Middle school moms

by eric

My wife and I thought this was interesting (and consistent with our experience):

Moms’ Middle-School Blues

Adoption (at least with boys) seems to exacerbate some of this, but that’s a different/additional story…


162 thoughts on “Middle school moms

  1. If you google the title you can read the article. We’re two years away from middle school but I can see this being a tough time for parents unless you have your own interests and friends. Two of my neighbors have middle schoolers and they seem to keep up with their mom friends from elementary school even though the kids all go to different schools now.

  2. You can usually Google “WSJ [and a few words of the headline]” and read as a non-subscriber. That’s what I do whenever I wear out my welcome at NYT.

  3. Great topic. We, too, mourned transitioning from our close knit elementary school community to a larger, more diverse, more “distant” middle school community. However, kids have to grow up and we parents have to let go.

    However, I still miss the elementary school days even after all these years.

  4. There was anxiety on my part in the beginning of the year as I was unsure how my kid would adjust to the transition from elementary to middle. I didn’t visit the elementary school often anyway so I didn’t have to step back from volunteering and therefore not seeing my kid during the school day. The administration and teachers were fantastic with a lot of emphasis on adjusting socially, so by the first month or so I wasn’t worried about this piece.
    From the Totebag tips, I made sure kid and myself checked online grades and for any assignments that didn’t make it to the online system, kid had to talk to the teacher and get it fixed. I will step back some more as kid will be getting notifications and reminders. The process that had worked for us, is transitioning responsibilities gradually.

  5. there is a very good reason why moms doubt themselves more and have more anxiety when their kids go to middle school. That is because kids doubt themselves more and have more anxiety when they are in middle school!!! Seriously, is there a person in existence who wasn’t miserable in middle school?

  6. “hanging out and bonding at the kids’ birthday parties”


    I’ve found that a nice bottle of wine helps with bonding.

  7. From the (male) perspective of being past this…DW had a fairly rough go of it once the oldest got to middle school. He made new friends that were not from his elementary school and DW couldn’t understand why. I did…fresh start for him with the new crowd. Because of this, she lost connection with the moms of the other kids from elementary school and so never really felt part of the group until a couple of years passed and then the group became moms-of-kids-who-played-sports-together. DS never looked back. Ditto, really for the other two, though middle stayed closer to more kids from elementary than the other two. Sports-team-momism was/is the link (and could be for plays/music also.

    While I certainly was more involved in my kids’ schooling and overall upbringing than my dad and step-dad were for me, I think the male tendency of ‘they have to learn it themselves someday, why not now?’ comes through a lot sooner than for the typical mom who still wants to be involved in mundane, day-to-day things to a far greater degree, IMHO. When these opportunities are taken away, the psychological loss is understandable.

    But the goal is responsible adults, and they have to learn to do things on their own, making mistakes along the way.

  8. Although DD had the usual PITA attitude for 7th and 8th grade, she’s reported that 7th grade was one of her favorite years with 8th grade close behind. This was a real paradigm shift for me as 7th and 8th grade were the worst years of my life and I didn’t know it was possible to be happy in middle school. So middle school doesn’t necessarily have to be miserable.

    I didn’t experience the issues that the article mentioned when DD was in middle school. We got to know the parents of most of DD’s middle school friends because the girls played soccer together so we spent a lot of time hanging out at soccer games together. And DS is 5 1/2 years younger than DD so he still loved us.

    DS starts middle school in the fall. It may be a different story with him. He’s not a team sport player – so it will be more difficult for us to meet parents of new friends. And his closest friends are going to different middle schools.

    I was laughing with DS and told him I felt a little bad for him. When he starts 8th grade is when DD starts college – so he’ll be the only kid left at home and will receive the full benefit of all our attention which will likely be the time he least wants our parental attention :-)

  9. This didn’t apply as directly to us. Our school was PK-8. DD#1 went there 1-8 and DD#2 K-8, which we just wrapped up this year. Yes, the teachers and administrators all advised parents to back off in Middle School, almost banning them from the MS hallway/classrooms except for certain events that showcased work or where volunters were needed. This change is faced more for my DDs peer groups going into HS.

    I have never been the routine volunteer at the school, but volunteered for larger events. DD#1 went to a HS where no one from her MS went. Thankfully, she joined a GS troop with several girls from there, so I have met a couple of moms/dads. The main thing I network for is reasonableness testing. If I feel something is not reasonable, I try to do a reality check first before heading to a teacher/administrator. DD#2 is going to a public middle school and about 1/3 of her class is headed there. Though they will make up only about 1.5% of the freshman class.

    When my kids were younger, they’d ask me why I did XYZ (tai chi class, women’s group, GS not affiliated with my kids). I always told them they would grow up and move away and have their friends/families. If they didn’t want me hovering over their entire lives, then I needed to keep my friends and interests. They seemed to think my having friends/activities was a good idea after getting that perspective.

  10. “Seriously, is there a person in existence who wasn’t miserable in middle school?”

    Amazingly, DW claims that her MS years were very happy, but that was at a U.S. school overseas. Conversely, she wasn’t that happy back here at affluent Totebag High, and decided to graduate a year early.

  11. “Seriously, is there a person in existence who wasn’t miserable in middle school?”

    My eldest daughter enjoyed junior highl, and once consoled her younger sister that things would get better once she got to junior high.

  12. Are there benefits to middle school, aside from the logistics? In my area most schools go from K-8, so I am curious about the differences. I found the transition from 8th grade to high school to be a big change, but by 9th grade I was certainly much more prepared.

    I know that some worry about exposing young kids to preteens in a K-8 school, but in my experience the grade 6-8 kids behave much better when they are positioned as leaders and mentors to the younger kids.

  13. There was no hanging out and bonding between parents at the few birthday parties that kid attended but parents definitely wanted to make sure they chatted enough with other parents to get a sense of the families of the friends. But, per the administration the kids will be mixed up again next year, so don’t know how many of the same kids they will have in classes next year.

  14. I didn’t mind junior high. As a SAHM, I found that my world opened up when they moved up. While it is harder for me to get to know the families with whom my kids are spending time, I absolutely relish NOT having to spend time with all those people I had nothing in common with. My friends are still my friends, but I do not miss the endless carrying on about Kumon, or best travel soccer, or why the school does or doesn’t serve this or that at lunch! Good riddance. I’ve got things I’d like to do.

  15. My junior high back in the day was 7th-9th and it was brutal. A totally awful experience. On the other hand, it was so long ago that there was an outdoor courtyard area for smokers — can you imagine?

  16. Our MS is grades 5-8, and it is the same kids from elementary school. 10 new kids joined this year in DD’s grade, but most kids have known each other since pre K. In my experience, that’s a BIG problem. Same kids at school, sports, religious school etc. for 13 years.

    I find MS stressful even though I know the parents. Who knew that your entire social life on a weekend is based on where you put your butt to eat a 25 minute lunch??? DD has a lot of friends, but that’s not ideal in this MS where lunch tables seem to lead to the same groups for everything.

    Her bday party is this week. It’s a mix of the popular girls and the next “tier” of popular kids. She has two friends that are coming that not part of this crew, and I know their moms are nervous. This is a very tough crew, and I can’t wait until it’s over.

    She’s generally ok, but I have to walk a very fine line with some of the other parents to maintain relationships. I’ve really been able to figure out who my real friends are vs. mom friends.

    I’m beyond grateful that my own junior high experience was normal. My elementary/JHS friends are meeting at the end of this month to celebrate our milestone bday since we’re all the same age. I can’t imagine this happening with DD’s friends in the future unless this all improves in HS.

  17. Lunch table…yes at my kids MS that was a thing. My DD#1 always just hung out mainly with her one best friend and ignored the rest of MS drama. DD#2 floated through groups all through elementary and middle. 8th grade year, her table that always had her and 2 other girls was the one table all the kids felt welcome at. Per the teacher at the end of the year, these three girls made a lunch spot that was safe for any other kid to sit at. Some kids hung out at this table most of the year, others when they had a fight with someone in their group, etc. I was very proud of these girls for creating a haven in the lunchroom.

  18. LOL Cordelia – I wish! That is not the MO among our neighborhood parents. Everything is at a place from 12-130 pm or 2-330 pm and there is no wine in sight.

