We’re failing our children and we don’t even see it

We are failing our children, and we’re doing a spectacular job at it.

It is Saturday morning, and after one piping hot cup of coffee, which I sipped while scrolling through social media feeds, I am now sitting at my keyboard, my insides awash with incredulity, my mind scrambling to pluck words that will present themselves as composed and constrained. Because I want to scream at all of us.

Does this look like anger? Disappointment? Fear? Bafflement?

AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO’S NOTICING WHAT’S HAPPENING??? (How about that?)

What I am about to write is not a post on politics, so please don’t come at me with vitriolic comments. What I am about to write is how we, as adults and parents, are behaving in this election cycle and how that (mis)behavior is seeping into the lives of our children, all while we turn a blind eye. Or maybe not.

Maybe some of us witness our middle schooler provoking a peer who innocently announces he supports Ted Cruz because his parents support Ted Cruz and we pat ourselves on the back because: Good job, honey. You’ve been listening. She’s sure to follow in our liberal footsteps. Or maybe our  fourth grader comes home after school and between bites of a chocolate chip cookie and slurps of cold milk he confides as an aside that he told one of his classmates (a girl) that Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand a chance because “girls can’t be president”. Or maybe we boast on social media that we (an adult) see a teenager in Target wearing a Trump t-shirt and take that opportunity to “harass” him.

According to my social media feeds, all of these things actually happened. All of the aforementioned children who had the audacity to stand up for a candidate of their choosing (even if their opinion was based solely on their parents’ choices) were shut down because of us. They have learned that opinions matter unless it’s the wrong opinion because of us. They have listened to us preach about inclusion, courtesy, and humanity only to watch us turn away and spew hateful comments about those who harbor different opinions and beliefs than our own. And they are echoing those hateful comments because of us. So go ahead, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re #winning at #adulting today. Are you #killingit? Because from my point of view, we have thrown the golden rule of parenting out the window: teach our children the art and duty of kindness. Of tolerance. Of acceptance.

If there is one theme that pulses through our generation of parenting it is that, through the far-reaching magic of social media, we are really working to break down the falsely constructed idea of what it means to be “normal”. We are raising awareness of disabilities, we are tearing down stigmas and stereotypes, we are fighting back against racism and sexism. We are teaching our children that #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter, and we are #changingthefaceofbeauty, and we are flipping the phrase #likeagirl on its head. But not when it comes to politics. When it comes to politics all bets are off; it’s a dog-eat-dog world (and I’m not talking about Washington).

I get it. I get that tensions are high and emotions are wrought with fear and deep-seated beliefs. And it is our constitutional right as American citizens to express our opinions, but it is also our charge as parents to present our opinions and beliefs through mindful discussions, goodwill, and grace so that someday our children will do the same. And we are failing.

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Safeguarding my children’s stories

Joy, Lovely Joy

Before they came into this world I had plot lines and narratives scaffolding in my mind, outlines and blueprints of their stories sketched in pencil. But like any story that’s given room to grow and roam and veer off the plotted points from A to B to C, they began to wander into their own exposition, their own conflict and rising action, and it’s only now that I’m beginning to fold my own plans and tuck them away. It’s only now that I’m truly seeing them as protagonists in their own stories. Stories that aren’t mine to tell.

Joy, Lovely Joy

And so here I am wondering where this leaves the state of this blog, which was founded as a way to preserve moments of their childhood. A blog that was founded alongside an industry that capitalizes off of stories that expose our children no matter how well intended, so lately I’ve been asking: Where do I draw the line? What is considered “over sharing” in a medium where such a definition is nearly impossible to define? And if I continue down this road will my children come to identify themselves by their online presence? Am I still trying to lay a framework from those blueprints even as I stuff them away?

Joy, Lovely Joy

I’ve been silent for a while because I’m not sure where this leaves me, mired in motherhood and feeling drawn to write about it, to process it, to share it, yet an overwhelming desire to protect them and safeguard their stories has kept me from doing so as of late. I have no doubt that I’ll continue to write about motherhood–it’s my greatest source of joy, frustration, and doubt–but I don’t want to unintentionally force identities on my children or publicly speculate about who they are becoming. This discovery should be theirs.

Joy, Lovely Joy

I’m still trying to figure out a way to navigate this terrain of writing about motherhood on a more macro level. With that said, I will continue to take photos (though I’m becoming ever more wary of featuring their faces online) because I know that someday they’ll be grateful for these snapshots of their childhoods.

P.S. You can find me on Instagram here.

Joy, Lovely Joy

Breakable

I’ve been getting life wrong lately. I’ve been focusing my attention in the wrong areas, wasting time on the wrong things, the wrong people. I let my temper flare around my children but cower in a corner when I should be speaking up elsewhere. I’m just not jiving with life lately. There’s friction between us, life and me.

