Category Archives: Reflecting

Montessori Infant: Five Months

Moo Five MonthsAnd just like that she was five months. I have to admit this time around I’m enjoying the baby stage a lot more. I wonder if in part I was set up better with my prenatal and postpartum care having used a midwife. I know being older and wiser, having done this once before, is helping too. 

This baby is a little further along than my first was at this age. She’s been rolling over for a month or more now and she has also become quite proficient at scooting around in circles on her tummy to look at things, follow people, and get to toys on different places on her play mat. She has also been working on core strength that allows her to sit up unassisted. While she still flops a bit, she is getting stronger and stronger by the day. She sometimes folds in half and can’t get back up, but she’s also figured out how to put her hands out in front of her to stop herself from falling too far forward. 

A lot of her materials have stayed the same from four months. We still have the Dancers Mobile up over her bed and she loves to watch that. I place her topponcino on the floor bed under the mobil and place her there to nap. I think the topponcino still helps her feel comfortable and familiar and the mobile keeps her entertained when she wakes up. She’ll often spend five or so minutes watching it and cooing/babbling at it after waking and before she fusses to let me know she’s ready for me to come join her. I know this is part of the Montessori approach to infants, leaving them alone (not necessarily physically) to engage with their environment. As she gets better at sitting up we can start introducing baskets with interesting things for her to sift through in them. 

I think the biggest advance Malin has made this month, though, is around food. She loves to eat and was showing all the signs of being ready to start solids. Between those cues and the fact that nursing has been difficult, we started her on some purees. Now this is a place I diverged from Montessori infant methods with my first and am continuing to with my second. In the Montessori way you have a small table and chair for the infant to sit at and eat called a weaning table. But that is just not practical in our house both for reasons of space and added complexity. There is no room to have another table and chair, no matter how small, in our dining room/kitchen. And with two kids and myself to feed I’m not about ready to set up three separate meals. Instead we modified the youth chair we had for Camille by adding straps and a buckle and we simply have the baby sit at the dining room table with us. She gets a little puree at each meal we eat (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) which is exactly how we did it with Camille. She nurses both before or after eating the solids and also between meals as well as early in the morning and later in the evening. 

I am struck this time around by how fast it’s all happening and while it’s been a long five months (this baby doesn’t sleep all the way through the night yet), I also feel like it’s flown by. 

Our Breastfeeding Journey

I’m a little late to the party (I blame the kids), but I wanted to share some of my experience breastfeeding two babies for World Breastfeeding Week. 

My first baby was born in the hospital. In light of my second birth at home with a midwife it wasn’t a great experience, but it is what it is. On the second day she was struggling to latch and they didn’t want to release us until she did. After a long, uncomfortable night slammed into a tiny room with a baby who kept coughing up fluid and not having slept in 24 hours we were desperate to just go home. The hospital sent in a lactation consultant who simply threw a nipple shield at me and told me that I would be able to just stop using it at some point. I didn’t get any advice on how to position the baby, no advice on how to stop using the nipple shield, no way of getting follow up care, no real support. They sent us home a few hours later and I spent the next eleven months nursing with that damn shield. 

Now, I know without support I needed that shield and I know other women need them too, but in our situation I think it caused more problems than not. Cam gained weight, but was always thin. It never took less than 45 minutes to feed her. I felt revolted by the sensation of nursing her. My period came back six weeks postpartum. It was always a production to feed her between the shield filling with milk and spilling, popping off, and needing to be kept track of. It was just kind of a mess. I was so grateful when she weaned herself. The idea of needing to breastfeed another baby really put me off the idea of a second child for years.

When I got pregnant with Malin and started care with my midwife we discussed the breastfeeding woes I had with Cam and my apprehension of going through it all again. She confidently told me we would simply work hard to ensure I didn’t use the shield this time around and she got me in touch with a lactation consultant before I gave birth. We got all our ducks in a row so that when I needed support it was already there. 

