The Hancock Fabric incident and Keeping it Real.

I originally wrote this and read it as part of the Listen To Your Mother show in Baton Rouge last spring. And then I forgot to post it here. But now I remembered, so here it is.

Let’s Just Keep it Real.

I never spent much time before I was a mama thinking about the type of mother I’d like to be one day. I’m sure many women do, but honestly, I was a kid myself and caught myself a tad off guard. I was more concerned with the basic goal of keeping the baby alive than anything else for a long time.

But now that I’ve been a mama for over 10 years, I spend a lot of time thinking about the type of mama I want to be, now and in the years ahead. And it’s not just about who I want to be for my kids, but also other moms as well. And I have decided that I’m a hot mess and it’s ok, because honestly, motherhood is a mess, both literally and figuratively, and I am just going to keep it real.

And in my drive to keep it real, I’ve shared some rather, well, we’ll just call them “the not so flattering parts of motherhood that are often not at all funny at the time but are hysterical when you look back at them” moments.

One such moment that, for reasons unknown I am choosing to share right now, is what I fondly refer to as “the Hancock Fabric incident”.

Anyone who is a mother has been there…one of those times when you absolutely KNOW you should call it a day because you just know you’re about to be pushing the limits of your child’s patience with life in general, and yet, because you just need to get ONE MORE THING done, you push your luck.

I’d already taken him to Target, which we had to leave in a rush to head to the dentist because as I bent over to grab something off a shelf, one of my temporary crowns fell off my tooth and right onto the floor of Target.

“Is that…is that your tooth?”

So we went to the dentist, which is just a ton of fun itself for everyone. And then I decided to push my luck on this particular afternoon by taking my then 3 year old (I’m telling myself he was still 3, because 4 sounds like he definitely should have been too big to pull a stunt like this) to Hancock Fabric.

Hancock Fabric is absolutely not at the top of any preschooler’s wish list of things to do.

I am not a Hancock regular, so it took me too long to find what we needed, and I was REALLY pushing my luck. By the time we made it to the checkout line to wait behind several other guests, including a person at the register attempting to execute a return, an exchange, and then a purchase with multiple coupons, AND WRITING A CHECK, my son was completely over his entire day.

Commence meltdown. You know when you can just see it coming? I knew it was coming. He was starting to whine. He was asking how much longer. And the groans became more desperate.

And then, out of nowhere, my child SHOUTS, and I do mean he shouts, “I AM BEGINNING TO POOP.”

What small child says something like that? Not “I need to poop”, not “I’m going to poop”, but “I am beginning to poop.” Who says that? I’m struggling at this point because my mind wants to question the word choice and clearly, the more urgent issue here is the child is apparently beginning to poop. In the checkout line. Behind grandmothers. And that woman at the front is still trying to execute her entire check writing experience.

I’m scanning around looking for a bathroom sign when I hear splashing…because my dear son is now urinating on the floor of Hancock Fabric. He’s now standing in a puddle. Bless the grandmothers in line with me that day for giving me the “been there, done that” face as they waved me in front of them, and not the “what kind of heathen urinates on himself in a store?” face.

I’m trying to get my items onto the counter, while simultaneously trying to explain to the cashier that we need some paper towels for a clean up, and I realize my son is now taking off his shoes.

“I CANNOT WEAR PEE SHOES.”

“You cannot take those shoes off! We’ll get you cleaned up in the car.”

“I CANNOT WEAR PEE SHOES!”

Naturally, the cashier is the slowest human on the face of the earth. And the grandmas are trying to stifle their laughter at the situation that has unfolded in front of them, but honestly, they were doing a terrible job. But the entire time this was unraveling, they kept reassuring me “you’re getting close to dinner time. Which means it’s getting closer to bedtime. You’re almost there. Day’s almost done.”

But they lost their composure when my child began to take off his pants. Because, you know, “I CANNOT DEAL WITH PEE PANTS.”

So there I am, attempting to swipe my card and pay and GET. OUT. and I look at my son, who is scrunching up his face uncomfortably and I say, in my best mom voice, “You WILL. NOT. poop your pants right here, sir. You WILL NOT.”

And he looks up at me, and his face starts to unscrunch, and he says “Well, I’m not. I’m actually just trying really hard not to laugh right now.”

We all lost it. Because that’s it, isn’t it? There are some moments of this absurd ride of motherhood that are just too ridiculous to take seriously. Sometimes you just have to completely fail at everything, and laugh. And without those grandmas in that line with me, reassuring me that it was okay, I don’t know if I would have had the strength to just…laugh.

That’s who I want to be. The one that keeps it real. The one who can pat another mama on the back and say “Your day is almost done.” A mama who you can trust something just as ridiculous or embarrassing has happened to, and she’ll tell you about it. Someone that will pat you on the back in life in the most absurd moment and who will reassure you that “bedtime” is a perfectly fine thing to strive towards some days. Because sometimes, just surviving together is a feat in itself…and that’s okay.

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Rain.

I have tried writing this in my head for days now, because it’s important to me, now more than ever, that I live my life without feeling like I’m hiding something. The funny thing is, I’ve been hiding for years and the same can be said for Stephen.

Everything is fine.
Until it’s just really, really not.

Stephen and I have been married for just over 10 years, together almost 12.

Which is why it feels weird to say we're done. It feels hard.

But I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel more right than a lot of things I've had to do in this life. Because I'm done.

I’m done trying to be someone I’m not.
I’m done feeling guilty.
I’m done attempting to make people treat me with respect.
I’m done not being a priority.
I’m done biting my tongue.
I’m done sacrificing who I am for people who don’t even care to know the real me.
I’m done dampening my fire.
I’m done trying to control the hurricane.

Because I’m not going to sit here and try to teach my children how to be strong, kind, independent people who aren’t afraid to speak up and go their own way while I live a life that’s a lie in complete opposition to those ideals. For a long time, I’ve stayed because I felt like I needed to stay for my kids, but I’ve finally come to the realization that maybe there’s an even bigger lesson for us all to learn in the strength it takes to finally say “enough” and walk away.

My kids are my heart. They give me life. They make me a better person. They make me want to be a better human every single day, because I can see each day how they’re becoming such cool little people and there’s nothing like watching them and wondering exactly how incredibly beautiful they may one day be. They make me strong.

But because they love their daddy, they make me confused too. I can’t look to them to be the answer to all the questions, because there are some questions they complicate.

But I’m lucky, because I also have some seriously badass, fierce people in my life. People who call my bullshit. People who I can't pretend around. People who have, over the past ten days, picked me up off parking lot pavement when the tears overwhelmed me, stayed up all night with me and raged with me, held me and refused to let me go, sat in Waffle House at 4 am with me, hate-watched Food Network and HGTV and TLC with me, smoked too many cigarettes with me, let me crash on their couch. People who have called the cops (no, I'm dead serious, life's been cutting up) and helped me speak when I couldn't even find the words to say anything.

People who finally took my bourbon from me and reminded me I can’t run from life.

