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Goodbye

Charlotte, NC

Beautiful Charlotte, NC (Source: Flickr.com)

Dear Readers:

I’ve been strangely lax on publishing this post, which I wrote more than two weeks ago. I can’t really put my finger on why, but something has kept me from clicking that “Publish” button. I guess it can only be my hesitation to bid a final farewell to this most recent chapter of my life. Bear with me as I’m muddling through the transition, and thanks for your support.

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For five years, my family and I called the beautiful city of Charlotte, NC, home. Now, after a hectic fews days of moving, the time has come to say goodbye. How do I begin to express how much I’ll miss this place and the people I’ve met here?

Given the challenges we encountered while trying to buy a home in Ohio, what I expected would be a week or so spent away from Charlotte to house hunt turned into three. That left just one whirlwind week to wrap up my life in this city and say my goodbyes.

I didn’t get to see everyone I hoped to, and I definitely wasn’t able to bid farewell in the way I wanted.

I’m a pretty sentimental person. I don’t like change and I don’t like goodbyes. I didn’t want to leave grade school for high school, I didn’t want to leave high school for college and I certainly didn’t want to leave college for the real world.

Throughout this move I’ve reminded myself of this many times. I know it’s largely the change that’s making my heart so heavy.

The change. The goodbye.

In my last week, I met friends at playgrounds, went to sendoff dinners and attended our last neighborhood party. In these moments, I was light and carefree. I didn’t think too much about last times or last looks. I gave out hugs and promised I’d see my friends again.

But the reality is, I don’t know when.

My goodbyes to this city and its people have to be good ones. I have no work trips to bring me back, no unfinished business lingering to be completed. It may be a long time before I see this place again.

One of the hardest goodbyes was the one I had to say to our beloved first house. After we toured it together and declared our mutual love for it, my husband covertly secured it for us while I was out of town. When I returned, he surprised me with a picture and note, thanking me for my patience and welcoming me home.

First Home

We spent the first years of our marriage here. We brought our son home to this house from the hospital. We had first baths and first words and first steps here. We gave our oldest dog his first yard after a lifetime spent in apartments and brought home a puppy to join him shortly after.

IMG_0210

We ripped down wallpaper, renovated bathrooms, painted walls and installed an antique mantle in the living room. I hung light fixtures and ceiling fans with my own two hands (yes, I’m the handyman around these parts) and never knew how proud I’d feel once the jobs were done.

Living Room

This was our house and, to be honest, I had a hard time letting it go. During the week I had to say goodbye to it, I came to terms with just how strongly this house had gotten to feel like home.

I didn’t handle it well when the first pieces of mail addressed to the new owners started arriving. But, in truth, I’m happy for them. I hope they love the spectacular fig tree in the back yard as much as we did. I hope they strap young children into the tree swing and watch their little legs stretch toward the long, leafy branches. I hope their children color on the walls and that someone learns to ride a bike in the driveway.

And, selfishly, I hope they don’t cover up the Giving Tree I painted on our son’s nursery wall.

022_Bedroom

It doesn’t help that we don’t have a new home to go to. Despite making an offer or being close to doing so on five different houses, we’ve come up empty-handed. We have to start from square one and hope our new house finds us soon.

Until then, we’ll live with friends and family members, biding our time until we once again have a place to call home.

After the hectic week we spent packing, organizing and erasing our lives from this home, my husband and I took one last look and headed for the door with a little toddler hand clasped in each of our own. As we reached the front door, my husband stopped, put his arm around my shoulders and said, “This will always be our first home.” I promptly burst into tears.

Tears continued to roll down my cheeks as we stepped out onto the stoop and closed the locked door behind us. Our house was no longer ours.

As I held my son’s hand and took the first steps toward the car, the perpetually blue Carolina skies clouded over and a couple of fat raindrops fell from the sky. I looked up in disbelief: after two perfect days of moving, rain was moving in at the very moment we were moving out.

