March 30, 2006

No Kids, No Regrets

This is my first post for the website, and my first blog, ever. With those disclaimers in mind, here is my introduction. Read on and enjoy!

When I think of being childfree, I like to think the childfree lifestyle chose me, instead of the other way around. When I look back on my "grown-up" daydreams as a kid, I realize they didn't involve having kids of my own. I dreamt of living on a ranch with a flock of animals to tend to, flowers and trees to nurture, and maybe even some horses to ride. I would spend long hours in the sun tending to my garden, and making sure all the animals were fed, loved, and healthy. I also dreamt of being a professor at nearby UC Berkeley, helping students to discover ideas that they hadn't previously considered, and contributing to the rich academic community. While I didn't grow up to own a ranch or to change the world, I have remained true to my dreams of a life unencumbered by parenting.

I rolled my eyes when neighbors would bring their babies over for a visit, and would wrinkle my nose as my friends showed off newborn siblings. No thanks, I would tell them, I don't want to hold/diaper/feed your new brother or sister. I think my mother realized very early on she wouldn't be a grandmother on my account. One afternoon, my quiet time of reading in my room was blown to bits by the paint-peeling wail of a visiting neighbor's baby. I tossed my book aside, came out into the living room, put my hands on my hips and said "Would someone please shut that baby UP?!" I spun on my Mary Janes and flounced out of the room. I was about 7. Yep, destiny taps you on the shoulder early in life and invites you to dance.

I was 11 years old when I read Ellen Peck's The Baby Trap. It blew my mind and set me free from the cultural imperative to reproduce.

As I moved forward into my 20's and 30's, I coped with the loneliness of my choice (friends were reproducing like rabbits then) and took comfort in the company of others who felt the way I did.
I read the works of Elinor Burkett, Leslie Lafayette, Mardy Ireland and other CF women who I saw to be very powerful role models. I took action and spoke out on pronatalism in our society and in the media, and the harmful messages that came with it. I have my bad days, sure. They stem from having dealt with ignorant comments/stereotypes, armchair psychoanalysis ("You don't have kids because of childhood trauma"), and other ignorant, rude behavior.

I cringe when some parents assume their familial status makes them morally superior. Hey, we all come into the world the same way: Cold, naked, and without kids. So I don't get it. In all seriousness, every day I'm grateful I listened to that scrappy kid back when who knew parenting was not for her, and I'm grateful for my choice today as a grown adult, living a life of clarity and of no regrets.

March 29, 2006

Book Review: I Hate Other People's Kids

I found out about this book by accident. I happened to come in on the middle of CNN's entertainment news program, and there was an interview with the author, a New York-based comedianne named Adrianne Frost. She explained that she, a childfree woman, had received some flack about the title of her book, as well as the contents.

It is an amusing, even laugh out loud funny at times, tirade against the behavior of other people's kids, or OPK, as Ms. Frost refers to them. She goes into how children tend to ruin the peace everywhere, from parks to movie theaters to restaurants.
Ms. Frost does not let parents off the hook, either, blaming them for not curbing their kids behavior. I found myself nodding in agreement at her clever sarcasm directed at a child-centric society. For example, she grumbles about kids treating pets as toys: "It's a simple lesson: If Other People's Kids don't aggravate a cat, they won't become little, screaming scratching posts." Or upon encountering kids on the way into a movie theater: "God, if you exist and care about me and the ten dollars and fifty center I just spent on this ticket, please let these carousing kids have tickets to Digger the Dog's Journey to Monkeyland. Amen."

It is a short read; you could easily polish the book off in one day. The book puts a humorous and truthful light on a subject that many shy away from.

March 25, 2006

Happiness is Being an Auntie

This Purple Woman really likes being an Auntie. Tom and I celebrated our nephew's seventh birthday at the Rainforest Cafe at the Yorkdale Mall. We survived three lightening storms and saw orangutans and elephants during dinner (no, not real ones!). It's so easy to make a kid's day. His parents were attending a wedding and we had been playing poker (ante up/bet limit social poker) all afternoon. He was wearing those kind of painter pants that have pockets down the leg. So we spent a loonie to get him a souvenir "penny"at the restaurant's gift store. His new lucky penny went right in his pants pocket.

