The comments on my last post have got me thinking about how white people learn to respond–and to challenge–racism from other whites. I think that one thing that makes me unclear about how to respond to racism, especially to coded racism, is that I just don’t encounter it that much. And by the way, I’m pretty happy about that whole situation, thankyouverymuch. I’m not asking for more racism in my life, coded or blatant.
The reality is that we all learn to do things through practice, and the less practice that we (here, I speak for all white folks) have about confronting the racism of other whites, the worse we are at it.
After all, I’m certainly better at dealing with sexism. I’m all about the snappy comeback, when some stupid guy gets up in my grill. I don’t allow the intern in my office to call women ‘girls,’ unless they’re actually under the age of 18. I’m not putting up with any second-class citizen status for myself, or any other woman I know.
And I feel pretty well-equipped to prepare my daughter for dealing with the sexism that she will invariably encounter in her life. I hope that we’re raising the Potato in a way that will produce a man who is not oppressive to women, and will stand up to other men who are being sexist.
But I don’t feel like I do a good enough job of standing up to racism myself–how am I going to teach my kids to do it?
I was talking to a co-worker of mine a few weeks ago about an idea that he had to create a camp for kids who have families in social justice movements, where they could learn various movement-related skills, songs, and activities. Maybe my kids will benefit from Anti-Racist Rhetoric 101.
I’m not giving up on the idea of teaching them myself–and I think that growing up in a family where the idea that all humans are the same will at least give them a solid base to oppose racism. But I’d like to have a better theory about how to teach my kids to challenge the racism of others.
So it was Back-to-School Night tonight. There was a great turnout, I’m happy to say–it was standing room only. When I got up to do my presidential bit, I had the ESL teacher translate into Spanish, so all the parents could understand. I’m not that used to speaking using an interpreter, and I kept forgetting to stop so she could keep up. But I did succeed in getting one of the bilingual parents to agree to interpret at future meetings, which was great. I think that people appreciated it.
I also found a volunteer to do web design, someone to translate flyers into Spanish, and someone to take pictures at school events, which was like hitting the Trifecta as far as I was concerned.
I was feeling really good about the night. Until…
I was sitting in the Bee’s classroom with a couple of other parents. Landisdad had gone to the first session, so I went to the second (the kids were with us and weren’t allowed to come to the sessions), which was much less well attended–it’s basically for the people who have 2 kids in school–there were only four people there. The teachers were talking about the great student-to-teacher ratio (there’s a teacher, a co-teacher and a student teacher, with 20 kids), and the state testing, which the third graders are subjected to for the first time.
At the end of the session, the only dad in the room made a comment along the lines of, “well, that’s what you get when you let all those Japanese kids into our country–they make our kids have to work harder.”
I had one of those moments where time seems to stop, and I thought, “I can’t believe he said that, I can’t let it go, what the fuck do I say to that, who the hell’s dad is this?, why aren’t any of the parents of color at this session? is anyone else going to say anything” Finally, I blurted out, “well, I have to tell you that my brother is married to a Japanese woman, and I have a couple of half-Japanese nieces and nephews, and I found that remark kind of offensive.”
He snorted at me, and said, “well, it’s supposed to be a compliment.”
Oh. My. God.
Yeah, the waves of Japanese immigrants washing over our shores are sooooo threatening to your tiny ass. Your kid is struggling in third grade because of a group of foreign students who aren’t even represented in this class.
Give me a break.
It’s times like these, I wish I was a quick-witted as Pierre, who I’m sure would have skewered him, filleted him, wrapped him in butcher paper, taken him home and broiled him. Instead, I came home and watched the Chris Rock DVD I got from Netflix this weekend, and wished I could have unleashed Chris Rock on this guy.
The really bad part is, this guy’s kid has been in my daughter’s class for three years, and I never knew he was an asshole before tonight.
I feel like it’s been all-Bumblebee all the time around here lately, so I thought I’d put up some Potato-related content.
About a month ago, I succumbed to my fear that we would be shopping for college-sized-boy night-time pull ups, and insisted that the Potato start wearing underwear at night. After a couple of mornings where he woke up soaking wet, we came to the realization that the Potato (for all his thrashing around and sleeping with his head at the foot of the bed) is a very sound sleeper. Not only will he not wake up to pee, he doesn’t wake up when he wets the bed.
(This is in direct contrast to his sister, who woke me up from a deep sleep countless times to tell me that she’d wet the bed, and to demand that I change the sheets. I eventually started just making her sleep on the floor in her sleeping bag after such an incident, because that’s how great a mother I am. Hey, mommy needs sleep!)
We decided that we needed to wake him up every night when we’re going to bed so that he could pee in the middle of the night.
