Driving Blind


Back in the 1970s, my police officer father would take me on errands. He called them “Adventures.” They were anything but. I would sit in the front seat of his green 1968 Porsche 912, while he talked it up with his buddies in the hardware store. I spent what felt like hours exploring the contents of his glove compartment: a metal coiled measuring tape that I would repeatedly slap against my wrist and make into a bracelet; the black rubber change purse, oval with a slit, filled with coins for the meter that my dad fastidiously refilled; the miniature notepad to record mileage that I never dared to write in. Rules ruled our house, and my dad made them. Rules and lessons and lectures. That’s just how it was.

I swore that I would be a different kind of parent. So did a lot of us. Out of the parenting styles of the 70s and 80s grew something different: Responsive Parenting. Responsive parents are “in tune” with their child. They are sensitive to their child’s emotional and physical needs and respond accordingly. They show love without condition, and avoid punishment at all costs. They are constantly reflecting on their jobs as parents, often times feeling guilty that they are just not doing ENOUGH for their child. Responsive Parents like myself have big hearts and the best intentions, but as children get older we are seeing some of the downsides of this style of parenting. The culture of the classroom has shifted, and teachers are noticing.

Imagine a child who has been given choice and voice their whole life. Now imagine that child as they enter elementary school, where they are sharing their world with 20-some other children. Imagine a parent who has invested all of themselves into their child. They know their child intimately. They are on Facebook, virtually steeped in the curated lives of all of their friends’ and their friends’ kids. They read articles and join closed parenting groups for support and information. They have all of the Internet at their fingertips: Quick answers for parents and immediate gratification for kids. Children carry technology around with them so that God forbid they don’t become bored. Student focus time is waning. Consequently, teacher has turned into entertainer. Big interactive screens and microphones have entered our classrooms, to increase student engagement.

How does this cultural shift change the relationship between student and teacher, even in the most progressive of schools? How about between students and parents? Between parents and teachers? Between students and each other? And it makes me think about the other kids, the ones who have culturally been raised in different ways. What is the classroom community like for them?

Flashback to the late 1990s when I first started teaching. I spent a decade in the classroom before having kids of my own. 23 and engaged and as it turned out too young to be married, let along have kids. I would come to work clothed in my teacher mother’s hand-me-downs, dressing up as the professional I wanted to become. Parents would reach out and ask me for advice of how to best parent their child. Armed with a master’s degree and a head full of book smarts, it would have to be enough until my experience kicked in. And it was.

This leaves me wondering who today’s children will become: These children from the grand experiment we call Responsive Parenting. What type of spouses and partners will they become? What will they be like out in the workforce? And how will professions adjust to capitalize on the many strengths that they truly do have including assertion, collaboration, and problem solving skills. I’m also curious to see what type of parents my daughter’s generation will become. How will they respond to and revise our very well intentioned mistakes?

Chrysta Powell has a B.A. in Psychology and a M.Ed. from UCLA. She is an elementary school teacher, Director at Beautycounter, commuter, and writer of #cartalkwithchrystaandemma. Chrysta is a Type 1 Mom/Stage Mom. She lives in Los Angeles with her musically inclined tween daughter, miniature Australian Labradoodle, and very understanding husband.




Middle Seat Momma

Em: I am going to look up the weather in New York.

Me: You don’t have service on the airplane.

Em: I DON’T CARE!!! I’m still going to check.



Emma took her first flight to New York when she was 6 months old. Her dad had an art show in Chelsea, and so we braved the cross-country trip to install the show and attend his opening. Some people make parenting an infant look easy. I am not one of those people. Emma was on my lap, in the middle seat, and an unlucky older gentleman was at the window beside us. He was quiet and polite while I poorly managed my not-so-peaceful baby on my lap. At the end of the flight, I thanked him for his patience. I asked him if he had children. He had four. I asked him if it ever gets easier. He said, “It just changes form.”

10 years later, I’m divorced and remarried, sitting three across in the back of an airplane. Again, we are headed to New York. This time for a DIY Alexander Hamilton History Tour. Hamilton the musical has Emma obsessed with the American Revolution. She got off my lap years ago, but I’m still sitting in the middle seat.

I got officially downgraded to the middle seat when Emma was old enough to discover that the window is a seat with a view. No actually, it began when I started traveling with Emma’s dad. He is 6’3” and needed the little extra space that sitting on the aisle can provide. Stephen too prefers the aisle, which in turn further decreases the square footage of my already undesirable seat. The middle seat: the seat without perks. Being the good man that Stephen is, he always offers to switch seats with me. Especially around my second trip to the restroom. But we all know where I am best seated.

As we boarded the airplane this morning, I heard one flight attendant say to another, “Did you hear that? He just asked to switch to a middle seat. I have never heard someone ASK to move to a middle seat before?!” I didn’t get a look at the passenger with this request, but I would love to talk with him. Are they looking to make new friends? To network? (Maybe they want to educate their rowmates on the lack of regulation in the American skincare and beauty industry.) An empty nester, perhaps, longing for the days when they could squeeze tightly between the ones they love? Someone who really digs embodying the feeling of juxtaposition?

