My Top Five Resolutions As A Parent For 2012

Dear Michael and Caroline,

When it comes to being a parent, I would like to believe that my performance with both of you over the years has proven to be absolutely perfect.

Big mistake.

For however much I might prefer to regard myself as unfailingly attentive, infinitely patient, endlessly understanding and wise beyond measure – the father of all fathers, a future Hall of Famer – I’ve more than likely turned out to be selfish, distracted, temperamental and just plain dense.

And that’s on a good day.

As fathers go, in other words, I’m no dream. Then again, I’m probably no great nightmare either.

Take that time I yelled at both of you over nothing whatsoever.

No, not that time, the other time.

The upshot is this: I’ve practiced parenthood for 28 years now, and if practice makes perfect, maybe in 2012 I can finally get it right.

So here, in the interest of achieving the massive self-improvement needed, are my top five resolutions along those lines:

1. Pay closer attention. It’s widely rumored that I may once in a while miss certain key details in conversation – though in retrospect, I forget exactly what they are. So the claim may well be valid. I promise to tune in.

2. Give you some space. About 800 square feet should do the trick, I figure. So no more rapidfire cross-examinations about your latest activities, and definitely no more enhanced interrogation techniques to ascertain your career plans. You might find the extra elbow room, not to mention the extra breathing room, come in handy.

3. Stop interrupting. See “pay closer attention.”

4. Watch my tone. You often accuse me of coming off as sounding harsh and condescending. The only possible reasonable explanation for such a charge is that I probably do. So I’m going to take voice lessons. I may even practice scales. Come tomorrow, look for my new, much-improved B-flat.

5. Share less. By this point I suspect you both know as much about me – my background, my opinions, my philosophy – as you could ever possibly care to know, and possibly a good deal more. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m occasionally going to clam up.

I could go on, of course. But instead let’s conduct an audit a year from now to see how these resolutions pan out. And please remember: the difficult may be doable, but perfection might take some time.

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist “No Drama Mama:” Why I Should Just Let You Be You


She is an attorney, a wife of eight years and a mother of two years. When she’s not working, wifing (yes, she knows that’s not a word!), and mothering, she can be found hiking or writing at No Drama Mama ( She remains anonymous at her employer’s request, so urges you against trying to figure out her identity.

Dear Miss L,

We had an awesome year together. I will always treasure 2011 as the year you learned to talk, the year you stopped being my baby and started being my little girl, and the year we realized you were deathly afraid of chickens. But now 2011 is ending, and it’s time to look forward to 2012. 2011 was great, but next year is going to be even better! To kick it off right, I came up with a few resolutions:

1. Let you be you. I’m just going to say it: I hate playing baby. I hate playing tea party. I don’t want to pretend to change your doll’s diapers, or pretend to cook you food. I already have a baby to care for (you!) and I already have to cook and clean dishes (also mostly because of you!). But these are your favorite games, and as much as I wish you would play with your trains instead, I resolve to be a more willing participant. And on the days when I really can’t stand another second, I resolve to tag in your daddy.

2. Take a weekend off. Speaking of daddy, I resolve to steal him away for a weekend trip and leave you with Nana and Papa. The most important thing I can do as your mom is to give you two parents who love each other as much as we love you. Marriages take work, and if that “work” can be done at a romantic hotel on a white sand beach, far away from tantrums and early morning wake-up calls, so much the better. We’ll send you a postcard!

3. Write moreabout you. I know, I already write a lot! But the truth is, a lot of the things I write about you are not exactly flattering. Writing is an outlet for me, and let’s face it, the drama is funnier than the sweet moments (although I do occasionally mention those too, I swear!). While I was pregnant, your daddy bought me a journal just to write about you. It has only one entry. In the throes of morning sickness, I wrote “Dear Baby, you make me sick. Hugs and kisses, Mommy.” So I resolve to fill the journal full of stories of you, the funny things you say, and what makes your face light up. You’re changing every day, leaving old phases behind and entering new ones. Too many wonderful moments are easily forgotten, and we will need those memories to get us through the teenager years.

Here’s to a year full of stories, tea parties, and love!




P.S. – Tomorrow see my own parental resolutions for 2012.

