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Being American: Ripping Up the Roots of Racial Hatred

This week, while sitting in the early morning hours on my porch with my computer and morning coffee, catching the faint breeze and enjoying solitude before my children and grandchildren woke up, my peace of heart and mind were jarred by a website that popped up, the title of which I will not mention here.  It proceeded to explain and provide “testimonials” to the world of why the author felt no one should ever do business with African-Americans, why even giving them a chance to prove they are decent is dangerous for your well-being, and how black people are less than human as compared to every other “race” on the planet, even to the point of making fun of pictures of starving babies in Africa.

I was as mesmerized as I was horrified, the sickened look on my face drawing my children around me (and I had to shoo most away, although I allowed my 16 year old to hover beside me awhile and read, intending to try to mitigate the equally-disturbed spirit that was starting to close in on her as well.)  We are aware even more acutely than most that racism lives, being mostly African-American and Native American, with other heritages in our bloodline and married into our family.  Racism itself isn’t new.  It was just the detail with which this website described its hate, the mixing of superficial observation with close-minded tunnel vision and hatred.  It almost paralyzed me with the question: They hate us that much??

In light of what has been happening so publicly lately, with multiple shootings and unwarranted violence, fear, and anger, the answer would seem to be “Yes, they hate us that much.”  That answer, however, needs deeper thought and a rectified reasoning.  It’s not so open and shut.  It’s not so black and white.

The morning after reading such venom, to alleviate our heavy spirits it took an hour or so of family discussion, of remembering all of the normal and good people of all races and backgrounds in our lives, people within our family and outside, people who know and care about us within the United States and abroad.  It took counting our blessings and remembering ourselves and how we didn’t fit anything the website described about chronic lack of responsibility or bad hygiene or rudeness or any of it, even though we knew people who did, but these people are of all races.  (It also took my sending a quick note and link to CNN for investigation.)  After a while, we got our good moods and bearings back, and then life continued.

Life isn’t continuing, however, for the too many victims that have lost their lives because of the twisted mindsets of some Americans exposed to the hatred expressed in these websites. A sense of security isn’t continuing, however, for us parents who believed that our sons and daughters were safe going up to the corner store, going to that pool party, going to that church event, that the days of mysterious disappearances, of lynchings and of police brutality were long gone. They are not.  Emmitt Till’s story could just as well have been last week.

We teach our children to be respectful and compassionate, but we also teach them to stand up for themselves and to claim an equal place in the community, that their dreams and playfulness are just as legitimate as those of other races, because “we are all the same.”  They are learning a different lesson by the events of the past days, weeks and months, however.  Something must be done.  Something must be done about the attitudes, and the stereotypes, and the hatred, and the chips on the shoulders.

Well, I woke up this morning, and I’m in my customary place on the porch with a few of my offspring stirring happily inside the house, and I’m looking again for solutions.  I keep faith that, for every seething racist who paints black people with that toxic brush due to past experiences with a few bad apples, or due to racist upbringing or surroundings, that there are at least three who are not.  I pray this is true.

Meanwhile, if you are an educator or a parent who worries your child doesn’t get enough objective information about black culture beyond historical references to Harriet Tubman or current hip-hop culture (which is only a conspicuous piece of pop culture and black artistic creativity), and you are not of any African-American heritage, I have a few links for you.

Or if you are a person who has had one too many negative encounters with African-Americans, and you are looking for a way to stay human and objective, I am sending you a virtual welcome and tour of real Black people’s lives beyond the normal newscasts and “reality show” choreography and hard facades some may put up because they don’t know you either, and some of your behaviors may be interpreted through a lens you don’t have or even know exists.

These links are just one mom’s virtual hug of reconciliation and calculated steps in trying to ensure a fairer and safer America for her own children and the children of our nation, steps calculated to enlighten and to educate.  Please recognize that there is no One Black Culture, just as there is no One White Culture, due to the fact that black people like all people in America are often of many different heritages, regions, languages and lingos, and even races, if you want to believe in “race” as we currently define it.  There is a shared cultural experience of life in the United States, including a shared “Black” experience, however, plus shared historical challenges, etc.  Think American Salad vs. Melting Pot.  These commonalities have flavored our foods, our traditions, our perceptions and our behaviors in certain circumstances, and these are what I looked for in daring to assemble some websites to introduce them to you.

