Kindly, Stop Asking if My Children Are Mine

It’s sad, really. The majority of off-colour, poor-taste comments aren’t even malicious. People just don’t think. They don’t think about the power their words hold. They don’t know when it’s the fifth time that day that I’ve been asked if my beautiful babies are mine… but they don’t take that split second to catch themselves.

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It started when my oldest daughter (now 2.5) was about 4 months old. During the day, I’d take her out to the mall or grocery shopping or for a meal, just the two of us, and I began to notice a pattern. People liked to stop me and comment on how cute, or chubby, or stoic she was, and 80% of the time, white people, women in particular, would follow it up with, “Is she yours?” I didn’t think much of it at first – maybe they think I’m her babysitter, it’s an easy mistake… right? I assumed it happened to everyone.


Once she was in a forward-facing stroller, looking out at the world, the questions and comments started getting more brazen.


“She’s beautiful, is she yours?”


“Yes.”


– “Oh, I just love mixed babies!” They wax poetic over how perfect “mixed skin” and “mixed hair” are, they tear down their own self-image, and they talk about their own children who weren’t as fortunate in those areas. It’s bizarre, and wildly uncomfortable. I just smile and try to keep moving.


– “Wow, she’s SO white!” Yep. It’s magic… or, you know, genetics. I smile and say, “Yes, Daddy is very white.”


– “Oh, now I see, she looks just like you!” This is just proof that people don’t think before they speak. Objectively, both my daughters have many of the same facial features as I do, but people come up to us with their preconceived notions, make googly-eyes at the girls, and don’t bother to look up at the face of the black woman pushing them around. Once I confirm that yes, they are mine, they raise their gaze to verify, to find resemblance, something to prove I’m not lying. Then they find it, and they can move on. They’re actually pleased with themselves. They’re satisfied then, they got a cute baby fix, they’re going to move on with their day. And I ruminate.


I decided I had to start investigating outside of my own experiences. A few weeks ago, I asked my husband for the first time if he ever gets the, “Are they yours?” question. Nope, not once. Do they ever comment on how beautiful your “mixed babies” are? Not to him, because he’s white, and they’re just tan. They have a lot of his features too, so people who know us tell us how much they look like an equal blend both of us. I’ve had white friends and babysitters take them to the park and have other parents just immediately assume they were Mom though, so I get the impression people aren’t looking too closely.


A good friend of mine is in the opposite situation; both her girls got more of dad’s melanin, and she likes to describe herself as “as white as they come”. We’ve been friends since we were pregnant with our firsts, and since then she says she’s only been asked if they’re hers once, by a child, whose mother was mortified and made her apologize. “I told the mom it was totally fine, then I talked to the little girl about how I’m their mom, and it might be confusing because we have different colored skin, so it’s ok to wonder. Her mom was pretty upset, so I told the little girl, ‘Ok, maybe your mom has a point. Next time, if you have a question about a family, you can ask mom first, and then ask the mom or dad.'”


“Wow.” I said. “Why do you think you never get asked?”


“Honestly? Because I’m white.”


“I guess, with two decades of getting used to white people adopting black kids, yeah, it’s been normalized.” That I know about all too well, unfortunately. I wonder if she’ll eventually start getting the, “So, where are they from?” question.


It’s sad, really. The majority of off-colour, poor-taste comments aren’t even malicious. People just don’t think. They don’t think about the power their words hold. They don’t know when it’s the fifth time that day that I’ve been asked if my beautiful babies are mine… but they don’t take that split second to catch themselves.


I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t scare me, too. With racial tensions ramping up around the country, I’ve heard more and more stories of multiracial families being harassed in public. I heard a story about a black woman out shopping with her young, lighter children, when a woman stopped her to tell her that the kids were cute, but that she’d soon be deported, being their black nanny and all. In the back of my mind, I wonder what might happen when one of my kids decides they don’t want to leave somewhere and turns into a screaming, spaghetti-limbed goblin, as some kids do, requiring me to pick her up mid-flail and carry her to the car. Will people see a black woman carrying a hysterical white child and think, “Is she hers?” And what could that lead to?


