There was a moment where I just stopped what I was doing to say, “This is ridiculous”. It was a Sunday like any other. I spent my “day off” taking a kid to practice, going to the grocery store, washing 10 loads of laundry, cooking dinner, and somehow getting a few extra hours in on a small project. Yes, that was all accomplished in one day. By the end of the day, my hands were shaking, I was dizzy, I had a headache, and I felt myself losing a grip on this “reality” I created for myself. It was an insane reality of unrealistic expectations that I had allowed myself to accept. Though none of these tasks were necessarily assigned to me, I knew that they needed to be done. And my body responded like any overworked machine- it was beginning to shut down. How did I get here?
Athletics has been in my life in some form since I was about 10 years old. I remember making my first basketball team in 7th grade which led to an undefeated season that opened the pathway to me playing three varsity sports through my senior year in college. With decades of successful and unsuccessful seasons under my belt, I then decided to jump on the other side of the whistle and try my hand at coaching. The exhilaration of the game now anew and refreshed, I learned a great deal about what it takes to build championship mentalities, loving support networks, and wacky pregame rituals. The range of emotions felt while participating in sports as a coach and athlete, has fueled my desire to support my own children in their respective athletic pursuits. Knowing a lot about athletics does not put my mind at ease. How can I support my child, her team, and her coach?
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. According the CDC, endometriosis occurs “when the kind of tissue that normally lines the uterus grows somewhere else”. In other words your uterine lining can grow on ovaries, it can wrap around your intestines and in some cases on parts of the body nowhere near the female reproductive organs, like in a few rare cases the lungs. As serious as this sounds, unfortunately, many people have heard more about ovarian cancer (which is very serious) than endometriosis. I, however, have known about this disease and the havoc it can wreak for my entire life.
Growing up I used to pray that I would never get my menstrual cycle. I never wanted children and I never wanted to take part in any of the natural changes that occur within the 21-35 day interval of femininity. I saw it as the body’s unnecessary method of taking out the garbage and wondered what would happen if you could “become a woman” but keep all of that “stuff” in there. But alas the end of middle school came and my prayers were not answered. I was a normal woman and I had to deal with the “tribulations of womanhood”. But my overall attitude toward the process changed when someone very close to me was diagnosed with endometriosis.
”But stripping is not for you my child”, I said to my daughter, beginning to question my original choice to allow “Finesse” to play next on the Spotify mix. We got to that sentence because my youngest asked who the female rapper was on the track. My oldest child said, “She is Cardi B”. She heard at school she was good but upon listening, she was uncertain if she missed the memo.
“I mean I kinda like that we have two rappers, now… her and Nicki” I said to my oldest.
“Yeh, mom but Nicki Minaj, I don’t know, she is actually talented. She is fun to listen to and creative”. She said. I felt pride swell in my chest. I was raising a rap connoisseur. She was listening intently and not just hypnotized by the repetitive beat.
We talked about why a variety of self expression is great for the music industry and that when I was a kid we had two female ganger-sex rappers (Lil Kim and Foxy Brown) among a wide range of other women representing other communities and interest in the black and brown communities. But the reason I said, But stripping is not for you, is because I told my daughters that Cardi was a stripper first. She then rose to popularity through Instagram and other reality-like tv and media. My oldest began explaining what stripping was as best as she could as a ten year old hearing about it from friends.
I found a pile of papers on the kitchen floor that I recalled instructing someone to discard. In my discontent I began to bend down and pick it up but stopped. “This isn’t reinforcing good habits”, I said in my head. Screw this. I called in the accused...
“Sorry mom, but the reason I did this was...”
I stopped her right there. I knew where this was going... another 5 or 10 minute conversation, with me listening to an excuse or a motive that I really didn’t care to entertain, mostly because I was exhausted, but also because I knew this wasn’t going to get the paper off the floor.
“I don’t care about your reason. What’s done is done. What are we going to do about it now?”, I said.
“But mom I had a good reason to do that”. She was convinced that if she could tell me why, somehow I would be happier.
“This is not a situation where your reason is important. This is a situation that requires action… and maybe an apology...”
