Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Service of How Much to Spend on Gifts for Children

Thursday, July 20th, 2023


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

A reader asked Philip Galanes, who responds to reader questions on “Social Q’s” in The New York Times, if it was OK to ask guests invited to the joint birthday party for her four- and seven-year-old offspring, to donate to their 529 college savings plans instead of bringing gifts.

His reply to this question*** wasn’t nearly as interesting as his comment about part of the mother’s query. She’d written: “My children don’t need any more toys, and it pains me to see a $50 toy ignored when that same $50 could help pay their tuition someday.”

Galanes wrote: “I may be out of step here: I would not be giving children $50 gifts, either. (Put me down for a book or a fun craft project at $20 a pop.)”

I’m with Galanes. Imagine having to drop $100 for your kids to attend a birthday party for these two?

I would further surmise that if the mother’s circle routinely gives $50 toys to her children’s young friends, she should be able to cover the kids’ tuitions when the time comes by putting aside enough money yearly from her income and by substituting expenditures on overpriced toys with creativity.

***For those who don’t want to link to the column, here’s Galanes’s advice regarding the reader’s question: “But I don’t think a backyard birthday party for small children is the right venue for soliciting contributions to college savings plans.”

If you’re not a close relative, how much do—or would–you spend on children’s birthday gifts? Have you been asked to donate to a child’s college fund?

Service of Entitlement

Monday, February 20th, 2023

Have you noticed that the world seems to revolve around some, at least they think so. They are right even if wrong. I’ve observed such behavior by mothers especially of young children. They are exempt from rules or empathy.

Here’s what inspired me to write about this dynamic, one that I’ve noticed over many years: I saw a mother settle her three-year-old in the seat behind the bus driver on a local Third Avenue Manhattan bus last week. She parked her stroller in the aisle near the door [Photo above]. There was little room for oncoming passengers to slip by. I was amazed at her audacity when she did nothing to move it as the bus moved to the next stop. There was plenty of time to find my phone and snap the photo well before the fireworks.

When he realized she was obstructing the entrance, the driver told her she couldn’t stay where she was with the stroller and an argument ensued. Another passenger—her back is to the camera; you see a part of her plaid wool jacket in the photo —took her side, saying the driver was terrible and “you work for us!” [Actually, he works for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).] The driver said: “It’s not my rule, it’s the MTA’s.” Verbal attacks continued. The supporting passenger took a photo of the bus’s number–5927–as she exited.

The mother claimed that he was a bad driver as an excuse for staying up front. Hard for her to know this as he hadn’t yet moved an inch when she’d helped her child into the front seat and staked her position.

For one thing, this couldn’t have been the woman’s first time on a bus with a 36-month-old toddler. She had to know the layout.

Finally, she folded the stroller [photo right]. But she didn’t need to. None of this was necessary!

The bus has an area–the circular section with metal floor–designed for such gear. [See the photo, left.] I park my rolling shopping bag filled with groceries there and others their suitcases and large parcels. Women who entered the bus with strollers after the entitled mother got off headed to that spot. [See the photo below.]

I waited for the mother and the supporter-passenger to exit and told the driver how I interpreted the scene and explained that I didn’t enter the fray on his side for fear of starting WWIII. He agreed and said I was right to stay out of it and when I mentioned that I’d taken photos—and planned to write about the instance on my blog—he gave me his name: Jonathan Green. He was grateful for my support and thanked me many times. It happened on Thursday, February 16 around 8:45 am.

I’ve felt picked on in meetings and nobody took my side during or after. That’s why I spoke with the driver so he could forget about the incident and not let the unfairness of the verbal attack gnaw on his spirit the rest of the trip.

Adding flame to the fire with strangers in these incendiary times would have been risky for me. However, I’m sent a monthly survey by the MTA and in response to February’s I wrote about what happened last Thursday. While I doubt the MTA would connect the dots between my writeup and the woman in the plaid jacket who may have lodged a complaint about Mr. Green, you never know. Maybe we’ll balance each other out.

Do you think that there are categories of people—such as mothers or children’s caretakers—who should be given a pass to do as they please when out in public without regard for others’ safety or convenience? What about those who care for disabled people? The elderly?

Service of Taking a Chance

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

There are plenty of chances we take that augur positive outcomes such as starting a business or a relationship. This post isn’t about those.

I’m the last one to point a finger at anyone who takes the reckless kind of chance. If I’m running late, I’ll dash across an avenue in the middle of the street if nothing is coming when I once fell due to a pothole on such an avenue and broke my foot. I was lucky that time as I wasn’t run over. It took me a moment to pick myself up and limp to the sidewalk, out of harm’s way. As my foot recovered, it took me a while to cross an avenue without concern.

