Thursday, May 31, 2018


Trying to get in a summer routine here on day one that includes some writing every day. Using the blog as a warm up because I'm feeling a little stuck. So... a quick post of information interesting to possibly no one:

We started our day with by making a list of things that need to get done every single day in the summer:

- get dressed
- eat breakfast & clear breakfast dishes
- make bed
- Kumon
- read
- don't be cranky
- be kind to your family

This list was generated by Zuzu, with me adding "make bed" and Coco adding "don't be cranky." Then I asked what they could be instead, and Zuzu said "Be kind to Mama," which I loved, but changed it to "be kind to your family" as this list also applies to me.

Then we made a list of summer fun. The idea is that when everything on the to-do list is checked off, it's time to choose something from the summer fun list. It's not quite a bucket list because (in my head anyway) a summer bucket list includes one-time events like seeing Annie at the Muny. This is stuff we can (and will!) do over and over--pool, library, playdates, different parks, museums, and arts and crafts.

The girls discovered fairy notes this morning (I happen to know those notes were delivered yesterday during the day but they didn't notice them until this morning!) and so they were motivated to write letters to the fairy--Cymbeline Dewdrop--and they are working away at that. Coco just got up and left the table but appears to be playing independently, so I'm going to see if I can get 30 minutes of writing time.

We've already had a mild disagreement this morning. Zuzu told me she was going to go outside and take some deep breaths (instead of clearing her dishes off the table) and her attitude before that happened may have cost her a Summer Fun activity today (UGH). I wanted to stop her and FORCE HER to clear the dishes, but I let her do her deep breath thing outside (she took those breaths while hanging upside down on the swing set) and she did seem to reset. Today's major activity plan is a quick trip to Home Depot for wood glue and some hooks so that may be all the summer fun in store for us.

I'm going to Clementine's training session this afternoon with Zuzu because Clem did not make good choices on her walk with me yesterday, although she's been pretty good for David. She seems to think he's the one in charge, so obviously she needs some understanding of how things actually work around here--haha.

Later tonight I have dinner plans with my best girlfriends from college, so I'm looking forward to that. I also need to return some clothes from a Loft order (I loved this striped maxi dress, but in person the way it is sewn pulls the knit stripes in the weirdest directions and I can't handle that. Most people probably wouldn't even notice, but I can just hear my mom's voice in my head pointing it out.)

Okay. I remembered how to type and I'm going to take a crack at this book project (for a few minutes anyway). Oh, summer, I do love you!

Other summer plans---reorganizing my basement and creating an awesome sewing/craft space, reorganizing the linen closet in the upstairs hallway, painting the master bathroom (millenial pink, which I think will be Smoky Salmon by Sherwin Williams) actually figuring out to to decorate the super long mantle with the TV in the middle of it, and selecting new light fixtures to replace all the boob lights still hanging out around here. Can't wait!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Thoughts on Parenting and Achtung, Baby

Today is the girls' official last day of school. Which means tomorrow they are home with me all day. I feel like the month of May has been busier this year than ever before. Usually, I have a few days at home by myself before the girls get out of school when I can make some plans, gather a few supplies, and map out what I think summer will look like.

But, of course, every summer looks different. In many ways, I think this will be our easiest and most fun yet. The girls are increasingly independent. We have a pool pass for a nearby pool. I hope to balance some scheduling and structure (a library day, a botanical gardens day, a playdate day) with long, open afternoons. And as little screen time as possible. We'll practice bike riding! We'll make a few road trips! We'll visit museums! We joined our closest library's online summer reading program (Confession: I'm totally nerding out over the fact they have an adult summer reading program and thanks to a long weekend in West Virginia with no cell phone service or WiFi, I've already logged 640 pages! #nerdalert).

