Thursday, July 7, 2016

Deja Vu All Over Again

I spend an awful lot of time nowadays trying not to be angry at my fellow human beings. I know how toxic it is to walk around with that knot in your stomach all the time. But then Orlando happens. And Facebook explodes with useless thoughts and prayers again but in Washington, where laws are made and change can occur, nothing. Again. Nothing is done, nothing is voted on, no laws are passed. There is a great little protest which causes a stir for a bit but in the end it dies just like all those people in that night club. Because too many people in this country are selfish. They want to say meaningful shit but no way in hell are they going to ever give up anything to help others. Especially not for gay people. Or black people. Or poor people. So they post a little meme on the Internet while deep down a little voice is saying not me, don't touch my life, don't touch my guns or my fancy house or my giant TV or all these things that I think are important. I just want to sit here and pretend I am sad, but I don't want to actually change anything in the world, ever. 

And then there is another police shooting. Another black man who wasn't really doing anything wrong is dead. And there goes Facebook again, all those hashtags. We are so disappointed and so angry. How is it that this is happening again? How is it that you can be a white college rapist in this country and get practically zero jail time but a black guy selling CDs is dead? Meanwhile somewhere, maybe somewhere right nearby, a fellow human being is saying well he was a criminal right? He had a record. I am sure the cop had a good reason. Maybe he pulled his gun and you just can't see it clearly in the video? And somewhere else, maybe somewhere right nearby, another fellow human being is saying well yeah, sure, I'd shoot him too. F&*king N&%ger. Yes, someone is thinking this. They are sitting in a bar somewhere right now and saying those terrible words like they are the baseball score. Like they are nothing. Because even though we have come so far in so many years, in some parts of this country we have come nowhere at all.

How do I be a white person right now? What am I supposed to say to my black friends? Sorry again buddy? Sorry my race still can't get it right. Moreover, how do I even be a human being right now? How do I not decide to just lock myself up in a little box, to protect and love my own family and to hell with the rest of you?

I am an atheiest. For the most part I am one of the quiet ones, the kind who tries to accept everyone for who they are, regardless of whether or not they agree with me or not. It is only when someone uses their God as an excuse to do horrible, horrible things to their fellow human beings that I get angry. 

I do not believe in God but I understand why you would and it is fine. I imagine God is kind of like a warm blanket in January. He (or she) is comforting. He stops the shivers. He makes you feel like you are not alone in the cold, cold world. 

Besides, the truth is it does not matter what you believe. It matters what you DO. You are judged by what you do and if what you do is hate, and hurt and destroy than that is what you are; a hater, a hurter, a destroyer. You can speak your hate with a bible verse attached but it is still vile and ugly. You can come up with all kinds of rationalizations for your actions but in the end, hate is hate, racism is racism, murder is murder. And if there is a God,  there is no way he is ok with this. Any of this.

In fact, if there is a God, he probably checked out a long time ago. Because we humans clearly didn't get it. We totally missed the point. We just heard what we wanted to hear. It was supposed to be "love thy neighbor", not "love thy neighbor unless they are poor, or black, or gay, or a woman."  

God should be ashamed of creating us.

So once again I will go about my day trying not to be angry all the time. I will love my daughter and my husband. I will go to jiu-jitsu class and be thankful that I can, instead of just really pissed off that all the cops don't do the same. I will teach my little kids and try to feel like I am at least making some kind of a difference in the world. Most of all I will once again close my cellphone so I don't have to read all the Facebook comments, to witness all of my fellow human beings once again feel angry and sad and helpless. 

We can do better. 
We won't. There will be yet another school shooting and then another cop out of control and another bombing and on and on and on. We won't change a damn thing.
But we can do better than this. 
We are better than this.
Some of us will go on trying to help. Even when it feels useless. Even when it feels like every step forward is actually two steps backwards. 
Some of us will continue to love even when there is so, so much hate.
What other choice do we have?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Insert Curseword Here

Does anyone remember this article: http://www.theonion.com/article/fuck-everything-nation-reports-30743

It was from December 14, 2012. Right after Sandy Hook.

Sandy Hook was four years ago. It was four years ago! And yesterday, 50 people shot dead in a nightclub in Orlando. And today, Facebook, more thoughts and prayers. Because that is the best we can do, it is all we are ever going to do, ever. Change our profile pics and donate some money to some cause that is never going to be able to accomplish their mission, ever.

