Poverty’s Effects on Education

These aren’t my words and this isn’t my story.  It was written by a friend of mine who gave me permission to post it.  It’s worth the read.


I won’t go into the details that put my family in this unique situation but I got to experience both ends of the spectrum when it comes to financial security during my childhood years and I can assure anyone that it absolutely has an impact. Up until 5th grade my single mother and I lived with my grandmother and I had no idea that it was actually her and my aunts supporting us. I went to a great school in one of the richest counties in the country. I had plenty to eat and nice clothes to wear, help with homework, and someone to pick me up from school every day. I participated in sports, Girl Scouts, and other activities with friends so I had a normal social life. In 6th grade, my mom moved decided to move away on her own without the help of our family. She married a man she met in rehab, who was a loser in every sense, and had a couple more kids. Without the help from my extended family, I spent the rest of my school years, until I moved out at 16 struggling to even get to school each day. Luckily I already enjoyed learning and was pretty smart on my own without needing much additional help so my education didn’t suffer irreversibly, although I almost couldn’t graduate from sheer lack of attendance. So let me just share some of the things I dealt with trying to get an education while being poor, in no particular order:

Had to drop out of AP Calculus because they required that I buy my own 200$ graphing calculator.

Couldn’t play any school sports because you had to get a physical from a doctor and I hadn’t been to a doctor in years.

I couldn’t stay for anything after school because I had to pick up my baby brother at day care on my way home from school and watch him until mom got home from her many jobs.

Trying to do homework while watching two baby siblings, sometimes overnight when my mom was a 3rd shirt waitress.

Not having enough food to eat and food stamps don’t pay for diapers.

Being evicted every 9 months or so, so constantly having to spend time packing and unpacking.

Once we lived in a skeevy one-room motel (two adults, a 15 year old, toddler, and baby) with prostitutes out front. The owner was always trying to give me candy to come into his back office.

When we didn’t have a car, I had to do all the family grocery shopping myself on foot while mom stayed with babies or vice versa. Everything is 20x harder and longer without a car.

Sometimes living so far away from the school that I had to walk 30 minutes in the dark to the bus stop and then a 45 minute bus ride. That meant leaving my house at 6 am after being up with the baby. I typically slept through first and second period.

Being on the free school lunch program means eating whatever horrid nutrient deprived canned mush they happened to have.

Taking all your laundry to the laundry mat instead of just down the hall.

I started working at 14 on the weekends. By 15 I could work fast food so I was up to 30 hours a week after school also. By 16 I was allowed to work at Disney World so I added that on top of fast food and worked two jobs since I was given a car by my grandparents.

When my parents got evicted this time they moved out of the district but I had a car so it didn’t matter. But then my car broke down and we couldn’t afford to fix it. Since the school bus wouldn’t pick me up out of district I had to take the public bus, but even the first bus of The day at 5:40 got me to school 20 minutes late. After a week the school told me I wouldn’t be allowed to graduate if I was late anymore so I had to move schools in my senior year.

Saved up enough money to get a new car and found a friend that would let me live with them so I could transfer back to my school (the one in my mom’s actual district was terrible and dangerous) only to have someone tell the principal that I wasn’t living at home. They tried to kick me out of the school again saying that it’s illegal to go to a school that isn’t your district so I had to officially move out at 16 and have my mother fill out paperwork agreeing that my friend’s parents could make school-related decisions on her behalf etc etc all so that I could graduate from the safe, good school I had been going to for 4 years.

So, even though all of this was terrible, and I was horribly depressed a lot of the time, and I did a lot of drugs to escape, I am still aware that I benefited significantly from the help of my extended family, a very loving and supportive mother, some great friends, a couple of amazing teachers, a great job that gave me financial security, and a lot of white privilege. Most people, who are truly growing up in real poverty don’t have any of these things on their side. When I was growing up, no one had a computer so that wasn’t a thing yet. We lived in Florida so when we didn’t pay our bills and the power got turned off we weren’t freezing in the Detroit winter. It was always warm enough to walk anywhere I needed to go. We had well water so I was never afraid to drink it. And to top it off, my whole family was healthy so we never had to contend with trying to get health care. These are all things that typically plague people in poverty and the stress put on the kids in these families is immeasurable. When you have to decide between studying for a test or working an extra shift to put food on the table, it’s not even a choice.