One of the books I read in West Virginia was Achtung, Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self Reliant Children by Sara Zaske. I read this at the recommendation of a FB/IG/babyloss friend. I know that helicoptering and hovering is really a symptom of affluent American parenthood, but I also know that those of us who have lost babies feel acutely the risk of loving a tiny, impulsive person who is not really equipped to take care of herself without lots of help. I will continue to be overly vigilant about some things (car seats, cutting up grapes, sunscreen), but I make it a point not to be a helicopter parent on the playground, and the emphasis on independence at the school the girls attend has been really helpful. Still, this book really helped me see that allowing children to be independent and do things that my generation of parents really doesn't let kids do (basically, venture out into the world alone) is an important parenting decision, and one that is in the best interest of our kids (even when it feels really scary).

One thing I loved about the book is how German culture emphasizes children as autonomous people with rights of their own. As natural as that might sound, it turns out that American culture privileges the rights of the parent over that of the child. For example, homeschooling in Germany is illegal. An appeals court in German ruled "Schools represented society, and it was in the children's interests to become part of that society. The parents' right to provide education did not go so far as to deprive children of that experience."

Isn't that a fascinating idea? It's like saying to parents that your kids have a right to learn more than just your interpretation of the world... I think American parents want to control SO MUCH of what our children learn and are exposed to, and that's based on this assumption that we have at least most of the right answers. I found this idea really interesting--that kids have a right to a bigger world than the perceptions of their parents.

In my mind, the purpose of public schools is not just to teach academics, but also to expose children to people unlike themselves and their families, to create connections and relationships within neighborhoods. It's one of the heartbreaking results of segregation (particularly in St. Louis) that diversity in public schools is often limited. I understand why parents choose private schools and charter schools, and why they pour their energy into those unique opportunities for their child to grow and thrive. But more and more I keep thinking that if we all put our hearts into our public schools, we could do so much more for every child.

I catch myself all the time with this impulse to do what is best for my child--that's a natural parenting impulse, right? But what if the best thing for my kid puts another kid at a disadvantage? Glennon Doyle says "There's no such thing as other people's children." She's usually talking about Syrian refugees or children of undocumented immigrants who have been separated by their parents at the border of the United States, but I repeat that statement when I think about opportunities, the myth of scarcity, and what I want for my kids. This idea of not hoarding what I want for my own kids is totally counter intuitive because white middle class culture is very individualistic and competitive, but I want it to be part of the way I live my life and the way I function as a parent in my daughter's school.

Anyway, another thing that surprised me and actually made me feel really good in this book is the emphasis on the benefits of child care centers. Now, to be fair, Germany allows a FAR more generous maternal and paternal leave policy (it is appalling to me how far the United States is behind every other industrialized nation in this regard), and its child care providers are better paid and required to be better educated than ours are in the United States. As a result, sending your kid to full time daycare is not laden with all of the complicated guilt that we feel in this country (those of us with enough privilege for paid childcare to be a "choice").

Zaske writes, "American moms spoke of putting our babies and young children in child care with regret: it was a necessary evil, somethin we ad to do because we had to work." In contrast, many German parents see daycare as a really great experience for their children--to play with and be around other kids, and to be exposed to children who aren't their siblings.

Zaske concludes, "If you can find a quality childcare center with a caring, educated staff, your child will have more advantages than a child raised solely at ome does, including new experiences and relationships. You will have partners in raising her, and more time and space to become a better parent yourself. Your child will also be taking a big step toward developing more independence." I felt plenty of guilt sending my kiddos to daycare and full day preschool, but I still maintain that they have had far better experiences at their school than they would have home all day with me.

Other things Zaske mentions are consistent with Montessori approaches to education--child directed, lots of outside time, play time without adult interference, and emphasizing how competent and capable children are.

She talks about the freedoms that German parents give their children, and it's not because German parents aren't scared of what might happen. It's because they believe that their child's right to independence is more important than their fears. One mother talked about not liking her children to take the subway by themselves to their grandmother's house, but she allowed them to do it anyway: "I want them to be independent and proud of what they can do. If I'm always with them, they won't be." The focus is not on protecting children so much as on preparing them, and I really like that approach.

