S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Welcome to Mom and Dad are fighting Place Parenting podcast. But Thursday, February 6, the Let Black Girls Be Girls edition. I’m Jimmy Little New, a writer and culture critic and a feragut for the Elizabeth Warren campaign. And I am on the road this week exploring a few HBCU down south on behalf of the campaign. I’m also Mom Nyima, who is thick and we live in Los Angeles, California.
S3: I’m Dan Kleiss. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. I am in New York this week, although usually we live in Arlington, Virginia. I’m the dad of Lyra, who’s 14, and Harper, who’s twelve. And we’re joined by a special third guest host today.
S4: Staceyann Chin. I am the mother of Zuri Chin. I’m a writer, a poet, a rabble rouser, a dissenter. And I love Elizabeth Warren as well.
S5: I think she’s kind of cute, especially when she doesn’t run running.
S1: How old is Zuri? Zuri just turned eight. Happy birthday, Zori. So, yes, the first thing obviously we need to talk about, Jameela, is you and your amazing road trip and you getting tweeted by Elizabeth Warren.
S6: Yeah, I I’ve been talking to some folks at the campaign for a few months about coming in. I was one of about 100 black women who signed on to a letter of support for Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy a couple of months back. And it’s really excited to get invited to come to Texas and Tennessee. I got to visit with students at Texas Southern University yesterday. I’m currently on the campus, Prairie View A&M University. So I’m always excited to go to college campuses. Super excited to visit HBCU. And I’m just out here talking to young folks about the Warren campaign and why I’m so enthusiastic about this candidate. That’s amazing. Yes. I guess that I’m leaving out the dance referring to is that the mini tour that I’m on was announced to be a Twitter and a video that Elizabeth and I recorded, not in the same place. I’m sorry, Senator Warren and I recorded. Well, yeah, my my friends were texting me because she says, you know, my friend Jamal is going down the road. I, like our friends, were texting me like I’m your real friend.
S7: I promised that Elizabeth Warren’s not going to take me away from me. Good to know. Good to meet you.
S1: Well, I’ll tell your friend, Liz. Hi from both of us. We, of course, welcome her as a guest host on the show.
S6: I can only imagine the sort of parenting triumphs and fails that you can rack up.
S8: My triumph is that I was elected president. Might feel as though I was facing, I think about you and your daughter.
S9: First of all, so like our daughters look like they could be cousins from somewhere, somehow. I’ve only got to meet your baby once or twice, but her energy and video is just so magical and she’s such a special girl. But I wanted to ask you, being a parent who is visible and your work is visible and you’re on the road and doing readings and talking to a lot of people. Desirae, ever complain? Did she ever feel that she’s tired of sharing you with the world and she wants you all to herself or that she doesn’t want to be in the spotlight? Has that ever been an issue for you?
S10: I don’t know if it’s like an issue. I know that there are moments when people like, sorry, do you want to be in the picture? And she’s like, no. And then they just have to kind of angled the camera so that she’s not in the picture, even though she’s standing next to me. They’re like, oh, no, I don’t wanna take the picture.
S11: I do want to take a picture. But I’m going to stand here by my mom. You know, she’s kind of very good about being clear about her feelings. I look at her everyday and I envy her the ability to say so clearly what she feels, why she feels it, what she needs and what she doesn’t want it.
S10: At the same time, you know, it gives me such life and at the same time triggers me because I just remember when I was 8 and nobody cared. If you don’t give a damn what backwards thinking or wanting and then my little girl self is like, you know, you should be lucky that you get to think.
S11: And then my adult self steps in and be like, yeah, she’s exactly where she should be.
S1: I think that’s a real generational shift that I see in a lot of kids. Kids in 2020 are absolutely not afraid to make themselves known to adults in ways that I was never gonna do. Why Neller?
S11: I know I absolutely. One day she told me we were arguing and she goes in and then I said, you know what? This is just going on for too long. We need to make a move. This is what it is. We are going now and that’s it. And she goes. But you said that I could talk. I said, What? Zora, we’ve been talking about it for like 20 minutes. We have to go.
S12: We have to go. We’re gonna be late. And she goes, you know, I know you have all the power all the time, but you don’t have to use all the power all the time.
S8: Wise counsel. And I was like, oh, my God, I’m sure you’ve got the it’s my body.
S11: I’m not putting any socks on it. I’m not putting on a coat on because it’s my body. Oh, yeah, yeah. Now, you know, who cares that it’s 20 degrees outside. I’m not putting a coat on because it’s my body.
S1: I always get the why wouldn’t be being true to myself if I did the dishes when I don’t want to. Wow.
S11: We’re not there yet. Perhaps because she’s not doing any dishes right now. I mean, she’s eight. So she kind of still thinks I’m cool and still loves my approval and loves the fact that I. Yay! With her. But I see it changing. I see it coming. Like she’ll kind of fend me off in the morning when I’m dropping her off to school and she’ll say, like, I’m fine. And I’ll be like, you sure she’s a Glisson? I’m fine.
S13: I do this every morning with a kind of like slight disdain.
S1: Even more is coming. Don’t you worry. Jamila, what’s our show look like today?
S9: Today we have a listener question from a mom who will be eligible to start kindergarten in the fall, but she’s not sure if he should because he’s really short and he’s considering holding him back a year to give him a chance to grow. Is that a reasonable concern or should you send your children to school when it’s time for them to go to school? We’re also going to be talking about the identification of black girls and why I’m so over the moon to have Staceyann here adds. That’s about that. And as always, we’re going to do triumphs and bills and recommendations. So let’s start with you dance. You have a triumph or fail for us this week.
