One School’s War Over Halloween ( Or Not )

 

I’m not sure when it happened. Not sure if there was an announcement, meetings held, angry letters sent or editorials in the local newspaper. Having a kindergartner and a high school senior it’s not something that would have concerned me very much prior to this year.

Apparently, at some point our school district joined an increasingly large number across the country waging a “War on Halloween.” Citing social, financial, and cultural differences among an increasingly diverse student population, kids everywhere are being denied the opportunity to wear their Halloween costumes to school.

I understand that there are lots of families that choose not to participate in Halloween for religious or cultural reasons. That there are some families that simply can’t afford costumes and that this could cause considerable embarrassment. At the same time, I’m uneasy about the practice of solving these issues simply by banning or cancelling any event that may potentially cause somebody to be momentarily uncomfortable. I also find it odd that in their justification for these actions nobody has ever acknowledged a rationale that would be hard for even the staunchest supporters of Hallowtide to argue against. It’s a huge pain in the ass.

 

It’s a pain for administrators, those that would have to decide what was considered allowable. Are some masks OK, or are they all off limits? A toy gun is obviously not allowed in school, but what about a lightsaber? Wrist mounted lasers? Is a magic wand always considered a weapon, or only when wielded by a bad witch? Angry phone calls from parents seem inevitable.

It’s a pain for the teachers, already dealing with twenty students per class at our school. I can’t comprehend how they are able to deal with these unruly mobs on a normal day. To have a whole room full of five year olds pretending to be Ice Princesses and Spider-Men for an eight hour period sounds like a nightmare.

It’s a pain for parents, now having to worry about costumes being ruined, or even worse, minds being changed after seeing what the other kids are. It can sometimes take us up to twenty minutes to put on a pair of shoes and a sweatshirt in the morning. I don’t want to have to add fairy wings or any other added accessories to our morning disaster.

They’d argue, but it’s a pain for the kids too. Costumes have come a long way since I was a child, but they are still mostly uncomfortable, ill-fitting, restrictive, and probably best worn for no more than a few hours at a time.

 

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( I’m Spider Man )

 

Instead I spent three hours Friday afternoon at a “Fall Festival.” Myself and a somewhat surprising number of other parents following our offspring to different classroom for Autumn themed activities. We painted pumpkins, made spider hats out of construction paper and ate orange frosted cupcakes.

 

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I have no idea what higher grades were doing. I’d imagine that this sort of transition would be much easier for kids and families if there isn’t an established expectation for school costume pageants and memories of parades past.

 

It’s possible that there was no “War for Halloween” in my town’s schools. Perhaps just a gradual changing of fall’s festivities, starting with the younger grades. Maybe somebody stood up at a meeting and explained how much easier this would be for all concerned. There are numerous other opportunities in this and the surrounding communities to dress up in the weeks leading up to Halloween and maybe that made it more palatable. It’s also possible I just need to start paying more attention.

 

 

 

We Know

 

We Know.

 

We know that it’s not your fault, not your choice. That you can’t just “get over it”, can’t just “try to be happy.”

We know that you wish this were true. That your soul aches for it to be true.

We know that these feelings, these words, these actions, aren’t intended to seek out our attention.

We know that you need our attention, our love, our support.  Our strength when you are feeling weak.  That you need more.

 

We don’t know how you feel, and we never will. Never know what it’s like to be inside your head, inside your heart.

We don’t know how to stop blaming ourselves. How to stop wondering what we did wrong, what we could have done different, done better.

We don’t know how to stop feeling angry, confused, helpless. How to carry the burden of our helplessness without adding to your own.

We don’t know how to help. We don’t know, and we’re sorry.

 

Know that we will never stop trying.  That there is nothing that we wouldn’t do.

Know that we are sorry that this may not be enough sometimes. That this knowledge breaks our hearts.

Know that these failings are ours, and not yours.

Know that we love you. That we have never stopped, and that we never will.

 

 

 

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picture labeled for reuse via PublicDomainPictures.net

Costume Concerns

 

One of the recurring themes I find myself revisiting as I write about my experiences raising girls is my belief in letting them be whoever they want to be, to resist outside influence and gender stereotypes while at the same time trying not to devalue femininity. To teach my girls that it is OK to wear pink and dress like a princess when they want to, but also that there is no reason why they can’t be a knight as well.

I spend a lot of time reading, both on-line and off, and recently came across an article about the appropriateness of certain costumes for children, fully expecting it to be about the over-sexualization of costumes for little girls and issues with little boy’s costumes being too violent and gory. I figured I’d probably agree with some points, find a few others to be over-reactionary and move on to whatever I found next that appeared potentially interesting.

Instead I was presented with hyperbolic nonsense, a perfect rebuttal to my piece defending political correctness . It took multiple readings before I was positive that it wasn’t intended to be satirical. The author started by calling out Indian costumes as racist, an opinion I can agree with, lost me when she said military and policemen costumes promoted violence, and completely went off the rails by saying superheros were ableist and pirates promoted rape culture.

I’m aware that Captain Hook is no more representative of actual historical piracy than Hagar the Horrible is of the Vikings, but I don’t believe that a trigger warning should be required before posting this picture from a few years ago.

 

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This isn’t to say that reasonable conversations about children’s costumes and cultural appropriation are completely irrelevant. I don’t think an Asian household would be offended by a gaggle of ninjas knocking on their door, but I can’t help but cringe at store displays full of war bonnets and tomahawks, afro wigs and fake gold chains.

Last year my daughter was Captain America and I was proud of the fact that no reason ever occurred to her about why she shouldn’t be. It wouldn’t have surprised me at all if this year she had chosen Iron Man or Black Widow. But what if it had been Falcon or Black Panther. Her favorite X-Man is Storm and her weather powers. Would that still have been OK?