And just to add an additional layer to the story, for the past couple years I have been a nanny for a family of two kids. I am now getting to experience the extreme other end of the spectrum in what it’s like for the very wealthy and the privileges that their kids get. I get paid an exorbitant amount of money to just be available to take their kids wherever they need to go and help with homework. They can participate in any after-school activity they want because they have unlimited resources both financially and time-wise because they have me. They go on ski trips, international robotics competitions, chess club, summer camp, national sporting competitions all over the country, they play musical instruments, they have a pool and are certified in CPR, they go camping regularly, debate club, etc. All of these things cost money and require a huge investment of time after school not only from the student but from someone that can drive them all over the place. If anyone thinks for even one second, that these things aren’t giving these kids an advantage in life they are crazy!! It is very well known that involvement in the arts and music helps the brain retain other information as well so the fact that they are so well rounded is already making them smarter. Athletics is making them stronger and healthier and giving them an exposure to teamwork, competition and strategic thinking. And it makes school fun and interesting; it keeps them engaged and exposes them to so many different paths in life. Not to mention the fact that it all goes on the college applications.

If I could boil it all down to one comparison, it would be this: A child in poverty might get a field trip to Central Park as the most special day in their school year and eat a hot dog for lunch (if they brought 2$) Vs. The boy I nanny for went to South America last month for his international robotics world competition finals where he spent a week meeting kids from all over the world, eating amazing food, staying in a hotel and battling actual electronic robots that he spent the semesters building with his own hands along with his team. If you don’t think one of those kids has a vastly different perspective on what his future might contain than the other, you are insane.

History I Wasn’t Taught

I learned African-American ‘history’ when I was at school in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980’s and 90’s. As it was taught, Africans just got onto slave ships (although we never talked about how they got on those ships).  After a trip across the Atlantic that killed a great many of them, they got off in the new world of America.  The slaves had to work hard, but they had at least kind owners in all states except Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.  Slaves were responsible for helping around the house and in the fields but contributed nothing to the country other than that.  Life seemed to have just happened for a while since there was no history about any slave revolts or attempts to be free until suddenly Dred Scott v Sandford had everyone talking about slavery.  The Civil War didn’t include any African-American soldiers who weren’t in the movie Glory, may or may not have been fueled by opposition to slavery, and finally all people were viewed as equal under the law (well, except the American-Indians and women).

After Reconstruction (which as I went to school in the South there were times when the teachers would make known their disdain for the North’s attempts to make sure People of Color weren’t discriminated against), there wasn’t any African-American involvement in American history until Brown v. Board of Education.  In the Civil Rights Movement, there were two, and only two, leaders.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr who, it was taught, went and asked for his rights politely and non-violently until finally the benevolent white Americans decided to give them to him was the main leader.  The other one was Malcolm X who was portrayed as someone who hated all white people and wanted them all to die.  We did a play on Rosa Parks in the third grade.  She was a tired, old maid who just kept saying, “I’m so tired.  Please don’t make me stand.”  The bus boycott was taught as being able to be sustained because white women drove their maids around so that they could keep cleaning houses.  I remember we watched a movie on it and the only people who were interviewed were white women talking about being happy to drive their children’s Mammy to the store or their cook to her house.  There was no John Lewis.  There was no Bayard Rustin.  There was no Selma.  There were no bus bombings.  There was no church bombing.  There were no deaths.  The Civil Rights Act was signed and everyone was happy and everyone had rights.  That ended the history of African-Americans.

The school that I went to is a private all-girls school that was across the street from a country club, one that at the time still didn’t allow African-Americans or Jews.  I’ve always said that I got a good education academically but a bad one socially, and I truly believed that until recently.  Lately, the huge gaps in my knowledge about what people have had to overcome and struggle against to be seen as full citizens deserving of all rights have come to my attention.  I am trying my best to fill those holes and am focusing on reading books written by People of Color and women this year.  The history of America is messy.  Rewriting history to eliminate the mess might make some people feel better, like we are the country we profess to be.  We won’t magically become the land of promise to all until true, actual, difficult history is taught so that we can learn and grow.  I’m starting by making sure my children have a full education from a young age.  We can do better, we must do better, or we can keep expecting the same issues to replay over and over.