I had this book in mind as my children roamed out of my eyesight (but usually within earshot) around the lodge where we stayed in West Virginia. One day we rented a large pontoon boat that had two water slides coming down off the roof. Zuzu went down the slide in a flash, while Coco required a little more time to ready herself (and a bit of coaxing), but she was so proud of herself when she did it!

My brother jumped in to the lake off the rooftop where the slides were, and had I seen Zuzu preparing to do the same, I probably would have stopped her! But I was watching the slide, assuming that's where she would come down, so the blur of pink life jacket and the splash off the side of the boat that was my five-year-old came as a shock! Part of me wanted to stop her from doing it, but I stifled my concerns because she was so proud of herself jumping off the roof just like her uncle and his friend (and she did it many more times).

According to this book, "Risk researchers argue that normal children have a natural instinct for self-preservation and will usually only dare as much as they think they can manage." So instead of telling her not to do it again, I decided to be proud that she feels--and is--confident enough in the water to jump off the roof of a boat! And when my brother's friends complimented her by calling her "hardcore," both of us beamed a little bit.

Later, at the swim beach, my mom kept telling Zuzu not to go too far when I could tell that she was perfectly fine, and I reminded my mom that I never swam with a life jacket at a swim beach we frequented when I was little. "Don't you think that Zuzu swims as well as I did at her age?" My mom admitted I was right but said, "I didn't worry as much about my own kids as I do my grandchildren!"

My own worry-not attitude was challenged again that evening when my brother busted out a few little fireworks (Zuzu called them fire-tricks which was adorable and a great name) and some sparklers (which she called "glitter sticks"). Even though I played with fireworks as a kid, I just feel so aware of the possibility that something could go wrong. And if something could go wrong, isn't it my responsibility as a parent to minimize that risk? But then at what point does minimizing risk become limiting life experience? Some lines are obvious (no base jumping, for the love of God) but others are less clear--I mean, I loved fireworks and sparklers when I was little.

And yet, is there ANYTHING more worrisome than little kids and sharp burning sticks? Like, maybe my kids could just sit on the porch and watch? But Zaske's book actually addresses fire specifically. She writes about a German named Kain Karawahn who is a fire performance artist turned fire-safety educator. His workshops are based on the idea that instead of forbidding playing with fire, children should be taught to respect it and engage with fire in a safe way. Our human fascination with fire is natural and strong, so children who are prohibited from it may engage in secret (lighting matches in their room alone). His workshops have small children lighting lots and lots of matches as a way to quench that curiosity.

So I channeled this approach to fire safety as my brother lit explosives near my children (and his own baby). We talked to the kids and laid out the ground rules for the sparklers and fireworks. The kids took us seriously, and Zuzu was absolutely delighted with the fire-tricks and glitter sticks!

Coco watched the first firework fountain on my lap, then ran inside and watched the rest from the window. See? Each child dares only as much as they think they can manage! She also cautiously held one sparkler, but didn't really want to do another one after that. I love seeing how different she and her sister are, and as much as Coco wants to do what Zuzu does, she is not afraid to be her own person!

Anyway, I feel like I read this book at exactly the right time for starting an adventurous summer with my kids. I definitely recommend it as very readable and thought-provoking. My friend who recommended it actually homeschools her kids, so you don't have to agree with everything it says or want to move to Germany (although I do kind of want to move to Germany now) to get something out of it.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Coffee Chat: Talking Points and Questions

I saw the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary last week--RBG. It was awesome because SHE is
awesome. The GOP is steadily working to diminish and roll back her life's work toward gender equality and it infuriates me. She is a force to reckon with, though, and I hope that we will see her legacy continue.

I saw it with my friend Erin and after the movie I talked her ear off and it was clear that we haven't been hanging out enough and that I have lots of things to say. So here are some talking points I would have if we were going to get coffee:

(1) I have a long summer reading list that I won't reproduce here, but I already crossed So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeomo Oluo off of it when I read it in two days last week. It made me think about an experience I had in a waiting room when I was sitting with Coco and a grandmother (who was black) was there with her grandson (who was also black). He was about Coco's age and was very active--up and down, out of his seat, interested in any book that Coco picked up, and had a very small personal space. I was sitting there thinking about white culture and personal space and how I am culturally trained to have a pretty big personal space.

