Too Young for Democracy? I Think Not.

 

It is no secret that I am a politically active Mama.  I write my legislators.  I am the chair of a political action committee.  I am also running for office in 2018.  There is simply no getting around the fact that politics are a daily theme in our household.

I took Abigail to her first march in November 2016 in Nashville.  She had just turned 6.  We marched with 15,000 other people to make our voices heard.  We wore our #NODAPL and Water is Life tee shirts.  She carried her turtle rattle.  I started to explain to her, in a basic way, that rallies, protests, marches and just standing on the side of the street with a sign making your voice known is a big part of America, what our country is built on, why her Granddaddy served in the military and why she should be proud to be an American.  To me, that’s part of what it means to be an American.  I have a voice and I am allowed to use it.  I was also proud to be there with two of my dear mama friends and their children.  We made quite the site with our four beautiful children.  But, they were certainly not the only children in attendance.  There were newborns to teenagers in attendance.

rally

I got home on the high of American democracy at work.  The next morning I opened my Facebook to a surprising message from someone I had not spoken to face to face in 20 years, but still felt they had a right to criticize me as a mother for taking my girl to Nashville.  Their message was horrible.  I will not even repeat it here.  I was pissed.  Pissed was not even the word to cover the rage I felt over someone telling me they would “pray for me” because I was teaching my daughter what democracy was about.  I wanted to call this person out on Facebook and lambast them in every way I knew how.  I wanted to dredge up every single tiny piece of dirt I knew about them and lay it out.  But, I didn’t.  I took the advice of my girl, Michelle Obama, and went high.  I simply reminded people that just because they see me on Facebook it does not give them the right to comment, critique or criticize my parenting choices.

Fast forward 7 months to another political rally.  This time in our hometown to make our displeasure known about the House and Senate plans for healthcare.  Senator Mitch McConnell was in town and so it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.  There were many children in attendance carrying heart shaped flags and signs that asked about their friends.  The picture below was posted and the comment came that he should not be at the rally.  He is too young.

carmen son

Let me ask this question.  WHEN IS TOO YOUNG TO TEACH DEMOCRACY?  Do we not think that part of the problem with voter turnout is that people do not believe in our democracy or value the vote?  Too many people believe they have no voice and have no say in what happens to them.  Too many people would rather not be bothered by all the politics.  Too many people want people to shut up and sit down.   I say NO.  I say that the younger we teach this next generation about voting, about finding their voice on critical matters, about loving their neighbor and making sure public policy does the same– the BETTER for us and our future.  And, where is a better place to do it than with them watching their elders participate?  So, no.  Three is not too young to begin the lesson.  Six is not too young to begin the lesson.  Where it is never too late to start embracing our democracy, it is also never too early to start teaching the value of democracy to the next generation.

Abigail and Thomas

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Thanks for sucking the fun out of it…

fun sucks

I like a good laugh.  I really do.  Many may not believe that because I am Captain Serious in my household and work, but I do like to laugh.  I play little pranks at work.  I prank my daughter.  I’ve never successfully pranked my husband, but I’ve tried.  I like to laugh at funny memes, jokes, etc.  And, sometimes adults and kids just do funny things and you have to take it at face value and laugh.  You have to laugh at the irrational moments.

But, then comes along those that can suck the funny out of an innocent situation.

Case and Point:

On Sunday, Mom took Munchkin to the local dog park with Pup-Pup.  There is a fun new online group that is painting rocks and hiding them for people to find.  We’ve found some really cool ones!  I’ve seen people from all walks of life get into this and it is fun following online.  Well, Munchkin found a rock IN the dog park and brought it home.  She laid it on the kitchen table with our food.  She proceeded to tell hubby where she got it and he completely overreacted.  It was cartoon comical.  Truly.  It was.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  He yells, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY DOGS COULD HAVE PEED ON THIS ROCK????” and then fired it out the kitchen door. Bye, bye rock.

Just the look on his face, the way his voice stressed the words, his irrational reaction—it was just plain funny.  It’s like he could see the germs jumping off that rock and onto his steak.  Come on people, it was steak and shrimp night!  You do not mess with steak and shrimp night.

So, I thought it was funny and posted it to the online group that we were down one purple sparkly rock because my husband wigged out.  Well, you can only guess what happened next.

