Archive for March, 2013


I’ll go ahead and say what we’re all thinking.

Don’t worry, I’m good at that… you could say it’s one of my things.

Parenting is fracking hard. Not hard like opening a jar or driving in rush hour traffic, but hard like hiding in the bathroom crying, wondering whoever thought you could be trusted with kids should probably get fired. Kids by their very design are made to test your limits of endurance, intelligence and ability to function on little to no sleep.

When a person first begins this journey, they are elated, their heads are filled with ideals and plans. It’s exciting having a little person for whom one is responsible for shaping. Visions of organic produce and no television and violin lessons float through your head. You’re going to do things differently than your parents did. This child will be the most exceptional little person the world has ever seen, due entirely to your superior genes and innovative parenting.

I seriously can’t be the only one who, two years later with my kids sitting in front of Dora for the second straight hours, eating microwaved chicken nuggets, realizing I haven’t taken a shower in three days at the same time realizing before I had these little carpet monsters, that I was an absolute…complete…idiot. I even bought a baby food grinder. Go me.

See, here’s the deal. Kids are people.

Wow, what a concept. But stay with me here. I know that you, the reader, know that. However, you need to think about what that means. People come with ideas, issues, talents, problems and a real healthy sense of screw authority. And you, as a parent don’t get to choose what in that list of people-hood your kid has. Oh, also… you are now the authority your kid is fighting against being oppressed by.

Thank you nature… please come back when you can’t stay so long.

And there is no break. Actually, even crying in the bathroom time is interrupted by little fists banging on the door screaming for inane things or insisting on use of the facilities. It was during one of these non-breaks that I realized I wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home-mom. I’m not bashing on stay-at-home-moms here, I was one, and I found it was way too difficult for me. If you can do it, kudos. I have the utmost respect for you, you do the hardest, most varied, most involved thankless job in the universe. I just can’t. Instead I thank god it is 2013 and that brave women before me made it possible for women to have a choice.

Women who don’t work or go to school outside the home sometimes mistakenly believe that those who do are abandoning their children to the care of others, which is untrue. We simply utilize the “it takes a village” philosophy to our advantage. But this post isn’t about the SAHM/daycare mom debate, I’ll leave that to people who feel a need to compare their way of doing things to others. This post is about the surprisingly difficult nature of caring for one’s progeny.

How many times have I thought I was a terrible mother? Just steps away from those crazies who lock their kids in closets and leave them inside locked cars on hot days? I can’t even count. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has laid in bed awake at night telling themselves, “I could have handled that better.”

The other day I was on the phone with my mother and she told me I was a good mom. I literally almost pooped myself. “What? Are you kidding me?” To give a concept of my mom, imagine June Cleaver but more insanely perfect in every way… then imagine that person telling her tattooed, foul mouthed, short-tempered, preoccupied, liberal college activist daughter that she was a good mom.

“Are you okay, mom? Do you want me to call Dad?”

“No, I mean it. You work very hard every day to give your kids everything they need to be healthy and successful.”

“But… all the… and the….”

“We all parent differently, and what makes you a good mom is that you care deeply for your kids and do what it takes. It sometimes takes a lot. In your case it takes a whole lot.”

“Um.. thanks… I think.”

“Um… you’re welcome I think.”

“No, actually… thanks a whole lot. Hearing that from you means a great deal to me.”

After the conversation with my mom, life went on as usual. I didn’t stop bellowing at my kids, but I felt less like I was holding on for dear life. They still fought, forgot things they had been reminded of multiple times, chose to go to bed early than finish the dinner I had worked all day on… same old crap. The only thing that had changed was the way I was thinking about my parenting.

This morning, they started in early. I awoke at 6:30 to screaming about coloring books. I was to my limit before my first cup of coffee. I even lost it for a second when my words fell on the deaf ears of fighting kids. Then, as I realized that nothing I was trying was working, I separated them. Kendyl sat in front of Dora and Tyler got a children’s dictionary. They were told not to make a sound until both of them came to me with three things they had learned.