In Mourning

On election night, I wept.  As the returns came in and the inevitability of this came into focus, I curled up under my covers and wept those deep sobs that shake your body and your core.  I wasn’t just crying because my candidate lost – I’m a Democrat, I’ve been there before.  I wasn’t even crying because it was a candidate that I was particularly fond of.  I wept for the loss of a female holding the highest office.  I wept for the reality that a man who brags about sexual assault was going to be the Commander in Chief.  I wept because I knew how hard it was going to be to explain the election results to my daughter when she woke up; she was a huge fan of Clinton’s and that was going to be a tough conversation.  I wept for my lost hope in what a Clinton administration would be like.  I hid while my husband tried to comfort me, and for hours I wept.

As the Trump transition team started to release names of his Cabinet picks, I went from weeping to anger.  There are men and women who could fill these positions whose beliefs I don’t share.  He, however, wasn’t picking any of them.  Rather, the only qualification that anyone seemed to need was a large bank account and willingness to send some of it his way.  I was angry for all the kids who were learning that if they didn’t have big money, they weren’t going to matter as adults.  Children were seeing in action that money matters more than capability.  I was angry for the poor kid with a brilliant mind who feels even further away from reaching their potential.  That anger fueled me making sure that I knew what was happening in the country and making sure that my phone calls and letters expressing my displeasure were made.

When the executive orders started to be signed, I went from angry to incandescent.  How dare he say that people who are Green Card holders can’t come back into the country?  How DARE he say that people who have been vetted and have been contributing to America for years aren’t welcome here.  The wall between us and Mexico is going to hurt far more than it will help.  Executive order after executive order (and the rumored ones coming up that both hurt the LGBTQA+ community and saying that the Department of Defense will get to contribute to our education policies) were so against the America that my parents and grandparents had taught me to love and respect that it just lit me up.  My husband seemed to start to judge my rage to see if even talking to me about news was a good idea.  He was hearing me writing at all hours of the night and muttering about the state of our nation while I cooked dinner.  “This isn’t us” I kept saying.

The firing of the assistant Attorney General for saying she wouldn’t uphold the ban on immigration was the final straw for me.  I no longer am weeping and I’m no longer a ball of anger or rage.  I am still fighting and I calling and I am protesting and I am not giving up no matter how bad it gets.  However, I realized tonight what I’m now doing.  I’m mourning.  I’m mourning for the American ideals that I love so dearly.  I’m mourning for the independent judiciary that my grandfather always said was the most important branch of the government (granted, he was a federal judge so he was biased).  I’m mourning for Lady Liberty who no longer is welcoming the world’s tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  She’s now just trying to figure out how to get through yet one more day.  I’ll keep fighting because I don’t know how to stop and it’s too important to give up but my fight now is a mournful one.  I don’t know if America will ever come back from this dark time and be whole again and even if it does it will always feel the scar; it will always feel this division somewhere in its soul.  Institutional memory isn’t always a good thing.  But through the weeping and the anger and the mourning, I have one thing that’s always been there.  One thing that’s driving the phone calls and the letters.  One thing that motivates me.  Hope.  I hope and, as Andy Dufresne would say, that’s a good thing.  I can only hope that the hope gets me from mourning to regrowth.


My older daughter has learned about Dr Martin Luther King Jr (she’s always insistent that when I say his name I say the whole thing – according to her great men and women deserve that).  There are holes in what she’s being taught.  Based on what she’s brought home from school, he was a peaceful, kind, loving, and brave leader who just asked enough times for rights and someone finally said yes.  I’m filling in what she’s learning with some information on his resistance efforts and what he both faced and advocated.  I’m also letting her know that there were other people involved in the Civil Rights movement who weren’t as peaceful.  I don’t want her to grow up thinking if you just ask nicely enough times you won’t ever have to fight for what’s right.  It can be difficult, but it’s worth it.

