“No, not like that! You’re not supposed to do it all retarded. Don’t act like a bunch of retards.”
Elora’s little sister, Cami, has special needs. Elora is particularly sensitive to the R-Word because of that, but hearing it come from the mouth of a teacher shook her up pretty bad. She told Erin and me that she hears the word on the playground all time. It bothers her, but they’re kids and kids aren’t known for the senstivity. But a teacher? How does that happen?
Here’s thing about the R-Word: getting mad about it doesn’t do any good. Most people who use it don’t understand the damage the word causes, so gently informing is always the better response. We didn’t want to call up the school and demand action be taken against the teacher or yell at the Principal. That wouldn’t do anything to actually fix the problem. And there was a problem. A big, school-wide one.
We wrote an email to the Principal instead, expressing our distress, but also our interest in doing whatever we could to help raise awareness at the school. In an impressive display of leadership, Principal Yang didn’t just send back apologies, but asked to meet with Erin to talk about what Miramonte Elementary could do to help their students and teachers be a bit more sensitive towards those with disabilities.
A few months later, on March 18, 3013 (Cami’s birthday, coincidentally), Miramonte held a Spread the Word to End the Word assembly. It was incredible. Many students came up to read their pledges and some high schoolers led everyone in a chant to SPREAD THE WORD/END THE WORD.
I regret I didn’t record the whole thing, but here’s the featured speakers, Elora and Erin, talking about Cami and what’s so bad using about the R-Word–even when you’re not referring to a person directly.
I think they did an incredible job. Many of Elora’s classmates came up to her afterwards and pledged to stop using the R-Word now that they knew better. If you’d like to take the pledge, please check out the End the Word site right here.
Back before blogs were cool, I used to have a fairly popular one on MySpace. (Well, as popular as a blog on MySpace could be in 2005.) One of the regular, more popular features was transcriptions of conversations I had with my then 3-year-old daughter, Elora. She was world class precocious back then. So much so that I created a supervillain based on her for my online comic. I regret that I ever stopped writing our conversations down, but today I have a new one I just have to share.
Elora is ten now. She doesn’t have her own Facebook account, but sometimes she co-opts her mom’s and uses it to tell me about her day while I’m at work. Here’s what happened:
Elora: Hey daddy, guess what?
Me: Hi Elora. What? Tell me.
Elora: I just beat mommy in a bet! Breakfeast in bed for me!
Me: Haha! What did you bet her?
Elora: She thought that a bearcat was not a real animal. So we bet and googled. AND I DEFEATED HER! FIGHT THE POWER!
Me: HAHAHAHA. Good for you, Elora.
Elora: I know, right! I was rubbing it in her face. Ahh good times.
Me: Haha. Elora, you crack me up.
Elora: And i cannot wait for tomorrow.
Me: Is that when you get the breakfast?
Elora: Yeah. Mommy just said i cheated!
Me: How did you cheat?
Elora: How can I cheat at that? I did not cheat! It was a google! I cannot cheat!
Me: Sounds pretty legitimate to me.
Elora: What does legitimate mean?
Me: Good and right.
Elora: Mommy said you were acknowledging my cheating! I am happy and not happy she said I am too easy. (pouty face)
Me: Haha. No, I was agreeing with you.
Elora: I know. Mommy lied to me. Upset.
Me: Tell her she owes you TWO breakfasts in bed now.
Elora: (devil face) I will….. she said no. Oh well, she is making it. I will tell her three put ups.
Me: Put ups?
Elora: Yeah, it takes three good things to erase one bad thing. Three complemints. g2t, Violet [her younger sister] wants to go outside.
Me: g2t? Please don’t use acronyms with me, Elora. Or at all. But I really loved talking with you. Go have fun.
At 2, Violet is just starting to talk now as well. I think I may need to start paying close attention again.
December 30, 2012 Diapers, Pt. 2: Everything You Need to Know About Parenting Happens on the Change Table
If you think about it hard enough (and, unfortunately, I have), changing diapers is a microcosm of good parenting. Within this one, simple, necessary, incredibly stinky act, is everything you need to know about the difference between a good parent and a truly bad one.