Consequently, I now know what my son will look like when he’s drunk at 21. He weaves around like a stumblebum–I think he’s essentially peeing in his sleep. We have to make sure to aim him in the right direction, because he never wants to open his eyes. After he’s done, he stumbles back into his room and falls onto the bed, back into dreamland.
I was telling this story today to one of my co-workers who is starting to potty-train her two-year-old (yes, I not only embarrass my children on the internets, but in real life, with people who actually know them), and she told me a story about her husband waking up in the middle of the night and starting to pee in their closet. Landisdad has a similar story about a college roommate.
So it got me to wondering, how many men have a mistaking-the-closet-for-a-toilet anecdote? And do any of the women out there have a confession they’d like to make?
The Bee is turning 8 next week. As part of her pre-birthday celebration, I took her to get her ears pierced today. She’s been agitating for an ear-piercing for several years now, but I made up my mind a long time ago to do it when she was 8, and I stuck to my guns, despite the heavy lobbying.
I got an extra set of holes put in my head, too, partly to show her that it would be okay (I went first).
I remember vividly going to get my ears pierced for the first time. My mother insisted that I wait until I was 13–and she was 39 then, and got her ears pierced for the first time when I did. My mother told me then that when she was a girl, no “nice” girl had pierced ears. I think it freaked her out that I was still insistent on doing it, and I can’t now imagine what possessed her to do it after living without pierced ears for so long.
The Bee and I talked about that a little bit today, although I struggled to explain what made a “nice” girl nice, in the 1950s. There was a line, and the kid ahead of us was an 18-month (or so) boy. I told her that when I was growing up, it was very odd for boys to have pierced ears, just like it was odd for “nice” girls of her grandmother’s generation to have them. She asked me if I would let the Potato get his ears pierced, when he turns 8, and I told her I would. It was an interesting exercise in changing social mores.
Seeing that boy did make me wonder, though, about what the norm is becoming about the age of piercing. I know that I’m fairly conservative (on this, if nothing else) for our community–the Bee might be the only girl in her class who didn’t have pierced ears last week. I felt pretty strongly that she should be old enough to take care of them herself, thus the wait.
If you have a kid with pierced ears, how old was s/he when you got it done? If your kid doesn’t have them, why not? When (if ever) will you do it?
So one of the things in life that’s been consuming my attention lately is that we decided to have the Bee speak to the school’s counselor about her continued self-torment when she makes a mistake. I personally didn’t come to this decision easily–it was hard to admit that my baby needed help–but harder to admit that she wasn’t getting it from us.
She was initially quite resistant to the idea, but after suffering through two very trying temper tantrums (when she forgot to bring home various elements of her homework), I talked to the principal and we got it underway.
She had her first counseling session this week, on Wednesday, which was the day I finally came home. I asked her about it that night, and it seems to have gone fairly well–the counselor had her draw a picture, and then talk about what was going on with the girl in the picture. They’ll work together for a month, and then we’ll get to have an evaluatory meeting.
I’m hopeful that the counselor will be able to help reinforce some of the things that landisdad and I have been trying to do at home to keep the Bee from obsessing over her mistakes. It’s hard to get out of the habits that we’ve formed over time, though. I realized the other night that one of the things that I do when talking about schoolwork is focus on how to help the Bee solve her problems, instead of minimizing the problems and praising her for the many things she does well. I’m trying to be more conscious of that–because while I want the Bee to know that I’m here for her if she needs help with a problem, I don’t want her to think that the only thing I’m interested in talking about is what she’s doing wrong.
This parenting thing is tough.
that I fell off the face of the earth for a while there. I was traveling out of town, and staying in a hotel where the internet connection in the rooms was requiring that you sign in every five minutes. Not particularly conducive to blogging (or work, for that matter). For the last few days, I’ve been in a different place, with a more consistent internet connection, but now my bloglines is ridiculously jammed, and I’m a little scared of it.
This is the longest trip that I have done away from home since I became a parent. I left last Tuesday morning, and am not going home until Wednesday afternoon. Landisdad brought the kids to where I was at the end of last week, but I ended up having to work a lot more than I thought I would, and we didn’t get to spend too much time together. We did get to have fun on Saturday afternoon/evening, and then I had to leave again early Sunday morning.
The Bee stood at the door of the hotel room on Sunday morning and tried to block me from leaving with her body, crying, “don’t leave.” My body and luggage left the room, but my heart was on the floor in pieces, sobbing with my daughter.
Don’t get me wrong–I like traveling for my job (although being gone for a week is a little long). I’m at a once-every-four-years conference, one that I missed last time because the Potato had just been born, and I was on maternity leave. It was important for me to come here, and I’m glad I did.
