benjamin jacobs house in exton gets new lease on life



I have said (and written previously) that ever since I came to Chester County I have loved this house alone in its own meadow and field on Ship Road in Exton. So I put a photo I took up on the Chester County Ramblings Facebook page and a friend of mine told me it was a house on the National Register of Historic Places, the Benjamin Jacobs House .

Anyway, the Benjamin Jacobs House has been part of the Church Farms School land parcels.  It was even mentioned in the Downingtown Area Historical Society Newsletter of April 3, 2014 . That house and the family from which it gets its name are steeped in Chester County history.

So today I got a new Twitter follower request and much to my delight it is the new owner of the Benjamin Jacobs house!  And the house is being restored!!!

The owner, Sarah Toms,  is chronicling the restoration in a blog. Personally, old house nut that I am, I am very excited about this!  This is, after all something amazing in today’s age: someone actually wants to restore a truly amazing house like this! I can’t wait to read along with everyone else as the work progresses!

Here is her inaugural post:

Benjamin Jacobs House: Why Exton?

I’ve lived in Pennsylvania’s Chester and Montgomery counties since the mid 1990’s, and to be honest, the Exton area never spoke to me. For one, there’s no quaint town center like so many boroughs in this area to draw you in and make you want to explore the shops and neighborhoods. The busy routes 100 and 30, which transect Exton, are uninspired corridors of stop and go traffic lined with same-same chain stores and restaurants. It really could be Anywhere, USA. So when my husband Ben and I started looking for a home close to a train station and near our children’s charter school, we reluctantly decided to take a second look at this area.

The Benjamin Jacobs House was the first home for sale that we looked at online and based on the pictures and description, it seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. Large enough for our big family and situated in a peaceful park setting, Ben and I were excited to see it in person. We also liked that this home has a really interesting past that is connected to the founding of our country (Benjamin Jacobs’ father, John Jacobs, was Speaker of the House when the Constitution was signed, and Benjamin not only helped to fund the Revolutionary War but was also a signer of Continental Currency – stay tuned for more history!).

Our first viewing was in March, 2014 and I have to say my first impression as I pulled in and parked in the home’s parking lot (yes, it has a 15 car parking lot) was Addams Family, here I come! Half of the front porch had fallen down and was lying next to the house, all the exterior paint was flaking off, and there are no shrubs or gardens, so the huge white structure felt stark and at odds with its setting. The house sits a little way back from Ship Road, but given the unwritten rule that everyone must exceed the speed limit by at least 20 mph, I didn’t feel too keen about living on this busy road. When I looked to Ben to gauge his first impressions, I was amazed to see my beloved beaming from ear to ear. My English husband had finally found his country estate, and where I saw years of renovations ahead of us, he saw vast potential in this dilapidated gem. Our realtor Terry, who with his wife Lois, has helped us to sell and buy previous homes, let out a chuckle – he seemed to already know that this place would be right up the alley of his quirky clients.

true vintage: collecting and using dansk 



Caveat Emptor is Latin for buyer beware. Like everyone else, there are things I collect and love to use. A lot of times I have a hard time sourcing things locally, so I have to go out onto the Internet to find what I want. But you have to pay attention and research what you are buying.

Dansk Kobenstyle cookware, specifically their Dutch ovens, is one of those things I love . But I only collect the vintage and I only cook with the vintage.  Dansk can also be purchased through William Sonoma and other outlets again now, but in my humble opinion they are just expensive they aren’t necessarily as good as what you can find vintage.
Dansk Kobenstyle Dutch Ovens or covered casseroles were introduced originally in 1955. The Kobenstyle Casserole was originally designed by Jens Quistgaard….in Denmark.  Interiors of pans are white. This is enamelware (enamel coated steel) , so you have to baby it and hand wash it. One of the really cool things of the design of the pot is the lid can be used as a trivet! It’s just fun and practical mid century modern. 
The time during which Dansk was originally produced in Denmark was a mecca for mid century everything from cookware to furniture. (I think some of the furniture of that era can be retro cool, but some of it I don’t care for.) 
My mother also had the Dansk flatware when I was growing up. She also used the Kobenstyle cookware ( Dutch oven and a casserole pan of I recall correctly. ) Simple design with a great weight….and basically indestructible. 
Also note that Dansk was a US company no matter where the items were produced.  Dansk as a line was born out of the Great Neck,  NY garage of a couple named Nierenberg in 1954 after seeing the work of Jens Quistgaard at what is known today as the Danish Museum of Art and Design. Eventually Dansk corporate headquarters to Mt. Kisco, NY in the mid 1960s.