S1: This is a classic. I don’t know if it’s a triumph or fail. And I I won’t know for like a year. So I’ll report back when I find out. But this is about Lyra. Our older daughter, who is in ninth grade now and who had a very, very bad eighth grade experience. She really struggled academically and she struggled socially. You know, the whole shebang. And going into ninth grade, we wanted to find ways to help her feel a little more comfortable in school and not as anxious. And a lot of her anxiousness revolved around feeling overwhelmed by classwork. And so the high school that she’s going to has this class you can take, which is basically a study hall. It’s called instructional studies. It seems like basically a guided study hall in theory. I think in the class you’re supposed to be like learning study skills and executive functioning skills. In practice, I think Lyra mostly uses it to just stay up to date on her homework, which is great. She’s a kid who can get really overwhelmed really easily. So having this break each day has been really helpful. Also, I think sometimes she uses it to just read read it on her school computer. And so she’s now signing up for classes for next year. And this year has gone a lot better. Her grades have been good and she’s felt much more in control of things. I think in part because of instructional studies, but also just because she’s older and she’s adapting and she’s learning things and she feels more comfortable in general. And we’ve told her a bunch of times that we don’t care. She gets straight A’s and we don’t care. She takes a bunch of AP classes. We just want her to enjoy school, at least a little bit of it, which I know is a tall order in ninth grade, but it’s not impossible. And so we’re talking about what she’s going to take next year. And she only this year has one class that she actually likes, which is her theater class. All the rest of the classes are like, fine. She gets through them and she does well in that Michelle’s actually like them. So we have been encouraging her next year to use an elective spot to add another class that she might love, like maybe take theater again if you want to. But this school has this amazing literary magazine that is actually a class where the teachers like state renowned and they put out this beautiful magazine full of great writing every year. And it’s very encouraging and a great community to be part of. But she doesn’t want to do it because she is dead set on keeping instructional studies. This study hall thing that she does, you know, she says that she’s heard that software year his way harder than freshman year and she doesn’t want to get overwhelmed. She wants that time to stay caught up. We sort of think that she wants that, but also she wants the break in the middle of the day and she wants Internet time and the middle of the day, which I mean, I can’t blame her for. I also love having Internet time in the middle of the day. But so we’ve been debating this in our family for the last few weeks we’ve just spent. Sander, why don’t you just try it out when Jews try out literary magazine and if you hate it or you’re overwhelmed or you have too much work, just drop it and do instructional studies. But you can’t do it the other way around. You can’t pick up literary magazine. That’s a class that everyone wants to get into. And once you’re in, you’re in. We even asked her guidance counselor at her school. We were we like seeded this idea. We’re like, oh, we think would be so great for Lyra to do. Lit mag, will you talk to her and see if you can talk her into it? And she talked her and she came back to us and she was like, well, it sounds like she really wants to do instructional studies. So I told her I thought that be great. And we were like, mother fucker. Thanks for nothing, lady. But her course selection farm is due this week and she’s to choose instructional studies. And I don’t like it, but I’m not going to like force her to sign up for this class. But I wish that I had found a way to make this case better or convince her to give it a try, because I’m so sure it is the right choice and it feels like a little bit of a fail. But maybe it’s a triumph. But I’m not making her do something she doesn’t want to do, even though it’s definitely the right thing to do. I don’t know. So check in with me one year from today and we’ll see what the actual answer is.
S5: You know, Zuri is used to. Doing things quickly, learning them quickly, mastering them quickly. And she’s used to being in her class, you know, kind of you know, she she read a lot earlier than other people. And then I put her in one school when she was kind of three and she was the only kid in the class reading. And the other kids had this game where they would just kind of stand in front of the class and pretend to read to they would open the book and they would kind of like talk about the pictures that they see. And the other kids would respond to it, which is perfectly fine. And then it was her turn to do the reading in front of the class and she could actually read. But of course, it wasn’t fluent at three. She was kind of just getting through the words and, you know, and the other kids started laughing at her. And her response was to then pretend as if she couldn’t read and then just do the same thing that they were doing. Right. Then she was having more fun in the class with the other kids and then she wasn’t being teased. But I’m Carribbean, I’m Jamaican.
S14: And you will not be pretending that you are not able to read when you are able to read and then lose good fuckin practice time writing. Right. And so I pulled her out of that school and put her in a different school where the teacher was really pushing the kids who couldn’t read to kind of try. And that’s kind of how I’ve been with her. Mostly her whole life. And she goes to one of those schools with. I want to say, I mean, if you don’t take it personally. Parents like you who do a lot of like, what do you want to do? A lot.
S3: A lot of agonizing.
S11: A lot of agonizing about every decision and why. I’m also a single parent of a black girl. Wanga got no space for you to be like angst and all the time you got to just fucking get up there and do the shit like these are your choices. You’re gonna do it. Are you gonna do it? I see her sometimes and I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a triumph for a failure in that I see her struggles sometimes with watching the other parents.
S14: You know, they’ll draw a circle on a page and you know, their mother.
S15: But like, oh, my God, that’s so good. And they’re like, yeah, look, mommy, it’s a rabbit. And then the other kids would be like, oh, it’s a rabbit. And the mom would be like, oh, my God, that’s a great rabbit. I see it.
S11: Whereas she brings me her sakuya. I’d be like, where to fucking tail? I mean, rabbits have like two teeth in the front with ears like, come on. This is not a rabbit. But then she turns out to be the kid who when she draws everybody’s eye, she’s the best draw ever because her rabbit really can’t draw a rabbit.
S15: Right. Yeah.
