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Author of Beyond Smart

Linda Morgan, former managing editor of ParentMap and author of Beyond Smart: Boosting Your Child's Social, Emotional, and Academic Potential, discusses learning-related topics as a parenting expert for television stations and radio shows. A widely published writer, she has been quoted in magazines including New York TimesMetro New YorkBoston and Philadelphia, and Kiwi Magazine.

I’m not really the “what if?” type. Rarely do I look back and think I should have done things another way. As Frank Sinatra so memorably put it, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then too few to mention.” Except, of course, when it comes to parenting. My children — a girl and a boy — are now grown and have thoughtfully produced kids of their own. My four grandchildren are sweet and adorable and everything I deserve for the devotion, dedication and diligence I displayed while raising those two test cases, their parents.
This is the way it must have begun: Somewhere, sometime, some harried parent, probably a lone grown-up in a sea of 6-year-olds, sat among 35 opened, strewn-about birthday-party presents, searching for puzzle pieces, wayward Legos and newly naked Barbies. Wrappings and ribbons covered the floor, and small children vied for the hottest, latest items while the adult in the midst struggled in vain to figure out which gift had arrived with which child and who, exactly, would end up owning it.
By Linda Morgan Toys stores always made me crazy. The noise, the (primary!) colors. the sheer pandemonium. Then there were my children. My daughter always knew just what to buy with her spending money. One day a game, another time a puzzle, and on occasion, a fluffy stuffed animal. My son? Thoughtful, analytical, an astute observer of people and places…and utterly unable to choose between the truck and the Lego’s. We’d often leave the store in tears (him) and sheer frustration (me) and a sadly empty shopping bag.
“Let’s start the school year right,” you tell your child each fall. “It’s time to buckle down and establish good study habits. For starters, lose the Xbox and the remote control. And while you’re at it, color-coordinate your notebooks, keep an assignment checklist and label your folders.” At least that’s what you’d like to say.
Got tweens? Then you’ve seen it all: the tasteless duds, the sassy ’tudes, the roller-coaster moods, the peer-group devotion, the slow shedding of innocence.Yes, I remember it well. Last century, we labeled this age group “preteens.” Today, although we’ve rebranded them “tweens,” not much has changed. Those critical three or four years before adolescence officially shows up teem with curveballs and commotion, and shock and awesomeness. The good news: It gets better. The bad news: Not for a long time.
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