 

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I believe it would be fine. A recent conversation in a Dad Bloggers Facebook group quickly brushing aside any doubts and instead turning towards the celebration of the fact that there are now so many non-white characters that children have to emulate.

In the end we settled on a Punk Rock Vampire costume. Here at Thirsty Daddy we in no way endorse achieving immortality through the consumption of another’s hemoglobin. We apologize in advance to any persons, living or undead, who may take offence.

I am happy to see both Bad Brains and MC5 on the ballot for the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and would love to see both these bands get inducted. Pearl Jam seems a lock to get in.

 

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PoCoLo
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Inherited Idiosyncracies

 

There are many different ways that people would choose to describe “love”, many different emotions and actions used as evidence of it’s presence.  I believe one of the most compelling signs is an ability to overlook those things that absolutely drive you insane.

I’m sure that many of you are nodding your heads right now, things immediately coming to mind that your spouse or loved one does. Things that you sometimes swear are being done purposefully because they know you hate it. Actions that couldn’t possibly serve any purpose but annoyance.

I’m finding that the same holds true with our children. The actions may change, the throwing of a dirty diaper turning to a wet towel on the bathroom floor, nose picking evolving into fingernail biting. Our annoyance levels may change, an eye roll and shake of the head one day, dirty looks and muttered profanities the next, but it’s always there, always something. The truth is that it’s near impossible to live with somebody for any length of time without discovering some idiosyncrasy or annoying habit.

I would never be so bold (foolish) as to publicly discuss any of my wife’s annoying traits, should she one day develop some, and I give the teenager enough reason to be mad at me already, but Alaina’s reading comprehension still hasn’t progressed much beyond DOG and CAT, so I’m going to stick with her for now.

Every morning when she puts on her shoes it’s an exercise in anger management, a test of patience that I don’t always manage to pass.

It’s not the actual insertion of her feet into the shoes, this she does quickly and effectively. It’s the act of velcroing. This needs to be done about a dozen times, with test steps sometimes in between, until she is completely satisfied that both sides have achieved the exact same level of tightness. If there is even a fractional discrepancy they must be redone. Any effort to usher her out the door before they are symmetrically snug ends in tears.

 

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What I’d never noticed before, what has never been pointed out to me by anyone, is that while impatiently waiting for her to be ready to leave this morning I tied my shoes three times. I tied them four more times while I was at the gym. Seven times in a two hour period I bent down and tightened my laces.

 

Alaina is old enough now that if she had noticed I do this it would have been mentioned at least one of the times I stood in the doorway yelling “they’re fine, let’s go!” Is it something subconscious, a subliminal suggestion placed there by her father’s weird actions? Or does this go deeper, passed along genetically with my organizational quirks and devilish good looks?

Whatever the answer, I’ll try my best to be more patient tomorrow. It’s important to remember that whether by nature or by nurture, we created these little monsters and have only ourselves to blame for how they come out.

As far as your spouses go, I don’t have any advice . You picked them.

 

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Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Return of the Kaep

 

The NFL’s Buffalo Bills continued their surprising early season success this weekend, easily beating the San Francisco 49ers 45-16. Other than perhaps checking the statistics of a handful of players for fantasy football purposes, it was a game that I typically would have payed very little attention to.

This weekend was a bit different, an added element compelling me to pay attention to the play of the newly promoted starting quarterback of a 1-4 team based on the other side of the country.

That quarterback was Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, you may recall, was the player noticed to be sitting during The National Anthem before a preseason game a few months ago. When asked about it after the game he said that “I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”  You also might recall a piece written here , later reprinted on The Good Men Project , that was critical of the display while also recognizing the problems he was referring to and strongly defending his right to peaceful protest however he saw fit.

A lot has happened in the six weeks since then. After a meeting with former Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer, Kaepernick started kneeling rather than sitting in an attempt to show more respect to members of the military. His jersey became the top seller on the NFL’s official shop website and he has pledged to donate all of those proceeds, plus the first million dollars of his 2016 salary, to community charities.

Other players, first from his team, then from others, then from across all aspects of the sports world have taken up his cause. Seattle Reign soccer player Megan Rapinoe knelt and remarked that as a gay American she knew “what it meant to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties.” Before the first game of the WNBA playoffs the entire Indiana Fever basketball team knelt. Several NBA teams have started locking locking arms and bowing their heads. Other players are raising their fists.

 

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As the protests continue, so does the backlash. Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall lost several endorsement deals. The Washington Spirit played the anthem before players took the field. Several kneeling Miami Dolphins players followed up by holding a town hall meeting on improving race relations with youth leaders and members of law enforcement. The local police union responded by pushing its members to refuse to escort the team to the game, apparently not realizing that picking and choosing who they serve and protect is one of the underlying problems these players are trying to bring attention to.

Kaepernick was booed loudly in Buffalo on Sunday. T-shirts with his face in the cross hairs of a gun and others saying “shut up and stand” were sold in the parking lot.

I wanted Kaepernick to play well, mainly because so many wanted him to play bad. I don’t know what good, if  any, will come from his actions and still feel that acts done to “raise awareness” are often more symbolic than helpful, but I respect what he is trying to do and admire his conviction.  It seems ironic that fans chanted “USA, USA” when he came onto the field as a means of expressing their displeasure. The right to peaceful protest is something just as quintessentially American as the game of football itself. The louder people yell for him to shut up, stand up, stop what he’s doing, the more compelled I feel to hope he continues.

“I don’t understand what is un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everyone.”  – Colin Kaepernick

 

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Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms