Racism vs Education, alive and well.

I’m white, my daughter has a mixed heritage, she is mixed race. You’d think people are used to this kind of thing by now.

GASP! Nobody Told Me! Why did nobody mention it?! I cannot believe I didn’t know!

Someone just told me my daughter is not white!

Oh. My. Gosh.   Really? (Heavy Sarcasm).

 

I look very much like a potato farmer in honour of my Irish and English heritage, and the person who I look most like is my Irish Grandad.

 My daughter is half from me, and half from an English chap whose parents were Jamaican.

So, he is dark skinned, born here in England, is English, but his ancestry is Jamaican.

He is not Jamaican per se, can you see the difference?

His heritage, of which we are all proud, is Jamaican.

 

So Missy, she was born with a very tanned complexion, beautiful straight nose and straight black hair.

Over the years her hair curled, but it is European hair in spiral curls, not so much afro as Irish-fro, which is a real thing, ask any Irish woman with crinkly hair on a blustery morning.

 

When my daughter straightens her hair, she looks Indian (dots, not feathers – to quote the beloved Robin Williams).

Indian parents of her school friends speak to her in Urdu and for a while got miffed with her when she would not realise she was being spoken to.

In the end, when it all came to light what was happening, they all laughed and are now on speaking terms again J

She’s a firm favourite with other children’s parents which pleases me no end.

 

When my daughter leaves her hair natural, she looks like a Diva.

Total Gone Crazy Big Old Spiral Curl Adornment.

She looks like she should be in a Beyoncé video or an 80’s Brat Pack film.

It is awesome!

 

So back to the shock revelation.

Several times people have told her “Why don’t you go back to where you came from”.

She’s had most of her classmates in junior school try to persuade her she was adopted, because the kids hadn’t seen her dad, only me!

She’s been mistaken for an asylum seeker but I assured people it was only Grunge Rock Fashion, not hobo-refugee chic.

She’s been mistaken for an immigrant and accosted by knuckle heads.

She’s been spoken to in Greek when we go to Greece.

She’s been spoken to in Spanish when we went to the Spanish Islands.

She’s been spoken to in Jamaican English when we go to Jamaica.

She’s been followed by security staff in the shopping centres.

She’s been yelled at for “being racist” by overly concerned, politically correct, liberal leftie white people when joking with friends whether she should sit at the front or the back of the bus after a history lesson on the American Civil Rights movement.  (This was a bumpy one… in a back and forth, supported by a friend who confirmed she was part Jamaican… Missy advised Leftie-Lady “You clearly thought I was Indian, which is presumptuous on your part.  I am black and I can joke about ‘those darned civil rights activists always getting on the bus’ if I want to”).

And was yelled at to stop lying!

She’s been refused service in a Bible Bookstore because, even though she was holding the money in her hand, she was told “these books are not for your kind”.

 

And the kid laughs it off!

 

Now I have a lovely little generation of children in my class, when I tell them that the teenagers will be teaching Sunday school this week, confused and unable to hide it, that I introduce Missy as my daughter. Their little children brains are perplexed that this curly haired, very tall, all makeup’d up and glamorous girl could possibly be related to me.

 

Then the next week we chat about the people who shared their feelings from the pulpit, my daughter being one of them, and the kids get confused again, still unable to make the leap of how potato farmer me could have a daughter like Missy.

 

One of the children leans in to me and whispers, as though it is a secret, “She wears a lot of make up”, and I reply, “Yes, isn’t she beautiful” and they nod.

Then the next week that the child is in class again, I see the whisperer wearing bright red lipstick in honour of Missy, and I smile at her, and she smiles back, thrilled I’ve noticed.

Stress Schmess and Defcon 2.

Apparently, exactly what you think about the stress you are experiencing informs your body how to respond, positively and or negatively.

I was listening to a clinical psychologist speaking at an event the other day.

I don’t recall who it was or where it was, it may have been on the radio, or on a documentary or a TED Talk, but it was within the past month.

They were speaking about stress.

More like, “STRESS!!!!!”.

