Monthly Archives: December 2013

GCP Parenting Resolutions for 2014

On this last day of 2013, our thoughts here at GCP turn to what New Year’s resolutions we can make about parenting. We’ve come up with one resolution, which we hope everyone will make: To be focused, conscientious parents in 2014.

Sounds good, but the important part of this resolution is figuring out how you will take it to heart. Perhaps you will choose one thing to work on, like paying less attention to your devices and more to casual conversations with your son, or devising and sticking to a plan to regularly touch base with his teachers, or stopping yourself from saying those words in anger and frustration that you know won’t help a situation, or fighting that instinct to protect your son from failure. Maybe you will use it more as a mantra, so that fewer of your parenting mistakes this year will be made because you were multitasking or spreading yourself too thin.

Take some time on New Year’s Day to think about what you can do to be a (more) focused and conscientious parent. Then pop open some leftover champagne, and toast yourself for making it through another year of parenting. Here’s to you, to your children (especially those amazing boys), and to a great year together. Happy New Year from GCP!

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Thoughtful Thursday: Christmas Poems

Season’s Greetings, Everyone! This being the last Thoughtful Thursday before Christmas, we bring to you three Christmas poems by very well known poets. Maya Angelou read her poem “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem” at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House on December 1, 2005.

“Carol of the Brown King”, and “Shepherd’s Song at Christmas”, both by by Langston Hughes, are found in a collection of his Nativity poems for children. Enjoy!!!


Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

― Maya Angelou

Carol of the Brown King

Of the three wise men
Who came to the King,
One was a brown man,
So they sing.

Of the three wise men
Who followed the star,
One was a brown king
From afar.

They brought fine gifts
Of spices and gold
In jeweled boxes
Of beauty untold.

Unto His humble
Manger they came
And bowed their heads
In Jesus’ name.

Three wise men,
One dark like me –
Part of His

Langston Hughes

Shepherd’s Song of Christmas

Look there at the star!
I, among the least,
Will arise and take
A journey to the East.
But what shall I bring
As a present for the King?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring a song,
A song that I will sing,
In the Manger.
Watch out for my flocks,
Do not let them stray.
I am going on a journey
Far, far away.
But what shall I bring
As a present for the Child?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring a lamb,
Gentle, meek, and mild,
A lamb for the Child
In the Manger.
I’m just a shepherd boy,
Very poor I am—–
But I know there is
A King in Bethlehem.
What shall I bring
As a present just for Him?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring my heart
And give my heart to Him.
I will bring my heart
To the Manger.

Langston Hughes

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Interesting Christmas Gift Ideas

Incredibly, we are but a handful of days away from Christmas. If you haven’t finished your shopping for the young ones, you may want to consider some of the guidelines and gift idea suggestions below. (Please don’t tell us if you’ve already finished; we don’t want to hear how organized and together you are. But if you are that organized, you can start shopping now for next Christmas.)

Books: We know that not every child, and especially not every boy, is thrilled to find books under the Christmas tree. But we also know that reading for pleasure is a wonderful and important skill that we can and should encourage them to pursue at every turn. PBS Parents has compiled a list of the Best Books For Boys which is worth a good look. Not only does this link, found here, list books that are popular with boys in a variety of age groups (with middle school readers being the most advanced group), it also has tips for parents on how to encourage your son to become a more avid reader.

Holiday Books: Having those holiday books that you pull out and read at each Christmas can be a fun family tradition. Common Sense Media offers a detailed listing of holiday book offerings for children. The list, found here, is weighted heavily with books for preschoolers, so parents who want to start this tradition early will have the most books to choose from.

If you have older children, check out “A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories” compiled and edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas and “Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters” by Patricia C. McKissack, Fredrick L. McKissack and John Thompson. Both of these books look at the celebration of Christmas from a historical perspective. “The Treasury of African American Stories (Vol.II)” features Christmas stories and poems originally published in Black newspapers, periodicals and journals between 1892 and 1939. “Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters”, which was first published in 1994, describes the holiday celebrations of both slaves and slave owners on a pre-Civil War plantation. Its authors won the Coretta Scott King Award for this book in 1995.

Media and Games: Common Sense Media also has a Holiday Gift Guide to help parents navigate the age appropriate issues in buying media related Christmas gifts for their children. Their guide, found here, offers holiday gift ideas designed to inspire, educate, and entertain children of a variety of ages and stages. Their suggestions are arranged by age and media type, and they include movies, video games, books, music, TV shows on DVD, apps, and websites. If you are trying to figure out how to maintain your family’s policies on appropriate gifts for your children as they are showered with gifts from well-meaning but clueless relatives, you should check out Common Sense Media’s article “Spare Your Kids an Inappropriate Gift”, found here.

