Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's-- or Mothers' --Day

I like Harlyn Aizley's recent post about Mother's Day on her blog. She's right: it is problematic for lesbian moms. Until this year, it hasn't been a big issue for us, even though starting in Kindergarten the Mermaid Girl's classes have done big Mother's Day (and Father's Day) projects. Last year and the year before, MG--by her own choice--worked extra hard to do two Mother's Day projects, and then sat out the Father's Day one, acting as a helper for the other kids. As far as I can tell, both her Kindergarten and First Grade teachers just let her decide what she wanted to do for both holidays, and that was her choice.

This year her teacher is more rigid in general, and also more old-fashioned--not old, just old-fashioned. She knows MG has two moms and has never made it an issue; though I get the sense that she's not thrilled about the idea, I also have the feeling that that's more about her general rigidity about how things Ought to Be than about homophobia in specific. Neither the Renaissance Woman nor I have been crazy about her from the beginning of the year, but MG hasn't seemed to have an issue with her until recently.

But in the last few weeks she's been complaining about this teacher a lot, with complaints that are--to my mind-- a mixture of the legitimate and the dismissable. Like, I agree with MG that the way her teacher praises and critiques the kids' work makes me uncomfortable ("even when it's my work she likes, I don't like the way she talks about it and shows it to the other kids," MG said), but unlike my daughter, I don't think it's a problem that her teacher made them "practice over and over and OVER" for their dance performance. Yay high standards, boo put-downs (even if those put-downs come in the form of praising my child's work).

Meanwhile, the teacher has complained (in passing, always in passing so there's no time to really talk about it) about MG's "attitude," her unwillingness to participate, and her continuing issues with finishing her work (we all agree that it's not that the work is too hard for her; it's more a time-management and, maybe, a power issue). Because it hasn't seemed to be affecting her learning or her enjoyment of school in general, and because it's close to the end of the year, and because we've had a crisis-level number of other things going on, we haven't met with the teacher to talk more deeply about any of this.

Then, yesterday, MG came home with a partly-finished "book" of pictures and writing for Mother's Day. When I glimpsed it in her backpack and coyly suggested that she might not want me to see it right away, she didn't scurry off to hide it until Sunday as I'd expected; instead, she flung it angrily onto the couch, then into the recycling, and started crying about how much she hated her teacher, how mean the teacher was, how the teacher yelled at her about not being able to finish her book, how the teacher didn't let her do two books or two projects but said she could do one for Mama for Mother's Day and one for me at Father's Day, and how she never wanted to look at that book, never never never ever again, how she knew it wasn't my fault but she was so upset she just HAD to yell and cry.

After she'd calmed down a bit, I asked as gently as I could if she'd let the teacher know how she felt about this, and she said she hadn't, she was too scared. I asked her if she wanted us to talk with the teacher, and she seemed unsure.

I told her I thought there were two things going on here: one was about this particular teacher, and how she just likes things to be a certain way. And the other was that--as we've talked about before--even though there are all different ways to be a family, a lot of people aren't used to that, and even though they know she has two moms they might forget that that might make a difference in, say, what she might need to do for Mother's Day. And that it's hard to be always reminding people that your family is different, especially when you're a kid.

"Yeah," she said fervently, "it's REALLY hard."

We agreed that this teacher probably isn't going to change how she thinks about things, but that we could think about what to do for next year. I asked if I could suggest something, and she said, sure, and I suggested that maybe next year she could talk with her new teacher early on--maybe even the first week--about how she'd like to do two Mother's Day gifts and then be a class helper for Father's Day.

"Or maybe in the first month," MG said, "after I've figured out how nice she is."

"Sure," I said. "Or we could talk with her. But it might be good for you to, since you're the one in the class."

I asked what she thought might be best to do about this teacher, this year, and she said, sort of resignedly, "I'm going to try to just let it go and ignore it." But she seemed more at peace with the whole thing.