We have several nieces and nephews. The eldest of them got married two years ago and his sibling has graduated college and is now looking for work as a grade school teacher. Another is attending junior college to become a fire fighter. I've noticed as they get older, they are a little harder to relate to and buy gifts for, but I always feel privileged to be part of their life.

Aunts and uncles have a huge opportunity to play a special role in encouraging their nieces and nephews to embrace their gifts, their dreams. Even just teaching them how to talk to adults, which can be very intimidating for a teenager, is a way to make a difference in their lives. How many times have you seen a teenager just look at their feet and mumble when an adult is around? As for the younger ones, it makes me feel like a special trusted friend when they feel safe enough to ask me a question about something that puzzles them or perhaps they didn't want to ask their parent.

We have invited our next-to-oldest nephew and his sister (Tom's God-child), who both still live at home in California, to come visit us in Toronto, Canada this summer. We think it would be a nice trip abroad for them (our nephew's first), no language barrier, but plenty different and very international. We hope they make it a priority to occupy our guest bedroom. That's why we have one.

March 24, 2006

No Kid Person

My job has been a drag lately: numerous deadlines, vendors with attitudes, and ugly looks from a kid who is a chief troublestarter at the place. That kid came up looking to take pictures with people for whatever reason today. I was trying not to pay attention to them. Boss took a picture, then the kid's handler asked them if they wanted to take pictures with anyone else. "There's no one else to take pictures with up here on this floor," the kid said. It looked as if the kid's handler was going to suggest me, but I walked past the both of them as I had to take some mail downstairs. I don't like being around most of the kids there, but I particularly don't want that problem child near me, ever.

I spoke with a person in one of our other offices, and she asked me how things were going. "Not well," I sighed. "I'm not a kid person." I touched on some run-ins I'd had with some of the kids without going into a whole lot of detail. "Boss gets annoyed when I complain about them," I continued. "I guess these kids weren't taught respect at home, and they may not be taught it here, either, but they have to learn that before they leave here." "I didn't know you weren't crazy about the little ones," the person I was talking to said in surprise. "Not really," I admitted. "That's why I never had any of my own." "You were a kid once," came the reply.

Normally, I would have said, "Yeah, but I grew out of it," but I let it go. I might have had to hear another "but children are wonderful" speech. Later in the day, I received an email from my niece's adoptive mom announcing that my niece suddenly decided that she is not going to college. Normally, I stay out of their battles, but I can't stand by and let my niece choose a dead end existence. I feel an obligation to my late sister's memory. It's hard. I don't always relate to kids well, and I have to really think about what I need to tell my niece and how to say it without causing further fireworks. This is another one of those times I'm glad I'm not a parent. However, as an aunt, sometimes I get pushed into being another adult authority figure to a kid.

Book Review: No Kidding

Last year, when I was searching for books on the subject of “childfree” I was pleasantly surprised to get at least 20 nonfiction books on the subject, and this one work on fiction kept cropping up.
No Kidding by Wendy Tokunaga
The cover intrigued me, but I decided that I had to read a few feminist/nonfiction first to get really grounded on “what’s already out there” before I write my book, Purple Women™.

An interesting side affect of my purposeful reading is that I get angry, or perhaps indignant is more accurate when dealing with this subject matter. When reading accounts of how pan-american institutions and doctors have treated women’s fertility issues over the years (Barren in the Promised Land by Elaine Tyler May (1995)-- it’s hard to not have some sort of reaction. I had never heard of the word eugenics before. Eugenics is compulsory sterilization. Who knew that reading a chapter could bring on PMS-like symptoms? My husband has noticed this too because I don’t usually walk around with a dark cloud over my head. That’s just not me.