Apparently, if you are experiencing stress and think to yourself “I’ve got this, this is easy, I can do that!”, there will be no negative physical impact on your body.  No increase in blood pressure, no increase in Cortisol or other stress hormones, nothing.

 

If you are experiencing stress and think to yourself “Oh my gosh, I’ll never cope, this is awful”, there will be a negative physical impact on your body with elevated blood pressure and an increase in stress hormones.

In ordinary terms,

if you think you are stressed and cannot cope, you will become stressed and won’t be able to cope,

if you recognise there are challenges and roll with it, you will come out the other side with barely a scratch on the paintwork.

Our thoughts determine our actions.

It has dramatically influenced how I am facing some challenges recently and I can state that I feel 98.6% better for having this little nugget under my belt.

I am still human.

I was born in East London, which is code for “very rough and very tough”.

I still find my first response in conflict is to match the conflict.

 

But as Maya Angelou said, When you know better, you do better.

“The Natural Man” response of becoming impatient or DEFCON 2 status ready, and facing down the conflict still informs my decisions but with this extra piece of information, it no longer has the negative impact that it previously did.  I am more swiftly able to move in to phase 2 and fix it and am less likely to get bashed up by it.  It is a very powerful place to be.  I like it. 

Kids, neurology and chilli plant seeds.

We arrive already partly baked into a human neurology and the trick is in learning how to make the garden bloom.

You get the kid you are given.

People arrive already pre-loaded with a personality and a neurology.

You can encourage happiness and health, vigour and vitality, but essentially you are working with the piece of marble in front of you.

 

Some people are lucky and are gifted with compliant kids who throw up few challenges or spanners in the works.

Other people are lucky and are gifted with non-compliant kids who occasionally throw in a happy and problem free day but challenge the adult to learn, grow and develop.

 

If you are kind, and if you are actively a decent person doing the best they can with parenting, nothing you did or didn’t do made your kid the way they are.

It is not unheard of for families to raise a happy and compliant first child, then do the same thing with the latter children only for the child to respond differently.

 

It’s like gardening.

Nobody I know can make a chili plant seed.

They can take a seed that’s been identified as a chili plant and provide the right environment for it to grow and develop.

But they cannot take the atoms at the present time and create a chili plant seed.

Sometimes people identify the chili plant seed but it turns out to be tomatoes.

The gardener didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just slightly different than anticipated.

 

You cannot pat yourself on the back for having good and compliant kids.

You cannot berate yourself for having challenging and non-compliant kids.

They came to you as a human, with their own wants and wishes.

It’s your job to make the best of the situation.

 

Make hay while the sun shines.

Dig in, stand firm and love harder when the difficult times come.

But don’t be patting yourself on the back, you’re reaping a harvest that was not of your making.

And who knows, next time you may get a tomato seed.

The trick is, how do you make the best of everything placed before you?

We bought a trumpet.

So, brass instrument procured. Why? Why do I do these things and why doesn’t anyone stop me!!!

My daughter is a polymath, someone who picks up skills pretty easily for the most part and is pretty great at most subjects but not outstandingly brilliant at one or another by comparison, it frustrates her like crazy.

So, we were enjoying the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack in the car on the way to Church on Sunday and the song “Kiss to build a dream on” by Louis Armstrong came on with its crisp and clear brass solo toward the end…

The conversation went something like;

“I haven’t heard this song in years, since I was about 8 years old!  Oh I love this song”

“Really?”

“Yep, and this sounds like a great wedding tune for a first dance”

“I was just thinking exactly the same thing!”

“I’d love to play the trumpet”

“Would you like me to pick one up for you?”

“Oh my gosh that’d be amazing, yes please, I want to be able to play 7 instruments by the end of the year”

“Ok, I’ll have a look online and see what I can do”.

Fast forward to today, one cheap n cheerful trumpet procured for delivery this week.

Why?!  Why do I offer these things?

If you need me at any time in the next year, tap me on the shoulder to gain my attention.  These bad boys are going to be my best friends for the foreseeable future.

