Andrew was fifteen years old and, at this point and time, the thing that defined our relationship was snack wrappers. It’s embarrassing to admit how much of our daily interaction revolved around his wrappers discarded around the house, and me telling him to pick them up.
Even when he had been in his bedroom for hours, I always knew the exact position on the living room couch he had been on earlier that day, because the empty wrappers outlined the shape of his body, making an artful statement.
I tried everything possible to get him to clean up his messes. At first, I asked him nicely to remove the colorful pieces of paper; then I demanded it. Finally, I ended up taking away privileges until the clean-up was complete.
So, I got more creative. I took pictures of the abandoned wrappers and sent them to his phone with clever captions like “Good morning! Nice to know you are alive!” or “Impressive work…You are quite the artist!” Yet, the reset button continued to get pushed every night and no progress was made.
When he turned fifteen, Andrew applied for his learner’s permit and completed driver’s education. I often let him drive me on my errands to get his practice hours in. I was proud of what an excellent driver he was. He drove cautiously and seemed to have the ability to make quick decisions, if needed. I felt comfortable with him at the wheel even after only a few months of driving. I looked forward to him helping with the family driving when he turned sixteen.
Andrew needed a new bag for school, and I needed a new shirt for yoga, so we jumped in the car to run some evening errands. The night was extra dark, and the traffic was thick. We found the perfect duffle bag with his school colors in only one stop, and I found a cute shirt that just happened to be on sale at the second stop.
We had completed our errands so quickly, but I was enjoying Andrew’s company. It was fun for us to be out and about talking about life instead of focusing on the tasks that needed to be done at home. So, without thinking, I hopped in the driver’s seat instead of letting him drive, and he went around to the passenger side. I decided to make one more stop.
It is always the unimportant decisions that change lives.
I didn’t think twice about this decision because in the moment it seemed the natural thing to do. The stoplight was turning red, so I quickly got in the right lane and turned right with intention of turning left into the grocery store parking lot. I had driven this way a million times before, and there was no need to wait on a red light when the store was within eye’s view.
I made a nice careful right-hand turn and then pulled into the left-turn lane in the median. There was light just up ahead, but why drive out of the way? The traffic was backed up and not moving. The left-hand turn required crossing four lanes. I inched past the first and second cars that had left space for me to cross. The third car stopped to let me through. I peeked my head forward and looked right to make sure there was no one in the fourth lane. No one was in sight, so I gently pressed the gas pedal and then everything went…silent.
As the dizziness settled, I became aware of my surroundings. My car was in the grass and as if time was moving in slow motion, the understanding of what must have happened began to become clear in my mind. I remembered I was trying to cross into the grocery store parking lot.
I seemed to be alive. I seemed to be ok. My knee was throbbing. I reached up and felt my hair. The impact was so great that it yanked out my ponytail holder. It was then that I remembered I was not alone in the car. Oh my gosh, Andrew is in the car! The oncoming car had hit the passenger side. Is he ok?!
I looked to my right and Andrew had the same dazed look on his face that I must have had as his brain caught up with the reality of what had just happened. “Mom, Mom, are you ok?” he asked. “I am ok. Are you ok?” I asked with as much convincing inflection as I could muster. “I am ok, “he said, “I’m ok. I can’t believe that just happened.”
A voice I didn’t recognize was coming from the dashboard of my car. “You have been in an accident. Is anyone hurt?” she asked. “Umm. I don’t know. I am not sure. Maybe,” I replied.
“Stay there. We are sending help,” she said urgently. I looked to the right and there were people outside the car. Oh no! There must be another car. I wonder if the driver is ok?!
“Mom,” Andrew said, “We need to get out of the car. There are people trying to talk to us.” Andrew helped me out of the car, and we embraced. “I am so glad you are ok,” we both said over and over again. He grabbed my purse, called my husband, calmly explained what happened, took pictures of the cars, and asked how else he could help.
All three of us seemed to have bumps and bruises, but were otherwise fine, even though both cars were completely totaled. As the tow truck arrived, Andrew helped me unload everything we could out of the car before it was towed off.
We stood there in the cold, shivering from the shock. I looked over at my son and could not believe the same boy, who couldn’t remember to pick up a granola bar wrapper off the couch, was cool under pressure, able to take control of the situation, and acting like a man. It was so humbling for my son to be taking care of me instead of the other way around. I was overcome with pride of how strong and calm he was in the midst of a crisis.
The days slowly passed and as our bumps and bruises began to fade, new clarity appeared in my mind. I realized how insignificant wrappers were in our relationship. My son was smart, strong, and growing up to be everything I could have hoped for. I made the decision to not let the “wrappers” in life get in the way of the precious few years we had left before he left for college.
Julie Hornok is an author, speaker and autism advocate. Herwork has appeared in Scary Mommy, Parenting Special Needs Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine,The Mighty, That’s Inappropriateand more! For thirty eye-opening stories from families living with autism in all corners of the world, find her book, United in Autism: Finding Strength Inside the Spectrum, here.
Parents need to rethink telling their teens to follow their passions. (Master1305/Shutterstock)
“Follow your passion” seems to be the career buzz phrase of the 21st century. Self-help gurus have given countless talks and written entire books on this advice, which basically boils down to, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
While following your passion sounds like a nice idea on the surface, like all simplistic adages, important questions lurk beneath it:
– Is the advice to find a passion and make it a career applicable to everyone? What about people who don’t have a distinct passion?
– Is it a well-intentioned mistake to tell our kids to follow their passion when contemplating a professional path, regardless of where that path actually leads
– Is passion a specific personality trait rather than an innate human reality? Does it need to be paired with other traits like drive, determination, and discipline to truly lead to success?
– What about people who are severely limited by life circumstances? Is having the freedom to pursue passion as a profession a product of privilege?
One can look at these questions both academically and anecdotally, and I’d argue that both carry equal weight when it comes to this topic. After all, “passion” is a completely subjective idea, and there are so many variables when it comes to life and career choices that gathering and analyzing objective data can be tricky.
