Thoughtful Thursday: A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay

Thoughtful Thursdays are back! To the newcomers, on Thursdays GCP offers a poem, a song, a sampling of African American created or inspired culture to uplift your day, and share with your sons. Today’s offering comes courtesy of the wonderful journalist Michele Norris, who tweeted this poem out this morning. Given the beauty of the poem, and the times we live in, we just had to share it. “A Small Needful Fact”, by Ross Gay, focuses on an aspect of Eric Garner’s life not otherwise noted in the coverage of his death at the hands of NYC police.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Gay is the author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award and a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award; Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011); and Against Which (Cavankerry Press, 2006). He earned a BA from Lafayette College, an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and a PhD in English from Temple University. He teaches at Indiana University. Speaking about this poem during a PBS Newshour, Gay said, “What that poem, I think, is trying to do is to say, there’s this beautiful life, which is both the sorrow and the thing that needs to be loved”.

A Small Needful Fact

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Ross Gay

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Back to School and Back to GCP!!

After stepping away from regular GCP blogging for a while to work on a parenting book proposal, GCP is back and I will be back to more regular posts.  While the posts will still primarily focused on raising boys,  so much which has been posted already can apply to parenting girls as well as boys.  A lovely young friend with twins (a boy and a girl) recently told me how she had taken my advice to become involved in their school and is a class mom for this year.  Thrilled to hear. So all you girl moms out there, please join us and let me know when GCP advice works for you!

* * * * *

School is back in session!   I’m sure you have focused on getting your son ready to go back to school.  Make sure you also take the time to focus on your back to school checklist:

  • If your son is in a single classroom all day, have you met his teacher(s)?  If he is a middle or high schooler, do you know what he is taking this year and how he feels about his classes so far?
  • Have you volunteered for a classroom and/or school activity? If your working hours prohibit this, have you found the parent/buddy who will keep you in the loop about what is going on at school?
  • Have you put the Parent’s Association meetings in your calendar and do you plan to attend one of the earlier ones in the school year?
  • Have you focused on his afterschool activities?  Making sure he is not over scheduled and that he is doing things he enjoys?
  • If necessary, have you focused on the technology he will need for the school year? If he uses a laptop, is it in good working order and does he have the means to BACK IT UP ( an external hard drive is best)?  This is really important;  neither he nor you will want to deal with his losing work following a computer crash.
  • Have you made sure your son has a good space in your home in which to study? Free of obvious distractions (no TV nearby), a comfortable chair and a good reading light?
  • If he has regular homework assignments, does he have a calendar/assignment book?  If the school doesn’t provide one, get one for him and help him figure out how to use it to keep track of his short and long-term homework assignment and projects.  Some students prefer to keep their calendars on their phones.  This works best, of course, if they are not easily distracted by the 7 zillion other things going on with their phones.


Take care of your checklist, and your son will be off to a great start for the school year!


Carol Sutton Lewis

Ground Control Parenting


*** P.S.  I have plans to build up the GCP network this year, and I’d love to hear about what is working for you and your sons.  Good parenting ideas need to be shared–we all need all the help we can get!  Please follow me on Twitter @GndCtrlParentg,  tell your friends to read GCP, and send me your comments! Thanks. 👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽📓📓




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Happy Grandparent’s Day!

Did you and your family know that today is National Grandparent’s Day?  Have you celebrated the grandparents in your lives today?

If you missed the day, make it Grandparent’s weekend.  Spend time tomorrow connecting with grandparents or older adults in the community and showing them some love.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Alice Walker

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday offers poetry and quotes from Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker.  Enjoy.
Be Nobody’s Darling

Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

Expect Nothing

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.


People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

I have fallen in love with the imagination. And if you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Fun Poems For the Little Ones

This week’s Thoughtful Thursday brings you a few fun poems to read to share with your younger sons. Those of you who have Pizza Nights will especially enjoy “A Pizza The Size of the Sun”, where Jack Prelutsky imagines the best pizza ever. Ogden Nash tells the story of “Isabel”, a young lady who is not to be tangled with. And Langston Hughes explains “The Blues” to the youngest set. Enjoy.

