Self-reflection & Joy

I didn’t post last week because I didn’t have my shit together (read about my thoughts on self-care as a parent here). Plus, I made it to the three-months of blogging mark, so I decided to give myself a week off! I’ve been thinking about this blog in my time off. When I started it (as with any project), I was so excited—I had a long list of blog topics, and I would draft my post on Monday and edit it all week. The last month or so, though, I have been feeling uninspired about topics (though I still have that long list) and hurriedly writing the post on Thursday afternoon to meet my Friday morning deadline. Nothing’s changed except the novelty of a blog has worn off and the school year has kicked up again (the joys of the academic calendar). But I don’t want this blog to feel like a chore, so I decided that I am going to expand the scope of this blog.

Critical self-reflections on parenting with power are the heart of the blog and will continue to be, but sometimes I may throw in a post that is just about the joys (or frustrations) of parenting. I don’t sit around and stew in White guilt all day, and I worry this blog makes it seem like I do when I only post critical self-reflections. While parenting with privilege needs to centralize self-reflection & justice-oriented action, parenting in general has so much joy in it. I want this blog to represent all of that. (And to be clear, sometimes there is joy in self-reflection and justice-oriented action. But I am talking about a different type of joy).

So, in the spirit of joy:

A learned to blow raspberries on my stomach on Monday night. I laughed so hard that he would come back every few minutes and do it again to make me laugh!

My husband and I took A trick-or-treating for the first time this year. I tried to dress A up as an adorable fluffy llama, but he screamed every time we put the costume on him. Instead we got a Dracula cape and covered both him and my husband in fake blood…seems appropriate for a 15-month old’s costume, right? 

My husband had to go out of town last weekend, so A and I made a spontaneous trip to the zoo by ourselves. We’ve been so many times before that I thought it would just a way to spend an hour or two (it’s a free zoo, so you don’t feel guilt for going for only an hour!), but we somehow found all of these exhibits we’d never seen before and it was so much fun! A specifically asked to see the ‘maymun’ (Turkish for monkeys), so we spent lots of time in the Primate House. He also would not leave the Children’s Zoo goat area …. 

A is obsessed with blowing kisses! Anytime I ask him to say thank you or I love you, he blows a kiss. Plus all of the other times that he just wants to give people kisses. We facetime my family a lot, and he leans down and gives the screen a kiss over and over when we are talking to his aunts or Nana & PopPop.

Til next week—Happy wiping,




Affirming A’s Turkish identity

I had a long day on Tuesday, but I had signed up to listen to a webinar put on by EmbraceRace, a nonprofit that works to encourage color-conscious parenting. The webinar was about ‘Why and How to encourage cross-racial friendships in young children;’ I recommend the webinar if you are interested. The main take away I had from the webinar was not actually about cross-racial friendships (though that’s important). It was about the positive (emotional & academic) outcomes associated with a strong, positive racial/ethnic identity (see some related research here & here–there’s lots more, but this was from a quick google).

I got to wondering: what am I doing to affirm A’s Turkish identity? Because we chose to name him a Turkish name, he will be treated as Turkish in many contexts, although he looks White. I want his Turkishness to be a source of pride for him, not a source of discomfort/angst/embarrassment. I want him to have a strong, positive ethnic identity. I have been talking to A as if he were White—for example, when we talk about race or skin color in books, I talk about ‘people who have pink-y skin like us.’ In many ways, he is White—and he will certainly benefit from White privilege—so I don’t want him to grow up ignorant of that. But at the same time, because we named him a Turkish name, he won’t always be treated as White. My husband and sister-in-law, who grew up Turkish in the United States, will be able to speak more to this, but I wonder: What is the role of the White parent in raising a child who may not always be treated as White?*

Obviously, a lot of the cultural affirming needs to be done by my husband. I can’t really understand what it’s like to be treated differently because of your name or language you speak at home. We are lucky enough to live close to my in-laws, so A has those family spaces to feel culturally affirmed & supported. Additionally, our niece who is Turkish-Iranian, lives just a half an hour away and is only 9 -months older than A. They will be able to grow up together and have each other as support. They won’t question each other’s identities as some of their peers might to them.

