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America’s Relationship Guru

Leon Scott Baxter, “America’s Relationship Guru,” is the author of Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting and the founder of He’s the father of two girls, 12 and 16, and has taught elementary school for eighteen years.  

Tyler has been playing basketball for six years. He’s become very good, has been MVP on his school team, has made all-tourney, and has the best stats on his club team. The play-offs are coming up and all focus has been on his preparation for the big games: practice, getting enough rest, eating right. But, he also has a major book report due in the midst of play-offs. Do Tyler’s parents let him shirk his academic responsibilities, and turn in a report that Tyler puts little effort into?
As the father of a sixteen-year old daughter, I can’t complain. It’s not because she isn’t sneaking out. It’s not due to the fact that she hangs out with good kids. And, it’s not because she works hard and does well in school.   I’m not complaining because she has yet to tell my wife and I that she’s in love with a boy. Now, I am fully aware that she may be most adept at pulling the wool over our eyes, but from where I am sitting, she hasn’t really gotten into boys yet.  
Mr. Shulman was my junior high school social studies teacher a million and a half years ago. I still remember when he announced that he was going to teach the class about the stock market and buying shares of companies. He told us he’d give us all a hundred mock bucks for us to invest and by the end of the semester, we’d see who had made the best financial choices.
In my home everyone is excited when it’s the First of June. June represents the beginning of summer for all four of us. I have two daughters (11 and 16) who attend school, and my wife and I are both school teachers. June means summer vacation is just around the corner, seventy-five days free from homework, correcting (and taking) tests. There’s no studying, no alarm clocks, no sack lunches. Summer means freedom in our household, and we cling to it every single year.
My daughters are now eleven and sixteen. Sixteen years is a long time looking back at my years as a parent. And I know I’m not getting any younger. I forget stuff all the time; I mean all the time, at least I think I do…I don’t really remember. Last week I met a guy on the basketball court. I told him I was a teacher. “Oh, at what school?” he asked.
My family doesn’t vacation much. Oh, sure, we take trips. A few hundred miles, staying with friends, maybe a middle-of-the-road hotel, hitting up the local Denny’s or IHOP, but we’re really not “travelers.” We’ve never done Europe or gone to Hawaii. But two years ago, my wife and I finally realized that our daughters (now 11 and 16) would not be with us forever, and so we decided to venture to the Club Med Village in Ixtapa, Mexico.
When I was in seventh grade, my social studies teacher, Mr. Shulman, announced to the class that in a few weeks we would be given $100 of phony money to play the stocks. And, whoever ended up with the highest valued portfolio at the end of the semester would be stock market royalty.
Do kids still watch The Lil Rascals? I’m not talking about the 1994 movie, but the series that ran for about twenty years starting in the 1920’s. Well, if not, they should. The Little Rascals should be required for every kid before they ever get their hands on a PSP or an iPhone.
My wife and I have been told that we are the luckiest parents on earth…many times. We have two daughters, Grace and Riley (11 and 16). They are by no means perfect children. Communicating with the teen is like pushing a very large boulder up a very steep hill. When she gets a snack, it looks like a hurricane decided to touch down on our kitchen and leave everything else unscathed. And, due to her teen brain, Riley forgets everything: “When did you tell me that?” “Wait. Were you talking to me?” “Can you go get my bike? I left it at school again.”
This weekend I plunked down over five-hundred bucks at Costco for eggs, cling wrap, dog food and enough toilet paper for a small army. To make parting with that much money a little easier, the good folks at Costco offer me (actually everyone) samples of food and drink.


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