People who have literally reminded me to breathe.

People who have reminded me I am strong.

When it rains, it pours.
But I’m done trying to stop the storm. I’m done trying to pretend I’m not a hurricane myself.

******************
For right now at least, the kids are staying here in the house and Stephen and I are going to be the ones shuffling in and out. We wanna try to limit the chaos in their life. So the only thing that really is going to change is that when Stephen isn’t traveling, he’s here and I’m just not. I’m not naive enough to think this will be the perfect arrangement right off the bat, so I know there’s going to be bumps to figure out how to deal with.

Honestly, one of my biggest concerns was something happening to Hooch while I wasn’t here, and whether Stephen would know how to handle all his needs. I laid in bed for hours 2 nights ago worrying about him, with him snoozing in the chair at the foot of my bed, and the very next morning, yesterday, when he couldn’t get up….I don’t know how my dog knew he had to go, but he knew. And he looked at me with eyes that told me he was done, and that I was going to be okay. That damn dog. When he went to sleep, he snored a deeply peaceful snore and somehow it was exactly what I needed to hear. Peace. I needed to HEAR that peace.

I’m gonna be okay.

I may need some of y’all to shake me periodically and remind me I’m gonna be okay because I know I'm going to beat myself up and tell myself I can't do this…but I’m strong enough for this because I have to be. Because my kids depend on me being okay. Because I DESERVE to be okay. Because I’m stubborn as hell and I’ll always root for the underdog. And this time the underdog is me.

I’ve avoided the hurricane that rages in me for a long time. But it’s time. It’s time to back off and let the floodgates go.

Because some things have to get completely wrecked to build them back up.

And the rain has just begun.

-Maggie

I’m not feeling it.

Dearest America,

I’ll preface this entire thing by saying I’m already annoyed with this holiday because my neighbors decided to set off fireworks that come in canisters the size of a small child for HOURS this evening, the 3rd of July, which sent my zoo of a household into a frenzy. Those things belong on the barges in the Mississippi, y’all. Not in front of your house under big ass oak trees. I don’t even understand why we DO THIS. It’s basically lighting money on fire. And rarely does anyone ever actually have the disposable, light on fire-able income to REALLY go all out and put on a full show, so it’s just annoying from start to finish because you spent a ton of money and it still wasn’t even great. WHY?!

Moving on.

Someone asked me the other day if we “had big plans for the 4th”. And I answered honestly, “Nope. Sure don’t. Not exactly feeling that whole ‘patriotic’ thing right now.”

In the past few days, I have listened to our president read statements the President has made on his Twitter account tearing apart journalists with a now very familiar taste of misogyny. I have watched the STATE. OF. MISSISSIPPI. tell the Federal Government where they can stick their invasive request for voter information. Buzz Aldrin gave me a reprieve in the middle of all this, as he was unable to control his face during a NASA press conference with the President and it was fantastically funny. But then to top it all off, I have witnessed this country’s president post a video from his Wrestle-freaking-mania appearance, edited to appear like he was beating up a news network.

BUT THEN!!

THEN I watched as Americans legitimately questioned, “is this appropriate behavior for a president?”

Sweet Lord. HOW IS THIS A QUESTION? How in the world is this a real question? We’ve for real lost all our damn marbles. All of ’em. THEY ARE ALL GONE. We have moved the standard of behavior SO FAR DOWN that we are now legitimately questioning whether this fool’s behavior is “appropriate”?!

Let me help:

‘TIS NOT.

I don’t want my elementary age children acting like this, much less the freaking President of the United States of America.

Which brings me to my next point:

It’s real interesting what we will excuse and what we choose to find fault in these days, on the whole.

President’s utter shit behavior? Excused. He won, get over it, blah blah blah, something about people in poverty and Medicaid and I’m tired of paying for your poor health choices and oh my God, don’t you have a job? (No, none of this is relative to his behavior, but that matters not, it seems.)

Can’t actually afford housing working full time? FAULT FOUND. Shoulda got a better job. Shoulda gone to college. Went to college? Should have majored in something better. Don’t look at me. I don’t want to pay an extra $.18 for my Big Mac just for you to be able to afford some sort of housing.

Police shoot (another) black man? Excused. Don’t get pulled over, don’t get stopped, don’t get questioned by police and you won’t have anything to worry about. Just act right and you’ll be fine.

Black woman with mental health issues shot by cops? FAULT FOUND. I’d like to say there’s some sort of argument in use here other than “Well, she shouldn’t have been mentally unstable and holding a knife” but that seems to be the best that America can do with that one.

Work to strip away healthcare from millions of old folks, disabled people, and little kids? Excused. Talk to Obama about that. Because that’s his fault. Shouldn’t have let “Obamacare” suck so much.

On that note, we did all see the footage of people LITERALLY BEING REMOVED FROM THEIR WHEELCHAIRS by police officers as they protested on Capitol Hill, right? Because if you didn’t, I’mma need you to go Google that real quick.

And then I want you, White America, to Google that dashcam video of Philando’s last minute on this earth.

And then watch that video of his handcuffed fiancee and her baby girl sobbing in the back of a patrol car. Listen to that 4 year old tell her mama she needs her to calm down because she doesn’t “want her to get shooted.”

And then, fellow White Folks, Google that survellience footage, errm, dashcam footage, ok, just realize the only footage we, the People, have a year later of Alton Sterling’s death is the video the store owner took that night as he watched his friend take 3 shots to the chest and then 3 to the back. So go read the DOJ report…then read the comments from Alton’s family about what the DOJ told them…and then go read the comments from the specifically chosen community members the DOJ held another meeting with, where they outlined how horrified they and their independent experts were by the escalation of the encounter, how they lost sleep over the investigation…Go read that.

Go watch the videos from Freddie/Walter/Tamir/Terence/Laquan/insert one of hundreds of names here.

Go talk to a real life Muslim. Be prepared though, he probably doesn’t actually want to kill you. Matter of fact, he’ll probably pray for you and wish you a beautiful day.

Go look up hate crime statistics. Look up what’s being done in the name of our Wrestlemania President.

Read up on the ACTUAL statistics of who benefits from Medicaid (SPOILER ALERT: It’s a whole lot of old people. And kids. And people with severe disabilities. And they’re mostly…white.)

Watch Ava DuVernay’s”13th”.

Then go watch the History Channel’s “War on Drugs”.

I’d tell you to read a book or two here, but there’s just too many to list that we should all read.

But then keep trying to tell me we’re all good. Tell me that we are where we are right now because we have all been given the exact same shot. Tell me we haven’t failed a large portion of this country (and honestly, we’ve taken hella advantage of a lot of places all over the globe. We ain’t above it). Tell me we haven’t continuously found ways to oppress and enslave people from the moment ol’ Christopher’s boat rolled up on the coast of this country he “discovered”. (note: you can’t “discover” and claim a place if there’s literally already people there. Think about that. It’s like someone coming in a few years behind a marine scientist who discovered a new species of fish that lives 283 miles below the surface and being like “Hey. Cool. Found a fish down here. Gonna name it after myself.” “But it already has a name because it’s already been discovered.” “Nah, this is gonna be my thing now.” and then he coughs on everything and all the fish and scientists get sick. But that might possibly get you an American holiday.     …I digress.)