Here’s another example. I was surprised to see a tot settled in a chair in a public place last week [photo above]. He was absorbed by his phone. At first I admired the length of his concentration. He might even have dozed off. After 15 minutes I was alarmed that he was still alone. We all were applying for a NYC I.D. which entailed waiting in line to show a clerk our credentials to confirm our residence; filling out a form she gave us in a second space and sitting, where the baby and I were, for another clerk to call us to take our headshots.

Eventually a woman scooped the toddler off his chair.

This reminded me of a mother who asked me to hold her baby at O’Hare in Chicago while she dashed in the ladies’ room. I was alarmed but she returned soon enough. I asked her how she dared leave her precious child in the care of a stranger. “I saw your husband at Champaign Urbana Airport,” she said. “He was wearing a uniform.” I shuddered on her behalf knowing the flimsiness of the security that accompanied the assumption that I was responsible and not some nut.

Do you take reckless chances, and have they worked out OK or are you smart enough not to?


Image by Marcel Gnauk from Pixabay

Service of Who Took the Children Out of Christmas and Hanukah Department Store Window Decor?

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Bloomingdale’s Louis Vuitton holiday window made of Legos

I guess Christmas and Hanukah and their iconic symbols designed to enchant youngsters no longer inspire NYC holiday windows, or so a few major retailers made me believe. And what children appreciate the senior members of their families often do as well. For decades trains and marching soldiers enthralled New Yorkers and tourists of all ages. Some things never get old. The last year Citibank installed a major train display in Manhattan there were lines to see it daily. I visited with my husband. I can’t forget the dad at the front of the display who had to tear away his three-year-old who screamed in protest when pulled off the line to make room for others. The crowd was mesmerized.

Bloomingdale’s holiday window featuring giant camera

Yesterday I was looking at Bloomingdale’s holiday windows as was a couple with a toddler in a stroller. The little one was staring at the windows without expression. His blank look—and the subjects of windows there and at Saks—gave birth to this post.

At Bloomingdale’s, I didn’t get the connection to holidays other than accents of red and green plaid ribbon and a giant plastic teddy bear. Louis Vuitton’s window was slightly child-oriented because it was designed with Legos. But the static design—a blue and white checkerboard tree with a “skirt” of multicolored Legos heaped in piles and a blue and white background–was bleh and not eye-catching to a little one. The oversized camera and scissors in other windows didn’t score nor did the child manikins dressed in bizarre fur onesies.

Window at Saks. Photo: Nancie Steinberg

What about Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows?  Nancie Steinberg’s images didn’t shout children either. In fact, I had to read media coverage to understand what I was looking at. Do you think a child would think, “Aha! I recognize the toys inspired from ‘special gifts from years past,’ also described as ‘nostalgic’ and ‘heartwarming,'” according to press reports? Only two examples of toys of yore were referred to: a kaleidoscope and rocket ships. And boy were those references subtle.

In addition, Justine Golata reported in secretnyc, “Saks has teamed up with Sir Elton John for this year’s holiday campaign to support the British singer’s AIDS foundation, The Rocket Fund, which includes a $1 million donation and dedicated holiday window displays. People can also shop the Elton John x Saks Fifth Avenue special holiday collection where $500,000 in proceeds will go towards The Rocket Fund, regardless of sales.” Now I get the rocket window.

I’m all for charity at any time of year and I like Sir John and his work. Did Saks really need to import him to attract store traffic? And what does he have to do with Christmas or Hanukah?

How hard would it have been to honor Charles Schulz, who turned 100 this year, featuring his ever-popular Peanuts gang? Or for those who insist on breaking from tradition to be trendy and fresh what about a contemporary setting through which trains might travel—it could be enchanting.

Anyone remember the windows at Lord & Taylor? The lines in front were four+ people deep.

Could it be that adults don’t like to shop with their children in tow anymore so commercially, windows that would enchant kids are not viable? Are the windows I mentioned fabulous and visually over my head? Or do children take a backseat as a retail priority during the December holidays these days?

Saks holiday window. Photo: Nancie Steinberg

Service of “I Wonder What Happened to…..”

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

I’ve rarely played this mind game. A recent conversation reminded me of a baby I once knew and I wondered what had become of him.

