Tag Archives: connection parenting

my racism story, part 2 (more background)

The part of my racism story I want to share now is from 2007, though it includes a reference to the experiences I shared in my racism story, part 1 (or, “will you be my black friend?”). It’s my hope that my friends and peers who are white might read my stories and consider their own experiences as people in America who identify as white; who, therefore, benefit from the racist structures of our society. I have found it helpful over the years to get honest with myself about the flickering but problematic background thought processes that have blocked me from authentic relationships with people of color:

“she’s Black, she’s Black, she’s BLAAAAACK!”

“She’s Black, she’s Black, she’s BLAAAAACK!” was just about all my brain could handle. Maintaining a simple and polite conversation was barely possible. No matter how much we had in common, no matter how likely a future friendship, I could think of nothing but that amazing dark skin, the transcendent hair texture, and my entire personal history of race relationships. Oh, how I wanted to prove to this woman that I was not like just any white woman! I knew, of course, it was just this level of self-consciousness that would make me utterly annoying to her. But, I just couldn’t help myself.

Helping myself, though, is really what race relations is about for me these days. I do care about the greater socio-political issues (shocking disregard for people’s lives all across the continent of Africa, overt brutality in our country, job discrimination, and of course the list goes on). However, my personal journey with racism now centers around me, my husband, and most of all, my daughter…

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walking the walk, social justice through parenting

Reading a “facts of life” book last night with my almost-7 year old daughter, she stopped me after I read about what makes boys boys and what makes girls girls. She said, “That’s in the brain. It’s not there [pointing to the genital areas].” She was talking about the fact that there are people whose bodies are biologically one sex, but their identities are another gender. I’ll admit I felt a little proud of myself that I’ve been mothering my daughters to understand that gender is much more complex than biology alone.

A couple years ago, my older daughter called out, distressed, when she realized — admittedly after years of playing with them — her playmobil figures had only one person of color among nearly fifty people. We searched the website and found one brown skinned figure with what looked like a Native American set among hundreds and hundreds of characters. Looking at the site this morning, I see they have new figures that look like people of color in the top banner. Scrolling through the characters, I don’t see that much else has changed. The point I’m making here is that I felt glad when my daughters noticed the playmobil set was made with a foundation of racism. We talked about not playing with the set, what is our responsibility? How can we help? We talked about different things we could do (color with markers?) to make the set have a wider range of people figures. We ended up writing a letter to the company complaining about the issue. That’s not nothing.

There will be people who think these kinds of smaller exchanges are not as important or valid as participating in a drastic overhaul of our entire system. And, indeed, we need to change our whole system. We need to do more than have conversations in our own families. Personally, I am doing more. But there are times when “all I’m doing is parenting.” During those times I’m not missing my opportunity to help my children know more than I did about injustice. I want them to notice problems and think critically about solutions. I want them to practice responding to injustice with action. I believe these smaller steps count. They matter. They are more than “better than nothing.” My children and many like them are people who know that just thinking about and talking about changing the world is not enough; they want to walk the walk and, as my daughter said (she’s sitting on my lap and I asked her how I should finish this), “make the world a better place than we found it.”

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the convenience of privilege (no groceries challenge)

Continuing my “no groceries challenge,” I had to resist the temptation to replenish staples as I usually would. Typically, I keep on hand an extra jelly, peanut butter, olive oil, soy sauce, diced unsalted tomatoes, and other base ingredients. That way, when I run out, I’m not stuck missing a key ingredient. With my no groceries challenge, I must not buy anything unless I “have to.” That means, when I run out of peanut butter, I don’t go buy more, I just don’t use peanut butter.

My daughters are pretty amazing when it comes to enjoying food. I shared a plate of kohlrabi leaves sauteed/braised in bacon fat and balsamic vinegar and they devoured it. [Funny, as I was writing this, both were complaining about the lame choices for snacks…] That’s just one of the ways in which I’m (mostly) lucky. It’s one way the no groceries challenge could be more challenging, though, if my children balked more at “weird” foods.

