Hiding From the Label

Reprimanded at a Restaurant.

Reprimanded at a Restaurant.

Sometimes, my being a former teacher is a detriment to my children. Normally, when they come home with stories and tales, I ask for or give them the teacher’s perspective before accepting their cries of injustice. They hate that. Always, I put myself in the shoes of the person at the front of the class before making any judgements as a parent. I KNOW parents get a different side to the story then what really happens. I know this, so I temper everything I hear from inside those classrooms with a heavy dose of perspective.

Sometimes, that may not be what’s best for my child.

We’ve struggled, all year with The Baby and his behavior in school. Simply put, (although, there is nothing simple about it) he doesn’t want to do much of the work and often acts out in increasingly loud and violent (to himself) ways in frustration. This frustration with school isn’t entirely new, but the behaviors have reached a level that must be addressed for the sake of everyone involved. As a parent, I want to wrap him in a blanket, carry him out and either begin homeschooling or fork over my entire full-time salary for a different school immediately. As a former teacher, I know there is more to the story, and so I go through the steps necessary to figure out how this kid can stay at this school without damaging himself or others in the process.

This is not an easy task.

We’ve been to the specialists. We’ve met with the teams. We’ve changed diet and routine. We’ve sought answers at every turn. We’ve hashed out plans and accommodations. We’ve read and written emails, some helpful and kind, some downright nasty. I’ve been proud of my behavior sometimes and others, embarrassed by it. I’ve been frustrated, confused, angry, sad, elated on the good days and just plain wiped out on the bad. Our big-hearted little dude has worked his head off trying to manage his moods and figure out how to best live in an environment that is clearly not suited to his character.

GriffOcean2We’ve heard all the labels. We’ve even gotten one, this one from the second psychiatrist, in order to proceed with the special education process to hopefully make school a little less torturous for student and teacher. No one, most of all his parents,  is entirely sure the label fits this boy,  and the accommodations that go with it are inconsistent at best, but it’s there so we proceed.

Here is the problem, we, his mom (the former teacher) and dad, think we know exactly what’s up with our kid, but with my history in schools, I’m afraid to say it out loud, for it’s often a dirty word in education circles. Continue Reading

Yes, I Do ALL This and I Am Just Fine

ElmoLSCI was at an event this weekend with a bunch of Power Social Media Moms and it was glorious. Sure, the backdrop was amazing. The Liberty Science Center was our playground for the day and parents and kids alike delighted in all that LSC has to offer, and believe me, they have a lot to offer, including Elmo. Who doesn’t love Elmo?

The reason I enjoyed the event so much was bigger than just the cool experiments and looks of utter glee on the children’s faces. I loved this event because the moms that were present make me feel normal anytime I am with them. They are all entrepreneurs, some in addition to working for a corporate entity during regular business hours. All of these women are busy, like not enough hours in the day busy. They are all devoted parents that balance motherhood with a healthy dose of self-identity. They have all answered, often begrudgingly, the question, “how do you do all that you do?”.

Most importantly, they are all happy. They know the life they’ve chosen looks hectic to the outside world, but they are all  sure they have the best gig going. They all support one another in their choices because they know support doesn’t exist everywhere and part of being a Super Power Mom is lifting up other  moms, all moms. These women, these super-busy, powerful, smart and funny women, accept me as their own, without question and I love it. These girls, they get me.

Wristbands Awaiting Power Moms

Wristbands Awaiting Power Moms

It seems no matter how great the people in my life are, I often feel the need to explain myself. I don’t have a traditional job. Hell, I don’t even have only one job. I haven’t had one job since I was 12 and answering phones at our church in the evenings and that was while I was in school and playing sports all day. When people as me what I do, my first response is to chuckle and say, “When?”.

I’ve spent my life constantly dipping my fingers (or even diving head first) into new things and trying on different roles. Somedays it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but most days, it all feels exactly like the best life for me. And yet a lot of people can’t really understand or accept that. They say I have too much on my plate. They ask how I handle it all. They don’t think I am particularly good at anything because they can’t label any one thing that I do. They look at me cross-eyed as I run from here to there keeping up with all the blessings in my life. LSCFamilies

Because they are blessings. Busy, is a blessing. Opportunities are a gift. There is nothing in my packed life that I wish I had said no to. Being busy means you pretty quickly learn the art of saying no to things that just don’t fit the big plan. And whether the outside observer believes it or not, I am very clear on my plan.

Suck the marrow out of life every chance I get. It’s pretty simple.

I think I might add to it: spend more time with people who get my plan so I can spend less time explaining or justifying or defending who I am. I am busy. I am blessed. I am a whole lot of things at any different time.
Most importantly, I am happy doing what I do and being exactly who I am, especially when I’m with women who get that.

 

Learning From the Verdict

I wanted to write about the Oklahoma Fraternity horror today, but I can’t find the words. I’m still feeling all the stuff over it and that means writing a coherent sentence isn’t in my wheelhouse today. So, instead I’ll revive this post about the accidental bigotry lesson I found myself in riding in our car one day. I sure hope what I did means my kids will never be caught on a bus chanting evil things about people. Gross.

