Friday, November 22, 2013

Sexist preaching

If it wasn't my very sweet, sensitive and well-meaning aunt who posted this atrocious image on Facebook, I would have blasted it there. But since I didn't want to hurt her feelings, I'll vent here. 

While I would agree with this statement in the context I would use it in, I'm fairly certain I don't agree in the context it is meant. But that aside, the blatant sexism in this meme infuriates me. It's dangerous to our souls - and to society in general - to continue equating "feminine" with "Evil" as this clearly patriarchal image does. Why would they not show a donut? Or a bowl of candy? Or if making the point really requires something so very blatant, a MAN's sugar-coated mouth? After all, most preachers are still men. While the written words may make a different statement, the clear concept here is that women = sex = temptation = evil. SO pathetic. I'm sick of it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

About childhood friendships

I have come to the conclusion that it's time to make a tough decision regarding Whiz Kid's closest friendship. I'm feeling very unhappy about it. He and another boy from his 1st grade class have been best friends for the last two years (they're now in 3rd grade). This other boy lives mostly with his father, who runs a digital video/photo business from home. Last year we were invited to his birthday party. It was a small event (only two neighbor boys, the parents and grandparents, and Whiz Kid were invited). The father's father saw that I was very paranoid about leaving Whiz Kid since it was a pool party, and he couldn't swim. So he insisted we should all stay. In spite of this generosity, I found his grandson's interaction with him very disturbing. He seemed to subconsciously avoid getting within arm's reach of his grandfather, and did not get in the pool when his grandfather was near him. Eventually he jumped in the opposite end, and his grandfather came towards him. He tried to climb out again immediately and looked genuinely frightened, but his grandfather caught him and held him in what seemed to me a very domineering and threatening manner. The boy yelled to be let loose and the grandfather let him go after a few seconds. He did not get back in the pool until his grandfather was out.

I also noticed that the mother and her parents would scarcely speak to the father's parents, and as the afternoon progressed it became evident that the vast array of toys and electronic devices this boy has are not because his parents have money - in fact, they both seem to struggle financially. They are gifts from his paternal grandfather, who gave him an iPhone that day. Personally, I consider that a very inappropriate gift for an 8-year-old; but the expense of the gift and the boy's reluctance to allow his grandfather to help him set it up was the most disturbing.

There have been small red flags since. This year his dad has invited Whiz Kid to their house repeatedly, and although I had a lot of trepidation about it since the father's parents are the boy's main babysitters, I settled for getting his word that he would be the one there supervising, and having talks with Andy about not being alone with the grandfather and being sure to tell me if he was there during the visit. We have had the boy over to our house a couple of times, but in general his dad isn't very open to that idea. It doesn't help that Whiz Kid prefers to go to their house because they have so many video games and other toys, or that his friend got hurt rather badly on his last visit here when they were jumping on my brother's trailer and he fell.

Lately, though, I'm more and more concerned that the grandfather may not be the only problem. After all, these issues can run in families; it would be strange if the grandfather has molested only his youngest grandson, but not his own son or the boy's adult brother; and I've also realized that in spite of his constant requests to have Whiz Kid over to "entertain" his son while he works, the dad does not allow his son to ride the bus to school. That extra hour or so of free time would seem important if he is so desperate for time to work uninterrupted. I also had to call and complain once after Whiz Kid informed me they had played an M-rated game. His dad apologized and blew it off as no big deal, he would keep a closer eye from now on. It's a very big deal to me, though; I've always had concerns about the amount of video game playing they do in general, and that is unacceptable. The last two times he has offered to pick Whiz Kid up directly from school with his son, and upon receiving my note to this effect the secretary has called sounding a bit anxious to confirm that I actually do want this. It makes me wonder if she feels something is wrong as well. Last week he was invited twice, and when I said that would not work because of homework, the dad assured me he would make certain they finished their homework first. Normally his son stays after school for Homework Club, and that's the overt reason he doesn't ride the bus home. How is it helping this guy get more work done to pick his son up early and have to do both boys' homework?

We went trick-or-treating with them on Halloween. It was a blast. We have never gone before since we've never lived in a neighborhood. Apparently the boy has loads of costumes for play as well, and his dad loaned them all costumes. That was great. We had a wonderful time and the boys collected far too much candy; literally, more than they could carry. As we were preparing to leave, the friend was spazzing as usual and I saw his dad slyly kick him in the testicles as we were talking. I found that quite disturbing, but didn't feel comfortable commenting on it. I was even more disturbed when a few minutes later he unobtrusively twisted the boy's nipple when he wouldn't stop interrupting. Such behavior between a parent and child seems very creepy to me. I couldn't imagine what to say at the time other than "Shame on you," which seemed a bit inappropriate in front of the kids. So I blew it off. But it has bothered me a lot since. Suddenly the nature of the father's home-based business has taken on a new possible meaning that I really don't like. How do I know he isn't videotaping the kids secretly while they play? Why does he need my son over there so much? Of course, it's entirely possible that having another kid over simply means the grandmother doesn't have to come over as often. None of this is proof positive that something terrible is going on in secret.

It's just too many red flags, at this point. Any one of these things would not be enough for me to break off my son's friendship, but all of it combined is too much. The closer I allow our families to become, the harder it will be to raise concerns later. And even if I keep an open dialogue with my son, there are issues. (1) He may still be bribed or threatened into not telling me something; (2) It may not be obvious enough to trigger his "I should tell Mom about this" reflex; (3) It may be entirely unknown to him, if he's simply being watched and no one is actually present doing anything; or (4) He may even feel the need to protect his friend at some point and not be open with me because of that.