S11: And I really try hard to give her some space with a choice. You know, like I decide what she has to do. And then there are other things that she has choices for. But I really believe that in the context of being a black mom with a black child in a country like America, I can’t really be slacking off. And like, you know, my child can’t be the kid who is like nine and unable to read in the class. The the system is not going to look at her and think like, oh, my goodness, what happened to the you know, Johnny? There’ll be like, what the hell’s going on with that black kid who can’t read? Sorry.
S16: No, no, no. No apology necessary. And yet it’s like it’s unclear to me whether what I’m doing here is refraining from pushing her or letting her make a choice that, in fact, allows her to excel better than she would otherwise, because it gives her this study time and the chance to actually get better at school.
S11: The thing I ostensibly want her to do and the other thing is that kids are different. So, you know, inherent in your process is your knowing your child.
S15: But do I really who can say, well, you know, hopefully, hopefully you have some sense of who she is.
S16: Every day it becomes less clear to me that I know my child.
S11: Yeah. And I think it happens until when the teen years really get rolling. Then it’s terrible. And then somewhere about mid twenties, early twenties, they come back and be like, oh, my God, he was such a great mom.
S14: From what I’ve observed and talked to other people about what you know, because I didn’t really have a mom. So I went around and like did a survey about like what the good mom things were and what the bad mom things were.
S13: When I asked most people, it’s like everybody’s parents fucked up.
S11: There’s no one who said, like, my mom did the best job and she didn’t make any mistakes. And my dad was just amazing. And I have no complaints. Everybody is got like lots of fuckin psychotherapy going on because their parents essentially fucked them up. But the people who came out of that and felt better about it were the people who felt like their parents were at least considering them even as they were airing. So if you consider your kid, I think that’s good.
S16: I mean, I. Boy, am I considering my kid. Yeah, definitely are. All right. So, Staceyann, your triumph slash fail is telling your daughter that pictures of circles are not fucking rabbits under any circumstances.
S11: Yes. I mean, without the fucking. But, you know, it’s not that I don’t say fuck in front of her, but I wouldn’t tell her that it’s not a fucking rabbit. I would be like, that is not a rabbit. That is a circle. Please put some teeth.
S1: Jamila, what about you? Do you ever try and for fail?
S17: Yeah. I feel it’s pretty small this week, but it is in effect once again fail. And as someone who is also on Luttig’s so blad daughter and tries very hard to give her the space and make choices as much as she can, and to be anxious and to be weird, but also being like. But ultimately you have to show up. Yes. Who can read can’t you know you’ve only got a little bit of time to do these things. It’s a delicate dance. So one of the things that I’ve tried to prioritize, especially since we’ve moved west because of all the stress and stuff that goes into raising this free black child is that we’re taking more time to play games. Never going to be games person. Just not my natural inclination. I can do. Barbie dolls. I can do books. I can do artwork. Games just doesn’t really come to mind. It’s not born of mind for me. She loves games. We play games. And in Baghdad, you may remember who it was. There was a guest who recommended a game called Bomb Blast Stick.
S8: That desk was man Dan Coats knew. Oh, I know. We had a male guest the day that we had. That would be Djamila. OK. So. So that’s my feel for not remembering. That was Dan’s idea. So now I’m OK.
S18: So I ordered the bomb blast fixed as soon as you told us to try them. My child, I gave them to her for Christmas.
S7: She was excited. Can we play the Blome Plastics? Can we play the bomb blast? I was like, cool, cool, cool. So I was doing some work in the house. I was like, yeah, you set the game up as soon as I finish these last little tassel, come play with you. I heard her saying the key bomb blast.
S8: I think he thought, let’s not make a bomb blast.
S18: Six is this game where you have these little plastic pieces that basically they spring open, kind of hard to describe. They kind of look like a kind of somewhat triangular and they’re these little yellow plastic things. And you pile them on top of the plastic bags that they come in and you’re trying to stack as many of them as you can before you trigger one. And it explodes open because a little latch thing. And then they all flying everywhere. Popcorn flying everywhere. Yeah, exactly. Think of popcorn flying everywhere. It’s for kids five and up nine will be seven next month. So I had no concern that this was going to be dangerous or scary. So she’s having trouble because they keep popping while she’s setting them up. So finally we start. I’m like, it’s fine. It’s fine. She’s like, I don’t know if I’m going to like this, mommy. I’m like, it’s fine.
S7: So we play and we’re doing good. We’ve got a lot of them piled up. But when we finally triggery, that thing goes flying everywhere. Of course, they hit her and she was like, oh, no, mommy, anti-life is like this. I’m like, OK, well, you know, we don’t have to play it again. It’s fine. We will try. And every time we get a little older and then she’s like, let’s try one more round. I’m like, OK, let’s do one more and slower play and one little boom blast that pops and hits her so hard. And it’s like she’s just cannot believe that this is happening. And so we’re putting the game away and she’s just sitting there like this is a bad game. This is a bad idea. And you can almost talking to herself. She’s muttering like this is just not a good game. Why would they even make this game? So the fail is not just buying the game and listening to dance.
S8: It’s that I could not stop laughing at her rehab.
S7: The old Roseanne intro where at the end she was just laughing hysterically, like it just ends with her laughter at this obnoxious, terrible, like head back lap. That’s me laughing at my child. Oh, my God bless her. She keeps saying the cue bomb blast thing coming out so funny. And every time she says she’s like, well, why did it bomb blast me? I don’t understand why a bomb blast me.
S19: And every time she says it, I just die. And I know she wasn’t really hurt, but it did hit her pretty hard.