The question of what the White parent can do to affirm identities that are typically ‘othered’ (i.e. what can I do to affirm A’s Turkish identity) still stands. I encourage my husband to speak to A in Turkish as much as possible. When we read about immigrants, I try to say something like ‘your baba is in an immigrant! That means his family came from a different country to live in the United States. How cool is that?’ I want to get more books about children from immigrant backgrounds or children with uncommon names in the American context (I feel like books have been my answer to a lot of questions around identities for kids, but they can be powerful tools!). We do hope to travel to Turkey soon, but there’s a lot of unknown questions with that.

Overall, it is a question of modeling pride (and allowing him to have mixed feelings, particularly during school-age and adolescence).

*P.S. Turkishness is an ethnic (or even national) identity, but I think this question could be applied to parents of biracial children as well.

Yes, that’s your penis…

‘Yes, that’s your penis…’ 

‘No, we don’t put our toothbrush on our penis. That’s yucky for our toothbrush.’

‘Most of the time, we touch our genitals in private.’

‘A, your penis has poop on it. Can you please not touch it right now?’

‘That’s where your urine comes out.’

‘Daddy has a penis, too.’


All of these lines are things I have actually said to A over the last few months during diaper changes. It seems we’ve entered the developmental phase (an extremely common activity at this stage—so universal that I can almost guarantee that everyone reading this did it at this age) where A’s genitals are really interesting to him.

I started talking to A explicitly about his genitals recently. It’s not a revolutionary act, but it is important to me to use anatomically correct words with A. Mostly, because I want him not to feel any shame around his genitals (though there are other arguments, like this one). It’s just a part of his body that, at this point in his life, is associated with peeing and pooping. I want him to feel comfortable in his body and knowledgeable about it. And eventually during adolescence and adulthood, I want him to have a healthy way of thinking about sex (that feels so weird to say about my 15 month old…), and I think that starts early. (It goes without saying that this whole approach to genitals is a culturally-situated one–not everyone will feel comfortable with it or even the end goal.)

Regardless, I think it is important for A, but I think it would be even more important for girls. American culture will encourage A to be confident with his body, but it may not be so kind to his young friends with female bodies. I remember laughing with my husband about A touching his genitals, and I paused and wondered out loud: ‘if he were a girl, would we think it was this funny?’ Would I say, ‘Yes, those are your labia/clitoris/vagina.’? I hope we would. If we have a daughter in the future, I will consciously try to use anatomically correct language when she touches her genitals during diaper changes. Having knowledge of your body and confidence in that knowledge can be empowering for woman of all ages.

I haven’t quite un-learned binary ways of talking about gender, which extends to conversations about genitals. I don’t want to tell A that ‘boys have penises and girls have vaginas’ because that’s not necessarily true. If anyone has any children’s books recommendations about transgenderism/genitals/etc, I would love to hear them!

Choosing a last name

I wrote about how and why we chose A’s first name, but my husband and I also spent time talking about what A’s last name should be.

I didn’t take my husband’s last name when we married—for many and no reasons at the same time. It wasn’t something I every really thought about honestly, mostly because it wasn’t a precedent set by my mother. She kept her last name when she wed my father in 1985. It was my father (according to family lore, at least) that wanted to have my mom’s last name as my sisters’ and my middle names. My sisters and I all have the same middle and last name: my mom’s last name (as our middle names) then our dad’s last name (as our last names). I’m not sure why they decided this way instead of hyphenating it or ditching my mom’s last name all together. But they did, and I like it.

When we got pregnant,  we discussed what A’s last name should be. We never really considered hyphenating, though that seems like a good option for some. We debated mostly if he should have my last name or my husband’s last name. Ultimately, we decided to do as my parents did: my last name is A’s middle name; my husband’s last name is A’s last name.

When I talk about last names with other women, they often say that the only reason they changed their last name when they married is so they have the same last name as their children. I get the sentiment, but given my background, it doesn’t bother me as much as it might bother others. I didn’t feel any less connected to my mother because we didn’t have the same last name. And I don’t feel any less connected to A because we have different last names.

For the next kid (not any time soon-don’t worry!), I’m not sure what we will do. Should we switch the order for the next kid—my husband’s last name as the middle name with my last name as the kid’s last name? That would be the fairest, after all. If I am being honest, I am already leaning towards sticking with what we did for A. It does mean that the maternal last name only gets one extra generation of life—I’m not passing down my mom’s last name to my son, for example. But I’m not really concerned with legacy in that way. It doesn’t bother me, for example, that if A has children, they probably won’t have my last name in their name anywhere. At the same time, there is something romantic and rebellious about giving the next kid my last name. We’ll see…

By the way, I do NOT consider myself more feminist than others who do something different with last names when they marry/have kids. What I think is radical is the conversations and debate about family names, just as much as the actual act of naming (though that has power too–and is more permanent than a conversation). Disrupting the patriarchy means critically thinking about the paternal family name as the norm.


