The Talk

Today I wanted to write about anxiety and mental illness and a party and agoraphobia. More accurately that is what I planned to write about yesterday when Z and I figured out our schedule for Sunday to include some writing time for me.

Right before we went to bed we saw the jury had come back and delivered a not guilty verdict. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about anxiety and mental illness and a party and agoraphobia. But today I can’t.

Today the boys played in the backyard while Z worked on a climbing structure he is building for them. They ran around, they used toy hammers and chisels and mallets and screwdrivers. They hit each other, pulled hair, kicked. Time outs happened. I watched them play, yelled at them when they started in on each other, gave out kisses when T fell onto a stool. My mind was half with them and half thinking about Travon Martin and his parents.

My boys. My beautiful boys with their blond hair and their blue eyes. My boys who are too young to understand that terrible things happen in this world. We are trying to figure out how to explain it to T. He is still obsessed with guns and weapons. He isn’t allowed to play guns at home, he isn’t allowed to have toy guns. It’s all abstract to him at this point. You shoot at the bad guys. Case closed.

The other day I was making dinner while T sat on the sofa and watched Disney Jr. The movie Pocahontas happened to be on. I hadn’t seen it since it first came out. I walked into the room and looked at the screen. A young man was pointing a gun at John Smith and Pocahontas’s brother as they fought with a knife. Suddenly I remembered that the brother was going to get shot. T was riveted. I had the time to turn the TV off, but I didn’t. I stood there and watched it with him. When Pocahontas turned to the kid who shot and cried, “You killed him!” I faced T. “Look at that. Look. That gun killed that man. That is why Daddy and I hate guns. They kill people. The kill good people. They kill bad people. They kill by mistake. They kill on purpose. They are horrible and unsafe and we do not think it is cool or funny when you pretend to have them. Police have guns to protect us, but guns are dangerous. They can kill.”

A little heavy for an almost 4 year old, yes. But T has been fascinated by death for months, it has been a frequent topic of conversation.

So we are trying to let him know what we feel about guns. It is going to be a long road. Obviously he didn’t get what I was trying to explain, but over time he will. And many people will disagree with our approach. That’s fine. We are all allowed to have different views. We are going to teach our kids that in our family we do not believe in owning guns. We don’t think they make us safer. And frankly, we don’t think other people should have guns either.

We are going to have to have a lot of difficult conversations as the boys get older. But we don’t have to have The Talk. Our boys will never be told that they can’t run in public for fear of raising suspicion of the police. Or that they can’t wear a hoodie without being targeted as a criminal. Our boys will think of the police as people who will help them, not as ones who will accuse them of crimes they didn’t commit.

Our boys are different than black boys or brown boys. They are going to get different opportunities. They are going to be treated better-I was going to type for their whole lives, but you know what? I hope and pray (fake pray? agnostic pray?) that it won’t continue for their whole lives. I hope equality happens in their lifetimes.

Today I’m numb and sickened and horrified by the world we live in. I will never understand what it is like for Travon Martin’s parents. And I’m not even grateful for the privilege that accompanies the color of my boy’s skin. It is dirty privilege. It is wrong.

These words don’t come from some ivory tower of race relation perfection. I’ve done and felt plenty that I’m ashamed of in my 36 years. I need to do better. Z needs to do better. You need to do better. We all do.

family cl

I wish we lived in a country where all families were treated with the respect that our family receives.

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Gun Play

This morning after my shower I found my three guys hanging out in Z and my bedroom while Z ironed his shirts (What? Did you think I iron them? I don’t iron my own clothing. Why the fuck would I iron his?). A couple of years ago Z gave me a 12″ vintage Boba Fett toy for my birthday. Mine isn’t in perfect condition and it better not have cost anywhere near $400. And yes, the gift was like me getting him a massage gift certificate…for myself. We talked about it.

So, T had my Boba Fett in his hands and he was playing with the gun the action figure came with and asking me all sorts of questions about it. T “Mom, what is this part?” Me, “Um, I think it’s the handle.” T, “No. THIS is the handle. What is this part?” Me, “I don’t know. I don’t really want to know.  I don’t like guns, T. I don’t want to touch them or talk about them or be near them. Guns hurt people.” T, “Well, I like guns.” Me, “Ok, that makes me pretty sad. Guns hurt good people.” T, “No they don’t, Mom! Guns just kill bad guys.” Me, “Oh T. That just isn’t true. Guns kill good people all the time. They are very dangerous.” T, “But Mom! Luke and Leia use guns! They are good!”

