Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ok, Let's Start One

Seems I have been scathingly labelled as a cause of "teh black child's" problems based on my So That's It post:
The gist of it is that the author has a son who so far, isn't good at anything. The mother is desperately trying to force/find something for her child to be good at. She laughs about it, then goes on to add the above little ditty at the end. Which irritates me because it spreads far beyond just this child. She hasn't written much, and I think she makes some valid points about other issues, but her attitude toward raising her son is part of why we have so many under performing black children now. This isn't really to single this woman out, which is why I haven't included a link, but seriously... black mothers are dropping the ball all over the place.

There is an overwhelming propensity for people in the black community to blame the poor performance of our children on everything but our parenting skills. Now I realize its hard for any parent to fess up and say "wow, I really screwed my kid up," but in the black community there are too many of us not taking responsibility for our kids and EVEN MORE of us who are facilitating this mentality. I read the comments and not one person said what I am going to say right now:

How the F does your child miss 21 assignments and you as a parent do not know about it? If you have a child who you think needs special attention, why aren't you as a parent making sure he gets it?

I don't have any children, so I can understand that my comments might not be as moving as those who do. But if and when I do decide to have children... especially children who are still ripe for being molded into decent members of society, I will know how my child is doing in class WELL before Thanksgiving break. How will I know? Because before classes even start I will make sure my children's teachers know I do not play when it comes to grades... I will not have any fools running around claiming I am their mother. Not while they live under my roof anyway...

how effed up is it to almost totally give up on your child before he even hits high school? Because he hasn't fit into any of the standard molds you picked for him?
I should've been secure enough not to respond, right? Yeah, right:
good grief, i should be at a point where i don't feel the need to defend myself to way wrong strangers, but, apparently that's another of my failings.

the problem is not that he missed 21 assignments--a number of them were done at home and sent to school--but that he doesn't turn them in at school or that he gets them back for corrections and doesn't return them. his teacher is at a point where she refuses to individually ask him for assignments anymore. as a former teacher, i respect that--he needs to take responsibility and turn in his work at the assigned time. he knows the drill after almost a full semester. we have played the makeup work game since the end of august now.

and to refute your erroneous belief that somehow my eyes were not opened to my son's progress until Thanksgiving break (or that these assignments have accrued over the whole semester), let me point out that this was a report for the month of november. she gives me a weekly update about his missing assignments--assignments that can, for now, only be made up at school. i reinforce to him how important it is to do the work. she makes more copies and gives it to him to complete in study hall. some of it he completes. some of it he does not, thus allowing it to build up. i have a child who simply refuses to hand in his work and none of us can figure out why, though we are trying.

since you've determined that i've dropped the ball, i suppose it won't do much good to point out that my child is not a traditional special needs child--he tests on or slightly above grade level. or that i've had four conferences with his teacher, the last of which included the principal. or that we swap e-mails several times a week. or that i've had him start seeing a psychologist because all of us believe this is a behavioral problem--he's never had problems like this before, so something has definitely triggered this. or that, if you read some of my archives, you'll find that i've been a room parent and an active PTO member--I'm always at his school for one thing or another. or that i believe there is more to life than school, which is why i've tried to find extra-curricular niches for him.i've never once implied that i've given up on my child. and i'm sorry that i'm not so perfect that i don't get frustrated.

what is it exactly, that you have identified as "my attitude about raising my son?" on the advice of his psychologist and the principal, i've given up micromanaging his life--trying to make sure he does every assignment perfectly--because they say that this is part of the reason he won't take responsibility for his work.

ah, and then there's the "when i have a child, i'll..." mm-hmm. i said all those things about what a perfect mother with a perfect child i was going to be. and then reality happened. and playing about grades? do you really think that i, an academic, don't take grades seriously? honestly? but i'm interested to hear your suggestions--i've tried various forms of incentives and punishments. the psychologist and i are wrangling with school officials about having him moved into another class. short of sitting with him several hours a day at school, keeping him on task, and handing in the work myself, i'm at a loss for ideas.

you don't have to agree with my parenting style--that's cool. but dear lord, please acknowledge that their is more to the story--that is why regular commenters, who included my best friend, responded so supportively. because they know some of the struggles we've had.

but perhaps as troubling as your comments about my parenting are your snide remarks about black women in general. why the condescension towards us frat-party attending women and/or ball-dropping mamas and/or the black women commenters you feel coddled me on my blog? how effed up is it to dismiss all blogging sisters with your nose firmly in the air?
Yes, I was an overachiever. Yes, that undoubtedly shapes my perspective. Yes, I want my son to develop skills, to be a strong student, and myriad other things. Yes, I want him to learn to take responsibilty for his actions or lack thereof. No, I am not the one implying that my child might miss his opportunity to be a decent citizen or that he's a "fool running around" or that hey, he's a hopeless underperformer because his mom dropped the ball!

