Saturday, April 30, 2005

kids and books

This post by daddychip got me to thinking about the subject of kids and books.

My kids both love books, and one of the things that I look forward to most as a parent is introducing them to my favorite books. We've read to our kids for almost every day they've been alive--even when they were tiny infants. When the Bumblebee was a baby, sometimes I would read aloud to her from books that I was reading myself, because just the way my voice changed when I was reading her a story (versus talking to her) seemed to calm her down.

We have literally thousands of books in our house, that run the gamut from kids' books, to contemporary trade fiction, to junky mysteries, to scholarly tomes (hello Riverside Shakespeare). We've got amateur poetry, family autobiography, literary crit and analysis, theatrical anthologies. We've got a lot of books. Once, my mom asked me if there was any room in our house that didn't have a bookshelf in it, and I told her, "of course not, Mom, I would never store books in the bathroom--water is bad for them." That was before the cookbooks got moved into the dining room, though, so now there are three rooms in our house with no permanent collection.

Both of our kids have bookshelves that are crammed full of picture books, board books, and lately, chapter books. Over the years, we've read the Bee some books that were (at the time) way beyond her comprehension (The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, The Wizard of Oz). When the Bee was born, I started reading kids' and young adult books again, so that I would be prepared when she was ready to read that stuff, and I've found some amazing things along the way (although nothing yet to dislodge my personal favorite, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a book I must have read twice a year from ages 8-11). The Sweet Potato is currently in a phase where he drags piles of books (mostly board books) from one room to another, demanding to have them read. And the Bee has gotten to be a good enough reader that she can sometimes read those books to him, which makes him (and me) very happy.

My own parents had very different attitudes about books. I grew up in a house with a lot of books--when I was 6 or 7, my dad built a bookcase from one end of our upstairs hall to the other, to house his own books. He had great, eclectic taste in novels, and was definitely the parent that you wanted to have reading to you at bedtime. I vividly remember lying in my parents' bed with my two brothers, as he read aloud to us from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and later Charlie's Great Glass Elevator. I think we had every Roald Dahl book that was intended for children, and some that weren't.

My dad played a very important role in my development as a reader, and it continued on as I got older, even as my parents marriage crumbled and eventually fell apart. He always encouraged me to read, and gave me books that he thought would challenge me. He let me read anything on his shelves, although I do remember once or twice having him tell me (when I was 12 or 13) that I should wait until high school to read a certain novel.
His own reading tended to the black humorists. He was a great fan of Vonnegut's, and had all of John Irving's early work (the Irving novels were among the books he thought I read a year or two too early). He also had stuff by Woody Allen, and Steve Martin's first book, Cruel Shoes (which I found hilarious as an adolescent). But I think it was important to his image of himself that he read the work that was contemporary and important. When, in sixth grade, I was given an assignment to write a book report on a biography or autobiography, I went home and looked on his shelf and found The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and wrote my report on that. Needless to say, I was the only suburban white girl in my school who wrote about that book.

My mother had a somewhat different parenting attitude about books. My mom is not really a reader. I don't remember seeing her ever with a book in my childhood, and even now, she tends to read things like The Pilot's Wife. While I read a healthy amount of what's now called chick lit myself, I don't think she ever really enjoyed reading anything that was really meaty. But the other difference between my parents was in the way they felt about my reading. My mom was the parent who would tell me things like, "you've got your nose in a book all the time," or would try to make me stop reading to go out and play.

Looking back now, I know that she wasn't doing this out of some malice toward books. My mom is an educated woman, who values literacy very highly. She sends my kids books. But in my childhood, she came off as a parent who was suspicious of books. When I was 13 or 14, I checked out Lenny Bruce's autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People from the library, and she was so enraged when she saw me reading it that she made me stop immediately and returned it to the library herself. I'm not sure what bothered her most about it--the cursing or the fact of Lenny Bruce himself. The thing that I came away from that experience with, though, was that she didn't trust me to evaluate my own reading. That she thought that just by reading about Bruce's prodigious drug use and profanity, I'd be sure to head that direction myself.