I don’t  like things from the entire line but I do love the Dutch Ovens and stock pots. For example, some people swear by the rectangular casseroles, and I hate them as everything sticks all the time. I had at one time a casserole and small sauce pans but I got rid of them.
Dansk originally appeared in Neiman Marcus ads in 1955. At Christmas time. These items were originally produced in Denmark. The pans were first produced in turquoise, red, and yellow. There was also a bright green color which was pretty awful,  but it didn’t last and was discontinued after year I think.
I have attached some photos of the vintage logos for Dansk. You will notice one says “Made in France”. That is because in 1965 production moved from Denmark to France.
What I collect and use, are all basically from the years 1965 through 1975. I can date my pots from their colors. White ( circa 1971-1973), Brown ( circa 1975), and Sun Gold Yellow (circa 1965)
In my opinion at the end of the 1970s, Dansk sort of faded from popularity with a lot of their line until it was reintroduced in 2012.  And it was sold as a line in 1985  and then acquired by another company around 1991 and then again in 2009. 
The Kobenstyle pans today are made in Thailand, and the bottom on the newer pots introduced in 2012 through to today are also slightly different (not just because the bottom is black, as the ones manufactured in France sometimes have black bottoms). I have looked at them in stores and the weight is slightly different and I just don’t like them as well. They have also tweaked the design in some cases which makes them look slightly like cartoon pots to me. So I continue to use the vintage versions of the Dutch ovens/stockpots .
I use these Dutch ovens regularly and eventually I wear them out. Which means I start looking for other vintage Dansk to replace them with. I like to do this before my Dutch ovens don’t have enough of a resale life in them. While I use mine, a lot of people just buy them for display and I have resold some of mine that way.
I have found the vintage Kobenstyle everywhere, but it is easiest to find on eBay and Etsy. So as a result, I was looking on Etsy the other day.
I saw a listing. It was what was described as a vintage Dansk. It’s not. And I knew it as soon as I saw the photo of the bottom of the pan. There was a very modern Dansk logo and “made in Thailand”. That’s not vintage anything,  that’s current to within a couple of years. Even the handles were not the traditional style for the vintage Kobenstyle Dutch ovens or stockpots. (Dansk is now owned by the company that owns Lenox. And don’t get me started on Lenox because while true vintage Lenox is divine, modern Lenox? Not so much.)

I contacted the owner of the Etsy shop to let them know what they actually had for sale. I have noticed on eBay and Etsy that most sellers enjoy getting additional information on what they are selling because quite frankly it helps them sell items quicker. Not everyone can know everything – some people just know certain kinds of items better than others. It’s why you will see so many antique and vintage dealers specializing in specific things.
The owner of the Etsy shop came back to me with the reply “What is your point?” and some other rather rude comments I won’t share. (I am also doing the store owner a favor and not outing them. Everyone can make a mistake.)
Guess my point to the store owner was that I was trying to be helpful.  She left her listing to stand with the incorrect description overnight and then removed it.   But she is a seller who has now lost me as a potential customer.  Not because of her mistake, but due to her attitude. And the shame of it is for a modern Dansk reincarnation her pot was ok, but it was definitely not vintage. All she had to do was change the description and she could have even sold it at the same price point she had listed.
The moral of this rather long Aesop fable is to check out your items. Ask questions. If it’s something you collect and the seller doesn’t know something about the item, tell them. To be honest it’s a little bit hard to be an expert on everything vintage, so feel free to tell us what you know about things. It actually is helpful.  And if you run into a seller who strikes a discordant note with you, move onto the next seller.

down the rabbit hole

Do you ever wonder what happened to people? And that’s when you take a peek on social media to see where they’ve been for all the intervening years? Mind you, I’m not talking about people you were necessarily close to,  just people that were sort of in your world or circled your orbit as it were. Sometimes they were just people you sort of saw in the background.

I have done that a few times recently and it’s so odd to look at some of these people you knew once as kids now as adults, often with their own kids. Time has flown, yet the  strangest thing I’ve noticed in some of these cases is how little some of these people have changed. They’ve aged, so have I, but it’s like time stood still even if the aging clock didn’t . There they are, in poses similar to what their younger selves used to do and in similar situations. It is like Alice looking down the rabbit hole.