    I was absolutely miserable in middle school and was glad I got out of it early by skipping 8th grade.

  19. This particular WSJ writer tends to overdramatize pretty ordinary life transitions. Perhaps my perspective has shifted with age and as a cancer survivor, but if the moms depicted in the story are experiencing such distress as their normal, healthy kids enter adolescence, heaven help them if something really bad happens. The one thing that rang true for me was the effort of school officials to minimize parental involvement. That was actually one of the reasons we moved our son to an independent school. We didn’t want to be helicopter parents but when the school refused our request to put him in 7th grade honors classes because of a second grade test score, and made it extremely difficult to meet with teachers and administrators, we knew it was time to move on. Otherwise, we still had younger kids so it wasn’t like we were in a completely different life stage. Perhaps these things happen mostly in smaller families?

  20. So is there a reason they focused on the froofy (support groups) instead of the practical? I have one word: logistics. They become miserable in MS.

    — Daycare ends at the end of ES, but the CPS-mandated need for supervision does not. And many parents who stayed at home while their kids were little have now gone back to work and need some kind of coverage. Ergo, scramble, cobble together = stress.

    — Kids have many more opportunities for after-school clubs and activities, and because they are becoming more independent, they want to do them. But they’re too young to drive themselves anywhere. So this becomes Your Problem (at least, if you want to be a “good parent” and give your kids all of the opportunities they are supposed to have). This means working around the activity bus (which is only on select days), or figuring out transportation alternatives. Not to mention that this seems to be when club sports/lessons/travel teams/etc. ramp up, presumably in preparation for HS. More complicated schedules + less reliable transportation = stress.

    — More classes, more periods in the day, A-day and B-day schedules, more teachers (each with their own set of criteria) — with the topper of less parental communication, because they want the kids to start learning to manage on their own. Yet the kids are NOT capable of managing that huge increase in complexity on their own, at least not at first. Lots of missed assignments, lots of “I forgot my instrument/gym uniform,” lots of “I brought the wrong binder,” lots of forgetting an assignment is due until bedtime the night before = stress.

    Put all of that together with the fact that you are now parenting about 17 different people (usually within the course of the same hour), and that your kid him/herself has stress levels through the roof because of the increased complexity and academic/social demands, and I would be more worried about a parent who said it’s all sunshine and unicorns (are you deluded or just high?). You do your best, you find ways to add fun and escape the stress, you and your kids both learn how to manage better — but there will be days, even weeks at a time, where things just basically suck and all you can do is trudge through and not let it drag you down with it. If you can keep your perspective and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, that’s the best anodyne I know.

  21. My kids went to a K-8 school, so no big transition to middle school. However, being with the same group of kids wasn’t the greatest (especially for DD). The Queen Bee got nastier, and there wasn’t enough “new blood” to shake things up, and nowhere for DD to go for some bosom companions. Hence, my advice to everyone to get the kids into non-school groups. Her musical theater group, soccer team, etc. made a huge difference.

    I got a lot more anxious during those years because the issues the kids faced were more stressful for them, from the social stuff to the grades needed to get into a good high school.

    I, on the other hand, moved from a small elementary school in the midwest to a huge middle school in suburban Texas. It was like night and day! I don’t think we talked to my mom that much about it – it was more of a fact of life that wasn’t going to change.

  22. I didn’t mind middle school. Nothing bad, just liked high school more. Middle school was tough on both my kids, got different reasons. My daughter no longer received any support for dyslexia, or classes with co-teachers, and she had organizational issues. Our relationship became a little more conflicted as I was on her about not managing it well. I initially interpreted it as willful, so handled it poorly. It got better a couple years later. My son had major problems with bullying from a handful of boys from the other feeder elementary, which made everything very difficult. We moved him to another school the next year, and things have been steadily improving each year, with things lining up to be great for his senior year. So our relationship was strong trough all of that, but with the change of schools and the geographic distance, I know none of his friends’ parents.

    Our elementary did not do a good job,in my opinion, of preparing the kids for the increased expectations of middle school. It was like dropping them off a cliff.

  23. Because we were a K-8, the elementary to middle was not as big of a jump. But, the teachers spent the first few weeks working through the kinks with the 6th graders. We had to give homeroom teacher their locker combo, they didn’t get lates for not being able to get their locker open, they got to go to the locker and get what they forgot, etc. I don’t think that happens as much in bigger places.

    I will say, we got a big influx this past year of kids because another private (same denomination) is likely closing before next school year. They have historically been about 1/2 the size of our school, but have been slowly decreasing. Last year, they decided to combine grades so that middle school was going to be all one class. Parents didn’t like that and all of a sudden we got a lot of kids. Prior to that, my DD was really ready for some “new” people as the core (80%) of the kids had been the same kids since kindergarten.

  24. RMS, my jjunior high also had an outdoor smoking area, though most kids smoked in the bathrooms (just like the song).

  25. Since we are in a microdistrict, my kids went to middle school with exactly the same kids they went to elementary school with. Our district has one K-1 school, then the kids are split between 2 elementary schools, and then they rejoin for middle school. My oldest had few friends in elementary school because his best friends all went to the other elementary school. But once they rejoined at the middle school, it was as if they had never been separated. He is in high school now, but still hangs with the same 3 kids he hung out with in the town toddler play group. I don’t know if that continuity is good or bad, but it is very foreign to me since i changed schools and peer groups almost yearly when I was growing up.

    The middle school has 2 teams, and my DS2 was placed in one team, and his few good friends were placed in the other. As a result, he has had almost 0 social life in middle school and has no one he can call to find out about assignments. I have complaiined yearly about it at his IEP meetings but they never change it. I think middle school has been hard for him.

    I dread middle school for DD.

  26. Because of the extreme continuity here, I know and socialize with the exact same set of parents that I knew when DS1 was in kindergarten!!!

  27. “the extreme continuity ” – ugh. This is what I hated about middle school and high school. The same kids in the same classes, forever. I joined sports in middle school and sports and other activities in high school just to get away from that sameness, at least for part of the day.
    Probably part of why I don’t like the suburbs and why I LOVED college.

    Highly unlikely my kids will know many of the kids when they go to MS since we are in a different district for middle school and will in all likelihood go private in any event. I view this as a good thing, but wish it could be timed for 5th grade, not 6th. (Middle school is 6th-8th here.)

  28. The downside of going to MS with the same kids is that you are going to MS with the SAME kids! This is great because Jennifer is terrific. This is terrible because Susie is Satan’s Spawn. I mean I don’t think people realize how awful it must be to spend potentially 12 years having to tolerate some of these other kids. I mean if you had a job and Jane in HR and Chloe in Accounting were simply terrible to you every day you could quit your job and find another one – but kids, kids have to stay in the same school, sometimes the same class with people they hate for years on end. That has to be hell if you have a real nemesis!

  29. My experience going into junior high was really different from my kids. We had just moved back from Germany, and I was supposed to be in 6th, which was still in the elementary school. But I tested out of the grade in the initial placement testing (the elementary school was “ungraded” which meant they placed you wherever you tested) so I was summarily removed to 7th grade in the junior high. It was a rude shock. Not only did I know no one, but the junior high was big (1000 kids) and had serious issues with drugs and violence. It was completely untracked, which meant that a lot of the kids in my classes couldn’t read at all, and kids from the special ed classrooms, where they warehoused the most serious problems, used to run into the other classroom spaces (we didn’t have real classrooms with doors, but rather spaces in a bigger room deliniated with bookshelves) and try to pull our chairs over. It was not a fuzzy warm place at all. The good part was that we didn’t have all the organizational demands that my kids middle school put on them, because we rarely had any homework!

  30. My daughters went through 8th grade in one school, My 1st daughter was a real drama queen from about 13 until the end of junior year in high school. Our house was in chaos until she calmed down. What a pain, My 2nd daughter wasn’t so much drama as too quiet and too contained – she worried me,.

    My son could be stubborn and mouthy at times but lots easier than the girls. Heavily into sports which kept him focused and tired.

    My sympathies to parents of girls as they transition from puberty to adulthood, You get through it! I thought the 2-3 year old state was tough but at least you could corral them. Lots of luck to you all – don;t miss those days!

  31. LfB – you crack me up and I love your posts. Your post and Scarlett’s post are both exactly right even though they seem to be saying different things.

    My kids are both homebodies and true mama’s boys (Seriously. They follow me around like little ducks. Mom? Mom? MOM?). My concern, frankly, is getting them more OUT of the house and away from me, not mourning the separation that comes with tweens & middle school.

    I’m just praying that full-time college solely through on-line courses isn’t rampant by the time they go to college, or I’ll never get them out of this house.

  32. I found the experience with boys to be bad enough. Both of them got all grim and surly around 7th grade. My DS1 had numerous school issues and eventually was dx’ed with ADD and put on a 504 and started counseling. Now, as a finishing up 10th grader, he is much more “normal”, and even talks to us like a human being again rather than just grunting. Unfortunately, DS2, finishing 8th grade, is deep in the grunt stage. And he is prone to drama which makes it so much worse. At least girls verbalize their angst. DS2 just scowls and looks furious and kind of growls at everyone.

    Watching the two DSs do middle school, I realize why it is so hard. They are stuck in these transitioning bodies, and most kids do not transition well. Boys in particular are stinky, pimply, the wrong size no matter what, awkward, and with a voice that is suddenly all wrong. My DS1 did his grwoth spurt early (I noticed that most of the boys shot up much earlier than I remember) so he was almost adult sized in 7th to 8th grade, with a low voice, but still with a little boy brain. Things that had been cute when he was small now seemed obnoxious and even threatening to others. He had a lot of trouble adjusting to his new size and look.

    DD shows no signs of puberty yet (she just turned 10) which is a good thing IMHO. For girls especially, it is better to wait to deal with the demands and responsiblities of an adult body. Research is showing that early puberty in girls is very associated with depression and loss of confidence.

  33. “DS2 just scowls and looks furious and kind of growls at everyone.”

    You could point out his similarity to books 3-5 Harry Potter (or Ron?) – he might be spurred on to greater interaction! :)

  34. DS carried everything in his back pack in order to not forget anything. Later in the year, hardly used the lockers.
    I had to make him clear out the back pack because dirty gym clothes were piled in one pocket. He looked like a camel. He also damaged his musical instrument due to jostling on the bus. I had to buy a more expensive instrument case. Also, the bus was the Wild West and the weakest link in the middle school armour designed by the administration.

  35. Separately – HM – picked up some Horrible Histories books someone left on their stoop and my kids are eating them up. Would have walked right by them if I hadn’t heard about them from you. I have to start looking forth rest of the series at the library.

  36. Seriously, is there a person in existence who wasn’t miserable in middle school?

    I had an awful time in middle school. Not that HS was a whole lot better. My big relief is that DS got through MS without the issues I had, and DD seems to be doing just fine as well with one more year left. Our school is K-8 so it’s the same group of parents and kids for the most part. HS is going to be a big adjustment for DS this year, going from a school with 54 kids per grade to a freshman class of about 325. But I think it will be good for him and his friends to have a new peer group.

  37. My DS1 did his grwoth spurt early (I noticed that most of the boys shot up much earlier than I remember)

    I notice a lot of the graduating 8th graders had a lot of facial hair, much more than I remembered from my day.

  38. I have to say that my experience with teens thus far has been overall very positive and not at all as bad as it is portrayed. Mine are 16 and 14 and basically nice people. Yes we have disagreements which are more often than not over political or social issues we discuss. But they are polite, we haven’t had any screaming fights. They aren’t super social and the friends they do have a pretty solid and we know most of the parents pretty well so there’s not a lot to argue about now. Not trying to paint a super rosy picture but I do think that sometimes teens get a bad rap. It is really nice to be able to have real conversations with them about real issues. It is nice for them to be getting more independent both in terms of me getting more time and them getting to really own their accomplishments. The biggest struggle is the electronics and keeping on top of them while respecting their privacy at the same time. I do have friends who have the stereotypical teens but really most of what I see and hear is pretty good.

  39. The conflict that our children brought home was the “Everyone else is allowed” argument. In fact, a few of their friends were allowed to go places or do things sans parents or chaperones that we didn’t think our kids were old enough or mature enough to handle should a problem arise. This seemed to be a bigger problem for our DD than our sons because when a parent says no, the issue always seems to make it to the girls’ lunch table and the drama ensues. Anyway, it wasn’t that we were so strict, but it just takes one or two kids who seem to be allowed to do everything to make the other kids (especially girls) feel left behind.

    Cannot agree with more with the comments upthread that having your children in an activity away from their school environment gives them a break from the cliques and pecking order stress of middle school.

  40. I love today’s comments, because so many of you are a few years ahead of us, or more, and you have so many good nuggets. Please keep chiming in – what did you do best with teens? What do you wish you’d done more/less of?

  41. Our neighborhood parents seem to be on the same page but the small timing differences on when our kids got phones created comical drama. Are the Butler kids getting a phone ? What sort of phone ? Ok – their Totebaggy parents would only give them a Diary of the Wimpy Kid phone – very little data so basically a dud. Why then are they boasting about it ? Such a$$ses…and so on.

  42. We’ve had a fairly good experience with our teens. We are in a sweet spot where one has gone through puberty and the other hasn’t hit it yet. We had one year in 8th grade when DS1 couldn’t get his act together, but the rest of the time has been downright pleasant.

  43. Lark: I will refer you to Risley’s excellent advice on pre-teens and teens–treat them with respect. Real respect. I wasn’t bad, but I still had to change some of my behaviors. I feel better about myself and about our relationship. That said, I’ll be the first to admit that I have fairly easy kids. They have decent friends, and are basically homebodies.

  44. I am another one that hated MS. The stakes were very low in retrospect, but felt very high. The friend drama in particular was hard with the pecking order changing every single day for the slightest reason or no reason at all. It felt very kill or be killed at the time too. The mention of the jr high lunchroom still puts a pit in my stomach over 25 years later. I went to school with the same kids from 5th grade through 12th grade, but somehow it still got much much easier in HS. There were so many different things to do & people seemed less concerned about the exact pecking order of every person in the class. I very much enjoyed HS, although I was also ready to leave at the end.

    Here, most schools are K-8, so we’ll see how that goes for MS. He could also go to a school that is 7-12th in some scenarios. DS goes to a relatively small school, so we already try to make sure that he has other outlets to meet kids – the neighborhood, sports, music, etc. He will likely go to a pretty large HS, and I worry that it will be a big shock.

  45. lfb — I agree with all your comments at 11:26.

    I never thought about how you typically change your parent friends when middle school begins, and have to rely on new ones as your sounding board. Plus, IME, there seem to be more perils in confiding too much with parents of MS kids because of the social issues among the kids, especially among the girls.

  46. “But they are polite, we haven’t had any screaming fights. They aren’t super social and the friends they do have a pretty solid and we know most of the parents pretty well so there’s not a lot to argue about now. Not trying to paint a super rosy picture but I do think that sometimes teens get a bad rap.”

    That was essentially our experience as well. Maybe boys are easier, but we just didn’t have the drama and constant surliness that other parents warned us about. And when the boys started attending a fairly straight-laced Christian school, WE were the parents who let our kids watch The Godfather and have wine with dinner and have fairly free rein on their devices.

  47. Lark, my biggest mistake was being too hands off when my DS hit middle school. I had always wanted to not be a helicopter parent, and in elementary school, I was pretty oblivious – I didn’t know what their assignments were, and paid little attention to the report cards. I continued that way when my DS1 hit 6th grade, then started watching him sink in 7th grade, and finally realized in 8th grade that I had to be on top of things.The stakes are so much higher than in elementary school. It was hard because I really had no idea how to get information or what they were doing in the classes.
    With DS2, I trusted him – he had always been really responsible – and indeed in 6th and 7th everything was great. He made high honor role every quarter with not too much oversight. But this year, in 8th, he started slipping and not handing things in. I think anxiety was getting the better of him. He screwed up enough one quarter that he was told he couldn’t continue in the honors science for next year. But this time, I knew more about the system, and how to help him recover, so now he is back on track.
    So my advice is – don’t be blase or oblivious about class assignments, teacher policies, and so on when your kid gets to middle school. Maybe your kid won’t need any help at all, but that age is a volatile age, and if there are problems it is better to know enough to help out.