I babysat for him for a month in Boston the summer after my sophomore year. His parents lived in a beautiful home. I never saw his mother, a natural beauty, touch him. I’d arrive at my scheduled time–10:00 a.m.–and he’d be in his playpen wearing diapers from the night before. You can imagine the raw condition of his skin. Milk that had dribbled from his cup had begun to sour in the heat. She’d tell me to warm and feed him the same food for lunch day after day, usually leftover from a dinner party. He’d eat it, unless she came into the kitchen where his highchair was, and then he’d stop eating. She’d complain that he wouldn’t eat. He was an intelligent child but at two didn’t utter a word.

She’d reprimand me if I changed his damp clothes after his afternoon nap, before going to the park again. She didn’t like dealing with all that laundry even though I folded it while he slept. I’d bathe him before I left for the day unless his father came home early as he liked to give him his bath. The little one would run, joyfully, into his father’s arms when he opened the door.

She asked me to join them for a month where they were going to vacation. I used the excuse that I couldn’t leave the city. On my last day she told me she was pregnant.

I don’t remember their names or I’d look for him on Google.

Do you ever wonder what happened to someone?

 
Image by rafael1979 from Pixabay

Service of Thoughtless Actions and Words

Thursday, December 30th, 2021


Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

I’ve opened my big mouth at times off-putting others, though I try so hard not to. A friend reprimanded me, after we moved to Manhattan from Brooklyn, because I told him that our apartment was on “the wrong side of Park Avenue.” He said I sounded arrogant. And I despise arrogance.

I witnessed a woman who didn’t think when she sailed out of the hair salon last week, wishing all and sundry a Merry Christmas following up in a voice that could have been heard across the street saying “Gotta run: I’m off to get my hair cut.” When I asked the salon owner if she thought the customer noticed people cutting hair all around her she shrugged and said “she gets her manicures here.”

The owner shared an incident that did broil her about a customer with severely dry hair. She showed her three products that would reverse the problem and explained how and when to use them. “Let me photograph them so I can buy them on Amazon,” said the customer who knew that the salon also sold the products. The owner added that Amazon didn’t have all the experience she’d shared with the woman and admitted that she didn’t say this to her.

A friend who owns a New England shop told me that a customer walked in recently, looked around and said, “Is this all there is?” Another day she found a 30-something photographing her greeting cards. “I want to text the images to my friends,” she said. The shop owner asked the woman to stop. Did the potential customer [who bought nothing] think she was in a museum?

mage by kaleido-dp from Pixabay  haircut

We’ve come a long way from the days my mother asked me to take supermarket groceries home before buying the bread my dad liked at the neighborhood deli. [Supermarket bread tasted like cotton.] She explained that it was rude to enter a business with purchases from another.

You be the judge if the point of Melinda Wenner Moyer’s New York Times article is pertinent to the subject. It was Thanksgiving, she wrote, and her seven year old ordered her grandfather, whom she rarely saw, to “stop taking pictures and put down your camera.” 

Wenner Moyers wrote: “Children who feel comfortable challenging their parents or grandparents about rules and expectations, who occasionally say sassy or rude things, are, in essence, kids who know they are loved and accepted for who they are.”

At the end of the article she added “Do I wish my daughter had been more polite in asking her grandpa to put down his camera? Absolutely. But I’m also proud that she’s brave enough to advocate for herself, and that she knows she has a voice within our family.”

It was fun to read the comments linking to this article “Why Your Kid’s Bad Behavior May Be a Good Thing: The safer children feel, the more they can show their true selves — warts and all — experts say. And that’s good for their development.” I didn’t read them all but starting at the top, many expressed concern about the kind of adults these children will turn out to be.

Do you think there’s a connection between unfiltered words and actions and upbringing or is it more of a personality thing? Have you witnessed thoughtless speech or behavior?  Do you agree that a child’s bad behavior is a positive thing and is good for their development?

Service of the Child in All of Us

Monday, April 26th, 2021

Scott Simon, NPR, interviewed Sandra Boynton and Yo-Yo Ma on “Weekend Edition” this Saturday about their collaboration for toddlers: “Jungle Night,” printed on thick paperboard. It comes with a downloadable recording that in addition to narration features a variety of animal snore noises–made by instruments–and includes a lullaby, “Jungle Gymnopédie No. 1.” The music is a combination of Ma playing Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 backed by Ron Block on guitar, and Kevin MacLeod on drums.

During the interview Ma–and I quote loosely–said “I have the mind of a child. Every time I perform it has to be as though on a clean chalkboard; I start new every time. I’m not doing something because I did it yesterday.” He said his performances require a beginner’s mind and described a sandcastle at the beach that is different every day because the tide wipes out the previous one.

I imagine that a successful stage actor who plays the same role week after week must go about it similarly as did cookbook author/TV personality Julia Child. She worked on recipes countless times until she got them right nevertheless showed such joy and a feeling of discovery when she shared her tips on her TV show.