I think the easiest way to avoid putting someone in an awkward situation is to just not ask about parentage. There are so many different family structures, it seems ridiculous to demand someone explain theirs on the street to you, right then and there, while they’re trying to go about their day. What happens when the answer is, “Oh, I’m their older cousin. I just had to drop out of college to look after them because their parents died last weekend.”? How mortifying would that be? But truly, multi-racial, gay, adoptive, trans, single-parent, poly, foster, guardianship, military, three-parent IVF  – there are numerous types of family structures that may not be “conventional”, all of which are still valid and full of love. When you press someone to explain their family, you could be pushing on a very sensitive issue.


So, the next time you see a baby you want to compliment, tell the person caring for that baby that the baby looks happy, healthy, and cute. If they want to talk about their family, they will. They also may really have to pee, or get the grocery shopping done before epic baby meltdown occurs, so if they seem in a hurry, just let them go.

 

My TEDx Day: Trauma, Resilience, ACEs, and Life

You guys… I had the most serendipitous day yesterday, you wouldn’t even believe it. I kid you not, by the end of the day I was shitting rainbows. Jake and I went to TEDx Charlotte, held this year at Central Piedmont Community College’s Halton Theater, in the Overcash building, and it was an incredible experience. We couldn’t get a babysitter for A, our youngest, so we chose which talks we were most interested in, brought her along, and swapped off during breaks. The food was great, the people were great, the weather was great, I couldn’t have asked for more, and yet I got so much more.

First of all, I made a few new friends. The diversity of the TEDx crowd was heartwarming, and there was this sprinkle of magic in the air that made all of our differences our strengths, and our similarities these invisible ties. It was lovely! The woman who sat next to me turned out to be right about the same age as me, married, no kids, working in the corporate world. While I tried to ask others “what brought you to this talk?” as opposed to “what do you do?” or “where do you work?”, I still got asked those a fair bit. I was there simply for the awesomeness of TED, but I decided this was my opportunity to pitch my latest idea to the world. My answer was, “Right now I run the house and take care of the girls, and I’m also working on this new trauma-informed parenting peer group idea I have.” I don’t know what response I expected, but that phrase, “trauma-informed parenting peer group” made everyone lean in. Their eyes widened, “Tell me more…”.

Anyway, that’s the reaction I got from this first new friend of mine, and we talked a lot about personal growth, and adversities. She told me she happens to be at the beginning of her own journey of self-discovery, thinking about how the past and her upbringing has influenced her, and suddenly we were elbow-deep in psychobabble. Then, she posed a question that made me stop in my tracks, she asked me: “Why do you think our generation is so determined to dig into our pasts and our traumas to fix ourselves, and why didn’t past generations prioritize it?” I know, the “generationl faults” talk is a sensitive one. Don’t run away yet! Stay, please. I thought about it for a minute, and then said, “Well, maybe it’s just because we can. Many of us now have the luxury of having our base survival needs met, so we’re not in constant fight or flight mode. Maybe it’s just Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” And we both froze. She knew the term, but for those who don’t, the Hierarchy is a pyramid of human needs, which goes from bottom to top like this: physiological (air, food, water, clothing, shelter, sex [for the survival of species – don’t have it if you don’t want to] ), safety (absence due to war, domestic violence, abuse, PTSD, personal security, financial security, health & wellbeing), love & belonging (family, friends, intimacy), esteem (confidence, self worth, respect of others, self-respect), and the top, self-actualization (realizing one’s full potential).

So, the idea is, if you can’t build the bottom of the pyramid, you will have a hard time moving up it, and if your base is unstable but you still make it to the top, you’ll be much more likely to have the entire thing collapse on you. I mean seriously, would you stand at the top of a shotty pyramid? It just makes sense that you’ll struggle to realize your full potential if you don’t have food or security or other human connections, because those foundational needs will be your brain’s major focus. Some of the Western world is seeing that they’re closer to the next step in the pyramid, so they’re reaching for it. Granted, poverty stunts this, and we have a system that keeps the lowest down, but for those of us above the poverty line, the idea that we could build our way to the top of the pyramid is starting to feel more tangible. Gen X and the Millennials are raising kids now, and thanks to the evolution of society, we are moving up the pyramid. The thing is, we’re only, by my estimation, just coming out of making “safety” our highest priority.

