Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Letting Go Of The Era Of The Obamas

As much as I want the election season to end, today, I reflect upon what this presidency gave me.
I have a Black child who takes it for granted that the most powerful man in the world is Black.
I have a Black child who takes it for granted that being Black and comfortable in your skin is unremarkable and not necessarily worthy of comment.
I have a Black child who assumes Black children are cherished, glamorous, intelligent and doted upon by their parents.
I have Black child whose entire political life waffles between "Yes....yess...Mama, the Obamas are so cool, can I go play this video game now?" and "I just love the Obamas."
I have a Black child whose core internal constructs include both working within the system and working outside the system.
I have a Black child who can see the trading cards for what they are, rather than categories of acceptable versus unacceptable Negritude.
I have a Black child who is fluent in the many dialects of code switching.
I have a Black child who assumes Black Power. (And also knows the truth about how far we have to go.)
I have a Black child shaped by people who actually live Stronger Together and can see that slogan as cultural appropriation.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Missed Opportunity. Grown Folks Get Down! Children, As Usual, Unwelcome.

There are days when it can take us two hours to watch an hour long television program. We use it to talk about history, politics, science and so many other subjects. Some of our very best home education moments have come from programs like "Belle," "The Book Of Negros," and "Dancing On the Edge. " 

Even programs like "Leverage" warrant extensive conversations, for example, "that is such an implausible plot device because it is technically impossible!” We get into the physics and mechanics of how a diamond can actually cut glass.  We often stop and look it up in the internet.  We come away from the program even more enriched. 

Recently, we watched "Hair." It was awesome to cover an aspect of modern history we don't usually discuss. Vietnam, The Cold War, McCarthyism. We went all over the late 20th Century historical map.  Then we took “Hair” and we contrasted it with “Across The Universe.”  We examined rugs and drug culture and Reaganism. And somehow, we spiraled back to the Black Panther Party, self-determination, addiction as the oppressor’s tool …and a whole lot more than I can type up here.

The same happened when we watched "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." We talked about the evolution of gay rights. We discussed how the historically lovable Frankenfurter was problematic in the modern era because, essentially, he is a villian. We discussed how dated the movie is in regards to evolving consciousness about bodily autonomy, sexual assault and societal norms which promote dishonesty in sexual communication and how that contributes to rape. We talked about a lot more...but...I can't even begin to type it up.

We enjoy watching television this way. We enjoy taking in media critically and consciously. We find ourselves in the most fascinating discussions about race, gender, class and sexuality stereotypes. We identify the tropes of oppression. We get deep. It entertains us, yes, but, it also a tool we use.

Watching "The Get Down" on Netflix,  I became very sad. Why is it that every damn good movie with Black people is rated TV MA? Seriously, they would have had a much better product without the graphic violence. Shoot...if they switched out violence for sex, I'd have let The Win watch it. I don't have a problem with sex. I do have a problem with violence. 

In this household, sex is an opportunity for honesty.  It is communicated as spiritual, physical and emotional experience.  In our world, sexual experiences are often compromised by Patriarchy, White Supremacy and Homophobia and  Classism.  A majority of consensual sexual mistakes can be corrected with medicine.  But, a majority of violent actions have no remedies.

This is why I am sad to not be able to include The Win in watching The Get Down. This could have been one of the most exciting and dynamic additions to recent conversations we've been having which examine the late 20th Century. Lately, so much of our history has been focused upon "Within my lifetime, son" or "You share breath with people who can still tell you more about that first hand.” The elders used to sing, "the children are our future teach them well and let them lead the way.

Yes, sometimes the grown folks need some time by themselves.  But, never at the expense of of children. 

Regardless, this is incredible television. Hide your sons, hide your daughters and get down with the grown folks.

#EveryParentIsAHomeEducator #WeMustTeachOurOwn

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Foundation To Accepting The Word No Is Built On Emotional Honesty

I want to talk about this idea of “No” being loving. (Discussed in a previous blog entry ) I can only enter it through this wonderful journey my son has given me. 
In our house, the word No is reserved for emergency situations.  No is for the hand about to grab a block of dry ice; the hand holding a match with dangling hair above a stack very dry kindling; the careening bus coming towards the foot on the edge of a curb.  These are no’s.