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist David Rosen:You Opened My Eyes So I Can Open Yours



David and his family, wife Deborah and daughters Allison, 9, and Jessica, 6, live in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. David has worked in pharmaceutical and healthcare public relations since 1993 and met Bob at an agency where they worked in 1999. After getting caught up in a “workforce reduction” in December, 2008 at Bristol-Myers Squibb, he wandered the earth in search of his next position, and has been doing contract work for Vox Medica in Philadelphia. In 2010 he went back to school to become a New Jersey state certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and answers the call in both Cherry Hill and Berlin, NJ. He’s also a volunteer firefighter.

Dear Allison (Allie) and Jessica (Jess),

When I lost my job three years ago, I initially thought the worst. But the two of you helped show me there’s much more to life than just work. I gained a new perspective on life and what’s truly important.

In 2012, I resolve to be the cornerstone of your lives, just as the two of you are the center of my universe. I will be there for you. I will reinforce your strengths. I will pick you up when you fall and help you understand what happened and how you can give yourself a better chance for success the next time. I want to do for you what you unconsciously did for me when I was at my lowest point.

When you encouraged me to volunteer at your school, you opened my eyes to something I had lost sight of: my desire to help others. I had become so consumed over the years by my work that I forgot how much I love to help others. So I began to volunteer with the Fire Department. And then, before I knew it, I fulfilled a dream I had as a teenager. I became an emergency medical technician, or EMT.

Your interest in my new career and your reactions to the stories I tell you about the people I meet and help really bring home the impact I’m making on others. I hope you’re learning from my actions and will become people who look out for others and lend a helping hand to those in need. If I can help shape you into caring, concerned women who “pay it forward,” I will have done much to prepare you for this crazy world we live in.

Right now I’m sure you both think your mother and I are sometimes too hard on you. That’s because we want you to learn from our mistakes. It’s also because we understand that while other people will offer advice, ultimately you control your own lives and make your own choices.

We want you to give your all to everything you try, and to keep your chin up when facing disappointment and learn how to deal with it. Life can be very tough. The next time you’re up to bat – you know I had to throw in a baseball reference — you’ll be prepared hit all the curves thrown at you.

Love, Daddy

P.S. — Tomorrow see New Year’s Eve guest column from “No Drama Mama.”

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist Mindy Gikas: Finding The Faith To Be Faithful, The Patience To Be Patient


Mindy Gikas and her husband, Reverend Basil Gikas, are the proud parents of Justin, 12, and Lillianna, 10. They currently live in Yardville, NJ. Mindy is an SVP of Human Resources for a firm in NewYork City and Father Bill is a Greek Orthodox Priest. They will be moving to northern New Jersey in the New Year as Father Bill is assigned to a new parish community.

Dear Justin and Lilli,

We often start the New Year with resolutions, and while they are well intentioned, they are forgotten quickly as the holidays end and we resort to the reality of our crazy hectic lives. A friend of mine has given me a gift; he’s suggested I write this letter to you. Perhaps in writing this for others to read, it will give our 2012 resolutions a greater chance for success. Let’s see!

Justin, I resolve to have greater faith in you so that you will gain your focus and motivation to achieve the academic success that we all know you have within you. I know you don’t enjoy your father and me constantly staying on top of you regarding your homework and studying; in 2012 we will trust in you to get it done without a million reminders. I also resolve to be less worried and perhaps more willing to permit you to try some of those activities that I fear, like riding dirt bikes, riding over ramps on your bicycle and using circular saws. I will remind you, though; I’m your mother and as such, will never readily allow you to participate in anything I think is possibly dangerous.

Lillianna, I resolve to continue to listen to all that you want to tell me, and to be more patient with you, especially later in the evening, when I am tired and you still want to read with me, tell me stories about your day or just want me to spend time with you. I will even resolve to try to get home earlier each night so perhaps I won’t be quite so tired. I also resolve to let you have the freedom to decorate your new room with as many neon colors and zebra prints as you like. And to continue be your best friend always and help you (as you want me to) in finding new best friends.

Finally, we already know that 2012 will be a year of tremendous change, challenge and opportunity as we get acclimated to a new parish, leave our current home and find a new home and start our life in a new location.

My final resolution to both of you is that I will help us all to maintain our faith in God and our sense of humor as we embark on our new adventure. I love you both more than anything! Happy 2012!

P.S. – Tomorrow please see New Year’s Eve guest column from David Rosen.

