Reading is an act of resistance

OMG―it’s Election Day y’all! Thank goodness! I know I’m not alone in being officially OVER it. Now it’s time to vote, panic, and act―whatever the outcome.

No matter what ends up happening today, we are all responsible for creating the world we want for each other. I want a world that is kind and just so tonight, like most other nights, I’ll be reading to my children. I’ll choose books that broaden their horizons, challenge them to think differently, and encourage them to be the bright shiny stars that they are.

miss rumphiusI recently found this list: Books to read to your kids if you want them to be kind and brave (yes please!). And I was excited to see one of my family’s treasured stories included! I have read Miss Rumphius to my kids many times because I love its central charge: “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

In this book, Alice grows up hearing stories from her beloved grandfather and longs to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and live up to her grandfather’s request to do something to make the world more beautiful. And she does. She travels the world (I love an independent woman!), lives in a house by the sea, and after much thought (and a little luck) finds her way to making the world more beautiful. She plants lupines all around her and makes her mark. Lupines are a beautiful metaphor for all of us trying to figure out how to make a lasting impression.

I find this book comforting and stirring. It allows for us to be who we are and also challenges us to do something for the greater good. It is a helpful reminder that each of us can resist. Each of us can stand up and do something; we just have to find out what our something is. For me, working to end violence and create justice makes the world more beautiful and I am doing my darndest to make it happen. For Miss Rumphius, it was planting lupines. I am curious to see what it will be for my children. What will it be for you?

LupineSo go home tonight and watch the returns. Then snuggle up with your favorite little person and read a book. Together we can read, resist, and love a little harder, no matter what tomorrow brings.

Good talk

My kids are at that age where they are starting to have playdates, so I’ve had to figure out how to ask about guns in their friends’ homes. Ohmahgah, it’s so hard! I mean, I’m socially awkward anyway. And an avid conflict avoider. (I’ve had decades of practice with my very conservative family). So when it came time to ask, I was terrified. But I had to do it. My experiences growing up in a house with guns and the constant news stories about kids being killed gave me the courage I needed.

This is how I do it. “So, do you keep your guns unloaded and locked away?”

Photo by Geraint Rowland
Photo by Geraint Rowland

Yikes! It’s hard every time. Responses so far have ranged from a calm and understanding “Nope, we don’t have any.” to “What!? We don’t have guns in our house. Do YOU?” to “Actually, we have one that is dismantled and unloaded and locked in a storage unit that the kids don’t have access to.” So far I haven’t gotten a response that would make me feel like my kids couldn’t play at a friend’s house, but I’m sure that will happen at some point, because I’m going to keep asking. My kids’ lives depend on it.

So now I’m inspired by my new found bravery to dive into other tough conversations, like talking about relationships with my kids. Not just the birds and the bees, but age-appropriate ways to talk about love, consent, and bullying.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Action Month, I’ve decided to have at least one conversation a week with my kids about this stuff. Here are some things I will be asking them:

“What does it mean to be a good friend?”

“What do you do when you don’t like what a friend is doing?”

“Who do you play with on the playground? What do you like about playing with them?”

Hopefully it will become a habit that lasts. One more thing I’m going to do—talk to my parent-friends about talking to their kids. Hmmm, that sounds hard too. Maybe I’ll just show them this blog post and say, hey—wanna join me? That’s doable. Because the more the merrier when it comes to helping kids learn how to be respectful, kind, and loving adults.

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

Prominent feminist writer drops off social media after rape threat against her 5-year-old daughter “Valenti…becomes the latest in an increasingly long line of women who have been harassed and threatened online by anonymous stalkers from SNL cast member Leslie Jones to Gamergate targets Anita Sarkeesian, Briana Wu and Zoe Quinn.” (explicit language)

When My Husband Goes Out In Public With Our Kids Vs. When I Go Out In Public With Our Kids “It never ceases to amaze me how differently my husband and I are treated while out and about with the fruit of our loins. Whereas I am openly judged, questioned, or ignored, my husband has a virtual red carpet rolled out for him.”

Alaska just threw out a major abortion restriction “You can’t legislate good communication between families, and you certainly won’t do it by forcing young people to seek unsafe abortion care. These laws aren’t about health or safety – quite the opposite. They don’t improve quality of care. They simply place yet another barrier in front of young people’s ability to make the best decision for the personal circumstances.”

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

Dumb-a** stuff we need to stop saying to Dads “We need to stop talking about Dads like they’re an inept accessory to parenting.”

