So Much for Keeping an Open Mind

A few days ago, Kassy Dillon, recent graduate of the Seven Sisters college from which I graduated had an Op Ed published in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “My Alma Stops Identifying as a Mater” (WSJ December 26, 2018).  In the letter, she chastised Mount Holyoke College for its handling of a recent kerfuffle concerning the roll-out of a new logo that many students found offensive on the grounds that it marginalized the transgender community.

By way of background, Mount Holyoke admits to its undergraduate program “any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman.”

After the student community – not to mention alumnae – spoke out against the proposed logo, the College took another look and ultimately decided not to proceed. A more detailed explanation of the College’s handling of the issue can be found here.

Hence Ms. Dillon’s essay, and to provide just a bit more color, Ms. Dillon is an arch conservative whose opinions and online presence made her something of a lightning rod during her years at Mount Holyoke – and perhaps that was the point. By the time she graduated, she had firmly established herself in the Twittersphere as the “lone conservative” at a college that since its founding has been about as liberal as they come. That Ms. Dillon chose to attend Mount Holyoke may or may not suggest a desire to stir things up, which in and of itself is in keeping with the Mount Holyoke tradition; that she chose to remain there demonstrates – and she has admitted – that, for the most part, she was treated with respect and tolerance despite espousing positions that were offensive to many in the community.

The same cannot be said for those who commented on Ms. Dillon’s article. While I understand that WSJ readers tend to skew more conservative, I was surprised by the dearth of any serious discussion concerning the salient issue, to wit, how a single-sex college can arrive at a thoughtful and appropriate response to those who are not cis-gender (that is, those whose gender identity matches their biological parts)?  Having read all 127 comments to Ms. Dillon’s article, I can only assume that the answer is, “it shouldn’t.”

There is no question that the issue of gender identity has become one that confuses, upsets, and confounds many.  In my experience, many are uncomfortable or even frightened by those who are non-binary/non cis-gender, largely because they assume – as so many did with respect to gay/lesbian/bi individuals not so long ago – that the non-binary/non cis-gendered want to convert them, have sex with them, or overthrow cultural norms in an effort to upend civilized society.

Others object on the basis of biology or religion.  “It’s not natural,” I’ve heard people say. “It isn’t what God intended.”  Not so long ago, some of these same arguments were used to keep women and people of color from occupying any position of power.

As minority groups who in the past had been marginalized (whether because of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity or religion) fought oppression and began to rise to positions of leadership, however, many came to understand that those minorities were equally capable and deserving of the same opportunities traditionally held by White Christian men, and ceased to feel threatened by their differences.  To be sure, racism and anti-gay sentiment, not to mention bias against certain ethnic and religious minorities, is certainly alive and well in our country – in some respects, bigotry has seen something of a renaissance in the last two years – and there is still much work to be done before we can fairly and accurately state that all who call themselves American citizens enjoy the same rights, freedoms, and protections under the law.

It’s also true, though, that, gradually (albeit, far too slowly) we are becoming a society that has begun to understand that the existence of people whose skin color or sexual preference differ from our own tends to have little, if any, impact on how we lead our day-to-day lives.  The fact that my husband’s co-worker is a devout Muslim matters little to his patients who find him to be, first and foremost, an exceptionally compassionate, capable physician.  The fact that a female colleague of mine is a lesbian does not seem to have undermined her ability to provide caring, high-quality legal services to her many grateful clients.

And so it is, I humbly propose, with this newest of paradigms – gender.  For those for whom the non-binary/non cis-gendered community represents a challenge or a threat, I urge you to consider that finding oneself in such a community is no easy thing, as evidenced by the dismissive and contemptuous responses of all who commented on Ms. Dillon’s piece.  One person commented, “[a]dmitting transgender men will do wonders for the Mount Holyoke football team. It could use a couple of good tight ends.”  Another lamented that it is too hard to keep up with all the “labels” and asked how they were supposed to communicate with someone if they didn’t know what to call them?  [Answer:  The way you would communicate with anyone else – decently, kindly, and respectfully].