So, here are several websites with articles, videos or links to get you started:

They should open a window that will cause you to ask more informed questions, to see why things are not quite what they seem.

Anything to contribute? Welcome.

[Reprinted from my post at Sidelines. View additional comments there at http://sidelinesapp.com/item/being-american-ripping-up-the-roots-of-racial-hatred/]

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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in culture, education, parenting

 

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For my Parents & Students whom I love…

When I was a child, I often saw how much love and respect my grandmother received from her former students in the supermarkets and in town, most of whom were grown with children of their own.  My grandmother taught for 30 years and conspicuously left an indelible impression on her students, so much so that at her funeral at age 95, one of her third grade students – now in his 60s or 70s – was in attendance to show his respect. I hope I am remembered as fondly, after my 25 years of teaching everything from Preschool art to university-level Japanese.

My heart has always been set on showing honest caring and high standards for my students, and love and respect for their parents, and even after I am no longer in the classroom, I want them to still have some access to those hopes and dreams.  In this digital age where we all will most likely NOT meet up at the village pharmacy anymore, I have decided to set up a website, with parenting resources, approved educational games, and a way for my students to say “Hi” and to continue to share their lives and creativity.  Here it is, “Mrs. Davenport’s Fun Pages“.  My heart is there.  Hope to see you there, too.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in education, parenting

 

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Controversy, Sacrifice & Raising Bilingual Children

This morning, I opened up an email from my online friend, Adam, from over at his blog, Bilingual Monkeys, and he mentioned that his recent post, “The 5 Biggest Sacrifices I’ve Made to Raise Bilingual Children”, is getting a lot of response, and even generating some controversy.  I thought you might like to read it and see why.  All my best.

http://bilingualmonkeys.com/the-5-biggest-sacrifices-ive-made-to-raise-bilingual-children/?utm_source=Bilingual+Monkeys+Newsletter&utm_campaign=53e0f6b57d-Newsletter11_30_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9c68f96b60-53e0f6b57d-89890477&mc_cid=53e0f6b57d&mc_eid=20e0567053

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in parenting

 

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Kids and Restaurants? Eating Out with a Smile!

[My Sidelines writing – re-posting again!]

I know we must all have at least one nightmarish memory swirling around the thought of wild kids in restaurants!

Maybe that memory is of someone else’s darling leaning over the booth top at the diner, sticking out her petulant tongue at us while we try to enjoy our food, her parents completely zoned out on their little darling’s wanton stare.

Or maybe it’s that memory of someone else’s four-year-old weaving in and out of the restaurant aisles, up and down out of his seat, under the table or standing in his chair, while his overly loud parent threatens, or worse, is oblivious to it all because she assumes that is how children are “supposed” to act in public. The old “kids will be kids” excuse in action, overly employed by those who need some new techniques.

Or maybe your own kids decided to break out the old temper tantrum right when the waitress informs you that the kitchen is backed up and your food is on a delay.

It’s enough to make anyone want to avoid the issue altogether, keep a babysitter on speed dial, and proclaim no kids should be allowed in a restaurant before age, say, fifteen!

Don’t do it. Here, I’m giving you my Top Three Tips from a Mom of Many who has been there, done that, enjoys meals out en masse at restaurants with the kids whenever possible, and who still regularly gets compliments from strangers about “how well behaved” they are. (I used to be a little insulted, wondering why they’d assume my kids wouldn’t be good, but then I learned. I accept the compliments graciously now.)

1) Start at Home. Teach your kids table manners at home, and “play restaurant” with them sometimes. Find what shushes your baby the quickest (holding him close, a sharp “shh!”, distraction, crayons and post-its, whatever), and use the same technique as soon as the storm clouds gather over your restaurant table. Make sure you keep a few snacks to kill hunger pains in your bag, plus one or two quiet toys, for when you head out. Stop them gently from disturbing other patrons, even when the other guests are being polite, and teach them to enjoy themselves with you.

