Friday, September 30, 2011

Even with pep talks, this idea wasn't a slam-dunk

From today's Briefing:

With trepidation and doubt, I have registered Katie in a recreational basketball league.
A few months ago she volunteered that she wanted to play. “Are you sure?” I asked. “You have to run and dribble and follow the rules and go to every practice and every game.” (I would have bowed out at “dribble.”)
She answered yes then and every time since that I’ve asked.
I still considered “forgetting” that she wants to play until past the deadline for winter enrollment. But too many of her first-grade friends are trying the sport, too, and hiding the entire season would be impossible. And mean.
I fought the memories of her two rocky soccer seasons and our calendar already crammed with activities and my daughter’s sometimes fickle nature as I clicked “submit” on the online form just in the nick of time.
So now we wait to be placed on a team (please let it be with other girls from our school) and to learn practice logistics (please let it be at a nearby gym on a day that’s not already booked) and to see the schedule (please let there be no 8 a.m. games).
In the meantime, we continue to talk about commitment.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Put aside the books while teaching the facts of life

From today's Briefing:

When you’re in the throes of a stage with your child, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain perspective.
Like the week we potty trained Cooper. All activities were structured around getting that almost-3-year-old boy out of diapers. We spent 72 hours straight at home, reasoning and coercing, charting and rewarding, pleading and crying.
More than once I imagined a life trapped at home, convinced that this child would never listen to his body. We would be banned from preschools all over North Texas. We’d be pariahs on the playground and at birthday parties.
Then it clicked. And the longest week of our lives was history.
Some stages last longer than others.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mother's film, book explores school food

From today's Briefing:

Mom and documentary filmmaker Amy Kalafa is passionate about what your children eat. And what they’re not eating.
Her documentary Two Angry Moms describes the alarming decline in American nutrition — particularly in America’s public schools — and offers help for parents who want to do something about it.
After the movie was released, she fielded similar emails over and over: How can I improve nutrition in my own child’s school? How can I get involved?
Those constant requests pushed her to write a book, Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children’s Health, which was released last month.
The book describes failures in school nutrition programs and startling statistics about the health of U.S. children — and then offers grass-roots solutions.
Kalafa will sign copies of the book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at A Real Bookstore, 113 Prairie Road, Fairview. I spoke with her by phone in advance of her visit; here are excerpts.
You call yourself an “Angry Mom.” What makes you angry?
It started with frustration. I started speaking with a lot of parents. They all said they are angry. These were parents who wanted to take an active part in this issue.
You think, “Why don’t I just go to the school and help them?” Then we run into The System. Then we find out it’s not so easy. The more you learn about the system, the angrier you get.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Column from 2008

This column ran in Briefing on Sept. 11, 2008. Later this week I'll update how our family has since dealt with 9/11. 

Does your child know about the events of Sept. 11, 2001?

Ours don't yet. Katie is just 3. Cooper, our first child, was barely two months old the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The sense of responsibility and fear that comes with being a new parent was magnified that morning and in the weeks that followed. What kind of world would he grow up in?

That October, we flew to Baltimore for a previously scheduled vacation. We took a commuter train into Washington, D.C., and proudly showed baby Cooper his nation's capital - still standing, still strong, just weeks after an attack on U.S. soil against American civilians.

As he grew, we purposefully avoided discussing Sept. 11. A family vacation to New York City in 2003 did not include a stop at Ground Zero. Steve and I weren't ready to see the emptiness, and there were many other favorite sites to share with our son.

When he was 3 and attended a suburban day-care center, I had a small battle with one of the directors. She was insistent on remembering Sept. 11 at the school, with children no older than 5. She was passionate that toddlers and preschoolers learn about the day's events and recognize our nation's heroes. I was equally passionate that they didn't need to have discussions about planes flying into buildings with their day-care teachers.

But why now, at age 7, does he still not know about a huge event that redefined and continues to shape our country? He's not completely sheltered from current events, though we do limit his exposure to violence. He knows about wars and is thoughtful about why countries disagree and even battle.

I polled some fellow mom and dad friends to find out if they've told their children about Sept. 11. Their answers and reasons why reflect distinct details about their backgrounds and parenting styles.

One family was living in Pennsylvania seven years ago today. The dad of another family was on the last Port Authority train into the World Trade Center that Tuesday morning. For these friends, 9/ 11 is a part of their family histories.

Another family discussed the recent history with their son after he found information on the Internet. His 5-year-old sister doesn't yet know.

Some families haven't broached the subject at all. The mom of a second-grade girl wants to wait until her daughter is more mature and less likely to stress over unnecessary fears. Another friend with three daughters in kindergarten through third grade wants to address the subject individually, when each child is able to understand the complexities of the event and aftermath.

As with most important topics, Steve and I prefer to talk with our kids first, before peers, before school, before other influences. We don't expect the topic to be officially addressed in his second-grade classroom.

There is no statewide curriculum mandate on 9/11, as the history curriculum in place now was written before the attacks. The Texas Education Agency allows local schools to decide how and when to address the events. (American history textbooks approved for Texas students in fifth grade and up published in 2002 and later include references.)

Our son's peer group and increasing awareness of the media are harder to predict. Playground and cafeteria talk veers into uncharted, unsupervised territory. And while the comics section is his first destination in the newspaper each morning, he also takes note of images and headlines on the front page.

So Steve and I are confronting our fears about discussing Sept. 11. How to explain evil. How to explain the senseless deaths of people riding on planes and working in offices and desperately trying to save lives. How New York City, a city he loves for what it is now, was altogether different on Sept. 10, 2001.

How there are questions that don't always have answers and stories that don't yet have endings.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at 

Before church this morning

Friday, September 09, 2011

Today, churros and rowboats; tomorrow, parallel parking?

From today's Briefing:

We were out with friends last weekend in a festive place, with street performers and midway rides and artists for hire and food. Lots of bad-for-you food.
After we drank milkshakes and rode a roller coaster and stared at the mass of humanity around us, we walked by a churro cart.
Our friend, who had resisted the temptation of ice cream, was feeling called by the churro. So he bought one.
Cooper piped up, “Oh, I love churros.”
I was confused. How did my son even know what a churro was? I’ve never fried them at home. I couldn’t remember buying him one. Maybe he was mistaken.

Friday, September 02, 2011

If only parents could be as friendly as their kids

From today's Briefing:

In the Seinfeld episode probably best remembered for a scandal involving alleged nonfat yogurt and Jerry cursing in front of a child, Elaine suggests that everyone in New York City wear name tags, so that strangers can greet one another by name.
The idea was ridiculed in the sitcom.
I suggest we revisit the concept.
This is the time of year when there are all sorts of new people in our lives. The kids have new teachers and new classmates, all attached to new parents. Cooper’s soccer team has expanded by seven new teammates, all attached to new parents. There are new families on the walk to and from school. New families in Sunday school classes. At Scout events. At gymnastics.
So much newness makes this introvert a little nervous. Just when I get comfortable with the folks around me, there’s a lot of shuffling.