A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: social change

A Forest…Some Trees, and the Peace with Possiblity

It was a challenging several weeks, but life is like that. The end result of the turmoil not what I hoped, but life is like that. So, I move on to better, or at least other things. Much to simmer excitement in my belly, even if a piece of me needs to heal on some level. And, with everything occupying the various spaces in my gray matter, it took excessively long to focus on my posts…stringing words taking increasing amounts of time. But, things should begin to lighten. Little by little I am able to remove pieces from my lengthening list of obligations. Perhaps in the nearing future I will create my post buffer that allows me to publish my work in a timely manner. Perhaps still I will return to my monthly goal for piece submissions to other sites. Maybe I will even receive financial reimbursement for a few as well. Ah, ’tis the life of finding…and sometimes failing…my balance. But, alas, it isn’t all bad. I am not globally unproductive. I like to think I have an impact in other realms of my life, so I try to make that enough given my forced elasticity of late.

The focus during the torrent inadvertently my children…because I have no choice. Though sometimes I crave time alone to process my experiences as a unique entity, I cannot perseverate too much…because I have no choice. I might become angry with this aspect of my existence, but I will almost never regret it. My children changed my very fabric, and I will forever be grateful for the bustling plaid of my current character. I had never realized my very dull shade of beige. I was delusional thinking my former personality had much color at all, not even a faint, hard to distinguish striping by comparison. I stay home with my toddler and infant children. I feared for so long the ramifications of such a thing…losing myself. I couldn’t imagine the feathers to emerge. I no longer recognize myself, and nothing is more pleasing…maybe thrilling and simultaneously a gruelingly challenge.

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(And, Pinterest hasn’t even seen me appropriately caffeinated!)

Raising my children as primary caregiver I was confronted with the parameters for the model in me they will see. I’ve had to evaluate my actions, and what communication of desired values resembles to my budding bystanders. My personal overhaul is far reaching, but not the focused effort it seems. Small changes and considerations over the past few years. Responding to my children in tiny, almost ignorable gestures. But, the blocks build on themselves, stacking unexpected and beautiful structures.

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(Even the Taj Mahal is a sculptured series of marble bricks.)

It isn’t so much that I was unkind before, but communicating kindness to my children with the hope they might possess such a trait as part of their disposition is an entirely different and unsettling beast.

Initially it was a purposeful pursuit, somewhat unnatural. Since Little Man was a little little wee man, I’ve sought ways to be kind to anyone and everyone…even if the anyone didn’t deserve it. If I had a kind thought of another, regardless of what it was, I shared it with the individual. I looked for reasons to be pleasant and engaging. As cold as my area can be, it’s been rare to find anyone unhappy to be part of funny or empathic dialogue. For three years now I practiced, and practiced some more…kind gestures regardless if I felt inspired to do so…regardless if my children were around…regardless if I felt a genuine gumption to care for anyone but myself.

When my son turned approximately eighteen-months, his awkward toddler bumbling prompted a significant increase to my haphazard engagement with others. With the increase I began noticing my actions were absorbed by all sorts of sponges littered in his direct radius. All the observing eyes had me convinced the smallest of gestures matter, and I have no way to fathom the yield.

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(They inspire action, don’t they?)

But, even with the eerie feeling existing in the throws of perpetual observation, perhaps these daily, small kindness gestures I’ve pursued are the answers to some of society’s most vexing issues.

Furthermore, as I’ve committed to my miniscule acts of kindness, I’ve found a very deep, profound, and unexpected satisfaction knowing I’ve contributed to improving someone’s day. I can’t speak with any authority of my effect on others, but I can attest to the impact of kindness bestowed to me. One instance climbs to the surface as I write this post. Some months ago when I was gaining my bearings shepherding two small children in public, I was at a local mall ordering food for my toted trilogy. As I attempted to pay, I found that I left my wallet in the car. I instantly knew what happened. I’d stopped for gas, visualizing the cup holder where my wallet resided. I recognized in the moment things could have been worse, but it was still a drag. I asserted to the cashier that I needed to return to my car…across a substantial building. Eh, shit happens. But, a random woman overheard my exchange with the cashier while she was spending time with a friend. Immediately after the event her face was forgotten in my mind. But, she paid for my order, telling me she’s been there, and subsequently returned to her conversation with no further commentary or engagement. Such a small, insignificant effort to her, but I will forever remember her generosity of spirit; and while returning to my car would not have been a day killer, this lone stranger paved the way for a solidly good day in a standard infrastructure of annoying ones at the time.