Filling in the struggle of Dr. King has lead to me reflecting on the history that I was taught as a kid.  I went to a private, white (not officially segregated but it was almost completely white), rich, Southern, all-girls school that was across from a White’s Only Country Club.  My mom taught there allowing my sister and me to go tuition-free, meaning the other kids didn’t let me forget that I was the poor kid (in that world, meaning middle class).  I was given an incredibly white-washed history.  In 3rd grade, we put on a play about Rosa Parks in which she was played by a white girl because there wasn’t anyone of color in my class.  In the play, Rosa Parks was an old woman who was very tired after a day of cleaning houses.  The girl playing her was to sit and just say, “My feet are tired.  Please let me sit” over and over.  She was nicely removed from the bus and taken to jail; there was no fight, she just complied.  Then, as I was taught, the bus boycott was mainly led by the white women who were generous enough to drive the African-American women and men around for a year.  There was no discussion of how much walking was done and there was no talk of riots and fights and black leadership.  The white women were generous and the buses decided to desegregate to relieve the burden on them.

Yes, that’s a massive white-washing of what happened, and is disturbingly inaccurate.  As I thought of it, though, I don’t think it’s just that history is too often white-washed, but more that it’s resistance-washed.  My education on the women’s rights movement was that Susan B Anthony was part of the Seneca Falls Convention, that basically women just asked for the right to vote over and over and finally the men said ok.  I wasn’t taught about Elizabeth Cady Stanton except as a friend of Anthony’s and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I even heard the name Carrie Chapman Catt.  There was no mention of beatings or hunger strikes or forced feedings.  There was no discussion of it being a hard-fought victory.  There wasn’t a fight, there was only polite.

When we teach people that all the rights won were just nicely granted, it makes people less likely to be willing to fight now.  When they aren’t just given over no matter how many times people ask, the question comes into people’s mind of why is this so much harder than the Civil Rights Movement was?  Why are we not getting districts that aren’t gerrymandered or polling places restored to places that they’ve been removed from?  We asked nicely, that’s all it’s supposed to take.  I wasn’t taught about the difficult part of activism, it’s supposed to be one big march and done.  It was taught as “please sir, may I have my Constitutional rights” and there’s no talk of those who lost their freedom or their life, just those who were ‘respectable.’

I’m trying to change this with my daughters.  I’m filling in the gaps in the resistance struggles and making sure they don’t think that all they must do is ask, they must be willing to fight for what they believe in.  When my daughter starts talking about how nice and kind and peaceful Dr. King was, I talk to her about his time in jail and about his speeches on resistance.  I talk to both my girls about the physical attacks that people endured.  We talk about John Lewis getting beaten up.  I tell them that African American kids were yelled at for trying to go to school with whites.  When we talk about women’s rights, I include women being arrested and being hurt.  I let them know that until the Civil Rights Act women of color didn’t fully have the right to vote.  I don’t just talk to her about the result, I talk about the struggle it took to get there.  No one is going to freely give anyone their rights, they’ve always been obtained after a revolution.  Those don’t come easy and I don’t want my girls to think that a struggle means they’re doing something wrong in life.  The struggle is a sign of doing something right.  I’m not going to white-wash history, and I’m not going to resistance-wash it either.  I hope they never need to fight for their rights, or anyone else’s for that matter, but they’re going to be prepared if it comes to that.

Wrapped in Privilege

I am a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, married woman with a European name.  My husband is a white man.  We were both born in the United States to parents who were also born in the States.  I was raised in a house with both my mother and father and never knew anything but a happy, extended family.  Both of our children were conceived in wedlock and both were delivered in a hospital.  My husband’s job makes it possible for me to be a stay-at-home parent who is involved in my school-aged child’s education at a good school.  His job also provides healthcare that I am not concerned about us losing.  My family has enough political connection (albeit tenuous) that if the government were to come after me there would be people we could call.  I am wrapped in so many layers of privilege that if one were to fail I have backups.  I am not going to be someone a Trump presidency would come for.  My suit of armor is thick.

I marched on Saturday with my husband and daughters.  People have asked why someone like me went.  Yes, birth control will be heavily impacted but I have had a tubal so even that isn’t a large concern.  I do worry about ending up before Congress if they bring back HUAC but even then we could figure out how to come up with the resources to flee the country – a luxury that most don’t have.  The truth is I didn’t march for me.  I didn’t even march for my daughters.  I marched for those who couldn’t.