Storytime & Avoiding Colorblindness: Last Stop on Market Street

A friend of my husband very sweetly gave A the book, Last Stop on Market Street (written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson). Unlike my reviews of Tubby (part 1 & part 2), I actually love how this book presents race and family. The picture book is about a boy and his grandmother leaving church and traveling in a bus. Nana, the grandmother, has an unrelentingly positive and curiosity-seeking demeanor that she uses to gently encourage CJ, her grandson. The last stop on Market Street, we eventually learn, is a soup kitchen where they volunteer every Sunday.


Nana and CJ look African American (though the reader is never explicitly told how they racially identify). Many children’s books with characters of color deal with race in one of two ways: First, there are children’s books that use characters of color to discuss the Civil Rights Movement or slavery. Racial struggle is the central theme; these types of books have their place. They can be powerful tools to help kids understand huge topics like slavery or Civil Rights. Second, there are books with characters of color that fall into a “colorblind” narrative (the whole “my kid doesn’t see race” idea). In this type of book, characters of color and White characters interact without any recognition of White privilege or how American society organizes power along racial lines. They become weird post-racial utopias. This type of colorblind book is actively dangerous, because it risks exacerbating racial inequality. (I get this might be controversial for some. Read more about colorblindness here and here.)




It is important to me, however, to have books showing characters of color going about their ordinary lives but still relishing in and respecting their culture. Last stop does exactly that. For example, at the beginning of the book, CJ’s friend (a White boy) gets in the car with his father, and CJ asks his Nana “how come we don’t got a car?”. Those few lines, combined with the visual representation of race in the illustrations, hints as the economic realities of race in the US. There are lots of other subtle examples that prove how delicately this book deals with race.

We can’t just read this book to our kids and expect that exposure to be enough (that falls into colorblindness, which, as I said before, I believe we should strive to avoid as parents). We still need to have active, explicit conversations with them about the book and how race is shown. In a future post, I may put together a few examples of how I might use Last stop to stimulate conversations about race with A or other young kids.

I didn’t even get to touch on how disability and blindness is portrayed in the book, which is beautifully done as well! Overall, I would highly recommend the book for any parents or people looking to buy a present for a young child.

Radical self-care

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” –Audre Lorde

I’m not feeling inspired this week to write about social justice and parenting. Not sure if my mental energy is being sucked away by work or by the INSANE temper tantrums A has been throwing recently. Dammnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, he has been feeling cranky the last few days. Or he’s just testing his limits. Or he’s going through a developmental spurt. I don’t know, but it is a test of my patience. And a test of my whole ‘are temper tantrums social justice opportunities?’ strategy I put forth a few weeks ago. I want to seriously laugh-out-loud at myself that I called what A was doing then ‘temper tantrums’—they were more like a 30 second whine. Now he screams immediately if I don’t give him what he wants all the time (which I don’t, don’t worry!).

This is actually a perfect segue into what I wanted to talk about this week: how self-care can be an act of radicalism. The image of the ultimate selfless mom who has no time to think about herself is not a healthy one (though I’m sure it feels true sometimes). A few weeks ago, my friend invited me to a self-care workshop for moms. It was a nice 2-and-a-half-hour session, mostly because it was a non-judgmental space of moms recognizing the need for time for themselves. During the workshop, I made a few resolutions to myself about self-care: (1) that I would turn off my screens at 9:30pm every day (not going so hot with that one—it’s currently 9:51 as I’m writing these words), (2) I would hug my husband once a day (seems so obvious that I’m embarrassed to say it) and (3) that I would try floating. One of the other moms in the self-care workshop highly recommended floating (also called sensory deprivation). Essentially, you float in a salt water tub that’s heated to the perfect temperature so that you lose track of your body. The room is pitch dark and completely silent. I did end up trying it recently: one Sunday night right before A’s bedtime, I left him with his dad and went to float in a dark, soundless room (lol). I’m not sure if I’ll do it again, but I’m proud that I made time to try something new, just for myself.