What did it all mean? Was the rain trying to compel us back through the locked door behind us? Should we race to the realtor’s office and call the whole thing off in a dramatic, last-minute change of heart?

No, I decided. That wasn’t it at all.

Here was Charlotte’s parting gift to me: a little touch of rain to make me forget just how lovely it usually is outside. The two perfect days preceding, the ease with which we sold our house, the rain moving in at just the last moment: everything was telling me that this was meant to be.

Still, I will really miss this place.

To all of you I met here, thank you. It’s been a great five years in Charlotte.

It’s time to say goodbye.

Going Home

Ohio

Ohio illustration courtesy of Mollie Mattin (click to visit Etsy page)

Excitement, heartache, optimism, angst: just a few of the complicated feelings that have been rattling around inside me for several weeks now.

You see, my husband and I have made a huge, life-changing decision for our family.

We’re going home.

After five wonderful years in North Carolina, we’ve decided to return to our roots in Ohio. The call of family and friends and the place that’s always felt right finally became too loud to ignore. Our decision was not easy by any stretch and, although it seems like the safe choice, in reality it’s been far from it.

When you consider the great weather and natural beauty of our town, how much we love our house and neighborhood and, of course, the fact that we have our second child coming around the first of December, this course of action seems nothing short of insane.

And, unfortunately, insanity is what we’ve encountered so far.

I intended to write about what motivated our decision and how powerful a thing it is to return home, but I’ve been too stressed and exhausted and on the verge of a nervous breakdown to be able to focus on those things. Of course, if I could get myself to focus on those things, I’d certainly be dealing with this other stuff better.

Three (two? four? I’ve lost count) weeks ago I packed our two large dogs and 22-month-son into the car and hightailed it out of our house just in time for our first showing. While not easy, the journey to Ohio felt like a piece of cake compared to the two weeks that preceded it.

In those two crazy weeks, we made our life-altering decision, hosted a dizzying array of family members and contractors to help fix up our house (including a bathroom renovation) and got the place staged, photographed and put on the market.

Who could have guessed we’d get a cash offer within 24 hours for nearly our entire asking price? Great news, certainly, and a huge relief. But we didn’t have any idea what we’d be in for once we started looking for a new place to live.

Thanks to a wild home buying spree that’s left our new (old) city severely lacking in inventory, I’m engaged in some sort of crazy game of musical chairs with every other homebuyer here. So far, I’m losing. The chairs are all taken and the music is ending. My family has no place to sit.

Finding a rental home hasn’t turned out to be any easier and the clock is ticking — we have to be out of our North Carolina home in less than two short weeks.

Oh yes, and (I nearly forgot), I’m having a baby in four months.

Just the other day, while pleading with a doctor’s office over the phone trying to get them to accept me as a transfer patient, I was asked how far along I am. I responded that I had no idea — the past few weeks had been a little busy — and would have to check.

I carefully counted the weeks once over, twice over … could that be right?

Twenty-two weeks: more than halfway through my pregnancy.

I still can hardly believe it. Where has the time gone?

This pregnancy has been a far cry from my first. I haven’t spent a minute thinking about my growing belly, my swollen feet or my fears about being a mom to two human beings. I haven’t written any letters to the baby or pinned an ultrasound to the mirror or even had a single conversation with my husband about what we’ll name this child.

And yet, this baby grows and thrives inside of me. It’s a reminder that I need to just let go and have faith that everything will work out okay.

Tomorrow, my husband, son and I will be reunited here in Ohio. After weeks of being apart and in constant transit, it’ll be a relief to be together at my sister’s house — so much family, finally in one place. We’ll have approximately two days left to find a house before we have to head back to North Carolina to say goodbye to our life there.

That’s never been an easy word for me to say.

