The Art of Teaching Civil Disobedience

I was a bit of a rebel growing up. By that I mean, I did whatever I wanted with really little care of what people thought about it. That is still mostly how I deal with things today, though I do accept that sometimes for the sake of my family that maybe I should take more care. For instance, as much as I don’t care if people think me having blue hair is ridiculous, I wouldn’t show up to one of my husband’s work events like that. His colleagues would judge him for that and it could affect his career. I get that.

I have always believed in the power of civil disobedience. In posts about the “Black Lives Matter” movement and any other protest, my theory has always been that protesting is a privilege that we have here and it should be nurtured whether we agree in the cause or not as long as it is peaceful and civil. I’m a firm believer that the masses can influence change and that there is power in numbers. I believe that as American citizens that it is our civic duty to stand up for our beliefs to try and inspire change in the world. We were given that right to keep the government in check. We were given that right to fight against injustice. We were given the right to have words that we can freely speak. We are so fortunate to have these rights. People who speak against the protestors, questioning their patriotism should realize that their protest is displaying a love of patriotism. Our soldiers put their lives on the line to protect this right, an important foundation in what it truly means to be American.

In my local government, there is an issue with teachers and their contracts. Without getting into the debate about the problem with teachers in America (the problem isn’t how much the schools get rather how they appropriate the money, in my humble opinion, though we do need to invest in our teachers because they are educating the next generation), there is a work-to-rule in effect due to contract issues. The students at my son’s high school yesterday decided to do a walk-out. He mentioned it over the weekend and I made my stance on the topic very clear: If he believes strongly enough in what is going on, then do it knowing that there will be potential consequences from the school. I, however, was not going to punish him. I made this decision for a few reasons.

  1. I 100% support our teachers. They do a lot for our kids, it’s the least we could do.
  2. I was not going to punish my child for civil disobedience. Kids could learn something from ignoring apathy and caring about a cause. I was not going to squash a potentially teachable moment for him. At almost 15, he is learning how to navigate the world. He is learning about his own belief system and developing his rational thinking skills. He is learning to be an adult. Part of that is to stand up for when you see injustice. I will encourage his intellectual growth. If he wants to stand up for something I may not agree with, I would still let him do it because he needs to develop his own belief system not just repeat back mine.

As we walked up to the school last week, the first day of this work-to-rule, my youngest son asked why his teachers were outside. I explained to them that the teachers need help to be even better. He stopped and looked up at me: “Why don’t they give my teacher what she needs? She is always nice and says ‘Good job, Georgie.’ We should be nice to her too.” My 5 year old seems to have more sense than a lot of adults out there. Also, the fact that he didn’t start talking in sentences until he was around 4 was very much thanks to the teachers at his public school preschool. He is starting to learn.

We are parents, tasked with raising the next generation of children. That is not something that we can just cruise control through. This is something that requires teaching valuable lessons to them through leading by example and encouraging their emotional and intellectual growth as well as their physical growth. My son ultimately decided he didn’t want to take the suspension and risk his swimming/college career with a sullied school record. Instead, he wanted to figure out better ways to help the cause. That was his choice and I was going to be proud of him no matter what he decided. He needs to learn what he feels is morally right. I am so proud of the adult he is becoming.

 

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Everyone Has Those Days

As a parent, it can be extremely hard to stay positive. You see parents boasting about how their angels ate their organic meatless Monday meal perfectly and ate an apple that wasn’t covered in sugar or candy for dessert. I’m lucky if I can get my 5 year old to eat anything that isn’t a hot dog, Burger King, or covered in so much ketchup that the ketchup is the main dish. I’d like to think I’m in the majority on this one.

I will never be that all organic mom that can leave the house in yoga pants with confidence and a kale only smoothie for my detoxing. I can guarantee that I’ll either have a tea with sugar or a coffee with an obscene amount of creamer in it. I can guarantee that 9 out of 10 times my children will be on time. I can guarantee that I will grab whatever jeans and t-shirt smell and look like they could be clean. I can guarantee my hair will be disheveled as if I’m purposely trying for that bedhead look. I’m not. That is probably actually either bedhead or I was trying to pull my hair out because parenting can be infuriating.