To those who pooh-pooh the notion that gender might be somewhat more fluid than originally believed, I ask, who would choose a reality in which one is virtually guaranteed to be summarily discounted and treated, at best, as a silly, self-indulgent, attention-seeker, and at worst, attacked as being a freak, or worse? Indeed, the comments to Ms. Dillon’s article (itself free of cheap laughs and unfunny barbs) harken back to the restroom debates of several years ago and tacitly invoke the entirely baseless belief that anyone who does not identify as a heterosexual cis-gender must be a pedophile.

Which leads us to the question of how Mount Holyoke, or any other single-sex school, addresses the issue of gender in a way that is true to its history as a place where the marginalized can pursue an education, without fear of persecution based upon something they cannot change, and which has no bearing whatsoever on their ability to achieve and contribute.  Most who commented had nothing but derision for a school whose incoming class this year had a median SAT score of 1400 and an average GPA of 3.85, simply because its administrators listened to their students and alumnae (most of whom, I can assure you, had a far different reaction than Ms. Dillon) and did the unthinkable – that is, they dared to consider that perhaps they had made a bad decision, and then attempted to correct it.

Mount Holyoke was established in 1837 for the purpose of providing a college education to women at a time when there were few other such opportunities available.  In the 181 years since it was formed, it, and other all-female institutions, have turned out women who have gone on to inhabit the highest echelons of power in business, government, academics, science, the arts, and virtually every occupation that throughout history has traditionally been dominated by men.  Graduates of women’s colleges tend to earn graduate degrees (especially at the doctoral level) at a far higher rate, are more inclined to pursue careers in STEM, are more active participants in class discussions, are more confident, and have a higher undergraduate completion rate than those who attend co-ed universities.  In short, women’s colleges (much like traditionally Black colleges) have done a very good job of preparing their students to compete and succeed once they leave campus.

Single-sex colleges have also been a place where students can shake off traditional societal norms and celebrate what makes them unique, and while many decry the notion of a “safe space,” who does not attend college with at least some expectation that while there, they will be afforded the opportunity to explore new ideas, and new iterations of oneself, in an environment where everyone else is doing the same thing, and is therefore less likely to be critical? Colleges are supposed to foster and encourage the free exchange of ideas in an ongoing discussion about anything and everything; what better place, then, to tackle the complex concept of gender?

I should point out that the dust-up that lead to Ms. Dillon’s article in the first place concerned the roll-out of a proposed new logo intended to communicate an openness and acceptance of those who do not identify as binary or cis-gendered.  As an aside, my primary objection to the new logo was that it was cheesy and pedestrian, but those who have perhaps greater intellectual heft than I found it offensive to the extent that it was exclusive of those whose gender identity is not merely a question of Male or Female.  All who commented on Ms. Dillon’s article dismissed the discussion that ensued, and the ultimate decision of the College to take another look at the issue, as nonsense, hogwash, the pap of elite liberal Dems who have abandoned common sense in favor of mindless theoretical navel-gazing.  In so doing, they deny the experience of those who come into this world with a biological identity that does not square with their psychological reality.  Why?

Because thinking about what it must be like to not fall neatly into one of two categories requires people to question assumptions they have lived with all their lives and potentially alter the way they behave, and most people – especially those who are closer to the coffin than campus – don’t tend to be very good at doing that.  We don’t like to have our perceptions challenged, especially if doing so triggers a level of self-awareness that may be uncomfortable – as in, are there some parts of me that do not feel exclusively male or female? Are there aspects of my personality that are at odds with what my gender identity would suggest they should be?

It’s always harder to keep an open mind, to allow for the possibility that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in one’s philosophy.  It’s much easier to dismiss out of hand the things that challenge our worldview, especially when they make us uncomfortable or force us to have potentially difficult conversations with our children, but these are not legitimate bases upon which to ignore the reality of people whose only agenda is to be accepted for who they are so they can then be left alone to live their lives in relative peace.