Someresearchers at Stanford have taken it on scientifically, however. Former postdoctoral fellow Paul O’Keefe and Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton conducted a series of laboratory studies that examined how people’s beliefs and mindsets may lead them to succeed or fail at developing their interests. Their results point to the idea of “passion” as potentially problematic.
According to the researchers, the concept of “following your passion” holds some implications that can actually hinder people from success. A common assumption is that having passion for something means it’s always enjoyable and that having a keen interest will make it easy to pursue, which can lead people to give up too quickly when they encounter inevitable difficulties or challenges.
Instead, the researchers say, people should focus on developinga passion instead of followingone. They assert that passion is built through putting time and energy into an interest, not the other way around.
Billionaire Mark Cuban and self-made millionaire Scott Galloway express similar sentiments. Both entrepreneurs say that “follow your passion” is terrible advice.
In a blog post, Cuban wrote that effort, not passion, is the true key to success. When you work hard at something, you become good at it, and being good at it helps you develop passion for it. “Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort,” he wrote. “It will lead you to your passions and to success, however you define it.”
Galloway says that developing your talents is a better tack to take than following your passions. “Following your passion is bullsh*t,” he told CNBC. “Find out what you’re good at and then invest 10,000 hours in it — and become great at it.”
Of course, not everyone cares about becoming financially successful like these men. But we also don’t do kids any favors by telling them that following their passion intently enough will automatically bring in money or that there aren’t real drawbacks to choosing careers that aren’t financially sustainable. We have to balance passion with practicality.
We also need to be aware that turning a passion into a career can backfire. When I asked people to share their thoughts and experiences with passion-based professions, some said that making money doing what they loved actually made them losetheir passion for it.
For example, Morag Wehrle followed her passion into museum studies. “It was almost ten years of heartbreak and frustration,” she says:
I cared SO MUCH that I couldn’t leave my work at work. I thought about it all the time and agonized over the frustrations of non-profit societies, the lack of funding, the constant stress of grant writing, the unpaid overtime, and so on. Eventually I walked away, burnt out and jaded. I think that sometimes ‘do what you love’ can be terrible career advice. I’d rather have had a job I was less passionate about, but which I could also leave behind at the end of the work day—and maybe kept the museum stuff as a volunteer gig.
Several people pointed out that a career that pays well, even if it’s not something you’re passionate about, can provide the means to help you pursue those hobbies without worrying about how you’re going to pay the bills. And some passions simply don’t lend themselves to a career path at all.
“Personally, I hate the whole ‘follow your passion’ trend,” says Julie Morris Jones:
What if my ‘passion’ is playing with or homeschooling my kids? I’m not going to get paid for that. Or what if I just prefer lots travel and a flexible job (any job!) that’s going to help pay for it? Or what if I have lots of different things that I enjoy doing, but none above all else? Am I not understanding myself or missing out if I am not ‘passionate’ about something? It’s too much pressure.
People often equate careers that aren’t passion-based with careers that people hate, but that’s often a false dichotomy. Naturally, staying in a job that you loathe isn’t healthy, but there is plenty of middle ground between hating your career and being passionate about it. It’s okay to have a job that you don’t mind that is secure, pays well, and allows you to live the life you want outside of it. It’s okay to have a job that you like but don’t love. Not every career needs to come from a place of passion.
Besides, passion isn’t a reality for every person. Erin Cummisford says,
I hate this advice because so many people (including me!) don’t have a passion so this adds unnecessary pressure. Like WHY don’t I have a singular passion? Does everyone else and there’s something wrong with me? I think it’s meant to be a supportive statement, but can easily get twisted.
Additionally, says Kelly Byrd, following your passion can lead you to unnecessarily pigeonhole yourself. “The truth is you can follow your passion, work your ass off to achieve it, but still never quite be successful at it and because you have spent so much time following your passion, there is no plan B,” she says:
When I was younger I was told that if you worked hard enough, you could achieve anything. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. So when you are unable to achieve success in your passion it can lead to feelings of failure and depression because you were unable to achieve that one goal.
People’s passions can also change, and its important for our kids to know that that’s normal. “In our society I think there’s far too much emphasis on the construct of success,” says Jennifer Rosen Heinz:
That you are ‘meant’ to find ONE purpose in life (or one true love, etc.) For most people, we may have one overriding passion, or we may have many passions. We may be obsessed with one thing for a certain period of time and then move on to another. That isn’t a failing. Changing and growing is a feature, not a bug.
Finally, it may be more helpful to our kids to reframe the idea of following your passion into more noble-yet-applicable language. Some parents say they encourage their kids to think in terms of meaningful work or how they can be of service to humanity in their careers instead. This framing keeps the door open to changing interests and removes the pressure of searching for an elusive feeling of passion, while still helping kids think beyond a paycheck.
People who have the innate desire and drive to pursue their passion are probably going to do that regardless of what people tell them. For the masses who don’t fit that bill, let’s think long and hard before handing out the “follow your passion” advice. There is much more helpful wisdom we can offer that can help them find success and satisfaction in their professional and personal lives.
Annie Reneau is a writer, wife, and mother of three with a penchant for coffee, wanderlust, and practical idealism. On good days, she enjoys the beautiful struggle of maintaining a well-balanced life. On bad days, she binges on chocolate and dreams of traveling the world alone. Her writing can be found on Upworthy and Scary Mommy, in O Magazine, and in a big ol’ slush pile inside her head. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.
Here’s the practical advice I want my teen girls to know about dating. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)
Dating and daughters… it’s a delicate subject, especially between moms and our girls. Just the thought of our daughters being in the game can make us feel like throwing up in our mouth. And just the mention of it to our girls can make them feel like slamming doors in our face because they’re sure they know it all.
So it’s a tricky one, this whole relationship thing. Because, as women who have already played the game when we were young, we want to save our daughters from the heartbreak and perils of dating, and they want us to butt the @$&! out. And therein lies the challenge.
