My adoption story began Memorial Day Weekend 2008, when I abruptly announced to my husband that I wanted to adopt a daughter. The need had been simmering inside me for some time, but that day it exploded. With tears. I said, “I have to have a daughter.”
He was like, “OK.”
The Little General declines to sit on Santa’s lap.
What’s this? My child has gained the maturity to speak assertively to St. Nick while still maintaining her belief in magic? What gives?
Don’t look at me. It wasn’t my idea that she believe in Santa. Oddly enough, she picked that up in a Jewish preschool, of all places. She came home one day, barely in control of her language, extoling the virtues a Jolly Ol’ Elf who could bring kids anything they asked for. In her little mind, Santa was a bank card with no limits and no parental restrictions. Anytime she wanted something that I said no to, she just spouted back, “I’ll ask Santa!” as if Santa was the cosmic godfather who could override even me. #RME
Then at age 5, she changed schools to attend kindergarten. This time the kids were a little more savvy and had cashed in their belief in magic for the potential of real credit cards, with and without parental restrictions. There is no such thing as Santa Claus, they insisted. The Little General came home with questions: Why were they saying that? Was it true?
“You believe what you believe and let them believe what they believe,” I answered. She might as well learn to stand up to peer pressure now.
So, every year the question comes up again, and she tries to approach it scientifically. For now, knowing her parents as she does, it's easier to imagine a magic elf setting up the toy display in our living room than it is to imagine her stoic parents getting up in the middle of the night and doing it.
Still at age 10, as her mind soars toward maturity, she grapples with reality. “Momma, tell me. Does Santa really exist?”
I sigh and answer wistfully, “When you stop believing in Santa, Santa stops coming. Are you ready for Santa to stop coming?”
She thinks on it hard and fast, then answers, “No.”
And that settles the question. For now.
#DoesSantaReallyExist #YesThereIsASantaClause #TheLittleGeneral
I woke up recently with the strangest thought: “I want to try a ballet workout.”
It’s a big trend going back a decade or so, and it's something I’ve considered trying ever since I heard that Natalie Portman used a ballet workout to get in shape for the movie “Black Swan.” I went as far as to purchase a ballet workout video back when the movie was released, but the workout was seriously hard. I was never able to finish even one session despite the fact that I used to be a fitness buff.
But now I really wanted to do it. I had seen a YouTube video of an 80-year-old female bodybuilder who made the Guinness Book of World Records, and a 90-year-old gymnast who also held a world’s record. Clearly, I was falling behind in the world of senior citizen fitness. And while I had no desire to become a championship bodybuilder, maybe I could achieve the body of a dancer, and maybe I could achieve that goal with a ballet workout.
This Fourth of July I’m feeling nostalgic with memories of a childhood long passed, memories filled with the smells of summer rain, mimosa trees, and women wearing lilac perfume.
It was the early 1960s in South Arkansas. Somewhere the Civil Rights Movement was blazing, but it didn't touch my idyllic corner of the world in Lewisville, Arkansas. We kids played outside all day in the summer, running with a dog named Rosie, digging crawfish from a muddy ditch after the summer rain, and tying thread to their legs for a crawfish race. Big kids discussed the merits of dirt dobbers versus wasps, while we little kids played cops and robbers with toy guns. My favorite weapon was a Winchester rifle until I fired it with the lever open and turned my hand into a bloody mess. After that I stuck with a toy pistol, which I wasn’t allow to point at a person, animal or car.
There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about transgender students and school bathrooms. Although I don't know anything about the transgender issue, I know something about school bathrooms and I can declare unequivocally, "They are not safe!"
School bathrooms exist somewhere between Lord of the Flies and The Killing Fields. They are a no man's land where even teachers don't tread. If you want to catch someone to beat the crap out of them, the school bathroom is the perfect place to do it. It's certainly not where you want to go if you're the slightest bit different.
