Donald Trumps says things that I discipline my children for!

My eldest son was at it again, torturing his younger brothers. You know the drill, he’d fake throwing a football at them. They’d scream. My ears would ring. We were running late. I was tired and stressed. I did the calm “please” technique to alter his behavior. I tried the old “counting to three” technique without any change in his aim. So I got up and removed the hard ball from his hands to which he replied, “You b**ch.” Yes, my son has learned words that I didn’t know until I was an adult. But, contrary to his desires that morning, such disrespect for his mother earned him a serious consequence of being grounded from outside play and the worst punishment of all (in current scale) – “no trampoline today.”

Reflecting later, I realized that one of the front runners in the political field this year is a man saying the very things to which I dole out serious consequences. I am working hard to shape my young boys into caring, considerate, compassionate men and I have before me the very antithesis of this behavior seeking applause from his supporters.

“I love the old days, you know? You know what I hate? There’s a guy totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed punch back anymore…. I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.” –Donald Trump on how he would handle a protester in Nevada, sparking roaring applause from the audience, February 22, 2016

Here, one of America’s most “powerful” men (only because people seem to want to equate power with money) is expressing his desire to punch another human being in the face in response to an action. What do I tell my boys over and over? “We use our words. We do not hurt other people.”  “Hands are for helping, not hurting.” It is in their very nature to respond physically. My boys are always wrestling. They are always walloping each other. It is with time and with love and with constant correction that I shape them to respond to each other with kindness, to see another’s point of view, to control their temper and their bodies, to seek peace and reconciliation. It is an exhausting process and yet I persist because it matters.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s, like, incredible.” –Donald Trump, speaking at a rally in Sioux Center, Iowa as the audience laughed, January 23, 2016

There were 23 mass shootings over the course of 20 days starting February 19th, from California to our neighbors here in Wilkinsburg. Across 17 states, 128 people were shot and 42 died (from Esquire). There is unspeakable grief for at least 42 families. And, this is just “mass shootings” and doesn’t count the shooting deaths of just 1 or 2 people (like the remarkable physician in Texas who was killed by her husband last week, leaving two young children behind). Should one of our most visible “leaders” be promoting violence, the kind of violence that kills people? The kind of violence that takes kids from their parents, parents from their kids, brothers and sisters from each other, best friends split forever? Violence that leaves emptiness and pain in the hearts of so many.  Violence the type that I talk to my sons about and ban them from video games that make it seem realistic and that disassociate it from the pain and consequences it produces.

“Women: You have to treat them like s–t.” –Donald Trump (italicized quotes from a recent compilation)

I don’t even know where to begin on this one. I am a single woman raising three incredible sons whom I adopted from the foster care system because there are kids in this country who need a family and need love. And I am trying my hardest to raise my sons to respect people – all people, men, women, children, people of different backgrounds, people of different faiths, people of different skin tones (because our household is a blended tone one), people of all walks of life. In fact, I am teaching my boys not to treat anyone like s—t!

I am a lucky, lucky mother. My children are young. They do not watch the “real” TV, they watch episodes of Pound Puppies and Octonauts. They are not exposed to the news. They probably don’t even know that Donald Trump exists. I am lucky. I do not have to explain (yet) how a grown man who is displaying so many things that every parent works to correct in their children is getting so much attention. I do not have to explain why people are afraid and how their fear is driving their praise of this behavior rather than disgust. I have time to prepare.

But, one day we will talk about this complicated mess. And I only hope that on that day, I will have a much better role model that I will be pointing my sons to and saying, “My boy, that is the kind of man you need to be. Strong and courageous. Kind and compassionate. Empathetic and understanding. Humble and willing to serve. Be the man God has created you to be.”

 

 

 

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Light in the darkness of fear

“Mommy, can you please give me some food?”
He screams into the air.
Tears stream.
He sits on the edge of the bed.
“I’m starving. I haven’t had anything to eat!”

 

He is paralyzed. He can’t get off the bed.
He can’t face the prospect of going downstairs by himself.
At night.

 

“I have dreams of getting killed. I can’t do it.”
“Please, Mommy, get me some food.”

