Archive for the ‘Alcohol and addictions’ Category

Peeling the Gibson (or, Why Brave Men Run in my Family)

September 21, 2011

“Gibson.”  Def.: A martini garnished with a cocktail onion.

I heard that Mel Gibson is planning a movie about Judah Maccabee, the Che Guevara of Hanukah (click for an amusing interview with Mel by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic).  I heard many Jews are outraged.  I hesitate to write about this because you don’t want to encourage bad behavior by paying attention to it.  But just as Mel can’t control himself when he gets loaded, sometimes I just can’t control my fingers at the laptop.



MEL GIBSON HOLLERS at a WOMAN COP.  We only hear fragments:

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Playing’s the Thing

March 2, 2011

When kids first start to play, say around one to two years old, if they are playing “with” another child they are really not playing together so much as playing next to each other.  They may watch what each other does, and they may imitate, but they don’t mingle their play.  Psychologists call this “parallel play.”

When kids get a little older, provided they are secure and wired up for it, they start to play with each other.  Your kid’s doll or truck starts to interact with the other kid’s toy.  Voila:  the birth of cooperative play.

In this three to five time of life, kids start to build cooperative play in their imaginations.  The toys may be props, but the play’s the thing.  Group play emerges.  Kids playing house, or dinosaurs, or doctor are creating a fragile world that hovers between them—just like grown-ups on a stage or doing improvisational comedy: it is a world of “yes and.”

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Leaving Las Vegas on Passover

April 2, 2010

As readers may recall, when offered a weekend father-son bonding trip anywhere within a few hour plane ride my younger son chose Vancouver.  My older kid, nearly sixteen, was inclined to pass on the opportunity altogether—no way to Santa Fe, hell no to San Francisco… Portland, Seattle or Phoenix?  He sooner have snot in Kleenex.

Finally, given his interest in both gambling (at least in our parentally questionable ventures to the Santa Anita Race Track) and good food, I proposed Las Vegas.  He was all in.  As for me, Las Vegas ranks somewhere just below dental work and just above exploratory surgery.

The drunken woman on the airport shuttle singing, “You must have been a beautiful baby” set the tone right off the bat.

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Leopold and Lobe, or “What are they thinking?”

March 16, 2010

Most readers of this blog would be way too young to know of the famous murder-for-no-reason done by a couple of rich Chicago teens, Leopold and Loeb, back in the 1920s.  I knew about it because my dad told me the story with some personal interest since the case was broken by the identification of eye-glasses found at the murder scene—specs identified by my dad’s childhood optometrist.

I reference it here because it was called the “crime of the century” and Clarence Darrow argued against the death penalty for the young killers.  It comes to my mind because of the relationship not between Leopold and Loeb (they were lovers), but between Lobe and Loeb—more precisely the frontal lobe of the brain.

Here’s a link that a friend sent me, a recent NPR piece on the teen brain.  If you’re parenting a teen it’s worth the five minutes to listen.

The gist of it is that the frontal lobe of the brain (the part that is capable of asking, “is this a good idea?”) is not very well connected to the rest of the brain in teens.  The thing that makes it better connected is myelin, a sheathing that makes the neural pathways faster and more effective.  This process starts to kick-in around ten, which is an interesting taste of first angst in many a kid (see Ten-year-olds and their changing brains for more on that), but the brain and its frontal lobe connections don’t really reach full maturity until our twenties.

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Eating Issues: Breakfast at Tiffany’s… dinner at home

February 4, 2010

At some point I went from seeing Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as an idealized anima to realizing that she (or at least her character) was an anorexic woman in a hat with a lot of issues (after all, Holly Golightly is essentially a self-involved prostitute who is ashamed of her uneducated hillbilly roots—a lost kitty in a rainstorm and someone who needs treatment more than a lover).

Given that body image, weight-loss obsession and eating issues are legion in our culture, I thought Privilege of Parenting would take a plate and get in line at the buffet.  My focus is on the parenting aspects of eating disorders (an excellent place to read and learn more about anorexia in a New York Times Health Guide on the subject which also has links to Bulimia, and other eating disorder sites).

I think that most of us get the general gist that anorexia is about dangerous levels of weight loss while bulimia is about eating and purging via vomiting, over-exercising or laxatives/diuretics.  A less well known, but more frequently diagnosed acronym is EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified); in this case some people, when given this less severe diagnosis, will actually go further in their extreme non-eating to, for example, stop getting their period and thus qualify for the full diagnosis of anorexia.  For more on this see a recent New York Times story on EDNOS, “Narrowing an Eating Disorder.”