For too long, white women have been lamenting all the horror in the world while doing nothing to stop it.  We wring our hands at the injustice, frown, and go back to our lives.  That needs to stop.  We must step up and do the heavy lifting.  We must wrap ourselves up in the defense that is given to us by society and use it.  If I can go to a march, I need to be there.  If a Congressperson needs to be called, my phone needs to be at my ear.  If I can make a meeting with my Representative, I’m in my car on the way.  Right now, there are a lot of people who are afraid and rightly so.  If me sticking my neck out means that someone with less privilege than I can stay in the shadows, it isn’t just something that I need to do it’s a moral obligation.  Those of us who are protected right now have to figure out what we can do to take the heat off those who aren’t.  If we aren’t willing to work for justice, we don’t get to be complain about injustice.

This isn’t me congratulating myself for my action.  This isn’t me asking for marginalized people to tell me I’m doing good things and then listen to me talk about them.  This is me saying what I’m going to do, and then shutting up so others can talk.  I can understand being pushed aside as a woman, but I will never understand how it feels to be a female of color.  When those conversations happen, I need to be there as part of a shield of solidarity.  Shield don’t speak; they protect and they listen.  Right now, that’s what I’m focusing on and it’s what white women need to be willing to do.  These are extreme times (and feeling more extreme with each passing day), but that doesn’t make my voice the right voice.  I am an ally.  I am a friend.  So, I marched for people who aren’t me, people I haven’t met and in most cases, won’t ever meet.

Society gave white women a gift; it’s our time to use it.

I Am a Special Snowflake

I am what some call a ‘special snowflake’ (a derogatory term people like the use for those who care about social issues) and I’ve been called a social justice warrior.  Online, I’ve been referred to as bitch, whore, cunt, moron, stupid, trash, and a liar.  Men have told me that if I would just read the Constitution once I might learn something about politics (fyi, that’s all I read about).  People have said that I don’t deserve my kids because someone like me (ie with my politics) doesn’t deserve children.  I’ve seen people say that I must just be a miserable person because I care about sexism.  I’ve been called a liberal as an insult.  People have said they don’t want to ‘trigger’ me, which really means they don’t want to listen to me give an impassioned opinion.  I’ve gotten rape threats.  I’ve gotten death threats.  It’s part of life for me, and I’m white so I avoid racial insults.  I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if I were a woman of color.

Meanwhile, Bo Bice was in a Popeye’s and a woman behind the counter said that an order was for “that white boy.”  He was on television in tears describing how much it hurt his feelings.  I’m sure it was traumatic for him, but he got his food.  No one threatened his life or his safety, they just used his skin color to describe him. (Also, he once wrote a song called ‘Brown Skin Girl’ leading one to assume that describing someone by their skin color is something he’s comfortable doing to others.)  Our President-Elect gets called a mean name by Meryl Streep and goes on a Twitter rampage because someone was mean to him.  She didn’t call him a rapist or un-American.  She pointed out that he mocked someone for their disability.  She pointed out the truth and he went after her.  Mike Huckabee seems to think that gay people are oppressing him by existing, although I’m still not sure why.  Gay marriage is going to ruin straight marriage…somehow.  Trans-people in the bathroom that corresponds to the gender they identify with are horribly dangerous and must be stopped.  It seems to go on and on – different ways in which people seem to be threatened by truth and others just trying to get through the day to day.  There are an awful lot of people lately who are feeling threatened by the reality of equality.

How is it, then, that I’m called the snowflake and yet I, and people like me, keep voluntarily walking into the storm over and over.  I know what I’m in for.  I know I’m going to be made fun of and harassed and I weigh that against how important the fight is.  Call me a snowflake.  Call me weak or a SJW.  Call me a liberal.  I own every single one of those nicknames, proudly.  I believe that everyone deserves a fair shot and help when they need it.  I don’t think the country should waste money on drug-tests for welfare, because it’s not fiscally responsible not because I just want all junkies having food stamps (although I don’t care if we feed people who are high – they need food too).  I believe that people are inherently good and sometimes just need a boost in life.  Liberal doesn’t mean weak.  It doesn’t mean too fragile to function.  It’s just a way of looking at the world and how people in it should be treated.