If Mount Holyoke, or any other institution, is trying to make it easier for the non-binary, non cis-gendered to do just that, I say, good on you.  It’s a complex topic, one that presents many issues, but none so difficult that they cannot be addressed intelligently, logically, and compassionately by those committed to equality. For all who had something negative to say about Mount Holyoke, go ahead and pile on – it isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.  Unlike Ms. Dillon, I’m proud that my alma mater stands, first and foremost for the rights of those who are most in danger of suffering behavior that is the result of ignorance and intellectual laziness.  Mount Holyoke has always been on the forefront of social justice – during my years there, for example, it made the decision to divest itself of financial assets that were linked to companies that did business with or in South Africa.  I was proud then, and I am proud now, to belong to a community that takes the time to muddle through hard topics, acknowledges that it occasionally makes mistakes, and is willing to listen to all constituents – even those who express opposing viewpoints.

It’s a shame that Ms. Dillon does not understand that the current, vibrant discussion of gender on campus is merely an extension of the philosophy that underpinned the founding of Mount Holyoke College nearly 200 years ago – providing a place where the marginalized and excluded were invited to accept “the challenge to excel.”  In America, in 2018, we should be pleasantly surprised and heartened when any person or institution makes the decision to be more inclusive and thoughtful.


Two Years Into The Trump Presidency, a Mid-Term Review

So President Trump has been in office for roughly two years. How’s he doing? You be the judge.

1.  Consistency and Accountability

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security. … I will take the mantle…I will be the one to shut it down.”

~DJT Tweet, 12/11/18

“The Democrats own the shutdown!”

~DJT Tweet, 12/21/18

Senate: 51 R, 47 D, 2 I

House: 237 R, 197 D

2.  Stability

Nine of 21 White House and cabinet positions have turned over at least once during the Trump administration, compared with three at the same point of the Clinton administration, two under President Barack Obama and one under President George W. Bush.

~NYT, December 20, 2019

It looks as though Mnuchin, and possibly Fed Chief Jerome Powell, may also be waving sayonara very soon.  Hmmm.

3.  Leadership in Time of Crisis

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.”

~DJT Tweet, November 10, 2018

“Such poor leadership by the Mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

~DJT Tweet, September 30, 2017

4.  It’s the Economy, Stupid!

The Dow lost 1,655 points on the week, the worst percentage drop since October 2008.

The Dow and S&P 500 are on track for their worst December performance since the Great Depression in 1931.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 are now in the red for 2018 by at least 9 percent.

~MSNBC, December 20, 2018

“I don’t think they can impeach somebody that’s doing a great job. You look at the economy, you look at jobs, you look at foreign, what’s going on with other countries. You look at trade deals. I’m doing a great job.”

~DJT Tweet, August 24, 2018

5.  Character

“On approximately June 16, 2015, Individual-1, for whom Cohen worked at the time, began an ultimately successful campaign for President of the United States. During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to purchase the rights to stories – each from women who claimed to have had an affair with Individual-1 – so as to suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election. With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.”

~United States of America v. Michael Cohen, No. 18-cr-602 (WHP), U.S.D.C. S.D.N.Y. Dec. 7, 2018

6.  Philanthropy

“The Trump Foundation has done great work and given away lots of money, both mine and others, to great charities over the years — with me taking NO fees, rent, salaries etc.”

~DJT Tweet, December 19, 2018

The Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve amid a lawsuit filed by the NY Attorney alleging it violated campaign-finance laws, abused its tax-exempt status and engaged in unlawful coordination with Trump’s presidential campaign. Other reports showed that Trump donated little of his personal money to the charity after 2006 and engaged in self-dealing, including the use of Foundation funds to settle legal claims against the Mar-a-Lago resort.

~Washington Post, December 19, 2018

7.  Patriotism and Loyalty

REPORTER (Jeff Mason from Reuters): President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the US/Russia relationship back to normal.

TRUMP: I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.

~Joint Press Conference, Helsinki, July 18, 2018

8 U.S. Intelligence Groups Blame Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, including the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the NSA, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and Republican-Led House Intelligence Committee and the Republican-Led Senate Intelligence Committee.

~New York Times, August 2, 2018

8.  Tyranny

On Kim Jong Un: “He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

On Xi Jinping: “He’s now president for life….he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

On Vladimir Putin: “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader.

9.  Veracity

DJT said: “The overall audience [for the inauguration] was, I think, the biggest ever to watch an inauguration address, which was a great thing.”