And when I say we, I don't mean you. You voted for change. You donated blood. You sent money. You did something. I know you did. But it didn't matter. Because the guy who shot those first graders four years ago was a human being who lived here. And the guy who shot up that nightclub was a human being who lives here. And Donald Trump is a human being who lives here. And fucking Brock Turner is a human being who lives here.

And I know the drill. When the world feels evil, be good. Look to the helpers. Don't let anger and hate win. Choose love. Beware the path to the dark side. I know all that.

But I am so damn angry and so damn tired and so damn tired of being angry. If 26 dead kids didn't make anyone do anything differently, then 50 dead club patrons certainly isn't going to matter either. I know there are good people all around us but to be honest you guys, today I am just ashamed to be a human. Seriously. I look at my dog lying in the sun and I am filled with envy. We suck. We are hate filled, ugly, stupid and useless. Fuck us. All of us.

Ok, not you. You guys are the good ones. I will remember that tomorrow, I promise. But right now I am going to take my kid to the park and sit in the sunshine hating everyone. Forgive me.


"Americans reported feelings of overwhelming disgust with whatever abhorrent bastard did this and with the world at large for ever allowing it to happen, as well as with politicians, with the NRA, and above all with their own pathetic goddamn selves, sitting in front of a fucking computer instead of doing fucking anything to help anyone—Christ, as if that were even fucking possible, as if anyone could change what happened, as if the same fucking bullshit isn’t going to keep happening again and again and fucking again before people finally decide it’s time to change the way we live, so what’s the point? What the hell is the goddamned point?" The Onion, Dec, 4, 2012







Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Rape is Not a Spelling Error

There is certainly no shortage of blog posts out there about Brock Turner and his terrible crime. Writers far more prolific than myself have dissected the entire case, have shamed the judge Aaron Persky, have expressed outrage at Brock's father's statements. So my addition to the pile is going to be nothing unique, but still I feel compelled to throw my two cents in.

There are many reasons to be angry about this story; the latest in a never ending series of disappointments when it comes to our culture and the way we handle rape. But I am a writer. I focus on words. And there is one word that keeps coming up that really drives me crazy.

Mistake.

As in Brock Turner made a "mistake." 

He got drunk, found an equally drunk, mostly unconscious woman, and oopsy, accidentally raped her.  Cause you know, alcohol.

Here is the definition of the word mistake: 

an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.




Rape is not a miscalculation. Missing your turn on the freeway is a miscalculation.

Rape is not a misunderstanding. It is not a slip. It is not a blunder.

Hanging your queen in a chess match is a blunder. Rape is something different entirely.

Listen I have been drunk in my life. Very, very drunk. Throwing up on random street corners in New Orleans drunk. And I even did some things in college while intoxicated that I would consider "mistakes". 

And my friends at the time, who were also very drunk, did some stupid stuff as well. Like the time my buddy left the bar and wandered off through the meat packing district in the middle of the night because he was "walking home".  That was a mistake. 2am pizza, always a mistake. There were drunk arguments, drunk kisses, dancing country on the top of a bar called the Village Idiot, which thankfully no longer exists. All the kind of stupid messy things college kids get into when drinking.

At no point did any of my friends rape anyone. Why? Because they weren't rapists. They didn't kill anyone either. Because they weren't murderers.

Sure alcohol can make you lose your inhibitions and do things like run naked through a parking lot or jump into the ocean in January. But forcing yourself sexually on an unconscious woman is not a mistake. It is a crime. It is a violent attack on another human being that no amount of drunkenness can make any different. You don't rape someone because you are drunk. You rape someone because for some reason, deep down, a part of you believes that this behavior is ok. Because you think you are entitled to a little fun. Because whatever, its no big deal. Because the line between consensual and non-consensual sex is kind of blurry for you. Because it turns out that actually, drunk or not, you are a rapist.

Who is to blame for this? Is it your parents? Is is society? Is it college itself, an environment that often seems to encourage drunken stupidity just as much as it encourages improving the mind. And does this act mean you cannot learn and change? Does it mean you are a horrible person who deserves to die? 

No but a slightly longer prison sentence wouldn't hurt.

Listen, I am sure Brock Turner regrets what he did to that girl and I hope he grows up to be a wonderful man. But right now, at this moment in time, he is a rapist. He is not a misguided college swimmer who made a mistake. 

College students get drunk and hook up all the time. Sometimes they cheat on their girlfriends and boyfriends in the process, and when they wake up the next morning with cotton mouth and a pounding headache they will regret everything they did. They will text their significant other with a desperate pleading "I am so sorry. I made a mistake." 