Once Malin was born we struggled. There was a lot of pain. She latched poorly. My nipples cracked and bled and scabbed over and cracked again. There were nights of wanting to just give up. I cried and cried and cried- partly from hormones, but also because I physically wanted to give up but mentally wasn’t ready to. We sank a lot of money into the lactation consultant, who was incredibly helpful but still didn’t fix the problem. I had to use the shield at various points to protect my healing nipples. We had Malin’s posterior tongue tie clipped. I have had five blocked ducts and run a fever three of those times. And we’re only four and a half months in. But you know what? It was trial by fire and, despite her seeming to forget how to latch properly every three or four weeks and the occasional bleeding crack, I feel confident in feeding her. 

Malin is much bigger than Cam was. She’s longer and two whole pounds heavier. It only takes her 10 minutes to feed and we’re rarely soaked in milk after feeding. And I love feeding her. I look at her little baby body and the rolls on her thighs and feel proud that I’ve sustained her. 

I am really disheartened that the US did not support the WHO resolution for breastfeeding. While feeding babies can be accomplished many, many ways, breastfeeding is natural, healthy, and people who can breastfeed and choose to may need a lot of support. The opposition is both misogynistic, but also deeply entwined with the ills of capitalism. I hope by sharing stories about successfully breastfeeding healthy babies we can stress the importance of having that choice promoted and celebrated. 

Montessori Infant: Four Months

A lot has changed in the past month with Malin, both in terms of her development and in her space. I’m also running a couple weeks late with this post, but that’s fine.

Malin's RoomWe still have three spaces designed specifically for her, but one of those spaces has morphed into an actual room all for her. The room we called the classroom was never that useful and we rarely spent time in it. If Cam and I wanted to work on any homeschool activities we would bring them out to the dining room table. It’s bigger and the room is better lit during the day. So instead of wasting the space we decided to convert it into Malin’s room. So we moved some furniture out, some in and voila! Malin’s room. We’re all very happy with how it turned out. 

She was outgrowing the side car crib she had and we needed a new, safe space for her to sleep. With Cam we threw a mattress on the floor, much like you see in many a Montessori infant space and I wanted to do the same with Malin. Part of her growth this month has been a increase in movement. Floor BedNot only does she constantly roll herself onto her tummy, but she kicks and pushes and wiggles herself all around her mats and blankets as she looks at things and follows us around the room. This development really convinced me it was time for her to be in a floor bed. 

I put out the octahedron mobile that I made for her and that’s hanging above the little pad she has in Cam’s room. She hasn’t been all that interested in it. But in her new room I hung out the Dancers mobile and wow does she LOVE that. She watches it move in the breeze from the ceiling fan. You can see it here in the picture of the floor bed.

Bell on a StringAlso part of the Montessori infant materials suggested for this age is a bell on a ribbon. You hang it so the baby can grab or kick it and it gives them instant feedback with the sound. Malin is doing a lot of intentional grabbing, so I thought this would be a good addition to her environment. When Cam was the same age it was December. One of our Christmas tree ornaments was a large silver bell, shaped like a jingle bell, and Cam was captivated by it. She spent hours touching it and playing with it. I got out the ornament to hang for Malin and she has been equally entranced by it. The poor thing will need some polishing after being manhandled by our two babies, but it’s perfect for this age.  

Just to plug it again, if you want a chart with the various Montessori materials in the infant/toddler years see this post where you can download it. 

Parenting for Social Justice: World Pizza and Subtle Messages

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We recently came into possession of a book titled World Pizza. It came as a part of a book subscription service we use. My daughter was excited to read it and we sat down one evening to do that. The book is about a misheard wish for world peace that becomes world pizza. It’s silly and sweet and on a level that young children can grasp the meaning of world peace. 

And yet as we were reading I came across this illustration:

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As you may notice the text that accompanies this spot illustration doesn’t specifically call for this depiction. I immediately stopped reading and told my daughter, “I don’t like this picture.”

