This Private School Mom’s Unconventional, Hippie, Home-Schooling, Vegan Upbringing

Me and my kids, Oct. 2010


Right: Thornton Ave. Reunion, 1996.


 



Right: From the book, Venice of America, our family and neighbors, Thornton Ave. Venice

Venice Of America By Sweet William, 1976

From the book, Venice of America. Birthday party at our house, 22 Thornton Ave. Venice.
Me with ponytails. To my right, my late sister, Nani.

When I invited guest blogger Jenny Heitz to write a piece about Perfect Mommy Syndrome at LA private elementary schools, I though it would be of interest to our blog readers, many of whom are mid-way through the intensely competitive LA private elementary school admissions process. Our blog also focuses on what life at private elementary schools is like for moms and kids. These schools are filled with “perfect moms” of one type or another. Jenny’s piece accurately depicts the most common types of moms afflicted with “Perfect Mommy Syndrome”. I’m not a perfect mom…far from it. Read on and you’ll find out why.

I thought it would be interesting to quote two celebrities who have strong (and controversial) opinions about parenting. Supermodel Gisele and Mayim Bialik have both been outspoken about their personal parenting opinions, both quoted in People magazines and other national publications. I asked the question, “Are Celebrity Moms Too Perfect as the lead-in to Jenny’s piece.

Wow! Mayim responded with a blog piece of her own. That’s great. What astonished Jenny and me were the comments left on this blog by Mayim’s followers (otherwise known as “trolls” or people who leave nasty comments on blogs they don’t usually read).These were some of the most hate-filled, ignorant and angry comments I’ve seen on a blog. Here are a few choice comments by anonymous posters:

“By pulling headlines and making up stuff, you just look dumb.” “Anonymous”


“What pathetic judgmental drivel! Jealous much? 
Oh and Josie, you are kidding right? How much did you research your CHOICE to inject toxins in your child’s blood veins? Trust me I know WAY MORE on the topic than you do! So yeah, I am a better parent if I took the time to research fully and not just take doctors (who are human and failable and many are just as ignorant and ill informed as many parents they are leading on) on their word seeing as they have the pharmaceutical reps in their back pocket! 

And what do you know about homeschool? Except that you would be a terrible homeschooling parent.

Get a life lady, you have no clue about the world around you! “Anonymous”

(Note: the troll above misspelled the word “fallible”)

My Hippie Childhood:

What very few people know about me is that I may not be a “typical” private elementary school mom. I was raised in Venice, CA. We moved to Topanga when I was 10 years old. I was home-schooled until 4th grade, when I enrolled at Topanga Elementary School. We were strict vegans. That meant no animal products and in addition, no sugar, white flour or anything else my parents deemed to be “toxic”.We left many activities like the Girl Scouts and other official functions because they served cookies or meat. It was strict and extreme.

Mine was a hippie family, in every way. From Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Black Panthers as idols to the “it’s ok to be nude 24/7” attitude. My mom was African American. My dad, white. We were the only—or one of the only– mixed race families in Topanga as far as I could tell. How do I know that? I was called “Zebra” too many times to count. The first time I went to the dentist, I was 12 years old. I had more than 25 cavities, that took a year to deal with. I lost 2 teeth as a result. I never saw a pediatrician. Headaches were not treated with Tylenol, but instead with herbal tea. My parents followed various Indian gurus, did yoga and lived a rather secluded life. We gardened, ate organic and composted. We shopped at health food stores. We didn’t have a television. My parents smoked pot. Our clothes were from thrift stores. We didn’t, however, live on a commune.

Death Without Doctors. When I was about 11 years old, the unimaginable happened. My mom, age 40, was self-diagnosed with breast cancer. She told us she injured her breast running on Venice beach years earlier (not true). Over time, she became very ill. She didn’t believe in Western medicine and refused to see a doctor. She was tired. She lost weight. By the time I was 17, she was extremely ill. At home, my sister, dad and I cared for her the best we could. No nurses or hospice. I’ll spare you the worst details, but if you’ve ever taken care of a dying person, it is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The suffering of my mom is etched in my mind forever. She flew to the Phillipines to seek treatment from a holistic healer. It didn’t work. I begged her to live. I told her I still needed her, that I was only 18. She got sicker. Still no doctor. Paralysis set in. Then blindness. Brain damage. Coma. Death. I was 19 years old. She was 50 years old. I miss her every day. Somehow, I picked up the pieces of my broken soul and went off to UC Berkeley. My late sister also went to Berkeley and then to Harvard Law School (that’s how she met my husband, Barry, and introduced us).

Seeking Balance: Since I’ve had kids, I’ve realized that balance is key in all aspects of my family’s life. Celebrity moms influence us, without question. We look to them as perfect, even when we know they are not. My family isn’t vegan, but there are vegan restaurants we go to (I love Vegan Glory on Beverly Blvd.). We eat organic sometimes. I could care less how much sugar my kids’ progressive school serves on Halloween.

My Life Now: So there! Now you know a little bit more about me. I’ve lived the bohemian life. I know it inside and out. To me, it’s not glamorous. But, it’s the right choice for some families. Just not mine. What am I like now? I love Prada and Chloe handbags. I wear J. Crew and 7 For All Mankind jeans. My politics are left-of-center. I spent years working on staff for LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. I married someone from a wealthy, conservative Jewish background. Our upbringings are totally dissimilar. I’ve never met his parents because I’m black (or according to them, an “N” word).We give as much money as we can to charities, progressive elected officials and our kids’ school. My favorite writers are Cormac McCarthy, J.M. Coetzee and Toni Morrison. I never, ever shop on sale and I can’t stand vintage clothing. Oh, and my medicine cabinet is filled with Tylenol and other good stuff.

One of the things I loved most about my family was their tolerance for everyone. That, my friends, is absent in Mayim’s follower’s comments on this blog. As for those celebrity moms who give interviews about parenting to national magazines? If you can’t handle having your quotes repeated, don’t say them in the first place!

6 thoughts on “This Private School Mom’s Unconventional, Hippie, Home-Schooling, Vegan Upbringing

  1. Beautiful. As are you. I LOVED what you said at the end of the post about tolerance. The message I got from yesterday's post was not that these stereotypical moms are bad, but that we be happy for who we are and not constantly try to live up to someone else's standards. No one wants to be preached at or hit over the head with dogmatic diatribe; a person's views are much more likely to be heard when they are calmly and intelligently offered….as you have done here.

  2. I believe that this was the most cathartic piece you've ever written!. I gleaned so much insight into your psyche, and now know why when we shop I'm the one looking for the bargain! Our childhoods really do leave quite an imprint on our adult lives. You have just opened up a whole new Christina for me to explore. I look forward to it.

  3. I am so touched by your telling of your story. I know it was not an easy thing to do. I have never been more proud to be your step-mom. I love you.

    I was also impressed by Kim's comments. I listened to a long discussion on NPR yesterday about the increasingly polarized nature of our culture (and government) and I think it is easy, but superficial, to see the article about perfect moms in this light. Judgement of others is the ultimate enemy. It is important to embrace our differences and celebrate them. They are what create the richness of our lives.

  4. Bravo to you for being open and honest about your choices – giving honor to the ones your parents chose for you and the ones you've made as an adult.
    How sad that many took the other blog post as an opportunity to be hateful, spiteful and mean. When I read it, I remarked at all the judging going on. Humor aside, nothing can be gained from labeling others merely for the the fact that they make different choices.

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