When I Quit Cutting My Hair, I Learned How Men Treat Women On American Roads “Once cowardly road-ragers realize I’m a man, they quickly back off.”

If Male Scientists Were Written About Like Female Scientists “A devout husband and father, Darwin balanced his family duties with the study of the specimens he brought from his travels.”

Preschool problems

I’ve got a problem. My little girl needs to go to preschool next September and after weeks of research and help from fellow parent friends I’ve found one―ONE!―school in my neighborhood that I can afford that might work when pieced together with, literally, four other childcare options like drop-in daycare and kind friends. And only if I also rearrange my work schedule, which I’m super lucky to be able to do because I work part-time and have a very understanding supervisor. The number of balls in the air here are dizzying and just might crush me if they all drop.

woman-laundry-with-babyBut then I think about how much harder it could be. How on earth do single parents do this, or parents in a toxic relationship? My partner is loving and supportive, but I’m still the one doing all the research, comparing preschools, visiting the schools, and rearranging my schedule. The title of this Slate article sums up what so often happens: When childcare costs more than rent, women stay at home. Of course, even that is not an option for many families.

The issue of childcare has a huge impact on people in an abusive relationship. Having a job can be a literal life line for someone being abused. It means time during the day when you are not isolated and can build relationships with other people, and it means a paycheck. Money gives you options and the power to make your own decisions. No one who is trying to keep themselves and their children safe should have to struggle to find affordable childcare so that they can keep their job. That’s my hope for everyone.

What I’m saying to my kids

My mom asked me the other day what I’ve said to my kids about the state of the world these days. It made me  pause, because I’m at a point in time where I don’t have to say anything. We don’t actually watch the news in our house, I turn down NPR when the kids are in the car, and the only TV we do watch are Netflix kid shows or silly YouTube videos. (Just so you know this is the kind of nonsense my kids have been watching lately.)

It’s different than the world I grew up in where even watching Punky Brewster, I ran the risk of seeing war, terrorism, and murder. Now even though in reality there is more media and more stimulation, my little family can be insulated from it. And while I appreciate that, I also feel like I am not living up to my responsibility as a parent to help my children react to and deal with the realities of human suffering and injustice.

For instance, we just celebrated Thanksgiving and each year I am more aware of the lies I was taught as a child about the way white settlers treated the Native people they encountered. It makes me want to simultaneously scream, “Everything is terrible!” and hold my children close and wonder at the beauty of a world that has them in it.

And so, I realize that I must talk with my children about the state of the world. Talk with them about the real history of Thanksgiving and a new way forward. Talk with them about our responsibility to stand up for refugees in need. Talk with them about striving for kindness and gratitude, and about forgiveness and accountability when we fail. Talk with them about flowers and small acts of rebellion in a world that seems filled with violence.

So here is what I commit to saying to my children. In the midst of the violence, know that I love you and that I want a just world for us all, so let’s try to bring about peace together.

Vulnerabilidad (Vulnerability)

Me encanta el video de Brené Brown: El Poder de la Vulnerabilidad. Me pone a reflexionar en lo importante que es permitirse ser vulnerable y los beneficios que se reciben con ello. El cómo vivir cada día su exacto momento, sin tantas expectativas y sin tratar de controlar resultados. El sentir esta vulnerabilidad da cabida a su vez a sentir otras emociones.

Y cuando pienso en vulnerabilidad, pienso en mi role de ser madre, ¿cómo estoy educando a mi hijo de 6 años? ¿Le estoy permitiendo desenvolverse  y encontrar su propia personalidad, y desarrollar su individualidad? ¿Aceptarse tal cual es? de tal manera que vaya aprendiendo que los momentos donde él se sienta vulnerable y se permita ese sentimiento son aquellos momentos que le darán la oportunidad de ser imperfecto y aún así amarse.

Se imaginan si el supiera desde ahorita ser vulnerable como parte normal en su vida diaria, donde ser permita sentir lo que sienta, tristeza, alegría, enojo, en fin, todas las emociones y saberlas canalizar pero sin eliminarlas, ¡wow! ¡Creo que esta es la base para relacionarnos sanamente con otras personas en nuestra vida!

Ahora bien, si me miro en un espejo, ¿qué tanto de esa vulnerabilidad me permito sentir? No mucha si soy honesta, pero estoy empezando a dejarla fluir cada día y en cada momento que se presenta y sé que vale la penar amar y decir, te amo primero; que vale la pena arriesgarse por ese sueño aun cuando no traiga el resultado que espero; que vale la pena soñar y luchar por mi sueños aun cuando la vida los va moldeando de una manera diferente a lo que pensaba. Que ser madre y aprender junto con tu hijo que sentir nos hace fuertes, nos hace ser lo que somos.

