Parenting In Public


Yesterday we went to a museum. Actually I should say that yesterday we went to yet another museum. A museum Mr. G had no interest in going to, a museum that Jane had been to just 10 days prior and the 8th museum in the third country that my son had visited since March 12th. Yesterday my family accompanied me to a museum that only I was interested in and after two hours of looking at paintings they waited for me outside the gift shop while I picked up some postcards. As I approached them they looked like this.

This is how Gottliebs do museums and how I ensure that no one ever asks me for parenting advice again.

A photo posted by Jessica Gottlieb (@jessicagottlieb) on

I did what a million other bloggers do every day. I snapped a photo of a very specific, very appropriate moment in time, added a funny caption and hung my family out to dry. It’s not good, it’s not fair and it’s not particularly easy to edit.

We as parents do terrible things to our teens all the time. Our fashion humiliates them, we hold their hands in public or try to kiss them goodbye in front of friends. These are hurtful actions to our teens who are sometimes awkwardly maneuvering into adulthood while trying on different hats. Sometimes it’s slow and plodding, sometimes it’s at breakneck speed but always it is a path they are attempting to make for themselves and though we’re invited along for parts of the ride it’s appropriate for us parents to stand back a little and let them explore their worlds.

It can get a little tricky with social media. When kids are little we work with them to figure out which networks are age appropriate, how and when they can be used and with whom information can be shared. There will always be new apps, there will always be secrets kids keep from parents, there will always be parents who are overly intrusive and others who are terribly neglectful. Most families will be somewhere in the middle with absolutely nothing titillating to share.

This week a mother took to Facebook for her daughters’ behavior at a movie theater. The post has been picked up by several national news outlets and been shared on Facebook more than 5,000 times. Now that the woman she apologized to has seen the post is it appropriate to delete it or is humiliating the kids part of the punishment?

Remember the dad who shot his daughter’s laptop and the internet roared? Everyone thought that was fabulous too. How about the parents who post their own children’s photos on Facebook and announce that they’re bullies, cheaters or thieves?

What is the point of disciplining kids online? Is it to teach them something? Is Hammurabi’s Code the new Dr. Sears?

How many parents have chatted with their friends and said, “I’m glad there was no Facebook when I was in High School.”?

We’ve said this because teenagers are supposed to be pushing limits, making terrible decisions and, hopefully, learning from the mistakes they make. The beauty of childhood is that you can experiment, falter or even fail and do so in relative privacy. The beauty is that people all around you are making the same mistakes and that the stakes are low so you can learn from them, possibly even learn from each other’s mistakes while the consequences are still very different than those of an adult.

Two teenage girls were jerks at a movie theater. They made one family very unhappy.

One mother humiliated two teenage girls in print, on television and online for millions to see. Do we really have to call this good parenting?

Rich and Beautiful in Second Grade


When my New York girlfriends visit town we play a game that doesn’t have a name yet. It goes like this: I tell her what it’s like to raise kids in LA and then she counters with anecdotes about what it’s like to raise kids in New York and then we both roll our eyes and hope that we’re doing it right. We hope that we’re doing parenting right because we’re smart enough to know that we really don’t know what we’re doing a lot of the time.

Usually it’s a draw. We match overbearing, crazy or inattentive stories coast to coast. Actresses’ kids and models’ kids have a lot in common, the tiger moms might choose different winter sports (if they allow sports) and occasionally we laugh at our own foibles. Like when I didn’t know what day school started, the time I forgot to pick up the kid I carpool with or when I cannot be bothered to make a sandwich for lunch but instead bring In ‘n Out midday. We laugh at parenting because parenting is funny and flawed and sometimes ridiculous but this week New York City won the Competimom Olympics in the most spectacular fashion.

My friend has a daughter in the second grade. Second grade kids in private schools are anywhere between seven and nine depending upon the parent’s philosophy. You see some parents know that their child is very advanced and absolutely must start kindergarten at five, other parents would like their children (boys usually) to be a little older and bigger so they can be on varsity sports teams in high school. Some parents read about the age requirements and don’t require any finessing. Stranger things have happened.