But that doesn’t make it easier to leave my kids, or to leave my husband to single parent the whole time.
Especially when I emerge from a hotel conference room where I’ve had no cell reception all afternoon, to find a message from my daughter’s after-school program saying that she’s covered with a mysterious rash, and that they know that I’m out of town, but that they haven’t been able to reach her dad. And the message is four hours old.
As it turned out, landisdad had been reached, and had picked the Bee up and made a doctor’s appointment by the time I got in touch with him. The Bee went to the doctor last night, and it was diagnosed as a possible allergy or virus–but nothing serious.
I know that it wouldn’t have turned out any differently if I had been home, and there was a while last night where I thought about leaving early to go be with them–if it had been something serious, I certainly would have done so. But for just a minute, I thought back to that sobbing girl I left behind on Sunday morning, and my heart was back there, on the floor in pieces again.
Landisdad and I were talking the other night about how, on the Bee’s first day of kindergarten, all the third graders looked enormous. And now we have a third grader, and while she’s a big, independent girl, she’ll also always be our kindergartener, venturing into school for the first time.
The third grade has some major challenges, by the way.
There are letter grades for the first time. Also state testing. There is a nightly homework log, which must be signed by the parent (although there hasn’t been any homework yet). There is handwriting (and already, the Bee’s teacher has called her out for “holding her pencil the wrong way”). Grrr. Wouldn’t third graders be better served by learning to touch-type, at this point, than learning cursive?
Third grade is upstairs, in our little red brick schoolhouse. Upstairs with the other big kids, like the sixth graders. Away from the safe haven of the kindergarten, away from the warm embrace of the school secretary. Third grade involves both a student teacher and a co-teacher, in addition to the regular teacher. So many adults telling you what to do!
There are new opportunities in third grade too. There is the ability to play flag football after school, on a team with other (and bigger) kids from her school. There is the third grade bake sale (for which, the Bee has already declared, landisdad, and not I, will bake). Third grade is when you’re allowed to walk to school by yourself, although the Bee told me this afternoon, “I’m kind of afraid of walking to school alone.”
Last night, after the Potato was in bed, the Bee and I sat on her bed and talked about the first day of third grade. I had to work late yesterday, so I didn’t get to pick her up from school, but I did want to hear all about her day, and her new class. One of her best friends moved away over the summer, and a couple of new kids transferred in to her class–3 boys and 1 girl, so the girl-to-boy ratio must be approaching even at this point (last year it was something like 11:8). Like her mother, the Bee is most comfortable in situations where she knows what is going to happen, and is confident that she can meet the challenges, and my sense is that she isn’t quite there yet about third grade.
She told me that her new teacher insisted that they use “big” words, not “baby” words–the one she made a point of telling me about was “astronomical” (which the Bee is curiously not able to pronounce–thus leading to her frustration with this policy). I made her laugh by telling her that I had been listening to her talk for almost eight years, and that she had progressed from “googoo gahgah” to having a fine and advanced vocabulary, that I was confident that she would not have any trouble with the ‘big’ words that her teacher insisted on.
I feel like I’m walking a fine line between saying supportive things like, “I have confidence in you and your ability to learn,” not wanting to blurt out things like, “but you get better grades than everyone in your class–every teacher that you’ve had says you’re one of their best students ever.” I don’t want her to feel like she has to succeed at the expense of other students, but I do want her to be happy and confident and secure in her own abilities.
One of the things that landisdad and I struggle with most with the Bee’s academic work is our desire not to pass on our own insanely perfectionist tendencies. If I could wish one wish for her, it’s that she could learn to face her mistakes–and her successes–with grace and dignity.
I had to work at home this afternoon, so I picked her up right after school. We walked home, and talked about the day, and then we got into the house, and she curled up in my lap like she was eight months instead of eight years old. I know that this process will be fleeting–a few weeks from now, she’ll be back to her usual self. But it’s nice to be able to indulge her while she’s going through the transition.
Today was the first day of third grade. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the Bee that are postable (they all involve other kids). But here’s an example of her excellent penmanship, and creative use of school supplies.
That’s a note she left on my pillow last weekend after our school shopping outing. If you can’t read it, it says:
I love you. And thanks a lot for the dry erase board. You are the best woman in the whole world. I love you, and thanks again.
Who’s got the best girl? I’ve got the best girl. (Although, those of you with daughters of your own may feel free to disagree with me.)
Last year, I hosted a blog carnival on Labor Day weekend called Blog for Workers’ Rights. This year, I knew I wasn’t going to have time to do it, so I didn’t try. Here’s a good post on the topic, from the BlogHer blogs, though.
Hope everyone is having a wonderful day!