~January 26, 2017

The Truth: The White House said 720,000 people attended the Jan. 20 inauguration in person, while Trump estimated 1.5 million. 1.8 million who attended Obama’s first inauguration. Approximately 30.6 million people tuned in to watch Trump’s inauguration on television. 41.8 million viewers watched Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inauguration.

DJT said: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

~DJT Tweet, March 4, 2017

The Truth: No evidence has ever been adduced to support this claim.

DJT said: “If you buy, you know, a box of cereal, if you do anything, you have a voter ID. … The only thing you don’t is if you’re a voter of the United States.”

— 11/14/18 Interview with the Daily Caller

The Truth: You do not need identification to buy a box of cereal.

10. Respect for the Judiciary

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’” Mr. Trump wrote, “and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

“Judicial Activism, by people who know nothing about security and the safety of our citizens”

~DJT Tweets, November 21, 2018

“The 9th Circuit is a complete and total disaster. It is out of control, has a horrible reputation, and is overturned more than any circuit in the Country.”

~DJT Tweet, November 22, 2018

“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit.”

~DJT Tweet, January 10, 2017

“Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statement about me. Her mind is shot – resign!”

~DJT Tweet, July 13, 2016


That’s your president, Folks. Once again, thanks to all of you who made him so.

Those Crazy Helicopter Parents, and Why They Need to Eject

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Such a happy celebration, and a welcome reminder to me to stop being such a cranky old bag of dog farts.

Except that I was born a cranky old bag of dog farts (or, at the very least, a vocal observer who calls out the dog farty behavior of others), and so I have to post about something that makes me want to tear my ears off. By way of just a little bit of background, I attended a seven sisters school; my oldest also attended and graduated several years ago, and my youngest is now a student there. I recently discovered a College Family/Friends/Alumnae/Way Too Involved/Go Get a Freaking Life/Parents and Community Facebook Page.

So much material to scorn, so little time to be smug and superior.

At its best, the Community Page is a nice place to post pretty pictures of this idyllic and impossibly gorgeous wonderland that is perennially acknowledged to be among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Campuses in America (pause for a moment and reflect that my alma mater is, at its core, a bastion of fiercely independent warriors who brook no Polo-reeking Frat Boys and who enjoy spending a Friday night using words like “hegemony” and chiding their parents for uttering phrases such as “third world” or “developing nations” given their inherent arrogance and ethnocentrism. Yes, the campus is pretty, but woe to the person who believes it to be a “Catholic girls school” whose students pursue non-controversial majors while binge drinking on weekends, and where the focus of student unrest mainly concerns the wilted lettuce at the salad bar).

Though its value lies primarily in producing critical, independent thinkers and strong, capable leaders, there is no question that my school is spectacularly beautiful. As an alum, the parent of an alum, and the mom of a current student, I enjoy seeing snaps of my beloved alma mater bathed in the glorious jewel tones of October, blanketed in pristine white snow during the long winter, and gleaming resplendent in greens and pinks and puppies gamboling about the green as spring approaches.

It’s a pretty magical place.

So it’s nice that the Community FB Page provides this little slice of nostalgia to the likes of me whilst we pluck inch-long hairs from our chins and rub liniment into our creaky joints.

I also appreciate that it’s a forum where parents can voice legitimate concerns – the new dining commons, the design of which assumed an undergraduate enrollment of perhaps a third of the actual population (with the result that it is very difficult for students to eat sitting down during the high-volume lunch rush); the similarly short-sighted decision to admit far more students than current course offerings can accommodate (such that underclassmen are finding most of the courses they want filled before their registration time slot even opens); or, perhaps most importantly, the botched handling of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by a professor that, it appears, was known to the administration since the 1980’s but was essentially ignored until just recently. (Badly done, Alma Mater).

These are all important issues that concerned parents want addressed, and as far as providing a forum to discuss those issues and share information, the Community FB Page is a helpful resource. Thank you, Community FB Page! #accountabilitymatters

What the Page also does, however, is nurture and encourage helicopter parenting at its absolute worst. Initially open to current students and faculty, the Page recently booted anyone who wasn’t family, friend, or alum after a kerfuffle in which, near as I can tell, a current student who was also a Page member blew the lid off those pesky, intrusive parents concerned about students smoking weed on campus (hardly something to write home about 30 years ago, and basically legal now) and wrote a searing article in the campus newspaper basically telling parents to BACK THE FUCK OFF.

