I don’t like to face it in certain ways, but we are just a little tiny– I mean teeny, bit out– from my daughter turning 10– which seems like a big milestone in the life of a young person and certainly in the life of this mother. I don’t know exactly how this post will work (as in well or poorly) but I am trying to write some about the mind and perspective of my daughter as she gets older.
This is also my call to those of you with children who are no longer very young children, to do the same. Sarah— more, more about your older children! Mama C. get ready, and tell us more as Sam gets a little older and then later, Marcel! Others of you blogging about young people 10 and up, more about their ideas and the things you are discussing with them, wrestling with– and watching them wrestle with– not just how problematic it is (and no longer cute) to pick up their laundry, and not just about the feelings we have as they turn their attention away from us. But I want to hear more, and learn more about issues of identity, perspective, ideas– theirs. I want more about what is on their minds and then what is on yours as you listen.
I almost never write about going through elementary school again which is, in a certain way, what one does as one’s child goes through elementary school. For sure I am not going through it again in that I am not subject to all the arbitrary and harsh and often unfair rules, I am not subject to the oppression of being a young person, and I don’t get out there and do great things like run around and use my body every day the way many (mine among them) elementary school students do each day until they are made to stop. I don’t learn new things at the drop of a hat, as my daughter has taken up Latin Dancing with barely even a nod from me. (Really, she learned about, went to one Latin Dance class after school, and then decided to rearrange a standing tutoring session so she could attend Latin Dance– who knew?)
But I did stand at the counter, making dinner the other night, and asked my daughter to pull out her homework and work on it in the little table in the kitchen with me. I learned that she was doing a segment on Columbus. Oy, I sighed silently to myself, and silently, inside of me said, “another instance of mother-needing-to-pull-against-the-grain to teach her something real.”
I began mentally trying to figure out where on the shelves did I put the book I bought many years ago, the Rethinking Schools publication called Rethinking Columbus. I mean this was a big moment. My Chicana daughter learning about Columbus. What and whose perspective was she going to learn? I said to her, testing the water, “what have you learned so far?” She answered matter of factly.
And these were, I think, her exact words, “that he slaughtered a lot of people.” I said something like “well that’s a useful thing to know” and I asked (because she works with several teachers in her bilingual school) who was teaching this unit? It was Mr. R.
This year she has a young, African American man as her teacher– Mr. R. (also Coach R. because he coaches the 4th and 5th grade boys basketball team) and he is great. He is the essence of “cool” and she and other young people love that– but that isn’t what I love about him and actually, when I think a little more deeply, I don’t think that is really, really at the heart of what she or they all love about him.
What I love about him is quite simply, his perspective. For one thing, he likes them. He likes the boys who are always in trouble. He likes my daughter. He gets her, as far as I can tell, in a way few of her teachers have really understood who she is. And besides liking and getting her, his whole perspective, as far as I can tell, is quite different from any she has encountered yet in school. Actively anti-racist, actively pro-young people in a very profound sort of way. Much later, that evening, when I talked to my partner–and told her what my daughter said to me about Columbus, she just said, “think about who is teaching her this.” I did and I do.
I could see her mind, as she wrestled with this material, was really at work, in very fine form, engaged in thinking about the “discoverer” and the so-called “discovered”. I won’t go on about the writing she did about Columbus with me listening and helping a little, but I am tempted to publish the short piece she wrote and if she gives me permission I may yet do so.