Wyatt broke a vase of flowers yesterday after I repeatedly told him not to play with the flowers. Since the boys have been mobile, our home has been minimalistic out of necessity. Bare tables, low shelves empty, anything breakable out of reach. They will be four in June. I mean, it’s time, right? They might still be tiny tornadoes but surely with more self control than a year ago? Two years ago? So, flowers in a glass vase on the kitchen table. It was time. Only Luke snapped off the head of a flower and Wyatt “On guard!”-ed the vase with a pirate sword and that was the end of that. I wanted to scream, truthfully. Not for the broken vase or homeless flowers, but because IT IS TIME.

I snapped, I snarled, I hissed. “I’m sorry, mama,” he said, all saucer eyes and tilt of the head, and I stood there and took a breath. I put the towel down and let the water seep to the edge of the table.

I was getting it all wrong. Life, pay me no mind. It isn’t broken vases I treasure.

Life, please do not break my children.

28 Days of Play

Play and the Generation Gap

What I remember about my mother is this: she was there. She was there for band-aids and kisses and snacks. She would help us build tents in the backyard where we would hoard stacks of books, and she would pull down the trunk of old baby clothes from a high shelf so I could dress my dolls. She would unstick zippers and tie scarves in my hair and search for a beaded necklace to add to my dress-up ensemble. She made sure to foster an environment where play was encouraged, and when I needed her, she was there, but I don’t remember ever playing Barbie or baby doll with her.

I’m honored to be featured at You Plus 2 Parenting as part of Rachel Cedar’s 28 Days of Play series, and you can read the rest of this essay here. I’d love to hear your thoughts over there and keep the dialogue going on why it is we sometimes struggle with engaging in play with our children.

28 Days of Play

Surely the stars are sketching a plan

I caught myself in a moment last night.

I failed.

I failed today, and I failed yesterday, and I will undoubtedly fail tomorrow.

I could write a list of all the ways in which I failed myself and those who depend on me to make this phone call…pay this bill…Watch me, Mommy! Are you watching?…this cheese, not that cheese…one likes oranges, the other strawberries, or is it blueberries?…One more book?…meet this real deadline and this arbitrary deadline…spend time with meplay with mewatch a movie with mehold melay with merub my backfollow me around so I know where you are in case I need you.

I fail on a regular basis, and on a regular basis I focus on all the ways in which I failed instead of celebrating little successes.

Last week was a week full of failures, full of power struggles and battles of wills and mighty tantrums of three year olds, and kids who push boundaries, which is what they’re SUPPOSED to do….And I was going to segue here into some of those beautiful moments of motherhood and womanhood and life splintered among the gritty/mundane/tireless everyday, but the truth is I’m struggling to see those moments lately. No, that isn’t right. I’m struggling to feel them.

Here’s the truth. “Because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas you tell the truth.” And at Christmas this truth is more garish and gloating, it seems, than at any other time of year.

I’m stuck. We’re stuck. We’re failing, and our failing is breaking me. Because as much as we work it’s still not enough. And it sucks. Wholly, firmly, unbelievably sucks. I try to tell myself that it’s only money and it’s only a phase and surely the stars are sketching a plan, but we’re expending all our energy, all our everything just to stay afloat, and it’s all stifling and suffocating and sometimes I snap because they’re fighting and I just need them to stop. Just stop. Stohhhhhp!

Today I am tapped out. I surrender. But I can’t surrender because I have three little people who need me and even with their whining and asking and pulling and crying and taking and arguing, they’re my world. They’re the shoreline to which I’m tethered, the driftwood that keeps me above surface. And today I need to work because I have a deadline to meet. I have to meet the deadline because we need the money. The money is already gone. Why do I not see this on blogs? On Instagram? On Facebook? Why is this subject so fucking taboo? Is anyone else drowning out there? Hello?

Yesterday I wrapped presents that I bought for a family who has less than we do. I gave up my time–the only time I had to work–to do this because I’m realigning my perspective to one of giving in the midst of needing. Because I have this theory that by giving of ourselves we can find peace amongst worry. Because when we give, we open ourselves up, and when we open ourselves up we can sit more peacefully among the questions and the vast grey space.

So I failed, and I will fail again. I’m failing as I type this. Always failing. But here’s my little success: I’m here. And I’m working my ass off and I’m opening myself up and I’m not going anywhere.

Today I will shove my worn-thin heart back into the drawer and I will rally because there are these three people who know nothing of worry and mess and mending pieces and carrying on, not now anyway. Someday, yes, but not today. Today the world is magic — tinsel strung on trees and paint splattered across paper and marshmallows in hot chocolate kind of magic. And so it will be for me if I will it so.

Here’s another little success: I won’t delete this post. I know I will want to, but I won’t because maybe someone needs to read it as much as I needed to write it.

So at the risk of feeling exposed and deleting this entire blog and disappearing from the WWW forever and ever, I’m hitting publish. The only thing I ask is that if it helped you in any way, whether minute or grand, please let me know. Please let me hear you.