With one child headed to college in a few months and another who constantly places clean clothes in the dirty laundry hamper rather than (re)folding it and putting it away in his dresser, I’m thinking it is time for me to allow both of them to enjoy one of adulthood’s greatest responsibilities – laundry. I’m done cajoling them into bringing the dirty clothes to me so I can have the pleasure of sorting, washing, drying and folding their stuff. It’s time.
When did you begin doing your own laundry? If I told you I washed my family’s laundry at the town Laundromat when I was in 3rd grade, would you believe me? Well, it’s true, I did. I have distinct memories of my brother and I walking 2 blocks, carrying baskets of dirty clothes, to the laundromat. I don’t remember complaining about doing it, either. The library was on the other side of the laundromat’s parking lot and I eventually got pretty adept at throwing the wash into the machine, walking to the library for a stack of Nancy Drew books and getting back in time to toss everything into the dryer.
When it came time for folding, the challenge was always the sheets. My 9-year-old arms simply couldn’t extend wide enough to get the nice, crisp fold my mother expected. If I was lucky, there would be some older women nearby who would literally give me a hand, teaching me that complete strangers were willing to help me as I made an effort.
I went downstairs this evening and moved my son’s load of laundry from the washing machine to the dryer so I could throw in a load of my things. A bit later, I
folded neatly placed his clothing into his hamper so I could toss my own stuff into the dryer. Looks like I really did learn a lot from those kind women so many years ago.
England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving.
I’ve had these lyrics from an old Sinead O’Connor song kicking around in my head recently. It would be easy enough, and equally accurate, to substitute America for England, wouldn’t it? When my middle son asked me last night why police officers keep killing young black men, I was at a loss. The only response I could articulate was this – Because they’ve done it one way or another for years and continue to get away with it.
I don’t know what it’s like to be the mother of black boys, but I do understand that parenting black children, particularly males, involves issues, that will probably never impact my children. Is this just or fair? Absolutely not. Has it been the reality of our society for generations? Without a doubt, yes.
I suspect that involved and proactive black parents have discussions with their children about how to respond to law enforcement officers to avoid becoming the next Michael Brown or Tamir Rice, a topic I’ve never felt the need to broach with my sons. I very much doubt that a video produced by a young white man would resonate as deeply as this recent viral video created by Will Stack did. The reason? My sons, by virtue of their skin color and not necessarily their behavior, are at far less risk of being approached by police officers than male black teens, a truth that is well documented here.
It’s clear that we have a serious and pervasive problem in our country when it comes to law officers and their interactions with black citizens. There’s another issue, though, that we as a nation need to address – gun violence. According to this report “Firearm homicide alone, and by extension firearm violence, was the leading cause of death for Black men ages 15–34 in 2012…” Just this week in Albany, two teenagers (the same ages as my own two teenagers) and a third male were arrested for shooting three people, one a 27-year-old man, who died of his injuries.
Where are these guns coming from? Where are the parents of those two teenaged boys who have effectively ruined their lives, as well as the lives of the 6 children now left fatherless? Those two teenagers presumably went to the same high school as my sons. Where did they learn that guns were a solution to conflict?
Like Sinead said “These are dangerous times.”
There are books that I read which are impossible to put down, a recent example being The Girl on the Train. I was so eager to find out what really happened that I refused to stop reading until I finished the book. I was neither disappointed, nor regretful of my decision to push on until I reached that final page and felt a welcome sense of resolution. It was a really good read.
The book I’m reading now though, is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a whole different story. Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime by NPR newsman, Scott Simon, is a work that I don’t want to finish. You see, if I finish it, the story will end and I so want the story (and Scott’s mother’s life) to continue. Simon’s book, a memoir of his mother, and their life together, originated as a series of Tweets during his mother’s time in the intensive care unit at the end of her life. The time Simon and his mother shared together in the hospital was a quilt of memories, thoughts, laughter and songs that provided comfort and solace to them both as they faced their final days together.
Below are some my favorite nuggets of wisdom. Simon’s Tweets appear, as in the book, in bold text. Quotes are the words of his mother, Patricia.
- I just realized: she once had to let me go into the big wide world. Now I have to let her go the same way.
- “You tell your children something a hundred times…You’re lucky if they remember one or two. Dos, don’ts, count for almost nothing. All they remember is what you do. Whether you want them to or not.”
- I love holding my mother’s hand. Haven’t held it like this since I was 9. Why did I stop? I thought it unmanly? What crap.
- “Show children the best people and places. Let them know they belong.”
- She will make the face of heaven shine so fine that all the world will be in love with night.
There’s so much wisdom in this book, so much love and laughter that I wish it went beyond the mere 244 print pages, that Patricia’s life went beyond only 84 years. As a mom to three sons, I can’t help but read this and hope that at the end of my life my “boys” will honor me with an iota of the respect and appreciation that Scott shows his mother. I don’t need one of them to write a book or anything, but I love the picture I’ve drawn in my head of my children sharing the memories and moments that have woven us together forever.
Mother’s Day is coming. Buy this book.
Last evening, after finally coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to take a run, I decided to take a walk instead with Jeter. I made my usual offer to the boys to see if they cared to join me but was met by their usual response – no, thanks. I got myself warmly dressed and cued up a Pandora station of standards/vocal jazz and popped my earbuds in. Just as I reached for the doorknob, Quinn had a change of heart and decided to accompany me. Faster than I’ve ever seen him move, he had shoes and coat on and off we went.