And then there are the people that you run into in real time. My favorite have been people that just used to know my parents and in some cases are the kids of the people who used to know my parents.  Most of the time, it’s really nice to run into these people as we shared some fun memories, but some are not so pleasant.

Sometimes you run into people whose parents used to be friends with your parents but are no longer friends with your parents.  You see these people and you say “hello” to because that’s the polite thing to do when you run into someone, especially when you’re about 3 feet or less from them. And these are also the kind of people who pretend they don’t see you, don’t hear you, or just turn their backs.  What is the point of being rude? Yet they do it. Haven’t run into some of these people in a long time except for occasional near misses on social media on other friends’ Facebook pages. Which is terrific. Who needs that pettiness and negativity?

But looking down the rabbit hole can be painful. You see people you were once close to as well as the people who were just sort of peripheral or on the fringe of your life. People change as they get older, and commonality fades. People just let go of one and other. 
 

Sometimes you see people who were once a very large part of your life…..until they weren’t. Sometimes seeing those people is ok, and sometimes it’s not. Because some people just hurt you when they leave. Period. Sometimes these people know they have done that, but often times they don’t because they are not thinking about anything other than their own path.

I guess that is one of the blessings of growing up and even getting older: you can choose who you wish to spend your time with.  And that is such a nice thing. Occasionally looking down the rabbit hole for me reinforces I am glad I am where I am in my life and who I am with.  Love and respect are very powerful things.

I have been working on this piece of writing for a while and put it away. Then I came back to it. I did not want to sound negative writing it because I wasn’t feeling negative.

But then I was. It’s like I was a kid again with all those raw feelings you can feel at those young ages.

Sometimes it is just hard to have grace when you unexpectedly find yourself face to social media face with someone who hurt you deeply.  But then you realize they aren’t the people really once were. And while it still hurts in a sense, in a sense you can let it go. You have nice memories, but you are both off on different journeys.

Trust me, grace and forgiveness take work, but if you don’t release it it’s simply unhealthy. Why let it fester? After all, these people you see in your rear view mirror ? They aren’t worrying about you are they?

I know some will read this post and wonder if I am speaking about them in particular. Those are the people who will never get it, and I can’t control what they think (or feel). This is just one of those things I have thought about and have actually discussed with other friends who have also thought about and/or  experienced this.

 Thanks for stopping by.

life and loss

Friends who were at the vigil last evening at Shipley in Bryn Mawr for Cayman Naib shared the above photo with me. I don’t know about all of you who read my blog, but I bet there are a lot of us who woke up today once again thinking about the Naib family. They have experienced an unspeakable tragedy. Just like (but for different reasons) the Hannagan family of Downingtown did on Valentine’s Day.

It is completely unfathomable to me of how anyone would feel after losing a child. I almost feel guilty for expressing condolences to these families because I don’t know them, and I didn’t know the children. But these crazy things that throw curveballs in life can happen to anyone, can’t they? Unless you were born with a heart made of stone how can you not feel empathy and sympathy for these people? How can your heart not break in some small way for them?

I remember growing up,  a student back then at Shipley, when fate took the lives of two young women I knew. They were not classmates of mine but they were schoolmates of mine, and one in particular was a fairly good friend at the time.  In the case of both of these girls from many years ago, they both died because of automobile accidents for lack of a better description – one was in an accident and one was hit by a car while running. But it left a huge hole in our school community at the time for some of us, along with what it did to their families.

As a freshman in college, one of my classmates, committed suicide the night before parents weekend was supposed to begin.  He jumped out of a window in a floor above mine in the dorm where I lived. I remember waking up to sirens and flashing emergency lights. He had been a really nice guy, and although not a close friend,  ironically  it ended up he was a cousin of some sort of a girl I knew from high school. I still to this day remember clear as a bell snippets of the memorial service held by students on campus for him. Someone played Follow You, Follow Me by Genesis on a stereo and the music wafted all around us.

There are particular parts to the lyrics that I can still hear in my head when I think of this:

I will follow you will you follow me
All the days and nights that we know will be
I will stay with you will you stay with me
Just one single tear in each passing year
With the dark,
I see so very clearly now
All my fears are drifting by me so slowly now
Fading away
I can say
The night is long but you are there
Close at hand I’m better for the smile you give
And while I live
 I will follow you will you follow me

 

I think we are all ever mindful of how fragile life is. And how like it or not everything can change in an instant.

