a difficult moment

Yesterday, the Bee told me that one of her classmates (let’s call her Lily) had told her (the previous day at school) that she saw her stepfather throw her mom across the room, and then punch a metal door. For a moment, I was stunned into silence. I asked the Bee what Lily’s reaction had been, and she said, “she was really scared.” I said, “are you scared too?” And she looked at me and said, “yes.”

We had a long talk about the fact that her father would never in a million years do such a thing to me (or to anyone else for that matter), and how crazy it is that some people think it’s okay to hit someone when they are mad at them. I told her that if she was ever in a similar situation, she should call the police immediately, even if it was someone she loved who was acting crazy, because it’s not okay for people that you love to do that either. And then I told her some stuff about my dad, stuff that I didn’t think I was going to have to tell her about for years. I told her about the time that he threw our phone through the window, and the time he threw our dog against the wall, and how much it scared me and how I wish that someone had told me it was okay to ask for help from the police. And how it made me realize that I would never get into a relationship with a person who would treat me like that.

It was a really unnerving conversation to be having at the breakfast table.

I walked her to school, and thought about what else to do. I asked the Bee if Lily had told any teachers about what happened, and she said she didn’t think so. After I dropped the Bee off in her classroom, I found the principal and told him about it, and he immediately said he would call one of the district counselors to come over and talk to Lily.

As I walked home, I felt riven by bad memories from my childhood. One of my brothers often says that he can’t remember anything that happened to him before he was 17. Sometimes, I wish I had that problem.

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September 30, 2005. thoughtful parenting. 21 comments.

grateful for small things

About two weeks ago, I was officially installed as the vice-president of the PTA at the Bee’s elementary school. It’s a sort of bizarre post–similar to the VP of the country, I guess, a lot of it is spent waiting around to see if you’re going to have to step up and do the ultimate job. Unlike the executive branch of our government, though, being the VP of the PTA guarantees you the top slot in two years. There wasn’t really an election or anything–they asked me to do it, and I said yes, all the while looking around me to see if there wasn’t someone else who really wanted to do it.

I got involved with the PTA at a time last year when I was between jobs, and I’m kind of afraid that these women think I have that kind of free time always, which I just don’t. But I also have a hidden agenda, which is to help transform the PTA into an organization that isn’t just about raising money, but is also about raising expectations at the school. Some of our test scores are bad, and when I raised concern about this last year, I was told (by both other parents and teachers) that this was attributable to the large number of students who speak English as a second language, as well as the high ‘transient’ population. (To decode, this refers to the Latino & black students who live in a moderate-sized apartment complex in our catchment area.) Now, I’m not actually sure that these students are any more transient than the white kids–of the Bee’s class last year, four left between K-1st grade, and two of those were white kids. But that isn’t really the point. The point is that it’s apparently okay with some parents in the school community that the school is failing to educate all of the kids here, as long as their particular kid is doing well. It’s not okay with me.

So last week, I was in the city, and went out to lunch with two former co-workers, some of my working mom pals–we all have kids within a couple of years of each other. We caught up on each others’ lives, and after hearing my friend J’s update of her divorce & custody fight, I started to tell them about my exciting new PTA position. First, they laughed for a good solid minute (and I did too). After they had fun at my expense, I starting telling them about the reasons that I got involved in the PTA–the test scores, the “soft bigotry of low expectations*,” the cookie baking opportunities (kidding!). And J said, “shit, in the district that I moved into (since the divorce), I’m worried that my kids aren’t going to make it to school at all! I need a landismom for my school PTA.” She went on to describe her worries that her son, who’s now in middle school, was going to suffer social promotion, because he’d be the kind of kid who is quiet, and teachers would like him because of that, but he’d fail every math class.

Suddenly, the Bee’s school didn’t seem so bad. But I did want to fight even harder to make it better.

*Damn you, Karl Rove, you master of phrase-turning!

