Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gender bias and the schools

Parents, School Tangle Over Boy's Long Locks

Really?  Do the educators in Texas have nothing better to do than fight against a hairstyle?

You may have noticed that Patrick has long hair.  Actually, it's currently longer than mine since I just got mine cut.  In fact, Patrick has the longest hair in the family.  He says he wants to grow it to the floor.  I rather doubt it will go that far but hey, it's hair.  Hair cuts.  Hair grows.  You have to pick your battles and hair isn't one I'm about to pick.

The only issue with the little boy in the story is his hair.  If the school is concerned that it's in his eyes or is a safety issue, they could easily request that it be pulled back and out of his face.  But instead, they choose to say the following: "[S]tudents who dress and groom themselves neatly, and in an acceptable and appropriate manner, are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live."

Let me take this in parts:
"[S]tudents who dress and groom themselves neatly..." There is nothing in the story about the child being dressed improperly or ungroomed.  He is not dirty.  His hair is not uncombed.

"and in an acceptable and appropriate manner"  I am guessing this is from whence the whole thing stems--"acceptable and appropriate" for the stereotype of a boy ONLY, because girls are not bound by the same rules for hair.  If it is a safety issue, then both genders should be bound by the same rules.  If not, then it is simply gender bias.

"are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live." The little boy in the story says he wants to grow his hair long enough to donate it to Locks of Love (or a similar one, they don't name the charity in the story).  In case you're not familiar with them, Locks of Love gives wigs made of donated human hair to children undergoing cancer treatments.  Your hair has to be a certain length to donate--I believe you need to donate 10 inches.  It sounds to me like he's already showing concern for others and a desire to help them.  How is that being an unconstructive member of society?

And long haired men never succeed, as we well know:

This one's for you, Mom.

Oh wait, he's an elf.  My bad.  But meow...

Many of the commenters say awful things about the child based on the length of his hair.  I won't address those because honestly, no words I can say are going to change the mind of someone so narrow-minded.  But other comments need to be mentioned in relation to my own son.

Several of the commenters say that the child is being taught that he should get to flaunt the rules because of the fight over his hair's length.  Since when did the length of one's hair have anything to do with being taught respectful behavior?  Maybe we're "lucky" in that our school district does not have a dress code about hair lengths on boys and we don't have to fight it.  But if we did, and we would fight it, it would in no way absolve Patrick from having to be respectful of his teachers, pay attention, and do his work properly.  However, it would teach him to stand up for himself and fight against things that are not right and are unjustified.

Others claim that his parents are the ones forcing him to have long hair, that a 4-year-old wouldn't make that decision on his own.  I beg to disagree, because when 4-year-old Patrick came home and said he wanted long hair, he was pretty adamant about it.  Jason really didn't want Patrick to grow his hair. I held to the old "pick your battles" party line, and we decided to let Patrick choose.  He grew it for a while, got tired of having snarls combed out (because it DOES have to stay clean and neat, regardless of its length), got it cut once, and then decided to grow it again.  It's been growing for about 18 months now, with only an occasional trim, and comes down a little below his shoulders.

Still others say that his hair is a distraction to the school.  In what way?  It is in his eyes, so I can see that might be distracting to him.  And I can understand if the school asked him to pull it back so that he wasn't distracted by it.  But how is his hair distracting anyone else?  It ISN'T, plain and simple. 

I actually found it ironic that many of the supportive commenters were advocating that he should just pull it back so it wouldn't be an issue.  Patrick has pulled his hair back in a ponytail for school on a couple of occasions.  The first time he did, another child said he looked like a girl.  Patrick punched him.  I would call that more distracting than having his hair down--which has not been an issue for anyone, including the other boys in his class.

Frankly, I love Patrick's hair long.  He had a trim the other day and it really looks great.  I don't see him looking like a girl.  I see him looking like Patrick, a child with interests in science and art and pretty much anything you introduce to him.  I see a child who comes home with wonder about the things he's learning in school.  And never once, beyond the one incident, has his hair been an issue for anything.

Ostracizing the little boy in Texas won't help.  Shaming him for having long hair isn't doing anyone any good.  I wish the school district would also learn to pick their battles and realize that in the grand scheme of things, a 4-year-old boy with long hair is a nonissue.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flashback Friday--six years ago

Why yes, we did stuff 15-day-old Patrick into a Santa hat.  OK, we didn't have to stuff.  He was still under 8 lbs by then.