She asked why and I explained that it was showing a stereotyped image of people in Africa that was neither culturally accurate, flattering, nor historically accurate. My daughter said she thought some people in Africa might look like that. I was kind of horrified by the response, but figured she was extrapolating from images of various indigenous people in Africa she’s seen in books and on TV shows. 

I told her that it was true some people still dress in their traditional clothing and live in ways that reflect their traditional cultures. I then explained that the picture was not showing any of those people, or if it was it was not identifying them. Either way the illustration was wrong. It would have been better if it had showed someone in a specified African country living in a modern city or if it had specified which culture they were from and depicted their dress accurately. 

Frustratingly she has asked to read the book again several times. Or at least I was frustrated at first. But during each reading I have taken the opportunity to stop there and have a shortened version of the same conversation again. Certainly her thought that it could be accurate was a call to me to ensure that she sees more images of people across the African continent living much as we do. And to draw attention to that to counteract the stereotyped images she has clearly absorbed. 

IMG_4844The bigger issue here is that these kinds of subtly incorrect depictions turn up everywhere in children’s books. Sometimes it’s the fact that an older book has been republished or reprinted again and again so those images are still with us. Sometimes it’s just plain ignorance on the part of the author or illustrator. Whatever the case maybe for the appearance of problematic content, it’s how children quietly internalize these ideas and that’s why it’s so important to call them out when we see them. To name them and make it explicit that they are not okay.  

Why the idea of curriculum is absurd

Okay, that is a deliberately provocative title.

The thing about curriculum (particularly in schools), and even more so standardized tests, is that some one has arbitrarily chosen the content in or on them and said that, in our vast sea of knowledge out there, this is all you need to know or be interested in. Rarely do educators or students ask, who decided this was important and why? And even more importantly, do I agree?

Parents and educators are often up in arms about how hard it is for children to discern what is good information and what is bad, what is useful and what is not They also work themselves up into a tizzy over the amounts of information that are at all of our fingertips in the form of the Internet. The solution, curriculum and standardized testing. In worrying over the information ocean and overload, they decide not to give them the skills to navigate that sea or evaluate it or even how to be efficient. Instead curriculums tell the children what they need to know so they never have to dip their toes in those information waters.

But this sets kids up in a Catch-22. They are told what to learn, are given an arbitrary set of information (that often is not particularly useful nor relevant to them or their interests), and then are berated for not knowing how to go out and find and evaluate other information when they discover how useless and miniscule their “well-rounded” education has been.

This for me is a large part of why I want to unschool. Instead of dedicating money and hours and hours of my child’s life to a set of information that someone else had deemed interesting and important I would infinitely prefer to give my daughter the skills to create that set of information for herself. Her time will be infinitely better served in doing that. Plus, in having those skills, instead of a collection of facts, she will know how to learn on her own and follow her interests.

The thing is, children will learn to read, will learn basic arithmetic and science through their own natural curiosity and through their need for those skills.* Saying I want Cam to form her own curriculum does not preclude my stepping in to help her learn skills or explicitly teaching them to her. I just need to tread lightly and at the right time. Many of the skills we hyper obsess over in school, in curriculums, and on tests are not the end goal. Reading is a skill to be put into service of learning, not the other way around. And for that reason children will be motivated to learn to read.

So, using a one-size-fits-all arbitrarily curated curriculum doesn’t serve the majority of children well and I would like to opt out of that for my children. 

*I am well aware that there are children who will not come to those skills easily or at all because of learning disabilities and I know how important early diagnosis is for those children. I also know that the reason for curriculum and forcing skills on kids is NOT to ensure that kids with learning disabilities get the help they need as early as possible. Learning disabilities in schools is a whole other thorny issue that is often not addressed correctly or appropriately.