As moms we need to give our girls the knowledge to navigate relationships in a way that respects their boundaries, but also ensures that they have all the tools they need to avoid getting hurt. And that’s not exactly easy, but it is doable. Because all it takes is prioritizing the super-important stuff and reinforcing it over and over and over again (with our fingers crossed behind our backs that they’re listening).
See, imparting wisdom is just what we do as moms, because there’s so much we need our daughters to know and remember and do. And even though we wish they’d just let us ride shotgun on every date and be part of every relationship decision, that’s straight up never gonna happen.
So, we do the next best thing, which is to talk all the talk and give our girls as much of our knowledge as we can before they ever even leave the house. We distill all the important dos and don’ts and basically pass down our own personal field guide for how to survive in the dating world.
And while the list of advice we want to give our daughters could go on forever, there are some highlights that show up pretty regularly on every mom’s list, including mine:
Essential Dating Advice for Teenage Girls
First and foremost, be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Be authentic to who you are so there’s zero confusion about who you are as a person.
Set boundaries so you don’t do something you’re not ready to do.
Stay away from drama. No one wants to be caught in the middle of a stressful, dramatic situation, so keep things open and honest.
Never give up your independence. Make sure you’re as good being on your own as you are being together.
Don’t compromisewho you are or what you want, no matter what.
You’re going to get your heart broken, but the pain won’t last forever. And while it may take a while for the hurt to fade, time really does heal most wounds of the heart.
Make sure the person you’re with is bringing out the best in you.
Breakups suck, but they’ll show you what kind of a person you want to be with and the kind you want to avoid.
Don’t have sex until you’re ready. You get to decide the pace that works for you, so don’t ever let anyone pressure you into doing something you’re not ok with.
Never compare anyone to your ex, it’s just bad form. Plus, no two people are the same, so comparing is a waste of time.
Show gratitude when your partner does something special for you. There are few things that mean more than letting someone know you’re grateful for an act of kindness.
Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Relationships work in two directions, so if you’re not getting back some version of what you’re putting in, then it’s time to move on.
Never assume you know what your partner is thinking. Ask for yourself so there’s no confusion.
Avoid talking smack about your partner because it’ll always make its way back to you as the original source and that’s a guaranteed relationship-ender.
Don’t play head games. Say what you mean and mean what you say so that everyone’s always on the same page.
Remember to talk to each other. Because relationships are always a work in progress, so you need to keep the lines of communication open.
Never kiss and tell. Keep what you and your partner do to yourself, because it’ll always come back to bite you on the a** if you start blabbing.
If you’re breaking up with someone, be kind. There’s no easy way to tell someone they’re not The One, so just do it thoughtfully.
Moms are always there in the wings to help when you need us.
Now obviously this isn’t a complete list and I could go on for days, but these tips proved to be the most important bits of dating advice I shared with my own teen daughters over the years. So use this as a jumping-off point and just start the conversation.
Add your own advice and the opinions of the people you trust and then just keep talking. Because the sooner you start the dialogue, the better equipped your girls will be to handle themselves when they’re out on their own. And even though we have to back out of the picture eventually and let them make their own decisions, we can still ensure that all of our advice is safely tucked inside their metaphorical wristlet every time they head out the door.
My daughter received a rejection letter that motivated her. (taramara78/ Shutterstock)
“And, during finals weeks, the Professors actually cook breakfast for us…at MIDNIGHT!” exclaimed the tour guide.
It was the summer of my daughter’s senior year of high school, and we were touring East Coast stretch universities. She’d just had an interview, and now we were on a tour of one of the Big Ivies (let’s call it XYZ University.) As we stood under a shade tree seeking relief from the sweltering August sun, we listened to the perky co-ed tell us all of the fine reasons for attending this illustrious, storied university. There were about 50 of us in the group, and we all looked rapt, and maybe a little star-struck.
The guide continued breathlessly, “…and last year, we actually had a professor who’d been involved with Hamilton (the musical) teach a drama course! It was amazing!” I saw the eyes of my daughter, a potential Theatre major, perceptibly widen.
Soon, the guide asked for questions. A parent – a numbers person, no doubt – asked the question on everyone’s minds (or the one after, “How in the heck does a family pay the tuition here?”) In reality, he asked, “What’s the current acceptance rate at XYZ University?”
The tour guide adopted a sad face, and responded, “6%.”
I (slowly) did the math in my own head. (I wished I’d had paper and pen.) If the tour had 25 potential applicants, then X would be accepted.” The answer is 1.5. Let’s round a little; potentially ONE student would be admitted from this group. That’s why they call it a “stretch school,” kids.
After those numbers dinged, the tour guide said, “I know. You’re thinking that’s a really low number admitted from all of the applications. I’m not going to lie to you. This is a great school, an amazing school, really, and honestly, I love it here.
You’d get a stellar education if you are accepted and attend. But, here’s the thing to remember as you fill out your applications and you visit other colleges: There are many, MANY awesome colleges. There are any number of places where you could achieve great things and, yes, believe it or not, be very happy.”
Even, two years later, I think that was the most important piece of advice I took away from our college tours. And, this month and next, I’m thinking about all of the current college applicants and their parents waiting for decisions from their dream schools.
Take it from this parent who has been through the battles and survived the war, as you wait impatiently and hopefully for those glorious “big envelopes,” versus the cold small and thin envelopes.
There is not one best and only college; in fact, there are MANY fine colleges. Colleges where you can find your place, meet your people, and create awesome memories, and maybe even learn a few things along the way.
“After careful review of your application, I am sorry to inform you that we cannot offer you admission. I know this is disappointing news and certainly not what you or we had hoped for. As thorough and fair as we attempt to make our selection process, we may at times suffer from shortsightedness. Your fine achievement to date and in future college endeavors may well prove just how shortsighted we can be.”
This rejection letter was issued by one of her top 3 choice colleges, and while it was disappointing, it ultimately inspired my daughter to prove to them that they were, in fact, shortsighted. As her mom, I was impressed with their honesty and their graciousness. What a fine institution – dream school – it would have been for her.