Good Parent: Changes the child’s diaper.
Bad Parent: Does not change child’s diaper. Lets child sit in her own filth.
I’m a friggin’ diaper expert with a combined twelve years of experience across three children. We added the third child, Violet, just because we’re diaper-changing masochists. Credentials.
The dirty, not-so-secret fact about changing diapers is that the kid hates it just about as much as the parent. Violet arches her back and lets out a mighty scream when we strip her down and bust out the wipes. In that moment, she is unhappy. Why do I do that to her? I, her parent, am most concerned about her happiness above all else. I want her to have a joyful, full life in which she spends more time smiling than crying. But I make her cry everyday.
Why? Because I’m her parent. I really don’t care one bit about her happiness in the moment. I’m way more concerned about the kind of a happiness that lasts quite a bit longer.
If I gave in and did what she wanted and left the diaper on her otherwise cute little bum, the whole house would soon stink like wet dog and she’d develop a terrible rash. She either hasn’t figured that out yet or doesn’t care. Kids are myopic like that. All she knows is I’m about to stick a wet rag up her backside and she’d really, really, really rather I didn’t.
You stink, kid. Way it’s gotta be.
I understand in a way Violet does not and cannot (yet) that there are some serious, long term consequences to giving in and letting her sit in her own filth. That’s diapers, but there’s lots of things kids want to do that end with them sitting in their own proverbial filth. Playing video games too much. Not doing their homework. Eating nothing but junk. Watching nothing but junk. Becoming friends with junk.
A good parent steers their kid away from these things, despite their wishes. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always necessary. What’s tricky is that most of the non-diaper filth doesn’t come with it’s own smell. It would be easier if my kid started to stink when she didn’t do her homework, but it doesn’t work that way. So, as a parent, I have to be vigilant. I can’t be lazy. I can’t abdicate responsibility. I’m on duty, 24/7. Always watching, never sniffing. Because that won’t work.
None of this is pleasant. Even after thousands of diapers, I still get a case of I-didn’t-make-this-mess-so-why-do-I-have-to-clean-it-up every time I have to dig in there and play janitor to my kids’ nether regions. I don’t let it stop me though. I’d never say, no, that diaper stinks too bad, I’m not changing it. No decent parent would.
But in our weaker moments–when we’re letting things slide or don’t want that fight–that’s what we’re doing. We’re leaving the diaper on. We’re letting the rash develop.
This is the job, then: to parent despite unpleasantness. To make unhappy now so that happiness may reign later. This is what makes parenting the hardest job in the world. But only if you’re doing it right.
This post functions as a mostly unintentional sequel to “Why Changing Diapers is a Privilege.” Seriously, I never thought I’d have so much to say about diapers.
Erin has been sick this weekend, which leaves me in charge. I don’t mind being in charge, of course, because I love my kids and I’d rather they didn’t die for want of a competent adult. Also, Erin works hard and deserves a break. I suppose she thinks so too and could be feigning illness to achieve said break, but I’d rather believe the scented bubble baths and long, middle-of-the-day naps are for recuperative purposes than some other treacherous reason.
My mom tells me Dad never changed a diaper once. Four boys, not one diaper. On the one hand, that sounds like pleasantly scented heaven. On the other, that’s kind of messed up. Changing diapers is an awful task. Just look at any character in a movie ever who changes a diaper. It’s always presented as the very worst thing a person could be asked to do. It reduces high-powered professionals into all-thumbs morons (see: The Family Man, Jersey Girl, countless others I’m sure).
The truth is changing diapers really isn’t that big a deal. Very few things you do hundreds of times are. Where’s the movie where the parent undresses the kid halfway, removes the old smelly diaper, wipes her clean, applies the new diaper and puts the clothes back on without missing a step on the way up the Lincoln Monument to defuse the bomb? Because that’s how it goes down in my house. More or less.
