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Blog

These are my thoughts, yo.

Filtering by Tag: Isaiah

International Women's Day Is About Raising Boys

jasmine banks

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Huzzah! International Women's Day. What are we celebrating? All things vagina! Woohoo!... which as it turns out are INTERNAL. I know we call the "down there area" vagina, but it isn't.  Your goods, va jay jay,  lady garden, tender flower, and all other euphemism (ad nauseum) is called VULVA. IF there is one day to get this right, it is today, International Women's Day. Which brings me to why International Women's Day, for me, is *actually* about raising my sons. "Yeah, yeah yeah," you think, "yet ANOTHER day that is supposed to be about women, and here we are talking phallus." Well. IF you are a MOTHER of a SON sit down and lets have a chat.

International Women's Day, of course, is a day for me to reflect on motherhood, womanhood, the women who helped raise me, and what my life is like with my lady plumbing. It is  ALSO about me raising my sons, because they can grown up shaped by the world OR by me to be several different kinds of men.

They could grow up to be the kind of men who ignore the rights of women and attempt to legislate women's bodies.

They could grow up to be the kind of men who call women whores based on their desire to be responsible for their bodies.

They could grow up to be the kind of men who say it was the woman's fault. She was dressed in a short skirt. She was basically asking for it.

They could grow up saying that unwanted pregnancies of ANY kind are good lessons to teach women that what they are doing (read: HAVING SEX) is wrong.

They could grow up to be the kind of man who is convinced that a woman doesn't have a whole sense of self apart from her "spiritual leader". 

They could grow up  be the kind of man who hates women so much, who is so buried in misogyny, that even another man who could  be portrayed as "feminine" elicits violent responses. 

SO on International Women's Day I am embracing one of the most POWERFUL positions I have as a woman. I am a mother to BOYS who will grow up to be MEN. I am exercising my power to teach my sons, Isaiah and Tobias, to  be feminists.

I vow to teach them that women are beautiful and complicated PEOPLE who have the same power and ability as men.  I vow to teach my sons that they are in charge of their bodies, thoughts, and actions as women should have the right to be in charge of their bodies, thoughts, and actions. I vow to teach Isaiah and Tobias that "feminine" and "masculine" is a wide range of things and are all acceptable definitions. I will teach my sons about what a vulva is, where the clitoris is, and why making love is more important than making porn.  I vow to edify my sons and help them understand that their masculinity or femininity (because YES men have femininity in them as well) is not defined by the stereotypes and gross exaggerations, but are as unique as the finger prints on the people who bear them.. There are no "girl colors" or "boy colors". These, dear boy, are just colors. We all have equal rights to them. I vow to teach them to be respectful and honest husbands and partners who know how to say "I'm sorry."

I will teach my sons that love is love. People are people. NO  matter what.

And.

Grace and Love (love for everyone) are the most important things.

I am raising sons to be good people, and it is the most feminist expression of power that I have ever exercised.

Happy International Women's Day!

 

When Your Child's School Experience Isn't Measuring Up.

jasmine banks

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My oldest child is on his way to wrapping up his first year of kindergarten. When we registered him for school all of our friends with older children told us to be prepared for the heartbreak. “You baby will never be the same,” they’d say knowingly. I braced myself for tears and anxiety and all the things that come with realizing your child is making the first steps into a journey that leads to moving farther and farther away from being a baby. When Isaiah entered kindergarten on that first day, I sniffled a bit but I was mostly excited for him. He loves school. He loves to socialize and he is ferociously independent.  

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Toward the middle of the school year, though, we began to see Isaiah exhibit anxiety about school. He’d beg me not to go. When homework was sent home he fought us. He’d scream and get annoyed and exclaim, “I KNOW HOW TO TRACE THESE LETTERS MOM!” We decided that we wouldn’t do the homework. The kind of battles that had to be waged in order to get it done weren’t worth it. He did know how to trace the letters, and I wasn’t going to have a two hour stand off over it. Isaiah still gets off the bus and asks to be switched to a different classroom. He talks about a particular child who bullies him. He says the other little boys call him “gay” because he likes the colors purple and pink. One day he told me he hated black people. I asked him where he heard people say that and he named off several of his friends who he reported that, “they don’t like black people either.” When I explained to him he was Black, of African American heritage, he was upset and asked me if his friends would know. He cries and tells me his stomach hurts and he doesn’t want to go to school. Once I get him pass the point of anxiety and we get him to the doors of the school he seems okay. When he arrives home he’ll report he had a great time, but then still ask to change schools.