Meanwhile, this grandma was really getting on to her grandson for things I thought were no big deal--he wasn't being rough or wild--he was just acting like an ordinary, busy, active preschooler. And then I started thinking about how early we start viewing black boys as rough or even violent and about how his grandmother's discipline is maybe partly because any preschooler can kind of drive you bonkers but also because she knows how high the stakes are for him, and that if he can't regulate his physical activity, he's going to get in more trouble than a white girl like Coco will. I was thinking about how if he had a book she wanted and she turned to an adult with those big sad eyes that she makes, that her little white girl tears would be a power move that would likely result in him getting in trouble. It was painful and frustrating to feel trapped in that racial dynamic. And it reiterated to me how important it is to talk openly and honestly to my children about race and cultural differences and power dynamics.

(2) Sort of related to that has been the recent news that the school shooter in Santa Fe, Texas may have been motivated by his assumption that he was entitled to a girl's affection and his anger when she did not reciprocate his feelings. It terrifies me that this is somehow perceived as a masculine reaction to a perceived rejection. I'm not saying anyone thinks it is appropriate, but I am saying that it is something that seems to culturally align to Things White Men Do When Women Reject Them.

I have a friend from grad school who wrote a Facebook highlighting the problem with headlines like "Spurned Advances Provoked Texas School Shooting, Victim's Mother Said." Do you SEE the problem with that headline? Do you see how it seems to explain  what happened as though it makes some kind of SENSE? As though "spurned advances" are the trigger instead of misogyny and warped male ego (not to mention access to firearms)?

My (male) friend wrote, "This is the rhetoric of rape culture and only affirms the kind of toxic masculinity that produces such violence. A better headline would read something like: 'Young man who feels entitled to women's bodies kills a bunch of people.'"

How do we raise daughters in a world full of such toxic masculinity? How do we teach them to stand up for themselves and then send them to school to get shot?

My friend Michelle said (in a different context): "Life is pretty much all grey and everything is uncertain. but few people can actually live comfortably-ish in that place. We must assume everything will be fine. In order to survive." I get this. But it is getting harder to assume that schools can prevent young men from killing people with guns. And since our congress seems unwilling to act (Dear Roy Blunt, I hope the NRA money is making a comfy pillow for you because I do not know how you sleep at night) I am just beside myself.

(3) My baby Zuzu graduated from kindergarten and I'm not sure how because I thought that yesterday she was a literal ACTUAL baby. And instead she's all tall and she has actual elbows where she used to have pudge and dimples and she says things like, "Actually..." in conversations in which she's trying to convince me that she's right and I'm wrong about pretty much everything. Oh, man. I love her so much it's crazy.

(4)  David and I stumbled upon a Netflix series called Safe that is super good and suspenseful and has the guy from Dexter in it but he talks with a British accent. A winner all around (no plot spoiling... we are only three episodes in).

(5) I was in a TERRIBLE mood all day Saturday and it's really because I was trying to watch the Lifetime movie about Harry and Meghan but the signal cut out on me and then I had to go to live TV and it was already over and now it's only on the Lifetime Movie Channel and David says we are not subscribing to that channel just so I can watch the second half of a Lifetime movie about Harry and Meghan and I say that's obviously because he doesn't love me as much as Harry loves Meghan.

I loved the wedding, but I really wanted to finish the movie and I'm still disgruntled about it.

At first I didn't like her dress as much as Kate's, but the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. I did love the black Episcopal priest and I loved when they sang "Stand By Me." I thought it was all so well done and she looked so beautiful and everybody talked nonstop about how she's 36 years old and that's how old Diana was when she died. Which is CRAZY. Also crazy that Diana got married at age 20 or whatever. I wondered what Meghan and her mom talked about in that Rolls Royce. Like can you IMAGINE how surreal that must have been? Hey, remember how I grew up in LA and became an actress and now I'm marrying a prince? NBD.

