Here is an article on the Huffington Post today about single motherhood, in which seven out of ten commenters seem determined to prove the statistic that seven out of ten Americans think single motherhood is “bad for society.” When did we become so selfish? Without empathy, without community, every one of us is lost.
“Is it that old bugaboo, the welfare mom, raised most recently in connection with Natalie Portman? In defending his comments about the actress, Mike Huckabee claimed, “most single moms are very poor, under-educated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death.” Not true. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, 80% of single mothers work and less than a quarter receive public assistance. But fighting and accusing and attacking is what captures our attention. How many of us were able to escape Ann Coulter’s nationally televised claims that single motherhood is “a recipe to create criminals, strippers, rapists, murderers”? Here is that dire warning about my children being ruined coming back through a bullhorn.
“These are our children she is talking about. Our next generation.”
Read the whole article here, or on the top of the main Divorce page if you get to it today.
Live, and in-person are two different things, and April 5th is my mother’s birthday.
LIVE is the Dr. Laura Berman radio show on the OWN network, beginning at 6 pm.
IN-PERSON in New York City is the Huffington Post’s ‘Moment I Knew’ Meetup, hosted by Melissa Francis, CNBC anchor and “Divorce Wars” correspondent Where: Macao Trading Co., 311 Church St. (between Walker St. & Lispenard St.), New York, 10013 When: April 5th, 7 to 10 p.m. Cost: Free! Important: Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Moment I Knew Meetup RSVP NYC”
FREE food & drink for the first hour of the event!
Mobile Libris will be on-site, selling books by all author-performers.
My son was shot three times – in school – by a BB gun, and I didn’t know it. He was shot in the back, and in the ankle, and at the base of his skull. This was not a single, isolated spree of a crazed shooter in the school yard. Five different sixth graders shot their classmates (three boys, two girls): at recess, on the subway to a fieldtrip, in the stairwells of the school building; while they were standing in line on the fieldtrip, flanked by teachers on either end. It was not a single day either. The gun came back to school again and again in the backpack of a child who sat at the same table, in the same homeroom, as my son.
Many kids were shot.
No one told.
This is not a case ripped from the headlines. This is standard, every day middle school bullying…with gun. For weeks, my son studied with the kids who shot him. He left for school knowing the gun might be there. He had to deal with the fact that a person he’d always thought was his friend sidled up to him at recess and shot him in the back at close range. What haunts me the most in all of this is: none of the kids said anything. When I first asked my son why he didn’t tell anyone, he said, “Because they said if I told, they would shoot me again.”
How could he believe that? I pointed out the obvious: you tell the teacher. You show the place where you got shot, supply the witnesses; she finds the gun and takes it away. Voila! There is no more shooting. This is crystal clear to me.
He looks pained.
He doesn’t believe me.
My son thinks: If it has happened, then it can happen. He doesn’t want to be shot again.
It shocks me that he conceives of a future where such a thing could continue to happen. My perspective is just the opposite: it will never happen again. I will make sure of it. I will take steps. I imagine scenarios of marching my son into the Principal’s office. The weapon is confiscated. Many relieved children begin to speak. Only later does it occur to me that the gun might not have been brought to the school that day, and that the other victims might been too afraid to break their silence. In this country, we are protected against false accusation, and what if we have no proof?
But even then, surely, there would be something I could do. Right is right, after all. We stand up for the innocent, and bullies get what they deserve – even if what sixth grade bullies deserve is compassionate counseling about how life is not a video game and hurting – hunting! – people is a bad thing.
What I have failed to notice in my headlong march down my imaginary hallway is that my need to take action and get this situation under control is fueled by exactly the same fear that I dismissed in my son: I, too, understand on some level that it can happen again.
What if no one listens?
Of course I will listen.
What if no one listens?
Of course the school we chose precisely because it is small and safe and teaches compassion and good citizenship will listen.
But what if they don’t? What if they don’t act, quick enough and with force?
The school in South Hadley didn’t.
Luckily for us, someone eventually told. I got the news first by telephone from the head of the middle school. My son is trying to feel comfortable in his school once again. And I am trying to use the incident to encourage him to ask for help when he needs it and to check in anyway even when he thinks he’s got something under control.
We need to talk about these things, I tell him: the good, the bad, the boring. Don’t leave anything out.
Of course, I have told him this before. I’ve offered my children other adults, who they love, in my place if they need to talk to someone who is not their mother. I’ve also kept him away from violent games and movies. I’ve insisted on empathy, and honesty, and coming to the aid of other children.
None of these things helped in the end.
So I ask him again, “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“It’s a hard thing,” he says. And a little later, he adds, “I didn’t know…”
This time, I listen because I don’t know either. Except, I know that it’s a hard thing because it seizes me up and sends me into a flurry of phone calls and emails –anything to get a handle on it. We have the same fear. Sharing it makes it seem more possible to overcome.
I told my son that I was sad, that I was deeply saddened for him and for all the children who felt they had to go through this, and struggle with it, all alone. We sat with that feeling together for a long time, and hugged. It’s not a solution to school bullying, but maybe it will keep us out of the headlines.
We can hope.
This post also appears on The Huffington Post. Please feel free to read it there, and share and comment there as well.
My blog on their blog again! Sorry you have to click the link this time, just trying to raise my voice. :-)
Here’s a sample:
It’s real. People are afraid. Not of what exists, but of the possibility that we aren’t actually sure what’s in front of us. It might be worse than we thought; there might be some underlying problem. We worry that we have something – it’s ours, it belongs to us! – and someone is going to take it away or ruin it. Danger, danger! Warning, warning! It is as if we are standing on the very edge of the cliff and are too afraid to step away in case we slip in the opposite direction and fall over.
Today’s thoughts on memory and narrative have found a home on the Huffington Post. You can read it here.
“On September 11th, 2001, however, my keitai denwa (my little Japanese cellphone) rang, and a friend told me that a plane had just smashed into the World Trade Center. In the aftermath of those terrorist attacks, the survivors’ stories changed radically. The shock of war, hostility, lives lost so tragically, opened them up. Their stories no longer began with the time (8:15 am), the blue sky, the faraway dot of the B-29 bomber. They told me about cremating their children, scraping maggots out of the raw swathes of skin on their spouses’ bodies. How a child’s lips came off on the spout of the water container when he tried to drink.”