  48. I think it was Meme (apologies if wrongly attributed, or wholly made up) who wrote here once about private school value. She stated that if one had a limited budget for sending kids to private school, the highest priority would be private middle school, followed by high school, elementary school and then college. That has really resonated. (And partly contributed to not really investigating any private elementary school options).

    We are still quite far from middle school, but I do wonder if that is that is the time one should start investing more in the kids than less. It seems that many people go back to full-time work around then.

    I didn’t have a terrible junior high experience – I was socially too unaware to care much about pecking order. I lost my friends from elementary and was happy to go to the library to read at lunch. Academically, it was the first time there was any kind of tracking, so things were more pleasant. I’ve said this before, but I feel we are on a slow march towards home-school. If/when working within the system seems unbearable, we might just stop.

  49. MS sucked. HS was better. College was finally a (relative) comfort zone.

    My biggest lesson with DD is the realization that I cannot fix everything for her, nor is that my job. Current example: she is going to bring home at least two Bs this year — not because she can’t do the work, but because she can’t be bothered to study beyond reading the study packet (yesterday’s explanation of the final: “well, X was in the book but not on the study packet, and I never really understood that anyway, so I just skipped those questions”).

    Yes, this is not exactly abject failure. The problem from my perspective as the well-meaning mom is that she is 100% convinced she wants to go to a HSS and be a doctor, and she totally does not see the disconnect between what she is doing now and what it takes to get where she wants. But all of my efforts to “fix” the problem — putting the dots close together about what it takes to get into a HSS/med school, suggesting alternative career options that suit her skills/interests, hovering a little more about missed assignments and studying, giving well-meaning parental lectures that make even me cringe when I hear myself, etc. — that all just runs headlong into her overwhelming desire for independence. Instead of helping, it makes her feel like we won’t love her if she gets a B. Which is horrible.

    I still haven’t figured out exactly what TO do, but I am learning to bite my tongue a lot more on the things-she-perceives-as-nagging-and-criticism. She’s just going to be one of those kids who has to learn things the hard way. Maybe she’ll figure it out in time; when I look at the long arc, every year is noticeably more mature and better than the last. But even if she doesn’t get into the school she wants or make it to med school at all, there are a ton of other career paths out there that will still enable her to move out of my house and support herself. Which is basically the real win here; the rest is just window dressing.

  50. Love this topic but no time today.

    Lark – How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, How to Hug a Porcupine and I Hate You; Can You Drive Me To The Mall? are 3 books I recommend reading if you have kids approaching MS. (I didn’t read the 3d but have heard of it a few times). I got to these too late, after I’d made some mistakes in how I communicated w/ DS and eldest DSD. I recovered in time but wish I’d been more prepared. Things change dramatically from ES to MS in how they think and in what works in terms of talking to them.

  51. laurafrombaltimore – is DD in MS or HS? If MS, the B’s won’t matter. If it is simply a case of not enough studying, all you can do is show her the requirements for the path that she says she wants to take. You might want to consider whether somethng else is going on with her, though, if it continues. I think the job of the parent at this point is to make sure there aren’t underlying problems .

  52. Lark: I will refer you to Risley’s excellent advice on pre-teens and teens–treat them with respect.

    I completely agree. You have to start treating them like incipient adults — even knowing that they’ll disappoint you — if you want them to start acting like incipient adults.

    WE were the parents who let our kids watch The Godfather and have wine with dinner

    My son called me yesterday with parental interview questions for a driver’s ed assignment, one of which was asking my beliefs on juveniles having access to alcohol. I told him my real beliefs (wine with dinner ok, starting from the glass of water with a splash of wine and moving toward the glass of wine with a splash of water by late high school) and what he should put down as my beliefs to turn in to the ex-cop teaching the class (juveniles should not have access to alcohol).

  53. Thos of you with HS kids, how many of you allow wine at dinner or at special occasions? My parents always did, but we have been pretty strict so far. The attitudes today towards drinking are so different from when I was growing up, and I don’t want to get into any trouble.

  54. LFB- I got lots of B’s in junior high, lots in high school, lots in college. I went to a very selective medical school, and a lot of my classmates got B’s, too. No one has ever asked about my middle school grades, and no medical school asked about my high school grades. My college BFF got some C’s (!) but went to a well-respected MD school and is now the director of her large specialty department, as well as a national presence in her field.

    There are many paths, and few of them involve straight A’s. College is a clean slate, and many kids from Directional State University go to medical school.

  55. MM- What trouble do you expect to get into? In almost every state (including NY and Connecticut) it is legal for children to consume alcohol in the presence of their parents.

  56. So far, school life is simple. I don’t like Common Core math but everything else about my kids’ school is pretty good. Elementary schools merge for middle school so grades have ~150 kids. The three middle schools merge into 2 high schools and an alternative high school at grade 9. You can request a transfer to another middle school or high school but most people do that for childcare reasons. Two guys in my group have grandchildren at the same elementary school as my kids and that is kind of fun, since it gives us more to chat about.

    The high school we funnel into has a graduating class a little over 300. It sounds like Milo’s high school, in that a couple kids are going to HYPS level colleges and the rest are going to college at the state university or community college, with a few out-of-state universities and mostly religious private colleges in the mix. It’s considered a very good high school because of its high graduation rate, the metric for a good high school here.

  57. MM – when we have wine with dinner, infrequent but not rare, I always ask the kids if they want some. DS1 (now 22, so fully allowed anyway) started having red wine after his first year of college. The others just don’t want it.

  58. My older son had a rough year in 7th grade, self-inflicted, but he did figure out by the end of that year that it’s not actually a good idea to sneak out of bed so you can stay up most of the night on the computer, because it will make your days miserable.

    I nervously waited for what I thought would be the inevitable friend drama for my daughter, but other than getting caught in the middle a bit when some of her friends were fighting with each other, there never really seemed to be any. It certainly helped that her core group of friends — the ones who’ve been hanging out together since early elementary — never had a falling out. Anyway, I try to remember when I get cranky about her spending all her time in her room messaging with friends, apparently her time investment in managing relationships does work for her.

  59. “On the other hand, it was so long ago that there was an outdoor courtyard area for smokers — can you imagine?”

    Not in junior high! I do remember that smoking was still banned in high school, but lots of kids smoked, so it was a pain to have to hide behind trees, or walls or driver’s ed. cars.

    So getting covered smoking areas became my mission! Along with a few others, we convinced the School Board to give us our smoking areas. The quid pro quo was that we had to give anti-smoking presentations to elementary school kids. Good Lord!

  60. Ada, the way I read LFB’s post was that her kid wants to go to a highly selective college before medical school, and if that is the case, B’s are an issue. They aren’t so much of an issue for a directional state u of course. Although honestly, I always wonder why schools put so much emphasis on HS GPA. Even at my school, the average GPA for entering students is a 3.3. I see lots of kids who come in with lots of A’s all over their HS transcript, and yet they know nothing. The SATs are much more of a differentiator for our students. I know that the highly selective schools also know a lot about the rigor of the HSs, but for less selective schools that don’t have the resourcces to determine if an incoming kid took hard courses or easy courses, it seems like a meaningless number.

  61. LfB,
    There are lots of paths to being a doctor, and B’s in middle or high school (or even college) won’t be obstacles to all of them. Your DD is still way too young to know 100% the college or career that will be right for her, and if she is intent on independence, she will be miserable if you try to be a Tiger Mom. That is very hard when your every instinct is to be a Tiger Mom, as mine is, especially because nobody did this for me or for DH and we had to make our own paths through the JD and PhD minefield.
    Learning when NOT to say anything is an essential skill for relationships with adult children, so you are getting a head start.

  62. My daughter is just starting 9th grade though so she’s not out of the woods yet.

  63. 6th and 7th grade were pretty miserable, I had my group of friends, no nemesis, but did get picked on at times, and wanted badly to fit in with the “in” crowd

    by 8th grade I was much happier

    private high school was fun, but again, senior year was the best

  64. I really appreciated Mooshi’s sharing her experience because that helped me know what to look out for. The fixing of any issues in the online grades in a timely fashion is important and knowing when the grade book closed (a few days prior to quarter end) was important because any issues had to be raised before that day.

