By Carol Lloyd
When I was a graduate student at UCLA, my part-time job had me driving my dented VW Rabbit to mansions in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and other lush Los Angeles neighborhoods a few times a week. The routine seldom varied: at the door, I was greeted by a clipboard-wielding personal assistant, who led me to a hushed, paneled library. There, amidst sun-dappled, 16th century furniture, snacks artfully arranged on fine china, the spawn of some celebrity awaited me – in utter despair.
My job was to perform academic triage – to bandage their intellectual holes and inoculate them with SAT prep tests. These kids had it all: exclusive private schools, enrichment activities ad nauseum, and an army of attendants catering to their whims. Yet my pupils appeared even worse off than average teens I'd known – I wasn’t sure why. Like the inner-city teen mothers I also tutored, they had gaps in the places where there should have been knowledge. The 16-year-old daughter of a famous jazz musician who attended one of the most prestigious private schools on the Westside in LA stopped dead when she saw the word “subtle” during the verbal portion of an SAT prep exercise. “I’ve never heard that word before,” she said.
How could a person spend 16 years in this English-speaking country and not have heard the word subtle? A 16-year-old son of an A-list movie star didn't know the definition of the word, "elite." I recall glancing around the room in search of tangible examples. Everything in the room was elite and so, in effect, nothing was. Without the discernment that comes with an education, even the ba-zillion dollar Cezanne over the mantle meant precious little.
Golden minutes lost
Over time, I realized these kids were not growing up in the world I understood, but their own special planet of privilege and neglect. Like the teen mothers I worked with, their own mothers and fathers were in scarce supply. During the weeks and months spent with these kids in their homes, I never once met or saw a parent.
So it was with some skepticism that I picked up actress Goldie Hawn’s new book 10 Mindful Minutes. What could a celebrity have to teach me about spending quality time with my child? Besides, Hawn isn't just the Golden girl of forever-young diatribes on Oprah, she's also my former employer. She's the mother of the teenager who didn’t know the meaning of the word "elite."
Why she never took a single mindful minute to meet her child’s high school tutor I’ll never know (lord knows what my child's babysitters have to recall about me), but 10 Mindful Minutes is far more than what I presumed: a celebrity navel-gazer telling the rest of us about how to be better parents. To be clear, it is that. There are plenty of self-congratulatory passages about Hawn's superlative mothering instincts. (The love and fun never stops in that house, but there’s scant mention of nannies.) But for all its flaws, Hawn, along with her smaller-font coauthor Wendy Holden, have created one of the most thoughtful parenting books in circulation. 10 Mindful Minutes seeks to address a significant need – children's mental and emotional health– with (dare I say it?) a brilliant idea: blending latest findings from psychology and neuroscience with eastern mindfulness practices to help kids help themselves.
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