My strategy to combat this is to read something light, maybe a short story in between. No Kidding by Wendy Tokunaga (2000) fit the bill this time. I was delighted that her story takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area, the place I call home. I knew the cities and streets and wineries traversed by the lead character, one Ms. Audrey Mills who works at a high tech company in, you guessed it – Silicon Valley.

To sum it up, we start out with our heroine in the wrong relationship, comfortable if not committed, and when he goes all “suburban” on her she gets cold feet. It helps her clarify what she wants and because of her age, she is starting to get pressure from all around her (taking the form of a manipulative mother and serial baby showers at the office) on the not-too-private subject of settling down and having kids. Those two things go together, right? Not. It was fun to see her make the journey to Mr. Right and finding her passion all in one book. If only life were that simple. I’ve always been a sucker for happy endings.

Project Update: Reverse Links to PW

Global thanks to Married No Kids Editor Kim Kenney for posting our first (that I am aware of) reverse link. She really puts up some good content and I am thrilled to be included in her list of resources: Married No Kids Resources Page (scroll down the page, it's alphabetical).

The number of websites that link to Purple WomenTM , is an important factor in increasing our rankings in free online searches such as Google. If you have a blog or a website, and it feels appropriate, please consider add a link back to PW.

March 23, 2006

Purple Woman! Buttons

Purple Woman! buttons have arrived. Oh yeah, who wants one? Blog on! I'll be passing these out to Purple WomenTM everywhere I go...Toronto, Mont Tremblant, San Francisco, Orlando, New Jersey, who knows where next...

March 21, 2006

Need a kid fix? Why not mentor?

I always felt that all middle and high school students were "at risk." I graduated from a high school that had a reputation for habitual drug use among the student population. Pregnancies were not unusual. In fact my high school now has on-site day care for students. Though we were not categorized as "at-risk," some of my friends, fellow college bound students, did not make it through college. They raised their kids, worked at the A & P, or got a factory job at the GM plant. For the grace of God go I.

Which is why I felt it was important to mentor teens. People would tell me how good I was with the kids. I'm sure they wondered why I didn't have my own. What they didn't know is that I didn't want or need my own child. I just needed an occasional "kid fix."

I just came back from a spring break week in Florida with my current mentee, a twenty-year-old woman Big Brothers, Big Sisters matched me with seven years ago. We've since graduated out of the program but she remains my "little sister." Like any child, she has kept me young. We spent much of the eleven hour drive to Florida evaluating the new releases of artists like Ne-yo and Nelly, and talking about religion and how to avoid a speeding ticket (if you lead foot responds to the base beat of a good R & B track, use cruise control). Any urge of mine to nurture
another is completely satiated by 3-5 hours a week of mentoring.

If you are childfree but don't care to be totally free of children in your life, try mentoring. It's a win-win opportunity to extend yourself into the community and, when parents start talking about the trials of teaching a teen to drive or those awkward sex conversations, you can nod and say, "Yeah, been there, done that."


One of the freedoms I find in being childfree is the time that I can spend on my hobbies. One of my favorite hobbies is reading. I usually have several books going at once.

Another one of my hobbies is scrapbooking. This gives me a creativity outlet. (And something to do with all my cat pictures!)

My husband has also gotten me into geocaching, which is a lot of fun and gets us outdoors.

What kind of hobbies do you enjoy?

March 18, 2006

Baby, You're Not A Rich Woman

I love when people assume I have money to throw around just because I have no children. My late maternal grandmother used to irritate me all the time with that. I'd give her cards for her birthday or a holiday, and she'd grumble to everyone else, "Well, there was no money in the card." The childfree have bills to pay like everyone else.

Granted, I do have a little more discretionary income to play with than someone who has children. I don't make the big bucks or come from a rich family. Neither is there a husband at home bringing in a second paycheck to help keep the wolves from around the door. I work a regular nine-to-five, and worry about funding my retirement like most people.