So after all this research, PLEASE tell me it’s not at all because they’re not white and/or not wealthy. That it’s not because White America looks at anyone who is not obviously/outwardly the right amount of white as somehow “less than”. 

*shrug*

You can miss me with this “Independence Day” celebration this year. Because I can’t celebrate what we’re doing and how we’re acting and where we’re going, and this freedom so many people SHOULD have but still DON’T have.

I question the “greatness” of a country, as it bans immigrants and talks about building a wall, that seems to have forgotten we were nothing BUT a bunch of immigrants who invaded foreign lands, shoved Native people to the side, and then hauled black people across oceans by the thousands to literally build this country on their backs, with their blood, their sweat, their tears, and we STILL do whatever we can to ensure that we white folks stay a rung ahead of “them” on the Ladder of American Greatness.

I can’t celebrate telling people how they need to tug on their bootstraps a little harder when we never even checked to see if they had shoes.

I can’t celebrate the freedom to forget what it means to give a damn about other people.

Lest you think I don’t love this country, you know what I will appreciate on this Tuesday, July 4th?

For starters, I’ll appreciate that it’s still (for now) possible to write something like this and not fear for my life. (Though maybe we don’t send this to 45’s Twitter, deal?)

I’ll appreciate the ability to raise some hell when I disagree.

I’ll appreciate the freedom I have to tell my kids the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly of this country.

I’ll appreciate my whiteness and the privilege I’ve been given in this life because of the shade of my skin. I sure as hell didn’t ask for it, and for a long time I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant to be White in America. Hell, I still don’t. I’m not sure you can if you actually ARE White in America, because it’s pretty hard to see things that feel so very basic as actual privileges that aren’t given to everyone; to really see privilege that is nearly invisible to us because we’ve never been without it. We never had to gain it, never had to fight for it. Hard to notice something like that, and takes work to appreciate the weight of that. (note: I said ‘appreciate’. Meaning “understanding the value”. Not celebrate. There’s a difference, and my word choice is intentional, before anyone tries to come at me on this.)

But above everything, I’ll appreciate the hell outta my people. My people that I love fiercely, who come in all shades from white to black and all the colors of the Pride flag. Male, female, gay/straight/trans. Christian, Muslim, athiest, agnostic. Born here, immigrated here. Truly, not much makes me happier than how odd my friends really are as a collective group. Its our differences, its our messiness, the sheer imperfectness of it all that, to me, is so utterly American. By appreciating the diversity among us, we challenge each other to see further than we could ever see with only our own eyes.

The most American, patriotic thing we can all do is demand more of our ourselves and our country. Don’t tell me to get out if I don’t like it. I love this country…and that’s why I will constantly want better. For ALL Americans.

I know we CAN do better. I know we CAN be more.

I know we could actually truly one day be Really, Really Great. (Like, for…the first time. Not “again”.)

 

But it doesn’t come about by excusing pathetic behavior, enabling bullies, supporting oppression, and overlooking the need to see the humanity in other people

So this “4th of July”, I challenge you to really think about what you’re celebrating. Think about how you’re viewing everything these days: is it only through your own eyes? Or are you daring enough to try looking at things from another point of view where you may have to get a little uncomfortable?

It’s time to get back to those “unalienable rights” that we founded this country on: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.

It feels safe to say we are all in agreeance that 2016 left a tad to be desired. It felt like we got sucker punched repeatedly this year. Things flew at us from nowhere, other things flew at us from rather predictable places (looking at you, 2016 Election Season).

My daughter suffered a concussion in early March, with complications lingering until late summer, causing her to miss a great deal of her third grade spring semester. In June, I mourned for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, a tragedy that struck me in my gut, as so many of my friends these days are LGBT. I had celebrated marriage equality the June prior with so many of my friends, smiling and cheering on the state house steps. This year we sat at a memorial on the levee holding each other and wiping away tears. triple s balloons

Then, early in July, police shot and killed Alton Sterling here in Baton Rouge, captured on video. I took part in demonstrations around town, some uneventful, some too eventful. Our city’s deep issues with race were suddenly very out in the open (I wrote a blog post about this that got some attention). I had hard conversations with my children about the privilege they were born with…privileges their brown skinned family members don’t have. I awakened to low flying police helicopters over our home the morning six police officers were shot, 3 fatally, a quarter mile from my front door. I stood with my children on the side of our streets to pay our respect to these officers and their families as their funeral processions rolled by.

And then…it started to rain.

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I pulled people into boats, I played with soaking wet preschoolers who told me exciting stories about being rescued by helicopters from their rooftops, I held strangers’ hands 14021640_10104268015494657_6708199408212830551_n-2while they sobbed into their knees. I waded into chest deep water, holding the hands of strangers. I was sent back to people’s homes before they’d seen the damage themselves, forced to recount what I’d seen, the bearer of the worst news I’d ever had to give to anyone. I spent weeks working the night shifts at the flood shelter set up at Celtic Studios and felt guilty when I could come home to my dry house, to take a hot shower, and cook my own food. I saw so much devastation I still can’t wrap my mind around it and I’ve developed a deep distrust of rain.

The waters receded, and I took my 9 year old daughter to vote for a woman we wanted to be president. I stayed up with her on election night and cried with her, because so many people were heartbroken and afraid and I couldn’t answer her questions.

2016 broke my heart, over and over.

But also in 2016, I stood under magnolia trees as a bridesmaid and watched two of my good friends get married. I danced with my husband at a Mardi Gras ball
with my beautiful best friend. We took our first “just the four of us” family vacation in May, our son’s first trip to Disney World. 13310417_10104045315457317_6694937363769218293_n-2I watched my kids parade with Mardi Gras Indians at a community event in an often overlooked area of town. We celebrated new babies, birthdays, anniversaries, 15732629_10104714145915717_5638528790651603135_o-2new jobs. I was part of an excellent panel put together by Red Stick Moms Blog to discuss our city’s issues with race. My family of four became a family of 6 for a couple months when we had the privilege of being a safe place for a set of twin baby girls, post flood. I witnessed a Hollywood movie studio become a mini city of flood survivors, showing the world how well it really can be done. We adopted a bulldog and named her Wrigley AND OMG THE CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES, which I thought I might never see. I celebrated with friends at Baton Rouge’s mayor-elect’s victory party. I was honored to receive a community service award from the Metropolitan Community Church here for my work here in Baton Rouge.

 

2016 was an emotional roller coaster.

I got a tattoo last month to sum up 2016 for me. Some of my close friends here and I joked that “2016 was the year shit went down and we all got tattooed”, because really, it did and we did.