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Problems with Pot

January 11, 2010

A reader inquires about helping a thirteen-year-old boy who has “stopped participating in organized sports, grades are not great anymore, he’s lying about his activities, and only wants to hang out with his friends (playing video games, riding bikes).  His mom recently found weed in his room.  She is just at her wits end on how to help him (and her) get through the next few years…

Any good advice on how to make sure this mom can stay connected to her child, honor his need to individuate, but keep him safe too?”


Whether the weed is the problem, or merely a symptom of the problem, my sense is that this is where our initial focus is best directed.

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The drunks next door

December 17, 2009

I know someone who lives next door to an alcoholic mom and an alcoholic dad.  The older brother has already dropped out of high school and the younger child is at risk of falling between the cracks.

The person I know, the one who lives next door to the troubled family, has reached out to the mom and offered help, offered to go along to an AA meeting, offered to help out in any way the mom might allow, but the help is consistently refused.  This mom will go some period of time without drinking, but then she falls off the wagon again.

Now some readers might think that reporting these parents to Children’s Protective Services would be the answer, but even if I were hearing about them in my professional role (which I did not) I would have to think not only about my legal responsibility to report abuse and neglect (and whether the full facts call for intervention), but also about what actually happens after you make your report and fulfill your legal obligation?  Does it actually get any better for that family?

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The Killing Game vs. … The Bhagavad Gita?

December 16, 2009

In my home we, as parents, have tried to encourage non-violence.  Although countless parenting battles have been waged around cruelty between siblings, when it comes to violent video games I fear that we are losing the war.

My key concerns about these games are: 

1)    They are addictive, and exploit the brain for economic gain of the companies that sell these games

2)    I worry that they model and foment aggression as a problem-solving strategy

3)    I fear that they might negatively shape consciousness, which in turn may adversely affect the hearts and minds of players, as well as our collective consciousness which has yet to realize that there truly is no winning in war

The question of whether to allow violent video games, and in what amounts, is one of the parenting topics that I find most vexing.  I personally detest the games, and yet I can recall being a kid obsessed with my pellet guns, bb guns, sling-shots, pocket knives and seeing every violent movie I could get into—from Bonnie and Clyde, to Dirty Harry

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Search for spirit—from the sippy cup to beer pong

October 20, 2009

grape leavesBack in August I was touched by a piece in the New York Times Sunday Styles section titled “A Heroine Of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up.”  It was about writer, comic and mommy-blogger Stephanie Wilder-Taylor whose titles include “Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay,” and “Naptime is the New Happy Hour,” confessing that she realized that despite the great opportunities for humor in her drinking, she had a problem with it and, because she loves her girls so much, she decided to quit drinking (to read the piece see:

As synchronicity might have it, I visited her blog today to see how she was doing and her title was “Happy Report” about how not drinking has definitely been a good thing—and it was a beautiful post about the simple and beautiful gift that being present to our kids brings back to ourselves (

Having worked with many people with substance issues, I was also thinking about a recent story I heard about college partying—told by a young man who, being in recovery, was a pair of sober eyes on the festivities.  These included a bus to a restaurant where a number of kids puked on the bus, followed by a lot of puking at the restaurant, including on the tables, finished up with drinking back at that house where at least one boy blacked out and went into convulsions.  This is not uncommon in what I hear about the young party circuit, where ambulances are more than rarely summoned to intervene when alcohol poisoning besets yet another partier.

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The Killing Game

June 8, 2009

on guardLast Holiday Season my wife and I relented to kid-pressure and wrapped an electronic game about killing in ribbons and bows and gave it to our children as a “gift.”  Trying to encourage personal responsibility, I set the upper time limit at a ridiculous three hours per day, with the assumption that no one in their right mind would possibly be interested in three mind-numbing hours of mayhem.  Ahem, big mistake. 

While I felt in my heart that this sort of game is toxic to developing minds, and souls, it did seem as if all the boys gamed, and to deny gaming would be to block social connection.  Yet as a psychologist I was aware that when the brain is tricked into thinking that it is being active, it leads to exhaustion (due to adrenaline stimulated but not burned off by the actual fight-flight it was meant to power, back in the day at least).  This cycle of stress without release, and without returning to a calm center (via yoga, meditation, journaling, etc.) can lead to lowered cognitive function and, eventually, to heart disease.

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