S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership,
S2: the following podcast contains explicit language. Welcome to Mom and Dad Uprighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, August 5th, the Self-Expression ish edition. I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer contributor to Slate’s competing parenting column, and mom to Nyima, who is eight. And we live in Los Angeles, California.
S3: I’m Elizabeth, New Camp. I write the Home School and Family Travel Blog, Dutch excuse, and I’m the mom to three little Henry who’s nine, Oliver who’s seven, and Teddy who’s four. And we live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
S4: And I’m Courtney Martin and I grew up in Colorado Springs. Twitchers. I’m just so excited for the Sea Springs connection does not happen very often. I’m the author of a Substack newsletter called Examine Family and a new book called Learning in Public. I’m a mom to my other seven and Stella, who is five, and we live in Oakland, California.
S3: And Courtney, I’m sorry, I notice that we actually both have cargo bikes, too. You wrote about it, I think in your the nationwide mom is in our car bikes.
S4: It’s a thing. Yeah, it is the thing.
S2: And somewhere Jamilah
S3: has a cool car, there’s a
S2: black man driving behind them, terrified for your lives, praying for your children,
S4: get your child
S2: out of the street. I appreciate them in spirit, but as the Lizabeth and listening to the show, no, I’m afraid of everything. And cargo bikes are definitely high on the list of fears. But nevertheless, glad to have you. Thank you so much for joining us.
S4: Thank you. Thanks for
S2: having me. So on today’s show, we’ll be answering your question for a parent whose child will be attending a new school this year, one that requires uniforms. How does she encourage Self-Expression while still helping her to adjust to this new uniform? And then our guest host, Courtney Martin, will be leading us into a discussion about her new book, Learning and Public Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter’s School on Slate. Plus, we’ll be talking about when we should teach our kids about sex. According to researchers, the answer is probably a lot sooner than you think. But first, as always, we’re going to kick off the show, I should say, is almost always because we didn’t do this last week. We’re going to kick off the show today with triumphs and fails. Let’s start with you, Elizabeth. Do you have a triumph or fail for us?
S3: I am claiming a triumph, you know, out of a classic kind of failure. But I’m claiming it at the time. We sort of overextended ourselves this weekend as we are want to do here. So we are hosting a Air Force Academy cadet from France. So like essentially I have added a 25 year old male to my already testosterone heavy brood here. And then I decided that we would go camping in the mountains at this like lovely. It’s like a 1950s property that sort of resembles a Kayoko. You can camp there and you can do all this stuff. But like, all the stuff was very clearly built, like in the 50s. And the sports courts are like overgrown, but it gives it like this charm. It’s like nestled in a valley while the cadet had stuff on Friday and the campground is like two and a half hours away. And we were going with another family. So I convinced the other mother, my lovely best friend here, who also has three kids, that her and I would drive the two minivans up with all six kids and the two of us and the five tents that we needed to set up because we have a kitchen tent. We had it was supposed to rain on weekend like a tent to play in, and that the two of us would set up the five times while supervising the six children.
S4: And I am already so. Yes.
S3: And the boys and the boys. The two dads. And then our cadet would drive up together like in a in a separate car when they were done with work. So that so that we weren’t like arriving at the campground in the evening trying to cook dinner. You know, all of this. We also did ask them to pick up dinner on the way. Well, we get there and there’s like looming clouds and it’s thundering. And normally I’m pretty light collected in situations like this. But one, I’m not really like the tent expert. And then the thunder is like making me so nervous. And, you know, last time when I was camping, all of our got sucked into the the sinkhole, the mud, the quicksand. So I’m like I’m like screaming at everyone to stay close. And I end up like giving the two nine year olds the like mallets and the stakes to, like, stake out all the tents. The point is we got everything up by the time the boys showed up. They were so late, though, that we actually had to feed the kids. In addition to all of this, I did decide that the real failure was not starting to drink earlier in the process. I think that would have helped. We didn’t, like, crack open any of the wine or anything we brought until we were putting up the kitchen tent. And I think had we done it earlier, it may have been a more relaxed experience. But then that night it’s like pour like heavy pouring rain. So much so that Jeff goes out and like checks how far we are from the creek because he’s afraid that we’re going to be like swept away in a flash flood. And I’m like our. Not little are huge. Twenty five year old male cadet is in this little tent next to us and I’m just like, Alex, are you staying dry like I am the mom? He does not want, you know, like we’re just he’s like he’s like, yes, I am good. I’m like, are you sure what’s going on? I’m sorry. It’s just like we re alone. But I was so nervous. I had like done the tests wrong, but I feel like great about the experience. I’m like, you know what, I can do this. I can put up a bunch of tents that come with zero instructions that I’ve never really done before. And we all stay dry and we all had a nice time and I only screamed at the kids like a half dozen times. So, you know, I’m taking it as a win.
S2: That is a tremendous win. And your ability to put together these experiences and keep it together as they seemingly crumble around you, but yet don’t is unparalleled.
S4: Amazing. I am so impressed and so uninterested in camping at this particular moment after hearing that.
S2: Absolutely not.
S3: No, I do not recommend volunteering to put up the tents. I just cannot recommend
S2: I need a tent that’s already there. Like a cabin. Yeah.
S3: Yes. Well I, I think so. In Europe. That’s how you camp. Do you showed up in the tent was already up. So I, I think the French cadet was quite shocked when he showed up and realized that I had put up the tents. I don’t want to undersell either. My friend helped.
S4: I can’t believe there’s one more thing the Europeans do better than us.
S3: There’s like so many of them.
S4: And also they have the tents put up and
S3: yeah, like, yeah, just hold in reserve and they put up the tent and the whole camping. It was paid family
S4: leave and tents already packed up. Just like what? Why do they get all the good stuff.
S2: It’s so tempting to like look at Europe. It’s just like the epicenter of all the bad things and the racism. But like I have to remind myself that like America is the castaways, like they got the sophistication, the technology.
S4: We got to put up our own tents like real castaways.
S3: That’s right.
S2: It’s very sad. Courtney, what about you? Do you have a triumph or fail? This is your debut. This is somebody, Yashar.
S4: My debut. Mine’s a mix, which I’m guessing most of these things are right. You always have to find both. My five year old turned five last week. But the the failure is somehow we kind of let it get away from us that the whole month became her birthday month. And I think it was like a mix of. Post ish covid trying to give the kids the thing they didn’t have last summer vibe where where we were like she basically didn’t get to have a birthday last year, a party. So we were like, OK, like you can have a birthday party with my parents and you can have a birthday party with John, my husband’s parents. And then you can have like a party at your school. And so it just one of these like making up for like the shittiest year ever with way too many parties. All of them are incredibly small scale and mostly handled by all of these other people, which is a triumph like all the grandparents in the schools and all the things. So that was a triumph that I basically like mostly got out of the work of all of these birthday parties, including, by the way, my older daughter is obsessed with wrapping presents, so she wrapped every single present horribly. Like I can’t even tell you how bad, like Christmas paper, like multi different kinds of Christmas paper on a box, like barely wrapped up. And I was like, this is perfect. This is like a great shopping job. Yes. You can do all of them. So I got rid of most of the labor, but it was just way too much. And by the end, my older daughter was about to, like, stab her sister in the sleep because she just had gotten like so much attention and so many toys and just like just too much, it was just too much.
S3: Are you concerned that you’ve now set a dangerous precedent?
