Below, I’m re-posting an essay from earlier this year, which I can’t help but run again in light of this weekend’s NY Times Magazine piece, “Prep School Predators: The Horace Mann School’s Secret History of Sexual abuse.”
What struck me about NYT piece most was this exchange, right at the start:
Shortly after my arrival, a new friend walked me around the school, pointing out teachers to avoid.
“What do you mean? Like, they’re hard graders?”
“No. Perverts. Stay away from them. Trust me.”
I heard about some teachers who supposedly had a habit of groping female students and others who had their eyes on the boys. I heard that Mark Wright, an assistant football coach, had recently left the school under mysterious circumstances. I was warned to avoid Stan Kops, the burly, bearded history teacher known widely as “the Bear,” who had some unusual pedagogical methods. Even Clark came in for some snickering: he had no family of his own, and he had a noticeably closer-than-average relationship to the Bear, another confirmed bachelor.
I mean, seriously: this could have been written about MY prep school. EVERYBODY AT HORACE MANN KNEW about these guys … just like everybody at my school knew about Mr. Amazing-Inspiring.
So here it is again, because it bears repeating over and over and over again — the best defense is TEACHING YOUR KIDS TO QUESTION AUTHORITY.
ALL AUTHORITY. ALL THE TIME.
Once upon a time, I was one of four or five students in a Classics seminar led by a mysterious iconoclast. We were a tight knit bunch, loyal to each other and our tutor, perhaps slightly incestuous in our dealings with one another … and eventually that led us to murder one of our own.
Wait — that’s not me. That’s the plot of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I didn’t kill anyone. The rest of it, however, is absolutely true of who I was and where I was the year that book was published, right down to the character of the teacher at the center of it all.
Seriously, it was like Donna Tartt had been taking notes at my high school. How else could she have known so much about my teacher, Mr. Amazing-Inspiring, whom we all called A-I, for short?
When I met him, A-I was in his 50s, had taught at my school for more than 20 years, and was a huge deal on campus because he had a reputation for breaking all the rules in a place that really, really liked rules.
For instance, A-I had been the biggest booster of integrating my WASPy prep school in the ’70s. And he’d been the biggest booster of co-education, which happened shortly afterwards, too. This gave him a lot of cred among the student body, because he was seen as being on the side of the righteous little guys (us) against the monolithic Man (the school).
We were angsty teenagers. We spent a lot of time thinking about ourselves in opposition to the school.
Anyway, because he was so cool, he somehow made Latin seem cool — probably because he taught it in a sort of volatile fashion. This is a guy who could get wound up enough about a dead language that he could lift you out of your seat. No, really. As in: one minute you’d be at your desk, staring at the ceiling, the next he’d be dragging you into the hallway and slamming you up against the cinderblock wall to try to get you to express a similar level of excitement to his own.
What can I say? He was cool, so Latin was cool, and somehow the small circle of us whom he selected for his honors seminars seemed cool (unlikely as it sounds) — just because he’d chosen us.
Which is why were SHOCKED — SHOCKED, I tell you — when he was summarily dismissed my sophomore year for having had an inappropriate relationship with a student. Not because we didn’t think he’d done it — he was famous for doing it. His wife, mother of his two young kids, was rumored to be one of the first girls who’d matriculated at the school. His babysitter, who he’d helped get into Yale, was widely believed to be his girlfriend. (Last I heard, they’d gotten married — I saw photos on Facebook — hello, people, yet another reason to LOCK UP YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE!)
So it came as no big shock when we learned the parents of a third girl had come forward and threatened to sue the school.
What was shocking to us, his students, was how cavalierly the school had fired a man who had served them for so many years, without offering him a chance to offer up an explanation, or a defense.
Let me repeat myself one more time: we knew he’d done it.
We just didn’t think they should have FIRED him for it.
Because we were stupid. And we were teenagers. And flirting with danger seemed cool.
