On a humid summer day, and old friend and sit in a restaurant balling our eyes out, tears streaming down into little bowls of wasabi, as our sushi sits untouched. I have just told her my husband has asked for a separation. It was not my feelings about losing him, however, that had us tearful for ten solid minutes as fellow patrons tried to be subtle about their gawking — it was my fears, and her empathy, about losing my kids.
You see, my friend and I have something in common. We both went through infertility. We both know how hard being a mother is, but we both know how it feels to fear you’ll never get to be one. For months now I’ve lay awake at night thinking about what it will be like to someday lay alone in bed in my house knowing my kids are sleeping somewhere else. And she can imagine all too well what that would feel like, especially after willing our kids into existence against every odd.
Meanwhile, somewhere in New Jersey, my husband sits with some friends over drinks talking over how good I’m going to have it after the divorce because I’ll still have him doing half the childcare.
Meanwhile, somewhere in New Jersey, my own family members laugh aloud about how I’m going to cook and clean for myself now that my “wife” is leaving me.
Marrying a feminist rules, but friends, let me tell you, divorcing a feminist sucks.
Marrying a feminist means a true parenting partnership. Divorcing a feminist means losing half your access to your kids.
Marrying a feminist means it’s not the woman by default who does the most housekeeping. Divorcing a feminist makes all too clear the sexist notions people had about your marriage.
A woman does more housework in a marriage and no one bats an eye. A man does more, and the same people who are ready to erect a statue in his honor are quick to draw conclusions that his wife is lazy, incapable, ungrateful, etc.
No one stops to consider all the ways in which a relationship can be egalitarian, all the different types of work that go on in a household, and the many reasons why one person might end up doing certain work over another.
When I agreed to share childcare 50/50 with my husband I did so in the context of a family. I wasn’t giving up time with my kids, I was gaining a partner, someone to parent with. It never crossed my mind that when that partner would choose not to be my partner anymore, parenting together would morph into parenting half the time.
Having a fully capable, fully involved parent in your bed with you at night in case a child gets sick or is upset, is not the same as sending your young child to a strange home without you. Both of these situations could be called egalitarian, but they are far from the same.
Having time to yourself because you’ve made arrangements with your life partner and best friend to be with your children is not the same as having time to yourself because your children are with a man who prefers to build a life with someone else. That person’s investment in you, in respecting your wishes, in your general well-being, is never going to be the same. And your ability to really know him and trust his motives will never be either.
So I’m not just losing a husband and best friend. I’m losing the family structure that I chose for my kids, and the parenting structure that I chose for myself when I decided to have them. I know I’m not losing my kids, but I am losing time and access to them. I’m losing the ability to know who they are with and how those people are treating them, to know what they’re being fed, what substances they are coming into contact with in the their environment, what types of experiences they are having, and what the little expressions on their faces will be when they have those experiences. It’s missing out on first-times, kissing boo-boos, comforting them, and even knowing comfort was needed.
I don’t say any of this to denigrate my ex-husband as a parent. He is an incredible parent. But I didn’t spend three months on bed rest willing my precious O and J to survive so I could miss those things. And I didn’t make the choice to parent with someone who isn’t invested in me as a life partner. I guess this is all just part of the terror of parenting, because however we conceive our kids, whether with a partner, a donor, through adoption, a gestational carrier, etc., we don’t ever have complete control. There are governmental forces, legal forces and unknowns about our child’s other parent(s) that we will never have complete control over.
The truth is I have no more control now that I did in that bed wishing to god my cervix would stay closed long enough. But that was random, and this doesn’t feel quite so random. This feels like a betrayal. It feels like a betrayal of my trust in the person I chose to parent with, because for me, I wouldn’t have chosen to do it alone.
Marry a feminist and you can look forward to a cushy lifestyle of reasonable contributions by your partner to childcare and housekeeping – lofty contributions nearing 50% – which far exceed the average in which women still do twice as much. But beware. Every single thing that male does will stick out like a sore thumb to everyone in your vicinity, including him, and the things you do will be as invisible and undervalued as women’s work always has been. You will know your relationship is 50/50, but someday you may realize that no one else sees it that way. Because a woman with an egalitarian spouse looks oddly similar in a lot of people’s eyes to a woman lounging in a pool sipping a tropical cocktail, and parenting 50/50 in a marriage can suddenly morph into only getting to parent 50% of the time.
