Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sending My Kid to School After Parkland

My kid has questions I can't answer. He wants to know how he's supposed to go to school and feel safe. I have no answers. I can't tell him that everything will be fine. I can't guarantee that. I can't lie.

On the same day that a Florida teenager went into a high school and killed 17 people, my son's former PE teacher turned himself into the local police for child pornography and other related charges.

Boom, crash, splat. He's 14. His sense of safety at school is shattered. 

How does he know that someone won't come onto the campus armed and determined to do damage? How does he know that he can trust the very adults he's been conditioned to rely on since pre-school?  

How do I answer those questions?

I drove past his school yesterday. In the wake of school shootings, it looks like it's waiting for something to happen. California schools have very open campuses. The entire front of the school is unfenced, open, vulnerable. There is no controlled point of entry. There are no metal detectors. There is no way to secure the campus. Someone can walk less than 100 yards from the street directly into an open classroom door. 

Being a teenager is hard enough. I didn't face half the madness that he faces today. He sees the news. He hears the empty "thoughts and prayers" lines. He's worried that they haven't done any "active-shooter" drills lately. We did earthquake drills when I was a kid -- get under a desk or into a doorway, stay away from windows, and wait until the shaking stops. Earthquakes are a lot easier to rationalize than hate, violence, and murder.

I'm watching his innocence and trust in the world disappear. It's crushing. This isn't "Santa and the Easter Bunny aren't real" territory. This is inexplicable.

He wants me to reassure him. I don't know how. All I can tell him is that living in fear is limiting. That people are working hard to change things. That I have no guarantees. And I can admit, that all this scares me too.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Table: A Story of Need vs. Want

I try to make purchase decisions based on need vs. want. I'll often see something that I really like but opt out of buying it because I don't need it. I'd rather be happy with what I have than focus on wanting things I don't. (Yes, I did need the motorcycle. For mental health reasons. Yeah, that's it.)

OK, let's not get distracted by facts.

Admittedly, sometimes this need/want thing goes a little far.

Exhibit A: I still have a bra that the dog chewed during her awkward post-puppy supportive undergarment chewing phase. She absolutely disabled another one, but this one survived with an interesting fringe in the cleavage area. It's serviceable. It's more of a yard-work bra than an office bra, not that anyone would really know. Until now, anyway. Bonus: I smirk every time I put it on.

Exhibit B: The table. I've had the same kitchen/dining table since my first solo apartment during my junior year of college. It's serviceable, albeit small. Meals for more than four people are awkward arrangements of elbows bumping and knees negotiating table legs. But it works.

The table came with two chairs and a good story. The story: I invited my parents to dinner and told them they'd have to sit on the floor. My dad arrived with a few large boxes and a screw gun. A little bit of hocus pocus and -- ta da, I magically had a table!

(I've spent years trying to come up with other magical formulas to make free furniture appear to no avail.)

I've long since replaced the original chairs, but the table has moved from apartment to apartment, house to house, city to city. It has supported thousands of meals, random art projects, and a grammar-school career of homework with the kid. I've owned few things longer than I've had this combination of wood, glue, bolts, washers, and nuts. I've never needed another one.

But in my quest to impersonate an adult, I'm in the middle of remodeling my house. I have room for a larger table. The original one looks small in the new space. And we have an increasing number of meals with more than four humans sitting. So, although I didn't need really a new table, I decided I wanted one.

I found one, thought about it for a few days, then went back to the furniture store to order it during my lunch hour last week. Today, we took the truck to pick up the new adult-y table and eight chairs. (I know at least one person who will read this and claim one of those spots for herself. Right, Monroe?)

TG dismantled my trusty college table, but it will live to serve another day. @ asked that we stow it away for his first apartment. (A day coming sooner than my brain wants to calculate.)

Suddenly, there was a big space in the dining room.