How did I know he was a danger? EVERYONE KNEW. Not just because of his past behaviors — but because everyone — teachers and faculty — expected him to keep fucking under-age girls until he finally got so old he couldn’t get it up anymore.
For instance, when his babysitter graduated, a friend of hers came to me, knowing I was the only girl left in A-I’s classes, and actually said the words, “Be careful around A-I next year.”
And after they fired him? I actually had a TEACHER come to me and say the words, “I always thought YOU’D be the reason he finally lost his job.”
Why wasn’t I the reason A-I lost his job? Why didn’t he ever come on to me? Why didn’t we embark on the same sort of affair he’d had so many times before?
I was a stupid teen, sure, but I wasn’t a pushover.
I wasn’t the sort of kid who thought just because you were an adult, and you took an interest in me, I had to take an interest, too.
No, I was the one kid in my entire bio class freshman year who had refused to attend office hours with the lech who taught the class because I’d heard that at those office hours, he expected girls to sit in his lap. So I didn’t go — despite a full semester of his ending every single class by saying, “SOMEONE in this class has yet to attend MANDATORY office hours this semester. SOMEONE in this class is in danger of being docked 10% of their final grade.”
Instead, I did enough extra-credit that even though Mr. Bio Lechy-lech docked me the 10%, I still averaged out above 100.
Screw you, Mr. Science Man.
And screw you, too, A-I.
Not to put too fine a point on it, here’s the most important thing we can teach our children to help them protect themselves from bad guys in positions of power:
Question authority, always — don’t just fall in line.
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Love the Bottle Bank I’ve got posted over on my Pinterest boards.
I saw this a few days ago, the same day my dad sent me an awesome poem, via an old friend of his who has moved down to Mexico and delights in emailing his pals poetry. (How cute is that?) This poem seemed particularly cool, not just because any poem called “Mother” is immediately cool on it’s face, but because THIS PARTICULAR mother wants her son to to make a little money, already — which is a pretty regular conversation between me and my Dad, if you want to know the truth.
It’s also pretty timely around here, as we’ve started giving Diddy and Gaga weekly allowances to try to hammer home the “save your pennies” lesson. (OK, that and also because I got tired of the constant whining for presents and decided it was time the girls learned that all this crap they’re accumulating a)) costs money and b)) ought to be treated with more respect — BECAUSE IT COSTS MONEY.)
Anyway, our method is pretty easy, and as far as I know, pretty standard — I based it on what I could glean from interweb content drawn from The Financially Intelligent Parent : 8 Steps To Raising Successful, Generous, Responsible Children. (I keep meaning to just buy the book already, but I haven’t yet because I was supposed to get it for free by attending a this cool event our local NPR station held, but then I got too sick to go to the event and a part of me keeps hoping they’ll send me the book ANYWAY.)
But back to the girls:
Basically, the girls’ allowances are pegged to their ages, so Diddy gets $5 and Gaga gets $3.
(UPDATE: A few readers emailed to ask if Gaga understands the money concept, mostly because they were worried that they hadn’t started their own 3-yos on financial programs yet. Gaga has close-to-no clue what this whole money thing is really about, and if she were an only child I really wouldn’t have bothered starting her on allowance until she were 5 or 6. But she and Diddy are close enough in age that excluding Gaga would have caused more trouble than not. Still: YOU ARE NOT BEHIND THE BALL IF YOUR 3 YO ISN’T YET TRACKING THE UPS-AND-DOWNS OF YOUR 401K, PROMISE!)
Every Sunday night, we hand the girls their cash.
Then each girl divides her allowance into three piles, and deposits one third each into their “wallets” (spending), piggy/cupcake/princess banks (savings), and tzedekah boxes (giving).
I think it’s pretty clear from the photos whose assorted money-collecting systems are whose. Yeah, Diddy’s a kid who likes to have options — she takes after Grandmere Checklist that way. (Oh and: she built that second tzedekah box at her preschool Woodworking class. Love that my 5 yo takes Woodworking!)