In her piece, this woman criticized parents for being invasive and for inserting themselves into the minutiae of their children’s lives. She was RIGHT. Thank you, Brave Muckraking Journalist. #factsmatter

But then bunch of parents got all bent out of shape that this student dared criticize them, and one called her out like a spinster Presbyterian schoolmarm from 1873.

Then, in an unrelated matter, another parent went on a tirade directed at a professor for not being immediately available to meet with her kid, and the faculty member weighed in with some lame excuse like “we set up an appointment and your kid didn’t show up – twice- and I’m the (unpaid) coach of the rugby team and had to chaperone the women for an away game, but here’s my email and phone number, so have your helpless pudding cup of a child call me and I will meet with her whenever it’s convenient, even if it’s in the middle of my weekend while I’m out spending all the money I make as an assistant professor,” which I guess wasn’t a good enough explanation.

And so there was much wringing of hands by the HP’s (helo rental units) because, of course, this incident was the very thing that was going to permanently derail this kid’s entire college career and position her, certainly and forever, as someone who will never shop at Whole Foods or donate to PBS or spend two weeks each summer in a rented home in Tuscany with friends discussing the elderberry and nutmeg topnotes of the montepulciano they sipped at a vineyard near San Gimignano.

Some parents rightly chided the parent, pointing out that it is the student’s responsibility to address whatever issues she has, that inserting herself into the matter did nothing to assure that her daughter would learn to handle such matters on her own – which is sort of the whole point of college, itself a safe space where nearly adult humans are confronted with modest challenges and either succeed or, better yet, make mistakes and learn from them in a supportive environment where the consequences of making the wrong choices are relatively benign.

But the HP’s again fretted and expressed their hurt and outrage over the insensitivity of those who dared to express an opposing viewpoint.

It should come as no surprise, however, that parents who send their kids to eastern liberal arts colleges tend to get uncomfortable when people take a stand against anything other than Ted Cruz and disposable plastic straws (Query: When did it become a crime to use a disposable plastic straw? You’ll take my disposable plastic straw when you pull it out of the Gallon Bucket of Soda I just threw out the window).

So it was that the site moderators took swift action by ousting current students and most of the faculty/administrative presence (although a few college employees – those whose job it is to address non-academic issues – remain active to weigh in where helpful or necessary). In so doing, the moderators (themselves HP’s) seem to be striving for a controversy-free venue devoted to Happy Talk and photos worthy of Moho admissions department publications.

And that’s the Community FB Page in a nutshell.

After I joined the group this year after being alerted to its existence over the Family and Friends Weekend, I mostly ignored it, but my husband likes to watch my head explode, so he occasionally updates me as some of the truly asinine behavior masquerading as responsible parenting. For example, there were a slew of posts leading up to the Thanksgiving break in which parents attempted to manager their kids’ travel plans. I read with amazement as mommies and daddies turned themselves inside out making sure their offspring didn’t have to worry their pretty little heads about how to make it home for the holiday.

I turned to my husband (who often wishes he could shove an ice pick into his eardrums), and said, “When I was in college, I figured out ON MY OWN how the FUCK to get home for Thanksgiving!” Which often involved a variety of train, bus, and car rides that weren’t necessarily convenient or direct but which got me home safely and cheaply, and Lo, I lived to tell about it.

The point is, I made the arrangements. It never occurred to me to ask my parents to do that for me, any more than I would have called them to ask them to take care of a roommate situation (not because I didn’t have one – I did – and 30 years later, she’s still one of my best friends even though I made her wear peach when she was one of my bridesmaids). I know I probably had many complaints (I always do), although with 35 years in the rear view mirror – mostly I recall the blessings and gifts of my college years with gratitude for the woman they helped me become.

But things are different now. The brilliant Julie Lythcott-Haims has written extensively from her position as a former dean at Stanford about how today’s college students have been so micromanaged by their parents that they arrive on campus minimally prepared to deal with the challenges that await them (and let’s be honest: the vast majority of those “challenges” are of the 1% kind…a C- on a chem test LORD HELP US!). Julie has said everything there is to say with far greater insight and empirical data than I, but the point remains: Parents are WAY to involved, at their children’s expense.