  65. I need to vent about work, my boss tells me today , after working with him for almost 2 years, that he hates when I send him emails instead of calling or face-to-face and HATES being CC’d

    He said email was one of the worst things to ever happen in business

    You could have told me this 2 years ago, since email is my preferred communication (esp. since he often “forgets ” what we have talked about and later asks why I am doing what he told me to do!)


  66. positive note, bought some new ankle length pants after our discussion the other day, love them!

  67. “Not trying to paint a super rosy picture but I do think that sometimes teens get a bad rap.”

    I agree. I think teens need both respect and to be useful. And useful involves, real, neccessary work, paid or unpaid, at home or away. But necessary, things that someone who have to pay to have done, or make the community a better place.

    So, teaching swimming lessons or being responsible for meal preparation, or getting the laundry done, or turning off a pump, or running for parts. But something that is obviously real, not make work.

  68. I hope this community is still going strong when DS goes into middle school in 6 years

  69. “It sounds like Milo’s high school, in that a couple kids are going to HYPS level colleges and the rest are going to college at the state university or community college, with a few out-of-state universities and mostly religious private colleges in the mix.”

    So do pretty much all the kids go to some sort of college?

    It sounds pretty similar to my HS. A large %age of of my class, perhaps about half, went to the local CC, and many of them never went beyond that. E.g., one of my best friends from HS went to CC to become an auto mechanic.

  70. Winemama – Adding to your vent – my boss is always complaining about her inbox and how many emails she gets. Welcome to this century! Does she think the rest of us only get a handful? She also gives vague and contradictory directions verbally, and also doesn’t read her e-mail beyond the first couple of sentences, so we tend to repeat ourselves a lot. How do you tell your boss to slow down, focus and READ!?

  71. “email is my preferred communication (esp. since he often “forgets ” what we have talked about”

    Yes, I also prefer email, because my memory is not what it used to be, and I like being able to go back and refresh my memory. It’s especially useful when I’m asked about projects from years ago.

  72. I think MS wasn’t a great experience for DW, although she’s still very close to many of the friends she made in MS. When DS was young, she was quite emphatic that he would not go to the local public MS, which echoes what my SIL, who lives in the same feeder area.

    Apparently, that’s quite a common sentiment, and 6th grade admissions to local privates are extremely competitive.

  73. “Yes, I also prefer email, because my memory is not what it used to be, and I like being able to go back and refresh my memory.”

    me too

  74. “Yes, I also prefer email, because my memory is not what it used to be, and I like being able to go back and refresh my memory.”

    me too

    Maybe that’s what your bosses dislike. They can’t just change their minds suddenly and claim everything is your fault.

  75. Finn, I’ll guess over two-thirds of kids manage to enroll in higher education of some sort. That includes short term programs (CNA, pharmacy tech or sleep tech) programs as well as longer vocational programs. I don’t know how many kids actually complete those short-term programs. Some kids join the military, which in my opinion is often a better option. The training is thorough and they pay you. But you have to be willing to move away, which is not right for all kids that age.

  76. My kids’ school is k-12, so they didn’t have big transitions to MS. OTOH, 6th grade is one of the big expansion points in their school, as is 7th (4th and 9th are the other expansion points), so they do have chances to make new friends.

    Both my kids, but especially DS, really enjoyed their MS years. DS became close to another kid in 4th grade, and at the beginning of 6th grade, they met a couple of new students with whom they really hit it off, and the 4 of them were nearly inseparable through MS. The parents also nurtured that; especially the parents of the one kid with older sibs, who had seen those sibs struggle through MS.

    They’re still very close, but have branched into different interests, and their circle of friends has expanded to a bit over a dozen or so.

    Interestingly, one of DD’s current BFs was also her BF in preschool. After preschool, they went to different ESs, but her friend transferred in for 6th grade, then in 8th grade was in many of the same classes as DD, and they reconnected.

  77. Sorry to hijack — I have a question about eldercare finances. MIL has a trust worth just over $1 million. A trust company selected by someone other than me is investing it for “moderate growth and income” and to date her expenses have been minimal, because she was living at home.

    Various medical issues, including a recent diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment that may lead to Alzheimer’s, has made it unwise for her to live at home alone, and she has been in a temporary assisted living community while the family figures out the next step. After hiring a geriatric care manager (thanks Meme!), the family’s tentative decision is to have her come home with in-home care, 24/7 for the first several weeks, and then re-evaluating. Going forward, her expenses will be much higher — at least $70K per year. Her money market account has a very small balance — under $20K — and I suggested that they withdraw a lump sum from the trust now and leave the rest to be managed either for preservation of capital or moderate growth and income. (That will be a question for another day).

    I suggested $200K, on the theory that the unpredictable nature of her MCI may mean that she suddenly needs a step-up in care, and that way we aren’t selling assets in a down market to meet higher expenses. But when BIL notified the trust company, they balked at reducing the trust assets by that amount and suggested that BIL submit her assisted living and home care bills to them for payment from the trust. They told him that they are worried that MIL will run out of money in 10 years if we take so much out now. BIL is not financially sophisticated, and asked for advice. My gut reaction is that the trust company is more concerned about a 20% reduction in their fees than the best financial interest of MIL.

    Any thoughts?

  78. WCE, is that 2/3 of all the kids, or 2/3 of those who graduate?

    My HS didn’t have a great graduation rate, but of those who graduated, I think well over 75% either enrolled in a post-HS school or joined the military. I’d guess close to half went to the local CC, and about a quarter to a third went straight to flagship U (many of those who started at local CC later transferred to flagship U). A handful went to OOS colleges.

  79. Oh, my chair, and email!! he refuses to read email on a timely basis even though it is vastly the preferred method of communication on my campus. Everyone from the president to the students use email. He will go weeks ignoring email and then some terrible crisis will ensue because he hadn’t kept up. To make things worse, his preferred method of communication are these 3 hour rambling phone calls, invariably placed in the evening to your house. When I was TT, I just had to put up with it. I could never remember all the stuff in the rambles, and would be petrified I would miss something he thought was important. Now, I have all his numbers identified for caller id, so I just don’t pick up. And if he does get through, my DH and my DS1 know they are supposed to have a cooking or laundry crisis after I have been on the phone for about 30 minutes.

    Everyone in my department complains about the phone calls. What do you do with someone like that?

  80. Scarlett: There are others with more experience here, but here’s what I think. The trust is correct in highlighting the risk of withdrawing 20% of the account. However, after highlighting this risk (which is their job), they should do as you ask (which is also their job).

  81. Middle school was rough. I hated the lunch room. What made it worse was one of my best friends decided to stop speaking to me without telling me why – lasted over a year. Where she would just turn her back to me when we were in the same group. We’re Facebook friends now. Maybe one day I’ll private message her and ask her why she was such a jerk.

    High school was hard in some ways too socially, but by senior year I didn’t care or cared a lot less. I wish I would have gotten to know more of the kids in my honors classes vs. trying to hang out with the cool kids. Thankfully I had sports and was too competitive at school to care that it wasn’t cool to be smart.

    I really hope my kids are nice to others. I’ve given up nearly all my parenting “I Nevers” but I’m still pretty firm on them being nice to one another. I once heard a sermon pre-kids where the pastor talked about how boys get less affection, especially touching – hugs etc., as they get older. That stuck with me. My big worry is that my boys won’t want to have a relationship with me when they are older or that I’ll be the dreaded mother-in-law.

  82. Are we complaining about bosses today? Great! My current boss, who is awesome, is leaving at the end of this month and my new boss (who is not) has changed my responsibilities 3 times in the past 2 weeks. Just keeps piling stuff on. Boring, administrative stuff. Ick.

  83. Scarlett, how old is your MIL? I think the answer is probably different if she is 88 than if she is 75.

  84. “My gut reaction is that the trust company is more concerned about a 20% reduction in their fees than the best financial interest of MIL.”

    That’s what I was thinking as I read your post.

