The #ParentingPlaylist from CPTC
When I first heard that the Center for Parent and Teen Communication had put together a “Parenting Playlist”, I assumed it was a list of songs that describe what it’s like to raise a teenager. Songs like “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and “The Theme From Psycho” and “For the Love of God, Please Take a Shower, You Freakin’ Stinkpot” (original song by Wendi Aarons). But I was wrong. The CPTC has instead created 25 awesome 100-word pieces that offer quick, sage nuggets of advice for parents of teens. You can check them all out here, but I’ll tell you my favorite ones right now. Pay attention.
Love Is The Answer
Even when the question is, “Oh my god, why didn’t you turn in your math homework? It’s right there in your stupid backpack!” Yelling and nagging don’t work to keep your teen successful in school and life, despite our best efforts. Plus, I personally always feel like a jerk after I’ve lost my cool. So instead, I do this.
Come In For a Landing
When my boys were small, I definitely had Helicopter Parent tendencies. Like, I’d email the teacher if she didn’t make one of them the line leader when it was their turn. Grosssss. But then I saw that it wasn’t helping either them or me, and it was making all of us stressed out, so I switched to this other approach. It’s so much better and there are no blades involved.
This year my son Sam has a friend who not only has his license, but also a brand-new Mustang. (His parents are obviously much nicer than we are because if anyone’s getting a new Mustang in this house, it’s not the kid.) I trust Sam, but I still feel anxious every time he walks out the door and gets into his friend’s car. This piece of #ParentingPlaylist advicemade me understand why I should just relax already.
What’s the worst reaction you can give someone who’s freaking out? Freaking out in response. “I KNOW YOU’RE UPSET ABOUT YOUR SHIRT, OKAY? CALM DOWN.” It took me a while to learn that I need to override my natural instinct to meet big emotions with my own big emotions. I agree with this technique 100% and wish I’d read it a few years earlier. Like before I had kids. Like in high school.
We Have Ways of Making You Talk
We’ve all asked our kid how their day was at school only to be met with the classic one word response of, “Fine.” Or we’ve gone further and asked about a specific test or class and probably had the door slammed in our faces. That’s why years ago I started asking my sons about something only tangentially related to school. Like, “I had pizza for lunch today. What’d you have? Really? Who were you sitting by? Does he still chew with his mouth open?” Here’s more on why doing it that way works.
Pretty good, huh? And these are just five of the snackable pieces of Parent Teen advice the CPTC offers. Be sure to take a look at the other 20 #ParentingPlaylist nuggets they have on their site. (Yes, I just said both “snackable” and “nuggets” and I’m probably hungry, so don’t judge.) Be sure to test some of the ideas out, consider the others, and make yourself feel good with the ones you’re already doing. Then be a good person and share them with anyone you know who’s knee deep in teenland.
Especially if they have a freakin’ stinkpot in their house who won’t take a shower.
More info on the great resource that is the Center for Parent and Teen Communication:
This post was sponsored by CPTC. All opinions and stabs at humor are mine.
20 Places To Visit Before You Die (When You’re On a Budget)
The local Nissan dealership with the giant inflated ape
Your town’s abandoned mall that now houses a raccoon kingdom in the Orange Julius
America’s 3,401stoldest oak tree (unofficial)
Your neighbor’s house to see her potato that looks like Dolly Parton
A stop sign briefly seen in a 1981 episode of “CHiPs”
The nearest sewage treatment plant (by appointment only)
That house everyone thinks is haunted but is probably just ugly
The red rubber ball that’s been on the roof of your middle school for 27 years
Your town park’s new fountain/busted sprinkler head
The overpass that’s spray painted with misspelled swear words and anatomy
That dry cleaners that claims they once got a stain out of Ryan Gosling’s sweater
The shopping cart that’s been on the median for the past three years
Red Lobster but only during Endless Shrimp Week
The street with the giant pothole that’s always heatedly discussed on NextDoor
The street with the giant pothead who’s always heatedly discussed on NextDoor
The Pyramids of Giza* (*made out of toothpicks)
Nearby historical markers that for some reason all include the word “massacre”
Your cousin Jeff’s Man Cave that he built right before his divorce
The pancake restaurant where the face of Jesus and/or Bradley Cooper appears in a water damaged ceiling panel
The local nightclub where “it all went down”
Toys and More Toys for Tots
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Toys for Tots, the program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve to give holiday toys to children in need. They’ve been bringing smiles to faces for over 70 years, and they really make it simple to do your part in spreading the joy.
And now it’s even easier to donate because you can do it via Amazon. If you have an Echo or another Alexa-enabled device, all you have to do is say, “Alexa, donate to Toys for Tots.” That’s it. Then tell it to play Christmas music or land the space shuttle or whatever it is you talk about. I don’t know. I’m not in your house. You and your Alexa have your own special relationship.