S4: Yes. What an idiot I am. Like what? Yeah, definitely a bad precedent. Like what happens in November when it’s my birthday month and she’s like, where are my five cakes? And I’m just gonna be like, wow, the covid thing is out of like out of my consciousness now. Like, we’re all just getting your one little party. I do live in a cohousing community, so that’s really helpful because you basically like invite one other family and you’re like, this is a party because they’re a bunch of other people, like all these aunties and uncles. Yeah. So so, again, quickly resolve.
S2: What’s the cohousing community,
S4: a cohousing community is like. I mean, it varies. Ours is a piece of land in the middle of Oakland where there are nine units that have everything any typical individual home would have. But we also have a shared like industrial sized kitchen and eating area, shared garden, shared toolshed. And we in non covid times we eat twice a week together. In covid times we didn’t eat it all together. And now and these like covid ish times were like potluck once a week together. And it’s intergenerational. So it’s like the oldest member is an eighty three year old single woman and the youngest member is like, you know, turning three actually on Thursday and everybody in between.
S3: This is like my dream, except I also want like some kind of shared craft shed.
S4: We would be into that. That would be really fun. I’m mostly the craft shed. My house is like the craft shed because I’m just like artsy and have a lot of yeah,
S3: I like to like do all this stuff. But, you know, it’s like you sometimes there’s stuff that you don’t need for everything. It’s like you just want to use it once. But someone else probably wants to use it once to.
S4: Exactly. We got one grill, one moer, like we share laundry so we share a washer and dryer. But otherwise, you know, we all have our own individual right every other night of the week, you know, we do our own thing.
S2: I’ve always been curious about this way of living and like intentional community building, which seems like increasingly necessary and I mean just professionally valuable. Like one thing about the United States and I’ll admit, I’m definitely somebody who was like, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do that. In other parts of the world, people live with their parents. Right. It is a thing that you do like. You live with your sister who you know, like and just the way that people are able to take care of one another that we’re not able to do because we’re socialized to live alone or only with our partner or children. I think that’s
S4: one. Speaking of parenting, like it’s the big triumph is that it takes a lot of the load off of parenting, not because, like, we’re all literally taking care of each other’s kids all the time, although we do we do really throw in for each other in lots of ways, but also because you just don’t feel like you have to be the perfect parent, because there’s so many people with so many skills and temperaments that your kid is getting. So it’s like I’m just one version of being like an adult human in the world. If this doesn’t work for you, man, still out there are a bunch of other versions that you get to be around all the time, like aunties with totally different personalities and interests and like go over to their house to, like, learn how to put on makeup because I’m going to totally fail you in that front, which I think people do with friends, of course. But it’s like I think it’s more effort. You have to be more intentional about it if you don’t live in a community like this, because it’s just it’s like something that was created once, twenty years ago. And that was a hard lift. But now it just perpetually lives on us. This way. We we run into each other in the courtyard and, you know, give each other advice about diaper cream or like, you know, be like, oh, I have extra milk and like, we’re going out of town. Do you want it? And just these, like, little things that help us live independently.
S2: I know this is what you came to talk about, but this is just so inspiring and interesting. This just sounds
S3: amazing. Let us know when it’s over.
S4: It’s me. I mean, it’s not perfect. We also have a really hard shake go on and all the things and and it’s like there is like a national cohousing movement, again, something that Europeans do far more widely than we do here in America. But there is a national cohousing movement. It’s like preposterously white. And, you know, in terms of like the economics of it, like it’s really hard to find a piece of land together to get the financing and the financial structures for it still don’t really exist. Like this is not how obviously American capitalism thinks about real estate. So you have like a group of people who are like, we want to own something together and are like we have no preference for this. Yeah, yeah. So, you know, my big call to, like, the cohousing movement, as it were, is just like we have to think about access and racial diversity in addition to all these other diversities like religious diversity and other things that people have talked about throughout the recent times of the movement
S2: and class diversity, too, you know, I mean, part of the value of having different people come together is the way that you’re able to you know, that you’re able to interact with people with whom you wouldn’t otherwise know. And if everybody is from the same background, you know, with that regard, it seems like there’s something lost there. Also, some of those organizations and wealthy folks that have been writing those guilt checks since George Floyd was killed consider investing into cohousing and making it available to people of color, another in populations who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. Well, Courtney, thank you so much for sharing this information with us and your experiences of cohousing. Super, super fascinating. And we’re going to have a lot more fascinating conversation with you to come. But first, I have a triumph, which is an extension of our, I guess, connected to the recommendation that I made last week about having some time away for yourself, which I got to experience via covid. So I, as I mentioned last week, had covid and I had to quarantine until last week and I tested negative. I’m feeling better. And as I mentioned, this had been a very productive and peaceful time for me and a lot of ways and as much as I miss my daughter and as difficult as it was for us to be apart, once I accepted that that was just what had to happen, I was able to have, I think, a breather, not necessarily from her, but from all the other obligations and expectations that just make motherhood and everything else more difficult, not having those to worry about at all. Like I was anxious and worried about Nyima and being away from her, but everything else I could give a fuck, you know, and so like to only essentially only have her and I to think about. And also not having her immediate care to manage was I exhaled. Right. But what ended up happening that I was not prepared for it was that toward the end of my quarantine she had to quarantine and we were on different schedules. So she does not come out of quarantine until the day after we record this, which means that when you hear this, we will have been reunited. But while I’m recording this, I have not seen Nyima since July 19th. You know, we’ve had maybe two weeks apart in the past, maybe like exactly two weeks to the day, but never under these circumstances, you know, especially not like us being in the same city. And I could just go get her in theory. Right. And so I had to make a decision. And this is what I’m counting as a triumph that I could either get her during the quarantine or she could stay at her dad’s house. And for safety reasons, we thought about it. I think her dad and step mom were already convinced that this was the right decision. And then I came around to it once. A friend of mine got in my ear and was like, you know, you have to think about your neighbors. You have to think about her, the neighbors at their house. And like, you do not want to be the reason that this thing is spreading. Like you don’t want her to be exposed. Like essentially the decision was made that she was going to stay there and so that we were going to be away from each other as opposed to just 10 to 14 days, but rather as opposed to being away from each other for ten days or until my quarantine was over, that we would be apart for a really long time. And it has sucked in a lot of ways. You know, again, like I was preparing to come out. So I had a time like, OK, and I was coming back on this day and we’re going to do this and like and then it didn’t happen. I had to say, OK, like, it’s in everybody’s best interest and my daughter’s not with me. And I guess I’m calling that the Triumph because it was a really hard decision, like because I miss her, because I feel guilty about being separated from her, even though it was for this very serious reason, because I feel guilty for getting covid, which may or may be a way for my daughter. Like, just all the reasons, but like I knows the right thing to do, you know, and I really knows the right thing to do when even my mom agreed, as opposed to that usual, like pause and her voice, she does or I make mention to any additional time that my daughter spinning away from me because bless her heart, she’s still just like 50 50 custody. You are a mad woman. You know, like it’s the unspoken. It’s it’s not even the unspoken thing between my mom and I. It’s me in the world. Right. Like, that’s how I feel. Like I no one has ever said anything to me. No one has ever looked at me. Yeah. My mom did look at me crazy when it first happened. But I know so much of it is me feeling bad for not being the one hundred percent mom, you know, like for not being the full time mom, even though like circumstantially, we’re not there, we’re not together. We’ve agreed to cooperate. That means that at least some of her time is going to be elsewhere. Right. You know, like we did less than fifty and once her father proposed fifty, I agree that that was fair, you know, and it made sense. And it’s worked thus far. But, like, there’s always that little bit of guilt about that. So now it was like not only do you routinely not have your baby, now you have to not have your baby during this time where she’s stuck in the house. And she said and she’s bored. So I’m giving myself a triumph for that just because it was a very hard thing to do. And I very easily could have done what would have been very selfish, what might have put her and other people at risk and transported her and brought her over here. But I didn’t. And maybe I shouldn’t give myself any credit for doing what was like an obvious right thing to do. But I’m reminded that in the pursuit of being a good mom, like doing the obvious right thing doesn’t always feel like the obvious right thing.
