Using screen time with intention

Whether we like it or not, A is surrounded by screens. Any child living (in a developed country) in 2018 is. Whether it’s TV time or FaceTiming grandparents, screens are everywhere. While we try to limit his non-FaceTime screens quite strictly during the week (a 20-minute episode of something on Netflix or YouTube), we are considerably less strict over the weekends (those cozy family movie nights are just too good to pass up). I’ve now come to appreciate using the screen strategically to make parents’ lives a little calmer and kids’ lives a little richer.

So, I thought I would outline how we intentionally use screen time for both those ends.

Why and how we use screens:

  1. Rest. Obviously. Let’s be honest–When he’s being crazy or we need to get the dishes finished, sometimes flipping on the TV will do the trick. Sure, in an ideal world, he would be able to sit calmly and work on his puzzles as I clean up dinner. But LOLS, that’s not going to happen every night. I really only use TV like this when B is still at work. It gives me either a moment of rest or a moment to get something done waaaaay more efficiently than you can with a toddler hanging off your leg. (He’s taken to grabbing the knives from the dishwasher as we try to load it, so if some Elmo is going to prevent stitches, we’ll do it).
  2. Exposure to Turkish. Now, I know you can’t learn a second language just by watching TV. Research shows over and over that in-person, live interactions are what help children develop language. Turkish TV doesn’t replace Turkish conversations. That being said, A is still exposed to Turkish through the TV. And when his dad is home, too, they use Turkish TV as a prompt to start talking in Turkish. Watching Turkish shows also gives him more familiarity with Turkish culture, like kid’s songs and popular characters.
  3. Instigating color-conscious and other social justice-oriented conversations. Just like books, TV shows and movies can be a great prompt to start a conversation about social justice. One of his favorite shows, for example, features a trio of female protagonists, two of whom are girls of color. This allows us to start talking about gender and race with A from a young age.

And just as a moment of joy and for our own personal memories, A’s favorite TV shows to watch in the last month or two are:

  1. Spirit: Riding Free (I’ve talked about this one before–it’s his first love.)
  2. Planet Earth 2
  3. Canim Kardesim

Happy wiping,

Olivia

Teepees in our house

Edit– Look at the comments to see more thoughts!

*Preface: This is a messy, rambling post. I wanted to show an example of my internal thought process. Mostly, to demonstrate that I reaaalllyyyy don’t have all the answers when it comes to parenting with privilege. I’m imperfect and do things that I am not proud of. This is one example.

Teepees as decorations in kids’ rooms…

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*Not the teepee in A’s room. A’s room is not this pretty, lol. 

My husband just bought one, and I’m uncomfortable with the cultural appropriation associated with it. I’m a white woman with no known connection to indigenous tribes from the Great Plains in the US (where I understand teepees originated). Do I have a right to have a toy teepee in my house for my son to play in? We didn’t buy it from an indigenous source, which can make having objects from other cultures OK. We bought it off Amazon, where random people are taking ideas from oppressed cultures and making money off of them. That’s what makes me uncomfortable.

I gotta admit though, it’s damn cute (or has the potential to be—right now it’s really wrinkly). A lot of people I love and respect have one/want to get one for their kids/future kids. I think I’ve been brainwashed by the Pinterest aesthetic…send haaaaaalp.

Is it ok if we just call it a ‘tent’? Or is that cultural appropriation and white washing?

And the most annoying part is A loves it. He just wants to lie in it and read books and every night. It’d be so much easier if he just didn’t care about it.

I know what to do (I think). There is no objective ‘right’ way to parent for social justice, but I know (read: think?) in my gut that I don’t feel comfortable with a toy teepee in my house. That’s not to say I’m judging other families who have one. You’re not a bad person, but this is a decision made for my family.

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.

A Turkish Name for an American kid

“Give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”—Warsan Shire

Naming your child isn’t a mundane moment of parenting, as this blog claims to be about–it’s actually one of the most powerful moments of parenting. Their name dictates how the world will treat them and how, in turn, your child will view the world.

My husband and I both grew up in the U.S. He in a college town in Missouri, me in a small city in Pennsylvania. We both grew up watching Hey, Arnold and playing with Beanie Babies. We both attended high school right at the Myspace/Xanga era of social media (what a time to be alive!). But there was one difference: my husband, though for most of his childhood and adolescence was in the US, is Turkish. His parents first moved here before he was born, with his older sister in tow, doing anything they possibly could to make ends meet as graduate students. After my husband was born, they moved back to Turkey during my husband’s toddlerhood. My husband has a Turkish first name that he now goes by (and that his family has always called him), but when he was growing up in Missouri, he went by an Americanized version of his middle name (“John”). To many who know my husband from that time in his life, he is John.

So when it came to naming our first born, it’s kind of weird that we chose a Turkish name for A. I admit that, for the first few months of his life, when I would introduce my son to strangers, I would have this weird mixture of pride/embarrassment when I said his name (that was my own ish that I’ve since gotten over). My name is Olivia, after all, a relatively common name in the United States. I always wondered what people would think when I said, ‘Hi, my name is Olivia, and this is my son [insert Turkish name].’

Is naming your child an act of social justice?

There’s lots of reasons we chose a Turkish name over a name more common in the US. Most importantly, we (and my husband particularly) want our son to have a strong Turkish identity. My son, for all intents and purposes, is White. He certainly passes for White. But because we named him what we did, instead of Nicholas after my grandfather which we considered, the world inherently treats him differently. And that’s ok.  He understands the world in a more nuanced way because he will hear people struggle with his name, ask him to repeat it, or quietly try to avoid using it at all. My husband lives with that hidden curriculum of names, and we decided it was worth passing down those lessons to our son.

Ultimately, the name is a family name—my son’s great-grandfather’s. There are arbitrary cultural boundaries on what seems ‘American’ and what seems ‘other.’ We are allowed to honor my husband’s family without skepticism.

While Shire’s poem has a gendered aspect that I haven’t talked about, her words are applicable nonetheless. His name makes you want to tell him the truth.