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Hallelujah. Usually a burst of praise…but sometimes our hallelujah is not a joyous shout, not an exclamation of joy, but rather a broken cry. This year more than ever before I learned the real power of those broken hallelujahs. The ones that are almost nothing more than an exhale, a sigh of relief. Sounds of grace, sounds of exhaustion, a desperate cry for help and thanksgiving in one. A sound of life. We’re alive. We’re still here.

2016. I’m not sorry to see it go, because it was anything but easy, but I am hopeful we have grown. 2016 forced us to confront the darkness, to tackle it head on, to find the opening for the light. We had to find the silver linings. We had to ask for help. We 14067927_10104300732724067_6862698445176236257_o-2had to lean on each other. We had to pick each other up and stand behind each other.

We found our beauty in the broken mess that was so much of 2016.

Grace. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Extended hands. Plates of food. Hugs. Smiles. Laughter.

Love.

So much love.

So here’s to 2016 for being the teacher we didn’t know we all needed and to putting our newfound strength, our voices, our resilience to WORK in 2017.

Let’s go.

It’s not getting worse. It’s been there all along.

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. State capitol of the bayous of Louisiana. Home of the Louisiana State University Tigers. Land where streets of stately southern homes are lined by rows of oak trees as old as the country itself. City where Mardi Gras beads hang from power lines year round. Home to crawfish and gumbo, beignets, and daiquiris in go cups.

And also home to the Jaguars of Southern University & the Human Jukebox & the Dancing Dolls. The location of the first bus boycott of the civil rights era, in 1953, organized by the Rev. T.J. Jemison & Mr. Willis Reed, Sr.* Home of the longest desegregation case in the United States, settled in 2003. Where nearly a third of children live under the poverty level. Where blacks and whites are still separated by our own Mason Dixon line that we call Florida Blvd. The city Alton Sterling called home until July 5th.

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2010 Census Data. I’m gonna assume you can figure out where Florida Blvd runs.

My husband and I both grew up in South Carolina. We’re more than well aware that racism still exists in this country, 60+ years after the civil rights movement. It took the slaughter of 9 people with brown skin in their own church at Emmanuel AME in Charleston to convince people that perhaps the Confederate flag had no business being on the grounds of the South Carolina State House, though people still seem unconvinced the white murderer was not just “mentally ill” and was, perhaps, a racist fueled by hate. The state prosecutor there is prepping for that case while also prepping for the murder case against a North Charleston police officer accused of murdering motorist Walter Scott during a stop there in the weeks before the Charleston church massacre.

We moved to Baton Rouge 4 years ago. We’d spent 2 years in Reno, Nevada for my husband’s job when we decided to take a move again and head back south. I missed the food, the people, the football, and was tired of the snow and wind. We didn’t have much time to find a rental and get things in order to get there a month after school started in Baton Rouge. We quickly realized rent prices were much higher in the areas of town we’d been told to look, so finding a place we could afford was stressful. We’d been warned the schools left a bit to be desired in Baton Rouge, but I underestimated the severity of the situation. I had no idea the eye opening experience we had unwittingly signed up for when we agreed to move to Baton Rouge.

It was 2012 and my daughter was the only white kid in her entire class of over 25 kids. And we lived in a neighborhood surrounded by nothing but white people and white children. It didn’t make sense. After her first few days passed, my daughter mentioned the kids were “petting” her. They told her they’d never seen a person with “hair like hers” or “spots on their face like hers”. These children had never been around white kids, even though the school was just a couple miles from our home. I noticed quickly the school felt far more like a prison than it did a school. The kids were never allowed to speak to each other unless they were outside on the square pavement where they had “recess” for 15 minutes a day. No talking in the bathrooms, no talking in the cafeteria, no group work together, no talking in car pool while they waited on their parents to pick them up. They seemed to spend most of the year coloring, while teachers barked orders and commands at them. Later that year, after my daughter started coming up with reasons not to go to school, we found out at least two kindergarten teachers were beating kids in the classroom, with one screaming so loud my daughter reported she had to plug her ears and rock in her chair. Every time I visited the classroom, where I didn’t exactly feel welcomed by the teacher, I was warmly welcomed by a whole classroom full of incredibly exuberant children who just wanted to tell me anything and everything about their life. They wanted to talk. They wanted to laugh. They wanted someone to hear them. They wanted to be kids and it was being squashed out of them in the name of compliance inside of a crumbling building masquerading as a school. As much as I wanted to support the idea of keeping my child in a neighborhood school, I simply couldn’t leave her there. I made the decision she’d either get a spot in one of the magnet programs (which she did) or I’d homeschool her. Because I have the luxury of that choice.

It didn’t take long for me to make a statement to my mom about how I never thought I’d see a city this segregated in my lifetime. Watching Ferguson unfold I remember mentioning specifically that I feared it would only take a small incident similar to Mike Brown’s killing to cause major unrest here because there are basically two cities within Baton Rouge, white and black. The public school system is 80% black kids, and that includes schools like my child’s magnet school, where the breakdown is closer to 50/50. In the heart of 70805, the racial breakdown in schools moves to 98-99% black children. The district parcels around the white children it has, putting special programs like gifted and talented services, in the neighborhood schools where they need white bodies. An area of South Baton Rouge, which just happened to consist of mostly (80%) white people and newer schools, attempted to create their own city in the last few years, like several other areas have successfully done, though they failed to gain enough valid signatures to form. The proposed new city, St. George, was the subject of a PBS Frontline special called “Separate and Unequal”. St. George proponents insisted it was not about race, and things “that happened 20-30 years ago” aren’t their fault.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s not our fault. We weren’t there. We didn’t make anyone pick cotton, we didn’t make Rosa sit at the back of the bus, we didn’t sic dogs on people, we weren’t holding the fire hoses, we didn’t draw neighborhood borders, we didn’t deny people mortgages based on the color of their skin, we never lynched a black man. So, I mean…it’s not our fault.

Except we’ve let it continue. Don’t give me this “everything is equal” mess. It’s not. It’s not even close. My nonprofit, The Loveabulls Project, which I started 2 years ago with some of my dearest friends, puts me in 70805 frequently. There’s a lack of pet resources up there, just like everything else the area lacks, so my organization is the bridge between loving pet owners and the care and supplies they can’t reach on “their” side of town. I have met some of the most hard working, determined, fierce, and loving people on the “other side” of Florida Blvd. These are people who pay taxes, who go to parent/teacher conferences, who work multiple jobs to get food on the table for their children. People who wake up early to catch the bus or a ride with their neighbor to a job across town. People who spend half their life battling red tape for services and assistance that so many are concerned with people abusing for kicks. People who are just as tired of hearing gunshots and seeing drugs on their streets as you think you are. People who are trying to do the absolute best they can with what they’ve got to work with and what they’ve got to work with is a short hand of cards. I’ve gotten to know people, heard stories that would be hard for people to believe, hard for me even, until I kept hearing the same themes repeated in many people’s stories. Because they aren’t just stories. These experiences are their life. Their existence. These moments are them.