Now that I'm a parent, I see my own parents differently (of course). My mom, at the time of that incident, was going through a bitter separation and divorce from a person who swore like a longshoreman and drank like F. Scott Fitzgerald. My dad and I had really only one thing in common--our love of reading--and when he moved out, he knew it was a topic we could connect on, and he knew that by treating me as more of an 'adult' reader, we would bond more easily.

I don't know how I'll react when my kids want to read something that I think is "too old" for them. I get to make those choices now--I've read the BB the first of the Lemony Snicket books, but not yet Harry Potter, because I think she'll find the Potter book scary, while the Snicket books are not. But what would I do if she wanted to read The Cider House Rules at age 12? I'm not really sure. I'm open to advice, though.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/30/2005 01:30:00 PM (18) comments Blogger Comments (18)
Friday, April 29, 2005

What's Wrong with White People?

well, so much for yesterday's venture into pop culture. Cause I just got smacked back to reality.

I was originally going to title this post "What's Wrong with Congress?", but I decided that was too narrow. Because I'm really pissed off right now, and mostly it's at my fellow whitefolks out there in the country.

Last night, the US Congress voted for a budget resolution that added $70 billion more in tax cuts than they've already doled out over the past four years. And they also voted to cut $10 billion from the Medicaid budget, and $3 billion from agricultural programs, part of which will come from food stamp cuts.

Ten. Billion. Dollars.

Now, I'd like to just be mad at Congress about this--but how can I? After all, they're just doing what they told us they would do, running up to the last election. What's it to them if poor people and the working class don't have hospitals or food? It'll be a cold day in hell before a member of Congress needs to go on Medicaid--given that as a result of our electing them, they will get free health care (did I say free? I meant paid for with our tax dollars) for the rest of their lives.

It's the rest of us that I wonder about. Those of us who have to use hospitals, which are more and more reliant on federal money to stay open, since fewer and fewer of us have private health insurance. Those of us who think, "well, why should they (meaning the poorer and mostly darker folks) have health care for free, when I have to pay for it?"

Why are we letting these fools in Congress do this to us? Why are we letting them use issues like guns, abortion, gay marriage and race to split us off from voting our own best interests? Why have we let them convince us that letting Bob and Dave marry each other is going to do more to undermine the American family than greedy corporations, that every year push us to work more and more hours, staying away from our kids and our families?

I live in a suburb outside one of the ten biggest cities in the country. In the city that I live near, there are nationally known hospitals that get upwards of 40% of their funding from Medicaid. What's going to happen to those hospitals when they lose 40% of their funding?

It's not as if there are doctors in those hospitals who see poor people, and different doctors for the rest of us. If those hospitals lose half their income, it will cripple their ability to provide service to everyone in this community--not just to the poor. Not just to the elderly.

I'm starting to worry that, in my lifetime, we will lose every gain made in the New Deal, and in the Great Society. We will have to organize just to regain ground that people fought and died for at the turn of the last century.

It's said that every generation wants to leave the world a better place for their kids. I think we just made it worse.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/29/2005 02:58:00 PM (5) comments Blogger Comments (5)
Thursday, April 28, 2005

the so(u)le hip-hop queen

Okay, I'm departing from my usual blogging about the politics of raising kids and/or telecommuting to channel my inner 13 year-old.


I feel much better now.

Backstory: I'm in the hip hop generation, and I love it. Yesterday, the opening strands of "Hate It or Love It" (50 Cent/The Game) came on the radio. I turned it up, because I really dig that song, especially the part where 50 Cent sings about his mom kissing a girl.

But holy crap!? It wasn't "Hate It or Love It"! It was the remix--"MVP" with Mary J. Blige.

MARY J. BLIGE, people! Can I just say that I've been a huge fan since like 1994?

