Thursday, January 31, 2008

My First Blog Award!

Thank you so much, Lunanik, for my very first blog award!

I think the last award I won was my senior year in high school when I was named Cruise Director of the Year from the dinner cruise ship where I worked.

Now comes the really fun part - passing the award on to other bloggers.

My favorite place to go for a quick laugh: Overheard Lines.

A great writer and fellow Starbucks lover: Latte Mommy.

My very best "web" friend, a fellow single mother, who consistently and so courageously shares from the deepest depths of her soul: Kori J.

Thanks again, Lunanik. And thank you to all my readers. That anyone takes the time to read this means more to me than I can express.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Yeah...about Edwards...

Within 48 hours of my "official" endorsement of Edwards here, he drops out of the race. Hmmm...I endorse, the candidate folds.

Can I now endorse Huckabee, Romney and McCain?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Bridge Program

One of the greatest experiences I had as a student at Antioch University Los Angeles was the opportunity to be an intern for The Bridge Program, a non-profit organization teaching humanities courses to low-income adults.

Our students came from various backgrounds - some were living in shelters, some were working in social services, and some were simultaneously taking community college courses. In the end, we all became a community.

Many of the students, when they began their 9-month journey, were not prepared to love "school." Yet, through studying literature, art history, philosophy, and writing, with a consistent focus of critical thinking, most of us came early and stayed late to prolong the experience as much as possible.

I have spoken before (and will most likely in the future) about the breakdown of our public education system, and what it has done to us as a whole. Those of us that do not have a straight journey from elementary to middle to high school, then college/university, and sometimes beyond usually feel hopeless at times. We cannot break through certain barriers, and that leaves us frustrated.

Many people's public schools failed them in giving them a chance to be heard. Rather, it's all about memorizing formulas, and regurgitating facts and dates. It is not a surprise to me that our high school dropout rates continue to be high. Eventually, anyone tires of being a puppet!

I wonder how many blogs have been born out of this frustration?

What we have seen develop, as technology has allowed, is a need for connection. We hear a lot about how disconnected we are because of the internet, because of texting, IMing, MySpace, and what have you.

I disagree. Wholeheartedly. I see these venues as a way for those of us who never felt like we had a voice to express it freely, without fear of being edited by others, and braced for opposition.

The Bridge Community was one of the few places that I felt free in doing so among a diverse group of people that came together, ate together, and learned together. We explored different ways of thinking about things, exchanged concerns and opposing viewpoints, and addressed them in our work. We took each idea, examined it from every angle, and found a way to put it down on paper. We cheered each other on, helped with "real-life" problems, and kept our sense of humor.

When our time was over as a class, I can say without any hesitation that all of us had grown, and were better people for the time that we spent together.

The Bridge Program is having their annual fundraiser, which is why I write about it now. (Actually, I had a dream that I pledged $1,000 to David in my sleep, and am truly hoping that did not happen. In any event, it seemed a good time to plug 'em!)

There will be a poker tournament fundraiser on Sunday, April 13th. More information on The Bridge Program's All-In '08 Poker Challenge can be found here. More information on The Bridge Program itself is available through their website.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm Voting for Edwards

Let me be clear about this: I will support and accept any of the 3 Democratic candidates once the primaries are said and done. I think each one of them displays strengths and weaknesses, and any one of them will get my support against any of the Republican candidates.

Having said that, I finally realized about a week ago that, come Feb. 5, I'm going to have to vote for one of them. I hadn't been paying any attention to the primaries because I have really disliked primaries in the past...particularly since, by the time they got to California, a candidate already had it locked up.

That's not the case this year. This year, most likely even Super Tuesday won't decide the final candidates. I very firmly believe that I must take my responsibility as an American citizen seriously enough to vote in all elections. Apathy, I believe, is one of the greatest poisons in our democracy.

So I watched the South Carolina debate last Monday with an open heart and mind. I personally enjoyed the little swipes - probably because it wasn't my girls fighting for a change! But I looked it up today on to see how much truth each candidate actually spoke that night.

The winner for the most honest candidate: John Edwards.

The only person to mention that single, working moms aren't getting a fair break: John Edwards.

The only candidate to actually give me reason to vote for them instead of against someone else: John Edwards.

I don't agree with him 100% on everything, but I actually think he's the only candidate that would address my concerns at some point, too.

