Tag Archives: parenting

LGBT News Bites

I remember being very little and going to a few meetings of what was called the “Daisy Scouts”. I don’t remember why I stopped going, but I do remember being very uncomfortable with the idea that we had prayer circles.

When people returned or refused their Eagle Scout medals I payed attention, recognizing that the Boy Scouts of America were not an equal opportunity group.

Today I can be proud that someone is challenging that. A Brooklyn Dad has founded a gender neutral scouting troop, welcoming girls, boys, gay kids, and likely trans (though the story doesn’t say). I really appreciate that he is creating his own thing, and refusing to put money towards an organization which he finds to be discriminatory in it’s policies. Which they are.

The second awesome thing is that the National Cathedral is going to have its first ever same sex marriage! I am so glad that the National Cathedral will be welcoming and open to all people when they celebrate in marriage – not just those whom the law recognizes as equal. It is lovely to see a religious organization recognizing all love publicly.

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Dolls for Disabled Children

I grew up with American Girl dolls. I had a Kirsten (because my heritage is Swedish American) and a Molly – because she had glasses! I loved that I had a doll who had to wear glasses like I did.  It definitely helped me to understand that glasses were a normal part of my image and nothing to be embarrassed by.

I only wish they’d had the hearing aids for their dolls when I was a child. When I was 10 or 11 I got my first hearing aid. It was a behind the ear, purple, and you could see through it to see all the gears and pieces that made it work. When I first got it, I thought it was really cool. But then my classmates figured something out – they could tease me using the hearing aid. Whistling into it, yelling into it. One kid chewed gum right next to me as loudly as possible.

So I stopped wearing my hearing aid.

Like the glasses, I feel like having a doll who can wear a hearing aid, or who uses a wheelchair, or crutches – it normalizes the disability for children. American Girl is doing something which could theoretically help make growing up disabled a lot easier. Being able to show your friends or classmates “My doll has a hearing aid like I do” might help. Or maybe it won’t. But at least on the inside, you can play with a doll that has your disability, and you can take out your dolls hearing aid just like you do yours, and it would help YOU the child normalize being a person who needs adaptive devices.  It isn’t just adaptive devices which the company is offering, however. They are also now offering dolls without hair – so that sick children can have dolls that look like them too. Again, acceptance is power.

To me, this isn’t just dolls having accessories – it’s a company choosing to help children understand themselves better, and to bring acceptance of themselves into their lives. There’s not a lot of movement when it comes to helping children with disabilities be accepted as “normal” in mainstream society. The wheelchair using Barbie named Becky was still used to reinforce the inspirational rhetoric surrounding people with disabilities, whereas the American Girl doll isn’t trying to say how amazing people with disabilities are, it’s trying to say that they just ARE.

The intention behind these dolls is almost as important as the dolls themselves, because their packaging, advertising, and description does impact children and how their families interact with the toys themselves. The presentation of a wheelchair Barbie may be significantly different from that of an American Girl.

I for one am pleased to see a mainstream dollmaker beginning to accept difference in ability, as they have always accepted difference in skin color, and in eyesight. I look forward to their continued push forward for diversity and acceptance.

 

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Medicating Tantrums

One of my biggest concerns looking forward for this country has to do with the way that we handle children. It isn’t just that parents have become more protective, or that the world has suddenly become more dangerous. What worries me is the trend towards having a diagnosis for everything.

So when I saw the following news item on BoingBoing on Friday I was particularly concerned: Temper Tantrum in the DSM

DMDD [disruptive mood disregulation disorder] seems to be nothing to do with mood, but instead covers a pattern of misbehavior which is already covered by not one but two labels already. Why add a misleadingly-named third?

Well, the back-story is that in the past ten years, many American kids and even toddlers have got diagnosed with ‘child bipolar disorder‘ – a disease considered extremely rare everywhere else. To stop this, the DSM-5 committee want to introduce DMDD as a replacement. This is the officially stated reason for introducing it. On the evidence of this paper and others it wouldn’t even achieve this dubious goal.

The possibility of just going to back to the days when psychiatrists didn’t diagnose prepubescent children with bipolar (except in very rare cases) seems to not be on the table.

