Today would be the last day I walked my eight year old daughter to her school and walked away. I live directly across the street from her elementary school, the same school my son, now thirteen, attended when he was just six years old. As I walked away today, it occurred to me that not only have my children been a constant fixture at the school, but so have I. For the past eight years I have volunteered almost every school week in either of their classrooms. In addition I dedicated several weeks each year as chairperson of their MLK Day of Service, Co-facilitator of parenting workshops and for several years held positions on their PTG (Parent Teacher Group) Board. I am a staunch supporter of the public school system and I adore the children that I have had the fortune to cross paths over the years, yet it is time for me to walk away and take my daughter with me. I am walking away from the beautiful, dedicated
++teachers, parents and administrators I’ve met over the years as well as the snobby suburban self-righteous and often underlying racist ones. I am walking away from seven hours of free child care each day of the week as well as the teachers who sometimes send my child home in tears because they just “don’t have time to ” help her understand a concept in the way that she needs to learn it. I’m walking away from the convenience of sending her walking to school as well as the anxiety-driven nausea and headaches she is sent home with like stale lunch in her backpack. No one cares about the quiet trauma that is brewing in the psyche of these young children when they are pressured with more homework and testing than I’ve seen in eight years.
I never thought I could do this. As a single parent with no parents or grandparents to lean on, I didn’t think I had an option. I didn’t see any way I could have her learn at home when I had to work at least part time outside of the home and maybe even more if I was to afford the child care and/or alternative school that she would now need. I felt selfish because I didn’t want to give up my free time during the day when I had no clients and could pamper myself. I couldn’t afford to send her to an alternative school because they were expensive and seemingly out of reach for someone self-employed and a full time mom. And then the day came that my daughter came home and asked me the question “Mom, do you think I’m stupid?”. And I knew that it didn’t matter what I thought I could or couldn’t do, I had to. To be continued….
So, my eight year old daughter decided she didn’t want to eat meat. She came into my bedroom one morning and announced it unexpectedly, and I listened and placed it into that small area in my brain to review later. It was by the way, the day before Thanksgiving and I just knew that she would reserve her stance for after the day of gluttony. Or so I thought.
My daughter is such a sensitive and loving child and has a very nurturing and innate connection to all of life’s creatures. She once brought what she thought was a caterpillar into the house to help it’s transformation, and we soon found out that it was a silkworm, not a caterpillar! Nevertheless she wanted to care for it I and found myself going to the local Arboretum to purchase a bug house for the tiny thing. I remember as a toddler the look on my daughter’s face when she realized I was cooking a small chicken in the oven that was once alive. “Mommy, are you cooking a baby chicken?” she asked me. I knew from then we would one day have this conversation. I had to laugh at first at the irony because I had nausea every single day she was in my womb and the only food that I could keep down was red meat, which I had stopped eating years prior to my pregnancy for other reasons.
Nevertheless the day progressed and we traveled to my Aunt Daisy’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. My aunt is a fabulous cook and laid a spread of food that spanned two rooms with every meat and side dish that you could imagine. I watched partly surprised yet proud that with all of the choices in front of her, my daughter packed her plate with salad, macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes. When I saw her plate, forgetting about her proclamation a few days ago, I asked her if she wanted turkey. She was not tempted, and with a smile said “no Mommy” and walked to the table to sit down. I was speechless. I was surprised. I was proud. I was honestly a bit worried about how she could support her growing body without meat. It was then that she told me that she would eat seafood, but no other meat and I told her that I would completely support her. She gave me a big hug, said “you are the best Mommy ever” which she says often unless she’s not getting her way, and went to play with the other children.
I had no clue what to do from there. My son loves any kind of meat, and he’s a growing thirteen year old playing sports so I respect his choices. I eat fish and chicken but both baked and she eats only fish. All I could think about was how challenging it will be to stock the refrigerator and cook meals when both kids eat different things. It has been a learning experience for me and other than one bite of a turkey meatball, she has kept to her pledge since November 25th and I applaud her. I pack salads topped with strawberries, whole grain or protein bars, yogurt, hummus and chips, macaroni and cheese, tuna sandwiches and spinach quiche for lunch. She loves vegetables, hummus, fruit and yogurt so my only concern is getting enough protein in her diet. She loves cheese and scrambled eggs so she’s not willing to omit that at this time but it’s her journey and her choices to make today and change in the future as she would like. I’m thankful for friends who are vegetarians for sending me great ideas and recipes and I love that there are options for Tofurkey and other “meatless” chicken fingers and meatballs with great flavoring that even fool my son! I am learning about more healthy options for dinner and lunch and even snacks for her and she is feeling supported and learning about making good choices as well.
Isn’t it something how we think we are supporting and teaching and one day we realize that our children are truly the teachers?
What are some of your kid’s favorite meatless dishes?
First I have to say thank you to the Salt Project and Dare to Be King for the vision to create this video! I was at first angry as an independent parent of a young African American male, and tax paying home owner in my community that I need to educate my son with the reality that not all of those who vow to protect and serve their communities will have his best interest at heart and that some may very well find small pleasure in harming or killing him, content in removing his life’s calling from this earth. I know police officers personally and they are extremely brave to weather the streets to protect and serve with the same intense and unconditional dedication as our military. Yet I have also looked directly into the face of racism and hate many times in my life which excludes me from being naive about our reality as African Americans. Regardless of how far we look back – five hundred years ago, sixty years ago, two years ago, one month – this continues to be our reality and these organizations have so brilliantly produced a video that have helped us as parents to become aware of it, to come to accept it, feel it, and teach it to the next generation. Watching the video made me sad, angry and proud at the same time. I am sure Harriett Tubman distributed such harsh realities to the slaves she helped escape to freedom in her days and in these times it unfortunately is still necessary, relevant and just brilliantly executed. Please do yourself and your children a favor and watch it. Then watch it with them and discuss. We need our children to shape a better world and they can only do that if they return home safely.
Peace and Blessings!
<p><a href="http://vimeo.com/116706870">Get Home Safely: 10 Rules of Survival</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/saltproject">SALT Project</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>” target=”_blank”> <p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/116706870″>Get Home Safely: 10 Rules of Survival</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/saltproject”>SALT Project</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Make sure your children ate getting enough sleep to be successful at school. And don’t forget to get the sleep you need as a parent! I am posting this for my son who is almost a teenager and believes he is invincible and should be allowed to stay up until midnight on a school night! 🙂