The True Meaning of Eve

For millions of children around the world (and perhaps an equal number of adults), today is a day of incredible anticipation.  For tomorrow, they will wake up uncontrollably consumed by the excitement that comes with presents nestled under and around the Christmas tree.
 
The very nature of any “eve” is one of anticipation and even anxiety.  As the great Tom Petty once sang, “the waiting is the hardest part.”


What Do These People Have in Common?

Grace is a social worker who bravely intervened to defuse a dangerous situation between a homeless man and the police.

Sean is in prison for stealing guns and trading them for heroin and is a suspect in the killing of Whitey Bulger.

Catharine is a legal scholar who pioneered the legal claim for sexual harassment. 

Rachel is the first transgender woman world champion, winning the gold in Masters Track Cycling.…


Don’t Turn The Page

I really wanted to write something positive today. Then I saw this.

The first time I had seen that picture was last Sunday.  It was on the front page of the New York Times.  My seven-year old daughter had just crawled up on my lap and asked me who that was. I told her that this picture was of another seven-year old girl who lived in Yemen and because of the war going on in that country could not get enough to eat.…


Battling for Trophies

Recently my 10 year-old daughter participated in an event called, Battle of the Books. The premise seemed noble. Spark interest in reading by creating a program where students would be given five books to read over the summer.  They would meet as a group to discuss the book and then in the fall, they would gather with students from other schools for a competition based on recalling the book’s content. Sort…


The Child or The Road?

Uncertain times raise the stakes for raising a child.  We project our own fears upon their future and our anxiety seeps into our actions and ultimately theirs. 

This manifests itself in ways big and small, many of which are chronicled in the new book, The Coddling of the American Mind:  How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.  (Ironically, the title itself may unwittingly add to this anxiety.) …


Freedom From or Freedom To?

After running around attending to the needs of various kids, I had just poured a fresh cup of coffee, grabbed my book and sat down to relax.  

As if intentionally timing her request to my first sip, my daughter summoned,“Daddy, get me a glass of milk.”  This is the exchange that followed:

“You realize this vacation is for Mommy and Daddy too, you know. 


The Expectations of Parents

Ted Williams was arguably the greatest hitter to ever play major league baseball. Yet his parents never watched him play a single game.

In her memoir, Educated. Tara Westover tells an incredible tale of being raised by survivalist parents and never went to school or to see a doctor as a child.  She went on to receive her PhD at Cambridge and is now a best selling author.…


How Strong Is Your Heart?

Years ago, I felt honored to deliver the eulogy at my Grandmother’s funeral. I talked about how the average person’s heart beats 30,000 times a day.  This meant that during her 87 years, it had beat right around a billion times.

I recounted how her heart must have beat differently at different milestones in her life. Racing to her first picture show as a little girl, going gaga over Bing Crosby, straining while working odd jobs during the great depression, or nearly coming to a stop when she learned her first husband was killed in the war.…


The Space Between Hope and Despair

In the film First Reformed, a reverend and environmentalist are experiencing existential crises – each waging a battle between hope and despair. In one exchange, the environmentalist shares his conflicting feelings about being an expectant father yet having to answer for the catastrophic effects climate change will have on the earth his unborn daughter will inherit as an adult.  He asks, “What will I say when she looks at me and asks – ‘You let this happen?’”…


A Father’s Day Blessing

I didn’t even see her. I had walked in and out of our local supermarket with my eight-year-old daughter to run a quick errand for a next day’s class picnic.  Once we were both buckled in the car, she said, “Daddy, didn’t you see the woman holding the sign saying – Homeless. Pregnant.”?

I said I hadn’t and now was in a rush to get home as it was well past her bedtime. More…


Are You a Taker or a Giver?

A recent study observed groups of people in public settings.  They recorded that every ninety seconds someone does something for someone else. Hold a door.  Pass the salt.  Fulfill a random request. 

Interestingly, only one in every six instances included someone saying thank you. 

Some would say this is a classic example of some people who are selfish or ungrateful. While others are by nature are more selfless and altruistic.…


Three Belated Mother’s Day Gifts

Yesterday, mothers around the country were rightfully treated to breakfasts in bed, flowers, and hand made and hallmark cards alike.  All expressing a well-deserved sentiment – you are appreciated.

In case you’re still feeling that you’d like to do something special for mom.  Consider the following three stories and the gifts they inspire.

One.  In last week’s episode of the HBO series, Being Serena, we were given a front row seat to the birth of Serena’s William’s first child, Olympia. …


An Unexpected Christmas Blessing

Early Christmas morning, my brother had just unwrapped a train set he was eager to set up. My sister, just weeks after taking her first steps, was overwhelmed by the spectacle of a giant tree in her house with presents all around.