Oh boy. Luke and Leia do use guns. And they are good. Z and I are not hunters, and I don’t believe we ever will be. We don’t shoot recreationally. In all honesty, I’ve never touched a real firearm in my life. And I don’t want to. Guns scare the hell out of me. And that is my prerogative  just like it is someone else’s prerogative to be a gun enthusiast. Free country and all that jazz. But Z and I made a decision to introduce a movie with adult themes to our kid. Star Wars has been on in the background since he was an infant. It’s too familiar to be scary, but now that he is older we need to deal with the repercussions of him being exposed to guns. A dear friend of mine called Star Wars our religion. She is an observant Jew and is raising her kids in the faith and compared their learning about the bloodier aspects of religious history to our kids watching A New Hope. It was incredibly generous of her. But the bottom line is Luke and Leia shoot guns. And policemen have guns. And soldiers have guns. And he is going to be hearing about guns for the rest of his life. He is too little to understand the nuance of gun use. He thinks they can only hurt bad people like storm troopers. It’s important for him to know that people with guns can protect other people. But it’s also important that he learns people use guns to hurt others.

I know his fascination is developmentally appropriate. We talked to his preschool teacher about it and she agreed it is normal. It’s a hard topic, but we have the responsibility to address it as his parents. We do not want to be around guns, but after he grows up and is able to be responsible if he wants to hunt or join the rifle team in high school (is that still a thing?) we will let him make his own decisions. We need to explain to him that guns are dangerous and that he is not allowed to ever touch one while he is a child. We also need to explain to him that different people have different attitudes about guns. A lot of people incorporate guns into their life responsibly. A lot of people are irresponsible with guns and the consequences are horrifying.

I think I can handle the hard stuff when it comes to teaching our kids about guns, but here is where I’m worried. I keep reading crazy articles about kindergartners being suspended for pretending to shoot an imaginary gun. This behavior is developmentally normal in kids. Should it be corrected? Hell, yes. It’s cool to let a kid know they are behaving in a way that is not going to be accepted. But draconian disciplinary measures that will be on their record for the rest of time? What the fuck? They are five or six. They can’t understand what they are doing. Isn’t it our job to explain it to them?

I don’t have the answers. I’m still not sure what to say to T. Maybe I said the wrong thing this morning. Maybe we royally fucked up by showing him Star Wars. But I’ll keep on trying to figure it out. I just hope our local school is also figuring it out and can handle little kids playing like little kids. I hope they have a system in place that helps them learn to be better people, not that harshly punishes them for behavior they can’t understand.

My fun little man and his Daddy are making a fish tank filled with aquatic life this fine afternoon.  
Last night the “fish tank” was a robot head for my little guy. 

My big guy and I are just trying to figure out how to do right by our boys. 

Birthday Post

It feels obscene to blithely continue a Mommy blog without acknowledging the events of last Friday. It feels obscene to write about what happened last Friday.

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We’ve been traveling since Saturday. We are celebrating a milestone birthday of my Mother-in-law’s in a lovely home in the mountains of North Carolina. The first travel day included more than 10 hours in the car for our family, the second more than 8. C is at the tail end of being sick. We are all fried and the boys aren’t sleeping. Z and I have been up multiple hours a night since the travel began. Last night we didn’t sleep from 3am till after 5am. We are lucky to be surrounded by family, lucky to have two healthy boys. And yet we are beyond exhausted.

I have been avoiding thinking about what happened on Friday. It is small and selfish, but the pain those families are experiencing is so profound that I simply cannot handle recognizing it. A month ago today I wrote this post. When my mind wanders to those parents in Connecticut it is what I think about. They had the same worries for their children. The worst thing I could possibly contemplate a month ago was the boys growing up without a parent. I simply could not or cannot think about the flip side. Those parents had the privilege of worrying about their children growing up without a parent stolen from them. Because it is a fucking privilege.

There is something cruel about watching your children grow up. You want to keep them babies forever. But the alternative to not growing up? It is literally the worst thing that could ever happen to you.

So that is what I’m thinking about today, which happens to be my 36th birthday. Yes, I’m rudely having my own birthday in the middle of the celebration for my Mother-in-law. I’m thinking about how lucky I am to worry about my sons. I am thinking about how I need to do better, to be better. We are tired and cranky. We were up for two hours in the middle of the night and I was a total bitch to the person who loves me most when he did not remember it was my birthday in the morning. Who the fuck do I think I am? Is that how a 36 year old acts? Is that the example I want to set for my children? For my 36th year I want to do better, I want to be better. I want to appreciate my family and be kinder and more patient. I want to realize that I am lucky to be up in the middle of the night with my boys. Life with two small ones is difficult. But the alternative is too painful to consider.

No pictures today. Those parents in Connecticut cannot post new pictures of their perfect children. It is a meaningless gesture, but for one day I will not post pictures of my perfect boys here.

And one more thing-the conversation about gun control does not in anyway dishonor the dead. There doesn’t need to be some indeterminate passage of time before it is appropriate to discuss the issue. In fact, I’d argue the best way to honor the memories of those who died is to fight this fight. Does the Bill of Rights grant the right to bear arms? Yes. When it was written black people counted as 3/5th of a human being and women couldn’t vote. I’m glad those things have changed and I’m sure that every person reading here is as well. The constitution has held up for so many years because of its flexibility. Because the founding fathers understood that a country is a living and evolving thing. I do not know what the answer is. But it involves massively restricting access to guns. That is what we can to for those who lost their lives, we can work to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That work involves less guns, not more.