I'm blogging about Edwards because I don't feel like he's gotten an equitable share of visible coverage, and I would love to see Super Tuesday make this a real 3-way race. As said, Edwards is there, too!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Drama, drama, drama...or...It's Not All About You (or Me)

There's been a lot of drama going on lately. And I'm not talking about Hillary/Bill and Obama!! No, I'm talking about people messing with others, picking on others, ganging up on others...grown women acting like high schoolers! And even that may be giving them too much credit. Correction: us too much credit.

On the other hand, I can think of a few instances of the same happening IRL lately, too. Do we ever really grow up?

(pardon me my Carrie Bradshaw moment.)

And then I heard about some real drama. Real life drama. A mother, a friend of a friend, learned that her daughter has cancer. What was thought to be a sinus infection has turned into something that they will be lucky if her daughter lives through.

What struck me - because I'm not about comparing life stories and who has it worse - is what my friend told me about her son (who is best friends with this girl). Her son had been complaining of late of how moody the girl had been, and an elementary-friend type squabble ensued.

Of course, this girl was "moody" because she was in terrible pain. It had nothing to do with the friendship, of course, but how was this boy to know? How are we ever to know how much of it is truly about us?

I thought back to my own friendship squabbles, and how many times the squabble wasn't really about the issue we proclaimed it to be. How either I was going through something, or my friend was going through something, and we made targets of each other instead.

I joke a lot about it being all about me, or not...but I would venture to guess that, more often than not, it's not all about us even when all evidence points to the contrary.

It reminds me that we do need to take a step back, time out, and consider the very real possibility that what seems to be much ado about nothing usually is...or, at the very least, about something entirely different.

The Blogging Meme

Dear Lunanik has tagged me for this meme. She likes me, she really likes me!

How long have you been blogging?

My first post on this blog was September 12, 2007. I admit to a few other false starts at blogging, but this one has stuck. I was just reading this article about Mommy Bloggers, where the author half-jokingly referred to it as a form of narcissism, and maybe so, but for me, it's more about attempting to make connections. We may be born and die alone, but in between, I believe we spend the majority of the time attempting to form human bonds.

What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?

I was spending a lot of time on an online community for moms, but I found that, even in my long posts, I still had so much more to say. Then, I started reading other bloggers, and had even more to say. I had that, "hey, if they can do it, so can I!" feeling, and thus another mommy blogger was born! But I still feel I have a unique slant, particularly as a single mother. The first blogs I began to read on a regular basis were Because I Said So (found from the now-famous E-Bay posting), and then Mommy Needs Coffee. They still remain inspirations, and favorites. Mentors? Well, they don't even know I exist, but they still inspire.

Are you trying to make money or just doing it for fun?

Unfortunately, I know myself well enough to know that I can't be motivated by money. I love the line from Sunday in the Park with George (by Stephen Sondheim): "It's not so much do what you like as it is that you like what you do." That's how I get up every morning to go to work. I've thought about trying to write for money a few times, but frankly, I don't think I'm good enough. At the same time, I've never been one to shy away from expressing myself, so blogging makes perfect sense for me. Enough people (which, by my standards, doesn't have to be a very high number) have told me that they enjoy reading my blog to inspire me to keep doing this, and yes, I am having fun.

What three things do you love about being online?

1) The people. I'm with Lunanik on this one 100%. I had never quite bought into the idea of real friendships being able to come to fruition on the internet alone, but my own experiences have turned me into a believer. I have always enjoyed learning more about human nature, and being able to explore humanity through technology is a fascinating and exciting opportunity that I get to endeavor in every day in the comfort of my own home. Having kids limits my opportunities to get out there IRL so I'm grateful for this substitute that does allow for real human expression and exchange.

2) The freedom to engage or not, and to edit oneself. Granted, there are times we all hit the "send," "post," "reply" button a little too soon, but overall, I enjoy having the chance to read it over, correct those mistakes I catch, and completely form my thoughts (again, most of the time - not all) before actually saying it. I know we all have those times when you think to yourself later, after an argument or something, "I should have said THIS!" Being in a comfort zone allows me the opportunity to actually say it.