A Pizza the Size of the Sun

I’m making a pizza the size of the sun,
a pizza that’s sure to weigh more than a ton,
a pizza too massive to pick up and toss,
a pizza resplendent with oceans of sauce.

I’m topping my pizza with mountains of cheese,
with acres of peppers, pimentos, and peas,
with mushrooms, tomatoes, and sausage galore,
with every last olive they had at the store.

My pizza is sure to be one of a kind,
my pizza will leave other pizzas behind,
my pizza will be a delectable treat
that all who love pizza are welcome to eat.

The oven is hot, I believe it will take
a year and a half for my pizza to bake.
I hardly can wait till my pizza is done,
my wonderful pizza the size of the sun.

Jack Prelutsky


Adventures Of Isabel

Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear’s big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I’ll eat you!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry.
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.
Once in a night as black as pitch
Isabel met a wicked old witch.
the witch’s face was cross and wrinkled,
The witch’s gums with teeth were sprinkled.
Ho, ho, Isabel! the old witch crowed,
I’ll turn you into an ugly toad!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry,
She showed no rage and she showed no rancor,
But she turned the witch into milk and drank her.
Isabel met a hideous giant,
Isabel continued self reliant.
The giant was hairy, the giant was horrid,
He had one eye in the middle of his forhead.
Good morning, Isabel, the giant said,
I’ll grind your bones to make my bread.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She nibled the zwieback that she always fed off,
And when it was gone, she cut the giant’s head off.
Isabel met a troublesome doctor,
He punched and he poked till he really shocked her.
The doctor’s talk was of coughs and chills
And the doctor’s satchel bulged with pills.
The doctor said unto Isabel,
Swallow this, it will make you well.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She took those pills from the pill concocter,
And Isabel calmly cured the doctor.
Ogden Nash

This week’s Thoughtful Thursday brings you a few fun poems to read to share with your younger sons. Those of you who have Pizza Nights will especially enjoy “A Pizza The Size of the Sun”, where Jack Prelutsky imagines the best pizza ever. Ogden Nash tells the story of “Isabel”, a young lady who is not to be tangled with. And Langston Hughes explains “The Blues” to the youngest set. Enjoy.

The Blues

When the shoe strings break
On both your shoes
And you’re in a hurry-
That’s the blues.

When you go to buy a candy bar
And you’ve lost the dime you had-
Slipped through a hole in your pocket somewhere-
That’s the blues, too, and bad!

Langston Hughes

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GCP: What’s Going On?

GCP is in the midst of a makeover!  We are redesigning our site, and planning to bring a new, improved and more exciting look to the practical parenting  for boys of color that we’ve been offering for over three years.  “Bout time, don’t you think?  We will be posting periodically in the meantime, but please stay tuned–our new look will be revealed soon.

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5 “Teacher Tips” that Work for Parents Too

Ever wonder how teachers manage to keep classrooms of students engaged and motivated? Lynda Way, owner of the Pacific Preschool® & Kindergarten in California, offers “Teacher’s Tips” for motivating children which she suggests parents can use at home. These tips, found here, are summarized below, and we’ve added our comments as well.

1. Give Positive Feedback: Look for opportunities throughout the day to offer your sons positive feedback, and resist the temptation to just stay focused on what they could be doing better.

2.Set High Expectations (We love this one). Way explains, “Kids learn to regulate their behavior and set goals for themselves based on the expectations that the adults in their life have for them.” We need to let our sons know that we expect them to do their best, and strive for excellence. We can convey these expectations without putting too much pressure on our sons by focusing on their effort more than on any particular outcome. We don’t want to stress them out, but we do want them to aim high and feel the satisfaction of achieving their goals.

