Have I focused too much on plastic-reduced parenting?

Over the last month, I’ve had two posts dedicated to reducing plastic use in our household. I’ve got one more for ya—but this will be the last for a while (seriously, keep reading to find out why).

One of the motherhood bloggers I follow (@mamademics) recently posted on Instagram how she pissed off a bunch of White women when she said she didn’t want to ban plastic straws. I admit, I felt a little ashamed—was I one of those White women that was focusing so much on plastic as a way to feel like I did something social justice-y rather than focus on the more challenging issues like Black and Brown individuals being murdered by the police? By poisoned water in Flint? By the lack of employment opportunities that give any capacity to sustain a family? On top of that, @mamademics linked an article that talked about how plastic straws are very crucial for some disabled people to be able to drink. The author of the article talks about moving to an ‘opt-in’ system (no one gets plastic straws unless they specifically request) instead of a total ban. @Mamademics’s post was a two-fer: calling out an excessive focus on plastic straws at the expense of racial justice AND the able-bodied privilege unrecognized . She’s awesome—go click on all the ads on her page to get her some of that money.

If I’m being fair to myself (should I defend myself? Is that the typical white feminist defensiveness we see everywhere else?), I’m not focusing on banning plastic straws. I never focused on straws or a total ban, though I do talk about single-use plastic and one of those is plastic straws. I do think reducing waste is an important activity, as does @mamademics (it seems—I don’t want to talk for her). But I didn’t contextualize my blog posts in how my privilege shapes my ability to reduce our plastic use. This blog is written by a privileged mother, so almost all of its content focuses on how to channel that privilege towards socially just ends. Part of that means I need to be explicit about when my privilege is shaping my actions—like my focus on reducing single-use plastic.

Also, if I’m being honest, it did feel good to be able to focus on plastic and give myself a day’s pass on thinking about the torture and death of Black and Brown babies. I’m embarrassed to say it but it’s true. And I thank @mamademics for doing that emotional labor to educate me (I went to her page and pay-paled her a donation to thank her #paywomenofcolorfortheirlabor).

So, yes I am going to continue to reduce our plastic use as a family. I’m going to continue to get excited when corporations and nations talk seriously about how to reduce single-use plastic (as long as its not at the expense of access for individuals who are disabled). But I do not judge those who do not have the emotional energy or financial resources dedicated to the same goals that I have. And I will not let these plastic-reducing activities distract me from racial justice issues.

Individual reparations?

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with our recent purchase of a teepee for A to play in. My aunt graciously encouraged me to donate to an organization or group run by and for Native Americans. This donation would not erase the cultural appropriation associated with teepees as play things for White kids but rather would offset the harm our family committed when we purchased it. While financial donations won’t solve the problems of capitalism and White supremacy, it got me thinking: how else can we use our family’s financial giving to disrupt the forces of racialized exploitation?

I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of charity. Charity/donating money is not inherently bad, of course, but I believe it is too often conflated with the idea of justice. My ultimate goal is to cultivate a life that encourages the formation of more just and equitable systems of economy and politics. Charity doesn’t do that. Charity thinks that more money will solve the problems of a few individuals. It doesn’t see that the actual problem is the system itself.

My aunt’s thoughtful comments, however, got me thinking. What if I reconceived ‘charitable giving’ as ‘individual reparations’? My family has materially benefitted from White supremacy. That’s not to say my family hasn’t work hard, but it is to say that the history of economic policies and the lack of interpersonal discrimination has helped recent generations of my family become economically secure. They have been able to pass that down to me and my son. (The case is a little different for my husband, who is a first- or second-generation immigrant, depending on who is categorizing him). How can I use those material benefits and repurpose them to organizations run by and for Native Americans and African Americans? (These are not the only two groups that are materially hurt by White supremacy, but they are two I want to focus on right now)

I have decided to make regular donations to:

  1. The Organization for Black Struggle
  2. National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

My husband expressed concern that the idea of individual reparations was patronizing. I see his point. Framing donations as individual reparations can come off as condescending or paternalistic. It is my hope, though, that this is an action that is rooted in my acknowledgement of an unfair structural advantage. More money will never solve the problems that capitalism created. But, since the US is nowhere close to committing to societal reparations, there must be something that individuals can do. No, my financial donations are not going to fix anything. But they may put more financial resources into the hands of people who have been historically denied or robbed of their financial resources.

Is this entire thinking motivated by White guilt? I’ve been accused of White guilt quite a bit in my life and even more so recently. I’m not sure the difference between being a reflective White person (who hopefully is willing to put her body and money where her mouth is) to having White guilt. I wonder, though: Does it matter? If my motivation is White guilt, but it still gets me to prioritize justice in my actions—does it matter?