At the same time, I can also write the most nasty, hateful things...and then delete, delete, delete before it actually goes out there in the world. It's a wonderful way to get all of that out of my system without going so far as to express them to the other person, and regretting it later! Of course, sometimes I still hit that post/send button, but there's actually a lot of self-editing going on!!

And, believe it or not, there are times when I don't post. There are things I don't ever say that I'm thinking. Or I save it for a private conversation or email instead of expressing it to the whole world (or online community). I'm not caught off guard. I have time to process.

3) The chance to learn from others. I really do love going out there and seeing what other people have to say. I love the opportunity to try and understand another point of view.

But it goes beyond just political differences, and the like. Sometimes, I just need to get outside of my head, and my own IRL world. I have learned so much from other moms all over the internet that I wouldn't even know where to begin! I have had fascinating online discussions about everything from potty training to MySpace to this year's presidential candidates...I look forward to my time online every day to see what more there is to learn.

What three things do you struggle with online?

1) I agree with Lunanik on the first as well: time management. There was one particular night, after spending time in a new online community, where I was up until after 1 a.m. because I still had to do dishes, make school lunches, etc.! I have gotten better at it, but it takes a lot of self-control.

2) Putting up with terrible grammar. I actually read yesterday that Heath Ledger had "past" on. I'm no English expert, but come on, people!!

3) Am I giving up or letting go? And understanding the difference. Sometimes, there can't be a meeting of the minds. This happens IRL as well, of course, but it's a little harder for me to gauge where the line is online than off without the benefit of being able to look into someone's eyes and being able to tell whether you need to back off or just push a tiny bit further. I don't believe that words are only 7% of communication, but they are far from 100%.

I'm not going to tag anyone - use as you like!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice Day 2008

First, I'd like to give a shout-out to Latte Mommy for letting me know via her blog about Blog for Choice Day! I think the email probably got lost in all the election emails I've been getting lately.

Blog for Choice Day

I come at this issue as a mother. Now, I was pro-choice before being a mother, but my stance on being pro-choice has only gotten stronger as a mother.

I know now how hard it is to be a mom. I know the sacrifices I make daily for my kids, the amount of times I have to bite my tongue, the amount of times I screw up and have to make reparation for it. Every day, I'm faced with the challenges of nurturing these two human beings into people that I will hope will be liked and respected, strong yet sympathetic, and idealistic enough to reach for the stars, yet realistic enough to not be shattered by disappointment.

These are tough waters to navigate. As a single mom, it's even more difficult as we don't have the benefit of someone to carry the load on occasion.

Being a mother comes with huge financial responsibilities as well. Providing food, clothing and shelter is just the beginning. I want them to have the chances to explore the world outside of our four walls and their schools. I want them to have times to be care free and simply enjoy themselves. I want them to have every book they want to read, and while I know that money cannot buy happiness, a healthy dose of it can keep me from freaking out if they eat another bowl of cereal or if my tire goes flat.

Every single day, as any mom blogger can attest to, difficult choices must be made. Patience must be found from the deepest depth of your inner core. Financial resources must be created out of next to nothing. A stong sense of self and humor must be utilized.

And even the "good" moms can make devastating choices. From the choice of father to the number of chances you give a child to the type of punishments or consequences in order to instill in a child their own moral compass. Love is simply not enough.

I love my children with all my heart, and being their mother more than anything else in the world. That isn't all that sustains me, though. It's still too early in the game to know whether or not, despite my best efforts, despite my worst mistakes, I have done a good enough job in being their mom.

In one of my single mom internet groups, we often refer to the absentee dad as the "sperm donor." In all honesty, there are "egg donors" out there as well. There are women who are not up to the job. We see the devastating results of that in our playgrounds, in our juvenile justice system, in our adults who do not contribute to society. And even if a mom was more than just an egg donor, even if she did all that she could do, it still might not have been enough to make that child feel whole.

I could not, under any circumstances, put myself in the place of a woman who finds herself pregnant and doubts her ability to be a mom, and pretend to know what's best for her...and that child. That is a decision every woman must make for herself, because every woman who makes that decision must live with the consequences of it forever. Not just 18 years, but forever. One never stops being a mom.

Yes, every life is precious. Every life deserves the best possible chances. Every child deserves a mom and a dad to take their roles seriously. As it is, we have too many children in the world who are surviving with less than that. If I have any regrets, it is that I could not give my children the father they deserve. I hope that they can make it without it, but there are times when I'm not absolutely convinced of that. It never gets easier.

