Dealing With Death In High School

For the second time this school year, our high school suffered a death in the student body.  Dealing with death in high school is unfortunate, but not new.  What is different I suppose is the way generations handle the loss both in person and on social media.

During the last week of the summer a boy in 16.5’s junior class killed himself.  We live in a small school district and the kids were clearly upset.  (I tend to think some of the energy spent on grieving was reflective of others in the grade.)  Instagram accounts were full of tributes to the boy.  On the community pages on Facebook there was sometimes (in my opinion) over wrought hand wringing asking how could this happen here? How could the signs be missed?

A couple of weeks ago, as winter break was ending tragedy struck 14.5’s freshman class when a boy was rundown (accidentally) crossing a major roadway near our house.   There’s probably more to the story – but you can see the reaction of the kids in all of the grades at the high school the loss was felt.

When I took 14.5 and some of her friends to the corner 24 hours after the accident to leave flowers and remember their friend – each took out their phone and commemorated the moment on Snapchat.  Back on the community pages of Facebook was the same hand wringing asking how could this happen here?  In this case, there was also a link to an accident a couple of years ago that claimed another life.

Perhaps – one day – the intersection will be made safer.  Perhaps one day the lessons of the immediate past will be learned and used.

For now though dealing with death in high school is a generational process – and it plays out across social media.  I can think back to my high school days, I can remember four of my classmates passing during my years at Carey High School on Long Island.  One was murdered, one (maybe two) died from cancer and one was in a car accident.

Dealing with death in high school in the 80’s though was (in my opinion) a much more solemn moment – not commemorated with pictures and posts – but with shared memories and a few hugs.

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The Next Great Debate? Or A Sign of the Times?

teens-staring-at-phonesI’m not a massive fan of the humor/satire site The Onion, but an older video from their site recently made its way to my Facebook timeline – and I was thinking that could easily be me (maybe without a discussion on euthanasia of course).  The surgical attachment of devices to the hands of my teen-aged girls – is this the next great debate? Or a sign of the times?

From The Onion archive story tells the story Caitlin Teagirt a 13-year old who is reduced to simply rolling her eyes and grunting because of digital addiction.

To be fair to 15.5 and 13.5 – I am perhaps guilty too of being over connected (but that’s also how I pay the bills).  But at this point, it’s generally easier for me to communicate with my kids via text – or if I really want to capture attention Snapchat.  Shame on me for getting to this point.

At the same time, I also see technology is the equivalent of making phone calls and gathering up with my friends when I was their age.  For both girls, there is a constant flow of group texts, group Snaps and group Chats – it’s not a lack of socialization.

To me the issue is the dynamic within the house – and the rolling eyes and the ever-present mobile phones.  It’s an uphill battle and one I’m not entirely sure I want to take on – after all I’m not contemplating euthanasia and it’s not getting in the way of the important aspects of home life.

When thinking about the question of if it’s the next great debate, or just a sign of the times – I’ll fall to the latter and accept the present.

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Living In The World We Live In

social media school threatShortly after I got both girls out to school this morning, as I sat down to plot out my day and finish a cup of coffee in came a call from the school district.  It was from the line they use for robo called – ConnectEd they call it.  At that time of day, this is usually an innocuous call – report cards are released, athletic events at the school, PTO fundraiser.  Today it was not the case.  Today was a lesson about living in the world we live in for my older daughter.

This morning’s call was about a “numerous reports” of threats to the school.  Here is the text of the message from the school principal:

Good morning this <the> Principal of the high school to inform parents of a threat to the school circulating on social media.   We have received numerous reports of a “threat to the high school” being posted to social media.  To this point there have been no specific information posted or brought to our attention as to where the threat originated or what the threat is.

At this point we have increased our security presence at the high school and have contacted our School Resource Officer from the 6th Precinct who will be reporting to the high school.

I like parents of all the kids in the high school had a HUGE decision to make on almost no information.  It was interesting to see how things unfolded in the parent groups on Facebook and Pinterest – and some ran for the school to get their kids, others pontificate about the state of our society and some offered prayers.

