As a small child of the 1960’s life was changing in society. President Kennedy was shot right before I was born, the Beatles were the rage, and as I entered school years, Sonny and Cher, and Donny and Marie were go to television as was Animal Kingdom on Sunday nights. We were a far more “civilized” society as long as you followed the rules. You know, rules like “It’s okay to treat people differently because of their skin color” rules like “Women should be at home” rules like “If you learn differently you might not deserve to use public funds for education.” or “Abuse at home is no one else’s business.” Handicapped children were hidden and kept in back rooms, it is one of the reasons I began my teaching career with special populations. Everyone deserves to be taught and to learn.
Some rules are meant to be broken.
The seventies brought a myriad of weird concepts for my childhood. The Vietnam war had brought home my friend’s fathers worn, tired, and wounded. I had nightmares as a child because some random Dad had returned home without his legs and shared that the Vietnamese had cut them off with a machete. Probably a tale to tell a small girl, however his legs were not with him when he arrived home. That one story kept me afraid of jungle like landscaping greenhouses for years as this man wheeled his chair in one and I imagined that he was chased down and hurt there.No one listened or heard when a neighbor yelled at his wife publicly. No one talked about what happened to the little girl who showed up at school with black eyes. But everyone seemed to care about another girl’s pretty frocks, as though we only spoke of pleasant things. Ice cream and the Fourth of July parade, check, alcoholism or abuse, not so much. The things we tell children sometimes. In the seventies, we didn’t spend a lot of time caring how children were treated, told, or handled at home. The focus used to be what happened at home wasn’t your business.
Some rules are meant to be broken, abuse at home, work, or elsewhere is ugly, and it’s not okay for any child or adult.
The elementary school I entered was a kind place. I was in the first class that was integrated with black and white students in the same classroom. Many people pulled their children out. It absolutely didn’t matter to my world, my father, a small town doctor, had always had a racially integrated practice. Folks is Folks to our family, lines made more for integrity and honor than things you cannot control like race, handicaps, or origin. In the country people are simply necessary….all of us…and our family did not have any belief in racially motivated lines of humanism. The old South is and was the old South…but not all the vengeful stories are as simple as they are told in movies. Families worked and loved together too, and in many communities everyone was simply poor in my rural town we all helped each other. There were atrocities both black and white, Hispanic and Indian…but I believe and continue to believe all children are God’s children and equal in value.
Rules of racism are meant to be broken.
As a high school student and in most classes one of very few girls in upper science and math classes, my parents expected me to take everything that was available. We were told high school was a free experience and better to get all there was to get so that when we got to the paid experiences (college) we would be prepared. I found it amazing that no one expected girls to register for the advanced track in high school. No one saw that as a strange or unusual thing…that 60% of the high school population (the females) were not to be academically excellent. It was as though the unspoken rule was “Better that girls focus on being girls”
Rules of Sexism are meant to be broken. One’s gender has nothing to do with one’s abilities and potential.
When I was in college, the Woman’s Lib movement fought for equal pay, equal status, and equal forward movement in society. Women who chose home were considered sexually beat down, marriage was passe, and motherhood for sissies or girls who managed to get pregnant (assumed against their better judgement). They mistakenly confused equality with a superior life for a women outside the home. Society doesn’t work without someone tending the children. We’ve raised a generation or three of children who have been ignored, neglected, and over controlled as they faced three to six adults before 9 am “in charge” of them. This second and third generation day care children have grown up to not trust anyone, to test everything, to be loyal to nothing and to long for something that doesn’t exist in their childhood. We’ve seen society lose some vital parts of home and community that were perhaps romanticized, but child development says that children need their heads and hearts protected. They need the security of someone watching out for them. It doesn’t matter whether its mom or dad, grandma or Aunt Sue, but someone needs to pour into the development of a child in meaningful ways. Ultimate freedom is the freedom to choose, and while I am grateful for the women who paved the way for my choice, they also needed to affirm the choice to stay home for women who desired that path.
Rules of progress are often meant to help, but sometimes to help they have to be broken, retooled to fit each individual. Progress doesn’t force change, it allows it.
