I’m Outta Here

Just in case you don’t have enough food for thought regarding Race in America, here is the most powerful thing I read this past week. It’s *angry*, and rightfully so.


As for myself, I’m taking off for the mountains for much-needed family time. In between wrangling the kids around the resort, I’ll be getting a facial and pedicure, reading some books, drinking some beers (and maybe a glass of chardonnay or two), and laughing my butt off (my family is *funny*).

Take care. Be safe. Don’t work too hard (it’s still summer!). Love the ones ya love. See you in eight to ten days.

Continuing the Talk about Equality and Justice

I know, I intimated last week that I was going to talk about sex, and here I am, post 3 for 3 this week talking about race instead.

My family motto (and I mean me, Dan, and the kids) is: All things are subject to change at any time.

On Monday, I wrote, in brief, about the equality gap. And that’s my take, overall, that that’s the real challenge we are facing in America. On Tuesday, I linked to a bunch of people who said it a lot better than I did.

Today, Pittsburgh bloggers are publishing more thoughts about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. I’ll be reading most of them, and commenting on those I can, and I hope you will too.

It’s important to talk about this.

Overt racism, although it still exists, is not the bigger problem. Systemic, institutionalized racism, the inequality of our criminal justice system, the economic and class system America still supports — these are the deeper issues. These are the areas that need to be addressed, need to (still) be redressed.

In June, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act. They didn’t strike it down because it wasn’t needed anymore, and they didn’t strike it down because it was wholly unconstitutional. They struck it down because it was applied across the states unevenly. That is, more states South of the Mason-Dixon line got more federal scrutiny that most other states (because they had a proven poor record of letting blacks vote).

The Supreme Court said, We can’t uphold this, and Congress needs to rewrite it so it applies to every state the same way. We can’t target anyone.

And in the meantime, lots of states, Pennsylvania included, dusted off their Voter ID laws to get them moving through state legislatures again.

Disenfranchisement is disenfranchisement, folks. If it’s the law of the land that “those people” can’t vote, then it’s a law for a reason. If a generation — another generation — internalizes that black skin is suspicious, that Hispanics are lazy, that American Indians are drunks (do I have my stereotypes right there?) — then my generation of parents will have failed.

And if we don’t speak out about Trayvon Martin getting shot, about the Voting Rights Act getting struck down, about sexism in the military, about gun control, about gay rights, then we aren’t doing our job. As parents, as decent people.

I really believe that.

Oh, and on another note, and something I’ve been wrestling with this week: Dan and I don’t have any black friends. It’s been bothering us, mostly because we’ve had black friends in the past (and not like the token black friend — actual friends). I have some online acquaintances of different colors and races, but most of the people I socialize with are white.

This was especially brought home to me recently when my younger daughter referred to one of my friends as my brown friend. She (my friend) is of Sicilian descent, and somewhat tan.

And thinking this way: is it in itself racist? I understand why I don’t have black friends at this time. I live in a suburb. I send my kids to a private school. Compared to the public schools in our district, the school is not wildly diverse — it’s not 100% white, either, nor would I want it to be that way.

So I wonder about this, and then I wonder about making black friends, and then I wonder if that looks like I’m looking for a token black friend, and then I’m all like, “Isn’t this line of thought in itself racist?”

You see what we’re up against here, talking about race. It feels to me like I’m talking the talk but not walking the walk. I’m not sure how to change that right now.

Anyway, go and read. Express your thoughts. (Go see Becky at lilburghers.com. She’s got a link to all the posts. I’m not tech saavy enough to load it here for some reason.)

I always say, if we were all the same, life would be boring.

You and Your Racist Friend

I am fascinated (and quite a bit heartened), by what I see going on on-line in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

It’s an honest conversation about conversations about race.

We’re not a color blind society, and I don’t think we should be. People are different — different colors, different sexes, different classes, different religions, different sexual orientations.

The point in having these conversations about people’s differences is not to cover up the differences.

For example, a goal, as a parent, is to get my children to treat all people the same. I am not striving to do that by pretending everyone is the same — that would be silly. Each person is to be accorded, by the simple fact of their humanity, respect and love.

If my kids want to talk to me about the color of someone’s skin or a friend’s sexual orientation, I can do that in simple, age appropriate terms. And I can do it in such a way that doesn’t erase color or orientation. I think it’s important to acknowledge that people are not all alike, while at the same time reinforcing the fact that no one is better than anyone else.

It’s basically what my parents taught me.


Here are some of the things I have read this week that struck chords with me:

Two from Slate: William Saletan talks about talking about race. And at The Root, Jenee Desmond-Harris advises a guy who’s racist but doesn’t want to be.

