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The Rise and Fall of Our In-House Stylist

4808511674_0eaa0c2073_bAnyone who has been around these parts knows we started letting Nikki dress herself around age 3. This was partly because didn’t care enough about what she wore to lay out clothes for her, and partly because she cared SO MUCH about what she wore I had no desire to squash that. We went through some pretty insane years where she seemed to have one goal: ALL of the colors and ALL of the patterns and ALL of the fabrics in ONE outfit. It was epically awesome.

She eventually started getting a more normalized style and even seemed to care about how I dressed, encouraging me to step it up a notch even though I worked in an office full of guys in cargo shorts. She encouraged me to wear scarves and tights and kinda got me into fashion for a little while.

But then I started working from home and the athletic clothing I wore the other times of day went back to being my uniform.

And this is fine…except y’all? Now she’s the same way!

And I’m torn between thinking, “Yay! She wants to wear running clothes 24/7 just like her Mom!” and thinking, “Oh crap, did I squash the fashion maven in her with my own fashion apathy?”

That’s the thing about parenting…none of us have kids who are exactly like us. THANK GOD. But…BUT…sometimes we accidentally mold them in our likeness without even trying to. I loved that she was into fashion! But I didn’t do anything really to encourage it since it’s not my thing, so now I’ll always wonder, did she give up because her tastes changed? Or did she give up because she lived in a house of useless style regects.

It didn’t help that her older brother – the only other person in the family who has any sense of fashion – now lives 2 hours away.

So, she wears my race shirts with her running pants just about every day now. She has no desire to accessorize or style her hair. This is – of course – my mode of living so I support it 100%. But I hope that she wasn’t a style guru in the making, and we damped her fire with our neon and spandex.

How about your kids? Are there any pursuits you fear you accidentally squashed simply because of your own lack of interest?

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Teaching Lessons

I sat at the computer last night with my Ferguson twitter list open and my live feed running and talked to my daughter about the justice system and how it works. I explained the reason for trials (“Because it’s not always easy to tell if someone is guilty or not.”) and the idea of Innocent until proven Guilty. I explained that in a normal situation where there is gray area surrounding a murder, where it seems like there might be conflicting information regarding a crime, the case is tried in a court and lawyers are tasked with proving guilt (or innocence) and that a jury must feel like the person is guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT before they convict.

“But this situation is very different. Because this situation involved a white police officer and a young black man.”

We talked a little about Black History as a general timeline that leads us to this point. We talked about people getting judged for things they can’t control, like skin color. I related it to bullying of gay kids at school because – while she has no family members who are African American – she does have gay family. We talked about Affirmative Action and the story recently who submitted his resume to dozens of places with his name “Jose” on it and got no calls, but when the resume said “Joe” they couldn’t call him fast enough. SAME RESUME. DIFFERENT NAME. We talked about what Moms have to teach their young black sons about the danger of wearing hoodies and having their hands in their pockets.

“That’s not fair. All boys wear hoodies and put their hands in their pockets.”

And then we talked about privilege. And how that – right there – is our privilege. Because of our skin color, I won’t have to talk to Wesley about where to keep is driver’s license so that no police officer would have reason to believe he was going for a weapon if he got pulled over.

When her sons were old enough to drive, she admonished them to keep their driver’s license and insurance card on the seat beside them, just in case they were ever stopped by police. When Griffin spoke earlier, she said she had told her son the same thing.
Source

I talked about how her brother could grow up and have a bad attitude and be disrespectful and rowdy and be out WAY too late and be up to NO GOOD AT ALL and yet – YET – there will not be a GIANT part of me terrified he might not live to make it home. Of course I’ll be fearful for him, but if he’s a trouble maker I’ll worry more about an arrest, or a suspension from school. But the same kind of behavior in a different body could lead to dangerous situations resulting in rash decisions being made by someone with a gun. Decisions made based on a skin color they can not control.

And this was all before 8pm.

As it got closer to 8pm we discussed Grand Juries and how in most situations a Grand Jury leads to an indictment because a case needs to be tried in a court system and how a lot of people in the legal world HATE the Grand Jury system because:

‘If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,’ said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. ‘It just doesn’t happen.’ Source.

But – I reminded her that this case is different. Because it’s a white police officer and a young black male victim – everything is different. And the “why” is very complicated.