Up for An Historical Game? If you’ve got older children who love board games and history, sounds like they will enjoy “Steal Away”, a board game which allows its players to escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The object of the game for each player to reach freedom and then, as history dictates, reach out to help others left behind before time runs out. Per its website, found here: “In this action-packed game, players flee the plantation for freedom. Aided and challenged by outside forces, they must avoid being caught by slave-catchers with help from a network of safe houses. They may even meet Harriet Tubman along the way!”

Find anything really great out there for your sons? Let us know!! Happy Shopping !!

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Thoughtful Thursday: Words of Wisdom from Nelson Mandela

By now you all have probably heard the sad news that Nelson Mandela passed away today at 95. Today we mourn the passing of the father of modern South Africa who was, as President Obama reminded us in his statement made just a few minutes ago, “one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth.”

As the tributes begin to pour in, and we hear again of Mandela’s journey from prisoner to President, let us all remember to talk to our sons and daughters about Nelson Mandela. Here are just a few of his more memorable quotes to be inspired by and to share with them as we honor his memory.


* * * * * * * *

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

It always seems impossible until its done.

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way.

It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.

Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.

Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.

* * * * * * * *

Rest in Peace, Nelson Mandela.

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Reality Check: Pre-School and Kindergarten Admissions

O.K. all you parents who are either in the midst of the school application process for your pre-school or kindergarden son or have submitted your applications and are counting down the months until you are scheduled to hear the responses, take a deep breath and let it go slowly. Time for a reality check. We’ve all heard the depressing stories of how tough it is get your little one into these fiercely competitive independent and public schools. But we also know that each year, parents manage to figure it out and enroll their children in pre-school and kindergarten. No reason why you won’t be in that group. So stop listening to the naysayers (external and/or internal) and know that you’ll make it through. Here are a few tips for surviving this process in the best way possible:

Try your absolute hardest to stay relaxed through this process. Easier said than done, yes, but so necessary, for these three reasons: First, admissions directors can smell fear and nervous desperation a mile away, and it is such a turn off. In admitting children for the early years, admissions staff have to rely more heavily on the impressions they get from the parents, as there is only so much that a school can learn about a 3-5 year old from testing and interviews. So you are actually doing your child a disservice if you allow nerves to interfere with you being the best examples of yourselves that you can be when you are visiting or interviewing with a school. Second, no matter what anyone tells you, admission to a highly regarded pre-school and/or kindergarten admission is not a ticket to a top-tier college. It is a long and winding road from pre-school and kindergarten to college. Take it one school year at a time. Third, that long and winding road will be filled with admissions applications and nail-biting wait times and victories and defeats for your child (and therefore for you as well). You absolutely can’t afford to get crazily nervous this early in the game, you’ll burnout and will be of no use to anyone. Seriously.

How to Relax? Make sure you have completed all parts of every application, attended every open house and interview for each school, focused on getting any letters of recommendations in (more on that below). Also make sure that you have done your homework on the places to which you are applying for your child so that you’ll have the best sense possible of your direction once you know the choices he’ll have. Most importantly, have a good public school backup that your know your child can attend and that you would be satisfied with. If you are only applying to a series of special public schools, make sure you know and can live with the alternative if he doesn’t get into the schools of your choice.

Recommendations: Provide them if they are requested, even if they are optional. The best people to ask for a recommendation for pre-school or kindergarten is someone the school knows, like a current or past parent or a board member. But this only makes sense if the person really knows you and your child. A generic recommendation from someone the school knows will come across as lukewarm, and won’t be as helpful as a glowing recommendation from someone who genuinely knows you. And even if you are close to a board member, do not ask for a recommendation unless you are prepared to answer the question of whether that school is your first choice for your child. Many board members are unwilling to go to bat for a child knowing that if he is accepted his parents may send him elsewhere. And if you are asked, be truthful, even if it means you won’t get this recommendation. At best it is extremely bad karma to lie about this.

Interviews: During any school visits and interviews, be sure to do the following: Silence the phone and put it away. Be courteous to all the people you meet at the school, from the security guard to the secretary to the tour guide. If you are not, know that it will get back to the admissions department. Look respectable. Leave the “look at me” outfits at home–nothing too tight, too short or with crazy heels, ladies, and everyone should cool it on the flashy jewelry.

Repeat the Following Phrases Until You Know Them As Truth: Your child’s education is much greater and will be much better than whatever school you send him to, because you are ultimately his first and best teacher. Whatever school he goes to will be lucky to have him. Whatever school does not accept him, it is their loss.

Lots of Hugs: Hug your son a lot these days, as often as he’ll let you, as he is undoubtably feeling pressure and uncertainty about the transition ahead as well. Encourage hugs around the entire family–great antidote to stress.

Focus on Having a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season With Your Family. Best of luck to you all!

Coming soon: Admissions reality checks for Elementary/Middle School, High School and (gasp) College.

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