I never understood people who have numerous children, yet are struggling financially. I read a book some time ago that was written in response to people who are either childfree or wish to limit the amount of children they will have. The book was sent to me for free by an ultra right-wing, fundamentalist religious organization after I took offense to an article their leader had written against the childfree. The author had written that one of the reasons people should have children is because the kids increase the wealth of the household. It takes over $250,000 to raise one child, according to some financial experts. That money is being laid out for food, clothes, school supplies, college educations, etc., and it is not coming back in. I don't care if the kids grow into adults who financially help their parents out from time to time, the parents are never going to get all of that $250,000+ (depending on how many kids they had) back.

March 14, 2006

Book Review: Baby Not on Board

Baby Not on Board: A celebration of Life Without Kids by Jennifer L. Shawne is a cute tongue-in-cheek book of childfree humor featuring questionnaires to help you determine
1)if you are ready to announce your childfree status
2)if you are a cool aunt or uncle
3)if your biological clock is really ticking or you just need to buy a cuddly gerbil.

Included are clever sections on how to identify and catch a non-breeder, throw an unbaby shower, and leave a legacy that's truly your own. Strangely, there is a whole section titled "Other Peoples Children" offering babysitting tips which explain just what to do if you never want to be asked to babysit again. Personally, it feels a little passive/aggressive to me. How about just saying "No" the next time someone asks? Of course that wouldn't be as funny, and this book is all about the fun.

The tone of Baby Not On Board is gleefully childfree, packed with illustrations of smug childfree folks with cocktails in their hands. Apparently, the childfree are drinkers and will avoid contact with children at all costs. Guilty on the first count. I love my wine, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the child-hater stereotype which is why this book made me want to laugh and cry. Hey, I actually like kids. I just don't want to own one, okay.

I would recommend this book as a gift to your childfree partner or someone who has newly embraced their childfree status. Pair it with champagne and blowfish sushi.


March 12, 2006

Where Do They Find The Time?

Many times I overschedule myself. Yesterday was busy with church, boxing and cabaret activities, then today, I was busy for most of the day. I know many men and women who live lives crowded with work, play and everything else and they have kids at home. I wonder how they schedule what they have to do and deal with their children, too.

I could never see how to mesh my life with that of children. I look at the challenges I have with my job, finances, as well as all the interests I pursue. It's hard for me to see how to mix the two. It appears to be impossible, yet many try and seem to be frustrated and tired all the time.

Childfree Friendships

I find that I'm at an age where most women my age have young children (toddlers and babies). That has made it difficult for me to have close friendships with them. If I happen to know them before they had kids, often we at least had something in common, so the friendship continues. But it's not at the same level that it was before. As a mom, their interests change and they develop new friendships with other new moms who are going through similar situations. It's like there's this club that I'm not a part of and I'm left out.
It can be difficult to maintain friendships with moms, but it is also hard to find friends who don't have children. I know as I get older it will get easier as kids grow up and women will be able to focus more on socialization and not have to worry about babysitters all the time in order to go out. The Internet has made it possible to connect with others who are in similar situations and helps to ease the "I'm-the-only-one-out-there" feelings that occur.

March 10, 2006

Married Childfree Christian

Many of those who choose not to have children get asked the question why. There is not always a simple answer. There can be multiple reasons for choosing not to have children. Health issues are one reason and a reason that many consider valid. Others get married later in life and feel that having children is too risky for their age. For me the decision had mostly to do with lack of desire. Some choose not to because of financial reasons, others because of concern for the environment and over-population. Whatever the reason behind the decision, it is a personal decision and one that most childfree couples take seriously.