Back south, the tree swing that hangs from an impossibly high branch has sat unused for weeks. Soon, the fig tree in our back yard will start to yield fruit, and I won’t be there to collect its gifts. I long to sleep in my own bed, wear clothes that didn’t come out of a suitcase and watch my dogs chase each other in our big back yard.

Goodbye: It’s a word that’s almost as powerful as another one taking up a lot of space in my heart these days: home.

Almost as powerful. But not quite.

Beating the Jelly Doughnut

Jelly Donut

How could I ever have found this guy attractive?

It’s been about two months now since I started following my strict anti-inflammatory diet. The biggest challenge to this new way of eating is my monstrous sweet tooth, which has only gotten more insistent as this kid inside me grows.

During my last pregnancy, I subsisted mainly on chocolate croissants, sugary cereal and jelly doughnuts (which I usually find completely disgusting). Despite the huge, everything-you-could-possibly-want cafeteria spanning the entire first floor of the Fortune 50 company I worked for at the time, I recall leaving the building to drive to Dunkin Donuts and buy a jelly doughnut. More than once.

Eating whatever I wanted was how I got through my first pregnancy. When I felt crappy, I ate. When I was scared or tired or fed up with being pregnant, I ate.

This time around, I’m missing both the amazing smorgasbord of food all hours of the day and my sugar-laden support group. So you can imagine how excited I was yesterday to have something akin to a treat: homemade granola.

Homemade Granola

Store-bought granola doesn’t hold a candle to this stuff

The recipe I followed is from the beautiful cookbook, “The Sprouted Kitchen,” by Sara Forte, and it’s been republished on the blog, Delightful Crumb. The recipe was simple and so much healthier than the store-bought stuff — not to mention much, much tastier. I don’t care for raisins so I substituted dried cherries (with no added sugar) and decreased the amount of maple syrup called for in the recipe. I also found mine was plenty brown after 25 minutes, rather than the recommended 35-45.

Another perk of making your own granola is having more than one serving — as long as you can keep yourself from eating the entire batch warm out of the oven. (It was not easy.) This morning, I made Angela Liddon’s Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal from her amazing blog, Oh She Glows. (If you’ve never visited this blog, you must do so immediately. Her recipes are mostly free of meat, dairy, gluten, soy and processed foods, and everything I’ve made has been delicious.) I topped it off with some of the granola and it was pure heaven.

If you’re following an anti-inflammatory diet, don’t mistake this stuff for the perfect food. Although the ingredients are all pretty wholesome (oats, pumpkin, spices, olive oil, etc.), I’m still careful not to eat it on an empty stomach. I start every meal with protein — especially first thing in the morning — and save anything that’s higher in sugar or carbs for after I’ve eaten something more substantial. This prevents a rapid rise in blood sugar, which is widely considered to be pro-inflammatory.

Since I’ve been following this dramatically healthier diet, I’ve made some crazy discoveries. I’ve been shocked to find that my taste buds are rapidly expanding and widening their world view. Whereas I used to just melt cheese over everything I ate, now I’m seasoning my food with interesting spices and flavors from nature. Foods I didn’t like before — such as pumpkin! — are suddenly tasting wonderful to me. I’m loving ginger (a great anti-inflammatory food) and can’t get enough spicy mustard. Is it possible my tastes are finally growing up?

And those jelly doughnuts? They’re kind of like that boyfriend you used to think was so hot, but now you cringe when you see old photos of the two of you. This time around, I haven’t thought about eating a jelly doughnut for a single instant. At least I hadn’t before I started writing this …

Here We Go Again

Baby On The Way

Hello, world!

Friends, the bump is back. Baby #2 is on the way, due December 2!

Now that all the initial feelings of fear, anxiety and nausea have (mostly) passed, I feel incredibly blessed to be expecting again. My son will have a brother or sister, and I know from experience that’s a wonderful thing.­

The first few weeks of this pregnancy were tough, which is why I’ve been underground for a little while. I’ve been dealing with a couple health issues, one of which is an autoimmune disorder and both of which cause fatigue and general malaise. Adding pregnancy exhaustion on top of that left me feeling pretty awful overall.