In a decision I made – which I am not overly concerned being reflective or not of the rest of the community we live in – I decided to leave 15.5 in school, monitor things (not via social media) and be ready in case something came up.  My thought simply is this is the world we live in, and we need to live in – not be afraid of it.

Similar to going to NYC amidst “heightened” terror threats or air travel during these times – this is the world we live in, and we need to be living in the world we live in.

While parents lined up (and complained on social media about the disorganization) to get their kids from the school – I checked in with our police precinct.  It was looking more and more like the threat was a hoax.  I don’t want my daughter to be afraid of the things she’ll face in life, I want her to be smart and confront them.

I am not a reactionary thinker:

A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary status quo of a society

And I don’t want my children to be.  I’d like to think I am deliberate in my thinking and hope to share that trait with my girls:

To deliberate means to carefully think or talk something through — it also means slow and measured, the pace of this kind of careful decision-making. If you chose deliberately, you make a very conscious, well-thought-through choice.

Admittedly, I did hedge.  I changed a couple of morning meetings to calls so I could be closer to home.  As the morning wore on and it became clear things had calmed down at the school I jumped back into the day as planned.  As I was heading toward my new office came the next ConnectEd call offering some further explanation:

You may be aware of a rumor that circulated yesterday evening, March 9, 2016, via a social media group message. After a thorough investigation by the <edit> School District, it was determined there was no confirmed threat to the high school or any school building within the District. The circulated social media group message never stated a threat was scheduled to occur; instead, it consisted of multiple parties asking if other recipients had heard of any possible risk.
As a precaution, the District involved the <edit> County Police Department, who confirmed there was no credible threat. Nonetheless, as an additional precaution, the District has increased security presence at the high school today, March 10, 2016.

As parents we all have to make decision – sometimes snap and often with little information and few facts.  I try to be consistent in decision-making – deliberate and not reactionary.  I want to teach my kids about living in the world we live in – not in an idealized past or non-existent Mayberry.

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Maintaining Lines and Boundaries

lines and boundariesOne of the things that I find most challenging as an only parent is maintaining lines and boundaries – not just between my kids and me but as it pertains to the running of our house with just about everyone.  From the outside looking in, two parent households seem to have an advantage because there is the concept of good cop/bad cop and no one person has to play both roles all the time.

In our house, I bump into this with the girls when it comes to feminine hygiene and product issues.  I admit I am in way over my head for most of it, and rely on the girls to take the lead, and I usually show up with a credit card.  This leads to broader issues with shopping – things that as a boy growing up I never had to deal with.  12.5 needs a specific bikini for camp because everyone in her bunk is getting one.  13.5 needs specific shirts and shorts because her group is the oldest campers this year.

The line is what do you need and we’ll talk about the rest.  The boundary though moves into a social sphere though – and their acceptance and ability to be comfortable in their surroundings.  Issues I can’t control, and boundaries I have to cross.

Having a second parent in the house to sound that out to is a luxury I don’t enjoy.  I am sure there are reasons why it’s not as simple as it appears with two people sharing in decisions, but it certainly looks easier to not have to be the one to make every ruling and then enforce each directive.

Added to the mix in our house now is my brother, and that dynamic helps keep the lines and boundaries blurred.  I have set up rules for my brother in living with us, and have promised my girls its temporary.  But the reality is, it feels more permanent that I want it too….

And then there is my brother not following the rules in place that I use to govern my house.  It’s that house guest who won’t use a coaster, but your children do all the time.  I don’t want to have to “scold” my older brother and point out what he is doing that violates the house norms.  But I also have to maintain the lines and boundaries that keep the house afloat.

It’s a fine line to walk.  But why should I have to clean up after my brother when I don’t clean up after my kids?  Why should I have to unplug a smoking space heater from my brother’s room when my kids can’t even have a space heater in their room?