Anyway, aside from letting the girls’ personalities shine though, this system has so far been AWESOME in about a billion other ways, too:
First off, since the girls go to a ((super-progressive)) Jewish pre-school that practices tzedekah every Friday, the idea of “1/3 goes to charity” has not only been super-easy to explain, but more importantly, the girls are super-proud of their own giving-power, and because they LOVE bringing their OWN tzedekah money to school each week, they never forget it anymore and we’re no longer scrounging for pennies on the floor of the car each Friday as we idle on the drop-off line.
Secondly, this system killed, practically OVERNIGHT, the whole “we want crap NOW, why can’t we get it NOW, why can’t we have ALL THIS JUNK NOW!?!” routine we were finding ourselves in 24/7. Take the case of the gymnastics junk food trap. A few months ago, I decided I was tired of throwing cash at overpriced cheese-cracker combos at tgymnastics class, and started bring Z-bars with us instead. Diddy especially DID NOT take well to this change. So finally I told her if she wanted gym snacks, SHE could pay for them. The following week, we brought Diddy’s and Gaga’s wallets with us. Diddy bought a $2 treat. Gaga bought a $0.50 treat. Diddy hated that her sister got CHANGE while she didn’t — and she didn’t like that spending that $2 meant she was now $2 further away from her goal of buying a new “Our Generation” doll at Target. At bedtime she informed me she wanted to go back to the Z-bar system and save up for the doll, rather than squandering her spending funds on junk food.
My kid’s a genius, what can I say?
And THEN, suddenly one day, both girls had enough to go to Target and purchase their dream toys! Diddy had the funds for her Our Generation Doll, and Gaga had her eye on a Baby Belle Doll. As luck would have it, Target was all out of Gaga’s Belle doll that day, so she decided on a Disney Princess Belle Teapot, instead — once again, way under-spending her sister and leaving Target with more money in her pocket than Diddy had (already I can see Gaga takes well after her Aunt Checklist, who has always been smart with her cash). And you should SEE the way these girls love their new toys — because THEY paid for them. Diddy is totally over-the-moon with her Ashley-Rose the Babysitter doll, and Gaga has been literally SLEEPING with the tea-set. It’s crazy. I’ve never seen them go so batshit and stay so loyal to anything they’ve ever been given (save for Diddy’s beloved Puppa, perhaps).
Anyway, I am super proud of myself — and my girls — and so back to that awesome poem my Dad sent me:
My mother writes from Trenton,
a comedian to the bone
but underneath serious
and all heart. “Honey,” she says,
“be a mensch and Mary too,
its no good, to worry, you
are doing the best you can
your Dad and everyone
thinks you turned out very well
as long as you pay your bills
nobody can say a word
you can tell them, to drop dead
so save a dollar it can’t
hurt—remember Frank you went
to highschool with? he still lives
with his wife’s mother, his wife
works while he writes his books and
did he ever sell a one
the four kids run around naked
36, and he’s never had,
you’ll forgive my expression
even a pot to piss in
or a window to throw it,
such a smart boy he couldn’t
read the footprints on the wall
honey you think you know all
the answers you dont, please, try
to put some money away
believe me it wouldn’t hurt
artist schmartist life’s too short
for that kind of, forgive me,
horseshit, I know what you want
better than you, all that counts
is to make a good living
and the best of everything,
as Sholem Aleichem said,
he was a great writer did
you ever read his books dear,
you should make what he makes a year
anyway he says some place
Poverty is no disgrace
but its no honor either
that’s what I say,
by Robert Mezey
from Strong Measures
Harper Collins, 1986
I used to wonder who all those people were on TV shows and in movies who were constantly going into bathrooms and checking out their friends and neighbors’ medicine cabinets. I mean, who does that?