We think a lot about when to say No.  No is a word to be used when the other person can be expected to understand that you have sifted through every single variation of why not and arrived at no being the only course of action. Accepting no is an act of trust. 

I want to come back to the idea of no being an act of trust.  My son and I have recently begun talking about emotional honesty. Now that he is a teenager, both of us have to work harder on remembering the bond we have forged with each other.  

For example the other day, I was doing some minor consensual maintenance in his room. I have to admit, I had other things on my mind about: the value of women’s work; the hopelessness of dusting, laundry & dishes; and the invisible ways women revolutionize the world. 

As I was leaving, I knocked over a picture frame which was a gift from a dear friend. The glass broke. I brought it out and said, “This is why I’m always re-arranging your night stand. See what happened? My dress caught the edge of the frame!”

He looked so sad. I could see him processing all the times we had talked about his aesthetics and my aesthetics. I saw him thinking about the broken picture frame.  And in that moment, I realized I was not being emotionally honest with him.

So, I took a step back.  And then I apologized. I said. “I promise to try to do better in the future. I have to be emotionally honest with you right now.  I got angry. My anger wasn’t really about you. It was about a lot of other things.  When I knocked over your picture frame, I was embarrassed.  I felt badly because I know how much that picture means to you. Rather admit my embarrassment and sadness, I tried to use our past conversations to make me “not guilty” for damaging your property.” 

He thought for a minute.  Then he said, “I understand.  I do that also sometimes.” 

And we smiled and hugged. I realized how powerful it is be in a relationship built upon emotional honesty and trust. It is powerful to be with a person you acknowledge is always growing and changing.  That this minute will be a very different from the minute yet to come. We are completely new people in every second of every day. 

For example, yesterday, we were watching a tv program together. It seemed a lot like the tv show we had watched the night before. I said so. He siad, “This is a different episode. “ So, I nodded and a few minutes later I said jokingly, “I get it, you really loved that episode and wanted to see it again. “ And then, he shouted at me.

“No. It. Is. Not. Yesterday's, episode was from the point of view of the female cast members, this episode is from the point of view from the male cast members.” 

“Sorry!” I exclaimed humbly and sorrowfully. “I can trust you. Always. I am so very sorry I wasn’t paying attention. And I am even more sorry for not being in your truth.”

“I’m sorry I yelled, Mom.” he said sheepishly. “In all emotional honesty, I think I’m having a testosterone burst.  And, I’m really nervous about going away to camp next week.”

“Wow! Yeah. Hormones can really mess with you. And so can Mamas. And so can new things, like going away for three weeks.” 

And we laughed. We went back to watching television.

So, I guess, what I am trying to say is that, all of this ability to say No rides upon a history of emotional honesty.  And emotional honesty is something you build with a person over time.  

I must always remember, I am THE woman who is EVERY women he will ever calibrate his Self against. So, I must set his eternal tone. I am in relationship, lovingly, honestly and with expectations about receiving the same. We treat each other as we wish to be treated. And we know, it is our right and our destiny to be treated thoughtfully, kindly, gently, and respectfully. This is the rule of our house.  

As I contemplate my son’s sexuality, I realize that his expectation is to be in relationship with someone who can say this is why not.   He knows that to articulate why nots is a loving way to declare a need for acceptance of why not which could also be an invitation to discussion.  I imagine his future like:

“Hey, can I kiss you?” 

“Mmm, I think I’m catching something.”  

“Oh. Then, it’s up to you. I think my immune system is pretty strong,”

“No. I don’t feel well.”

“Yeah. That’s better for both of us.  Let’s be healthy. I can wait.”

I imagine his future like this because our present is like this. We teach our sons to be in relationship by being in honest relationships. Honest relationships are fragile - like bubbles they are resilent, strong and in need of constant attention. This is Feminist parenting.