S4: Well, I also think your triumph is that you have recognized that the part of the challenge of making the right decision was about something much deeper than this moment and covid and quarantine, which like feels like the really enlightened parenting move here is that like you are being self reflective and being like this is tapping into a bigger thing for me that I deal with all the time. That seems like a huge triumph, right?
S2: Absolutely. Thank you.
S3: I think modeling all of this to Nyima is such a good triumph. And and because in so many ways what you did is teach her, like as a parent, we have to make hard choices in which I don’t always get to put my needs first. And in this case, like, I didn’t even necessarily put your needs first. Right. Like we put the community needs because you are in a safe place where you are safe. And I put trust in my CO parents and, you know, this is the best thing for us. But also, I think just showing her like that, sometimes life throws these things that we don’t want. You know, hey, we were planning for this reunification and this other thing happened like this is just how this turned out. I can so relate, though, to to those feelings, because I think I mean, we talk about this a lot like that, mom guilt about everything and just about like, how am I not enough? And I agree with Courtney that it’s it’s like amazing how self reflective you can be to say, like, how much of that is us and how much of that, you know, is actually there. But I, I think it’s a huge triumph. You have made the best out of a really unfair and terrible situation because you’re vaccinated and you’ve done everything like how many sacrifices have you made during this pandemic? Right. And you never thought in that that if you had to be quarantined, it would be with you and Nyima in separate places. That sucks. That totally sucks. And also, like you said, there are elements of it that don’t suck.
S2: Also the elements that did not suck. And I feel so guilty and you should not
S3: feel guilty about that, which is
S4: also true of the fifty percent parenting thing. Right. Is like that is like a Medda reflection of that where like it sucks and it doesn’t suck in some ways because you but you feel guilty that agency and like self development then like Elizabeth and I do, who have our kids, theoretically a hundred percent. I don’t, you know, like are we actually there. I know. But, you know, like I just think it’s so mad at the whole thing.
S2: It really is. It’s been just an interesting it’s been an interesting journey. And, you know, and I’ve communicated a lot of this to her and, you know, not necessarily about my anxiety or whatever, but just like Elizabeth was saying, that sometimes we have to make difficult decisions and like, does it don’t think that because it’s not what you wanted, that it was what I wanted, you know, like or that because I was involved in the decision that like that I’m happy you’re OK with this, right?
S3: Yeah. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?
S2: Absolutely. And so she’s
S3: smart about something. And then then you’ll be like, wait a minute. Right. I can’t wait to hear about your reunification like I know all of this has. And like you said, has ups and downs, but I feel like it’s going to be so nice, like by the time people are listening to this, hopefully you guys have had a wonderful twenty four hours of being back together.
S2: Thank you. I hope so, too. Pray for
S3: us. I will say
S2: that I am very optimistic. All right. On to our question being read, as always, by the lovely Shasha Lanard.
S5: Hi, mom and dad, my daughter will be attending kindergarten this fall and the school has uniforms, I’ve never had to wear a uniform, so this is sort of new for all of us. Can anyone give us tips on how to navigate this and still encourage Self-Expression? We are trying to prepare her now so that it’s not as jarring when classes start in a couple of weeks. Also, why does school start so early?
S2: Oh my gosh. I know this is a very exciting topic for me because we’ve only had uniforms the entire time. Name has been in school since she was two. I’m really curious to hear what you all have to say and how you all have helped your kids remix their uniforms. Courtney, let’s start with you. Have you done this opposite?
S4: No, we’ve never had uniforms either. I have not growing up, nor has my kid. But I did just want to offer one little thing, which is my seven year old, who’s just like an artistic weirdo in the best possible way, has started sewing little buttons onto really weird places on her shirts lately. So I’ll grab a shirt and they’ll just be like this one button that was like in something my grandmother passed on to me that is all this sudden on the shirt. And she’s like teeny tiny pockets, which are like very impractical. There’s like nothing to do with these pockets. But they’re like she’s got a great sense of style, like they’ll be like a really cool material and stuff. I don’t know how far you can go with uniforms like are you allowed to sew on teeny tiny pockets? I don’t know. But the button thing is very random, but very cute and just like her own little flair. So I wondered if maybe that could be adapted. But I’d love to hear from you guys because I think you have way more experience than I do.
S3: I grew up wearing uniforms like I went to Catholic school until high school and so we had uniforms. And I just remember, like the opportunity to be expressive, like on our backpacks and our lunch boxes and our folders. And I think there’s so much more stuff, like you said, with the buttons, if you can’t see them on to your uniform, you can probably throw them on to your bag or your coat or some kind of accessory. And just like I know, using Sharpie or duct tape and attaching key chains, like, I think there are these other ways at our school, we had a small choice of tops in terms of color. So that was a little bit. But definitely like you could do most anything with, like your hair and your hair, bow and socks, especially as we got older. I feel like crazy socks were the thing, like just to do lots of those. But I, I actually really enjoyed the uniform. And of course my husband still works uniform every day, but I liked the idea of just like I get up and I know what to put on and maybe that’s like the practical side of me. And you of course have weekends and other events. And I know like seventh, eighth and ninth grade, like once we got out of school, like as soon as the school bell rang, you know, we would turn our little jumpers into skirts like that kind of stuff, feeling like there were still opportunities for that expression. But like it made the morning so easy. Right. You just get up. We I had this terrible plaid jumper and this little white shirt with a Peter Pan collar. I mean, it was no fashion, Xavier, but it was like you just put on the same thing every day. It was great.
S2: So to start with your second question, I don’t know why school starts so early. It’s ridiculous. I like walk. I went to Target the other day for the first time in a while. And like all the back to school stuff, like right when you walk in with so PTSD triggering for me because like I remember when I was a kid and I’ve talked about this on the show, getting so upset at Walgreens, having their back to school stuff out in July that I wrote a letter to corporate because kids were just trying to explain. We were just trying to have fun and enjoy our summer without thinking about back to school, because that’s how much I hated going back to school. And like, I feel you, it’s too soon. But kindergarten, you know,
S4: I am so into that letter, like, do you still know where it is? And could you read it? I wish yes. I think that is like the best I wish.
S2: And that’s why I’m such an archivist of my daughter’s stuff. Like, I may not have it well organized with then. And I keep it because, like, I wish that I had like I have stuff. I think just all the stuff I have is going back to high school. But I wish I had that letter like I typed it. And my mom’s job, she was a secretary for some reason. I was with her at work instead of at camp or wherever I was that summer. And I was on the old school computer with my very little you know, I
S4: love that little girl typing nothing. And can you imagine, like, the corporate person who opened it was just like this is. I know. Like, what did they do?
