What Does My Kid’s Apartment Say About Me?

Illustration by Alexander Purdy

Illustration by Alexander Purdy

I’m standing in an aisle at HomeGoods, holding a spoon rest. It’s a pretty thing, bright orange, shaped like a sunflower, and it only costs $3.99. I don’t happen to need a spoon rest, and anyway, my kitchen’s red, not orange. But my daughter Marcy’s kitchen has one orange wall. This would look perfect in it.

I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a spoon rest. She doesn’t have a lot of stuff. She and her husband, Basil, are just a year out of school now, working their starter jobs, living in West Philly amidst hand-me-downs and thrift-shop buys and found-on-the-street reclamations, the way most people do at that age. They’re perfectly happy, but I know Marcy would like to have more — to have nice things. They will, someday. Meantime, I’m buying this spoon rest for her.

For most of my life, I wasn’t much of a shopper. Who had time to mosey through HomeGoods, what with the Girl Scout troop and PTA projects and going to field hockey and football games? I look back on those years and marvel — where did I ever get the energy to keep up with it all? These days, with the kids gone, I’ve got plenty of time to fill up. I have a regular circuit on weekend afternoons — HomeGoods, T.J. Maxx, the great little thrift shop in town.

My widowed dad took to shopping once we kids were out of the house, too. I thought it was a little weird, then, that he’d drive to Macy’s or Strawbridge’s by himself and wander through. He always had a mission, something he was comparison-shopping for, checking out prices: a window fan, maybe, or a new vacuum. He bought himself a lot of shirts.

I understand the impulse now. It’s something to do to keep yourself busy, a way to pass the hours between Phillies games and mowing the lawn. There’s another mom I know, a teacher from Marcy’s high school. We seem to have the same circuit; I run into her all the time on my shopping trips. She, too, is always buying stuff for her grown daughter. There’s something furtive in the glances we exchange, in our rushed hellos. We recognize in one another what we won’t admit about ourselves: We’re over-engaged but don’t know how to gear down.

To read the rest of this story, buy the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine, on newsstands now, or subscribe today.

We’re Not Criminalizing Parents. We’re Criminalizing Poverty.

Where are the adults?

Where are the adults?

On Sunday morning, I stopped into a Center City fast-food joint; I’ll not name it for reasons that may soon become clear. I took my breakfast sandwich to a table, not far from where a little girl, probably around 5 or 6, was playing with her dolls.

She was alone.

A group of middle-aged men sitting nearby noticed her as well. “Sweetie, are you here by yourself?” one of them asked. She gave them a wide-eyed blank look, but said nothing. He looked around, stymied for a second. Then: “Where’s your mommy? Is she working here?”

The little girl paused, then nodded slowly. “Okay,” the man said, ready to let the matter go and apparently pleased to not to have started his day with a report to child protective services.

It was a fraught, awkward moment — none of us wants to be the SEPTA passengers who let the “heroin nod” mother walk, but neither do most of us like to interfere in another person’s parenting. Finding the right balance can be tricky.

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“Cover It Up!”: This Snarky, Satirical Rant About Public Breastfeeding Is Perfect

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

The Huffington Post published a 1,387-word, snark-filled rant about public breastfeeding last night that, in 17 hours, has taken the Internet by storm, with over 23,000 shares and 95,000 likes on Facebook. It’s every bit ironic and satirical, and I think most—if not all—mothers would agree, it’s 100 percent perfect.

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Drexel Sexting Study: Majority of Kids Exchange Sexually Explicit Texts

drexel-sexting-studyDrexel University just released a new study that finds that the majority of minors engage in sexting, much to the horror of parents everywhere.

The study, “Youth Sexting: Prevalence Rates, Driving Motivations, and the Deterrent Effect of Legal Consequences,” was published online by the journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy. Researchers surveyed undergraduate students about their teenage sexting behaviors, and more than half reported sending or receiving sexually explicit messages via text.

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Mila Kunis Is 100 Percent Right About Dudes Saying, ‘We’re Pregnant’

I’ve never been pregnant, and yet it jars me when I hear a guy announce nonchalantly, “We’re pregnant,” referring to himself and his with-child significant other. So I can’t even imagine how annoyed I would be to hear such a thing if I were actually pregnant, like actress Mila Kunis. For the record, I 100 percent agree with everything she said on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

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You Know What Really Causes Autism?: A Look at the Deluge of Recent Headlines

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Shutterstock

There’s been a recent flood of studies on the causes of autism, each one trumpeted in headlines that promise, “Now we can do something about this!” Is autism caused by prenatal stress? Too much testosterone in utero? Moms who take antidepressants? Who get infections during pregnancy? Who are overweight?  Dad’s job? Moms who are olderGrandfathers who are older? Moms who were sexually abused when they were kids?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

And no.

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25 Years a Mom

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

We’re driving into the city, my husband Doug and I, the car filled with pickaxes and shovels and flats of marigolds and pots of tomatoes. It’s Mother’s Day, and we’re headed to our daughter’s house — well, to her apartment in West Philly. She and her husband Basil have a backyard, and she wants to put in a garden. Somehow, it seems like just the right task for Mother’s Day.

When she and her brother were little, I got to choose an excursion for Mother’s Day. We’d head for the Zoo, or Longwood Gardens; once we went to the Shore. It was windy and cold; we took photos of the kids bundled in blankets on the beach, and ate supper at a Jersey diner. I don’t remember how much fun it was at the time, but now when I look at the photos of that long-ago afternoon, it looks wonderful. Little kids, little problems — isn’t that what they say? Read more »

Drexel Study Shows LGBT Parents Still Face Bias in Child Custody Disputes

lgbt child custody

Despite a plethora of studies showing that gay moms and dads are just as effective at parenting as their heterosexual counterparts, courts are not considering that in child custody dispute cases. That comes from a new study out of Drexel University that’s led by Emily Haney-Caron, and Kirk Heilbrun, PhD. More from a press release sent out this week:

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