It's not going to be pretty. There isn't really a way to tell someone you don't want your child at their house any more without letting them know you disapprove of them. It goes without saying. I'm not sure what to expect. I have a week before I have to say anything but the boy is with his mother this week, and I'm thinking it might be good for me to have a frank talk with his dad while he's away rather than waiting until the kids are around and I don't want to be obvious about my reasons. Still, I'm sure no parent is going to take kindly to being told that their family interactions are creepy and therefore I won't let my kids visit them. It's harsh no matter how you cut it. If my suspicions are unfounded, he's going to be genuinely hurt. If they are accurate, he's going to pretend to be even more hurt. Either way, it won't be pleasant.

Wish me strength.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rebirth of an Activist

I did alright on my ASL video. Much better than I expected. I'm confident I will get an A in that class. However, I really have to stop forgetting my homework at home! Lol.

The other two classes I'm pretty confident in, although for the Diversity class I have to watch my grades. I gave my presentation, but we were supposed to keep it inside of 10 minutes, and I could have spent at least 20. I can't imagine what I could have cut out of it, since I feel it was all important. Still, the result was that I got cut off a bit over halfway through. That was frustrating. The professor was very generous in the grade she did give me, but I still need to be careful. The Social Psychology class is a breeze as long as I don't fall behind in the reading.

Since I have a 4.0 GPA so far, I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa this past month. I'm very excited about that since I desperately need the scholarships. The IRS has still not refunded my tax returns, the slugs; so I'm going to the Financial Aid office tomorrow to see if I can amend my loan acceptance and get part of the unsubsidized loan. TANF comes nowhere close to covering our monthly costs, even with Work Study added in. And I want to be financially independent of my parents even if I still have to live with them. I knew before we moved in that living here would inevitably bring out how deeply and intensely I disagree with virtually everything my mother believes, and if I did not have children I would have never, ever moved in under any circumstances. Of course, if I did not have children, I could have lived with a friend or roommate and this would not be an issue. Coming from parents who were convinced education would turn their offspring into communists, I know it's only a matter of time before my mom decides that she is going against God's will by helping me to attend this institution that only confirms everything I already knew or suspected. I need to be sure I don't owe them money when that happens. Yet I can't seem to bite my tongue enough when she starts in with her comments. Everything she believes is warped, whether about child rearing, God, or America. I'm so, so sick of pretending that I might partially agree with any of it.

This past weekend the neighbor brought home a car that had belonged to his 98-year-old father and offered it to us for $600. My parents very generously loaned me the money, and now I have a reliable vehicle that gets twice the gas mileage the Jeep did! I'm so thrilled. I want to pay them back ASAP, and I need to get all of the belts checked as well since it's an old car that was driven only 40,000 miles in the past ten years. I can't express how happy I am for this miracle.

Today, when I was getting ready to leave, the Princess (who turned 2 years old last month) was again giving my mom a bad attitude like she does everyone these days. I told her no, she can't be rude, stop being rude, like I usually do. And my mom made some comment to the effect that she has ignored this behavior so far, but will not any longer. I wanted so badly to say, "Is that a threat?" And I wish I had. I guess this is the end of leaving the baby with Grandma when she's sick. From now on I'll be calling out of class or Work Study if she has to stay home. Ignoring it is exactly what my mom ought to do. How immature and insecure do you have to be to feel threatened by a toddler's attitude?! Seriously! She added that there is "a happiness to be found in knowing what the boundaries are." I guess my mom is incapable of comprehending boundaries that aren't established with physical assault. Not to mention that I don't believe in establishing "boundaries" for how a child is allowed to LOOK!!!! They need guidelines and example, and of course being glared at in return is teaching the baby that it is normal to glower at people if you aren't getting your way. I couldn't keep quiet on that one and told her that somehow, I had failed to experience any of that imagined happiness. Her answer was that I must not understand what she was talking about. Yeah, sure. I understand that you've developed a personal vendetta against my child.

I feel very torn these days. This class is awakening my inner activist. The only activism I was exposed to growing up was out of sync with my beliefs and observations, so I have gone through a long period of despising activism. Finding groups like the Enough Abuse Campaign and Books, Not Bars has sparked something inside me that brings back memories of standing outside the polls with picket signs. I'm itching to get out on the streets and start raising awareness, and that makes it increasingly difficult to keep quiet around my family. My rising passion about certain causes exacerbates the long-standing feeling that I have to be someone else at home. I'm getting too old to play pretend any more. And I expect it will only get worse until something breaks. I just wish I could come up with a way to break it gently.

The college just initiated a Social Work program to start in the spring, and I switched my major again. I'm hoping to transfer with full scholarships, if possible, to one of two four-year colleges in the area who offer Bachelor's and Master's in Social Work. I will have to go off of TANF when I leave here at the end of two years, and maybe I can find a way to work part time and still go to school full time if I don't have to meet 20 hours a week of work requirements. For the difference I will have to use student loans, which won't be so bad if I have full scholarships for tuition. Although I'm still technically on the wait list for housing assistance, I don't expect that to happen until long after I have ceased to need it. With the current projection, I'll have my Bachelor's degree by then. In the meantime, not having a car payment is a huge help.