Cayman’s death was ruled a suicide a short time ago.  Depression hits all ages .

But we can’t stop living can we? We can’t live wrapped and safe in cotton batting locked away from the world. The  thing is this however: when tragedy befalls a young person it is so much more magnified in it’s awfulness for lack of a better description. I can’t even imagine what it’s like directly for the families involved. Selfishly, I don’t want to imagine that.

When things happen to children we all can’t help but be affected, especially if we are parents in any form. Whether natural parents or stepparents or adoptive parents, it affects us. It didn’t happen to any of us, but we know but for simple twist of fate anything can happen.

But I guess the important thing is how we deal with loss. I’m not talking about those people personally grieving who are experiencing  it in the first person and have to work through it, I’m  speaking of the rest of us.

We can’t let tragedy and sadness swallow us whole, we have to pay it forward. As parents we have a very special obligation and a simple one: to love and teach our children well. We want the best for them but I think what  happened in the past few days makes us mindful once again of how we have to pay attention without smothering.

We were all kids ourselves, once, but it was a long time ago. Times have changed, life has changed the world is very different. It behooves us all to ensure that our children can talk to us no matter what.  Being an adolescent is the best of times and worst of times quite literally.

But the thing is this: with girls we often have a better idea of what is going on because they are just more verbal and more communicative. Boys for the most part, weather in whole or in part, are still waters run deep. And the reason for that I believe is because historically and societally men and boys are raised to be stoic and not show emotion and be strong. We have to let our boys know that it is not a weakness to talk to someone about what is going on or talk  if they are upset.

I have a teenage boy. Trust me, I know there are days he wishes I would just be quiet and not talk so much and not ask so many questions, just like there are days I wish I didn’t have to pry things out of him. I am working on the abbreviated version of conversations with a teen boy as in fewer sentences, but I am work in progress. But after this weekend, I am mindful of how, whether he wants it or not or might be embarrassed or not,  I need to tell him more often how much he means to me.

Love is a very powerful emotion and we do need to tell those in our world of any age how we feel about them. It sounds like a dorky Hallmark card, but life is a precious gift. We need to celebrate it and appreciate it while we have it. The importance of being together and not allowing people we care about to feel all alone, also can’t be overlooked.

Love and loss or part of the cycle of life. And both can cause enormous heart ache. But when the dust has settled , we always need to be mindful of the gifts we have. Live and be the best human beings possible is one of the best ways to celebrate any life lost for whatever reason.

Hug your kids, people. Hug your loved ones. Talk to them. Call the ones farther away to see how they are doing. Appreciate the life we have. It’s not always perfect, it’s a work in progress, but it is so much better than the alternative.

Say a prayer for young boy who was named Cayman and his family, the Hannagan family of Downingtown…and whomever else you think might need a little of what my grandmother referred to as “Irish insurance”.

Teen suicide is an ugly reality. This is a mental health issue . That is the conversation we should be having in public and taking away the stigma – as adults we should be helping kids through difficult times safely. The pressure on kids today can be enormous. Let’s not make this about finger pointing because the average person is not equipped to recognize the signs of teenage depression.  That is not a negative statement, either.

Depression manifests differently in kids versus adults and I have been told this by a friend who is a mental health social worker in another state. Teen suicide is ugly. It’s not something that teens or adults want to think about.  It’s unpleasant and difficult. But it does happen. Teen suicide is very real, and is preventable.

We as human beings must advocate for taking the issues of teen depression and suicide out of the shadows and  into the light.  It is time to remove the stigma attached to depression and related mental health issues.  We’re all human beings, after all. And I think if we learned anything about what happened here to this sweet boy Cayman Naib, it is that we all have a lot to learn.

Parents  need to be  honest and admit  at times it can be a struggle when communicating with the teenagers in our homes.Togetherness as a family that is positive opens many doors, and face it, what is one of the hardest parts of raising teenagers? Communication. And communication isn’t social media like Facebook and Twitter, e-mails, chat programs, it’s a real conversation. Sitting down and talking even if it is light dinner conversation. Real and tangible contact and human interaction is so important with regard to interpersonal relationships at any age.