Unschool Update: I Walk the Line

Money MaterialsFor anyone that knows about unschooling or practices it with their children, they are probably also aware of how different it is from the traditional model of schooling. I know for me, the traditional model of school (think desks in rows or pods, teacher at the front, set curriculum, benchmarks, etc.) is both what I went through for my education and was also the setting I taught in when I was in the classroom. Unschooling is much freer, following the child’s interests, introducing skills when they are useful to the child, and trusting the child to know what they need when they need it. I’ll be the first to admit it’s been incredibly difficult to break away from that traditional style of instruction when working with Cam over the past school year. 

It’s a fine line to walk, at least in our home, between offering Object Boxesdirect skills instruction to Cam while also following her lead. This year has been the year she has been both ready and willing to start the process of learning to read. I know from experience that she’s a decoder by nature. Basically she relies on phonics to read. She breaks words up into phonemes and is very focused on letter sounds and combinations. This makes for a slow progress and also does require some hands-on and planned instruction by me. It will ultimately make her a stronger reader over the next few years as grows into more and more complex books, but in the meantime it could really feel like we had veered off into a more traditional model of schooling. That was really a sign to me to back off. Reassess. Check in with Cam and stop anything that wasn’t working for her. Did I manage unschooling perfectly this year? Absolutely not. I’m unlearning how I was taught and also trying to find the best way to use the knowledge I have to help Cam master skills and learn things that she wants. But it wasn’t a complete failure either. 

Hundreds BoardSome other things we worked on or studied this year, prompted by Cam’s expressed interest, were taking nature classes at our local nature center, learning about pregnancy and birth as she watched my belly grow and then saw the birth of her sister, and a little bit of numeracy (counting up to 100 and learning about money). 

This year also saw the addition of Cam’s sister. That basically tanked the last couple months, which was fine. A new baby and being a big sister is a learning experience in and of itself. Cam has grown incredibly over the past three months and I couldn’t be more proud of that emotional and developmental growth. It’s far more important than any academic skill she might work on or any subject she might study. 

Pregnancy MaterialsThis coming year I want to work in some social-emotional learning and mindfulness practices to our daily schedule. I know, though, that this is going to be another area where she needs the skills (we’re working on taming anxiety in her that has reared its head), but I don’t want to push too far or become the driving force behind offering them to her. I am new to these practices too, so maybe that will mitigate some of that. I can frame it as we’re learning together and instead of planning ahead we can plan together. That’s the line I’ll try to walk next year. 

Confessions from a picky eater

My husband and I have this running joke. We’re both finicky eaters and always have been, but we’re not picky about the same things. Our joke is that, if push comes to shove, I’m the kind of picky eater that will starve before eating something I don’t like. Of course this stems from never having been truly hungry in my life, but when we go to places and the only option is a cold sandwich (or a hot one for that matter) he will eat it and dislike it. I will go without lunch. 

My poor, long suffering parents. They didn’t exactly cater to my every whim, but I was seriously limited in what I would eat and try and they still fed me with little coercion. My mom never ceased to be amazed that my strict grandmother would make me different foods to be sure I ate when we went to her house. That was not the norm when my mom was growing up. Bless my parents for letting me give up meat for Lent one year. I am still not sure how I didn’t starve or get some deficiency-related illness. I still remember being forced to eat mayo covered bologna in preschool. To this day I can remember the taste and texture in my mouth and it makes me want to hurl. 

The funny thing was I loved thinking about eating a variety of foods. Pretend kitchen play was one of my favorite things as a kid. When my grandmother taught me to cook, I loved planning meals and cooking a lot of the foods. But beware the advice that getting kids involved will make them more adventurous eaters, to this day I will gladly cook things that I would never let cross my lips. I still refuse to taste things before I completely cook them. I can’t even bring myself to think about trying foods mid-cook. 