The Greatest Generation had it rough: When you’re worrying about the government taking your sons in the draft, or losing a child to polio, you don’t really have time for, “Hmmm, how do I make sure my child has enough fulfilling experiences today?” They yelled and probably beat the everloving shit out of them to keep them safe, because “Dammit, we didn’t manage to keep you alive through all of that to have you go do something stupid and end it early!!!” Was it right? Nope, but that’s the level they were working on. Then, you get a generation that was raised to believe you must hit and suppress kids to teach them and keep them safe, but they don’t quite know why. They faced their own issues as adults, like suffering through multiple financial crises, large-scale terrorist attacks, the invention of the 24hr news cycle (don’t kid yourself, that shit is damaging and devisive as hell), and a few of their own enlistment (yet highly expected and pressured) wars. On top of that, they fought to get us the human rights we have today. We wouldn’t be talking about anyone repealing Roe v. Wade without those actually involved. So now, those aren’t our (the middle-class Western world’s) problems anymore. Today, we’re worried about proper nutrition, but thankfully we don’t have to worry about a national shortage of food. We’re worried about safe brain development for our kids, but thankfully we don’t have to worry about having them eaten or mauled by bears. Hey, there was a time.

I’m not trying to dismiss the things our current generation is fighting for – just the opposite, I want to encourage them – which brings me right back to my new friend’s question: “Why do you think our generation is so determined to dig into our pasts and our traumas to fix ourselves, and why didn’t past generations prioritize it?” Because our generation can, and their generations couldn’t, but they got us to the point where we can, so we absolutely should. AND because, in lieu of the draft and famine and bears, our fight or flight brains are identifying and targeting new threats to our society and our children. To us, our own traumas feel just as threatening as polio or a bear because they’re working on the same pathways in our brains. For those not worrying regularly about actually being able to eat and feed our families, abuse is our bear. Those just trying to make ends meet can absolutely raise their children in a calm, gentle, trauma-free way, but they have far more obstacles to overcome, simply because their brains are prioritizing things like keeping a roof over everyone’s head, as they should be. Sadly, there are still too many people living that way.

My analogy about the bear comes from my new idol, Dr Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician in California, and quite frankly, a superhero. Dr Burke Harris is fighting tooth and nail to bring something called ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) to the forefront of Western medicine. Very briefly (because she explains it better), in the late 90s, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente sent predominantly white, middle- and upper-class, college-educated, health-insured Americans a survey about their upbringings.

**Trigger warning, all the triggers, and I’m not trying to be funny**

They created a way to measure 10 ACEs:

1) Physical, 2) sexual and 3) verbal abuse.

4) Physical and 5) emotional neglect.

6) A family member who is depressed  diagnosed with other mental illness; 7) addicted to alcohol or another substance; 8) in prison.

9) Witnessing a mother being abused.

10) Losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason.

From Dr Burke Harris’ website, “The results of the ACE Study had two striking findings. First, ACEs are incredibly common—67 percent (2 out of 3 people) of the study population had at least one ACE and 13 percent (1 out of 8 people) of the population had four or more ACEs. Secondly, there was a dose-response relationship between ACEs and numerous health problems. This means that the more ACEs a child has, the higher the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression and cancer.” Let that sink in.

They’ve since added many more factors. The study also found that the negative effects on one’s health are not necessarily due to the fact that these individuals might drink, smoke, overeat, or do other drugs at a higher rate. No, it’s because, as you’ll see in Nadine Burke Harris’ TED Talk (yes, you will watch it), if you experience those things regularly as a child, your brain is stuck in survival mode, being pumped full of fear hormones, making your heart race, tensing up your body, and getting you ready to fight or run… as if you’re being chased by a lion. Every day.

There are also resilience factors that help mitigate the effects of ACEs.

1) Believing your mother loved you as a child

2) Believing your father loved you as a child

3) Having people other than mother and father, who you believe loved you, take care of you sometimes as a child

4) Hearing stories that when you were an infant, others enjoyed spending time with you, and that you also enjoyed it

5) You had relatives who made you feel better if you were sad or worried as a child

6) Neighbors or parents’ friends seemed to like you as a child

7) Teachers, coaches, youth leaders, or ministers were there to help you as a child

8) Someone in your family cared how you were doing in school

9) Family, neighbors, and friends talked often about making life better

10) You had rules in your house you were expected to abide by

11) When you felt bad, you could almost always find someone you trusted to talk to

12) People noticed you were capable and could get things done as a youth

13) You were an independent self-starter

14) You believed that life is what you make it

These are things we all need to be highly aware of because our ACEs are our new lions, our new triggers, our new threats. They will kill us young if we don’t deal with them ourselves, and we risk repeating the cycle with our children. It’s a hard road to go down, but if you can, you should. You can get your ACE and Resilience scores here.