Politeness in Advocacy

It is faster to yell but you stand more chance of not being arrested if you remain cool, calm and collected… It’s a fine line.

When people who are adults have a pop at your kids, and when there is an unequal balance of power in the pop-er’s favour, it is prone to bring out the momma bear.

I have a friend, lets call her “Polly-Hannah”, who feels conflicted because back in the day she was raised in an eggs-is-eggs environment, where you said it like you see it, where the strongly worded and vocal disagreement was had, everyone knew where they stood, there was a victor and the vanquished, and then you all shook hands and got on with life.

Nowadays Polly-Hannah feels it is death by a thousand cuts.

There’s lots of being required to be polite, to word emails carefully, to not be seen to be too authoritative, to be seen to be collaborative, to be reasonable.

In the immortal words of my mum, “I’ll Give You Reasonable!!!” while rolling up her sleeves and taking out her hoop earrings!

Someone forgot we live politely nowadays, they got above themselves and verbally abusive, and forgot that She Is Defended.

So, off went emails for traceability, politely worded requests, a declaration of my position in this matter, polite polite polite.

This would be Gibbs from NCIS’s nightmare in boatbuilding terms because it is going against the grain.  There’s a reason you should go with the grain, it smooths the edges, you get better results, but I guess in Lumberjack terms it is necessary to go horizontal in the cut rather that vertically as per the growth if you want to fell the beast ahead of you.

Now, Polly-Hannah’s tummy is tied in knots because historically this situation could have been resolved by now but it is so very, excruciatingly slow, like watching slugs play rugby, and this is not a situation with which we have an ample quantity of time. 

So, move it people!  Get a wiggle on, light a fire under your feet, get cracking, get it sorted because your way is not necessarily correct.

The Prayers of Single Mothers

Your mother or a person who loved you kept you in her heart all the days of your life… it’s pretty potent stuff.

Caveat: Churchy, avert your gaze, all you who are squeamish.

My little family and I are Mormon and yet live in a home with little to no access to the priesthood.  We never had it, we don’t miss it, it’s not a big thing.  We don’t really currently have any home teachers and I am completely at ease with that.  If you don’t know about the LDS/Mormon Priesthood, let me know and I’ll explain another day.

There are genuine and appreciated offers of priesthood from friends and acquaintances but it’s a bit like driving a fancy car, I’ve never done it, looks like it might be an experience, seems a bit ostentatious and not really on my radar.

What is on my radar though, are the prayers of Mothers.

I have no idea if you know how much your parents kept you in their hearts, had high hopes for you, worried about you, rejoiced for you, trusted you, loved you and wanted the best for you.  All of these are “civilian” expressions of having a prayerful heart toward you.  It doesn’t stop, your goodly parents will have these hopeful and empowering feelings toward you for the rest of their days, which is a good thing.

With the absence of the priesthood, what we in my family do have is the prayers of a Single Mother.  These are potent, powerful and heartfelt, frequently brief in the midst of an emergency, and really very demanding. They wait on nobody.  A single mum’s prayers demand an answer, they search for inspiration, and require a response.  There is nothing wishy washy about a single mum’s prayers and nothing wishy washy about how she receives the answers she seeks.

In the absence of priesthood, it feels like nothing is missing, no blessing denied, and that we are heard and held in high esteem.  It is very connected and dynamic.  Mum, Dad, 2.4 kids would perhaps be nice, maybe.  Finding yourself in a different shape family should hold no concern with regard to Ecclesiastical matters.

Helping kids cope with GCSE’s & other exams

The kids are stressed, exams are hard – both intellectually and emotionally. We need to do our little bit to make life easier during this period (even if they still snap our head off!)

I have a “so far so good” strategy for helping the teen cope with impending (tomorrow and through the next week, eeeek) exams being sat a year early.

Good school supplies.

Quiet for revision.

Internet availability.

Good dinners.

Fresh fruit.

Chocolate.

Occasional nice distractions.

Clean uniform.

Kindness.

That’s it.