It’s moments like these I’m reminded that villages haven’t disappeared despite parenting blog commentary. It is in our overt and nonjudgmental kindness that our villages persist. And, I’m reminded of how connected we all can be every time my three-year-old looks sideways at an escalator before a stranger intervenes because I struggle to keep in pace with him from time to time.

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(Nope, LT Elevator, not daunting at all...)

Contributing my part to the village isn’t about receiving gratitude or acknowledgment of any kind, but when I have a grueling several weeks as I did such a short time ago, I’m reminded that we can rumble along in our own forest dismissing beautiful trees, even if they are sprouting all around.

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(World Wildlife Fund is just one devastatingly beautiful green and sturdy scape.)

The periodically tunneled view of dirt as we roam our lives isn’t a judgment. It’s impossible to be grateful at all times. I for one use gratitude as a weapon against personal feelings of misery, as though I have no right or justification for periodic unhappiness at any depth. It’s foolish, but I doubt uncommon. I see it throughout bitter and uncharitable comment sections.

I’ve found, however, prioritizing small, kind gestures to others allows me to remain present in my moments…sometimes step out of myself even if only for a diminutive instant. My day may very well be craptastic with a side order of overtired toddler and teething baby, but forcing an effort to be kind…to have some small notion of generosity or perhaps a friendly, empathic word with a stranger; for the briefest of moments I am lifted. And, if I think about the possibility of my deed or interaction providing a foundation to another having a better day than I, sometimes I find peace. Truly, my day continues to suck, but it feels more temporary…like maybe my son will sleep and my daughter will smile soon. And, a beautiful tree will shade me, and I can bask in the good once again.

Divides

As an educator and social worker focusing on at-risk and incarcerated populations, I catch a glimpse of society others don’t. I see the random and capricious nature of our social policy and some of the direct effects of disenfranchisement. Criminal justice disparities are easily documented, yet seldom discussed in a real, fact-based way.

Racial tension has risen to the surface within our media…sometimes accurately…often not. Following our election I’ve become more involved in politics, mainly on social media, which is where, for better or worse, much of the fight occurs. Some of the race discussion alienates me. I am a White woman, so anything I attempt is inherently wrong. I need to be an ally, but I simultaneously can’t be. It’s all fairly frustrating, even as I remain a silent reader within comment sections. I get the person/woman of color narrative, but often the messaging prompts me to remain stuck in the status quo. But, then I read Jodi Picoult’s commentary, and it makes sense in a meaningful way. I see my life’s independent evolution, and don’t feel quite as terrible…not quite as stuck or disheartened. I have some notion of what my process should be in this new age…as we move forward as a society.

But, with all of the open discussion thus far about race, I am disappointed and irked with the narrow nature of general discourse about prejudice as a whole. Embedded within honest dialogue about race is the overlying statement that race is our country’s only injustice…our only shame. To be clear I don’t want to dismiss or minimize the experiences for people of color, particularly Black/African Americans. Their struggles dragged to our surface are past due and fully deserved. Slavery is the foundation of the terrible that followed. The totality of our population is overdue for enlightenment.

That said, I don’t like the conversation beginning and ending with race. I don’t like the competition that Black/African American is the only group meriting a dialogue. I won’t presume to speak of other’s experiences…overcompensating White people greatly annoy me. I can, however, speak from the perspective of the only experiences I have right to testify, my own. I am a Jew to name one subgroup I embody. People don’t like Jews. Anti-Semitism is a very real and unpleasant issue to experience, even as I currently reside in a liberal area. My childhood and adolescence, however, was in a small conservative location, and I have stories. They are different than stories of ones pertaining to race, but it wasn’t easy. I don’t appreciate my life and situation delegitimized because of my skin color. I will not call it reverse racism, as that doesn’t exist. I call it insensitivity and narrow foresight. To be clear I don’t want this to be a competition among the groups who have it harder. I want this to be a conversation that prejudice is a bad thing, and we do our society a disservice limiting the discussion and dismissing the ways others are capable of genuinely understanding differences and intolerance.