 

He bargains.
He pleads.
“Please, Mommy, get me a granola bar.”

 

I sit against the wall.
Recording the conversation on the iPad on my lap.
Encouraging him to venture downstairs.
Refusing to get up for him.
“Which feeling is more powerful?” I ask.

 

He is relentless.
He is persistent.
The piano tinkles.
There’s a sudden realization that the other brother must be downstairs then.
He pops out of bed and runs down for a snack.

 

I sit and wait.
Peace returns to the room.
“Please, Mommy, can you read Harry Potter now?”

 

It is paralyzing. Fear is paralyzing. I know it. I have my own fears. Will I be a good enough Mommy? Will these boys grow up independent and courageous? Will I forever be alone? I have few paralyzing fears, though there are moments of them – when your car slips on ice, when there’s a new sound in the house at night and you remember you’re the only adult.

 

Yet I sense that our world is troubled by fear of late. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the different. Fear of the random and sudden violence. Fear of the new. And maybe this is not a new experience – maybe it is just a resurgence or a cycle of difficult times. Whatever it is, I have noticed and felt it.

 

But we are not to live in fear. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…” (Luke 2:10-11)

 

Advent; the season of waiting.
(I know you’ve been waiting for a post from me. My laptop crashed a few weeks ago and all got off track, but it’s back on again. Maybe I can blame that new puppy somehow; after all, she’s chewing up the carpet and currently destroying Super Tall Guy’s old shoe while I type.)
Advent, a waiting filled with a sense of peace. A confidence of knowing that there is hope.

 

That there is a reason to celebrate. There is light within us. Light for the darkness without.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” ~MLK Jr.

 

Let us have Love this Christmas season and hold up the light.

 

Merry Christmas to all. 

 

Near Death Experiences Really Should be Teachable Moments

It’s crazy how insane the past couple weeks have been. The movers handled the large items and friends carried loads of boxes, but our new townhome sat piled ceiling-high with boxes for a week as we spent time outside with the neighbors and packed up for a beach vacation.

Sand is always good. Sand that has been dredged from the bottom of the ocean is near perfection. There’s not a sharp sea shell in it. You can dig and dig and dig out a hole large enough for boys to jump in and be completely hidden from sight. You can drizzle it into the forest where the trolls live while waiting to save Princess Ana from the accidental strokes of Elsa. You can mold a horse to be galloped upon. You can mold sandballs of wet sand dabbed in hot fine sand to threaten siblings with. You can rest.

There are few things more relaxing than sun and sand and the lap of waves. There are also few things more terrifying than the power and pull of water.

The warm sun was coaxing my eyes to close as I sat upon a boogie board and watched the three boys jump in the surf. After each wave, I would identify them – The First One shakes his head to get the water out of his ears. Super Tall Guy wipes the water from the top of his head to his chin. Mr. Ornery bounces and bounces and bounces. He comes up from under a wave and bounces as he awaits the next. His ringlets bounce. His body bounces. His arms bounce.

And suddenly there was no bounce. I looked again. There was his head very close to Super Tall Guy, but there was no bounce. They were too far out. They were too far out to see their faces, but I was on my feet and headed out there. A glance at the lifeguards on their stand showed that they were not going to be of any help. The panic started to rise as each wave pushed me back from my singular goal – to reach my boys who were being swept out to sea. But I wasn’t getting there fast enough. Do I scream? Yell? The three adults near them were close enough though. One man reached for Mr. Ornery and pushed into shore. One man grabbed Super Tall Guy and guided him in. I watched The First One start to swim.

Mr. Ornery wrapped his arms and legs around me as he clung sobbing in my arms. I tearfully thanked the Helpers. I praised Super Tall Guy for clear attempts to save his younger brother and keep him afloat. Suddenly I panicked again looking for The First One. Where was he? Mom, where is he? Super Tall Guy, where is he? I rushed to the lifeguards and then turned and found him. He had swum beside the current and then into shore. We all hugged.

“Look for the helpers,” I reminded the boys as Mr. Fred Rogers so eloquently stated. Rogers HelpersWhen you are in trouble, look for the helpers. They will be there.

