Pitbulls and Parent-‘ees’

The day we brought him home. He was 28 pounds

Ok, that title is me trying to do a play off the popular Animal Planet show, ‘Pitbulls and Parolees’ . Which many of you who aren’t crazy pitbull moms probably have never seen. Indulge me for a minute, you’ve got Scandal dvr’d already, you have 6-7 minutes to read this.

My middle son wanted a dog his entire life. Then my aunt goes and adopts a dog from North Shore Animal League and takes him along to help pick the dog out. Just great. You’d think walking that dog would be enough for him but no, he wanted his own puppy. So literally 6 years pass while he’s showing how responsible he is by walking my aunt’s dog and begging and I start to feel like this kid should have his own dog… he’s going to take care of it! (Parents who are wiser than me, go ahead and laugh your asses off at me at this point in the story, I deserve it). I know that NYC is full of kill-shelters. So I decide we are getting a puppy from one of them. I begin calling them in October 2010 looking for puppies. Every time I call, the only puppies they have are pitbull mixes. I’ve seen the news. I know pitbulls are dangerous and I don’t want one. But every time I try to rescue a puppy, that is all they have in all of New York City. Fuck.

I call my sister who is a marine mammal trainer and has worked with walruses. Because, pitbulls, walruses, you know a connection, large, volatile uncontrollable and wild right? Um… no. She says dogs are dogs. Pitbulls, German shephards, Rottweilers, they’re bully breeds, big and strong and you can train them and go for it, I’ll help you.  We went to Manhattan Animal Care and Control one night right before Tariq’s 14th birthday. It was a scary place. Row after row of tiny kennels with pitbulls and chihuahuas. That’s all they had. We looked at 6 pit-mix puppies. Khevin was terrified (he was 5 at the time) and spent most of the time pressed up against the wall of the shelters’ hallway, assailed by the stench. Most of the dogs were girls, 2 were boys. Only one was a reddish brown and he was much calmer than the other dogs. He’d only been there 3 days, a stray from the Bronx. I liked him immediately but Tariq wanted to keep looking. So we had the shelter workers take all 6 of them out of the kennels. Many of them jumped on us or barked excitedly. Only the skinny brown one didn’t do either. He just looked terrified, trying to hide behind the shelter worker. Tariq held his hand out and finally the skinny dog came over to him and let him pet him. I said, that’s it then, I think we should get him. His tag said 10 months old, much older than I wanted but it just seemed right so we put down a deposit and promised to come back for him later.

We picked him up 3 days later. This is the day he came home, his ‘gotcha day’ in dog adoption circles. 

I thought I knew what to expect. I’d done the reading. But I didn’t know how much we would fall in love with him. Like, deeply, forever, in love. My sister told me socialization and desensitization were the keys to a good dog, and she couldn’t have been more right. No one who has met him doesn’t like him. People who have been bitten by dogs like this dog. It’s truly amazing. Talk about changing lives… We started our journey that day. Khevin was still unsure and unhappy. He was afraid of our 28 pound puppy that at 5 months (yeah, that 10 month thing was all wrong) should’ve been 43 pounds. He wanted me to take the dog back to the shelter. He only liked cats, like his oldest brother. He was terrified, a little prisoner in his own house. How would I reconcile this?

I didn’t need to worry. He was afraid of him for about three days. It wasn’t long after he realized he could lay all over the dog, hug him, play with him (you know, a boy and his dog stuff!) that they became the best of friends. And my heart was full of joy watching the relationships between Petey and the boys blossom. I forgot he was a ‘pitbull’ because he was just a sweet, goofy puppy. It’s also when I fell in love with the “breed” and realized that they get a terrible rap for all the wrong reasons.

The New Homework Debate

One of the benefits of having kids eleven years apart is that I get to see educational trends waxing and waning. A very hot topic right now is homework and there seem to be two camps: those who believe in lots of it, and those who don’t. Lots of articles are trending on social media about parents taking stands against the perceived ridiculous amounts of homework their poor kids are getting saddled with. People are cheering for those parents standing up for the notion that we need to stop ruining childhood with hours of homework each night. I feel like it’s a good time for me to weigh in as my opinion over the lifetime of my children’s school career has run the gamut.