Why don’t I just move to the window, you ask.  Why don’t I take Stephen up on his offer, you wonder. I too have been asking myself these questions. As I write this piece, Emma is spread out enjoying her prime real estate while Stephen and I link arms as I type. Maybe it is that I am so grateful that Emma is not on my lap screaming, that I will give her anything she wants today. Maybe it is that I am so thankful to have found someone who loves me as deeply as my husband does, that I don’t mind the close quarters. Maybe I like to complain. Maybe I’m a masochist. Maybe I need a drink. Yes! That’s it. I need a drink.


EPILOGUE: As Stephen and I got all settled in with a Screwdriver (him) and a Bloody Mary (me), Miss. Room with a View realizes that she needs to…wait for it…use the restroom.

Groundhog Day

Em: I wish it was like, take a pill. Bam! You don’t have Type 1 Diabetes anymore.



Emma was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes a little over a year ago. It was actually Groundhog Day 2016. Every day does feel a bit like Groundhog Day in my head. Anyone who has been given the charge of keeping themselves, or a loved one, alive with medication will understand. You can’t forget any part of the plan. For us that plan includes checking her blood glucose (BG) level 5-10 times a day, and providing her with the right amount of food and/or insulin to keep her body working. This means that Emma is receiving, at the very least, four carefully calculated shots of insulin a day. One of us wakes up every night at 2:00am to check her BG level while she is asleep. If she is too low, we have to wake her up to eat or drink something and then check again in an hour. If she is too high, we give her another shot of insulin and check again. The “we” is usually me. As her mom, I am up no matter who is checking her: Even if she is at her dad’s house, 15 minutes away.

Every day that I wake up and Emma is still alive in her bed is a good day.

A question I get a lot is, “What were the signs that Emma had Type 1 Diabetes?” I am here to tell you that the signs are easy to miss. Before Emma was diagnosed she thinned out (growth spirt, we thought), was falling asleep in the car (pubescent, we thought), and had crazy sugar cravings (who doesn’t, we thought). She was also thirsty all of the time. But the symptom that brought us to the doctor was that she started to wet the bed. This was something Emma never did before this. But Enuresis runs in my family, so it was not all that surprising to me. Just kind of a bummer. When we went to the doctor for the third time about this, it was discovered that there were ketones in her urine and her blood glucose level was 589. I had no idea what that meant at the time, but apparently number could put someone in a coma. “But she looks so good and she feels good,” the doctor said. “I’m still thinking it could be Type 2.” Emma was taking some medication that the doctor hoped could have cause Type 2 Diabetes, the curable one. We confirmed it was Type 1 when we checked into the hospital the next day.

Type 1 Diabetes has no cure. You don’t cause it and you can’t prevent it from happening. Although it is thought that there could be some environmental factors involved, we only know for sure that it is genetic.

Unlike many people with Type 1, Emma does not feel any different if her blood sugar is high or low. It is nice for her that she doesn’t feel sick all the time, but it made it much harder for her doctors and I to diagnose her T1D and it makes it more difficult to treat. This weekend we are inserting a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) under her skin. This will give us 24/7 readings of her BG level, and let us know if her numbers are going up or down. She is looking forward to less pricks throughout the day (down to two). I am hoping that I will get a little more sleep, but not really counting on it for a while.

When your child gets diagnosed, and you get your head around the responsibility of it all, one of your fears is how this disease is going to impact your child socially. But your friends turn out to be brave, too. We have been so fortunate to have people in our lives who have jumped into the learning with us. You discover that you have friends that truly love your kid, too…enough to host them for a sleepover, calculate insulin units, and wake up at 2:00am to test their BG level.

Emma is so much happier and healthier now. She would do anything for a cure, but she takes responsibility for her health in a way that 10 years olds don’t usually have to. Her teachers, who have also been remarkable members of Team Emma, have noticed how much more focused she now. In hindsight we can see that she would get spacey in class. Leading up to her diagnosis, Emma would need to use the restroom more often (another symptom) and would also ask to leave the room because she could not focus on her work. “Spacey” is still something we look for in Emma, and ask her to check to see if her blood sugar is high or low when this happens.

If Emma has a complete screaming meltdown (usually only targeted at me, another perk of the job as Mom) I ask her to check her levels. She is almost always in normal range. She is still your average pre-teen pubescent 10 year old girl who, with our help, “simply” has to be her own pancreas until there is a cure for T1D.

Rock & Eye Roll: The Art of Taking a 10 Year Old to Their First Rock Concert

Me: That’s Jack Irons! He was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ original drummer and was one the founding members of the band. He also played for Pearl Jam! He got sick, and had to leave the band, but he is playing drums, as one of the opening acts, for all the North America shows! Isn’t that awesome?!

Em: I know, Mom! [Eye roll]



My parents took me to my first big music concert in the late 1970s. It was the Bee Gees. Our neighbors on 9th Street rented a big yellow school bus, and we all piled in and headed to Dodger Stadium. We sat way up in the bleachers. I remember white and bright and sunny. With a quick Google search I can see that this was on July 7, 1979. Turns out, I was seven years old.