As my friend Liza says love, only love. Without love,  life is very gray.

Thanks for putting up with my rambling stream of consciousness today and for stopping by.

Cayman 1

to the naib family on the loss of cayman

cayman

Dear Naib family,

I just learned your devastating news and I wanted to add my voice to the many voices extending sympathy. I am so incredibly sorry. I don’t know you, didn’t know Cayman, only knew what a sweet boy he was through mutual friends who have children who attend school with yours.

My heart breaks for all of you in this time of sadness and no words can adequately express how any of us feel. He is your child and I am so sorry for the pain and sadness.

I am sitting here in tears, and you all are strangers to me. But the simple fact is when you become a parent, even a step parent like I am, you begin a journey of love that is like no other. It is complicated, messy, wonderful, amazing, enriching, and spectacular all at the same time. My child is but a year or so older than Cayman so this hits very close to home for me for this reason. Again  I am so truly and deeply sorry for your loss.

My most heartfelt condolences and prayers.

To my readers out there, please say prayers for Cayman and his family. This is such a  devastating loss that no human being would ever want for another.

Reluctance

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Robert Frost

RIP

 Philadelphia Inquirer: Police sources: Body of Cayman Naib, 13, found in creek bed near family home
Mari Schaefer, Inquirer Staff Writer

Last updated: Sunday, March 8, 2015, 4:20 PM
Posted: Sunday, March 8, 2015, 3:57 PM

The body of 13-year-old Cayman Naib, who disappeared from his Newtown Square home Wednesday night, hours before a snowstorm, was found Sunday by searchers, his family said in a Facebook posting.

A police source told The Inquirer that the youth was discovered about 1:30 p.m. by a search team with K-9 dogs in the bed of Darby Creek, a few hundred yards from his family’s home on a 13-acre property on Harrison Drive. The source said the location of the discovery was off St. Davids Road and Paper Mill Road.

The cause of death was undetermined. It was not clear if the youth’s body was in water. The body was turned over to the Delaware County Medical Examiner’s office.

 

curt schilling takes on cyberbullies. good. for. him.



Good. For. Him. 

Seriously, I have quite a bit of respect for former Phillie and World Series winning former RedSox pitcher Curt Schilling.  Talk about good sportsmanship.

Why?

Because he took on cyberbullies  to defend the honor of his precious daughter. 

It started innocently enough. He sent a tweet out to congratulate his daughter on where she was going to college.



Even if he is a public figure he should be allowed to do that, right? 

Apparently not, and soon it was raining cyberbully trolls on Twitter.



There were a lot more than this and some were kids, but a lot were adults including a DJ somewhere and some part time person who worked for the NY Yankees.  So Curt took on cyberbullies and outed them to the world.

Good.For. Him.

As you all who read my blog know, I was cyberbullied over a period of months last year . I knew exactly who was doing it , and much like  Curt I kept a record of it. This was done to me via Facebook. Not many people “liked” the page and I found out after the page was removed that my friends reported the page daily to Facebook for months as being vile and cyberbullying. 

I had the main cyberbully, the author of the page, and then there was a person who shared the posts and obviously fed them information. I considered them a bully too. 

Then there was the handful of people out there who would chime in. Not one of them knew me, had ever had a conversation with me, had ever met me socially. They knew nothing about me.  They didn’t know the cyberbullies.  They didn’t like some of what I wrote and some cases, and that was the justification for their behavior.

Around 20 or 22 men and women, some who are members of the Chester County community and them participating with a cyberbullying effort is kind of astounding, yet they did it. They  just decided to pile on in that mob mentality that any kind of bullying often takes on. A few of these people even have school age children. 

And again, they didn’t know me, they have still never met me, they have never ever had a conversation with me, and they had nothing to judge me on other then they didn’t like some of the things I had written over the years. It sounds crazy and it is crazy. But it happened and it’s true.

Shortly before Christmas, the page disappeared. It was a wonderful Christmas gift and I have never publicly thank my friends (but I am now)  who worked so hard to get that page removed. You see Facebook, doesn’t take cyber bullying particularly seriously when it is happening to adults  , and I had gotten to the point where I was tuning it out but occasionally saving screenshots as evidence. (I was advised to do that by law-enforcement. )

Now I’m sure my critics are saying “I can’t believe she is making this all about her ” but I am not. I merely sharing my personal experience as it applies to what I am writing about. And unfortunately for me, I can now say I have personal life experience with cyberbullying. And similarly to what Curt Schilling writes about, it’s not too difficult to figure out who it is exactly who is bullying you. And it’s astounding that people think it’s okay that these things are done to you. Or that you won’t discover who it is exactly. What is even more astounding is contemplating how people who used to be part of your life in a loving and supportive manner actually do these things, let alone total strangers. A thin line between love and hate and all that.