Often within conversations about race, other groups are completely lost. Gender variant (Transgender) and orientation are newly receiving more recognition and support, but others aren’t. Individuals identifying with disability and mental health struggles confront stigma and discrimination openly, and are not even at the table of discussion or societal support despite supposed legal safe guards. Our irrational fear and hatred of Muslims and Muslim foreigners has percolated to a head with rapid, deafening force; but even as I write this small element there is hope at least on that front. Finally, let us not forget Sexism and rape culture are also real things and intertwined within every other hateful shame within our society.

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(Social Science Space explains our mark on each other best.)

So, why discuss all of this in a parenting blog…now? The start of the answer is simple: My son is growing older, absorbing his world  in ways baffling me as they occur. My daughter is not far behind. I owe them the serious consideration of how I explain their world. Do I wait for the inevitable awkward public questions or do I spend the time on my terms? I choose the latter.

How do I raise children to appreciate, love, and fight for their country and all of her inhabitants? I don’t have the answer, but my son…and even my daughter will absorb and actively seek their place in the greater world regardless of my timeline. I’m not sure what Little Man understands, but it’s always been more than I thought. In the last couple of weeks my husband and I have been dumbstruck by Little Man’s understanding of jokes we tell for our adult ears, yet my son laughs even with a dry delivery. At 2.9 years-old his language comprehension is awing. Each passing week I feel the pressure to explain…to discuss, but it’s a bit overwhelming deciding on the specifics. For now I initiate side comments as they occur to me. I regularly vent politics and social happenings within my children’s ear shot. My children’s day is without media exposure, but come the evening the news is on. Senator John Lewis appears on our television, and I explain who he is as simply as I can; he is a fighter for people with skin like him who aren’t always treated well. I respond to the questions and statements my son is beginning to express. Yes, our minority president is scary, but all of us make sure he does the right thing. We all fight him when he tries to hurt others. I’ve started pointing out differences in people on television when he is watching. I try to shape his idea of beauty in the world…expand it beyond what I’ve historically understood. The time will come when he independently notes the world’s diversity in rapid fire utterances; I commit that I won’t be embarrassed when those moments occur. I will form that dialogue and change the narrative of how he will see people unlike himself. I will continue to combat prejudicial commentary he hears whether it’s strangers or among those closest to him.

We live in a White area, but I want my son to appreciate and see beauty in the uniqueness that currently divides us. I don’t want either children to be the farce of color blind, but I don’t want them to overcompensate either. I believe in giving back. I believe in authenticity. I believe in thoughtful leadership. I believe in their brilliant futures as they define it for themselves. I believe in my role to interpret the world as I understand it based on real data and facts. I want their world to be better, and it starts with me.

Doing Some-Things

I have oodles of political opinions; the election process and outcome hasn’t come close to escaping me…I’m in good company. One of the more irksome pieces is the messaging of its normalcy, hence, it’s all acceptable even if quirky. It isn’t. Not on any level. But, this isn’t a political piece per se.

I haven’t posted since Thanksgiving. I tend to deny or minimize stress even as it presses its heavy mass on my head, shrinking my already small stature. Furthermore, I berate myself for lacking gumption. I look at random indications that never truly reflect my actual accomplishments or productivity. I commit to a narrative of my inability to manage unreasonably high expectations, perpetually raising a bar to validate my personal failures. But, this isn’t a diatribe of my foibles either…per se.

I’m a SHAM for a toddler and infant. I work/volunteer part-time from home; I’m fortunate my privilege allows me to commit to a cause endlessly meaningful for me, and maybe I’ll make a difference. I’m busy. Who isn’t? I’m unhappy with what is unfolding nationally, spreading its toxin locally in retching ways. Who isn’t…certainly the majority of us who weren’t suppressed from expressing our disgust at the ballot box? But, life happens, and action seems an additional, overwhelming expectation.

However, as busy as I am. As crazed as it all always is; there are battles that my children need to witness…even if they are too small to remember. I hope to sow who they will remember me as, and form their expectations for the world around them. Like many I’m at a crossroads; to do some-things…or nothing, allowing apathy to take root until this farce of leadership becomes blasé. I choose to join the social media masses with my small efforts. Maybe my individuality won’t yield the mountain, but enough mole hills will. And, I swell with pride to own my piece of the Hill. Right now the darkness is palpable, but its depth won’t always be so cavernous. Certainly the opening act of our unfolding future is worrying, but there is power in our majority mass. So, as busy and crazy as the immediate is, I commit to my small efforts and engagement with the world.

 

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