Right, so that was all a product of one interaction I had. One. I had about six other conversations that were equally as enriching, and moved me more towards implementing this trauma-informed parenting group. I talked a LOT of trauma talk, which has been happening more and more with friends and strangers lately, and I think that’s a very healing, cathartic thing. Jake met another Canadian, who introduced me to his wife, who works with mental health and substance dependence patients to help them through their trauma, due to her own traumatic past. A (the toddler) befriended a bunch of young college students, guys and girls, who absolutely turned to mush when they saw her. They talked about their nephews and nieces and cousins and parenting, and they said how important they think it is to do it right and to know how to parent effectively and treat your child with respect. I was shocked! They held A, huge smiles pasted across their faces, and she was totally content. I ran into an old acquaintance (Tracey Moore, or Dr King himself, for those who know him) who works at CPCC’s main campus, and told him about someone else’s idea for a course we want to collaborate on. He walked A and I up to an office that he thought would like to hear the pitch, and they were intrigued so they sent me to another guy, who put down what he was doing and walked us over to a woman he really thought might want to hear what I had to say. She wants to get this other idea off the ground in the Spring, but more to come on that later.

Easily, the most incredible conversation I had was with one of the presenters. I got to talk to (well, ermm, I was pretty persistent) Charles Hunt, who was the only one to silence the entire auditorium with the power of his talk on resilience through childhood adversity. Charles founded Audacity Firm, where he does coaching and workshops to help people grow (either individually or for corporations bettering employee relations) through resilience, teaching you to have the AUDACITY to not let your trauma own you. Pretty bad ass, no? He took pictures of my notes, saying he was humbled, and that it would help him know what was really resonating with people. Smart guy. I’d been telling him about my course and I said, “One of the portions is going to include working through Nadine Burke Harris’ ACEs.” He looked at me, then shook his head a little. “Do you… know what ACEs are?” I asked him. He did not. Suddenly, I had something to offer HIM, something he didn’t know, but that wasn’t even the most… well, humbling part. When I explained it all and it sunk in, he said, “Wow, that would explain my [health problem, because I don’t even think he expected to say that, and it’s not my place to put it here].” Yeah, he may incorporate the statistics from ACEs into his strategy to help others, and that would be great, but I may have just opened a whole new path for him to research his own health, and change his life trajectory, so that he can live longer to help others, and continue to heal his own trauma. Now THAT was fucking amazing. Plus, he’s willing to collaborate, or help me a little with this parenting project. At the very least, we’ll pay him to be a speaker. So, there’s that.

Whew, I think that’s all I have to say right now. Here’s a link to all the talks. All of the speakers are local, and all are looking to share ideas and collaborate. Seriously, I talked to about 1/3 of them and they’re really amazing people. I know I’ll definitely be attending another TEDx. Now that I’ve dropped that huge mind bomb theory on you, try not to contemplate it too hard, and have a great weekend!

The Time I Lost a Friend Over Standardized Testing

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As a kid, I hated testing. I didn’t test well, either because I got lazy and didn’t study, I knew the material and psyched myself out, or I mismanaged my time on the test and didn’t answer all the questions. Regardless of the reasons, tests stressed me out so badly that I’d get sick. My stomach would twist itself into knots, like it was trying to wring itself out, my heart would pound, and I would get terrible headaches. It made me sick, and though it was “all in my head”, it manifested real symptoms in my body. I never had panic attacks though, so my anxiety was mostly dismissed. But I fucking hated tests.

Before I tell my story, here’s a little detail. Starting in Grade 3 (8-years-old), Ontario public school students undergo provincial and national standardized testing. Most of these tests are provided by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), “an independent agency that creates and administers large-scale assessments to measure Ontario students’ achievement in reading, writing and math…” This is repeated for various subjects in grades 6, and 9 (plus the OSSLT the same year, and others). The EQAO tells parents, teachers, and students that the tests are for accountability on the school district’s part (which, in Ontario, is separated by county), as a feedback tool for the administration, and for national comparisons. The idea is that it’s supposed to be used to improve the teaching methods and district policies, without affecting the individual student. Students and parents are told that the test absolutely does not count towards the student’s grade, but that it can be used in conjunction with their report cards and other tests “to help evaluate student learning and determine what additional support may be needed”. Ok.