IMG_3136I explained to her that BECAUSE there have been many cases where the African American community VERY RIGHTFULLY feels like they were abandoned or jilted by the justice system, a decision not to indict is going to feel very unjust. EVEN IF – legally speaking – the Grand Jury in Ferguson made the “right” decision based on the evidence…it’s still going to upset people because people of color simply can not trust the justice system.

And then they announced the decision. And she and I spent 4 1/2 minutes in silence, just watching the Ferguson Feed scroll by.

And then we talked some more.

“But we wanted them to indict him, right?”

And man…THAT is the crux of it all, isn’t it?

I sighed and did my best.

“Well. In a perfectly world we trust the legal system and we would walk away trusting that the prosecutor ONLY took the case to the Grand Jury because he wanted a conviction.”

Which we can’t trust because,

Ordinarily, prosecutors only bring a case if they think they can get an indictment. But in high-profile cases such as police shootings, they may feel public pressure to bring charges even if they think they have a weak case Source.

“So it’s not that we would ‘want’ an indictment, it’s that we ‘want’ justice to be served by the system we trust as a U.S. citizen. And this crime had eye-witness accounts that conflicted from the shooter’s, and Medical Examiner’s reports that seemed to give conflicting messages…so the only way for ALL of the evidence to be brought forward in a properly-managed manner would be in a criminal court.”

“If this was a White Cop and a White Victim, we we see the ‘no indictment’ news as a way of saying, ‘There is no where near enough evidence of a crime to even entertain a court case.’ But our justice system does not seem to represent people of color equally as their white counterparts so it’s really hard to see a lack of indictment as a sign of innocence in this case. History has jaded this community.”

It’s a tough thing to teach her. I dug up this statistic:

Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison. Source.

I used that as a way of showing why the African American community does not look at our court system as a “just”.

I tried my best to explain everything with numbers and facts because it was so obvious my emotions were at play and I worried she wouldn’t trust my words.

I combed through twitter for people who were doing a better job of concisely expressing the situation than I was.

And then…regarding the riots that followed I’ll point out that locals have said things like this:

But that – in general – these words sum up the mood of the people there.

But most importantly – I’ll remind her that it is our duty as White people to not forget it’s different for us. That if anything tragic happened to her or her brothers, I would naturally put a lot of faith in our justice system. I would trust it to do the right thing. I would trust the checks and balances in place to make sure anyone responsible would be punished.

And that is OUR privilege. And as long as people of color can NOT say the same thing, it is our responsibility to keep talking about it, to amplify the voices of those fighting to make things better, and to NEVER FORGET that it is NOT the same for everyone.

And that when it comes to skin color, Justice is not always blind.

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Hope For My Adorable Little Demon Child…

As Wes gets older, I start to very easily see that a lot of his behavioral issues relate back to one thing: He’s perpetually bored.

At his parent/teacher conference a few weeks ago – she pointed out that his standardized test scores from earlier in the year were ABYSMAL. Like, in reading? He tested in the “needs immediate intervention” level. In Math it was close, but more like, “consider intervention”. I thought this was INSANE because – with his school work – it’s obvious he’s a good reader and good at math. But then his teacher pointed out a KEY element on the report.

The test time.

Do you know how long he spent taking a test that should have taken 20-30 minutes? TWO MINUTES. He basically filled out random answers and then finished because…BORING!

And when he gets in trouble at home? 9 times out of 10 it’s because he’s bored and I won’t give him attention or his sister won’t. He tortures BOTH of us when he’s bored.

It does help to see this as a “reason” because I can then convince myself he’s a struggling genius (he’s not) instead of a sociopath…but it still always concerns me because the only way he ever seems to have fun is when he’s torturing us in some way for attention. He can’t just enjoy himself in a normal way that doesn’t make someone around him crazy.

But last night? At Disney on Ice? HE WAS SO GOOD.

He made funny jokes, we danced, we sang songs…it was just a fun night all around. Sometimes I don’t like to take Wes places because he can be SO BAD, but last night? It was just a fun night and no one was torturing anyone. We even stopped on the way home for French Fries and STILL had fun even eating french fries! It was just nice and a reminder that he has the potential to enjoy himself without torturing everyone around him or showing off in inappropriate ways just to get eyes on him. He was NICE and he was FUN and it was EXACTLY what I needed to stop the nightmares I’ve been having lately of him being sent to juvenile detention at age 7.

Will he go back to his fun-by-evil tendencies? Yes. Will I continue to struggle keeping him from being bored but also teaching him that he needs to be able to entertain himself sometimes? Definitely. Will he make us all crazy? Without. A. Doubt.

