Yesterday, my blog was about real families. . . I did not write it to upset anyone or to stir up controversy but it got a lot of responses on Facebook. I never want my blog to be negative. That’s not the premise behind it. I was upset at first but the more I have been thinking and pondering it all day, the more I realize that it was in fact a good thing because it sparked such a great conversation.
I have been thinking all day about what a “real family” is and I really think I despise the term.
REAL is defined as being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary. I have many, many friends and none of them are imaginary. They are very real in fact.
One of my friends is a widowed, gay dad of two “nonwhite” children. Another is a single mom raising a daughter with special needs. There are the gay women who live around the corner and their twin daughters -all white. There is my single white friend raising a biracial daughter. Another single mom friend of mine has two white children. There are also the gay dads and their son who was adopted from Vietnam. Two white couples that we are extremely close with each have two adopted “nonwhite” children. My list can go on and on.
On my Facebook page several of them told me how important the idea of what a real family was. They are tired of hearing things like, “are they real siblings”, or “what information do you have about their real parents. It makes them cringe and I don’t blame them.
One if them eloquently wrote, “We need to embrace change, embrace difference and embrace family no matter what we look like”.
Another wrote, “Family isn’t always blood, it’s your heart. You make yours anyway you can. I wouldn’t trade mine for the world”.
There is a wonderful book that I read to my Kindergarteners every year. It is by Todd Par and the title is “The Family Book”. The book shows that all families are special and everyone matters. Perhaps eliminating the word real when we talk about families is the first step in realizing that the most important part of a real family is love.
I am so disappointed and perhaps even a bit disheartened. Today I can actually say that I was crestfallen when I read something that I felt was negative, written by a huge corporation that I have always considered to be “magical”. A friend of mine, who helps get people jobs in acting, posted this on Facebook today, “Disney is casting for the ideal family for their next Disney Cruise commercial!! The casting notice specifically states that they are looking for REAL families and they would like a mother, a father, a boy and a girl. They also stated in their casting notice that they do not want to see anyone who is “too dark skinned – light skin preferred”. She went on to write, “I just took my family on your cruise line and I spent a lot of my very real money. Perhaps Disney needs a lesson on what a real family looks like. Disney, families come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Shame on you Disney, shame on you”
I had to ask her if this was really true because I honestly did not want to believe it. She forwarded me the email. Although she paraphrased, it was right there in the email. I read that they were looking for people who “appear somewhat on the ambiguous side – but not dark skinned”. Now of course there could have been a certain “look” they were going for – I understand that, but it also read, REAL FAMILIES in bold and then listed, a mom, a dad, a boy and a girl.
What I found most ironic about this is that I read this after spending the afternoon with a good friend. A single, gay, mom of adopted twins, (who are not white – even though she is). They are a “real” family. Just as real as my family is and as real as the gay married couples in our town raising children. Skin color and sexual preference does not determine a “real family”.
My children have never been to Disney. Before today, it was because we just could not afford to go. I was there a few times as a child and, as I wrote earlier…it was magical. I have always tried to describe it to my boys, promising that we would get there some day. Sadly, if this is actually the way Disney is going to define a “real family”, I really don’t have the desire to go anymore. For me, today it has lost a lot of its magic.
This morning, an old friend of mine who I have not seen in years, contacted me to say that she was going to be driving through New Jersey on her way to Massachusetts. Her name is Kerry and we met while I was in my Senior year of college at American University. I was her student teacher. It was my first classroom experience. Kerry was only 24 at the time, just a few years older than me. I worked with her at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland. She was not only my mentor but we became great friends. We spent time together outside of school and I met her family and she met mine. She and her husband Michael got married the year before Dave and I did and they invited us to be a part of their wedding and Kerry was one of my bridesmaids. She still lives in Maryland and we try to meet up every so often, but it has been way too long since we last saw each other. Kerry has four children and when her first son Justin was born, we gave him a baby blanket with two hockey sticks on it. She still brings that blanket up whenever we see her because Justin is 17 now and an exceptional hockey player. The reason they were passing through NJ was because they were on their way to a tournament that he was going to be playing in.
When I heard from her this morning, it was through Facebook. I told her that I’d be at school all day prepping my classroom so she should text me and we’d find a time that worked to meet. I did not hear from her so I sent her a few text messages but we never connected. I was getting so disappointed. It turns out that I had the wrong number for her so someone else must have been getting all those messages instead! In the meantime, she had been trying to reach me through Facebook and I can’t get on Facebook at work. Even though we do keep in touch, we only had each others’ home phone numbers. Fortunately she was able to reach my sister and Kathi gave her my cell phone number and she called.
By this time, it was after two o”clock and I was with the boys at Target. She was fairly close to our exit on the parkway so I told her that I could get home quickly to meet her. She was even closer to Target and knowing that we only had a few minutes to meet, we decided to meet save time and meet there. We knew ahead of time that we weren’t going to have a long visit so this would have to do.
I waited for her at the entrance and saw her as soon as she came in. We gave each other the biggest hug! She is one of those friends that years can go by without seeing each other but when we finally do, it is as if no time has passed! If we didn’t have our kids with us to give away the time span it could have felt like it was yesterday!
We were only able to spend about fifteen minutes with each other and we tried to cram in years of catching up into that short amount of time. They will pass back through New Jersey on their way home on Monday. We are hoping to meet up again then but if that doesn’t work, we promised to not let so many years come between our next visit. It was a quick, unexpected visit but it really made my day!!