BUT, here’s the best part: after you tell Alexa to donate to Toys for Tots, Amazon will match your donations throughout the end of the year – toy for toy – doubling everyone’s contributions. How great is that? This is the first time customers can donate a product to charity via voice shopping (which is apparently a term we’re using now. Voice shopping.) So not just one, but two teddy bears, not just one, but two Barbie dolls, not just one, but two whatever it is that kids play with now. I have no idea because my sons are teenagers and their wishlists just say, “Cash.” But it’s the best two for one you can get.
I hope you’ll all take a minute to do this, because that’s literally all it takes is a minute, and help Amazon and the USMC bring more smiles to even more faces this year. Here’s a nice video about the program.
The Age of Influence
I’ve experienced quite a few undignified things as I’ve gotten older. I’ve hurt my back while sneezing. I’ve been invited to check out a new assisted living center and meet “vibrant seniors” my age. I’ve struggled to keep my hands in my pockets so I don’t choke the neck of the X-ray tech who said, “I won’t ask you if you’re pregnant because hahaha yeah right.” You know it’s hard out here for a 50-year-old.
But despite the sting of the indignities, my ego is doing just fine because there’s something else that comes along with age and it’s pretty damn great. I have become a Know-It-All.
By that I don’t mean I’ve gotten smarter. No, I still yell, “What is Hercules!” at all of the bible category questions when I watch Jeopardy! It’s just that I now know enough about life to give advice to younger people. Mostly unsolicited advice, if I’m being honest. Like last week when I said “Excuse me” while passing a woman in a store and she immediately gasped, “Sorry!” I stopped, turned around, and told her there was absolutely no reason for her to apologize because she has a right to exist. Even in Nordstrom’s. Then I suggested she take the word “sorry” out of her vocabulary, and also not buy the poly/cotton blend sweater she was holding because god knows those things never look good after the first wash.
It occurs to me that being a Know-It-All might also mean I’m super obnoxious.
But here’s something else that happens when you get older: you no longer give a shit about what people think of you. I know I certainly don’t. And this not worrying about saying or doing the right thing all of the time is unbelievably liberating. Freeing. With each passing year, I feel lighter and I’m not even going to turn that into a Weight Watchers joke because it’s true. I wish I’d had this confidence twenty years ago.
Which brings me to a discussion about this very topic I recently had at a dinner hosted by my friend Meredith Walker, Executive Director of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and Karen Chong, Director of Audience & Influencer Engagement at AARP. The topic that evening was “Mentoring the Next Generation” and the question was how can we best impart our experience and knowledge to youngsters while also taking away the stigma of aging. The twenty Austin women gathered, women accomplished in the worlds of art, music, film, politics and business, definitely had a lot of good insight and not just because we also had a lot of good wine on the table. (That’s another thing I’ve become a know-it-all about. Wine. Okay, not really, but I did recently turn down a glass of $3 white zinfandel.)
My friend Meredith has been a favorite person of mine for many years, and one of the reasons why is because she has devoted her career to mentoring. Through her work, she’s realized the impact that an older woman can have on a girl’s future. As she puts it, “We need to reach down and help those growing up.” She believes that mentoring is a responsibility for all of us, whether we’re parents, teachers, coaches or the weird woman in a store who has strong opinions on fabric. It’s just the right thing to do.
Of course, if we want to encourage this shared wisdom between young and old generations, we have to first take away the stigma of aging. We have to make people my age realize how valuable our knowledge is and feel good about sharing it. After all, how does it help the world if you know great ways to negotiate a raise, but keep them to yourself? Tell the women in your office. Tell the women in your family. Tell me because I have my eye on a sweet new convertible. But just think of how much you would have loved to have someone’s insight when you were younger. “Be the person you hoped you’d be,” as Meredith says.
And if you’re a younger woman and someone older offers you advice? Listen. Listen because they’ve already been on your path and know where all of the potholes and wrong turns lie. Yes, it’s easy to dismiss a woman 40+ because she may be a little gray, a little wrinkled and she thinks “Rihanna” is pronounced “Rye-hawn-ah” (an honest mistake). But don’t dismiss these people because doing that isn’t good for anyone. Thinking older women aren’t relevant is called “ageism” and that’s a total jerk move even Ryehawnah wouldn’t make.
Karen Chong, Director of Audience & Influencer Engagement at AARP, told us at the dinner that aging stereotypes are insidious, and internalizing them can take seven years off your life. “It’s as bad for you as smoking,” she said while we all silently calculated all of the amazing things we could do in those seven years. So many Netflix binges. “Plus,” she added, “50 isn’t what it used to be. 50 is the midpoint of life and it should be a rite of passage that’s celebrated.” As someone who spent her 50th birthday badly dancing to Prince with a houseful of weirdos I call friends, I wholeheartedly agree.