The second piece reminded me of this post by my friend Carpetbagger. Powerful stuff going on here. If you tune back into some Pittsburgh blogs on Thursday, there are going to be a number of posts about thoughts regarding the Zimmerman case. (I’ll just link back to yesterday’s post, maybe with a little more.)

Mocha Momma (aka Kelly Wickham) has been pushing people — especially white women bloggers — to listen first and then to speak up. I’m new to her blog, but she’s been making me think, and think hard, about how to have these conversations, how not to, in her (admittedly paraphrased because I can’t find the quote) words, be the white friend that others can talk to about their racism.

And this post, by a writer I’d not encountered before, which gave me chills and held me spellbound until the end. This quote pretty much sums up what I was trying to get at the other day:

Listen, my open-minded, concerned, and sensitive white friends: I know I’m not telling you anything you haven’t considered before, but misogyny runs deep. Racism and white privilege run deep. We are socialized from birth on the ways of the world: we live years, decades, before we come to and start the lifelong work of change. We’ve got work to do, and it’s going to take all our lives, because it is part of our lives. It’s in us, this coded language, these world views, this privilege. We are it. Our work will never be done.

I don’t know about Kate (the writer at this blog), but I know for me, part of this work is teaching the children, especially my children, well.

I may not remember every word my parents said to me. But the way they raised me to believe in equality, mercy, justice, and love wasn’t in their words. It was in the way they acted. It was in the words they never said — N-word (I tried to type it, I did type it, but I couldn’t let it stand, I just couldn’t), faggot, bitch, asshole.

Short of having a penis, I am in the almost the most privileged class of people in the United States (we are not the super-rich). I am white, straight, college educated, pretty solidly middle-class, married, with children. With luck and hard work, we’ll be able to stay middle class. We’ll be able to raise our children to be open-minded responsible citizens, hard workers, and loving adults. With luck, and hard work, and honesty, I’ll be able to teach my white kids about equality, maybe with words, but most definitely with action.

Blame the Victim

The thing I couldn’t wrap my head around regarding the George Zimmerman case and his trial was that it seemed to be the ultimate blame-the-victim strategy.

The fact of the case is pretty clear: Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman. That is indisputable.

After that, all is unclear. Or rather, before Martin was shot, all is unclear.

What it came down to was that the defense pretty much had to put the blame on Martin — an unarmed, black teen — for causing his own death. It wasn’t Zimmerman’s responsibility, even though he followed Martin after being instructed not to by a police dispatcher, and he was carrying a gun.

Zimmerman was the only witness to the killing, and he (and his defense) controlled the narrative. The jury did their job; the prosecution simply couldn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. We can go back and forth all day about race, guns, civil rights, and justice.

A boy died. And no one is going to pay for that. Because of the way the prosecutors tried the case, instead of being able to show how Zimmerman broke the law, they had to prove… something impossible to prove. That Zimmerman — again, the only eye witness — acted out of hate and malice instead of out of self defense.

Self-defense in this case bothers me. (“Stand your ground”, which was not brought into this case, would bother me more. It’s a bad law.) Zimmerman was not in his car, on his property, or in his house. At any point before he was shot, did Martin know Zimmerman had a gun?

Invoking self-defense, to me, sounds like “It’s not my fault that I killed this person. I had to. Otherwise, I would have died.”

There’s no way to prove that, obviously. Zimmerman did not take the stand. It’s not even “he said, he said”. More like, “They said, and he’s dead anyway so you’ll have to take our word for it.”

He’s alive, Martin’s dead. The justice system worked, but to what end?

To the end that says, “It’s the victim’s fault.”

This is the glaring absence for me, that the law is not applied evenly across the board.

It’s the woman’s fault she was raped. It’s the boy’s fault he was killed. It’s time to abandon the idea that bad things happen to people who are asking for it.

I know it will take a generation or two to reach equality for all classes, colors, and crimes under the law. We’ve come a long way since the idea that women and people of color were mere property; we’ve come a long way from the suffragette movement and the Civil Rights Act.

We’ve got farther to go. We’re not done. As I wrote before regarding gun control laws, the status quo will not stand. That Trayvon Martin is dead, and that “it’s okay” in the name of self-defense conclusively proves that. That we sometimes question “is that rape?” proves that. That the law is different for some people — because of class, or sex, or skin color — proves that.

And it’s not okay, and it’s time to speak out. It’s time for change.

How to Be Lazy: A Guide by RPM

You think being lazy means doing nothing, but I assure you, it takes a lot of work to be lazy.

1. Teach your children to do chores. Better yet, get your nanny to teach your children to do chores. You’ll never vacuum again!