And now that space is filled -- with boxes. TG went to assemble a chair and it was clearly not the right height. It turns out that the table comes in two heights and the salesperson ordered the wrong version. I didn't even know the table came in another version. Surprise. Three phone calls later and the replacement is on the way -- in five to seven days.

So now, somewhat ironically, I need a table.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Details + Details + Details = TMI

TG likes to explain things. All sorts of things. And he likes details. Lots of details. Like today, he didn't have a level in Soquel because he didn't bring one from home so when he went to the store with J, B, and the kids he bought a new one.

I made the mistake of making a pun about "taking things to a new level." And somehow that jump-started a very detailed discussion of cabinet installation. And about 17 other things.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Birds of Protest: When Words Don't Work

Sometimes you can't do the things you're supposed to do. I was supposed to go to a memorial for a friend today. I couldn't. They're adding up. It would have been the fourth such gathering this year. Maybe that's not a lot, but it's enough for me right now.

I'm tired of loss and focusing on loss. Real loss, impending loss, potential loss, metaphorical loss. There's a lot of it swirling around, near and far. I started running out of words. OK, I had words, but more often than not, they started resembling an unpunctuated string of cursing. I was running out of coherent sentences and paragraphs. I couldn't find them.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Raising a Son in a World of Brock Turners

This whole Stanford Rapist Who Can Swim thing has been everywhere this week, and I haven't tried to escape it. I've read the letters, read the articles, and shared in the discussion. I found myself wandering between disbelief and outrage.

It was strange to realize I've been in the courtroom of the judge who sentenced Turner to the prison equivalent of cleaning chalkboard erasers after elementary school. He annoyed me then. He infuriates me now.

At first, I didn't talk about the Stanford case around my son. I didn't want to talk about rape. I didn't want to explain what Turner had done. I didn't want to talk about how a young man smart enough to go to a university as prestigious as Stanford could also be as vicious as to attack an unconscious girl behind a dumpster.

But then, I did. I am raising a young man. I wanted him to see me angry, astounded, and affected by the case.

My son can go toe-to-toe with me about how unfair it is that I limit his screen time. He can go full-blast pre-teen when I ask him to clean up the dog poop in the backyard. He can roll his eyes so far that I wonder if they'll return to their proper position in their sockets. He is, most definitely, an adolescent.

But he has an amazing heart when it comes to people and emotion. And I am grateful.

Even still, I needed him to know that the culture in which he lives goes far beyond boys trying to impress each other with locker-room talk. That middle school boys are not far enough away from college-age boys. That losing sight of people as human beings means you risk losing your own humanity.

I've talked about elements of the case with him. About a young woman who drank too much and a young man who took too much from her. About her being passed out behind a dumpster. About her letter to the court at sentencing. About what Turner's father wrote in defense of his son's behavior.

Tonight, I read Joe Biden's open letter to the victim, out loud to @. The kid reads novels like they're pamphlets, but I wanted him to hear it out loud. I wanted him to hear things like

"you were failed by anyone who dared to question
this one clear and simple truth:
Sex without consent is rape.
It is a crime."


"We will speak to change the culture on our college campuses
— a culture that continues to ask the wrong questions:
What were you wearing?

Why were you there?
 What did you say?
How much did you drink?
Instead of asking: Why did he think he had license to rape?"

I was reading an article by a public defender in Oakland, who talked about how her clients get much more harsh penalties, even for victimless crimes. He asked me to send it to him. He wanted to read the whole thing for himself. From there he can follow links to see more, including the victim's statement, in all its detail. And he probably will. It will affect him. It will give him a perspective he'll hopefully never experience himself.

I am grateful that I am raising an empathetic young man. I'm glad that he reacts in disbelief that Turner could do something like this, with near impunity. I'm glad that he asks why the sentence is so light when it could have been real. I'm glad he has an opinion, questions, disbelief. I'm proud that he wants to know more.

I am raising a young man. And I am proud of the young man I am raising.