Magical Reality Part Deux

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thursday Morning was no Better.

Em cried and huffed and puffed - asked if she could stay home from school.

As I stretched to my breaking point ( and let's be honest - my morning breaking point is a very low threshold), Terrance bundled her up and out the door.

When he got home - and I had a cup of coffee in hand - we held a Mommy and Daddy conference in the living room.

What were we going to do?

Terrance wanted to have a little one on one discussion with the Demonic Hell Child. I assure you that this was a fairly long and descriptive episode in the beginning of the discussion.

While I understood the sentiment, I informed him that his being in jail would not be helpful for our family well being.

Terrance wanted Emily to hit the girl. For Terrance, at one time a boy child in Detroit, this is a viable solution for many child to child disagreements. It worked for him, apparently, and so he feels it should work for his child. He chided me for my non-violent stance, and suggested that it was because I was white that I was raising his daughter to be a "punk".

Now, for clarification, this is not the first time that there has been a distinct cultural clash in parenting styles. There are several traits that Terrance ascribes as "white" which seem to have been passed from my trifling white ass directly to his child. For all you parents who are attempting a cross cultural family, I can only assume you have your own versions of "It is because you are [fill in the blank] ..."

But I digress.

After I firmly held that Terrance was NOT going to pick Emily up at school in order to threaten the DHC, I moved the discussion to some of my fears and concerns about my role in this issue. I rehashed what Frances had told me about my tender-hearted child. I pooled the information given to me by her grandparents, and camp counselors. Emily had a very difficult time this summer, crying for a majority of the week at camp...and with her Grandmother Emily until she was sent home 3 weeks early from Detroit.

It was at this parent meeting that we discussed revealing the true identity of the Tooth fairy....and Santa...and the Easter Bunny. Were we setting her up for more mockery? How could we bolster her armour to help her resist the DHC? How could we convince HER that she did not need to choose the DHC as a friend, because that is what it all boils down to - Emily needs to make the choices that are right for HER, not try to be something or someone she is not nor can ever be.

How do we help her transition into this middle space in her life?

I thought on this all day. When 3:30 came around, I headed over to school to pick Em up...getting there early enough to slide into the classroom. I wanted to have an inpromptu conference with Emily, her teacher and myself. We needed to have a plan for Emily in the classroom - and I wanted her teacher to be part of the foundation. I sketched out the perimeters of the problem for Frances - and let her and Emily talk it out.

It went well. Really well. Emily let everything tumble out. Her anxiety, her upset, her fear and jealousy of the friendship between the other girl and DHC. Frances and I then began to build Em back up - giving her choices and options...suggestions and advice.

When you are ten, you simply can't HEAR what adults tell you. It doesn't feel like you will "look back" on this. It is present day. It is now. It is all encompassing. The standard adult advice of "Just try to ignore DHC " is useless and suggests to the ten year old that you aren't listening to them. I didn't want Em to think - ever - that I wasn't listening to her, or wasn't feeling acutely her hurt.

A half an hour later, we had a plan in place. Emily looked relieved and I felt like we had been listened to by Frances.

Emily and I held hands and walked to the car.

"I have a few errands to do before we go home", I told Emily.

We settled into the car. I glanced over at her tired face. I take the plunge.

"Sweetie, I know it has been a hard day for you. And Mommy has something to tell you. You might be angry or upset with me and that is all right, but I think it is important to know..."

There is silence and cocoa brown eyes boring into my skull.

I turn and look at her straight in the eyes.

"I am the Tooth Fairy."

Magical Reality - Part 1

Friday, September 26, 2008

I knew at the first parent and teacher conference of the year.

Emily has been having issues with one girl in her class. Emily wants this girl to like her...and this girl simply wants to hurt Emily's feelings.

The week before I had been in to speak with Em's teacher as the little girl had placed a rubber spider inside Emily's desk in order to frighten her. Emily, true to form, had flipped out and broken down in tears at the sight of the very fake spider.

This only encouraged the girl to target Em some more ala "Look, she makes exciting noises when I poke her!" What hurts Emily more is that a different girl that she has liked VERY much seems to have fallen under the sway of this future hoochie and has discarded Emily in favor of the allure of the bad girl.

The heartbreak of being ten. Emily is angry and jealous and longing for a best friend of her own.

At the parent-teacher night two weeks ago, I stayed last to have a long heart to heart with Emily's teacher. Frances has had Emily for two years now, so she has a good feel for the personality of my child.

"What worries me is that Emily keeps putting herself back in the line of fire of Demonic Hell Child. If DHC keeps bothering her, why does she keep going back? You know Dawn, some of it is the appeal of kids who "seem" like teenagers...and Emily is still a little girl. She is attracted to DHC because she acts like a teen, and Emily's heart is so tender that she can't figure out why they reject and tease her - she has no armor to protect her from that."

As a female, I remember. I remember being ten and wanting to be cool and grown up and knowing far more than I should for my age. By ten I had already smoked pot from a bong, and been sexually abused by my father. I had seen terrible fights between my parents in which shots were fired at the departing car by my father as my mother drove away with me in the back seat.

