Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Apparently We Are NOT Free To Be You and Me

I thought we lived in the U.S., the land of the brave and the free. When I think Afghanistan under the Taliban, I think that world is so far removed from our lives, in terms of there being prescribed laws of what a woman can or cannot do. Or what a boy can or cannot do. I've never told my boys that they cannot do this or that because only girls do that or only boys do that. I've given them the freedom to make up their own minds, even when that involves some degree of ridicule from peers or even parents of peers. My older son's favorite color is purple, but thankfully deep purple and not lavender. My younger son's favorite color is pink, and, unlucky for him, that's a color that most of society considers to be for girls only. R has been ridiculed on many occasions by people of all ages, but, at age four, he still really likes pink.

He also loves his mama. If I am doing something, he wants to do it too because he likes to do things with me. R likes to bake and watch Korean drama (mostly to delay bedtime) and pick out clothes that make him look handsome. Last week, I put on nail polish for the first time in front of him. I don't usually wear nail polish because, what's the point, right? With three kids, there are chips and cracks within the hour. I've had three manicures in the past five years and one doesn't even really count because I didn't get any polish. So R was very curious as to the entire process of nail polishing. He wanted to try it out himself but I knew if he put it on his hands, he was just asking for trouble. So I let him put it on his feet. He went to preschool the next day and got some flack for it but it didn't seem like it was a big deal.

But it was a big deal. At least to one little boy. He could not accept that R had polish on his toenails. He couldn't stand it and decided he had enough after five days of R coming to school with painted toes. So he ripped off the nail on R's big toe in his attempt to get the polish off. When I picked R up yesterday, the teacher did not mention anything but when we got to the car, R told me that Jacob had hurt him. R said Jacob really wanted to get the nail polish off and attacked him. I could tell by the dried blood that it hurt a lot. What made me doubly upset was that the teacher did not say anything about it. I went back in with R and asked the teacher what had happened. She said she forgot to tell me about it. In every other preschool or school my sons have attended, the teacher would either write up an incident report and send it home or call me after an injury. I can't believe my son's foot was bleeding and the teacher did not do anything. When I got home, I was still in shock and told Stewart what happened. Stewart blew out of there faster than any tornado (this was pretty amazing since he's been working from 5 PM to 5 AM on a project at work). He went to talk to the teacher and could not get any guarantees from her that Jacob would not hurt R again. So R is not going back.

I'm still reeling from the incident. It's a little shocking that Jacob would be that upset by R wearing nail polish that he would attack him over it. R had told me before that Jacob only had a mom and no dad so I had been more forgiving of his behavior than I would have been otherwise. R had told me in the past that Jacob had pushed him or been mean to him, but I told R just to stay away from him. I could tell that the boy needed more attention and more love. He hugged me once when I picked up R from school and I had never even met him before. So I can understand why the teacher would try to help Jacob rather than just kicking him out. But enough is enough, her saying that she could make no assurances that Jacob would not hurt R means that she is choosing Jacob over R. I can't be part of the village raising Jacob if doing so is at the expense of my son. Someone needs to show Jacob that he cannot use violence to make someone else conform to his ideas of right and wrong. Sure, he may think it's strange that a boy would have nail polish (yes, pink) on his feet, but that doesn't give him license to attack that boy over it.

I know some people might say that I set R up for this problem, but could anyone have predicted that seeing a boy wear nail polish would incite violence in a preschooler to the point where he would rip off another kid's nail over it? I can't help but think that Jacob may grow up to become another Dharun Ravi or even worse. I always thought that I didn't have to deal with problematic bullying until my kids were older, but now I know I was wrong. R is going to enroll in martial arts today. As the younger brother, he's been used to being picked on to some degree but now he needs to learn to stand up for himself. Isn't that sad? I'm going to teach my four year old son that violence is the answer. Not just because of the martial arts, but because if anyone taunts R in the near future about his long hair or fondness of pink, I'm not going to stop him from kicking you in the face.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Help a Mother Out: Mother's Day Call to Action

Today I was privileged to attend the Annual Help a Mother Out Mother's Day Tea in the elegant Green Room of the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center. Help a Mother Out is a nationally recognized grassroots organization that exists because every baby deserves a clean diaper. The organization raises critically needed diapers for homeless and low-income families. I learned some very startling things at the event. Some 22% of all children under five years old in the U.S. live in poverty, and one of every three families struggle to afford diapers. You can't buy diapers with food stamps or get them through WIC. This surprised me since you can buy them with FSA dollars. So if you have enough money to put into an FSA, the government gives you a break and lets you use before-tax dollars to buy them, but if you don't have money, then you can't use government aid to buy them. That makes very little sense to me.

I once heard of a mom who left her kid in a diaper all day because she didn't know you had to change the diaper every time the baby soils it. She actually thought you could use one diaper a day. That baby got diaper rash so bad that skin was falling off and the baby could not even wear diapers for a couple weeks. But there are some families that can't afford diapers so they have to leave the baby for extended periods of time in the same diaper, leading to diaper rash, staph and UTIs. I know you are thinking, "well, why doesn't that person just use cloth diapers, you just need a few and then you can wash them." But cloth diapers are not a good option for most families in need due to initial costs and access to laundry facilities. If you are living in a homeless shelter with your baby, you are not going to be able to wash cloth diapers, there is just no way. Most free/subsidized childcare programs require parents to provide disposable diapers. I learned about single moms trying to get jobs and an education to give themselves and their children a better future. They can't do that if they are worrying about diapers.

I remember once reaching into my diaper bag and finding that I had absolutely no more diapers in there. There was an initial moment of panic, until I came to the realization that I could go buy more (if you think that's weird, it's because I get all my diapers delivered through Amazon Mom (20% off) so I rarely buy diapers in an actual store). But many moms can't just go to the store and buy more. There are even moms that are forced to shoplift in order to get diapers for their babies.

This Mother's Day, consider making a donation to Help A Mother Out (see the widget on the right side of my blog) in the name of your favorite mother. It will make such a difference in the life of a struggling mother and her baby. I had a wonderful time at the tea, my table host Wendy did a fabulous job setting up our table and I enjoyed speaking with the other ladies at our table. I was able to meet up with Kim from my LA Moms Blog days and Glennia, Grace and Ana from the SF Bay blogger community. The best part was being able to enjoy the event without dirty [precious] children's hands pawing at me or my food. A great time at a great event for a great cause. Please, won't you Help A Mother Out?