One of the commentors on the post made a point that I had already started to form in my mind as I read this little news snippet: If there’s a diagnosis in the DSM, then they can medicate it.

Tantrums, from my limited experience have a lot to do with children not being able to express their emotions, so instead of expressing their feelings in an appropriate way, they scream. A lot. I’m not a parent, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time working with children under the age of 10, and all the tantrums I have witnessed (with a few minor exceptions) came from a place of frustration.

Which makes me wonder – have people lost their ability to understand that children are children? Have we as a society made the choice to medicate rather than teach?  One of the reasons that I choose to not take anxiety medication is that I firmly believe it is something I can master without medication. Do I falter sometimes? Certainly, like many others do.  But if we medicate children instead of teaching them how to sort through and communicate about their frustrations or their feelings, when they become adults they will not be able to have the kind of dialogue needed for marriage, or having a boyfriend, or even in a job. By medicating, we’re taking away a learning experience – a valuable one which could affect the way that children interact with society in the future, not just in the right now.

There certainly are some children who need medical assistance, but after 2 years working with special needs youth, I can say from observing that any temper tantrum which comes from a place of psychological duress has a lot of other symptoms going hand in hand – and the job of parents, psychologists and teachers is to notice those differences – not to give labels that don’t allow for growth.

Furthermore, what kind of medication would be given in these instances? Tranquilizers? Mood stabilizers? How would those kinds of medications impact a growing child and their mind? Medications do have side effects, and who knows what the results would be from such interventions?

I think, as a society we need to take a good hard look at what is helpful and what is harmful when it comes to the damage we do to children when it comes to psychological care.

 

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Dressing in the Past to Learn in the Present

The Mary Sue ran a piece about a young woman named Stella Ehrhart yesterday. She does historical costume for school every day. By which I mean that she dresses as different historical figures each day for school. In the article she is pictured dressing as Helen Keller, Billie Holliday, Grace Kelly – she pulls most costumes from a book called 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century.

I was that child. My halloween costumes were almost always historically themed (sometimes fictional, since I had a penchant for Sherlock Holmes.) I had a medieval themed birthday when I was seven, a Sherlock Holmes Murder Mystery Dinner when I was 9 (Victorian themed costumes requested), a Foreign Dignitaries Tea when I was 11 (come as a historical foreign leader and celebrate my birthday), a Revolutionary War themed birthday party when I was 14.

I also wore Victorian clothing to school a lot, and in Middle School and High School, during Spirit Week, I attended classes in full Victorian garb on ’80s day. Because they didn’t specify which eighties.

I bent genders while I was cosplaying history a lot of the time – but I did dress as women too. I think in my own explorations the lines of gender became a problem for those surrounding me rather than issues of cultural appropriation which may be at play here.

I have always loved wearing historical costume. I have worn actual Victorian clothes as Halloween costumes, dressed as Suffragettes and flappers, political figures and Presidents. For me it was a part of my passion for history – and it still is. While we’re talking about how fabulous it is that this 8-year-old girl is dressing up as historical figures every day, adults do it too. I attend Jazz Age parties in New York City, I’ve been to the Jazz Age Lawn Party, to Wit’s End, to many other events where some people do go far to wear appropriate era clothing. I hope that someday, Stella gets to meet the adults who value wearing the clothing of different eras as much as she does.

Basically, I think this kid is awesome.

That being said, I do really hope that the adults in her life are talking to her about the differences between her and the people she portrays on as she explores history. I hope they explain to her that Helen Keller’s disability is not a disability she has, and that putting on her disability would be inappropriate. What I mean by this is, I hope she’s just dressing as these people, and not trying to act like them. If she’s writing in peoples hands, I’d feel like that was an inappropriate use of the historical figures she admires. I’m sure there will be other discussions she has with people – about race, and not appropriating others skin colors or cultures. Essentially, I hope she learns where the line is between respect, and appropriation. So long as she’s not putting on racial inflections of language, I think she’s got it all right.

I’m not saying Stella should stop – I think she’s doing something really cool and I want her to continue. But I just hope that people are having the childhood versions of these complicated discussions with her now, so that when she gets older, she has an understanding of why this might make people uncomfortable. It’s not easy, but I hope that along with admiring and becoming these historical figures, she learns to respect the differences between them, and to interact with those differences in thoughtful ways.

