Living In The Overlap

img_7171I’ve been thinking about boys lately. Not the way I used to, when I was a boy-crazed teenager. (But that was fun too!) I’ve been thinking about the boys I’m raising, as a mom, as a woman. I want them to be the kind of boys worthy of someone’s love and trust one day. I want them to be the kind of boys who stand up for what is right; who speak up for those who need a voice–even when it is hard. I want them to be the kind of boys who are not afraid of emotion, but find strength in the moments that make them feel. I want them to be the kind of boys who somehow get it that they need to be bigger than the privilege they were born into. I want them to be the kind of people who leave the world a better place than they found it. Not in spite of them being boys, but because they are boys. Truth be told, I think boys are pretty amazing.

Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of. As much as the stereotypes about girls made me feel confined and angry growing up, the ones about boys did too. Sugar and spice and everything nice?! I for one, was definitely more slugs and snails than sugar; and knew many a boy far sweeter than I—with just the right balance of spice. I was the only girl in my family, sandwiched between a younger brother and older cousins. I learned how to use a power drill and pitch a tent before I could drive, and I never believed I had to choose between building forts and baking cupcakes. And neither should my boys.

My whole life primed me to be a BoyMom.

It started with my younger brother. I was truly my brother’s keeper during times of family turmoil, and in turn, he was my first best friend. He was all at once quiet, diplomatic, and sensitive. Able to keep things inside that I, in my girly-blurty urgency, could not. He showed love and kindness with a subtlety that somehow meant more because it was coming from him. When he held your hand or hugged you, you paid attention, because it didn’t come easily.

As a teacher, before I had my own kids, I noticed the same thing with my students. The girls love easily, they make cards, give hugs, and stay in after school to sharpen pencils. The boys wait and observe. Will you be funny? Will you understand them? Will you even try to get to know them? Once they come around, they are yours, loyal to the end.

My favorite storybook heroes were boys. I’m sorry Gloria Steinem, I really am a feminist; but if I’m honest, the boys in my childhood stories ignited my imagination the most. I loved a good adventure and other than Pippi Longstocking and Lucy Pevensie, most of the books I read were filled with boys. I wanted to explore caves with Tom Sawyer, never-grow-up with Peter Pan, and trek though the Misty Mountains with Bilbo Baggins. Charlie Bucket was another favorite. Who doesn’t admire a kind-hearted, family oriented kid who earned the trust and love of a zany candy maker like Willy Wonka? Just when I was leaving the world of childhood adventure to gather dust on bookshelves, Harry Potter came along. I was hooked again and wanted nothing more than to visit the world of Hogwarts and head to Hogsmeade for a butter beer.

Everything I experienced in life told me that there was more to boys than noise and dirt.

Now, as the mother of two boys, they are often a blur of messy chaos racing through the house. There are many moments I live in fear of destruction—and muddy floors. I’ve had to strip down my little one in front of the house on rainy days, dumping water and mud from boots and wringing out clothes; only to carry his wet squishy body to the tub to rid him of caked-on dirt.

I have had to wildly search my house for dozens of snails when my first-born decided to “rescue” them from the garden and relocate them to his play fire station…in his bedroom. I have found banana slugs in pockets on drives home from hikes… stowed away as a hopeful new pet. “But Mom, his name is Pizza and he wants to live with me.”

I’ve had to leave campgrounds and tents to frantically race down windy mountain roads in search of ER rooms for X-rays of little, bony arms and legs. I’ve anxiously watched skin be glued and pupils be dilated in search of concussions.

And the potty talk is Over-The-Top. I would be rich if I had just a penny for every time my boys bring up topics like farting, burping, or target-peeing on some unsuspecting object (that I am usually left to clean and scrub). And if I could collect a dime for all the times a squealing, naked body has streaked across my living room, I’d be on a boat to Fiji with a fruity drink in my hand—never to return.

They fight. A Lot. Even though they are six years apart, one is not more mature than the other, at least not consistently. There are enough dirty looks, flying fists, and insults in my house to fill up an episode of Game of Thrones. Every. Single. Day.

But, they make me laugh.

My youngest one will often rub my back filled with empathy and say, “I’m sooo sorry Mommy, that you don’t have a wiener.”  He is genuinely so concerned, I just don’t have the heart to tell him that I am not sorry one bit, and he can take worrying about my lack of a wiener off of his to-do list.

