I’m about to tackle an incredibly touchy subject.
While passions run high in the wake of the Ferguson riots and now the Garner protests, it’s nearly impossible not to have some level of awareness of racial tension.
It’s clogging social media, sucking all the attention away from positive news stories and making everybody just feel frickin’ uncomfortable.
I don’t have some profound take on the issue. I am no expert. But, I have acquired a pretty comprehensive collection of personal experiences.
Let’s begin with my fundamental Christian beginnings.
At the first church I can ever remember attending.
My very first memories of a best friend.
Her family went to our church. Her mother was black and her father was white. I was friends with her because she was nice. (and very pretty)
My brother had a black friend from the neighborhood that came with us on a family camping trip.
I’m not trying to say, “We’re not racist! We had token black friends!”
What I’m saying is that the song we sang in our church preschool wasn’t just a catchy little diddy.
“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
It was a mantra. I pictured those kids. The red and yellow peeps I had never seen were always perplexing, but I grew up believing there was absolutely no difference between me and anyone of a different skin tone.
Accepting others, even when they are different from yourself is not something my parents just taught us. It’s something they put into practice.
My parents had black friends. We had black friends. It was NORMAL.
There were also ample opportunities for me to deny my upbringing and become racist.
One of my first elementary school crushes was on a black kid who teased me mercilessly. (Clearly, he was in love with me.) He got expelled for bringing a gun to school. (I still thought he was AWESOME and misunderstood.)
Another little black boy was obsessed with my long hair. He would sit behind me in 4th grade and pluck it out strand by strand.
It was annoying.
I was flattered! He liked my hair!!
In middle school, I had a crush on a black kid in gym class because he had a six-pack and could do several back handsprings in a row. He was a total badass. Isn’t that what all girls are looking for?
While my friends were writing their wedding vows to the boys from NKOTB, I was equally enamored of Christian Bale from Newsies and Michael Jordan.
My middle school was rife with racial tension. I was once walking down the hallway when a gaggle of loud black girls started hollering behind me. I glanced back to see what the deal was and one of them said, “What the f&^k you lookin’ at white bit&h?” They proceeded to (as a group) shove me onto the ground.
An overhead view of our school cafeteria would’ve revealed something resembling a black and white cookie. It was split down the middle, Black kids on one side, white kids (and others) on the other side.
Somehow, I always ended up on the border. The girls from the black side frequently threw school lunch food at my hair. I had to rush to the bathroom to drag tangled spaghetti noodles out of my hair, more than once.
That could’ve made me racist, but thankfully there were always OTHER black kids around. Perfectly decent, lovely human beings.
She would never know it, but one of those people was Fontaine. We weren’t close friends, but in retrospect her impact was pretty profound in my life.
At a time when I felt harassed and humiliated for being white, she was sweet, smart and treated me like anyone else. She would be my science class partner without batting an eyelash.
It was no big deal. Which made it a big deal.
I went to a high school in Southside St. Pete. If you know Tampa Bay, then you know exactly what that means.
I was 16 years old when the race riots broke out in the wake of a black teenager being shot and killed by a white officer. People set fire to businesses, looted stores and even beat a newspaper photographer, all within blocks of my school.
But, I was there the next morning ready for class.
Some black kids wore black power tee-shirts and the richest of my white pals were noticeably absent. That was it.
It further solidified my belief that even if I was white and they were black, it wasn’t a “me” versus “them” situation.
I knew plenty of ghetto people during high school and college, the vast majority of whom were white.
The guy who was hopped up on cocaine, rested an axe on my shoulder and whispered, “I could kill you right now.” He was white.
The guy using scales to measure drugs with the gun in his waistband. White.
The crackhead who called me a bi*&h for hanging out on a porch during some rave party at a house because he didn’t want the cops to show up. White.
I ended up staying in a house in the heart of Southside St. Pete for many weekends over the course of a couple of years.
Black girls would glare into my car as I drove down the street, some stopping in the middle of the road as if daring me to hit them. I had a car. They didn’t have bumpers. This never made sense to me.
In an area where gunshots and sirens were the nightly soundtrack, I was given shifty looks every time I walked the dogs.
I never chalked it up to “all these black people.” It was “all these ghetto people.”
I could hang out in Pinellas Park and feel equally uncomfortable about “all the ghetto people.”
While I was treated like some kind of outcast in St. Pete, my best friend in college was a guy I called “big black Steve.” He called me “Ofay.” Although we haven’t seen each other in years, he’s still my friend.
I have encountered plenty of racist white folks and they all seemed to have one common denominator. They were from wealthy, exclusively white suburbs. Their lack of exposure seems to be the biggest problem. They just don’t know any black people, so they make assumptions. Shitty ones.