Also funny is that Zuzu watched a bit of the Lifetime movie with me and then watched some of the wedding. The casting of the movie was pretty great so she assumed it was the same people and asked me why Harry made his hair like that (balding!) for his wedding. LOL. Princess Diana did so much for those guys' good looks, but she clearly couldn't control the lose-your-hair gene.

(6) I bought a pool pass for the summer. Question: How old do your kids have to be before it's acceptable to just sit and read a book while they play in the pool? 4 and 6 is too young, right? But what if the water is shallow? #goals

(7) I've been listening to this podcast called "The Babysitters' Club Club." I do not recommend this podcast for everyone, but it has a very specific kind of humor that I dig. It's these two guys in their 30's reading the books and analyzing them the way we (in the English Department) analyze canonical texts. To me, it is hilarious. I mean, CAN we just do a Marxist reading of the economy in these books? CAN we all just talk about an Oedipal reading of Mary Ann and her daddy issues? ISN'T likely that there is some kind of postmodern, postapocalyptical world at work here? AREN'T these girls modeling how to take down the patriarchy and/or assimilate within it? There's lots of adult language and it's so nerdy and so funny.

(8) I heard about that podcast from another podcast that I think has a more general appeal--"Sorta Awesome" with Meg Tietz. It's a mom-friendly show and Meg has a great radio voice. They start with their "awesome of the week" which is often a book, a podcast, a TV show, or a make up product, or sometimes a recipe, and then the shows are loosely themed. I love it the way I love reading magazines. It's light, it's friendly, it's funny, and their podcast recommendations are legit. Meg is also a producer for "Smartest Person in the Room" podcast which is currently doing a series on race and culture that is also really good (Laura Tremaine hosts that one and she asks the kind of questions that most white people have about race but we are afraid to ask them)

(9) I rarely do this on the internet, but I'm not asking for some advice: Zuzu has been all over the place about her birthday party--where she wants it, what theme she wants, whom she wants to invite, etc. I've been mostly ignoring her as she changes her mind a million times. I have a room reserved at a bookstore that will host an "art party" for her and she can invite up to 11 friends. After being invited to a couple of birthday parties that specified no gifts, she asked me if her friends could please bring gifts. LOL. I'm okay with that, but would prefer to keep it smaller in that case. Here are my questions:  Is it important that we invite everyone who has invited her to a party? Do people care about that?

She said this morning she wants the party at her house and I said that was fine but she could only invite four friends (thinking that would end the conversation). Instead, she named the four friends she wanted (NOT the names I would have guessed or was expecting except for one of them). Should I just roll with that and let her have a small party at home? Or should I stick with my previous plan to go to the bookstore? Should I really let her make the guest list, or should I insist that we include people who have included her? She's really only interested in inviting girls, but I do want to foster friendships with boys, too... but in my biased opinion, girls are so much easier (read: less physically active and somewhat quieter though quite shrill)... Is it fine to already have a one-gender-only party? I know it's HER birthday, so why am I making such a big deal out of this? It is quite literally causing me stress and I want to send out the invitations this week. What would you do?????

(10) I have an Eliza bracelet that spelled out her name on silver block beads and I used to wear it every day on my left wrist with my watch. The bracelet clasp has broken, but I also realized it was scratching up the face of my watch. Now I have a new watch and I want a new bracelet, but I'd like to wear it with my watch so that I can wear it every single day (I tend to switch out bracelets on my right wrist). Is there a bracelet that won't scratch my watch? Is that a stupid question? I want it to be small and not clunky but not too delicate that the chain can't take daily wear. Silver would match my watch, but I also like the idea of yellow gold... Anyway, if you have a go-to Etsy shop or know of the perfect personalized bracelet, send it my way, will you?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Life Lately

Someone Help Me

Coco has a habit of asking for help from "Someone." It doesn't matter what the situation is, really. If she wants something, she'll usually say, "Can someone get ____ for me?" or if she's putting on a dress up dress, it's "Can someone help me put on this dress?"