And here is an actual conversation we had about bodily functions (loudly…in the middle of a store!):

Him (exuberantly): I farted!

Me: You can just say, excuse me.

Him: No, I dooon’t waaaant to say eck-cuze me.

Me: Why?

Him: Because then you won’t know that I farted!

And they are tender.

My nine-year old takes everything in and sits with his feelings. He’s a thinker. He is the type of kid to root for the underdog and notice injustice. He cried when he read Where the Red Fern Grows, and when I took him to see The Phantom of the Opera he was deeply moved by the story and the music. He still likes to be tucked in at night and can’t sleep without his dog curled up beside him. (If it were up to him we’d have hundreds more–all rescues.)

My three-year old climbs into bed with me every morning and pushes our tummies together under the covers. He is always ready with hugs and kisses upon departures or arrivals and calls me “Fweety-Pie” more often than Mommy. When I lay with him at night before bedtime, he rubs my cheeks and says, “Wook at that toot wittle face!” with so much love in his eyes it’s palpable.

As the mother of two boys, I bear witness daily to what I’ve always known is true— Boys are as complex as girls; and just like girls, cannot be boiled down to bumper sticker slogans and generalizations. Boys and girls are not predisposition to be one way, to choose sides. We share so much just being human. I live in the overlap of boys and girls and it is a beautiful, silly, and sometimes loud and dirty, place to be.

My boys may be made of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails. But if you look closely, you’ll find that they have bathed and named the slugs, rescued the snails, and snuggled the puppy dog tails lovingly with muddy hands.

Dear Trump Supporters, Let’s Talk. I’m Listening (Really)

 

I woke up this morning, way before I should have, and caught my breath in the dark; remembering what happened last night. I keep reading articles and posts on social media imploring us to move forward with support and kindness toward each other. I also see so much despair, disbelief, and sadness in my news feed. My social network is overflowing with similar feelings to mine, mirroring my emotions. But maybe that is the problem. Maybe that is what got us here, to this place we are today—A nation truly divided.

Beyond the confines of my social groups, my Facebook friends, my favorite news sites and reporters, there is profound joy, gratitude, and rejoicing at the very same news which shook me to my core. On election night, as the states on our country map kept turning red, it was a visual of how far apart my ideals and values are from the majority of my country. At least that is how it feels today.

I have read the pleas from several eloquent, seasoned reporters and news personalities, to continue the conversation so that we can heal our nation. As Dan Rather so eloquently put it:

The world is on edge. The country is deeply divided…Huge segments of the American public are in panic – going through the shock of grief. This is the world that is now Trump’s to contend with. Do we really know what we have wrought? This is a conversation that I need you to be a part of. Do not opt out. Your voice matters now more than ever.

It seems insurmountable to find a path forward right now, when I do not see myself reflected in the values and beliefs of my leader. But I have to try. For our kids, our women, our people of color, our LGBT community, and the America that I believe we are; I have to try.

My son is going to come downstairs this morning wondering about the outcome of last night’s election, he is going to look to me for assurance that we will all be OK. I don’t know how to put him at ease, when I need reassuring myself. Will we be ok?

Our new president has insulted countless groups of people based on color, gender, economic status, body type and disabilities. He has lied. He has name-called. He has threatened. He has said things about, and done things to women, that are unimaginable to me from the leader of our great nation.

But now it is all OK. He has permission. Everyone taking their cues from him about how to treat each other, has permission too. At least, that is how it feels to me today. But in an effort to be the change I wish to see in the world—and set an example for my kids. I am not going to make assumptions. I am going to ask for clarification. I want to have a productive, much-needed conversation. I want to share my feelings in hopes that you will share yours. I want to talk. I want to listen. I want to try to understand.

So here goes, absent of sarcasm, snark, or any tone of condescension.

This is how I feel today.

I am scared because it feels like your vote says it’s allowed to devalue women, reduce them to objects- to be judged and ranked. The shirts and slogans, Trump That Bitch, Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica, Donald Trump, Finally Someone With Some Balls, and She’s a Cunt Vote For Trump, were not funny. They scared me. They were offensive, threatening, abusive and denigrating to women. Do you feel that way? Do you hate us? Do you think we are less?

I am worried because it feels like your vote says it’s ok to lash out and ridicule people’s physical features, body types, or anything that comes to mind, as a way to disagree with their point of view. Do you really feel this way? Should name calling and put downs be part of productive discourse? Do you condone it?