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I love Brené Brown’s video The Power of Vulnerability. It makes me realize how important it is to allow myself to be vulnerable and the benefits that come with it. Living each day in the present without expectations and without trying to control everything—that vulnerability allows me to feel other emotions.

And when I think about vulnerability, I think about my role as a mother. How am I parenting my 6-year-old? Am I allowing him to find his own identity? Am I allowing him to develop his individuality and learn to accept himself as he is? I want him to learn that the moments where he feels vulnerable—if he allows himself to feel it—those will be the moments that will give him the opportunity to be imperfect and still love himself.

Imagine if he learns at this young age how to be vulnerable and makes it a normal part of his life, where he recognizes what he is feeling—sadness, joy, anger, and all the emotions—and knows how to accept them and to channel them without eliminating them…WOW! I believe this is the foundation to have healthy relationships in our life!

Now, if I look in a mirror, how much vulnerability have I allowed myself? Not much if I am honest, but I am starting to let it flow each day and in every moment that presents itself.  I know that it is worth it to be the first one to say “I love you.” I know that it is worth it to risk everything for a dream even when the result is not what I hoped for. I know it is worth it to dream and fight for my dreams even when life shapes them in a different way that what I had planned. And I know that it’s worth it to learn, along with my son, how to be vulnerable. It will make us strong, it will make us who we are.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Our Refuse To Abuse® domestic violence prevention campaign with the Seattle Mariners was highlighted in the New York Times this past week, calling out the “proactive approach” and noting that “the campaign has promoted safe, healthy relationships.”

An important article on the racial parenting divide as the media continues to discuss Adrian Peterson.

Congratulations to Sarah Deer, named a 2014 MacArthur Fellow this week! “The MacArthur Fellowship will change my life in a number of ways, but more importantly it will allow me to do more focused work on the passion that I have for justice for Native women.”

News you can relate to

We—along with the rest of the country and world—have our eyes on Ferguson, Missouri. This edition of our news round-up features some of the amazing writers who are sharing their voice, perspective, experience. Here are just a few:

The Murder of Black Youth is a Reproductive Justice Issue

When Parenting Feels Like a Fool’s Errand: On the Death of Michael Brown

Why I Don’t Call the Police

Call of the wild

Survive, reproduce. Survive, reproduce. For 3.5 billion years.

I love science. I love how Neil deGrasse Tyson from Cosmos has become a superstar, and how he has lead people to gasp at galaxies. I like astrophysics okay, but mostly because it serves to put my true love—biology—into that bigger context.

Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife
Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife

Yesterday, I hung out with 100 people who work in schools, health care, and social services on projects that support pregnant and parenting teenagers. We’ve been getting together with folks in this field because domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are all too common experiences for teens who are pregnant or have recently had a baby. We were all there to learn about the impact of trauma on the brain (more science) and what we can do to promote healing and resilience.

I eavesdropped on the conversations around me and heard people discussing the teens and babies they help, and the circumstances of their own pregnancies and the pregnancies of people they know. It made me wonder: How it is that we have birth control but still don’t use it all that intentionally? Regardless of our big brains, many of us are relying on the same biological laws that dictate the offspring of the mosquito, otter, and orca.

Sexual reproduction evolved 1.2 billion years ago. Contraceptive technologies were invented in the 20th century. Let’s be generous, round up, and say we have been able to have sex without reproducing for 100 years. Put in this perspective, I’m surprised that I’m surprised. I mean, we haven’t really been at this deciding to have babies for very long, so how could we expect to have a smoothly running social machine around it?

One reason we aren’t being as smart as we can be about reproductive decisions is that sexism is still a thing. Men still control and attempt to control women’s reproductive rights. This goes on politically and in intimate relationships.

Ageism is also still a thing. What other than ageism—and let’s be honest, fear—has us withholding information about reproduction and all forms of birth control from teens?  Some teens struggle (mostly alone) with their deeply held desires to have a child.  While other teens, once pregnant, reject adults shaming them—and rightly so.  Teens in general are suffering as a result of our not trusting them with information about sexuality and reproduction. Ageism and fear are both terrible excuses for our behavior.

Is there any way to speed up our social evolution so that we can all have control over our decisions? Or are we destined to remain . . . wild?