Solidarity Through Parenting
It is the big day. My daughter's history fair competition. When I
wake up, she is already at my bedside, fully dressed, munching on a
bagel. She's been working for the last three months on this project, and
after local competitions, she's managed to make it to the state finals.
She talks incessantly while I dress, repeating all the facts she's
memorized to tell the judges. In between it all, she slips in the
announcement that she's invited not only her grandparents, uncle, and
cousin, but her three tias as well. She tells me they all
confirmed that they will be attending.
I wonder how my ten-year-old managed to organize an entire family
gathering all on her own.
I can't describe the exact moment when I knew that
I had been practicing it would never work. But I do know the moment when
I realized I had just spent the last five years of my life building the
It was right about the time that my daughter (with the help of an
older friend) figured out that the Internet was more than a few PBS
sites and an occasional email to Grandma and Grandpa. As I sat on a
conference call with my fellow women of color organizers wondering how
to deal with the latest drama, my daughter declared that most of her
friends knew how to get around the various Internet monitoring devices
their parents had installed on home computers, and that she even had
friends who were "hooking up" with older boys and men online.
But because I was "working," I told her to shush. After I got off the
phone, I asked her to expand on what she had said. As she described the
"flirting" one boy had done with a friend of hers, however, I had to cut
her off. There was another phone call I had to be on, and then there
were the emails and posts and tweets that had to be posted. I told her
we'd talk again after I got my work done and sent her off to play.
But a heavy gnawing sensation that had been in my stomach for a while
dug in a little deeper.
That was not the first time that I had made my family wait for me so
that "work" could get done. There were the weekends I was out of town,
the hours and hours spent in front of the computer, the unexpected
crises that had to be solved immediately. I've lost track of the number
of times I told my family, "hold on, it will be just a minute," only to
finally emerge from behind the computer three hours later. The thing
was, it wasn't that I loved my job. It wasn't that most of the work I
was doing was even paid work. It was that the work I was doing was
"revolutionary." It was "liberatory" and "world changing," and
I'd seen with my own eyes the differences the work in which I was
engaged was creating. Radical women of color bloggers had claimed a
space on the Internet. Mami media makers
had demanded a presence at major media conferences, and a CD to fund travel was soon
created. What started out as a handful of bloggers looking for
friendship and support had become a political force to be reckoned with.
We weren't the problem; we were the solution.
So every time I made my family wait for me, every time I disappeared
for meetings, it was in the righteous name of liberation. I was making
change, and I was doing it for my kids, for myself, for my family. If
others were free, we would be. And yet, my daughter's whispered words
during a phone call exposed a pressing crisis that I was ignoring and
really had no resources or skills to negotiate. All the righteous
liberatory work was doing nothing at all to address the sexism and
potential violence my daughter was growing in to. And ironically, the
activism that did nothing to address her needs was leaving very little
time left in the day for me to help her as a mother.
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