How is this not yet available on iTunes?

• Posted By landismom @ 4/28/2005 11:54:00 AM (4) comments Blogger Comments (4)
Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Who's your daddy?

The Sweet Potato calls me Daddy. He calls his daddy Daddy, too. Somehow, at nearly 21 months of age, he's never once managed a Mama or Mommy, or even anything that started with M when looking my way.

I still think he's adorable, of course. Sometimes, when I come home and the kids are playing in the yard, he'll come running toward me screaming, "Daddy, Daddy!" in that excited way that toddlers get. I'm so happy that he's that excited to see me that I don't really care what he calls me.

But it leads to some odd experiences occasionally. Like last Saturday. I took both the kids to get their hair cut. The SP hates getting haircuts, and he resisted mightily--I ended up having to hold him on my lap while I sat in the haircutting chair, and the hairdresser whizzed around, poking me in the eye with a comb, and trying to cut his hair as fast as humanly possible.

Finally, there got to be a point where he realized that resistance was useless, and he just sat there whimpering, "Daddy, Daddy." The woman cutting his hair said, "oh that's cute, he wants his daddy." And I said, "no, he's talking to me, he calls me Daddy too." And then she didn't say anymore.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/27/2005 03:46:00 PM (3) comments Blogger Comments (3)
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

what dreams may come

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

I've been thinking about this poem a lot lately. I was reading W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folks last week, and there's a line of it I can't get out of my head--describing Atlanta, he writes, "It is a hard thing to live haunted by the ghost of an untrue dream..."

That made me think of Hughes, and also Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous I Have a Dream speech, and the line of Fitzgerald's about Gatsby, "(He) paid a high price, living too long with a single dream."

Du Bois is talking about the "untrue dream" of the confederacy--the untrue dream of white supremacy. But it made me wonder what other untrue dreams our society, our country is haunted by these days.

Is it a "truthful dream" that everyone can get rich, if they just work hard? Is is a "truthful dream" that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed here, regardless of their immigrant status, race, religion, gender, economic class or sexual orientation? I don't think those dreams are truthful. I think they're the untrue dreams that our country is haunted by today. And I think they're leading in an awful lot of instances to the deferred dream of Hughes' poem.

But not always.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/26/2005 02:57:00 PM (4) comments Blogger Comments (4)
Friday, April 22, 2005

another telecommuting advantage

You know how some days, you leave the house and you think, "now why did I wear this? It's way too hot/cold/orange/PMS-y for this outfit!"

If you telecommute, it's much easier to deal with morning clothing mistakes like the one I made today, which involved capris & sandals. On a side note, I must point out something I've been trying to work into my blog for weeks. The Bumblebee calls capri pants "pre-kays." It's one of my favorite of her malapropisms.

On the other hand, yesterday I had to drive about a 200 mile round trip to attend a meeting. When I got to the meeting location, I realized my folly in not having checked the temperature at my destination, which was easily 20 degrees colder than when I left my house. I had to make an emergency run to Dress Barn, which was the only clothing store I could find that was still selling sweaters. I've never shopped at Dress Barn before, largely because of the name. But when I got inside, I realized it's also because I'm just the wrong age. I was easily the youngest person in the store by about 20 years, and that's including the sales staff, who probably themselves took 10 years off the average age (before I walked in). Yikes!

• Posted By landismom @ 4/22/2005 10:45:00 AM (4) comments Blogger Comments (4)
Tuesday, April 19, 2005

happy equal pay day!

To all my working sisters out there, today is the day that our pay finally catches up with the men's. Yes, it's true Virginia, there still is sexism.

That sexism isn't as visible to most of us as it once was. But it's still institutionalized in many kinds of jobs. As my celebration of Equal Pay Day, I offer the following example:

About 8 years ago, I went to work for a local union in California where I represented classified school employees. Classified workers are secretaries, janitors, school bus drivers, food service workers, instructional aides--basically anyone who works in a school or school district who is not either a faculty member or a boss. In one of my shops, I represented a wall-to-wall unit, which included both the service and maintenance unit (traditionally male) and the clerical and food service unit (traditionally female). After I had been working with these folks for a few months, I had to bargain a wage reopener, and I took a good long look at their salary schedule for the first time.