Lorde’s quote is a powerful one. She obviously speaks from an intersectional perspective—her Blackness and her womanhood are wound up together. I’m not sure her quote exactly speaks to me as a White woman (nor should it), but I do believe that any one’s self-care is an important act of social justice. Particularly for parents. Particularly for moms. Not just because it helps us be better moms, but because we deserve that care simply because we are human.


Failing as a White person/parent

Last Friday, a few hours after I last posted, Police Officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of murder of Anthony Lamar Smith. The evidence seemed obvious, but yet again, the justice system failed to bring justice to Anthony’s family.

St. Louis activists were immediately on the streets, yet again drawing the nation’s attention to this failure of the criminal justice system. These protesters are doing the real work of nation-building: they are holding this entire country accountable to its most fundamental promise: that all…are created equal.

But I didn’t go. I didn’t go to any protests. I followed the news; I liked Facebook posts; I tried to go to a university-based panel discussion, but A’s naptime overlapped with it. But I didn’t put my body where my mind was–at the protests.

The only reason I have for not going is how the police have been acting towards the protesters. Aggressive, to put it mildly. I was too nervous to bring A to a setting like that. But I know that is a privileged choice to make–many don’t have that choice. I failed this week in my inaction. I don’t want A to be raised inactive.

A’s daycare was shut down on Friday. The teacher that called me to tell me explicitly said, ‘because they just released the Stockley verdict’. I heard other daycares were evacuated, and I know of at least one K-12 school that cancelled after-school activities. There are two possible reasons why his daycare shut down: either because of fear (inconvenience?) of protestors (likely) or out of some sort of respect for the mourning that the city was going through (unlikely). I didn’t try to question the executive director of A’s daycare (who made the decision). Should I?


Storytime and Decentralizing manhood: Tubby, pt. 2

A has moved on from his Tubby obsession since I wrote the first blog post about the book, but I still wanted to revisit it. Last post, I talked about Tubby and whiteness. Today, I want to use Tubby to talk about decentralizing & redefining boyhood/manhood.

Tubby never implies a gender of the baby protagonist in either the words or pictures. I find myself really intentionally using the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ in reference to the baby, though I admit one of the first times I read it (of thousands at this point), I realized I had been referring to the baby as a ‘he.’ It’s not uncommon in American society for gender-neutral characters/things/animals to be assigned ‘he’ as a pronoun. There’s an awesome (and free) zoo near where we live, and I often hear parents referring to almost every animal (without obvious genitalia, lol) as a ‘he.’ De-normalizing boy/man as the assumed gender is one thing I try to be conscious of in my day-to-day interactions with A.

I am human, of course. Sometimes, I’m sure I assume ‘he’ when I’m super busy or feeling really tired. We haven’t completely abandoned gender in raising A, particularly in how we dress him, though I do try to push back at hyper-normativity whenever I can. Trucks and dinosaurs are great, but so are dolls and art and play-cleaning (he’s currently obsessed with a vacuums and brooms and all things cleaning) and science and nature and all sorts of things. Blue and red are great colors, but so are pink and green and purple and orange.

My mentality is that the world is going to smother him with trucks/dinosaurs/blue/red so much already that I don’t need to encourage it anymore. He will get those messages from school, media, people on the street. I can use our home to encourage him to be interested in things (often stereotypically feminine) that the world won’t push on him.

Using ‘they’ as a gender-neutral pronoun when reading books or encouraging non-normative interests are small ways of decentralizing and redefining boyhood/manhood. It happens during storytime with books like Tubby. It happens when I’m buying him new kid silverware, and I pick the green & purple unicorn-themed fork. It happens in all sorts of mundane, tiny moments of parenting.

It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

Opportunity Hoarding

My sister introduced me to a podcast about parenting called ‘The Longest Shortest Time.’ On a recent episode (8.30.2017), they interview the author Eula Bliss. About two-thirds of the way through the interview, Hillary (the host) and Eula have a brief exchange about opportunity hoarding as White parents. Here’s my own transcription:

Eula: … I think quite a few of the parents in my community and in my circle actually see some version of opportunity hoarding as their duty—as what they are supposed to do for their child…

Hillary: Because, like, why wouldn’t you get them the best opportunities?”

It’s a brief 30 seconds, but the idea really struck me: opportunity hoarding [as a parent] is the phenomenon when you advocate for the best resources and opportunities for your child. There’s an almost evolutionary compulsion to want your child to have the best of everything. It’s engrained in us that we should loudly promote what is best for our child.