That said, I did do it, once, but I was looking for saline solution after waking up still wearing my contacts (this was before disposable lenses, ladies) following a super-drunk evening spent in the company of the man whose apartment I was waking up in. Luckily for me, we’d both been too wasted for anything to actually HAPPEN between us, as what I found when I opened up that medicine cabinet was a whole lot of pill bottles. We’re talking, I dunno, twenty or thirty pill bottles, all with names of drugs I’d never seen before — not even in my boarding school days of “pass your parents’ pain pills” roulette.
I was 22, and even though my eyes were dry and itchy, it was pretty clear I was staring at the one and only HIV cocktail-assortment I have ever been that close to. The man they belonged to was a lovely guy. I’m pretty sure he still is, thanks to modern miracles, (#iheartscience), and I am also incredibly grateful we both went to bed so drunk we woke up with all of our clothes on.
There but for the grace of god, people.
Anyway, this is a very different kind of medicine cabinet posting. This one is about how to keep track of the meds you give your kids — how much, how often, and to whom. Because seriously, it’s not that easy to keep track of how much Tylenol (ok scratch that, let’s be honest, it’s never Tylenol, they are ALWAYS recalling Tylenol) you are supposed to give your kids. It’s a little easier when you’ve only got one kid, and you’re pretty certain how much she weighs, and you’re pretty sure your ped told you to go with 1.2 cc — but even then, your husband/wife/partner/whomever doesn’t have a clue.
Which will become very clear if you ever send him to do a middle-of-the-night teething-pain-control-dosing and he comes back, turns on all the lights in your bedroom, and asks you where the generic Tylenol is.
Umm, did you actually LOOK for it? In the medicine cabinet? Where our meds live?
Still, leave the poor guy alone, because once you have two kids or more, keeping this shit straight is damned near impossible — which is why I went over to AskDrSears.com (no, I am not telling you to co-sleep until your kid is ten, but the man is chockfull of WAY more useful info, really) and copied his Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and Diphenhydramine lists into much more handy PDF downloads for you!
Go get them. Then go tape them in your medicine cabinet or wherever else you post this sort of information — AND DON’T FORGET TO ALSO POINT OUT HOW MUCH YOUR KID WEIGHS, so that everyone who needs that info has it.
Here’s how I do it:
1. Those are the cool Dr. Sears Charts I made.
2. They’re posted to the door with Stickr (corners). Love these!
3. I’ve also put up Post-it Super Sticky Full Adhesive Notes with each kid’s current weight, dated by last pediatrics appointment (or the last time I noticed they’d grown significantly per their constant fiddling around with my scale), plus any allergies they’ve got. Here’s a shot of that:
I use these Post-its EVERYWHERE in our house, by the way, and yes, the kids ARE color-coded. More on that to come, promise!
Anyway: this is a pretty great system, if I do say so myself — mostly because I can just show it to anyone who comes to watch the kids really quickly — and because it helps me compensate for my ridiculous Mommy-brain. Seriously: ask me when Gaga’ birthday is. Here’s what I can tell you — it’s either the 26th or the 18th. (God help me when she can read this stuff.)
Oh, and you wanna go see ANOTHER cool medicine cabinet trick? Check this cool thing my pal at SteelMyLunch sent my way:
This is now pinned — along with some other nifty shit — over at my Pinterest boards.
Have you got other medicine tips to share? FB me, Tweet me, or Pin me! I can’t get enough of this stuff, truly — so keep it coming, dear readers, keep it coming.
Thanks to awesome reader Noel (you can see her awesome comment here), I’m tweeting and Facebooking THIS thought today:
Surviving bad-ass crazy delivery nightmares means you’re a BAD-ASS MOM!
We are Mamas, hear us roar!
I am eventually going to get around to blogging “GO TO SHOWER GIFTS,” for all you Moms out there who, like me, like to stock up on this sort of thing so we’re not constantly running out to baby boutiques like crazy people.