My fingers and toes are crossed that you are accepted into your dream schools. But, if you’re not, I hope you’ll quickly come to think of your chosen college as your amended “dream school.”
And mostly, I hope you’ll make your own happiness – and fulfill all of your dreams – at whatever college is LUCKY enough to get YOU.
Best of Luck,
From a Mama who’s happy her daughter didn’t get into the Big Ivy and is now happily succeeding at her (amended) dream school
Deb Nies is a contributing author to It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. Her writing has appeared in Our Wisconsin, Modern Bliss, among others. Deb was a proud cast member of the Listen to Your Mother Show – Madison in both 2011 and 2017.
She and her wife, Linda live in the only Waunakee in the world, Wisconsin. They are new empty nesters, as beloved daughter (Hannah) is a first-year at Wellesley College. In real life, Deb is a Social Media & Marketing Consultant, a foodie, an adventurer, and an infrequent blogger. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Four years ago, I was lamenting to anyone who would listen about how it felt like it was just yesterday that I was dropping my son off at preschool, making cupcakes for his class birthday celebration and sending him off to his first sleepover. As his high school graduation approached, I was filled with a mix of emotions—proud of his accomplishments, happy to see him start a new chapter and a little sad that he was doing it without me by his side on a daily basis.
Fast forward four more years and here I am again. College graduation is looming and I find myself lamenting in a whole different way. Back then my feelings were more defined and easier to deal with. We had visited his future college on a few occasions, so I had a clear picture of what his day-to-day life would entail. Sure, I wouldn’t be there for his daily rituals, but at least I knew where he was eating, sleeping and spending most of his time. That was a big security blanket for me and I wrapped myself up tightly in it.
When young adults are graduating from college, their plans may look very different than the ones their parents made at the same age. (Budur Nataliia/Shutterstock)
My feelings now are almost indescribable. I am still proud of his even bigger accomplishments. I am still happy that he is on to an even bigger adventure. The sadness, however, is a little more prevalent because of the unknown factor. That pesky feeling of not being able to know what the future brings.
Like many of his classmates, my son is unsure of what he is doing after graduation. He is still exploring his options, still thinking about his next move. There is talk of everything from traveling abroad to moving to the big city. I approach each new plan with an outward excitement and an internal trepidation.
Not unlike how many of us old timers used to walk uphill to school both ways, I feel like when I graduated from college, most people had a plan in place for post-graduation. I may be “misremembering” that aspect, but I feel like it was pretty cut and dried. Get recruited on campus, graduate, buy an Ikea couch and go to work. It was pretty much lather, rinse and repeat for everyone I knew of in my class. Times have changed on that front it seems and kids these days have a different way of moving forward. Not wrong, mind you, just different.
There is a clear balance of trying to understand what he wants to do while at the same time helping him to be realistic about what that means from a “real world” perspective. That balance is hard to come by and I find myself interjecting my thoughts a little too often only to be met with silence on the other end of the phone line. The anxiety is high on both our parts and while I continually strive to alleviate his, I am quietly dealing with my own. Unlike four years ago, I don’t know where he will be living, what he will be eating or what his daily life will be like. Even he doesn’t have a clear picture of that. There is no safety net for me on this next chapter. My security blanket feels a little worn and frayed.
The struggle is real as these crazy kids say and I am working on figuring it all out in my own way. Sometimes that means crying during Apple commercials and sometimes it means eating a whole sleeve of Pringles. Most of the time, however, it equates to me trying to see all of the positive things the unknown can present. I met my husband when I least expected it. Our third child was not really planned and she’s pretty okay in my book. A hair straightening mishap resulted in a quick fix haircut that I’ve kept for years now. There’s a lot of good that can happen when you aren’t looking.
Things worked out for me and I have to let the future unfold for my son. Like me, he will experience hardships and he will deal with them in his own way. His future is uncertain but that can mean that great things lie ahead for him. I can still bake those birthday cupcakes and inquire about other types of sleepovers. I can still be present for all that his future holds.
I am excited to put plans in place for all of the college graduation celebrations. I am going to make those hotel reservations and plan a big family party. I will order the cake and buy the balloons.
But first let me read Love You Forever one more time.
Patty Walsh has worked in the public relations industry for over 25 years. She lives in Maine with her husband, three kids and everything that goes along with it, including her ungroomed dog and dirty laundry.
Your teenager is home on a weekend night and you want to watch a movie with actual character development, a movie without animated animals or explosions (including the F-bomb), and without an OSS (obligatory sex scene) that makes you all cringe or dive for the remote.
The plot has to really grab them right from the start, which rules out award winners like Chariots of Fire or A Man for All Seasons; if they can’t relate to it, they’ll pass.
Maybe you also have a twelve-year-old who might decide to watch the movie, and you’d like them to understand it, enjoy it, and not be traumatized. You want a movie that sucks you in and makes you laugh and feel things, a movie that inspires discussions (un-forced, organic discussions of course) about loyalty or ethics or what really matters on the chance that your teen feels chatty when it’s over.
So here’s a list of sleepers that weren’t made in the last eighteen months but hold up exceptionally well, and pair well with teens and popcorn.
Here’s a list of sleeper hits you might have missed to watch with your teens. (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)
It might take some convincing, because nothing explodes in this movie except a man’s ego, but this little gem of a film, based on a true story, slowly grips you like a well-paced thriller.
A young and super good-looking Ralph Finnes plays Charles Van Doren, a college professor from a family of good-looking intellectuals, who is asked to be a contestant on the wildly popular Jeopardy-like TV show, Twenty-One.He’s slumming a little–his family doesn’t do this sort of thing–but the fame is fun until the previous contestant, an awkward Jew from Queens played by John Turturro, gets jealous and begins to tell everyone the game is rigged, they give out the answers to whomever they want to win.
The book the movie was based on was written by the lawyer brought in to investigate, played by a young and also handsome Rob Morrow. Just being real: handsomeness is a factor if your teen is female and maybe even if they’re not, and attractiveness, or lack of it, is part of the plot in this case.