 

I have to say that I’m very unhappy with the shift over the last 15 years that has occurred in early childhood learning. This unhealthy push for more academic achievement for younger and younger kids is creating a whole new set of problems which includes a scary lack of proper socialization. I’m in the ‘put toys back into kindergarten classrooms’ camp. I’ve had very bad experiences with homework and kindergarteners and I have to say that for them I don’t believe in it at all. When my youngest was in pre-k, he was given a notebook and I was told his homework would be to practice writing letters and his name each night. I kindly refused. I explained that in my experience as a parent, this would not really help him in the long run and that he would be spending his evenings at home playing and engaging with his family. Of course when assignments were like, build a mobile with different shaped construction paper with your mom and bring it in to be hung up on the ceiling, we did those because my son wanted to do it and he enjoyed seeing his mobile and pointing it out to us.

As he got older,  I played it by ear. If it seemed like it was going to take more than 10 minutes and he wasn’t going to get anything from it, we didn’t do it. We discussed what was learned and I would ask him if he understood. Therein lies the key to how much and if homework is necessary in young kids: did they understand everything? Do they need a review? Do they need parent’s help with something they didn’t get in class? Homework can be useful for parents to identify how well their child understands material and what they may need help with. You don’t need hours to do that. You should be able to talk to your child’s school administrators and teachers and come to an understanding about homework load. I’ve done it throughout my kids’ grade school career and I have had mostly positive experiences.

 

Because let’s be real here, no one wants their 9 year old sitting at a table struggling through 2-3 hours of assignments after they’ve been in school all day sitting at a desk, doing assignments. It’s unfair and it robs the entire family of quality time, especially if your kid hates doing it, it can literally be a nightmare of cajoling, punishing, yelling, etc. It creates stress and strife where there needn’t be any and I am against it. But… (sorry, there’s a ‘but’ here), if we work together to abolish homework in early grades completely, what happens when kids get to high school? I could link to articles that say high school kids have way too much homework, but I’ve also found articles saying they have too little. And these discrepancies are often determined by race, geographic location and wealth of districts as well as individual schools. Now that I put that out there, there seems to be fewer easy answers. We are constantly trying to wash the gray out of issues and leave things as either black or white, right or wrong, and that’s it. But that rarely works and it doesn’t work for homework either. Some people in our country have an advantage over others economically, and that creates a hugely unequal playing field as far as educational resources go.

You know your child: are they being assigned homework that is going to take them hours, is that homework all they do until they go to bed and are you fighting about it? Then it’s probably not doing much good and you need to go to the school and work something out. When my son was a fifth grader, I asked for a meeting and asked why each subject needed homework every night. It was way too much and quality was shoddy because of the time it took. I suggested math on Mondays and Tuesdays, science Wednesdays, ELA Thursdays and Fridays or some variation thereof. His teachers and assistant principal agreed and his teachers seemed happier with that arrangement (to say nothing of the kids, my son was a hero in class that week!)  Do some research regarding the pros and cons of homework and weigh in!

Hello world!

Welcome to the new and improved, UrbanMommys! For information about me and what I aim to do here, check out the ‘About Me’ section of this page. I started UrbanMommys in 2011 when I had just been laid off of a 12 year state job. At that time I had a 6 year old, 14 year old and 17 year old of my own as well as my two rotating 14 year old sons (actually friends of my son from babyhood that I’ve helped raise), a cat and a puppy. Fun times.

Since then, there have been a lot of changes in my life and though I thought I had a wealth of experience to share, the intervening six years taught me a whole hell of a lot more. I’ve dealt with teen pregnancy and become a grandmother, I’ve fallen in love with one of the world’s most misunderstood dog breeds and started saving and advocating for them and I’ve been galvanized to advocate for LGBTQI kids, because I’ve come to love one. Busy, I know right? There’s a ton of issues and lot to examine in modern life as it relates to parenting kids and I have (pretty non-judgmental) opinions on all of it! There’s so much to talk about, so much to learn and even more to understand. I hope you like my articles, I hope they make you laugh, give you ideas, start productive discussions and sometimes give you comfort.