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist Seth Levin: You, Little Girl, Will Be My Magic Medicine


Philosopher, artist, biophysicist – Seth Levin is none of these. But he is a loving husband to his high-school sweetheart, Melanie, a caring father to Elliana, his 21-month-old daughter, and best friend to his dog, Buddy. He lives in Washington, D.C., near his parents. the greatest role models in the world. He’s a vice president at the communications firm Weber Shandwick, where he gets to do cool stuff for clients and causes.

Dear Elliana,


When my friend Bob invited me to write a letter to you with a few New Year’s resolutions, I jumped at the chance. But then I started to worry.


What would I write?


Should it be serious or silly or both?


Will your mom like it?


Will you like it? (After all, you’re very smart and will probably be ready to read this by the age of two.)


You’re probably asking yourself, “Dad, why was this so hard? It’s just a letter. I’ll love it no matter what you say” (you are so sweet).


Well, it has to do with something pretty serious: my depression. Since age 17, I’ve suffered from clinical depression and seasonal affective disorder. Over the years, it has shaken my confidence, and made me feel that my personal opinions and thoughts are of little value.


But when you were born, I thought, I’ll never be depressed again; my daughter is pure joy. On the latter, I turned out to be right. The former is a different story. 2010 ended poorly, and 2011 started off no better. It was hard to believe, but I found myself unable to appreciate your smiles and cuddles, or to enjoy watching you intently study something new.


I never want this to happen again. So in 2012, I resolve the following: to ask you certain questions.


Question #1.


Me: If I start to feel depressed in 2012, should I hide it or talk openly with those closest to me?


You: Talk – with Mommy, Poppa (grandpa), Booj (grandma), Buddy (the dog), Lillis (Elliana, she’s two), aunt eah (Leah).


Me: You’re right, I should talk to my family. They love me and have helped in the past. However, if I talked to the dog, people might think I have a different psychiatric disorder.


Question #2.


Me: Should I get up earlier on weekends and walk with you to the playground?


You: Anna, outside! Anna, jacket! Anna, walk!


Me: Good idea. Start the day with sunshine and fresh air but no stroller.


Question #3.


Me: How about music class and the aquarium?


You: Fishy, Daufin (Dolphin). B-I-N-E-O, B-I-N-E-O.


Me: OK, let’s go to the aquarium and sing “Bingo”the whole way.


Question #4.


Me: Do I need to eat healthier and exercise?


You: Beans, carrot, nomato (tomato), eggy, chicken.


Me: Thanks for sharing a list of your favorite foods; I’ll go running too.


Well, I better get started; this is a long list. Meantime, I’m going to pursue another of my resolutions right now. Get ready, my Elliana. I promise to squeeze your cheeks more.


Wishing you Happy New Year, with unconditional love forever,


Your Daddy


P.S. – Long-term resolution: Depression runs in our family, and I pray you never get it. But if you do ever feel confused, sad or anxious without knowing why, I am there for you. We’ll get through it together.

New Year’s Eve Guest Columnist Francesca Lunzer Kritz: Skip Chocolate Cake, Fret Less, See Degas Exhibit


Francesca Lunzer Kritz is the lead writer for, the public health blog of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She lives in Silver Spring, Md, and is the mother of Dina, 19 and Matthew, 16, who have brought new shine to words such as joy, delight and pride. She occasionally sees her husband of 22 years, who is currently posted in Jerusalem working on the Middle East peace initiative. 

Dear Dina and Matthew,

Now that Matt is leaving home for college in just 32 weeks — your room isn’t rented out, Matt, so if my count is off, feel free to stay longer — I’ve begun thinking about what I’ve done right and wrong in my parenting over these exquisite 19 years and have made some resolutions for 2012.  

I’m going to lose some weight. I would like to be healthy enough and live long enough to see you enjoy your children in your homes as much as I have enjoyed mine. Chocolate cake is not better than that privilege (even though some days it seems as though it is).

Once Matthew heads to Jerusalem for his gap study year in the fall, I will stop asking him, and have stopped asking Dina, to always let me know your whereabouts. That epiphany is a result of Dina’s phone going on the fritz en route to campus a few months ago and me losing some hair over wondering where she was. Go with G-d, take sensible precautions and charge your phone because that’s a reasonable practice, not because Mom might be trying to plot your every move.

I’m going to start a savings account. Even with one college tuition (and soon two), shifting some coffees and cabs will put a few dollars into an account. Besides, it’s a good example to set and helps create a cushion for all our futures.