Tyler spent 5 minutes sulking but then came to me with how a chicken lays an egg, that a harvester is used to cut grain and a radiator keeps a racecar’s engine cool.

Kendyl told me that “salta” was “jump” in Spanish and that purple is made by mixing red and blue.

When they were allowed to go, they were calm and interested in learning more about things.

And I realized, maybe I’m not such a bad parent after all.

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I’ve never wanted to be a teacher.

I don’t particularly like kids. I don’t like people, and kids are simply uncensored versions of us. All our ugliness, selfishness, meanness and obstinance with no filter, no politeness, no propriety. All those things that make it possible for us to be around each other without killing everyone outright.

I’m currently attending school to become a librarian. (I know, right?) My plans included getting my teaching credentials and teaching my way through grad school. Teaching was simply a way to lighten the financial load while I was pursuing my doctorate.

As some of you may know, I switched schools this semester. I moved from a suburban to an urban setting and my current school, as well as the subjects I am taking, touches on certain subjects having to do with urban issues. These issues include but are not limited to race and ethnicity, economic inequality, reduced opportunities and undereducation present in certain urban areas. These are subjects I was not entirely unfamiliar with, but nothing that I have ever experienced, having grown up in a predominantly upper-middle class white area.

I have also made a lot of friends at my new school. Some of my friends have come from very limited opportunity as well as many roadblocks, yet have preservered despite numerous points of opposition. I have repeatedly been impressed by the intelligence, hard work, ambition and talent among populations that have endured and continue to endure neglect, under-funding and blatant oppressive action perpetrated by both government and society.

Yet a question… The Question lingers in my mind.

This Question nags and pricks me as my friends go along their every day lives, working and studying and caring for their families. They are not impressed by themselves the way that I am. They carry an attitude of, “Of course I did… what was my other option? I didn’t want the alternative for myself. I’ve seen the consequences of inaction… and so I acted.” However, I have seen the other side. I have seen those with every opportunity at their disposal, throw away those opportunities. I have been one of those.

That Question needs answered, The Question that remains at the forefront of my mind.

How incredible the achievements if my friends had received an equal education? If the roadblocks had been lessened or removed? If their success had been considered by society the norm rather than the exception? How much could they have accomplished had they not had to battle everyday to simply stay afloat?

And how many amazing minds and glaring potential has been drowned in this fretful sea? How many have been caught in the crossfire?

Have we lost the next Einstein? Did we miss out on another Tesla, another Margret Thatcher, or another Louis Pasteur only because that person grew up in Watts, Compton or East LA, and the pressure was too much to bear? The schools they attended were underfunded, the neighborhood too dangerous to venture out into, and not much was expected of them anyway. We will never see what those minds were capable of had they been nurtured and allowed to grow, that wealth is lost to the world forever. Those for whom this is a factor will live very different lives than if they had been guided down a path of education, and the lives of their children and their children’s children are also deeply affected. By not offering everyone equal opportunities to learn and progress, we are taking part in shaping yet another generation shrouded in untapped potential.

I am currently being offered a spot in the comprehensive Urban Teacher Fellowship Program here in Los Angeles. I had never had any aspirations of becoming a teacher, although I already had plans of attaining my credentials. I am going to participate in the program, regardless of the career path I ultimately choose.

But I know myself. I know that the more I learn about these subjects, the more I am obligated within myself to work with those who struggle to resolve the issues standing in the way of people and progress. It is fair and right.

Sometimes I wonder why my life has taken certain paths. Why, with a silver spoon in my mouth, I chose instead to take a path down homelessness, drug abuse, domestic violence and poverty? And if I believe in any destiny at all, I have to believe I experienced those things so that I could use my talents to help others find the strength to escape those harsh realities.

I will not be able to achieve that in the dusty corners of a research library, no matter how much beautiful information lies within those hallowed walls.

I can only achieve this within the classroom.

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