S20: I’m so proud to have by proxy you injured your child. Thanks so much, Dan..
S18: I will. Probably dropping the bomb blast sticks off at the bomb blast. Goodwill.
S1: Got to blow up and have it all the goodwill and thousands will be killed.
S19: All right. Let’s do some business before we move on. Slate Parenting newsletter is the best place to be notified about all of our great parenting content, including mom and dad fighting, parent beating and much more. It is a personal email from Dan. So if Dan has not yet injured your child, sign up. He can send over some ideas, suggestions to help you hurt your kid if you’re not doing a good enough job at it. Just sign up at Slate. That com backslash parenting email. Also check us out on Facebook. Late parenting. It’s the fun community and we do moderate it. I pick somebody at the group for the first time. It doesn’t feel great. No, it didn’t feel great, Dan though. That does. But it happens rarely. So just come in and be nice and respectful of everyone and talk about parenting with us.
S9: OK, though, this week’s listener question.
S21: Dear mom and dad are fighting. I’m torn about when to start my son in formal schooling because of his height where we live. State education includes two years of kindergarten and kids are eligible to start between the ages of forensics. Anecdotally, most kids are around 5. My son is a March baby, so he will start either at the age of four and a half or five and a half. So he would be among the youngest or the oldest in his class, depending on if he starts this year or next year if he goes at four and a half. He will start this coming September. I’ve no reservations about his fitness for school. He’s been attending a good priest. Well, he’s well armed with social, emotional and concentration skills needed for formal education. I think he’d really enjoy the school curriculum. However, my reservation is about his height. He’s always been a smaller kid. He’s perfectly healthy. He has a good and very diet. He gets lots of exercise. He’s just short. He’s on the third percentile for his age and has always been like this. He’s among the smallest kids in his current preschool class and they’re all quite close in age to him. If you start school in September, he could be in a class with kids who are 12 to 18 months older than him. And I’m torn about what to do. It’s highly likely that he’s always gonna be a short kid. Whether he starts at four and a half or five and a half, he’ll still be little. Is it worth holding him back for a year to give him a chance to grow a little bit more and at least be closer to the high level of his peers? I’m familiar with the great research about starting school later, but I feel as though he’s ready. I don’t want to hold him back for an arbitrary reason. And I think if he was a girl, I wouldn’t be having this concern. On the other hand, school is more than just academics. I do worry about what it might be like for him once he hits second or third grade and the teasing and bullying start. Thanks, mom of a super smart and super short son. All right. To help us answer this question, we are joined by a very special guest from West Hampton, Massachusetts. Please welcome my friend Scott Brown. Scott is an Emmy winning TV writer and the Kobuk writer of the Broadway musical Beetlejuice. Scott’s great Y.A. novel, Exile, is about the philosophical state of growing up short. So let’s hear what he has to say. Welcome, Scott. Hi. Thanks for having me. So, Scott, you come at this question from a personal angle. I don’t want to get into it too deeply, but your short.
S22: Yes, yes. A personal angle. That’s I see what you did there. Yes. Now I’m short. I am actually first percentile for adults at my tender age of 43.
S1: In this situation where you have a kid, this is presumably a situation that is analogous to what’s your parents were going through potentially when you were approaching kindergarten. What were their worries when you were approaching kindergarten? And what was it like for you in those early years? If you had had the chance to gain a year and be older than everyone in your class, would that have made a difference for you?
S22: I don’t think so, personally. I mean, I think they were probably more worried about my being word than they were about getting beat up on the playground, whether or not they should. Mm hmm. When I was in kindergarten, we were in a very small town. It felt very safe. I think from sort of bullying standpoint, it was just like not a big school. It was kind of a weird rural community. I don’t think they were super attuned to that. That said, I mean, I remember getting thrown around by kids at first grade or whatever. It just it happens everywhere. It’s part of the primatology being human. The problem is you don’t know really how big your kid is going to get. I stayed pretty short throughout my childhood and into adulthood. I was always one of the shortest kids, if not the shortest kid. It probably wouldn’t matter to fight that held back a year, right?
S1: An extra year was not going to make you magically as tall as everyone else.
S22: No, I would not become like the star basketball player because I was held back. I mean, that’s never going to happen. And I was I was always going to be who I was in that particular kind of pecking order. Did they consider interventions and things like that? Yeah. I mean, I think they thought about stuff like that. I don’t think they thought about holding me back. They did briefly. They considered growth hormone, but it was like later it was when I was eleven or twelve or something like that. Cat was probably already out of the bag. When I think about this question, I’m more apt to think about the risks of holding someone back if they seem to be ready, if they’re not expressing any reservations. You know, obviously it’s hard to tell what the kindergartener. But it kind of depends on how they’re reacting to their peers and whether their levels of anxiety are kind of overwhelming their ability to enjoy school and learn things.
S1: Or is it just your anxiety, the parents, that’s overwhelming their ability to enjoy school?
S22: I mean, not a psychologist, this letter writer, but. Yeah, I mean, I it’s most often, as we all know, it’s the parents’ psychology that’s dominant here. And you don’t want to send a message to your child to let. I don’t know. To let primatology dominate, you know, civilization. If the kid’s interested in what’s clear things that is intellectually engaged and academically engaged with what’s going on. Then you don’t want to you know, even the Ballymena, we send this message that like, well, all that’s well and good, but really nothing matters unless you’re the biggest or the strongest if you’re a boy.
S1: All right. Let’s broaden this. I would be curious to hear what my co-host had to say. Jameela, in this situation, if you had a boy in this situation, what would you do? Would you hold him back here or would you send him to kindergarten?
S13: It’s just so tough.