So, I’ve changed a lot of diapers this weekend. Honestly, besides the foul odor and (forgive me for this) the sludge, I see it as a privilege. There’s very few things in my kids’ lives I can just fix with ease and confidence. Sometimes, they cry and I don’t know why. Cami, my middle daughter with special needs, has a host of problems I don’t know anything about and she has no way to tell me. But her diaper? Yeah, I can fix that. Every time. My success rate? 100%.
It’s only going to get worse as they get older. Crud, with my oldest daughter (long out of diapers), it already has. Every day she has a problem at school or with the new emotions that go along with growing up that I just can’t do a thing about. I’m there for her, I listen to her, but my ability to correct the negative situations in her life is diminishing.
It’s been a good weekend. I like spending time with my girls. Cami isn’t feeling too great either so there’s probably been a bit more movie watching than should be allowed, but that’s okay. Movies make her happy and calm. They’re like a more entertaining version of a clean diaper. I’ll put on a genuine smile and give my kids clean diapers all day long if I have to, for as long as I can.
I know I’ve been mostly absent from this blog for the past little while. This has been a pretty up-and-down year. I was promoted to Art Director at my 9-to-5 earlier, but I’ve also seen my memoir, RAISED BY A DEAD MAN, struggle to find a publisher. I’ll probably write about that frustrating journey at some point, but not quite yet. Suffice it to say, hope is not completely lost, but it’s been rough. More later.
Meanwhile, I thought it might be fun to show off a little of what we’ve been up to at my place of work–the non-profit AIMS Education Foundation. One of my mandates this year was to increase our video production values. This little demo reel shows off both behind-the-scenes clips and some finished shots, along with some of construction we’ve done on the (still not quite yet finished) sets. This is 6 months worth of work in under 5 minutes. We’ve come a long way from not quite knowing which way to point the camera.
When I was a very small child my mother would depend on me to be an elephant. “You can remember anything, Brock,” she would say, “so remember this.” And then she’d tell me the grocery list or the time of her next doctor appointment or to remind her to brush her teeth. (Maybe not that last one, but she depended on me A LOT.)
So it was quite a shock when I grew up to be a forgetful adult. I think my problem is partly a result of a fast-moving culture that demands we carve multiple inputs into our brains in order to process the onslaught of information we’re hit with on a daily basis, and also just that I have my own mad ideas constantly spinning in my head. Even if we’re just talking one-on-one, you still have some stiff competition for my attention. My wife will verify that all of this true.
Of course, a professional adult cannot operate like this. Things need to remembered and tasks need to be completed in a timely fashion. There are tons of day planners and apps and calendar interfaces that can help with this. You can makes lists and set alarms and program reminders and do all sorts of things to help you remember even the simplest of tasks. I reject all such methods. Because Post-its.
There’s nothing quicker or more efficient for my purposes. And my purposes have changed in recent months as work responsibilities have increased and changed. I have much to do, and that means remembering. When a new task comes in, it gets one line on a large Post-it. To make the tasks easier to differentiate and to read, I alternate lines with pencil and pen. When a task is completed, it gets crossed off. When all the tasks on a Post-it get crossed off, it gets tossed into a drawer.
There’s no real reason to keep the notes except I derive great satisfaction from looking in the drawer and seeing that, yes, I’m getting stuff done. It can sometimes feel like I’m never getting ahead on anything. The drawer proves otherwise. It’s a messy method to organize my new madness (mostly because of my obnoxious handwriting), but I love that drawer. It’s probably the most low tech part of my job, but it works for me.
What works for you?
I’m a Moderate. Currently, at least. A couple decades ago you might have called me a Conservative. In some circles, simply by virtue of the fact that I voted for Obama, I would be known as a Liberal. What I definitely am not nor ever will be is a Republican. Or a Democrat.
Dad was hard right. He sold Impeach Clinton bumper stickers at his gun store and blasted Republican trumpet Rush Limbaugh through the stereo he kept near the register loud enough so the cows in the neighboring fields could hear it. Dad believed Rush was right about, well, pretty much everything. Back then, so did I.
