Monday, April 09, 2012

Mistake No 541

Since the first week of July 2011, our life has been fraught with mistake after mistake (with a whole lot of Life thrown in, too) made by me while D hung in for the ride. There isn't much that teaches you about the mistakes you make more than watching a preteen attempt to adjust to your decisions and rebelling in an internalized cooperation of emotion. Unfortunately for us, I realized it much too late and the following is very personal and perhaps even self-shaming. After all, I don't think I would be a very good Mom if I didn't take at least half, if not most, of the responsibility for my sons actions culminating in his getting suspended and subsequently transferred to another school just 2.5 months before the school year ends.

My son is gifted and highly intuitive. I believe he is freakin' brilliant, loves anything to do with strategy and enjoys any excuse to speak with an accent, particularly when it annoys his cousin. He has recently expressed an interest in drama and I think he's got the imagination for it as well as the skill. What this also means is that my son is just as susceptible to internalizing problems he is having in life. Gifted kids are not exempt from anxiety and/or depression, they are not exempt from eating disorders, and they are not exempt from wishing they aren't as smart as they are. What I am realizing is that creative kids have a harder time fitting in with their classmates because they don't quite belong in any stereotypical box, something society constantly teaches us is a must and middle schoolers are no exception.

How would you, a 12 year old pre-pubescent boy, respond to being jerked from Richmond to Norfolk then back to Richmond in just 6 weeks, only 2 days before school started? By your own mother, who is your ultimate protector, who is supposed to be looking out for your best interests and with whom you cannot argue nor think she will listen to what you have to say anyway?

That's where all of this started and D kept telling me he was fine. At that moment I did not realize he was coping with stress the same way I do: put on a pretty face and wade through the muck anyway because it'll get better/easier, right? It's got to. Oh how wrong we both were.

School seemed to start off easy enough. He was excited to see his friends again and to be going to school in a familiar environment. He seemed to be enjoying himself despite the typical middle school clashes with friends and teachers. I was proud of him for doing a better job of keeping up with schoolwork than he did the year before...until I got his report card for the semester wherein I learned he failed English for the entire semester, a subject I majored in for my undergraduate degree and a subject D could do in his sleep. (Note: I have changed my address with the school several times and yet the report cards still continue to be mailed to an old address I had 3 years ago.)

This was definitely a red flag because D has never ever failed at English since he was able to talk. He loves writing stories and reading as well as illustrating the stories he writes with imaginative pictures, sometimes taking up large amounts of space on several sheets of paper taped together. I should have sat down and talked to him, found out what was bothering him.

Except what did I do? Super Ground him. No tv. No video games. No dvds. Nothing. Just hanging out with me and reading or playing Lego's.

Which in turn really really pissed. him. off. But did I see that? Nope.

There was the incident where he got to participate in Saturday detention WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM, I CAN'T REMEMBER! This should have been a wake-up call...but it wasn't.

Often kids will act out at school because it is their safe place and apparently life at school for D during readjustment was rough yet I didn't hear anything about it until the one final (and fatal) blow to his chances at remaining in the IB Program: he went to his Spanish class unprepared so his teacher allowed him to share materials with his neighbor. D, unfortunately, inherited (or quite possibly learned) his chattiness from me so proceeded to chat with his neighbor while they completed the work. When asked to quiet down because they were disturbing the class and should instead be working, my son stood up and loudly told his Spanish teacher something like he was angry with her and he was tired of her yelling at him all the time and asking him to be quiet.

Digression: how frustrating it must be to have adults telling you what to do all the time with almost no control over the outcome. This is when choices and compromise are better tools to use with tweens and teens rather than absolutes, something I strongly urge school administrative staff to remember in these situations. Tweens and teens lack the necessary maturity and ability to rationalize in order to deal with things on the level we as grown adults deem acceptable and/or reasonable. We cannot require they act like little adults because, quite simply, they are unable to think past the right now hence their appearance of self-centeredness. For a more scientific explanation: our hypothalamus, located in our forehead and which controls our ability to reason and weigh consequences, does not reach full maturity until approximately age 25 thus enforcing any teenager is unable to understand the immediate risks of their behaviors. /digression

D swears he can't remember what happened next yet his Spanish teacher remembers quite well: she asked D to leave the class, he refused. She put her hand on the doorknob to open the door and walk D out of class. D then pushed her hand away from the doorknob with such force as to move her arm backward. At that point D left the room, security* was called and D was placed in the office of the director for the program.