But there is no amount of alcohol that can cloud your mind enough to suddenly make using an unconscious woman as a blow up doll ok. 

By the way, in case you were wondering I am one of those people who believes in both sides of the coin. I certainly think we need to teach our boys about consent. But as the mother of a someday college-aged daughter, I am sure as hell going to teach her about what to watch out for. I am going to warn her about drinking too much. I am going to warn her about putting herself in a situation with a boy that will be difficult to extract herself from. Not because a woman who parties too hard is "asking to be raped", but because in the end the only person who can really protect my daughter is my daughter herself. 

Also by the time Maya gets to college she is going to be a black belt in like four different martial arts so I am not really worried about her.

But please, please stop saying this dude made a mistake. This was not a drunken hookup between two sloppy, giggling co-eds. This was not even a case of "she started kissing me but then she changed her mind"; still not a reason to rape but understandably confusing for everyone. No, this was just assault. No different than me punching you dead in the face and then claiming it was an accident. My arms, my fault. Your penis, your fault. Period.

Oh and while we are on this topic, can everyone please stop talking about what a great swimmer this dude was. It is insulting to all of us other athletes.

Speaking of which, I am going to get ready for jiu-jitsu class. I will try really, really hard not to make any "mistakes" on the way there. 





Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My New Car is a "Blue One" (and Other Reinforced Stereotypes)

If you ask the average American what the meaning of success is, most people will talk about money. They will describe a house, a BMW, a well paying job. They may also talk about a loving spouse and a couple of laughing kids in the backyard. A few people, the more "enlightened" if you will, will talk about happiness, fulfillment, a feeling of purpose.

For me, success is more about the latter than the former. I am successful if I am a good mother, if my child is happy and healthy. I am successful if my husband and I respect, support and care for each other. And finally, I am successful if I enjoy what I do all day. I do not mean of course, that I enjoy every minute of every day. That would be unrealistic. I just mean that I enjoy my job, that I do not, like so many people, go to bed on Sunday night with a sick knot in my stomach. ( I have had many jobs like that and it is a terrible way to live.)

Of course the fact that my husband and I run a business in Manhattan that has kept its doors open for almost ten years also makes me successful. The dojo has slowly grown from something that both Matthew and I had to work other full time jobs in order to pay for, to a business that is mostly able to support itself.

Money is necessary to live and for many, many of my adult years I lived paycheck to paycheck. Some years, it was even worse than that. Bills were late, or did not get paid at all. I maxed out credit cards. I spent a good two years completely ignoring Bank of America's phone calls. To this day, close to 20 years after graduating college, I am still paying off student loans. 

I am not special by any means; half the people I know have a similar story. But all this is why I am so thankful to be able to do what I do now. I teach beautiful children karate for a living. I make my own hours. My job allows me to train BJJ in the middle of a weekday, to pick up my child from school most days, and to spend a lot time with my husband, who is my best friend in the world. 

I don't want a lot of things. A new gi sometimes. Rock climbing shoes. A second glass of wine with dinner. 

Still, over the past few years I have made a concerted effort to dig myself out of the credit abyss that I fell into as a young adult. I paid off balances. I got my student loan payments back on track. I bought tiny things with my credit card and paid them off instantly to show everyone what a responsible adult I could be. 

I also signed myself up for driving lessons. 

For our entire car owning lives, my husband and I have never had a new car, or even a used car that we paid for. The first car we owned belonged to Matthew's mother. When it died, we inherited my mom's old car. Then, when it died, we inherited her new old car, a 1999 Camry. It is a great car, that Camry. Matthew has been driving it for years, it has over 100,000 miles on it and it still runs fine. My mom is in her seventies and has no interest in driving anymore, but she still helped us pay our car insurance during the months when money was tight.  (Yes she gave us a free car and then paid for us to be able to drive it. That's the kind of person my mom is.)

I drove for weeks in that Camry with Matthew, every chance I got. I also drove my driving teacher's car, which ironically, was also a Camry.

Good job Toyota!

A few weeks ago, that nice driving teacher, whose name is Mark by the way, took me out to Staten Island and I finally passed my road test. Last Wednesday, I drove myself to BJJ class alone for the first time. Me, someone who was so terrified when I firts I got in the car with Matthew to learn how to drive, that I made it two blocks before claiming that I was never going to be comfortable driving and he might as well just take over.

My new license showed up in the mail. I look like a serial killer. But a nice one.