Were a woman to ask me my advice, I would try to stress just how much it means, and just how hard it is. I would want her to have all the possible knowledge of what motherhood means, and if she still wanted to have it, great. But if she really believed she was not ready, emotionally and/or financially, to commit to this lifetime endeavor, I would respect her decision to abort.

I was asked recently if I would support my daughter's decision to abort. Absolutely. Probably the only people who understand single parenthood outside of single parents are the children of single parents. If she did not feel she had a supportive significant other, and she did not want to become a single parent, I would be right there with her to hold her hand during the procedure. I would want it to be safe, legal, and leave her with the option of having children later in life if/when she felt ready to do so. I would not begrudge her the mistake of getting pregnant in the first place, because I'm sure the experience itself would be enough for her to learn her lesson. I would not want another child to pay for her mistakes, much like I agonize over how much my own children have paid for mine. That price is too steep.

I not only support a woman's right to choose, I support a child's right to have the best possible chances of thriving. That starts with a mother who is up for the job.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Stupid Economy

So they're finally starting to talk about the economy as part of the presidential election. Unfortunately, the way that analysts, pundits and even politicians look at the economy makes no sense to me.

I was just reading a New Yorker article on the merits and downfalls of measuring the economy by unemployment rates and job numbers. Although no one can be 100% confident in their job security anymore, lay-offs aren't my top concern about my own economic situation. Analysts look at stock prices. I still think the only people who care about this are analysts.

Politicians look at the very poor. Being as I'm sitting here on my home desktop computer, hooked up to the internet via high-speed service, I can't count myself among those, either.

Why is it that the only person that I can ever hear talking about the type of economic hardships that I can relate to is Lou Dobbs?

Even last night, on Real Time with Bill Maher, somehow no one could come up with the reason that in the last 2 weeks, more Americans are very concerned with the economy. Am I some sort of genius for thinking that, gee, maybe it has something to do with the post-Christmas credit card and utility bills currently showing up in our mailbox? I just got a little back-up, too, that my theory may be correct. As the President and Congress consider giving us tax rebates, I took a poll on where so far, more than 50% answered that we would spend the rebate paying off debt if received.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm no economic genius here, or political genius for that matter, but it seems to me that these politicians might be able to differentiate themselves from the pack by actually talking about middle-class economic values rather than so-called family values.

Here's where I don't see anyone from any party speaking for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The KIPP Difference

I'm so excited! As outlined in this LA Times article, the KIPP organization will be opening more much-needed schools in the area.

I was disappointed to read that the President of United Teachers Los Angeles, AJ Duffy, seems to not understand much about KIPP, as evidenced by his comment: "Eli's so enamored with charter schools, he's willing to put millions and millions of dollars into them simply because they're charter schools."

It's not just the word "charter" that makes KIPP special. The list is practically endless, but here are some key points.

A KIPP employee (from the founders to the Principal to the teachers and office staff) absolutely believes that any child can learn, and any child can make it to college. Every single student is treated with a sense of respect and love that I've never seen at any other school.

The school year started with a 2-day session just for new KIPP students. As they all lined up for breakfast, a KIPP employee shook their hand and said "good morning." As they ate breakfast, several KIPP teachers and staff went around to the tables and met the students, saw which students had no one to talk to, and hooked them up with a "buddy." The Principal went around and shook every student's hand, and every parent's hand. To see every student's eyes light up a little, at the warmth and the respect, was a beautiful sight to see.

And I see that any time I'm there. The kids can't wait to see the Principal and show them their artwork or a good grade. Sylvia's Reading teacher came to run a race with Sylvia on a Sunday. Even my youngest daughter runs up to Sylvia's art teacher to give him a hug. The kids can feel the love from everyone there.

Sylvia has never worked harder in her life, and she's also never been easier. I rarely hear complaints about doing homework. As a matter of fact, over the Winter Break, she was doing her homework even before I mentioned it. She knows all of her teachers believe in her ability to succeed, and it gives her the confidence she needs that she can do it.

My favorite KIPP motto, one that we've adopted in our home, is "when there is a problem, we find a solution." This is something I've tried to instill in the girls already, but to be able to put it so succintly, to know that she knows what that means, makes it so much easier.