I didn't hear about the incident until the principal called me the day after it happened to let me know they were investigating the incident and would keep me informed of the situation and its consequences. I immediately contacted D's former therapist to see if he could begin seeing her again. The next day, as D and I walked to the bus stop, I apologized to D for not listening to what he had been trying to tell me indirectly, that he didn't come with a manual, I made a mistake and I was sorry for putting him through so many of my bad decisions. He seemed relieved.

On 1 March, a Thursday, D was suspended for 10 days pending a panel hearing. How I found out he was suspended were the text messages he sent to me on the bus while on his way home: he threatened to kill himself with the pistol at his dad's house where he was supposed to go that weekend. D is only on the bus for approximately 30 minutes and we talked about this decision to kill himself the entire time. I met him at the bus stop and I hugged him hard while he sobbed. I told him he made a mistake, a big one, and that we'll get through this together like we've gotten through so many others. A couple hours later, after trying to talk to his dad about the threat and only being told it wasn't his fault, I decided to violate the custody order and keep D home safe with me. Again he seemed relieved and for the rest of the day he proceeded to take apart a few of his Nerf guns and/or retrofit others with the parts.

On day 14 of D's suspension the panel hearing was held at which time the person leading the hearing asked D if he had ever thought of seeking out another teacher or social worker or guidance counselor when he got mad. After 20 minutes the meeting ended and we were told to look for their decision in our mailbox. On day 16 we received a letter informing us that D would be transferred effectively immediately to another school.

We spent the whole weekend talking about this change; D spent most of Sunday afternoon and evening by my side including sleeping with me that night because he was so anxious. He didn't voice his thoughts, most likely because he was unable to, but I'm sure he was worried about what the school was like, would the kids like him, was he going to fit in, what were classes going to be like and so on. I could see the tapes running in his head so well he didn't need to tell me anything.

Longer story shorter, after 2 full weeks at his new school, it has become evident that perhaps this is what D needs in his life: moderately difficult work in a less stressful environment. His new school has a program called Community in Schools as well as experience with kids with behavioral problems. While I don't believe D has a problem with behavior overall, I do believe he has greater difficulty regulating his emotions because he is so bright and intuitive. (Then there's the fact so many adults still haven't yet learned to regulate their emotions and when one of those is your own father, how is any teenageer supposed to learn not to practice what he consistently emotes?

While it sucks that we had to learn the hard way and suffer through Mistake No 541, D and I confirmed that with love and constant communication we'll get through Mistake No 542, 543 and so many more as there is so much more life left to live.)

*For the record, for a long time I have been critical of how school staff handles any child who has gotten angry, afraid, frustrated, overly anxious, etc. Think of a time you have become so angry you were seeing red and then someone got in your face, grabbed your arm, told you to calm down right this instant then forcibly removed you from the area. Be honest, what would have been your reaction? Richmond Public Schools stopped employing therefore utilizing One-on-Ones because of budget cuts. Immediate intervention is very important because those trained individuals can help a child learn their triggers and in turn help those children learn ways of coping with those triggers.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

What to do, What to do...

I've been hesitant to take down this blog since it was such a huge part of my life for a long time. Grad school sucked the life out of me but now that the end is only one semester away, the oxygen has been returning slowly. Well, not slowly because I'm all kinds of ready to run for the exit at this point.

So a friend suggested I make this into a cupcake blog. And a knitting blog. And maybe even a blog about books. Definitely about running since that has become a huge part of my life over the last 1.5yrs. I've become so disenchanted with politics that I hardly watch the evening news anymore.

Who wants to read about an avid recreational runner who eats a lot of cupcakes?

Maybe I'll post something personal now and again. Maybe I can get Charlie back in the game, too. We've both been tossing around several ideas for over a year, I think it's finally time to make a decision.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Empathy for the Partnered Parent

crossposted here.

I should be reading for class, creating a confidentiality form or maybe even knitting one of the 4 projects I have on the needles, but I’ve got a venue for parenting stuffs and it’s been a while so…

When my son was just two months old, I told my now ex-husband I was leaving. Four months later, I moved out of his house and in with my parents. For two years I worked and muddled about, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself and my life. During this time I struggled with several things, especially my new-found identity as a single mom and divorcee. Sure single moms existed eleven and a half years ago, but so much research was being published demonizing single moms, bludgeoning our egos, repeatedly telling us we were ruining our kids. Single moms with sons perhaps bore the brunt of said research because there wasn’t a live-in adult with a penis to balance out the dynamic. It’s much the same way single dads are vilified for not having a vagina around (except that happens far less as often the female contingent step in automatically). Finally, this year, single moms have been vindicated!