The movie takes place in the late 1950s and has a gorgeous, Mad Men-like aesthetic and Bobby Darin on the soundtrack, used in a way that somehow makes his catchy tunes unsettling. There’s even smart and carefully placed humor in the script, while it flawlessly illustrates vanity, deception, greed and envy, and the other side of the coin–the one that modern teens, used to reality TV, would think of on their own: ambivalence.
Quiz Show - Trailer - YouTube
Even if you saw it twice when it was more recent, here is a movie that’s easy to watch again because it takes an archetype that’s big and impressive and different than your average person–an astronaut, back when they existed and were larger than life–and shows him through a lens that makes him deeply, incredibly human.
This achingly relatable-ness is where Tom Hanks’ brilliance lies, even when he plays a bad guy. In this case he plays real-life good guy Jim Lovell, the astronaut who commanded a 1970 mission that suffered a critical failure on the way to the moon. It’s a testament to the filmmaking that viewers are riveted even though they know how it turns out, although modern teens, who didn’t learn about the Apollo missions in school or remember them like parents and grandparents, may not know if they guys make it back to Earth or not.
The story revolves not just around getting the men back home safely, a feat of brilliant, spontaneous engineering and leadership, but around the personalities and relationships involved. The acting is superb, the pointy collars and big hair make you feel like you are really there, and unlike the more recent First Man, the writers didn’t throw in a lot of puff-the-story-up fiction (the bracelet in the crater…). These things really happened, and according to the guys who were there, were every bit this dramatic.
Director Ron Howard puts you on the edge of your seat at the end and if you don’t cheer out loud or feel a few tears welling up when that capsule drops into the water, you have no soul.
Catch Me If You Can
At the risk of putting ideas into teens’ heads, this movie is worth watching because Leonardo DiCaprio makes you simultaneously root for the hero and hope he gets caught.
The fact that this is also true story is astonishing; DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale, a nineteen-year-old who begins dabbling in check fraud and impersonations, and eventually successfully poses as a commercial pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. Abagnale is being chased by a FBI agent throughout the movie, played by Tom Hanks; the two actors are so good at what they do that you can’t decide who the good guy is. The agent discovers something about the criminal: he’s young and brilliant and funny, but he’s lonely, which makes the end of the movie more interesting than just the facts would lead you to believe.
This is one of those movies you have to pause just to get another soda because you can’t miss a single thing.
Here we get to see Captain America (Chris Evans) play a regular guy with problems and some family baggage in this movie about loyalty and parenting. Evans plays the caretaker to his brilliant niece, played by a precocious kid who manages to be adorable but not saccharine, and makes viewers of all ages want to watch her reactions. It’s a fairly predictable plot: her uncle must fight for custody of her and convince the authorities and a grandmother that whatever his less-than-perfect life is lacking, he can make up for with his unconditional love for this little girl. The film gets viewers thinking about choices and repercussions, sacrifice, and wanting something for the right reasons–and the wrong ones.
It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it makes you smile often, and the characters are so darn convincing that you can’t look away. Teens will like the storyline because they can relate to both the child and the uncle, and watching this flawed thirty-something try to be a good father figure is endearing and inspiring.
We Bought a Zoo
The animals on the cover image of this movie make it seem Doctor Dolittle-esque, but this is a funny, heartbreaking story about a widower and his kids, trying to grieve and heal and move on. I’d personally watch Matt Damon do laundry, so seeing him play a Dad trying his best at taking care of wild animals and, even harder, a troubled teenage son, is pretty darn engaging.
It’s unpredictable and funny and heart-wrenching, but in a good way. Scarlett Johansson plays the obvious love interest realistically, and Thomas Haden Church provides comic relief when it gets a little sad. Mostly, it’s not a sad movie, it’s just a movie about a family trying something out of the box so they don’tget too sad, and fighting for it when they have to.
Without being heavy-handed, it paints a beautiful picture of what a family can be.
We Bought A Zoo | Trailer | 20th Century FOX - YouTube
And speaking of Matt Damon, in this movie, based on a self-published manuscript, we get to see him grow potatoes in space while fighting for his life and making jokes. Most people know the premise of this one or have already seen it, but it bears watching with teens because it tackles loyalty, ethics, and survival; it’s science fiction but realistic, even a little playful. Some viewers might not be able to get through the nearly opening scene where Damon must pull shrapnel out of his chest, but he tempers that and everything he does with humor, even the Cast Away-like scenes of loneliness.
There are no aliens or computers trying to kill him, so even non-sci-fi fans will enjoy the plot.
Some runner-ups, not chosen for this list because of language, violence/death, or the OSS, are: A Beautiful Mind, The Social Network, Good Will Hunting, Castaway, and Interstellar.
Paige Johnson is a mom of four teenagers (middle school through college) from Alexandria, Virginia. When she’s not doing laundry or cooking, she’s a writer, teacher and professional singer in the DC area. Paige has a BA from James Madison University and an MA in literature from George Mason, and has spent time working and being a SAHM, including that one crazy year where she homeschooled. You can find her at http://paigespace.com/
I see you over there, Moms of high school daughters who are about to graduate and embark on their
college experiences. It’s a thrilling feeling, but I can also sense your apprehension and your fears, because I was you, just a few, short years ago.
I’d find myself sitting down, or driving in the car, or taking a walk with my daughter and repeatedly talking about the “dangers” of college social life, of drinking too much, and of making bad decisions. I wanted to gently and carefully caution and advise, without frightening her, but honestly, with all that I had heard for years about the college hookup culture, I was concerned.
Kids really do want to be in committed relationships (MinDof/ Shutterstock)
Didn’t every young man in college just want a string of uncommitted sexual encounters? Weren’t they
all suspiciously handing over red Solo cups full of frothy beer at parties and swiping right on Tinder trying to meet up for an evening of Netflix and Chill? Weren’t all the upperclassmen targeting the naïve, young freshmen girls during those first few weeks of school?