September 28, 2005. thoughtful parenting. 10 comments.

scenes from a slumber party…

So the slumber party was a success, despite the ups-and-downs leading to it. There was a Barbie movie (shudder) with 3D glasses, no less. There was insane giggling. There were several balloon fights. There were declarations of best friend status. There was staying up way too late (although not all night, as they were trying to do), and then getting up way too early and eating pancakes for breakfast (thanks Landisdad!). There was (sadly) a moment where the Potato sat outside the Bee’s door, as she held it closed and he sobbed, “be(ing) mean!”. (And yes, the Bee had to hold her door closed, because I still haven’t gotten her a new one.) There was dress-up in abundance. There were goody bags.

The girl who wasn’t going to stay over ended up going home at around 9:30 p.m. The girl who was showing up late left after lunch, with the cupcake that I didn’t let her eat last night wrapped up in plastic. The Bee and the Potato are both now napping (fingers crossed!). The parents are collapsed on the couch, wishing they could nap too.

I’d post pictures, but I’ve learned from Melissa’s cautionary tale not to do that without other parents’ permission. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of cuteness, most of it dressed in pink pajamas.

September 25, 2005. growing up. 8 comments.

cheating

I stole this from Dawn.

Rules:

1. Go into your archive.

2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

We spent the whole summer on the road–camped out, stayed with friends, and saw more of the country than I can remember.

from the post “All (well some) of your questions answered”.

September 23, 2005. memes. 4 comments.

Happy Birthday, Bee!

So next week is the Bumblebee’s birthday. We told her that if she wanted to, instead of having a big party this year, she could have her first sleepover this weekend, and that’s what she decided to do. We told her she could invite three girls, but she ended up only asking two, and so far one of the moms hasn’t rsvp’d. We had a fairly long conversation about why she could only invite girls to her sleepover, and I think she still doesn’t really get it (“but the Sweet Potato sleeps here! and he’s a boy!), but I’m not that interested in being the first mother in the first grade to hold a co-ed sleepover.

Last night, the mother who did rsvp called to tell us that she wasn’t sure if her daughter would spend the night or not. Her daughter is worried that if she comes to the party and can’t hang, the other kids will laugh at her in school, and now I’m starting to worry that the Bee will have the sleepover where no one sleeps over. I’m starting to wonder if she’s too young to have a sleepover. I definitely remember having sleepovers when I was six, but hey, that was back in the 70s when we didn’t have carseats, and our moms smoked in the delivery room.

UPDATE: So the second mom called today and left me a message saying that her daughter had another birthday party to go to, and could she drop her off at 8:30 p.m. WTF???? So it looks like we will have a birthday party where the two guests aren’t here at the same time. I’m not really sure what we’re going to do, it was back-to-school night tonight, so we didn’t really get to talk to the Bee about it. I feel bad, because this thing that she was really excited by is not working out at all.

When was your first sleepover? Did you sleep at all? And most importantly, what should we serve for breakfast (assuming someone sleeps over)?

On a totally unrelated note, I’d like to welcome whoever it was that visited my blog by searching for “literature of the sweet potato.” I hope you’re not disappointed.

September 21, 2005. growing up. 13 comments.

travelling tots

I’ve been out of town for work for several days, and finally came home this afternoon. I really missed my kids while I was away, and that was exacerbated by the fact that several of my coworkers brought their kids with them to the meeting we were all attending. Watching other people’s kids run around was fun, but it didn’t make me regret my decision to leave the kids at home with landisdad.

One of the senior managers asked me why I hadn’t brought my kids with me, and I told her I didn’t want to take the Bee out of school for three days, which I would have had to do. But the real truth is that I try not to make my kids have a weird life because of my job, and it would have been weird–for all of us–for them to be there.