Don't worry, we took him out later.  Jason wanted to wear the hat.  And Patrick was clearly worn out.

We are leaving for NY in a couple of days, to enjoy the holiday with my family.  Jason is already looking forward to lamb for Christmas dinner.  I plan on "baa'ing" under my breath through most of it.

I don't know if I'll post again before we leave, so enjoy the last night of Hanukkah, have a very Merry Christmas, and a safe and happy New Year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


My kids went to bed at 7:30 up until last summer, then we got lax about it.  Summer's so laid-back and it wasn't a big deal if they slept in the next day, so why not let them stay up until 8?  Or 8:15?  Or even sometimes 8:30?  It's not like we usually had to be somewhere right away in the morning.  It just didn't seem like a big deal, and it really wasn't a problem.

I often had Bradley students ask "Your kids are already getting ready for bed?" when Jason would bring them upstairs at 6:30 or 6:45.  Yep.  It takes them for-freaking-ever to get ready for bed, especially if it's bath night.  Bath night usually consists of:

1. Bath for 20 minutes or so, depending on the level of splashing and the amount of whining done about washing hair and bodies.

2. Lotion--Kamu year-round (twice a day in the winter), Patrick in the winter.

3. Hair oil and combing--Kamu, only if his hair has been washed

4. Detangler and brushing (and once, braiding)--Patrick, every bath night.  Ignore the pathetic braids.  I have no girls and therefore am completely out of practice.

5. Jammies--this can take a while, since the kids like to run around nekkid.

6. Brushing teeth--conversely, we have to insist that this take longer than the kids would otherwise do, though they don't mind brushing.  When they rush through, I often take over brushing for them.  They get to choose the language in which I count to ten (English, Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew, and working on Amharic) and I count at a reasonable rate to get them brushed properly.

7. Story/stories--depending on what time it is, the general level of cooperation in the bedtime routine, and the length of the story chosen.  Normally each kid gets to pick one book (or chapter of a book, in Patrick's case).

8. Tucking into bed--Kamu likes to be "wrapped like a hotdog" in blankets, and both kids need their special toys

Kamu has his monkey.  He named it "Judge" the other day, and it seems to be sticking. 

(Side note: the monkey was named "No-no" when it was Patrick's, because Patrick thought that's what monkey's said...after all, "No more monkeys jumping on the bed" was his favorite book.) 

(OK, another side note: last night, I asked him if he is excited about his birthday party.  He said "Yes.  Monkey come Kamu birthday?"  I said sure he could come.  Kamu held him up so they were face-to-face and said "You come my birthday?"  I thought it was so cute how he invited his special pal himself!)

Patrick has Shamoops.  Shamoops has been Patrick's special pal for years.  Shamoops is a master hide-and-seeker, and has been "lost" in the house several times.

We live in fear of ever losing either of these animals.

OK, done with the pictorials.  Back to the bedtime routine.

9. Prayers--we say Shema every night, and then ask G-d to watch over the soldiers and bring them home safely.

10. Song(s)--again, depending on time.  The kids like to have me sing to them, either Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Kamu's current favorite), Little Horses (always Shamoops's favorite), Do Re Mi (Patrick's favorite), and a variety of others.

11. Monster poem--we made this up and it must be said three times for full effectiveness.  It goes:

Monsters, monsters go away
You are not welcome here
This is Patrick's bedroom
And Melkamu's bedroom
And you are not allowed.

It's free-form.

12. And finally, lights out.  Actually, they're often out before prayers and songs, but otherwise this is when they finally go out.

When we started back at school, we half-heartedly went back to 7:30 bedtimes once in a while, but mostly they went to bed around 8.  Patrick is always exhausted in the mornings, grumpy, argumentative, moody.  It's a fight to get him out of bed, dressed, and fed before school.  Kamu is a ball of happy energy who eagerly bounces out of bed around 6 a.m. normally, which is endearing but a little hard to take for those of us who are not morning people.  Since Patrick has been saying he's too tired in school lately, we decided to move bedtime back to 7:30 for real.

Last night, the kids were in bed with lights out and were threatened with dire consequences if they got out of bed for anything other than the bathroom.  They were both sound asleep by 7:45, and Patrick actually woke up on his own when our alarm went off this morning.  He wasn't grumpy.  He paid attention.  He said he had a good day at school.  His attitude was awesome all day that he was home, and I'm guessing it was better at school also.  Needless to say, he was in bed at 7:30 tonight also and neither kid made a peep after that.