As I said before, as an adult, you often have the ability to have better coping mechanisms then the kids who experience cyberbullying , but it doesn’t mean anyone should experience it. When it happens to our kids, the cyberbullying is often just part and parcel of other real-time in-your-face bullying that kids experience.

What Curt Schilling has done is huge. He used his celebrity for good here. He is to be commended. Because of him an even brighter light now shines on cyberbullying and he has given courage and fortitude to those being bullied; through his actions and his position he has shown people how wrong this is. I also applaud him for doing this as a father for his child. That is love.

Now it would be terrific  it if other celebrities and sports figures would follow suit and just spearhead a grassroots nationwide campaign to declare war on #cyberbullying. For those who are doing the bullying out there, save your retort. Opinion is one thing, cyberbullying is something else entirely.

And it doesn’t just happen to kids. It happened to adults and not much is done  to combat adult on adult cyberbullying.

Before I link up Curt Schilling’s blog post, here is some other coverage on this:

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling fires back after trolls’ violent, sexual tweets about teen daughter

 NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. Published: Monday, March 2, 2015

Christian Science Monitor: Curt Schilling defends daughter from Twitter bullies with help of followers

Former Red Sox pitching star Curt Schilling named the cyber bullies on Monday who targeted his daughter online with vulgar comments.

Washington Post Early Lead 

 March 2 at 8:31 PM  

Boston.com: Schilling Throws Perfect Game With Response to Misogynist Trolls

Here is an excerpt from Curt Schilling’s blog post:

The world we live in…Man has it changed. ADDENDUM!

MARCH 1, 2015


I thank God every day that Facebook and Twitter, instagram, vine, Youtube, all of it, did not exist when I went to High School. I can’t imagine the dumb stuff I’d have been caught saying and doing.
If you are a dad this is something you well know already, if you are a dad with a daughter this is likely to get your blood going. If you are a boy, or young man, or husband, and you haven’t experienced children yet, or haven’t had a daughter, it’s next to impossible for you to understand.
My daughter, my one and only daughter, has worked her ass off playing sports the past 9-10 years. She’s loved it, and I’ve loved being able to both watch, and coach along the way.
Last week we were told she’d been accepted to college and will begin playing softball there next year.
Clearly an incredibly proud day.
tweet 1
And of course, like any dad in the modern world I said so.
Now I’ve been using computers since 1981. I was a professional baseball player for 22 years. I played 10+ years in Philadelphia. I played 5 in Boston. I shared a locker room with well over a thousand teammates and I played and lived at school a year before doing so.
That’s all to say I am absolutely aware of social media and how it works. As someone who’s said about 2.34 billion things he shouldn’t have, I get it.
….tweets with the word rape, bloody underwear and pretty much every other vulgar and defiling word you could likely fathom began to follow.
Now let me emphasize again. I was a jock my whole life. I played sports my whole life. Baseball since I was 5 until I retired at 41. I know clubhouses. I lived in a dorm. I get it. Guys will be guys. Guys will say dumb crap, often. But I can’t ever remember, drunk, in a clubhouse, with best friends, with anyone, ever speaking like this to someone…I understand this……I have a nasty habit of talking, a lot, about anything anyone asks me and totally unconcerned about giving you my opinion. You will never question where I stand, right or wrong agree or disagree on anything….The amount of vitriol I’ve heard is not an issue. I am sure I’ll hear more.
But I have to ask, is this even remotely ok? In ANY world? At ANY time?
Worse yet? No less than 7 of the clowns who sent vile or worse tweets are athletes playing college sports.
I knew every name and school, sport and position, of every one of them in less than an hour. The ones that didn’t play sports were just as easy to locate.

I’ve kept every tweet…

girl power

childhood

If only childhood and girlhood was as simple and idyllic as the photo above depicts.