I knew a (rich, white) guy in college who once said, “I think I want to date a black chick next.”
I asked, “Who is she?”
He said, “Oh, I don’t know any black chicks. I just know I want to date one.”
It told him this was reprehensible.
I knew a guy who used to say, “There are black people and then there are ni&&ers.”
I said, “There are good people and there are bad and they are all just people.”
In conclusion: I feel like there are many factors that contribute to someone’s likelihood or improbability of being racist.
It’s your upbringing, your parents putting their beliefs into practice, exposure to people of all races and the common sense understanding that a handful of people will never represent an entire group.
It’s why I love the daycare worker who braids Alma’s hair all the time, the little Asian kid named Andy that’s Huck’s best friend at school, the crapload of Indian kids that live on our street and Doc McStuffins… finally a character of color with her own entire goddamned Disney show.
The most important thing I will ever do in my life is raise a little girl and a little boy to grow up to be good people, ones who don’t even consider the color of someone’s skin as a factor.
I think it’s a safe bet.
I’ve been writing in a journal since I was able to write. I’ve been shoving stacks of my innermost, private thoughts inside cardboard boxes for decades.
They now accumulate dust, cowering in shame, paranoid about the possibility of being discovered.
My mind is always racing and when I don’t harness my thoughts, they turn black and ugly. Writing them down gives them wings, they fly off giving me peace.
I sleep better.
To write without sharing feels empty.
I am not an author. Probably never will be. So, for those who aren’t talented enough to publish their thoughts, sharing them online is the best alternative.
There’s no way I am the only woman who struggles with the daily travails of being a working mother.
I don’t belong to a support group.
My busy schedule and time trapped in traffic preclude me from spending quality time with other moms.
Not to mention that every spare second I have is spent with my husband and children.
I don’t have friends I chat with on the phone.
I don’t do “girls night out.”
My conversations with my mother are limited to several minutes a night while I’m stuck in traffic and she’s cramming to post news online at work.
It’s all too easy to feel painfully alone in my world.
When I share my struggles, I feel connected to people all over the world who are muddling through motherhood. Whether they comment or not, like a post or not, they’re out there and now they know I’m out there too.
Oh, how I wish I was not so alone.
Bam. Now, I’m not.
Despite having a public blog, I’m still a relatively private person.
My following is not huge.
I am no Baby Sideburns.
My children can’t read, so there’s no risk of doing damage to their psyches. Even if this blog were to remain “in the cloud” forever, I am guessing they won’t be enraged that I’ve outed them on struggling through potty training or temper tantrums. In fact, I wish my mother had captured those moments from my childhood so I would’ve had a better idea of what to expect as a new mom.
Honestly, I don’t plan on writing the blog forever. I certainly wouldn’t be doing it if my kids were at an age where they were perusing blogs online.
I’m trying to put a humorous spin on the frustrating, the annoying, the disgusting and unbearable aspects of parenting toddlers.
I hope I’ve been able to make it clear with my style of writing that I absolutely adore my children.
I don’t think they’re monsters.
They’re not exceptionally evil, stupid or gross. In fact, I think my children are exceptionally smart, good-natured, kind, talented, creative and beautiful.
I just think that along with all of that AWESOME, there’s a whole lot of AWFUL. It’s worth a chuckle and that’s the point.
I’m not a fat, drunk.
I just enjoy hyperbole.
If that’s unclear, I am an even worse writer than I imagined.
There is so much from my life that I refuse to share with the public.
There are feuds and fears and venomous hatred, private family matters and workplace-inspired outrage.
When my daughter came home from school with a humiliating story, I did not share it.
When my husband and I get in a spat, it’s between us.
Plenty is off limits and as long as I’m the one at the helm, I can be selective in a way that works for my family.
I share, I hide and it’s my decision.
In less than a year I will become the sole member of my family to still live in my hometown.
It’s something I never could’ve predicted.
At 13 years old, I came home from school to find my father standing by the front door with a suitcase.
The year that followed the stunning revelation that my parents were getting divorced is a collection of fuzzy memories and cloudy snapshots.
My oldest brother was away in college. My other brother chose to live with my dad in our grandparent’s house.
I stayed with my mother in the house I grew up in, discovering the glorious distraction of the world wide web. Late nights with the green glow of the computer screen on my cheeks making the empty rooms disappear.
We started renting a tiny house, the color of mud, with terrazzo floors, jalousie windows and a sketchy neighbor who wore an eye-patch and mysteriously knew our names.
It wasn’t long before our dog Patches died of cancer and the only house I remember from my childhood was sold.