As any parent has – I’ve invested a lot emotionally, physically and financially in my house and family.  Since I still expect to reap an ROI (return on investment) at some point, I need to protect it.  That’s becoming increasingly difficult to do though when I am not only maintaining two sets of lines and boundaries – but apparently two sets of rules.

When my brother moved in, the agreement was he would leave by the end of February.  Now its the end of April.  Do I have the cachet left with my kids to maintain the boundaries I’ve set up while they see they can be flexible?

So, we’ll go shopping for 12.5’s bikini.  And 13.5 will get the senior camp wear she needs.   And feminine hygiene products will continue to befuddle me.  But I will maintain the lines and boundaries to protect my investment in my girls.

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Overprotective? Perhaps….

So last night was the second night of Passover and I accepted an invitation from a co-worker to join him and his family for a second night seder at his NYC apartment.  In the days leading up to the holiday we talked about whether or not I would bring the girls with me.

Ultimately, I decided no.  This was largely because I was concerned they would be the youngest children there.  The next youngest would be my co-workers’ 15 year old daughter.  Not that I think anything bad would have occurred mind you, it’s just that I did not want to take them to a spot where they did not know anyone and would feel uncomfortable.

As I was rolling home on the LIRR last night, I realized I erred on the side of over-protection.

It’s important to me to make sure I put the girls into a spots where they will succeed.  But it’s also important to challenge them and push them to grow-and this was an opportunity lost.

And by no means was this a huge loss mind you, there will be more opportunities to bring them into more advanced social settings, but I have to make note to remember to give the girls a chance to grow and not worry as much about their being uncomfortable.

One of the things I have marveled at about my girls-from visiting Risa in hospice and helping her eat, to getting through the funeral and unveiling, to going away to sleep away camp-they are adaptive.

Sometimes like last night I need a reminder to let them adapt.

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Labels, Stereotypes and What We Do

A recurring theme lately in our house has been stereotypes and labels.  It’s mostly mainstream stuff and not meant to be hurtful, but still if you watch enough TV or read some current books-you see the stereotypes everywhere.

Sometimes I think it’s just easier to fall back on the labels than to think about people as people.  Other times I think the labels and stereotypes just make it easier.

Who knows? It’s just one more thing the single dad tries to navigate.


video platform video management video solutions video player

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The Reluctant Expert

As we move through life we all gather experiences that help us from who we are, and in many cases can give us a level of expertise in diverse areas.  While we may not be recognized world leaders in a subject, when you get into your social circles, if you think about it some, no doubt you will have an expert on cooking, an expert on baking, an expert on banking and very likely an expert on cancer.

I admit, expert may be a little strong-perhaps its expertise (at least experience).

But what is not over-stated is when you need help, advice or insight into something you will reach into your social fabric and find the person whose opinion you respect and who you think will give you guidance to get you through an event, point in life or a moment in time.

While I like to talk about technology, social media and mobile; the area of expertise I am more often asked about is being there to support a partner with cancer and how to pick up the pieces when cancer strikes.

In fact, if it were not for the last two items on my list above you would not be reading this blog.  Still, it’s not quite expertise I feel blessed to have.  I do feel blessed in some way to be able to positively share my experiences and who knows perhaps even help someone who is facing the decisions I was forced to face.

The reality though is that every situation is just slightly different.  And every situation has different factors that weigh against it-making even real-time experience in my mind somewhat suspect.  Still, I know it has a calming effect to know someone has walked the walk ahead of you.

Over the last month or so, I’ve offered some thoughts and insights to four different people who are setting out on the post cancer diagnosis path.  One is a single woman, two are young families and one is a single guy.  Half of the people are friends of friends the others are friends of mine.  It does not make the advice any different, it perhaps changes slightly the way it’s delivered though.

But I still have this nagging feeling that maybe I should not be in that business because the factors are different, and there is no doubt the outcomes will be different in some way, shape or form.  Still there are the contestants: the treatment’s effects on patient and supporters; a feeling of helplessness when you ask a doctor what you think is a black and white question and get shades of gray as an answer; the stark reality that no matter what the outcome is things will be changed.