S2: I don’t know. We had no response. So I also have to, like, wonder, did my mother ever mail it? I had to check in with her about it because I was very serious about that letter. But I don’t remember it. I don’t know if I would have had a lot of follow through at that point because I had to have been like seven or eight. So just old enough to be outraged, but maybe not to, like, follow up and make sure to,
S3: like, follow through. Yeah. Plus without really the Internet like following through. Yeah. It wasn’t like you could just continue to send
S2: email exactly as, like who exactly am I. Am I calling the Walgreen company. Like the time I called Jenny Craig and they said, you’re a little girl, they’re like you, I’m sorry, you have to be over 18. And I was like, what kind of technology do they have? How do they know? Like, I thought they had to. I mean, they must have thought they were the people whose names live in the house come up because how could they have known that I wasn’t my mother or an adult, you know? So that would have been the Walgreens people like me somehow being able to tell I was a child. But anyway, so I love that I only wore uniforms myself for one year. It was my eighth grade year. I could not have been. We were so pissed off, like after seven years thinking that now we’re the big kids. We can wear what we want, do what we want. We run the school. We had to everyone had to wear uniforms. The way I coped with that, I just I think we just we also had to wear Hunter Green Green end up becoming my favorite color. But at the time it was like we had Hunter Green and our excellent color was like gold. So we couldn’t even do the like black and white, blue and white, blue and blue thing that everyone else did. So it was very hard to find clothes at your kindergarten girl. This is, you know, regardless of how she chooses to present or adorn herself, like there are so many options here. One, unless it’s some super difficult to find color like Hunter Green, I would imagine the uniforms are probably dark blue, black, some sort of neutral. You can find pieces in those colors easily. Go online, check all your kid’s stores and your target or wherever you shop for clothes, check eBay, check Mercouri and find stuff that goes outside of the traditional kind of Deqi pant, you know, jumper. Look, if you want to see my soon to be third grader has worn uniforms at every school that she’s been at from preschool on. So maybe I’ll post some pictures in the Facebook group because my work in styling her uniforms when she was in preschool is like just some of the best work that I’ve done on this planet. She was a fashion plate and most of these things were just items from the French toast line at the uniform store. They had blazers, they had best. They had all different types of jumpers. And she was wearing blue and gold, gold shirts and blue bottoms, just like Elizabeth said, the bows and the socks, they mean all that they make all the difference in the world, you know, and like, I’m really big in color coordination. It’s perhaps a Chicago thing. My New York best friend says, you know, this is very you’re so matchy matchy. But I love, like finding Courtney patterns and colors and like, you can do that. And also contrasting ones to, like, just playing with color gives me so much pleasure with clothes. And it’s something that my daughter has taken on to like I see her obsessing over, you know, like I want to have I’m going to do yellow or purple to go with these pink socks or, you know, and like start thinking and talking about those things. Now, what’s that? Colors look really fun with the uniform, right? Like, do you want to be monochromatic or do you want to have a purpose, something really bright, you know, just putting thought and intention into it, despite the fact that you have these constraints, I think will give you a little one, the opportunity to express yourself. But there’s just, again, like push the boundaries of the uniform as far as you can. Like, we had one piece jumpsuits, you know, have been a staple of her wardrobe at every school. So whatever the base, the bottom color was, I’ve always seen her and, you know, check Zara and again, look at eBay used kids clothes
S4: at this point, like I’m imagining that movie Pretty in Pink. When Ducky gets like the old prom dress and he, like, remakes it to be this totally amazing new dress. This is like you with like, you know, boring school uniform outfit is like you guys just like are totally remixing it. And she’s walking into like some amazing music and it’s just very dramatic.
S2: It was, you know, and again, it wasn’t even anything super crazy, but just how little accessory like she had. You know, she wore blue and white, like I remember there being like a blue and white striped sailor buttoned sweater, you know, that just made every outfit look just that much nicer. And like Courtney mentioned with the buttons, you know, you can change the buttons. You know, you can also you can certainly do as her daughter does. And so random buttons, but you can also change the buttons on a sweater. You can go to a resale shots or, you know, goodwill and get some fun, colorful I love bejeweled buttons or whatever and put those on your school card again or on your jumper. Like if there’s anything that you can do in terms of altering the skirts and things and maybe cutting things up a little bit, not in a way that’s like showing additionals in or, you know, making it look like it’s not something appropriate for school, but like.
S3: Yeah, like layering or.
S2: Yeah, there’s just there’s so much that you can do get
S3: that school handbook and find those loopholes.
S2: That’s if you look at my Instagram, we can LinkedIn. The show knows you go back a couple of years because I haven’t. That were like, yeah, or a link my daughter’s Instagram, which I no longer really update because she’s kind of aged out of like me feeling comfortable doing that on a regular basis, that I posted a lot of fun uniformed pictures there, but I
S4: was one more. And trust your kids ingenuity, right? Like, kids are so creative, like your kid will figure out a way to do this and she’ll see what other kids are doing at school to differentiate themselves and come home and tell you she needs that thing. And so she’ll figure it out.
S3: We need your inspired pics.
S2: So you have
S3: your link one.
S2: Yes, I go. Oh, ties. Ties. Yes. Oh, my gosh. They were my favorite accessory. Now, if your daughter doesn’t like wearing them and I went through a period of time where she didn’t like them and she did and she didn’t. But like so you don’t want to make your baby wear a tie if she’s not comfortable, but like, oh my goodness. Anyway, most uniform stores sell ties. They may have plaid can take solid colors. If there is no rules around this, you could do any sort of color tie. And if not, if you have to do the ones that match the school colors, that’s still one way to make the outfit look really nice. I think the biggest thing is that you’re allowing or encouraging your daughter to participate because this isn’t just about her being stylish, but about like Self-Expression, which is something I struggle with sometimes because sometimes, you know what my daughter damselfish? What you know her expressing herself to me. I’m like, but we don’t want to wear things that don’t look good together. Right. And like the difference between like it’s not that it doesn’t have to match. We just want it to coordinate. Right. But then sometimes in like maybe a coordinated just fine to her, you know, like, is this what she needed to express today? Like, is this when is it the time to like, say, what’s the rule for you all? When do you when do you jump in and say this outfit requires some steering verses, this is what you want. And, you know, I’m encouraging you to be yourself.
S3: I think boys get such a pass like three boys. I mean, yeah, well, like I mean, all three of my dress totally differently in their own ways. Right. Like Henry is in the no, he’s like the sensory kid. So all athletic where, you know, unless we’re going somewhere where I’ve asked him to put something on and then all of our mostly likes to choose things from kind of the girls section of target with lots of sequins and pink and purples. And we shop a lot of like primary dotcom to try to find things that, you know, that are cut the way he likes them, but also have the stuff the way he likes. But Teddy has like come into like he wants all he wears, like button downs and follows like every day. That’s what if I pull a T-shirt out, he’s like, no, I’ll take something hung up and he likes to wear a little jacket and oh my gosh, I sometimes he wears the halter backwards. It’s, you know, I’m like, you know, it’s backwards. He’s like, oh yeah, I know. But I feel like though I mean maybe there is as much pressure and I just don’t feel it. But I feel like, you know, they’re friends, especially now we’re all like just wearing the, like, little umbrella, you know, the like athletic pants, t shirt and or out. Like they don’t think about it. They just kind of put on what’s comfortable. Teddy clearly thinks about it, but in the same way, like, I have my staples, I have sort of like this capsule wardrobe. I wear basically the same thing most days to do my life. And I as long as I’m comfortable, I’m more into feeling like, do I like, you know, do I feel comfortable and can I do the things I want to do in the clothes that I have?