I shuddered thinking of my baby girl so far away, alone for the first time, being plied with alcohol, and being put into a vulnerable position. Because I had been there, so many years before and I remembered those first couple of months of college, when alcohol flowed freely and there were ample opportunities to go back to someone’s room and “listen to music” or head upstairs to “check out the (proverbial) fish tank.”
I admit that I was, to a certain degree, stuck in a traditional and somewhat outdated “Girl vs. Guy” mentality and anecdotal stories loomed large in my pre-college parental counseling mindset. I wanted to arm my daughter with both the mental and physical skills to ward off unwanted advances and predatory behavior.
But then, BOOM – it was my son starting college. And this is a boy I know and love to the core. He’s a kind and decent kid. He’s a good communicator open and willing to discuss many issues that other Boy Moms tell me their sons do not talk with them about. Perhaps it’s because he’s been raised in an extended family of mostly females. With a competent and strong-willed older sister and many female cousins, he’s never developed any sort of attitude that males are better/smarter/worthier than females. And I dare say that he’s developed into a young man without a whiff of “toxic masculinity.”
As he matured and moved through the high school years, he listened closely as his sister talked about her ideas of and experiences with acceptable and unacceptable male behaviors and manners. I would notice him hungrily taking in this female wisdom, coming from someone he very much respected and looked up to. He sometimes got an earful from her and her friends, which I secretly loved, as they took some of the work away from me and dispensed their guidance in peer-to-peer terms he wholly understood and accepted as truth.
He started college armed with years of discussions about consent and respect. And it dawned on me: he’s not an outlier. His friends were just like him. Colleges are filled with decent young men who do not just want to casually hook up. But we don’t hear about them because they don’t make for interesting headlines and salacious news stories. They’ve been brought up in a culture that tells them not to advertise the fact that they don’t want casual sex. They aren’t bragging to other guys about taking a drunk, female friend home and dropping her safely off.
Colleges are filled with young men who are serious about academic success and future careers. They completely understand what can result from a casual hookup. They’ve heard firsthand from girls who admit that while some of their friends are fine with a “no strings attached” attitude about sex in college, many are hoping that those physical encounters will turn into an emotional connection. Colleges are filled with young men who would prefer a committed, romantic relationship to a hookup. And I know those same schools are full of young women who feel exactly the same. Far too many kids hesitate to voice their true feelings.
In fact, research from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education shows that kids overestimate the number of their peers who are actually hooking up. Fewer than ten percent of college aged students report having had four or more sexual partners in the previous year. When given the choice of a Friday night activity only, “16% of the respondents chose an option related to casual sex. The remaining teens and young adults (84%) reported either wanting to have sex in a serious relationship or chose an option that did not involve sex.”
What can we do to encourage our kids to be honest about what they are looking for? Will the current generation coming of age in the “Me Too” era develop different attitudes about relationships and dating?
I hope that if you are sending your daughter off to college, you will be comforted to know that there are plenty of decent, caring, enlightened young men out there. Just know that not every guy is looking to repeatedly hook up and move on, in fact, most are not.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
Last month, my 12th grade daughter was denied acceptance to the college of her dreams. It was shattering, and as a writer I did what I do during emotional times. I wrote and subsequently published the details of her experience.
I imagined that moms everywhere would empathize with my story after being there themselves or would sympathize if they hadn’t. I never dreamed that moms would turn my painful story into an opportunity to post hurtful comments and judge me as a mom and as a person (really!!). I was shocked that moms found it so easy to be so critical of my mothering techniques. Because…aren’t we all in this together? Isn’t there an unspoken sisterhood in motherhood? Aren’t we all doing our best to be good moms? Don’t we all want to raise healthy, happy, kind and honest children? Who cares if our methods vary?
We moms need to support each other. (Lopolo/ Shutterstock)
Many of us watched our bellies expand as we grew babies inside of us. Others of us fought tooth and nail to adopt, foster or follow harrowing and winding paths to motherhood. We accepted stretch marks and heartburn and middle-of-the-night Pop Tart cravings because we knew they were stepping-stones to the dream of becoming moms.
We marveled as our babies emerged into the world with fingers, toes, tongues and vocal chords. We rejoiced when those babies allowed us to sleep for more than three hours at a time and we rolled our eyes when they grew into teenagers who could sleep until noon. We filled our iPhones with thousands of photos documenting dance recital solos, middle school orchestra performances and prom night smiles. We hit up our own moms when we needed help cleaning crayon drawings off the kitchen walls and subsequently cleaning our daughters’ black mascara stains from every washcloth in the house.
We experienced the same ups and downs when our kids vomited Cheerios deep into the crevices of brand new car seats and years later when they begged us to sit in the passenger seat as they practiced for their road tests. We commiserated with and celebrated with all of the moms in our lives, as well as those on TV and in the movies, and we felt an inexplicable bond…a sisterhood.
But somehow along the way, somewhere between diaper rashes, grocery store temper tantrums, teenage acne breakouts and college orientation weekends, moms began to judge other moms. The emotional synchronicity faded, warm smiles shared between expectant moms were forgotten, mutual anxiety about raising children didn’t seem so mutual anymore. All were replaced by disdain for the way others were parenting.
But why? What happened?
I can confirm with certainty that no mom opens her eyes at sunrise and says, ”I think I’ll take the opportunity this morning to yell at my son when he can’t find his backpack and then drop him at the bus stop crying.” No mom spits her toothpaste into the sink and thinks, “I sure hope I’ll lose my cool when my daughter continues to ignore my request to put her dirty clothes IN the laundry basket instead of near it.” And I’m positive there’s not a mom among us who prays for the moment she has to face the world after her quarterback son curses out his high school football coach and becomes the talk of the town. Yet each of these moms exists and each one of them is doing the best she can day in and day out.