    OTOH, at $70k/year, $1M can go pretty fast, although if they can manage it to generate, say, 5%, it can last a while. So I can see the concern with taking a large chunk and moving it to something like a MM account, which probably has a very low return.

    Perhaps your BIL should work with the trustees to change the asset allocation to generate income, while also keeping a chunk in relatively liquid assets. If they’re good, they probably had the assets allocated consistent with her minimal expense requirements, and if they’re kept apprised of her expenses, can adjust the allocation to match

  85. Mooshi, do you know of any transcription services? Have your chair call them, then he can email you the transcription.

  86. Finn, the graduation rate is ~90% and I don’t know how that counts the ~50 kids/year who graduate from the alternative high school in our city. Considering the 2/3 number is pulled out of my ear, the actual number could be 60% (2/3 of 90%) or 75%. If my boys don’t graduate from high school, it will be for some stupid reason like high school math taken during middle school doesn’t count towards the graduation requirements. It’s clear my boys have the aptitude to graduate from high school, so I haven’t worried about statistics too much.

  87. Scarlett, I think agree with Finn.

    And maybe a middle road? $0.1M to cash/mm, $0.2M to short term bond fund, the rest to a more income-producing portfolio than she’s currently in?

    The trustee could still be in the bill-paying / cost reimbursement business if you want them to do that, but that function is separate and distinct from the asset allocation issue.

  88. MM-Our heritage is Italian so we always offered our children wine at Sunday dinner even when they were young. They usually turned it down but felt very grown up to be included in the tradition. However, we never served alcohol in the presence of or offered any alcohol to their friends because a) who knows how parents feel about such things and b) there are legal ramifications to serving alcohol to underage teens that are not your children.

  89. My kid’s went/go to a very Totebaggy elementary school with tons of professional parents. This meant that it was very hard to stand out. Also, this meant that once students were known for their academic capabilities it sort of becames difficult for other students to gain the confidence to do better than the entrenched top students. Now, with a bigger group of students in MS and the shuffling of the groups each year, everyone has a fresh start to try each year.

  90. Thanks all. MIL is 81 and in good physical health. We don’t need the trust to take over expense management. I am open to taking less than $200K out now — I picked the number out of thin air when BIL called. All of our retirement accounts are with Vanguard in various index funds. I don’t have any expertise in managing portfolios of individual stocks and bonds, and I don’t know whether we are getting good service for the fees we are paying the trust managers. But if you were managing a $1.3 million fund for an 80 yo person (with no other significant income) how much would you want to keep in liquid assets?

  91. My dad would offer occasional sips of beer starting at 5. We thought it was so gross none of us really touched alcohol until college. Once I was in college my parents didn’t mind me moderately drinking at family parties but I was never offered a whole glass before then. I have no idea how we will handle alcohol with the kids. I have seen being offered wine at home as a teenager go well and not so well so I suspect it depends on the kid.

  92. Scarlett – you can try that FIRECalc website. You can input portfolio size, length of time frame (15 or 20 years to be safe maybe) and annual withdrawal amount and it will tell you your changes of still having money left.

  93. Scarlett, I tend to agree that $200K is a lot to take out up front. Could you dial it back to $100K? To my mind, a lot depends on how quickly the trustee can pay any bills that come up. If it takes a month or two to get the money, then you need more liquidity now.

  94. I had super busy parents growing up who did all the right things but were just clued into how tough the growing up process was for me. They each came from larger families, so there were always aunts, uncles and siblings to help them out if their parents were not available.
    This made me determined to be more available for my kids rather than just leave them totally struggling and miserable.

  95. Wine at dinner: For unclear reasons, my mother always got Manischewitz wine with the screw-top. They only drank wine on Thanksgiving. So every Thanksgiving, that same bottle of Manischewitz that lived in the back of the fridge would be pulled out and little glasses poured for Mom, Dad, and Grandma. I don’t know what they were thinking. Mom would pour a little slosh for me in a Dixie cup and I thought, “oh, it tastes like bad grape juice”. I was surprised when I got to college and had a little real wine.

    In later years when Dad began drinking heavily he only drank malt liquor. I swear to you, in other regards my parents were total Totebaggers! I don’t know why their alcohol choices were so bizarre.

  96. we aren’t selling assets in a down market to meet higher expenses

    What’s the current asset allocation of the trust? If it’s 70% bonds with 50% bond funds and 50% actual bonds with rolling maturities, you may be able to pay expenses by taking cash out as the bonds mature?

  97. Scarlett, keep in mind that $70/year is less than $6k/month, so with $20k already in a MM fund, they don’t necessarily need to move a large amount right now.

    My guess is that based on your MIL’s previous low level of expenses, the allocation emphasized growth over income.

    Keep in mind that $70k/$1.3M is about 5.4%, so it may be possible to cover her expenses with minimal dipping into principal.

  98. Scarlett: Vanguard works well with trusts. They will give you a check book and you (or BIL) can pay expenses directly. It’s a simple process once you get things set up.

  99. Thanks everyone. We are the only Totebaggers in DH’s decidedly non-Totebaggy family. They don’t usually bother asking us first, so I want to give them a helpful answer this time. I am going to ask a banker friend to take a look at the trust allocation and advise on changes. If it were my call, they would already be with Vanguard and we would have a fee-only financial planner helping us. Atlanta Mom, thanks for the website tip.

  100. The stakes are so much higher than in elementary school.

    What exactly are the stakes in middle school?

  101. “What exactly are the stakes in middle school?”

    Entry into the honors/calculus track?

  102. “Thos of you with HS kids, how many of you allow wine at dinner or at special occasions?”

    We don’t allow any alcohol. We have bad genetics for substance abuse on both sides and the research seems to indicate that people have a better chance at avoiding substance abuse issues if they abstain from alcohol until after the brain stops forming. We also have bad cancer genetics, so we strive for seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Both issues are basically presented the same way: the kids got dealt a bad hand genetically and need to what they can to mitigate it.

    Also, the penalties for alcohol use are so draconian now, it is a risk that we just aren’t willing to take or to take on their behalf.

  103. Scarlett – what are the fees and what is the portfolio like now? If the fees are anything over 1% (and even that is high) you should push whoever is in charge/POA to move the trust to Vanguard. You could also shift over to more income-producing stocks, but there is the same issue of selling off too much at once and incurring cap gains.

  104. On the page referred to in the OP, there was a link to the article about Amy Chua’s contract, so I clicked it.

    It was pretty funny. I’m pretty sure she had tongue well in cheek as she did this. I particularly liked this: “WHEREAS Children owe their parents everything, even in the West, where many have conflicted feelings about this”

    However, I saw a problem in her language. She wrote, “To fill the refrigerator with fresh OJ from Fairway for Jed on days when he is in town.” Literally filling the refrigerator with OJ would seem likely to lead to a huge mess whenever someone opens the refrigerator door. Perhaps “stock” might have been a better word choice.

  105. Sorry about lack of clarity, and thanks for input — DD is HS now, so things “count” more. Mooshi, I am partly worried because she does have the ADHD issues, and it’s the lack of study habits that I fret is going to hold her back more than anything. But she’s still young, and it’s easy to forget how big the delta is between what I thought I knew at 15 and what I actually knew. @Ada, thanks, that’s really useful info – being an outsider, it feels like a career where you have to be perfect to even have a shot to break in, so it is nice to know that’s not true.

    On another parenting front, I feel so bad for DS tonight. His little league team won their regular season, and they were all excited for playoffs. But they got a tough first matchup (dk why), and DS came to bat with 2 down and the tying run on 2nd in the bottom of the last inning. He promptly smacks a double — and the kid on second comes to a dead stop at third, then starts running home when the ball is almost back to the pitcher, then misses home but the catcher missed the ball, then runs into the dugout and the coach pushes him back to the field to touch the plate, and then gets called out for the rules violation (pushing the kid back to the plate). And my little Mr. Mellow spent the next hour and a half sobbing, completely inconsolable. Even chocolate didn’t help.

    Meanwhile, I am secretly relieved that I don’t have to cover games the next two nights. 😉 BAD mom!

  106. Entry into the honors/calculus track?

    And what happens if you aren’t on the calculus track? You are doomed to a life of working at Walmart?