3. Customize Content. Way suggests that parents make sure that we tailor activities to each child, as “[t]he activity or incentive that is just right for one child may not be right for all of your children”. GCP would add that we should also try to make sure that each child is only exposed to age appropriate content especially with respect to the music, films and social media they are allowed to listen to and watch. This is a really tough one, since the younger children often get swept up in their older siblings activities, which can be convenient for parents. Check out for guidance (and media reviews) if you are not sure whether the youngest should tag along.

4.Implement a Reward Chart. A visit to any elementary school classroom demonstrates the power of a reward chart. Who among us wasn’t proud to get those hard-earned stars put next to our names? Try a reward chart at home to help your son learn to work towards getting things that he wants.

5.Take an Interest. This seems obvious, but in this day and age with so many devices competing for your attention many parents may forget that being distracted can look a lot like being disinterested to a child. Make sure you spend time with your son discovering and paying attention to his passions. Asks Way, “If your child is looking through some new library books, are you watching TV or are you engaging in the books with them?”

GCP parents, take careful note of these Teacher’s Tips. Incorporate them into your life with your sons. They will really appreciate it.

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Admissions Tips: Pre School and Beyond

As school begins, for many parents so begins the process of looking for schools for our sons for next year. Whether you are enrolling your son in school for the first time, or looking to change schools, now is the time to get focused. In today’s post we will feature tidbits about admissions for each level of your son’s school journey. We will provide more in-depth analyses of the various admissions processes in posts to come.

Preschool: We at GCP can’t say enough about the importance of early childhood education for our children, especially our boys. So much brain development happens in those early years! Applications for private preschools in major cities are often scarce (in NYC you have to start calling the schools the day after Labor Day) and the road to public preschools can be tough to navigate as well so it is important to begin your research in the year before you will want to apply for your son. Trying to figure out whether it is worth it and if so how to get started? Take a look at “Do You Need to Pay for Preschool” found here and “Getting into PreSchool: Advice from an Admissions Coach” found here.

K-12: Whether you are interested in an independent school education for your son, or a specialized, magnet, or local public school, taking the time to look at a variety of schools and understand the admissions processes is key to finding the best school for your son. If independent schools are on your list for your son, be sure to check out RIISE, which stands for Resources In Independent School Education, was founded by Gina Parker Collins in 2009 to help parents and students of color as they navigate the landscape of an independent school education. During this admission season RIISE is featuring admission tips from parents, admissions directors and consultants to help you manage the process of applying to private, independent schools. Check out the first admissions post here and be sure to read them all.

For public schools be sure to start early researching schools and their admissions policies that interest you and your son. While in some communities living in the proper school district is the only criterion for admission, other schools have more complicated procedures, and all schools have strict deadlines which must be heeded. For a general overview take a look at “School Enrollment Requirements”, found here. As importantly however, check with your local school district and/or department of education to make sure you have information on requirements and deadlines.

College: If you have a high school junior, now is the time to help him focus on the standardized testing he will need to pursue to apply to college. There are subject matter tests he should consider taking, and he should start preparing for the SAT or ACT if he hasn’t already. If possible you should plan to visit colleges in the spring of junior year, and continue to do so over the summer. If you have a high school senior, he is likely to be already focused on making a list of schools which interest him, and if additional school visits are needed, now is the time to plan them. For many colleges with Early Action or Early decision options, the deadline is November 1, so your son needs to be very focused on the application requirements these days if he is applying early. We hope that your son has good guidance counselors who have told him (and you) all of this many times already, but we want you both to be prepared and on top of your game even if your son’s counselors are not. This can be quite a stressful time in many families. Knowing that you and your son are doing all that you can to be prepared will make this road slightly less bumpy.