What I found when I did that was that the positions that had historically been held by women (secretary, instructional aide, food service worker) were paid on average $3.00 per hour less than the jobs that historically had been held by men (janitor, groundskeeper, delivery driver). There were not that many differences in the job requirements for these positions (janitors had to be able to lift a certain amount of weight, secretaries had to type a certain amount of words per minute)--essentially, they had always been held by people with the same basic educational requirements. Mostly, working class folks with a high school education--possibly an associates degree. Some of the higher skilled jobs occupied by both genders had more requirements (certification for bus mechanics, advanced computer training for bookkeepers), but no position in the entire bargaining unit required a college degree, or any advanced education.

The main difference that I could determine in the positions was that historically, the women who had filled the clerical, food service, and aide positions had taken those jobs so that they could work on the school schedule while their kids were in school. They didn't have reliable summer programs, or after-school care--it was just easier for them to work in the district, and have the flexibility that came with that schedule. But it ended up costing them a lot.

$3.00 per hour times 40 hours in a work week is $120 per week. Now most of these folks were school-year only employees--they didn't work a full 52 weeks, but closer to 36. What it basically boiled down to is that, for these women, their choice to work in a clerical job meant they lost about $4,320 per year. Not because they were less skilled than the men. Because they took pink collar jobs.

The district's argument, when we brought it up to them, was they had to pay the janitors and other 'male' positions more, because they did things like handle chemicals. I'm not trying to disparage the work of janitors in any way--I had some great janitor members working in that district, and they were hard working people. But even those janitors would admit that their jobs weren't harder than the clerical jobs--just different from them. The men in those jobs knew they didn't deserve to make $3.00 per hour more than the women in the clerical jobs--they knew that sexism (although they wouldn't call it that) had put them in a position to make more money than their sisters in the pink collars. And ultimately, they knew that to make a more just situation for their co-workers, they were going to have to accept less themselves. That if the district had only so much money to go to raises, and they wanted to begin to address the issue of parity, they would have to take a smaller percentage raise, with the 'women's' jobs getting slightly more.

Parity didn't get achieved with that wage reopener. We made small steps toward it, and small steps the following year. I left the union after that, but I know that for at least the next year, they made some small other progress, because the person who replaced me called to talk about it. I hope that progress is still being made there.

For more info on Equal Pay Day, get a cluw.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/19/2005 04:53:00 PM (10) comments Blogger Comments (10)
Monday, April 18, 2005

Mr. Bear

Mr. Bear
Originally uploaded by landismom.
Mr. Bear is an important member of our household. He's the Sweet Potato's comfort object.

I'm not really sure when we realized the importance of Mr. Bear. It was pretty early in the SP's life. Since that time, Mr. Bear has gone nearly everywhere the SP goes. He travels to daycare every day. He visits grandma with us. He gets carried around our house. He doesn't get to go to the grocery store, or places like that, because we fear losing him.

He's been left in the yard once. He got thrown in the trash at daycare by an overzealous toddler helping to clean up one time, and was (fortunately) saved by Miss Evelyn. He gets a bath once a week, and he can be truly grimy by the end of the week.

Once, I tried washing him more frequently. I thought, if I wash him at midnight while the boy is sleeping, he won't notice. Unfortunately, the SP woke up just after I had put Mr. Bear into the wash, and then we were doomed. He wouldn't go back to sleep until after Mr. Bear was dried and in his crib again.

Since the SP is a kid who has been largely sleep-problem-free, we're happy about the presence of Mr. Bear.