    My thoughts on this are colored by the high schools here seeming to have much more flexibility in placing kids in the various tracks, probably because they have students coming from numerous middle schools. They don’t seem to be hung up on rigid requirements like others here seem to have encountered, such as being excluded from geometry as a freshman because you got a B in 7th grade.

  107. LfB, I’m so sorry for your son and his teammates.

    Meanwhile, I am secretly relieved that I don’t have to cover games the next two nights. 😉 BAD mom!

    This is the “dark secret of youth sports” – parents who secretly hope their kids’ teams lose. A local radio show did a great segment on this a while back. A ton of parent of parents called in talking about how they secretly root against their kids’ teams so they can go home instead of having to watch more games.

  108. Scarlett. It sounds like you know what to do, but the trustee sib needs professional advice either because he does not know what to do or because the other stakeholders will only trust him to do it if he working with a professional. There is no reason to take out that much cash at once. When it looked like mom was going to have to give up her independence, we talked to the account manager for her trust accounts and we converted about 300K into laddered cds, leaving all the rest in conservative dividend growth equities under his management. Cash flow was covered for five years. And there was a checkbook no need for wire transfers to another account or for the third party to cut the checks

  109. Probably a new mom reaction, but I can’t stop thinking about the gator incident at Disney. Weren’t we just contrasting the other day Disney with the national parks as far as the danger being engineered away? Seriously, I’m a very paranoid mom and a luxury Disney resort would probably be a rare place I’d let my guard down a bit. I feel more justified in my helicoptering now. To keep up the illusion that if only I’m cautious enough, nothing so horrible could happen to our family.

  110. Rio, the gator attack kept me from falling asleep last night, too, even though I know such incidents are rare. Such incidents are partly why Mr WCE carries an appropriately loaded gun when we’re in bear territory.

  111. Rio, I too am appalled at what seems like a startlingly dangerous design. To hear that there were multiple gators that they’ve pulled out already, and it’s apparently well known to those living in the area that any non-chlorinated fresh water will attract gators, and they created a large connected series of fresh-water “lagoons” in a recreation area designed around small children, with a beach alongside on which they held night-time events, and yet the only warning to guests was apparently the “no swimming” signage.

    It’s just such a horrifying thing. Those poor parents.

  112. Rio, the gator attack kept me from falling asleep last night, too, even though I know such incidents are rare. Such incidents are partly why Mr WCE carries an appropriately loaded gun when we’re in bear territory.

    In case you’re attacked by a gator?

  113. Young children attacked by cougars are more common than bear attacks where we live, come to think about it. But presumably parents in Florida worry about gators and pythons.

  114. WCE – I keep thinking about the gator, too. And my mom emailed me about it, commenting that she would be on sedatives as the parent in that situation. I’ve considered getting a concealed carry license and some sort of reasonable handgun for general situations like the bear you mentioned (national park trips). Normally it would live in a safe at home, as I’ll never be the kind of person who thinks a loaded weapon in the nightstand makes sense.

    The statistic I remember from HS was that one third went on to four-year colleges [immediately]. I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that another third started at community college. Only a few seemed to join the military. HYPS (or near equivalent–let’s say Top 20) was very rare, maybe 1.2 per year.

    The thing that always surprised me was how many went to out-of-state middle-of-the-road public schools when we had plenty of in-state middle-of-the-road public schools. And they would go through waves of popularity, like a bunch of friends from your team one and two classes ahead of you went to Clemson, so you and your friends from your current class are going to Clemson. And we weren’t in South Carolina. Of course, three of DW’s closest friends at her non-flagship public were from Long Island (but it made it really fun to attend their weddings). And a ton of non-Delawareans seem to go to Delaware.

    Scarlett – At MIL’s age, I wonder what % you might get from a simple annuity. 6%? 7%? So if you take the worst-case scenario of $75k per year for full-time care, plus some incidental expenses, Netflix, etc., – the $25k per year she gets from Social Security, what about annuitizing the roughly $600k to make that work, and keep the remaining $600k for growth and “legacy.”

  115. “Literally filling the refrigerator with OJ would seem likely to lead to a huge mess whenever someone opens the refrigerator door. Perhaps “stock” might have been a better word choice.”

    Lol. Finn – You should create a book series based on Amelia Bedelia’s more sophisticated, Totebaggy cousin. Unlike Amelia, she wouldn’t be hilariously tripped up by literal interpretations of common idioms, but she instead would be unable to look past the slightest grammatical imprecision, and would execute all actions accordingly.

  116. My heart just breaks for the 2 ur old kid and his family! Cannot imagine what the parents must be going through. Can’t stop thinking about it.

  117. I just thought of this ride, and yep, Disney took care of it:

    In response to these recent events, Walt Disney World today cut all jokes related to children and crocodiles from the Jungle Cruise attraction at the Magic Kingdom. Among the jokes, the attraction famously asked parents to “watch their children, or the crocodiles will.”

  118. Yeah, that gator story seems like it ought to be an urban legend. It’s the kind of thing that strikes right at a parent’s greatest fear — that your child will be devoured by a monster right before your eyes.

    A ton of parent of parents called in talking about how they secretly root against their kids’ teams so they can go home instead of having to watch more games.

    Someday the tide (or maybe the worm) will turn and parents will go about their business until some really important game. My parents never came to my swim team events or gymnastics meets unless it was some really big deal. I think it made me more focused on the sport rather than on Mom and Dad’s approval/attention. But DH and I had to go to every stupid soccer practice for DSS. God that was tedious. And he wasn’t even really that into it.

  119. LfB – it was nerve wracking last season watching the penalty shoot outs that determine which team gets to move on. Though it is just rec the atmosphere in the playoffs is different.
    One parent brought a vuvuzela – it was all good fun but I noticed the other parents giving us “the look”.

    I think Fred mentioned OJ – Made in America – good documentary. These days I prefer documentaries over books even.

  120. DS loves the pizza party after the final
    game of the season. He is another Mr. Mellow, taking the wins and losses in his stride. As the kids grow up play is getting rougher and some teams trash talk.

  121. “It’s the kind of thing that strikes right at a parent’s greatest fear — that your child will be devoured by a monster right before your eyes.”

    And they’re rich and attractive, white and from the Heartland, and he was only 2, (as opposed to 9 where you could imagine he was being kind of obnoxious and somehow ignoring the rules), and you could not pick a more horrific place for this to happen than the most expensive resort at Disney World. Put them at a Sheraton in Clearwater and the interest goes way down, just because we assume it must have been different somehow, and we would have recognized the danger that they ignored.

  122. “just because we assume it must have been different somehow, and we would have recognized the danger that they ignored.”

    Milo – that’s exactly it. I think this is so hard because the parents weren’t being irresponsible. “No swimming” to me means no swimming but it wouldn’t preclude wading in my mind.

  123. Thanks for all the MIL $$ suggestions. Meme, you are right that the local BIL needs some professional assistance. Up to this point, the family has been reactive rather than proactive, and it has taken some prodding to get them to focus on long-term planning. Fortunately, the resources are there and the BIL who has the POA is totally on board with the “the money is for mom and not for us” approach.

    The Disney alligator case reminds me of the horrible tragedy in NYC 3 or 4 years ago, in which a Totebag mom came home and found the nanny stabbing 2 of her 3 kids to death in the tub. The description of her screaming and having to be sedated on the way to the hospital stayed in my head for a long time. Literally, these are a parent’s worst nightmare.

  124. Someday the tide (or maybe the worm) will turn and parents will go about their business until some really important game.

    People talk about parents going to all their kids’ games/events like it’s a new thing, but it’s not. When I was growing up in the 80s, all the parents came to all the games. The difference is now there are a lot more games with all the travel teams and tournaments and such.

  125. On the Disney thing, I think Disney is 100% responsible for not having better warning signs. “No swimming” does not equate to “don’t even put your feet in because you might get attacked by an alligator”.

  126. Yeah, but Denver, I was growing up in the 60s. I agree by the 80s parental guilt had kicked in and you had to go to everything.

    Even in the 60s I’m sure some parents went to everything, but mostly the ones who were really into sports.

  127. In the late 70’s, my brother played both Little League and soccer, and I do not remember parents going to any of the games except the important ones. Parents did go to the Little League awards night, which was done as a picnic but not to the team pool party.