Many approach their creative jobs in the opposite way. A comment made by a former colleague, when I was at the intermediate level in the PR business, was a head scratcher. How the boss didn’t fire him when he was asked, “Why are you suggesting XYZ tactic for the client?” and he responded, “Because we’ve always done that,” was a mystery.  In another example, a client asked “why can’t we send out the same press release for each collection launch–just change the title?” The client wasn’t on the design side fortunately and would not have understood Ma.

Some of the best public speakers and many people others like having around share a youthful spirit and energy–a joie de vivre which has little to do with their age or lack of fame. A great aunt and my mother lived into their 90s. They were blessed with the spark. Neither were the slightest bit childish, nor is cellist Ma. There’s a difference.

Do you know people who approach their work and life with the freshness and enthusiasm of a child–often backed by study and hard work–resulting in magnificence? For what projects do you evoke the child that was in you?

Service of Fraternity Behavior During a Pandemic: The Winner Loses

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Some adults never grow up. That can be good if they keep the enthusiasm of discovery and optimism of youth and discard the foolhardy aspects.

When I first heard about covid parties I thought “fraternity behavior.”  The winner of a Covid-19 party is the first person to become infected by the virus after one sick person joins a room full of healthy ones. The “honor” often comes with cash if each guest puts money in a pot for the prize.

The tragedy is that a 30 year old died of coronavirus contracted at such a party. “‘He didn’t really believe, he thought the disease was a hoax. He thought he was young and he was invincible and wouldn’t get affected by the disease,’ [Dr. Jane] Appleby told KSAT.” Dr. Appleby is chief medical officer at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio.

The concept of such a party is nothing new–just the winner who loses part is. In my 20s I was invited to parties that took place on winter Fridays after work where each couple put money in a pot to cover the cost of a weekend for two on a tropical island–flight and hotel paid for by the money collected. Couples with kids made arrangements for their care should they win. There was a drawing early enough in the evening for the winners to get to the airport with a small satchel filled with summer clothes that they’d brought with them. The losers stayed to enjoy the rest of the party.

How can the message about the dangers of a pandemic get so lost and misunderstood? Did covid party goers not notice sheltering at home that must have happened for some reason? Or how it has impacted their lives and the economy? I’ve witnessed apathy about politics with acquaintances throughout my life but ignoring or dismissing this virus as no biggie would be like going on a tap water diet before Flint Michigan addressed the poison coming out of its faucets.

Service of The Perfect Balance of Digital Technology for Kids in Schools & At Home

Monday, November 12th, 2018

What amount of screen time is best for children in school and at home? Some feel that being comfortable using internet-connected devices is the best way to stay current and be job-ready when the time comes. Others fear that too much screen time is a damaging distraction.

As of this September, French children from three through 15 must turn off or leave at home their smartphones, tablets and other devices when in school. CNN’s Rory Smith reported that it’s up to each school whether older school children have the same restrictions. The French education minister said that the law, which passed by 62 votes to one, is to keep kids from the “phenomenon of screen addiction…. to protect children and adolescents.”

Lucille Grippo, who lives an hour and a half north of NYC, has three school aged children. She wrote me: “Our school district had a viewing of the movie ‘Screenagers.’ As a parent of teens it was eye-opening. I am one of the few that wish there was less tech in schools. It’s a double edged sword. It certainly makes life easier for teachers and students alike but I wonder about the affect on the brain of so much screen time.”

Lucille has learned how fragile brains can be from firsthand experience. If her name is familiar it’s because in January I re-posted a blog she’d written, “Why a Calendar is so Important to Me” in my post, “Service of Calendars and Miracles.” This young mother had suffered cardiac arrest out of the blue. At first, due to cortical blindness, she couldn’t see numbers and days on a calendar. Aphasia blocked connections that deciphered what appeared to be strange symbols. She also couldn’t read emails and posts on a computer screen..

After fierce physical, occupational and speech therapies and ferocious determination, her eyesight returned and today she even drives. When circumstances beyond her control forced her away from the “screen” and “offline” she realized how easy it was to step away. Reluctantly returning to her iPhone, tablet and laptop she recognized how the world around her operates on a paperless, electronic, and digital way. Sometimes her brain still has screen time overload.

Back to the documentary. Filmmaker Delaney Ruston, MD’s “Screenagers” synopsis begins: “Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span?” She wonders about the impact and friction at home and in school over the some 6.5 hours/day children spend looking at screens. The film explores “struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction.” It includes “insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists and reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and offers solutions on how adults can empower kids to best navigate the digital world and find balance.”