S23: It’s just that’s how I feel that I was in kindergarten. I think that he’s a bright boy. I think that it’s likely that he’s going to be small throughout his life and that there are many people throughout history and many men who have been small in stature and had outsized lives in so many ways and have been popular. I think one of most popular guys I went to college with, my friend Leonard, is 5 1, you know, and he stayed with a girl who was towering over him and who was gorgeous then, you know, interested in him. And that’s saying that, you know, of course, frightening romantic partners one day is a measure of success or fulfillment. I just would not let this hold him back in this moment. I think that if there were an issue, there were to show up when he started school and it seemed that he just was not prepared for being there.
S19: That would be different. But I think it’s time for him to go to school.
S21: Staceyann here. I think this is a tough call.
S13: No, not at all. I would be more worried about the message you are sending the kid as an adversity will be a part of every life at every stage. He’s going to be short today, but, you know, he might be having problems learning to read next year or he might be dealing with a kid who he’s not getting along with, but the kids sits next to him. I mean, a part of being a parent is reminding your child that the world is a place that will be challenging many, many times. And you have to push that child. You have to encourage that child. You have to support that child as they take on things that at every stage will be difficult. I deal with a lot of college students as I move from place to place. And one of the things I’ve noticed is how fragile they are because, you know, they don’t know how to navigate discomfort. They don’t know how to navigate difficulty. They don’t know how to navigate, not having the thing come easily to them. And I think. If we were better at teaching our children how to do that, I think that we would have children who would be problem solvers, who would have children, who would be survivors of difficult things. It’s so kind of antithetical to how my brain works. I would not even think about not putting my kid in school because the kid is short. It doesn’t even compute to me. Like, why? I mean, I know I don’t mean to belittle the parents question, but I’m kind of really quite a Ga-Ga that you would hold the child back for a problem that has not yet presented itself except inside of your head.
S16: Right. I mean, I come down of basically the same way, although for a slightly different reason, which is just that I am universally always in favor of sending your kid to kindergarten as early as you possibly can and then taking the money you save on preschool and doing something amazing with it, like the difference in the amount of money you will spend in sending your kid to kindergarten at four and a half and five and a half is enormous potentially depending on where you live. So take that money and take a trip or throw a partier and put it in your forone care, put it in the kid’s college fund or invest it in elevator shoes. I don’t know about like do something with the money. And yes, I think worry less. But Scott, I’m curious, you know, you alluded to your parents thinking about like, you know, other medical interventions. And one of the themes of your novel Excel is this kid at the center of it and how consumed he is with his height and how his parents sort of try to show that they’re not concerned. But he knows they’re concerned and they can’t fool him as you were growing up. How did your parents relate to you with your height? And do you have any advice for this mother as her child presumably goes through his childhood short about how to treat it or how not to treat it?
S22: I think my parents never came at it head on. It was never a matter of like, you know, sitting me down and saying, well, you’re a certain way. Your whole life is going to be about correcting for that way that you are. I think, if anything, it probably made it easier for my dad to part with whatever romantic notions he had of me at becoming a high school sports hero, but not that I could not have. But, you know, it was not really my area of interest. And I think, you know, being a short kid who was in the arts, it was kind of a natural thing. And I didn’t feel like I had to, you know, lobby for it. You know, it was more like, yeah, that makes sense. I wouldn’t try to get too far out in front of it as a problem. I think it’s only as much of a problem. It’s not that it isn’t real. It’s not that bullying and teasing isn’t real. It’s not that kids especially, you know, boys, you know, measuring themselves against each other very literally. Obviously, all of that is real true. It’s just not necessarily dominant. And does it need to be if you don’t make it that? I mean, I think kind of, you know, you deal with these things. As they come, if the kid is consistently in a social environment where their peers are making fun of them and to look at bigger things like who are your friends and how do you choose those friends, how you select the friends you have and how they support you and if they’re supporting you is a lot more important than this kind of incontrovertible fact that, oh, you’re short, you’re always gonna have to correct for that, because what what a terrible psychic burden to put on somebody who is functioning normally in society.
S13: The fact that they’re short, I mean, drifts are very it’s interesting to note that that presupposes that there’s some way that is normal, like being short is normal.
S12: To just like being tall is normal, like being a little chubby is normal, like being very skinny or having, you know, not Binney’s or whatever it is that people, you know, having acne as a teenager, all of that is normal. So there’s this idea that already we are putting on these children, you know, when we’re looking at the child and saying, oh, you’re short, so therefore we have to protect you, as opposed to saying like, no. The world is made up of different kinds of people and you’re just this kind right now. You know, we really have to start leaning into that and start moving away from this idea of of what is normal. I mean, the same way, like, you know, you start worrying about your kid being black because everybody else is white. I mean, and there are real problems with that. But if you begin by telling the kid that it’s perfectly fine for you to be who you are and that the world should have different kinds of people in it and that you are you’re not at odds with what is supposed to be.
S17: You are yourself. He is perfectly himself. Whatever size he may be at any given moment.