First, I had those that thought it was just as funny as I did.  Thank you, people.  Thank. You.  You saw how funny this really was.  You saw this was not life or death.  You just saw the humor.

I then had those who felt sorry for my daughter and said it was sad.  Ummm…WHY?  How in any reality is this sad for my child?  Does this impact her physical, social, emotional or psychological well-being?  NO.  Does this scar her for life that her father threw a purple sparkly rock out the kitchen door?  NO.  So, I do not get the sadness.  But, if for some reason it does leave her impaired, I have good insurance.  I will get her a good therapist that she can tell all about the time the purple rock got hurled out the door.  I just hope it does not impact her college chances.

Then, there were those who took me to task because I was supposedly concerned about pee being on rocks and “What happened to the good old days where kids could eat dirt, oil, play in the polluted streams and it made men out of them?”  Ummm…my child gets plenty dirty.  I used to catch her licking trees for goodness sakes.  She plays in the mud constantly.  My husband had an irrational moment and saw a peed on rock next to his steak.  It was funny.  It does not say anything about our parenting and it certainly doesn’t say we are raising a “pansy” as the one commenter noted.  Oh the sexism and gendered norms present in that comment, but I will not get too sociological.

And then, there were those that were angry because we were down one sparkly purple rock that won’t have a picture online.  I have no words.  Did I mention we were painting and hiding ROCKS?

If I had known Sunday night that sharing with the group something I found funny with the rocks was going to cause such backlash, I would have kept my trap shut.  I didn’t realize this business of painting rocks and hiding them in parks was such intense business.  Since I was looking for something a little more lighthearted, I guess I will need to leave this group.  It’s even too much for Captain Serious.  🙂

I Refuse…

As a Sociology professor I have to tackle hard topics in my class.  There is no way around it.  I have to find ways to allow students to explore race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, inequality and yes, even terrorism, in a way that both allows them to process these difficult topics but also dispels harmful stereotypes and generalizations.  Some days I am more successful than others in creating this environment.  With the events of Paris, Beirut and other countless acts of terror around the world in a given week I was especially sensitive to how we shape conversation about the forbidden trifecta–politics, religion and violence.  I am not going to talk about my classroom experience because that is a safe place for my students to express themselves and not for me to write about in a public blog.

But, it is time that I express my own feelings on the events around the world. I am one that has to think for a long time before I speak publicly about social issues and events.  I want to make sure that I have reconciled events in my own mind, digest them and explore my fears, ideas, attitudes and biases.  I truly explore myself before I make any statements.  I’ve been doing a lot of that in the last few days and here is what I’ve decided.

I refuse.  I refuse.  I refuse.  I refuse to buy into broad strokes that paint entire groups of people as inherently “bad” or inherently “good.”  I refuse to buy into the “good” versus “evil” rhetoric. The world is so much more complicated than simplistic generalizations.  I refuse to condemn entire groups of people for the actions of a few.  I refuse to do it to our law enforcement; I refuse to do it to every white person I know, every black person I know, every Native person I know, every poor person that I know, every rich person that I know; every religious person; every Republican, every Democrat, every Socialist, every Christian, every Muslim, every Buddhist, every Hindu.  I simply refuse.

Further, I refuse to pass on these fears, stereotypes, generalizations, and frankly poor conceptualizations of the world to my daughter.  I do not want my daughter growing up to fear everyone who is not like her because she will then be a lonely and fearful person if she only clings to those exactly like her.  I want her to travel without fear.  I will continue to travel without fear.  I want her to embrace people.  I will continue to embrace people.  I want her to love people.  I will continue to love people.  I want her to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I will continue to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I want her to be generous with her fellow man.  I will continue to be generous with my fellow man.

I will teach her strength, courage, fearlessness, love, generosity, hope, kindness, and most of all the ability to reflect without all of the noise of the world to draw conclusions.

There are those that will disagree with me and believe that I am portraying an unrealistic view of the world.  However, I challenge them to think about the billions of people who live peacefully, work with their neighbors of various backgrounds, practice their faiths and beliefs in ways that may be much like your own.  Why focus your entire world on the margins and forget about the billions of people around the world that have strength, courage, fearlessness, love, generosity, hope and kindness?  To do this does not negate that we should fight those at the margins and extremes.  But, it recognizes that we are doing just that–fighting the margins–not entire groups of people.