In those early weeks, I ignored what my body was trying to tell me and went into full indulgence mode. Like the first time around, I completely abandoned my healthy eating plan and started stuffing my face with whatever sounded delicious: cereal, toast, ice cream, waffles, pasta, butter, bread, sugar, bread, sugar, sugar, sugar …

As a result, I started feeling worse and worse. I was dragging myself around the house, barely functioning and not at all being the fun, attentive mom I wanted to be. I found myself feeling pretty negative about the whole pregnancy experience.

When life gets hard, nothing soothes the soul like a conversation with a good friend. For me, a simple phone call from a friend turned out to be a beacon of light in my time of need.

My friend reminded me that I can’t take care of this baby without taking care of myself. My autoimmune disease means that I have inflammation throughout my body, which flares up when I’m not following a healthy lifestyle. The most reliable trigger is unhealthy eating and — although I’ve been following an anti-inflammatory diet for the past couple years — I finally had to admit that I never fully committed to it.

Most importantly, I learned that my autoimmune disease can have a serious impact on the baby. That was enough to make me turn things around for good.

The morning after my friend’s pep talk, I went back to the anti-inflammatory diet I’ve been casually following, but this time with a vengeance. No wheat, no dairy, no rice, no corn, no sugar (!), no pasta, no cereal, no bread, crackers or cookies and only a limited amount of lean, organic meat. Processed foods, snack foods and even gluten-free substitutes are out. And, hardest of all: no coffee.

Despite the difficulty of coming off more than 15 years of unconditional love for coffee, I felt instantly better after quitting cold turkey. After feeling bad for such a long time, it was like coming out of a dark cave into the light.

This is not to say that pregnancy is all light and joy, of course. I’m not a terribly disciplined person and I fall off the wagon from time to time. I’m haven’t completely figured out which foods are best to include or exclude from my complicated diet, and my energy level is still pretty low. But there’s no question that I’m doing better than I was, and that makes it all worth it.

So you may be wondering after all this, what do I eat? Lots of fruit and veggies, beans, quinoa, green smoothies, salads, goat cheese and many cups of tea. I’ve found some incredible cookbooks and food blogs that have helped me and I’ll share the recipes I like over the next few weeks.

Hopefully I’ll continue to feel pretty good. Maybe I’ll even stay within the recommended weight gain this time around instead of blowing right past it. Just the other day my husband told me how good I look, cheerfully remarking, “You don’t even look pregnant from the front or the side. Just from the back.”

Friends, you win some, you lose some.

Pound of Flesh

Shiny, Happy Baby

My boy, back when he was still all shiny and new

Now that my son is 18 months old, I’m starting to get “the question.”

So, are you ready for another?

Another? My god, I feel like I just got done creating the one I have. People, I fabricated a human being out of thin air, and now you want me to do it again??

And yet, I do think about it from time to time. More than the little twinge I get when I see a mom cradling a shiny, new bundle, I think of the incredible bond between my sister and me and how I want my son to have that with someone.

Then I start remembering pregnancy.

The main thing I recall about being pregnant was feeling like my body was playing one humiliating joke on me after another. I had kept myself blissfully ignorant of the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, mostly so I would never be too chicken to attempt it. The downside of this approach was that I was completely caught off guard for all its inconvenient truths.

Everyone knows the pregnancy basics: your emotions go haywire, you gain a bunch of weight, you feel insanely tired and you barf from time to time.

I certainly wasn’t prepared for everything else.

You start off with the first few weeks when no one knows you’re knocked up. Despite your crushing fatigue and the fact that your clothes are getting tight, you pretend like everything’s normal. You don’t really look pregnant at this stage; you just look chubby. Most likely your co-workers have observed how many doughnuts you’re downing out of the community box and they just chalk up your weight gain to that.