I'm a big fan of reading kids' cues and behaving accordingly.  This is one we missed for months, but hopefully we're on the right track now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

What I do when I'm supposed to be teaching...

It's currently 8:45 p.m.  I'm holding an online review for my anatomy students but while 6 of them are in the online classroom, none of them are asking questions.  So I'm really just sitting here with my headphones and microphone on, wearing sock monkey pajamas and extremely fuzzy socks.  Since computers have the wonderous capability to have multiple windows open at the same time, I thought I would post the very few pictures that I have from Thanksgiving (because I forgot both the power cord and spare battery, and our camera doesn't use regular batteries):

The view from our room at Treasure Island.  One of the things I love about being in Las Vegas is that it's this big city, full of bustling energy...

...and then you turn 45 degrees and you're looking at the desert and mountains.

At the Mirage (I think).

One of my favorite pictures :-)

The living statue at the Venetian. I hadn't been there before and it was really cool.

The gondolas were a nice feature.  People just don't travel by gondola through hotels nearly often enough.

And look, I found this handsome guy willing to pose for a picture below the cool ceiling!

Once we were in St. George, the kids had a wonderful time with Grandma and Grandpa.

Legos with Grandpa.

Running amok with Grandma.

Patrick whipped us all at Uno repeatedly.

And this would be a lovely picture, but for my 6-year-old's poor timing...sigh.  Someday, I will have cute photos of my children with their grandparents that don't involve one child's finger up his nose.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thankful Thursday

What a special day--Patrick turned SIX today! Hard to believe, isn't it?

Just 6 short years ago, at 3:29 p.m., we met Patrick.

He weighed 6 lb 11 oz when he was born at 37w5d.

He made Jason and I into parents, roles we treasure.  Since last night, I have been thinking about what exactly was happening at each time of the night and day, from when my water broke to going to the hospital, to when we found out that we were the parents of a son.  It was a long day for all of us.  A miraculous, incredible day.

Today, I am thankful for:

1. Patrick.  He is such a genuinely great kid, full of life and creativity and happiness.  He loves to be having a fun time, and his interests are so varied that you never know what he's going to be focused on from day to day.

2. Watching Patrick as he has started kindergarten.  The day he came home and said, with wonder and excitement, "Mama, do you know that we're made of cells?" made my heart flip-flop in my chest.  To hear him so thrilled about learning things, especially his love of science, is awesome.  He thinks it's great that I teach about the body and is constantly asking questions about what's going on--and he just soaks up the information like a little sponge!  He has learned so much already this year in kindergarten and we're not even halfway through yet!

3. Having conversations with Patrick.  He is so interesting and always has something fun to talk about.  I love to hear all about his dreams each morning, about his specials at school each day, and especially about his art.

4. Watching Patrick as a big brother.  We always thought he would be a good big brother, since he is such a nice kid and so empathetic, but watching him with Melkamu has been an incredible joy.  He is so considerate of his brother's feelings and of being sure to include Melkamu when he does things.  We actually had to tell him that he can't always give in if Melkamu takes something of his because he just wants his little brother to be happy :-)  Having them share a room was a fantastic decision and I hate to have to tell them to turn off the giggles from upstairs after bedtime.  I told them yesterday that since they're sharing a birthday party next weekend, they'll have to pick a cake together.  I was expecting a bit of a fight, some whining or arguing.  Instead, Patrick immediately turned and said "Kamu, do you want a superhero cake?"  And Kamu said "Yeah, Superman!  Batman!"  Just that easily, it was decided.  The bond between them is so special and deep.

5. The fun of watching Patrick become the child he is, from his long hair to his love of Wii Legos Star Wars.  It's so interesting to watch him as he develops.  The first time he wanted long hair, it lasted a few months but then he wanted it cut because having it combed would hurt him.  We cut it once, then the next time it was time to get it cut, he decided to grow it again.  I don't think it's been cut beyond a very small trim since summer 2008.  He likes to wear it in a ponytail sometime, but punched a kid in his class for calling him a girl the first time he wore a ponytail to school.  Even though we had to talk to him about better choices for behavior, it was nice to see him sticking up for himself and not giving in to peer pressure (which has been an issue in the past).  He's very, very into art and has gotten really good at drawing.  I'll have to try to scan in some of his pictures.  Watching the different aspects of his personality develop as he grows is such fun.

I love you, baby.  Happy birthday!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009