David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | david@davidaltshuler.com


I have written previously about the privilege of slogging along with my running buddies and how indicative of my privilege our meetings are. My dermatologist, my dentist, my financial advisor, and my accountant are all part of the early-morning group. I don’t have to take a bus across town, find childcare, miss work, and risk losing my job to wait two hours in a doctor’s office only to be told that I have the wrong insurance and can I please make an appointment for two months from now. All of these professionals would be happy to step up in anything resembling an emergency. I am deeply aware of how lucky I am to be part of this group. Of course, I try to give back, sharing my insights into college admissions and parenting. I have also been known to tell a Dad Joke or two just to get the party started at 5:45 am although there is some discussion as to whether–I need two pandas, three grizzlies, and a koala to start my zoo because that is the bare minimum–is a significant contribution.

The best thing about our group is our support and affection for one another. Sometimes somebody stops running. They get a cramp or they get tired or they just don’t feel like running. Nobody says anything. Certainly no one condescends to bloviate, “are you okay?” But the few nearest people also stop running.

Nobody starts up again until the person who stopped is ready to run. This “rule” has never been articulated. We are just all aware. Whoever needed to stop is the person who determines when we start up again.

The fast people up front aren’t affected by the walkers at the back. Some runners in the 40-45 age bracket are already out of sight when one of us 60-year-olds needs a break. But whoever is at the back of the pack has company and care. It could even be argued that the Karate Monkey Joke is more brilliantly articulated when we’re not out of breath.

Or as the African proverb puts it: If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.

So how do we encourage—”insure” might be a bridge too far—that our children surround themselves with the friends who will allow them to grow and thrive, who will stop and walk with them should the need arise? How do we lessen the likelihood that our beloved children avoid those whose values are not just different from ours but dangerous?

Misinformation about how to keep our kids safe abounds, most of it thinly veiled distinctions based on social class. I am here to tell you: Enrolling your kids in the $45,000/year private day school or the $67,000/year boarding school will not keep your kids away from peers with eating disorders, life-threatening self-harm, drug-taking, or risky and dangerous behaviors. If you think money alone can keep your kids from harm, there is a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. The hundred thousand opioid related deaths in 2022 were nicely distributed across dead people of all income classes. That rich kids take drugs and drink alcohol and die in more expensive cars than the poor kids who take drugs and drink alcohol and die in used cars is cold comfort to grieving parents on both sides of the tracks.

Your kid wants to have a playdate at the home of a classmate? You’re not sure if that family has values that align with yours? You think there might be unfettered access to pornography on their devices at their house? You’re not sure if their firearms are securely locked away? You think there is alcohol where the kids can get it?

It’s a problem. I think rather than forbidding your child to hang out with their friend, you have to invite that kid to your home. At your house, you know children are safe.

As always it is your relationship with your child that is the best predictor of every good outcome. My dad and I tossed a ball. My children and I tossed a ball. Who would rather take drugs, drink alcohol, and get in a car when the alternative is tossing a ball with a parent? And at the risk of explaining the metaphor, if a child feels comfortable at home, they are less likely to seek the approbation of peers who will do them harm. Tossing a ball is only a representation of wanting to hang out with a parent. And kids are willing to hang out with parents only if the parents are open and accepting of who the kids are. If the parents are judgmental, finger-pointing, and negative, the kids will find validation elsewhere.

There are two take-aways: As always, love your kids for who they are—gay, athletic, bookish, shy, bad-at-math, whomever. And also, invite over the friends of your kids. Make cookies, build rocking chairs, plant a garden, play board games, read books if you will, watch TV if you must, toss a ball.

If your kid has the right relationship with you, they are more likely to have the right connection to the group of friends, folks who will stop and walk with them when they need a break.



Copyright © David Altshuler 1980 – 2022    |    Miami, FL • Charlotte, NC     |    (305) 978-8917    |    david@davidaltshuler.com