But it’s still flu season — no, really, it is, and YOU CAN STILL GET A FLU SHOT — and my kids all have runny noses, and have been flirting with fevers, and that’s got me thinking about probably the hands-down funniest shower gift I ever got:
A MED KIT.
Yep. Diddy’s godmother welcomed her into the world not with clothes, not with gear, not with a fuzzy stuffed something, but with TWO SEPARATE MEDICAL KITS, one enormous bells-and-whistles kind, like this:
And one more modest, travel-sized variety, like this:
Clearly she thought I was going to kill the baby. Luckily for all of us, that isn’t as easy to do as it might seem. So, honestly, grateful as I was for the med kits –
I NEVER USED ANYTHING IN ANY OF THEM.
For one thing, the bulb syringes were just NO good. They had HUGE nozzles that went NOWHERE NEAR being able to fit in my tiny kids noses.
And I never used the thermometers, either, because call me squeamish, but I have real body memories of being a small kid with a thermometer up my butt, and I just don’t feel any real need to revisit that on my children. Thankfully medical technology has come a long way since then — did you see this amazing video of a 3D printer making an actual KIDNEY? It’s astounding. If they can do that, I can use a digital ear thermometer — just like my pediatrician does.
Nail clippers were useful — but come on, emery boards for tiny little peel-able infant nails? No thanks.
Pacifier medical dispensers? I’m ok with holding my kids down and using a liquid syringe. Which, by the way, if they don’t come with your Baby Tylenol and Pediacare, can be had for free, just by asking your pharmacist for them.
Gum massager? Call me lazy — I go for the Tylenol before I massage the gums. And those plastic teething rings don’t do much for me, either — I’d rather use something freezable, because the cold goes a long way to soothing sore gums.
Anyway, in an effort to clear out the kids’ medicine cabinet this week (pictures of that project tomorrow), I put together what I think is THE BEST “MED KIT ESSENTIALS” list I’ve seen — probably because I actually USE all the stuff on it, and have done for all four kids. And now I pass it to you!
ChecklistMommy’s REALLY USEFUL BABY MED KIT LIST.
The kind they give you at the hospital. In fact, don’t buy this. STEAL A FEW from the hospital.
Use to help loosen up stuffy noses.
Ease of use! Ease of use! Ease of use!
Don’t forget these! Most digital thermometers won’t work without them!
Tylenol Acetaminopen (Infant Tylenol is CONSTANTLY being recalled)
For fevers and pain. Don’t be shy about medicating for pain. If you were in pain, you would want meds, wouldn’t you? (Coming soon: my cleaned-up version of Dr. Sear’s Acetaminophen Dosage Chart.)
For pain and fevers. You want Motrin AND Tylenol because you can use them TOGETHER to medicate your baby MORE FREQUENTLY over time than you can using either of these medications on their own. (Coming soon: my cleaned-up version of Dr. Sear’s Ibuprofen Dosage Chart.)
For allergic reactions. You have no idea what your baby is allergic to until she has an allergic reaction — for Gaga, I never figured out what the culprit was, but she blew up and turned red while we were at the mall and I jetted across the street to CVS after a panicked phone call to my ped and dosed her right there on the checkout line and since then we have ALWAYS kept Benadryl in the house and in the diaper bag. (Coming soon: my cleaned-up version of Dr. Sear’s Diphenhydramine Dosage Chart.)
Baby nails grow fast fast fast. If you’re anything like me, you will forget this. And then your kid will scratch himself. And then you’ll cut his nails. Rinse and repeat. (Also, keep cutting your kids’ nails as they grow! Diddy recently got into a sandbox scrum at school, and left a pretty bad-ass stripe across her classmate’s face, frighteningly near her eye. Which left the classmate looking way worse-for-wear than Diddy, even though I was told it was a pretty fair fight. Still, it left Diddy, unmarked, looking like the bad seed … which was no fun for me as I prostrated myself in front of the other kids’ thankfully-cool parent.)
Best. Thing. Ever.