Childlike Faith and Magic

“Mrs. Erin? I know you’ll tell me the truth.”

I turned to look at the very concerned face of one of my favorite students, as the hustle and bustle of another Christmas show went on around us. In a couple of hours, we’d be performing our Christmas recital, and the acting students were backstage with their parents, prepping props and costumes and chatting merrily.
But now a stillness fell over the hall as the question fell from her lips like a brick.

“Is Santa Claus real?”

My brother, my co-director and fellow teacher, looked at me expectantly. I saw the challenge in his eyes as he silently nodded. “Go on, Erin. Answer this one.”

All of the students nearby, between the ages of 8 to 14, paused to hear the answer, and even the parents looked up with some curious dread.

And she waited with the promise of honesty that I have always told my students I would give them.

“Is he?”

~*~

I make magic in the summer. It’s one of the best jobs in the world, and I cherish it. I work at the Georgia Renaissance Festival, and each summer you can find me with my fellow cast members, breaking down the barriers and convincing our patrons that fairies are real, princesses and knights walk the land, and that everyone can believe if they want to.

It’s a wonderful thing to watch the awe on a child’s face as, for the first time, a Fairy lights in front of them, and shows them something magical in the flower or rock or tree nearby. When the Queen appears, and people in khaki shorts and t-shirts suddenly feel compelled to curtsy and bow in respect, it makes me smile.  And when I see parents giving in the childlike whims of their kids, and go sword fighting across the meadow, or dance the Maypole cheerfully, every bit of heat and sweat and tired aching feet is worth it.

But there are some adults, and I don’t know why, who cannot stand a child’s belief in magic. They take a personal quest to vanquish each light with a smug grin and a cruel word. “Fairies aren’t real, it’s just costumes!” “Don’t you see, it’s fake?!” “There’s no such thing as magic!” They scold, and roll their eyes as tears well up in their now destroyed victim. “Don’t be such a child.”

Maybe their magic was destroyed early. I hear such terrible horror stories of when they found out the “truth”, and I see it like scars on that kind of person – ugly and twisted and “if I have to hurt, so do you!” I have watched the fallen faces of a group of beautiful children, so delighted a moment before, as one of those injured adults ripped into their magic, determined to “show them the way”.

I do not understand those people.
But then, I never stopped believing in Santa.

Maybe my own path was much kinder than others, but there was never that earth shattered moment of “Truth” that so many other adults speak of. My own belief in Santa simply grew into a deeper understanding, and I wanted to BE him, not destroy him.

My own children are being raised to believe, and to see a world that is more than what can be seen. We dance in the backyard, looking for fairies in the grass. And rejoice over the ladybugs. And look up for shooting stars. We watch the sunrise, and sit in awe at the painted sky. And we mix our faith with reverence and science, with what we know, and what we don’t yet.
We believe in a Universe that is bigger and more amazing that we can possibly imagine.
And we believe in Santa Claus.

~*~

I’ll admit, I didn’t know what to say at first. But I knew that this wonderful child was just coming of age, like so many of my kids. The next few years would be awkward and clumsy and smelly and difficult – junior high is not easy. So I told her the truth – that I still believe in Santa Claus. My understanding of him has changed as I’ve gotten older. And in some ways, that makes him all the more real.

I don’t remember what else I told her. But when she walked away, she was smiling. And my brother nodded, letting me know that whatever it is I said, it kept a candle burning.

No one has the right to destroy a child’s magic. Because we do not know the path that child is walking. But a little faith? A little goodness? A little wonder in the world around them? A world that can be so dark, and so scary, and filled with terrible things. The children of this era are not blind; they’re possibly better informed of the world’s events than any other children in history. They see and they hear and they know.

But if those children can hold up a candle of faith to that pressing worldly darkness, and believe against all odds that there is love? And beauty? And Magic?

I will fight to preserve that wonder, that faith that is so much stronger than mine. So that maybe with their light, I can fight the darkness too.