I was feverishly completing a work email with a 5pm deadline. My kids had finished their homework and I could hear them arguing in the background. Soon the arguing panned into the foreground. Tears and screams got closer and closer to my ears but I was determined to power through...
“Mom. Mom. MOM!”
I stopped breathing because in the midst of all that noise I was able to author the most amazing response to an important issue. I didn’t want to lose this inspiration and this level of work consciousness… but the voice could not be ignored. The voice had a very serious request.
“Mom, can I have a hug?”
In our home, we’re always looking for diverse books that empower girls. And we’re always looking for stories with women of color as the main character of the story. Books like this allow my girls to see themselves in the pages and understand that they are the star of their show. Megan Astolfi discusses the importance of the mirror effect books have, in a case study conducted at a North Carolina elementary school on personal reflection and read aloud texts. She states that failing to include diverse literature into the classroom curriculum, is a “disservice to our children of color, negatively impacting the development of their self-image and cultural identity” (9). Megan Astolfi points out that “educators need to think critically about the texts they are using during reading instruction”. Parents should take this advice to heart too.
I would like to take this point further. All children should read stories about people who are different than them. In an era of “otherness” and in a time when political leaders lack empathy for others, parents must be vigilant in teaching their children about respecting people, religious practices, and cultural practices that are different. Research on prejudice shows that coming in contact with people who are different – so-called “others” – helps to reduce stereotypes. A book is often the first real experience a child has with someone who is not like them. What message do we send to students from non-marginalized groups when we only use texts that reflect their culture and experiences?
In celebration of Multicultural Book Day 2018, we covered a few books about empowering girls of color, that we hope end up on EVERYONE’s shelves.
I woke up on the morning of the one year anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington with the expectation that my social media feed would be flooded with a stream of love, joy, and togetherness. Instead I saw a flood of negativity by women who live in the intersections. People talked about how they hadn’t heard about the march; how Pussy-Hats were symbols of white supremacy; or how they generally felt the March was not inclusive to women of color or trans women. I get it. White women’s movements have been historically isolating and unkind to those of us living in the margins and the footnotes of American history.
That said, I wanted this movement to be different. And for me, it was. Last year my mother, myself, and my daughters were featured in the New York Times which included an interview and a NYT video. Our experience captured the essence of who we are as a family and what we stand for as multigenerational women searching for solutions to tough questions that represent our lives. This year I couldn’t attend because of severe sickness and the flu bug that hit our family hard this year. The excitement to fulfill my FOMO was vanquished by the many opportunities people took to bash the March. I wondered why. Was it because the March wasn’t solely focused on police brutality or trans women’s issues? Were pink hats too much? What made a movement with founders representing many communities feel so out of touch for these people complaining? Then I wondered if I was out of touch with black issues and the issues that affect black women.
Boy parents and Girl parents:
In light of all the sexual assault allegations that have risen up in the last couple months, it’s time we think about the future we want to create for our children. What kind of world do we want our sons and daughters to live in? What kind of partners do we want our children to be for other people’s kids? What kind of partners do we want for our children? I doubt that anyone wants their child to be taken advantage of and I doubt that anyone wants their child to become a social pariah. If we envision a world where our children are accepted and loved for who they are, it means that we have to do a lot of work to create that world.
The Ultimate Take Your Child to Work Day!
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the ED Games Expo at the Kennedy Center this week. The Expo was a showcase of around 100 game developers and companies covering the major K12 learning subject areas like math, reading, science, and social studies; and iCivics was in attendance showcasing some of our latest upgraded games. In addition to developers, companies, investors, and foundations, there were around 600 K12 students in attendance throughout the day visiting tables, attending panel discussions, and asking game designers questions about educational game development. What a treat!?
I brought my very excited, very opinionated, and very analytical third grader to assist me at the iCivics booth. Most importantly, I wanted her to have the opportunity to talk to game designers, play games, and experience the edu-gaming industry up close. Like many children, she plays her share of Minecraft and downloads mobile apps without thinking about what’s happening on the backend of the console or mobile game. Though we did not get to attend any panels, or visit as many tables as we would have liked, according to her, the time was well spent. Here are a few highlights...