It just makes me laugh when we're in a situation like a bathroom stall, where it is just the two of us, and she'll say, "Can someone wipe me?"

Like sure, honey, let me just go find someone to wipe you. Or you could just ask ME, since I'm YOUR MOM and I'm standing RIGHT HERE.

Anyway, maybe it stems from David and me saying things like, "Could someone get napkins for the table?" when Zuzu and Coco are both there. (Coco is almost always the first to volunteer.)

But sometimes I think maybe it's just a hilarious Who's On First kind of joke in her head. For example, in the bathroom today, Coco had inexplicably stripped off her shirt and so I said jokingly, "Can Someone put their shirt on?"

She replied, "No. Anyone can't."

* * *

Reasons Why It's Hard to Be Coco

(1) We are almost out of yogurt. There is plenty for breakfast, but this is reason to cry anyway.

(2) Your mom didn't give you enough mini-pancakes for breakfast and when you cry for more, she says not until you finish what's on your plate. You leave two of them untouched.

(3) You get all the way to the grocery store and get out of the car only to realize you didn't WANT to wear the pink boots that you are wearing.

* * *

Reasons Why It's Awesome to Be Zuzu

(1) You are about to graduate from kindergarten, but first you get to take a field trip the arch!

(2) You got a two-piece swimsuit with a ruffly skirt and it makes you look "like a mom."

(3) When you initially refused to join your swim class because they were all boys and you are "shy of boys," you insisted on being part of the preschool class and then when the instructor had the students jump off the side of the pool to her, you decided to dive over her head.

(3a) You joined your own class the following week, which was still all boys, but suddenly you weren't as shy because your parents had bribed you with a Shimmer & Shine lego set.

* * *

Reasons Why Having a Puppy is Super Annoying

(1) Puppy jumps on your bed effortlessly and then jumps on your head in the morning.

(2) Puppy picks fights with Bubba over a dropped tortilla chip.

(3) Puppy jumps on your back while you are practicing downward dog.

(4) Puppy is alarming aerodynamic and can jump on or over virtually anything, including your three-year-old.

* * *

Reasons Why Having a Puppy is Adorable

See visual:

* * *

I have so many exams and papers to grade! Grades are due Tuesday but since I'm field trip chaperone on Tuesday, my grades need to be submitted Monday. This weekend is commencement (David is taking girls to birthday party during this time, if they "earn it back" because we used it as a threat for terrible behavior but it backfired on us and I feel like not attending the party punishes the friends who wanted to invite them, so now they have to earn back the party by basically not being A-holes for the rest of the week (a major feat)), and we're friends over for dinner, going to church, David has a ball game (he's still playing), and then we're going to the circus.

Related: Last summer, I enrolled Zuzu in a COCA circus camp. She fussed every day when I left and never seemed that thrilled about it. I hadn't planned to do any camps this year because I was feeling lazy and cheap (#truth). Then last week, she asked me if she could do it again. Unfortunately there isn't a similar camp this year at a time that works for us. But she kept saying she wanted to go to camp so I enrolled her in a half-day art camp at a park. We'll see how this goes... I'm glad she wants to do it, but I'm also a little skeptical that she'll still be enthused after day 1. Fingers crossed that art camp is her thing!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Relearning Rosa

Today is Give STL Day here in St. Louis--a day that is specifically set aside for giving to nonprofit organizations. I've participated in this the last few years. At this time of year--still paying for fulltime childcare for two, plus end of year activities, plus dance recital stuff, plus a new puppy and puppy obedience school, etc., etc., I wish that I had more money lying around that hasn't already been spent! But the last couple of years, I have set aside $100 for Give Day that I divide up among some of my favorite organizations. This year I'm donating to Share--the organization that offered us grief support after we lost Eliza and who publishes the monthly magazine Sharing for which I've been writing (see April's post here and May's post here). I'll donate to Needy Paws pet rescue, because that's the organization that rescued Clementine. I'll donate to Forward Through Ferguson because I strongly believe in the work they are doing for racial equity in St. Louis, and to Arch City Defenders because in my alternative life, I would have gone to law school and hopefully ended up doing this kind of work--"holistic legal advocacy."

