#sol17 Go the F to Sleep

I wrote this Slice last night:

I am currently hiding in the bathroom with a glass of wine listening on the monitor to my husband try to get the toddler to sleep after I tag-teamed him in at the start of hour 2 of bedtime.

This is my life now.

What a way to spend a Saturday night.

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#sol17 Snow Day!

A snow day means…

Sleeping in

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One of K’s 19879823 tools

Playing tools before breakfast

Watching too much TV

Reading 1000 children’s books

Not reading my book (Hidden Figures which I am finding it very dense & kind of hard to get through, to be completely honest)

Getting nap-trapped on the rocking chair when K fell asleep on my lap

Asking K if he wanted to go outside to play in the snow at least 4 times, and hearing “No” every time (“It’s coooold…” he murmured as he stared at the blowing snow out the window)

Making banana bread

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We added walnuts and chocolate chips and it tasted amazing!

Watching too much TV…again

Snuggling on the couch

Making macaroni and cheese for dinner

Checking my work email to find out if we’re lucky enough to have a second snow day tomorrow (we’re not)

Giving K a bath

Trying to fish a bathtub crayon out from the drain (bye-bye, blue…)

Reading another 100 books before bed

Having a long “conversation” with Tappy, K’s rocking horse, about which books to read

Playing an impromptu game of hide-and-go-seek before bed

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Stealth photo of toddler feet coming to find me!

Watching J shovel snow from the living room window so we can drive to work tomorrow (best husband ever)

Enjoying a cup of tea and a piece of banana bread before bed

 

Feeling totally relaxed, happy, and in love with my life

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#sol17 Think Pink

This afternoon, just as the bell rang signaling that Lunch C was over and it was time for students to head to Period 4, I realized that I needed to water my classroom plants. (I’m taking a personal day tomorrow, and I didn’t want them to get too parched over the weekend.) I asked one of the students in my room, a very nice senior named Mitchell, if he’d fill my water bottle at the fountain on our floor.

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A stock image of my beautiful hot pink Klean Kanteen sport bottle. Mine is adorned with a “Bottle Up” sticker designed by our school’s Marine Conservation Club.

“I got a lot of weird looks in the hall, you know,” he smirked as he walked back in and handed over my makeshift watering can. “Guys asked if it was mine. I had to say no.”

***

When I was pregnant, we didn’t want to find out if we were having a boy or a girl in advance of our baby’s birth. “But what color clothes will you buy????” people wailed. “What will you paint the nursery????”

“Um…. baby clothes? Green? Yellow? Blue? Purple? Does it matter???

I remember as a kid dressing in all kinds of clothes in all colors. Green pajamas, burgundy jeans, rainbow sweaters, blue overalls, big heavy yellow sweaters my Grandma Nettie had knit, t-shirts that said “New Zealamb” and “I ♥ NY” from friends and family. Although my sister and I had some frilly girly items, lovingly purchased by my Grandma Yetta who had only had sons, my mother chose to dress us as neutrally as the 1980s and early 90s allowed.

Nowadays, it seems everything is so heavily gendered. When we go shopping, most clothing, toy, diaper, baby accoutrements aisles appear in two stark shades: PINK. BLUE. Sparkles vs. trucks. Dinosaurs OR ponies.

While I do think that raising a daughter in our still-patriarchal environment is enormously difficult – as my recent read Girls & Sex made abundantly clear – raising a son presents its own special set of circumstances. As my students so insightfully point out when I teach critical gender theory, women have had their horizons expanded; it’s appropriate for them to pursue “masculine” jobs, sports, be a tomboy, act tough. It’s still harder for boys to act too effeminate lest they be perceived as overly emotional or weak or gay by their peers; heaven forbid they act like a girl!

Of course, my husband and I try to break every one of those stereotypes with our sweet boy. He loves “boy” things: trucks, dinosaurs, construction vehicles. He flies around the playground with boundless energy. But he also loves “girl” things: taking care of his baby doll, whom he has named “Sister”; cooking elaborate meals on his play kitchen; snuggling on the couch and reading books. Why these things have been gendered is beyond me.