I had to laugh when a close friend of mine told me she was pregnant and began texting me about the food aversions she was experiencing in her first trimester. Nearly all the things she described were things I experience on any given weeknight making dinner. Some things sound good, what I had planned doesn’t, and just thinking about certain foods makes me gag. Sometimes nothing sounds good and I wait too long to eat and then feel nauseous. I make our menu out a week in advance and frequently I ask myself what I was thinking about planning a certain food or ingredient. I have a fairly short list of things to choose from to begin with and I have to coordinate it with my husband’s food preferences. At least once a week we give up and go out.  

I wanted to promise you, your picky eater isn’t (usually) doing it to spite you or make your life more difficult. This from the perspective of a person who was very picky as a child and is still discerning. As an adult I have figured out what makes me picky or turn a food down. Usually it’s a texture, either confirmed or suspected. Sometimes it is strong smells or tastes. I still despise cold food. Sandwiches are the perfect storm of disgusting foods for me, hence I will go hungry. If you have a picky eater I highly recommend helping them figure out what it is that is turning them off to various foods. My palette has also changed over the years and gotten better about allowing me to eat and try foods. So know that this too shall pass or at least they move out and have to cook for themselves. 

Both my parents and in-laws were hoping our daughter would be a picky eater. Just for karma’s sake. She isn’t. She is one of the more adventurous eaters I know, actually. But even she has her limits and times when certain foods she usually likes don’t sound good to her. She’ll even go through phases of disliking foods that she normally loves. I don’t push it when that happens, because I know what it’s like to be willing to starve before eating something that you don’t like.  

Waiting on Stories

I have had a running joke with my daughter for some time now where, when she asks what movie we should watch, I tell her that we should watch Jurassic Park because it’s a great movie about dinosaurs. By now I’ve leveled with her that it’s a potentially scary, definitely suspenseful movie. She now often beats me to the punch with the joke. But this took an interesting turn the other day when I learned one of my good friends has let her four year old watch the movie (actually it might have been her husband who put it on, I’m not sure). 

To be clear, I’m not throwing shade at her. Her daughter seems to be into in and not at all bothered by it (this would absolutely not be the case for my kid). I told Cam, though, that her friend had seen it and I could see her processing the fact that this girl is younger than her and weighing whether or not she wanted to muscle up and ask to watch it.

Then she started reasoning through it out loud and I was both impressed and proud of her self reflection. She asked me what I thought would make the movie scary to her. I explained that the dinosaurs were very realistic and the storyline itself was written to be suspenseful. She asked if the dinosaurs were green screened (apparently she knows what this is) and I explained that, no the technology wasn’t as good back then and the movie makers had chosen to use robotic dinosaurs instead. She asked how big they were and I explained many were person-sized, but many, particularly the t-rex were quite large. She asked which kinds were in it (no, idea, I am not into dinosaurs like that). Eventually she decided that it would frighten her too much and give her nightmares. I agreed that it was possible and told her the movie freaked me out when I saw it at 10 years old. I was impressed that she was self aware enough to know it wasn’t going to work for her on that level. 

But our real conversation came when I began explaining the story. I think we really came to an understanding about why movies, and stories more generally, get lines drawn around them by me. I summarized it for her so she would know what it was actually about beyond just dinosaurs. I told her that it was based on a book that both her father and I had really enjoyed and that the movie, while different, did a very good job adapting the story and telling it visually. And it’s true. It’s one reason why we love the movie.

But, I explained, the story isn’t just a complicated narrative that a six year old would have some difficulty following. That would be the case and she may not enjoy it for that simple reason. It might also lead her to focus on the suspense and fear factor in it instead of how the story arcs. Even more than that, though, the story grapples with some really deep existential questions: should humans create life in a lab? should humans play god? what about the ethics of bringing life into being and then leaving it on the island? what about the profitability of the park as a driving factor in this creation? 

