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Don’t Forget Tuesday

Dear Boys,

Please don’t forget Tuesday night.  Don’t forget how you felt that night, sitting on a couch surrounded by people who you loved and loved you back, watching to see America decide the next four years.  Remember your hope and excitement as you thought you would get to see the first woman elected president of our country while you dug into the chips and guacamole.  Don’t forget how you thought you were going to witness history being made.  Remember your disappointment and sadness and despair when we realized it was not to be.  Please remember my tears and your dad’s shock and unbelief.  Remember how you felt when you saw a man who does not deserve to serve as an example take the victory.

Don’t ever follow his example.  It is not victorious.

Remember that you get to choose to love, no matter who is elected.  You get to choose to be kind to your family, your friends and everybody you come into contact with.  You get to be brave and stand up for the ones who no longer have the strength to stand up for themselves anymore.  Be the change you hoped to see reflected in our country’s leader.  

He was successful.  He knew that when you become the villain, the train wreck, people pay attention.  He became a magnet and they followed.  Some people in America, actually quite a lot of them, sadly, rallied around the hate, bigotry, sexism and all around ugliness.  Please don’t be like them.  Please don’t follow them.  It’s not victorious.

Yes, I understand some of what was voted against, was the elitism and corruption in our current government on all sides of the aisle.  Dad and I are dissatisfied with that too, but that didn’t give us an excuse to vote for someone who, not only stood up on a platform of being “un-political” but also stomped on racial minorities, religious minorities and women.  With Donald Trump, it seems you can’t have one without the other.  I want to be wrong about that, but I have a feeling I’m not.

Boys, please be kind, gentle, brave and strong leaders in your world.  Dad and I will try to be good examples of this, even when our government does not follow suit.  The “keep trying”, that’s victorious.

You two have a unique position in our country.  You are in a privileged class.  You are two white males in a society who hands you opportunities not given to people who don’t look like you.  You have power others aren’t given.  Use it.  Use it to make the change you want.  Use it to love and lift up others who don’t yet have that power.  And when equality prevails, joyously give that power away so that you won’t be looking down on anyone, or standing on top of anybody’s crumpled shoulders.  That’s the thing about equality and power, someone has to lose it before others can gain it on an equal level.  You will lose some of that power and privilege.  That’s a good thing.  Yes, it might hurt a bit, but that’s okay, most of the time change hurts before the good stuff happens.  The transition is the hard part, but it’ll be worth it, I promise.  Your eyes will be opened and you will come to see how others have not been given the opportunities you have had.

Even before that transfer of power, hold hands with people who don’t look like you, who don’t worship like you, who don’t think the same things as you.  Hold hands on that equal ground and converse.  Learn from each other.  Find out what they need and give it.  Ask for help and graciously receive it.  Find out if they are hungry and eat together.  Make sure your dining tables are round, nobody at the head, everybody sitting down at the same level, talking, laughing, having tough conversations with each other.  Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.  Don’t puff your chest when you don’t understand.  Instead, keep asking questions.  Keep listening.  And be honest.  Don’t shy away from feelings that society tells you aren’t typically male.  It’s okay to be afraid.  It’s normal to feel lonely and anxious and imperfect.  Don’t cover those over with macho-ism and aggression.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that a tough shell is strong.  It’s not.  To be vulnerable is hard and it is strong.  Open yourself up, dig down and lean into what you feel.  Listen and be patient when others do the same.  Don’t shy away from truth, your own and the truth you hear from others at that table.  And then use that truth to unite for good.  Initiate equality around your own table in your own little world.  It’ll spread because this is how our world is supposed to be.  It’s how people work better together.  Start small and let it spread.

Tuesday night was a hard one for us, yes, but don’t be halted by your despair.  There is still hope because Donald Trump does not reflect everybody.  He especially does not reflect you two because you are both kind, empathetic, brave and loving.  The hard part is that he does reflect some.  That’s why we need to work for change.  We need to make sure that speech and press remain free, religious liberties prevail, and gender equality happens in the workplace and everywhere else.  We need to listen to science and take care of the environment.  I’m glad you are smart enough to know that just because the president speaks that way about women and acts that way toward them, doesn’t mean it is right.  It is wrong and it always will be.  If he passes laws against others based on religion or ethnicity or gender, don’t follow them.  Break those laws so you can open up your home to those who are pushed under and trampled on.  Walk the dirty roads and lend your hand to feed mouths and hearts.  Hope is not dead because we are in this together.  Dad and I will stand with you.  We will feed and love together.

Just as Dad reminded you on Wednesday morning, don’t fight hate with hate.  We don’t hate others because they, or their parents, voted differently.  Not everyone will agree with you.  Don’t let that silence you, but don’t let it be an excuse to spew hate back either.  Be confident and kind in your differentiating opinions.  Always, always critically think on everything.  That critical thought is a super power.  Use it, even if that means you disagree with Dad or I.  No matter what, think and analyze, then act.

Stories are already coming out about kids who are coming to school doing hurtful things.  The bullies are being empowered.  Mexican American students are being given fake deportation letters, swastikas are being drawn on bathroom walls, black students are being told to go back to Africa and LGBTQ students are being told to “get ready.”  The marginalized populations are being pushed farther into the corner.  Now I know that one man does not bear the full responsibility of these actions.  It seems though, that his winning the election has opened up the door for how some others choose to live lives of hate.  This makes our job clear.  There will be kids in your class and on the playground who feel uncertain and afraid because of the election results.  Stand up for them if others push them down.  Stand with them when their religion or race is demeaned.  Stand by them when their sexuality or gender is minimized and dismissed.  Speak up for them.  Speak up for love and equality.

