Sunday, November 14, 2004

Punk Mommy Blues

I signed up on MySpace recently for Stay At Home Bomb and I found a community of punk parents with whom I could relate. I joined a MySpace Punk Parents group and started chatting. It's kind of a web based support group. Anyway, I decided to ask them about my 9 year old daughter, who is having serious trouble fitting in at her school and was suspended for "willful defiance and disobedience" a week ago. I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. I've reprinted some of my MySpace posting below because I've had several people ask me how I manage to be in a punk band and be a mommy at the same time. It ain't easy.

"I wish I knew the whole story, but I don't feel like I do. The people who were there seemed to have stories that were missing details. All I know is that something upset my daughter, an adult told her to stop making a fuss, my daughter replied "you're not my teacher, you can't tell me what to do", and she ended up in the principal's office. At some point during her visit to the office she crawled under the vice principal's desk and refused to come out. That's when I got the phone call.

I do feel responsible. I've always taught my daughter and step daughters to question authority. I guess I have mixed feelings about it. Although I truly believe in questioning authority I'm not sure that children who practice that policy get a fair shake from those in positions of authority. In the end, we as adults can always walk away and say "fuck you" to anyone we choose because we are in a position to assert control over our own situations. Children don't have the same options. My daughter has my support, but ultimately it's she who has to go back to the classroom and deal with peers and adults who may now see her as a troublemaker.
It's one thing for me as an adult to blow off people with whom I disagree, but I remember how bad it felt to be a "weird" kid trying to fit in. Am I teaching my daughter to be a misanthrope?

I'm torn. Part of me wonders whether there is a way to stop this train wreck with society at large from happening. I never appreciated being different until I was much older. As a young child, it was just a sad and lonely route to go. Now I see how different my own daughter is from her peers and I wonder how much I've contributed to that, through my genes and the environment I've raised her in. Is the best that I can offer her as a parent my love and support? Or did I unintentionally screw up her life by raising her in a home that values individuality above fitting in? And are those two things mutually exclusive?"



Jenny Lens said...
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Jenny Lens said...
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Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad -- my mom was a 60's radical, and she too taught me to question authority and be an individual. Did it make my childhood easy? No -- trouble at school, social alienation, etc...Naturally, as a mother you want the best for your child, but don't overlook the bigger picture. The same kid that disrupts class to stick up for herself can also become an adult who thinks for herself and stays true to her own values and ethics. There's a difference between individuality and self-destructive behavior -- which, by the way, fitting in can be just as self-destructive, if not more.

Sylvia said...

Alice, I've read this post a few times now and it really upsets me.

You know, I've got three non-conformist kids of my own. In the past**, I have had to really make my presence known at their schools. Well, at least up until High School, then they really prefer to take care of it themselves.

Whoever that first teacher was who saw your daughter upset was a real cow to tell her to stop making a fuss. What kind of crap is that?

AND WHAT IN THE HELL did the principal say to upset a 9 year-old so much she hid under his desk and wouldn't come out? Cruel bastard. If he is so ill equipped at dealing with children to realize she was about to break, he shouldn't be principal.

My experience with the public schools is the following:
You must be an advocate for your child or those people will treat your kid anyway they see fit. Anymore the school system really robs our kids of thier identities and they are viewed like so many cattle to be processed.

You need to give your daughter her identity. You can either "make nice" with all the teachers and suck up with all your might, so your daughter won't have to, or you can make them fear mistreating her with every fiber of their being (my preferred method). Either way, they will continue to mess with her unless you make your presence known.

While you do this, you need to help your daughter understand the whole thing about being a square peg and the reaction that it causes. I know you understand this better than most people and if you can pass your experience on to your daughter, prepare her to deal with who she is, she will have that much more of an advantage.

**my youngest starts high school in Sept.