S4: I do find it weird. I was just realizing when you were talking about the gender stuff, that my husband is far more fashionable than I am. Like he’s a designer and he cares about design and he cares. He’s a very visual person. And like many times if we’re going out to something fancy, I’ll be like, how is this? And he’ll like, buy me jumpsuits. And like he’s like, but I do 100 percent of the kid’s clothes, which makes no sense. It’s like I just went through all of their stuff yesterday. It seemed like we’re starting school next week. Let me look through all the options. Get rid of the two small stuff. See you need new pants because they all have holes in them. And I’m like, wait a minute. This is your this is one of the things that like saying, yeah, he’s more into it. Why shouldn’t he be doing that? So anyway, after we get off this this recording, I will go correct that
S3: the clothes are now your responsibility. I want to see all these cute uniform
S2: pictures I did. I want to see every uniform picture. Please take me in uniform pictures or you can invest. Well, that sounds weird, but like just however you feel comfortable sharing your uniform pictures, we would like to see them. Thank you so much, letter writer, for jumping in on the Facebook page and sharing your parenting quandary with this. If you two are listening and have a question that you want us to consider on Mom and dad are fighting, shoot us an email to mom and dad. It’s late dot com. Or you can do as this person did and leave it for us on the Facebook page. We are going to have our lovely guest host, Courtney Martin, talk to us about her new book, Learning and Public Lessons for Racially Divided America from My Daughter’s School Courtney. Tell us all about your new book.
S4: Thank you so much. I kind of feel like I just want to put. Articles, we were both on this issue of the nation that was about antiracist parenting and our our two articles were in there and I felt like they spoke to each other in such an amazing way. I just loved your piece so much, essentially my piece in that edition. But also the book itself is about, you know, one white mother’s attempt to try to understand how to make a school choice. That’s both good for my family, but also good for for the city and particularly for the kids most marginalized in the city for generations, which are like the black and brown kids, the title one schools that have been under-resourced and mostly neglected and kind of looking at all of that through this lens of the unfinished project and progress of integration in this country. And your piece was this beautiful meditation on the importance of black spaces and the importance of protecting in a still very racist world these schools and communities where black kids can know their own beauty and their own excellence and be prioritised and all of the right ways. So that thread is really in the book is like is my kid’s presence at this black and brown title one school, a way in which we are, you know, shifting power and shifting resources, as we know from a lot of research, that when white kids show up, the resources follow not because they’re magical, as Nicole Hannah Jones always says, but because that’s what happens with white people as we bring our resources and power with us. Or is she a distraction as she like? Is my white kids someone who is and admires a white mom taking up space in a school that otherwise has more of a cohesive kind of black and brown culture? So that’s what I wrestle with. And the book and it’s it’s out this week. And I’m like, so looking forward to, you know, the responses and and just being able to really engage with people about some of these issues.
S3: Courtney I felt like the book does such and the article does such a good job talking about kind of the uncomfortableness of your decision and then living with the decision, like both in the ways that you just spoke about, like, am I taking up space? And also in that like you made a decision that was different than many of your friends, even your very progressive friends. And I think that’s the thing that, you know, often we don’t we don’t talk about is like the continuing struggle to deal with that uncomfortable ness, like you made this decision and and then continuing to like assess is this the right choice for my kid? Is this the right choice for my community? So I was hoping you could you could speak a little bit kind of about that uncomfortableness and where you are with that now and how you continue to frame and think about that.
S4: Yeah, totally. The book is four parts, and the first part is me trying to make the decision. But really, the majority of the book, the three other parts are living into that decision. What is it actually like to show up in this community, try to be useful, try to create friendships across racial and class lines as adults like. Meanwhile, of course, the kids are all like they’re the most simple part of the book. The adults are the ones making a mess in every way, myself included. So that is really this is a book about white discomfort. And the challenge I was up against was how do we make white culture, especially white parenting culture and white mother parenting culture like white progressive culture? How do we make that visible so that we can dissenter or white people? So it’s a little bit of a paradox because it’s like it’s hard to write about yourself, you know, myself being a white mom because like the pursuit of the goal is how do we get white people to see ourselves accurately so we can make right size are our fears so we can actually name where our racism shows up in order to you know, again, the main thing is keeping the main thing, the main thing, which for me is like how do we make sure that in this theoretically very progressive city that black and brown kids, in addition to white kids, are getting the education they deserve. And in order to do that, I think white parents have to get much more brave about looking at their own behavior. So that’s a lot of what I was trying to do in the book and certainly is alienating to a lot of white people, certainly interpersonally. It was really hard with a lot of my friends because this book does call into question a lot of their choices and kind of the gap between who we represent ourselves to be and who we actually are in terms of these kind of fork in the road moments. So it’s been hard in a lot of ways, but I think it’s the reward of many is that we are part of this beautiful school community and going on in our fourth year in this community. And and it’s just been such it has been a learning journey, but it’s also just been like such a shared joy, which I hope comes across in the book, too.
S2: Something that I’d be curious to hear about is what relationship building with the black and brown adults in the school community has been like, because, as you said, kids typically, you know, unless they’ve been exposed to certain kinds of information, will find their way towards each other. Right, and become friends and can look past class and racial lines, but for adults, I think that certainly it isn’t that white adults are met with the sort of intolerance that black or Latino ones maybe met with when they integrate all white communities. But I can imagine at times there is a sense of resistance, if for no other reason, that having know class mobile white folks in your space can be visually triggering, you know, rather you can just be triggering to to see you right like that. Does this represent a change in the community? Am I going to be able to afford to live where I live? Because now, you know, these folks are taking an interest in our school, our kids. They’ll be welcome here. Will the curriculum change to adjust to them? What what does this mean? There’s a lot that, you know, I can say as a black parent, you know, even one of some relative privilege that comes to the table when you start seeing white folks pop up at your kid’s school. I’d be totally interested to hear your side of those exchanges.