The Bee never had a comfort object, per se. Instead, she had my thumb (or thumby, as she called it). We lived in an apartment when she was a baby, and to keep her from screaming all night (and keeping the upstairs neighbors awake), one of us had to sit with our hand in the crib, so that she could sleep with her hand gripping onto the thumb. It was the only thing that comforted her.

When she broke her leg (at age two) and we were in the ER, she held onto my thumb and stopped crying. The attending nurse said she had never seen anything like it. While very endearing, it became a real problem, especially once it came time for her to sleep on her own.

I'm happy about Mr. Bear, because he gave the SP something to hang onto at night that isn't attached to me. There's something about this bear that just really does it for him. Know what it is? The tag on its butt. The SP sticks the tag into his ear, and then all is well with the universe. I can't explain it--I once stuck the tag into my own ear, to see if I could understand the attraction, but it eludes me.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/18/2005 10:32:00 AM (5) comments Blogger Comments (5)
Saturday, April 16, 2005

suburban gender transgressions

So I was feeling pretty proud of myself this afternoon. I was out mowing the lawn, while landisdad was inside, making dinner. Doesn't sound very transgressive, does it? But in my neighborhood, it's weird for a woman to cut the lawn. There's only one other married woman on our street who cuts her own lawn--even some of the single women hire it out. But I think it's important for the Bee & the SP to understand that women can do shit like that too.

In our house, the division of labor is pretty ungendered. Landisdad does 98% of the cooking (the other 2% occurs on nights he has to work late, and I don't take the kids out to dinner), he cleans the kitchen, and does a fair amount of childcare (also known as parenting, in our house). I do most of the laundry, clean the bathrooms, manage the money, and do the big picture thinking about the house (i.e.--calling painters, dealing with repair people, making major purchases).

Some of those things (like the cleaning of various rooms) were established early in our relationship. Some of them (like the managing of money and the parenting) have developed over time. A lot of them boiled down to, which one of us cared more about the way a thing looked or was. The lawn, for example. I grew up in the Jersey suburbs, where people whose lawns are overgrown are somewhat akin to serial killers, in the eyes of the neighbors. He grew up in the People's Republic of Berkeley, where the idea that you could legislate vegetation is pretty limited to controlled substances. I've done a lot to cast off the shackles of my suburban upbringing, but I still cringe when our grass gets to be more than knee-high on the kids. So I'm the prime mover of lawnmowing.

On the other hand, I hate to cook. I've never liked it at all, and one of the main reasons that I agreed to marry landisdad (as opposed to just living in sin in perpetuity) was that he actively likes to cook, and is really good at it. If it were up to me, our kids would never eat vegetables, because I'm not a big vegetable eater. But thanks to him, we have healthy, well-rounded meals nearly every night of the week.

Most of the time, I never think about the fact that for many women, the idea that their husband would do all of the cooking is just plain weird. Earlier this week, however, I ran smack up into the fact that our arrangement is not the norm. I was dropping the Bee off at school, and another mom, who is coordinating a multi-cultural dinner at school, asked me what we were bringing. "I don't know," I said. "You haven't figured it out yet?" "No, landisdad's cooking it. I'm sure he knows what he's making--I just haven't asked him." {strange look} "Okay."

It's nice to feel like you're living on the edge once in a while. But after I came in from mowing the lawn, I sat down to read the latest issue of Bitch. And I realized that what I know about genderfucking could fit in a teacup.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/16/2005 08:37:00 PM (0) comments Blogger Comments (0)
Friday, April 15, 2005

reading recommendation

As a follow up to my post on the suburbs and race, allow me to recommend a book that I just finished reading: Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson. It deals with the racially-motivated murder of Henry Marrow in Oxford, North Carolina in May 1970. The author is the son of a local (white) minister, and was himself a ten-year-old witness to events leading up to and following the murder (but not the murder itself).

For me, one of the most compelling things about the book was that he never shied away from the issue of white liberals (including those he is related to), and their failure to overcome their own racism in dealing with African Americans in the book. Check it out!