As a young teacher I taught across the country. The eighties were a time of doors opening for women in careers and education. It was a time of excess in indulgence. However in some schools, female teachers are still paid less, expected to do more, and ultimately are penalized for asking for more than one stick of chalk at a time. We’ve progressed to 1:1 Apple schools, yet many schools still regard the internet as online danger, much akin to saying electricity in schools is a danger for electrocution, so we better not use it. Children are still not offered the same advantages at school. My inner city children go without, often unsafe on their own playground. My Indian children were fed horrid government food compared to a usual cafeteria. I went from an Allen school district where we were handing out laptops to educators to one in a rural town where the only computer was in the lab, no internet for three more years. There is inequality among what is offered in each school and it’s not right. I learned to write grants, barter with corporations for my time, and get what had to be got to teach my children. They said we couldn’t afford the time or energy to work for supplies, tracks, tickets to the arts, and computers….Every child deserves to have educators on fire about their needs academically, socially, and emotionally to be led by professionals who care.
Some rules are meant to be broken, no child deserves to be left behind even if their local school believes they can be a daycare of minds, not a growing field of dreams that teach and facilitate the learning of tools for life.
As an ex wife, single mom, and career woman people wanted to say life didn’t go on. Mistakes were made, choices were disastrous, and society said that divorce could never be overcome. The accepted model involved wicked step children and ugly family relationships. It can’t be left that way, the damage done in divorce is immense to children’s lives, but I refuse to feed into continuing the damage. The culture of divorce was that one could never heal the wounds, families would be mortal enemies forever, and for all practical purposes, the divorced woman shunned from Southern polite society. I remember people whispering in the post office line in our small Southern town ” She’s d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d..in hushed tones as though if I had not been bright, or educated, I might not have suffered being left. Perhaps the first thing I accomplished behind my very able brothers was to not only divorce, but to divorce twice. It wasn’t the win I had hoped for. Personal devastation. Professional irony that the truly successful women around me assured me that it was a necessary part of being a bright girl in a hard world. My personal values could not, would not allow my children’s other parent or grandparents to become the enemy. We worked through the hard things, we forgave, we restored relationship and we went forward, not only for the sake of the children, but for our selves. Family matters. A decade later each of us are remarried, happily this time, and for over a decade now all families can support what matters, our children and each other. We are different, we have different goals, but we know we share the love for these children, and for each other….forgiveness matters.
The rules and folklore around divorce needed to be broken. Children simply need both parents, even if the parents don’t need each other. Families do not have to remain in constant disorder and bickering, a new kind of peace can be found if both parties try. It takes two to fight.
Now as a forty something year old woman, remarried for over a decade with teen to young adult children, I find I am back in the world of creating a new path. Having never desired to be in business, I found that business desired me….and once again I find the boys club still in tact. I find women still trying to say that bright women do not do dinner at home. I find that many folks simply want me to live by rules that do not support who I am as an adult, what I believe in for our children and family, and what I am willing to fight for. Too often I find that success is measured by money not values that support the kind of person I seek to be, that esteem is given to those who played hard, not to those who played well. I find that the popular society of media and gatherings support rules that do not engage the spirit or the heart, or care about anything but themselves. It turns out I enjoy cooking, I love to sew, it’s a kick to work with brilliant minds in the workplace, even if that workplace is a virtual life lived from home, which works well for my family when I am not on location. While I love my work with big projects and empowering people, it turns out that mothering matters, marriage is a work in progress, but worth working for, and that at the end of the day I am thankful for mine. The rules of 2011 seem to be going in a hundred directions for education, professionalism, relationships, and society….and most factions believe that their rules should be the rules for all….and again I say
Some rules are meant to be broken….if the life you’re leading doesn’t fit you….be willing to fight for your values, your passion, your hopes and your dreams…for at the end of this life the rules you chose to break….well, it’s like an egg put into bowl and used in the kitchen….you may create a new beautiful thing, but it will only happen if you dare to realize the potential in breaking the unbroken rule. This life is the one you have, it’s the one I have…and I’m making it mine!
This post is part of a series, to read the previous posts, go here