Posted on | May 4, 2016 | 11 Comments
It was a busy morning… like all mornings are when you’re juggling getting ready for work with pregnancy, fixing breakfast, and mothering a six year old. There were the normal fights over what to wear (both mine and his) and the battle of “just try one bite or no (insert some sort of bonus)” between Banks and J.
It was, by all accounts, just a normal morning.
There was a twinge of sadness in the air, mine, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just felt… off. As a result, I was a bit more subdued, a little less exuberant about heading out the door and getting J to school.
We had pulled out of the driveway and started down the street when all of a sudden, the silence of the car was broken by a sweet, tender voice.
“Oooooh. Oooooooooooooh. Oooooh. Ooooooooooooooh…”
I smiled a little and looked back in my rearview mirror. There was J, buckled in and clutching his lunchbox.
“I had a dream so big and loud, I jumped so high I touched the clouds…Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-a-ohhhh”
He was singing. He was singing about how it was going to be the best day of his life. His li-i-i-i-i-i-ife.
And something in his high tenor struck me and suddenly my tears began to fall uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop. I cried all the way to his school and after I dropped him off, I called Banks and cried some more. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen. It was J’s first field trip for school so we thought maybe, just maybe that was all it was. Maybe I was sad because my little boy was growing up. Maybe it was just the pregnancy hormones that made me feel like somehow I was never going to see my child again… like something awful was going to happen and it wouldn’t, ever, be the best day of our lives.
But Banks eventually calmed me down.
I went to work. I did a few lawyerly things.
And it wasn’t until 9:00am that the bleeding began.
By 9:30 I was in my OB’s office. I waited an eternity filled with smiling pregnant women and exhausted mothers with the tiniest of infants in carriers beside them.
Finally they called my name and I shuffled, eyes downcast as though I had shamed myself before these women… as though I’d done something wrong that had left me on the other side of their happy. I couldn’t make eye contact. I couldn’t smile at the babies who cooed and smacked in my direction.
The ultrasound nurse was kind but she kept the screen tilted away from me. I heard the click and pull of each measurement, each silent picture of what was happening inside me. Still no one spoke. The doctor came in and in a moment his voice pounded out into the silence:
“Measure it again,” he said.
And I knew.
I knew what they weren’t saying a moment before they said it. Just no heartbeat. No growth for two weeks. The baby was gone.
The baby is gone.
They gave me a room to cry in then walked me out the back door into the cold lobby. With no pregnant women to watch me pass, I let the tears fall. I went home, alone, to wait for Banks to arrive… to wait for the hospital to call to schedule the procedure that would take away what was left of the life I never had a chance to know.
They called around 1 and we went back to the doctor, ushered into a room with a giant wire torso of a pregnant woman hanging from the wall. Around her belly a gaping red sash hung like the beginnings of my nightmare.
There were papers to sign and date and initial and then we were sent to the hospital for a backless green gown and white knee high stockings.
“Are you pregnant,” the woman asked at the check in, and the tears began again as I whispered out “Not anymore.”
And then they took me back to my room to wait the few hours before and until it would all be over. I thought it would just be me and Banks. I thought we would stare at each other and cry.
But we were not alone from the moment the first nurse came into the room.
My hours there were suddenly full of women with hugs and stories of loss that they whispered and braided around me until I was encapsulated by their strength. My nurse suffered through two losses. My anesthesiologist assistant, five. They held my hands and squeezed and nodded and just… Knew. They knew the way only women can. They caught and dried my tears before they fell. They brought me into their arms and rocked me gently into the sleep I needed to carry on with the task ahead of me.
In a moment I was asleep.
And then, a tiny lifetime later, I was awake.
But our baby is gone.
And for all of their strength and compassion, I am still broken.
Posted on | April 25, 2016 | 7 Comments
I always wanted more than one child. I wanted two or three or a dozen… anything other than just one. And when I got divorced after J was born, I thought that dream was gone.
Then I met Banks and we fell in love and, wonders never cease, he wanted kids, too. A few years down the road we got married and still wanted kids so we thought we’d give it the old college try. I was stoked. I always wanted a house full of kids.
And then four months in to our marriage, suddenly everything changed.