But it will be easier with last night to remember that some days are better than others. They’re not all going to be a struggle.

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“Will This Make My Life Easier RIGHT NOW?”

Wes is 6 years old and I often still carry him around. Mostly on my back, because he is 6, but still…I often provide him assistance in transportation and I’m pretty certain the rest of the world stops doing that for their kids around age 3 or 4.

I do this for several reasons.

1) He is whiny
2) He is slow

In my world, any parenting decision that makes the single moment before me easier, is a good decision. I sometimes look at the big picture or the long-term ramifications of my actions. But most of the time – when it comes to parenting – I’m thinking, “Will this make it easier? Then yes. Let’s do it.” So, if I’m in a hurry and he doesn’t want to walk? I carry him. Does this perpetuate his inability to walk on his own for short distances? Yes. But in THAT moment it makes my life easier and for parenting? That’s how I make decisions. Which is why I’m totally going to write a parenting book. Because I’m obviously THE BEST.

But…THIS technique is why my kids don’t really own any of the devices their friends own – like iPads or iPhone Touches.

Well, this reason and the fact that if I had 300-500 dollars to spend on something extra it would not be for THEM, it would be for ME – but still.

We don’t have screens like that in the house for them to play with. Why? Because I would stick it in front of their face ALL OF THE TIME. I don’t have a problem with screens, in moderation, but I would not moderate it. I would be annoyed with them and would basically MAKE them play it all the time. Just to make things easier. And yes, there are “good” games but those don’t usually make things easier. TEMPLE RUN MAKES THINGS EASIER.

photo (2)I remembered that this weekend when the kids were fighting over the Kindle because I put Temple Run on my phone and BAM! SILENCE. They could both play Temple Run on their own devices. And I finally got some peace and quiet.

But because we don’t typically have separate screens for them to play with (THANK GOD) we are “forced” to find “easier” solutions that are a little better for their brains. Lately – that has been card-playing. When we go to dinner the EASY decision would be to let them take devices so we could enjoy a quiet meal with adult conversation. But since they don’t have devices to take, they take cards.

Now..the PROPER parenting technique would probably be to try to teach them how to behave at meals in restaurants with just us. You know, conversations or whatever, but that is DIFFICULT and my parenting style relies on EASY.

So, we will put off that kind of purchase for as long as possible because it is a crutch I know I would use often and poorly. I recognize my own limits as a Mother and my need to constantly make things EASY no matter what long-term lessons it might teach? Means that I’d not be good at managing screen use WHATSOEVER.

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“You’re Not Helping.”

So. My kids learned how to swim this summer. They both can do freestyle laps with me. Wesley is good for 25-50 yards without stopping, he gets worn out because he hasn’t perfected side breathing yet. Nikki can do more because she can side-breathe pretty easily, and she won’t stop, she’ll just catch her breath on her back. They can both swim on their backs indefinitely if there’s something containing them.

SO! I called our YMCA about something I heard of that was like swim team, in that it was lane work and stroke work, but no races/competitions. It’s basically the next step up from the lessons they’ve taken. The only requirement? They needed to be able to swim the length of the pool on the front, and on their back. EASY! No problem! I got this information on the phone and from reading the paperwork they gave me. There was a new session that started last night.

It should be noted that the lower level swim classes that both kids have done are in 4-week sessions too, the first class of the session welcomes a whole lot of newbies with some veterans that go to several sessions. Therefore, I logically was expecting the same this time around. No one indicated otherwise in my phone calls asking about the class.

Well, things started off bad because there was some confusion and the coach that was supposed to teach the Monday class wasn’t coming so the Friday coach was going to rush over after work but he’d be late so both age groups would have to go at one time. (Wes and Nikki were in separate age groups.)

That created confusion and tension in everyone, especially me.

When the coach got there, he called everyone over to the big pool and it was obvious IMMEDIATELY that he knew the entire group. He was pinpointing people out of the other pools to pull them over. There was no “introduction” like there is at the other classes. I wasn’t sure if this was because he doesn’t normally coach that class, or if it was because my assumption of this being like the other session was wrong. Basically he gathered both groups by the pool and divided them up by age into 3 lanes. And then he said, “Do the warm up you know! 100 freestyle, 50 kicks, 50 back stroke! Go!”