So back to the title of this post: Empathy for the Partnered Parent. This, I think, is where I struggle most. As a budding clinical social worker, we are taught to begin where the client is, remain open and empathetic, and most importantly, non-judgmental. For the most part I succeed at these things…except when it comes to my own life and situations that affect me directly.

Per example: About three months ago, the husband of a co-worker accepted a six-week job in France – they were desperate after him being without a job for close to a year – and one day I inquired how things were going with the separation. She almost immediately launched into the difficulty in taking her son to football practice, attending open house once school started, taking days off when he got sick and balancing being a “single” mom with work. I remember her mentioning the amount of time off from work she needed in order to take care of these things. When this happens, I try very hard not to look at parents with partners (aka live-in support that’s around 24/7) and say, “Welcome to my world!” because I understand it is hard to have that support one day and not the next. It is a jolt to their routine and way of life whereas for me, it has been my world since the beginning.

Another example: Last summer, friends in the neighborhood just had a baby and often the husband’s job required him to leave town. One weekend, while we visiting in the dog park, the wife went on and on about not being able to get any work done, her mother-in-law had to come over to help and just wow, parenting “alone” is hard! I hope at that time I kept a flat affect, because again, inside my head I was thinking many non-empathetic thoughts!

Because when your partner goes out of town for a few days, you are not truly parenting “alone” and you know it is only for a short time and there will be an end to that “aloneness”. I don’t get a break. I don’t have someone coming home at 6pm who can help me check the kid’s homework, get dinner on the table, let the dogs out then feed them…I am all the kid’s got for better or worse.

It’s hard for me to be sociable during the week because it’s a school night, the kid needs to get fed, have his homework checked, maybe even study a bit, take a shower and get in bed at a decent time. And I can’t afford a babysitter. On the weekends he is with me, I try to do things that are kid-centered because he is, after all, a kid and our weekdays are fraught with getting things done as fast as possible. Weekends are for doing something fun and exciting as well as taking the time to enjoy each other. This often means my time with mostly kid-free people is limited to every other weekend. This means I only get four days out of every month to focus solely on me.

Four days. Of every month. Only.

Perhaps this is also why I end up shoving way too much fun into the 3 weeks I don’t have him over the summer.

This includes going to the store whenever you want, going to happy hour with friends on a moment’s notice or shoring up the anchor that keeps you at home more often than not. (Let’s not even get on the subject of dating – that’s an entirely separate blog post.)

Then there is the positive financial aspect of being a partnered parent as well, that is if both of you are working full- or part-time. I am the only one who pays our bills and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. There are a lot of single parents who don’t have a middle class income with paid sick time, vacation time or family leave. Many single parents live paycheck to paycheck (like me) with little left over to put into a savings account. I work anywhere from 40-45 hours per week and have 4 days of paid sick time, but I save most of it if not all for times my son is sick since he can’t go to school when contagious.

And when he can’t go to school, I can’t go to work.

And when I can’t go to work, I don’t make any money to pay the bills.

See where I’m going?

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my kid and think he’s the most beautiful boy on the planet. I would die for him and fight someone to the death in order to protect him. But being a single-mom is super hard and draining. I crack often. More often than not I feel like I’m the mean mom and his dad gets to have all the fun. Constantly being the strong one, or as my bestie said, being everything to everyone at the same time, takes its toll. And when I blow, my kid suffers the fall out and not because I chose to take it out on him, he’s the only one around and is only beginning to understand what I mean when I ask him to leave me alone for 30min.

As a single-mom, the pressure to always be on point is enormous and sits heavily on my soul. So when you complain about not having the day to yourself ‘cause school got canceled due to snow, remember all the moms out there who either get that luxury rarely or not at all.

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Allow me to Introduce Myself

crossposted here.

(Is anyone else singing the song by Digital Underground?)

I am thenutfantastic on Twitter and of the blog Welcome to the Nut House. I chose the name ‘nuthouse’ because at times, with anywhere from 3-6 dogs, a kid and myself, that’s what it feels like.