Yes, I enumerated all these questions out loud for her. I know she doesn’t know how to even begin to think around them (the power of a story like Jurassic Park is that it gives you thought exercises to wrap your mind around). I also know she would not be able to tease out these deep issues in the story and I told her that. I pointed out that a big part of this particular film and movie and others written and produced for adults is that they bring up these kinds of questions and push us to probe our feelings and ideas around them and sometimes change our beliefs. It is another layer to these types of stories and, unless she can appreciate it for that, I think she would not get nearly as much enjoyment out of it. That isn’t to say if in two years, at eight years old, when she is still not ready to grapple with such existential ideas, she can’t watch and enjoy the movie on some level. But to me I would love for her to come to these stories at the right time when she can really start to appreciate them and then return to them again and again to continue to evolve her thinking around them. It brings to mind several books that I have read over the years that are frequently assigned in high school English classes that, for whatever reason, we never got to or weren’t assigned. I read many of them a few years or even a decade later and know I would have hated them as a teenager, but absolutely loved them as an adult with more perspective. The Joy Luck Club. Things Fall Apart. The Giver. All excellent literature that would have been so far over my head at 15, 16 and 17. I am so grateful I came to them later because they were all incredibly impactful stories for me. 

Again this isn’t to shame my friend that showed the movie to her younger daughter. It’s fine. I just know as something I love, I would really like my own daughter to come to it when she is really ready to see Jurassic Park and other stories like it as the reflections of our world that they are and help her form a deeper understanding of the complexity of being human. 

There is a flip side to holding back on stories that is directly related to our white privilege and I plan on addressing that in my next blog post. Because there are hard stories with deep existential, identity-laden issues that she needs to begin to address now. I will post a link to that once it’s up. 

How #MeToo Is About Power, Not Just Sex. At Sacramento Country Day School

Or How Apologies Can Turn into Fertile Grounds for Perpetuating Misogyny. This happened at SACRAMENTO COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL. Update 6/26/2018: I’m naming names after hearing about some shit that’s going down there now. 

I think at this point we’re all aware of the #metoo movement of 2017, but what I haven’t seen discussed is how sexual harassment isn’t necessarily about sex but about sexism and most particularly about power and how women fit into power dynamics (or don’t as the case may be). I recently read this article by Katherine Cross and she points out that “…this moment points to larger, more systemic issues of men in power silencing and marginalizing those they dominate — whether or not they use sex to do so.”  I would highly recommend you go read it too as it really helps frame what I am going to be talking about with the incident I experienced. Thank you to the author, Katherine Cross, a woman who has far bigger issues than I in regards to gender, power, sexism, and trolls. I appreciate how it helped articulate feelings I had about my own particular incident. 

I have blogged over the past about an incident that happened with my daughter, a school, and ultimately me. I am well aware of the jeopardy this places my husband in, but I feel very strongly that the behavior I encountered needs to be named. If you read on, I address this concept further. I am not sure, at six months out, if this blog is being monitored for either damage control or simply control, or even morbid curiosity, but to be honest I am hoping it is. What happened was not okay and the underpinnings of sexism will continue to influence the culture in that place.

I was asked to remove the posts that discussed the incident from this blog and, if I would not, I needed to tone down my language. Either way they were ready to get their lawyer involved. What you need to know about this conversation is that it took place between a wealthy, white, cishet, male in a position of ultimate power and a middle-class, white, cishet, woman not in power. I suppose fortunately this was merely about my gender. I suppose. Let’s be very clear, though, this was about power and exerting that power over a woman. Cross’ article hits eerily close to home when she talks about some of her own run-ins with men. “None of this behavior was sexual…But these people abuse their power in the same way; certain white people and men try to control the narrative in public, while cribbing you in private, making sure you can’t say what happened there. The consequences will be yours to reap, after all. You’ll be unprofessional if you come forward. You’ll get sued.” 

