Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

For Parents: You Have To Be Taught

August 29, 2008

Last night 10 neighbors came over to watch Obama’s acceptance speech with me and David. It was easily 95 outside and we don’t have A/C, but no one in our packed TV room noticed because we were witnessing something so very cool. Even cooler was the fact that yesterday was the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech.

I don’t care which side of the river you pitch your tent on, you’ve got to admit that Obama’s nomination represents an awesome achievement for America. Unless of course, you don’t think so.

A few days ago I read about a bunch of racist drug addicts arrested in a Denver hotel during a methamphetamine soiree. Apparently one of the female revelers called police when she became disturbed by the direction of the party conversation. To give you an idea, here’s what one of the guys told police after he’d been taken into custody “Black people don’t belong in public office. He ought to be shot.” They were booked on drug and weapons charges, but not for plotting an assassination, though apparently the case is still under investigation.  As the U.S. Attorney put it on Wednesday, “People do lots of stupid things on meth.” Yep.

So, it might just be a case of some guys being very high and exceedingly ignorant, neither of which is a crime in this country. But you can’t blame the law for being pro-active. Because it’s not always easy to tell the difference between your garden-variety racist drug addict and a dedicated assassin. And since Barack Obama is well… black… you can understand how that kind of talk might make the police a tad nervous. Unless, of course you can’t.

Whenever I read about or witness people being rude or bigoted, I can’t help but wonder, “Where did they learn this stuff?” It’s one of those trick questions I often ask myself. Not much of a trick, actually, because I always think I know the answer… their parents.

There’s a song from South Pacific that examines the perpetuation of racial intolerance… no it’s not “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair.” (Sorry, Team A. Team B, what’s your guess?) That’s right! The song is, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.” by Rogers and Hammerstein. They’re the same folks who brought “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and “This was a Real Nice Clam Bake.” But with “Carefully Taught,” they were operating on a whole other level. Considering that the song was written in 1949, left in the show despite pressure from producers, plus the fact that its message is still spot-on today makes it all the more admirable.

Anyway, here are the lyrics (and if you want to follow along while Matthew Morrison and Paulo Szot sing it, in the 2008 Broadway production):

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear

You’ve got to be taught from year to year

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught


You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.


You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late

Before you are six or seven or eight

To hate all the people your relatives hate

You’ve got to be carefully taught.


So, just curious, what was the take-away lesson you got from your parents when it came to how to treat people who are different from you? In what ways are you transmitting the same or different messages to your kids?

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

In friendship,


Filed under: Parenting,Politics — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 1:22 pm

For Parents: A Note to My Future Self

August 20, 2008

It was the end of yoga class and we had just finished svasana, my all-time favorite pose! For those who don’t speak Sanskrit, the translation is roughly: “stretched out on a folded blanket preferably with cushions under your head, knees and feet, chillin’ after spending the previous 90 minutes twisting, stretching and standing on your head while breathing consciously and trying to keep at bay all intrusive thoughts of life outside the yoga studio.” It’s called the corpse pose and it only looks easy.

When our teacher Laurel invited the bell, we 8 students brought our consciousness back into the room then slowly brought our bodies up to a seated position. In front of each of us was a yellow index card, a blank envelope and a pen.

Laurel said: “On your card, write today’s date. Then complete the following sentences:  I am letting go of _____________________ .

I am giving birth to ________________________________.”

For me the big draw of yoga and meditation has always been the promise of a ticket out of my Monkey Mind. That’s why I was surprised that Laurel seemed to want us to think and write.  But I totally trust her, so I completed the sentences. Then I sealed my card in a self-addressed envelope, handed it back to her and moved on to my next bit of mental madness.

5 months later the card showed up in my mail box. Because I wanted to play a joke on my future self,  I wrote “From a Friend”  in the return address. That, and the fact that the postmark was from Boston left me momentarily confused. What “friend” do I have in Boston??

Then I recognized my own handwriting and opened the envelope.

“March 24, 2008 – I am letting go of judgement of  myself, of situations, of other’s actions and reactions.  I am letting go of dualism. I am giving birth to the next level of my work.”