So, at this swank New York City private school a second grade girl is having her birthday party and the mother invites about two thirds of the girls in the class. The rule of thumb is that unless you are limited by capacity or if you are doing a small party for a kid who really doesn’t want a big crowd you invite all the girls. Inviting two thirds of the girls is a hostile move when there are only a dozen girls in a class, the difference between inviting 8 and 12 kids isn’t worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning is the theme of the party.

Rich and Beautiful

The theme of the party for a second grade girl is Rich and Beautiful and guess which four girls weren’t invited? Obviously, the four who were deemed to be neither rich nor beautiful. I cannot confirm that these girls were from families who required financial aid but when I asked my friend about it there was no denial.

Every so often I wonder if I’m just living in a different world so I asked some of my girlfriends if they’d let their second grade daughter go to a party that was themed Rich and Beautiful. About half of them said yes but all of them said they’d prefer it didn’t happen. When I asked them if they’d let their second grade daughter go to a Rich and Beautiful party when not all the girls in a class had been invited there was an audible gasp from each and every one of them, they would make up an excuse to not attend. When I told my children there was a Rich and Beautiful birthday party they thought it was cute, when I told them it was for a second grade girl there was a Gottlieb chorus of, “Oh my god!”

It seems as though second grade birthday parties range from Ocean themed parties to Frozen to roller skating and renting out an entire movie theater. Lots of friends are all about an activity like rock climbing or cake decorating but no one I know had hosted or been invited to a party that included the words Rich or Beautiful.

I’m sure that the omission of the scholarship girls was out of respect and cultural sensitivity. These are pillars of the community after all.

rich and beautiful

Teenagers, Coffee and Jobs


Recently Jane asked me if I’d buy a coffee maker. You see she has a soy allergy so Starbucks and the like is not an option for her. There’s soymilk everywhere and when she has it there’s two days of feeling ill. Jane would like to drink some coffee in the morning and since I don’t have a coffee maker and she has the allergy that would require purchasing one.

I have thoughts about kids and caffeine. My kids have occasional sodas when we are at a restaurant. We don’t have soda in the house and I stopped drinking coffee sometime around 2010 when I had the flu and didn’t leave my bedroom for four days straight. With that being said I’m not militant about caffeine, just reserved. So when Jane asked about coffee I asked my Facebook friends what they would do and the answers were all over the place.

I think what surprised me most was the number of people who think a 16 year old should buy their own coffee maker. Which led me to another question. Are 16 year old kids working these days? None of the local stores here will hire a 16 year old. There are plenty of college graduates pushing buttons at McDonalds and Starbucks. Movie theaters are staffed by adults and the unemployment rate in Los Angeles is still higher than most of the country so I never considered asking my kids to get jobs.

Also, I’d like them to concentrate on being students.

Here is a smattering of the comments:

Tell her for $25 she can purchase a 3-4 cup machine at Target and you’ll gladly loan her the counter space?


Buy them instant coffee and tell them to get a job.


She can save up for her own with her part time job


Let them pick out which one they want. (on their dime)


No reason why she can’t buy her own. They have to learn that at some point. My post college son just paid his first doctor bill.


luxury items can be vetoed, veto the request




Send her to my house where the pot is always warm, and I’ll always be ready to sip with her:)


She CAN work for it. You may have found something that motivates her, that’s awesome! When I was her age, I was publishing a magazine and working as a live-in au pair half of my weekends.


You buy a coffee maker.

There is a lot of input about what people did when they were teens. I had a job at 15. My manager at the Mann Theaters always wanted to see my boobs. That was awesome. When I was 17 and worked at the Glen Center a certain celebrity used to grab me from behind and say, “My girlfriend is about your size. What should I buy her?” I was fired from that job because I didn’t know how to iron things. I think I could have entered the workforce at 18 and had the same success but that’s just an anecdote, I’m just one person.

My kid is 11. He and I both plan that he will have a job when he’s 16. He’ll have to pay for his own car insurance or he won’t be able to drive. Chauffeur is not on my resume.


After raising one adult with the mentality that school should be their job, I have now decided that my younger two will need to work minimal hours once they are driving to help understand the the concept of earning money.


I grew up poor. My mom couldn’t afford money for lunch when I had a debate match or other school trip so as soon as I was able, I got a job. I was 16 and I haven’t stopped working since. But I agree – if you don’t NEED the money (I went hungry without it) then a teen needs a chance to be a KID and not work.


