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.

Letter to my mom, 1993

August 4, 2014

Somethings you never forget

Some things you never forget

In the back of an old notebook I use to study Spanish, I discovered the draft of a letter dated August 31, 1993. During that summer my mom had fallen several times. My letter followed a very bad fall at a community pool. All of this was baffling because my mom had always been in good physical shape. She had once dreamed of becoming a PE teacher. In her late 70′s she still loved to swim and play shuffleboard. She could ride a bike. A New Yorker, she thought fast and talked fast. She also walked fast, always with purpose. Her balance was great. And yet, she kept falling and no one could say why.

Dear Mom,

I’ve been thinking about our conversation Monday evening. You told me not to call you every day. This makes me feel out of touch with you. I understand you are feeling helpless and upset about being in the hospital with all the inconveniences which accompany that. I also understand being asked to talk daily about how uncomfortable you are makes you more upset. But if you tell me not to call you and you tell your friends not to visit, then you’re going to feel worse!

I can hear you say, “Nobody can do anything to make this better.” Maybe that’s true, on a physical level. But your friends and your family love you and we want to show our love by calling and visiting. It may not make you feel better physically, but that love will make you feel much better on an emotional level. You need that. Everybody needs that.

I have no record of how or even if my mom responded to that letter. But maybe she thought about it. During that dreadful winter, she became increasingly less steady on her feet. Then my mom did something she never even considered… she left her beloved New York and moved to California to be near me.

In the spring, someone finally explained what was going on. My mom had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). She died on Christmas Eve, 1994 at the age of 79. I think her move toward me and David and the kids was her way of acknowledging that, while no one could cure her illness, being near her family did a whole lot of good for her. It did a whole lot of good for us too.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , — Annie @ 3:51 pm

We need uncomfortable schools

July 28, 2014

Feeling uncomfortable? Now use it for good.

Feeling uncomfortable? Now use it for good.

As we approach the beginning of the new school year, my heart goes out to the kids who are dreading it. They are usually the ones who had to wade through more than their share of social garbage last term. Hopefully they got a needed reprieve during the summer. But they’ve got to go back and most of them (and their parents and teachers) are probably not looking forward to the inevitable crapola (online and off).

Being in the prevention business, I’m always working on ways to make schools more compassionate. Here’s my latest contribution… just a reminder… adapted from the Charter for Compassion’s call to action for cities.

A compassionate school is an uncomfortable school!
Uncomfortable when anyone is threatened, harassed, or made to feel less than.
Uncomfortable when every child isn’t treated with respect by every teacher and every other student.
Uncomfortable when every student isn’t given rich opportunities to grow intellectually, creatively, and emotionally.
Uncomfortable when, as a school community, we don’t treat each other as we want to be treated.

A compassionate school knows uncomfortable feelings aren’t worth zippo, if they don’t trigger action. So a compassionate school recognizes the discomfort and immediately works for change with the full leadership and commitment of all administrators and teachers. With adult leadership, students learn how they too can become change agents. Because, whether students admit it or not, they desperately want their school to be a place where every kid is treated with respect. Every one.

Got it? Good. Now go make your kid’s school really uncomfortable. We’re in this together.


We’ve all got special needs

July 21, 2014

The implication, when we speak of kids or adults with special needs, is that “they” are unlike “us.” But isn’t it true that we’ve all got special needs? Maybe the only difference is that some needs are more obvious than others. And some, obviously, require more day-to-day support. Other than that… everyone deserves to be noticed, respected, listened to, and understood. But what happens to a child with less obvious needs when Mom or Dad also have a kid with more obvious needs?

Rachel and Beth Simon

Beth and Rachel Simon

A while back I had the privilege of interviewing award-winning author Rachel Simon for my Family Confidential podcast. Rachel’s books include New York Times bestsellers The Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding the Bus With My Sister (which was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame film starring Andie MacDowell and Rosie O’Donnell, and directed by Angelica Huston.)

Riding the Bus With My Sister, the film

Riding the Bus With My Sister, the film

Rachel’s younger sister, Beth, has an intellectual disability. Because of Rachel’s personal family history, her years of research into disability/sibling issues, and her connection to the Sibling Community, she speaks with a rare eloquence and sensitivity about the treatment of people with disabilities and how parents can do a better job of attending to the special needs of all their children.

Listen to my recent Family Confidential podcast interview with Rachel right here.


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