There are the highly protective moms, whose lives are ruled by the Life 360 app and delivering forgotten lunches and notebooks every day to their kids at school. And there are the moms who would rather see their kids miss their mid-day sandwiches than enable them by dropping off the little brown bags accidentally left on the kitchen counter in the morning rush. Oddly enough, both approaches are approaches that work. I may feed my kids only organic and homegrown fruits and vegetables while pumping Beethoven through our Sonos speakers, while your kids may scarf down Taco Bell burritos three times a week with rap stars crooning in the background…but that doesn’t mean that we’re not both good, loving and caring moms.
We all manage our mom-hood in different ways. We all do our best. We all pray each morning that we are making good decisions for our children, that we are providing good guidance, that we have the strength to stay calm when our kids cause us to chew our nails until they look like they belong on the hands of a ten-year-old boy. We beg our best friends for mommying advice and we share whatever tips we have, as well. We wake up at 2:00am sweating and panicking, wondering if we’re doing okay as we manage the myriad of challenges that motherhood sends our way. In our hearts, we are all the same.
And so it just doesn’t seem right to judge other moms because they don’t parent the same way that you do. How can we teach our kids kindness to others if we are not living it ourselves?
If you’re a mom who finds yourself scorning another mom because you “can’t believe someone would parent her child like that,” it’s time to look in the mirror. We’ve all had those moments, days or even weeks when we’ve tried to be the best mom we could be and somehow every move we made was not the right one.
The old adage, “Never look down on someone else unless you’re helping them up” might just be the advice we all need to follow. Your kind smile might be the push that helps a frustrated mom trying unsuccessfully to appease her 3-year-old in the pediatrician’s waiting room. Your understanding look might help calm the mom whose teenage daughter chooses the Black Friday line at Target to start a high volume argument about why she has to go to a friend’s party instead of her grandfather’s 80thbirthday dinner. You just never know.
I circle back to how it felt to be skewered by other moms for the way that I helped my daughter survive the heartbreak of not being accepted to the college of her dreams. In truth, I’m still a little scarred. But like I tell my kids: “Never let anyone else steal your sparkle.” So I’m not. I’m using the experience to remind myself and anyone else who will listen that as moms, we need to support one another and be each other’s champions. We need to remember how hard it is to be a mom, and how important the encouragement of our “motherhood sisterhood” can be.
Go smile at a mom who needs your smile. Go hold the door at the diner when you see a mom struggling with her three screaming kids. Go offer your help or a suggestion or a hug to a mom who looks like she’s one breath away from a breakdown. Go remind others to do the same. Go and go now…be a part of making a kind and warm motherhood sisterhood.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
At thirteen, I was into Carly Simon, Charlie’s Angels, and Minute Rice with butter and salt. I didn’t have a world-view or my own nonprofit, but my teachers liked me and I didn’t lie that much to my parents. By fifteen, I had fallen into a groove—and not a good one.
Sophomore year started okay. I had landed a four-dollar-an-hour gig at Villanova Pizza, giving me access to free calzones and a college freshman named Matt who was deadly cute but very short, a weakness I thought gave me, and my brand-new boobs that I caught him looking at more than once, a shot. I went to work in painstakingly chosen outfits—stonewashed single-pleat jeans, an alligator shirt, my transparent Swatch, and Tretorns.
Hear Kelly Corrigan and Jen Hatmaker in Chicago.
I talked about anything I could think of that would make me seem older: concerts I was planning to see, hanging out with my brother at Washington and Lee. Before I could close the deal, Stubby, the manager, called me into the crummy back office. After observing me for five shifts, he said, he had no choice but to fire me. Apparently, I didn’t take my work seriously, as I had proved by showing up late, taking excessive smoke breaks, and asking phone-ins to wait while I finished another jokey exchange with Matt. Oh my God, I’m a loser, I thought, an estimation that I suspect was shared by my brothers, neither of whom had ever been fired, and my mother, though she wouldn’t have phrased it in those terms.
Here’s why every teen needs to know that they are good enough.
But then there was Greenie—who laughed. “It’s not funny, I’m a loser.”
“No, you’re not. You’ll figure it out. You’ve got what it takes, kid.” What could he possibly be seeing in me?
Not one month later, after I’d been cut from the field hockey team and mounted a failed campaign for student government, I went shoplifting at Sears, wandering from department to department, snatching goodies, until an undercover security guy grabbed my elbow. Back in the office, the officer unpacked eighteen items totaling $56 from my backpack: candy, fake jewelry, control-top pantyhose for my mother’s upcoming birthday.
Later that spring, I found myself in a weeklong in-school suspension for being spaghetti-leg drunk at the sophomore semi-formal. I did my time next to kids who had vandalized lockers and given teachers the finger to their faces. I was one of them now, Winona Ryder crossed with Lindsay Lohan. I wanted to be someone better—class secretary and captain of the lacrosse team—not Rejected Candidate, Failed Athlete, Unemployed Pizza Girl, Petty Thief.
During this bang-up year, my mother aged a decade while Greenie, ever faithful, just kept shrugging. He’d come up to my room after work, his tie loose around his neck, a can of Miller Lite in his hand. Sitting on my canopy bed, surrounded by pink-and-white gingham wallpaper laughably incongruous with the derelict who lived there, he’d ask about my latest transgression. I’d blather about my failures, my regrets, my sinking fortunes.
“This is all part of growing up. You’re all right, Lovey.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You’re good enough,” he’d say, patting my knee. “Trust me.”
Back at school, passing student government meetings and listening to announcements about upcoming field hockey games, You’re good enough were the only words I had to combat my deep intuition, to say nothing of the mounting evidence, that I was defective.
In college, shortly after I was called in front of the Panhellenic Council for throwing a sorority happy hour that involved shots for all, even for the official who’d been sent by National to monitor our fledgling chapter, I was fired again, this time from my job as a cashier in the dining hall. A nice man who had worked on campus for years said I was his first-ever “termination,” but what choice did he have after learning that I was giving away Snickers bars to fraternity presidents, soccer players, and our school’s most celebrated exchange student, a lanky, doe-eyed Italian named Matteo who was so mozzafiato I was tempted to throw my undies in there too. In the fall of senior year, I topped off my college career with a DUI that required I spend the night in jail with a hooker named Oz and, in the morning, hand over my driver’s license for six months.