2. Get a nanny, at least for the summer. You can ask her to do many things for you so that when you get home at night, at most you have a few dishes to rinse and put in the dishwasher. Wait, your kids are supposed to be doing that.

I regularly ask my nanny to put dinner in the slow cooker and turn it on, take my kids to lessons (violin and swimming this summer), pick stuff up at the store, bake stuff with my kids, and/or help them clean.

3. Shop online. This goes for everything from clothes to groceries. The latter you may have to drive to pick up.

4. Live next door to your in-laws. When you combine this step with the nanny and the fact that your ILs also watch your niece and nephew a few times a week, you will come home to cooked dinners and fed children who you can then send out in the yard to play while you eat and have adult conversation. Bonus: The kitchen needs very little cleaning. (I’ve mentioned this, haven’t I?)

5. If the nanny asks to take the kids to a movie (except for the 2.5-year-old), it’s okay to let her. If Bella offers to let all the kids (again, except for the 2.5-year-old) sleep over at her place, say yes. Taking care of one child (even if he is a 2.5-year-old) is easier than three or five.

Sometimes, you will have to reciprocate by taking all the children (including the 2.5-year-old) for a long walk around the neighborhood or out to ice cream. See? Being lazy: not for the faint of heart.

6. Go over to a friend’s house with similarly aged children. They will all disappear for hours. (New toys! New kids! Dogs! It’s the best.)

7. You could try having a Unisom hangover, grounding your children to their room because they *did* directly disobey you, letting them watch The Lion King on their little TV/VHS player, and waiting until your husband comes home to tuck them in. I don’t suggest this method because it involves a) a lot of yelling and b) a Unisom hangover.

(Aside: I haven’t been sleeping well. It’s not insomnia — I just keep waking up at night. Wake up, go back to sleep; wake up, go to the bathroom, go back to sleep; wake up, go back to sleep. It’s not very restful. So I thought I would try something to help me sleep all the way through. Melatonin was useless. Unisom gave me weird dreams, and I kept waking up, and I had a hangover and a bad taste in my mouth the next day. If I wanted a hangover and furry tongue, I would’ve just drank a fifth of bourbon.)

8. Have the nanny bathe the children (or let the children shower) before dinner. After all, if they’ve had swimming lessons and outdoor playtime, by 4 p.m. or so, they are dirty and stanky anyway. Except for the 2.5-year-old; you should bathe him right before bed because it’s part of his routine, and let’s face it, regardless of the fact that he is the smallest, he will also be the dirtiest and stickiest. But! He’s the smallest, so he is also easiest and quickest to bathe. Win-win!

Being lazy like this is great because you can either use all the time you’ve freed up through most of these steps to continue to be lazy, read a book, have fun times with your husband, or go to bed early. Or you can fill that time sorting through paperwork you’ve been neglecting and clothes that need to go to Goodwill. Being lazy like this during the week also frees up weekends for library visits and picnics with the kids, evenings for exercise (those long walks) and ice cream, and more quality kid time in general.

How are you lazy, and how does it benefit you?

Random Thoughts: The Upcoming Edition

1. I’m going to write something about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case as part of a Pittsburgh Bloggers round of blogging. That should be happening next Monday.

2. I just finished What Do Women Want: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, and I have All the Thoughts. Dad, there will be a lot of disclaimers about not reading my site. Proceed accordingly.

3. I was an exceedingly lazy parent last week, and I keep meaning to write about that. Unfortunately, I’m also a pretty lazy blogger, so I haven’t quite gotten around to doing that yet. Maybe tomorrow.

4. I have a family vacation coming up at the end of the month. So I’ll probably go *poof* for about a week. Definitely from this site, possibly from Twitter. It really bugs my parents when I tweet. Which, *shrug*, but I will be very, very busy in any case. I do have a spa date on vacation (pedicure! facial!), but after that, it’s going to be running with the kids (arcade! pool! zipline! dogs!) all the time. That’s pretty much family vacation with kids go.

X, Why, Z

Here are a few ways that my boy is different from my girls (so far).

1. Eating. The girls ate pretty much everything as babies and toddlers. They got pickier, but even so, they ate. Now when they don’t want something, they will make their own sandwich or fry an egg. I’m fine with that.

I have to chase M down sometimes to get him to eat. He will pick at breakfast and dinner, but inhale lunch (or pick at breakfast and lunch and inhale dinner). He’ll eat pasta and tofu one day, but not the next. Thank goodness he eats fruit and drinks milk, because I’m pretty sure those are the only consistent healthy calories he gets in him.

Except for candy. My boy — much like his daddy — has a definite sweet tooth.

2. Books. My girls picked different books almost every night as toddlers. M prefers the same few books: Baby Cakes; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; Good Boy, Fergus; Peas and Thank You. Maybe one more… Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?. He tells me what book he wants, and he’s already taking them to bed with him (although I think he just cuddles them along with his stuffie).