The people of North Baton Rouge are growing up in neighborhoods surrounded by despair, being treated like criminals in schools from 4 years old until they either graduate or drop out (EBR’s graduation rate is climbing, but graduation rates in North Baton Rouge neighborhoods linger in the 50-60% range)…they see how their neighborhoods are portrayed in the media, they see businesses flocking to South Baton Rouge, they see the investment put into areas that are not theirs. They watched their hospital close, then watched the only other emergency room that was easily and quickly accessible shut down due to funding, and residents of North Baton Rouge now face a 20+ minute ambulance ride to the closest ER in South Baton Rouge. They’re watching their families and friends ripped apart by a justice system that is determined to break the disadvantaged. Mandatory minimum sentences exist for drug charges, you can get life in Angola for non violent crimes under Louisiana’s habitual offender laws, and yet no minimum sentences exist for actual violent crimes like manslaughter, assault with a firearm, or simple rape (Check out this article by Steven Rosenfield for interesting information). The United States incarcerates more people than anywhere in the world. Louisiana incarcerates it’s citizens at a rate higher than any other state in the country. Prisoners are shuffled around private prisons with dollar signs on them and exit prison with a record, harder to employ, with less skills and relationship bonds. It should come as no shock people turn to hustling as a way of making money to keep food in their stomachs. More hustling, more police involvement thanks in part to a departure from community policing and a move toward the “broken windows” approach. And so the cycle continues to feed itself.

triple s balloons
Triple S convenience store on N. Foster in Baton Rouge. Site of Alton Sterling’s death.

What seems so hard for white people to grasp is this isn’t just about black people versus police. The issues with police are the flame points of a deeper, even heavier, even darker problem. We are a city, a country doused in lighter fluid and the men and boys and women killed at the hands of those paid to protect and serve all of us are the points where the fire is catching. This country was built on the backs of the same people we have spent our entire history excluding. You cannot deny this. People aren’t asking for special treatment. They’re asking for help breaking the cycles. They’re asking for people to stand with them while people attempt to change the systems that don’t better us all. When people scream “black lives matter” it’s not discrediting the value of your own white life. It’s a furious, panicked reminder to us that they matter, too. We live in a white washed world where it’s easier to picture a black man as a gang banger than it is a pharmacist or doctor or college professor. We devalue people’s existences without even realizing we’re doing it. When you reach for that door lock on your car at the sight of a black man in a hoodie, you’re doing it. When you refer to the “bad side of town”, you’re doing it. When you want to talk more about dead black men’s criminal records than their life that was lost, you’re doing it. Take a stand against it.

But don’t get it twisted – – black people don’t need our approval or our white advice on how to go about this. They’ve been fighting this fight a long time. Stand up, link arms with your neighbors, tell them you see them. Speak out against injustice when you see it, speak out against racism when you see it or hear it. The causes of the disadvantaged in our world are rarely popular. Stand up anyway. The craziest voices often are the loudest ones in discussions. We must be louder. Too often when bad things arise, the good moves away from it instead of standing amidst it and saying ‘no’. Stand up. Start discussions, but more importantly LISTEN to discussions. Start acknowledging and challenging your own prejudices, your own level of privilege. You want peace? Stand up with other people who want peace. And for the record, “peace” is not the same as “quiet”, so if you’re wanting a city, a country, where people stop protesting, then help them gain the peace on the issues that they feel the need to stand on street corners and outside buildings chanting about. Stand with them for peace.

together sidewalk art
We covered a downtown Baton Rouge sidewalk in a lot of chalky love last week, with messages of unity, before a prayer and worship service led by two churches, one predominantly black, one predominantly white, and we sang and prayed. Together.

We aren’t living in a world that’s going backwards in race relations…we’ve been stagnant, sitting right here the whole time. Sure we made progress, but a lot of it was just the execution of a good cover up job that made people feel better about themselves. Help people pull the curtains back. Expose the systems and the mindsets and the people that are consistently holding down poor, predominantly minority communities.

And for the love of all that is holy, stop shouting that “ALL LIVES MATTER!” We know. That’s the point. Right now it feels like some matter a bit less. No one fusses about March of Dimes raising awareness for premature babies. No one tells them “But ALL babies matter!” No one yells at the “Save the whales!” people, talking about how dolphins and sharks and seahorses also matter. I mean, come on, we had a hashtag for a gorilla. We created online petitions for a gorilla. I’m not saying he wasn’t important, but for some reason, having people with brown skin try to bring to light issues that affect them is not appropriate. “Black Lives Matter” is a rallying cry for people who want to bring attention to the very real issues that face the communities and people of color.

Just do your piece. Do your piece to make your community and your country better as a whole. However you can contribute. Step outside your comfort zone and have conversations with new people. Make new friends. Bridge communities, knock down barriers of race and economic status. Find your courage and stand tall. Keep talking. And more importantly, keep listening.

“You should be angry,
you must not be bitter.
Bitterness is like cancer.
It eats upon the host.
It doesn’t do anything to the object of it’s displeasure.
USE that anger, yes.
You WRITE it, you PAINT it, you DANCE it
You MARCH it, you VOTE it.
YOU TALK IT.
NEVER stop talking it.
-Maya Angelou

baton rouge protest maya angelou

 

*added Mr. Willis Reed, Sr’s name 7/19/16, with sincere apologies for originally leaving him out.

“Maybe it’s just hard”. The Softest Hard Stuff, again.

I don’t remember what I was originally planning to write when I sat down this morning, but then I read this from Bunmi Laditan, the insanely talented and lovely voice behind “Honest Toddler”. It’s so beautiful and so real. So now I’m just going to re-share the post I wrote Mother’s Day weekend, when about 4 people read it.

Originally published here, May 2016.

My 4 year old punched me today, in a fit of rage.

Yes, we’re doing Mother’s Day weekend like that round here. It’s our style. Anyway, he had a full out screaming, sobbing, snot-bubble-blowing meltdown over…something. I don’t even know if he knows what he was upset about, truly. But his frustration exploded out of him with a fierceness, as it tends to do with this one.

After we rode the wave of fury and were able to just breathe, I got him into the tub to calm down in a bubble bath, and I knelt down beside it to talk to him.

“Sometimes it’s kinda hard to be a little person, huh?”

“It’s SO HARD. I can’t wait ’til I’m a big person so it’s all easier.”

“Can I tell you a secret? It’s hard for big people sometimes too.”

“But you always make good choices. I don’t.”

“Nope. I make some crummy choices too sometimes. I mean, I don’t haul off and punch people, since the police show up if big people pull that…”

“And then you go to jail with the robbers and the villians.”

“Yes. Right. The bank robbers. Anyway, I don’t always make great choices every day. And half the time I don’t even know if I’m making good choices, because I don’t have anyone here to tell me if I made the right choice.”

He gave me a tiny smile and then apologized for how he’d acted, and it’s in those brief, tiny, soft moments I think maybe I’m really doing something right. Where I feel a little zing in my heart that maybe they’re getting some of this.