The words “I’m sorry” and “I regret” were used a fair number of times, but only as a way to manipulate and bully me into taking the last post down. In fact they were almost an afterthought to trying to salvage the school’s reputation. If you use those words in that way, no matter how sincere you believe they are, no matter how many levels you think there can be to an apology (yes, I was told there were levels to this apology), they have zero value. Zero. Value. Any thinly veiled threat that comes after them negates it all. I understand that our experience made the school look bad. But let’s be very clear, I did not make the school look bad. The school made the school look bad through their actions not through any fault of mine. I merely shared it out of anger and frustration. Out of a complete lack of being heard by anyone that stood to recognize my daughter’s humanity and my own and atone for stripping us of it.

Apologies sound like this: I’m sorry. I screwed up and/or hurt you and someone dear to you. I recognize how I played into the issue (i.e. racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc. or any combination of these). I will learn and do better. Period. You then go on and do better, do what you can to right the wrong, and, most importantly, do no more harm. Apologies are never qualified, otherwise you are simply victim blaming.

In asking me to self-censor with the threat of legal action if I didn’t, the school showed that they were and continue to be only concerned with their reputation and not at all interested in making things right, learning from their mistakes, or building and maintaining the human relationships that sustain a small business like that. They hid behind people unrelated to the incidents feeling offended by my language, because to them these people’s offense was more important than how my daughter and I had been treated by the school. I’ll say it again, even those people mattered more than me and my daughter. She and I have no humanity in their eyes. The woman who did the testing made sure to remove it. The school never restored it.

The post itself was found by another employee who claimed to be my friend and felt comfortable enough talking to me about abortion, but apparently didn’t feel like she could even mention this to me. Her first instinct was to report it to a man in power. There was a woman in power that she could have gone to, but she chose to jump over her and go straight to a man in power. You can be complicit in your own oppression. This person was another woman and often they are some of the most vehement, and yet unknowing, supporters of patriarchy and woman-bashing. Had that person reached out to me personally I may have been inclined to update or even rewrite the post. At this point it’s hard for me to say how I would have handled it. 

The phrase “you are emotional” was also used in this conversation. No matter if it was intended to or not, this tapped into a deep history of misogyny with those words. A history which has denigrated women and been used to take their power, undermine them, remove their humanity, and subjugate them. In worst cases, it has been used to institutionalize them at the whim of men. He wasn’t wrong, I am and was emotional. My daughter was terrorized, traumatized, and treated like garbage. I was was treated condescendingly, had my judgement as a parent called into question over something as personal as the choice to have one child and to stay home with that child, and then I was dismissed by the school for my concerns over our treatment. And yet, to use that phrase in that way was not intended to acknowledge my very valid emotion over the whole situation. It was a weapon to try to bully me into submission much like the “apology” given to me.

In addition, the fact the school was happy to apologize to my husband and merely regretted not reaching out to me was more evidence of the underlying misogyny in the whole situation. It was implied further that I should have come to the head earlier, as if it was my job to come looking for an apology for the insulting behavior we endured and the school’s inappropriate response. Furthermore, I was told that the language in that post made me look bad. This continued to tap into the desire to tone police women. If any language dares belie the underlying emotion a woman feels, it become dangerous and in tone policing me, and women generally, men seek to keep us in a place of submission and repression. It is used to put the person with privilege and power (in this case the man and the institution) back into control of the conversation by ignoring the message and focusing solely on the emotionality. Please go read this comic to understand tone policing and emotion as a silencing tactic. Whether or not he set out to tap into that institutional misogyny, he did, and that is how it works to maintains its power. It’s always lurking under the surface and intent does not matter. That is why I still feel, after all this time, it is important I put this out there.    

I refuse to allow myself to be devalued and, more importantly, dehumanized like that. I am extremely fortunate to be in a place of privilege that allowed me to protect myself and stand up for my humanity. Many people in worse situations don’t have that privilege. I recognize that. It is something I need to work towards fixing as a person with privilege. But I have inherent value as a person simply for being a person and it is sad to me that an institution that is educating our next generation cannot see that and does not practice it.