Next, your sense of smell is heightened to a point where it could be considered a superpower, which would be cool if the person sitting next to you would stop eating curry for lunch and then throwing his leftovers in your trash can. Trips to the grocery store become unbearable. I don’t know who decided to put the fish display right next to the cheese aisle at my local supermarket, or if the d-bag responsible had any idea what he was doing to pregnant women, but it all seemed like a cruel joke at the time.

The only respite to the heightened sense of smell is the fact that your sinuses clog up, but your allergies go wild at the same time. And, as a possible result of all this, your nose gets bigger. I had actually forgotten about this one until my husband reminded me of it the other day. Thankfully, he was kind enough to clarify, saying, “It wasn’t so much that your nose got bigger, it was that your whole face got kind of puffy.” Ah, yes. Add puffy face to the list.

There’s your sudden hatred of foods you formerly loved, and your overwhelming urge to eat foods you would usually find disgusting, like a shriveled gas station hot dog or some slimy lunchmeat. Not to mention these are the very foods you are supposed to avoid thanks to the repulsive presence of listeria, which somehow doesn’t deter you from wanting them.

Let’s move on to bathroom time. Either you can’t go, or you can’t not go. Let’s just leave it at that.

Then there are all the wonderful things pregnancy does to your appearance. There’s the hormone-induced acne that pops up on your cheeks and along your jaw line. There’s the hyperpigmentation called melasma, also known as the “mask of pregnancy,” which causes dark patches on your skin. Mine conveniently showed up most prevalently on my upper lip, just where a lady likes to have a nice, dark shadow. Your constant sweating makes it impossible to keep your makeup in place. And, finally, your body hair starts growing at an impressive rate, which just feels like the icing on the cake.

What’s next? Ah, the constant crabby personality. During the time I was pregnant with my son, I’m confident most of my co-workers were humming the wicked witch song when I’d lumber past them on my way to the bathroom. God help the person who got in my way or asked me if I, too, thought the air conditioning was turned up too high.

As the months roll on, you start experiencing new and fascinating things like leg cramps, body aches, restless legs (not that you can sleep anyway) and lightning crotch. That’s right, lightening crotch. It’s real, and it’s freaking awful. Look it up.

Did I miss anything? Oh, your feet will get bigger, your skin will start itching like crazy and you will experience a complete and total loss of personal dignity.

Why on earth would I put myself through all this again?

Well, there was this one thing my son used to do when he was still shiny and new. He would look up at me like I was the most spectacular thing he’d ever seen, and then he’d blink this long, mesmerizing blink. His full lashes would fall to his cheek and linger there for a moment, and then he’d slowly raise his lids to reveal his stunning, bright blue eyes. He’d smile and gurgle and coo and stare into my eyes, and I would feel like the most magnificent woman on earth.

I guess when I think about the result, when I think about what a unique and funny and charismatic boy came from all that hardship, I realize that maybe there’s a reason pregnancy is so hard.

Perhaps, to receive such a mind-blowing gift, the recipient should be charged a pound of flesh, even if that penance is being applied rather than taken. It is a pretty miraculous outcome, after all.

Now, I hear my little miracle stirring in his bed and I realize he’s still pretty shiny and new, all things considered. He makes it all seem completely and totally worth the trouble.

But to go through it all again while chasing after a rambunctious toddler instead of lounging in bed with a bag of marshmallows? Now that’s a whole new consideration.

The Taming of the Tot

Toddler Tornado

Nap? Who needs a nap? Let’s take the sheet off the mattress instead!

Goodbye, coos and gurgles and slow, long-lashed blinks. Hello, screams and kicks and flailing arms.

People, we have a toddler.

It seemed to happen overnight. One day we were happily playing in a confined space; the next day my sweet little boy was furiously trying to squeeze out the front door while I wrestled a large package over the step — and dissolving into a fit of rage when I finally managed to wrangle him back inside. Where did this miniature Hulk, erupting with fury and superhuman strength, come from all of a sudden?