Last week I called Geico to inquire about getting insurance with my name on it (and Matthew's of course), for a new car. We went to the Toyota dealership in Queens to learn about leases. They ran a credit check and the guy came back and said, yes, we can lease you a car. Me, the person who considered changing her phone number just so Bank of America could no longer find me.  The person who used to laugh hysterically whenever I received junk mail with the words "pre approved" on it. (Me, approved?? Ha!  They must have the wrong Jennifer!)

That little green gecko guy is awfully cute by the way.

Yesterday a nice guy who only kind of spoke English drove up to our house in a 2016 Camry with a folder full of scary papers for me to sign. He left the car with us. It is bright blue and smells funny. 

I drove it to jiu-jitsu today. I am still pretty terrible at parallel parking and a Crown Heights local had a lot of fun on Bedford Ave making fun of me. 

My phone connects to it via bluetooth so I can now call people with my car. And although I have no intention of ever texting and driving (it irritates the crap out of me when people do that),  if I receive a text my car will read it out loud in a computerized female voice. She is kind of hot. Matthew and I have had a bit of fun with her. 

A car is just a thing. I know that. I didn't post about it on Facebook and when people congratulate me on it, I actually feel a little strange. I mean all I really did was sign the lease agreement. It is not like getting my black belt, or birthing my child, or catching that new white belt with a bow and arrow choke. It is not an accomplishment really.

Except in my case it kind of is. Three failed road tests. Three! Terrible, terrible credit, for years and years. A bank account with a negative balance. Not being able to pay the dojo rent on time. Again. Being terrified of driving. 

Ok fine. I am a little proud of us.

Here is our new blue Camry. 


Here is me, in the drivers seat of our new blue Camry. (The car looks much better than me.  I look very tired. The car on the other hand, it looks magnificent!)


And yes, I am perfectly aware that it is pathetic and sets the women's movement back many years when the only thing I can tell you about my new car is that it is blue. I get that. I am working on it. Give me a few weeks and I will be able to tell you all about horsepower and show you how I change a tire and drop all kinds of manly buzzwords like piston and RPM and cylinder.

I am also going to master this parking thing. 
Really.
Just watch me.

Did you notice that my dress matches the car?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Newb

I am about to admit something pretty embarrassing. I am 40 years old and I do not have a drivers license. Yes I am aware that most 17 year olds have managed to accomplish the simple task of learning to drive, however I was not one of them. I tried, sort of. In my mid twenties, I got my permit, spent a month or two learning how to drive a car, failed the road test a few times, concluded that driving was not going to be my thing and quit.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I decided that it was finally time to try again. This time I signed up for lessons. My driving teacher is a middle aged guy named Mark from Queens, who speaks with a heavy accent and operates his small but very busy driving school mostly out of his car. In addition to the basics of Brooklyn driving (turn left, turn right, stop at the stop sign, stop at the red light, stop for the lady staring at her cellphone, stop for the biker staring at his cellphone) our lessons have included a stop at a gas station so he can fill up the tank, a stop at Bare Burger to order dinner for his ten year old son, and our regular Wednesday routine which involves picking up the girl who takes the lesson directly after mine and having her drive me home. He shares his office with a dentist so my five hour class (which thankfully only took 2.5 hours) was conducted in the waiting room alongside posters of smiling dental patients and brochures for teeth whitening. 

I really like the guy actually. On my very first lesson, during which, like all new drivers, I was positively terrified, he took me all over Williamsburg. There were no small deserted streets, we went right down Bedford Avenue. It was turn right here, turn left here, stop, go. He took multiple phone calls. Occasionally he would gently adjust the steering wheel for me. There was so much going on it was impossible to be nervous, which I am sure was exactly the point.

Since both Mark's schedule and mine are pretty complicated, we have only had time for one lesson per week. So on the other days I drive Matthew and Maya around. They are both incredibly supportive. Maya keeps up a steady stream of "You are doing GREAT mommy!" and Matthew manages to look completely relaxed and zen like while reminding me that I am a little close to that parked car on the right. 

Since most of you are already New York drivers, this next part will come as no surprise to you. Not everyone on the road here is a nice person. Some of them are. But a lot of them are like the lady on 4th avenue, who when she saw that I was trying to change lanes, honked loudly, sped up to like 50 miles per hour and tried to drive through my car. It was a green light and there were only two other drivers on the road at the time. In other words, her letting me into her lane meant absolutely no inconvenience whatsoever, except that she had to actually do something nice for someone else which clearly was not her thing. 

