So the Bee, Peony, and the boy from my previous post have all been interviewed by the school guidance counselor. The boy admitted that he said the things the girls said he did, and he's going to start counseling at the school. Thanks to all of you for your supportive comments and thoughts.
It's a beautiful day here, I'm hoping for a great weekend with some gardening and kid fun. Hope you all have the same. (Well, except the gardening. Unless you're into that.)
When I was growing up, there was a candy store in my hometown that sold penny candy. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, my friends and I would stop there every day on the way home from school for some Swedish fish or chocolate coins. If I was a better memoirist, I'd remember the name of the old woman who ran that store, but I don't. I'm sure that as a kid, I only cared about her as a purveyor of sweets–maybe I didn't even know her name.
I can't imagine that a store like that could survive in this day and age. For one, there's the whole profit margin issue. For another, the 'strangers' and 'candy' combination is not very popular these days. Which leads me to today's main topic.
The Bee's best friend is a girl I'll call Peony. Last week, I ran into Peony and her mom as they were walking in to school and I was leaving. Her mom stopped me and said, "I have to tell you something, can you hold on?" I stopped and waited for her, and when she came back out, she told me that Peony had picked a dress to wear to school that day, which is unusual for her. As they were walking to school, Peony told her mom that the reason she wanted to wear a dress that day was because she and the Bee had been playing with an older boy (a 6th grader) during recess the previous day, and he had told the Bee to wear a 'pretty dress and pretty shoes' to school the next day (the Bee had not worn a dress, I'm happy to report). Peony's mom and I agreed that this was kind of weird, but possibly innocent. We briefly talked about whether or not we should say anything to anyone at the school, and decided that it might be sort of overreacting to do so. I called landisdad and told him about it, and he agreed that we shouldn't say anything.
That night, I asked the Bee what she did at school that day, and during the conversation, I asked her what she had done at recess. She told me that she had again played with Peony and this sixth grade boy. We asked her a bunch of questions about it, and she told us about the boy asking her to wear a dress. We had a fairly general conversation about how it shouldn't matter to your friends what you wear, and that no one should be telling her how to dress. Then she told me that he wanted her to wear a dress because he liked to play 'horsie' and it was easier if she was wearing a dress. Alarms started going off in my brain. It was a somewhat odd conversation, with landisdad and I shooting troubled looks at each other, and trying to remain outwardly calm while we peppered her with questions in the mode of Frank Pembleton.
There's a part of me that's worried about being the overprotective mom that's reacting to everything bad that could possibly happen to her child. After all, just two weeks ago, I had to talk to her teacher about the whole Lily situation. I don't want to be the cause of some internet article about 'sixth grade boy sent out of school for non-existent sexual harassment.' I don't want to be the mom of a kid no other kids will play with, because she makes a federal case out of every interaction that ends poorly for her own child.
Then last night, we went to a school function, and Peony's mom came up to me again and told me that her daughter had talked about the 'horsie' game too, but when she tried to get her to explain it, she wouldn't. She said, "I think we should say something. Everyone I've talked to about it says we should." We found one of the teachers, and just asked if she knew the boy in question. The teacher basically came out and said if we know of a problem with this particular kid, we need to talk to the school about it.
I talked to the principal this morning, and he said he would look into it today. I told him that I found it hard to imagine that this was anything but an innocent situation, and he said, "well, we have to check it out." I find myself going back and forth between feeling like this whole thing is getting blown out of proportion, to feeling like I want to go to this kid's house and kick his scrawny behind. I have the feeling, too, that Peony's mom thinks I'm not taking it seriously enough, she keeps saying to me, "but he didn't say that to Peony, he said it to the Bee." So now I'm not a good mom, because my daughter is being targeted, and I'm not doing anything.
The Bee had her advanced reading program today at school. I asked her about it when I picked her up, and she said, "we learned about brainstorming!"
Meeting nerd that I am, I thought, "were there flipcharts?"
Then she told us, "next week, we're going to challenge our parents,"
Prompting "which will be different from every other week in what way?" from me.
(this image was produced by the great feminist artist Barbara Kruger–http://barbarakruger.com)
So I thought that I would let this blogosphere argument pass me by. I mean, there's a whole bunch of stuff going on that I could blog about. But the reality is that it's been weighing on me since I read about it, (and hell yes, I'm using that pun). So I'm jumping in, although I realize that in internet time, I'm writing about something that effectively happened in the Pleistocene era.
Why? Because I'm a woman not a commodity. I did not 'advertise' myself to my husband, nor have I advertised myself to any of the many people that I've slept with/dated/lived with/given birth to/loved/made out with/flirted/befriended/ parented/engaged in casual conversation with/or ever interacted with in any way in my life.
The idea that I have some kind of money-back return policy, that my husband or lover might have the right to return me if I don't meet his or her expectations of physical beauty, sickens and angers me.
I'm angry that we still have so much commodification of women's bodies in our society, that women have internalized this bullshit, and actually would use the word 'advertise' to describe their own premarital relationship. I'm angry that we focus so much attention on what we look like, we spend so much time dieting and exercising, so much time obssessing about our own weight, that we stop paying attention to the weight of the world.