I remember it vividly. I was run down from work and life and juggling all the things. And as I thought about the idea of another child, a terrifying jolt of fear shot through me.
What on earth was I thinking? Why did I want more kids? Wouldn’t J feel replaced? Wouldn’t he think that maybe he wasn’t a part of this new family that Banks and I were creating? Would it be weird for him that his last name was different? Would he feel like an outsider in his own home? WHAT WAS I THINKING? I started to feel as though maybe Banks and I needed to have a long talk about the reality of having another child. It wasn’t just J I was worried about. I was getting old… I was already fighting a losing battle against weight gain. I’d given up running for a herniated disc. I just wasn’t exactly at a point in my life where I felt like I could handle a baby.
The sleepless nights.
The painful tug and sting of nursing.
The endless green and yellow runny diapers.
No. No, I wasn’t sure I’d thought this through. I have a kid who is pretty great. He doesn’t crap his pants anymore. He gets himself dressed in the mornings. His school is… FREE.
I’d made up my mind. I was going to talk to Banks about it. We just needed more time. We just needed to really think about how this would affect the dynamics of our family… our little family of three that was working pretty darn well, thank you very much. I was already so worn down and exhausted… how could I think I would be able to handle a BABY.
I’d talk to him that night, I decided. Or maybe in the morning.
Because I was just really tired and didn’t feel all that well.
It was probably just a cold, you know, something I picked up from J or work.
I just needed a quick nap and an early bedtime and I’d feel better and we could talk about how I might be just a little too old and too anxious to have another baby.
The next morning I called in sick to work. I just couldn’t get out of bed.
“It’s the flu, I know it,” I told myself. And hauled it over to the Minute Clinic for testing.
Not the flu. Not a virus. Not at all what I suspected. Suddenly all my anxiety made sense. Suddenly all the fear and terror at bringing a new life into our family made blinding, perfect, plus sign sense.
We’re having a baby.
Ready or not.
Posted on | April 6, 2016 | 5 Comments
A few weeks ago, I opened my email to a message from a local church leader, inviting me to come visit with him about my beliefs on some of the bills that have been introduced lately across our country, dealing with (among other things) LGBT marriage. His email was in response to a fired off email I sent him earlier in the week asking that I be removed from his “marketing” list due to an email I received telling me to support one of those bills. I thought it was very brave of him to invite me to talk, so I accepted. Because really that’s what is missing in our society right now… polite conversation that doesn’t resort to name calling, about the things we disagree on.
It was with great trepidation that I shook his hand and sat down across from him to talk. See, I have pretty strong beliefs when it comes to What Would Jesus Do, and what it means to be a Christian. I believe whole-heartedly in the ideas that Jesus preached about love and patience and embracing people from all walks of life. So I was worried about sitting down with someone who was a church leader and who seemed to feel so very differently. But I guess I thought that maybe through talking to each other, I would see that we don’t feel so very differently. I thought there would be a common ground we could find where we’d smile and say “Well, yes… THAT we can agree on.”
I wish I could say I came away from that meeting feeling like we found a common ground and that his and my “versions” of Christianity were simply parallel lines that could maybe swerve a bit somewhere down the line and find their way back together.
But I can’t.
Instead, I left that meeting feeling sad and heartbroken about the future of the religion I hold so dear.
I have always believed that when Jesus said “Feed my sheep,” he meant feed and care for them all. He didn’t mean lift and separate them into acceptable sheep and unacceptable sheep. I believe that when Paul wrote to the Galatians “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus,” he actually meant that in God’s eyes we are all the same. As in, indistinguishable.
But in that large and sprawling mega-Church, I was told that Christianity is, “by its nature intended to be exclusive.” I was told that Jesus selected only 12 disciples because he meant for Christianity to be limited in scope. At least that’s what I understood this particular leader to be saying.
When I left after our 1.5 hour meeting, I was depressed. I sat in my car in their wide and expansive parking lot, and I cried into my steering wheel, because I can’t imagine my Jesus turning anyone away from the path to righteousness. I can’t imagine my Jesus saying “I’m sorry, you don’t fit my image of Christian, so I’m going to have to ask you to sit in the back.” I can’t imagine my Jesus embracing a church that says “All are welcome to worship… but you have to fit in this neat box right here if you want to actually be an accepted MEMBER of this congregation.”
