Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An interesting conversation, and baby talk answers.

Last week J brought a book home from school that led to a very interesting conversation around our dinner table. The book was about Ronald McNair, one of the astronauts who died in the Challenger tragedy. McNair was African-American, and I became acquainted with his name when I was an undergraduate taking part in a science and math program that was started in his honor. The book J brought home was about McNair as a little boy in the early 1960s, and it recounted a true incident involving his not being allowed to have a library card because of his race.

J could not understand why little Ron was not allowed to have a library card. As we tried to explain the historical context in a way he could grasp, it dawned on us that J doesn't really understand racism because he doesn't really have a concept of race. Which was MIND BLOWING. It's hard to explain. TH and I don't feel like our lives are defined by race, but we certainly consider it a huge part of our identity. We have both experienced first hand both blatant and insidious racism. I'm not sure when I became aware of my race. Meaning, I've understood that I am a black person literally as long as I can remember. I don't remember my parents ever sitting me down and explaining it, or making a huge deal out of it, or focusing on it so much that it became a burden. But I've always identified that way.

J, however, knows that his skin is light brown. He knows that other people have skin that is "pink" or that have "yellow" hair. He has told me that there some of his friends speak Spanish. He has mentioned that his hair is "harder" than his friends. But TH and I realized last week that he's never categorized himself as being a part of a larger group. I'm not even sure if he's noticed that everyone in our family is the same race. Honestly, it brings up mixed emotions for me.

I think our children are going to be the first truly "post-racial" generation. They are the first group of kids exposed to people of all races in the media, in positions of power, and on the playground. They won't think anything of interracial families. They'll have proof in their own memories that the president isn't always a white male. They're post-Obama in a way that we will never be. It's fantastic.

But it also gives me pause. I don't want my children to be defined by their race. But I do want them to identify with it in some ways. I want them to have some knowledge and understanding of what the struggle was before them. When I tried to frame the idea of "minority" for J, I told him how I was the only black person in my entire vet school class. For that matter, I was one of only 2 black people (out of about 500) in my entire vet school for the four years that I went there. I want him to grasp that, in some small way. The fact that doors are wide open for him and his brother that were just ajar a little bit for our generation. I don't want to burden him with it, but I don't want him to ignore it, either. I cringe when I hear people trying to sound post-racial say, "I don't even see skin color." I find that so ridiculous. I want you to see my skin color. It's beautiful. It has a history. It's not better than anyone else's, and don't judge me because of it...but definitely see it.

So I'm glad J read this book. I'm glad that he thought about the story and proclaimed that it was unfair, and that anyone should be able to get a library card so they can read.

I'm glad that he looked at my hand next to his and said, "Your skin is the same color as mine."

* * *

Baby Talk answers (Maria, you're good!)

1. "Nonnie" = Manny. (How he refers to himself.)

2. "Coodie" = Car. I cannot explain this one.

3. "Pin-pin" = Cushion. We play a game J calls "Cushions" where we pull the cushions off the couch and the boys jump on them. After much crying one day we finally figured out why he was pointing at the couch asking to play pin-pin.

4. "Fuffins" = muffins.

5. "Kennies" = candy. Thanks, Halloween.

6. "Teen tine" = screen time. This refers to computer time only, TV is just...TV."

7. "Note neal" = oatmeal.

8. "Spa-doh"= spider. Again, thanks to Halloween decorations and his evil older brother for introducing him to that concept.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baby talk

*Disclaimer: This is a shameless rip-off of something LauraC did a few years ago when her boys were toddlers.

Over the past year, one of our biggest concerns (our only concern really) about Jr. has been his language skills. Or lack thereof, I guess. He has always made alot of noise, babbling and yelling and mimicking sounds. But it's only been recently, right around when he turned two, that he has said words we can actually understand. Mommy. Daddy. J. Kitty and doggy. Shoes, hat, socks. Juice, milk, water, cheese, pancakes, food, EAT! Outside, slide, plane, sky.

There are, however, many words that he says on a regular basis that have taken much gesturing and frustration for us to decipher. Words I actually wrote down for the babysitter so she wouldn't spend the whole day having no clue what he wants. So here's a little game: can you figure out what these words mean? Some of them are seriously random but he says all of these almost every day. I've put some context in parenthese to be helpful :)

1. "Nonnie" (That's Nonnie!)