I’ve always been into setting goals, so I liked reading about giving birth to the next level of my work. Then the very next day (I swear this is true) I was notified that I had been selected to give a workshop at the annual Middle School Association Conference in Denver in November. This will be the first national venue I’ll be speaking at. The next level of my work? Could be. So maybe there’s something to be said about putting your aspirations out there while sitting on a sticky mat.

As for the letting go part, I’ve gotta be honest.  (Actually, I don’t have to be, ’cause you’d never know, but why the hell not?) Being judgmental and opinionated has always been my M.O.  It’s what I do. So it’s impossible to say that I’ve “let go” of even a micron of this tendency. But it can’t hurt to aspire to change, right? And the yellow index card sits right here on my desk here as a constant reminder to quit judging myself for still being so judgmental.

Well, here we are… almost September. If you took a minute to think about yourself and the way you are in the world… or the kind of relationship you want with your kids for this new school year, how might you complete these sentences?

I am letting go of __________________________.

I am giving birth to ______________________________.

Your thoughts?

Filed under: Announcements,Meditation,Parenting,Yoga — Tags: , — Annie @ 1:29 pm

For Parents: You Can’t Unknow What You Know

August 11, 2008

I was really looking forward to tuning in to see if Michael Phelps would win his second Gold Medal of the 2008 Olympics as part of the 4×100 freestyle relay.  I knew the race was today, but I’m working on a deadline  and so we’ve got our TV recording it.  (I shouldn’t even be blogging right now but I’m on a break.  Honest!)

My plan was to block out any sports news so that later I could watch the race in blissful ignorance, pretending it was unfolding in real time, the same way we live our lives. But I’m a political junkie and I can’t stay offline for long. While I surfing for campaign news, I stumbled on this headline and suddenly I knew exactly what happened 6 hours ago in the Water Cube.

I’m still going to watch the race later on, but it won’t be same.  Once you know something you know it. And unless it’s a fact like “where I last saw my glasses/keys/shoes” your chances of forgetting it aren’t all that good.

Now I’m thinking about what we parents have learned about our kids that we might have chosen not to know if anyone had given us the “selective amnesia” option. Like the fact that yes, your daughter is sexually active or no, the parents actually weren’t home during that party even though your son swore they were. 

As a parent, what do you know about your son or daughter that you wish you didn’t know? When you found out, what changed? How have you adjusted emotionally? How does knowing change your view of your son/daughter?  How has it changed your behavior as a parent? When does a tween or teen have the right to privacy?

Lots of questions!  Love to hear your thoughts.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , — Annie @ 2:47 pm

“Middle School Confidential” – Book 1 is Here

August 1, 2008

Middle School Confidential - Book 1: Be Confident in Who You Are

Middle School Confidential, Book 1: Be Confident in Who You Are

Writing books is a quasi-surreal endeavor to begin with. Writing a five-book series is more than strange. Middle School Confidential started with an inspiration, followed by some concepts, chased by a bunch of ideas. Then I spent several intense months figuring out how to get what’s going on in my mind to connect with the life experience of my readers (5th-8th graders). (All that before I even began Book 1!)

Finally I finished the first draft of the first book and sent it to my editor. He sent it back with some notes in places that needed revisions. I completed the additional work and sent it off again, which earned me a big editorial thumbs up.

Then after a couple of weeks of mental vacation, I started Book 2. So the process repeated itself.

Now it’s the first of August. I spent most of today working on Book 3. (Zip zip) On a mid-afternoon fresh air break I tripped over a box left on my front step by the guy in the brown truck. Opening it, I found a blast from my creative past… AKA Book 1 had arrived! There it was… in my hands, an actual real world book with my name on the cover and my photo in the back (in case I needed proof). Like I said, surreal, and smile-inducing. If you want a copy. Just let me know. Only $9.95. A bargain at half the price. ;O)

Filed under: Annie's Books,Announcements,Bookshelf,Teen Books — Tags: — Annie @ 10:24 pm
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