ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is from the November 2014 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "obedience" square in my 9-29-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Danso & Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"My Greatest Source of Achievement"


Danso came home dragging his feet
and dumped his backpack on the couch,
walking right past the other kids.

"You look like you had a bad day," Hannah said.

"I hate school and the teachers hate me,"
Danso grumbled as he handed her the note.

She unfolded the paper and read it.
"Mr. Furst claims that you're disobedient,
but doesn't give any more details," she said.
"Would you like to tell me what happened?"

"There's this freshman, Benji, who didn't have
lunch money and his parents haven't
signed him up for free lunches," Danso said.
"So I bought him lunch. Then Mr. Furst
got on my case about it, said it wasn't my place
to do that, and I should leave it to the adults."

"What happened next?" Hannah asked.

Danso slouched lower, wishing that he
could disappear. "I told him that the adults
were doing a shitty job if they thought it's okay
to let a kid go hungry, and if they wouldn't
take care of him then I would -- and it
wouldn't be the first time, either!" he said.
"I've been on the streets, and I'm not
letting anyone starve if I can help it. I won't."

"Your compassion is admirable," Hannah said.
"Your diplomacy could use some work, though."

That startled a laugh out of him. "Yeah, well --
they all want me to be someone I'm not," Danso said.
"They want me to be naive and obedient, but
I can't go back to being a little boy. My mama died,
my uncle kicked me out, and then I picked up four kids.
I'm used to making my own decisions, even if I
make mistakes sometimes, and if other people
won't fix what's going wrong then I will."

"Mmm," Hannah said thoughtfully, beckoning
for him to sit down at the kitchen table.
"How about you write down your feelings
about fatherhood and how it changed you.
I'll write a note back to Mr. Furst and
ask him not to pressure you like that --
and we'll definitely see about making sure
that Benji gets to eat lunch."

"Okay," Danso said, gathering up
paper and pencil. "I guess I feel like ...
fatherhood is my greatest source of achievement.
I don't want to lose sight of that. It hurts when
people try to make like it never happened."

"That's understandable," Hannah said.
"By the way, you should include an apology
to Mr. Furst. Your point was acceptable.
The way you phrased it was not."

Danso sighed. "Yeah, I guess," he said.
He might not like it, but he was
willing to obey when it made sense.

"You know, there's a church group I go to
sometimes when I have toddlers in the house,"
Hannah said as she started taking out
ingredients to cook supper. "It's called MOPS,
Mothers of Pre-Schoolers, and there's
also a Teen MOPS branch. They have
a rule about not judging teen parents."

"Sounds kind of nice," Danso said.
The school group helped, but ...
yeah, judgmental was the word for it.
The teachers wanted to help, only they
acted like parenting was always a mistake.

It wasn't a mistake for Danso.
He'd done it on purpose, and he'd do it again.

"I think you kids are ready for more outings,"
Hannah said. "Let's try church this Sunday
and see how it goes. We can ask about
a support group for teen fathers."

So Danso worked on his fatherhood essay
(and the apology) while Hannah made supper,
and Hadyn trotted around helping.

"I'm glad you saved us, Blankie," Hadyn whispered.
"I don't care what the mean grownups say."

Her words warmed his heart like hot cocoa.

Over supper, Hannah announced the plan
to attend church on Sunday. Hadyn
seemed happy over the prospect.
Lakia balked, but when offered
the alternative of a babysitter,
grumbled and agreed to church
rather than be left out.

"What about Nathaniel and Rosita?"
Danso asked.

"There's a childcare group called Moppets,"
Hannah explained. "It's at the far end
of the big meeting room, so they'll be in range."
She looked at Hadyn and Lakia. "There's also
a play group for older children whose parents
are attending after-worship groups."

Both girls perked up at that.

Danso couldn't blame them; most churches
had a pretty awesome playground
and good indoor toys too.

He still felt nervous on Sunday,
because some churches weren't very nice
to boys who liked other boys, or soups,
or any number of other folks.

When they arrived, Danso had to laugh
at the sign out front, which said,
We don't serve ice cream,
but we make great Sundays!

The accompanying picture
showed a rainbow banana split.

Really, he should've known better
than to worry that Hannah
would go to a mean church.

The bulletin board fluttered with announcements
of other activities too. There were several charities --
"Need help? Come get it! Doing fine? Lend a hand!" --
along with an educational museum trip, a potluck,
baseball, bowling, hiking, and bike events.

Danso had a bike now, thanks to Aidan.
Maybe it would be fun to ride with other people.

The sermon, too, proved more interesting
than he expected -- all about how
God made the Earth and so people
should take good care of it.

There were coloring pages for Lakia
with pictures that matched the theme,
and a bulletin for older children where
Hannah helped Hadyn with unfamiliar words.
Nathaniel and Rosita slept through everything,
but nobody seemed to mind.

After the sermon, Hannah sent the older girls
to the play group at the ropework equipment and
took the babies to childcare. Danso stared
in amazement at the small jungle of baby tents,
tunnels, arch gyms, and musical play mats.

At the other end of the room were
a couple dozen women for MOPS
and five teenage girls with their mentor.

Hannah led Danso over to the girls.
"I'm Hannah, and this is Danso," she said.
"We're wondering about starting up
a teen fathers group or something."

"I'm Kaitlyn," the mentor said.
"Sure, we can talk about one for boys."
Then she turned to her girls.
"Until then, does anyone mind
letting Mr. Mom sit in with us?"

Some of them giggled, but nobody objected,
and Kaitlyn wasn't glaring at him like she thought
boys made babies all by themselves.