Back to stocking up on staples. I think of the time when I had so little I couldn’t afford to keep that extra jelly, peanut butter, or olive oil on the shelf. When I ran out, I was just out. It’s just one more way that having money makes life easier. We can afford to not run out of staple ingredients; we can afford to use our time efficiently. It might seem a little thing, but running out of cooking oil and not being able to make the planned meal can—when life is overwhelming because of lack of resources—feel like an enormous burden. It could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

It’s amazing to realize how having a pantry full of extra staple foods is a luxury. Of course in so many cases, just having food is a luxury. Having the time and energy to cook is also a luxury. That said, doing these “no groceries challenges” continues to open my eyes to the many ways that having enough money makes life so so so much easier in ways far beyond simply buying groceries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Valentine’s Day traditions

Being single on Valentine’s Day is meh. As any of my exes will attest, I’ve never been sentimental about the holiday. Despite the long, interesting, and muddled history of it, I have always associated Valentine’s Day with “just another excuse cooked up by mega-corporations for people to feel like they should be consumers of stuff they don’t actually need.” Still, as I said, being single on this day is meh. Not awful, but not wonderful.

In the last few days, I found myself looking forward to the day. I decided I’d make a special breakfast, do some fun stuff with the girls during the day, and we were supposed to go see the movie Babe at the Friends School of Portland (but the snow cancelled that). Planning with my younger daughter, we decided on heart shaped pigs in a blanket for breakfast, and chocolate dipped strawberries during the day.IMG_0083IMG_0082

As I set out the plates last night, knowing I’d be dragging myself out of bed a lot earlier than I’d prefer (my children have not mastered the concept of sleeping “late”), I started enjoying myself. I’ve decided to throw myself into the holiday, doing some things that will hopefully become traditions. I love the idea that my daughters can associate Valentine’s Day with not-romantic love memories. Then, when they are adults, if they find themselves without a love interest on Valentine’s Day, they may not feel the day is “meh.” Maybe they’ll start their own Valentine’s Day not-romantic love traditions. And maybe they’ll give their dear old mum a call because it’s a day we always celebrated together when they were little.

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what I rarely admit about how I parent

When my children have a lot of screen time, we all feel cluttered and cranky. I can’t talk about this much, though, because it’s a loaded topic. In the past, I’ve brought up my preference that our children don’t spend much time in front of screens (television, computer, other) and I’ve found people defensive. More than defensive, I find people want to tell me I “shouldn’t feel so bad about it” if I let the girls have screen time so I can take a break for myself.

People really want me to feel less bad about it. That probably comes from good intentions. But, it misses the point. I feel gross when they have a lot of screen time because we all feel gross. I feel bad about it because the effects are heavy. I don’t feel bad because I’m some kind of monster as a parent. I simply feel bad that I’ve come to a point where the easier answer is screen time, knowing the consequences will be more hyper-stress energy than if I wait it out and we stay screen time free.

What “a lot of screen time” means for me is more than an hour and/or two days or more in a row. When we have the screen going for more than an hour or two, our home feels crowded, tired, and too busy and loud. When that happens for a couple days in a row, we might as well’ve had no sleep the night before. It’s a mess.

All that said, tonight the girls watched Frosty the Snowman, and Curious George’s Very Monkey Christmas. (More than two hours.) And, we had screen time last night (the 2nd half of Rudolph and, for the older one, the American Girl holiday movie (Samantha?)). It’s fine, yes, yes, I know it’s fine. But, it also leaves me feeling like we’ve got a layer of sediment coating our lives that won’t clear way until we’ve had several days in a row where they don’t zone out in front of the screen.

When our older daughter was little, she had zero screen time. We used to leave restaurants if there were televisions being forced on us. I appreciate our zealous commitment to the value of simplicity through limited screen time. When we started adding screen time into her life, it was limited almost exclusively to nature programs and some preschool programming (Franklin the Turtle, Little Bear) even though she was four and five years old. Life is different now. The electronic childcare option is a reality for me. Plus, my daughters aren’t always with me (so their time in front of screens isn’t up to me).

It’s difficult talking about not using much screen time in our lives. It’s telling to me that the topic is so fraught with judgments and misunderstandings. It would be nice if I felt I could say “I feel gross and awful when I let the girls watch show after show…” without people trying to tell me to relax about it. We seem to be in such a minority that my distaste for screen time feels more comfortable as a secret than as something I would discuss freely in a casual social context.

Y’know, except for writing about it on the Internet.

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