Feminist, if you want my completely jaded, absolutely colored by bitterness and anger, totally situationally-bound, and thoroughly inappropriate opinion… don’t marry a feminist! Better yet, don’t marry anyone. Keep your bank account to yourself. Keep your kids close. And ladies, if you have to partner with a feminist, for god’s sake, make it a woman!
Copyright 2013, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.
1. Monogamy is just one way of doing things, it’s not inherently better or healthier. Make sure you make a choice about how to structure your relationships instead of defaulting to heteronormativity or compulsory monogamy.
Why was I sacrificing for motherhood before I even decided I wanted children?
After working his ass off to land a job in “big law,” my husband left his firm after less than two years. He explained to a dumbfounded male partner that he felt he could not avail himself of the options open to female employees to improve work/family balance. The partner merely agreed that as a male, doing so would make it impossible to have a future at the firm.
Our infant twins were around six months old when Seth concluded that in order to be the involved, egalitarian dad we both wanted him to be, he was going to have to “lean out” of his career, and “lean in” at home. This Times piece suggests men must “lean in” at home in order for women to be able to take Sheryl Sandberg’s now famous advice to “lean in” at work. Indeed, Seth needed to make changes to his career so that mine could continue.
Seth and I were both angered and shocked at the workplace barriers that existed for him. Taking a 70% schedule, as many of the successful women in his office had, would have meant career suicide. Instead, he made the choice to leave “big law” all together, in favor of a job where he would still work extremely hard, but have more control over his hours. Along with this came a massive pay cut of almost 1/2 his salary.
As Rampell point out in the Times piece, parental leave options are dreadful in the US. But if those options that are available are, either systemically, or culturally, not options for men, that essentially forces women to “lean out” of the work world, while preventing men from “leaning in” at home.
I recently read this post on the wonderful Raising My Rainbow blog. In it, “C.J.’s mom” talks about how she assumed her husband would be the one to talk to their boys about sex, until it became clear her gender variant son might be gay. (Let me pause here to say that C.J.’s mom is one of my mommy and blogger heroes, and despite using her post as a jumping off point into the far reaches of my radical brain, I have nothing but utmost respect for her).
I think many of us approach the idea of talking to our kids about sex by following cultural scripts we don’t give much thought to. If we stop and ask ourselves why, however, we may realize these scripts are not at all the best way to raise empowered, feminist children. Why does a same-sex parent give the sex talk? What message does that send? Why a “sex talk” at all? And what should be said in the talk?
I know some of you think you have many years before you answer these questions, but the truth is, we have to start when our children are learning to talk by teaching them the proper names for body parts in a casual, natural non-shaming way. I tell my two year-old daughter during diaper changes “I need to wipe your vulva.” This is the very beginnings of her sex education, and my son’s as well.
So why “sex talks?”
Recently, a group of friends at a dinner party went around a talked about whether we had had a “sex talk.” Turns out not a single person at the table had had one. We were all basically “self-taught.” So the fact that many folks who are parents now are thinking about and planning “sex talks” is admirable and important.
But is the “sex talk” enough?
In my opinion, if I’m planning a “sex talk” with a kid, I’ve already missed an opportunity.
In honor of Dr. Suess's birthday, and out of control twins...
Sometimes I hate having twins. There I said it. Computer did not explode, nor did I.
Every week, while I’m enjoying my “vacation time” at work, I tell myself, this weekend, I’m going to really commit to spending quality time with my kids, rather than dreaming up ways to avoid them. The funny thing is, I really WANT to spend quality time with them. Part of me genuinely longs for them, when I’m away. So why don’t I rush home Friday night looking forward to spending a weekend in twin-toddler-land?
Let me tell you why…
This weekend, as I often do, I planned an outing with my children. I do this to avoid the inevitable consequences of staying home; including trying to impress upon them the oven is not a toy, general destruction to my home, repeated tantrums, and finally, me hiding in another part of the house with my laptop, overwhelmed, and convinced I’m a horrible mother.
After careful research, I concluded the best-timed outing this weekend would be to one of the many story-times that were being run for Dr. Suess’s birthday. After the usual lengthy period of getting ready, including pleading with them to let me get ready so that we can leave, we drive off. Mind you, by “me getting ready” I mean brushing my dirty hair, putting sneakers on, drinking a cold cup of tea that I’ve microwaved three times, and making sure my pajamas can pass for “sweats”).
I dread the day when my little boy realizes he isn't supposed to play with Minnie and will be mocked for his exuberant cries that "Minnie have a bow!"
This post is the email I sent friends and family asking them to assist Seth and I in creating a gender-flexible, non-hetero-normative environment for our twins.