These people are all over the city. People who have no intention of sharing the road unless their own personal safety absolutely requires them to. Sometimes not even then. It is as if that 30 minutes in their car is the only moment of power they get in their entire life and they are going to milk it for all it is worth. Or maybe they are just really angry all the time. Sounds exhausting, all that anger. Maybe try yoga or something?

Listen, I know that I am a new driver. When I am driving in Mark's car, which has his driving school logo on the back, at least people can see this fact. But still, if you are stuck behind me it is probably a little annoying. I get that. I expect a bit of superiority, an "Oh look how cute Bob, a student driver" attitude.  What I don't really get is the disdain. Everyone, every single person on the road, was a new driver once. Even if it was 40 years ago, you were me once. 

It happens in the dojo too, this disdain for beginners. The student who gets annoyed when he has to help the newbie with the drill. The impatience when she doesn't get it fast enough. The eye roll exchange when the instructor has to stop to explain something twice. Thankfully, most senior students are not like this. They are happy to help a new guy out because they have a longer memory than those others. They remember being new themselves, or even if they don't, they understand that this scared, confused white belt is going to be them someday. Or at least he will be if his training partners treat him right. If they take care of him, protect him, make him feel welcome. If they don't run him off the road.

Its called empathy people. Learn it.

In my opinion, those humans who have no patience and compassion for beginners are kind of like grownups who hate children. Not the ones who just would prefer to not become parents. Those guys are fine. I am talking about the ones who cannot handle it when a small child sits next to them in a restaurant. Even if it is a quiet child. Dude, you WERE a child once. And when you are whiny and old and cannot remember where you put your glasses, that small annoying creature is going to be all grown up and ordering mimosas with brunch just like you are now. Also, you are going to die soon. And that child, she is taking your place in the world, on the mat, on the dojo floor, everywhere. And yes, that is terrifying. Deal with it.

Children are just small adults. Black belts are simply white belts who never quit. And new drivers are just experienced drivers in the making. 

So if you see me driving down 4th avenue, desperately trying to get to the left lane so I can turn, please just let me in. I know I am new and a little awkward but I will get better. And if you ever want to try jiu-jitsu, by all means come by the dojo. I promise not to choke you unconscious on your first day.

Well, maybe only once.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

For Maya

I recently did something against my better judgement. I disagreed with someone. I offered a different view. I did this on the Internet, a place where human beings seem to think that it is ok to say anything. Where they often forget that they are talking to other human beings, ones with feelings, and families and lives that they know nothing about. I know better, but I forgot.

Over the past couple of days I have been personally insulted. My child has been insulted. My parenting abilities have been insulted. The people who did so will say that they were not being insulting. Or they will say that I asked for it. Whatever. It is my own fault for forgetting the rule, for forgetting that I am supposed to surround myself with positive people, with ones who can lift other people up without needing to tear anyone else down.

Today I was fortunate enough to have a private class with a wonderful black belt from Brazil named Felippe. He spent our hour selflessly teaching me jiu-jitsu, moves that will improve my game, make me better. Not only that, but he did it with a smile. He enjoyed it. This whole hour class that was all for my benefit and he was still having fun!

It is so easy to let other people's anger tear you down, make you weary. Sadly it is sometimes the ones who claim to be fighting hardest for others who are the most draining. That is ok. Their heart is in the right place, even if their methods are not. People in need will still be helped.

I try very hard every day to not judge others, especially my fellow parents. Unless you are teaching your child to hate and to hurt, do your thing. Make your choices. We are all following different paths. I do not assume to know yours, to know your struggles or those of your children.

All children deserve to have a voice. ALL children.

My child took a test this week. She told me it was easy. Maybe it was easy because it is an easy test. Maybe it was easy because she is white and comes from two well educated parents who are lucky enough to be able spend a lot of time with her.  Maybe it was easy because she is one of the hardest workers I know, because she never stops trying. When Maya is scared (and she is often),  she takes a deep breath and dives in anyway. Sometimes she cries. Sometimes she struggles.  Sometimes she asks for help. Sometimes she wants to quit. But she stands strong. Always.

When Maya sees a friend in need, she helps. When her friends are sad, she hugs. Often when my child sees a homeless person on the street she bursts into tears and asks me if we can please, please give them money. She is sensitive, and loving and has a heart as big as all of Brooklyn. She is inspiring in so many ways and I am impressed by her constantly.

And yes, she is also lucky. As am I. These are things that I am aware of every single day and I certainly do not need a bunch of angry people on the Internet to remind me of them.

