Raising Richmond: Following up

Preschool, public school, and pinkification: A look back at a some of the 2014’s columns.

I’ve been writing this column for most of the year, and it was interesting to go back and browse through the last year of confessions, reviews, and parental mishaps and wins and compare it to where we are now. It’s been a big, challenging year, and to be able to write about it publically has been its own challenge, between worrying about oversharing while remaining honest.

Because I’m too out of it to rank any pop culture that came out this year (though I did read two books that came out in 2014,1 and I should be your go-to for podcast recommendations), I thought I’d recap some past columns and update where we are now…

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Accidentally raising a girl

I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that being a woman is a liability, and she is starting out as less-than. I want her to have choices, and when she chooses what she likes and it happens to be pink or what society deems as appropriate for a little girl, she still made the right choice.

My daughter is definitely a typical preschool-aged girl. It’s been months since anyone has called her a boy, thanks to her longish, curly hair. She’s continues to love all things commercially girly. It took some time, but the Frozen bug finally got to her. It is a typical occurrence that she shuts herself in her room for a few minutes and then emerges dressed like a butterfly or mermaid. This year, especially, I’ve noted a divide in how she and her male friends that’s she’s known all her life have been playing, and while I love these guys, I think she needs some more gal pal time in her life. She wants to run around and be crazy, but she wants to dress up like Ana while she’s doing it.

We have a lot of talks about how boys can like “girl” things and girls can like “boy” things, including the idea that there really is no such thing as “boy” or “girl” things. You can like what you like. When she told me that she wanted to play Mary in her school’s Christmas play when she was older, my first instinct was to say, “Why can’t you be Joseph?” Which makes no sense. I can’t use her as my own pawn to challenge gender roles.

She chooses pink and princess, and although I like Ana and Elsa, I sneak in some exposure to non-royalty girls (whose mothers aren’t all dead, geesh), like Kiki or Chihiro from Hayao Miyazaki movies Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away.2 I have given into her girliness. Turns out, it suits her.

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Do you know about Jesus?

Although the word ‘Christian’ is all over her school paperwork, I hadn’t really thought about what it would mean to enroll our daughter in a Christian preschool.

After having dinner with a couple of girlfriends and their kids, one of them texted me that my kid said something really strange when I left the table and they didn’t know how to respond. My daughter sat down and announced to the table, “Jesus is dead.”
I can see how alarming and nihilistic that sounds coming from a four-year-old. But in context to what she is usually talking about, it seemed normal to me.
My daughter has asked me more than once “Why is Jesus still dead?” And, as someone who doesn’t typically think about Jesus and his comings and goings, I misunderstood this question. I would tell her because when people are dead, they stay dead, and he lived a long, long time ago. Then she talked to my husband about how he’s dead but is alive in people’s hearts and some people think he will come back to life, and I realized she was talking about something kinda heavy for someone her age. We’ve had to field a lot of those kinds of questions about God and Jesus, including “Is God real?”
She does talk about Jesus constantly, especially now that she’s heard the Nativity story repeatedly. She mostly just confirms that he was real, Mary and Joseph were real, he was a baby when he was born, and that he’s dead now. The vital stats of Baby Jesus and crew are probably not what people usually talk about with their kids, but it’s what has come with her Christian preschool.
I admit when she comes home with a new religious song my first thought is “Oh, they’re still doing that?” I thought her interest in Jesus would taper off, but it hasn’t. That’s OK.
Jesus, etc. is only a fraction of what she learns about at school. We’re happy where she is. It’s a small class, her teacher is sweet but keeps her in-line, they have lessons and a curriculum, and she’s learning so much about everything. Plus they’re outside a lot, and everything they do is a teaching moment at school.
All this Jesus talk keeps me on my toes, and I try not to say anything inappropriate in response. I’ve had practice with a lot of tough questions, and I think I’ve answered them well.

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City schools, county schools

We’re sticking with Richmond, and will be sticking with the schools.

I could write and talk about the issue of where we should send our daughter to school for weeks. It’s a constant bother. When do we stop worrying about it? The reader comments on this article were encouraging, though I have gotten mixed reviews of schools from friends and teachers. We are still on track for attending our neighborhood Richmond Public School, though I don’t know what we’ll do about VPI if our daughter gets in. We may keep her where she is for pre-Kindergarten and then put her in public school for kindergarten.

If she gets into pre-K at the school we want, she’ll be in three different schools in three years, which is a lot of transition that we could avoid. And also, VPI sounds like a prep for school life that she already is in, and I don’t want her to spend a year waiting for other kids who aren’t used to that structure to catch up.

I have some research to do.
In addition to that, I do want to move eventually, and maybe even before she gets to kindergarten. I want to stay in Richmond, but I have noted that you get bigger houses for less money in the counties and that the schools are, if not nicer, at least not the biggest worry for parents. I want the luxury of not feeling like my child’s education is a statement.
I’m sure once my child is in school I will still worry if she’s in the right place. I can’t assume what her experience will be based on what people went through in the past. It’s a terrible feeling that your child’s education is almost political. It shouldn’t be the case. All kids should get the same education, although not all kids are prepped to be able to receive the same education. We’re not county-bound yet, but more of her friends are, and I don’t blame any of them.

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Carrying the banner

Of all the antiquated methods of communicating and connecting to the world, I thought I would bring back the newspaper.

We still subscribe to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, though my daughter’s focus when we get the newspaper has shifted from the comics to the “Find the difference” panels that are printed Friday through Sunday (Sunday’s being the best). I’ve been happy to see reruns of For Better or For Worse, one of my childhood favorites, and proudly voted for the return of Mark Trail, which I find oddly delightful. I’ll read whatever comic she requests that I read aloud, though some are so unfunny that I can’t explain the joke because of the precious time it wastes. And also comics, in general, specifically the ones where the creators are all probably more than 100 years old, are extremely sexist. When she picks a Hi & Lois to read, she gets the added benefit of me saying “That’s sexist,” because I can’t not point that out. Also, Garfield is a terrible cat. Not just a terrible cat, a terrible, mean character. And Pluggers. WE GET IT. PLUGGERS ARE DUMB ANIMALS IN PLAID SHIRTS WHO THINK THAT THE INTERNET IS  A FISHING LINE WITH A PHOTO OF BETTY GRABLE STUCK TO IT.
I love hating the comics.
Oh, also, I feel like a more engaged citizen spending more time with local stories. That’s a plus, too.

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Love for Young House Love

I’m currently considering fixing a leak in my kitchen sink. I’m going to wait and see if it fixes itself first.

I have not fixed the leak in my kitchen sink yet. I did figure out how to turn off the water and successfully remove parts and then correctly reassembled them. I wasn’t sure where to go from there.

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Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts with me this past year! Happy New Year.

Photo by: motone.

  1. Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig (a history of the development of the birth control pill–highly recommend) and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. 
  2. His movies pass the Bechdel test so well that I can’t recall a film of his where two named men talk to each other. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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