Though I had hoped to find a common ground, I left the meeting reminded that my Christianity and his can never see eye to eye. Because my Jesus, my Christianity, is not exclusive by nature. It is wide armed and smiling and ready to forgive again, and again, and again… even if you are exactly like me and you screw up over, and over, and over.
Because we’re not perfect, and I don’t believe that Jesus charged us to go out and find a particular brand of perfect-ish people to embrace into the church… I believe that Jesus charged us to feed all His sheep with the love and compassion of His church. And that doesn’t mean just allowing them to worship in the next pew. Because what sort of message does it send, really, if you tell someone “No, no… you can worship here with us. But you can’t be a part of our membership.”
Doesn’t it say “you’re not as good as me?”
Doesn’t it say “I think I’m better than you?”
Do either of those things sound like something Jesus would say?
So to the church leader who met with me, I will reiterate what I said as I was leaving. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. Thank you for the civil discussion we engaged in.
But I extend a hearty “No, thank you” to your request that I come and worship with you, because honestly?
I like my Jesus a lot better than the one you teach.
Posted on | March 24, 2016 | 2 Comments
“Oh my God, I am heartfully sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishment, but most of all because I have offended Thee my God, Who is all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.”
I’ve always liked the Act of Contrition prayer, even though I’m not Catholic. I like it because it embraces the weakness of man, the humility required when we face God, and the resolution we must make to always do our best to live in the light and example of the one we pray to.
Even if you aren’t Catholic, even if you aren’t Christian, I think the idea that there’s a way to apologize… in a global sense… for being wrong or doing wrong or even thinking wrong is a nice idea. It’s the warm fuzzy in a world of “oops;” that idea that somehow by saying we’re sorry we can start to make amends. That by apologizing we can show the truest intent of our hearts.
This morning, my heart cries out for healing and for understanding and for some form or sort of absolution from the sins of myself and the sins of my country.
You guys, I’m absolutely heart sick over the fear and hate that is swirling around us. And I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to heal and tend and minister to the broken around me because sometimes, it seems, broken doesn’t realize it is broken. So I pray for absolution from the sins around me. Because sometimes that is all I can do.
Yesterday, in North Carolina, a group of elected officials called a special session to push through a hastily written bill designed to protect discrimination of all kinds.
It’s now illegal in North Carolina to take a child into an opposite sex restroom if the building is “government controlled.”
It’s now illegal in North Carolina to file a discrimination lawsuit within the State for a company or entity who refuses service to an African American, a Veteran, an elderly person, a disabled person, or a homosexual or transsexual individual.
It is now, heart-breakingly legal and legislatively approved to openly express your hate in the once great state of North Carolina.
Do you understand what this means for so many people? Not just people you disagree with. Not just people you don’t like. This bill affects EVERYONE.
And I wonder what Jesus would say today, to the shop owner who tells a gay couple to leave. I wonder what Jesus would do when faced with the broken spirit and broken hearts that woke up this morning to learn that they no longer can depend on those around them to act with decency and humanity.
No. No, I don’t wonder at all.
I know what Jesus would do… at least I think I do. Look inside your heart and tell me what you see there.
Do you hear the heart rending sound? Do you feel the soft wetness against your cheek? Do you know the heart ache that is Heaven today?
Jesus is weeping.
And I, with my soft and heavy heart, join him.
Posted on | March 3, 2016 | 2 Comments
I’ve started climbing steps at work.
It started out just in the mornings and afternoons, but when I was still barely reaching my minimum goal of steps, I amp-ed it up to every time I go to the bathroom. Since I’m also drinking 900 gallons of water a day, that means I’m hitting the stairwell on average 5 or 6 times each day.
I wouldn’t say it’s fun.