Dr. Ruston writes the blog Tech Talk Tuesday. In a recent issue she reported: “Fact: Schools experience pressure to have tech on their campuses from tech companies, administration, and others. Schools want to do well by their students and tech has been sold as a quick fix. For example, schools keep hearing from tech and curriculum companies that ways to ‘personalize and customize learning’ is right around the corner.

“Unfortunately, it has been a very long corner with no impressive results yet,” she added referring to a New York Times article, “The Digital Gap Between the Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected.” The Times reported that Utah, with no funding for a traditional program, has 10 thousand children enrolled in an online preschool. “…one can see how the screen has stepped in,” she wrote.

Her research showed that grades and emotional well being were improved when schools had stringent policies restricting cell phones. The devices were permitted by 66 percent of public middle schools vs. 34 percent of private schools in her study.

Do you think a child restricted from free access to online devices will fall behind his/her peers? Will eliminating the distraction help children focus on school? Might there be less online bullying? Are you distracted by your phone and the siren call of checking what’s up on social media and your email box?

Service of Family: No Marriage, No Children=No Family & Unfit to Serve?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

I was at an auto dealership in upstate New York last weekend speaking with an insurance company customer service rep. Our salesman was arranging for the transfer of our insurance to a new car and when done, he passed me the phone.

After “Hello”—I’d expected a quick “confirming that you’re Jeanne Byington leasing a car,”–but instead the rep bombarded me with questions starting with “What’s your PIN number?” I panicked, looked at my husband and we spat out a few options. The rep interrupted me and then asked, “What is the name of your child?” I answered: “I don’t have one.” He said, “You have to call back. I’ve been logged out.” Click.

So we called back, this time logging in with a PIN number, which worked thank goodness, and we reached a pleasant woman who took the information she needed from the salesman and she then asked me: “What’s your child’s birthday and year of birth?” I told her I don’t have children, but decided to share the birth info of my stepdaughter to move things along. That was the right answer. The company, its staff or computer had assumed that everyone has a kid and that my husband’s daughter–he uses the same company for a range of services—was also mine.

I immediately thought of a comment I read on Twitter by author Father James Martin, @JamesMartinSJ,  regarding the replacement of the fired House of Representatives Chaplain Father Patrick J. Conroy: “The idea that a priest can’t be House chaplain because he’s not a ‘family man’ is absurd and borderline anti-Catholic. Priests have families: mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews. Also, by that yardstick, Jesus Christ wouldn’t qualify.”

He was responding to a remark by Mark Walker, a Republican representative from North Carolina who is on a committee to find a new chaplain. According to The Hill, Walker said: “I’m looking for somebody who has a little age, that has adult children, that kind of can connect with the bulk of the body here, Republicans and Democrats who are going through, back home the wife, the family—that has some counseling experience…”

I take Walker’s comment a step beyond religion: Is Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor unable to do her job appropriately because she never married nor had children yet her judgments impact citizens?

Nobody knows for sure why the Chaplain was fired. According to America Magazine’s Michael J. O’Loughlin who wrote “House Republicans rebuff investigation into firing of Jesuit chaplain,” New York Representative Joe Crowley noted that “Mr. Ryan and other Republican members of Congress were unhappy with the chaplain for delivering a prayer in November they viewed as partisan.” Father Conroy reported to The New York Times that after he offered the prayer on taxes, Mr. Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”  While the Republican tax bill was on the table Father Conroy had urged the planners not to create “winners and losers.”

O’Loughlin wrote that “Mr. Ryan told Republican colleagues on Friday that some lawmakers felt Father Conroy was not providing appropriate pastoral care to House members.” I heard Representative Peter King from Long Island, NY disagree on TV news with this allegation.

So why did it take the House seven years to react if this was so? In his work as pastor at numerous churches as well as chaplain at Georgetown and Seattle Universities, for how many people had he provided pastoral care without complaint?

In a subsequent interview with Walker, Scott Wong reported in The Hill in “Conservative leader: Next House chaplain should have a family” that the congressman said “When you walk the journey of having a kid back home that’s struggling or made some bad decisions, or when you have a separation situation or your wife’s not understanding the [congressional] schedule, having somebody who’s walked in those shoes allows you to immediately related a little bit more than others.”

To be effective, must a grade school teacher have children; a female psychiatrist counsel women exclusively, or an obstetrician be female? Is an unmarried man or woman or a couple with no children, regardless of religion, without family? Is a doctor who doesn’t suffer from his/her specialty unqualified to treat that disease? Are there certain jobs unmarried or childless people are ill-equipped to have?

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