Tag Archives: Parenting

7 Things You Should Know About Alabama (And The People Who Live There)

I live in Southern Alabama. Born and raised, actually. While on a recent camping trip to Navarre Beach, FL my daughter and I donned our bathing suits and towels and departed for the beach at the same time as the older couple camping in the site across from us. We smiled at each other and all made our way to the boardwalk leading to the beach together. We engaged in small talk along the way and the gentleman asked:

“Where are you folks from?” (This was my first clue that he is a northerner. You folks? Really? The correct term would be ya’ll.)

“Alabama,” I responded simply.

He crinkled his nose as he said, ” Alabama? Really? Huh, I couldn’t tell.”

Um, ok. There was a slightly awkward pause as I had no idea how to respond to that. Do I take it as a compliment? Does he expect me to thank him? Or should I ask what it was that threw him off? Was it that I am in possession of all my teeth, or perhaps it was the fact that I was wearing shoes? I know that he most likely meant that I don’t possess the regulatory thick southern accent, but still. This is the typical response we Alabamians receive from Non-Alabamians. (When I stalked his RV later, I found out that he is from Canada. Funny, I couldn’t tell. No Eh, eh? How disappointing.)

There is an army base near my hometown so we get a lot of transplants. One such transplant (who’s husband is stationed at the army base) landed a temp position at the company that I work for. One day soon after she started, in the course of everyday chit chat, she commented on how nervous she was when she found out that her family was being stationed in Alabama, and how surprised she was to find out that we are just like everyone else. Yes, she said she didn’t expect us to be like everyone else in the country. I can only assume that she pictured all us women barefoot and pregnant while the men drank moonshine and spit tobacco juice all day.

Seriously, it’s so silly. So I put together a list of a few things I think that Non-Alabamians should know about Alabama:

  • We are not all card carrying members of the NRA. In fact, I have never fired a gun, or ever even held one for that matter. Yes, many Alabamians are pro-gun and pro protecting our second amendment rights, but we don’t all carry a shotgun in the back of our pickup trucks (or all drive pickup trucks) ready to do battle with a fellow redneck, or in case we need to shoot a deer that may be seen grazing nearby.
  • We are educated. In fact, Alabama boasts two colleges ranked within the top 100 colleges in the country, the University of Alabama and A-b-rn University. Sorry, but if I say (or type) it out loud, my husband’s spidey senses will kick in and he’ll just know. If you live in Alabama or have ever visited here, you understand.
  • We are not poor. Well, of course there are poor people in Alabama, but we aren’t all poor. Yes, our average salary is lower than most of the rest of the country, but our cost of living is much lower too. A house that might cost $300,000 in California would only costs around $100,000 here. So we actually live quite comfortably on our lower salaries.
  • Alabamians love football. No not the NFL, we could care less about the Super Bowl. It’s college football that’s king here. It is required of all new residents (and frequent visitors) that they pick a side, Alabama or A-b-rn (sorry, but we really do take it very seriously). And don’t claim to be a Gators or Bulldogs fan, that is such a copout. In fact, the UA vs. AU game is such a big deal here that last year they let us all go home from work at lunchtime so we could watch the big game (yes, that happened).
  • Alabama is not only home to some of the countries’ most beautiful beaches, they are also some of the countries’ cleanest beaches. It’s true, I saw it on The Weather Channel, so it must be true. Seriously, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are truly beautiful with their clean white sand and clear blue water. Perfect for that family beach vacation!
  • We don’t talk like hillbillies. Well most of us don’t anyway, there are a few with an accent so thick I can’t even understand them, but for the most part we are articulate. Hence why Mr. Canada couldn’t tell I was from Alabama. Yes many of us say ain’t and ya’ll, but it’s ok because they’re words now. Look them up in the dictionary and see for yourself.
  • Alabamians can sing. Well, we do boast two American Idol winners, that’s got to count for something.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I am proud of where I come from. I step out of my front door each day and breathe in the fresh air, admire the scenery of rolling hills (and yes, farmland) on my way to work, enjoy the short ride to the beach or the lake whenever I get the whim, and treasure the long-lasting friendships I have made here. Ever heard that people are so much friendlier in the South? Well, they really are.