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…


*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.

Thanksgiving and Matt Lauer

Ok, there are two pressing—but completely unrelated—topics that I want to tackle this week: Thanksgiving and Matt Lauer. Forgive the disjointedness!

Thanksgiving: I love food. I love being with my family. I love Thanksgiving. I get to enjoy the company of my cousins, who I only get to see once or twice a year. I get to carbo-load HEAVY (gimme that stuffing, mashed potatoes, and biscuits, please). Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. For those of you who don’t obsessively read social justice family blogs like me (lol), you may not realize that Thanksgiving—despite the warm and cozy and family-centered associations that I have with it—is not the most culturally sensitive (word choice—anti-oppressive? anti-racist?) holiday. It comes with a host of culturally appropriative and problematic narratives of pilgrims and ‘Indians.’ At only 16 months, A is too young to have gotten any messages about the ‘first Thanksgiving’, where ‘Indians’ and pilgrims came together to eat in peaceful harmony. Next year—or maybe the year after that—A is going to start hearing this narrative and being exposed to stereotypic and antiquated perceptions of Native Americans. And I need to think of a strategy to talk with him about that narrative that doesn’t engage in stereotyping or romanticizing or other-izing Native Americans.

How do we ditch the stereotyping of ‘Indians’ and erasure of Native American genocide that goes along with Thanksgiving, but still maintain the celebration of family and gratitude?


Matt Lauer: These men keep falling. The entertainment and news world is in a reckoning. And only the men who aren’t abusive assholes/sexual predators will be left standing, thank god. My thoughts turn, of course, to how to raise a son who doesn’t become an abusive asshole, no matter how powerful of a position he finds himself in. What did Matt Lauer’s and Harvey Weinstein’s parents do? I don’t mean to scapegoat parents for their sons’ actions exclusively—I think that is unfair to the parents (there’s a whole host of other socializing factors in a child’s life—school, media, peers, other family, etc.) and removes blame from the perpetrators themselves.

But I have to hold out hope that parents have a role in either fostering toxic masculinity in their sons or discouraging (destroying? Dismantling?) it.  I’m hoping that all of this empathy-building and explicit conversations of (and displays of) emotions are developmentally appropriate ways to start preventing that toxic masculinity mindset. Obviously, I can’t tackle sexual harassment and predation with a 16-month-old. But the actions of Matt Lauer and other men are rooted in the whole jumbled-up, clusterfuck of normative masculinity and power. And preventing that starts in infancy.

Dang, I really, really hope A isn’t an asshole when he’s an adult.


My disjointed, but topical, thoughts for the week.


Happy wiping,


Birthing a human, pt. 2: Race & Class

There’s a quiet crisis in American childbirth currently: Black women die in childbirth in disproportionately large numbers. In Texas, Black women make up around 11% of births but over 28% of maternal deaths. Numbers are similar around the nation, and activists and media have recently been drawing attention to these numbers. While the rate of maternal death is still overall extremely low in the United States, rates have been increasing since the 1970s. (read more here & here).

The tone of this blog post seems to be in stark contrast to the tone of my last blog post about birth. I argued in the last blog post that women need to cultivate positive, affirming narratives/images of pregnancy and birth in their lives—that anxiety and fear don’t need to be the primary emotions of childbirth and pregnancy. I stand by that message.

But that perspective is clearly one positioned in race and class privilege. In my last blog post, I wrote “I felt in control” and “my doctor…respected me.” I grew up surrounded by physicians. My mother is a doctor. Many of our closest family friends are doctors. I have aunts that are nurses and physicians. Now, as an adult, my husband is a doctor. I grew up with familiarity of the medical system and a deeply held belief that it was there to help me and to heal me. I know these to be truths. For me.

But the medical field has a history of both malicious maltreatment and neglect towards more marginalized communities, so it is unsurprising that there is such a large racial disparity in childbirth mortality for Black women. There are millions of Black women who have had positive and affirming childbirth experiences both inside and outside of the medical institutions of the US. Of course, many Black women make their own positive and affirming pregnancy and childbirth experiences, and there are medical providers that support them.

But I want to take time to reflect on moments in my hospital stay when my class or race changed how I was treated (of course, it’s hard to just pick discrete moments–many times race and class privilege changes the underlying tone of interactions. Plus, the fact that my privilege got me into one of the fanciest hospitals in the region…):

  1. When I mentioned to my labor nurse that my husband was an MD/PhD student, she got so nervous that she had to bring the more experienced nurse on shift to do my I.V.
  2. When I was about to get my epidural at 1 a.m., the night nurse told us that my husband would have to stand in front of me so he couldn’t see the procedure, but the anesthesiologist let my husband watch.
  3. My OB offered me a mirror to watch the pushing stage and advocated for me so a nurse went to go get one.
  4. I’m sure there are dozens more…

My privileged experiences is directly related to someone’s discriminatory/damaging experience. Maternal mortality is obviously the extreme and incredibly rare end of the spectrum. But subtle discrimination can have smaller but nonetheless insidious impacts of women of color.