Since I’ve been a parent, I’ve always had extraordinarily family-friendly work situations. When I first went back to work after the Bee was born, landisdad took paternity leave, so we didn’t have to put her in daycare until she was 5 months old. Even then, I didn’t want her to be in daycare full-time, so I worked out a deal with my boss to take her to work with me two days a week. I had my own office, and I brought in a Pack-n-Play for her to sleep in, and when she was sleeping, I would get real work done. At that point, I worked for a non-profit agency that did both advocacy & provided social services. We were doing a lot of work organizing women who were affected by welfare reform, and most of those women had kids with them when they came in. There were a ton of volunteers in the office too, and by the time the Bee was able to crawl/stand/walk, there were many people around who she knew and trusted.

I was able to schedule my work in a way that I wouldn’t have meetings outside of the office on days that she came with me. When I had to have meetings in the office, I had co-workers or volunteers that would watch her for an hour. She knew–and loved–everyone there. There were often toddlers or preschoolers for her to play with.

When she turned one, I decided that it was time for her to start going to daycare four days a week, instead of three. It’s hard to parent a toddler and get anything done, and I was feeling internal pressure to be better about doing my job. That pressure was only internal–my boss never gave me one iota of pressure–but it was mounting, and I needed to make a change. So Fridays became our day in the office together, and she would run around and act crazy while I typed or talked on the phone. She still napped in the pack-n-play, and we’d go out to lunch together. It was great fun, but when she was about 18 months old, it got to be too much again. At that point, she stopped going with me on a regular basis. She’d still come with me occasionally, but mostly that was when we had some daycare crisis.

I’ve changed jobs four times since then, and every time I’ve had the ability to bring my kids to work, at some level. They’ve come with me on business trips (although almost always when landisdad has been able to come too), and through that experience, I’ve discovered the joys & difficulties of parenting in public. It’s odd to be trying to discipline your kid while a bunch of other interested adults watch, and hard to have to leave a meeting early because you can’t get a willful preschooler to stop screaming about something.

One thing I was reminded of this past week, is that I haven’t brought the Potato to work with me nearly as much as I did the Bee. It made me realize that he’s almost gotten to the point where I will be able to travel with him alone, without his sister or his dad.

I’ve got another, similar meeting in a few months. Again, it would require that I take the Bee out of school for two days, so I don’t think I’m going to do that. But I just might take the SP…

September 17, 2005. thoughtful parenting, work. 11 comments.

“I will not yield to a politic of despair”

There’s been a bunch of stuff going on here at BSP lately that has kept me from blogging with any seriousness. I’m going to try to delve into some of it, and hope that it makes some sense. On pure logistics, I’ve gone back to a more active work schedule, after spending most of August in a soporific haze. But my work has become more time-consuming without being more interesting, so I’m not that happy about it.

One of the results of my lazy August is that I spent way too much of the last week of August on blog & news sites, reading about the Katrina aftermath. A couple of months ago, I wrote a post called “What’s Wrong with White People?”. If I hadn’t used that title already, I would be tempted to use it now. Because some of the
things that white folks have been saying and doing in response to this tragedy just make me ashamed to be white.

The only thing that keeps me hopeful is the expectation that this will be one of those events that inspires mass activism and leads to major reform. Reform like the New Deal, or the Great Society. But at the same time, I’m worried that we’re only at the beginning, that things will have to get even worse before that mass activism will be kick-started. After all, Roosevelt only had the political impetus to pass the New Deal after the Great Depression had lasted for several years, and LBJ couldn’t have gotten half of his legislative agenda passed had it not been for the assassination of JFK–even with the enormous advances won by the Civil Rights Movement.

Landisdad and I were talking about this the other night, and he said, “yeah, what we really need is another Bonus Army. If only the people driving the buses out of New Orleans had gone to DC, instead of Houston.” He also reminded me of one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last sermons, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”, which really could be the best thing ever written about poverty & race in America, and, sad to say, it’s almost totally accurate despite being 37 years old.