I am going to stay on top of taking photos of all of us, and then printing and framing them. You are both beautiful, inside and out, and I want to catalogue your fun and your accomplishments, too.

I’m going to see the Degas ballet exhibit at the Phillips collection. It’s near my office and that will be the first step toward realizing the fun things I can do with my empty nesting time and not just focus on how much I will miss the two of you come August.

At night before I go to sleep I will take a minute to marvel at the trust G-d put in me to have allowed me to raise the two of you.

P.S. – Tomorrow see New Year’s Eve guest column from Seth Levin.

New Year’s Guest Columnist Francine Brevetti: Getting Unstuck For 2012


Francine Brevetti, a longtime journalist, writes clients’ biographies and conducts workshops teaching people how to write their own.She calls herbusiness Legend Crafter, A San Francisco native, she worked as a reporter for newspapers and magazines around the world and is the author of “The Fabulous Fior — over 100 Years in an Italian Kitchen,” the history of America’s oldest Italian restaurant (, available on

Twenty years ago LeeAnn started documenting her very painful life. Her mother beat her every day of her childhood and into adulthood. The woman berated and demeaned LeeAnn without letup. Still LeeAnn kept her journal.

She organized binders of her recollections and other documents about her life chronologically. She crossfiled by topic. But she could never bring herself to write a manuscript about her life story. She got stuck.

Last year she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. She came to one of my six-week workshops on how to write one’s life story. Her diagnosis compelled her to get it down at last. LeeAnn was driven to complete it while she could, for fear that she would never have the chance again.

For most of us, fear keeps us from writing our autobiographies. It freezes us.

So now it’s resolution time. With the turn of every new year we generally reassess what we want to accomplish. Many of my clients feel compelled to get their personal histories down on paper. Maybe they do so as a legacy for their children, one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. Others do so to honor their parents, heal their souls, affirm how they see the world and, in the process, simply get a better perspective of their lives.

But some people, like LeAnn, reach an impasse, either never starting or never finishing. Let’s look at some of the obstacles that stop people from writing their autobiographies. They are paper tigers. If you’ve run into this problem, here’s some advice about how to confront whatever is stopping you.

Margot, in her first session in my workshop wrote a gripping account of her birth during the bombing in the Netherlands in World War II. But she could not persist. Every session after that she made excuses about why she couldn’t write in the intervening week. From comments she let slip during the class, I sensed that she couldn’t face recalling the rest of her life. You have to be ready, of course.

Like Margot, some of us shrink from reliving those horrible times, the times we failed, the times someone left us. But this is exactly our chance to take a step back and see it all from a higher point of view.

For instance, Alfie Adona, now a young mother, lived through a tragic childhood. Her father was poisoned and lived the rest of his 10 years as an invalid. Two years later her mother was the victim of a debilitating traffic accident. Alfie and her sister had to take charge of the family while they were in their early teens. From lack of adult guidance, they lost their house and car.

Their family’s tragedy was covered amply in the local news. This did not mortify Alfie; in fact, it emboldened her to tell her own story. You can see it at

If anything is preventing you from writing a memoir, I suggest you join a memoir writing class for guidance and support. Besides the instructor’s guidance,you can find a buddy with whom to share the experience of recollecting and recording.

Another reason people get stuck is for fear of offending the living. In one of our sessions, Theresa asked me how she could write about her mother, who was still living, without offending her. Despite her love for her parent, she felt that recording her mother’s character traits and certain incidents would cause her mother pain and perhaps alienate them from each other.

I told her that if she intended to disseminate this account while her mother was still alive, she should remove or temper the material she thought would offend her.

Another issue is the so-called writers block. To me, it stems from a kind of perfectionism, an inner voice that is self-critical. Some merely mechanical difficulties may make you feel insecure, too: how to structure of your document, uncertainty about grammar, insufficient research and so on.

My advice: if you can talk, you can write. Simply to start writing, even if you’re unsure of your theme or your direction. Keep going for at least 20 minutes with pure stream of consciousness. No judging, no editing. Anything that crops up in your brain is fair game.

From such chaos a theme or structure will eventually emerge. You will read it back and be amazed. Trust me.

My wish for you in 2012: get down the first draft of your life story.

Oh, and by the way, LeeAnn is fine now.