There are a lot of things that you cannot guarantee as a parent and you have to cling to those things you can be sure of. I can guarantee that if I even say “Please” and “Clean” in the same sentence, my teenager will roll his eyes at me and groan about how unfair life is. I can predict that and hold my breath to avoid getting annoyed. Not everyday is going to be perfect as a parent. In fact, you may have more bad days than good ones. That’s okay. I admit that I lose my shit more often than I should. Just yesterday I spent 40% of my day raising my voice and yelling at my kids. Was it effective? Not really. Did it make me feel better? Nope. Did I eat a bunch of lemon Oreos to soothe me? Oh yes, that absolutely happened. If I had bought my peanut butter M&Ms for NaNoWriMo early, those probably would have been devoured too.

Remember this anytime you see a mom on Facebook that seemingly has their life together: They are likely losing it just as much as you do. The problem is they sweep it under the rug to give this illusion of perfection to make them seem better. I have no shame. I don’t mind admitting that I bribe my kids with cookies to eat their supper. I’ll admit that my youngest said “mom, you need to have more patience with me” for me to respond “I’ll learn patience when you learn to listen”. I’m okay with not being perfect because I refuse to achieve an unrealistic expectation of what it means to be a parent. My children have clothing, a roof over their head, and are still alive. That’s really the important thing. My sanity is apparently optional.

A parent is someone that wakes up with pee on them because their child had an accident while sleeping in your bed. A parent is someone who complains about running up 4 flights of stairs in a nightmarish situation for you because Open House is important to engaging in your child’s education. A parent goes to an elementary school Open House where it is so packed with children and parents that you just want to keep a hold of your anti-bacterial pocket buddy because you know you are going to get sick from it. (Spoiler alert: I did get sick from it. I should have had the anti-bac out.) A parent promises that they will not cook more than one meal but sometimes will actually just cook another meal because you have been beaten down and want to keep whatever shred of dignity and sanity that you have left. A parent is beaten down more easily than they care to admit. A parent will always, always, always second guess their every decision. They will think about what they could have done differently in every scenario, big or small. Most importantly, a parent loves their child unconditionally even when they consider the possibility of eBaying them or finding another parent that will want to take them off your hands for a while. Totally unrelated note: anyone want to set up a play date with their children outside of my home where I don’t need to be present?

Joking aside, I always come back to this same point: You are enough and you are doing okay. Too many times other moms feel the need to rub perfection in other people’s faces and those “imperfect” moms are left feeling dejected. I’m here to tell you that we all feel like we did a crappy job at this parenting thing some days. Some days your child has an anxiety attack and you have to breathe through it with them and it’s not your fault that they are that way. They were made exactly the way they were supposed to be. And they were given to you because they were the child that you we meant to have. You can handle it. You can do it. Just breathe and accept that you are going to lose your shit and cry in the laundry room where no one can hear you and you know for a fact know one will ever go. That’s okay because more moms than you think are right there with you.

My Not-So Little Boy Started High School

Sure, this is a few days late, but the beginning of the school year is always a busy time of year especially when you are simultaneously prepping for a birthday party. Milestones are aplenty in the LaRochelle household these days, with the “baby” going to kindergarten later this week. (On Thursday, so I can cover the inevitable tears over the moment.) But Freshman year is a milestone all its own. This is the beginning of essentially the end of childhood. This is where you decide on colleges, possible career choices, first dates, long(ish) relationships. High school is a big milestone.

… And my oldest baby just got there.

I expected tears. I expected being a nervous wreck. It didn’t happen. I made him cinnamon rolls, listened to his concerns, congratulated him on his achievements, and let him know that I knew he was going to do great things in high school and beyond. He nodded and smiled that smile that only people who know him could truly appreciate. That smile let me know that he was going to be okay. Or at least as okay as any teenager who had trouble falling asleep and woke up at 4 AM could be. When he came home, he expressed how much he liked his teachers, how he had friends in every class and had lunch with one of his “baseball bros”, and then passed out for 5 hours. I did say that he was up at 4 AM, right?