But that’s the catch when it comes to parenting: things change. Things change when you don’t want them to; things change when you do. Most of all, things change just as soon as you finally start to figure them out.

Toddlers don’t exactly give you a heads up when one stage is ending and another is on the horizon. Toddlers just let you know when they’ve had it with something, once and for all. Loudly. Yes, my son’s transformation into a willful toddler was sudden, but I see now it had been coming for some time and I just didn’t recognize the signs.

As it turns out, that’s lesson number one in dealing with a toddler: spot the signs. Hunger, thirst and the general “wanting” of something are predictable warning signs, but my son’s most reliable freakout trigger is fatigue. With all the running and climbing and hiding spatulas in the dog food container, he gets overwhelmed easily these days. I’ve found if I take him back to his room for a book and a little quiet time before he gets too frazzled, we all benefit. (So far, that’s been working well, but I expect it’ll change soon.)

Another saving grace for me has been Dr. Harvey Karp’s “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” recommended to me by a mom in my play group. I was a huge fan of Dr. Karp’s first book, “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” so I eagerly requested the follow-up publication from my local library.

Okay, I may have driven an hour and a half to get a copy from the only library location that had the book in stock rather than waiting just a couple days for it to be returned to my branch. Desperate times, friends. Desperate times.

With book in hand, I set about to regain control of my household. Dr. Karp’s tactics are a little unconventional (read, embarrassing), but I was sold after the first day of trying his methods. Basically, he encourages parents to get down on their child’s level and talk like a deaf caveperson in order to break through the chaos of a toddler temper tantrum.

“MAD! Hudson MAD! He want more cheddar bunnies!! Cheddar bunnies gone. HE MAD!!”

I know, right? Believe me, it’s even worse when you’re trying to actually talk this way to a screaming, red-faced terror thrashing around in a high chair.

But the strange thing? It works.

The reasoning is that when toddlers get upset, we have to break down our communication to its most basic form and then match their intensity by getting on their level and speaking loudly. All this helps them feel understood and heard, which is usually the only thing that will get them to break out of a fit.

The first time I tried it, Hudson had started to freak out over something during mealtime. I couldn’t figure out what he wanted and he was thrashing about wildly, sure to hit his head on something any minute. I was standing over top of him while he cried and flailed, saying things like, “What is it? What do you want? Do you want some more milk? Do you want to get down? Look! Here’s your ball! BALL!! What is it you want???”

Suddenly, I saw things from his perspective: he’s small; I’m big. I’m throwing suggestions at him during the height of his anguish. I’m trying to distract him from feelings that are real to him.

So, I flipped the script. I squatted down so I was below him, looked him in the eye and said loudly, “You’re mad! You are SO MAD! I hear you!”

Amazingly — miraculously — he stopped. I stopped too out of total shock, but then quickly remembered myself and kept going. As he calmed down, I was able to expand my vocabulary to help him show me what he wanted and we got out of the situation without either one of us banging our heads on the wall.

If you think about it, a tantrum is, at its core, an incredibly frustrated response to a lack of control over something. Talking to a toddler in this crazy way helps them see that you get it. You’re listening. You’re on their side. That understanding paves the way for trust, and trust paves the way for communication. Before you know it, you’re making this parenting business look something akin to easy.

Then your son spots the cheddar bunnies on a shelf at Whole Foods. You look in your wallet to find that your credit card slipped out in the car.

CHEDDAR BUNNIES GONE! HUDSON MAD!

Ah, well. Tomorrow’s another day.

Raising a Man

The Law of Pizzaplicity
Lance Armstrong, you owe me an apology.

I’m trying to raise a man here, and you’re not helping.

Raising a human being is daunting enough, let alone nurturing a compassionate, expressive, confident boy. Now that I have a son and have started to tune in to some of the issues and trends that affect boys today, this task seems even harder.