~*~

“No Santa Claus? Thank God, he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the hearts of children.”
~Francis P. Church

The Rant of a Sleep Deprived Mother

“I wish I had cherished their babyhood more!”
“I wish I had made a scrapbook of my baby!”
“I wish I hadn’t wished their childhood away!”
“It just goes so fast… you need to cherish it…”

I feel like people forget what it’s like to have young children.

I love their babyhood. I love watching them discover new words, and do new exciting things. I love seeing the world through their eyes, and explaining what each thing is. I love colors and shapes and numbers and letters, and the absolute joy when they finally get something right.

I am cherishing it the best that I can.

But do you know why I’m not “lingering” in every single moment?

I’m exhausted.

Not the “Man, I need an extra cup of coffee” exhausted. I mean my everything exhausted. I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep in five years. (And that’s not an exaggeration – my children still wake up in the middle of the night… sometimes a lot…)

My physical body is tired from lifting and bending and pulling and pushing and carrying and holding and standing, and climbing back to my feet the moment I sit down because I know you need juice, I just wanted to sit for a whole you know what? I’ll just get your juice. I have been touched, constantly, for hours. Did you know your body has a “touch o’meter”? And mine is full. Constantly. My poor husband is lucky if I will put my foot on his at night because I am THAT touched out.

My mental body is tired from questions that I just don’t have the answer to, and the constant need to be more patient than I currently think myself capable of. The four year old mind is amazing. And I am asked nearly 300 questions a day by her amazing mind – 300 questions that require a full answer, preferably in complete sentences and a full explanation as to “why”, as the follow up.
The two year old asks at least half that. Much less stringent in his quiz requirements, but another 150 questions nonetheless. By the end of the day, it’s amazing I can put together sentences – but I also need to know where shoes are, if her blanket was washed for school tomorrow, do I have the Halloween costumes done (the answer is half way) and by the way, it’s “Wacky Clothes Day!” tomorrow.
Oh, and my actual paying jobs too.

My Soul is tired too. I miss my husband. Despite living in the same house, I feel far away from him sometimes. Probably because every time he tries to do so much as cuddle with me, there’s suddenly a Boy Child in my room, demanding my attention and sticking his hand down my shirt. (A habit I would LOVE to break.) I try to find “me” time and “us” time, but that’s extra. No matter what I do, even when I schedule time for my own sanity, it ends up feeling like an extra shift at work – It always feels like I’m double booking myself.

Now, please don’t think badly of me. I ADORE being a parent. I love my kids, I love being a mama, and there is nothing better in the world than spending time with the ones I made.
But I’m so stupid tired right now. And I’m being told to savor every moment, and then scrapbook it.
Scrapbooking takes energy I SO do not have. Heck, I was proud of myself for doing dishes after bedtime tonight.

Parenting is hard. Parenting young children is HARD. (I’m sure parenting teenagers is ALSO hard, but I haven’t got there yet and I’m real envious of anyone who can sleep for more than two hours in a row at this point…) It happens so fast. I know. I remember the teeny little thing that fit in my elbow perfectly, smelling of sunshine and milk as we rocked in the rocking chair.
And I still smell my children’s heads like the crazy mommy stalker that I am when they rock with me. (Don’t judge. Every parent does it.)

But getting my children to sleep through the night? Without at least one, if not two diaper fails? Having my living room not smell like pee? Being able to ask my kids to do some chores of their own?
Yeah, I’m looking forward to that. Please don’t judge me. I’m not fast forwarding.

I’m just tired.

My Grief Blanket

It’s the worst soap opera drama I can possibly write in a sentence.

Six months after we were married, and three days before my husband left to spend a year in Afghanistan and I had to move across the country from Michigan to Georgia, I lost our first baby.

See? Drama.

We had announced the baby before Christmas, and on the road trip up to my in law’s house, I bought blue yarn and knitting needles and starting to knit a blanket. I felt a boy in my soul, though I wouldn’t have hesitated to wrap a little girl in blue. I just wanted to make my baby’s first blanket.