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Image by Kristen Myers via the Huffington Post

***

When my decidedly not-girly mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she told everyone in our family, “Don’t buy me a lot of pink shit!”

This narrative gets played out a lot. There was recently an impassioned discussion in my moms’ group Facebook page about the obsession with pink and princess culture and raising strong women. Lots of moms presented online think pieces about how we need to make room for femininity inside modern feminism. I agree; I was particularly drawn to this idea from one post:

The way forward isn’t to teach girls to be more like boys—that’s just the same old patriarchal shit of privileging masculinity over femininity. Instead, we should be teaching all kids that wearing skirts and loving pink and wanting cuddly baby dolls are totally cool and fine ways to be. There’s nothing inherently bad about being femme; problems arise when we try to enforce femininity on people as a means of oppression.

We feminists tell ourselves that we’re trying to break down the gender binary, which is for sure an admirable idea that should be tackled with enthusiasm. But as we move towards viewing gender as more of a spectrum, we need to make sure that spectrum includes the color pink.

***

Recently, K has taken a shine to things colored pink. On two separate occasions, he’s asked to us purchase pink items, one a water bottle at Walgreens and the other a “girl” Matchbox car. On the one hand, J and I were horrified that he identified the pink car as a “girl” car. On the other hand, I guess I’m kind of proud that my boy chose the “girl” one? I’m not sure what to think, but it’s clear that to him, it’s just a water bottle, just a car, in a color he likes.

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Of the blue and pink Contigo water bottles  on the shelf, K chose pink. “It’s so happy!” he said.
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The “Chill Mill” Fresh Milk truck. Hmm…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m pretty sure that it’s only a matter of time before he begins to eschew all things pink; even if I give the same history lesson I provide in my English classes about how the colors only switched mid-twentieth century, that pink used to be a boy color and blue a girl color, and that before that all babies wore white, I’m not sure how much it will matter. Socialization and culture are powerful.

More powerful, though, than his Mom and Dad, who are always crowing, “All colors are for all people”? We’ll see. Until then, we’ll be thinking pink.

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#sol17 Villages

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
― Dorothy Day

My days are basically the same: Wake up. Commute to work. Teach. Go home. Family time. Sleep. Rinse, repeat.

venn7This is why on the days when I have the chance to engage with communities which break this monotony, or provide me with a sense of refuge within it, I feel so grateful. Like some super-complicated Venn diagram of my life, these various groups allow me to more fully be my best series of selves.

My teaching community

So much of teaching is in isolation. A teacher is surrounded by students all day long – and don’t get me wrong, when my classes are really great, those groups of students become true communities – but aside from specific structures such as staff meetings or shared lunch periods, we do not necessarily spend our time with other adults. Grading is often solitary. Planning is often solitary.

Luckily, we can find ways to carve our time into something meaningful. My school has built-in common planning periods for teachers who are on the same grade-level team. Lucky for me, this includes Tanya. We have taught together for a decade now, and in that time she has become a mentor, constant collaborator, and “big sister.” I rely on the days that we can enjoy a leisurely lunch, share student work, co-plan lessons, collaborate on curriculum, discuss pedagogy and TV and politics. Tanya and the rest of my circle of work friends, people who are like-minded in how they approach teaching and social justice and teens, support and sustain the professional me.

My writing community

This year I’m running a professional development workshop called Teachers as Writers. It’s basically a writing group for and of teachers – some from my school, others from across the district – who come together once a month and workshop each others’ writing. When we enter my classroom for 75 minutes on afternoons such as today, we don’t do it in service of improving pedagogy or assessment of student writing- we do it for ourselves, to hone our own work, to honor our own craft. It is freeing, and it has already made me a better teacher of writing for my students as well.

This community – some of whom I knew well before this began, others I have met for the first time in this course – has become a way for me to nourish that part of myself that craves feedback for my work, that acknowledges the poet and writer within. I leave each session buoyed by my hope for and belief in my own voice.