• Posted By landismom @ 4/15/2005 12:26:00 PM (0) comments Blogger Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Today was the dreaded parent-teacher conference at kindergarten. More dreaded because landisdad told me yesterday that he couldn't come, due to his boss's son being hospitalized yesterday.

I am not a fan of the Bee's kindergarten teacher. On so many levels. After back-to-school night, as we were walking home, I told my dh that he was going to have to actively prevent me from strangling her at some point in the year. Some of the things she has done that pissed me off are: ask me a direct question and then turn away to talk to someone else before I could answer it; interrupt me repeatedly in the same conversation; laughingly describe her own inability to communicate with the five students in the class who speak Spanish as a first language; inappropriately tell me things about other parents; inappropriately tell other parents things about my daughter; make obnoxious references to the fact that I work for a living and don't stay home with my kids; argue with us about whether or not the Bee should be in kindergarten this year. I only got through our last parent-teacher conference by fortifying myself with gin.*

So it was with some trepidation that I set off for school this afternoon. And yet, I was pleasantly surprised.

She raved about the improvements in the Bee's behavior (which we have been working hard on).

She told me that she thinks the Bee is one of the smartest kindergarteners she has ever taught (a balm to any parent's ear).

She (finally) agreed that we were right to put the Bee in kindergarten this year, despite the fact that she is the youngest kid in her class (she has the last birthday possible to be in kindergarten this year).


On the way home, I ran into one of my neighbors, who I have been venting about this teacher to (her son is a year younger than the Bee, and is entering kindergarten next year). For once, I didn't have a horror story for her. She seemed as relieved as I was.


• Posted By landismom @ 4/13/2005 06:15:00 PM (2) comments Blogger Comments (2)
Monday, April 11, 2005

all (well some) of your questions answered

You'll have to go to Jessica's blog to see why I'm doing this. Here goes:

1. What is your fondest childhood memory?

My dad was a high school teacher, and when I was very young, my mom didn't work. The summer that I turned five, they took me and my two brothers across the country in a van (hello early 70s!). We spent the whole summer on the road--camped out, stayed with friends, and saw more of the country than I can remember. We camped on the beach in San Diego, slept in Yellowstone, stayed with my aunt in Arizona (where my brother sat on a cactus--ouch!), saw snow in the middle of summer, stood at the Four Points where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah meet. We camped in a barn owned by some hippie friends of my dad's in Oregon, where the outhouse was infested with yellowjackets.

It was a great time, the best vacation I can remember. Now that I'm a parent myself, I think they must have been insane (my little brother was two!), but I'm really happy for that insanity on their part.

2. Physical or characteristic attribute you are most proud of?


3. Did you love him?

Honey, I loved them all, in their time.

4. If you could only study one subject for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Hmm, I'd like to say something really profound, like Remembrance of Things Past, but it's just not true. I think it might have to be human behavior, in all its varied forms. But I'm just nosy like that.

5. Why didn't you just say so?

I did. Why, weren't you listening?

• Posted By landismom @ 4/11/2005 11:15:00 AM (3) comments Blogger Comments (3)
Saturday, April 09, 2005


to the 50,000 child care workers in Illinois who voted to join a union this week! In the five and a half years that I've been a working parent, I've marveled at the strength and fortitude of the women who have taken care of my kids. Some of those women--Jennifer and Mindy--were taking in kids so that they can stay home with their own kids. Some of them--Carmen--don't have kids of their own. Some of them--Jinette, Evelyn--are single moms working full time and raising their kids. Some of them--Lynette, Esperanza--are retired, and on their second career. We've had our ups and downs with daycare over this last five years, but through it all, I've always known that these women took the best care of my kids that they could.

It's a sad fact of our society that those who take care of others--whether they are nursing assistants, childcare providers, or those who work with the elderly--are generally underpaid and overworked. We pay parking attendants more an hour than we do childcare workers, and while I wouldn't want a childcare worker to have to supervise as many children as a parking attendant does cars, there's still something wrong there.

