A Comprehensive List of Reasons We Aren’t Having Kids

Writing

Since getting married, people keep asking me and my husband if we want kids. Since neither of us has ever expressed even the slightest interest in procreation, it seems odd. But the really odd thing is when people argue with us about it after we try to politely demure. You could stop with the question when we say no, and I politely talk about how grateful I am that other people have them, but instead you keep interrogations going. Since we are getting tired of repeating ourselves, here’s the list of reasons.

Prepare to be horribly offended.

  • We don’t want to.
  • Kids will cramp our style? Why? Because our style is called “being irresponsible” and “sleep.”
  • You all frown on people who smoke weed around their children
  • People keep telling me how brilliant our child will be, and that might be true, if we win the genetic lottery. But they’ll also be insane, and we’ll possibly produce a Lex Luther.
  • Don’t you all think I’ve done enough damage to my body?
  • Listening to the cries of children gives me horrible flashbacks to my childhood.
  • I’ve already taken care of lots of kids, so I know better.
  • My husband straight just hates kids, you guys.
  • OR… we can both write.
  • We’re just a pair of selfish assholes.
  • OR… I can continue to play subversive aunt to all of your children
  • I literally can’t do it all without dying and frankly I like writing and activism better than raising kids.
  • Between my husband and I there is only one fully functioning adult and we both agree it’d be best to raise kids with two.
  • I wouldn’t wish my medical conditions and epic-genetic trauma on my worst enemy.
  • Just general laziness.
  • Neither one of us wants deal with the fallout of possibly having a douchebag. Which is to say, we’d have to hate our own child.
  • After 28 years, I’m finally getting good sleep. Fuck you for asking me to give it up.
  • Children aren’t fluffy and they expect to be fed more than twice a day on a regular schedule.
  • Our cat wouldn’t like it.
  • Christmas and Disneyland are usually involved in our descriptions of hell.
  • Do you REALLY think it’s a good idea? I mean, if you know us? DO YOU?!!
  • Because we are too irresponsible but also responsible enough to know we are too irresponsible.
  • It’s all fun and games to tell children to rebel against authority until you are the authority.
  • Children’s birthday parties.
  • Pregnancy, for either of us.
  • We’ll never like our child as much as we like each other and we’ll both also do a poor job hiding it because of aforementioned laziness.
  • “No, honey, Santa isn’t real. He’s just something some white people made up to get people to spend money. Sure, go ahead and share that information with the masses.” Do you really want my child in school with your child?
  • Children are like biological weapons factories and my body is basically virgin soil for the all the good my immune system does me.
  • I don’t actually carry the gene that makes me addicted to baby smell, because I’m a mutant.
  • I secretly hate taking care of kids even though I’m really good at it.
  • I’m also really good at physics but I have yet to see such a mass campaign to get me into scientific fields.

 

 

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Teaching Kids Who Have Trauma

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First and foremost, I think it’s important to remember that kids can’t learn under stress, so creating, a calm, safe, warm environment is the most important thing to focus on. What that looks like to you will mean something different, but it helps if the space is calm and you are calm. And if you aren’t calm, that you explain to the child that it’s not their fault because they will pick up on whatever energy is out there.

Trauma can make it difficult to focus, so often it is helpful to provide warm redirects and to understand that children facing trauma will often have shorter attention spans and will need patience and more breaks. Set more realistic goals for attention, get a baseline read by finding out the amount of time it takes for them to get overwhelmed and then work five minutes back from there. So if they freak out after 15 minutes, you know that they need a break at ten and slowly and gently work your way up. Breaks look different for every kid but the little ones benefit from physical movement, which can be walking or dancing. The older ones benefit from being able to stop sensory overload. I highly recommend music breaks or walk breaks.

It helps if you vocalize things for the kids. So in my case, I used to flinch if people touched me, someone broke me of it by noticing I was doing it and saying, “hey, you flinch when you are being touched, why is that” and then I could be both conscious and aware that my trauma wasn’t normal, this is especially important for victims of early childhood trauma and kids who went through years of trauma like I did.