A friend of mine and I were speaking yesterday of a pint sized terrorist in one of her daughters’ classes at school.  This is a kid, who as an elementary school student decides that when she wants her friends to come over, she (as in the child) is the one who emails and texts the other child’s parents. As in she decides and initiates without going to her parents and saying “mom can Annabelle come over and play?”  And no matter how often the parents are asked to be the ones to connect since it could be considered wildly inappropriate for an adult to make plans with a 10 or 11 year old they aren’t related to…it never happens.

This child is also a bit of a bully.  When she goes to birthday parties of other children, the parties become about her and not the birthday kid of honor. This kid has this drive to be leader of the pack, but not in a positive way.

But this is mild compared to often what other kids experience.  People often immediately think of boys when it comes to younger and middle school age bullying, but the girls are often worse.

A woman in a parenting group posted about the heartbreaking situation her daughter is in.  The girl is either 10 or 11 and finally in a pool of tears broke down to her mother to tell her what was going on in school. This girl is being teased, bullied, ignored, and ostracized all at one time.  She tries to eat with other kids her age and play at recess and they tease her, laugh at her, whisper about her right in front of her.  She is so tormented by some of these kids that for months she has not only been eating all by herself, but she takes recess in the library. Why? Because in the library she can escape into a book to get away from these kids.

The worst part of this is the teacher knows there is a problem and has been aware there is a problem for a very long time.

Someone wisely said to her  “with girls at this age, the Queen Bee mob mentality is really difficult. I hope the situation improves. As a parent, it is heartbreaking.”

I agree. It is.  As parents we want to protect our kids and slay their dragons, but it’s so darn hard when the dragons are part of their peer group, isn’t it?

This mother is going to the school and going to the guidance counselor. I think she should add principal to the mix and if that doesn’t work, the school board.

Bullying in all forms is in my opinion even more pervasive than it was when we were all growing up.  A lot of that has to do with social media and the political correctness police. No one wants to upset the little bullies and their parents. And then there is the age-old dilemma of the parents of the little bullies are often bullies themselves and/or  might write lovely supportive checks to the school and so on.

But where do we draw the line? All schools have some form of anti-bullying policies for cyber issues and real time, but getting them to keep policies updated and to even act on them often takes almost an act of Congress doesn’t it?

This particular child being bullied is outgoing and pleasant by nature. It’s like some mean girls are jealous and want to break her spirit because of it, but when you are that age, it just hurts.  There is no adult capability of looking at the situation and assessing it for what it is.  That is our job.

But the thing about bullying in our schools today, sometimes the only solution is to switch schools. And is that fair to the child? Sometimes the only alternative is to give your child a fresh start and they deserve as much, don’t they?

The reality is a lot of schools do not hold children who bully or their parents accountable for anything. They are afraid to a lot of the time and they also don’t really look at why the kid is bullying.  I have noticed that a lot of the kids who bully might very well just be acting out because of whatever is going on in their homes. Schools talk a good game, they all have a purported “policy” in place, but when push comes to shove not much happens.

If changing schools ends up being a viable alternative I don’t think any of us should discourage a parent from seeking what is best for their child in their home. However, not everyone has that luxury, so why shouldn’t we as parents do whatever we have to do to encourage our schools, to demand our schools do better? After all whether private, parochial, charter, or public we are paying for our kids’ education.

Now people will argue against moving a kid to a different school. They will say without learning appropriate assertiveness skills, these problems are likely to follow from one school to the next. BUT these are kids and well they often have to grow up too quickly as it is, so if we are teaching them the emotional equivalent of defensive driving at a young age, what are we doing to the magic of childhood?

And on a personal level, the mean girls I encountered between grades six and eight generally speaking grew up to be quite miserable adult women. I actually feel sorry for them now,  but as an adult it’s a lot easier ignoring them isn’t it?

Sixth grade was a pivotal year for me. It was the first time I experienced mean girls. It  was the year that the meanest of the mean girls in my class at a private day school decided to take a shine to me and among other things chipped my front tooth (the tooth is still chipped today).

My mother went down on that school like a Valkyrie. I remember that in and of itself gave me some empowerment feeling as a girl – that someone would care enough about me to go to bat for me like that. The school took it all seriously to a point and I was able to get through the rest of the year intact. But I never, ever forgot it.

The summer between sixth and seventh grades my parents moved us from the city to suburbia.  To the Main Line and the purportedly fabulous Lower Merion School District. Seventh through ninth grades were varying degrees of hell for any girl who wasn’t a cookie cutter image of certain cliques of girls. It was the emotional equivalent of the wild, wild west. I for the most part kept my head down and my mouth shut.