No one tells you how hard it will be to have these conversations, these moments. To bite your tongue in the explosions where tiny people wrestle huge emotions and roar out of control. To clench your fists in frustration, grind your teeth with your own rage. (I have noticed there is also a lack of bean spilling about the actual poop involved in parenting, both the amount and the general disregard for laws of physics it seems to have, so I try to warn everyone that there is just really so, so much poop, since apparently no one else is going to warn anyone about that.) But everyone talks about the way a newborn smells, how many little outfits they go through, how you need a wipe warmer, how you don’t really need that wipe warmer, how your heart will explode with that first laugh. They tell you it all goes so fast, and to enjoy every moment.

But y’all…some of this is not enjoyable. It’s hard. It. is. HARD. Physically it’s just ridiculous at times, like trying to carry an infant in a carseat, a toddler, and a 14 lb diaper bag at the same time while crossing a parking lot, or chasing a 2 year old around a park with no fence (which shouldn’t even BE A THING), or the restraint necessary to prevent yourself from going all “Incredible Hulk” on someone in a school carpool line, or functioning on 48 minutes of sleep, or nursing kids with the stomach flu while you’ve got the same problem. But mentally and emotionally it is just an ass-kicking sometimes. The earliest years are spent worrying you’re going to physically break the baby in some way (Can they roll off that? Are they eating enough? Is this fever too high? Can we introduce peanuts?) but as we move on, I’m realizing quickly my fears are going more toward the “Have I ruined this tiny person for life? Did that just ignite a complex in them? Will they tell their future therapist about this moment with their mother?” direction. There is no answer sheet, no hotline to call, no textbook to flip open and look up if you gave the right answer when your 4 year old asked about death, or if you reacted the right way when your 9 year old daughter blushed while talking about a certain boy, or if you’ve told your child they’re “smart/pretty/cute/funny” too many times. I’m just trying to raise kind, courageous, confident people. If they turn out duds, it will be assumed by the general public that I, the mother, screwed up my opportunity, because “didn’t your mother teach you any better?” As a mama, I’m supposed to simultaneously maintain boundaries, rules, and expectations, and also be a soft place for my small people to land when the world is too much.

Hard, yet still soft.

Sums up motherhood, huh? Be tough, but…stay soft. And then the experience itself is so stinkin’ hard…but the moments within it are some of the softest moments that exist in time. The laughs, the hugs, the quiet, the loud, the smiles, the smooches. This mom gig is made up of the softest hard stuff.

To the mamas with one stronger “Mom Arm”, the mamas who hide in the bathroom for just a tiny bit longer for some peace and space, the glowing mamas-to-be who are blissfully unaware of the poop and terrifying preschooler conversations they will one day face, the mamas who can’t hold their baby’s tiny hands here on earth anymore, the mamas who desperately want to BE a mama (or a mama again) and are tired of staring at ovulation strips and negative pregnancy tests, the mamas who are mamas to other women’s babies, the mamas who are both mama and daddy, the mamas who don’t have their mama around anymore to hug on this weekend, and most especially to my own Momma…Happy Mother’s Day. I hope it’s full of the softest hard stuff.

mc

 

This week’s post, in which we cover how to interact with your friends on the internet.

I need to address something, y’all.
We’re being assholes to each other.

Complete and utter assholes.

I gave up reading the comment section of news articles a long time ago because it was rare that I didn’t find myself appalled at the language, the judgements, the holier-than-though attitudes, the downright obvious hatred and racism and sexism and misogyny and…well, the comments section on news articles is basically the armpit of humanity, I’ve decided.

But lately I have noticed a rather disturbing trend. We’re being complete jerks to people we actually call “friends”. It’s happened to me personally recently and since then I have watched it unfold in other places in my Facebook newsfeed. At some point, I’m going to swear off the comment section of my friends’ Facebook posts because it seems we can’t even be nice to people we know and the people they know.

Here’s the thing: if I keep you around on my friends list, if you can see my posts, it’s because I like you enough to let you. There is a level of trust implied with this privilege, because I’m trusting you to not embarrass me or make me regret keeping you around and allowing you to potentially mingle with my other friends. I’m not sure if we are forgetting how to respectfully interact with other humans on a personal, social level because so much of our interacting is done over a screen these days, but it seems we have forgotten the basic concepts of group discussions. So for your consideration, I have prepared a list of things we should remember when interacting with, and I emphasize this word, FRIENDS on the World Wide Web.Everything is fine don't be an asshole

  1. First and foremost, remember they don’t have to be friends with you. Act a fool and you will likely find yourself un-friended, blocked, restricted, or worse, still friends and described privately as “oh you know who I’m talking about, she has to say something about everything. Ugh.”
  2. If you would not say it to the person’s face, you should not post it on the Facebooks, y’all. It is actually that simple.
  3. If your initial reaction to something you see a friend has posted is outrage, it is probably best to take a deep breath, find something else to look at for a moment, collect your thoughts, and THEN say something if you absolutely feel something needs to be said.
  4. Remember you are allowed to continue to scroll past things your friends have posted that anger/upset/sadden/frustrate/piss off/disgust/create some other undesirable reaction in you. That’s right, you can KEEP SCROLLING. Channel you some Dory and “just keep scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.” You don’t actually have to say ANYTHING! Obviously, if it really is important to you, and you feel you must, then speak up. But refer back to Helpful Tip #1 first. And then #2. And then #3.everything is fine just keep scrolling
  5. If you find yourself annoyed by a comment on your friend’s post from someone you do not know, weigh the pros/cons of responding. You may be about to insult the intelligence of someone’s mother, sister, father in law, dearest cousin they love so much, their friend of 20 years, or their crazy relative they’ve all had a family meeting about and decided to just let ramble without anyone engaging because they are hopelessly crazy and constantly looking for trouble (y’all know you’ve got a family member like this…). If the comment is attacking your friend and you feel they’d appreciate support, help them out. If it’s a statement of agreement with your friend that you happen to disagree with, figure out what’s more important to you – stating your point & disagreeing with your friend, potentially creating undue stress, or keeping this matter out of your friendship. Getting into it on a friend’s Facebook post with another of their friends is just…well, it’s awkward. And since you’ve both got a mutual friend in the poster, you may cross paths again. I’ve had it happen where I’ve had to “warn” friends of mine, “So, Jessica’s coming. You remember the girl you argued with about minimum wage on my Facebook post?” That’s awkward, folks. Don’t be those people.
  6. Making it personal makes it nasty. Don’t air people’s dirty laundry in Facebook comments, y’all. Your mama taught you better than that. And don’t go calling people names. You won’t convince anyone you know what you’re talking about if you feel the need to call people names and use foul language. While I am quite fond of well placed curse words myself, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your credibility when you’re just tossing around enough four letter words to make a sailor cringe just because you’re an adult and you can, dammit.
  7. Speak with the intent to listen. Don’t speak just to speak. Busting into a conversation just to say something because it makes you feel better is rude. Speaking with the intent to hear what others have to say in reply is a different approach that not many people use these days, but it would be better for us all to attempt. We like to hear ourselves a lot anymore. We applaud people for being able to “speak their minds”, “say what they mean”, and “say things other people will only think”. But listening to other people, inviting people to discuss things, sharing information with people who are also open to hearing other information is all seemingly undervalued these days. We could all stand to hold our tongues sometimes and hear what someone else has to say.  The most well defended arguments are ones where you have heard the other side, you understand their concerns, and you have solid counterpoints, because you’ve taken the time to become educated, not just defensive.everything is fine educated not just defensive
  8. Remember, you are absolutely free to hold the opinion you hold, but you are not free from the consequences of stating that opinion. If you put something out there and it turns out 72 people descend upon you with their replies, you don’t get to yell about being attacked. A large number of people who disagree with you isn’t necessarily an attack. Unprovoked ugliness is what makes an attack.
  9. You’re totally free to “agree to disagree”. But that actually does carry meaning, and that meaning is “I can see we do not agree on this matter, and I respect that your opinion works for you and you also respect that my opinion works for me, so this conflict is over.” Key word there is “over”, meaning “the end”. It doesn’t mean, “I can see we do not agree on this matter, but I have more to say about this and I really think after I say these things you will be able to see my side more clearly and will understand why I am right.”
  10. Aretha said it best. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Look, in short, be the kind of friend you want your friends to be to you.