2. "Coodie" (We play coodie?)

3. "Pin-pins" (We play pin-pins?)

4. "Fuffins" (Have fuffins, please?)

5. "Kennies" (I have kennies?)

6. "Teen tine" (Want teen tine.)

7. "Note-neal" (Note-neal please?)

8. "Spa-doh" (Noooo! Spa-doh!!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's always funny later...

It seems like all of the really random, stupid, ridiculous adventures happen when the kids are with me. I don't know why. Locked out of the house, car battery dies while we're at Sonic happy hour in 90 degree weather, drive halfway to the store with the diaper bag on top of the car, get all the way through the line at Walmart (and we all know the line is the worst effing part at Walmart) and discover I left my wallet at home. Etc etc and so on and so forth.

So yesterday, like everyday, Jr. and I went to pick J up from school. The school doesn't really have an efficient pick-up/drop-off routine, especially for the kindergarteners who must actually be picked up by someone over age 10 and the teacher has to visually see that person before letting them out of the line. The kindergarten classes let out around the side of the building instead of the front, and I guess there's no buses for kindergarten. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it...I've never seen a school bus at this school. Huh. I guess it's a true neighborhood school, everyone in walking distance? So anyway, although it's nice for safety, having to actually get out of the car and make visual contact with the teacher at pick-up means we have to park somewhere and get out and walk to the classroom. Because of this system, parking becomes a premium when school lets out at 3:15. If you're not there to score a space in front of the school by 3:05, you're looking at parking in the neighborhood, sometimes 2-3 blocks away. If you're like me, with a younger sibling in tow, that means pushing a stroller or trudging through inclement weather with a 2 year old. Not fun.

(There is a point to this). Yesterday, even though I didn't get to the school until around 3:10, I happened upon a car pulling away from the curb really close to the crosswalk out front right as I came by. Score! I parallelled, picked up J, talked to the teacher for a few minutes, and started loading the kids into the car. J got in, buckled up, no problem. I went to put Jr. in the his car seat, which is on the passenger side by the curb, and he decided to pull the old "you'll have to fold me in half like origami to get me into the carseat" routine. In the process, he kicked and knocked my car keys out of my hand. I looked down at the floor -- no keys. I looked out at the ground, expecting the keys to be in the gutter next to the car. And that's when I saw the keys sliding down into the storm drain we were parked next to. Not a regular gutter. A storm drain. MY KEYS WENT INTO THE STORM DRAIN. Meaning I couldn't start the car. Or drive home. Or get into the house if we decided to walk home.

It was a classic "That did NOT just happen" moment. I finished strapping Jr. into the car, ignoring J repeating incessantly "What happened? What just happened? Why are you looking at the ground like that? What are you looking at? What happened?" I tried to kneel down in the space between the car and the gutter (I mean storm drain) and realized this was a very deep storm drain. As in, I couldn't see the bottom, but I could see rungs of a ladder going down the side from under a manhole. Crap.

Hey wait, manhole! If there's a manhole, then maybe...who do you call in this situation? Who can open a manhole? The manhole had "City of Aurora" stamped on it, and luckily it was the keys and not the smart phone that fell into the storm drain. Thanks to Google, three phone call transfers later I was in touch with the Aurora Storm Drain Office (who knew?), and they said they'd send someone out to help me when they could. 45 minutes later -- 45 loooong minutes of trying to occupy the kids in the car with no radio, no heat, no buttons to push and too cold outside to take them onto the school playground while we waited -- a very nice man named Ralph showed up. He popped the manhole cover, climbed down into the storm drain, and immediately found the keys amongst the leaves and debris at the bottom, telling me, "You're very lucky there wasn't any water flowing down there today ma'am, otherwise your keys would have been on their way to the reservoir."

In less than 5 minutes my keys were back in hand, and when I asked him how much I'd be charged for this little escapade, he told me the only payment he needed was the look of relief on my face when he came up with those keys. Chivalry isn't dead, after all. I most certainly will be singing Ralph's praises to his boss tomorrow.

When we got home I pretty much knocked the kids over to get to their Halloween buckets. If ever there was a need for a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup at the end of the day...