Last night I didn't get as much sleep as I had intended to so now I'm thinking about why and what to do about it. A girlfriend called as I was on my way to bed. I probably should have let voicemail take the call, but I knew she wouldn't be calling that late unless something was wrong. For some reason the company she works for invited everyone in her department to a baseball game, except for her. We talked about her job for a while. How she feels like she doesn't fit in and how her boss took away the work she had been doing and gave her less meaningful work after the receptionist was promoted. She feels as if she's doing busywork most of the time, but she needs a job and money and this place is only three minutes from her home. When she asked what was wrong with her, I could have told her that people are probably narrow minded and not sure how to deal with a smart black woman in the department which is really sad, but I think it's the truth based on what she's saying, and the fact that my neighbor works for the same company.
We live in a predominantly white town, she doesn't feel comfortable with the looks she gets going into stores and I've noticed a few sideways glances when I've gone places with her. At school the other women avoid her or talk to her primarily when necessary. She's reserved so I'm sure that's part of the reason why, but I think there's a racial component at work as well. Our church and school are not the most welcoming, we've been there for so long we know who most of the others are. My daughters have been going to school there since they were four and I can't expect to understand what she's going through, but I've seen firsthand what happens when someone is different since my oldest is offbeat. I'm not really sure what I can do other than to be supportive. Her husband is white and her son is very outgoing and doesn't care what other kids think so he does well in school, and I'm glad that the parents who were upset that their kids had to play with a dark skinned child are gone. The kids accept him, and I'm glad that the teachers don't seem to treat him differently either.
Another spin I could put on this is the fact that this family doesn't have much money which is a sort of social crime in our community. We're blessed in every sense of the word to have a school that looks out over a clean and expansive lake. The neighborhood is safe, kids from the area play in the park that was fenced in several years ago, and many of the teachers and staff have been there for years which speaks to how well run our school has been. There are times when I don't like particular things that happen, or are being planned. My children are old enough to go to and from school by themselves so I'm not really involved in too much of the playground and parking lot chit chat, and I'm ashamed to say that in the past I've looked down on others when I had no business doing so. My children have classmates whose parents are very well to do so in some sense we too are on the lower financial rungs, I try to make up for that by volunteering time and effort since we have more of that than money.
Things like this really shouldn't matter, but it's a fact of life that they do. I've always been happy that the school doesn't focus on brand names and what the children wear. My daughter who would wear sweats every day if I would let her is allowed to be comfortable and I see the difference in attitude and culture when I visit the school that my oldest niece attends. My sister is a single mother so she feels the lack of a father figure in her life. Other kids ask where her dad is, and they don't understand that some kids have no control over where their father is, or how often he chooses to be a part of their lives. I feel badly for my niece, my sister buys her a lot of clothes, she likes to shop, but the extra clothes and name brand items really don't help my niece at school. Things like money and social standing used to be a lot more important to me than they are now. I used to be embarrassed of what my parents wore, my kids don't like some of the things I wear, and some of the things we do, and sometimes I try to explain and other times I just live my life the way that I need to in order to stick to my value system.
Children take cues from their parents so the children of racist parents are typically racist and the children of generous parents tend to be generous themselves. Both of my parents were generous with what they had which wasn't very often money, however they opened their home to classmates and friends of mine, and that was well received when I was in school. There's an isolationist type of thinking at that school. I've tried many times to arrange play dates and set up activities. People are busy with piano lessons and soccer practice, it's very much the stereotypical suburban life out here and for the most part, that really doesn't bother me. My kids have played soccer and taken sailing lessons. They've also sat at home when their friends were at camps and music lessons. I'm not here to judge anyone else, but I do wonder if some of these people could use a little broadening. Poverty and lack of status isn't contagious, I think it's good for kids to see a variety of situations and circumstances since somewhere down the line they will meet single parents, people who are divorced, and those that are less affluent than their parents.
