“They’re not dressing up as Native Americans, are they?” I said, wrinkling my nose. After reading about how cultures aren’t costumes around Halloween and how the whitewashed version of the Thanksgiving story is painfully inaccurate, I hope that my son’s preschool isn’t re-enacting the famous version of the Thanksgiving narrative. Regardless of their curriculum, I know we won’t be repeating it in our household. So we have to come up with an alternative.
Want to give effectively to a food drive to a local food bank?
You rarely have the opportunity to decide how to spend your co-workers’ hard-earned money. But as the one responsible for running our yearly food drive, I wanted both them and the food bank to get the best bang for their buck. Just randomly picking out whatever I felt like at the grocery store wasn’t going to cut it. But how could I donate in the most effective way possible?
I’m not the only one who struggles with this question. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the “food drive holidays,” where everyone from churches to Boy Scouts troops are collecting cans to donate to food banks. Unfortunately, the donations to these drives aren’t as helpful as they could be because people just aren’t aware of the most effective ways to give.
Between my experiences running the food drives and reading up on the subject, I’ve found some really handy rules to guide your food drive giving.
“Why did he think he was better than everyone else?” my four year old asked as we were reading the picture book Little Blue Truck. In the story, a huge construction truck comes barreling through a farm, proclaiming, “I’ve got important things to do!” As a consequence of his pride, he slides into a mud puddle and his huge tires get stuck. In the world of trucks, he’s a bit of an entitled brat.
Answering my son’s question was tough. Why do some people think they’re better than others? Why do some people think they deserve more or better than other people do? As challenging it is to answer these, they’re essential questions to figure out if we’re going to raise kids who respect and value other people. In other words, to prevent raising entitled kids.
When I was a teenager in the late 1990s, I thought I was born in the wrong time. In my mind, I should have been coming of age in the 1960s, the height of the Civil Rights era. I imagined myself as a fierce crusader for the rights of others, on the front lines of the marches and sit-ins to confront white supremacy.
Dear Lord, I was a fool.
Admittedly, that’s pretty common among teenagers. But this was a special kind of foolishness. One that seems especially relevant in this rather terrible time in our nation’s history. This past weekend, a white supremacist plowed a car into a group of anti-racist protestors. There are three people dead (one protester and two police officers in a related accident) and many others in the hospital.
To me, this incident highlights how ignorant I was back then and yet how common my views still are. My naivety illustrates everything about why white parents need to talk to their kids about white supremacy. (By which I don’t mean just the literal Nazis, but also the cultural aspect of valuing white people and white culture above all others.)
“Mommy is going to let the people in charge know that we need to respect all people,” I told my son on the morning of the Women’s March. While I’ve been politically active for a long time, he never really knew about it. Because I so rarely miss weekend time with the kids, I wanted to let him know what I was doing and why it was important. As I and two of friends gathered snacks and pinned posters on our jackets, seeing my kids reminded me why we were doing this in the first place.
Explaining what’s going on is even more important if you’re bringing your kids along to a political event. In the case of the People’s Climate March, I knew that I had a responsibility to explain to Sprout why he was there.
From explaining why I’ve missed dinner to testify to our City Council to marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, here’s what I’ve learned about introducing kids to activism:
So proud of my munchkin.
“You’re not going to bring the kids to homeless shelters are you?” asked my husband, several years before we had kids. “Probably. We need to teach them how to help people.” He most likely rolled his eyes. But now after being married to me for a decade and living in the Age of Trump, he understands. Which is why all four of us were out in the sweaty heat this past Saturday walking in the Washington D.C. People’s Climate March.
Privilege is a word tossed around a lot these days, often in the phrase “Check your…” But even though the words are new, the idea is something I’ve known about for a long time. My mom emphasized how I was lucky to have what I had. Sure, my parents and I worked hard, but what we had wasn’t through hard work alone. I hope to pass that knowledge onto my kids.
Knowing how damn lucky and I my kids are motivates so much of my activism. I got the chance to write about it for Mamalode recently, in a piece called My Privilege Protects Me and My Sons From So Much – This is the Least I Can Do.
Here’s the first two paragraphs:
“President Obama, I know you have two daughters. I know you love them. But I want you to know that I don’t know if I’ll have kids. That’s because I don’t know if they’ll have clean water to drink,” said Eryn Wise, a 26-year-old organizer of the movement against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. As she stared out at the crowd gathered in front of the White House, I gasped just a little. Of course, I know this is a calculation women make every day – whether the world they would bring their child into is good enough. And too often, that answer is no. But to hear a young woman say it in person made me breathe in just a little more sharply.
That’s because it’s a question I’ve never had to face.
Read the rest at Mamalode!
When I was pregnant, I imagined what life might be like if I had a little girl. I envisioned teaching her to stand up for herself, buying her dresses with science symbols, letting her get dirty, and being an example of a strong woman for her. I wasn’t going to stereotype her or allow anyone else to, thank you very much. In short, I considered how to teach her to be a feminist.
But I turned out to have two sons.
The girls are missing.
Children’s literature is remarkably devoid of female main characters. As a recent video illustrates so drastically, in a study of more than 500 children’s books, 25% had zero female characters. Even though there are loads of animals that could easily be female, they’re almost always identified as male.
Even when there are female characters, they’re often relegated to a stereotypical role, like the stick-in-the-mud, the mom, or “the vain one.” In children’s media, just under 20% of female characters had jobs or specific aspirations.
Just like in the broader popular culture, boys in picture books get to go on adventures, solve problems, and save the day. These stories teach our children that either girls don’t get to do fun things or have to stay in society’s prescribed roles.
In contrast, both little girls and boys need female characters in books! While little girls need to see themselves represented, boys need need to know that the story isn’t always about them – and that it’s a good thing.
Bringing down the patriarchy can start at your child’s bookshelf. Here are some of my family’s favorite books featuring girls as main characters. In addition, a number of these books feature girls of color, which are even harder to find.
In these troubled times, it’s easy to ask, “What can I possibly do as a mom / dad?” This past weekend, my family attended one rocking answer to that question.
Welcoming immigrants and refugees to America is one of my core political values. More than one of my family stories revolves around immigration and I’m a better person for knowing the many immigrants in my life. I strongly believe in providing opportunities for people who just want to build a better life for their children.
So when I saw that the Takoma Parents Action Coalition was putting on a “Toddler Dance Party” to benefit the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition, I knew this event was our jam.