3. The “why” stage. This maybe is hard to believe, but the girls did not go through a “why” stage. Flora asks questions (her first sentence was, “Wat dat?”), but she never said, “Why? Why? Why?” Neither did Kate.

M has just entered the “Why?” stage. You know the one. “Let’s put shoes on, Michael!” “Why?” “We’re going outside!” “Why?” “It’s nice out!” “Why?” “Because it’s summer!” “Why?”

After a while, you get to a “why” that has no easy toddler answer. So that’s fun. At least Flora’s questions I can google.

4. Vehicle spotting. M will tell you about every truck and motorcycle he spots whether from his carseat or in a parking lot or when we’re at the park. Every. Single. One. It’s cute. I don’t think my girls noticed anything that much when they were 2. (Maybe dogs.)

5. He is a hitter *and* a biter (for when hitting’s just not good enough). He will lose this habit before he goes back to daycare, so help me. (Firm “no”s and timeouts are the strategy. Googling toddler boarding school is not out of the realm of possibility.)

Are these boy things? Or M things? Or a little bit of both?

The Best (Parenting) Book I’ve Ever Read

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting
by John Gottman, Ph.D.

As we are aware, I find certain aspects of parenting very challenging.

One of those aspects is dealing with my children’s emotions. At the same time, I recognize that they have to be allowed to feel what they are feeling. It’s what to do after that that I’m not sure about.

I don’t remember where I came across mention of this book. Dan and I had read some of Gottman‘s relationship books; Dan uses them in therapy. When I saw he had written a parenting book, I decided I needed to look into it.

Gottman starts out with his rationale for Emotion Coaching, helps you assess your current parenting style (Dismissing, Disapproving, or Laissez Faire), and then outlines techniques for Emotion Coaching. Following these five steps helps you give your child the tools to identify his/her emotions, and work through them constructively.

In short, Emotion Coaching consists of:

1. Becoming aware of your child’s emotion.
2. Recognizing the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching.
3. Listening empathetically and validating your child’s feelings. (This is truly as simple as saying, “I understand you are feeling sad.” or “It sounds as if you’re mad.”
4. Help the child find words to label the emotion.
5. Set limits while exploring strategies to solve the problem at hand.

There are chapters about marriage and divorce, as well, and how Emotion coaching can help children deal with conflicts within their parents’ relationships. The last chapter of the book deals with childhood stages, from infancy to adolescence, and how Emotion Coaching can help in each stage.

This may sound very touchy-feely, new agey, but I promise it’s not. You’ve met me right? And it’s not about making your kids happy, or making them behave well, or making them feel good. It’s also not permission to act however they please because of their feelings.

I discovered that I am a Laissez Faire parent, which means that while I recognize my children’s emotions as valid, I have no idea what to do after that. The steps in this book are helping me stop and take the time to listen to my kids (yes, even the 2-and-a-half-year old), identify their feelings, and then help them calm down and problem solve.

I’m still working on it, but I want to try to become an Emotion Coaching parent. The biggest barriers are (for me):

1. Time: Sometimes it’s hard to slow down and listen.
2. Attention: Sometimes, it’s hard to focus on one child for the time needed to identify and validate an emotion.
3. Dealing with high emotions: Sometimes, neither me nor the kids are in a space to slow down and hear each other. That’s when a time out is helpful, just a moment to say, “We’re going to walk away from each other, and then come back to this issue and talk about it.” In the case of the 2-and-a-half-year old, this could require an actual time out for him.

When I have been able to go through the five steps, especially with one of the girls, it has been like defusing a bomb. I can visibly see them relax even when they are frustrated, angry, or sad. Taking a few minutes to say, “Hey, I hear what you are saying. I used to hate when my brother teased me. What can we do about this?”

Honestly, it’s awesome. I feel like I can access the part of me that can most help my kids. According to the book, I’m helping them learn to negotiate their feelings in other relationships and giving them what they need to be successful in expressing themselves. I just feel like I’ve opened a toolbox to help me parent better, something I’m always looking for.

Also, it’s a very judgement-free book and philosophy, which, if you know anything about parenting books, is not the case most of the time. I never got the sense from Gottman that he was saying, “You’re doing it wrong. Do it THIS way.” He just lays out the philosophy for you, outlines benefits, and leaves you to it. Even when he talks about parenting styles such as Dismissing or Disapproving, he’s encouraging rather than condescending.

If you find yourself flummoxed by how to deal with your kids’ emotions, or how to limit their behavior appropriately, this book can be a good guideline to finding your way to a more successful style.