And it's not just school bullies who make the bathroom experience perilous. I recall everything about school bathrooms being traumatic, especially in middle school, when I started to physically develop, being one of the first girls in my class to start my menstrual period. That was on top of being the only black child of educated parents in our building, and being the only black girl in my class. In short, I was a target, and the bathroom was not a safe place for me.
My daughter got in the car recently, cautiously excited about an invitation to a birthday party.
"Momma, I got invited to a party. It's from my friend Lyla. You like her. You said she's a nice girl."
I knew from the pitch there was a catch. It had the tone of a salesman hocking an item you sort of want to buy at a price you don't want to pay. I waited for the caveat.
I'll never forget the day I told my cousin I was adopting a child. Her response caught me totally off guard. She first asked "When are you planning to retire?" Then she threatened me with death. Not as in, "I'm going to kill you." It was more like, "It's too late for you to start parenting because you're going to die."
It's the sort of thing I might have ignored from a passing stranger, but this was someone I looked up to as a big sister. I had always known her to be oddly critical. She was the kind of person who would tell you your nail polish didn't look good on your hands, or she might criticize your artwork because it had a white person instead of a black person in it. But I had grown to ignore her dark side and concentrate on her kinder moments, like the time I was 4 years old and she drove me from Lewisville to Hope, Arkansas, to go swimming for the first time ever. And the time she made me a long satin dress so I could march in her wedding. We looked more alike than sisters and I adored her.
I hate crafts. There, I said it. I hate crafts. I know that's blasphemy, especially for a stay at home mom. After all, isn't it our job to keep the kids entertained with pipe cleaners and paints and Play-Doh and anything else that can't be easily gotten out of carpet?
I recall when my daughter was small and trying to learn to use her little hands. One mother suggested I let her play with finger paints at the kitchen table to help develop her dexterity. I said "Sure, maybe," but I didn't. There was no way I was going to let any kid put her fingers in paint in my house.
Ditto for modeling clay. I'm sure somewhere someone has written a book detailing how to get clay out of carpet, but as far as I'm concerned, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cleaning tips.
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Pulitzer Award and the 25th Anniversary of the closing of the Arkansas Gazette newspaper, which received the Pulitzer for its coverage of the Little Rock Central High School desgregation crisis in 1957. A recent reunion of former Gazette friends and colleagues reminded me that I memorialized the final hours of the Gazette with a short essay, written in 1991 after the close of the venerable newspaper.)
It felt like the last day of school. Everyone was dressed casually, more casually than they could have gotten away with under normal circumstances. No one was really working, only going through the motions, half-assing their usual assignments. Waiting.
The atmosphere was charged with an odd euphoria, like a controlled free-fall. Any second, our time here would be over, so it wouldn't matter how we behaved in this moment. We were waiting for an announcement that may or may not come that day, but it was an announcement we knew would come eventually. The Arkansas Gazette newspaper would close, and we would be summarily dismissed, marking the end of an era.
was cornered in the doctor's office by a woman who said her 'sweet' child suddenly turned into a 'monster' at age 16 and mine will, too. I seem to have this conversation a lot with people from outside my culture, especially when they see me with my 'well-behaved' daughter. Something about her behavior sets their teeth on edge, so I will address it.
To the woman in the doctor's office who claims her kid pulled a Jekyll & Hyde at age 16, I call bullshit. Madam, assuming there are no mental defects or other extenuating circumstances, I don't believe your child suddenly turned on you. Maybe your child was 'sweet' of his own accord when he was young, but I ask you, did you require that he be 'sweet?' Had you set any behavioral expectations, or were you just relying on his natural tendencies? Since you're cornering strangers like me in the doctor's office with tales of woe, I'm guessing you did the latter.
Hal Hutchison, M.Ed.
Hal Wofford Hutchison, M.Ed., is a former columnist, writer and editor for the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette newspapers. She has also been a secondary educator, and a university counselor and administrator. She lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her husband of 23 years and their daughter.