I'm hopeful that this union election, the second largest union election since the UAW organized General Motors, back in the 30s, inspires countless other childcare workers across the country to stand up for themselves. I'm hopeful that these workers, and the workers they inspire to organize, are successful at winning better wages, decent healthcare, and good regulations in their industry. I don't just want those things because I'm pro-union. I want them because they're good for my kids. Because it's good for all of our kids, when the workers who take care of them every day are able to raise their own children in stable homes. It's good for our kids when their daycare teachers don't leave their jobs every six months. It's good for our future.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/09/2005 12:21:00 AM (1) comments Blogger Comments (1)
Tuesday, April 05, 2005

3 a.m. parenting

So last night, the Bumblebee woke up at 3 a.m. with cramps in her legs. She gets them in the summer sometimes, mostly on days that she's running around outside alot and not drinking enough water. I massaged her legs, gave her some Tylenol, and put a heating pad on her, and she went back to sleep eventually. I couldn't go back to sleep right away, and while I was awake, I started thinking about the fact that some of my best parenting is done at 2 or 3 in the morning.

It's the time when I am least likely to get angry, the time that I am most likely to be nurturing and warm. Maybe my own sleep-addled brain is just a nicer person to be around. Maybe it's that my concern for the kid in question is overriding all other impulses. I wish I could be like that all the time.

I'm crossing my fingers as I post this, 'cause I've been having a lot of trouble with for the past 24 hours.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/05/2005 11:52:00 AM (0) comments Blogger Comments (0)
Monday, April 04, 2005

future hypocrisies

Have I mentioned that I work at home? Yeah, once or twice. So today, as I was stealing candy from the SP's Easter basket (hey, the kid isn't even two yet, he doesn't need that much candy!), I started thinking about how my kids are only allowed to eat one 'treat' item (candy, cookies, cupcakes) per day, but I myself have free rein over the candy (and more important, the ice cream).

What's gonna happen when they figure that out? Are they going to think, "well Mom wouldn't let us eat candy, but she was scarfing it down all the time! What a hypocrite!" Or will they realize that parents are supposed to set limits for their kids, and then let them make their own choices as adults (or at least closer to adulthood than mine are now).

The Bumblebee is going through a major phase of considering the 'fairness' of every possible situation, especially when there is some comparison to be made to the way her little brother is being treated. It's getting on my nerves, particularly because her sense of fairness is not so well developed that she notices it when it goes in the other direction (ie--when she gets something and he does not). Yesterday, as we were driving home from a birthday party, she started complaining to me that he got four items in his goody bag, and she only got three. Nevermind that one of those items was something that she would never in a million years gotten from me (specifically, Bratz face powder). And let me just say tangentially that certain friends of mine who have one-year-old daughters should be careful about who they're giving makeup to.

It makes me wonder, what are the things that my kids will be calling me a hypocrite for, when they're old enough to understand the concept.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/04/2005 04:04:00 PM (1) comments Blogger Comments (1)
Saturday, April 02, 2005

princess neck snap

There's been such a rash of postings on the parenting blogs lately about folks feeling that they want to move out of the city and into the suburbs, and their attendant fears of wall-to-wall whiteness, that I thought I'd post a somewhat opposing view of life in suburbia.

About seven years ago, when landisdad and I began to contemplate starting a family, we knew we would move out of the Bay Area and to the East Coast. The housing prices in SF and Oakland were already so out of control that we knew that we would never be able to afford a house, and we didn't want to try to raise a family in the two-bedroom that was stretching our finances as a childless couple, much less having to add the cost of daycare, baby supplies, etc. In addition to that, both of landisdad's parents were in the process of moving East, and we were faced with the prospect of entering parenthood with no nearby family support. Six years ago this month, we moved to the suburbs. The suburbs that were 3,000 miles away from the city landisdad grew up, and where we had lived together for four years.