I had a pass in my room where I allowed kids to step out at any time if they needed to gather themselves. It was used, very rarely, but it made the kids who needed it feel safer because they knew they had the option and they knew I was aware and they weren’t going to get in trouble for their trauma.

Some kids benefit from having a peer age buddy they sit next to or can call on if they need them. I gave my students input on the environment so they felt more in control of the situation.

Trauma can make kids feel uncontrolled frustration and anger and most of the time this is what leads to kids acting out. I’m a big believer in giving kids things like stress balls or stuffed animals (if they are little), this can give them a physical way to deal with their emotions and it’s something they get to be in control of. I also allow doodling as long as it doesn’t get in the way of work, I doodle myself and also often make comics or basically provide running commentary that are definitely not notes that I used to get in trouble for but it kept me from getting frustrated or blurting things out. In fact, I’ve used this for non-traumatized kids too.

If something happens and a kid starts to become defiant, DO NOT escalate by yelling at them in public. Ever. Ask them to take a break outside and go talk to them. Yelling will automatically trigger a negative response. Don’t take it personally, don’t assume they are just being a jerk or trying to engage in a power struggle. Be the adult in the situation and calmly tell them to take a break and then go talk to them. Kicking kids out of class and to the principal’s office ought to be reserved for students who are a direct physical danger to others, otherwise you are just sending the message that these kids are “bad” and unwanted and unlovable. Kids who have this self image will act out when a teacher loves them and likes them, because they will want you to confirm their image of themselves. That’s the worst thing you can do, instead you should break them down over time by loving them everyday no matter what they did the day before. Give your students a clean slate everyday. Are they likely to disappoint you by misbehaving on a given day? Yes, but in the long run, their behavior will change over time. And besides, you are the adult here, their job isn’t to please you or to make life easy for you, your job is to teach and love them. Be the adult.

And the most important thing I can say is to remember that if a kid is acting out, he’s not being an asshole. There’s a reason for it. The best way to diffuse a freak out is to say, “hey, this isn’t like you. Is something going on? How can I help?”

And finally, it might seem obvious but I rarely see teachers do it, develop a rapport with students and open up a line of communication and ask them what they need to be successful. Giving them agency is critical and it sends all the right messages to them about their power and rights after being robbed of that. Some kids might not immediately turn into the compliant happy kids you want, some will take all year and some will take decades but if you are consistent, loving, kind and professional, you can take solace in knowing that they will remember that you provided the counter narrative and a model for what a good adult looks like.

Don’t Tell Lies, Kids are Smarter than You Think

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I am notorious for many things, one of them is keepin’ it real. I am a pretty big fan of keepin’ it real. Keepin’ it real means being really honest about the world as it exists. I strive for honest and kind, sometimes, because I am human, I fail. Most people who have been through the kind of trauma I have lie about it. People pretend to not be poor. People pretend they aren’t struggling. People suggest to me that I should lie to the children, as if children are blind and can’t figure it out. I want to tell you as a trained professional that they can and have already figured it out. Children are beautiful, and brilliant, and amazing and have no filter and that is why I work with kids and not adults. Kids are still raw, they are still honest and because of that they have the power to grow and change, and ultimately to change the world. You cannot grow if you can’t take risks and you can’t take risks if you lie to yourself.

I’m honest because when we aren’t honest we end up in a world where white children grow up being lied to about their privilege. We grow up in a world where black children learn to blame themselves or become angry without knowing the cause of their suffering. We grow up in a world where bills can be named ridiculous things that have no basis in reality, like No Child Left Behind. We grow up in a world where we have a feminist movement defined by blaming women for not working hard enough. This is a world in which nothing structural and systematic gets fixed. I get it; people think that if we are honest, people will lose hope and give up. I have to respectfully disagree. There are people who survived the Holocaust, Slavery and Genocide. There are people that resisted those things. People are so much more resilient than we can possibly give them credit for. This is especially true about children, who have the amazing ability to adapt to anything and to strive and learn even when they are told not to.
The other argument is that people will find out and stop having personal responsibility. This is a rather shallow and foolish view of humanity. People have accomplished things under conditions that are absurd. Malcolm X knew he was going to be shot, he spoke anyway. My mom told me how messed up the world was, and then she told me that was no excuse for failure, and despite being a severely abused poor kid I made it to Stanford. I know how hard it is to overcome things, I also know how incredibly strong and beautiful humanity is in the face of adversity. This is why I trust my kids to handle the truth.