 

June 12, 2016.

I awakened this morning, picked up my phone, and noticed I had several friends ‘marked safe’ on Facebook, during “the Orlando Shooting”. I quickly unlocked my phone and pulled up CNN to figure out what was happening. One of my best friends lives in Orlando and isn’t on Facebook, and she was my main concern. I texted her and found her safe, heading to donate blood, and her friend who works at the club where the shooting was happened to not be working last night.

And then I saw it happened at a ‘gay club’, and I read the words ‘deadliest mass shooting in US history’ and my face began to scrunch. I’m not gay, I’m not transgender, I am none of the letters in the acronyms used to describe the community. But I am their friend. A large portion of my friends here just happen to be gay, all because my kid’s best friend has two moms and I’ve been lucky enough to be allowed into their circle. We joke I am their ‘token straight friend’, since I’m often the minority at our gatherings. As a straight, white person, “the minority” is not something I am very often and it is a humbling place to sit.

Have you ever been to a gay club? I can distinctly remember the first time I walked into the gay nightclub here with my friends. Born and raised in the south, I’m familiar with the level of intolerance my LGBT friends face, but it’s only a surface awareness. I will never be able to understand it deeper than seeing it and acknowledging it, because I am not LGBT and I don’t know what it’s like to have my very existence questioned. But upon walking into this night club in south Louisiana, my first thought was “Well, this is incredibly gay.” Beeverything is fine yes pridecause it absolutely was. Because in this element, all these people were completely free to be exactly who they were. Unashamed of their uniqueness, unapologetic, uninhibited, unbound of society’s expectations, rules, definitions. Here they were just them. Completely them. I watched men kiss other men, women kiss women. Outfits that would make heads spin outside the doors strutted confidently past me. I stared in awe as adult men pulled off Beyonce’s moves almost as well as Queen Bey herself. One of my favorite activities at the gay club is to go at “back to school” time, when the college freshman invade this college town and I sit at the bar and watch young, fresh faces walk sheepishly into this environment, unsure about what they are getting into, only to later discover these same people, barely even adults, cutting completely loose for possibly the first time in their lives, confidently and freely themselves. Something I have never admitted to my friends here because I’m not sure how you work this into conversation (but apparently I can work it into a blog post) is I often find myself on the verge of tears any time I go to a gay club or Pride event with them, because I am simply struck by the beauty of people just being themselves so freely, and also so heartbroken that it takes a separate place, a separate building with it’s own label, a separate event, for them to feel comfortable. It’s 2016. Until meeting this group of beautiful people, I never really understood how much I took for granted the fact that I can hold hands with my husband and NO ONE will ever question our value. My LGBT friends don’t have any desires that are outside what those of us who aren’t LGBT have. They want to be accepted as “normal”, not seen as “other”. I want so badly for my friends to feel okay, to feel safe when they hold their legally wedded spouse’s hand, or want to kiss their boyfriend at the river, or God help us all, go to the bathroom wherever they feel most comfortable.

So when I pulled up the news articles and see that a gunman has killed at least 50 people and injured 50+ more inside a gay night club, my heart broke. Much in a similar way it broke after Sandy Hook. The Sandy Hook children walked into their school that December morning, without fear of the big outside world. That was their haven. And when that shooter violated their haven, so many of us felt like our insides were ripped out. Gay clubs, Pride events…these are havens for people. They are sanctuaries for LGBT people. Humans with desires to be accepted, to be loved, to be free to be themselves without a continual need to prove their worth to the “outside world”. And this shooter violated their safe haven. The outside world, with it’s hate and it’s intolerance, came blazing into their sanctuary. This should rip out your insides in a similar way. everything is fine here pride drag

I don’t want to debate gun laws here. I don’t want to hear your biblical passages. I don’t want to discuss Islamic radicalism. I don’t want to discuss anything other than a radical need to bring more kindness, more acceptance, more love to this world. We cannot let intolerance fester. Intolerance breeds hate and hate breeds violence, it spawns evil, it creates villains. Ignoring the creeping darkness does no one any favors. Indifference to our problems only further enables them to grow. The only way to combat darkness is with light. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it. Dumbledore reminded us of it. Anne Frank scribbled it in her diary. We cannot count on “someone” to do something, to be the light, but rather we have to see it as our duty as fellow humans on this big planet to be each other’s lights. The world cannot have enough sunshine. This is a storm. We need enough light to see the rainbows.

everything is fine this is a storm

To my friends, the boys who kiss other boys and share my appreciation for JJ Watt’s chiseled face, the girls I’ve stood beside as they marry another girl under big magnolia trees, the pretty men who can work a pair of heels better than I will ever be capable of doing, the women who “don’t look like a lesbian”, the people who my children see as family and with whom we have spent holidays celebrating & cooking & laughing together, the people who have such beauty and strength in their souls and I feel lucky to call my friends…I love you. I see you. I know your worth and I value your life, your existence, your being. Know that you have love on your side and there are people who are willing to stand behind you, beside you, and in front of you to keep shouting to the world that we are all worth a little more sunshine.

everything is fine here pride family

We have some kinks to work out.

We left for Disney World the day after school was out for summer. The first family vacation the four of us have taken, it was honestly a really wonderful trip, filled with laughs and so many fun memories. I’ve been working on a blog post recapping our trip, from the planning to execution because I know a Disney World trip sounds overwhelming to so many but I actually really enjoy planning them and love to share the tips and tricks I’ve learned with anyone who will listen to me ramble about it.

everything is fine AOA
If this isn’t award winning photography, I don’t know what is. Just stellar work on my part. Really captured the essence of a drive along the Gulf Coast with those smeared bugs though.

However, that post is not ready. And by ‘not ready’ I mean it’s not even remotely in the form of a coherent piece of writing yet. Why? Because it’s summer.