I adored school. It was my safe place. The women and men who taught me inspired me and I excelled. I had really high hopes for Isaiah’s school experiences. It hurts my heart that my five year old has already had such a negative experience. I ask my friends about their experience and they have very little input. It is hard for them to empathize because they have Caucasian child who aren’t learn to form their identity in a minority status. I am slowly beginning to realize that Siloam Springs school systems may not be able to provide the kind of diverse cultural experience my child will need. We had an amazing experience with the Northside Koala Pre-K program. Our teachers Mrs. Sherry and Mrs. Standifer went above and beyond to accommodate our families cultural differences and Isaiah flourished.

So when my friends were preparing me for what life is like with a school age child, they never mentioned this. There isn’t a handbook to help you decide what is the best option for your child’s school experience needs, is there? I want Isaiah to learn to be resilient, but I also want his first few school years to be positive years to build a successful school career on. I know teachers have rough jobs. I am not insinuating that they aren’t qualified educators, I am simply wrestling with the reality this school year was heartbreaking, but not for the reasons I thought.

Have you ever had something that wasn’t a fit for you and your child in their school experiences? How did you deal with it? What do you do when there is something that needs to be a special consideration in your child’s education? How do you make it work?

 

 

I Was A Sister Once:: The Anniversary of My Brother's Death

jasmine banks

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People don't talk much about how you live your life once you lose your sibling. There aren't books on how to deal with being the one  who had to decide to stop his life support as a freshman in college. I suppose no one wants to talk about that. That is too hard to face. I am still trying to figure out what that is. My brother was life. He walked into a room and people turned their heads. We laughed. We laughed loud and often. Our ragtag family was far from perfect, but we loved each other in a way that always held us together regardless of the storm we faced.

Today is the anniversary of my brother's death. Some people say death is like a spiral and as you pull away from the center of the experience it gets less and less difficult to deal with. You still deal with it, but they say that the pain comes around less and less often.

Not for me.

When people ask me how many siblings I have, I have a hard time answering. If I explain that I did have two then I have to explain why I don't anymore. But if I answer that I have one my soul screams out and I feel counterfeit for denying the existence of someone so amazing. Somedays, though... I just don't want to explain. With the "I did have a brother, but he died" line people want to know why and how. What kind of Leukemia? When did you know? What all happened? Then there are times that I do feel like sharing and people don't really know how to react or look at me after the fact. I walk away feeling like I just vomited on the floor in front of them and now we are all walking around it trying hard to pretend it never happened.

I have experienced so much in my short life that sometimes my stories seem so unbelievable, even to me.

Today I have deep sadness that resonates from my chest. I miss my brother. I sometimes feel angry at my son for not letting me forget him. My son's smile and his hand gestures stun me at times. I stand transfixed and quiet for a moment. Isaiah, my son, skips off to play completely clueless that he has just motioned with his hands in the exact way his Uncle Isaiah used to. I hold the dish towel close to my heart and tense all my muscles in an effort not to lose it. For tiny moments I feel like am in Isaiah's (my brother) presence in the form of my son. Or when I hold my son's hand. Even his finger nails are the chewed and stubby replicas of my brother's hands.These moments are soothing and painful in the most confusing kind of juxtaposition. I feel superstitious and nescient in these moments. I know he is gone.

But sometimes my mind and heart want desperately to believe he has left parts of himself in places.

Today I am writing this and crying. I don't know how to say I used to be a sister. I don't know how to make peace with something that seems so wrong. Losing Isaiah was never supposed to happen. Not that way.  Today I am trying hard to inhale deeply and find some measure of grace. It is okay to cry today. It is okay to cry today. It is okay to cry.

Because he is gone.