New Survey: Which Resolutions Parents Made for 2012, And Why

Dear Reader,

More parents will make New Year’s resolutions, as parents, for 2012 (45.2%) than did so for 2011 (35.5%).

Indeed, 64.5% of parents made no resolutions at all last year, whereas only 29% plan no resolutions this year and 25.8% said they might.

So reveals my informal year-end survey about parental attitudes toward New Year’s resolutions.

Among other key findings:

·         The number-one resolution among parents for next year is a tie between “Do more activities with my children” and “Demonstrate more love and kindness toward my children” (each with 29.2%), followed by “Spend more time with my children” (25.0%) and “Make sure my children are properly educated” (8.3%).

·         The top reason parents made resolutions was “It fills me with optimism” (32%), followed by “I need improvement” (12%) and “Resolutions have worked for me before” (8.0%).

·         Only 14.3% of parents kept “most” of the resolutions made in 2011, with 38.1% fulfilling “some” and 33.3% “few.”

The multiple-choice, six-question survey, conducted online through in December, 2011, is based on 31 responses, all from parents.

The research builds on a survey done earlier this year, for Father’s Day, about parental attitudes toward writing personal family history:

P.S. – Which parenting resolutions have you made this year, and why?  

P.S.S. – Next week six parents (counting me) share their parental New Year’s resolutions for 2012.

Take The Pledge: Write Letters To Your Kids: Part 5

Dear Reader,

So here, to bring us home for the week, is a New Year’s resolution I urge you to make for 2012.

Write letters to your kids. Get it in writing. Preserve it for posterity.

That’s what this blog is all about. is drawn from journals about my personal family history that I wrote for our kids, Michael and Caroline, over the course of two years. Those journals started as a New Year’s resolution in 2007.

Now, as January 1 nears, I’m calling on all you parents (and grandparents) out there to do the same.

That’s why my home page invites you to “Take The Pledge.” Just click the link and scroll down to the pledge icon. Click again to close the ad there and click once more to answer the question, “Will you pledge to write letters to your kids?” (Presumably your answer will be “yes.”

Voila! Three clicks and you’ll see your voice counted.

P.S. – Take the pledge here:

P.S.S. – Next week five parents will contribute guest “letters” sharing their parental New Year’s resolutions for 2012. And so will I.

Take The Pledge: Write letters To Your Kids: Part 4

Dear Reader,

So why else, among all the possible motives at your disposal, should you take the pledge to write letters to your kids? Here are my top seven reasons:

1. It will make you feel good.

2. It will make your kids feel good.

3. It will make the world a better place.

4. You’ll learn about yourself and your life.

5. You’ll realize just how very much you love your kids.

6. It will make the world a better place (I said that already, but it’s worth repeating)

7. The New York Times likes this blog. So does my best friend, Al. So does Dr. Alan Schlecter, a child psychiatrist at NYU. So does our favorite doorman, Carlos. And if it’s good enough for Carlos, it should be good enough for anyone.

P.S. – You can take the pledge here:

P.S.S. – See part 5 tomorrow.

Take The Pledge: Write Letters To Your Kids: Part 3

Dear Reader,

Let me tell you again why you should take the pledge to write letters to your kids.

If you take the pledge, you’ll never get fat.

You’ll never be hungry again.

You’ll never get old.

In short, you’ll be happy 24 hours a day, year in and year out, even possibly several months into your afterlife.

And that’s a guarantee as close to ironclad as the average sieve.

But why take my word for it? Look at the endorsements my stupid little blog has received from The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Fox News Channel and Huffington Post.

Chances are, if the White House were even remotely aware of my existence – a big “if,” I know – it would probably recommend it, too.

Ditto the GOP, for that matter.

So ask yourself, “Do I want a bright future? Do I, in my heart of hearts, believe I deserve eternal bliss?”

If the answer to both questions is “yes,” then take the pledge now.

P.S. – Take the pledge here:

P.S.S. – See part 4 tomorrow.

Take The Pledge: Write Letters To Your Kids: Part 2

Dear Reader,

Once again I’m extending to you a one-time-only offer to take the pledge to write letters to your kids – except of course technically this is my second offer.

Once again taking the pledge is available free. Only now I’m offering a discount. And, as you know, a discount on something already free is a deal hard to beat.

So here goes: if you’re under 100 years old, you get 15% off.

And if you’re older than 100 years of age, you get 20% off.

And if you take the pledge within the next 60 seconds, you’ll get an additional 10% off.

Just imagine how much you can do with all the money you never even spent that you’ll
now save!

P.S. – Take the pledge here:

P.S.S. – See part 3 tomorrow.

Take The Pledge: Write Letters To Your Kids

Dear Reader,

From today through Friday, will hold its second annual Take The Pledge Week.

Without further ado, then, I hereby officially invite you to take the pledge to write letters to your kids.

“Why should I?” you might ask yourself. “I’ve made enough pledges – to stop smoking, to master quantum physics – to hold me for life.”

Well, for starters, if you take the pledge, you’ll lose all your extra weight overnight.
You’ll also be able to earn at least a million dollars a day working from home in your spare time.

Can any other pledge you know make such claims?

Ah, but here’s the clincher. Taking the pledge to write letters to your kids is now free.

True, it was free before. But now it’s even freer.

In fact, it’s twice as free. That’s a 50% savings!

Here’s the catch, though. It’s a one-time offer only.

Or at least it will be until the second time it’s offered.

So act now. Happiness guaranteed or your money back, no questions asked.

P.S. – Take the pledge here:

P.S.S. – See part 2 tomorrow.

I Once Played Drums In A Boy Band: Part 2

Dear Michael and Caroline,

And we’ve got the potential to be pretty decent. Bob and Bob are serious guitar players, trained guitarists, fresh from lessons and able to read music. They can play rock and pop and even a little blues.

Hernandez is particularly fluent. He would practice for hours a day, his blond hair dangling over his face as he watched his own fingers pluck at the frets. He would pretend to be Segovia on his acoustic, and pull off a pretty fair impersonation at that.

We were going to practice hard, our band. We were going to play all the popular songs. We were going to get gigs eventually, too, first locally, at weddings and bar mitzvahs, then at clubs in the city, the more grotto-like the better, and then we’d go national and international.

If the Beatles could do it, we could.

I’d break into a solo in the middle of some number, pumping my arms all over my drum set, and the spotlight would hit me, and the crowd would go nuts. That’s the dream you dream as you play drums with your band in the basement in 1965. You’re going to be cool at last! All the girls are going to like you! You’ll never have to worry about anything ever again!

Our first rehearsal as a band went well, all of us excited just to come together, our individual sounds joining to make a collective sound. We thought we sounded all right. We rehearsed again about a week later, and then again about a week after that. Some friends caught our rehearsals and told us we sounded good.

Step aside, Dave Clark Five! Here we come! Forget about the Kinks and the Animals. The Jersey suburbs were going to produce the latest music sensation. Down in our basement, as the three Bobs practiced, a phenomenon would soon emerge.

Except then we stopped.

We never rehearsed again.

Maybe one of us caught a cold, or we had creative differences, or we stopped believing in our genius, but whatever happened – maybe someday the reason will come back to me across the decades while I sleep – we were a band no more.


But that’s cool, too. Yes, I would have liked to go on, to take it further, to see how far we could have gone, to really give it a good shot. We’ll never know how it might have turned out if we’d stuck with it.

Probably nothing.

Maybe something.

Who knows?

But at least we had our little moment. And sometimes those little moments are all any of us ever get.

I Once Played Drums In A Boy Band

Dear Michael and Caroline,

I’m playing my drums in a band in our basement. Bob Lawrence is on lead guitar and Bob Hernandez on bass. Three guys named Bob.

Maybe we’re practicing “Wipeout” by the Ventures or “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles. I’m pounding out some standard rock beat on my four-piece Ludwig drum set – snare drum, small and large tom-toms, bass, ride and crash cymbals, high-hat. The other Bobs are twanging away on all the right chords.

I’m feeling pretty cool behind my drums, the next Ringo Starr (he also played Ludwig). I’m probably tilting my head right and left once in a while as Ringo used to do. We’re all feeling pretty cool playing our instruments there in the basement, our music – if you can call it that – sounding all the louder for being contained in his underground space.

We’re musicians now, or at least wannabe musicians, and we’re trying to get the right sound down, and the right look, too. It’s largely a matter of mimicry, less so artistic inspiration.

Of course I do want to make music here. I’m doing my little rolls here and fills there, backing the guitars with my beat, giving the songs an accent now and then.