S23: Thank you so much, Scott, for joining us. I really appreciate your perspective. And thank you, listener, for reaching out. And hey, fellow listeners, if you have a question for us, please send an e-mail to mom and dad at Slate that com. So this week, a listener sent in an article from The New York Times parenting section about the disproportionate expectations that black girls face when and growing up. It was written by Russian Medal’s Fernandez. It’s titled Why Won’t Society Let Black Girls Be Children? And we have a link to it on the show page. I’m just going to read a quick bit of the beginning of the story. Punishment was a hallmark of my educational experience. It started when my preschool teacher labeled me as manipulative and intentionally disruptive. She even tried to film me to prove to my mother that I was a problem. She never got that footage and accused me of pretending to behave at the side of the camera. Although I was only 3 years old, she was convinced that my insistent hand raising a refusal to sit still were signs that I was malicious. Instead of simply under stimulated, that experience set the tone for the rest of my schooling. Disruptive, talkative and distraction were used almost as often as my name. It meant being paddled a lot, calls home to my mother in isolation from other students as punishment by high school. I stopped participating almost completely. It was easier to focus on boys than to be misunderstood in the classroom. So this is a phenomenon that is beginning to be referred to commonly as adults vacation. So adults vacation, right. The idea that we’re looking at children as being older than they are, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty, any inequality released research that found that, quote, adults view black girls as less innocent and more adult like than their white peers, especially in the age range of five to 14.
S9: And a quote they see.
S23: I want to talk about your observations and your experiences with adult application, particularly as the mother of a black girl. There’s been a lot of public conversation, I think, about the crisis in educational spaces with black boys. Right. And race suspensions and the school to prison pipeline of black girls are so often left out of that conversation, despite the fact that they are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race. And most boys having to go up against these negative stereotypes about black women and girls oftentimes finds our little ones being treated like they’re full grown women. No, the angry black woman stereotype, the hypersexualized stereotype. It’s not something that visits you when you become a Grown-Up. It’s something that our little girls are experiencing, right?
S12: Absolutely. And I start worrying about that. I mean, Zuri just turned eight. So I’m beginning to pay attention. Last year we had a 9 year old friend, almost 10 visit us. And as I was moving through the world with both her and Zuri, I just saw quite clearly how people were treating this 9 year old as if she were maybe fifteen or sixteen in the way that they were talking to her, looking at her or talking about her. I mean, and people of all races, I experience that walking with her through the summer in her shorts and t shirt with girls than we have, you know, like a remarkable sexualization that happens really quickly. And that can become very dangerous because it’s a whole other can of worms.
S13: When you start looking at a girl as an adult way before you should like, then the danger is that she faces and particularly as a black girl, become astronomical and ridiculous. And we can’t figure out how to manage them for Zuri also because she’s articulate and she’s kind of smart and she can say things that people think, oh, my goodness, she’s such an old soul.
S12: You know, I get very, very, very uncomfortable when people start talking about her as if, you know, she’s gonna do this. And she’s oh, she’s so beautiful. Like all the boys are going to do this or, you know, she’s gonna break hearts or, you know, you’re gonna have to get a gun in a year or two. I mean, just you know, they say this kind of like in jest.
S13: But underneath there’s this very kind of crazy energy that I know, you know, in the blink of an eye will turn into like a serious danger zone. And I don’t know if I quite know how to manage it myself, but I know that I have to give her the tools in order to manage it.
S9: When she is walking through the world, making the decision about where we would say 9:00 a.m. to school was incredibly difficult. And I insisted upon her going to a high performing black public school. You know, I was not ready for her to be the only or one of the only black girls in her classroom for any number of reasons. And high among them are the number of adults that are engaging with our children that go back to the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequalities Research, which we have here on the show, Page 3 to check out.
S23: The survey found that black girls are believed to be less in need of nurturing, protection, support and comfort. Right. That they think of them as being more inherently independent and more knowledgeable about adult topics. And so it’s the who is raising an adult, right?
S9: I still am hyper aware that she needs to be treated as a little girl and engaged as a little girl. Stacey, I’m going to bring Dan in for a second and I’m get back to you.
S16: I was very familiar with a phenomenon that, Suzanne, you were talking about. You know, about the sort of hypersexualization and context outside of school that happens particularly with young black girls. But it was totally news to me. Unfortunately for me. Which shows how little I’ve been paying attention. That the way that this problem manifests itself in schools. And so something that I’m totally curious about in YouTube may not know the answer at all. And if our listeners know the answer, I would love to know. I want to know how education programs are dealing with this. Like if you are in school right now, if you’re getting your ed degree in 2020. Is anyone presenting this data to you? Is this a topic of conversation? These classes more broadly, is bias and racial inequity covered or treated in these kinds of programs? Or is that just something that that like young teachers have to sort of learn or never learn as they enter these professions?
S12: I think that there are very few places that are talking race at all. And this phenomenon that we’re talking about, what happens to black boys and particularly in this moment, we’re talking about what happens with black girls. It’s really a part of a larger issue. And every single time you’re talking about a smaller subsection of the problem of racism, you know, then we’re trying to figure out how to solve it or how to deal with it.
S11: And really, the answer is we have to deal with the larger problem of racism or of of, you know, a systemic racist system. You know, that racist, you know, construct that we all live under.
S24: There are, you know, higher education programs for teachers that are being sent out into as well where they’re being given, I think, the sort of training you want them to have around bias and around the ways that black girls in particular engage. That’s not the majority of programs.
S25: But there’s so much great information out there that can help, you know, teachers and parents like. And that includes not just parent, you know, Jamie Lynn and have our little black girls every day. Right. So even if we’re not experts on these things, we have had these experiences ourselves. It’s the parents of the other kids in school. Right. Because it’s not just teachers. It’s not just law enforcement agents that are engaging the black girls this way. Is the other mom on the playground? Right. It’s the other dad. It’s the folks who do not have black girl children in their family. To point to and to say that they truly recognize their humanity, we need to take time to educate themselves about these issues. I would recommend Monique Morrises pushed out the criminalization of black girls in schools. We’ve got a link to it on the show page. It’s a brilliant book. It really makes very plain how this phenomena of adults application shows up for our girls in schools and how so many of our young girls are doing. As the author of The New York Times piece did. And just simply checking out. And if you don’t have a long record of suspensions and expulsions, which absolutely is a consequence of adults buying our little girls. But if you had a girl would just sit quietly and doesn’t cause a stir. It’s very easy for black girls to be lost in school. Right.