When difficult situations arise, I can count on the Dean of Students and/or the Principal to deal with it effectively. They get all the interested parties together in a room, give everyone involved a chance to speak, and then resolve the issue. Sylvia has been involved in such a session, and has come away from it satisfied that she was heard, and that the problem has been solved.

The Principal holds a Breakfast one Saturday a month with the parents. We all contribute food, there's a presentation from one of the various departments, announcements made, and then it's an open forum for us to talk about whatever's on our mind.

I can email or call anyone from KIPP at any time, and I always get a quick and thorough response. Sylvia also has every teacher's cell phone number, and can call them directly if she has a question about her homework.

And I also have to dispute Duffy's implication that they only "teach to the test." In fact, I've seen more of that in LAUSD regular schools than I've seen at KIPP. What they do is actually give them the tools they need to succeed in a test situation.

I'm not a fan of standardized tests, and wish that they would go away. However, I have accepted that my daughters need to know how to succeed in taking tests in order to succeed in their academic life. KIPP is now going to be focusing their Saturday school program on test-taking skills, which will be an invaluable tool for Sylvia to have for the rest of her academic life, and even beyond to some extent.

Riley actually accompanies Sylvia to Saturday school most of the time now. She loves going, and the teachers have made her an "honorary KIPPster," a title she is proud to hold. She was overjoyed when the art teacher gave her an art composition book of her very own.

That's another huge point in favor of KIPP: the fact that Sylvia has art and music as part of her regular curriculum. I don't have to run around, trying to find a place for her to get "supplementary" knowledge. She also is part of the Thespian Club, which is completely free to me as a parent.

It's also pretty incredible to me that I'm actually raving about a school. I'm no longer frustrated and ranting, "why don't they get it?!?" I'm no longer pulling my hair out at the sound of the words "parental involvement." I don't have to try and make anyone at KIPP understand how hard it is for a single parent. I know they know. Instead, I'm figuring out what I'm going to make for the next Saturday breakfast. I'm helping with the fundraising for KIPP. I'm hoping to go on the next field trip! I'm so grateful for everything that KIPP has given both me and Sylvia - and all this in just the first half a school year - that I will happily do anything in my power to help KIPP.

I'm as enamored with KIPP as much as, if not more than, Eli Broad. Having someone actually make a difference in my daughter's education will do that to me! And now, thanks to Eli Broad, it can do the same for so many more children. And their parents.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Attempting to Change the Blog Subject!

Okay, it's been way too much about single parenting on my blog lately!

In an attempt to lighten it up a little, I'll share a proud Sylvia moment - she can brew my coffee now!! I was relaxing on the sofa the other night and really wanted some decaf, but not wanting to get up to make it, I said to Sylvia (in the same kind of way I sometimes tell my cat to do something for me), "go make me coffee, honey." She perked up (ooh, sorry about that). "Can I?"

I told her I'd need to watch her this time around - my coffee is not a place for mistakes. She actually did know exactly how to do it! How many scoops I use, how much water...but as she said, she's seen me do this hundreds of times (which most likely is an understatement).

I am no longer the only one in the house who can make coffee! YAY!!!