So, I’m taking it back.  I’m taking back special snowflake.  Yes, I am.  I am one of millions and millions of snowflakes.  We’re making a storm and we’re going to blanket the country.  If you’ve ever been in a lake effect storm, you know the damage they can do.  They can shut everything down in the blink of an eye.  I am a Social Justice Warrior.  I believe that racism and sexism and Islamophobia and xenophobia and homophobia are a shitty way to look at others and should be defeated.  I don’t think it’s going to happen in a day or a year or a decade, but warriors understand that it’s a long fight and that they will prevail.  They do not curl up into a ball and give up.  They fight until the bitter end.  That’s what I’m here for.  That’s what my fellow SJW’s are here for.  We understand the length and magnitude of the battle and are ready for the fight.

I am a special snowflake.  I am part of the storm.  Watch us rage.


I would not be considered by the world to be a “good mommy.”  My two girls mean the world to me and I love them deeply but they aren’t my world.  They will never be my best friends, and I don’t want them to be.  First of all, I believe I should be their mother, not their friend (at least not until they’re older).  Second, and more importantly, I want my friends to be able to discuss politics and art and social issues in the world, not hold my conversations to My Little Ponies, Transformers, and the latest thing built from Legos.  I want to be a person, not an extension of them – an attitude that is shared by many, but seemingly stated by few.

If I were a “good mommy” I would feed them homemade food every night, the house would always be spotless, and I would live for them.  Forget your homework?  There’s nothing that I could be doing that’s more important than bringing it to you.  Don’t like what I cooked for dinner?  Nothing would give me more pleasure than to cook you an entirely separate meal.  Those dirty dishes are certainly worth it to make sure your dietary wants are met.  And, I’d do all this while making sure I was magazine ready because my husband deserves a made-up wife greeting him at the door when he’s done with work.

Instead, I realized that if I were to decide that nothing I could do would be more important than what they want, I allow myself to become nothing.  If he always has a made-up wife greeting him (not because I want to but because I should), I would be a made up person.  It wouldn’t be me.  I would have allowed myself to be sacrificed on the altar of mommydom.

Too many women I know have laid down their unique selves on that altar to become something else.  They watch the commercials and hear the warning about ever leaving your child alone with anyone else and just can’t bring themselves to do it.  They hear that if they let their kids play alone in a fenced in backyard they will be personally responsible for the inevitable kidnapping.  Even if their children don’t get kidnapped, they will likely fall and get hurt and be psychologically scarred for life if mommy isn’t immediately there to comfort them.  That minute that it would take to get from the kitchen to the child will be responsible for later drug use.  Forget leaving the children with a babysitter unless they’ve been screened, vetted, had at least 2 references, and undergone a background check.  Even then you need a nannycam because you never know what that person will do behind closed doors.  On second thought, just take the kid with you everywhere.

Mothers today live in a state of constant panic.  It’s no wonder that most of the women in my mommy Facebook groups are on anti-anxiety meds of some sort.  We’re constantly bombarded with images of kidnapped children, dead children, drug-addicted children – and if you don’t mommy right, those will be your children.  It’s not a sustainable model.  Women have to be able to be something other than mothers.  They have to be allowed, both by the media and (most importantly) themselves, to let go.  We don’t need to do more for our kids, we need to do less.  We need to allow that not being with them every nanosecond of the day is good, both for them and for us.

As I write this, one of my daughters is playing Angry Birds (also known as my sanity game) and the other is throwing a plastic Easter egg to see if she can break it on the floor.  For me, this is being a good mother.  It’s showing them that the world doesn’t exist for them, but rather they’re just a part of it.  The adults are going to do adult things and the kids are going to figure out how to entertain themselves for a while.  That doesn’t mean neglect them or make them achieve total independence by age four.  It means making them see that I am not nothing.  I am a person who is worthy of doing something of my own.  I am not just an extension of my family but an actual part of it.

I am a stay-at-home-mother.  As such, I do the housework and the child rearing while my husband is also a work.  We both work, and he understand that.  When the house is a wreck (as it regrettably is now), he understands that it’s because I’ve been going for too long.  I’m in need of a break and as a result my work is suffering.  So, he takes up the slack.  He cleans and takes care of the children giving me a day to read and write and eat hot food without anyone else trying to steal a bite.  I am as worthy of a vacation as anyone else.  I am as worthy of validation as anyone else.  I am as worthy of respect and appreciation as anyone else.