Ask Mr. Ornery how his vacation was and he’ll say “I was almost dead.” We had to talk a lot about it that night. We talked about safety. We talked about the power of water. We talked about the helpers. We talked over and over about how you “NEVER go out past your waist” and you “NEVER swim alone.” We talked about going back in again.

And he did. Right back into the water the next day. I watched much more intensely. And I watched the new day’s lifeguard splash over to him and remind him in words and body language – “NEVER go out past your waist.”

And yet he did. Bouncing along right into the deep. This boy is going to require a whole lot of “teachable moments.” And he’s going to need a whole lot of Helpers!

But I, for one, would like to skip the “near death” moments the next time he needs to learn a lesson.

Then he bled….

Every few months I settle into my bed a little before exhausted-brain time and write a short “letter” to the boys in a journal for them. I know that I’m not going to remember everything that they do. I know that I will forget so many details of their lives and will regret that. So I try to chronicle some of the “momentous” moments. (Naturally, boy number three keeps getting the short end of the straw….same way that there are fewer professional photos of him!  Why are some clichés so real?!).

Last night I picked up the pen to tell Mr. Ornery how exciting it is that he finished his “season” at the day care center. He has been there almost every single week of his life since the age of three months. There were times that he waved good-bye to me, times that he needed just one more kiss, times that he needed to run and jump into my arms, and times that I thrust him into Miss Kathy’s arms, knowing that her embrace would soothe him and he’d soon be on with his day. But there were many days that I walked out of the door with tears in my eyes, pausing before I could drive on. Being a working mom with my precious children with someone else every day was not something I had dreamed of. And yet, I also knew that they were well-loved, well-cared for and that they were growing and learning and thriving. And so….I would whisper comforting words to other mothers as they walked out with glistening eyes as well.

Last night I also wanted to write to Super Tall Guy to tell him in his own private journal (rather than the Open Letter) about his experience over the past two weeks. Yet as I chronicled the events and glowed about his bravery and how much I had been worried about him, I realized that I just couldn’t put the emotions into words. For almost two weeks, I have been wound so tense. I have lived with a baseline level of worry and stress and anxiety about my boy’s recovery.

How could I describe the panicked look upon his face when he bolted upright in bed at 9:02 pm last Monday? How could I tell him my fear when streaks of blood stained the tissues that he spit into? The shake of his head when I told him we were going to the hospital? The wide-eyed gazes of his younger brothers who had aroused with the sudden change in energy level in the room? The concern in my heart as I chatted with his ENT doctor during my almost red-light-running rush to the hospital? The determination in my voice as I announced to the Emergency Room attendant that he was bleeding after his T&A and we needed to go straight back?

The panic in my stomach as I watched him spit out clots of blood and saliva? The fear as they wheeled him into the operating room even though the on-call attending physician hadn’t made it to the building yet? The beat of my steps pacing an empty surgical waiting room at 11:15 at night? The silence in my response to the cleaning staff’s amicable question, “How are you?” (I had no answer….I had no idea how I was….).

The tears that eventually escaped in staccato bursts as I tried to pull myself together. The texts sent into the air to reach out to family and friends for prayers. Sister and mother who stayed awake throughout the night for electronic updates. The kind response from a friend over an hour away willing to come to the hospital (“You shouldn’t be alone now.”)  The warmth of the hug from a nearby friend who did jump in her car and sat with me for a bit….catching up on family happenings as if we had just met up for a cup of coffee.  Plain joy and gratefulness to once again look down at my son, my boy, my angelpost bleed….sleeping once again in the recovery room.

All of that and more, I just couldn’t write for him. Not last night. Not in his journal.

But maybe….someday…..he might read the writings of his mother who sends out her heart to friends and family across the void. Because it is through connecting that we are real and through loving each other that we carry on.

For now, I hug him every moment I can and whisper “I love you” so much more than I did.

And I rejoice in the cheeseburger that broke his 11 day fast and the smile that skirts his face as he jumps on his bike once more. Every day stronger. Every day more alive.

Every day more lovely and surrounded in love.