What I am saying, is that it worries me that my son has failed at so many things because I don't want his self-esteem destroyed. It frustrates me (and hell yeah, pisses me off--no apologies) when it takes us 3 hours to do homework and he won't turn it in. And yes, sometimes I have to laugh so I don't cry. But I never quit trying. I have never, ever claimed to be some goddess mother--y'all know that from all my various scenarios. But I love, love, love this little boy and I want him to have a good future. In my life, that has been tied to education or some prized skill set. I can't help wanting him to have those things.

And I can't help resenting the half-informed opinions of some condescending woman who's never been in shoes quite like mine.


Abadiebitch said...

One more thing. Hello! anyone can google a phrase and find the source. She knew she was sending people over here to look at you when she said the statements were on the net. Link or no link. Duh! How does she think teachers can find out if a student copied work off the net.

elle said...

you know, moksha, i can't explain how her post made me feel--but in a good way. i have a little bit more to say, and then i'm through with it.

i think one of the things i've been most clear about in my life and on this blog is that i sometimes stumble through motherhood. so of course, her post made me want to defend myself.

but, though i was angry, my feelings weren't hurt, and not solely because she doesn't know me, doesn't read me, and obviously, in the words of my grandmother, was looking for mess as there are a million other things she could've found "blog-worthy" here (her judgment not mine), but also because i've made a lot of peace with myself, especially about this issue.

at the beginning of the year, i was going through his agenda, making sure he did every assignment perfectly, e-mailing the teacher with "i hate to bother you, but..." quite often, checking everyhting, making sure he put it back in his bag, etc, etc.

until a couple of people basically said, "why would he get on the ball when you do everything for him?" and i've taken the advice to step back some, in hopes that he steps up. not working so far, but it has been made very clear to him that, all my efforts and his teacher's (and she has put forth much, bless her), don't amount to anything if he doesn't work with us.

so, i wanted to defend myself, but simultaneously, i was thinking, dear lord, she doesn't have a clue.

and i was bothered that a woman who, in her intro post, admires a character who relates to her black female identity, but snidely states that she finds black female bloggers sooo uniteresting. apparently she's still stuck in a mode where it is her right to be entertained, rather than one in which she helps create a black female blogging community by interacting with--not off-the-cuff attacking--other sisters. i mean, i count at least six black women on my blogroll who are sharp, politically aware, and ultra-welcoming to other black women at their spots. and at least as many WoC, largely Latina, who are interested in creating connections in WoC communities.

i also tried to read it through her eyes... yes, i was flippant, but i admitted that. yes, it was unclear that my son, who is at his school through a magnet program, didn't turn in these assignments between 11/4 and 11/17, so maybe that was why she thought this occured over the course of the semester (to be honest, how she believes any parent, in this day of report cards, progress reports, conferences, e-mail, and emphasis on keeping the school's performance rating up, could be blissfully unaware for 13 weeks, boggles my mind still). yes, she is still young--i greeted her post about desiring to join a black sorority with the idea, honey, it better not be mine :-)--probably idealistic (cuz when i have kids, a new world order will ensue and everything will be super-right!), and seems to believe everything could be solved if only my will as a mother were stronger.

lord knows she's entitled to her opinions, but i thought, maybe rather than dismissing my commenters, she could have thought, "hmm, their responses can't be based solely on this post. maybe she's given them some idea, in the last year, of who she is, of how important being a mother is to her, of how seriously she takes academics, and they're taking that into consideration."

apparently i thunk wrong.

RageyOne said...

Wow. I'm astonished at that post (the linked one). I'm not saying that it is inapporpriate, just taken way out of context. For someone to come across one posting and go on and on like that is very arrogant, to me.

Okay, I am all for criticism - at the appropriate time and in a proper manner. I know! How about constructive criticism? If one is going offer commentary in such a negative manner, the least a person can do is understand all elements and look at them objectively.

I'm sorry that person was so harsh on your Elle. I definitely agree with your actions with regards to a response. It was needed and eloquently done. There is no need to tear down one another. We should be aiding and supporting one another in our community (I think).

Gwyneth Bolton said...


The woman doesn't know you and she clearly has no idea what she is talking about. Internalized racism and sexism is a sickness that many of our sisters are struggling with. The disdain I sensed in her commentary clearly shows that she is a victim. I'm gonna pray for the child because she needs the Lord.

Anyone with a lick of sense knows that relationships are hard, whether they be parent and child, husband and wife, life partners, what have you. They take negotiation and give and take and most of all work. I don't have children, but I know that it takes work to mother a child. I also know that we are not born with mothering in our DNA. I admire the way you are working to be the best mother to your son that you can be.