S1: There is a whole nother kind of damage, but it’s damage nonetheless damaged nonetheless.
S25: And that could be the consequence of being made to feel that being inquisitive, being excited. Right. Phrases that could lead to another child being lifted is gifted or talented for us so often is. You know, disruptive and distracting, so I would surely ask that folks who are interested in learning more about this take the time to read it out and just question, you know, the things that you think of when you see little black girls. Why are they so oftentimes thought of as as fast? The Emboss, the endlich, my daughter. Is this the embassy? Right. And that doesn’t mean that that’s necessarily have been, I think, or a little black girl to be. But what kind of accommodations do I make around this? Bassinets embossed in it? You know, I’m I’m calling her that her age. Am I treating her like a little Grown-Up? Just because she can put her hand on her head? I won’t get a whole lot of other people. Will you have a final thought, even if you’re in that staceyann?
S12: I’ll just fold in my recommendation because it’s the same point. There’s a book called ADA Twist Scientist. It’s a little black girl. And it’s a very wonderful kind of poetic representation of this kid who is like a little bit saucy, a little bit, you know, spicy, a little bit disrupting the world because she’s so curious about everything. And eventually she becomes this wonderful scientist is wonderful. You know, older woman who becomes this amazing scientist. That’s a great book. And I think it’s all about making sure your kid knows that she has a right to ask questions. She has the right to disrupt. And for you to support her in that when she ask the questions, when she disrupts, that your response isn’t always just to quiet her or to make her feel as if she’s in trouble, but to sit and really ask her, why were you disruptive? Why were you asking a question just to kind of go beyond your initial, like response of can you just not disrupt that book is a great recommendation.
S1: That’s a fantastic book.
S25: Absolutely. We’re also very big fans of that book in our household as well. And I just quickly add the blandness that go to and that the ways that when black girls are treated as little adults, they’re treated as little black female adults. So it’s not that we’re treated well. Right. Is that they’re getting all the rights and privileges that come with black woman. In fact, we are treated quite harshly and we don’t want to see it on our girls or early in life. But it’s an experience that we don’t want to have ourselves, of course. Right. And so by getting everyone to think about how they engage with black women, how they speak to black women, especially, you know, what a Facebook group does leave that there and how you you know, how you address your critiques of us. How do you respond as when we’ve disappointed you, when we’ve made a mistake?
S12: You know, is it respectful that our children we have these very specific recommendations about like how you treat specifically black women or how you treat black girls if you’re not actively every moment, every day dealing with the the context of this systemic racist system, the racist construct under which we live. Then you can’t be deconstructing it. And so you have to ask yourself all those questions you were just positing. You have to ask yourself, how am I treating this black woman? Well. Am I listening to this black girl? You have to be interrogating race all the time, especially when you are dealing with black people. But particularly when you’re dealing with black women. And remarkably so. You need to be very intent full. You need to be very conscious when you’re dealing with a little black girl because she’s wearing so much of what we put on her, of what we put on the black race. Lots of girls are in a lot of ways now encouraged to to behave well, to sit quietly, because, you know, you don’t want to be thought of as troublesome. And so those of us who want our children to do well, we want them to be liked. We you know, the politics of respectability, we tell them, just try not to do this. And this is the gateway to the silence around the metoo movement and particularly around the the black women who have been there’s been no space for the black stories to come out the way that there have been stories pouring out about white women. And this is a part of that larger problem, because you don’t encourage black girls to take up space, to speak out loud, to challenge authority, to redirect the narrative that doesn’t feel like the one she’s experiencing. And you have to start from as young as you can. I mean, when my kid was 2, I told her, you have to tell people my elbow is my elbow. My hair is my hair. It’s not just about her vagina. It’s not just about her body. It’s not just about the parts of her that we know that are supposedly sexualized about her hair. Don’t touch her hair unless you have permission and you have a closeness that has earned the right to touch her hair. Do not touch the little black girl’s hair because it’s different from your kids or because it’s natural or because it’s permed or because these braids like. Don’t touch her body without permission, ever.
S24: Amber, thank you so much, letter writer, for sharing that article with us. And listeners, we’re going to link research from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and some additional articles in the show. Page knows if you’re interested in learning more. So, Stacy, your recommendation was it it’s with scientist. What’s your recommendation for the week?
S16: My recommendation is a comic called The New Kid by Jerry Kraft. It’s the first comic ever to win the Newbery Medal, which is the biggest award there is for children’s literature. And it’s long overdue that a comic wins that award, but it’s really good. It’s a charming book for middle grade readers. It’s about a kid who lives in Washington Heights and gets sent to a fancy, mostly white private school in Riverdale High and about his experiences there dealing with the population, the rich and white population there. When he is neither. The book is full of pop culture references, is full of funny observations I think would be really good for reluctant readers, maybe around age 9 or 10, especially boys who maybe at this point should be moving past Captain Underpants but haven’t yet. But it’s called New Kid. That’s by Jerry Craft. It just won the Newbery last week and it’s great.