There is an email forward that goes around with a story about a man who traveled the country and in each state he went to, he would see a church with a payphone that allowed people to dial Heaven. At each church, the cost to use the payphone would differ, some cost $10,000, some as much as $100,000, but there was always a cost. So imagine his surprise when he was passing through Alabama and came to a church with such a payphone, only this time there was no charge to dial Heaven. Curious, the man asked the pastor of the church why there was no charge, and the pastor responded “Didn’t you know? It’s a local call from here.”

If you’ve ever lived in Alabama, you understand.

AL

Loaded up and ready to head to the lake!

Loaded up and ready to head to the lake!

Two of my kids' first words were "roll" and "tide" (no really, they were).

Two of my kids’ first words were “roll” and “tide” (no really, they were).

Making family memories at the beach.

Making family memories at the beach.

From Your Mouth to a Child’s Ears ….

     While pregnant with my first child, I would often imagine how I was going to handle the many parenting situations that were going to arise over the course of the next twenty plus years. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on, and have prided myself on being ready for whatever situation may arise. I am well versed on how to teach my children the values of playing well with others, displaying good manners, and giving to those in need. I am ready to tackle the trials and tribulations of puberty and have braced myself for being considered “the worst Mom ever!”. While other parents cringe at the thought of having the dreaded sex talk, I say bring it on. But there is one subject they don’t cover in the parenting books and that, in all my planning and research, it never occurred to me would ever need to be dealt with in our household, until the day it was placed front and center by words spoken by my six year old daughter.

     My sweet red-haired, blue eyed 1st grader has always been friendly and outgoing, the literal life of the party. Every new playmate she meets becomes her new best friend, if only for the day. So the morning I was pulled aside by her teacher and told that my little angel had told another little girl that she couldn’t play with her because she “isn’t supposed to play with brown kids”, was a punch in the gut, to say the least. Mortified doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to describe the way I felt hearing that those words had passed through my sweet and innocent child’s lips. When questioned about who had told her such a thing, she named an extended relative whom she loves, admires, and spends a lot of time with, we’ll call her Ms. X.

    I left the school with tears in my eyes and a heavy weight in my heart. I was angry with Ms. X, how dare she tell my daughter something like that. I pictured an evil worm wriggling its way into my daughter’s brain, an evil worm put there by Ms. X. She had introduced my daughter to the fact that there were bad things in the world, something of which she was before unaware. She had, in essence, stripped a part of her innocence away and I struggled with how I was going to put it back. I spent the entire day thinking about how to handle the situation and what to say to my daughter to dispel any warped beliefs she may have. But then I realized that those weren’t my daughter’s words, they were Ms. X’s words. I don’t need to worry about teaching my child about equality, kindness, and respect because I have already done that. The talk about why what she said was wrong would be the easy part. It would be explaining to her why someone whom she adores and idolizes would tell her something that is so very wrong that would be the hard part. I can remember when, hovering between adolescence and adulthood, I began to see the adults in my life less as the idols I had put on a pedestal and more as how they really were, and the bone crushing disappointment that came with the realization that someone wasn’t who I had always held them up to be. The thought of my daughter experiencing that feeling at the tender age of six was heartbreaking.

   So how do you explain to a six year old that grown-ups, even the ones that she admires and idolizes the most, are just people and therefore fallible and can be wrong? How do you instill in her that she always holds to her values and does what she knows in her heart is right, even when someone that she sees as an authority figure tries to tell her otherwise? I have no idea, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

   Perhaps, instead of simply being careful about what we say around children, we should strive to actually become the people that the children in our life uphold us to be. It may seem like an impossible standard to achieve, but surely no harm could come from trying.