Here are the things I teach my child. To be kind. Always. Even when people are not being kind to you. To never give up on yourself because even if you cannot do something right now, it does not mean that you cannot do it ever. There is always a way to succeed, even if it is not the way your friends are taking. Find your way. And then teach it to others who cannot find theirs. That what you say is important but what you do is even more so. So don't just offer your "thoughts and prayers", DO something. It does not have to be what everyone else is doing. It just has to be what you think is right.

I try to lead by example. I teach. I volunteer. I show compassion and love. When I mess up, which is often, I apologize.

In other words, we are the same, you and I. We are trying to raise decent human beings, the best way we know how.

If you want to comment on this go ahead. If your comment attacks anyone, anyone at all, it will be quietly deleted. No arguments. Just deleted.

I forgot the rule but I remember it now.
Always surround yourself with positive people. Ones who are moving forward, upwards, and bringing others up with them.

Life is simple.
Peace, love and cross collar chokes.
That is enough. That is plenty.



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Opt Out, Opt In

If your NYC child is in grades 3 and up, they are probably taking State tests this week. We all remember those. Filling in little bubbles with number two pencils. Reading passages that are about subjects you would never choose to read on your own. Forcing yourself to remember terms like main idea and pivotal point.

This year the reading test is untimed and split over three days. That means kids can take as long as they need to to finish each section. For my child, it meant she finished pretty early and then sat and read the book she had brought from home. She says she was reading it for quite awhile. So long that it prompted an email from me to her principal in which I volunteered to come in today and help out. Can the kids go outside when they finish? Can they go in another room? Can they do anything else other than be forced to sit there and read a book after completing a reading test? I would be happy to supervise them.

Not surprisingly, the answer was no, not really. It would cause too much noise and disruption to have kids moving from place to place. She did say that she would look into how many kids were finishing early and see if there was anything else for them to do.

So today I sent my child to school with the same book. At least it is one she likes. She will probably finish the whole thing by tomorrow. I also cancelled her afterschool chess class so she could come out of school and go right to the playground. 

You do what you can.

My child actually does not have to take these tests. Many NYC parents have chosen to "Opt Out" of them altogether. They sent a note to their child's principal stating this choice and requesting that their child be sent somewhere else during testing. Parents have the right to do this, and in fact, many of them should. These State tests are particularly unfair for kids who have been identified with learning disabilities and have IEPs. They are especially hard for children for whom English is not their first language. Parents of these children are certainly justified in opting out. And I respect them for making that decision. Unfortunately, I am not always respected for mine. 

I got the same information those parents did. But I chose to have my child take the State tests this year because I know it will not be a big deal for her. She will not take 6 hours to complete it and it will not be super stressful. I am very lucky that this is true. Other parents can not say the same.  And although I do not necessarily believe schools should be evaluated based on testing,  it is the current reality, it is what we have right now. When Maya's principal took over the school a few years ago, it was a struggling place with abysmal test scores. When I signed her up for pre-k these low scores were a definite concern for me. 

I have since learned that sadly most State test results are more a measure of poverty level then anything to do with the school's ability to teach. Is this wrong? Of course! Is is unfair that kids from more educated, more affluent families score higher on tests? Of course! Do we need to provide more opportunities for lower income kids to succeed? Yes, yes, yes! The system is broken. But that is not the fault of Maya's principal. She is just doing her job, trying to make a bad school, better.

The Opt Out advocates would seize the story of my child reading her book as proof positive that everyone should refuse these tests. If the test weren't so long, my child wouldn't have to sit there. If the test weren't so poorly designed, my child wouldn't have to sit there. The system is wrong and we should all fight it!

All that may be true but I still sent her off to school this morning with a "good luck on your test today". And another book. Because no, sitting there reading for an hour is not ideal but whatever, she will survive. Another parent in her class made a different decision, and their child is not testing today. That kid will also survive. These are not life and death issues. Its just a reading test. 

Being a parent is about making choices. Not everything in life is perfect. Not everything is how you want it to be. Some things are hard. Some things are no fun. Some things just plain stink. Deciding when to fight back and when to just suck it up and do it is what life is all about. It is what we have to teach our kids to do. Make choices. Work hard. Fight for what you believe in, or make your best of a crappy situation. Both lessons are important, both skills are necessary.
For those of you who chose to opt your child out of the State tests this week, good for you!

For those of you who chose to have your child take them, good for you!

There is no right choice for everyone. Respect each other. That is the MOST important lesson.