The fact is I have done everything that I could to prepare him for this. I have tried to give him the confidence he needed to take on the world. I tried to give him the compassion to be an amazing person. I tried to instill charity, love, and kindness. At this point, we will find out if I gave him enough. Essentially my time of teaching him is over. Now, I just have to hope that the foundation he was given was strong enough to see him through.

That’s the hardest part of high school as a parent. Hoping that you gave him the strength he needs to face the cruel world and the kindness to come out on the other side. It is his time to make decisions, hopefully inspired by everything he has been taught. I am here to give him advice, hugs, and cookies. Ultimately, that is all I am here for now. He will make his own decisions, forging his own path. Unfortunately, this also means being okay when he inevitably falls. Because at the end of the day, we can only pick them up afterwards and hope that they learned from the fall.

High school is an emotionally tiring journey for both the kids and parents. We have to be okay with that and trust that we did everything that we possibly could to give them what they needed to succeed.

The Importance and Trials of Being Patient

When you are a parent, you want to make sure that you are constantly doing the right thing for your child. You really do agonize if every decision you make is the right one. Parenting is not a part-time job and it certainly isn’t for the weak. You are going to make bad decisions and that’s okay because you are also going to make some pretty amazing ones. You can read all of the parenting books and child development/psych books all you want and it still won’t prepare you for what you could potentially face. Even the most trained professionals in the field can screw up their children and the sooner you realize this, you can move on and just do what you need to.

I have made it no secret that my youngest son has certainly come with his own set of challenges. From a minor birth defect that needed surgery to dealing with Early Intervention/IEPs in preschool, it has been seemingly one challenge after another. He has spent a lot of time in evaluations and ended up with a blanket diagnosis of having a sensory integration disorder. While there has been some debate whether or not that is something he actually has, it is something that he will grow out of. We just need to be patient.

He has always had his own quirks. Things need to be a specific way. There needs to be a routine. He needs to know exactly what is going to happen every day and any variation in that could potentially lead to a meltdown. This is something we have grown accustomed to. We love him and if he needs a routine, he gets a routine.

Recently, my husband and I have slowly started to upgrade our home to a “smart home” to try helping with the bills and making our life a little easier. (Especially for me, who has to climb on the couch to turn the light in the living room on.) The problem is, this is a change. My husband was replacing a light fixture in the hallway, and our son lost it. “Our house is falling” is all he would scream as he sobbed and did his run/pace/freakout mode. 2 days later, we are still in “disaster control” mode to remedy this problem. We just need to be patient with him.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that this happened. When we were picking out flooring samples, he also freaked out. He freaked out when I made a joke about winning the lottery and buying a massive house so I can have a dog sanctuary. “Our floor is falling!” “You can’t sell our house!” He does not like change. He does not like surprises. We just need to be patient.

Yelling at a kid when they are like this will only make matters worse. It can seem like the reasonable thing to do, especially if you are in public and everyone is staring while they do it. In these most difficult times, you need to be patient. You won’t always be patient and you know what? That’s OK. You are human. After you lose it, you pick yourself up and can be patient. Patience: it won’t fix everything but it certainly won’t make anything worse.

When Racism Attacks

This was not the post that should have happened today. You will get that one tomorrow. In fact, this was the post that I hoped I would never have to write. Sadly, it turns out that hoping was not enough to avoid this. The hope that the world is in a better place is full of disappointment.

On days when my oldest has baseball practice, we all pile in the car to go. We take this opportunity to let our youngest blow off all of that energy. It usually doesn’t work, but at least he has fun? Normally this is uneventful. Yesterday, it was not. To preface this story, this playground is a very diverse one. Off all places, I certainly would not have thought my youngest son’s first brush with racism would be here. I was actually hoping it never would happen, but deep down I knew it was going to happen eventually. But I definitely did not expect it to happen here, at 4 years old, at the hands of a little girl a few years older.

