Thursday, September 23, 2010

A case for spiral pegs

"We were like spiral pegs in a square hole..."

S is an amazing mother of three who whisks through life making friends wherever she goes, and bringing her three bright, engaged youth along with her for the ride. She also happens to have dreadlocks so long that she can sit on them. She and her family just moved to a new school on Portland's west side, where, even though this is still the left coast, you'll probably find more than a fair share of polo shirts and stay-at-home moms.

Thus, the spiral pegs comment.

So here is my friend, this spirited, strong woman, feeling that she and her family didn't belong in this public institution for learning, and praying for her daughter as she embarked upon her journey in the new school.

But i say, among all the well-heeled, west hills Portland parents, she is needed at that school. Kids, and parents too, need to know that there is more than one way to live life, and in spite of what might appear to be a "dread appearance," there is nothing to fear or disdain or even assume about our differences. We all have to live in this world, and if we can't accept ourselves and our fellow parents who frequent the schoolyard, how are we to get along in the wider world?

What's especially scary for me, when i think about my own child's contemplation of self worth, is the thought of self-exclusion -- of someone excluding themselves from participating in something, because they make the assumption that they are going to be excluded anyway. I don't begin to assume that's what my friend went through -- it's just where my mind went wandering when i heard her comment.

The rebelangel and i could have been those cast-offs, if i would have written the script that way; me with a more carefree appearance and profession than most other moms at her school, and her with the most outlandish array of mismatched fashions this side of the Cascades. Believe me when i say we stick out.

Still, i've been part of the parent's association for more than a year now, and i stay not for the fellowship, or a feeling of do-goodery, but because i feel that someone needs to be there to represent a demographic that is decidedly not the stay-at-home mom, everything's-perfect type of scene. I am the youngest member of the association by many years, and the only one who is single. While my asides about not needing a man don't really ring with this crowd, (and admitting i do want one often gets people thinking i'm going to steal theirs) i think i do manage to change some mentalities once in a while about things like gentrification, diversity, and inclusion.

I do not fear to speak my mind when more well-off parents make assumptions that "everyone will be able to pay that much" for an activity, or they say things like "what is wrong with these people?" when other parents don't show up on time for events. I am not afraid to suggest that perhaps that parent had to take the bus to get there, or perhaps that other parent just got laid off, or perhaps they're exhausted from working a low-wage ten-hour day to support their families.

Life is not rosy or comfortable or cookie cutter for everyone, and if we allow cookie cutter people to run the show, those who break the mold will be forgotten.

So i beseech you -- you with the torn jeans and roller derby friends, you with the dreadlocks and the off-the-grid profession, you with the fears that everyone knows better than you -- include yourself in activities that you think you don't belong in, especially when they involve our youth. Especially when they involve your youth.

When you get over your own perceptions of exclusion, you find that you can have a voice for youngsters who might have the same feeling. Then you begin to influence what happens in that place, and other places, and the world.


Schmutzie said...

This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday -

Samantha said...

Yay! Glad to see you back! and thank you for those words. I'll remember them as OWL grows.
xo samantha

Nicole Vulcan said...

So nice to come back to this blog and find people actually reading it! Thanks ladies!

Jack said...

Hi, Nicole. Just got dropped in here by the "next blog" button, and I just want to offer a word of encouragement. How much more wonderful could all our lives have been if our moms had had your attitude! I'm at the opposite end of the scale from you, being the dad and granddad in a close-knit family that looks out for each other, but everyone, everyone, no matter how much "better off" they may appear, fights a hard battle every day. You have the answer; fear is the only darkness. Best of luck with your little revolutionary, although I suspect that in your case, luck will not have much to do with it!

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