My parenting community

When K was born, I was a little adrift. In those first couple of months of his life, we moved apartments, my husband changed jobs, and my sister and close friend each got married. I had a lot on my plate. When J went back to work in the fall, I needed something to fill the remaining six weeks of my maternity leave, so I joined Stroller Strides, checked out a free drop-in music class at a local community center, and finally attended a local toy store’s new parents’ coffee hour. This last group eventually led me to my Mom Community  (MoC). Although there are many online op-eds denigrating these spaces as judgmental, catty, basic, I have found an enormous amount of strength and love from MoC.

Although we often get together IRL (in real life), it’s hard to find babysitters, juggle schedules, and deal with myriad illnesses, family visits, etc. So we rely a lot on our Facebook group to share links, get advice, vent about kids/partners/family, find many shoulders to cry on. Our children span an 18-month period in their ages, so some of us can offer advice about where we’ve been; others get to look ahead to see what’s ahead in our journeys. Across our homes, across our families, MoC is a web of support connected by milk and motherhood, here to make sure that no mom is left behind.

It takes many villages

When I was younger, I would watch shows like Friends and silently bemoan the fact that I didn’t have a single close-knit group of friends to share my every waking moment. Although I know that some people’s lives do resemble sitcom television, mine has not been one of them.

Instead, I have many intersecting and individual communities: friends from college; friends from grad school; work friends; mom friends; family members who are also true friends; professional groups with whom I engage in pedagogical and ideological discourse; my large and wild extended family; my own family unit of J, K, and me.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” the saying goes. Maybe sometimes, it takes multiple villages. Like an intricate net of solidarity, each of these communities strengthens the various facets of my life, each a small village in the countryside of Me.

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#sol17 Poems for Parents

Tonight was bath night.

I filled the tub and K dumped in his toys, a set of foam trucks, roads, and signs that his grandparents recently gave him. img_7694He pulled his pants down to his ankles, a new trick he’s recently mastered. Once naked and in the water, he “swam like a fish!” and then carefully deliberated about where on the tile wall to stick each two-dimensional component of “my job site.”

As I watched, I thought about how much of him has changed in the year since I last Sliced. Almost three, he can now (partially) dress and undress himself. He can follow directions. He can jump with two feet off the ground. He tells us stories that make sense and we can understand. He has parts of his favorite books memorized. We have conversations. He can name all of the trucks and most of his colors. He counts: “one, two, seven, eleven, fourteen, nine!” He recites most of the alphabet and sings his favorite songs. He picks out what clothes he wants to wear. He laughs at our jokes.

And in so many ways, he is still a baby: he sleeps in his same crib, still relies on his pacifier to settle him to sleep, still wants me to rock him before bed, still wears diapers, hasn’t made the transition from Mama and Dada to Mom and Dad. Not yet.

At one point, he held a piece of forked piece of road in his hands, studying the wall, deciding where it should go. I was reminded of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and its less well-known lines, Frost’s oft-mistook theme of regret:

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
K has his entire life spread before him, an endless series of roads and decisions and choices and moments and doubts. I do not own him, and he is not mine, not really; we are on borrowed time. Someday he will be as old as my students, someday he will be as old as me, someday he will be as old as my parents. Someday, he will not need me to run his bath or make his meals. I am not the first parent to realize any of this, of course, but every moment that a parent has this realization feels like a kind of tiny death.

Because I think in poetry, I am reminded of another poem, Kahlil Gibran’s “On Children“:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
As I sat there, watching him watch the wall, he made a choice. He placed the road. He glanced at me. “Good job,” I said. What I meant was, “I love you.”

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#sol17 Back in the saddle

slice of lifeWow, back at it! It’s been a really, really long time since I have done this. (Almost but not quite a year.)

I guess it’s worth discussing some of the things I’ve been doing:

First and foremost, I’ve been mom-ing. My son turned two last spring and we’re quickly approaching his third birthday. Every day is an adventure; his language, his interests, his abilities change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up sometimes! Being stuck in the nitty-gritty of the everyday, I rely on poetry, private journaling, and photos/videos on my iPhone to remind me how much has changed. Thanks goodness for technology!