On the way home after Christmas, I started to bleed.

On New Year’s Eve, we got the confirmation. Our baby was gone.
To add injury to injury, it was ectopic, and I was rushed into a hospital room, eight hours away from my husband’s family, twelve hours away from mine, and with the clock ticking on my husband’s deployment. We were scared, and lonely, and our hearts were broken.
I couldn’t even cry.

I had a non-surgical procedure done to treat the ectopic, my husband was put on a plane, and I got in a car to drive twelve hours to a cockroach infested house in a town that hated new people.

The blue baby blanket was stuffed into a box somewhere and I didn’t touch it. I couldn’t touch it.

Things got better. My husband came home from a year long deployment unharmed, and we made fantastic friends and learned to call Georgia home. But for three years, we struggled with infertility. I kept berating myself mentally. What if that was my only chance? The science didn’t help the hurt in my soul, and I didn’t have many people to talk to, because Miscarriage is such a secretive thing for people. (I don’t know why, and I have taken deep strides to change that.)

And then my infertility battle changed. I took a pregnancy test, like I had so many times over the past months.
And this one had two lines.

And my sorrow was immediately replaced with joy.
And fear.

What if I lost this baby too?
It was a terrible thing. I wanted to be so happy, but I spent so much time paralyzed in fear. My friends and family all tried to comfort me that “this time would be different”, “once you get past the first 12 weeks”, and “don’t be so negative”.
Every night I went to sleep, begging my baby to stay with me.

One day I found my half knitted blue blanket.
And I started to knit again.
Row by row, stitch by stitch, I poured my anxieties and fears and grief into a baby blanket for a child I would never hold, while worrying over a child I desperately wanted to hold.

One week before my due date, I finished it. It wasn’t pretty. It was a rather battered looking, very simple blanket. It wasn’t knitted properly, and it stretched something awful. But it was done.
And I wrapped it over my very swollen stomach and I finally cried.

I gave birth to a very healthy, teeny Little Girl child.  She was a beam of sunlight, and I loved her with the heart of a woman who had desperately longed to be a mother. My sorrow was joy, and I was dancing.

A few months later, I found out that one of my former students had received devastating news – her twin girls, almost carried to term, didn’t survive. A funeral was being planned. They were trying to figure out what to do with the baby shower gifts. They were broken.

I had to go.

I dressed Little Girl, put on my coat, and grabbed the Blanket.
All through the funeral, I nervously hid at the back, as people glared over their shoulders at me for daring to bring my child to a baby’s funeral. But my friend’s face lit up when she saw us, and she held Little Girl gently, as only a grieving mother could.
And I handed her the Blanket. And told her my story. And through tears, I told her that I was giving the Blanket to her. I didn’t need it anymore. But if she needed something to hold on the nights where her arms felt so empty, she could pour her grief into it like I did.
And maybe someday she would have someone to wrap in it too.

We cried together. And I left the Blanket behind me.
It served its purpose.

My friend now has a beautiful daughter, and Little Girl is 4, and has a 2 year old Boy Child for a brother. He’s currently in my lap, stark naked in a bottle in his mouth. Because parenthood is weird sometimes.

A few days ago, I saw a friend had lost her baby. While my heart was aching, my student messaged me on Facebook. It was a mutual friend of ours, and she had also seen the news. With some hesitance, she told me her daughter had brought the Blanket to her as she read the news… and she wondered if I would mind if the Blanket was passed along.
I couldn’t think of anything I’d like better.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.
And it happens.
It has happened to so many women I know. And there is a grief in losing that little “Potential”. Science or Faith preferred, that teeny little clump of cells, that little delicate form, that Supposed to be a Someone….
Mine would have turned seven this year.
The grief is real. So share it with someone.
And know that you do not grieve alone.
Whether your loss was followed by children, or you’re still fighting with the struggle of trying to conceive… or if you can’t carry a baby and have looked to other options… (And please do look to other options. There are so many foster kids who NEED you…)
You are not alone.