She’ll make one hell of a historian someday if she does.

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To Assume the Worst

I don’t have children. Maybe I will someday. Or maybe I won’t. That’s not the point of this article.

Have you ever been in a class discussion about motherhood, and suddenly a classmate directly questions not only your capability to be a parent, but the physiological possibility of bearing a child? I have.

Has your ability to be a parent ever been questioned merely because you can’t see out of one eye, or because you use a chair, or because you live life with an illness, either mental or physical? I know many.

I think every woman experiences opinions with regard to both their capability as a mother, but also their practice in bearing their child. Judgements over breastfeeding, diet, choice of gender normativity, any of the above are commented on by relatives and strangers alike. But the process of judgement when one is disabled seems insidious and hurtful in another way.

It’s not just that people ask “do you think that’s wise?” when someone says they want to bear a child. It isn’t the perception that yuo’re incapable that hurts. It’s the notion that no matter where your disability lies – in my case, in my eyeballs- that your uterus is affected.

Our society is built on assumptions. The assumption that it’s okay to ask a disabled person if they can have sex. The assumption that we NEED to be told “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have a baby….” These assumptions are hardly acceptable.

The assumption that a disabled woman can’t have children is just as hurtful as the assumption that a woman who looks perfectly healthy can. Fertility shouldn’t be up for discussion. Neither should parenthood.

In my classroom, it was suggested that I couldn’t have a baby. In my classroom it was suggested that I wouldn’t be a good mother. The question was asked, and the entire classroom went silent, as though nobody could quite believe that the question had been asked, but at the same time, many people thought the exact same thing. The reality is, I’ve worked with children before. I have spent time and energy teaching autistic children not to eat rocks, I have spent time helping children learn how to play tag nicely. I am good with children.

But every time I say that I can babysit, or that I can nanny, or that I’d like to apply to run an afterschool program for kids, the look comes into the able bodied persons eyes, and you can hear the skepticism of “can you?

 

 

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Fathers Day (My mom is my dad too)

My father passed away when I was 8 years old, close to Christmas. I miss him. My father was a wonderful father and I am grateful that I had him in my life. When I was a child, fathers day was hurtful. It was a reminder that I didn’t have something other people had.

Today, I look at Father’s Day as a day to acknowledge the incredible parenting I have received. I have many fathers, or people who have been parents. Mother’s Day and Father’s day aren’t reserved for YOUR gender normative parent ideals.

Why am I writing this? I saw two tweets today, and it felt wrong to not at least acknowledge that they are out there in the world, and how HURTFUL these comments are, not just to the women they are targeted at, but to the proud children of single parents. One tweet read: “Instead of wishing happy father’s day to moms, and happy mom’s day to dads, can we just not? Everyone already has their own damn day.” and the second was a retweet: “If you’re a single mom, and you’ve decided Father’s Day is about you, you’re a self absorbed cunt. No wonder you’re single.”

I could break down the use of the word “cunt” by a man. I could break down the gender normative feelings that I see in these tweets. Or I could make it really simple.

Single moms don’t “decide” that fathers day is about them. It IS about them. It is about the parents who step into both roles. Fathers Day and Mothers Day are celebrations of the people who took on these parts in your lives, even when they weren’t biologically your parents. I have so many fathers. I have Greg, I have Thom, I have Jack, and yes – I have my MOM.

Being a single parent is not easy. It takes hard work, and from what I can tell, a hell of a lot of sacrifice to maintain a lifestyle for you and your child. Save your hate for someone who deserves it. Save your hate for someone who actually does something wrong.

All parents should be celebrated on these days. ALL OF THEM. I remember being bitter and angry about Father’s Day. I remember saying that I hated that it was a thing, and now I recognize that there’s more to it than just the word father. Maybe others should consider that too, and consider that the children of single parents will celebrate whatever holiday they choose, with pride and love.

I love the village that raised me.

Happy Father’s Day, Mom. Happy Father’s day, Dad. Happy Fathers Day, Village.

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