money, toiletries, and clothing.  A student who is on an academic scholarship has time to bring in some extra income, yet a full scholarship player can’t. Look at Mark Zuckerberg and his little side business.
Let’s talk about the world -class education, which is the compensation exchange for the talent on the court. A student athlete, (who has to re-sign their contract annually) has their entire schedule mapped out for them with zero input.  In 2003 the NCAA repealed a ruling, which set standards for SAT’s to get into school.  Today, the “student athlete” no longer needs to achieve a certain score on their SAT or ACT scores, but the school does have to graduate at least half of the members of the team in order for these kids to play in the post season, such as the recent NCAA tournament.  “Student athletes” are being given a course load to “keep them eligible”.  You can read between the lines.  An instructor at the University of North Carolina conducted research that showed 60% of basketball and football players read between 4th and 8th grade levels.  Should these players even step foot on campus in the first place?  We need Coach Carter.

How are we preparing them for jobs in the real world?  These kids are all one hit or injury away from losing their scholarships and careers forever, and will have nothing to fall back on.  That’s incredibly daunting.

Should “student athletes” get paid?  Should they be allowed to earn money off their personal skill set and likeness?  Should we add to “the list” of what their scholarship offers including more money for food, clothing, gas and toiletries?  And, how are we defining “student athlete”?   I’d love your thoughts.  Email me at www.randiccrawford@gmail.com.