And if I’m being totally honest, it’s really difficult to feel like I’m accomplishing much of anything, when all I do is travel up and down the same steps. I guess it’s a lot like life in your upper 30s that way, static yet frenetic all at the same time. I feel like I’m constantly moving, rarely sleeping, and yet somehow it seems nothing is actually getting done. No matter how many times I start the dishwasher or the washing machine, it always needs to be started again with seemingly endless pairs of mismatched socks or food-stained plates. No matter how often I tell myself I’m going to stop and enjoy what’s happening, it… whatever IT is… is always finished before I seem to grasp it’s begun.
I sometimes wonder when my “real” life will start, even as I struggle to remember the moments of my childhood, all rosy and faded like one of those 1970s movie reels.
Adulthood is more about laundry than I thought it would be, you know? It’s more about bills and balancing check books and mopping floors and scrubbing toilets than doing all the things I thought I’d have the chance to do one day. And yes, it gets rough when you notice the ever-growing heaviness of the body, the ever-softening sharpness of the mind. It’s tough to step into the same house with the same creaks and groans and dust the same table over and over until you think maybe… just maybe… your whole entire world is made up of spray, swipe, repeat. It’s a lot like… climbing the same set of stairs, over and over and over again.
Today, I reluctantly pushed open the door to the stairwell again. I kicked off my work shoes and stretched in time to the ever increasing crackle in the bones of my body. Then I reluctantly took the first step down, knowing each step down would be replaced with another up, over and over until the tops of my legs started to shake with exhaustion.
But today, I noticed that each step up was a little easier than it had been yesterday. And then for a moment, I didn’t see stained concrete and bland walls. I looked around and saw me, just me, remembering to put “taking care of me” on my “To Do” list. And that’s a step forward. Even though it’s just climbing steps five times a day. Even though the sound of my breathing on the uphill swing makes me giggle and the pat of my feet is, well, more like an elephant march.
Today, I remembered that adult life isn’t staid or still or repetitious, even when you’re traveling familiar paths. Life isn’t really just about dishes and bills and getting older. It’s about taking the stairs. It’s about mixing things up. Yes, it’s sometimes about doing the same load of laundry twice, but sometimes? Sometimes it’s about noticing that even the same paths can reveal new and amazing surprises. And most of the time, it’s just about embracing where you are and choosing to create your own adventure, right there in the same places you’ve always been.
One step at a time.
Posted on | March 2, 2016 | 6 Comments
The closer we draw to November, the more sad I become.
See… here’s the thing… I love this country. I love the crazy, far-fetched, idealistic minds that created our Constitution and Bill of Rights. I mean, read this… really let it sink into your consciousness:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Do you hear the Liberty Bell ringing when you read that? Because sometimes I swear that I do. They had this dream, you know, that we could create a country where people are free to worship who they choose without repercussion. They had a dream that a country could be defensively strong and still promote peace within and take care of even the smallest and weakest of its people. Don’t believe me? Read it again. This document was crafted to create something more perfect than what they left behind. It was created to not only provide common defense of all people, but also to insure tranquility across the states. It was created to promote general welfare and, perhaps most importantly, to secure those elusive blessings of liberty.
It is the blessings of liberty that I worry most for, as November creeps toward us. See, there’s something our forefathers seemed to guess long before any of us were even a blip on the radar. They knew that there are always people who want to suppress liberty for all and grant liberty to some. That’s what they wanted to prevent. That’s the dream they held most dear… liberty. For All.
And now we find ourselves here again, in this strange little reality where a man is successfully running for president on a platform composed not of providing the blessings of liberty to all, but on strong arm bullying not just the citizens of the United States, but the world. This can not be our future, America. We are the country who gave the world hope, who gave the world a safe harbor. The country that said “it’s okay. Give US your poor and downtrodden. We will make things okay for them here.” This country that I love so very dearly has gone from men who spoke of principled dreams and ambitions for what it means to lead, to a man dropping F bombs on the campaign trail, and insisting that an entire religious group should be forced by the government to carry identification cards… you know, like the Star of David that Hitler pinned on the Jewish population.
How did we get here, America? How?
Aren’t we better than this? Aren’t we a country founded on dreams… dreams of creating a place where it’s okay to be… well… whoever you are. Even if you’re not like me. Especially if you aren’t like me. Even if you worship someone different, or love someone different. Our country was founded by people who were tired of having a government tell them what they could and could not do in their private lives. They didn’t want to be told who to worship… they wanted to be… Free.