Don’t believe me? Here’s another example from the Community FB page.

Last night, a parent asked for advice concerning her daughter’s plant.

You read that right.

As in, who would take care of her daughter’s dorm room plant over the winter break?

In the interest of fairness, I should probably add that, during first year orientation, students are invited to select a small plant from the college’s incredible arboretum – you know, to make their dorm rooms a little more cozy. I don’t recall this being a thing in the Fall of 1982, but maybe it was.

What I’m certain was NOT a thing is the so-called “college lore” (not really) that you won’t graduate if your firstie arboretum plant dies. Uh-huh. I know.

I sighed when I learned of this little nugget, along with others I heard for the first time during my youngest’s campus visit and which purportedly date all the way back to the school’s founding over 175 years ago (notwithstanding the four years I spent there in the 1980’s or my oldest daughter’s tenure there almost 30 years later in which there was nary a peep of such things). I suspect they were manufactured in recent years to add an extra bit of pixie dust to a legacy that needs no further burnishing – aren’t M&C’s, class animals, and Laurel Parade tradition enough?

As to the claim that the continued well-being of the Arboretum Plant plays any role in one’s successful completion of her Moho studies, if this “tradition” were true, the Amphitheater would be pretty empty each year at commencement. Truth be told, if anything is going to prevent a student from graduating, it’s probably going to be the PE requirements or organic chemistry.

And I have to add – because it would be criminal not to – that to predicate a woman’s ability to obtain her diploma on whether or not she can nurture a life form for four years seems firmly rooted in patriarchal oppression and entirely at odds with the overarching goal of educating women, but perhaps I am being overly dogmatic – indeed, I have a home filled with plants (although neither my success nor my access to opportunity is intrinsically tied to said plants’ viability).

I digress.

To recap, supposedly there is this “tradition” (there isn’t) and Sikorsky Mommy was concerned that her “DD” (darling daughter, that is – yes, I agree – barf biscuits all around) will not graduate if her Arboretum Plant DIES while said DD is home making merry over the holidays. God, those Syrians who had chemical weapons dropped on them by their own leader have NO FUCKING CLUE what it means to daily grasp, in the midst of overwhelming and utter hopelessness, at some chance for survival.

I thought, at first, that it was a joke. Then I read the comments that followed and realized that she, and her compatriots, were very serious indeed.

I was able to restrain myself for exactly as long as it took to finish watching Episode 5 of the 2017 season of “The Great British Baking Show” (just not the same since Mary, Sue and Mel left – and I feel appropriately shameful that Noel freaks me out even though he seems really nice and supportive), and then I had to respond. I think I said something like, if DD was responsible enough, old enough, and smart enough to go to college, she should be able to figure out how to take care of a plant. I don’t know exactly what I wrote because as of this morning, the whole post had been taken down. Thanks, Brave Page Monitors! #helicopterparentfeelingsmatter

I don’t care that my post was taken down (I suspect others who saw it agreed with me but refrained from weighing in in the name of cordiality, and also because the whole issue is so staggeringly dumb), and I’m actually surprised that my membership in the Safe Space for Parents to Invade Their College Students’ Lives Like Scabies was not revoked.

But here’s the thing: This is EXACTLY what the People Whose Politics We Don’t Like mean when they demonize millennials, except that they should be demonizing the parents who insist on infantilizing their children. If my kids EVER called me from school to ask me to arrange to have their plant taken care of for four weeks so they wouldn’t be at risk of NOT GRADUATING, after I mopped up the kitchen floor of the pee I expelled as the result of hysterical laughter combined with sorely challenged pelvic floor muscles, I would have told them (1) look it up on the interwebs; and (2) if you don’t graduate, you’ll need a better excuse than a dead plant; and (3) you need to be studying, hiking, or getting arrested for attending a protest march.

Except I doubt that DD ever mentioned her stupid Arboretum plant, except perhaps in passing, as in, “I really wanna binge watch “Friends” on Netflix, Mom…” and probably never even considered that if you don’t water a plant for a month, it often dies.