This little girl was playing Frisbee, so naturally Georgie wanted to join in. George is a very sweet and friendly child, everyone who meets him seems to just love him. So being 4 at a park, he tried to join in. Then it happened. “No! I’m not playing with you, Chinese boy.” George was hurt by this and started to cry. We were appalled and very pissed by this. However, George thankfully didn’t realize the true scope of what just happened. He was sad because the girl didn’t let him play. We didn’t expect it because the girl (who was white) was playing with another girl (who was not). But alas, here we are. While calming George down, it was made very clear and loudly that some kids were not raised to have manners and he was immediately removed from the park.

I am not sure if my husband was more mad about the situation itself or the fact that she got the wrong Asian country. Either way, it’s bad but apparently it stings all the more when it isn’t even the right nationality. It seems that being called the wrong nationality is offensive across the board. I couldn’t relate to the situation; I’m a white girl who grew up and currently lives in a middle class neighborhood. I have never experienced racism nor have I ever participated.  I was raised better than that. My husband, on the other hand, is half-Korean. He grew up with this. Even today, he has to deal with racial slurs being tossed his way. I am offended about this for my son’s sake; my husband is offended and completely understands the situation. Thankfully, George didn’t understand this time. But what happens next time?

I don’t blame the little girl. This is something that she would’ve learned from her parents. I blame them entirely for somehow, whether purposefully or inadvertently, teaching her that this type of behavior was perfectly acceptable. I knew this was going to happen to him eventually as we still live in a culture where racism is somehow deemed acceptable. Too many people think that racism is eradicated or that now only white people are victims of racism. No one is safe and this problem is only going to get worse.

I spent a lot of time looking at my son after this. I never really saw him as an “Asian” boy. We make sure that he knows he is Korean, bringing up on the culture and food, but that this is not what defines who he is. He may be Korean, but ultimately he is just my little Georgie. I didn’t notice the unique pale of his skin or the adorable semi-almond shape of his eyed, these little subtleties that I just thought made him absolutely adorable are the things that this world is going to focus on whenever they see him. I hugged my baby so long yesterday, apologizing to him for the harsh realities of his future.

I was not prepared for this. I hoped I’d never have to be ready for this, but here we are. I may not be able to understand the pain of being picked on for my race, but I certainly know that I have to start educating myself on how to handle this when he can understand. I hope this is a one time thing, but I have this sick feeling in my stomach that this is not the last time. It will probably happen when I’m not around to protect him or he’s too old for me to cuddle this away. Our culture needs to change. We need to be better. Our children are depending on us.

When It Comes to Your Children

Children are unique beings. You can even look at your children and pick out some of their differences from their siblings. You may even find that your children are complete opposites of one another. This is the exact place that my boys are in. For instance, my oldest is this sweet and patient child. He was always curious, but very timid. He was calm and rarely found himself in trouble. Even now, he is a child that is well-regarded by every adult who meets him. And how can they not? He is very polite around them and speaks articulately to them as if he is a little adult. In fact, he may very well be an adult stuck in a very small teenager’s body. (I still cannot believe that I have to refer to him as a teenager.)

My youngest, on the other hand, makes other people tired just watching him. He is the definition of “trouble”. He’s curious, adventurous, and very, very willful. He is definitely not calm and he is nowhere near patient. Still, much like his brother, every adult that meets him falls instantly in love with him. He’s not a bad kid. He just requires a little bit more love and attention than other kids. In his 4 years on this planet, I have gone through situations I had never been through before. He needed surgery at 9 months old to remedy a birth defect. He was the first child to require special services at home, with a speech pathologist and a developmental specialist. I have to deal with IEP meetings and teacher conferences. This is the important point to this post.

In 2 weeks, we will have a meeting for his IEP, transition to Kindergarten, and if he stays in the program. We will also talk about his recent evaluation which revealed George to have a sensory integration disorder, something that sounds a lot worse than it actually is, and how the schools need to adjust to his needs. We will find out if he still gets speech therapy in grade school. We will find out if he still has an IEP. These are important things to know because with things like the IDEA act in question right now (who knows what is going to happen especially with plans to get rid of the department that is responsible for enforcing this act). Will my child continue to get the help that he needs?