So, I will continue to LIVE and teach my daughter to live.  I will love and act with kindness.  I will open my heart and doors to people.  I will not let those at the margins take away the very nature of who I am.  I refuse to stop LIVING.

LIVE

Ecuador 2014

 

Ten Fold…

wild child

I should have known she’d be a handful…

You know, I’d go back and give anything for the terrible 2’s and 3’s.  In my household they were a BREEZE.  At that stage Munchkin was mobile, but I could easily scoop her up when she got away from me.  She sat still for more than 30 seconds.  But, most importantly, her vocabulary was not developed to the point that she could argue her case like an ace lawyer or ask me the same exact question 1,000 times in an hour.  Here are the top 5 phrases or exchanges that I can safely say I will not miss when she’s older.

1.  “Wipe your butt!  Why didn’t you wipe your butt?  Are you kidding me?  Do you know how gross that is?”  Seriously how many times do I have to say that during the day?  I don’t understand this conversation at all.  The other day she tells me, “She didn’t have time.”  She’s a preschooler!  What does she have on her busy schedule that she doesn’t have 30 seconds to at least do a quick wipe????

2.  “Watch where you are going!  There is a ______ (insert shoe, wall, PERSON) there!”   I’m not kidding.  The phrase, “Dazed and Confused” enters my mind more than it should when I see not only my preschooler but her little friends too.  They are just wandering around completely clueless of anything going on around them.  BUT, when my own kid does something, like, run into the wall she yells, “THAT DAMN WALL! IT JUMPED OUT AND HIT ME” as she bawls her eyes out. Yes, my child uses that particular curse word in context.  I have to fully take the blame for that one.  But it’s never her fault when she runs into something and causes mayhem.  EVER.

3.  “Can you just stand still from one minute please?  Stop jumping around! Stop hopping! JUST STOP MOVING FOR ONE STINKING MINUTE!”  They are always in motion.  ALWAYS.  I just don’t know how they do it.  It’s like they have a pogo stick rammed up their back.

4.  “Clean up your toys!”  This is where preschoolers try to play lawyer.  For example, my kid has started trying to reason and bargain with me.  “Mama, let’s do this.  How about we clean up first thing tomorrow morning.  I will get up earlier than you and have the room clean before you get up.”  or “Mama, how about I get one drink of water before we clean up?” or “Mama, how about you start cleaning up my room first and then I will help you.”  or “Mama, I ‘m just too exhausted to move.”  (She gets that one from me too).  But, I swear this child will drag out putting up her toys as long as she can.   She spends more time bargaining with me than it takes to clean up and I want to yell, “JUST CLEAN UP THE DAMN TOYS!”  See, she comes by it naturally.

5.  “Stop talking.”  The drastic increase from the toddler to preschool vocabulary and how much they want to talk is astronomical.  No one warned me about this.  Why don’t people tell you?!  My kid even talks in her sleep!  I can go by her bedroom and there she is just jabbering away a bunch of nonsense in her sleep.  At this stage, I also cannot believe the number of questions they can ask.  And, I’ll be darned most of the them are good questions that need to be answered.  When I try to say I don’t know the answer to the question these little ones know about the dreaded Google.  “Just Google it,Mama.  Just Google it.”

Hubby is wonderfully patient with her.  He distracts her, directs her activities elsewhere, grounds her to her room.  My Mom is just laying back thinking, “Ten fold, baby.  TEN FOLD.”  I was evidently quite the terror during the preschool years.

And, for those of you saying she “needs discipline.”  BITE ME. I’m busy washing underwear and keeping my sanity together so I can gear up for another day.

Well crap, wouldn’t you know it?  As I’m sitting here writing this blog, I look out the window and there is my sweet preschooler helping our elderly neighbor pick up sticks from her yard.  So, yes, they go from terror to sweet in .5 seconds.