I am a single mom. I have been a single mom since my son, who is now 11, was 4 months old. Technically I was a single mom since he was born since my now ex-husband didn’t do much to help nor did he take much of an interest in our son. When my kid was 2 months old I made the decision to seek a divorce and when he was 4 months old we moved in with my parents (where we stayed for 7 very long years).

My son also has the distinct pleasure of being biracial: he’s half Filipino, half Caucasian. You wouldn’t know he’s got a white mama by looking at him and often other kids and adults have been surprised when they see me instead. He’s got a tan all year round as well as the beautifully thick dark brown Asian hair. We’ve had a time of it in the public school system because a lot of kids have never seen a Filipino so have not been sure where to place my boy in terms of labels and categories. He wears his hair long, doesn’t care if people use the female pronouns when referring to him and overall doesn’t much care for sports.

When my son was 2, I decided to go back to school. I worked part-time and attended VCU full-time, graduating in December 2005 with a bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies (aka Women’s Studies) and a minor in English. Currently I am in my 3rd year of a 4 year masters of social work program at VCU.

See? Still nuts!

My son attends the IB Program at Lucille Brown Middle School and I am so proud of the hard work he put into studying in order to pass the admissions test. He’s got a lot more hard work ahead of him but both of us are up to the challenge as we’re both tired of him being bored in school, which lands him in trouble.

Perhaps we’re a family of over achievers? Or we’re just nuts?

In my spare time we open our home to foster pit bulls (ish) through a group called Ring Dog Rescue. Currently we have a 7 and 12 week old puppy and 3 adults ranging in age from 2-5 years. Two of the oldest dogs are mine; found wandering the streets and alleys of Church Hill.

I also keep busy by being a hospital advocate through the RHART Program with the YWCA. There are many people, mostly women, who voluntarily sign up for 12 hour shifts 2 or 3 times a month. We are on-call during that 12 hours and can be called into the ER of MCV or any Bon Secours hospital to sit with a woman who has been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. Essentially, we volunteer to see women on their worst day in order to help them process the traumatic event or comfort them.

Have no fear, I’ll be writing solely about what it’s like to be a feminist single mom in all capacities e.g. dating, sex, kids getting on your nerves, blending families, staying single by choice, etc., ‘cause let’s be honest, it’s hard. Most of the time I love it; however, there are plenty of times when I don’t. There are a lot of times when I am fully aware just how my single life could be so much easier without the attached-at-the-hip baggage.

For example, when the kid has the flu and I’m the only one around to take care of him. Or when he gets suspended and there isn’t anyone else but me to deal with his needing care during the day, punishment and/or enforcement. Or the times he gets sick and has to be picked up from school, which means I have to take time off work. Or the intense pressure on you to work work work because there is no one else to pay the bills.

All this hard work pays off, though, when I see him finally get it, that ‘aha’ moment most parents look for and hope to see in their kids. The moment your kid proves to you they’ve been listening all along, just not directly. Maybe I’ll share some of those stories. I may even share some of the not so pretty stories when I realize I’ve become way too much of a grizzly and need to back off. It happens a lot while being the only real parent out of a possible 2 parent tag team.

What a taste of things to come, yeah? If you have any questions, comments or would like me to talk about something specific, lemme know! I’m a wide open kinda gal and do not embarrass easily.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

What kind is he?

I rescue pit bulls (sometimes they’re pit bullish). Further, I am a foster mom to up to four furbabies at a time and countless bottle babies, Bandit being my current. Of the little ones, always I am asked, “What is it?” (Sarcasm answers, “A dog.”) Notice the picture of Bandit in this post. Can you tell what he is? Better yet, how come it matters? Am I going to change my mind about helping him just because he might be a breed I don’t particularly care for?

Nope. I save all dogs, regardless. I pick up strays regularly. I have been known to chase a dog around my neighborhood for hours, hoping to get close enough to grab its collar. I believe every single animal on this planet deserves a fighting chance at a safe and happy life. Bandit is a baby who needs a little extra attention and I’m more than willing to help.

The constant inquiry about his breed got me thinking about humans and how we place people into categories, race and gender being the biggest, most obvious examples.

Think about it.

When we meet someone new, most of us try to “place them”, or slap on a label that often pigeon holes them into a type. Then forevermore we use those basic assumptions, aka stereotypes, to inform how we are to deal with them and others like them in the future. On occasion, when we find someone that doesn’t fit into a single category or for whom labels don’t apply, we cast them off as strange, weird, odd, and even scary. The propensity for ignoring said person is high because they make us uncomfortable.