It truly does take a village to raise a child. All of you are part of ours, and we are grateful beyond words to have each and every one of you.
I have been thinking about this email since before my children were born, and the time has come for me to sit down and write it. When I thought about what I most wanted to communicate here I think what it boils down to is that we need your help. Beyond Seth and I, you form the closest circle around O and J – a circle that has the power to build the kind of world in which they grow up. We can’t necessarily change the realities of the outside world, but we can create a buffer, an alternative, a safe place to fall, a refuge, a place where they can be who they truly are. It is with that in mind that I ask you to open your hearts and minds and consider how you can wield the great power you have in J and O’s lives in order to help us create that safe space.
When I went into my kids’ room this morning, my sweet J was standing up in his crib, exuberant, clutching his stuffed Minnie Mouse as he does every morning. He shouted gleefully, “Hello Minnie! I kiss Minnie! Minnie have a bow!”
“Hello Minnie!” I responded.
Across the room, my precious O was clutching the matching Mickey with a sly smile on her face. She did a little shoulder shimmie when she saw me. The night before as we headed up to bed, she had said softly, “Minnie?” making sure her companion would be in her crib with her.
No, my son doesn’t prefer Minnie to Mickey. The fact is, my kids don’t know the difference between Minnie and Mickey. They call them both Minnie. Either doll will suffice at night when they can’t go to sleep without “Minnie.” Why? My kids don’t know what gender is. Yes, they are too young, but also, we haven’t taught them.
Today, as it has for the past two days, the calendar on the wall in our house says Mama Away in blue magic marker. “Mama go Auntie” my kids would say as I rehearsed with them that I would be leaving and when I would be returning. I never expected my newly two year-old twins to get how many days I’d be gone, or even that the blue marker means mama is away and the green means mama is here. The big takeaway was supposed to be mama WILL be back.
“Mama go Auntie” is toddler for me flying to Hawaii to sing in a close friend’s wedding. Because that’s why I’m here, to sing, right? It would be wrong to disappoint a close friend. I’ve found myself doing a lot of rationalizing over the past weeks when the topic of my trip has come up. But I’ll tell you the truth – as I sit here in a quiet hotel room listening to waves crash outside my window. I am not here on some kind of mission of mercy, to throw myself on the sword, leaving my babies to fend for themselves with no one but their totally capable father, as well as grandfather, grandmother and babysitter. I am here because I won the fucking twin mommy lottery. At the perfect time, just when I need it most, just when I thought I was going to explode with restlessness and tedium, a close friend asked me to sing in her wedding in Hawaii.
Two days ago I walked through the airport all alone, boarded a plane for a ten hour flight, which I spent deliciously, luxuriously unplugged and alone. No internet, no phone, no patients, no demanding toddlers, no husband wanting to know why I’m so “prickly” lately. I can remember 5 hours into the flight, after I had done a crossword puzzle, napped, and read, thinking to myself how happy I was that I still had five hours left.
The last time I rode a plane without toddlers was before my pregnancy. It felt completely unworthy of comment at the time, even inconvenient. You would think I would have been eager to arrive in Hawaii, but the funny thing is I don’t think Hawaii was even real to me at that moment. All that was real to me was time. This long, delicious stretch of uninterrupted, unplanned time with no demands.
“Love is like plunging into the darkness toward a place that may exist.” – Marge Piercy
It took me a long time to let myself love, especially when there were penises involved. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of men now, but the first one I knew made a pretty bad impression. As a smart, cautious girl, the most prudent way for me to avoid re-creating my dysfunctional relationship with my father was to avoid men until I had had enough therapy to be able to trust myself around them. Of course that didn’t stop me from re-creating my dysfunctional relationship with my mom.
That’s right, during that time I was avoiding men, I dated plenty of women. I didn’t call it that at the time because we dated in all respects but one… there was never any sex. That would be too dangerous. One can never be entirely certain a woman is not one’s dad wrapped up in the body of a red-head, tomboy.
None-the-less, these sometimes enthralling, sometimes volatile, and always heartbreakingly ambiguous relationships taught me how to love, and how not to love. I even tried one with a man, eventually. Still gut-wrenchingly ambiguous, of course. Finally, in my early twenties, I had to admit that I had a problem. While these relationships were “safe” in some ways, they were mind-fucking me, badly. Trying to shield myself from intimacy for fear of getting hurt was getting me pretty badly hurt.