    I do not go to my kids practices. I usually select a couple of games a season, trying for pleasant weather, to attend. I am going to DS2’s game this Saturday because it is the championship game. But you know what? I am bringing my Kindle.

  128. One of the problems in tourist areas including national parks is that out of towners are not usually familiar with local risks. A Floridian probably knows that No Swimming means “stay away from water because of alligators” but the rest of us may not realize that. Even if we read about it, it isn’t the same as knowing which precautions make sense. This is a problem in lots of areas. People visiting the Southwest may not appreciate the risk of flash floods, for example.

  129. My life experiences have taught me that horrible things can happen even when I’m being completely careful and responsible. But I get that it’s a hard lesson for most people.

  130. “A Floridian probably knows that No Swimming means “stay away from water because of alligators” but the rest of us may not realize that. Even if we read about it, it isn’t the same as knowing which precautions make sense.”

    Right. Which is also part of the appeal of Disney: everything is so carefully managed and groomed and curated and taken care of for you. Part of the “sell” is that you don’t even have to worry about things like that, because they take so much care to present a safe, wholesome environment — and where something is dangerous, they block it off and/or post big scary signs everywhere so it’s clear you shouldn’t go there.

  131. “My life experiences have taught me that horrible things can happen even when I’m being completely careful and responsible.”

    A 4-year old died in a horrible elevator accident in our area recently . His dad lost sight of him for just a moment.


  132. “Part of the “sell” is that you don’t even have to worry about things like that, because they take so much care to present a safe, wholesome environment — and where something is dangerous, they block it off and/or post big scary signs everywhere so it’s clear you shouldn’t go there.”

    Recent event aside, are we sure that this is actually dangerous? I’m still unable to reconcile one school of thought about this is that “well, everybody knows that alligators are all over Florida, in every body of freshwater, you just assume that there are alligators. Oh yeah, there are alligators. Got to be careful. Signs should have said alligators specifically, poor Nebraskans didn’t know better. Shades of Green [Disneyworld resort across the street owned by Dept. of Defense] has signs that specifically mention alligators…”

    trying to reconcile all of that with the fact that there are Disney water activities in this very same body of water, including tubing and waterskiing. And recent episodes of Lakefront Bargain Hunt have featured Florida lakes with families planning to boat and swim, and surely there are alligators there, too.

    So are alligators dangerous or not?

    Key factors here seem to be: 1) very small child; 2) after dusk; 3) very shallow area (ironically). But I’m sure he wasn’t the only toddler wading into the shallow edges of a body of fresh water in the entire state of Florida at that time, or any other day.

  133. “But presumably parents in Florida worry about gators and pythons.”

    Yeah, we do. I am cautious of any canal or body of fresh water we come across.

    Our new house in North Warehouseville is on a “lake”. (More likely, it’s a rainwater containment area for I-95!) All my real estate guy could talk about was how he had found “valuable waterfront” property for me. I told him I wished he found me a garage or a house without mirrored walls.

    I don’t want my cat around that ditch, I don’t want my kid there and contrary to what my real estate agent says, I have no intention of using it for canoeing, kayaking, fly-fishing or anything else. I don’t like alligators and wouldn’t even wear one as a belt.

  134. “But Santamaria said that sadness turned to anger when he heard authorities state during a news conference on Wednesday that such a tragedy had never happened before at Disney.

    “This is not something that was the first time it happened,” Santamaria said. “It happened to me, 30 years ago, and it was disheartening to hear that.”

    I guess they meant first fatality

  135. San Diego attorney David Hiden told the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday that last year he whisked his son to safety at Disney’s Coronado Springs after a gator approached the boy playing in calf-deep water. Then Hiden saw a second gator nearby. Hiden said a hotel manager called one of them a “resident pet” and seemed unconcerned.


    I also heard on the radio yesterday about the same gators that Ada saw near Tom Sawyer Island, and people feeding them those giant turkey legs.

  136. Disney’s GC is the highest paid GC in the country. It’s hard to believe there wasn’t more risk assessment done over the years.

  137. Shades of Green [Disneyworld resort across the street owned by Dept. of Defense] has signs that specifically mention alligators…”

    The Hyatt a mile away has signs warning that it has gators in its lagoon. The Hyatt on the West Coast of Florida also has little signs ever 12 feet warning that there are alligators in the lagoons and ponds. That being the case, the only part that surprised me was that Disney didn’t warn of the gators.

    This story also reminds me of the shark attack panic a few summers ago. While being eaten is a primal human fear, the actual chance of being eaten is practically zero.

  138. Milo – you brought up a good point. How are water activities being allowed in the lakes if there are gators lurking ?

  139. Milo, we aren’t people who would keep a loaded gun around either- all guns and ammunition live in a gun safe. There were a number of cougar sightings near houses in our area last summer. Cougars attack slow-moving, 20 lb mammals like Baby WCE. I’m not sure if I would keep a revolver loaded with blanks if that were a problem in my neighborhood. You don’t have to be a very good shot to shoot blanks and scare an animal.

  140. DH has a potential business trip to Orlando in July. He was asking if I wanted to come along. Yeah, maybe not. (Plus, you know, Orlando in July? Jesus.)

  141. How are water activities being allowed in the lakes if there are gators lurking ?

    There are 20 million people in Florida and 1.25 million alligators, the last death was in 2007. The reason it’s allowed is because the risk is almost zero.

  142. Disney safety FAQ

    Will I encounter any bugs or wildlife during my visit?
    Yes. You may want to bring insect repellant during the warmer months. Most importantly please do not feed the birds or other animals. As Timon and Pumbaa would say your yummies are not good for their tummies.

  143. “While being eaten is a primal human fear, the actual chance of being eaten is practically zero.”

    This case seems more common than we might realize because he wasn’t actually eaten. He drowned. I don’t know if we can say whether the gator drowned him and then decided that he was not worth eating, or simply attacked him, said “no good,” and released him before drowning. If it was more like the latter case, and he had been an eight-year-old (or an adult, obviously), he likely would have survived.

  144. it mentioned they are doing an autopsy, I wouldn’t think they will find out much more than he was attacked and drowned

  145. How are water activities being allowed in the lakes if there are gators lurking ?

    With the size and sound of the engines, the gators are not lurking because they’re not going to go after “prey” that is bigger then they are. That is why it is “relatively” safe to be in the water doing those sports.

    This is a case of the alligator heat sensing “prey” that it could “handle”. Since they were the only one’s on the beach, it was most likely quiet and the child was the size of and making splashing sounds similar to a goose or swan. Alligators and crocodiles “spin” and drown their prey so it is hard to know at what point it stopped. Sharks too mistake human’s for seals and they will bite determine we’re not seals and let go. However, they’re bite is so big and sharp that survival may not be possible. This story reminds me of the small jelly fish that live in the oceans surrounding Australia – the sting is fatal but the jelly fish is so small most don’t even see it in the waters. Every where you go there is risk from the local wild/sea life. If the risk is small, does the tourist industry really want to call attention to it? When you go somewhere, you can research some of the risks but it is hard to absorb and understand those risks unless you live there for any amount of time.

    This was such a horrible event and I feel for those parents who went from having the best vacation to this nightmare.

    On a completely different note, I was attending some training this week with people from all over the country. Two women were from Georgia and one morning they used “bless their hearts” twice. Once was to complain about a different department’s requests from some early morning email and the other was about some news they got about a colleague’s spouse being diagnosed with cancer. It was interesting to hear it both uses of the phrase in one morning.

  146. “the actual chance of being eaten is practically zero.”

    My third grade teacher had an uncle who was eaten, at least partially, by a shark. His remains were found in a shark that was caught and cut open.

  147. “One of the problems in tourist areas including national parks is that out of towners are not usually familiar with local risks.”

    Unfortunately, tourists die here an a regular basis. Drowning seems to be the most frequent cause of death, with traffic crashes also frequent, but things like falling off cliffs are also not unusual.

    It’s not uncommon after a death like drowning or falling off a cliff that someone will make a comment urging tourists to not leave their common sense at home, that there are real dangers lurking in nature, “not like a Disney resort.”

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