I would just say fuck that simple, self-hating trick, but I think Chasingmoksha has done a brilliant and stunning job of telling her where she can go. I can't top it. But I will say, keep doing what you're doing--working at motherhood and trying to be the best you can.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe someone would actually read one post of yours and assume they know who you are and what kind of mother you are. Simply lumping you in with a generalized view she has of black mothers is extremely offensive in general, but even moreso for me, someone who has known you for 14 years and who's watched you work your ass off trying to rear a healthy, well-adjusted black male by yourself.

To assume that his lack of performance could ONLY be a result of your lack of parenting skills is absurd whether she knows you or not. Children are individuals. It is our responsibility to do everything we can to raise them right, but they aren't mindless robots who are ready and willing to mold to our every whim and command.

Your son is a bright kid and is obviously acting out (and needs to be jacked up by my hubby) and you are doing everything in your power to help get him on track while still letting him know that he is loved.

Yes, there is a problem in our community with parents who don't give a damn. I would actually submit that parents in general (white, black etc), in today's society, are too permissive, too dismissive, too willing to let T.V., video games, and computers raise their children, too eager to be their kids' best friends rather than their parents and largely unwilling to take responsibility when their child does wrong. I've seen it. But that is not you. And anyone who wants to write an opinion of you based on one submission in a blog has lost her damn mind. Period.

And to said blogger who thinks she's saying something. . .I can't wait for you to have a child who, despite all your interactions with teachers telling them you're not raising any fools, doesn't live up to your standards. What then? Who's fault will that be? Yours?

LOVE YOU ELLE!!!!! And my baby boy!

elle said...

y'all know y'all getting the old tear ducts ative, right?

Courtney said...

Oh, Elle! We love you for so many reasons... including that you can use "y'all" twice in one sentence.

ps. is it interesting that this random annoying person can extrapolate from one post by you to ALL black women, but somehow not to any black men or white/Latina/Asian/etc. women? Huh?

Oneup said...

Not having read everyone else's comments here:

I responded to your comment at my blog, but quite honestly if I wanted to directly criticize YOU I would have come to your blog and asked you a whole lotta questions about why your situation is what it is. I chose not to do that because I realized that it was one post and because I wasn't mad at YOU. I was, and still am, angry at how terrible parenting skills in the black community have gotten. And while it takes two to tango, I think the responsibility of raising children is almost always on the mother. Regardless of race.

I don't talk about women of other races because I am really not all that invested in their well being the way I am with black people.

If you know you have done more to help your son, then really you should be confident in that. Like I said, I wasn't trying to admonish you... but I can definitely see why you would be upset and I don't blame you at all for wanting to set the record straight.

elle said...

If you know you have done more to help your son, then really you should be confident in that. Like I said, I wasn't trying to admonish you... but I can definitely see why you would be upset and I don't blame you at all for wanting to set the record straight.

nothing like basking in our own condescension and self-righteousness.

okay, last snark, i'm done.

Zan said...

You know my initial reaction after reading her post? Thank the gods she doesn't have children! Seriously. I am not a mother either, but I'm not a mother precisely because I realize how much fucking work it is and how utterly thankless it tends to be. I was also one of these 'difficult' children like your son -- not really bad at anything, just never really really good at any one thing -- and smart enough for that to be a problem. (BTW, that changed when I was about 12 when I fell in love with writing. Haven't stopped since and it's handily paying the bills. So really, it's not a huge worry at the moment that he hasn't found his 'thing' yet.)

I think you're right to be concerned that the lessons of failure will imprint on him, but -- and I say this again, not as a mother, so weight for what it's worth -- I think the impact of those lessons can be mitigated by how the people important to him react to those "failures". You seem to have a good handle on that -- you're not letting him give up on everything, but you're not, as far as I can tell, forcing him to do things that he just isn't into. (Well, aside from school work and that's gotta be done.)

What struck me, aside from the sheer stupidity, of her post was this -- if my mother had taken her advice and /punished/ me every time I "failed" I'd be either a) dead, by my own hand, or b) working midnight shift at Burger King or something right about now. Why? Because my ego was fucked up enough by the failure, if my mother, who is supposed to be the one person in the world who loves me and cares for me and comforts me regardless of how badly I screw up, had come down hard on me, it would have destroyed what little self-esteem I had left.

Children do not come with instructions and you cannot know what you're going to get until they're here. What works for one won't work for another and gods help you if you think it will. You do the best you can, you love your children and things should work out in the end. My niece, who is playing the part of my baby in this lifetime, is the most stubborn child I've ever seen. Sweet, smart, personable -- and stubborn as all hell. When she decides she's not going to do something, God himself would have problems getting her to do it. Does that mean my brother and SIL have failed in some way? No, it means that she's a stubborn little brat and that's just part of who she is. And sometimes, the best way to get her to realize that 'hey, we're making you do this for your own good' is to let her NOT do it -- and deal with the consequences.

Anyway, I'm rambling. I've seen bad parents, of many, many races, and you don't be one. :)

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...