After college, I missed more milestones and made new messes. Twenty-seven pounds overweight, I drank coffee all day and smoked half a pack of cigarettes every night. By thirty, when most of my friends had celebrated their first anniversary and several had become homeowners, I was single and $6,000 in debt. I had yet to take self-care seriously. A mole I ignored turned into an invasive melanoma. But Greenie, blind to the flaws of his beloveds and, I learned, a bit of a late bloomer himself, dismissed my plunging trend line. “I’m telling you, Lovey, you’re gonna get there.” Where? When? I wondered.
Finally, ten years later, after I’d set up a decent life as a functional forty-year-old, after I had become something closer to the person he always thought I would be, I asked Greenie why he had been so sure I’d sort it out. “You know, Lovey, you were never down for long. You’d get cut from field hockey and try out for cheerleading. And then that didn’t work and you did chorus or the diving team. You don’t need to get it right every time, you know what I mean? A couple wins here and there is plenty.”
That’s how it works: someone important believes in us, loudly and with conviction and against all substantiation, and over time, we begin to believe, too—not in our shot at perfection, mind you, but in the good enough version of us that they have reflected. The mentors and rabbis, the grannies on the bema, are certain about things we can’t yet believe: that listening is huge, that there’s might in the act of committing yourself to a cause, that trying again is both all we can do and our great enabling power. They see clearly that we weren’t wrong; our aim was. They know that we are good enough, as we are, with not much more than our hopeful, honorable intent to keep at it. They tell us, over and over, until we can hear it.
This is an excerpt from Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say.
“It’s all in the toss,” my tennis instructor said as we practiced our serves. If the toss is too high, you will have a hard time making contact. If it is too low, you will not have enough time to reach all the way back and your serve will be weak. If you throw it too far off-center, your chance of getting it in is greatly reduced.
As I drove home from my lesson, I started thinking how much the toss in tennis is like creating a college list as part of the application process. If you aim too high, your chances of getting in are slim; if you find schools that don’t match your personality and interests, you may get it in, but it won’t be a good fit. But when you hit it right, the ball pings and almost always gets in.
So how do you help your teen create a balanced college list that pings?
Parents can help their teens create a college list.
6 Ways to Help Your Teen Build a Balanced College List
1. Understand their needs. Start with your teen’s needs, academic interests, academic abilities, and personality to gain a clearer understanding of what schools would be a good fit. It’s easy to get caught up in rankings or what your friends, relatives, or Uncle’s step-son thinks is a good school, but in reality, your child is the one attending college, not them. So start with your kid and look for fit. For example, if they want to major in science or think they want to go to medical school, identify schools that will allow them to thrive in a science major since med school is all about grades. Watch Malcolm Gladwell’s video on how to excel in science regardless of how you did in high school.
2. Use rankings cautiously. US News and World Report is a good starting point to give you a sense of how schools rate against each other, but that is all it is. There are so many other factors that you must consider when making a good match.
3. Be realistic. It’s easy to create a list from the top schools in the country. But those same schools are also the most selective and difficult to get in. Even if your child is a top student in their high school, are they a top student in the country? The world? How do they compare with other top students globally? Because that is whom they will be competing with.
On the flip side, do not aim too low. Find out where they stand in comparison to other students applying and recognize that having the grades and test scores gets you in the game but having something unique makes them a viable player.
4. Identify Schools Where They Can Contribute Their Strengths. Are they a nationally ranked chess player or debater? Are they a talented musician or artist that will contribute to the school in a meaningful way? Are they a recruited athlete? Have they done meaningful research that has been published? Have they overcome adversity and still succeeded academically? Are they kind and have they demonstrated this character in a tangible way? Figure out which schools value your child’s strengths and how they can contribute to their community.
3. Understand the financial component. One of the first discussions you should have about college with your kids is how much money will you contribute and how much will they have to contribute? Find out if you are eligible for financial aid. Go in armed with your budget and choose schools that will meet your need or that you can afford without any financial aid. See which schools provide merit aid and what percentage of need they meet CollegeData is a good place to start. The Money Matters section shows financial aid broken down by need and merit.
4. Be open-minded. Just because you have not heard of a school, does not make it a “bad” school. There are over 4,000 colleges in the United States and sometimes going to one that is different from where everyone else in your child’s school is going, can be a wonderful adventure that allows them to thrive.
5. Think strategically. Why does your child want to go to college? Depending on the answer, their choice of school will vary. If they want to get into a PhD program in history, then see which schools have the highest rate of students accepted to PhD programs in economics. If her goal is to get a job on Wall Street, then speak with career services and find out where most of their students get jobs and which companies come to recruit. If you know someone working in their field of interest, ask them which schools they recruit from most often. If they want to go to medical school, research acceptance rate and medical school advising programs.
6. Encourage them to love their likelies and safeties. They are called this for a reason, because their chances of acceptance are high. The worst thing you or your teen can do is remove all their safety or likely schools and only apply to possible and reach schools.
For a balanced college list, I recommend 1-2 reach, 1-2 possible, 3-4 likely, and 1-2 safety. How do you know which category a school falls into? If your child has Naviance, you can look at the scattergrams to determine where they fall in comparison to other students from their high school. Most colleges also publish their admissions data on the Common Data Set or school publications. For examples, click University of Michigan’s admissions profile here and Dartmouth’s Common Data Set here .
Good luck helping your teen create a list that pings!
Want to learn more about all aspects of college admissions and how to pay for college? Lisa is one of the 10 experts you can work with in Grown and Flown’s premium College Admissions and Affordability Facebook group. We provide a personalized service where experienced experts, including Lisa, answer your family’s admissions and financial aid questions. Free trial week.
She mentors students from all over the world on the college application process, helping them uncover their strengths and develop a personal plan for success.
Lisa holds a BA in European cultural studies and French from Brandeis University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is a Professional Member of IECA, HECA, and NJACAC. She lives in New Jersey. She has three daughters, all of whom have successfully survived the college application process!