As another example of the sissification of America’s youth, yet another parent posted and generated 35 – THIRTY FIVE – comments on what snow boot to buy her never-spent-a-winter-in-New England daughter. I guess her kid has never bought footwear on her own before.

You know what happened to me when I bought shoes or clothing that did not keep me sufficiently warm and dry? I GOT COLD AND WET, AND THEN I LEARNED.

Lest you think I am a prickly, unsentimental ogre with an apricot pit for a heart, you should be aware that (1) I hate fruit; and (2) if my heart is other than a four-chambered organ intended to pump blood throughout my aging, cellulite-ridden body, it would be a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll emblazoned in beautifully piped royal icing, “I love my daughters with every fiber of my being and frequently wonder what to do with these arms when they aren’t enfolding said daughters and pressing them to me, teary-eyed with pride and a love so fierce it you could install it on the Southern Border to successfully repel all those Islamic Terrorists in diapers that keep trying to infiltrate our nation.”

Which is a long, politically-charged sentence that conveys my love for a truly awful dessert treat while neglecting to mention my Bingo Wings (if you don’t know what they are, message me and I will tell you).

No mother ever loved her children more, nor yearned more profoundly that they become functional adults with meaningful lives than I – EXCEPT FOR PRETTY MUCH EVERY OTHER MOTHER OUT THERE and that’s the WHOLE POINT:

Sikorsky Mom et al., your “DDs” are no more precious or lovely or brilliant or WORTHY OF A MAGNIFICENT LIFE EXPERIENCE than every other young person out there, even if you have a lot of money and are yourself well-educated.

Helicopter parenting, it seems to me, finds its origins in the self-esteem movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s and from a desire of baby boomers to be more available and nurturing to their kids than their parents were to them.

At it core, though, Helicopter parenting is an ugly combination of “my child must be successful in order to validate me as a parent” and “my child is better than all other children and I will use my advantage and privilege to make sure he/she – worthy or not – gets pushed to the top in every circumstance and in every setting.”

My kids are now 27, 24, and 19. From the age of 18 to 27, the oldest was sometimes 5, sometimes 25 hours by car from home. During those years, she got sick, homesick, scared, and overwhelmed. She was even monumentally shafted during her graduate school years in the way that forever inscribes on your heart and etches upon your entrails that Life, in fact, is not always fair. Wherever she was, whatever she was doing, we always took her calls, checked in, listened and helped when asked. But we didn’t try to solve her problems for her. She now has a masters degree, a good job, and a caring and devoted husband who is also gainfully employed. They have and pay for their own housing, cars, and insurance. She survived.

My middle daughter, who has intellectual disability and is on the Autistic Spectrum, spent 9 months a 7 hour drive from home in a remote corner of West Virginia pursuing an education in equine care. Her school was 2 hours from a regional rail station or airport. Her roommate moved out a week after she got there, there was no student support whatsoever, and the promises that the school could and would make accommodations for her never materialized. We asked her if she wanted to come home, and though she was desperately lonely (she spent her weekends holed up in her windowless cinder block room, because no one could be bothered to get to know her), she opted to grind it out until the end of the year. She now has an internship in her field, a part-time job, is in a book club, rides, can cook a mean Chicken Francaise, and is doing just fine.

The youngest still isn’t fully baked, but she’s on her way. To put it succinctly, she can take care of her Arboretum Plant on her own or, if she chooses not to, can handle the repercussions.

I say this not to brag (though I’m quite proud of these kids), and with the understanding that no one knows how to parent well unless they don’t have kids. I’ve made many mistakes along the way, but my guiding philosophies as I raised my girls were (1) teach them to be resourceful and optimistic; and (2) make yourself obsolete.

Our children don’t need us to solve every problem for them. They benefit from learning how to cope with frustration and failure, for no life is so charmed as to be free of sadness, disappointment, or hopelessness. Being able to endure hardship is the only way that mankind has ever been able to persevere and ultimately succeed.

So, to the good people at the Community FB Page, if you truly want what’s best for your kids, leave them alone. Let them neglect their plants and go without snow boots and make their own travel arrangements. They will thank you, and you will have more time to watch “The Great British Baking Show.”

Also, you can’t go wrong with LL Bean footwear.