My husband and I have been planning our first concert with Emma for months. We have a middle-aged motto that we are “Too Old for Bad Seats,” so we don’t go to many live shows and make it worth our while when we do. Our last concert, just the two of us, was the Foo Fighters. As we were leaving the house, with my mom there to kidsit, Emma yelled that it was not fair: one of us should give up our ticket and take her, instead. We instead took this as a sign that [we would start drinking as soon as we arrived at the arena, and] she was ready to go and see her first big show.

After buying three scalped premium tickets off of Stub Hub, March 10 arrived and we were off to see the sold out Red Hot Chili Peppers show. It was their last night in Los Angeles at the Staples Center.

Today, friends and family asked me how Emma enjoyed the show. This is my long answer, with some unsolicited advice if you were to chose to repeat this experience:

(1) Bring earplugs. Emma plays drums so they are always in her backpack. I would not have thought of this on my own. But I still gave her dad (aka my ex-husband) the of-course-I-am look when he asked me if I would be protecting her hearing at the show.

(2) It could be the first time you explain what pot smells like. And if your kid is a straight edge punk rocker like mine, they will be horrified that anyone would ever considering doing such a thing.

Em: The question is not WHAT it is, the question is WHO is doing it?!

And then they will look all around to try to catch the burners in the act. Emma counted five. Just about this time you will regret not bringing them an iDevice to play with.

(3) Your child may remind you that strobe lights are a seizure hazard. This was right around the time I was asking myself, “Is this my child?” and right before the time I reminded myself that I was in actuality just like this at 10.

(4) While waiting for the band to start, your child may unsuccessfully attempt to count how many people are in the stadium. You may remind yourself to practice math with them during the summer. You’ll never actually do this, and later feel bad about it. (See #2 re: iDevice)

(5) If a band, like Trombone Charlie & Orleans Avenue, is the opening act…they may show your child that playing a horn is really super cool. But if you thought for one minute that this would make your school music program trumpet-playing child change their plan for quitting at the end of the year, you will be sadly mistaken. They will still be switching to choir, like they originally intended. But, when Trombone Charlie asks the crowd to clap along, know that your rule-following 4th grader will absolutely do what he says and insist that you do, too. Go ahead. Join in. It’s as fun as it always was and the burners are doing it, too.

(6) Anything you tell your tween, they will already know, and will respond with a little I know slash eye roll ditty. They are just warming up for when they turn 12, and are certain that you actually know nothing.

(7) At 10:00pm on a Friday (after a day of school and swimming lessons) your child may wrongfully assume that when you are tired, you just leave the concert and go home. This may result in your child reminding you, in a loud voice, how to best take care of them. You may even bend down and whisper how much their seat cost in their ear, and tell them to do their best to suck it up and enjoy it. Or, that might just be me.

(8) In the morning, after telling you how much they loved the rock concert and that they knew every song and that it was “amazing,” they very well could still choose to sing Maroon 5 songs all day. It will slowly begin to kill you. Just remind yourself that you hold the credit card and they can make you take them to Maroon 5. You are not that good of a parent, and your child should know that by now.

(9) When it all comes down to it, it is okay to go back on the promise you made the night before: to never take them to a rock concert, ever again. It is also okay to apologize because you might have said that out loud.

I have hope that Emma will remember just about as much as I do about my first concert. I remember our seats. I remember their voices. I remember being a part of something bigger than myself. And I remember my parents caring about me so much, that they were sure to bring me along.

Welcome to Car Talk with Chrysta and Emma


This blog grew out something as simple as adding a hashtag to my Facebook posts, when sharing conversations between me and my daughter. #cartalkwithchrystaandemma was a suggestion from another busy mom, and I am ever so grateful. Emma and I spend about 2 hours in a day in the car, together. We commute back and forth from the South Bay of Los Angeles (where we live with my husband, Stephen) to Santa Monica (where I work and she goes to school). This may sound like a nightmare. Some days it is. Like the time Emma screamed at me for 45 minutes straight because I forget to sign her up for the school talent show, and the list was full. I should have told her closer to home. Another effing learning experience. But mostly it is a gift. Not many people get as much uninterrupted time with their children as I do.

I can honestly say that I am an ever so slightly above average mom. I juggle a lot. I take on a lot. We deal with a lot. I’m middle aged, perimenopausal and I get very little sleep. Still, I most often handle things relatively well. Mostly because I am not that hard on myself or the people around me. But there are so many things I am not good at: baby books, photo albums, anything crafting related, patience in the kitchen, housekeeping, carkeeping, pursekeeping, giving our dog a walk, any sort of regular physical fitness routine….The list goes on. I hope that this blog will keeping me writing regularly, which has been a dream of mine for a while now, and that I can expand on my ideas here. My life is far from perfect. It’s perfectly imperfect, as we say in our family. But it is a lot of fun. Thank you for sharing it with me.