But this year, the biggest chunk will go to We Stories--not because it's necessarily doing the "best" work (how could you ever begin to rank these?) or the "most important," but because it has touched my family's life so closely and so personally. It has been transformative in the books we read, the conversations we have, and the things I think about on a daily basis. It has changed the way I teach diverse classrooms, the way I talk about race and talk about myself and white culture (mostly because it's helped me TO TALK about these things). It has made me think really intently about private vs. public schools, about neighborhood segregation, about what parks we go to and all the ways that "convenience" puts my family in a bubble of whiteness and sameness that I'd like to resist. It has stretched my own reading, too--I started with Waking Up White, then I read Just Mercy, then The New Jim Crow, recently I finished When They Call You a Terrorist, and I just picked up So You Want to Talk About Race at the library.

I was asked to share a story about why I think We Stories is so important--and here's the one I posted. I'm embarrassed that it took me until adulthood to learn this version of the story, and I'm grateful for a community that pushes me to recognize what I don't know--and to do something about it.


Relearning Rosa

I was recently asked to think about the last piece of Black history that I learned and what surprised me about it. The story of Rosa Parks immediately came to mind. I remember learning about Rosa Parks in elementary school. You know the story: she was coming home from work on the bus, she was told to move to the back, but her feet were tired from being at work all day, so she wouldn’t move. And she got arrested! But she brought the Civil Rights movement to Montgomery!

It was only recently that I learned Rosa Parks wasn’t just a tired old lady who didn’t feel like moving to the back of the bus—although that description may be accurate. She was an activist. She wasn’t just one individual deciding on a random day to take a stand. She was part of a community resistance—of people taking a stand against Jim Crow law. I learned that a few months before the bus incident, she actually took off to work to attend a workshop on school desegregation. She went to meetings about leading and organizing social movements. She helped to form a youth chapter of the Montgomery NAACP, even though she felt that social justice in that city would be very difficult, and she wasn’t very hopeful about a mass resistance.

But a few months later, she sat down on that bus and became a symbol of standing up for injustice. And I don’t think it was just because she was tired and fed up.

I think it was because in the previous months, she had become connected to a community of activists. It feels hard to speak up when it’s your voice against the shout of the status quo. But if you feel connected to a community of like-minded people, there’s comfort and strength in those numbers. It’s easier to attend a meeting or a protest, to share an article online, or to put a sign in your yard if you know someone else who is doing the same.

I don’t know why the first story I learned makes Rosa Parks one individual against the world. Is she supposed to sound more heroic in that narrative?

For me, learning she was a community activist and a change-maker made me view her story differently. It made me think about her choice as deliberate rather than spontaneous. Her decision on that bus wasn’t about bunions or backache. It was a strong and energetic desire to see a different Montgomery. And she was able to make that decision because she had become part of a community of activists who shared and supported her vision for a better future.

We can’t all be Rosa Parks. But I think we (people who have benefited from the status quo, at the expense of others) owe it to her to bring her vision for social justice into better focus. It’s clear that her work is not yet done, and more of us (white people) are feeling called to do our part, but aren’t sure how to begin. I certainly didn’t know where to start.

We Stories gave me a place to start and a community of support. It began as a way to diversify my kids’ bookshelves and to get comfortable talking with them about race, differences, and injustice. It has become a community that believes in doing our part for racial equity, and in supporting those actively working for a better St. Louis. #thatswhywestories #GiveSTLDay #fueledbyfamilies


My friend K (you know her in the comments as thirdstoryies) also shared her reasons for giving to We Stories and you can read it here.