I am ashamed because it feels like your vote says that people of color are less than, are all poverty stricken and uneducated, are terrorists and criminals. Do you agree with this? Is that really what your vote means?

I am frightened because It feels like your vote says it’s reasonable to threaten others with physical violence if they offer a differing viewpoint. Is this ok? Will threats and fear become prevalent in our political climate? In our society as a whole?

I am sad because it feels like your vote says that loving families made up of two same-sex partners do not qualify as a family; do not deserve to benefit from the basic rights that all married couples benefit from in important matters of medical emergencies, health care, and child guardianship. Will couples lose their same-sex marriage benefits and not be allowed to marry or have civil unions?

I am fearful because it feels like your vote means women will lose life-saving and preventative reproductive health care; resulting in substandard procedures, unnecessary suffering, and a loss of decision-making power over our reproductive rights—even in situations where the mother and baby’s lives are at risk. Will this happen?

I have so many more questions, but this feels like enough to start the conversation.

As I drove home this morning from dropping my kids off at school, I passed a neighbor’s house, a Trump supporter. He had a large sign on his lawn that said, Thank You America. I was crying in my car, with a head full of unknowns and worries. I wanted to pull over and knock on his door and ask if we could talk. But remembering his truck, a permanent fixture in front of his house for the last year, with signs like: Lock Her Up, Lies Lies Lies, and Hillary For Prison, I was not brave enough to stop.

But I want to be brave enough to start the conversation somehow. I don’t want to know how everything would have been worse if Hillary had been elected. I don’t want to talk about her emails or Benghazi. Believe it or not, I don’t want to talk about Donald Trump or any of the statements he’s made, or actions he’s taken, that make me so worried for the future. I don’t want to know why you didn’t vote for Hillary, I want to know why you voted for Trump? (With no sarcasm or insinuation, honestly.)

I want to talk about what happens now? What did your vote for Trump mean to you? Why do you feel he is the best leader for us? How do you see our nation coming together again and healing? Who do you see in your vision of our country? What does America look like to you when it is Great Again? Do we all have a place in it?

I am one of those Americans going through shock and grief. In grief it is hard to see beyond; to imagine the healing. I have more questions than I have answers and I feel helpless. In an effort to find a path forward, and to heal; we need to have the hard conversation. Let’s start talking, respectfully and openly. I am listening. I will not opt out, will you?

I’m With Her

Tuesday’s election carries so much weight; for my two boys, our country, and the future of our planet. When I read anything suggesting that Donald Trump is within reach of the presidency, I get mad. To me, a vote for Trump is like an erratic driver on the road; it could potentially have an imminent and catastrophic result on my life as I know it, and the lives of my kids, but I can’t do anything about it…except cast my vote and hope sanity prevails. And that is what is different about this election. We are in unprecedented (and in my opinion dangerous) territory if the best ‘woman’ doesn’t win. President Obama said it best— If you can’t be trusted with a twitter account, you can’t be trusted with the nuclear codes, or the enormous power of the presidency.

But I am not voting for Hillary because of how much I don’t want the other guy. I am voting for her because she is clearly the most qualified and worthy candidate for the job. I am with her because while arguably the most lowbrow, racist, sexist, narcissistic, and unqualified candidate for president our nation has ever seen has arrogantly interrupted, intimidated, threatened and insulted her; she has handled herself with grace and integrity—even smiling. And she did it for all of us. She went high instead of low, time and time again. She did it for the America she believes we are. I am with her to show her she was right; we are worthy of the s***show she has endured.

I am with her for the millions of young women and girls who deserve more than to be objectified and reduced to a number from 1-10. I am with her for the millions of young boys and men, including two of my own, who deserve more than a misogynist for a president. I am with her because I believe as a nation we are better than racist. Better than sexist. Better than hateful. Better than discriminatory. Better than a wall dividing us. I’m with her because she has never told me that a vote for her is a vote against someone else.

My vote for her is a vote for equality, for human rights, for women, for choice, for diversity, for our environment, and for preserving our place among a world of nations that is So. Much. Bigger. than just our country.

When we get into our cars, with our kids buckled into the back seat, and take the leap of faith that we are safe; we are counting on one another to keep our eyes on the road ahead. I am with her because we are stronger together; and I believe that the way forward is with love and trust in each other, not hate.

Safe driving, safe voting, and see you all on the other side of this madness!