My mother had a job as a librarian at a school for “troubled kids.” She quickly parlayed that into a position as a “media specialist” for the world-renowned Poynter Institute. Months of watching presentations focused on the ethical dilemmas of Journalism and she landed her first gig in T.V. news as a writer at the small station in Sarasota.
This meant she worked overnight and slept during the day and was painfully absent during some of my most formative years. But, her determination earned her a position as a Producer at a Tampa station within a year. A year later, she was the Executive Producer at another station in town. By the time I left for college, she was running a 24-hour news station in Austin, Texas.
My dad was cheating the system and living in a senior living apartment complex.
I was without a “home” to call “home.”
I have always envied those college kids who were able to return home for a long weekend to their moms doing their laundry, home cooked meals and the stuffed animals from their childhood still cozying up together in their bedroom closets. I imagine them sighing with relief, enveloped by a quilt embedded with some comforting and familiar smell.
Fast forward to present day. My mother lives in South Carolina. My brother lives in Massachusetts. The other one is in Orlando. My father is about to retire and move permanently to North Carolina.
I am the last of the Fields to reside in Tampa Bay, although my last name is no longer the same.
Granted, I returned here after four years in Gainesville and four more in Miami.
But, I am HOME.
I cannot gaze dreamily at the white eyelet canopy above my childhood bed. So, instead I stare squinting at the Florida sun.
I can’t smell my dad’s barbecue chicken on the grill, the smoke filling the sky with the smells of summer.
But, I can dig my toes in the same sand I did when I wasn’t even old enough to swim.
Watching a palm tree, strained and bent by the gusting wind of a summer storm can bring me to tears.
My cheeks hurt from smiling hard while watching the “heat lightning” from my son’s bedroom window.
My Facebook friends probably find it annoying how frequently I talk about my love for this state. I post pictures of the sunset more than could be considered normal.
Florida is my home, my family, my childhood, my stability and my solace.
While I can’t be sure that I will be able to provide my children with their “childhood home” to return to some day, I am going to dry my darndest. But, they will always be coming home to my home.
My roots here run deep and my loyalty is fierce.
I think my daughter might be the “mean girl.”
Her “report card” last week included a note that suggested we speak to her about sharing and “being nice” to her friends.
She recently told me at dinner that she tries to tell her friends to chew with their mouths closed.
“Nobody listens to me. I tell them over and over and over!!”
This weekend I got to witness some of the judgmental nastiness first-hand.
We went to a birthday party for her classmate at a Jump Zone.
Alma says all the time, “I’m not afraid of anything!” She’s a liar.
She’s terrified of the car wash, haircuts and bouncy houses.
She refused to go anywhere near any of the bouncy houses, instead lurking nearby and occasionally talking smack about her classmates.
I suggested she say hello to Kendall. I figured they were besties considering Alma recently told she wished her name was “Kendall.”
Alma: “Kendall always talks like a baby.”
Kendall’s mom was standing… right… there.
Me: “Oh, well…er… remember… you’re the oldest girl in your class.” (Why did I have to give birth to her after September 1st, dangit!)
Later, she spots the birthday girl in a purple crown and says, “I want one of those purple crowns.”
Me: “Well, she is the birthday girl. The crown is just for her.”
Alma: “No, I can just get it from her.”
Me: “You can’t just take her crown, Alma.”
Alma: “No, I am going to ask her for it. She will give it to me.”
I have to grab her by the arm and stop her from racing over to a bounce house she won’t go inside where she plans to strong-arm the poor chick with the Elsa wig out of her birthday crown.
What a jerk.
Her brother is in heaven, climbing the steps like a little diaper-clad monkey, out-bouncing middle schoolers.
Alma grabs him and asks enthusiastically, “Want to play hide and seek?”
Before even seeing if he’s game, she’s squatting near a bounce house counting. She shouts, “Here I come!” She never even considered the possibility that Huck didn’t want to play.
She ran to find him, threw angry hands on her hips and said with massive attitude, “Where did he go?”
I told her he went back to play inside a bouncy house and she yelled, “I told him to play hide and seek!”
My daughter is a bully.
How did this happen?
Sharing is like the introductory course to being a Corsa.
In our family, skipping the word “please” means you will go without.
Forgetting “thank you” means there’s a chance we will snatch back whatever they just got.
“Can I have a turn, please?” is our mantra.
I don’t even know how to begin a conversation with her about this.
“Alma, you can’t be such a bitch or everyone will hate you.”
“You’re kind of a bossy dick.”
“You’re a few mutilated animals away from becoming a serial killer.”
I don’t want to believe that she is a mean girl and I certainly don’t want to think that I’m somehow the cause of her behavior.