But no matter how old you are, remember this: Aging is wisdom and it’s a privilege. When someone asks you how old you are, don’t shy away from answering. Tell them the number. Be proud of the number. Spell the number out in freaking firecrackers and light them off with a match you’re holding in your teeth, I don’t care. But own your age. Live your age. Love your age. And then share what you’ve learned at your age with others because it’ll make all of us better people. I really think it will.
See, I told you I was a Know-It-All.
Thank you to DisruptAging for sponsoring this post and for the wonderful dinner. All opinions (and the bottle of wine I stole) are mine.
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a GenderAvenger
Question: What do you call five white men and no women sitting on a stage?
D) All of the above
If you answered D, congratulations! You win a prize for being correct. And your prize is that I’m going to tell you why gender imbalance needs to be called out and how you can easily do it via the GenderAvenger app! (Sorry if you were hoping the prize was a car, but this is a budget operation here at wendiaarons.com. I’m no Oprah.)
When I was growing up, men outnumbered women in most places of power: panels, news shows, management, etc. It wasn’t until I was 14-years-old that Sandra Day O’Conner was appointed the first woman on the US Supreme Court and even that was an anomaly. I admit that I didn’t really think about this lack of women or why I wasn’t represented. It was just how things were. The only time I ever saw a majority of women onstage was during the Miss USA pageant where we girls were expected to be inspired by Miss Indiana tap dancing in a bikini to an Al Jolson song. Thank goodness baton twirling never seemed like a good career option to me. I just don’t have the coordination.
Of course, as I got older and more aware, I definitely noticed the lack of women on panels and in management. I worked in the movie business and in advertising, where there was a lot of all-male glorification going on. Just look at the staff of most late night comedy shows, for example. It’s like a sausage fest every time the Letterman writers walk on stage to accept an Emmy. That’s discouraging for any female who has hopes of some day joining their ranks, but these men will continue to only hire other men as long as they get away with it.
So let’s stop them.
The past few years have brought more and wider attention to gender imbalance, and that’s great for all of us. This awareness is due in large part to social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are great platforms for women to call out panels of all men, popularly known as “manels.” (Not to be confused with manspreading, which is what a man does on a manel when he’s mansplaining about his manscaping, man.) But it’s this public calling out that’s led to the organizers of events finally realizing they need to work harder to bring more (or even SOME) diversity to their speaker line-ups. Thank goodness. Welcome to 2018, everyone.
One of the best ways to highlight the gender imbalances you see is via the easy and fun to use app from GenderAvenger. I made a few tallies with it, including a couple that seemed appropriate during election season. Like this one of our current US Congress. Is the population of the United States 80% male? No? Then why is the US House of Representatives? Maybe they don’t know what “representative” actually means.
Things in the Texas Senate aren’t much better, with 75% of the Senators male and not a single women of color. Yeehaw.
This election year, we’ve seen a surge in women, women of color and non-binary people running for office, so I hope I can soon update these charts and see more balance. It’ll be interesting to keep making tallies and see the progress as white men lose their deathly grips on power.
Gender imbalance isn’t only in politics, of course. I did a Google search for the top film critics, curious to see if it’d changed from being mostly male like I remember from years ago. Surely with all of the smart, film-educated women there are now, the balance would be closer. Nope. This majority of men considered “top critics” is pretty ridiculous when women filmmakers are striving for more work, and the thing that’ll help them get it is positive reviews from critics who understand their art better than old white guys. (Although I’m sure Roger Ebert would have loved “Wonder Woman.”)
Sometimes using the GenderAvenger app leads to pleasant surprises, however, like when I looked at the speaker line-up for the Smart Social Summit being held in Austin this month. I tallied the genders and what did I find? More women than men! I’m still in shock, and I’ll be talking up this summit to anyone who mentions a manel, that’s for sure. Good job, Smart Social Summit.
Download the app and create your own tallies for comedy shows, lists of top authors, bylines in the newspaper and other things that seem out of balance. The tally you make can then be titled and automatically posted to social media and shared with your followers. Spread the word about both the good and bad balances you come across in your daily life and it’ll enact change. I really think it will.
Another cool thing you can do with the app is time who’s talking. Like if you’re at a city council meeting, each time a man is talking click “A Dude” and each time a woman is talking, click “Not a Dude.” Hmmm, I wonder which person will speak longer? says the woman who just had a cellphone salesman mansplain to her how phones work. But if there’s someone hogging the mic, call him out.
And when you do see something that’s done well? When there’s a great balance? Let GenderAvenger know and they’ll award them with their Stamp of Approval.
I hope you’ll download the app and start sharing your tallies. If enough of us do it, it’ll make a difference. And real change is way better than winning a new car, right? For more information, visit https://www.genderavenger.com/.
This post was sponsored by GenderAvenger, but all opinions and attempts at humor are mine.