This past summer, I was watching our female athletes — Missy Franklin, Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh and Gabby Douglas, to name just a few — kick ass in the 2012 Olympics. The program cut to commercial and a Nike ad came on featuring women discussing the obstacles they overcame in order to participate in sports. They spoke of being spit on and beaten up, insulted and dismissed, just because they wanted to play the sport they loved.

The ad and its message moved me to tears. In that moment, I felt thankful to be a woman in this time and in this place, and my heart swelled with feelings of hopefulness and pride.

The ad ended and — in an abrupt departure from the moving commentary on women’s rights — the screen shifted to three doofuses discussing “The Law of Pizzaplicity.” I found myself thinking, And … here’s what our boys have to aspire to.

Thanks to Oprah and Lifetime TV, we’re finally talking about the troubles facing our young women. Everywhere I look, I see strong, inspiring role models for our nation’s girls: Michelle Obama. Malala Yousafzai. Tina Fey. Hilary Clinton. Jodie Foster. Marissa Mayer. Lena Dunham. Betty White.

But what about our boys?

Lucky for us, my son is blessed with a strong male role model at home and in both of his grandfathers. But it scares me when I look at some of the men our society idolizes. Before long, my son will idolize them too.

So many of our boys’ role models showboat on the playing field; they lie, cheat and boast of accomplishments they did not earn. They objectify women and tear down people and ideas that scare them. They put monetary and political success before their families. And, possibly most concerning, they’re portrayed in TV and movies as lazy, helpless idiots while their competent female counterparts shake their heads and smile condescendingly.

Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. David Petraeus. Brett Favre. Chris Brown. Roger Clemens. John Edwards. Mel Gibson.

Granted, there are plenty of women out there doing harm, as well: Honey Boo Boo’s mom, those harpies on “Dance Moms,” Ann Coulter, Lindsay Lohan. Even Courtney Cox has let our nation’s girls down now that she’s had more plastic surgery than Chandler Bing’s dad.

The difference is that society has shined its collective light on the plight of our young women, and the increase in awareness seems to be working: According to the Pew Research Center, not only do women greatly outnumber men in college enrollment and completion, but women also have a more positive view of the value of education. This disparity is only projected to increase substantially in future years.

And if we can’t agree there’s reason to worry about our boys in light of the frightening increase in school shootings we’ve seen, I don’t know what it will take. Every single one of these horrific events has been perpetrated by a man. Every. Single. One.

When it comes to our boys, we’re turning a blind eye to some disturbing trends: violent behavior, emotional immaturity, low self-esteem. According to Dr. William Pollack, author of “Real Boys”:

“Many boys today are struggling either silently, with low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness and isolation, or publicly, by acting out feelings of emotional and social disconnection through anger and acts of violence against themselves or their friends and families. While academic performance and self-esteem are low, the rates of suicide and depression are on the rise.”

As a society, we need to stop championing athletes who never grow up, celebrities who debase women or minorities, politicians who lie with no ramifications. We need to agree that a change in how women are portrayed in movies and on TV doesn’t have to come at the expense of men. We need to speak out against a company who rewards an 18-year-old kid for skipping college and entering the NBA draft with an endorsement deal worth over $90 million.

Perhaps, if we start to change what we value, we can stem the tide of male role models falling from grace. Lance Armstrong is not solely to blame. Nor is Tiger Woods or our most recent athlete to publicly embarrass himself, Manti Te’o, whose father recently defended his son’s poor judgment by saying, “He’s not a liar, he’s a kid. He’s a 21-year-old kid trying to be a man.”

Soon enough, my boy — my precious baby boy — will be on his own journey toward “trying to be a man.” I see how closely he watches his dad. I know that, in time, he’ll widen his idolatry to include the athletes and celebrities we hold up as heroes, but who are really just men. By that time, I hope our society will be doing better for him than we are now.

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