Motherhood is hard.  You will never do it right according to at least 90 percent of the people who see you with your kids.  You don’t spank enough; you spank too much.  You dress your kids too warmly; you don’t dress them warmly enough.  Your children have too much independence, they don’t have enough.  On it goes.  The trick, and it is tricky, is to let it all go.  Stop listening to the advice and naysayers and just be you.  If the kids are clean, well-fed, and loved, it is enough.  That’s what they need.  As long as you instill some sense of right and wrong and how to act as part of society, I don’t care how you do it.  That doesn’t mean I agree with everyone’s choice, but they aren’t raising my children and I’m not raising theirs.

Women need to stop being bombarded with images of what they should look like, clean like, parent like.  Yes, a celebrity’s home is going to be immaculate even with a 3-year-old and she is going to be slim and fit 5 months after delivering the baby.  Of course, the team of house cleaners (who should really be given some credit in these articles), the fitness trainer, and the personal chef all make that much easier.  I’d like to see a profile on the household staffs of these women and men who make parenthood look so very easy.  Parenthood is exhausting and we should be supporting anyone who does it well.  Not well according to a should of society, but well based on what that parent thinks that child needs as part of that family to be taken care of and grow to be a productive member of society.  We need to start shouting “ENOUGH” at constantly being told that we aren’t enough.  Nobody can ever be enough if we’re trying to live up to the ideal.  Raising my girls outside of the ideal is my way of being the best mommy I can.  That’s all that ultimately matters.

We Have a Problem Here

‘This hatred has no place in America.’
‘This isn’t what America is about.’

These types of sentiments are on full display in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting. They sound nice, like we’re a country of love and acceptance and hope which will block out the hatred and violence of these lives lost. They’re also bullshit. This is what America is about these days. We are a violent country where you can get gunned down going to a bar, political rally, movie, your work, or at school. This is a country where you can be deemed too dangerous to get on a plane, but can leave the airport and legally buy a semi-automatic weapon. This is a country where gun rights trump gun victims.

If we weren’t this violent of a place, the response to this carnage would be getting some sort of sensible laws in place. We’d try something, hell at this point we’d try ANYTHING. Instead, all too often, you hear a response of more violence. ‘Well, if the guys in the club had been armed….’ The answer might be many things, but adding one gun per every ten people would not have done anything. Take a crowded, dark club filled with people drinking and adding 35 weapons would not have helped. We can’t tackle violence with allowing for more violence. America owns a shitload of guns – if guns made us safe, we’d be safe already.

If we want to become a country where this doesn’t happen, I’m all for that. However, we have to do something to get there. Maybe it’s because there were so many victims, maybe because the gay community has dealt with so much marginalization over the years that they don’t need this shit too, maybe because this was just one mass shooting too many, but I’m done. I’m done offering my hopes and prayers. I don’t have any left. I think I had just so many allotted to me for the victims of mass shootings, and I ran out after the last one. What I do have, and seem to have in spades, is my anger and outrage. That, I offer willingly. I am pissed; pissed that this happened, pissed that we can’t even talk about ending gun violence without being accused of being anti-American. If keeping mass shootings from happening is anti-American, then I guess I guilty as charged. But I love Americans too much to want this America. We must be better, and to do that we have to be willing to admit that we could be. It’s time to face this problem, not hide our collective heads in the sand and hope that our asses don’t get shot out from under us.

We are America and we have a gun problem.

Birthday Presents

“What should I get my child for their birthday” is a commonly asked question in my mommy groups.  The answers are always stock – superheroes for boys, Shopkins (of late) for girls, the same books over and over.  It is only very infrequently that people ask what the child likes and answer based off of that.  I was talking to my husband about it this morning which is when I realized why it bothers me and why it relates here.

My parents always gave wonderful gifts.  They didn’t have to ask strangers what to get us, they just observed what we liked and bought based off that.  It’s the same thing we do with our kids.  We watch what they’re interested in and find gifts that fit in those categories.  Mischief gets art supplies, puzzles, games and twirly dresses and Mayhem gets coloring books and stuffed animals.  I wonder how much of the confusion about what to get kids comes from the lives that all too many are asked to live.