"Welcome home, then," Kaitlyn said,
beckoning Danso into their circle.
"What's your experience level with kids?"

"Hadyn's ten, Lakia's six, Nathaniel's three,
and Rosita just turned eight months.
When we lived on the streets,
I was their daddy, and now ..."
Danso paused to take a deep breath,
"I'm their big brother, but I still
feel like a daddy, so here I am."

"Wow," Kaitlyn said.

"Hi I'm Natalie can you tie shoes?
I mean teach tying shoes?"
a smaller girl said all in one breath.

"Sure," Danso said. He'd done it before.
He looked around and found one of those
dress-yourself toys with a shoe to lace.
He plopped the little bear in his lap.
"First, take one shoelace in each hand ..."

In an odd way, it did feel like coming home.

* * *

Notes:

"Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride and inspiration. Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person."
-- Naveen Jain

A recent form of child abuse is throwing away the lunches of children who can't pay for them. Children are OWED support by adults on a species level; it's up to adults to figure out how to make that happen. One person sensibly responded by paying for all the overdue accounts, thank you for behaving like a decent human being. Some schools are offering free meals to ALL students, without means testing, a much more efficient solution. In Terramagne-America, there is less poverty because the economy is better, but it does still happen. Free-to-all school meals are also more common, though not universal yet, and are gaining ground because people suggest it to solve problems like what just happened here.



MOPS has a teen branch. While I'm rarely a fan of religious groups like this, I was seriously impressed by the pair of MOPS booths I saw at a local event: very positive vibe, and they weren't sermonizing, just doing a lot of family-focused networking. So that's how they earned this shout-out. Here are steps for starting a teen parent support group.

There are many ideas for cultivating community and leading activities within a church congregation. Basically people who play together, tend to pray together, and are less prone to drifting away. A thriving church becomes an anchor of the local community.

Here is the Sacred Earth Sermon, with further thoughts on the importance of including children in worship. Not a lot of my characters are strongly religious, but Hannah is one of them, and she knows what to look for in a great church.

Some contents of the Moppets playroom include an adventure gym tunnel, baby tent, activity gym, and piano mat. Learn-to-dress toys are helpful in mastering self-care tasks such as tying shoes.

See the awesome four-masted ropework playground at Hannah's church. Theirs has a bunch of extras including pendulum seats, swinging nets, capsules, trampolines, circular membranes, climbing funnels, bridge nets, and waggle bridges. This kind of playground is a lot safer than it seems, but stimulates both physical play and risk assessment. It's especially good for body-learners like Lakia.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-23 07:08 am (UTC)
curiosity: A close up of the right half of a cat's face, shaded blue and green. (Picto: Blue Paradacsa)
From: [personal profile] curiosity
I am really coming to love the Polychrome Heroics 'verse.

OH, Perfect for today.

Date: 2015-01-23 07:49 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I had a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, like Danso.

Seeing his day and then week improve was incredibly cathartic, which actually took me by surprise (not merely because I gave the original prompt)!

I'm in a different emotional space than I was on the 14th of November. At the time I was thinking of Danso being lumped into "teen parent" labeling when he actually came at the situation in an entirely different way, and hoping that would be brought into the open for some of the Clueless Adults around him. (Probably everyone has a story about some well-meaning but closed-minded person they had to deal with at Danso's age, for some reason.)

Today, the poem resonated more on an emotional than intellectual level, especially as Danso's reaction (buying lunch for the other person) is one I've used myself more than once. To me, that's being part of society, not something to be scolded for!

If I could pop over to Polychrome with my family, permanently, I would. But then, my stories about this place would probably qualify as /horror/ instead of ordinary fiction from their perspective. Especially in the matter of delinquent lunch accounts-- there were articles the same month as the most publicized Utah incident you linked to for incidents in North Carolina, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and California that I found with just a moment of searching.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-23 02:27 pm (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I love this. Danso is such a good guy, and that teacher is a jerk.

I am horrified about the lunch issue, it's criminal.

I'll see if I can find a reference, but there was a story about an eleven-year old kid who found out about a similar situation at his own school, and started a charity fund to pay for lunches for his fellow students.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2015-01-24 12:23 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Denying food to someone says that you want them to die, which is particularly evil with children, who are legally forbidden to provide for themselves and survive only at the whim of adults.

Yes.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-23 09:52 pm (UTC)
thnidu: Red pen. Text: The red penis the editor's friend; editing mark "insert space" in "penis". from lj:stormsdotter (editor's friend)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Very, very good: the story, the characters, the actions.
The hot cocoa (a particular comfort food of mine).

You left a line number in:
• 125 and a bulletin for older children where

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-25 12:31 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Hannah's church reminds me in certain ways of St. Mark's here. If you darken their door, you must want to be there, and are thus welcome, without question. I imagine such places are a lot thinner on the ground where you are, more's the pity. :(

Danso (with a little coaching) is being doubly grown up, taking responsibility for his tone but *expecting* the adults to behave themselves and not taking bullshit from *anyone*.

I hope for Mr. Furst's sake that he takes Danso's response well... there's no indication that Hannah would go all Mama Bear on him, but Danso himself... :)

drip, drip, drip

Date: 2016-10-17 08:59 am (UTC)
callibr8: (hodag)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
>> "I guess I feel like ...
fatherhood is my greatest source of achievement.
I don't want to lose sight of that. It hurts when
people try to make like it never happened." <<

I've read this poem a number of times now, and I still tear up when I get to this stanza, because it hits so hard. I was "only" a step-parent, but the younger child was fifteen months old when he and his family moved in, and had just started kindergarten when his mother and I had the Awful Breakup Fight. I still miss those kids, SO MUCH.

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