I had a job after school and weekends from 16 and up. My kids will also work after school, weekends and summers once they’re of legal working age.


I don’t have a teen so my mileage may very but I had a job starting at 14. I agree that school (and extracurriculars) are your job, but we had a family business, which changes that dynamic somewhat I think. I still didn’t buy my own food, or any necessities. “My” money was for fun/entertainment/fashion, and I enjoyed the freedom of wanting something and being able to buy it myself. My parents still supported me.


My youngest brother is 17 now, and job opportunities for teens have changed considerably with the recession. Jobs that used to be for high schoolers are now held by adults. He couldn’t get a job if he wanted to, unless he was able to find someone’s dad or similar to hire him. Contrast to his older siblings who were all ABLE to work. So I think that is definitely a factor.


I would have summer jobs, but during the school year my mom was insistent that I focus on school. As for coffee… Im still surprised teenagers even drink coffee in high school. I wasn’t introduced to coffee until college… that and LSD.

I love Facebook and blogs because teens are not at all alike. Two year olds are all developing mostly the same, six year olds too. By the time you hit adolescence kids and parents are all concentrating on different things. Some kids are entering puberty, others are playing in the sandbox. With every year that progresses my parenting diverges more from the ideal and becomes Jane and Alexander’s ideal.

My friend Sharon is 10 years older than I am and her children are 10 years older than each of mine. She has warned me that when they’re little you’re a manager and as they age you become a consultant. I think we have reached the age of consultancy with Jane and we are in a transition period with Alexander.

When my kids were in elementary school I knew what kind of mother I’d be to middle school kids. By the time my kids hit middle school I knew that I had no clue what high school would bring. Every year I’m less certain about what we’re doing but when I parent with my child in mind (as opposed to an imaginary perfect child) I’m pretty sure we’re on the right track. Even if it’s not your track.

I have two questions:

Does your teenage child have a job?

Does your teenage child drink coffee?

We are now Past the Point of Pretending that Good Parents Don’t Vaccinate


Three days ago it was announced that a local baseball coach has measles. There are at least 70 confirmed measles cases currently in California and it has spread to other states. Measles had been eradicated in the United States 15 years ago but the anti vaccine movement has brought it back. Maybe next they can bring back Polio. Everything old is new again, right?

Facebook is full of people who, “Had measles and chicken pox as a child and are just fine.” To be fair not a lot of people die from measles only 41 of them died in the Philippines between January 1 and May 23. So I guess if we bring measles back to the US and adjust for our population we can expect 150 Americans to die from measles in a 142 day period. That’s only a little more than one person a day. No big deal. We’ve got like 316,000,000 people living here. The only bummer is that if we follow the Phillipines model we’d have somewhere over 117,000 people sick for several weeks during that 142 day period.

I have a friend Annie who started an interesting discussion on her Facebook page.
Vaccine EmpathyAlthough I know Annie was trying to be nice we don’t do our damnedest to be empathetic to the mothers who hand their children boxcutters and send them to school. We skip empathy and move right on to outrage because part of being a good citizen is caring for the health of the people around you and not endangering them.

Some of the reactions to Annie’s post were encouraging:

I figure they have already made one irrational choice. Why would they then make a rational choice?

Only to be followed by this:

We don’t vaccinate and I take my kids everywhere. Now I wouldn’t as newborns, but now that they are old enough and I know they are healthy and have strong immune systems I don’t worry. Those diseases are really only dangerous when ones immune system is weak. They’ve both had chicken pox and measles and [redacted] has had fifths. It wasn’t a big deal for either of them.
Now, if my kids are sick, even a sniffle, I keep them home and away from other people so as not to spread germs. If more people did that, we’d have a lot less to worry about!!

I was vaccinated as a kid and still got everything… Only much worse than little kids do because I was a teenager. So ridiculous. My brother was also vaccinated and when I got chicken pox as a teen, he got a mild case. He later got shingles. All of this was due to not having had a full case of chicken pox. Had he, his body would have built the immunities needed.

Except that one glance at the CDC‘s website will tell you that this mom has it all wrong:

After you get chickenpox, the virus remains inactive (becomes dormant) in certain nerves in the body. Shingles occurs after the virus becomes active again in these nerves after many years.