So, in Grade 3, I took the test. The weeks of prepping, the intensity of the teachers, and the long, boring, silent, stressful test was just too much for me. I vowed to never do it again. When Grade 6 rolled around, I panicked. I knew the drill, and I managed to work myself up at the first mention of EQAO testing. This wasn’t a test you could study for, they told us. This is a test of your current knowledge, they told us. Don’t make us look stupid, they told us. Ok.

The more we prepped, the more stressed I got. Do these sample tests, they told us. “Why? If you’re teaching us what we should know, why do we have to take practice tests?” To know the type of questions they’re going to ask, they told us. It was boring, monotonous, bizarrely abstract material that we really didn’t cover throughout the year, but boy did we cram during the months leading up to the test. Endless worksheets. Ok.

My stomach started its slow twist, and eventually, I was writhing in pain. By the time the test came, I was a mess. “I can’t go, I’m sick!” I said, as I laid in bed. I missed the testing days (yes, multiple), and thought I was in the clear. Sadly, I was mistaken.

“All Grade 3 [6, and 9] students who attend publicly funded schools and who follow The Ontario Curriculum are required by The Education Quality and Accountability Office Act to write the Grade 3 [6, and 9] assessment.”

Uh Oh.

“If your child is absent on the days the Grade 6 assessment is administered, the school can make arrangements to have your child write the assessment when he or she returns, but only within the designated two-week assessment period.”

Well, fuck me.

As soon as I got back to school, they told me I had to sit in a separate room, and do each part of the test. “But I’ll miss regular class work,” I argued. They didn’t care. I had to do the test. They sat me in a room by myself, with a teacher to proctor. “I’m just one kid, does it really matter?” Yes. Do the test. “Can I just be back in class with the rest of my friends?” No. Here’s a bottle of water. Do the test. So, I refused. That was the kind of kid I was. It seemed entirely unfair that I had to be separated from my peers and miss class work (that I didn’t get excused from, and I’d have to catch up on) to take this mandated test that didn’t count for anything. I was right pissed. In the end, I doodled on the test – even though I knew the answers – purely out of defiance. My 11-year-old self was done with the administrative bullshit, but noncompliance doesn’t go over so well for an 11-year-old.

3 days later, when I finally got to spend time with my friends again, something had changed. They wouldn’t talk to me. For days, I tried to figure out why. Finally, one rainy morning, as we huddled under a vestibule to stay out of the rain during recess, I asked them, “Did I do something? I know I was gone for a few days… what did I miss?” They mumbled for a bit, then my best friend turned to me and said, “You didn’t take the test.” What?

“No, I did,” I said.

“No,” she said, “You doodled.” My heart jumped into my throat. How did she even know that? These tests are supposed to be private. “My mom said that she talked to Mrs. F. Do you know that without your high score, our whole school is going to get a worse grade? Thanks a lot.” They all looked to her for a cue, then it was back to the silent treatment. My high score? How does anyone know my scores on my assignments except… the teacher? She did not like my refusal to participate, and apparently made it known to my friends’ parents. When? How? At the time, I never thought parents and teachers co-mingled, but I knew after that. Teachers are human, who interact in the human world, with other humans. Nuts, right? Parents are also humans who interact in the human world, and sometimes, they meet teachers and have human conversations. Sometimes, those conversations involve their children/students. At any given time, both parents and teachers can be assholes. Needless to say, the rest of the year was hell for me, and then I moved schools.

Yes, I did do the following years of standardized testing. Yes, I got sick every time. No, I was never allowed to skip another test. Yes, I permanently lost a friend over a government-mandated test that counted for nothing, and which did exactly zilch to improve anything anywhere. Yes,”teach to test” is still a huge issue in the education-sphere worldwide. No, my children will not endure standardized testing if they continue with the current methods. The end.

Why Isn’t Teleparenting a Thing?