As my siblings enjoyed these early moments of Christmas morning, I apparently chose this inopportune time to enter this world.

My mother was rushed off to the hospital. …


Do Children Cry Happy Tears?

This weekend my youngest daughter and I went to see the new movie Coco. The movie is a multi-layered parable about how family connections transcend time.

The penultimate scene shows a boy singing a lullaby to his great-grandmother who suffers from dementia.  The song, Remember Me, was written by her father and they would sing it together each time he said goodbye to her when she was a little girl.

Could These 5 Words End Conflict?

We know both empirically and intuitively that the prospect of a reward is a more persuasive motivator than the fear of punishment. 

Yet under pressure, our instincts often lead us to threats of the latter.

We see this is our politics, in business, in relationships and with our own children.

Recently, over a lunch comparing parenting notes, a good friend shared an approach that was proving to be successful with his own son. While…


“I never met someone who felt good about their children but bad about their life.”

There are many measures of success but this pearl of wisdom struck me as especially prescient. It was coming from Warren Buffett, who by almost any measure has lived an immensely successful life.

He is one of wealthiest people in the world – yet lives modestly in the same house he purchased in 1958. 

He has pledged and has already begun to give away at least half of all his wealth (for those counting that’s $27 billion to date and will probably eclipse over $60 billion.) …


“You’re Older, Not Old.”

This is what my five-year-old daughter cheerfully said to me as we biked together on a quiet road on Cape Cod last week.

My initial reaction was to laugh at this comical “out of the mouths of babes” moment. Then I looked ahead of us both and watched my own mother, now well into her 70’s, also on a bike and thought the exact same thing.

Up until that day, I can’t say I had ever seen my mom on a bike. But…


How Long Will Your Love Be Felt?

This was a question I couldn’t help ponder after listening to Prince William talk about his mother Princess Diana.  Reflecting on his memories from twenty years earlier, he said “I can still feel her love today, I really can.”

This love while most pronounced with her sons was not limited to them. Two other grown men recalled with precision the care and comfort she had provided to them on a visit to their home in Bosnia. Both…


Father’s Day Stories

I am of the age, where several times a year, I will learn of a friend’s father’s death. Attending these funerals becomes an affirmation of a life well lived. The chief signal being the quality of the eulogies provided by fully-grown sons and daughters.

With families of their own, they demonstrate by words and actions, how well their father’s had done in raising them. In doing so, they pay the ultimate tribute to the man they called Dad, Pop, Daddy, or Father.


What To Remember This Memorial Day

In 1943, off the coast of North Africa, my grandfather, Burton Poucher was one of 1,149 U.S. soldiers who were killed aboard the HMT Rohna.

The ship was sunk by a newly designed remote control German glider bomb – a precursor to today’s “smart” missiles. It was the largest single loss of life in the sea during the war.


Prior to shipping off, Burton was stationed in Indiana for training.…


Which Hurts More? A Clean Punch Or One That Is Blocked?

Why do some kids overcome toxic situations while others don’t?

Research has shown that one answer is “a single protective adult.” A child with a buffer is far more likely to succeed than one who is left to navigate these difficulties alone — no matter how hard that child may work at it.

Having a buffer does not save or spare us from all of the indignities and pain of growing up poor, or facing extreme or toxic stress, but it can lessen their impact, sometimes considerably.…


Home Is Where The Heart Is

A nice house with a white picket fence has long been the embodiment of the American Dream. With home ownership comes pride and stability. A place to call home, raise a family, build a life.

In Washington, D.C. today, there is a 40-year wait for affordable housing. That’s not a typo. Forty years. It doesn’t take much to turn a rented apartment, trailer, or a house into a home.…


Why Are We Here?

Isabel Sawhill from the Brookings Institution, one of the country’s leading thinkers on social mobility, recently said, “We do need a more nuanced conversation, and we need to get away from this sense that is being created in the political world right now that it’s either all about being a Horatio Alger or it’s all about government support to help you. It’s not either/or, it’s both.”…


They Say The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

A little harsh, I’d say, but there is a point to be made about the unintended consequences that well-meaning ideas and words can have on our success.

Consider these three examples:

  • The IQ test was originally created to identify a child’s learning deficits, so they could receive extra attention and instruction. Later these scores were applied as a horribly misused tool of eugenics. Today, while less nefarious, we still use IQ scores to label and limit a kid’s potential and segregate them from their fellow students.