S4: Yeah, I feel like you’re really pinpointing that, you know, integration versus gentrification, which is like a huge question is, you know, how many white people what kind of white people are showing up in order to, like, try to shift power and privilege in the way that Nicole Hannah Jones and Chrissy Johnson and all these great academics and journalists have written about. And so I’ve been very conscientious of that and write about it really vulnerably in the book. I think, you know, the biggest sort of takeaway for me is just it’s about trust and time, right? It’s about continuing to show up four years later through, you know, various ups and downs and just try to keep proving myself, because there’s a profound reason that there’s so much cynicism about white people showing up. I mean, there’s like, you know, no shortage of evidence of what happens when we do, particularly if we’re ever in groups. You know, we’re still the vast minority at my kids school. There aren’t a lot of white people showing up. So it’s but there are a lot of other instances where white people say, like, let’s bring a quote unquote, critical mass of white people to the school to try to make it, quote, unquote, better. And then you have the school sort of remade in the image of of white parents values, what they think is best, et cetera. So so, yeah. So, so many reasons to be cynical. And the only thing I figured out really is to just keep showing up and keep trying to build trust over time and be very mindful of when I’m impressing my own values versus just like throwing in my thoughts and and really deeply listening to what values of other parents are. The other thing that’s like very personal, but I think there are tons of white moms who would identify with this is you know, I’m a two on the Enneagram. I don’t know how much you guys have ever done any, but like, I like to help, like I’m a helper. I’m like I’m very, like, identified with being someone who, you know, shows up like sleeves rolled up, ready to, like, be supportive. And so when you code that onto racism and race, like, that’s a totally patronizing, like white slavery framework. And so I’ve had to really watch myself within these relationships, like when am I showing up with that kind of energy? And then the other thing I’ve seen show up in a lot of these kind of multiracial spaces and friendships and sometimes even across social media is like white women over subscribing on particular black women’s voices. So it’ll be like, well, this black mom said she doesn’t care about test scores, so now nobody cares about test scores. And it’s like, well, actually, that was just like one black mom’s opinion on test scores. And I see this showing up in social media where people will be like, OK, so and so says abolition is the thing. So now we all have to, like all white moms have just who are progressive are going to say, like we believe in evolution, then like, oh, there’s this other person who is saying they don’t like I happen to think evolution is awesome, but I just watch that myself. It’s like so invested in listening to black women’s voices as to be reductive, because it’s as if there is like one black mom’s voice that now I’m going to, like, represent as a white mom in that space. So there’s like a million ways we priced ourselves up. And I’m kind of in this book trying to document all of them and say, like, let’s get real about like the ways in which our whiteness shows up. And still, like at the end of the book, say, I still believe in this thing called integration. I still believe that there’s a virtue in white parents thinking far more realistically about what we have to lose in making different kinds of decisions. And and if anything, even if white parents don’t send their kids to integrating schools, even if just white parents stopped talking shit about schools they’ve never been to, that would be like a huge, huge move forward. You know, there’s so much talk about good and bad schools, and many times the bad schools are just black and brown schools that white folks have never even set foot on. But they go to the playgrounds, they go to the birthday parties and perpetuate the idea that these places are, you know, not not good for kids when in fact, they’re like beautiful communities.
S2: I’m curious to know what. Who you Courtney is, how many white families is too many, like where is there a line that is drawn? Because I think that’s the complicated question about both integration and gentrification. Right. Like at what point is it inevitable that a culture has shifted? You know, oftentimes the school that the first couple of white families dip their toe into and check out is one that was high performing. Right. And so the school has been established as being a high performing school for black and brown children. If white families come and there’s this improvement, right. There’s the resources that you’re able to provide. So now this good school becomes a great school or, you know, this good school stays a really good school. But now we know that white people go there. And so where are these other white families? And we trust that. What sort of self regulation needs to be done to ensure that you’re not doing exactly the thing you don’t want to do, which is changing the complexion of a place and making in your own image?
S4: Yeah, well, first of all, I don’t think we should allow white people to self regulate, like, at all as much as possible. We should prevent white people from being the ones responsible for like making integration happen. Like I’m trying to do a hearts and minds thing here. But like, I absolutely think enrollment policy and like structural shifts are the most trustworthy attempt for us to create equity in education. So, like in Oakland, actually, there’s a new enrollment pilot that’s putting particular caps on, like how many low income kids, you know, and sort of balancing it out structurally. Essentially, I won’t get into the details of it could sort of boring for probably a lot of people. But, you know, and in a city like Oakland, where it’s about 40 percent white, but only 10 percent of our public school students are white, 10 percent, and they are accruing in like three or four schools, which are like vast majority white. It’s like there aren’t really enough white kids to go around to gentrify in certain ways. Like we just don’t have a lot of white kids in the city, in the public school system. But I know that that is a danger in other school systems. And, yeah, I don’t I don’t think there is like an answer. Right. There’s no science to it. But I will say that so few white parents I mean, now I’m the person everyone wants to have a coffee with when they’re thinking about where to go to school. Maybe not after the book comes out, but before the book came out, it was like everyone would reach out and be like, we’re thinking about Emmerson, the school or my kid goes as if, you know, like they wanted a cookie even for thinking about it. And then we’d have a coffee. And I would like talk to them about all the things. And no one ever chooses the school. Like, it’s just like it basically inevitable that everyone’s, like has a really complicated reason for why they don’t end up at the school. So I do know gentrification of schools is a danger. And here in Oakland, it’s pretty unrealistic because there’s just so few white kids in the system already and the vast majority of them are in very few schools.
S2: Well, Courtney, this was super fascinating. Thank you so much for joining us and let folks know how they can get your book.
S4: Thank you. Well, you can order it wherever you order your books. Go to your local bookstore. That’s that’s the best, of course. And please read our essay side by side in the nation, because I think Jamilah perspective on, you know, the importance of black spaces is like a thread in my book, but so beautifully drawn out in that essay.
S2: Thank you so much. And I really enjoyed your piece for The Nation as well. It’s been great having you on the show. I really enjoyed talking to you. And before we get out of here, we’ve got one last thing that we do for our listeners is, you know, which is recommendations. So let’s start with you, Courtney. Do you have a recommendation?
S4: Yes. So I am obsessed with this Substack newsletter called Mom Spreading. It’s by a friend, a neighbor of mine. And she’s kind of like Emily Oster or like, you know, more old school, like a Dr. Spock kind of person, but meets Allie Wong. So it’s just like it’s so funny. She is just like totally brave and hilarious and everything she writes, she’s self-effacing. She makes a million like 90s are NBA references. It’s like everything I need in one essay about parenting, but not really about parenting at all. She also happens to have a PhD in child psychology. So she really does know what she’s talking about. But she’ll just like, you know, she actually wrote a review of my book. And in the headline was The Word Songs, and she worked the Thong Song somehow into the review, which was just like, I have no idea how it happened. So if you want to, like, get parenting advice from someone who actually knows, but laugh your ass off and like, remember, junior high dances subscribe to mom spreading.
S3: I need to go. I need this in my life.
S2: I think I also need this to. Elizabeth, what are you recommending this week?
S3: OK, well, I am taking advantage of all the vaginas in the room and recommending pelvic floor pity because after having three babies, I literally did not know that I could do anything about pelvic weakness, which is like when you pee, when you sneeze or when you’re trying to run or any of that. And I was just like casually talking to my friend, kind of complaining about it. And she’s a nurse practitioner. And she was like, well, you need to go to pelvic floor. She’s like, I went right after my first. And I was like, what? So then I was like, super nervous to talk to the doctor about it and all of that, but got my referral and I’ve been going since I got here and it’s like, amazing. It is not at all scary. It’s making like a huge difference for me. Insurance covers that, which is great. But it’s just like overall like having someone work with you on core muscles and all the other muscles that are supposed to help that just got weakened by carrying kids. And if you’re still nervous about it, there’s a wonderful Instagram account called Ortho Pelvic Peaty. So that’s OPL Visi Peaty, that’s on Instagram. And she just goes through kind of all the different things you can do, including telling you that you can start doing some of this stuff during pregnancy. So I just want to, like, spread the word that if if these are things that you are facing, there is actually something you can do about it. And it’s great. It’s like really life changing.
S2: Well, thank you for sharing that. That is good to know. I think we should all be taking good care of our pelvic floor. Don’t wait until it becomes something that you have to think about because it will become something you have to think about.