There's a part of the movie Manufacturing Consent where Noam Chomsky talks about how how sports and fandom prove that ordinary men can understand complicated and arcane issues, since they can discuss complex rules and retain whole seasons' worth of statistics. I think that weight and dieting prove the same thing for women. I can't even ennumerate the number of conversations that I've had in my life with women who knew the calorie and fat content of every thing they put in their mouth. Women who knew every dieting theory under the sun. Women who went on the cabbage diet, on Atkins, on South Beach, the Zone.
What if, instead of worrying about how many carbs we're eating in every meal, we instead decided to memorize the phone numbers of all of our congresspeople and senators? Or we took the time to understand the political situation in the Sudan? What if, instead of worrying about our bodies going to hell, we worried about our minds going south?
Like probably every parent these days, I wonder how to keep my daughter from developing an unhealthy relationship with her own body, and with the food that fuels it. My high school best friend was bulimic, and by the time she was 25, she had to have caps on all her teeth, because they had been so eaten away by acid. Her skin is permanently blotchy from malnutrition. She can never get away from the effects of her eating disorder.
If you think of yourself as a product, how do you keep your kid from feeling like one?
I just got back from a conference that I’ve been at all week. Sadly, there was no wifi there, so I was utterly unable to blog. I opened my bloglines tonight for the first time since Saturday, and I had 441 new feeds. Seriously. And only 76 of them were Wonkette! I’m slowly working my way through, and I’m not commenting much, but I am reading.
But I’ve got a serious issue that I want to discuss with you, oh internet, and I can’t wait until I wade through all your blogs to do it.
There’s some fairly divisive things going on in my workplace recently, some of which revolve around race. Which leads me to my question of the day:
If you’re a white person in a mixed worksite, how do you behave in a way that supports your co-workers of color, without trying to speak for them?
If you’re a person of color in a mixed worksite, how do you want to be supported by white allies? (assuming that you do)
In my whole life, I’ve only lived in one house that had a finished basement. In fact in that house, my bedroom was in the basement. And in every house where I’ve ever lived, the basement creeped me out. Especially when it’s dark outside. I am not a person who does well with horror movies (gore is okay, it’s the suspense of waiting for the gore that kills me. Pun intended).
Before we bought our house, landisdad and I (and the Bee, after she was born) lived in the bottom floor of a duplex, which had a washer and dryer in the basement. To get to the basement, you had to go outside and unlock the basement door, which was semi-hidden by an enormous bush (or perhaps just an enormous weed—we had the world’s worst landlord when it came to stuff like that). You had to walk down the basement stairs in the dark, carrying your laundry, and walk all the way to the front of the house. 9 times out of 10, I was convinced that a serial killer was going to come in and murder me while I was doing the whites.
When we moved into our house, I resolved myself not to be frightened of the basement. In this house, our basement access is through a door in the kitchen, and therefore less vulnerable to the wandering axe murderer. However, the basement under the back of our house is basically a black hole with an open sump pump—in the daylight, not that pleasant, but at night, forbidding and creepy. The lights in the back room are the kind of fluorescent bulbs that take about 18 minutes to turn on, and then flicker in a sort-of-sinister way until you turn them off again.
For the nearly six years that we’ve lived here, every single time that I went to do laundry at night, I would repeat over and over to myself, “I am not afraid of my own basement. I am not afraid of my own basement.” It mostly worked, until I had to walk up the stairs with my back to the black hole. (BTW, landisdad is no doubt laughing his ass off as he reads this. Because I’ve never once shared this with him. I’m not that much of a wuss.)
But now, those days are over. Our basement has new wiring, and actual lights that work. It has drywall hung, and some of it’s even primered. There’s a door separating the finished part of the basement from the unfinished part. Shelving has been built. The sump has been enclosed, so I no longer have to worry about one of the cats (or the kids) falling in. And today, the carpeting was installed. Oh, the carpeting. No more cement. A playroom! Storage that will keep things dry! French drains!
It cost an arm and a leg (thanks landisgrandparents!), and it took twice as long as they said it would, but I’ll never fear the basement again.
I still have the first toy I ever loved. It was a musical red horse with a yellow mane, which I unimaginatively named ‘Horsey.’ My mother removed the music box when I was little, and I have no memory whatsoever of the music that it played. It’s faded and worn now, with big patches of missing fur, and stitches on his neck where his head started to rip off and had to be sewn back on. He was lost outside in the rain one night when I was small, and I sobbed with joy when my mother found him. I didn’t want him to have to go in the washing machine, but she insisted.
