It’s Gonna Take an Ocean…

For my birthday this year, my fellas gave me a very pampery set of presents: gift certificates for a mani, a pedi, and a massage. I haven’t cashed in the mani or the massage yet, but last week I went and got my pedi. I go to this very groovy place is Davis Square and chat chat chat with the straight-but-not-narrow girls in charge. Usually, I go for a vibrant color, like the gorgeous deep red I had over Christmas or the hottish pink I had last summer, but this time, I decided on something more subtle. There was this lovely pink, with just a hint of lavender in it like a whisper of spring, like a petal, like the blushing depths of a tulip.

Just now, I was going in the linen closet for something, and happened to glimpse a bottle of a certain product somebody usually needs at least once over the summer for poison ivy or other itchy situations. I looked at the bottle. I looked at my sophisticated toes. I giggled. Yes, folks, my dainty toes have been painted the color of calamine lotion. Faaaabulous!

And speaking of Poison Ivy…

Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 1:37 PM  Leave a Comment  

On the Rug

For the past few weeks, I’ve been going in 2-3 times a week to read to Owen’s 5th grade class. It feeds my soul like none other. There are 27 kids in there, and most of them appear to still be ok with being children, occupied with children-y things. They’re adorable! I sit in a chair, and they get called in groups to sit on the rug, the first to get there claiming the highly prized spots against the wall or on the 3 milk crates with pillows. Everything is very sensual on the rug. They poke each other, and lie down, take off their shoes. There’s a dedicated hair-play group, mostly girls, but a couple of boys as well. They put each other’s hair up in braids, interesting ponytails (say, for example, all on one side or in lots of little sprouts), or just stroke and comb with their fingers, touching, feeling. The rug pulsates with body energy, which can be a little distracting, but as much as they’re concentrated on their own and each other’s physical beings, they’re also listening really hard to the story – I know this because I ask them questions once in a while and they always have a lot to say.

(I’m reading them Mistress Masham’s Repose by T.H. White, if you’re interested.)

So there are a couple of kids of color in the class, but most kids are white. There is one African American boy, a newcomer who joined the class halfway through the year. Like the rest of them, Timmy is very much in his body when we’re on the rug, but I can tell he likes the story, or anyway, likes being read to, likes being part of the group. Here’s the thing: the teacher, who is white, is always calling him out and picking on him.

Today, Timmy told me that his sister had put a Dora the Explorer book in his backpack as a joke. I joked back, “Whattsamatta, you don’t like Dorah the Explorah?” and he said no no no, and the rest of the class got in a brief discussion about Dora, and then I said, “Ok, you guys ready to read?” and some people shouted yes, and Timmy, in the spirit of our recent joke, shouted out no, laughing. The teacher came down on him like a ton of bricks at exactly the same time I was laughing and saying, “You’d rather read Dora?” She lectured him and made him go sit at his desk, where he spent the rest of the time reading something else. I tried to read loudly and whenever there was a picture I tried to make sure he saw it, but by that time, he has removed himself from the group. He had been removed from the group. Broke my heart.

Timmy may or may not be a handful in class – I’m only there a little bit, and the kids are on good behavior for me. Still. He was joyfully participating and then he was booted out. He’s already one of very few black kids at this particular school, and then he had to sit at his desk alone. I kept wanting to invite him back, but I’m a guest in the classroom and I don’t want to step on the teacher’s toes. I wish she had let him come back onto the rug. I wish she could hear how grouchy she sounds when she talks to him. I’m sure she wouldn’t like it; I’m sure she doesn’t see herself as someone who would constantly single out a little boy because he’s black. That she somehow expects him to act up. I expect she would say she’s treating him the same way she treats all the kids, and it is true that she made another little boy (a redhead) write me an apology because he’d allegedly been throwing things while I was reading (I hadn’t noticed). But the thing is you have to be careful when you’re a white grown up with power over a child of color – not stilted, not liberal guilty-dumb, but just careful. Mindful. The thing about it is it makes you examine your own behavior, not take for granted that you can say whatever comes into your mind, act however you feel like acting. Because those things have consequences, for everyone.

We’re all on this rug together, god damn it!

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 5:48 AM  Leave a Comment  

Lie In, or Go On and On and On

This morning, Seth couldn’t drag himself out of bed. He’d wanted me to wake him up early so he could take a shower and wash his hair, but when I went in to get him, he said he wanted to sleep longer. And half an hour later when I went in, he said he just wanted to sleep, that he was so tired, he’d fallen asleep in every class yesterday and he just wanted to sleep. I suggested he get through the day and go to bed early tonight, but this only brought down invective on my head, including, “You’re the worst mom ever!”, which in Seth-speak means, “Please just tell me I can stay in bed and don’t make me make the decision myself!” Ok, so I told him he could stay in bed. I can’t tell you how unusual it is for him not to want to go to school, so there must be a reason he needs to. It’s 3 hours later now and he’s still up there.

What I really have been wanting to write about is Jane.* This morning I got up, looked at my email (despite having read Never Check Email in the Morning by Julie Morgenstern, a very practical book), and promptly felt eviscerated by Jane’s latest to me. This feeling was carried into my morning with the boys, making me somewhat distant and also very protective of them. So I wasn’t really dealing with them, at that moment, I was actually dealing with some kind of situation I create in my mind having to do with the fact that Jane is in their lives, she has influence over them, I don’t have them all the time, I have to protect them from her craziness, etc., etc. It totally makes me crazy, which in turn effects the boys. It is a very difficult conundrum, and it is extremely unfair to the boys. Who are basically just fine. Who are living their lives and are JUST FINE! Yes, there are things I have to do to make sure Jane and I are more or less on the same page about logistics – hey! I just spent a year from hell getting a parenting agreement in place with her for help with this! – but I think it really is partly me who allows her slime to creep into my own daily life. And the boys’ lives. And my Beau’s life.

I don’t know how to have a good divorce. I’ll just have to go on learning for the rest of my life. There are times – like this morning – when I feel very viscerally that I can’t go on, I just can’t go on. And then I’m fixing home fries, kissing Owen goodbye and feeling the good mama feeling when he says back to me that he loves me and tells me to have a good day, brushing the dog’s teeth (he has a little green toothbrush with froggies on it!), checking on Seth, calling the school, sending my Beau on her way after numerous false starts (forgot her lunch, her keys, then we’d better kiss one more time, etc.). And I am going on, and I have to believe that every time I do, every time I stuff my guts back into my poor belly and stitch myself up, that I’m getting a little better at it, a little tougher, a little more indifferent to Jane’s spray of shrapnel. Because I do know that the best I can do for the boys is be grounded and happy in my own life, and that so does not include allowing Jane to run things. I do have to fend her off, but more importantly, I have to fend myself off. And go on. So sayeth I, and so sayeth, I am realizing right now, The Damned! Anyone remember this song?

*aka, my ex and the boys’ other mom. I realized that I’ve called her by at least two other pseudonyms in this blog, so why stop now?

Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 3:16 AM  Leave a Comment