Many of us feel a strong urge to ask about an individual’s ethnicity when it is not immediately obvious. When other aspects of their self are visually and/or audibly accessible yet we cannot place it, such as an accent or facial feature, we may feel a strong urge to ask.

Once I attended a camp session where a young British man was also in attendance. My friend kept asking him to say her name every time she saw him because she liked the way it sounded. After a full day of this, he grew weary and she didn’t get the hint. Noting his fatigue, I asked her to chill out for a bit, to give him a break, then reminded her she would have gotten equally as frustrated at being asked to repeat something over and over again just because she sounded cool.

In my own life, I do not like to be labeled. However, I’m easy to peg: white, lower middle class, single mom. On the outside, I took like the typical WASP. On the inside, I am anything but. Many of us attempt to project a certain appearance so as to fit in, keeping our inner most selves a secret until we get to know one another better.

And that is something I try to keep in mind when meeting new people as should you. Worry about labels later, if/when they might actually apply.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

You Gotta Take the Hetero Out of It...Like This

Yesterday evening, 3 classmates and I presented to our class for an hour on GLBT families, more specifically, Gay Men Wanting to Become Dads and Gay Women Wanting to Become Moms. Each of our slides had various rainbows throughout, they were very colorful. We began our topic with the video below, I’ve Got You by Mélange Lavonne:

We touched on the roles within gay/lesbian families, which come with tremendous amounts of turmoil because currently our vocabulary is based off heterocentric language. What do we call two mom’s? Who is the mom who didn’t give birth? How do the dad’s refer to themselves? To each other? Are they step-father’s despite them being an original ‘contributor’ to the child’s conception? There are so many facets to sort through and because most research on parenting is done on heterosexual couples, it leaves homosexual couples floundering through uncharted territory. Though same-sex couples make up a very small segment of the overall U.S. population, that doesn’t mean they should be left out or their experiences should be lumped in with those of heterosexual parents. Some issues, like what to call themselves, are entirely unique to same-sex couples.

Such ineptness in our patriarchal-heavy language reminded me of Hélène Cixous who suggested we scrape away at the limitations and begin again, this time including women. She said women do not have the ability to adequately tell their story through the use of language primarily because it caters to the singular male, e.g. fellowship, man, woman, guys, etc. (Sexist language anyone?)

Seemingly innocuous to those unaware, the words we use in every day life, like ‘history’, are based from the male perspective, created at a time when women were not taught to read because we were thought of as the weaker sex (and men wanted to keep us that way). Perhaps most importantly, Cixous stated women have a distinct inability to claim our own sexuality because words do not exist that are not related to the male and that allow adequate expression. Simone de Beauvoir said very nearly the same thing in her book, The Second Sex.

But I digress.

At the end of our presentation, one of my classmates had trouble understanding the concept of defining roles in homosexual relationships; she was attempting to create a definition based on heteronormative behaviors and ideology. I was proud of my groupmates as well as another classmate sitting directly in front of the one who spoke because they answered, “It’s how they define themselves, not us.” As clinical social workers, it is not up to us to define anyone but instead to help them define themselves, if this makes any sense.

The classmate referenced the above video and asked that because Mélange referred to her significant other as “wife” in the video, she wondered if it meant Mélange was a husband.

Here is where I internally sighed and rolled my eyes.

Then she asked something in relation to lesbian moms and what defines them as “mom” when only one has given birth to the child. Keep in mind that during our presentation 2 of my groupmates went into great detail about this particular topic and how difficult it can be for women to navigate specifically because we don’t have the appropriate language.

This is where I interjected and said, “Two mom’s, two wives, two parents. That is very often how they are spoken of but not always so it’s not safe to say this is the norm.”

We went around and around for another 5min or so, my teacher (who is marrying her partner in May) getting involved as well.

Eventually I stopped the conversation because I had a hunch it was going to keep pestering my classmate despite what we said and quite succinctly stated, “You’ve got to take the hetero out of it. You cannot look at gay/lesbian families through a hetero lens. You’ve got to let all that go.”

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Something to Get off my Chest II

Yesterday, my day started waking from a dream I would rather not have had. It was and still is considered a “sweet dream” that only succeeded in providing me with a deep longing for what isn’t my reality. I find those dreams much harder to recover from and it takes me a few days to shake off the feelings experienced during that short time frame.

