I was an early childhood educator for twelve years, nine of which were enjoyed as a special education classroom teacher. My passion for inclusive programming and practices has guided my work in school districts, community colleges, and universities. I currently serve as faculty in the Early Childhood Education Department at the Community College of Aurora in Colorado.
There’s a lot of stop and go traffic in our city. Our 3-mile drive to school tends to take us 15 to 20 minutes each morning. Needless to say, over the years we’ve been at a traffic standstill behind many cars that are…colorful. Especially the language on bumper stickers.
Over the years I’ve noticed bumper stickers and I think to myself, “I hope my kids don’t see that.” Whether they see it or they don’t see it, they rarely ask about them because they either can’t read them or what is on the sticker doesn’t make sense to them. There is a truck in town with a bumper sticker of a silhouette of a naked woman with her legs spread open and the words “spread the love.” Every time I see it, I hold my breathe and try to figure out what I will say If my children bring it to my attention. As of right now, that has not happened, but this week a different bumper sticker was brought to my attention by them.
During our evening commute, we were stopped at an intersection stoplight. There were about 15 cars ahead of us on the two-lane highway and I was contemplating changing lanes when my daughter asked, “Dad, why do people have bumper stickers?”
Boarding the plane for a recent trip, my daughter inched patiently behind me counting each row we passed anxiously waiting to get to row 26. As we approached our seats she tapped me on the lower back and said, “Daddy, can I sit next to you? Sister can sit next to mommy.”
“If that’s what you want to do, sure.”
We got to our seats, sat down and began digging around for our seat belts. Settling in, I started to untangle my headphones and quickly download some music before setting my phone to airplane mode. My daughter looked out the window curiously. After a minute or so she said, “Daddy, why are most of the people who work in the airport people of color, like the people who drive the carts and at the restaurants and the people on the plane like the pilot and other…whatever they’re called…people who help?”
“The flight attendants?”
“Ya, them. Why are most of them and the pilots white?”
About a year and a half ago my younger sister embarked on an exploration of the family tree using one of the many commercial DNA test kits. Like many others, especially those whose heritage is riddled with the various American storied outcomes of conquest, persecution, and integration, my family was very interested curious to garner a better understanding of our history.
For most adults there is no conversation more uncomfortable than talking about sex and sexuality with their child. This is especially true for fathers with daughters. But why is it so hard?
To start, we live in a society that objectifies women. We grow up watching and listening over and over again to messages that portray women as sex symbols. We are taught that real men are players, sleep with a lot of women, and have the upper hand in relationships with women. We are taught that menstruation is gross and taboo to talk about, and testosterone equals strong and entitled.
Most of the time the children and I are in the car we are doing more stopping and moving side to side than moving forward. I feel the circumstances elicit an unnecessary amount of hostile energy and negativity for my fellow drivers. However, my wife has a different opinion. I rarely honk the horn if a driver is not paying attention or they do something that frustrates me. Slightly more often I will say words such as, “What is this yahoo doing!?” My responses or lack thereof do not win praises by my wife. And the children recognize this.
The other day we were on our morning commute when a driver in front of me did not move after the light turned green. I honked the horn once gently. They still did respond. I honked the horn twice with a little more force. That got the driver’s attention and they drove. As we began moving forward my older daughter asked, “Dad if your car could say words what would they be?
Two hours of each of the first four weeks of my daughter’s second week of 3rd grade school year was spent taking national standardized tests. This was her first experiences with these tests and based on her self-report they were all but enjoyable. Each day I asked her about the test that was taken that day. Each conversation followed a format similar to the following:
According to cognitive linguist Steven Pinker, in his book The Stuff of Thought, cussing—or at least loud vocal outbursts when feeling escalated emotions—is innate. The actual sounds blended together by a person to express their emotions is learned and culturally specific.
I acquired this knowledge after years of telling my wife to be mindful of our children’s ears when choosing to use the sounds of F-CK, SH-T, and B-TCH combined, and shortly after my daughter came home telling us her friend gets to say F-CK at home.
Since she was able to have a conversation, my oldest daughter has been a very creative story teller. When she was 2 1/2 we were introduced to Peter, her pet cat. He later transformed into her little brother Peter. She’d go to the park or the pool; 30 children around her age, but she didn’t want to interact with them. She wanted to play with Peter. We often struggled to get out of the house because she wanted Peter to come with her, but he caused more trouble than good. Overall, he sounded like a wonderful younger brother. Then one day, he was hit by a car and died. It occurred right around the time her sister was born.
In preschool her teacher had to talk to her daily about real stories and “once upon a time stories.” She go to school and tell the other children all about her brothers and sisters. She told children her family was from places we’ve never visited, and we had lots of pets. None of this was true. Her teacher would ask her, “Is that a real story or a once upon a time?”
On our way to school the other morning my daughter asked me, “Why are most of the people who do construction work Latino?”
“That would be a better question to ask a Latino person who does construction.”
She was silent for a moment and then said, “But I don’t know and Latino people who do constructions and I don’t talk to strangers. Why do YOU think a lot of construction workers are Latino.”
“Ok, you’re right. Hmmm…it’s hard to say because I only know a couple Latino men who do construction and I know that Latino men in construction is a stereotype. Latino men, like Tata, and your uncles, and cousins are Latino, but they don’t do construction.”