I was the cartoonist for the school paper during high school and my signature was working in the phrase “Rush is Right” into each and every cartoon I did. Sometimes it was a shirt, other times a street sign. I did it because I believed in the political doctrine espoused by Rush. He was RIGHT. So was the National Review and William F. Buckley and George Will and all the rest.
Yeah, I had a subscription to the National Review during high school. And yeah, all the girls wanted me.
My attraction to the Republicans was deeply rooted in my religious beliefs and morals. Republicans were all about family values. So was I. They were against abortion. So was I. They were in favor of a strong military even in times of peace. So was I. They were for welfare reform. So was I.
And you know what? I still am, on all of that and more.
I’m also in favor of Universal Health Care and the Buffet Rule and I sympathize with what the Occupy movement is trying to do and say (even though I think they need to get a reality check, toss the drums, and break up the circle).
When the change happened, it happened fast. By the time I registered to vote at age 18, I did so as an Independent. “You’re throwing your vote away,” my dad said. “Only in the primaries,” I countered. “Bah,” he said in my imagination as he walked away shaking his head.
Dad died almost a year later, so he never really got the see the full transformation that began, oddly enough, because of Rush Limbaugh.
When I was 17, I started really listening to Rush. I mean really listening. He sure liked to talk about himself. Loved to tell his listeners how great he was and how blessed they were to be able to hear the incredible wisdom that fell from his lips like raindrops on barren soil. His arrogance and ego were so ridiculous that they played as comedy. But I noticed something. He wasn’t winking when he said those things. He was never anything less than serious in his self interest. The comedy was just how he sold the idea.
So then I started really listening. A lot of the stuff Rush said didn’t make any sense. He betrayed the very basic rules of logic in order to make his points. He made huge leaps to get to some of his conclusions and accusations, and then didn’t back them up in any substantial way. He presented inflammatory comments from the other side with no context and then spun off into wild speculations and tales of hidden agendas and master schemes for which I had to take his word. Didn’t matter what was true or not, what mattered was what could be true. And what could be true was probably–
–oh, let’s face is it was–
Rush’s loyalty wasn’t to the actual truth, I concluded, it was to his ratings, his followers, his political party and his money. Self interest was the current that ran through everything he did. And he was honest about it! I just, for a long time, didn’t believe him.
If Rush… then what about Republicans? The Grand Old Party had money and power to protect, too. Was it possible those things could be more important than what was good for the country? Did the Republicans act out of self interest?
It didn’t matter that the GOP shared many of the same values and beliefs as me. That started looking more like a flag they were waving and less like a genuine set of ideals. If their chief priority was the perpetuation of their power and influence, then the ideals would have to change according their degree of inconvenience and the times. How could I be a part of something I didn’t trust and that could be so fluid in its composition and purpose?
I was adrift. I looked towards the Democrats. Ich. No way.
So, I registered Independent. Years passed and, out from under the gun of a party line, my political views freely lined up more with my moral and religious understanding. I ended up a Moderate. Probably a little right of center, but a Moderate. Cue roll in Dad’s grave.
Dad never could have guessed things would get this deeply divided. I often wonder what he’d make of the political realities of 2012. Of clowns like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann and “news” stations like Fox News and MSNBC. As a guy standing in the middle, it’s super obvious to me that the two sides aren’t even having the same conversation or using the same language anymore. Would Dad see that? Or would he have grown and changed with the party line?
I have no way of knowing, of course. But I do know this: I resent being in the middle. I resent being a Moderate. I feel on the outside of just about every political conversation and, for the most part, I choose not to indulge the political side of myself anymore. I find it incredibly frustrating and exhausting disagreeing with everyone. That’s a lot of fights to pick.
It’s probably Dad in my head, but I’d rather pick a side. I don’t think the truth is always in the middle. Sometimes, one person is right and the other is wrong. Right now, unfortunately–in this country– it’s not that simple.
Maybe the real problem is that I picked a side a long time ago and I stayed there. It’s everybody else that moved.