And that sort of freedom, comes with a price. It means that in order for YOU to be free, you have to let other people be free, too.
Donald Trump wants to take freedom away from some of the citizens of this nation. He wants to tell some people that they need to flash a card and inform the world who it is they worship. He wants to draw a line, build a wall, fence in this nation that has based it’s entire existence on knocking down proverbial walls so that all men can see themselves as equals.
And if we let him say these things, if we cheer and support and laugh on cue… what’s to keep the next candidate from coming for what you believe? People are cheering when this person yells about killing people. People are cheering when he is openly mocking the way people dress, look, speak, or even sweat. People are cheering on the meanness in a way that I just never thought possible. Why are people so very angry? And better question, who has the guts to stand up and say stop. Who is going to stand up and say “enough!”
If not to Trump, then who will stop the next man or woman who rallies the angered masses and says what they want to hear. Because if you think, for one moment, that the next one isn’t waiting in the wings, you are sadly mistaken. Someone, someone right now is watching Trump speak and learning from it. Some child is watching the cheers and chants from grown men and women and learning that the new way to success in this nation is not through love, but through hate.
And that is not a lesson I want my child to learn… do you?
Better yet, do you want your neighbor’s child to learn that lesson? You know, the one whose mother and father you just flipped off on national television for being Muslim, or Black, or Hispanic. Do you want that child to learn that when he or she grows up, all they have to do is attack YOUR rights to win?
No. I’d venture to guess you don’t want that at all.
Donald Trump does not represent me or the country I believe in. And I will stand up and fight for the people he wants to marginalize. Even if I don’t agree with them. Even if we believe different things. Because that’s what being an American has always been about. I will fight for those people because they deserve the same blessings of liberty that I have.
Will you fight for them?
Our forefathers loved a dream of a nation. I share that elusive dream and dammit, I love the weird, mixed up, messed up country we live in because we are free to live it here, in any way we choose. I love this country, much as those idealistic dreamers who framed our Constitution loved it…
But I don’t think either of us like it very much right now.
Posted on | February 23, 2016 | No Comments
Last night, J and I together managed to pull his very first loose tooth out of his mouth.
He was so excited, all bright eyed and gap toothed and telling me he wasn’t sure he’d get to sleep because he couldn’t wait to see if the Tooth Fairy would come.
He was overjoyed.
And I? I tucked my hair down around my eyes and wept secretly, hidden in the corner of the room as he crowed and grinned his way to bed. Because I remembered all too well the day that tooth had arrived, in the reddened and raw gums of my baby. I remembered all too well the joy and excitement I’d felt when I ran my index finger across his little mouth and felt the tender whiteness of a brand new tooth.
My God, it wasn’t that long ago, I’d swear it.
It can’t have been so long ago that diapers were changed and lullabies were sung. Not so long since I carried him close to my chest, his warm head tucked into the curve of my neck as we walked and bounced and swayed our way through the evenings.
Those nights, those seemingly endless nights, when I ached to sleep and he cried, desperate in my ear and in my mind. Even when he was fast asleep, I heard him, remembering he was there… knowing at any moment he would need me again. He needs me much less often now.
We tucked the little tooth, that sweet reminder of my baby, into the soft white pocket of a pillow and buttoned it closed. He climbed into bed and closed his eyes tight, hoping he wouldn’t be disappointed… hoping the Tooth Fairy would whisk in during the night and buy his tiny tooth right out from under me.
Later, much later, I climbed into my own bed, cheeks still damp, eyes still misty. Somewhere, the Tooth Fairy was flying away, clutching the first of many delicate white, achingly sweet, enameled tear drops of childhood.
But here, in the quiet of my bedroom, I was cradling memories, rocking them gently and tucking them tight in the folds of my heart where the rest of my baby still lives.
Posted on | February 22, 2016 | No Comments
Last weekend, we left the comfort and safety of home to drive the long road up to my old stomping grounds in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. My sister and her family live in the area, and we had tickets to some pretty amazing Tar Heel games, so it was a trip I’d looked forward to for some time: four days of Carolina sunshine, strolls through campus, the obligatory drink on Franklin Street, and even time with family.