And oh, I’m in heaven. Playing the drums, getting behind all the equipment as if climbing into the cockpit of some fighter jet, is as cool as a job gets. Your whole body goes into it, your left hand flicking the snare, your right hand teasing the ride cymbal, your left foot tapping on the high hat and your right foot pressing the pedal to the bass drum. It’s a physical, athletic act, calling for masterly coordination and a precise sense of rhythm.

Of course I’m still picking up my skills here, still new to the drums. I have some raw ability, pretty good hand speed and a knack for tempo, but hardly anything approaching real technique. But hey, I’m 13 years old here. It’s 1965 and everyone is listening to the Beatles and the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, and I’m in a band, and back then, with all the great music coming out, nothing could be cooler than to be in a band.

We’re absolutely of the moment, we are.

P.S. — See part 2 tomorrow.

Why I Wanted To Be Tony Gargano

Dear Michael and Caroline,

When I was 13 years old, I belonged to a clean-cut clique called the Rah-Rahs. In accordance with its dress code, I typically wore madras shirts, crew-neck sweaters, chinos with cuffs, white sweat socks and either penny loafers or, if really out to impress the girls, brown-and-white saddle shoes.

I followed the party line of the Rah-Rahs all through seventh grade. I steered clear of beer. I expressed my awakening sexuality only at officially sanctioned neighborhood makeout parties. We considered ourselves insiders, qualified as cool.

Secretly, though, I admired our opposite number, known as the Boppers or Hoods, especially one Tony Gargano. As far as I was concerned, Tony had the market on cool cornered.

If he slouched at his desk in class, the teacher would order him to sit up straight, but he would just roll his eyes. He had long, greased-up black hair combed straight back, except for a single curlique forelock that dangled strategically over his eyebrows.

For a while there I wanted to be Tony.

Back in 1966, after all, I had never quite cut it as the quintessence of cool. I wore thick black glasses and my hair frizzed in humidity. Besides that, I was shorter and skinnier than almost all of my male contemporaries. Plus, I seemed to feel too much. I would always let you see me sweat. Everything about me ran counter to cool.

Mr. Uncool.

I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror, trying, with a profound sense of futility, to torture my renegade curls into a facsimile of the same hairstyle.

So with shoes. Tony wore these pointy black suede lace-ups with two-inch heels. I went to a local shoe store to get a similar pair, only to discover, crestfallen, that my feet were still two sizes too small for that style.

I watched the Boppers hang loose at curbsides around town, Tony snorting cigarette smoke through his nostrils, flicking the played-out butts across the street without looking.

He went out with a girl who teased her hair and wore heavy eye-liner. I quietly yearned, with an ache in my chest, to defect from the Rah-Rahs to the Hoods.

Parents Who Make New Year’s Resolutions About Parenthood: A Survey

Dear parents,

Here’s a short survey about how parents go about making New Year’s resolutions about being parents — along with why they do, which ones they make and whether they stick.

Please help me with this important research project and take just two minutes to answer these six quick and easy questions.

I’ll share the results before the year ends.  Thanks!



Poppa Comes To Visit Us

Dear Michael,

My grandfather Benjamin, from whom you get your middle name, came to our house in Fair Lawn every Friday afternoon for many years. Those visits, as I recall, always made me very happy.

He would always be in a good mood. He liked to clown around with me, my sister and our poodle Sparky.

For example, he would make believe he was chasing us around the first floor of our house. Our kitchen had entrances on two sides, one leading to the dining room, the other to our front entrance and the living room. So we had kind of a circuit and could literally run around in circles.

Sometimes my grandfather pursued me and sometimes, as I watched from the kitchen, my sister. I could see him materialize here and then disappear over there, my sister giggling and screeching all the while.
He had this funny move I loved. He would raise his hands near his face, bent at the elbow, like the mice in “The Nutcracker — maybe that’s where he got the idea – and prance along, lifting his knees high, in short stutter steps. He really cracked me up.

Why he visited every Friday was at least threefold. First, he had a standing appointment, as an accountant, with a client in nearby Paterson, a 200-store chain named Spotless Cleaners. Two, he always sat talking with my mother at some length at the kitchen table, probably about her life and her worries and woes, offering his reassurances and, equally important, slipping her some cash, maybe 50 bucks, a lot of money in the 1950s and 1960s. Three, he got to see us.