Stay tuned for more in-depth info on each of these admissions processes from GCP.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Back to School

It is Back To School with Thoughtful Thursday! Today’s offering includes two favorites: “School”, which describes a school day all too familiar to parents of boys, and “Who Has Seen The Wind”, a classic that introduces youngsters to the mysteries of science. Science is also the topic of the poem “Astromony Lesson” in which two brothers step away from modern technology to contemplate the heavens. Enjoy.


I was sent home the first day
with a note: Danny needs a ruler.
My father nodded, nothing seemed so apt.
School is for rules, countries need rulers,
graphs need graphing, the world is straight ahead.

It had metrics one side, inches the other.
You could see where it started
and why it stopped, a foot along,
how it ruled the flighty pen,
which petered out sideways when you dreamt.

I could have learned a lot,
understood latitude, or the border with Canada,
so stern compared to the South
and its unruly river with two names.
But that first day, meandering home, I dropped it.

Daniel J. Langton

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Christina Rossetti

Astronomy Lesson

The two boys lean out on the railing
of the front porch, looking up.
Behind them they can hear their mother
in one room watching “Name That Tune,”
their father in another watching
a Walter Cronkite Special, the TVs
turned up high and higher till they
each can’t hear the other’s show.
The older boy is saying that no matter
how many stars you counted there were
always more stars beyond them
and beyond the stars black space
going on forever in all directions,
so that even if you flew up
millions and millions of years
you’d be no closer to the end
of it than they were now
here on the porch on Tuesday night
in the middle of summer.
The younger boy can think somehow
only of his mother’s closet,
how he likes to crawl in back
behind the heavy drapery
of shirts, nightgowns and dresses,
into the sheer black where
no matter how close he holds
his hand up to his face
there’s no hand ever, no
face to hold it to.

A woman from another street
is calling to her stray cat or dog,
clapping and whistling it in,
and farther away deep in the city
sirens now and again
veer in and out of hearing.

The boys edge closer, shoulder
to shoulder now, sad Ptolemies,
the older looking up, the younger
as he thinks back straight ahead
into the black leaves of the maple
where the street lights flicker
like another watery skein of stars.
“Name That Tune” and Walter Cronkite
struggle like rough water
to rise above each other.
And the woman now comes walking
in a nightgown down the middle
of the street, clapping and
whistling, while the older boy
goes on about what light years
are, and solar winds, black holes,
and how the sun is cooling
and what will happen to
them all when it is cold.

Alan R. Shapiro

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Back to School: Parents, Don’t Forget Your A B E’s

So our sons are back in school, and settling into the routine of early rising, a full day in the classroom, and homework after school. After a summer of focusing on them, we can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to focusing on our lives, right? Not exactly. Our sons will greatly benefit from our paying careful attention to how they are adjusting to their new school year. So parents, as our sons begin the school year, don’t forget your A B E‘s:

Ask your son how things are going, whether he is new to the school or has been there for a while. A new school year always brings a lot of things for him to become accustomed to: new schedule, classes, teachers. Ask your friends who spend time at the school (or teachers, if you are able to be at the school yourself and run into them) how your son seems to be doing if they see him around. Transitions can be stressful, and you should encourage your son to chat about what is going on at school so you can understand how he is handling things.

Be a consistent presence at his school, and start early in the year. Show up for curriculum night. Do your best to make the Parent’s Association meetings and get to know the parents who run them. Volunteer for a school project that fits within your schedule (e.g., an evening activity if your days are too full). If your schedule doesn’t allow for frequent school visits, then befriend a mom or dad who has the time, and ask that they keep you informed.

Encourage your son to establish studying routines early in the school year, and make sure he has a space in your home to do so. He needs a space free of obvious distractions (not in a room with a tv), with a good reading light and a comfortable chair. If he has regular homework assignments and his school doesn’t provide him with a calendar/assignment book, get one for him, and help him understand how he will use it to keep track of his long and short term homework assignments. Some students prefer using their smartphones, which works best if they are not easily distracted by whatever else they have on their phones.

Remember your A B E‘s to help your son get off to a great start.

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