So we moved, and the Bumblebee was born, and for a short time, while we looked for a house, we lived in a very crappy apartment in the town that we live in today. Landisdad didn't want to try to buy a house until he got to know the area (I grew up not terribly far away from where we live now), and we both didn't feel that we could buy a house at the same time that we were becominng new parents. We ended up moving into our house when the Bee was about nine months old, and this is the only house that either of our kids will remember as their childhood home.

One of the things that we took into account when we starting looking for a place to live was the diversity of the area. While our town is relatively diverse, we live two towns away from a place that is 95% white. Neither of us wanted our children to grow up in that environment, which would never challenge the extraordinary privilege that they were born into. So we stayed in place, in a town that is majority white, but has a growing black and Latino population. A town that has a growing gay and lesbian population. And a town that has a lot of tension over how it is changing, with much of the power (if you can call it that) still in the hands of whitefolks, who constantly express the fear that we are turning into the kind of place they (or their parents) fled twenty or thirty years ago.

But even living in this diverse little town, we have to constantly challenge our own privilege, in order to expose our kids to diversity. It's still extremely easy for us as white people to stay in a 'safe' zone, where we don't associate with those who are darker, or poorer, or different from us in significant ways.

One example of this is in the available daycare in the area. We went through a variety of in-home daycare providers when the Bee was a wee tot--a struggle I'll have to write about some other time. When she was about two, we decided that we couldn't deal with the drama anymore, and that she was ready to go into a daycare center. We looked at a few different centers (only those that were NAEYC-accredited). And we narrowed it down to two centers. Both were about equidistant to where we live. Both had low staff turnover and paid a living wage. But one of them was in a predominantly white community, and one was in a suburb that was largely minority. In the center that was in the white community, the Bee would be in a class that was entirely white--I think we only saw one child of color the whole time we were there. In the other center, she would be the only white child, with classmates who were biracial, black and Latino. Not the only white kid in her class, the only white kid in the entire center.

In the end, we decided to put her in the center where she was the only white kid. She thrived there, and we've never looked back. When the Sweet Potato was born, there was no question in my mind but that he would go there too. We didn't experiment with in-home babysitting, we just sent him into the infant room, and he's never gone anywhere else.

There's been some resistance to this plan from our families, particularly mine. My mom has told me that she thinks the Bee has learned aggressive behaviors there, because "those kids learn that at home." It makes me sad that my mom is a racist, though I didn't call her that at the time, but instead pointed out that the Bee was in trouble for fighting when she went to a totally white, middle-class babysitter--she came out of the womb fighting. But it reinforced my decision to keep sending my kids there, because I think it's only through deep experience with people of other races and backgrounds that we can overcome this kind of prejudice.

My kids have learned some interesting things that I never would have taught them, as a result of this experience. At one point about a year and a half ago, I took the Bee to work with me, at a place where all of my co-workers were Black or Latino. After witnessing her talent for the neck snap, one of my co-workers asked me, "where does that girl go to daycare, 'cause I know she didn't learn that at home." Another of my (now former) co-workers still laughs about the fact that my daughter, in pretending to do hairdressing, will talk about the need for hair grease. My son's first word was in Spanish (although unfortunately, since neither dh or I speak it, it took us a few weeks to figure that out).

I'm not trying to convince anyone to move out of the city (whatever city it is), or to jump into suburban life. It's not easy to make that decision, and it deserves your full attention. I do want to debunk the idea, though, that city life is always more diverse than suburban life. We still live in a country where it's very easy for whites who have a lot of privilege have the ability to avoid mixing with people who are different from them--regardless of what form that difference takes. It's our responsibility to work to overcome that privilege, for our children's sake, and the sake of our country's future, no matter where we live, or why we've chosen to live there.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/02/2005 12:13:00 PM (5) comments Blogger Comments (5)
  2. My daughter is the Bumblebee. My son is the Sweet Potato. You'll have to ask their father.

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