In going back and re-reading that speech, I was reminded of a book I read about 7 years ago called Striking Performances/Performing Strikes. It’s a history of the use of theatrical performance in two major actions that happen during 1936–the first being the Flint autoworkers’ sit-down strike, where workers won their union by occupying the plants of General Motors in Flint, MI. It’s one of the most famous strikes in US history, and led to the largest union election of the 20th century. The second action that is analyzed in the book was the one that was more interesting to me, though. It’s the story of 200 unemployed workers (the Worker’s Alliance of America) that, for nine days, occupied the state capitol in Trenton, NJ to protest the cut-off of relief funds. The reason that I found that story so amazing and compelling, of course, is that I grew up in New Jersey. I was educated in this state from the day I stepped into kindergarten until the day I graduated from college, and yet somehow, I had never heard about it. Now, why is that, do you imagine?

I’ll tell you what I imagine, and that’s this: there is no worse way to learn history than to accept the official version as true. We’re seeing that in action as we watch reporters from CNN doggedly interrogate the director of FEMA, to have him admit that he didn’t know about the existence of Katrina victims in the NOLA Convention Center until days after it had been reported on television. Regular people have more access to transparency in government and current events–in our country and others–than has ever existed before.

What do you bet that the official history of Katrina in 50 years doesn’t mention Bush’s remarks, or Brown’s cluelessness, or the fact that black people who were trying to flee the city got turned back by armed police from a white adjoining suburb? The only thing that will make the true version the official version is if people demand something different. We need to demand it the way that the survivors of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire did. We need to demand it the way that the editors of Jet did, when they published photos of the body of Emmett Till.

I may have been drowsy in August, but I’m wide awake in September.

September 11, 2005. politically motivated. 13 comments.

the bowling penguins

The Bee is back in school, and so far, so good on the best friend issue. I was worried that her end-of-the-year best friend was going to spurn her this year, but it doesn’t look like that will be the case.

I had to work late tonight, so landisdad went to pick both the kids up from school. When he got to the Bee’s school, she and her best friend, and another boy were playing bowling. The Bee and her friends were the bowling pins. Only she called them penguins. An image I hope you will enjoy.

September 8, 2005. random other things. 3 comments.

weekend snapshot

Friday night, the Bee and I made collages, during our Mommy/daughter one-on-one time.

Yesterday, the Potato and I got some one-on-one time, too, since his sister decided to sleep until 10 (?!). Here we are looking at boats on some big watee.


And today’s the first day of first grade, for my big, big girl. Sigh. Where did the summer go?

September 6, 2005. the cutest kids ever!. 4 comments.

shaking with rage, and doing something about it

Okay, so I’ve been sitting in front of my computer and tv for the last six days, feeling helpless and frustrated. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve decided that not to act is putting me in a worse situation than to act. So I’m getting up from my computer, and I’m going door-to-door to my neighbors, to gather donations for the victims of Katrina. And then I’m gonna send them off to a software company named CoffeeCup, who has volunteered to deliver contributions of material things to the evacuees that are in South Texas.

I’m feeling frustrated, because when 9/11 happened, we knew where to send things, and what to send, almost immediately. There were flyers in all our stores, telling us who was taking donations of batteries, flashlights, socks. That hasn’t happened this time, though clearly the devastation is so much greater. I’m not really sure why that is, and I’m not that interested in playing the blame game right now (but I will be later, I bet).

I really just want to help, and I can’t help right now, other than to try to gather up some toys & books for kids who have lost theirs. My heart is breaking every time I watch another mother carrying another infant that is homeless, it breaks a little more.

UPDATE: So far, my neigbors have blown me away with their generosity. We sent four huge boxes of clothing (mostly kids’), toys & books to CoffeeCup on Tuesday, and I’ve got another eight boxes worth of stuff to ship out tomorrow. On Monday afternoon, I was sitting on the porch addressing & taping up the boxes, and one of my neighbors, a guy who works as a landscaper, walked up with a huge box of wipes. I had someone drop off a pack and play, too, although I haven’t figured out how I’m going to ship that one yet.

September 3, 2005. politically motivated. 10 comments.

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