May 17th, 2011

Mom’s Stuff:

I’ve been thinking recently of all the ways that I am privileged, and how those privileges will be passed on to my child.  I am very lucky to have never worried (really) about money.  Yes, my husband and I watch our budget, but we never worried about not being able to pay our rent or our utility bills.  We have always had family that would be able to help us out financially if we needed it, and this has allowed us to take some risks that have worked out well (such as moving to the East Coast, going to graduate school, etc.) Most of these privileges are unearned on my part.  My parents and my husbands parents (and their parents) all have worked really hard to get where they are, and my husband and I really respect and appreciate this.

However, every day I am confronted with this privileges when I go to my teaching job.  Many of my students don’t share the same privileges I do.  My students and their families are working hard, and many of my students will be first-generation college students.  I have no doubt that they will become wildly successful, but if I’m really honest about it, there is a good chance that my son will have it easier than them in many ways.  That doesn’t make him better or worse than any of my students (many of whom have cultural experiences that my son will never get to have).  But it does give me a better sense of the inequality of the playing field.  I have been trying to fully understand and stay aware of the privileges I receive simply because of the race and economic status I was born into.  As I start to realize that my son will (should) never have to decide what gang to join to protect his family, work a job to support our family, immigrate to a new country with a new language at 15, or put himself completely through college, the realities that separate the races and classes in this country seem all the more apparent to me.

I would love to say I am doing all I can to fight these inequalities, but the reality is that I’m not.  I’m trying to live out my beliefs in my daily work as a teacher and we fully intend to send our son to public schools, but I’m not sure how I’m going to balance my awareness of my privilege, my distaste for that reality, and the fact that I want the best for my son.  Of course I’m going to pay for things that further his personal enrichment and education, even though I only have that financial ability because of what my parents and grandparents did (and were able to do).  But I do hope that I introduce LP this idea of social privilege, why it is problematic, and then inspire him to make the world a better place in his own way.

Of course I’m probably just setting myself up for a rebellious teenager who eats at McDonalds and aspires to be a wall street banker.  But a vegan, feminist, anti-racist mother can dream, right?

LP’s Stuff:

LP definitely has his good and his bad days – and his good and his bad moments.  There are a number of signs that the G-man and I can use to see if LP is tired.  One such sign is pretty basic – the eye rub.  Another is LP staggering drunkenly around the room and running into furniture.  A third surefire way to see that he is a sleepy guy is when he starts grabbing everything in sight – and out of sight on tables.  These items include: glasses, cell phones, remote controls, spoons, glasses, radios, flowers, pens, and so on and so forth.  Sometimes, when he is really wiped out he just scurries about sweeping his arm across table and chair surfaces and knocking everything down.  For such a little dude he is truly a destructive force!


2 thoughts on “May 17th, 2011

  1. Viewing your social and economic advantages as a something distasteful isn’t really productive. Instead, try to look at it as a privilege that carries a responsibility. That responsibility is to do your best to improve the lives of the people you come in contact with. Its very likely that you will never see the results of your efforts. The point is to make the effort, to the best of your ability. Whether those efforts pay off for someone in the future is out of your hands; just keep doing the work. Remember, people like Jonas Salk and MLK had parents and grandparents, and they had no idea what they were helping to create.

    You and DOLP (Dad of LP) are actually doing double duty. You are having a direct impact on your students and LP. And DOLP (I bet he loves that name 🙂 ) is having a indirect impact on your students, by allowing you to do what you do, as well as being LP’s parent.

    The bottom line is that you both recognise the privilege that was an accident of birth and have maximised that privilege to help and enrich others (including LP) in ways far too few people can or do. I know you guys have and will continue to enrich our lives as long as we are here.

    1. I do agree that looking at these advantages as distasteful isn’t really productive, but sometimes that is my first reminder (or re-reminder) to be aware of them so that I can see them as a tool to use to make the world a better place. Thanks so much for the more positive and global view on these issues!

      I know I will have been a successful parent if LP eventually understands what you wrote – that he has advantages because of everything his great-grandparents, his grandparents and his parents did for him (and simply received) and that, in essence, he has a responsibility to use those advantages for good.

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