So I swore them off! If I was ever going to be really ready for love, I was going to have to go all in – “plunge into the darkness” without a parachute. But instead, I hid out. I avoided everyone. When I was 24, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Just before she died, my dad and I stopped speaking. I assure you, he deserved it.
After I lost my mom, I felt raw, exposed, and yet opened up from the pain. I took a lot of time. I had the twenties I’d missed out on while I’d been researching cancer treatments and battling with neuro-oncologists and brain surgeons. I traveled around Southern Africa, to Costa Rica, and backpacked for 8 days in a remote part of Wyoming. I waited tables… very badly. I applied to graduate school. I went on real dates with boys who were auditioning to have to acknowledge we were more than just friends.
Almost a year to the day after my mom died, I met Seth. After all the drama and soul-searching, and years of tearful nights with female friends wondering if there was something wrong with me that would never be fixed, it was… easy. I had these surreal moments where I’d look at Seth and think can this really be happening, and how long until I lose him too? A few months before our wedding my Gram died. We had been planning for her to walk us both down the aisle. We were devastated.
Around that same time, my father showed up on my doorstep. It had been three years. He cried until he was almost sick. He didn’t deserve my forgiveness, but I knew withholding it would hurt me more than him. My therapist always said, “We don’t do well without our tribe.” Why did my tribe have to be so fucked up?
Seth and I’s partnership ceremony was the most authentic, radical thing I’d ever done, and the people in my life accepted it joyfully. It was so disorienting, I literally lost my balance. I started having these inexplicable and quite horrible dizzy spells. It was like my world was spinning on a different axis that my body wasn’t used to yet. Still, I felt like I was building something, finally, instead of sifting through ruins. I even invited my dad, and he was strangely behaved.
Getting married for me was like stepping into a strangers life. It was the first time I felt like I wasn’t fighting like hell just to continue to exist. Was this what it was like for “those people” I saw walking around in the world? It finally occurred to me… I did have a parachute. I was my parachute. I’d gotten me here. I’d been the one who padded my fall, got me back up, and plunged again into the darkness.
When Seth and I started talking about children, the idea that I could actually add people and not just have them be slowly stripped out off my life was intoxicating. I couldn’t change the past, but I could create a better future. Then we discovered Seth had a fertility problem. Then we discovered I had worse one. We were told we would never conceive. My husband once read me a quote about your family or origin being your roots and your children being your branches. I already felt like my roots had been cut off, and now I felt like I’d lost my branches. The babies that would move like my mother or laugh like my Gram would never exist.
This is my life, I thought. This is the life that happens to me. Not the strange, surreal fairy-tale life where I meet a soul-mate, form an egalitarian partnership, and finally feel like I can be who I truly am in the world. That was indeed some kind of fantasy. Reality was back, and it was harsh. My eggs were more than ten years older than I was. It felt fitting. I felt awfully old. We grieved.
Then things started happening so fast I could barely catch my breath. Just a few short months later I found myself wandering around Soho, confused and delirious, my hippie gynecologist’s words echoing in my ears – “You have a line.” I must have sat there looking stupefied for a good half hour, while the doctor and phlebotomist tried to impress upon me that I was pregnant. A few weeks later, we saw two yoke sacs on an ultrasound. Twins. “Whoo-hoo,” I heard myself cry. Fear be damned, this was probably my only shot, and I was more than okay with a two-for-one deal. Who knew how long this stretch of miracle would last!
This isn’t a post about loss. It’s a post about how loss can make it hard when you don’t lose. For eight weeks I held my breath every hour of every day. I wasn’t just scared to miscarry. I believed I would. That’s what I’d been told. When the doctor at the fertility clinic found out I was pregnant she looked at me suspiciously, like I was some kind of witch or something. When I hit that Sunday – 12 weeks – I had that dizzy feeling again. Can this be real, I wondered? I was already showing.
There I was in that other woman’s life again. Like all those pregnant women who’d made me cry inside just a few short months before. I began to open my heart to my babies. I could feel them kicking, hiccuping, and squirming. At 16 weeks I was told I had a boy, but the other little stinker was hiding. That was a long week. Then I was told I had a girl. I wept for joy. I think I knew that was the closest I’d come to getting my mom back. I saw every little body part at my twenty week ultrasound times two.