I would like to be the one to put a stop to it, but how do you delicately tell a toddler that she’s basically a 35-pound version of the wicked witch terrorizing the munchkins of daycare Oz?
When she’s being mean to her brother, I occasionally say, “Alma, you’re mean.” Huck always comes to her defense, “Alma’s not mean. She’s nice!”
Is he right? Am I overreacting?
It’s totally my job to keep her in line, but how do I do that when her social interaction is limited to the several hours a day I am NOT around because I’m working?
This same little girl spontaneously hugs me, kisses me, tells me she loves me and even compliments my sandals, clothes and hair… and apparently rules her school with an iron fist.
I usually try to tie these posts in a pretty bow, but there ain’t no flowery way to wrap up a post about my daughter, the Castro of the Corsa clan.
My kid has a stalker.
She just turned 4 and she already has an obsessive little boy following her everywhere at daycare.
She told me his name is Andrew and that even if she is talking to someone else or playing with someone else, he is right there next to her.
She said it like it was the most annoying thing EVER.
She also told me he was the only friend from school she wanted to invite to her birthday party. (Which is just around the corner at… 10 months away.)
I told her that the next time I drop her off at school or pick her up, she should introduce me to Andrew so I can firmly explain to him that little girls don’t prefer a male shadow. A crappy drawing of a unicorn will do.
I consider this to be a more appropriate response than the ones my husband typically has.
Recently, I dropped Alma off at school at the butt-crack of dawn. The only kids there were the children of the cranky, neanderthal daycare worker, the one with the bad weave who clearly despises my children and therefore me.
Her biggest kid was sitting right by the front door and the second I opened it, he looked up at Alma and said with a sneer, “Oh, it’s her.”
He then proceeded to inform me that Alma spit on him at the playground the previous day.
I asked her if it was true and she ignored me, her facial expression instantly placid and pleased.
I shrugged at the kid and moved on.
I didn’t feel so bad considering a few moments later this Lionel Tate-sized boy knocked over a tall cubby that could’ve easily crushed a child.
When I told my husband about the “spitting accusation” he said what I was already thinking.
The kid was asking for it. The kid spit on her first or pushed her. Or she was just giving him a good-natured raspberry.
Not my kid.
Alma is batshit crazy, but only brings the vile, unacceptable assaults when provoked.
So, my husband tells Alma that if that boy ever does anything mean to her that he will go to the school, pick him up off the ground, twist his body into a pretzel and drop him on his head.
A shit-eating grin spreads across Alma’s face and she says, “Okay.”
My husband has always had a tendency to be overprotective. It’s equal parts flattering and awkward.
My old college buddy wanted me to take him to his law school dance, an entirely platonic arrangement and my husband’s response to the Facebook post was, “The only way she’s going is if my swinging cock is going along for the ride.”
I burst out laughing and then considered how to best craft an apology on his behalf to my longtime pal.
It does the beg question, when can you intervene in your child’s personal life?
At her previous daycare, when she was just a wee little thing, Alma was a biter.
She never bit us, was never aggressive toward the dogs, but every couple of days we were “called into the office” because she took a chunk out of some kid’s arm.
It didn’t take long to figure out that she was only ever biting one girl and that one girl was a bit of a klepto, sometimes trying to literally steal the shoes off Alma’s feet.
The daycare kept pressuring me to teach Alma sign language, like somehow being able to sign the word “more” or “milk” would prevent her from gnashing her teeth at crawling thieves.
They even sent me home with a sign language book.
I had a sign for them too. It only required one finger.
Fast forward a year and Alma was no longer cannibalizing kids and her favorite victim was her new bestie.
The lesson I took away from that: You don’t always need to get involved.
Kids just work shit out themselves.
Now, there’s a chronic biter in Alma’s class now and that’s just unacceptable.
He’s a walking, talking sneak attacker.
He’s probably “challenged.”
So, how do you explain that to your kid?
This was me FAILING:
“Uhhhh, I know you said he bites you all of the time, but he probably takes longer to learn than other kids about what is appropriate and what is not. He’s not as smart. He’s… uhhh… maybe not going to be in your class next year?”
Alma used to stand up at the kitchen table during dinner, bend over and drop it was like it’s hot, saying she was shaking her, “booty butt.”
It was a skill she learned from a chick at school.
Can’t call the poor kid “ghetto”, but I had to explain to my toddler that some kind of dancing is “nasty.”
I taught her “the twist” instead.
I want to like my kid’s friends.
I want them to be on their level intellectually and emotionally.
I don’t want to have to resist the urge to back-hand the little shitheels that hurt them.