S3: And it’s not all just giggles. It’s like so much more. So if you’re thinking it’s just going to be like do some more giggles or someone trying to help you do that, that’s not at all what it is.
S2: Absolutely. No. There’s certainly a lot more to taking care of that part of our body than Cagle’s. And I still love you for sharing that, Elizabeth. Thank you. So I am recommending online vintage shopping. I am far from a pro or a master, but it is something I used to do a lot of in the past. I was I used to do more in person vintage shopping. I just haven’t found my vintage shops yet in L.A., like I’m aware of a few here and there are
S3: some really great ones
S2: there. I know there are,
S3: but you’ve got to fight. You’ve got to find the right ones for sure.
S2: Right. Because like the ones that are in really highly populated, heavily trafficked areas, I’m like I’ve never known a vintage shop or resale shop to be great because a lot of people were there, you know, so in my desire to be more sustainable in terms of clothing. And so just kind of give back to creating an interesting wardrobe. I’ve been looking at stuff online again, and I’m constantly reminded that any random thing that you thought about, like this stretch peacock shirt that I have from The Gap when I was in high school, if you like, just Google it, there’s a good chance somebody might be selling it online. I wasn’t able to find it in my size, but it was just comforting knowing that it was still there and also not cuz I thought it was. But lately I’ve been finding stuff on my car and eBay and like, you know, I’ve had to make a few alterations here and there, like maybe cutting a ham and taking it to the cleaners and getting it properly because I couldn’t do it myself with my scissors or whatever. But like I don’t know, I just think especially with us getting ready to go back to school and thinking about the first letter writer or rather the listener question that we answered this week. If you are looking for some new clothes or a way to make your wardrobe or your child’s wardrobe a little bit more interesting, what was that cool trend when you were in like eighth grade that you wanted to try, that maybe your kid would be in two or there, maybe you could try now? You know, like I’ve been buying rappers and shit all types of things that like, I don’t know, I wouldn’t find these hanging up in a store right now, you know, like I can’t say that, like sailor dresses for women are on trend, but like, somehow I fell down. A sailor dresses for women rabbit hole and found a really cute one online for thirty five bucks. And it fits me amazingly. And nobody else is going to have it because it’s not currently on display anywhere.
S3: How do you do the sizing. Because like that that is the one thing that I think holds me back specifically from the vintage, like I do a lot of like thread up and kind of large online like used clothing. But when I look at the vintage stuff, like, are you just really good with your measurement? Like you just know your measurements or you’re doing a lot of, like, alterations.
S2: There’s a lot of guesswork. You know, like you can typically assume there’s something I want to say. Like in general, I’ve been lucky that people have been honest about sizing. And I do measure myself, you know, on a regular basis, like to kind of know, like, OK, if this says this is only going to stretch to thirty five inch hip, you’re not going to be able to get into it. Like, why are you putting yourself through this? But like I just would say pay attention to size and look at how the garment looks like if they’ve put it on a. Mannequin or whatever, like checking how much spandex there is, too, because something can look small, you know, and then stretch out and have a lot of time. Yeah, the fabric has a lot to do with it because older sizing is different. You know, like if I were to buy something that was made in the 60s or 70s, I would have, you know, rightfully assume that if maybe, you know, three, maybe even for a dress sizes larger than what I would buy in a store, sometimes, you know, they’re. Yeah. Where I picked up garments and then like, oh, I thought that, you know, this would be size much differently. But it’s you know, it’s a medium then and I’m a medium now and it fits me. But I would just say pay really close attention and the fabric has a lot to do with it. I tend to wear stuff that stretchy. So like, you know, I don’t require things that like fit perfect. Yeah. Yeah, you know what I mean. But like, if you’re someone who’s looking for things that are going to be really tight or if you require, you know, or if you like, wearing things that are kind of loose, you know, vintage can be easy. But if you’re looking for your things to fit for, if you like your clothes to like, fit for real, basically, then this might not be for you. Not for you.
S3: But but you have that you find such great like statement pieces like I feel like you have a really good eye for this too.
S2: Thank you.
S3: I also get to look at your closet every every
S2: you are looking at all the sequins
S3: and like like a plus, you know. Well, I mean, we see it on Instagram and things like that too. But I, I love this and I didn’t really think about it so stupid, but I didn’t really think about looking at the fabrics because that’s kind of what holds me back is like, am I going to get a good fit. But you’re right, you can tell so much by just knowing what it’s made of.
S2: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, happy hunting for anyone who wants to get into the online vintage hunting game, online vintage shopping game, rather. And that is our show. Thank you so much, Courtney Martin, for joining us. Thank you to everyone for listening. And we will see you next week. Let’s keep going. Slate plus listeners, this week we wanted to talk about when to talk to your kids about sex. Now, according to an article featured in The New York Times last week, the answer may be much earlier than you think. And if you’re relying on your child’s school to teach them everything that they need to know, which I really hope you’re not doing, please don’t do that. Then there’s a one hundred percent chance that they’re not learning everything that they need to know. The Times article reads, According to Guttmacher Institute data, 20 states do not require that sex education be taught in school at all. And of those that do, only 18 states require that the information be medically accurate. Only 18 of the 20 50 total states where people have sex, do they require that medically accurate information is taught in schools? That’s the article. Just nine states teach students about the importance of consent when the New York American Civil Liberties Union evaluated New York’s sex education curriculum in 2012. The organization found that one school district described the penis as a sperm gun and the vagina as, quote, penis fits in here and quote, It does not surprise me that I should say. What’s even more tragic about this is that in New York City in particular, where the sperm gun penis fits in, your curriculum may have been found, or at least in the same state. There was until recently one Title nine officer for the one point over one million students in the New York Department of Education. So one point one million public school students won Title nine officer. And nobody responsible for teaching these kids about sex ed and consent.
S3: It’s just like, oh, gosh, I mean. So I just think that sex is a part of life, you should be talking about it and there I it’s like somehow in this country we have decided that talking about sex is like talking about porn as opposed to talking about sex is like something that happens all the time and talking about sexuality and which is which is like the same as talking about like your physical well-being. Right. Like we’re essentially saying there’s this entire part of your body that is incorrect, like functional in so many ways. Right. And is central to being human. And we’re just going to talk about it. We’re just not going to tell you anything because you might think it’s porn.
S2: That’s America. Basically, we treat everything like porn, racist porn, sex, porn, sexual identity as porn.
S3: We just can’t talk. We just let’s not talk about it.
S2: Let’s just not talk about it. And somehow things will be OK.
