My Day in Prison

Have you ever wrapped your hands around your ankle, and stuck your foot deep into your mouth? Well, I did that in a big way today. But I got something out of it, so that’s my bit of positive thinking – as you know if you’ve been reading this blog – my mission for this year (at least).

I’ve been wanting to get involved in something related to what I do, and between my growing desire and our president’s push, decided to offer a nearby correctional facility a course in writing for children.

Today I went with my usual load of books to read before getting into more specifics. Because I’m teaching mothers, I thought my own book, I Hate To Go To Bed! would be relatable. I haven’t read it in years. If you haven’t read it, it’s about… guess what? You are so clever! Yes: a child who does not want to go to bed and is pretty sure she’s missing something, and it’s probably a party. Every time her parents tell her to go to bed there is an image representing how isolated she feels.

There I was, modeling reading with gusto and enthusiasm, and I turn the page and read, “Go to bed, Mommy said! Go to bed, Daddy said!” And I point to the picture of my heroine through her bedroom door, across which are prison bars.
Well, I have to tell you, I was mortified. I stumbled all over my words because usually I’m reading to kids, and I ask the kids, “Do you think her parents really put her in jail?” Of course the kids all chorus, “NOOOOO!” (The subsequent isolation through her bedroom door are a desert isle and Siberia).
So there I am, pointing to a funnyhaha cartoony picture that I painted, of a child in prison, reading to women who have their babies in prison with them and I felt so terrible. I saw the image in a whole different light, of course. It is, of course, meant to be representational of the girl’s feelings, but nevertheless, I was completely taken aback.
The women were very nice about it, as I said, “Oh my gosh, you guys. I, uh, I – she’s supposed to just feel, you know, um…” I felt like a big fat naive dork.
That said, I realize that it is what it is. I’m trying to help these women, and in our society, prison is often treated like it’s funny (think Bugs Bunny or Mayberry…jail jokes abound). My mind widened today. I don’t want to get over-PC’d out but I will think things out from a different angle the next book I illustrate.

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