The problem is that my voice, as a parent with racial and class privilege, is already prioritized in society. When I compound it with a parent’s natural tendency to opportunity hoard for my child, parenting becomes a clear mechanism for the exacerbation of power along the lines of race and class.

During the interview, Eula argues that opportunity hoarding can be as simple as being the loudest parent to your child’s teacher. By drawing the teachers’ attention to your child, you are draining the teachers of the energy to focus on other parents and children. Eula has made it a personal policy to advocate to her son’s teacher only if the change would benefit more than just her son. Now, there are obvious exceptions to this—if your child has a physical or learning disability, for example—but I like her point overall. Opportunity hoarding as a White parent is a compulsion that we have to overcome if we, as parents, want our actions to promote justice.

So, my questions to myself: When have I participated in opportunity hoarding for A, particularly in the school setting? What can I do to ensure that my opportunity hoarding instinct (a natural, evolutionary compulsion, I would argue) is redirected to benefit more than just A?

Here’s one mundane example: recently, I’ve been thinking about asking A’s daycare teachers to give him seconds at breakfast and lunch. Since A moved into the toddler classroom a few weeks ago, he’s constantly asking for food when he gets home [an adorable combination of the ‘eat’ and ‘please’ signs, along with a persistent whine, repeated about a million times over]. I wanted to ask his teachers if he could be offered more food if he finishes his plate. This seems like an innocuous request, but opportunity hoarding can happen in small, mundane ways. Since listening to the podcast, I’ve altered my strategy: I’ll ask if any of the kids could be offered seconds of the food. It’s a really simple switch, but instead of advocating for just A, I’m advocating for everyone.



*P.S. Obviously this strategy as a way to promote social justice wouldn’t work if A went to an all-White, all-wealthy daycare, but choosing a daycare is a separate mess that I can get into later.

Birthing a human

I actually really loved giving birth. And I don’t mean I really liked the end result, but the process sucked. I mean I actually liked GIVING birth. I liked being in labor; I liked pushing. When my OB asked if I wanted a mirror to watch A come out, first I asked ‘Am I going to see myself poop?’ (she assured me no, though I don’t know why I cared), then I said ‘Sure!’.

In the internet world, you often hear this birth-positive narrative from moms who’ve gone the ‘natural’ route (aka, medication-free). I was about as far from a medication-free birth as you can get: I had Pitocin to encourage contractions after my water broke at 38 weeks, and then had an epidural at 2-3 centimeters dilated. One thing I do have in common with women who chose a medication-free birth, though, is that feeling of empowerment: I felt powerful, and I felt in control. I respected my doctor, and she respected me.

Now, I know a lot of this has to do with luck and privilege, which I will get into in future posts. Here, though, I want to say this: how we talk about birth can be an act of social justice. I know this blog is dedicated to mundane moments of parenting, and pregnancy/childbirth is far from mundane. How we TALK about pregnancy/childbirth, though, creeps into daily lives without even realizing it. Through chatting with friends, watching TV, or browsing the internet, images of pregnancy and birth are actually pretty ubiquitous. Outside of the natural birth world, there is a dominant narrative of anxiety and fear around pregnancy/childbirth. It is a huge and demanding physical experience to have, don’t get me wrong. But it is something that our culture teaches women to fear in small ways every day.

Talking about birth in a positive, empowering way isn’t just for women who choose a medication-free birth; it can be for anyone. I would encourage anyone who is pregnant or wants to be pregnant to consciously start curating positive images of pregnancy and birth and censoring the anxiety- and fear-driven ones. Living in a patriarchal society means that women have to be very concerted in their efforts to shape how they think about pregnancy and birth.

At times, during my pregnancy, I did think I was just trying to trick my brain into being positive. That patriarchal fear-driven narrative of pregnancy/birth is a pernicious, insidious thing. There were times when I felt nervous, anxious, and afraid. That’s normal and not something I’m ashamed of. I used mantras, yoga, and mindfulness to get me through that. Other women may use other strategies. You have to find what works for you.

In future posts, I want to reflect on how my Whiteness and class privileges changed how I gave birth and experienced in pregnancy. But today, I want to focus on this one message to anyone who is pregnant:



*P.S. Whenever someone asks me if I need help carrying something now, I often respond, ‘Nah, I’m strong as hell. I literally pushed a human being out of my body once.’ And you can still feel like this if you had a c-section: you literally GREW A HUMAN and had it CUT OUT OF YOU. That makes you badass as hell!