2) Start early. As soon as you’re less paranoid about strangers’ germs swirling around your newborn’s head, go on a date with your special other, baby in tow, and start getting baby used to the sights and sounds of restaurant décor, staff and other diners. Baby starting to cry? Soothe and step out for a moment, if necessary. Baby hungry? Learn the techniques of covert feeding (where nobody notices – sorry, but I’m not an advocate of boobs-out breastfeeding in restaurants. A nice blanket suffices. Start something if you want to.) Keep at it. Your baby will soon learn to navigate the restaurant environment, you’ll enjoy your meals more, and other diners will smile and coo at you — and your baby, too!

3) Start at “Family-Friendly” Restaurants. This way, when the best laid plans of mice and men don’t work, there will be baby-friendly seating and bathroom facilities for your convenience, and other, more understanding diners around you, cutting down on icy stares and grumbling matrons who forget they used to go through the very same thing. Choose wisely, looking at the type of guests, the menu fare, the surroundings, everything, then decide if it will be a good environment for your family.

Lastly, don’t ever be afraid to get up and walk right back out the door if your child is misbehaving at a restaurant. Actually, we’re asking you to do so. Nothing works 100% of the time. Ask the waiter to wrap your food to-go, give him a tip, and go. Everyone, including your child, will be happier in the end. If you need to discourage your older child from acting up in public a second time, promise they’ll stay home the next time you go, and follow through. Leave them with a sitter. They’ll learn that lesson quick.

Most restaurants are for the enjoyment of everyone, including your children. Again, choose wisely before you decide to take your child, prepare well, and then go enjoy yourselves!

I’d love to hear your favorite tips, too.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2014 in parenting, restaurants

 

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Parenting and Stress

[Yet another re-post from my Sidelines writing.  The original title was “Handling Parenting and Stress at the Same Time.”  Your input, please! Thanks!]

Let’s talk about stress and parenting for a moment. They go hand in hand, don’t they?

In 2011, with seven active and inquisitive children at home ranging from a preschooler to a high schooler, with a flourishing career and spiritual life, plus a busy husband who also worked full-time, not only was I well-acquainted with “Stress,” but so on a first-name basis with it that I wrote and published a book on Amazon, entitled “Real Life Stressbusters for Moms on the Go.” I offered it free as an e-book for the first week and it got downloaded over 400 times in the US, the UK and in Australia. Does anybody wonder why? Parents are stressed. It’s the nature of the game.

There are so many clichés about stress out there, how to handle it, why it can be good for you, how it can kill you. I think the best cliché – one so based in truth that it bears repeating beyond nauseum – is this one:

Take care of yourself, or you will not be able to take care of anyone else, including your children.

It’s that old airplane emergency analogy: Don’t the airline attendants always caution passengers to put on our masks FIRST, and then tend to our children? We’d better listen.

In any case, I have my top five pieces of advice for parents, at least, that I can share here very quickly off the top of my head (my book is on the shelf somewhere – even I need to read it again occasionally, and I WROTE the thing. Stress is never-ending). Nevertheless, I think readers may be even more interested in what other parents out there have to say.

Please share your strategies for handling and/or avoiding stress. Yours may save a parent’s sanity today, and/or improve the bond between some child and his or her mother or father. Always worthwhile.

My Top Five (in no particular order):

1. Make a point to enjoy your children. Especially when they are getting on your last nerve, think of one or two things you like about them and focus on it. Appreciate them while you have them. Time passes quickly.

2. Teach them at an early age to be respectful and to show manners. It will make your days happier and more pleasant, as well as save some public embarrassment. Think about how stressful a grocery store meltdown can be, and you’ll understand why I include this. If you didn’t do a good job at teaching manners and respect when they were still in their twos and threes, don’t give up. Even a teenager can learn. (You may age ten years in a day, but do it anyway. Society will thank you, and so will your cortisol level.)

3. Always schedule in some time for yourself. Make sure you have a “Man Cave” or a “Mama Cave” somewhere (even if it’s just a closet with your favorite things stashed in it and a pillow to sit on). Retreat there for even 15 minutes of de-stress time. Or leave and go grab a coffee or tea for a half an hour while your significant other or a friend you trust watches your children for a bit. Watch a movie just for you when they’ve fallen asleep. Don’t neglect your personal time. You need it every day.

4. Exercise, dance, or somehow move your body. Get those endorphins rolling. It is said that endorphins are your natural “stress-busters.”

5. Seek and accept help whenever it is offered (as long as you trust the person who is offering it). You don’t have to parent alone. Get some books. Take a class. Ask some old people. Get those villagers involved when you’re feeling too alone.

In other words, do what you have to in order to learn to love and trust yourself enough to enjoy this thing called Parenting. It takes a lot of self-forgiveness in order to raise a healthy child. Nobody is perfect. Don’t believe anyone who claims to be.

Oh yeah, I was voted “National Parent of the Year” in 2010 along with my husband of 21 years. So what. We’re still learning, just like you.

What are your tips? We’d all appreciate reading them.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in parenting

 

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Cultivating a “Can Do” Attitude in Kids

[Welcome to a re-post from my writing at Sidelines. Enjoy!]

In this era of supreme convenience, marked by lightning-quick technology that provides instant gratification, heralded by parents preferring to drive a half-mile away to a store rather than bike the distance (or God forbid, walk it), and exacerbated by a dearth of experiences that many children go through either in the classroom or at home that teach them persistence or instill in them stamina, the question remains:

How do we cultivate a “Can Do” attitude in our kids?

I’m finding that the nature vs. nurture debate has little place in this conversation, although I’m sure someone will disagree. With seven of my own and all with the same mix of heritage, same genetic cocktail, same two parents, each of them displays a totally different attitude (as well as a totally different predisposition to tears!) when it comes to showing us they have that “grit”, that “stick-to-itiveness” to hang in there when the going gets tough and you have to fight for your dreams.

I can honestly say my kids are all good at dreaming, constructing goals, and hanging in there, but Man, it’s an uphill battle with some of them sometimes, although “Can Do” usually wins, thank goodness. I usually find another silver strand in my hair as my trophy after that battle, however. My sometimes not-so-secret worry is that, if our community experienced a disaster, would my children each have the grit to survive. Several would, but I worry about the others. (I have a handwritten reminder on the fridge right now about this, called my “survival training list.” It’s been there several weeks, JUST because this has been on my mind.)

So what do I do personally to cultivate this attitude? Lots of talking things up. Lots of “I remember when”s and “Your great-grandmother used to do THIS when THAT happened.” Lots of “You can do it!” Lots of prayer and supplication. Lots of blackberry pomegranate tea, or a glass of merlot on the front porch at the end of the day.

And I model it. I model it every day and every night. I look for role models to point out examples, and then I model it some more. I model it so much that I get loudly exhausted trying to model, and I occasionally end up fussing at the end of that exhausting day that “I shouldn’t have to model it!! You should know by now how to have a ‘Can Do’ attitude!!!”

But no, kids need constant modeling, even grown ones. So I keep blackberry pomegranate tea and merlot on hand, just in case exhaustion hits again. Then I say a prayer at night, and expect to do it again the next day until one day, when I’m finally old, I see the results in each of them.

What do you do? How do you cultivate a “Can Do” Attitude in your kids?

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in parenting, Uncategorized

 

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Google Glass and the Language of Motherhood

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I’ve just made some coffee, it’s 6am, and while the children are still sleeping in the early hours of this Saturday morning, I’ve just finished opening up my newly-arrived Google Glass, discovered how to turn it on, and am looking at the image and start-up screen that leads me into how to operate Glass. After the first few wordless “swipe and tap” instructions, I have come to my first roadblock. Glass is telling me now: “Tap to complete setup on an Android phone”. I have an iPhone. OK, so now I have to repossess one of my kids’ phones??? I should have known…

Well, I podder around the kitchen with Glass still perched in place on the bridge of my nose, pour my coffee, and go to take a quick picture of “Mom’s First Time” wearing it – sans makeup, etc., by the way. I’m still in my nightgown savoring the morning quiet, and my hair reflects my just having woken up. Still, I get busy preparing for the kids’ Saturday morning and I hear my first Glass sound – about five sharp descending notes. Happy to realize I didn’t need the earbuds to hear it, I look up and the glass screen says, “Shutting down”. Fine. I need to figure out which phone I’ll need to use… (Didn’t know I had to have a separate phone. Maybe I don’t. I’ll see…)  I go to my mama cave to enjoy my coffee and solitude (a renovated closet with armchair, flowers, books and incense.)

Fast-forward one hour to my techie-est teenaged daughter setting Glass up while I cook breakfast (a Minecraft aficianada, she wakes up early just to get to our desktop computer first): “Mom, don’t worry: You can use your iPhone.”…”Mom, what’s your password?”…”Mom, shush, please. I’m talking to Technical Support.”…”Mom, it’s set up.”

And from me as she turns my direction with Glass still on her nose (I’m still in my nightgown): “Don’t take my picture!”  The conversation begins.

At my school, I’m planning a “Google Glass In-Class Field Trip” for my littlest students, and I’m planning to let each one try Glass on and give one or two commands. Most parents are excited and a bunch are volunteering, but just a few are a bit wary. My parents trust me, however, and they should: I’m somewhat of an old-fashioned teacher, one who works hard to give my students opportunities, cares deeply about each and every one, is adventurous but cautious, and takes no mess.  They know that whatever I would protect my own children from, I would protect their children from: While they are in my classroom, they are my children.  No harm will come to them. The smartest, most communicative parents know that I am already aware of the privacy and distraction issues with Google Glass, but that I also see the potential for breakthroughs in medicine, emergency response, the arts…I still need to investigate how it can help my adult ESL students.  As for the little ones, I’m hoping to conduct a few live online field trips for my students next year, and if I’m successful in returning to Japan next year for my anniversary, I hope my students will share a little of that experience through Glass.  I don’t know, it’s still a dream.

In any case, I have my own questions, and adjusting for age, I plan to let my students ask questions, too: Namely, “What does Google Glass do?”, “How can Google Glass help my family?”, and “What’s wrong with Google Glass?”.  As for me, sometimes and magnificently “Just A Mom”, my biggest question, as it has been for years and will continue to be, is “How can I nurture my children and use technology to streamline our family life WHILE preventing my children from becoming thoroughly addicted to that same technology and missing out on life?”

I remember that Star Trek episode (are you surprised?) where the teens have been raised by computers built into columns standing in the middle of fields. All of the adults on the planet had been wiped out years earlier by a virus.  I still haven’t tracked that Star Trek episode down (and PLEASE tell me if you know which one it is), but the planet’s children had no idea of how to interact with the human crew from the USS Enterprise. When talked to, they turned briefly to look, stared blankly for a minute, and then turned quickly back to their computers. This is already happening every day with people and smart phones.  Ask a highway patrolman. Ask a mom.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that our smart phones, our email, our advances in technology have served to streamline our lives, connected distant families, broadened horizons, allowed people – with no gas to drive across town – to pay a bill online or to apply for a job. The issues are deep, though, and call for more involved parenting, deeper thought and wariness, and a mixture of caution and commitment to adventure.

Well, my gorgeous macho husband is now cooking dinner, the older kids are out about town, the younger kids are outside playing tag with the neighbors, and I can hear my man’s deep voice emanating from the kitchen area through the clanging of pots and pans, saying tongue-in-cheek: “OK, Glass: Google, Stop, Go, Jump, Skip.” For my part, I’m happy to read – online, no less – that yet another reader has downloaded the Kindle version of my book on Amazon, “Real Life Stressbusters for Moms on the Go” and has given me a great review.  Yay! Technology is working for us so far, and the kids are still enjoying the fresh air outside.  It is not all rosy, however, so I am about to embark upon this adventure, because sometimes too much technology is not such a good thing.

This should be interesting.



		
 
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Posted by on April 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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