“We’re in the future, we just don’t act like it.” I said. He’s in tech, he knows this better than anyone. It’s true, though. Our phones, which we can control with our voices, are now our clocks, cameras, journals, grocery lists, baby monitors, news/sports/entertainment sources, GPSs, music players, primary mode of communication, calendars, banks, travel agents, debit/credit cards, translators (and the list goes on, and on, and on). Hospitals and doctors are doing telehealth appointments, you can telecommute to work, teleconference at work, you can get a tele-education from a real university (which is just an awkward way of saying online distance ed). WHY ON EARTH are we not using video chat daily, to communicate with the ones who are most important to us?

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America’s 40hr workweek isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. My husband’s 50+hr workweek isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. More and more parents are working longer and longer hours. Paid parental leave is ever-so s.l.o.w.l.y creeping in, but not fast enough, and with a fair amount of pushback. Parents are missing out on time with their children, and the kids can feel it.

I’ve rallied against the unsustainable workweek, I’ve fought for longer parental leave, I’ve tried convincing my husband that we should move to an off-grid commune (preferably nudist, so I have less laundry). Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me giving up on those things; we can’t just roll over and accept that the American workweek is so long it’s becoming less productive, while slowly killing its workers. Solutions to these problems are certainly things we need to continue to push for, but what do we do in the meantime?

This morning, I had an idea. I sent my hubby a message:

“Why isn’t teleparenting a thing? Video chat is always advertised for long distance, like work trips, or family that lives out of state, but never for day-to-day. They give people smoke breaks, why not give them teleparenting breaks? It’s free! If you have wifi at work, it can be cheaper than a phone call.”

He seemed intrigued.

“We’re in the future, we just don’t act like it.” I said. He’s in tech, he knows this better than anyone. It’s true, though. Our phones, which we can control with our voices, are now our clocks, cameras, journals, grocery lists, baby monitors, news/sports/entertainment sources, GPSs, music players, primary mode of communication, calendars, banks, travel agents, debit/credit cards, translators (and the list goes on, and on, and on). Hospitals and doctors are doing telehealth appointments, you can telecommute to work, teleconference at work, you can get a tele-education from a real university (which is just an awkward way of saying online distance ed). WHY ON EARTH are we not using video chat daily, to communicate with the ones who are most important to us?

“Do you think Z is at a point where “[Google] hangouts with dada” would do any good?” He asked.

“Definitely.” I said. Over the last few years, researchers have been studying how babies interact with handheld technology (i.e. what’s good for them, what’s not, what they understand, what nuances are lost on them, what age is best, etc). We’ve learned that Baby Einstein et al were such a flop because children have a hard time learning new words and concepts from recordings. As much as a pre-recorded show or movie can pretend to interact, it just can’t. We’ve also discovered that kids learn better from live, interactive video than from recorded video. This starts younger than people think, with babies as young as 6-months-old being able to tell the difference between a recording and a live chat. So, while the focus doesn’t have to be “learning”, as much as just “bonding”, they’d still recognize your presence, and they’d definitely appreciate it.

“Just two or three minutes,” I said. “Check in, see faces, comfort mommy, back to work.”

At first blush, this seems more practical with one stay-at-home parent, than for the working parents with kids in daycare. He disagreed. “It could even be doable in daycare. Have some tablets or kiosks at the daycare, talk to your own kid.” This is true. It could be scheduled, or at either the child’s or the parent’s request. They might have to implement a limit, but it could prevent some daycare meltdowns. The more I thought about it, the more practical it seemed for everyone. They could have a tablet in every school nurse’s office, so that parents can talk to their sick kids without leaving work (if they don’t have to). Sometimes, just a minute talking to mom will save an afternoon.