3kidsxmas09The other day, driving through town, my son called from the back of the van, “you know the problem with Hispanic people? (Chest tightening.) They all look the same so you can’t tell who is on the street.” (Stomach heaving.)

After my initial instinct to vomit in my mouth, I turned to the reaction I thought appropriate which was to scold him and convey in my best stern mom voice how inappropriate a thing it was to say. I caught myself though, and reminded my rattled brain that this was my sweet eight year old boy who thus far had not displayed one ounce of racism or bigotry with any kid he’d encountered.

So, I started with a question about why he would say that and what exactly he meant. Turns out, he thought he saw his friend K. as we were driving by, but couldn’t really tell if it was him so he was embarrassed that he may have waved to a stranger.

Ah.

Then I asked another question about all his little blond friends and if he thought they all looked alike. (They do.) Then I reminded him that I routinely put my hand on one of his sister’s friend’s heads and try to lead her to my car at school pickup at least once a week-mistaking her for my own kid.

“So should we say all white kids look alike?”

“Well, no because they ALL don’t, mom.”

Then I asked him to compare the Latino kids on his baseball team and tell me if they looked alike. They don’t.

“So, really, do all Latino or Hispanic kids look alike?”

“No, they don’t. But that kid did look like K!.”

“Fair, but all of them?”

“No.”

Then, in my little mini-van with my little crew of white kids, I launched into stereotypes and how they are dangerous and often unkind. Now, my 8-year-old does not go down without a fight, so as you might imagine this conversation was wrought with tension and arguments such as, if these statements are true (“white or brown, these kids look alike mom!”) why are they bad to say?

Trying to explain inherent racism and bigotry to three kids under eleven was challenging and I questioned my decision the entire time. I thought I wanted to raise my kids to view the worlds’ citizens as equal. We chose our town purposely for its diversity because I feared raising kids in an area where they never saw any color. I had the great fortune of growing up around a variety of people and I wanted the same for my kids.

But I constantly question how much to expose them to on the flip side. Can I just show them models of what’s right or do they need to know the ugly in order to avoid it?

After the Trayvon Martin verdict, two women wrote incredible pieces on their perspectives on the aftermath of this case. What I’m thinking, after reading both Amy and Janeane, is that in this case, exposure to good might not be enough. Instead of raising my kids to view everyone as equal, I have to raise them to be NOT racist.  Because racism is learned and so is the opposite.

As a mom of white kids, I will probably never worry about them being shot walking through  my neighborhood. I won’t have to teach them, in the same way as my friends, how to behave with authority for fear of retribution and I won’t have to explain that their clothing choices might cost them their life.

I could feel guilty about all of this-our accidental privilege. Hell, I have felt guilty about it over the years. But instead, I’ll choose responsibility over guilt. What’s the saying? With great privilege comes great responsibility? As a mom of white kids my responsibility is not just to raise them in an environment of equality, but to teach them our history (because it is all our history), so we don’t repeat it in any way.

Guilt is a useless, but fighting ignorance is not.

New Music Mix: Kitchen Dance Party

dancepartyBack when this mom was Right Hand Mom, I was a full-fledge mini-van driving grocery getter. I featured a post here nearly every week called The Mini-Van Mix that was a compilation of our favorite songs during our weekly to and fros.

Now that we’ve reinvented, I’ve ditched the mini-van for a glorified truck and order most of our groceries delivered but that hasn’t stopped the music. We’ve switched from seated “shoulder-dances” to full body boogie sessions after dinner when we crank the Jambox and torture educate our kids with the parental musical stylings. It’s my favorite moment of the week, the Kitchen Dance Party and I sure hope it continues well into the future even as our kids find us, and our music, more and more lame.

Here on the blog, I decided to bring a little Kitchen Dance Party to all of you. So, here’s what we were jamming to this week in Dance Club of Kings.

George Ezra-Cassy O': We’ve had a family crush on this guy (kid?) since we heard he first chords of Budapest on Sirius’ Spectrum many months back. This video is weird and he looks about 11 years old, but this song is contagious and makes for great kitchen dancing. My advice, find it on Spotify and skip the video. Just dance around to the music.

Florida Georgia Line: Sun Daze: There is nothing musically complex about this one. But it’s freakin’ cold here in the frozen tundra of Jersey so anything that makes me think of warm sand and cool drinks does it for me right now and so far the kids haven’t inquired about “getting stoned or laid” although they do want to play flip cup (ruh roh). Also the Office Space nod in the video is fun although the rest of it pretty much sums up everything I hate about modern country. So, ignore the video, just dance to the fun music.  Sometimes, music should just be fun.

Amy Winehouse: Valerie-Not only is this a great Kitchen Concert song, we get to have serious talks about how this incredible talent wasted her life so there’s that. (I’m pretty certain she’s wasted in this video actually.)

Rihanna, Kanye West, Paul McCartney: FourFive Seconds: Damn you Kanye for continuously making me not able to hate you by writing songs I like. This isn’t so much for kitchen dancing but belting like we are Rihanna. We like to play that game too.

Same Cooke: Bring it On Home to Me- It almost always includes Sam Cooke. When The Husband’s home, we slow dance and the kids make gagging noises (or the little one joins us for a three-way slow dance) all while secretly loving the site of their mom and dad dancing around the kitchen.