S3: We don’t even have words. I just think the thing is, like you, the hurdle seems to be feeling awkward about it. Like I was not talk to you about that. I went to Catholic school, like, you can only imagine, like, this was not a topic of conversation. And so therefore, when I started to have kids and thinking about how do I talk about this with my children, it felt awkward because I didn’t have a good model for it. But honestly, once you, like, start, I mean, I think the basic thing is that, like, as soon as your kids are naming body parts, they need to know the anatomical names for all of the body parts, whether they have them or not. Right. And once you have your kid yell like, you know, Mom, do you have a penis? Where’s your penis? In the bathroom. The awkwardness is just gone. Right? You’re just like this is actually not awkward. It’s awkward for the person who refuses to use the word penis or vagina or urethra or whatever. Right. I feel like I actually got into this after reading a bunch of studies that sort of showed, like, one of the best things you can do to prevent your child from being a victim of sexual assault. And this, of course, is not a fix for sexual assault and it’s not children’s faults. But one of the things you can do is empower them by teaching them the names, because then that doesn’t associate any shame so that if something happens, they can tell you about it. And that was sort of my initial push to start talking about this. And then we moved to the Netherlands, where they actually have what they call Spring Fever Week. And it is like mandated where you talk about sex ed starting with their four year olds. And the law actually says they have to talk about sexuality. So they are talking about consent and it has to be inclusive of, you know, all association, all body parts, all everything. They’re just presenting medical facts. Imagine that. Presenting facts to imagine that. Imagine that. But to me, one of the things that really was like, oh, this is something we need to do is that a like a study there found that like most 12 to 25 year olds say that their first sexual experience was wanted and fun. And in the US, like 66 percent of sexually active Americans say they wish they had waited. And I just feel like if for no other reason than to give like not that this is the only reason for that, but I think having these early discussions about sex makes it something that then your first experiences with it, you know, about your body, you know about other bodies, you know about kind of the emotion that comes with all of that. It just opens all that up to have good experiences. And when I think like I want my children’s experiences to be wanted and fun. Right. I don’t want them to to have regrets about these things that are already wrapped up. We all know that it’s wrapped up in a lot of emotion and a lot of changing times. Like I, I just think if for no other reason, like start talking about it like like just to give your your children that.
S2: Absolutely. It’s, you know, it’s a matter of safety, Ray, like you said, like they need to know how to talk about the parts of their body. They need to know what to tell someone if they’ve been violated or, you know, the difference between a good such a bad touch or an inappropriate touching your arm versus an inappropriate touch on your penis. Right. Like, that’s a very big difference. But also, we don’t have a culture of consent here. We have there’s this sexual capitalism in the United States. Right. That’s like our experiences with sex. A lot of ways are colored by this idea of what we’re supposed to be. And so, like what that looks like for men is not that looks like for women and what that looks like for queer men is not necessarily what that looks like for queer women. And, you know, like we’re too repressed and a lot of ways to talk openly about the fact that sex is the thing that everybody’s parents did at least one time. Right. Like you are here because somebody had sex. Like you said, your story starts with six good, bad or otherwise, right, like so despite it being literally everyone’s origin story, we’re not comfortable talking with it, talking about it, which means we’re not able to empower kids with the information about their own bodies that they need to have. And since we don’t want to talk about it, we’re not preparing them to engage with other bodies when the time is correct. Right. And so even if this idea of protect yourself, don’t let anyone touch you, it’s like, what do these hands mean to someone else? Right. Like what is my attraction to another person? I mean, what is my interest in them mean and how am I supposed to behave with that? And like, if you’re afraid to talk to your child about sex at four or five, you know, when you need to be doing this very important foundational building, I am not inclined to believe that at 14, you know, when you’re sending this kid to their first dance, you know where the lights may be down and they can dance with one another, that you’ve given them what they need to know in order to treat other people with respect and to think about consent.
S3: The four year old isn’t uncomfortable, right? Like you’re you’re a 16 year old is uncomfortable because all of a sudden this has new meaning. That 14 year old is uncomfortable. Your 12 year old isn’t comfortable. Your four year old doesn’t care. They’re trying to figure out the world. And I mean, listen, if you’re uncomfortable talking about sex, one you can check out, there’s a lot there’s plenty of good books in the library. We really liked What Makes a Baby. It’s by Corey Silverberg. And he also has a book called Sex is a Funny Word. That’s kind of for eight to 10 year olds. But the other thing is just go to the zoo. If you go to the zoo in the spring, the the door will be open to conversations about sex with animals. And that might take the you know, when your child says, what are they doing? Like, I have just seen so many parents rush rush their kids away, you know, from the masturbating monkey or the like. Those are all things that happened at the zoo. Go there and be like this is how babies are made. A sperm meets an egg. Like if you tell your four year old and your five year old that when they ask, like, how did the baby come? Like, you do not have to describe in detail or the emotion involved or the reason you made the decision, you can just start to you know, men have sperm like penises have sperm. Women have eggs. Like you can describe all of this in like, well, clearly we can’t describe them because we don’t have to be medically accurate. Right. But the point being, like there’s nothing about that that is going to scare or encourage a four year old to somehow get into porn. I mean, I just it’s so backwards because it’s like people will say, well, don’t do this because then they’ll want to have sex like no four year old wants to have sex. That that is just not right. Like we’re missing all the things they just want to know about the body parts. They just want to know how the world works. And if that is set up, like we just see when we educate people. Right. Like unwanted pregnancies go down because we are empowering people to take care of their bodies and make choices. You know, we have less sexually transmitted diseases. It’s like we’re scared. It’s so backwards to me. We’re scared of talking about it because we’re scared of these things happening. But the only way to stop these things from happening is talking about it.
S2: Yeah. And I think part of what has happened is that when so much of our culture and so many of our rules at times have been influenced by people who have what they believe to be a religious mandate to, you know, moralize around sex and to erase it from public conversation or only to talk about in the context of shame and, you know, what should not be done, you know, but also because of this social discomfort that even people who don’t have those feelings about sex have allowed to persist. You know, that we haven’t like as much as we’re used to sex being used to sell cars and clothes and food, that our unwillingness to have the necessary conversations around sex puts us in this really unfortunate position where it feels like you’re stepping outside of the norm to have to speak openly with your children about these things. And you may be doing something that your parents didn’t do with you, but it’s so necessary, you know, and I think that as technology has only made it so that everything you would or would not want your child to know about sex is so easily accessible to them and will be accessible to them sooner than later. And so you are not protecting them from anything. You’re only making them by refusing to have the conversation when they’re very young or to have the right sort of conversations. You know, you’re only making it so that they’re susceptible to misinformation online and or at school where they’re told that, you know, a sperm gun goes in the hole or whatever they were teaching in New York.
S3: I mean, I’m so offended that the vagina is nothing but the penis fits in here like that. That’s. To me, is not only is it not like not a good description of the vagina, it also is just so demeaning. Yeah, that to me gets me on so many levels and I think gets to the heart of this as like women’s bodies and like who has ownership to ownership of them and who do we allow to have ownership of them. I’m just so horrified by all of this. So if you haven’t had to talk about sex with your children, go, go do it no matter their age. I don’t you want to be the person they get this information from. And the only way they’re going to do that is if if you bring it up and talk to them about it. And if if you develop a comfortable relationship. So, you know, if your children can at a young age talk to you about their body parts and don’t feel that embarrassment or shame from you, they’re going to be able to come to you later in life and and know that you’re giving them factual information and empowering information. And I I think we really have to trust our kids to make good choices, like you should be laying the foundation now to make these choices later in life. And, you know, whether regardless of what those choices are, I feel like I want them to know that I’m here and that they had the information and that, like, I’ve hopefully taught them to use that information to make, you know, good choices. And I don’t know. I’m so disheartened by this. Like, I just feel I feel sad.
S2: It’s you know, it’s definitely sad is a reminder that we have so much work to do and that you may think that this is the new normal and everybody’s so much more progressive these days. But like as the news constantly reminds us, there are so many people that are just not there. And so what we have to do is to make sure that our children are protected, isn’t always comfortable, but is necessary. Yeah, yeah. The place where the penis goes. Anyway, listeners, thank you so much. We’re so grateful for your support and we are happy that you stuck with us. We will talk to you next week.