When Kids Adjust: Help Us All

baby and mama

My happy Munchkin

With any great change kids adjust just like the rest of us.  It just seems we like to try to hold kids to a higher standard when it comes to these life changing events.  When my Dad got sick last year I was angry, heartbroken, frustrated, sad and not to mention the thousand other things I was feeling at the time.  I cried at a drop of a hat.  I lashed out at my husband.  I was exhausted.  I was eating pie for breakfast, chips for dinner and cold pizza as a snack.  With a role model like that it was no wonder Munchkin was clingy, downright mean sometimes, peeing her pants and a host of other emotions.  But, I still remember feeling frustrated when she did those things.

We are now experiencing some of that once again with Mom and Pup-Pup moving in.  Our routine of 3 people has now been expanded to 4.5.  We haven’t been as diligent about our rituals and routines.  Our house is slightly more chaotic.  And this all has an impact on our smallest member of the family.  I can see her testing the boundaries and wondering, “Will I really get in trouble with Nana sitting right there?”  See, she knows front stage and backstage as well.  She has a new defiant glare.  She has also started the “If Mama and Daddy say no, let’s try Nana.”  All of this on top of the normal 4 going on 5 stuff that a parent encounters.

In times of change or crisis, we most of the time just figure it out on the fly.  There is no time to consult blogs, experts, articles and such because you are just trying to survive.  But, this time around I can be a little more intentional about how we handle her adjustments.  I can use some of what I learned last year and also what the world wide web can offer.  So, here are some of the things that worked for us in the past and we are trying now as Munchkin adjusts and tests every ounce of our patience.

1.  Listen

We expect our kids to listen to us.  But, I think sometimes we forget that we must also listen to them.  They speak a different language than us though.  They cannot express the anger, sadness and frustration they are feeling in the same way.  They scream at you and then chunk their favorite toy at your head.  My first inclination is to lose my cool.  But, she is telling me something and I need to listen.  Last summer my baby girl was also broken about how sick her Granddaddy was at the time.  She was not acting defiant to spite me or make life harder she was simply dealing with the change in the only way her little mind knew how.  And, she is doing the same now and I need to listen.

2.  Work with them in how to express their frustration

Last year this was difficult because she was still 3 and it would really be asking too much for her to sit down and think about how she was reacting.  But, this year I can talk to her about why the specific way she is reacting to the change is not good and suggest other ways to deal with the chaos.  So, with this is a mixture of both listening and correction.  Munchkin responds best to these talks after she has time to calm down which I will make her to go her room to do.  We still need reminders and follow up but she is more capable of listening and correcting her behavior at this age than she was last year.  But, I have to remember it will take time and patience which are short when you yourself are also stressed out.

3.  Make time for just you and your child

This has probably been the most effective for us.  Last year it was simple ice cream dates or just going outside and playing when I couldn’t leave the house.  This week Munchkin told Nana point blank that she didn’t want her to come to the pool that she wanted to go with Mommy only.  As Mom wisely told me, we just need to let her tell us those things and not make her feel like there is anything wrong with that request.  Munchkin needs the security that she can make those requests without fear of hurting anyone’s feelings.

4.  Make sure you are taking your own time

This is something I did not do last year.  I rarely left the house the house on my own.  If I left the room the baby monitor was right next to me so I could monitor every sound Dad made.  If I left the house my phone was in my hand. But, this time around I can take more time for just me.  So, some days I leave work an hour early and just go walk around a store.  Or, I will write in my journal in the local park and then come home at my regular time.  I also need to remember that J and Mom also need that kind of time as well.  When we are relaxed our children take their own cues from that feeling.  I know, easier said than done but in order for all of us to keep our cool we’ve got to take this time.

5.  Keep laughing

My Dad taught us that humor can do a lot in a situation.  When I want to blow my lid I have to find the humor in the situation.  My Dad even did that as we were facing his death last year.  I have to remember this when I want to pull  my hair out on rough days.  I’m not as easy going as my Dad was (okay, understatement of the year), but I need to try to relax and calm down as our household gets back into a routine.  Dad would always try to get me to slow down and see the humor in life.  I need to constantly remind myself of this or I can work myself into a nice little rage.

I am also going to try a new behavior chart I saw a colleague doing with her child who is the same age.  This visual reward system may work well for Munchkin.  I’m scouring the internet to find other ways to help her to learn healthy skills at adjusting to the curve balls life throws.  What have you done with your own child in times of change to help them?  Help a mother out!

Until next time…