While still attempting to recuperate from said dream, I was needed in court for one of my two cases. It was dismissed from the docket against my recommendations which didn’t upset me as I had asked for an additional 3 months only to allow mom and daughter some transition time in order to get used to a new routine and schedule. I felt mom needed it more than the daughter. But the judge disagreed hence the decision she made, though not lightly.

Outside the courtroom, I approached mom and foster mom, stating they wouldn’t need to see me anymore either. It was an attempt at a pleasant peace out. Foster mom instead used her hand to signal a sweeping motion while she told me to “Go home!” Yeah, if only that’s how easy it was.

I know I’m not in this job to make friends with the parents. In fact, I feel I’m going to make more enemies because I am in their lives due to them being under the court’s watchful eye. This means I report truths, even if they are hurtful. My voice and opinion are geared toward what is in the best interest of the child and that is all.

What bugs me most about foster mom’s reaction is that she lost all objectivity in the case because of her close friendship with the biological mom. I feel she wanted biological mom to get her kid back so bad, she is/was willing to give of herself whatever it took to make that happen.

As a social worker, this bugs the shit out of me.

Just a few short hours later, the other intern and I attended a group supervision then a MDT (Multiple Disciplinary Team) meeting. This is a time when detectives, SWs, CPS, DSS, RNs, MDs and LCSWs get together to discuss certain cases that might be tricky. Most often these are sexual abuse/assault cases, often with small children but some teenagers. A significant majority are young girls. In this particular meeting we got to briefly here the stories that brought 5 young girls, all younger than 7, to the attention of the police detectives. I wish I could say it was “simple abuse”, but it wasn’t. The good thing is these girls are young enough that with proper therapy they’ll be able to move passed this incident without it interfering with their social development.

However, sometimes we get those moms who believe the boyfriend/husband over the child. And those piss me off. At the same time, one has to understand there is a whole dynamic attached to this seemingly simple problem. Most of us think we would ditch the guy, yes? It’s not that easy especially when mom’s are dependent on their boyfriends/husbands almost exclusively. There is an entire family system that needs work much like that of families experiencing domestic violence.

If mom fails to provide a safe place for the child, CPS can remove the child from the home.

This posits a nice segue into the case we re-reviewed after the MDT meeting. I can’t say anything about it because it’s high profile and high risk. But when you have 3 children who did not ask for their parents during the first 1.5 months in foster care than 2 of them cried when they found out they were being returned home, it breaks your heart. Even more so, it rips your heart in two knowing the justice system failed them so miserably.

Something I learned from this though is DSS stays on for an additional 6 months after cases have been dismissed from the docket. This is to put family stabilization services into place in order to help the children and parents adjust to being together again.

And CPS can still investigate the family, keeping the case open as long as possible.

There are times that, as a single mom, I really don’t understand the concept behind any sort of abuse. I do recognize how easy it is to lose control of your temper at one point. However, purposely antagonizing your own children because you feel like it makes me physically ill.

So then I got to pick up Peanut and go back into life like everything was fine.

I had 2 pieces of yellow cake with chocolate frosting for dinner.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Something to Get off my Chest

Weeks ago I read the series from The Sexist on groping. They talked about why men grope, women's reactions to being groped and so on. They did a thorough job covering a topic where men seem to think they have indeterminable rights to a woman's body, that our bodies are without boundaries, seen or unseen.

I have been dating a guy-type ( J*) for almost a year now. J* likes to pretend the world is a happy place and nothing bad happens. He also has a daughter who is going to be 10 very soon. I've often mentioned he should talk to her about the birds and the bees, but most importantly, enforce the notion that her body belongs to her and no one else.

As J* and I started getting serious, and my conscious self began to comprehend I could one day be partially responsible for his daughter's well-being, all the times I have been touched by strange boys/men began to resurface. Call it PTSD or whatever diagnosis you want, realizing her life experiences with the opposite have a 50/50 chance of being similar to mine brought on a sense of urgency.

Because J* is male and hasn't had the pleasure of experiencing intense vulnerability with a dose of feeling out of control over his own body, he doesn't understand why I push him to talk to his daughter about her body. I could do it, and I've offered, yet ultimately it would mean so much more coming from him as he represents the gender who might very well become the offender.

So I started sharing stories of my experiences with him.