And I’m sorry for your loss.

Respect the Weapon – My really controversial post.

I’m going to write about something very controversial.

When I was in Junior High, we had to take a boater’s safety class.
(That’s not the controversial part.)
Everyone in the school had to take it. I lived in an area where there were more than 50 lakes within a 10 mile radius. So one day we were called to the library, and there we took part in a three day seminar on Boater’s Safety; at the end of it, we were given our boater’s license.
I told the teacher “But my family doesn’t have a boat. Why do I need to take the class?” The teacher sort of smiled and said “Trust me. You will drive a boat at some point.”

She was right. Before I turned 15, I had driven more boats than I had cars.

On to the controversial part.

My parents started in a shooting competition group when I was three. The North/South Skirmish Association, basically a combination of Civil War Reenacting and competitive shooting. They used replicas of muskets, with lead bullets, black powder, and fabulous black hats.
From the minute those muskets came into our house for the first time, my father taught us to fear them.
Not fear.
Respect.

Those were Mama and Daddy’s guns. We knew exactly where they were kept in the house, and we knew we weren’t to touch them without permission. Even moving the gun boxes without permission was not tolerated.
Daddy taught every single one of us how to fire those guns. And then we were taught how to clean them, how to make bullets, how to pack bullets, and to treat those guns with the utmost respect. Everyone on the shooting team made sure that we knew everything we needed to about the guns they used, and everyone on the shooting team held us accountable.

We weren’t even allowed to PLAY guns the same way as other kids. The rule in our house was “Never point a gun at someone. It could be loaded.” Invisible bad guys, orcs, whatever make believe things we wanted to shoot in the backyard were fine, but we couldn’t point pretend guns at each other.

Using the muskets for play was unheard of.

We had a safety video too, a movie released by the NRA specifically for kids. It was Eddie Eagle, hosted by Jason Priestly. The theme song is forever drilled into my head.”Stop, don’t touch, leave the area, tell an adult”. (Apparently, my some-day husband had the same video as a kid. We freaked out some of our college friends by busting out into the song together, and doing the accompanying dance…. ah, true love…. can’t beat childhood bonding over cartoon gun safety videos.)

Do you know how many classes/seminars/hours of teaching time we spent on gun safety when I was in school?
I don’t know. Because I don’t remember any.
We did a full semester on how not to get an STD, we took driver’s safety, boater’s safety – heck we even had Stranger Danger training. Every grade in school, we had some form of lecture on something of that ilk.
But I don’t remember an assembly about guns.

I fear guns today.
Not my parents’ guns.
Not the shotgun in my closet, although I’m not a big fan of it and we don’t shoot often.

No, I fear the guns that are being flashed around without that same dreaded respect that I was raised to have.
The open carry people who think bringing assault rifles into Walmart is a token of their 2nd amendment rights.
The kids who just go grab a gun whenever they get mad at a friend or sibling. And the parents who leave the gun in a place where it can just be grabbed.
The fear of research over gun control, as though there is something to hide.
The people who leave a gun, loaded, in their car.
The people who wear a gun to a restaurant, or retail store, as a flashy display of “Look, I have a gun.”

This is not respect.
Not for the weapon you are carrying.

We have more respect for the cars we drive. I was terrified, when I started driving, of the middle line. I flinched every single time a car passed me, because I was certain they were going to hit me. My father finally said “You know, those other cars ALSO do not want to get in an accident.” It dawned on me that I wasn’t the only one driving a several thousand pound death machine. And that’s why I logged 3 weeks of class and several hours of driving, and had to take a written test before I was allowed to drive it.

No, I don’t want to take away our guns. I have a gun.
And I don’t know how I feel about tighter gun laws, though I’m not opposed to having to take a test and safety courses in order to have my gun.