Summer means my two children are here trying to drive my sanity off a cliff making memories together.

Summer in South Louisiana means it’s already insanely hot. Yesterday it was 98* (“You’re my sunshine after the raiiiiinnnn…”) and the humidity is just absurd. IT IS JUNE, Louisiana. June. Two months to go before we even reach mid-August. My kid has asthma, Louisiana. Back off for a bit.

Summer also means growth spurts, apparently. Or an intestinal parasite. Something that causes my children to need to use the phrases “I’m HUNGRY” and “Can I have a snack?” and “Is there something I can eat?” more than even seems possible. Where do they put this? They’re a whopping 95 lbs combined. How can they eat this much? Why does food cost so much? How do people afford more children than this? Would it be the worst thing if I just decided to let them eat whatever they could reach whenever they wanted? Maybe I should put the Easy Mac in a more easily accessible location. Perhaps we’ll find out if life is sustainable on granola bars, string cheese, and juice boxes.

Summer also means bedtime IS. A. WRECK. It’s hard to convince a little person that it is actually time to take a bath and put on pajamas when it’s still daylight outside. “It’s like, the middle of the morning,” J said to me two nights ago. No, J, it’s 8:28 pm. Put on pajamas, son, because your mother is quitting for the day. Last night, he appeared at my bedside at 4 AM. In a decision I would later regret, I decided to pull him up into bed instead of walking him back upstairs to his room. 48 minutes later, I’m awakened to a little tap and a whispering voice informing me he needs to change clothes. Because he has wet the bed. My bed. This morning was spent wrangling sheets and blankets off the bed and shoving them in the washer. And then as the machine cranked up it’s intensity under the weight of my urine soaked comforter, it rattled the Costco size box of Oxi-Clean powder right off the top of the washing machine where it landed upside down on my floor. I took one look at that mess and just closed the laundry room door while my kids were telling me they were hungry again. For ice cream. Conquering the Oxi Clean disaster later.

Even my dogs are making this hard. They want out, so I get up and let them out. But then 6 minutes later, they’re too hot and want back in. I let them back in. Oh, they need more water now. Drink too much water. Need back out. The cycle continues all day.

For those of you thinking, “My goodness, they need some activities or a tiny bit of structure in their summer,” I hear you. This year, we decided to join the neighborhood pool. Fills so many needs. Beat the heat, physical activity, social activity with other kids and families in our neighborhood. Just a fabulous idea. Literally THE DAY we joined, the pool pump broke. It’s been out of commission since last week. I feel like I need to issue an apology for spreading my terrible luck around the neighborhood and now I’ve tainted the pool.

everything is fine here pool
Our neighborhood pool. Before we joined/contaminated the neighborhood pool with our terrible luck.

Someone is screaming. I have ear buds in and I can hear this over the blasting Muse song I’m listening to. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and I love this time with them. But whoa, summer. We’ve got some kinks to work out.

The Roller Coaster of a Future Mountain Mover.

“Write hard & clear about what hurts.” -Ernest Hemingway

And this is where I am, after this week. I’m not feeling very funny. I’m feeling tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally. So hold on, because this is what hurts right now.

If you’ve ever met my son (or simply read my personal Facebook page) you know he is a force to be reckoned with. He is larger than life. He can entertain a room with ease. He is fueled by the laughter of a crowd. He can befriend just about anyone, anywhere. We walked into a waiting room just the other day and while I was checking in, 10 seconds after we arrived, I overheard him chatting up the other kid in the waiting room. He just plopped himself down next to this kid’s chair and started talking. He is an absolute delight to watch in action.

Except when he’s not.

Because sometimes he’s really, REALLY not. This week we had a lot of the not. He was “that kid” several times this week. And I know, he’s 4. Four year olds just suck sometimes. But with his big personality and big self come big emotions with huge highs and deep lows. And when things explode, it takes everything from deep within to hang on through them. As I told my husband this evening, “It’s like being on a roller coaster with him.”

And sometimes I just want off. Just briefly. Just long enough to get my bearings again. To find right side up again. But there are times (like this past week) where the ride just never seems to stop. We just go, and we go, and we go. We crank slowly up hills, where I can feel the drop coming ahead, but I feel powerless to stop it, and I know he does too. And then we slam down towards the ground, at a neck breaking speed, usually screaming the whole way down. Then, in between the hills and the drops, we have these utterly beautiful moments where it is all mind numbingly fun and I know I’ve got a ridiculous smile plastered on my face and I remember why I really do love this ride.

He and my daughter couldn’t be more opposite. Where he is big and loud and boisterous, she is quiet and thoughtful and more delicate with her actions and words. My daughter amazes me frequently with just how soft and truly sweet she is. My son can be sweet too, but it’s always in a much more “in your face” way, often catching you off guard, just like everything he does. These are the plateaus on the ride, the parts that are just fun, the parts that don’t feel like they’re going to break me. The parts where I don’t want to scream from frustration with him. A friend of mine asked me a few months ago, “Do you find yourself getting more frustrated with the kid who is more like you?” And I do. He is so much like me. While on one hand that means I more easily understand him, on the other, I also know where the roller coaster has derailed for me. He’s getting to the point now where he can voice his frustration with himself sometimes, which stings me in a deep way, since I’ve had such similar thoughts about my own personality and mind. I think any parent simply wants their child to be more, have more, and struggle less than they themselves did. And that’s why he frustrates me, why he can get under my skin. Because I want him to do big things and be spared the pain of the crashes, even though I know that’s not a practical wish. After all, our biggest opportunities for growth are not in our successes but rather in how we stand up after a fall, and it’s my job to teach him, to show him, what it means to get back up and do it with grace. I have no doubt he will crash over, and over, and over, because that’s just the nature of his personality. He’s a risk taker. He’s Nemo, swimming out towards the boat to “touch the butt”. (I originally wanted to compare him to Simba, but seeing as how Simba’s antics result in the actual death of a parent, perhaps I’ll refrain from that comparison.) He is constantly on the go, on the move, surveying his surroundings, noticing and narrating what seem to the average observer like the most mundane things, because he sees so much in everything.

We were at an event a couple of weeks ago where there were big building blocks at a booth for kids to build whatever they wanted. J immediately dove in and began directing where he wanted everything to go. The lady in charge watched him interacting and finally said about him, “Future CEO over there. He’s going to run his own show.”

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And that’s exactly it. He takes every ounce of my strength some days, and some nights really, and it’s easy to stew in the negatives, the hard stuff, but I have to remind myself that what is incredibly difficult to wrangle in a 4-year-old boy with the energy of the Energizer Bunny will do him favors down the road.

He knows what he wants.

He says what he means.

He knows where he wants to go.

He’s driven by a need for perfection.

He will move mountains. He will make the earth quake. He will do big things. 

And in the meantime, I’m just going to hang on and try to enjoy this ride and remind myself that God and the universe knew what was up when I was given these two small people. My yin and my yang.