If you take it really seriously, parenthood is the most challenging job you’ll ever have. The hours are long and the pay stinks. It requires the most emotional investment and the greatest patience. And no matter how well you do it, there will always be that nagging little voice in your head wondering, “Should I have handled that differently?” But parenthood is also the most rewarding and important role you’ll ever play. And the good news is that we're all in this together...

Saturday, January 31, 2015


OK, full disclosure – I do not have sons, so perhaps I could be chastened for not having a clue what it takes to raise a young man in today’s culture. However, I do have two girls, both of age, one still in college, and both – in my estimation – strong, competent, extraordinary young women. And both, by most accounts in addition to my own, drop dead gorgeous.

So when I read Susanna Schrobsdorff’s “Be Brave, Be Safe” essay in this week’s Time Magazine, her advice to her daughter on handling the dangers of sexual assault on campus immediately resonated. I know what messages I’ve pressed on my daughters about being aware of their vulnerability in different surroundings, dressing appropriately, taking care in engaging with strangers, making smart decisions despite peer pressure and a culture that tends to elevate drinking and casual sex while devaluing loving, clear-eyed intimacy. We’ve talked about nourishing caring, supportive friendships and finding self-esteem in being true to one’s most essential nature. We’ve talked about kindness, generosity, respect, and I truly believe those messages were heard and continue, for the most part, to be the cautionary angel on their shoulders, at least subliminally if not completely hard-wired.

But I have to wonder – what messages are young men hearing, especially the young college men who use the prevailing culture of drunken tomfoolery to excuse sexual assault? Weren’t values like kindness, respect, and self-respect imparted from toddlerhood? What happens in adolescence when testosterone ramps up? What messages are our young men getting – from schools, from the media, and yes, from parents? Are we dropping the ball in the guise of “building strong men?” And why are all the “good” guys, who wouldn’t think of having drunken sex with someone they barely know, not stepping up, stepping in?

“No means no” shouldn’t just be a watch-phrase for young women. That’s a message for everyone, and young people especially need to hear it and have the courage to say it, loud and clear.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The New York Times just reported on the rise of e-joints (brand name Ju-Ju Joints). They look just like e-cigarettes, which a new study shows teens are now using more than tobacco. However, instead of containing liquid nicotine, these vapor pens are filled with roughly 250 milligrams of cannabis oil loaded with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that "adversely affects the developing brain, some studies have found, impairing attention and memory in adolescents and exacerbating psychiatric problems." This has especially disturbing implications for teens. Read the full article...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


For years now, I’ve been beating the drum about the ineffectiveness of multi-tasking, which we all do, especially with regards to electronics – chatting on the phone while we’re driving or cooking or skimming through email, reading the paper while listening to NPR, constantly interrupting any project required sustained thought to check text messages or twitter…But in truth, we’re not really doing several things at once. Rather the brain is shifting quickly and constantly between separate tasks, which not only over stimulates the brain and leads to muddled thinking but releases stress and anxiety-producing hormones. And if we’re actually trying to learn something, like reading important information while watching TV, the brain diverts new information to the wrong part of the brain for proper storage and easy access.

Yet the pleasure and novelty seeking parts of our brain light up with interaction like text or email exchanges, giving us a sense of social connection and a task completed, but leading to a kind of neural addiction. In his fascination article in The Guardian: “Why the Modern World is Bad for Your Brain, ” neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitan adds, “Just having the opportunity to multitask is detrimental to cognitive performance. Glenn Wilson, former visiting professor of psychology at Gresham College, London, calls it info-mania. His research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an email is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points.” 

This can have an especially profound impact on the developing brain (it's still a work in progress til around age 25), and I fear kids are actually hard-wiring their circuitry to be less able to focus on issues demanding more in-depth thinking...