I found a core group of friends, many of whom I am still connected to today. I internalized a lot of what I probably should have told my parents in retrospect. But fortunately for me, my parents decided to move my sister and I to private school.

Private school had it’s own squadron of mean girls and bullies. They were just more well spoken and better pedigreed in some cases.  But for the most part they left me alone. And in high school you have a few more coping skills if you are lucky.  I didn’t have enough apparent weaknesses for the high school mean girls to practice their perverse social Darwinism on me. But others were not so fortunate. We had girls with varying eating disorders and other issues, and even an attempted suicide.  And in those days there wasn’t any counseling for heavy issues like attempted suicide, it just was.

Some people I went to high school with were left with such a bad taste in their mouths that as 50 years old  they still don’t attend any reunion activities ever. They refuse. Part of the reason I got involved with high school reunions was to give those who often did not feel included in those days a place to feel included today and recognized for the cool men and  women they became. Bullying can leave a mark for decades and a lot of people do not realize that.

The thing that always amuses me about mean girls and bullies is how they translate into adulthood. I look at a lot of them with pity and sadness because where the rest of us have grown, a lot of them are still adult versions of the tween and teen mean girls/bullies that they were. And their behavior patterns are often just adult versions of what they were when they were growing up.  Some of them have clawed their way into marriages to wealthy men that gave them stature and plenty of expendable income and stuff, but when you see them they don’t look happy; they don’t act happy. I think that is sad. And then there are the ones whose own children are more ill behaved than they were, or even more sadly, become police headlines in local newspapers. That is a particularly cruel form of Karma.

But the nice thing about being a grown up is when you see these mean girl and bully people again as adults you realize how sad they are and you turn and walk away feeling blessed for who you are and for not being like them then, now, or ever. That is a very powerful feeling. When I finally realized how much luckier and better off I was then a lot of them on so many levels, it was very freeing. In retrospect, I wish I had had the emotional maturity to grasp that years earlier than I did.

We are responsible for the future of our children and life is a balancing act.  We want to teach our kids to stand on their own two feet and stick up for themselves but we also want for them to be happy.  For girls teen and tween years can be extraordinarily difficult, boys too. And while we are trying to instill the best ethics and values and standards into our children as much as humanly possible we have to let them grow on their own.

But I am sorry, kids that are mean and destructive need to be held accountable, and their parents as well. No one wants to punish or reprimand a child, it is simply not fun on any level. But we are the adults and we have to teach the difference between right and wrong.

And as to the teaching, that is where our schools come in.  They need to be active partners in this. They need to teach kids bullying is wrong and how to be kind. They can’t just do lip service with half-assed anti-bullying policies.

Here are some great ideas I read from a stay at home mom who also happens to be a therapist:

1) make sure she knows it’s not her fault and it’s common. It can happen to anyone. (There’s a website called “It Gets Better” (I believe) where celebrities & regular successful adults talk about being bullied in the past. ) I also think it’s important she knows that it will come to an end and that she has many great experiences to look forward to. (My parents used to say – “These are the best years of your life” about high school – well intentioned but not helpful, also not true in my case.

2) tell the guidance counselor (or someone at the school she trusts and that you trust to keep an eye on it). If she’s seemed fine to you, it’s likely none of the adults at school can even see it.

3) try to help her find somewhere she can go at lunch. (Perhaps with a teacher or volunteering to help a teacher or something (and I would add that both you and she should be proud that she was resourceful enough to think of going to the library).

4) see if she wants to talk to a therapist. Therapy can be really helpful. A lot of smart, sensitive, introspective kids are afraid to talk to their parents about these issues because they don’t want their parents to be sad.

5) Maybe have her start a new activity separate from school (a clean slate if you will) where she can meet some new people and get some evidence that she is, in fact, likeable worthy of friendship.

 

If we as parents take consistent stands against bullying behavior in as positive a way as possible I think we can make a difference. Also, when you are dealing with bullying and mean girls don’t assume that the parents of these kids will be your ally here or even behave in an adult manner.  Often they are part of the problem.

Please pay it forward and encourage anti-bullying campaigns and programs and policies no matter where your kids are in school. Check out Signe Whitson and others.

Thanks for stopping by.