I suspect that I have kept Emily sheltered in a certain way, as I never wanted her to know about the harsh realities that sit outside ( and inside) the door. For all our disagreements about how to raise Emily - and they have been EPIC - Terrance and I have always been on the same page about this. Preserve her childhood.

I have been thinking about Frances' words since that meeting. I have waffled back and forth over my desire ( and sometimes my RIGHT, I assert angrily to myself in the middle of the night) to allow my child her extended childhood and my practical knowledge that I need to equip her for life among women. Life among children who have not had her space and time to be a child. Life as a teen where her peer group will supercede (naturally) her parents.

Fuck me.

This Wednesday, it all reached a crisis point. Emily flipped out before and on the way to school, hyperventilating, because she didn't want DHC to be mean to her...and she lost a tooth.

In our house, the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny have remained large and in charge. She has repelled attempts by her peers to disabuse her of the notion of these magical entities.
Emily believed in Magic. And I encouraged that belief.

I crept into her bedroom that night. I replaced her tooth and her note with a toonie and a hairband token from the Tooth Fairy.

And I lay in bed awake, worrying about the teasing that she would endure at the hands of DHC tomorrow, when she proudly showed the toonie and the hair band left for her by the Tooth Fairy.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I've been thinking about some the questions I posed in the last post.

When I wrote that post, it was pure Dawn mental jumbley stream of consciousness thinking. I had ( and have) been trying to puzzle out just what it IS about this particular woman that seems to get me bewildered and anxious.

And yes - it is VERY true that my politics lay fundamentally at the polar opposite of hers...But I know and Love people who have different political views than my own. It isn't JUST that.

And I tend to Like strong, intelligent, successful women. There are far too few of us stepping up to public service...and I know that first hand from my years in the New Hampshire State Government.

And I was, am and will always remain a Working Mother. I know what it is to attempt to balance family and home and child and self. I know what it is to have someone ( man or woman) ask you in a less than complimentary tone if you can "make" a meeting since you have - you know - a KID to take care of.... I know the sinking feeling when you need to call in to work because you have a sick child ( who ALWAYS seems to get sick on a day when you ABSOLUTELY need to be at some meeting at 8 a.m.).

Shit, I had a male boss tell me how much nicer I was since becoming a mother, as he felt that I was softer and other women could relate to me better. He also found a way to terminate my employment when I disclosed I was taking Prozac and being treated for depression, but that is another post.

It wasn't until I read this article that I realized what I had been trying to scratch away.

I resent the subtle implication that if I don't like this woman, that I am a misogynist. I resent the ridiculous view of motherhood that she is perpetrating - and the Republican pundits are howling over as ideal. Sarah Palin has set herself up as the super mom, and asked us all to buy into it.

As a child care worker for many years, I resent the idea that working mothers do their jobs alone. I was a working partner with Many, many families - just as I had the love and support of many, many other teachers and child care providers as I worked and studied.

When a person - any person, but particularly the Republican party, who has actively sought to eliminate Head Start, decrease funding for child care for low income working families, or designed punitive educational benchmarks such as No Child Left Behind, which further guts the educational opportunity for children in at-risk communities...made it MORE difficult for single parents to go to school for more than 2 years in order to increase their earning potential for their families....It makes me angry.

It is the same type of anger when I had to face in public service when watching decision making by people who didn't know, didn't care or actively sought to punish low income working parents by changing rules or limits or program specifications.

It's also the same type of anger when I faced political appointees who could not find their asses with two hands and a flashlight - let alone understand and empathize with the fact that only having a welfare office open until 4 p.m. just didn't cut it for the VAST majority of clients who needed our services.

"Well, if they really needed or WANTED services, I guess they could find a way to get there...."

If they just wanted to Not be poor hard enough, they could make it happen. If you want to be a successful working mother - you just have to work harder. Not Whine.

I resent the idea that asking someone to be intelligent and knowledgeable about a job they are interviewing for is Sexist.

I mean it's like the whole republican party has suddenly discovered that they really LOVE affirmative action, in it's most token and misunderstood way. And it is making me queasy.

Last, but not least, I wanted to take a moment and list the other women teachers who have helped me raise my daughter. From the moment I handed her over to Linda as an 11 week old infant, I have depended and relied upon this group of people to help me find and define my role as working mom.

I have done none of the work in my life alone, and I wish deeply that I could have paid each of them 5 times the amount of money that I did for the invaluable service they offerred not only me - but more importantly, Emily.

So Thank you Linda, Mary Ann and Cindy
Thank You Heidi, Katie and Amy
Thank you Carla and Becki ( Bebbi, as Em called her)
Thank you Beth and Julie
Thank you Cheryl and Erica
Thank you Cynthia and Jenny
Thank you Deb - for both years you had Emily
Thank you Mary
Thank you Frances

Thank you for being partners with me. Thank you for telling me the truth, or softening what you had to say so that I could hear it once my own "Mama Grizzly" reared it's head . Thank you for allowing me to grow in the circle of women who know how hard it is to raise a child - or five - and work, and attempt to retain some vision of myself as Professional Dawn.

So Yes. I don't like Sarah Palin because her Hubris repulses me and I reject the version of warped female empowerment she is happy to lead.