When my husband and I made the decision not to have children (a decision we discussed during our engagement), I didn't realize how that would impact my life. I had never heard the term "childfree" at that point. I knew that I had never really had a desire to have children, something that was talked about when I was a teenager. My mom even mentioned that I had never been very "motherly". As I began to fall in love with boys during my high school years, I realized that I would probably have children for the sake of the man I loved. Having reached that conclusion, I spent the remainder of my high school and college years assuming that I would have children. Imagine my surprise and delight when my fiance and I got into a discussion about children and I learned that he didn't really care whether or not he had children. We both determined to wait before taking any "drastic measures" (ie sterilization) to see if we changed our minds, but both felt confident that we would not have children.

In early marriage, I heard the "you'll change your mind" comment when stating we didn't plan on having children. This comment would infuriate me for it assumed that the other person knew my mind better than I did. As time went on, it became clear that choosing not to have children was a decision that few people make, especially in Christian circles. I began to realize that the decision not to have children was a major lifestyle choice, one that would impact the rest of my life. Choosing the childfree lifestyle put me in a minority, especially among other Christians. It also seems to be a controversial topic, ranging from it being considered a sin to being perceived as selfish.

March 08, 2006

Mest -- The Mother Gene?

Twice in one week, I've come across reference to a clinical study done to see if there is really a "mommy" gene and if some of us are just missing it. It's a stretch to say that little white mice correlate directly to human females, but it always has been and scientists keep using them.

The author of "Baby Not on Board" (the first book reviewed here back in December) has a blog and she posts this about it. Geneticists

I particularly like her childfree Hall of Fame concept!

March 05, 2006

Adult Female Identity

Even at this mid-point in life, a time when life-review is common, (not always a crisis), I am still looking around me for role models, especially in the generation ahead of me, for clues to good living. We all need heroes, people we admire and want to emulate. This was a huge motivating factor in the creation of Purple Women™ – the survey, upon which my book will be based. I cannot wait to delve into the analysis.

They say “you are the company you keep” and I really believe that’s true. As a childfree 40-something, married woman I fit squarely in the category of those who are deemed to have an atypical adult identity. My husband and I live happily outside the mainstream. I wonder if I am alone in my struggle to accept and define myself by my alternative “family” status? We are a family of two, a subset of two much larger complicated families, just like everyone else, but we are not like everyone else.

Identity became more of a crisis for me after my fiancée, now my husband of 8 years, moved me back to his rural hometown right before we got married. It’s the kind of place people move to when they need a bigger house in the suburb so they can raise 2.5 children. As we started out on our co-mingled journey together, we both came to realize, albeit for different reasons, that this was not the right place for us. I am glad to have had the experience. I feel I know him better for it, but I am also glad we moved on. Culturally and socially I was dying.

Over the years I have tried to define myself by my work, with so-so results. I figured, it works for men, so why not me? I got a little panicky when I would think about “my career”. I thought that since I was going not to be a mom that I had to do or be something else. I think deep down I viewed myself through how I feared other people would judge me. That I had no worth if I was not a mom, or otherwise contributing to the economy, or making a difference in the world. This is probably psychological fallout from living in a kid-centric society. I found some solace in focusing the last decade of my work life in the nonprofit sector and as a fundraiser for good causes – both as volunteer and paid staff.

When the opportunity came up to move across three time zones and one border on a company transfer, I really pushed for it. I saw it as a chance to start over, and think through just what kind of life we wanted to build. When we got posted in Canada, I was determined to seek friends who were childfree and had time for extracurricular activities and socializing. It has made all the difference.

March 04, 2006

Motherhood After 40? Nope!

I was interviewed for a news piece about the childfree vs. parents in the workplace six years ago. Not long after the piece aired, I was at a roller rink I used to skate at regularly. Upstairs in the rink was a bar for those 21 years and older. The concession stand on the first floor was closed, so I went to the bar to get a soft drink. The bartender, who I knew, gave me a look. "You said you hated kids on TV," he said. Several who were standing nearby stared at me. "I didn't say that," I told him. "I said I didn't want any." It was the same difference, according to him. He was always bragging about his kids, and stating he would have many more if he could afford to support more.