I slept with Horsey all the way through college. Now, he lives in my linen closet, where the Potato found him a few weeks ago. He picked him up and said, “my horse?” and I said, “no, sweetie, that’s mommy’s.” It made me remember a toy of my dad’s that lived at my grandmother’s house when I was growing up, a teddy bear named “Brownie.” (I’m happy to report that the trend for uninteresting stuffed animal names has ended with me, as the Bee is quite capable of coming up with names like Naia Kiki Brianna for her teddy bear, and Teena Greena Sophina for a huge green dinosaur.) Brownie was a ratty-looking thing, and as a child, I couldn’t understand why my dad had once loved him, nor why my grandmother had saved him for all those years. My Horsey is pretty ratty-looking too at this point, but I don’t think I’ll be giving him up any time soon.
My daughter seems to rotate through her stuffed animals, without picking any specific one to be her favorite. The Potato, of course, has Mr. Bear, who is looking even worse for wear now than he did in the picture from last year, as he has two enormous patches, including one made out of bright blue bandana fabric (prompting landisdad to rename him FrankenBear). Like my grandmother with Brownie, I can see that I’ll be holding onto Mr. Bear for as long as I can, when the Potato is grown and has his own kids, to remind me of the little boy who loved him.
What about your kids? Do they have a Velveteen Rabbit of their own?
Last Friday, the Bee got into a fight at her after-school program. Apparently, she and another girl in her class were squabbling, one of the teachers noticed it but didn’t do anything about it, and then the two of them went into the bathroom together, where the other girl grabbed her, pushed her and threatened to break her ankle. The Bee pushed her back, and then left the bathroom and told the other teacher what had happened.
The other girl (let’s call her Lily) didn’t deny any of it at the time, and she ended up getting suspended from after-care for a day. When landisdad went to pick the Bee up, he heard about it from the second teacher, who told him that the Bee had been reprimanded for pushing Lily, but was not getting a more severe punishment. While I agree that the Bee shouldn’t have pushed her, it’s somewhat ridiculous that the other teacher didn’t stop them from going into the bathroom together, or try to stop them from fighting in the first place.
We’re trying to not blow the whole thing out of proportion–the Bee gets into squabbles with other kids in her class, it’s going to happen, they’re kids. She’s six, and while it’s not right, it is true that six- and seven-year-olds do stuff like say, “I’m going to punch you in the eye!” or whatever when they’re mad. We’ve been having a lot of conversations about how she can defuse these kinds of situations without resorting to screaming back at the other kid–walking away, telling a teacher, etc. It’s not really her nature to back down from a fight, and she said to me yesterday morning as we walked to school, “Mom, I can’t just leave when she’s yelling at me,” and I said, “well, we’re going to practice.”
They apparently had another altercation yesterday–Lily was pushing the Bee when they were lined up to come in for recess, and shoved the Bee into a boy from sixth grade, who reported it to their teacher. In the Bee’s retelling, they both got sent to the principal’s office, but no one was disciplined (no one from school called me, either). The Bee says that this time she didn’t push back, so I told her I was proud of her.
One of the most complicating things about this whole situation is that Lily is a girl I’ve blogged about before. And while I don’t know that these two things are related, it’s hard not to view them through that lens.
I got this via email and had to post it:
The New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and all hardcover and paperback books for people of all ages in an effort to restock the shelves after Katrina. The staff will assess which titles will be designated for its collections. The rest will be distributed to destitute families or sold for library fundraising.
Please send your books to:
Rica A. Trigs
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112
NOTE: See Twiss’s comment in the comments, you must send them first class or better (DHL, UPS, FedEx, etc.)
I spent a bunch of time this weekend reading Union Dues, a 1977 novel by John Sayles that was recently re-published by Nation Books. (BTW, I’m not actually sure what the title refers to. There are unions in this book, but not really at the heart of it.) It’s about a father and son from West Virginia who live in coal country until the son decides to take off to Boston, in search of his older brother (recently returned from Vietnam). The father takes off after him and ends up working in a variety of blue-collar jobs, while the son ends up living in a house with a bunch of young radicals in a group called the Third Way.
I was barely alive during the sixties, but the book, with its descriptions of young white kids who spend all of their time developing political positions and arguing with each other about whose ideology is more pure was still strangely familiar to me. Partly that’s because I know a lot of people who worked as organizers for various lefty groups, or who were student activists, or who burned their draft cards or their bras in the sixties. Partly it’s because I’ve been one of those crazy middle-class white kids, living in a collective house and arguing against any compromise with the military industrial complex, in my own young adulthood. And partly (and perhaps even more strangely to some of the people that I lived collectively with, back in the day), it’s because I’ve become a parent, and I can now imagine dropping everything to go find my teenage kid who might be going in the wrong direction.
It’s one of the few books I’ve read in a long time that made me wish it had a sequel. I wondered what happened to all those young activists, in particular. I know that not everyone who was politically active in the 60s and 70s still is, but I know some pretty cool people who cut their teeth doing actions then–I’d lke to see Sayles write a novel where they went on to be NOW state presidents, or university professors who are active in their union, or whatever.
So in the spirit of the sixties, let’s all go out and protest the 3rd anniversary of the Iraq War’s beginning, this weekend. If you’re looking for info on events, here are some good sites to check out. (In the spirit of anti-sectarianism, I’m being inclusive.)