What I want? Is education. I want respect for the weapon. I want other kids to hold a gun with that feeling of solemn dread in their stomach, knowing that this is a weapon. And if people aren’t getting that education from their parents, then maybe they do need to get it from a required Boater’s Safety/Driver’s Ed type program. Maybe they need to watch the “Don’t Drive Drunk”, “Wear your Seatbelt”, “Watch this horrific video of a slow motion crash at 25 miles an hour” seminar.

There will always be lunatics.
But maybe we can slow down the accidental shootings, the toddlers grabbing loaded guns from purses at shopping malls, the brother shoots sister, the friend shoots friend, the adults pulling guns on each other over disputes that shouldn’t be more than shouting matches.

When I shot a gun for the first time, I cried. Because it scared me. My daddy said “Good. It should scare you. Every time you shoot it, it should scare you.”
I’m having him teach my daughter and son how to shoot.
Because I want them to be scared.
More importantly, I want them to respect the weapon.

Don’t Savor the Clouds

Three times last night, I tiptoed past my children’s room on the way to the front door.
Each time, I’d unlock it with the anticipation of a kid sneaking downstairs to peek at the Christmas Tree. This was gonna be great. This was gonna be amazing. Supermoon! Bloodmoon! Eclipse! Come on weather report! Be really really really wrong!!

Onto the porch in my bare feet, down the steps and looked up hopefully….
Into the murky overcast cloudy ceiling that was the sky.
The light from the college bounced so much light off the clouds, I couldn’t even tell what vague direction the moon was in.
Nope, wasn’t gonna happen.
So much for my SuperBloodEclipseMoon.

Something AWESOME was happening, and I was missing it.

Three times I turned around disappointed, walked back inside, locked the doors and then turned to glare at my son, who was once again out of bed.

It was FAR more than three times that I put him back into his bed.

When I had pneumonia (recently, still fighting the last dregs of gross), our usually strict bedtime routine** deteriorated to “Please sleep. Don’t care how, where or when. Just…sleep….”
**(when having to choose between a long drawn out bedtime, and breathing…well,  it’s a surprisingly tricky choice.)

Several weeks later, while Little Girl is back on point and sleeping in her bed without a problem, Boy Child is still fighting a lot of insecurity and the only way he’ll fall asleep right now is if he’s touching Mama. Actually, the only way he’ll do anything right now is while touching Mama. He won’t even let Daddy hold him when he’s sleepy right now. Which is disturbing for both of us, since Daddy wants to help, and Mama wants to sleep.

So for the past two weeks, Boy Child has ended up in my bed. On my pillow. With his leg draped over my shoulder and his hand on my chest. (And if you think that is impossible, I should take pictures.)
And, of course, his trusty baba in his hand.

It’s a habit I haven’t broken yet. His need for a drink all night long. A leftover of breastfeeding that I just cannot get away from him without hours of screaming and far too much effort for a woman who still finds herself out of breath occasionally.

And because he’s insecure, he drinks more than usual.

Three nights in a row, I have woken up in a warm puddle of pee.
In my bed.
On my pillow.
And the Boy sleeps on.

I am worn out. I am so done right now with cuddles. I am so done right now with rocking to sleep, and soothing, and petting, and comforting. I am so done with dripping wet diapers and wet pajamas. I am just done.
And every night, as I rock and sooth and pet and comfort, all whilst trying not to lose my slowly deteriorating patience, I can hear in my head the gently chiding voice of a hundred older women, saying in the same wistful tone –

“Oh, but savor it. Just savor every minute. This time goes so quickly.”

Yeah, I know. I know.
Something Awesome is happening and I’m missing it.

And yet, I’m having a really hard time savoring it.
Waking up for the sixth time in three nights to strip off a urine soaked shirt. Stumbling around trying to find yet another sleep shirt. Then finding yet another diaper. Change the Boy (hopefully without waking him, because dear God please no). Putting down a towel (because God forbid I try to change the sheets… that’s just ridiculous) and trying to go back to sleep before the Girl wakes up for school….

Yeah, I don’t… I don’t feel like savoring that.