Without the help that he has received, which fortunately I never had to fight for, will he thrive as well as he has? He’s a bright 4 year old that may still be behind on his speech but he can read. He is exactly the type of kid that would have once been left behind by the school system because he’s different. Realistically, he is a child that would have just been tossed in a special needs classroom in the past and forgotten. Which is a shame because he is a very bright child that if they could just get him to focus and settle down, he could go on to do great things in the future.

What is the point of this whole statement? There are a lot of things that charter schools and private schools do well, but when it comes to children like mine they are not the best places for them. These are schools that are best for children that fit in a specific mold and are not different. There is a place for public schools and there are a lot of great public school districts (like mine, for instance) that are going to suffer if they start losing money. Some districts need help to change to become better schools but that should be something to focus on rather than punishing the school districts who are thriving. When you start to take money from the schools that offer services to children in need (such as IEP students), there is a strong chance that these kids will lose these services. These children will be forgotten again. This is what I’m afraid of. When it comes to our children, sometimes we are the only ones who are willing to fight so we need to be their biggest advocates and put on the gloves.

Growing Up

A conversation happened where I said “well, if my husband doesn’t put the cube storage together soon I’m just going to do it.” I received a response that I found to be a little bit shocking: “But, you’re a girl. You’re not supposed to do that.” Well, I’m not supposed to do a lot of things I guess but I end up doing what I want anyways.

I was very fortunate growing up. Sure, I was taught all of the “girl things” that I was supposed to learn. I can hem and patch clothing, I can do embroidery. I have a great eye for color and design. I’m also a pretty awesome cook. I say this because people actually genuinely enjoy my food so I use that as evidence of that. I love doing laundry and the only stain I have not been able to defeat was a marker that I sat on. I was able to get both blood and fruit juice off of a white shirt, so I’ll take that win. I may not be the best housekeeper, but we’re not at hoarder level of disaster. I am only human, of course.

However, I was also taught to do most of the things my brothers were taught to do. I may not be able to mow a lawn but I am pretty confident that between YouTube and common sense that is something I could easily figure out. My dad never once said the phrase “you’re a girl, you’re not supposed to do that.” In fact, I have always been convinced that my father wanted to teach me a lot of those “man things” because he did not want me to be stuck with someone forever because I needed someone to take care of me. So he taught me all about tools, what to use them for. He let me help and showed me how to do things around the house from what he could do. Yes, I even learned how to change out sockets myself but I’m too clumsy to even want to attempt it.

So the idea of “you’re a girl” was never something I have ever considered. I let my son play “daddy” with his stuffed animals and both of them cook with me in the kitchen. As soon as my oldest son was able to carry a laundry basket, I taught him to do his own laundry. Why? Because I will be damned if he’s 32 and single and I’m still doing this stuff for him. Also, why should his wife be his slave? Why can’t he pitch in around the house? If I had a girl, I would expect her to learn all of the same things I did: everything I could about everything. We should be teaching our girls independence and strength. We should not be training them to just be one thing. She can be a housewife and stay-at-home mom if she wants to but she can also be a badass that puts together a bookshelf so she doesn’t have to call her dad or wait for her husband to get home.

The same applies to our boys. We should be raising them to be independent and kind individuals that can do the same things girls do. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to do all of the things girls are traditionally supposed to do. Why can’t a man patch his own clothing or cook a meal for his family?

We are the ones responsible for raising the next generation and its our job to ensure that this generation is better than the ones in the past. They need to be raised to work hard, do amazing things, and be themselves without worrying about what society tells them they should be. They need to be taught to be kind to their neighbors, whether they are poor, of a different race/religion/sexual orientation, or if they are rude to them. (Because fueling unkindness with more unkindness never gets you anywhere). If we don’t, we fail the future.