Also, my husband and I bought a house! We’re about 10 miles north of Boston now. It’s weird being in the suburbs, and I miss the city (especially the diversity), but financially this was the move we needed to make.

I’m also more than half-way through another school year, and it feels as though I’ve finally gotten my groove back after returning from maternity leave. My teaching feels more robust and energized than ever, and that’s in large part due to the thing that’s taken up a large part of my time…

Since January 2016 I’ve been a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow. Teach Plus is a national non-profit that helps support teachers as leaders. It’s been a pretty amazing experience, not only because I’ve had the opportunity to do things like testify at the MA State House about an educational bill, meet state legislators and other community leaders, present at regional conferences, and provide input into the MA Frameworks, but also I’ve done a lot of writing and publishing in the last year.

Writing about educational issues – for publication, not just for myself or my school or my blog – has been a blessing. It’s reminded me why I teach, why I spend 180 days of my life surrounded by teenagers, why I am a public school teacher, why I feel so passionately about the promise and power of education. It has kept me buoyed throughout some politically turbulent waters, and has helped me to be more engaged and present in the process of writing with my students. I’ve known for a long time that teaching is not a neutral act, and in the act of writing about my teaching, I’ve infused my professional work with more of “me” than I ever had.

Last March I decided to stay anonymous, but I’m going to out myself here. We write because we have something to say, yes? So why not share myself with my teacher-writer peers! I hope you enjoy the writing I’ve been doing instead of blogging over the last year, and I look forward to writing and sharing and reading with y’all this month!

Resurrected memories #sol16

He has no idea what Easter is, or what to do during an Easter egg hunt. But he knows, because of my smile and the tone of my voice, that what I’m asking him to do is fun.

I hand him the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bucket his aunt bought for him yesterday, and we go outside. I’ve placed the brightly colored plastic eggs, some filled with chocolate or jelly beans, others with finger puppets or small toys, around the yard in easy to spot places. But I know that he is still going to need a little bit of help to find each one.Once we show him what he’s supposed to look for, he races screeching with joy across the lawn. We are placed strategically around the yard; his father by the lawn chairs, his grandmother under the peach tree. There are twelve eggs total, and he finds them all within moments. With each discovery, he hoists his egg high, yelling, “Hooray!” before he plunks it into the pail.  Inside, he curls into my lap, and one by one I grab the toy-filled eggs first, cracking open each one so he can then pull out the tiger, the lion, each finger puppet, try it on, make it roar. Then, we give him small amounts of candy, his mouth chocolate-smeared as he asks for “More?!”

As a child, Easter meant this very tradition: eggs, a treasure hunt, chocolate bunnies. We were non-practicing Jews in rural New England; every year, we celebrated with family friends, after they had come home from church. My sister and I were younger than their grown daughters, so we were the ones to get baskets full of candy and the opportunity to hunt for dyed hard boiled eggs in their backyard. Some years it was so warm we wore shorts and t-shirts; other years, we had to dig through snow. One year, we found an egg in the crook of a tree that had been forgotten from the previous year — we didn’t realize it until we unpeeled it back inside!

I always loved going to their house for Easter. It wasn’t my holiday, but like Christmas, there was enough of a secular culture around the celebration that I felt comfortable participating. It was a little like my own observance of Judaism growing up: our family holidays were limited to Chanukah and Passover, easy to celebrate and requiring no fasting or temple-going.

So far, we have celebrated it all with K: lit Chanukah candles next to our Christmas tree, hosted Passover Seder, opened Easter baskets. He is not quite two; right now, neither God not Santa not the Easter Bunny has any sway. And yet, as I watch him pull new clothes out of the Easter basket his grandparents gave him, I wonder: how much longer before we have to start these hard conversations? This is what Mommy’s family believes, this is what Daddy’s family believes, and we are in the middle…

At dinner my mother-in-law says, “Happy Resurrection Day!” Another reminder that before long, we will need to frame this interfaith family. But for now, I feel happy, because today I resurrected one of my favorite memories from my own childhood, one that we can share together.

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