Is my kid racist? And other pressing parenting questions that were not in the books.

It's Black History Month, and Laurel came home with a coloring book page of Jackie Robinson. We asked her why he was important, but really all she seemed to get was that he was a good baseball player. Marko also participated by coloring his own picture of Jackie Robinson. He used an orange crayon. He doesn't really know what baseball is, so I can't begin to imagine what he thought of that activity. And maybe that's the point. Maybe infants and preschoolers are just supposed to become familiar with famous Black people and not dive into the whole whys and hows of it. (Note, the daycare director and much of the staff is Black.) And not that this makes my kids racist, by any means, but it still got me thinking about whether or not I'm doing all I should be.

Did I miss the chapter on "Keep Your Kids From Turning into Racists" in the baby books? I suppose I had this loose expectation that if I raised my kids in an integrated neighborhood and we had friends from a variety of backgrounds then it would all take care of itself. (That was sort of dumb and white of me.) Little kids make a lot of broad and inaccurate assumptions as they are trying to figure out the world. Laurel, when she was about 2, seemed to think that the term "neighbor" meant someone with darker skin...I suppose because we often prompted her to wave to neighbors as they passed by our front porch.

The problem with trying to educate kids about the history of race relations is they just stare at you, incredulous at the absurdity of it all. When we recently talked about "black" or "white" with Laurel she gazed at her skin...trying to make it fit into her understanding of "white." When I asked her if she knew any Black people she named a selection of friends and family members, including my mother. (Why she thinks my mother is Black, I am not sure.) After she said that, I realized it's probably not that important for my daughter to classify people she knows by labels that they may or may not use themselves.

My kids have a lot of exposure to people who are not white. Not that I want them to be rude ever, but I especially don't want them to be rude to people of color. I'm not quite sure what level of white guilt spawns this desire, but it's there. I want to teach them ways to be respectful about labels and names and hair and culture, which roughly equates to just being a generally well-mannered human but seems to require some added clarification.

Part of me thinks I should talk with her a lot more, and part of me thinks we should just let it go for now and let her form her own ideas.

I work with a lot of people who are not white (or not all the way white like me? Am I all the way white?). I hesitate to even use a label because so many of the teens in my program balk at labels in general, or identify as multi-racial or Jamaican and are totally offended by the term "African-American" - but it's in my organization's mission statement and there's definitely some icky racist stuff going on in Pittsburgh that requires us to think something and say something about institutional racism.

This week, I've been carpooling with a young man who lives a few blocks away. Today, I almost asked him to meet me at the Walgreens. I say almost, because I realized at the last minute that a white lady pulling up to young black man in a parking lot known for drug trafficking might look rather suspicious. And we didn't really have time to get pulled over...we had an after-school program to run! Hahaha! Funny police stories. But seriously, this was a legitimate concern. And that's kind of indicative of the true state of racism in our country today.

So, happy black history month! Or African American History Month, if you prefer. Here's a few things I'm thinking about this month.


Sorry! So sorry!

Bad news when it's only Monday evening and you think, no, I just can't. Just no. No.

I'm obsessively checking the Weather Channel because there's supposed to be more snow or freezing rain tonight and the city ran out of salt and please, oh please, let there be a two hour delay tomorrow.

For reasons that would be very lengthy to explain, I ended up way on the other side of the city this afternoon. I crossed rivers, man. I did so with the condition that I would, under no circumstance, leave the site later than 5:00pm so that I may make it back to my 'hood before being charged a dollar a minute late fee at the daycare. I left at 5:18. It was really 5:23 by the time I pulled out of the school parking lot. Miraculously there was no traffic in any of the places I expected it to be and I got caught behind only one bus. I made it to the daycare with 2 minutes to spare, and my kids were not the last ones there. Whew.

By the time we got home though, everyone was crying (I want daddeeeee!!) and I had to carry 15 bags and a baby and a four year old into the house and we were all sliding on the ice in the driveway, and people were still calling me from work about things I really have no control over. There was no dinner and M was out at a meeting.

And I said I can't, but really that's not an option. Keep calm and carry on, and so we did. My friend texted me to say that she can take Laurel to gymnastics on Wednesday, and I whipped up some scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches and got everyone in and out of the bath in record time. Marko brought me Good Night Moon to read and Laurel read some of the pages and I felt very cozy sitting there with a lapful of children. Suddenly it all felt very manageable again.

I read that working moms say sorry a lot, so I've been trying not to do that. I didn't apologize at all today. I took a gym break midday and only put three things on my To Do list. Points off for eating lunch in my car, but at least it was food.



I finally took Marko to his well baby check up today. Nineteen pounds, 28 inches long. He's really into this book, Bear in the Square, right now. He walks, pretty steadily now, but sort of a side shuffle. When he gets close to me, he flings himself into my arms and giggles.

Laurel is pretty rough with him, but he doesn't seem to mind, for the most part. He likes going to daycare and being around other kids. I'm still his favorite person by far, but I can see that time coming to a close. He eats like crazy...grilled cheese sandwiches are his favorite.

He can say "that's good," "mmmm good," and "daddy".

I wrote a lot about Laurel in her first year. Part of it was the newness of having a baby in the house, but part of it is her charisma. She's got to be center stage.

Marko isn't like that. He's very mellow compared to her. He's the baby on my hip while I go about my day. He orbits around us in the morning, toddling into the bathroom and out while we are getting dressed, poking around in drawers. He's pretty good at staying just under the radar. I think about all the stressing over bedtime and sleep schedules I did with Laurel and he just goes to sleep, pretty much at the same time each night. He wakes up happy every morning. I'm not really that much better of a mother.

I wonder what we would be like if he was born first and we were just finishing her first year.


Deep Winter

Marko got it first on Saturday, then Laurel on Sunday. By Sunday evening, M had it too, and I got it shortly after. Monday became a sick day for all four of us, lounging around in our pajamas and watching 8 hours of television. We occasionally staggered into the kitchen for ginger ale and pedialyte. It snowed again, so M made his way outside to clear the sidewalks. Laurel, who was feeling better, thought this was great fun, unlimited tv and no chores. I realized we have very few baby holding devices to strap Marko into. He's mostly free range, which works fine, unless both parents keep laying down "for just a minute, I just need a minute."

I went to a complimentary personal fitness session at our gym on Sunday afternoon, where the trainer ran me through all sorts of foreign motions...burpees and push ups and leaping up onto a board and then back down again. She measured my body fat and declared it to be "not good, but not terrible."

"I'm still breastfeeding my son," I told her. She stared at me for a second and then wrote down a number. My new body fat percentage goal.

She launched into a series of questions about my previous fitness goals and why I had failed to reach them. Then she asked me about upcoming class reunions. Bikinis in the summer, and so forth. She asked me what sort of exercise I enjoy doing. "I like to walk," I said, without hesitation, "Really, really far."The session ended poorly, with my fitness goals not really lining up with their sales pitch, but I was happy to have learned a few new exercises along the way.

Still, I regretted the entire thing the next day, when I woke up after vomiting half the night and was incredibly sore. Combine the hit-by-a-truck flu feeling with too many burpees and...wow. I couldn't even move.

But all things considered, it wasn't a bad day of snuggles and stories and watching the snow fall from inside our cozy house.