S24: And so my recommendation for the week keeps up with the conversation that we just had. It’s the state of black girls. A go to guy for creating safe spaces for Black Girls by Marleen Friends, White Men, who is a licensed social worker who has been doing a really great job with elevating conversations about black girlhood and mental health line. And if you are someone who works with black girls, who has black girls in your community, this is a book that is filled with self-care tips and affirmations in ways to help them just establish goals. And I think really empowers both the young women in your lives and any adults who may be reading it to be supportive. And I feel that even if you are not working directly with black girls, when we talk about the empathy and support that we are so often lacking and think that you can buy tips and tools, that’ll be helpful for raising any young people, particularly young girls in the pages of this book. So links to that on this show page as well. That’s our show.
S26: Thank you so much for joining us. And thank you, Stacey, and for being here with us. If you have a question that you would like to here on the show. Dear listener, please leave us a message of 44 2 5 5 7 8 3 3. Or send us an email at mom and dad at Slate. And don’t forget to join us on Facebook. Goodnight. Mom and dad are fighting is produced by Rosemary Poulson and for Dan for a Dan Place and Staceyann. I’m Jamilah Lemieux.
S24: Paisley plus listeners. This week we have a bonus listener question from you.
S21: Dear mom and dad. We hear a lot about the value of diversity in schools. My husband and I are firm believers in it, but our local school isn’t diverse. Our son, who will start kindergarten next year, would be literally the only white kid in the school of 200 students. Five percent are Hispanic. Ninety five percent are black. I’ve read a lot about what it’s like to be the only child of color among a sea of white faces. But I’ve struggled to find even one account of the opposite scenario. Parents are rightfully allowed to be apprehensive about sending their black son to an entirely white school. Am I equally allowed to be concerned about what my white son’s experience is going to be? Are there any resources out there about this? Thanks. Inner city white mom.
S24: I’m sure we all have a lot of feelings about this. I’m gonna go first. I’m going to take those privileges week and just very quickly say I’m going to buttercup this.
S25: Welcome to the world for a whole lot of black and brown people in this country. Your child will be fine. This will probably be an enriching experience for him in ways that he will not necessarily be able to pour into the lives of the children around him. He will learn some important truths about the history and culture of the people in the community that I’m assuming that you are relocated to talk to him about the importance of treating people and their practices and their space with respect. And everyone will be fine. He will survive being a minority. Ask me how I know. What do you think? Alex there with you, Staceyann.
S12: I think. Can I just say that you are the first wave of gentrification, my good parent, so soon? I mean, I’m, you know, bitter party of one over here in Brooklyn being, you know, pushed out of my neighborhood by more and more and more of you coming to places where it’s been brown anyways. So I’m just saying like bitter comment here. Just hang tight. Otherwise people will be there shortly. And too. I’m just going to second everything Jamelia just said and just said, you’re your kid will be fine. Your kids will learn shit that they wouldn’t learn in other situations. And, you know, I don’t even know what I have to say. There’s really I mean, can I just say that I don’t even think I want to answer too much of this is like really like go read a book, you know, join well read Black Girl and like, you know, have your kid read some of those books and then he’ll be fine.
S27: This question was interesting to me because I do think that this mom’s heart is in the right place for most of this question. But then there’s one sentence out that I think really set all three of us off. Right. Which is if parents are rightly allowed to be apprehensive about sending their black son to a white school and my equally allowed to be concerned about what my white son’s experience is going to be, which seems to me like just the wrong way to think about this situation. It’s not a question of who is allowed to be apprehensive and framing it that way. I think does a disservice to every child of color who ends up going to a mostly white school. And to your own child, what I think you should be thinking about instead is the role that you and your child should be playing in this school as part of this school community, how you can be good members of the school community and how by being part of this community, you can at least do a little to maybe undercut the the power that the gentrification that you probably represent a staceyann notes to instead be at least a little bit part of the community as opposed to the outsider who views herself as an outsider and who won’t stop viewing herself as an outsider and tell the community changes so much that you no longer do. And so sending your child to the school is clearly the right thing to do. I would just not worry about it that much. I would prepare your child for school as all children are prepared for school by talking to them about how to respect the children around them, how to respect the teachers in that school, how to be a good citizen of that school. And and yes, as Staceyann and available say, like on top of everything else, your kid is going to have an incredibly enriching experience that I would think as a potentially ambitious mom of a boy who you have big dreams for will help make him a much better person down the road. And I think viewing this through the frame of whether I have the right to be apprehensive is just setting yourself up to then every single day at this school and in this community, position yourself outside that community, even as you presumably want to become part of it.
S12: And don’t forget that no matter how many black people are in the room, the power dynamics don’t change systemically. Just don’t forget that like you, you walk into the room and there are lots of black people and you’re a white person.
S13: The power dynamic might seem like it’s changing because you’re outnumbered, but the system still takes care of you and the system still is definitely.
S1: Take care of your son.
S13: Yes. You don’t have to worry about him so much. You know, just worry about what you can do to make. As you know, Dan said the space better because your presence, you know, could do some good if you looked at it that way.
S28: Absolutely. In inner city white mom, I just want to add one thing. I challenge you. I plead with you to make it through the entire school year without crying publicly. Do not cry at the PTA meeting. Don’t cry. I mean, God forbid if something terrible happens, then there’s a reason for tears. But I mean, when you are confronted with what makes you uncomfortable about this change in your community and your child being in the school community, please do not be the ones who shed tears. It’s always the white woman. It’s always the white woman. And it is not going to endear any went to you in that school building or set a good example for your son. You have to go cry about it. Go to the bathroom and cry it out to yourself before the tears start.
S11: Google white fragility. Yes, please.
S28: In fact, before the school year starts, let’s get to you Googling white fragility. And that’s it for this week’s Slate Plus segment. Thank you so much. Day CNN on behalf of myself and Dan.. Until next time.