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The Swastika in Our Neighborhood [Huffington Post]

This led to a discussion of Hitler’s view of a master race, which is pretty tough to explain to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jewish child (a friend fondly refers to him as “the Jewish Viking”). I was careful not to alarm him, but I wanted to be accurate and honest.

I am admittedly not an historian nor an expert on current day hate symbols, but we seldom wear our professional hats when talking to our children anyhow. What I began to see was that he needed to have a of sense of control over what he had just seen. My telling him I was going to call the City’s 311 hotline to report it wasn’t going to be enough.

“So what do you want to do about the swastika?” I asked.

“Let’s get a can of black spray paint and cover it over,” he suggested.

“That might feel good,” I said. “But wouldn’t we be destroying something that doesn’t belong to us?”

“We could put something good over it,” he said thoughtfully.

I couldn’t imagine what that could be, but listened anyhow. Sometimes a child’s internal compass points them to their own true north, and it’s best for us adults to get out of their way. Armed with colored paper and markers, he came up with this…

Why American Kids Are Brats [Time]

Amidst all the talk this past week about Pamela Druckerman’s new book,Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, there was one phrase that immediately lodged itself in my mind. It was in a sidebar that ran with theWall Street Journal adaptation of her book,“Why French Parents Are Superior,” and it said this: “Children should say hello, goodbye, thank you and please. It helps them to learn that they aren’t the only ones with feelings and needs.”

That statement points directly to what I see as one of the most meaningful differences between the French and (contemporary) American style of parenting. I don’t happen to believe, as the Journal pushed Druckerman’s argument to say, that French parenting is necessarily superior, overall, to what we do in America. I don’t think French children are, overall, better or happier people — such generalizations are silly. But it is true that French kids can be a whole lot more pleasant to be around than our own. They’re more polite. They’re better socialized. They generally get with the program; they help out when called upon to do so, and they don’t demand special treatment. And that comes directly from being taught, from the earliest age, that they’re not the only ones with feelings and needs.

I say all this based on many years of extended hanging out time with French families, both before and after my own girls — who, like Druckerman’s children, were born in France — came along. In fact, that experience — and the contrast with the American way of parenting I discovered when I moved back to the States — inspired my bookPerfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety,the main argument of which Druckerman recapitulates at the very beginning ofBringing Up Bébé. (Fuller disclosure: she interviewed me for the book as well.)

Like Druckerman, I’ve often noted wistfully how French children know how to handle themselves in restaurants. I’ve envied how French children eat what’s put in front of them, put themselves to bed when instructed to, and, generally, tend to help keep the wheels of family life moving pretty smoothly. But the difference that struck me the most deeply, when my family moved to Washington, D.C., from Paris and my older daughter began preschool, was how much more basically respectful French children were of other people. Indeed, how much emphasis French parents put on demanding they behave respectfully toward other people. And how that respect helped make life more enjoyable.

In the years when I was gathering wool for, and then formally researching and writingPerfect Madness, I was disheartened time and again by the ways parents in the U.S. often did just the opposite. American parents assiduously strove to make sure that their children’s wants and needs came first, no matter what. This sometimes had a name — “advocating for your child” — and was clearly predicated on the belief that if you didn’t yourself do it, didn’t teach your child to “self-advocate,” no one would, and in the great stampede for resources and rewards your child would get left behind in the dust. In my preschool-mom world back then, this took the form of letting kids step all over the feelings of other children if their own feelings so compelled them, as when a mother in suburban Maryland explained to me that she let her little girl cancel playdates right up to the last minute because she “couldn’t force her” to engage in social commitments that now bored her. It never seemed to dawn upon the mother that her child’s passing boredom was less important than the other child’s potentially hurt feelings; and that teaching her daughter to think of the other child’s feelings would, in the long term, be better for them both.

Whitney: An Attempted Tribute [Crunk Feminist Collective]

i found, with singing some non-gospel song, that the relationship between queerness and song that worried me since before puberty began was not relegated to the church … but that the performance of someone like whitney could also tattle. a choice had to be made: to continue to listen to her background ubiquity with pleasure, to sing anyway; or to stop, become quiet, and withdrawn. i chose the latter for a very long while because i could not untangle my sense of erotic, libidinal difference from such songs — sacred or secular. but in the background, in the underground, underneath, all this music still moved me. and moves me still.

whitney was just always there, always in the background singing clearly. for me, and with her performance of “i’m every woman,” she was an underground soundtrack for how performance pronounced all kinds of queer things about you, libidinal excesses. and her voice was always celebrated: they named a school after her in east orange, she continued to visit her church in newark, my high school prom date sang background for whitney all of the time. last night, it hit me: i share in all of these tangential connections to her work, to her voice. and i realized last night, as i was struck with the desire to cry, that whitney’s voice, her unabashed tone and clarity, her playfulness and depth of character created a performative space for me to be … whatever that being was and was becoming. like nina simone stated about the song “feelings” at the montreaux jazz festival, similarly, i am not mad at whitney making contemporary for me a “girl song” that i could sing … rather, i am mad at the conditions [all those institutional -isms] that produce the necessity and demand upon my science teacher to respond to my singing whitney — to singing a presumedly “girl song” in a decidedly “heterosexist land” — with such dismissal and chagrin.

because i realize: in me is every woman’s voice that has come before me, their life, their breath, their force, their vitality. the love of my mother and grandmothers is all in me. every woman is in every child ever born, a materiality of the refusal of alienation. black folks know something about an injunction of having to “follow the status of the mother” … but though the imposition was through a horrific condition, we celebrate the mother anyway. because it’s right. every woman. in all. each of us.

It’s Happening [Korean American Story]

Of course, when I asked her to come she said yes immediately. In fact, because she was so enthusiastic about coming, I internally freaked. Thinking I was not ready, I avoided the topic for a good year. But this past Thanksgiving, for whatever reason, I was really missing my Omma. I knew I had to do it. Having my Omma stay with me is a real fear of mine, which is why I know that I have to take it head on – and just do it.

What do I fear? Well, let’s see, I was adopted at the age of three. Although my adoption papers said I was “abandoned” as many adoptees are told, I found out later that my Korean parents and my brother drove me to the airport to send me off to the United States. I may have been abandoned but it was at the airport, not on some church steps, as we always imagined. It would be thirty years later, in 2004, when I would see my Omma, two sisters and brother again. It was an emotional trip but the total time actually spent with my family was probably no more than 20 hours. I stayed in a hotel so I was able to get away.

Three years plus approximately twenty hours is all of the time I have ever spent with my Omma.

When my Omma comes here, I will not be able to get away from the exceedingly intense emotions that may arise. There will be seven of us packed into my 1500 square foot, 2.5 bedroom apartment. Where will everyone sleep? Not sure but we will figure it out. Mix together two extremely energetic four year olds and my seventy-something year old Omma. Not speaking the same language but somehow communicating. It’s going to be interesting.

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