I definitely don’t want my husband to go “dropping kids on their heads” as he is wont to do.
I guess all I can do is raise my own kids and hope for the best.
But, if I meet the stalker guy I might consider the pretzel move.
You might hate dressing up for Halloween.
You might prefer an event where your cup runneth over with booze.
You might want to spend your Saturday night cozying up with a good book.
But, you… had… children.
Now, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU.
We initially had plans to attend a neighbor’s adult Halloween party, a highly-anticipated event in our hood.
Instead, I traded Jello shots for rum and Coke Zero at my mother-in-law’s house.
I planned to be something cute for Halloween, but couldn’t squeeze into the beer girl costume, probably because of all of the beer I’ve consumed trying to cope with parenthood.
Instead, I wore an oversized Anna costume with a wig and felt like a chunky Disney princess with head lice.
Alma wore her Dolly meets Elsa wig and complained about it the entire time, but refused to take it off.
The kids consumed just enough candy to become raging assholes for bath time.
Sunday rolls around and Oktoberfest is just around the corner from our house at the horse track.
Instead we head to Cracker Barrel and a farm in the opposite direction so the kids can enjoy a DRY fall festival.
At the restaurant, a waitress named Cessie is regaling us with stories about how much children love her while mine sit and sulk, refusing to answer any of her questions. (There’s nothing more embarrassing than someone asking your child how their food is and watching them scowl and shovel pancakes into their mouth with complete disregard.)
Can I vent for a moment about the perilous journey in and out of the Cracker Barrel lobby with toddlers? You are fortunate if you make it through there without one of them demanding a toy, grabbing a toy, breaking a toy.. or worse, breaking some super fragile, expensive Christmas tchotchke.
We make it to the farm and remember why we were reticent about going.
We tried a few years ago when Alma was just a baby.
She could’ve cared less.
We spent a shitload of money in order to check out some miserable bunnies, cranky goats and comatose pigs.
We were offered a free hot-dog and soda, for which you only had to stand in line for about 45 minutes.
Upon arriving, we are greeted by sour-faced, wrinkle-tanned, apathetic volunteers in neon green tee-shirts.
They are haphazardly snatching up kids by their armpits to place them on zombie ponies. (Picture Santa’s Elves at the mall in A Christmas Story)
I overheard one little girl request a specific pony and a volunteer with rotting teeth said, “Honey, I want a Ferrari, but oh well.”
Alma rode her horse like a stunt man from Seabiscuit. I was so proud… and then depressed while calculating the cost of riding lessons.
The kids got to feed a sketchy llama who kept whipping his ears back in irritation. They probably caught the next Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Goat Flu in the petting zoo.
I went to get on a choo choo train with the kids because I saw other parents boarding and the volunteer said snarkily, “Only one parent per train car, I thought I made myself clear.”
Awesome. You just go ahead and speed off in that unregulated vehicle with my unbuckled children as you zoom around your horse-shit ridden farm packed with miserable caged animals that don’t belong.
There were lemurs.
On a farm.
And a Zorse.
The highlight for me was plucking individual grains of food out of the dirt for the poor, neglected donkeys who they had penned just outside the petting zoo.
Alma was obsessed with the hay stack.
Huxley got to throw balls at a pumpkin.
The kids has a great time.
I stared longingly at the city block-long line for food and drinks, even though there was no pot of beer at the end of that rainbow.
Back at home, I carved pumpkins with the kids.
All that really means is that my husband ran out for pizza while I carved pumpkins solo with the kids staring at me and repeatedly trying to grab the ridiculously sharp cutting tools.
I had to yell at my son every few minutes that he was about to amputate his own finger.
Let’s be honest, does anyone actually enjoy digging out pumpkin guts or that pumpkin fart smell that fills the room? Does anyone who doesn’t use a store bought pattern actually end up with a pumpkin they’re satisfied with?
They rode ponies, they played in hay, they watched someone else do all the hard work for Halloween and what did they get most excited about?
Daddy returning with pizza.
Then, it’s laundry, pre-cleaning for the cleaning lady and battling my daughter to get her to go to bed.
By the time it’s all over, all we want to do is watch a good scary movie on Netflix and even that is impossible.
We pick one… it’s foreign and dubbed over in English.
We choose another movie, it’s got subtitles.
I am too tired to try and read while watching a movie.
We end up watching a few minutes of something I don’t even remember and go to bed.
All so I can get up at the butt crack of dawn, brave rush hour traffic, get cut off by some douche in a Mustang, fall asleep during a meeting, drink too much crappy station coffee, get jittery and write about dead people.
Well, it’s not about me anymore.
At least they’re happy.