Scenario 1): You’re on the job site, when you get a call from the daycare. Your 2-year-old has been completely melting down for over an hour, and they have no idea why, so they request you come pick him up. You’re the only certified front-end loader operator on site, traffic is backed up for miles, rain has already pushed this job out a week, and there’s nobody to watch your toddler at home. It’s a meltdown, he’s not sick, he just wants… something. Instead of driving all the way there to figure out what that something is, the daycare attendant could say, “Do you want to talk to him?” You climb down, call your site manager over, and he gives you the work tablet. You open the app, make the call, and see his snot-covered, puffy-eyed, rosey-cheeked face. Your heart melts a little. “Hi sweetie, Daddy’s here, what’s up?” He says, “Dadaaaaaaa! I want goggy bop bop!” His daycare attendant pops her head into view, “We’ve been trying to figure out what he wants, we have no idea what ‘Googly bap bap’ is.” You shake your head. “It’s not ‘googly bap bap’, that’s nonsense. He said, ‘goggy bop bop’, which is ‘crocodile chomp chomp’, which means he wants his stuffed crocodile from his bag.” Obviously. You turn your attention back to him, “You want your crocodile, right?” He squeals with joy. “What does a crocodile say?” He gives you an enthusiastic, “BOP BOP BOP”, arms stretched out, chomping wildly. “Yay! Chomp chomp! I love you, buddy. Daddy’s gotta drive the big truck, but I’ll see you soon, ok? Have lots of fun, listen to your teachers, and play nice. Can you do that for me?” He can, and he says he will. The teacher mouths a thank you from behind him, and off they go. You hand the tablet back, and you’re back at it.

Scenario 2): You’re at the office, it’s 11:30am and a notification pops up on your screen. Time for your daily chat with your 9-year-old daughter, who has ASD. She starts off on a tangent about how one of her classmates didn’t get detention for talking out in class, and she got one for the same reason last month, which is entirely unfair. She’s fidgeting, and staring off into the distance. “I hear you. That does seem unfair. I need your eyes on me, please.” She looks into the camera. You talk softly. “You like Mrs. Jones. She is a good teacher, and she likes you. Can you repeat that for me?” She does. Ok. “Mrs. Jones is often very fair, right?” She nods. “What did that other student say when they spoke out?” Mrs. Jones was talking about trees, and Little Jonny jumped in to talk about how big the tress in his neighborhood were. Thanks for your contribution, Jonny. “Well, Little Jonny should not have spoken out, he should have raised his hand. Did his comment hurt anyone’s feelings?” No. “Did it make Mrs. Jones angry?” No. “Did you get in trouble for anything today?” No. “That’s great! Since Little Jonny’s words didn’t hurt anyone, or upset Mrs. Jones, we can let this one slide. I know, I know, it’s a slippery slope. It’s time for you to go back and join the class now. I love you. When I pick you up, we’ll go for a walk on the greenway, and you can tell me everything you’ve learned about trees today.” All is well, time for your Q2 meeting.

Scenario 3): You’re at work, and you get called to the front of the store. The preschool is on line 1, your son, who has severe food allergies, just threw up. The school is freaking out, ready to call the ambulance (as per your directives in his file). You ask your shift manager for a minute, run to the breakroom, and grab your cell. You open the app, and when you finally see his happy little face, you’re relieved, and confused. “What happened, buddy?” He smiles. He says he was spinning in big circles, and then he got dizzy, and then he fell down, but then he got up again, but then he fell down again, and then he threw up. Sounds like fun. “Did you eat anything bad?” Nope. He’s 4, he knows what he can and can’t eat, and this mythical, vigilant school is very strict about adhering to food allergy protocols. You can breathe again.

It seems pretty simple, and cost could be managed. The school nurse’s/counselor’s office would require, at most, half-a-dozen tablets. They (hopefully) already have a secure network for their laptops, and possibly already have tablets. A daycare could have 3 emergency/comfort call tablets, at $50 to $100 apiece. Or, they could have 12 tablet kiosks for one or two scheduled, 3-minute chats with mom or dad per day.

I’m an activist, but I’m a practical activist. As much as I want to push the work-life balance movement forward, I’m also looking for solutions to keep myself and my family happy and sane. I have to, if I want to actually have the strength and mental acuity required to keep being an activist, and a mother.

So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to use Google Hangouts (I’ve always found it faster, and it’s a smaller, easier-to-run app than Skype, and I have no ithings, so I have no idea how well Facetime works) for some scheduled Daddy time during the week. Join me! Try it! Tell me what you think! Obviously, the daycare/school solution isn’t an option yet, but that’s not to say it can’t be. Just 3 minutes (or more, if you want to and can swing it). Sing, ask about their day, tell them about your day, make silly faces, whatever. And if your employer isn’t having it (as I just learned that “FLSA does not require employers to give their employees any breaks from work for any reason”) tell them you have violent diarrhea, or a super-heavy period, and that you’ll stay in your chair if they really want you to, but you just need a few minutes. And then enjoy some smiley time with your kid.