Balancing the Blame

It was interesting to read Lunanik's post regarding her ex and his addiction. I'd be shocked if anyone reading this wasn't aware of my own ex's drug addiction.
The comments were also interesting - particularly the referral to exes like myself who haven't managed to overcome the bitterness. It brings about the question of how much of my own recent struggles of dealing with more fall-out of his problems is self-induced.
Now part of why Lunanik can be so healthy about this is because her ex is firmly rooted in her past. Being the father of my children makes it more difficult for my own ex to only belong in the past. Seeing other women's experiences, it doesn't seem to me to be possible to entirely ever be unemotionally involved when dealing with the children that they left behind.
If the father walked away without a backward glance, there are the abandonment issues. If the father is an active participant in the child's rearing, then of course they are always there in the present as well. If the father is like my own daughters', that fades away for a while and then makes a re-appearance of some crabs...well, I'm still working on that.
If the father is an emotionally unstable, drug-addled person, it becomes all the more difficult. I've struggled for 5 years now, trying to find the right balance of allowing the girls some interaction with their father, and protecting them from any possible outcome that enters my (or my family's) imagination.
I've also done the inevitable self-blaming and self-questioning and self-victimization.
Truth be told, it isn't all his fault or my fault. Sometimes, the biggest fault is in even trying to find a direct source. Sometimes, it just is. Sometimes, things just happen.
I've also watched his family struggle with finding the right balance between loving him and protecting themselves. I can no longer feel any anger towards any of the decisions they made along the way - people do the best they can.
I guess what I struggle with the most is, have I done the best I can? And is my best good enough?
In the past week, I've come to the realization that I cannot completely fill the hole left by their father's absence. I cannot be both father and mother to them. And I'm going to make my own mistakes with them. I can only hope that just being their (imperfect) mother can be enough.
I'm not over all my anger and bitterness and sense of betrayal. Still. 5 years later. Does it make me a bad person? A weak person? I'm kind of in a place where my answer to that is, whatever. I don't care. I at least have to face it. I at least have to be honest with myself about it. I think any attempt to deny it would be detrimental - has been detrimental - to maybe getting to that place where I can say, "I'm over it."
Which I'm not fully convinced will ever happen. But pretending to be "over it" hasn't exactly helped, either.
My name is April, and I'm not completely balanced. But I'm working on it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Is this year over yet?!?

I'm not real sure if I'm stuck in 2007, or that late 2007 was just a warm-up to the kind of screwed up year that 2008 has turned into so far, but I'm seriously missing two weeks ago!
Two weeks ago, my worst problems were the lack of satellite tv and roofers banging over my head...good times.
Having no entertainment and a pounding headache was a breeze compared to having no heat for 3 days. I may live in SoCal, but it's actually been kind of cold, and I'm a California girl that gets cold when it's below 75! Then, it turned out there was a calm before the emotional storm that Sylvia had over her dad, and while every mother can relate to wanting our children to never be in pain, there's something particularly heart-breaking when the pain is caused by the other "parent" (using that term real loosely).
I know most of the time I try real hard to be that strong, I can do this by myself kind of single parent that is able to provide the emotional support my children need. But right now, I'm just not feeling it. I'm emotionally drained, I've been fighting a cold all week, and I've been literally cold all week. Some days, I just don't have the friggin' energy for this!
So I've been attempting to get through it by trying to find pleasure in the little things. The other day, I had some time to kill between dropping the girls off at school and going back to Sylvia's school for a meeting with the school counselor. I thought, I want to be one of those people you always see at Starbucks who seem to have nothing better to do than to sit around, drinking coffee! Wouldn't you know accident blocked off the entrance to the parking lot and I couldn't get in!
Then, I go to this meeting with the counselor which was just extremely tough emotionally - reliving the entire history of Sylvia and her dad, answering some tough questions about how I've dealt with the situation, listening to Sylvia's problems with me and my parenting...then I get a flat tire. Later that night, I'm trying to veg in front of "Project Runway" and my DVR stopped recording 2 minutes before the end of the show.
That day seemed to be the worst of it, but the days preceding and following haven't been much better.
I realize it's only the first full week of January and all, but if this is how the year's going to go, then I'd like a time machine, please, to transport me to 2009.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Kind of a meme

Lattemommy posted this link in determining "what kind of coffee are you?" My results:

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Okay, trying to imagine me at my "energetic" best is a stretch these days, since I can't remember the last time I wasn't tired! It is true, though, that I drink coffee most hours that I'm awake. I do switch to decaf after 6 pm, though.
I'm trying to wean myself from 10 cups a day to about 6, though, and stop after one cup of decaf after dinner (to stave off "food coma").
Are "anxious and high strung" synonyms for bitchy? Just curious.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Bashing of Single Parents Has Begun - ahh, the election season!

I've been relatively non-political lately, but I'm starting to get riled up. Oddly enough, it wasn't the results of Iowa's caucus that started my blood bubbling (not boiling yet - just bubbling). It was a pundit.
David Brooks of the NY Times wrote the following in his article, The Two Earthquakes:

Huckabee understands how middle-class anxiety is really lived. Democrats talk about wages. But real middle-class families have more to fear economically from divorce than from a free trade pact. A person’s lifetime prospects will be threatened more by single parenting than by outsourcing. Huckabee understands that economic well-being is fused with social and moral well-being, and he talks about the inter-relationship in a way no other candidate has.