Today started out hot and sunny. Drew was bat boy for The Newark Bears again. My best friend Kelly was meeting us at the game with her kids. It seemed like it was going to be a perfect day. I have not seen Kelly in a few weeks since she started her new job. Not even a half hour into the game, rain began to fall. Very slowly at first so the game went on until it started to pour. Then came the thunder and lightening. It was by far one of the biggest storms we have had in awhile. Kelly waited around for awhile, but it did not look like it was about to let up. She decided to head out with her kids while we waited for an announcement telling us whether or not the game would be played. Drew would have to stay anyway, so we hung out in a dry area for awhile.
Finally an announcement was made that the game would be canceled. Drew was upset because he only has one more game left in the season. I was sad because I finally had the chance to sit and catch up with Kelly and that did not work out. We drove home through torrential rain and I joked with DJ asking him if he wanted to practice driving. We could barely see a few feet in front of us and the highway had flooding along the shoulders. I have not seen rain like this in quite some time!
The kids were hungry and I had to go to the grocery store. We parked and ran through the parking lot. I could not help but smile as I watched the boys splash in the puddles like little kids. We were soaked by the time we reached the store and then were freezing the whole time we were in the air conditioned store. It was almost comical, seeing the boys with their hair soaking wet. I cannot even imagine what I looked like as my soaking wet hair stuck to my face.
The minute we got home, the boys put on their pajamas. It was the middle of the afternoon! I cannot even remember the last time the three of us spent an afternoon like that. Right now, chili is simmering on the stove, my brothers are coming for dinner and the kids are hoping that they’ll stay and turn the night into a “family game night”. Perhaps the rain that made our day so miserable earlier in the day, turned out to be a blessing. With only a few more days until school is back in session and the pressures of homework, sports and other commitments taking up our weekends, it was a day we were forced to sit back, do nothing and enjoy it.
Getting back into the classroom is always an exciting time for me. I love making new name tags, decorating and rearranging my classroom to make the most of my classroom space. As a kid, I loved opening boxes of new crayons, markers and colored pencils – I still do!! All the sharpened pencils and fresh glue sticks are ready to go.
Our school starts late this year. Although teachers report “officially” on Tuesday, the students do not start until September 9th. I have been back to school a few times now and my room is almost ready to greet my twenty-two new Kindergarteners.
One of the best parts of getting back to school is seeing all of my co-workers. We see each other in the halls, greet each other with hugs and stop working on our classrooms so that we can catch up. We have some new teachers, filled with anticipation of what lies ahead of them and a lot of experienced teachers who return year after year because they, like myself, really love to teach.
Every new school year is a fresh start. A new beginning – especially in Kindergarten where some of these children are just beginning their school experiences. Every year is different than the last and I feel invigorated and ready to embark on a new adventure.
DJ is done with his driving lessons. He has some things to work on and we tried to get him to go out this weekend and practice, but he did not want to. Today, he asked me if we could. What could I say?? Secretly I was wishing that he would have chosen Dave to practice with first. I was hoping to sit in the back seat and quietly observe so that when it was my turn with him, I’d be ready. Of course, I told him we could. I drove him to the high school parking lots – which are still fairly empty since school hasn’t started yet. I got out of the drivers seat and let him get in. Drew was in the back seat and muttered just loud enough for us to hear, “I’m scared!” Brotherly love?!?!?
DJ adjusted the seat since I am a good seven inches shorter than he is. Then he adjusted his mirrors and turned down the radio. So far so good. Then he began. We drove around the first lot which was completely empty. After I felt he was able to deal with some “obstacles”, we crossed over the road and went into the second lot, which had about ten cars parked in it. He did completely fine. He even demonstrated a K-turn for Drew. I asked him if he felt confident enough to drive home. It is only a mile, one left turn and two right turns away. He said yes and in a few minutes, he pulled safely into our driveway, put the car into park, turned off the ignition and let out a deep breath. So did I – I didn’t realize I was holding it. Then he smiled, got out of the car and walked confidently into the house.
I didn’t want him to know it, but I was so nervous! I really didn’t know if he was ready especially since he was so apprehensive this weekend, but he did a great job, followed all of the rules of the road and became more confident in himself. He is growing up and becoming more independent. I know other moms and dads have all been through this before, but now that it is our family going through it, I have a new perspective.
It is the last week of summer vacation, at least for me. The kids don’t go back to school until September 9th. I return next Tuesday. I will be in and out of school this week trying to get my classroom ready for a new batch of Kindergarteners. I look forward to this time of year every year, although I find the first two months of Kindergarten the hardest two months of the entire year. I am never as exhausted as I am in September!
Our last week of Summer will be filled with a lot of baseball. Drew will be performing his bat boy duties for the last few games of The Newark Bears Season. There is a game every day or night this week! He cannot get to all of these games though because he has his own practices to attend for Fall Ball. We put out an “all-call” on Facebook to all of our friends and family to join us for a game if they are around. Tonight, my sister and her family are going and my dad will join us as well. I know that Drew self-esteem is boosted when others show up to see him hard at work!
He has such dreams of seeing himself out on the field as a player some day. We have been watching The Little League World Series all week. Drew is astonished at what some of these boys are capable of doing. His mood swings from awe, disbelief and wonder, to him being completely down on himself because he feels inadequate and not good enough. But despite how he feels about himself as he watches, he critiques, evaluates and gives his own commentaries throughout each game. He is glued to the television and does his own “research” on line to see what he can find out about the players, teams and their equipment. Now, if only I get him to be so enthusiastic about school…