13, October 2002. Covington, New Mexico: Jean Van Zant, a 32-year-old single mother of two, says she’s still living her life differently than she did before September 11th, and the month that followed. The Mortgage Loan Assistant at Tri-State Bank reflected on the past year and the lives she and her daughters led before that fateful day, as she cleaned house yesterday afternoon.
“Learning about the Taliban and the awful way they treat women just made me so much more aware of the way I raise my girls,” Van Zant said, pausing from dusting counters in her four-room apartment. “I’m much more careful now to make sure I’m offering them every opportunity the Taliban wouldn’t.” Holding up a picture frame, she smiled and said “This is [six-year-old daughter] Kylie’s soccer picture. Isn’t she adorable? In Afghanistan, she wouldn’t be allowed to play sports.”
Opinions on Van Zant’s mothering methods are split among other members of her household, however. Kylie, whose attention could be snared away from the television for only a moment or two, declared that her mother was “awesome! She’s the best mommy ever.”
Van Zant’s 14-year-old daughter, Brittany, however, expressed a different view. “My mom is a dork,” the teenager mumbled, her voice modulating from apathetic to mildly annoyed, as she sat in her bedroom repainting her toenails black. “I mean…she doesn’t beat me or anything, and I guess she lets me do what I want…but she’s so lame.” Here the girl scoffed, rolled her eyes, and refused to answer further questions.
“I used to hate it when she painted her nails like that,” Van Zant said of her daughter’s nail polish. “We used to fight and fight. After September 11th, I realized grounding her was the Taliban answer to things, and I need to let her be a young woman.” She admitted, “they may not understand the world politics that influenced my change in philosophy, but I know they’ll thank me when they’re older. Just last night, Kylie didn’t want to eat her peas at supper, and I didn’t make her. That’s exactly the liberty I’m talking about here. Every time I empower my girls like that, I feel like I’m telling the Taliban ‘no! not in my house.’” Reflecting on the previous evening’s expression of freedom, the single mother added, “if she’d refused to eat her peas—or rice, or whatever they eat over there—in Afghanistan, she probably would have had her hand chopped off or something.” The single mother shook her head thoughtfully as she pondered the stark cultural differences.
Van Zant’s ex-husband, Richard, sees things quite differently than his former spouse. The pair, after marrying when Jean became pregnant at the age of 17, divorced shortly after Kylie was born. “We never really saw eye to eye on how to raise the girls after the split,” Richard said from his law firm office. “But now, for the past year, Jean’s just gone off the deep end. She’s so insanely permissive, and she thinks it’s some kind of political statement.” He shook his head angrily and continued, “back in January, she took Brittany to the doctor to put her on the pill. She was thirteen years old, for Christ’s sake! When I complained, Jean said something like ‘don’t be an Osama Bin Laden, Richard.’ I didn’t know what to say, I was so floored.”
Despite complaints from her ex-husband and several other parents at her daughters’ school, Mrs Van Zant remains steadfast in her efforts to thwart the Taliban’s plan of subjigating the women of the world. “I know we’re just one household,” she said bravely, “but as long as I’m alive, 155 Ironwood Street will be a beacon of freedom for women everywhere.”