There was something about walking in the foggy night that made for a cozy, not creepy experience. As we walked along Whitehall Road, we talked quietly, sharing my earbuds as we listened together to Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. Our conversation was filled with talk of which houses we admired, how challenging Jeter could be at times and how cool his new clip-on flashing light is. Funnily, I thought the light was shaped like a heart,* while Quinn thought it was a bone. He was correct but I was graciously given permission to think it was a heart if I wanted to. Sweet.
We stopped at his school’s primary grades playground and Quinn shared memories of playing there “years ago.” We talked about how in just a couple of years he’ll moving on to middle school and how fast time goes. As we neared the end of our walk, he found a series of puddles irresistible and made an attempt to leap them, with mixed success. His landing perfectly illustrated why so many of his pants have blown out knees. He is adorable.
Once home, after suggesting that we “do this again soon,” he continued to charm me with all that he had to say. Like: “What do you want to do? Watch a movie and sit on the couch eating ice cream?” and “Why does everything happen when you’re three? Grandma Sheila died when I was 3. I made a lot of my life decisions when I was three.”
I am so looking forward to our next walk.
*probably because of my love for the person who gave it to Jeter
How much do you know the mandated state exams administered to elementary school students in New York State? What do you know about these tests and their significance? Have you heard about Assemblymember Jim Tedisco’s bill proposal to allow parents to “opt out” of the required tests? If these three questions were on a test you were taking right now, how would you do?
As a teacher and a parent, my interest in these exams is pretty intense. Although there was initially the threat of my being required to test my population of students, I don’t have to administer tests in my “subject” area because I’m a secondary (grades 7-12) librarian and we have been given an alternative assessment rubric. At present my annual professional performance review (APPR) doesn’t include a student test component.*
That fact that I am currently exempt from delivering tested curriculum does not mean I am unaffected by the exams. I see the impact of these tests on my colleagues, my students, and of course, my own child. Last year, when my then-third grader came home the first week of school talking about “the tests,” I was dismayed. This year, I’m disgusted.
I’ve heard about a dozen different “facts” related to opting out of the tests. Things like “if less than 16 children in a given class or 95% of a building’s population take the tests the results can’t be counted against the teacher of the school” and “students must sit for the tests even if they refuse to participate, yet will be given a score if they so much as mark the answer sheet.” I just don’t know what is accurate information and, believe me, contacting NYSED with my questions is probably about the last thing I’d consider doing.
This Thursday, March 12th at 6:30, the Bethlehem Public Library is hosting a forum presented by the NYS Alliance for Public Education on the topic of the excessive use of testing in New York State. A portion of the forum will be devoted to Opt-Out and I hope that many of the questions I have will be addressed. If you have questions of your own this may be just the opportunity to get some answers.
*It also doesn’t include any evaluation of how I manage a budget, a sizable collection in multiple formats, or a facility (or two).
Many years ago, Quinn was described by his grandmother as formidable. She was so right, he most certainly is. There are some other words that can be used to describe my forever baby boy – relentless, sweet, affectionate and funny. In honor of his 10th birthday, please let me share a few moments and memories which truly define my youngest son.
Quinn is sensitive and thoughtful. Unlike our current spoiled dog, Jeter, his predecessor, Cassidy, wasn’t given bed privileges. Recently, Quinn asked if it would be ok to place the urn containing Cassidy’s ashes on the bed just so she would know what it was like to sleep there. Pretty sweet, right?
Quinn is articulate and well-spoken. During one of our regular evening battles to complete his homework, he asked me to not yell at him. He explained to me that he is motivated by happiness and love. His self awareness is impressive and I can only hope that both of those emotions will always be present, in excess, in his life.
Quinn is growing up too fast and his sense of humor is often a bit too mature for his years. Having two older brothers makes for an abbreviated childhood, I’m afraid. Please don’t ask about the South Park fish sticks episode that prompted a call home from his teacher. Last week he told me that I had to stop treating him like a baby because he is “practically double digits.” I understand the inevitability of Quinn growing up but I really wish it could all slow down just a little. I think he’s mighty fine already.
Filed under birthdays, Boys
Many years ago, there was a girl who once jumped out of her second story window to sneak out of the house and go to a party. The landing on the concrete slab front porch wasn’t as light as she would have liked and her ankle took quite a turn, an injury that was only compounded by the subsequent 2.5 mile walk to town. By the next morning, her ankle had swollen to twice its size and was quite painful.
Since that long ago time her ankle has never been the same. Sometimes it randomly twists out of place, always taking her breath away. Each time it happens, it never fails to remind her of the lasting effects of being a dumb teenager. Live and learn, if you’re lucky.
What’s the connection between a permanently, albeit mildly, damaged ankle and a pain in the neck, you ask? Well, this girl is now a grown up with teenage children of her own. Apparently, the teenaged idiocy gene is something shared with her children. Case in point – one of her children (unnamed to protect his
idiocy innocence) recently was inspired to dive head first into a snow bank. Despite the remarkably powdery quality of the snow, he hurt his neck and shoulders. Badly.
Days later, he is still walking with a stiff neck and erect spine. He reports that while the pain is somewhat diminished, it remains pretty intense. Maybe that will remind him to not be so reckless in the future. I really hope so. There are enough ways to get hurt in this world without trying so hard.