"She told everyone in Chicago that she hates children," he announced to the other patrons. "What?" one woman said in astonishment. "I have several and I love them." It is always at least one woman who has to declare how wonderful children are in a vain attempt to convince someone else to join her in the "joys" of motherhood. "How old are you?" the bartender asked. I was 38 then. "You'll change your mind when you're 40." he said. I'm now 44 years old.

Why in the heck would I want to have a child after 40? Common sense would dictate that if I wanted to be a parent, I should have had them before I was thirty and not far away from youth. It is foolishness to start a family in middle-age when the golden years are closer than they have ever been. I'm going to deal with kids in the midst of worrying about financing my retirement and perhaps while battling with menopause? Doesn't sound like a good mix to me.

I see articles all the time about women who opted to become parents in their middle years. The comments are all the same, "I feel fulfilled", "This is the best time of my life", "The baby is my little miracle", blah, blah. What were they thinking? I would assume if you have a toddler and you're twenty-five, you have a lot more energy to chase after it, then you do at forty-five. I also understand that older mothers are often left out like the weird kid on the playground when they are among younger moms. The younger moms and dads lives don't look like that of ol' mama and papa at that point. Not a lot of common ground between the two, I'm guessing. Plus the other older moms' kids are not in diapers anymore; in fact, some of those women have grandchildren now.

I'm used to being able to get up and go, do what I want, and come back when I feel like it. I've been doing it for a long time. Why would I suddenly stop that for 2:00 AM feedings?

Friendships With Moms

I don't like calling my middle niece. She's 35 years old, lives in another state, and has four sons--two teenagers, and two still in grade school. Our conversation is constantly interupted by her yelling at the kids. No "excuse me" or "could you hold on a moment?", just a sudden blast of expletive deleteds as she gets on her sons about something they are doing or not doing at that moment. Another childfree friend of mine had to dissolve a friendship because of that issue. "Besides," she explained, "we really didn't have much in common."

Many of the women I know have adult children, so their conversation no longer primarily consists of what cute/annoying things their kids have done. We can find common ground on other things like work problems, being time-challenged, and the changes that come with being middle-aged, for example. It can be challenging to have common ground with someone who has small children, unless they have other interests outside of motherhood. In my experience, it is easier to find that with a mom who works outside the home, as opposed to one who is a stay-at-home parent.

March 03, 2006

Do They Enjoy Their Kids?

My mother and I were returning home after running errands one hot summer day. I was fourteen, I believe, and Mom was in her mid-forties. We were coming towards the mom & pop grocery that was a half a block away from the house, when we saw a toddler waddle into the middle of the street. A car was rapidly coming towards the child.

Mom and I froze, neither one of us close enough to move the kid out of danger. Fortunately, the driver saw the kid and stopped, just inches away. My mother said, "Ooh, we were about to see a chilling scene!" Seconds later, the kid's mother, who had been standing on the sidewalk joking with her friends, stomped into the street and roughly snatched her child next to her. She cursed at the child and half-dragged the kid away with her. My mother shook her head. "She ain't got no business gettin' mad with that child because she wasn't watching it," she said. "Nobody told her to get pregnant in the first place." The toddler's mother had to be no more than seventeen or eighteen years old.

I have noticed a similar level of frustration among a lot of parents. Fathers who ignore the whines of their kids as they walk ahead of them on the street, mothers who always seem to yell and bark orders at their offspring. I wonder why some of them fiercely defend their choice to have children, when it appears they don't enjoy the fact that they had any.

About 15 years ago, I was out doing some shopping on a bitterly cold winter day when I heard a woman yelling at the top of her voice. She had stopped her child in the middle of the sidewalk to berate her. The woman's daughter may have been seven or eight years old. The girl looked confused as to why her mother was so angry and harsh. It sounded as if she was yelling at the child simply because the child existed and was in her way. I felt sorry for the child. I could imagine what hell she had to deal with at home.