I want there to be a call to action in this blog post—a tangible thing I could do to promote racial justice in childbirth & pregnancy in some small way. I’m not sure what that is honestly though…Any suggestions, as always, are welcome!


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.

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?


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.


Heather Heyer was the child of a mother out there, who undoubtedly received the worst news of her life yesterday. There may be a small bit of solace knowing that she died with her middle fingers up at Nazis, but, honestly, for a parent who is grieving, I can only imagine that it is little solace indeed. She gave her life because of the White supremacist regime, and her mother grieves…just as millions have throughout American history.

My husband and I have brought A to a few direct actions and protests throughout his twelve months of life so far. Not enough–never enough–but some**. When my husband heard someone was killed in the counter-protests in Charlottesville yesterday, the first thing he said is ‘I get so scared when A is at rallies like that.’ I’m scared, too. Of neo-Nazis driving cars into crowds and hurting my baby. Do I have a right to bring my child to events like that, when there is a risk of a White man (the most common type of terrorist in the United States) doing something so grossly violent? After all, my goal in life is for A to be safe and healthy, above all else. At the same time, don’t I, as a White parent, have an obligation to bring him?

Yes, the events of yesterday made me scared to attend protests with A. The way that Black and Brown mothers are scared every day when they let their babies, no matter what age, out of their house. This shouldn’t be about my feelings. I can be scared, have those feelings, acknowledge them and that they make me human. And then move on and move forward. Recognize the terrorism that occurred in Charlottesville yesterday. Mourn the life that was lost in Charlottesville. And still continue to show up, with A when I feel it is safe, to events, rallies, and direct actions.

And when I don’t feel like it is safe for A, continue to show up in those small, mundane moments of parenting. Continue to show up at bedtime while reading. Continue to show up during diaper changes and during playtime. Parenting communicates social messages of power, whether you are at a direct action or not. Use the opportunities that you have.

P. S.

Before the women’s march, this article helped me decide to bring A.

**I don’t want this to sound self-congratulatory or trying to prove that ‘I’m different than all the other White people because I’ve been to a few rallies’ I don’t deserve that label White activist, and I’m sure I am complicit in supporting White supremacy sometimes, even as I actively try to disrupt it in my day to day life.

Storytime and Naming Whiteness: ‘Tubby’ by Leslie Patricelli

My son has had a favorite book for the last few months—Tubby by Leslie Patricelli. It’s a sweet tale about a baby during bath time, with a mom, dad, and a surprise dirty dog on the last page. I’m guessing he loves it because the baby’s face is particularly expressive or maybe because I make a funny ‘bbbbbb’ sound with my lips on the page when the baby is pretending to be a motorboat. Either way, it’s almost always the book he holds out to me insistently repeating “doh, doh, DOH” (which seems to be baby for ‘please read this to me!’).


First, I want to state what I think is obvious but still worth stating: it’s not bad that my son reads books about a White family with heterosexual parents doing a sweet, mundane ritual like bath time. Being White isn’t something I want my son to be ashamed of. But the goal of this blog is to be conscious of how the banalities of parenting are some of the most powerful moments that communicate lessons around power and social identities. So, let’s take a moment to be conscious…

He sees a White family with heterosexual parents doing bath time at least twice a week (did I just admit to only bathing my son twice a week?!). The problem is not that the characters are White, but if and when he becomes exposed only to White characters. When White becomes the invisible norm that he learns not to see.

By the end of the day, when its bedtime and he’s holding out Tubby insistently–I’m tired but he’s being so freaking cute–I can’t help but read it one more time. In those little moments, I sometimes say something like this: 

“This is a really nice book about a family just like ours. What isn’t as nice is that there are only characters with a skin tone like ours, because most books written for you already show people that look like us. But there are people with lots of different skin tones in the world, so it’s not very fair that most books only show people that look like us, is it?”**

It’s my hope that these types of comments gently refuse to allow Whiteness from becoming the invisible norm against which all else is compared. Naming Whiteness is the start. It’s not sufficient, but it’s something.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot I want to say about a book with only 72 words in it (yes, I counted), so I’ve split up my comments into two posts. I’ll post ‘Tubby pt. 2’ soon.


Happy wiping,



Yes, I know my son is only twelve months old. Yes, I know he really has no idea what I’m saying. I want to give myself a few years of practice/habit-making in making comments like this!