Then one day we went to brunch with some friends. In the bathroom I saw two tiny spots of blood. Every little twinge I’d felt for twenty weeks had me panicked, but this was different. This was the real deal. Then the waiting game started again. Counting down the hours, until they became days, until they became weeks. 21 weeks – I may not get to keep them. 24 weeks – still hardly any chance I’ll get to keep them. I remember my OBGYN giving me a stern talking to – warning me that my cervical shortening was unpredictable, and there was no guarantee I’d make it two more weeks. 28 weeks – hallelujah, I will probably get to keep them!!
My babies were born healthy and strong, almost 5 pounds each and breathing on their own, at 33.5 weeks. We were told numerous times they were the healthiest ones in the NICU, but the reminders not to get too hopeful were everywhere. I’ll never forget one night during their 19-day stay. We were leaving very late with some family. The babes were already in the step-down unit, and as we walked back through the main NICU, we could tell something was very wrong. A huge crowd of doctors and medical personnel were huddled around a tiny little girl. You could tell by the looks on their faces the situation was grave. The next day, the little girl was gone.
Now take these babies home and love them. Love them like none of this ever happened, like you weren’t told you’d never have them, like you didn’t almost lose them, like your mom didn’t call you that day from the hospital and ask you if the plumber came to the house before nonchalantly adding, “They found a brain tumor.” Take these babies home and love them like you have no idea that every moment of life is spent walking on the edge of death- like every path toward the light hasn’t led back into the darkness.
This post was inspired by a post called It Took Me 18 Months to Fall in Love with My Daughter. Sure, I loved my babies from the moment they were born. I loved them even before they were conceived. Why else would I have grieved so hard when I’d been told they were never going to come.? I love them so much it terrifies and sometimes paralyzes me. On the other hand, a part of me feels like I’m letting myself love them little by little everyday as I slowly let go of my fear.
The past two years have been like a roller coaster ride back through all the things that terrify me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been holding my breath since they told me about that “line.” After 9 months, I finally felt like I was getting out of survival mode. I was doing it. I was keeping them alive, and myself sane. My worst fears hadn’t come to pass. I even found myself having fun now and then. Seth and I marveled at the two stunningly perfect lives we created. “Our roots are a bit gnarly,” we agreed,” but our branches are spectacular.” Then it happened… another “line.”
This time I was equally thrown but for totally different reasons. This one wasn’t planned, and I knew on some level I’d been holding back connecting emotionally with my babies. I was already overwhelmed by trying to love more than I ever had despite all that loss-baggage. But I’m already fucking up with the ones I’ve got, I thought to myself. Miscarrying was a major set back. It didn’t just set me back to when my babies were born, or even when I’d been terrified of losing them. It set me all the way back. Back to when I was terrified to jump at all.
Suddenly, I felt completely unsafe. Unsafe in my marriage. Unsafe with my babies. Maybe this was all a big mistake, and the universe knew I wasn’t supposed to have them, either? I think on some level I believed I’d killed my baby, and I was poison. Perhaps I thought on some level that the clarity of knowing for sure that I was dangerous and deadly would feel better than accepting the randomness of when I’d lost and when I hadn’t and when I’d been told I would but didn’t.
I wanted safety, even if it hurt. Even if I risked destroying everything .I spent the months after my miscarriage working together with my husband to drive our relationship to the brink, feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped with my friends, and becoming way too dependent on a friendship that I eventually also ended up nearly destroying.
In the midst of all this, I was still trying to figure out how to be queer. I guess I always thought by time I had kids I would have found myself. I didn’t realize finding oneself happens again and again. If we’re lucky.
Turns out I didn’t lose my parachute last winter at all, I was just falling faster and harder than I had in a long, long time. The truth is it was there all along, because as close as I came to the edge, when it came down to it, I did the work I needed to do, I stuck with therapy, I held my marriage together, I was there for my kids, I realized just in time that my focus wasn’t where it needed to be, that I was acting out of terror and had lost clarity, and I started slowly, slowly pulling it together. This blog was born a year ago today, during a time of darkness and loss, only a couple short weeks after my miscarriage. I did give birth to something after all, this blog turns out to be Baby C.
In my first post on this blog, I talked about feeling like a snow-globe with all the parts of me shaken up, not knowing where they would land. Motherhood will do that. Over the past year, Undercover in the Suburbs has helped me reclaim and re-order those parts. The truth is when we become uprooted (as we inevitably do when we become parents), when we lose ourselves for any reason, as I did last winter, when we find ourselves again, we are never quite the same. I’ve lost a lot in my life, and sometimes it’s felt like losing myself.