Who says you can’t go home again, right?
Only… as I discovered poignantly, you sort of can’t. At least not to the home you remember. At least not to the person you were when that was your home.
As I walked along the brick pathways and heard the loud music bouncing out of the fraternity houses along Columbia street, I realized that I am not the girl I was when I last walked these steps. And I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t make me a little teary-eyed, in the same way I choke up a bit when four year old choirs sing. It seems the years are catching up with me.
This fall is my twenty year high school reunion, which means that as of August, it will be twenty years since I was a cropped hair, dewy skinned freshman coasting the stairwells of Hinton James dorm. It’s been twenty years since we hung “Funeral Crossing” signs up and down our hall and held a dour-faced funeral for a suite mate’s fish before ceremoniously flushing him down the toilet. It’s been twenty years since I went to bed after watching a scary movie only to find a friend hiding in my dorm room closet wearing a monster mask. It’s been twenty years since I last threw my arms over my head and danced with abandon alongside the girls of Floor Seven to eighties music blaring from a stereo placed strategically in an open window.
I don’t often realize it’s been so long. I don’t often understand that I’m not that girl, who danced into the wee hours of the morning and laughed with eighteen year old abandon. I don’t often realize that my bikini days are over, or that even if they weren’t, this body is more lined and creased and aged than I sometimes believe. I forget that when I let my hair down, it is often dry and brittle, less lovely and free than it used to be. Much like the rest of me.
And when I do remember, when the truth rushes in that I am not the me I was, I find that I don’t want to embrace it, the way I feel I should. Rather than hold my head high and love the me I am, I want to throw it all away to be her again… the young, carefree, wanderlust youth who believed all people were good, that death, disease, and heartache would always pass her (and her loved ones) by, that any problem could be solved with a cold beer and good Michael Jackson album.
This weekend, I tried to remember what it felt and tasted like to be eighteen with the world spread out before my feet. This weekend, I walked in the footsteps of a younger me and desperately tried to scratch and claw my way back to that person I was twenty years ago. Instead, this weekend I found that I am older and not always wiser and certainly not able to dance into the night without needing to sleep for days and perhaps, you know, see a chiropractor and a podiatrist to get back in working order. This past weekend I tried desperately to go home again.
But alas, now it is Monday, and I find that I am still thirty-eight with an aching back and sore feet and now with a dull ache deep in the pit of my soul where the memories ripped fresh the old, familiar sores.
Posted on | February 16, 2016 | 3 Comments
When J was little, I thought I was busy.
I was always running after him, cleaning up messes, watching for ninja attacks from every blindside. It felt like the world was out to hurt him and I was his only ally. Anything could be dangerous to a toddler… they’re like tiny trouble magnets. I swear at one point J had the impressive ability to choke on plain yogurt.
But as busy as I thought we both were then is NOTHING compared to the busy that comes with kindergarten and after school activities.
I always thought I wanted an active kid. One who is just involved in every aspect of life: art, drama, sports, music… you name it. So I was happy when he expressed interest at a young age in T-ball and then soccer. We could handle that. They were Spring and Fall, and sure it could be a little busy, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
Then cue the interest in violin. And basketball. And tennis.
And now I have this little boy who does 8am music lessons and 5pm tennis lessons and 5:30 basketball/soccer/baseball/whatever else sport gets created between now and next season. I swear my kid would play quidditch if he could figure out how to ride my kitchen broom.
I don’t remember feeling this busy when I was kid.
I remember having a lot of… you know… PLAY time. Time to run around my back yard and build fairy houses with my sister. Time to swing as high as possible then launch out of the swing set and hope to land away from the pine trees. Time to just be… a kid. Maybe it’s because I got off a school bus at 4pm every day and had an older sister and backdoor neighbor “brother” who would meet me in the back yard to plot and plan the afternoon’s activities. Maybe it’s because I had a parent who stayed home, who had after school snacks waiting for dirty fingers to grab on their way outside.