I told him of the time I was about 11 or 12 years old and playing in this large area of dirt and trails (eventually condo's were built and the dirt was taken away). This area was only a few blocks from my house. On that particular day, me, my sister and our friend rode our bikes so we could travel faster and get the rush from going up and down the "hills". At some point we stopped and 3 boys joined us for whatever reason. We chatted, they bragged, then one of them got off his bike and walked around our group, grabbing my ass in the process. He and his friends chuckled, his friends high-fiving him when he returned to his original spot. What happened next I'm not sure, because all I remember is feeling very afraid. I got on my bike and hauled ass home, the boy who grabbed my ass hot on my tail. As my house came into view, I remember feeling relief when I saw my dad was outside. I rode into my driveway and the young pervert rode off to find his friends. To this day I wonder what would have happened if he caught up to me or if my dad hadn't been outside.

Unfortunately, my experiences with groping didn't stop there. Throughout my life beginning at that point I've been poked, prodded, picked on, touched, felt up and then some all because boys' (and eventually men) have believed they have that right to my body. It hasn't happened nearly as much these past handful of years, but it still happens.

Another story I shared with J* was when I was in the 7th grade. We were allowed to hang outside for 30min or so after lunch and since we are kids, many of us partook of this luxury. One of the boys who apparently had taken a liking to me, decided to graze my not-quite-formed breast as he walked passed. I believe it was when he threatened to do it again that I took off running, hiding behind trees and eventually near a group of teachers, hoping that would stop him. It did. I did not move from that spot until it was time to go back inside.

I've tried expressing in words the intense loss of control, and huge vulnerability, having a stranger or friend grope you presents. I think it's much more damaging to one's psyche when someone you know does it because you live in fear that it could happen again.

A few weeks ago, me, J* and the kids were leaving the roller skating rink. J* had my keys in his pocket and I kept asking for them as I wanted them in my hands before we got to the car. He couldn't understand my urgency which is understandable because I realized I was freaking out due to the vulnerability I felt for not having my keys in my hands ready to unlock the doors once I got to the car. Because for a woman, this hesitation could get her raped and even killed.

And then I realized I hate that I have to at-risk myself for a dude's inability to control urges to which I did not contribute.

Yet I still cannot seem to impress upon J* that girls grow up experiencing life in a completely different way because, very simply, we have vagina's. His daughter has a personality that makes her more susceptible to this type of thing happening as she is more introverted and keeps a lot to herself.

So I worry. And worry. And worry some more.

Then today I sat in on a MDT (Multiple Disciplinary Team) meeting where 6 cases were discussed, all of them girls who had been sexually molested or assaulted by their mothers' SO's, 5 of them under the age of 7.

So I worry. And worry. And worry some more.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

What did I miss?

Since mid-December, we've gotten a total of 26" of snow. That's virtually unheard of around here. Thankfully we finally figured out the world doesn't have to come to an end every time it snows so life got to carry on as usual over the weekend. I don't have any pictures to share this time since, eh, it's old news now. We're supposed to get more wintry stuff tomorrow through Wednesday. Yay us.

But in the middle of all this snowmaggedon/snowpocolypse type weather, things like the Superbowl have been happening in warm sunny Miami.

Rep John Murtha died due to complications from his gall bladder surgery.

Lots of feminist-minded people have been taking down the sexist/misogynist/racist/homophobic ads that ran during the Superbowl. So I don't have to.

Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips will be teaching a college class whilst in OK.

NY's Governor Paterson doesn't want to give up the fight.

Did you know Scott Fujita of the new Super Bowl champs is my kind of liberal, use my money for good kinda guy?

And Twitter is an absolutely fabulous way to obsessively wait for Glee episodes to begin in April. I need some happiness to keep me sane.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Justice Schmustice

One of the painful and frustrating things about interning where I do is the extreme ball drops that happen from time-to-time, and usually from the social worker. Take this case for example.

Imagine 4 kids being severely sexually abused by their uncle. The older kid tells his teacher, the school nurse but no one helps him or his siblings. Or so he thinks.

Come to find out, those mandated reporters had been calling but the complaints were going unheard despite the state law requiring a follow-up within 48hrs. Eventually a CPS worker did make it out to investigate but claimed the allegations were 'unfounded', meaning no evidence was found to support them (never mind that he didn't conduct a forensic interview or take into account he bore a strong resemblance to the uncle and dad).

And now, a year later, after the kids were finally removed and placed into foster care, yet still not given any trauma counseling, there is a 95% chance they will be returned home. There is talk and speculation about the kids possibly "making it up" because they are "mentally retarded", too.

It all just makes you want to SCREAM! sometimes.

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