This chick scares me

Monday, September 08, 2008

and not just because of the politics she is spewing. Not just because she feels all right about using her children in a way I find distasteful or the religious stuff, or the plane she didn't sell on ebay.


Sarah Palin scares me because she is perpetrating the myth that women are exactly like men.
And she does it with a narcissistic, self congratulatory smile that chills me in a way that I haven't felt in my adult life.

Now, I have Always been a working mother. From the day Emily was conceived to the day my secretary sent me home because I was audibly ( and unconsciously) doing Lamaze breathing in my office. I worked. And Yes, I delivered Emily and went back to work within a week to do interviews for teachers and the end of year ceremony for the child care.

I was hell bent on proving motherhood had not changed me.

And in doing that I nearly killed myself. Not to mention what it did to Emily.

While I was busy proving that Motherhood was not a life changing event, Emily was a failure to thrive baby. A special needs baby. One who would be weighed two to three times a week and monitored intensely. We celebrated weight gain in OUNCES. I ran back to work to prove that I could do it all. A functioning uterus did not affect my need for time off, or my ability to run a business. No sir.

My new motherhood did not provide me with empathy for other women, either. Shit - If I could do could too. Don't tell ME how hard it is, I have you trumped with hard. She doesn't sleep. She doesn't gain weight, She pukes and is constipated as a breast fed only baby. But there I was. Professional Dawn. Right on time and last one to leave at night. I, of course, didn't have the influence on things such as parental leave on a national level..but I can assure you that I hated giving my staff days off.

I suspect Sarah is much the same. Of course, I was suffering from a spiraling depression that would end with me crawling under my desk at work to get away from the people there and my avoidance at all costs with my child and husband.

I have no idea if Sarah was assessed for the signs of post partum depression - especially after the unexpected late in life pregnancy of a special needs baby... I doubt she stood still long enough to be assessed.

The other thing that scares me about Sarah Palin? Purely a gut feeling here. No factual basis, I will say up front.

I lived in a family that kept secrets. I know what it is to be standing with your family, acting out an image that is completely fictional. I know what it is to pretend that we were the type of family who never experienced mental illness, or suicide attempts, or drug and alcohol addition. Everything was great!

I know what it is to have a mother who insisted that those images were maintained. And who withheld -approval, money, affection - if you did not meet standards.

I know what it is like to be raising younger siblings when you are 15, 16 and 17 years old. Having to be home right after school ( and on weekends and nights) to pick up your baby sister and younger brother because your Mom works and you were the child care provider. You start to think "Shit - I'm doing all this work and this isn't even my baby!"

Makes you feel grown up before you should.

When I see that family stand before me, I see all the secrets that are desperately trying to be kept in service to a Woman who sees her chance for power and has decided to go for it. I see an almost adult daughter looking for any way out she can get, even if it means sacrificing her own childhood to get out from under the iron grip of her mother.

I see a woman who has no compassion for other mothers by her touting of "going back to work three days after she delivered a baby".

I see a woman who has no qualms about saying that women can't be trusted with decisions about their own bodies, and who denies the humanity of the gift of female sexuality.

I see a woman who has no qualms about forcing her pregnant 17 year old daughter to stand before a crazed convention of hard line Republicans, holding hands with the boyfriend to maintain her image as "Good Mother".

I recognize a master manipulator, because I grew up at the feet of a mother who was just like that - changing the story to show her mothering in the best light. Getting rid of people who don't agree with her, coercing silence and agreement within the circle, at best.

It's not lipstick which defines a Mom, Sarah. It's all the other stuff. The sacrifice we don't always talk about. The struggle for balance in our lives. The recognition of our fragility AND strength as women.

Not being pitbulls.

Ah, August. When the giant spiders come out...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's one of the ways I know that summer is coming to an end.

The inevitable appearance of a massively huge spider, sauntering across my bedroom floor. You can practically hear it's spider thoughts - "I AM HUGE! I HAVE FEASTED ON THE FLESH OF A MILLION FLIES! FEAR ME MORTAL!"

And I do. While I look at the rabbit and the cat to do something about this beast in our midst.

I am not sure what I expect the rabbit to do, exactly. I mean there aren't tales of rabbits eating their body weight in spiders or anything. And the cat is still pretty disgusted at the whole "I now have to tolerate a fucking rabbit" issue, so she's not exactly inclined to help me out.

Although she will decide to sleep in the grass basket I bought for the rabbit. To annoy the rabbit and dare her to come over and do something about it.

But they are not my problem right now. That spider is my problem.

I watch it. It watches me.

For a very long time.

By the time I get up and move carefully A---L----L--- away around the other side of the bed ( so as to not alert it to my homicidal intentions) it has taken off.

Great. Now I have a crazed giant spider loose in the room.

So I do what I do best. I go back to my bed and wait. A few days later I find it's carcass - shriveled and shaped like an old woman's spiky broach.

I sweep it up into the dustpan with the runaway rabbit poops, waiting for the end of summer.

I am involved in this project - Pictures and Pie A picture a day, for a whole year. I have been inspired and awed by the output of the group of women in merely three days. It will be a beautiful year
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