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Thursday, September 11th, 2014
My own blurry iPhone photo from that night
From my Brooklyn apartment, I can see One World Trade Center. A couple weeks ago, the crescent moon hung in the night sky right beside it. Everyone walking down my street took a second to capture fuzzy pictures on their iPhones. That night, the brightly shining One World Trade Center seemed like it pierced through the atmosphere to touch all the people who lost their lives in that exact location 13 years ago.
I remember exactly where I was when I found out what happened. The guidance counselor brought out all the fifth graders into a common area to break the news to us. We all sat stunned as she told us about the towers. Students sitting cross-legged around me immediately started to cry for their parents.
“My dad works in that building.”
“My mom had a flight today.”
A calm, normal school day in Westport, Conn. suddenly turned into a frenzy of phone calls and tears.
I think this was the day I figured out what kind of friend I want to be.
My dad worked in Stamford, Conn., so I felt comfort in knowing his whereabouts. But I had several friends in complete fear for their fathers. I had neighbors coming up to me bawling, telling me as they caught their breaths they couldn’t get ahold of their dads
The only way I knew to help was by showing every ounce of support in my little body for my friends. I sat with them in the front office, holding their hands while they called their parents off the hook. Even when my dad came to pick me up early on his way home from work, I decided to stay with my friends.
At 10, I never faced such dire times. The most I had to comfort my friends through was the death of their beloved beta fish. But as I sat in the office, staring at the glowing aquarium in the corner, I knew this was something so much larger than telling them they could buy a new fish at the store tomorrow.
In those moments of uncertainty, I knew I wanted to be the person my friends could rely on for unwavering support—even if it meant not saying a word. When I did have something to say, I did my best to put some semblance of a smile on their faces with a silly aside. Today I find myself doing the same through break ups and layoffs.
Thankfully my friends’ fathers were safe and sound. We were too young to know the geography of Manhattan. The distance between the towers and Midtown was out of our realm of comprehension, but what I did know was I wanted to shine bright for my friends in dark times just like the Freedom Tower does every night.
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Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.
Sesame Street’s Big Bird is an octogenarian. Well, it’s more accurate to say that Carroll Spinney, the man who has played Big Bird (and Oscar the Grouch) for the past 45 years is an octogenarian. I learned this just this past week when reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about a new film based on Spinney’s book, I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story. The story brought back wonderful memories.
Sesame Street was a very important part of our home and our kids’ lives when they were young. Although our kids loved Big Bird and all the other Sesame “guys,” Ernie was the focus of much more attention–at least on one very memorable day in July many years ago.
Our oldest child may have been a little precocious in the area of miniature rubber figurines. Most kids who collect and play-act with little toy statuettes begin around 3 or 4 years old, but our home was a Sesame Street shrine from the moment our son started following Big Bird et al. at age 2. He was too young to even pronounce the characters’ names–Cookie Monster was “Cookiebader.” His love of Sesame Street miniatures made gift-giving easy–for about $2 each, we gradually accumulated all the critical players in the Sesame Street saga. They populated the replica Sesame Street neighborhood we all built together from recycled cereal boxes and cardboard tubes. Sesame play-acting paused only long enough for us to watch the actual TV show when it came on the air each afternoon.
We vividly recall the time we first learned that Sesame Place, the show’s theme park, was in Pennsylvania, not far from where grandparents lived. This was a nearly miraculous development for our son—and, of course, the next trip to Mema’s and Grandpa’s included a visit to SP. That may have been the most memorable vacation of our boy’s childhood. He hid behind Grover’s garbage can, climbed into Ernie’s bathtub, and ate “Cookiebader” cookies for lunch. “Do they really live here!!??” he asked incredulously. The gift shop even sold a rare figurine that we didn’t have at home–Mr. Snuffleupagus, if memory serves–for two bucks, like all the rest of “the guys.”
It’s that devotion to Sesame Street that made Ernie’s (the figurine’s) mysterious disappearance one summer afternoon a day that will live in infamy. The characters never went anywhere without our son, and he rarely went anywhere without them. But on that fateful day, as play on the windowsill stage was about to begin, all the characters checked in present and accounted for, but where was Ernie?!! Breathlessly, our little boy ran to tell us of the disaster–Ernie was missing!
And so began a legendary search through the house that turned up just about every other lost toy from the previous two years–but no Ernie! We called friends, grandparents, neighbors–it was an all-points bulletin, we explained to our distraught toddler. Just as we were about to post “lost toy” fliers around the neighborhood, our next door neighbor sheepishly called–his grandson, with whom our son had been playing with the day before, might have accidentally slipped Ernie into his pocket.
Grateful that the crisis was over, we chose not to press charges. All the Sesame guys were reunited and, although I can’t be sure, I think I saw Burt shed a tear of relief. I know our son did.
Plus: What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Photo: Image originally from SesameStreet.org
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Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
For as long as I can remember, my little sister and I have been close. When we were little, we’d always play together, whether it be trying on costumes for dress-up or building forts outside. Now that we’re older, I rarely go more than a few days without talking to her, even if it’s just a text about the latest episode of Downton Abbey. I realize that not everyone gets along with their siblings, so I feel lucky to have a sister who is also a good friend.
So I was particularly interested in this new study about sibling relationships published in the journal Pediatrics. Research suggests that younger children who are close with their older siblings may develop better vocabularies. This is especially true in large families, where the littler kids might receive less individual attention from Mom and Dad. But an older “cognitively sensitive” child—who uses simpler sentences or slows down without talking like a baby—can be a huge help.
My sister has always been smart, and I have no doubt that she’ll be one of the top in her class when she graduates from college in the spring. While I’d love to take all the credit for her extensive vocabulary and academic abilities, I’m sure plenty of other factors were involved too. But I like to think that even in our small family, maybe I gave her an extra boost at some point. Plus the research is a nice examination of how family bonds can bring about all sorts of unexpected benefits.
No matter the size of your family or the depth of anyone’s vocabularies, a strong friendship between siblings is crucial. Here are some tips to build bonds that worked for my parents:
- Let the kids work as a team, whether they are completing chores together or tackling a challenging jigsaw puzzle.
- Encourage respect. Teach your kids how to consider each other’s feelings, and how to voice polite disagreement.
- Have regular family discussions in which everyone can speak up.
- Emphasize the importance of family, and spend plenty of time together doing fun activities.
Image: Girl playing with little brother via Shutterstock.
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