The reason the virus suddenly becomes active again is not clear. Often only one attack occurs.

Shingles can develop in any age group. You are more likely to develop the condition if:

You are older than 60
You had chickenpox before age 1
Your immune system is weakened by medications or disease
If an adult or child has direct contact with the shingles rash and did not have chickenpox as a child or the chickenpox vaccine, they can develop chickenpox, not shingles.

Of note: There is a Shingles vaccine available. Unfortunately it is a live vaccine so most immunocompromised adults cannot get it.

I guess the mom who doesn’t vaccinate her kids because she knows everything there is to know about Chickenpox and shingles isn’t actually a clinician.

Just as I was about to scream at the computer, “Don’t listen to Annie’s friends, they’re making things up!” Someone chimed in with:

Yes, I followed what the pediatrician recommended. I’m an accountant, not a doctor, so I listen to those trained in the profession. We have always skipped the flu vaccine, though.

The flu shot? Ladies, the flu kills somewhere between 23,000 and 36,000 Americans a year. No, it’s not a perfect shot, some years are better than others but you put your kids in bike helmets don’t you? The flu shot isn’t the hill I’m prepared to die on but it seems a little silly to skip it.

Reason. Someone injected reason. I love this Mom.

I have tried to be open minded but I’m struggling more and more. These parents are breaking our herd immunity and are responsible for these diseases back.

And then there was some discussion about not taking infants to Disneyland because they can’t remember it anyhow but that’s not really the point. Infants are taken to grocery stores and elementary schools, they’re taken to parks and offices. Infants are part of the world much like the elderly and infirm. They leave the house, they catch things.

Declarations like this are just plain dangerous:

we read a lot of research when we were making the decision for [redacted], and the fact is, the information out there is extremely confusing. There’s some research on the non-vax side that is of concern (not autism…other stuff), and there’s honestly no good research on the vax side that they are safe and effective.

What possible research could this woman have done? I was going to make a list of resources demonstrating that vaccines work but then I remembered that anyone who took this seriously wouldn’t read them anyhow. This person is the reason that we need better science eduction in our schools. It is impossible to have any level of scientific literacy and to state that there is no good research to show vaccines are safe.

I want to hug this mom.

As the parent of a child with autism, who also has older not diagnosed autistic family members, I am so sick of the mumbo jumbo pseudo medicine crap I hear on a daily basis.

Now we’re back to dangerous declarations:

Annie, to address your polio question, 95% of polio cases were asymptomatic. Of the 5% who had symptoms, most were no worse than a mild cold, and a fraction of those were paralytic cases. They were able to link incidences of paralytic cases to diet, as it would often hit an entire household, and other times entire villages avoided even a single case of paralytic polio by modifying their diets during the polio season. Polio was also on the decline before the introduction of the vaccine, and the last cases of Polio recorded (here in Canada) were due to the live oral vaccine they use to use. They had to stop using it because it was spreading Polio, and the dead DTaP does not provide adequate protection against Polio if it were to come back, so they have the live vaccine on back-up to bring back if Polio were to resurface.

There is a book called Just a Little Prick, and goes into great detail about all of the diseases on the childhood schedule. I research the diseases and make the choice about “am I scared of this disease and how will I handle it if we got it?” the deciding factor on vaccinating or not. Our vaccine schedule is different up here in Canada too, the US has way more on theirs than we do. And we have way more on ours in Canada than Europe does. So all sorts of tourists are visiting the US who are not-vaccinated, as well as a large amount of the adult population in the US who did not have a fraction of the vaccines they now give kids. So why the hate-on for non-vaxxing parents, when most of us are not vaccinated or immune either? Anyone born between 1970-1996 did not get a second dose of the measles vaccine (routinely) to ensure immunity, so why is that not making headlines? It’s always about the non-vaxxing parents.

Everything about this is insane. Don’t listen. Self publishing a book doesn’t make it true.

Now god is invoked. god will save you

vaccinated children are snotty

According to this mom god is kind of an asshole. I mean lots of kids die every day.
god is kind of an assholeNow let me introduce to you two of my favorite healthcare workers on the web. One is Dr. Terry Simpson and the other is Chloe Jeffreys.