The kids are never uncomfortable with the truth. It is the adults who are. This is why when I said I wanted to teach about the Black Panthers I had Stanford kids tell me they weren’t comfortable with having high schoolers learn about that. My response was that they already knew; I grew up in the shadow of the Militancy of Civil Rights and so do all of my students. We aren’t supposed to talk about violence and I have seen more stabbings than I can count, I have had students who have watched people be murdered; they were twelve. They used the experience to connect with other human beings. They were incredible, conscious, sensitive, chatty, and adorable 12 year old boys. I hope that whoever has the fine pleasure and honor of teaching them now sees how beautiful they are and helps them develop their voice. Do you have any idea how powerful it is to watch 12 year poor children find their voices and enter debates about Civil Rights when they know what is going on? It does not weaken them. Kids are better than that. You cannot stamp out their drive, humans have an innate desire to contribute, to provide, to be part of this grand and mysterious world. I sincerely have never met a lazy child. I have met kids who didn’t do what they were being asked, but I have never met a kid who when given a task that is both accessible and rigorous and of interest to them, who didn’t do the task. Not one. Ever. In any context.

My friends from high school are really good examples of this. None of us were great students (we have who was worst contests, the jury is still out). One of them, a boy with a keen mathematical mind and test scores that are ridiculous, failed most of his classes but asked to take community college classes he was interested in. He’s been working since we were 13. He can run his own business. His pool game is absurd. Another is a profoundly talented artist, she almost failed school because they put in her the lower classes because she lived in the projects, so she stopped showing up. She is now a professional artist, she graduated from Berkeley, with honors. Another one only excelled in the classes he was engaged in, he had what rich people call business skills and what we hustling that would have rivaled anyone I know in business currently. He teaches kids to read. He lived in a shed in college so he could get out. And me? Well I was defiant, I rarely did the assignments I was supposed to, sometimes just for fun I would do other assignments in protest, I was known for getting the whole class to turn on a teacher. I ditched most of 8th grade science. I went home during lunch and made pasta only to never return. I got into fights. I only behaved when I was differentiated to. Now I am a teacher with two degrees from Stanford. All of us had profound struggles. Poverty, racism, sexism, familial challenges, a neighborhood that was unsafe, abuse, neglect, everything you imagine about urban kids is represented in just three examples. We were set up to fail. But we got out. We got out because we wanted to contribute. Those are the most brilliant among us, but to this day I don’t have any friends or family members that I know that aren’t trying to contribute, aren’t trying to love the people they love in their lives, aren’t trying to care. They don’t always do it successfully, but they try. I have seen sociopaths, and the faces of evil, they are rare and not reflective of humanity but of deficiencies in their ability to be human and they aren’t lazy.

My mom is a radical lady. I was raised in a house where race, class and gender were discussed openly. But this was the norm. There isn’t a black kid in America that hasn’t gotten a lecture on race, that hasn’t woken up and realized that they are oppressed. There isn’t a poor kid I know for whom that isn’t true either. How could you not know? We all knew. We just had different understandings of the root causes, and those understandings were ultimately what defined us. I was empowered by how clear the system was to me and was made to me by my mom and the number of good teachers I had. I wish my friends could have had that too, maybe more of them would have gotten out. That is why I teach history. Be honest because the kids already see what is happening, but if you don’t explain why how will they ever know the right way to get around it. How will they know the rules well enough to break them? Because that is ultimately what is required. And while you are at it, if you are serious about making it so that they don’t have to break rules just to survive and provide for their families, do some work on addressing the structural inequalities. If you want to be super helpful, the next time you are at dinner with someone who doesn’t know how the world works, especially if they have power, keep it real.