My grandfather really got a kick out of kids. I saw that when he was with my cousins Peter and Danielle, too. He never quite left behind his own sense of boyishness. So we looked forward to those visits from Poppa, as we called him. We would look out the window from our den and he would pull into our driveway in his Cadillac (fact: year in and year out, he never drove anything but a Caddy) and my sister and I would shriek and jump up and down with excitement.

Those visits made such a difference to all of us. Here came this man, then in his late 40s and early 50s, with his broad shoulders and manly stride, a man with an office and a secretary in Manhattan and money in his pocket, and he arrived as kind of a savior.

I know he was a lifeline for my mother, and more than financially. I’m sure he told her what she most needed to hear – that no matter what happened, he would always take care of her.

And he gave something special, in those visits, to me and Linda, too. He gave us his attention. He shared his joy at life – his joy at having grandchildren who adored him, at being able to help his deaf daughter in distress, at seeing his clients in Paterson and finishing his workweek at our house. He gave us those moments of joy, many such moments, and they meant so much to me, no less now than then.

That’s one reason we keep his photo out in the living room.

That’s why your middle name is his. He meant so much to me and maybe he can also mean at least a little something to you.

My Thanksgiving Change Of Heart

Here, belatedly, is my Thanksgiving essay in the New York Daily News:


A Thanksgiving change of heart: How I learned to love my mother-in-law
BY Bob Brody

Originally Published: Thursday, November 24 2011, 4:49 AM

<br /> Thanksgiving is a time to remember the thanks we owe to our family members.

As soon as I had a mother-in-law, I had issues with her. For starters, she talked too much. She also talked too loud. Plus, she worried too much, tending to see the world as a problem that defied solution.

Every Thanksgiving at our Queens apartment, all these idiosyncrasies collided with combustible force. I’d like to say that I took them in stride and even found some charming. But that would be a lie. We were never going to get along, my mother-in-law and I — that much I could see from the start. The woman got under my skin more than acupuncture.

Still, I stifled my annoyance over my lot in life as her hostage, simmering instead. I never aimed a cross word at her, nor raised my voice to her, nor gave her anything like a dirty look. I bit my tongue and treated her with kid gloves. So it went for 23 years.

Then, in 1998, something strange and surprising happened. She suddenly stopped getting on my nerves — without acting any differently. I, in turn, tried harder to make her happy. After so long avoiding conversations, I started to talk with her. I asked about her life, listening as she reminisced. I took her for long drives. I treated her to dinner at the restaurant of her choice every Sunday at around 5. We actually enjoyed our next Thanksgiving together.

The following spring, at the age of 78, she went into the hospital for open-heart surgery. She suffered complications and lapsed into a coma, no longer able to talk. And on a sweltering June day, just as I had started to get the hang of getting along with her, she died.

Her name, by the way, was Antoinette. Antoinette Chirichella of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But everyone knew her as Nettie. A handsome, olive-skinned woman, usually dressed in a sleeveless house dress. Warm brown eyes, a noble Neapolitan nose, graying hair frizzed high and a smile almost saintly.

Why my abrupt, late change of heart? Maybe Nettie grew on me. Maybe I simply grew up. Maybe it dawned on me that even though she might never change, I certainly could.

Maybe Nettie talked so much because she grew up with three siblings and had to compete for attention at the dinner table. Maybe she had to be loud because only then could her sister seamstresses hear her over the clatter of sewing machines as she slaved in a factory for 47 years.

Maybe, in those last months, I finally recognized how much I owed her. She had raised her daughter — without a husband, on a pittance — and then took care of our two children, too, while my wife and I worked. Nothing was ever easy for her, yet she never gave us an ounce less than her all. Nettie never second-guessed me, never questioned my bad decisions or came down on me when I got fired from my first job; never stopped believing in me even when I almost stopped believing in myself.

So I made amends with an act of apology long overdue. It was as if, toward the end, I had somehow sensed she might be around only a little longer and should make the best of the few moments we had left together.

Nettie has been gone for 12 years now, and I would give most anything to get her back, even if only for an hour, just to keep my apology going. I would love to see her just once more with her grandchildren, both grown so smart, beautiful and talented. We keep her cane on display in our living room, leaning against a dresser, as if to lend our family her support through eternity.

If I ever forget how to feel grateful on Thanksgiving, she’s all the reminder I need.

Brody, an executive and essayist in Forest Hills, Queens, blogs at