Still, I feel the most fully me I’ve ever been right at this moment. Perhaps the truth is that every path into the darkness eventually leads back to the light. Undercover has helped me find that light. It’s been a chance to come back home to writing, to feminism, and come home for the first time to being queer. It’s helped me let go of damaging cultural notions of motherhood and define the role for myself. It’s a space where all the parts of me can co-exist, peacefully for the most part. It’s a space where I can connect with others who are travelling similar paths, and be comforted, and learn from those who’ve made different choices. It’s a space where I can make myself more whole, recover from my losses, and thus make more room for love. I’m still working at it. That’s what I’ve learned. I will always be working at it. For me, love may always feel like plunging into the darkness, but I’ve got this parachute. Me. I’m the parachute. Thank you for reading.
So what will the next year bring? Integration. My next step must be bringing my “real” life more in line with Lyla Cicero’s online existence. Stay tuned this year as I work toward that integration. Stay tuned for posts on coming farther out, honoring my inner teenage lesbian, battling mono-sexism in myself and the outside world, egalitarian/feminist/non-heteronormative parenting on a collision course with SCHOOL, and thus, the large society, and many other subjects.
My main goal for the blog this year is to get more of you involved. Despite the catharsis of writing these posts, the greatest joy and fulfillment I get is from reading your comments, getting your emails, and dialogue-ing with you. I hope to get more folks reading, and more of you commenting and making your voices heard. Undercover isn’t just for me. It’s for anyone searching for themselves and working to create a more LGBTQQIAPK-friendly, sex-positive, identity-fluid, gender-egalitarian world.
“Opened the door, knew what was me, finally realized, parachute over me.” – Guster
Only when my twins were 20 months old did they master the correct use of the words “mama” and “dada.” They took quite a long time to even SAY these words, despite beginning to talk about six months prior. Their first words were “uh oh” and “ba ba” (bottle), (ba)”nana,” “hi,” “bye” and “boon” (balloon). I figured, okay, as long as they are starting to say words, no problem. But on the inside I was wondering what was wrong. Was I, as Mama, not as important to them as I should be if they learned “boon” first? Had I been neglectful somehow? I couldn’t help measuring myself against other moms with kids younger than mine who were constantly saying “Mama.”
In the next few months the twins started throwing around the words Mama and Dada, but they didn’t seem to be in reference to anyone. Sometimes they would point at the window or a light switch and shout “Mama.” Sometimes they were directed toward Seth or I, but also toward the babysitter, Grammy and Grampy, aunts and uncles, etc. What was this about? Wasn’t I supposed to be much more important than these other folks?
My anxiety only increased when their words started to get more complex. They started saying “window,” “shake it” (when we danced) and “okra.” My daughter started to refer to her Minnie Mouse doll as “Minya Minya Maow” and her stuffed kangaroo as “Kanga.” Really, I thought, you know Minnie and Kanga and Hippo and Poo Bear and not Mama? I was starting to feel peeved. Okay, maybe even a little hurt. Then something strange began to happen. One day my daughter looked right at me, and with a big smile, and great exuberance, as though she’d had had a revelation, she shouted “Dada!” and pointed in my direction. Over the next couple weeks both babies began to refer to my husband AND me as DaDa.
There is still peace in the world, but it's not on your iphone.
Is it possible to mourn a tragedy, fight for gun control and mental health access, and manage our own fears and terror without concluding the world is a dangerous place and passing that fear on to our kids? Yes. And as parents, we have no choice. We have to find that balance. Otherwise, we are the ones creating that terrible, dangerous world. Our kids are looking to us to understand what is dangerous and what isn’t, and to teach them to determine when to take risks and when to be cautious. If we teach them that the world is full of evil people seeking to harm them, we are not only giving them false information, we are robbing them of a full life.
A horrific, unfathomable tragedy occurred in Newtown, Connecticut this month. For me, when those children go through my mind, they all have the faces of my precious twins. My maternal instinct tells me to lock the doors, close the shades, batten down the hatches, and teach my children to be afraid. That is the world we live in, right? Don’t talk to strangers, stay inside, don’t touch that, you can’t go in there, you never know, use hand sanitizer, abstinence only, better safe than sorry.
I can’t say how frequently I hear parents musing longingly about how they used to play outside all day from morning until night, left to their own devices to manage relationships with other kids, explore, solve problems, and make their own fun without parental supervision. When I hear these things I’m always puzzled. If these parents know how good this was for them, why don’t they let their children do the same? But before I can even respond, I hear the inevitable, “But this is a different world… you just can’t do that anymore.” Where did we get this idea, and who is benefitting from it? Certainly not our kids.