That’s not to say I’m not enjoying Parenthood. I love it. I really do. I adore my children, and I love the special moments I share with them. If there HAD been visibility last night, I would have been the first one to wake up my sleeping children, take them outside and dance in the moonlight with them.
I would have loved that.
I would have savored that.

I know they’re getting bigger. And I’m trying so hard not to miss anything.
But at the moment, I just want to sleep without waking up wet.
And maybe finish a whole cup of coffee.

Sometimes clouds roll in. Sometimes it blocks the really awesome stuff.
I don’t have to savor the clouds.
But the clouds do make me appreciate the times I -can- dance with my kidlets in the moonlight.
And cuddle.
And color pictures.
I like those moments.
But please don’t make it sound like I’m being awful for begrudging the clouds. I don’t have to like them. They aren’t pretty. And they’re blocking the good stuff.

Tonight, I will once again fight with Boy Child. I will wash bedsheets, remake my bed, lay down, and wait for the telltale SLAM of his door into the refrigerator. The patter of his feet. And, eventually, the warm telltale spread of urine soaking into my shirt.
I won’t savor it.
But his cheek against mine as his body finally relaxes into sleep, knowing he is safe? The smell of his hair? His little voice asking for “mama?” in the darkness?
That will stay with me forever. Urine soaked or not.

It’s Not Mine

“Mine!” is the bane of my existence at the moment.

Followed closely by “I had it first!” and “Give it back to me!!!”

There are times my children are sweet and kind and want to share everything.
It is usually followed two minutes later by a sharp “Hey, that’s MINE!”, a shrill wail and a “MAMA!!!”

Selfish is a constant in a world of toddlers.

So it took me by surprise today when I had the following conversation with myself in the shower** this morning.
**What? You don’t have conversations with yourself in the shower? I find it’s one of the best places to hear myself think…

“Oooo, face is breaking out. I wonder if we have any exfoliant. Ooo, here’s some stuff”
Can’t use that stuff.”
“Why not?”
It has microbeads.

Alright, so for those who haven’t kept up on it, microbeads are literally plastic mini-balls. They’re a great plastic way to scrub your face. And then when you’re done, they go down the drain. But most filter systems aren’t able to strain out all of the microbeads going down all of the drains, so millions of them are being swept into the ocean, where they look like food to fish and sea life. And they eat them. Which is gross.

Hence the concerned voice in my head, as my vain self stared in the mirror at my broken-out face.

“But… It’s just one scrub. I don’t use it that often. And my face really needs it.”
It has microbeads.”
“But…”
You can use that other face wash. It doesn’t have microbeads. And you have an exfoliating glove in the shower.
“Ugh. But that’s more work for me.”

I was a little grumpy with myself, but I started to realize the conversation sounded a whole lot like my toddlers.

“But why?”
It’s not your planet. You have to share it.”
“But that’s not convenient for MEEEEEEEEE.”

That’s what the conversation sounds like all over.

“I know recycling reduces waste, but Why should -I- have to recycle?  The recycling plant is ALLLLLL the way on the other side of town. That’s not convenient for me. ”

“I know Walmart is a terrible company, but they have really good prices, and besides, it’s not like I’m hurting anyone. That’s not convenient for me.”

“Those recycled sponges don’t last as long as the plastic ones.”

“Storebought diapers are less work than cloth ones.” (I’m super guilty of this one.)

“I don’t like the light of the new lightbulbs. ”

“I don’t want to use recycled paper.”

“I like these pants – I don’t want to know if they were made by children in sweatshops. ”

“I don’t want to change my day to day life to help the planet – why does it matter anyway?
It’s not convenient for me.”

The conversation has gone all the way up to the Pope. Even the POPE is begging the toddlers of the world to take better care of the planet, and the answer is a loud, resistant “MINE!”

Because No one wants to be told they’re being selfish.
To listen to the Conversation is to say “Yeah, I’m being selfish”, and we’re really bad at that.

Even my four year old, when I tell her that she’s not being nice to her brother, pouts pitifully. “But it was my toy first. Why should I share?”