More generally this makes me sad that there is so much work to be done until the world is equitable for women. It’s the world I am now raising two girls in and if misogyny runs this deeply it’s going to be very difficult to root it out. Until then I need to stand up for myself and I need to teach my daughters to do that too. 

I’m Over the Play Teepee Trend

To be honest I was never comfortable with it, so to say I’m over it is a misrepresentation, but they’ve become ubiquitous. You can’t look through Pinterest or your Facebook feed without seeing a clean modern children’s play area set up with one: a play teepee. Meant to be twee little nests for children to hide away in, the reality of what they represent is quite insidious. When I look at them I see the worst of cultural appropriation, hurtful cultural stereotyping, Native erasure, and fetishizing.

Teepees, or tipis, are a real cultural object used as dwellings by several Native Nations, including the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota. They were and are real homes for real people and continue to be used ceremonially by many of these tribes too as they hold onto their traditional ways that have been forcibly erased. In reducing something that was integral to the cultures of these Nations to adorn your living room, we erase its cultural significance and history. These play teepees are generic, where the originals would not have been. Even the word itself “teepee” is a generic, Anglicization of the real term used for these dwellings, which comes to English from a Lakota word. Parents aren’t using these play tents as a way to talk to their children about the history or culture of the people they come from. We’re appropriating them as something cutesy for our playrooms.

Which leads to another piece of this trend, native erasure. The teepee is so often used as a generic symbol of all North American indigenous people. Except they were used by some Native Nations, not all. Moreover, teepees as a generic dwelling, have been used by other indigenous people in other places around the world. In pairing them with broader stereotyped depictions of “Indians” seen in popular culture and ignoring their cultural and historical importance, we reinforce those hurtful stereotypes that have allowed these people to be colonized and erased. It also reduces the cultures and people in the eyes of our children to something they can take from to make their homes and spaces more on trend and ultimately discard when no longer fashionable.  

I also fear that this will encourage a resurgence in children “playing Indian”. The idea is still out there, even though I think most people see it as something kids did in the 50s and 60s. I see it depicted again and again in new children’s books and even in magazines and certainly at Halloween time. “Playing Indian” either includes fighting and villainizing the “Indians” or fetishizing them as the gentle, nature loving Native Americans. It’s all more stereotyping. But a stereotype of people who were exterminated by white settlers and government and continue to be marginalized.  Again neither villainizing nor fetishizing gets at the history of colonization of Native Nations, nor does it show our children that their cultures are not there for our taking. 

Now I’m sure there are some people who want to argue that these play teepees honor the cultures they come from and I want to directly address that. You would only be honoring the culture if you were talking about their cultural and historical importance and, considering how generic the play teepees look, you aren’t. Just having it in your house does not impart the significance of the object if you do not give it the proper context. More importantly a big, non-Native company has taken this culturally significant object and turned it into something generic that they are now marketing and making money off of. None of those sales are going to benefit the Native Nations the object has come from (not that that would indicate any form of reverence, anyway). They have appropriated the teepee to make it into something they can sell stylish parents and make a quick buck. In no way does any of that honor a living culture. 

If you have a teepee please consider opening a conversation with your child about what it is and remove it from your living room too. If you are considering buying one, don’t. Click through to the links below (also found in the links in the paragraph above) if you need more convincing. They are articles written by people more knowledgable than me as they are members of Native Nations. I will be writing letters to companies that sell them. A drop in the ocean to these companies, but if you agree and would like to join me, maybe we can make a difference. 

Repost: Step away from the “Indian” costume! by Dr. Adrienne Keane, Cherokee, from her blog Native Appropriations

When Media Promotes Offensive Indian Stereotypes by Sarah Sunshine Manning from Indian Country Today

Lane Smith’s new picture book: There Is a TRIBE of KIDS (plus a response to Rosanne Parry) by Dr. Debbie Reese, Nambe Owingeh, from her blog American Indians in Children’s Literature