A former German professor of mine goes to our church. I went to school with his kids and knew his wife on a more casual basis before she died. I was sitting at a table with a woman who seems to exemplify a lot of what I dislike about our church and school, superficial conversations and the do goodah type mentality when the talk took a turn I didn't expect. The professor asked if I was going to send my daughter to the school I had attended and I hesitated since I didn't know if we were going to or not. It's a lot of money, you can get a good education just about anywhere, and school is only part of the experience that prepares a child to enter the work force later on in life. I was blunt about my daughter's inability to pay attention, and openly wished that she would be more focused. My professor turned to me and said that kids who are too focused tend to have more emotional problems. I thought about that for a long time after I went to bed that night.
I feel very sad when I stop to think about the past and how dysfunctional this family has been. My children are owed more and better. While they haven't lacked for material goods, they have had to live with parents who weren't on speaking terms with each other, a mother who has chronic illnesses, struggles with anxiety, and depression, and the girls have problems and challenges of their own. Our parents taught us how to parent, but not how to parent well and effectively. To some extent parenting always seems like a thankless struggle. There are no perfect parents and no perfect children. What I am glad about is that we are more aware of these things now than we were before, and we're taking some small and larger steps that will lead to better and healthier relationships. A lot of the things I see in my oldest daughter are concerning. I don't really care about her grades as much as I do her self esteem, and I know that I'm part of the problem since I don't always know the best way to say things and I get angry and frustrated with her.
A girlfriend and I were talking about what we know now, we both said that had we known what our children would be going through, we wouldn't have had them. In her case, she's divorced, but her ex controlled the money and tried to control her and her children until he had an affair and she was able to escape. A woman that I think might be my friend is married to a control freak and I know what that's like since I am controlling, and controlled. I grew up in a home where control was overt and married into a family where control is passive and not explicit. I spent so much time worrying about my physical safety that I failed to see the inherent dangers of someone who withholds affection, attention, praise, and their time from you. I told myself that this was my fault and I was unworthy. I went to counseling by myself, and I'm glad that I did that regardless of the perceived cost at the time. I'm afraid that my girls will end up recreating the drama and tension they're experiencing now in relationships when they get older. They've both had school girl crushes and I know that this is just the beginning of them entering the next stages of their lives.
My youngest wants to fit in, my oldest wants to stand out. Both want and need to be loved and I want that unconditional acceptance for them that can be very difficult to find in a partner. They've had a small pool to choose from, and teachers who are watching and up on situations in a school setting. I don't want to be the parent who restricts who they see, but I can foresee one of them coming home with someone that I'm not wild about. That's life, and that's okay. They have to make their own mistakes the way that I did, and continue to do. None of us gets out of our own folly, and no one except for ourselves will reap the rewards that come from making wiser decisions. I had my oldest daughter take a quiz to see how she handled clutter. She's an Accumulator. My husband is primarily a Tosser, but his Accumulator and Collector scores were both high enough to be note worthy. My youngest lost sixty dollars she had stuck in a sweatshirt pocket that went through the wash. We went through everything and couldn't find it so we had to pay for her field trip a second time.
Thankfully we have money to do that. She thought we would be mad, but I can remember biking to the store for my mom and arriving there without the money she had given me. She was angry when I returned home without it. The wind was raw and I resented being sent out again after a lecture. I had been careful with the money she had given me. It's funny how those small things from the past crop up and fuel internal fires I forget are raging. I have anger issues and I'm working on things like forgiveness, acceptance, and a recognition that I can't change others, but it is a very long, extremely painful, and tiring journey. Today is another cold and gray day. The weather makes it harder for me to do most things. My joints hurt, my mood isn't the greatest, I just want to crawl back into bed and sleep for a couple hours, but I have some errands to run so I'm going to put that off until later so I don't feel guilty about being lazy and unproductive. Guilt is another thing I'm working on, letting go, letting things be, and accepting the fact that this too shall pass, and life goes on.