Because, Little Girl.
Because your brother is here too.
Because you’re not alone in this family.
Because we only have so many toys, and you two are going to have to learn to work together.
Because it’s not yours.
It’s ours.

The microbeads have been removed from my bathroom supplies.
My chin is still scrubbed and feeling much better.
And hopefully a few fish will live longer because I made a choice.
I still have a long way to go.
But I’m hoping I can make at least one decision a day that will make a difference.
Because It’s not Mine.
It’s Ours.

I’m Sorry You’re Sad.

Boy Child was in a full melt down. Chocolate pop tart in hand, tears streaming down his face, and wailing at the top of his lungs.

It wasn’t surprising. He’d had a rough morning. His mama and daddy were still feeling under the weather. He’d already wrapped himself in a power cord when I wasn’t looking (in the same room, three feet away, and he wraps a big wire around his throat…. ugh….) which scared the bejeesus out of me (and consequently scared the bejeesus out of him). And he woke up late last night absolutely drenched head to toe and shivering because once again his diaper failed, his bed was soaking wet and the temperature was a decent September “Brrrr”.

Now his favorite show, Team Umizoomi, wasn’t playing because the next episode needed to be paid for, and I wasn’t willing to commit $2.99 to a dinosaur episode.

And he lost it.

Instead of yelling at him, I just sighed. “Oh Buddy. You’ve had a really rough morning. I’m sorry you’re upset.”
Between wails, he managed to choke out “Me not upset! Me… Sad!!”

Of course he was sad. His favorite show had stopped playing, and the next episode had dinosaurs in it, and Mama wouldn’t get it for him. He wasn’t being bad, he wasn’t throwing things or hitting people. He was expressing his sadness.

And I know a lot of people who would have told him to “knock it off” or “stop yelling!” or “I’ll give you a reason to cry.”

Ooooo, that bugs me.

I have never been part of the “children should be seen and not heard” BS. The entire sentiment bothers me to a deeply disturbed “why was that ever a thing?” level.

When I was growing up with my (three younger) brothers, our parents taught us that we, too, were people, and people were allowed to feel, and have opinions, and likes and dislikes. There was a song on Marlo Thomas’s “Free to Be You and Me” called “It’s Alright to Cry”. It was a standard during my childhood, sung often in times of frustration and trouble.

My brothers were allowed to cry. Rather, they were -Encouraged- to cry. Nothing about “being a sissy” was allowed in our house. And my brothers are rather masculine gentlemen now, well adjusted and still able to cry when the need strikes.
And the man that I married is one of the most gentle, kind men I have ever met. He has never had a problem shedding a tear, especially around his children.

I consider this a strength. Not a weakness.

My father often encouraged us to engage in debates, as long as those debates were (mostly) respectful. We formulated opinions, and learned to acknowledge that we didn’t have to agree with someone to like them. Sometimes our opinions elicited strong emotional reactions, and we were taught to deal with them. (For example, throwing the controller after a video game gone wrong was not an acceptable reaction … however tempting.)

We did this as Children.

I believe it has made us stronger Adults.

My 2 year old son is a person too. He likes dinosaurs, Daniel Tiger, carrots, the color yellow and superheroes. But because he is little, often others try to formulate his opinion for him. They encourage him to bottle his emotions, and not express his likes and dislikes because it’s inconvenient for the adults, the timing is off, or he’s loud.

But when is he supposed to learn?

I’ve seen too many adults doing a poor job of formulating their opinions, likes and dislikes via Facebook. And often, a poor emotional reaction is the consequence. I wonder if their parents had taught them “It’s okay to walk away. It’s okay to be mad. It’s not okay to punch someone when you’re mad”, if the entire conversation might be different.

In any case, my son was sad today. So I did what a mother should.
I hugged him.
I told him I was sorry he felt sad.
And I found him another (already paid for) episode of Team Umizoomi.
He’s not sad anymore.

But when he is, it’ll be okay.