I can't begin to describe how highly and personally offended I am by this statement...but I'll try!

Here is the letter I wrote to David Brooks in response:
As a single mother, I have to disagree with you that single parenting is a greater threat to our economy (and my own personal financial well-being) than outsourcing. I was definitely worse off financially being married to a drug addict than I am now as a single mom.
With my ex no longer around, I no longer have to worry about where to hide cash. With my ex no longer around, I can actually have a checking account (and savings). With my ex no longer around, I don't have to worry about crack pipes, burnt spoons, and other objects that do not belong around children. With my ex no longer around, I can pay my utility bills and rent and car registration. These were all things that were impossible when I was a wife. I do them without any regular child support, either. And, no, I do not get any assistance or subsidies from the government. However, if my job were outsourced, my ability to support my children on my own would disappear.
I get enough bashing from the candidates, thank you very much. It would be so nice if someone actually acknowledged that what single parents do, while not easy, is often the very best they can under the circumstances.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Spare the Rod?

Lunanik tagged me to answer the following question:

Do I spare the rod in disciplining my children?

Yes, I do.

Here's the thing about being Mexican and Irish - it can create quite a temper. The only times I've been tempted to spank have been the times when I'm seeing red. In that state, it's best to walk away.

In the interest of full disclosure, there was one time where I spanked Sylvia's behind when she was about 18 months and I deeply regretted it. No, there was no permanent damage, but the sound of that slap coupled with the red on her naked scared me straight, I guess.

These days, the biggest issues have to do with sibling rivalry - or sibling abuse!! It doesn't seem to me that we'd do any better if I enacted a punishment that involved hitting when what I'm usually trying to stop is hitting. I know it's not the same thing, per se, but it still doesn't sit right with me.

But my position on time-outs isn't quite the SuperNanny method. My belief is that when tempers are flaring, it's best for everyone to take a breather. The girls need some time away from each other now and again, so I'm trying to teach them both to somehow disengage themselves from the situation. If we're at home, I tell one of them to go to their room and calm down. If we're in the car, I order them not to look at one another for a little while. It generally does not happen outside of those two arenas, but if it happens in public, they get "the look." And some harsh words about how angry I am, and a warning that if they don't cut it out, they will [insert consequence here]. Usually, the warning is enough to make it stop.

If it's not about the two of them fighting, then I order the unruly one to their room, and I generally find a place to go cool down as well. Taking that breather allows me to sort out what's going on...why is she acting this way? Why am I so upset?

Usually, I can find some underlying reason for the out-of-control behavior and go in and talk to the girl about whatever it is that I think is the root of the problem. Once that's sorted out, I remind her that it's not acceptable to act in this way, and next time to please find another way to deal with the anger. I follow that up with a few suggestions - draw a picture, go to your room, jump up and down, hit the beanbag...

Does it stop bad behavior completely? No. I'm not under any delusions that it will. But, hopefully, each time that it's said and done, the lesson gets engraved a little more. And I've been given enough encouragement from the girls to believe this is true.

For example, yesterday, there was a moment when Riley was deliberately taunting Sylvia. Sylvia went to their room and closed the door. She knew she needed some time without her sister. Given that they've been off school and together for every moment of the past 2 1/2 weeks, that's perfectly understandable. Riley was still in the mood for a fight, so I had to discipline her a bit more. She ended up getting the consequence of not being able to go to the playground yesterday because of her behavior.

So I do think there is room for more disciplinary measures than spanking, or even the standard time-outs as most people look at them. I do agree with Lunanik, however, that parents who are "caught" spanking their children in public should not be investigated by Social Services. Just because it's not right for our family doesn't mean that I have any room to judge others who don't spare the rod (within reason, of course). While in theory, the idea of every call being investigated is nice and all, the reality is it can lead to the system overreacting to different things, and innocent parents (and, worse, children) being caught in a horrible nightmare. There should be some reasonableness to the standards of what they investigate.

I've often joked with my friends that are parents, "where are the laws protecting us from parental abuse?" At one time or another, we've all been kicked, hit, had our hair pulled, etc...sometimes, without malice, of course, but it can still hurt!

I'm supposed to do the whole tagging thing, but I'm so not into that! Feel free to write about it, of course, and please let me know so that I can read your take on the subject.