While I’d love to be known as an expert in the areas I have a passion, perhaps my calling is to be the reluctant expert in living day-to-day and just making today better than yesterday-because tomorrow is too far away to worry about.

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Reviews, Promotion and Shameless Behavior

So admittedly, I am somewhat shameless in my self promotion and I am good with that.  Very early on in my career I learned the value of self promotion from former NYS Assemblyman Sam Colman.  Mr. Colman’s office would put out press releases nearly every day-and almost any subject.  The why when I asked Mr. Colman one day, “If I’m not out promoting myself, no one is.”

As I think it’s the case with most bloggers, I get a couple of email contacts per week from people looking for promotion-the ask is for me to do a product review.  Usually it’s a mobile app or website, sometimes it’s a physical product and randomly (based on time, level of effort and personal interest) I will agree.

Lately though, I’ve been asked to do reviews for a couple of dating/hook up type websites.  I have some history working with dating sites (I consulted for one when I left CBS last year) but that’s not very well-known.

Generally, this blog gets good traffic and is well targeted so it is appealing for certain brands.

While I am not sure I want to spend a lot of time reviewing dating websites (a subject for, I  another blog post) I guarantee I am not spending money to review your site or your product.  The inner journalist in me will not accept money for writing a review.  But the pragmatist in me will not expend money (and time) to review your product either.

And this is the shameless behavior.

I ask people to download my book-but I don’t offer a coupon.  I ask my friends (people I know directly) to write me up a review as well.  I hope everyone writes a review for my book.

But I’ve never even considered sending out blind emails to a blog owner and giving them a link to my book, asking them for money and then saying please give me a nice review. That’s can’t be the business model for some of these sites, can it?  It certainly does not seem sustainable and seems like it would be a waste of human bandwidth to send out those emails.

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Mixing Social-Old School and New

Currently very popular with 8.5  and her friends is the online game Roblox.  She spends almost all of her unfettered computer time on the site.  (Just for the record her unfettered computer time is about an hour a day).  I’ve tried to play the game and watch her play and honestly I am not completely sure I get the point-but she has fun and it’s safe so all good.

The game has a pretty solid social component built into it-which is also safe, so I don’t have any significant qualms as a parent about the site.  But what is interesting about 8.5 and her friends is that way they play they ignore the site’s social tools and make old-school phone calls to one another.

This is not the Twitter crew just yet and I think they find their typing too slow to fully communicate at the speed of the game-so it’s an open phone line and quality computer time.

The closest parallel I can think of to my childhood-granted long ago-was the times we would call one another and “watch” some prime-time show like Happy Days “together.”

I often wonder if there is a water-cooler type show among my kids and their friends.  Sometimes I get some glimpses of that-Sponge Bob and iCarly top the list.  But in this age of on-demand viewing, there is not the same anticipation of Tuesday night at 8 when Happy Days would be on-and all my friends would watch.  We’d have that shared experience in time and destination (if not place) that we could talk about either on the phone or in school the next day.

So, some old-school tools bridge the shared world of today’s child.  Same idea that lived more than 30 years ago today among my friends and me, but with some modern-day twist.  I guess the bottom line is it’s still whatever works.

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Making Time to Just Catch Up

It’s not an overly new problem-just not enough hours in the day to do all that I want to do, so there are little trade offs here and there-new blog posts aren’t written, shopping isn’t done, books aren’t read and connections are put off or missed.

Nothing new about that certainly, but I have to admit I was hoping to be better about all of this over the summer, yet with starting a new job it only gets tougher, and that’s a good thing for sure.

For readers of this blog, I have a backlog of updates to get to-visiting day at camp, picking colors to pain rooms, trying to get out and be social, answering the well-intentioned question, “How is everyone doing?”

But for now, here’s 100+ words explaining why getting to any of those subjects is a challenge.

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