An ex-boyfriend of mine had a son by his ex-wife, and a daughter by a woman whom he walked out on not long after their child was born. He took his son in after his ex-wife reported that the boy was getting out of hand. He reportedly acted like a doting father the first few months his daughter was born. It was all an act. Later, I discovered he had not been paying child support regularly to his ex-wife. From what I observed, the relationship between he and his son was not close. My ex also spent a lot time yelling at his son and keeping him under punishment--when he was at home to do so, that is. Making money and juggling a harem of women was more important to my ex. His ex-live-in-girlfriend had to take him to court and have his check garnished to get child support for their daughter. The last time I ran into his son, it was apparent that the boy had moved into gang affiliation. From what I have heard elsewhere, my ex doesn't have much of a relationship with his now teenaged daughter, either.

Maybe they regret having children. Unfortunately, children aren't gifts that can be returned to the store because one is not satisfied.

March 01, 2006

Seen At The Nursing Home

My late sister was a nurse's aide. She held down two jobs at two different nursing homes. She would tell me stories about some of the patients who would wait in vain for people, usually their children, to visit them.

One of the saddest stories my sister ever told me was when a patient passed away. The RN on duty put a call in to the patient's son. He told the RN to throw the body in potter's field, because he didn't care, and hung up in her face.

Another example of the fact that having children does not guarantee that they will be there to look after one when the winter years come in.

Childfree In Social Service

There are constant statements thrown around my workplace regarding, "we must help the children", "we are here for childen", etc. When I first started working for the agency, I assumed that most employees had children because the very nature of the work that's done here is child-centric. Slowly, I noticed that more than a few, including some upper management employees, do not have children, and do not plan to have any.

The fact that so many childfree people are social workers further shuts down the theory that all childfree people hate children. Those that can't tolerate children in any shape or form are not willingly going to get a degree in social work and come work in such an agency. I do think that those social workers who opt not to have children have made the decision based on what they have learned about parenting and child psychology. They have weighed all of the pros and cons and come to a solid conclusion for themselves. They have also made the decision based on what they witness every day, especially if they provide direct service to clients.

Of those in social work who do have children, I find myself in non-agreement with them concerning how to deal with negative behaviors in children, as well as setting boundaries. They appear to use the same "Let's give Johnny options and allow him to express himself no matter how he does that" rule that they use with their clients. I remember my boss telling me that he had been spanked once as a child. He never told me why, but the look on his face told me that whatever he had done must have been a major infraction. The conversation came up after I had been insulted--over the phone--by a couple of the kids who live on the premises via a prank call they had done over a weekend.

After I played the offending message back to my boss, I told him, "I don't appreciate that, and I will not be disrespected by these kids here." The staff members who work with those two kids assured me they had admonished them for their actions. I never received an apology from the perpetrators directly, however. My boss attempted to apologize for them, but I told him point blank, "You can't apologize for someone else's stupidity." In my opinion, the kids got the equivalent of a slap on the wrist, especially when I discovered they had been prank calling other places that day as well. It also didn't help that my boss felt that I should just drop the matter as if it was nothing. The message they left--complete with a racial epithet--was offensive to me. It warranted more action than just having a stern talk with the perpetrators. "You don't negotiate with kids, you don't make deals with them, you don't argue with them. You punish them properly when they do not act right," I snapped at my boss.

I often feel that those of us who don't work directly with the kids--the support staff, the maintenance crew--are often at the mercy of a system that won't take more of a hard line in preventing and ending negative behavior patterns. There used to be a program in the building that was staffed by two women. Our floor, the administrative wing, experienced a reign of vandalism between fall of 2004 and late summer of 2005, perpetrated by kids who had somehow managed to get a hold of some keys. The acts would take place late at night, long after we had gone home for the day. I became more and more incensed as time went on, when no concrete action appeared to be done to stop the incidents. The two women became fearful. They are no longer here. The uneasiness of not feeling secure in the workplace because of the kids' actions was not the main reason they left, but it was one of the reasons. One of them told me not long before she quit: "We didn't sign up for this."