We send children to school for eight hours of cookie-cutter instruction a day.  They come home and do far too much homework of worksheets which look the same whether you’re in California or Kentucky.  The children are all supposed to be identical factory outputs – there isn’t too much room for creativity and self-expression in test-prep.  If we don’t know our kids, how do we know what they would like.  They do the same work as everyone else so they must like the same things as everyone else.

Children need the freedom to find out what they do and don’t like.  They need to explore and try on many different hats – see what fits and what is only an attempt to make something fit.  If we deprive kids of that exploration, then any gift will do.  Judy, Sally and Sarah can all get the same thing because they’re all supposed to be the same people.  They’re standardized kids as it were.  We’ve standardized everything else about childhood, why not include their personalities in that list.

This is what I’m trying to fight against with my kids.  There are some parts of their personalities that I think are just there for a test run and will be gone in a few months.  I don’t try and force them to keep it, but I don’t require that they get rid of it either.  Mischief has gone through times where she thought Frozen and dresses were ridiculous, and times (like now) when she loves them.  It isn’t my job to tell her that’s right or wrong, just to let her know it’s her choice.  The hope is if I give her the chance to choose her personality now, she will be more confident doing it when she’s older.  She isn’t required to give into the peer pressure of her parents as to her personality so she can learn tools to avoid peer pressure from teenagers.  I don’t know if that will work, but it’s a hope.

So, for now, she gives me gift ideas through how she interacts with the world around her.  I don’t trust a group of people who have never met her to pick a present to fulfill a gift-giving requirement.  I don’t think we could have avoided that if she were still in school and I was seeing what they taught her, but not who she is at her core.  That core person is who’s going to be with her for life, I don’t want her to make decisions based on what people on the internet tell her to like.  I want to know my child and see the uniqueness of her.  I want to do her present shopping by myself, not give gifts by committee.


My kids throw tantrums.  Loud, embarrassing tantrums, especially Mayhem.  The kind that make everyone else in the store or on the street stop and stare at you.  I am not good at handling the tantrums – I tend to get frustrated very fast and get loud with them.  It becomes a fight to see who can be loudest in an effort to be heard.  I don’t like being anything but calm and loving with the kids, so this has been my biggest struggle as a mom.  The kids are certainly not the only ones who need an education, especially with Mischief home.

To help everyone be calmer, I decided to read up on how the kids process information and think.  My husband bought The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson for me.  Reading it I feel like I’ve met my children for the first time.  What I’ve learned is that I’m not speaking to them in a language that they could understand.  I tend to be very left-brained logical when I talk to them.  Unfortunately for me, they are emotional and right-brained when they’re mad.  My logic (“Yes, I did do that for you just yesterday and here are 5 examples of other times I’ve done the same thing”) is fighting against their emotion (“You never do anything for me!”) and we can’t communicate.  They couldn’t hear me because our brains weren’t connecting in those moments.

In the book, the authors discuss how a child in a right-brain moment needs a parent to utilize the same side of the brain in order to feel heard.  Only once that connection has been made can the logic and discipline happen.  I have been trying to have a conversation and teach lessons that they couldn’t learn.  It explains why I feel like I say the same thing over and over and it never gets absorbed.  I wasn’t parenting them as well as I could.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t boundaries and limits, but rather that they’re communicated in a way and at a time that the kids can hear.

Last night, Mayhem didn’t want to go to sleep.  She was tired, but screaming and fighting and yelling at the mere thought of getting into bed.  I used to tell her to just get in bed because she was obviously tired, and would get more and more frustrated, eventually having to leave the room to calm down.  Tonight, I said that I understood she wasn’t ready to get into bed, but would she like a hug and cuddle.  As soon as her head was against my shoulder, she told me she needed to sleep and could I lie down with her.  She needed the emotional connection, but didn’t know how to ask for it, so screaming was her reaction.

This is the not reading, writing, ‘rithmatic part of what I intend to teach the kids, but it’s just as important.  They need to know how to have a functioning brain where all the parts (left/right, upper/lower) work together.  If I don’t do it myself, how can I expect them to, and how can I be a role-model for them.  I’m still fighting tantrums, but now it’s with the right tool.  Instead of battling emotion with logic, I’m subduing it with an emotional response.  They feel heard, I’m less frustrated, and I can hope that’s a lesson that all of us will learn and develop over the years.