Not for the first time, I worry that my son is missing out on so much “Kid Time” because of the structure of our daily lives. There’s really no alternative. Banks and I work. We aren’t exactly the sort of people who can afford a nanny five days a week, and besides… if we did, odds are J would just watch TV or build legos all afternoon. I don’t foresee a time when he will just willingly wander into the yard to play alone… although he will dribble a basketball in lazy circles around our patio for a good ten or fifteen minutes at a time.
I don’t want to over structure his life.
I want to leave time for building imaginary forts and attacking imaginary monsters.
But where is that time? Is it tucked in between the 6:15pm arrival at home and the 7:30 bedtime? Is it hiding during the ten minute evening shower or the thirty minute dinner? Is it giving up the tennis or soccer or basketball or baseball? Is it telling him “no, you can’t play that sport because you need to play outside for an hour. By yourself.” Is it finding a house with a backdoor neighbor the same age?
Where do YOU find the time? Because I’m running out of options. And I worry that I’m buying into the over-scheduled kid because I’ve lost all better ideas.
Posted on | February 3, 2016 | 3 Comments
Yesterday, I left work early to pick up my son.
Normally, I let him stay until 6 because he’s playing tennis and he loves it, but yesterday it was raining and I was a little scared and a lot sad because of news that had flashed up on my computer screen.
Just down the road from Mercer University, my law school alma mater, at a well-traveled convenience store, a young man… a basketball player at Mercer… was gunned down at four o’clock in the afternoon.
Four o’clock. In the afternoon.
Not in the wee hours of the morning.
Not somewhere he shouldn’t have been.
Just at a gas station down the road from his school.
And something about this tragedy, this particular horrendous and horrifying act, struck me deep in my soul, the way tragedies only hit those of us who are parents… Or those of us who love deeply, carefully, whole-soul-edly and yes, often carelessly about others. This was someone’s baby. This was someone’s pride and joy; a young man on the cusp of a business degree from a great university. And someone shot him in broad daylight. Right there, around the block from the school where he lived and studied and played basketball. In broad daylight.
I don’t know what it takes to make a person kill. I don’t understand the need to carry a gun and wave it around in a gas station parking lot. I don’t have the ability to empathize with a man or woman who needs to shoot to feel strong. But I know that there are too many lives lost because of those people… the people who are taught that being strong can only be achieved through making others fear you. There are people who are taught that the world is kill or be killed. There are children growing up in “homes” where they are shown through actions and words that he who shoots first lives longest.
And it is those broken and scarred people who robbed my little town, my little community, of a young man who could have done great things.
But what’s the answer? What is it we’re supposed to do as a town or city or state or nation, to work towards achieving a better balance… a better sense of self for these kids who are taught to kill? What is it we can do? Because I don’t believe that passing laws for gun control is the only answer. It has to start before the moment an individual who wants to kill is standing in line for a gun. It has to start at the moment a child learns that killing is somehow okay. It has to start in the dark corners of a toddler’s bedroom when he hears his father beating his mother within an inch of her life. It has to start on the street corner where a ten year old sees his beloved older brother lift the front of a t-shirt and slide a gun in the top of his pants. It has to start before the sixteen year old picks up his own gun and decides to teach his own lesson to a girl who broke his heart, or a guy who shamed him in gym.
And mostly, it has to start with taking responsibility.
Because I am responsible for the young man who shot Jibri Bryan. I am responsible for the community that raised him, that failed him, that taught him this was the answer to whatever problem he thought he was solving. I am responsible for letting that young man down.
We all are.
Because every time we turn a blind eye, every time we call a young black man a “thug,” every time we refer to “those people” when we talk about the community where most of these acts of violence originate… we are perpetuating the myth that this is how it has to be. That this is just what happens in areas of town we don’t visit, in places we’re afraid to go.
But this is not how it has to be.
Because this is not how I want my son to grow up, in a community that turns a blind eye to a portion of its population that is literally screaming for help.
I am responsible for the young man who shot Jibri Bryan because I am part of the community that created him. I am part of the world that says “you can’t be any better,” “you’re someone who won’t succeed,” and “you’re someone I won’t hire.”
And I’m tired of being a part of that community. It’s time we… all of us… make a change, internally, on how we view people, how we treat people, how we encourage people to become strong, happy, wonderful members of society.
It’s not about gun control.
It’s about so very much more.« go back — keep looking »