Oct 13 2014
His sign read simply, “I’m homeless–need help.” It was scribbled on a rumpled piece of cardboard with black marker. Growing up in Los Angeles, my children will see many curious things, just as I did. But that day, as I drove on Hollywood Boulevard with my son, I found myself entirely unprepared for how one otherwise ordinary interaction would impact me.
My son asked me to help him decipher the words on the sign. I strive for honesty, so I read them to him without edits. “What does that mean Mommy?” he asked.
I hesitated. After a considerable pause I replied cautiously, “It means that he doesn’t have anywhere to live and he is looking for something or someone to help him out.” I waited for the barrage of questions that often followed, but it never came. “Oh,” my son replied, and left it at that. Somehow my answer was sufficient to satisfy his inquisition, but I wondered if and when more questions would follow, and I felt anxious about how I would field them. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 12 2014
A couple of years ago, my wife and I were touring a local preschool when my wife hesitantly inquired about financial aid. “We consider attending preschool to be a privilege, and so there is no aid,” we were told. We never returned to that school again. Instead, we found a preschool that was willing to take account of our middle-class income and offered us a discounted tuition. And that was that.
But pre-K is different. It is no longer just a privilege for some. And rightly so. A significant body of research shows that young children who participate in high-quality pre-K programs enter school more ready to learn. These children also show significant academic gains. Fortunately, thanks in great part to our city’s newest mayor, New York State’s government was convinced of the importance of pre-K for all children and recently funded a universal pre-K program, thus making a free pre-K program available to all.
Earlier this year, my family moved near a public school with an established pre-K program in the hopes that this would give my 4-year-old daughter a good chance to win the admissions lottery for the school. When it came time for applications, we applied to that program and four others in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where we live. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 20 2014
Our daughter has the lucky advantage of being the first grandchild and having incredibly generous and thoughtful grandparents, aunties and uncles, and friends who have gifted her everything and more than a toddler could dream. She’s got toys, books, puzzles, stuffed animals, Legos, blocks, dolls, Play-Dough, art supplies galore, musical instruments, a kitchen set, a doll house, balls, a scooter, games, her very own swing-set outside in the backyard, and she’s only 2.5 years old!
Not only does she have more than she needs, she also has more than she can handle. She plays with maybe half of her toys, though she likes to pull 98 percent of them out when friends come over to play. I am nervous that we are setting a precedent and potentially creating a child who will feel super entitled and will want more, and more, and more, and NOW. How do we make sure she appreciates all that she has in the world? Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 18 2013
I remember clearly the day that I learned for sure that I know nothing. I was standing in line at the dollar store, casually eavesdropping on the woman ahead of me talk with the woman behind the register about feeding their ravenous newborns. I nodded smugly, caressing my huge belly and thinking back to when my other two kids were new and endlessly hungry. I smiled, confident in my ability to empathize and ready to interject a wise comment as a soon-to-be mother of three.
And then I stopped to actually listen. And I heard the woman behind the counter lament that her 1-month-old still seemed hungry even after finishing his formula. I nodded, a little less confidently (having no experience with formula) but still with sympathy; hungry babies are hungry babies.
I heard the woman ahead of me suggest following her lead by giving the baby cereal. And now I nodded even less securely, resisting–somehow–the urge to scream, “Noooo, don’t do it, your baby is way too young for solids!” But (and I am embarrassed to recall this) a part of me really really wanted to pass on my “advice.” A part of me really want to jump in with all the judgment I’d resisted on the nursing front (because, and I swear I mean this, I do get that what works for me doesn’t work for everyone, and that there are many many reasons why women don’t or can’t nurse), telling her (not that she’d asked) that formula really is just fine for a newborn, but cereal certainly is not. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 12 2013
On Monday, my youngest child, Lilah, was eating breakfast at our kitchen table. She pulled the newspaper toward her and read the headline: “Girl in the Shadows.” She stumbled on pronouncing Dasani’s name, but got “homeless” pretty easily.
My daughter is 5, and she can read the headlines in the New York Times. Dasani is 12 years old, and lives in one room of a homeless shelter with her seven siblings and her parents, who are battling drug addiction. My daughter and her brothers get a home-cooked breakfast in their own rooms or at the kitchen table. Dasani stands in line to heat up a packaged meal in the cafeteria. My children chose to give up their Hanukkah gifts this year so the money could go to charity. Dasani stopped wearing her uniform to school because she couldn’t launder it. My daughter is in a private kindergarten and my sons go to a public school with a nice playground, computers, and a PTO that raises money for the arts. Dasani’s school may lose its dance studio–the place this girl feels most confident–to a charter school.
How do we talk about this? As a nation, how do we start to really talk about the divide between Dasani and my children? Read the rest of this entry →