Later, I snuck the Mother's Day book out of the recycling so RW and I can keep it forever. It has some of her best writing in it, and wonderful pictures. It is full of writing prompts: "My mom likes to..." "My mom doesn't like..." "My mom is the best because..." On every page--even the one where she didn't have a chance to write her own completion of the thought--MG has inserted an "s" after the word "mom." On one page she even adjusted the grammar, crossing out the "is" and writing "are" above it.

She knows us well; we like "to read, to cook to play games to go camping, see movies to eat chotolete and to see rainbows. They like flowers to." And if she could give us something special, it would be "a gold ekoe [Echo--a car we've been eyeing] a wunderfle house with a spectacyouler veiw."

On the last page, she didn't have time to draw anything but here's what she wrote: "My momS is are the best because: they are very incriging, they take good cear of me and they love me."

I want to take good cear of her and to be incriging. I want to incrige her to be her own person and to stand up for what she wants and needs, but I want to take good cear of her so she doesn't have to do that on her own. I'm afraid that this time around I didn't take good enough cear, that we're letting this teacher off too lightly in the name of expediency and picking our battles and the damn holiday--as with that Christmas back in kindergarten--being practically over anyway before we realized there was an issue. As the commenter on Are You My Mothers said, it's unfair for the kid to always have to do the explaining.

In the end, though, I have to think that what happened in class matters less than what happens in our home. Tomorrow we'll drive her to circus class, and maybe go buy a used Echo to replace the borrowed car we'll have to return soon. Then we'll pick her up and make popovers, and maybe play a game, or read together, or even watch a movie. She'll give each of us the gift she secretly made or bought with the other.

Even though neither of us will get to sleep in or have breakfast in bed, we'll have a happy Mother's Day. And even though she didn't want to give it to us, I'll have the book she made, with its handwritten, un-prompted inscription: "Dear moms, Happy Mothers Day! I love you more and more every secened."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awwwww! What good moms you are! Happy mothers' day, indeed!

8:51 AM  
Blogger Pamelamama said...

What a wonderful family you have. xoxo

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautifle post. Happy Moms' Day to all of you.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Sniffle. What a sweet kid she is. I think you are taking the best cear of her there is. But, oh, someone let me at that teacher!

4:19 PM  
Blogger susan said...

Happy mothers' day all around!

Curious Girl's teacher (the same one for the past 2 years) has had her make 2 mother's day gifts. She told me that she had a child of lesbians one earlier year, and the couple got mad at her that she had the kid make a present for each mother (she told me that story when I thanked her for having CG do two gifts; she said she'd been hoping we wouldn't be mad like the other couple had been). I can't figure that story out.

In previous years, CG has come home with a single project that she'd just presented to us, but it wasn't so singularly worded as a book about "my mom." I wonder how this will play out for the future.

But in any event, happy day to your family of three.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Me said...

Oh wow, this post brought tears to my eyes. It was truly touching. You are both doing such a wonderful job of raising your daughter, and really helping her handle situations like these. Happy Mothers' Day:)

8:56 AM  
Blogger Liz Miller said...

I'm all verklempt about this. MG is a great kid and has two wonderful moms.

I would say something to the teacher about MG wanting to be a class helper for father's day, however, or she might be punitive about MG's sitting that project out.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Rev Dr Mom said...

What a great kid! What great moms! And let's get a cluestick for the teacher...

10:39 AM  
Blogger Loldemort said...

I don't see how the teacher can win on this one, someone is going to be offended whatever she does. The problem is a mismatch between the formal occasions (Mother's Day, Father's Day) and the realities of life at home.

What are her possibilities? a) Get the child to do one mother on Mother's Day and one on Father's Day. b) Get her to do both mothers on Mother's Day and twiddle her thumbs on Father's Day. c) Do both mothers on both days, thus having twice as much work as anybody else.

I guarantee you some parents are going to be upset whatever she choses. And if she thought ahead about this, and consulted with the parents as to how they wanted it handled, I'm sure that some parents would still blow their tops when they find out that little Johnny was doing things differently.

3:09 PM  

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