  • Terry Simpson There is zero evidence to space out vaccinations. There is zero evidence that vaccinating kids does anything that harms them other than keeping them from having diseases that they should not have to suffer from. I have no empathy for those who do not vaccinate their kids- they are willfully ignorant, they put their children, and others at risk. They are irrational. There is no talking to them because they have no interest in science, or the scientific method – and they should be barred from public places, they should be barred from schools, and they should be accountable for the lives that they risk – not their kids, but also the children of others. There is not a “middle” ground here- this is science, and it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.
  • Chloe Jeffreys I would love to respond to some of these statements but I’m currently pulling out all of my hair and stabbing myself in the eye.…/undervaccination-by-the-numbers

    If undervaccination is cause for nearly 20% of under five child deaths, where are they? Children who aren’t reached by 3 doses of DTP, which forms the basis of a traditional immunization program, are often unreached by traditional routine immunization systems – making it unlikely that they are immunized with other life saving vaccines.
    Of the 19.3 million children who were not reached by the third dose of the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis in 2010, seventy percent live in ten countries: Afghanistan, DRC, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and Uganda. (WHO, 2011)

    Undervaccination by the Numbers

At a certain point we have to hold people accountable. The hubris of parents not vaccinating their children is astounding. I have never once had a parent tell me they opted against vaccinating their children who had a modicum of scientific literacy.

Scientific research is not:

  • Books
  • Magazine articles
  • Facebook Updates
  • Newspaper stories
  • Pamphlets
  • Based in religion
  • About a particular person (ie an anecdote about a child with a seizure)
  • Emotional

Scientific research is: 

My friend Terry pulls out the big guns, and I must admit to agreeing with him when he reminds us that the anti vaccine movement has killed more people this year than ISIS.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.49.33 AM

I used to think parents who didn’t vaccinate their children were silly. Then I thought they just weren’t very smart. I knew they weren’t good members of the community but it’s time to stop tiptoeing around them. These parents are making a decision that turns their family into a public health menace. You simply cannot be a good parent and decide to not vaccinate your child.



Cartoon by Ed Hall,

Missed Connections: The Soccer Mom


We were at the valet waiting for our cars. It was unseasonably warm so none of us minded much. My Ford was parked right in front and you were waiting for your Range Rover while talking to your girlfriend. I really liked your ponytail, particularly the back comb and the highlights, they looked good. Your friend was wearing yoga clothes and a hat that looks like this one.

wool hispter hat

You can buy this on Etsy

At first I was thinking how lucky we all were to be standing in the California sunshine enjoying a low stress afternoon. You’d obviously just finished at the stables and I was on my way to get a hair cut. Then I was snapped out of my reverie and had to fight the urge to murder you.

I started hearing things like, “Of course she knows all the boys on the soccer team.” And the parts of your face that weren’t paralyzed by Botox squinched up and you made a point of mentioning that she was the kind of girl who knows all the boys on the Junior Varsity and Varsity teams. And then you and yoga pants cackled together the way that only miserable old crones can cackle while slamming a teenage girl. There was talk about  her dating everyone, being “overly friendly” and having a slutty mother too.

I continued listening to your conversation. I didn’t even pretend like I wasn’t because you aren’t the kind of women who bring out the manners in me. I stood there for ten minutes slackjawed while you talked about high school girls and how slutty they are. According to you the private school your boys attend has the makings of a whore house.

I wanted to yell at you and ask you if you remembered what it’s like to be a teenager but then I realized that you don’t know what it’s like to be a nice adult so I’m pretty sure you weren’t a peach as a 16 year old. Then I wanted to cry because the thought of two mothers talking about either of my kids like this made weak at the knees. Finally I remembered who I was and started fantasizing about your demise.

I will never understand being on the north end of 40 and gossiping about someone else’s child. We’re all guilty of talking about someone. Gossip is human and sometimes it’s part of how we bond with one another. It’s not the best part of who we are but it does happen.

To watch two adult women rip into a teenager? It’s unspeakable.

If you’re the horse riding, Range Rover driving, hair weaving, Ariat wearing mom who was in Studio City today I really did miss introducing myself to you and that’s a good thing. Because I’d probably be serving time and you’d probably be crying to your talk doctor right now trying to figure out why people don’t like you.