And I panicked because it was VERY obvious this was NOT going to be like the other swim classes. There was no “teaching” of strokes, because all of these kids knew them. My two kids were the ONLY new kids in the session. Now, did they teach strokes the last four week session? I guess? Maybe? I have no idea. All I know is my kids did not know what that warm up was. He went to talk to the little kids but Nikki was panicking, I told her to do the freestyle first because I knew she knew that. Then the coach had to go to do something else (he wouldn’t normally have both groups at once and he wasn’t supposed to be coaching so he was flustered too) and neither of my kids understood the “50 of kicking” or “50 of backstroke” – luckily another Mom helped me a little when I said, “My kids have no idea what’s going on.”

But it was just chaos. Wes started crying because he had never swam that much without a break and he didn’t know he could take brakes. I was trying to calm him down to tell him he could take brakes. And then Nikki was crying because she had no idea what to do and was just freaking out. The coach was trying to help but there were TWO classes in one and it was just chaos. They kept crying to me and I kept trying to help but I don’t know what I’m doing either. I felt like I might be interfering because sometimes the coach was there but other times he wasn’t and I didn’t want my kids slowing the group down so I thought helping if I could would be good.

Donnie, who had come over after talking to a friend told me, “You’re not helping. They need to listen to the coach and go to him with the questions, not you. They keep coming to you because they see you here.”

In my defense, there were too many kids for the coach to help my new ones every 5 seconds, but really – Donnie was right.

So I left. I went to the side of the pool where they wouldn’t see me in their sightline, but where I could still watch. And I watched them cry the entire time. And I cried. By the side of the pool surrounded by tons of grownups. I cried like an idiot. It was so hard. I don’t know if me being gone helped, but at least they weren’t getting worse and I felt like they were downward spiraling before. Nikki was talking to the coach, maybe too much, for reassurance and guidance. Wesley was just panicking because he was exhausted and tired and trying his best (he was actually doing pretty good) but also felt like he couldn’t breathe because he was tired. He wanted love and I couldn’t give it to him.

Nikki was just in full-blown meltdown mode. She was scared. She was confused. She felt really alone and she finally found me and just kept looking at me and shaking her head like, “Don’t make me do this.” But I knew she COULD do it so I just kept drawing hearts in the air and giving her thumbs up to show her I was watching and I loved her. She didn’t want to jump on the start/diving board thing. I did talk to her there and convinced her to try (the coach told her she could just quit since that was the last thing they were doing) because a) I wanted our money’s worth – I’m nothing if not frugal and b) I didn’t want her to give up. She never jumped off the board but she jumped off the side and did the drill with the girls.

That was the other thing – no one was talking to her because she was the new one. And several were annoyed with her being there. That’s what made me cry the most. Seeing her feel so alone and lost and seeing other MUCH OLDER girls whisper behind her back and exasperatingly roll their eyes or slouch their shoulders like, “Is she EVER going to finish?” And I just sat there crying like a baby, and I’m sure I looked INSANE. None of those parents will probably ever talk to me because I’m the weirdo crying lady.

I did end up knowing one Mom and she was kind and talked to me and re-introduced her daughter to mine (they knew each other back in the day) but that was during the diving/start board thing and my daughter was too far into FULL MELTDOWN mode for it to do any good.

It was awful. Awful.

Donnie was right. I wasn’t helping at all. But – in my defense – my kids needed help. I had NO idea they were going to be so lost. If I had known the sessions built on each other unlike the other classes, I would have tried to sign them up the last session. The only reason why I didn’t was I didn’t want school starting, soccer staring, and swim starting all the same month. I wanted to ease them into school/soccer before swim. Now I just want to kick myself.

So, I’m not going to take ALL of the blame. It was a bad situation at the start. The classes were not what I was told or what the paperwork explained. There were too many kids and an emergency coach that wasn’t expecting to have to be there. But then – I did not help. And that was the toughest part because my kids were upset and I WANTED to help SO BAD. But I was making it worse so I had to hide in the corner and sob while they did their thing.

AWFUL.

I’ve sent a message to someone I’ve seen do individual coaching at the Y to see if she has time for a quick session with the kids this week. They need just a base understanding of terminology. The kids in the class weren’t all great swimmers, it’s not like my kids need to be champs on day one. But they don’t know the terminology. They don’t know the lingo. They basically just need to know what they mean when they say, “Do 50 of kicks!” I didn’t even know they needed a kickboard for that part. I just said, “Maybe you just kick across the pool? I don’t know.”

So maybe someone can help this week. I’m crossing my fingers. Here’s to hoping we can all keep our shit together during Friday’s session.