I hope you will always think back on Tuesday night. I hope that in the very near future, you will get to see the very first female president elected to lead our country.  I so want to be with you to experience that.  Let’s sit on a couch eating chips and guacamole, crying tears of joy rather than despair.  I want to experience a world with you in which we know that no matter your gender, your race, your religion, your sexuality, you can lead if you are qualified.  I want a re-do of Tuesday night, but with a different outcome.  In the meantime, let’s be the change we wanted to see.  Let’s love others around us.  Let’s give and receive.  Let’s invite people over to break bread with us.  Let’s vote for those with loving character and brave action.  More importantly, let’s help each other have loving character and stand with each other in brave action.  

I’m in if you are, what do you say?

change, life bumps, parenting

Lights On

Ever since the beginning of September, Jack has been having a rough time falling asleep.  At first we just thought it was some funky stage he was going through of trying to be extra difficult for the sake of tormenting his parents and robbing them of their evenings.

After this parent torture strategy kept up for longer than a few days, Tim and I tried to dissect the situation a little more than we had done previously.  Something had to be going on.  At the same time, school had just started so we thought maybe he was having trouble in class or at recess.  According to him, this was not the case.  He adored his teacher and sat next to his best buddy in class.  The two of them happily played “Fly Up” at recess with all their other cohorts.

Finally the light bulb flew on.  It wasn’t what was going on with him, it was what wasn’t.  Ever since day one of his life, he’s fallen asleep with someone else around.  In the first five houses he lived in, he shared a room with Luke.  They always chatted a while before slowly dropping off into dreamland.  Luke is like me and can fall asleep in seconds.  Sometimes Jack would still want to discuss their latest obsession (i.e. dinosaurs, Transformers, Legos, Pokemon) but Luke would already be out.  It took Jack a while to fall asleep, it still does.  Even when Luke was unconscious, Jack took comfort in knowing he was not alone.  Safe, with his brother by his side, he relaxed and calmly fell asleep.

When we finally moved to a house that had more than two bedrooms, we gave the boys the option of having their own space.  They gave this great thought and decided the usual Boys’ Room would split into Luke’s Room and Jack’s Room.  Now, even though though they had their own rooms, every single night they would decide who’s room to sleep in.  When Tim and I peeled ourselves off the couch after binge watching our latest show, we would peek in and find them both happily sprawled out, sleeping peacefully side by side.  I remember thinking so many times how much I loved that they slept together.  I knew it wouldn’t last forever and I would mourn the tradition when it stopped.

When we moved into this house, both boys still wanted their own rooms.  Jack with his queen bed and Luke with the bunk bed.  But in the setting up of Luke’s bed, some tired bolts finally gave out.  Only half of the bunk was set up that first night and he decided he actually liked his room with just the one bed, so we kept it that way.

For most of last year and into this one, the boys continued their nightly routine of sleeping together.  And then in September, Tim went on his scheduled business travel.  He was home on the weekends, but essentially, he was out of town for five weeks.  Whenever he travels, the boys sleep with me.  I actually hate this practice, because all of the thrashing, stealing covers and little body heaters, but I can’t ever tell them because they love it so much.  They have doubled in size since we started doing this so now, every night they switch off.  One sleeps in the bed with me and the other sleeps in the sweet recliners we have set up in our room.

After Tim’s forever long travels came to an end, it was time for the boys to go back to their own rooms.  At this point Luke had decided that he wanted to sleep in his own bed, without Jack.  Without. Jack.  I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out but Jack has essentially never slept by himself, like ever.  It broke Jack’s heart, and mine, that this night time routine was changing.  Luke was growing up, becoming more independent, and we couldn’t make him sleep with his brother.  He needed his own space and I am so proud of him for realizing it and saying it, rather than resenting his brother and continuing the standard bedtime practice.

Luke was ready for a little separation, but Jack assuredly was not on board.  This night isolation was essentially forced on him and he did not appreciate it one bit.  Of course, I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out.  And of course, even after I figured it out, I had no idea how to help him transition to this new way of doing things.  Genius parenting going on here, I tell you.

One night, when we were all still scrutinizing the dilemma, Jack completely freaked out and broke down.  There were tears and body shakes.  We told him it was time for bed, Luke wanted to sleep alone and he could not sleep in our recliner.  When he stood in our doorway and looked down the hall, 10 feet away to his dark room, the fear and anxiety flowed out of his pores.  Panic set in and he could not make his body move to get into his dark, cold bed.  Luke, being the compassionate kid he is, came out and said Jack could sleep in his room.  We vetoed that solution because we knew he really didn’t want his little brother sleeping with him anymore.  It might have fixed the problem on this specific night, but tomorrow we would be in the same exact predicament.

Tim and I were tired.  Tired of dealing with this issue, tired of not having our precious alone time in the evenings. We agonized as we watched Jack go through these stress and anxiety attacks.  Exhaustion had set in for all parties.  Neither parents nor kid thought clearly, but we all knew something needed to change.

Tim is much better in these situations than I am.  Selfishly, I first see all the amenities this little phase is taking away from me personally.  When Jack drags out bedtime, Tim and I don’t get our much needed time together.  We miss out on watching four episodes of our quality shows like, The Bastard Executioner and Game of Thrones.  Tim understands Jack’s anxiety.  Don’t get me wrong, he still gets frustrated, but he doesn’t show it to Jack.  His patience takes over any selfishness.  I love watching him in action; I glean so much.  He gets what it’s like to be a little brother who can’t sleep in the same room as his best friend anymore.  He understands how lonely it is to fearfully fall asleep in a dark room.  He knows how it feels when panic crawls into your thoughts.  When angst creeps into your bed and lays down beside you, it’s really hard to relax enough to fall asleep.

As parents we always want to affirm what our boys are experiencing.  The fear and panic are real for Jack.  Saying, “Well, you shouldn’t feel this way Jack, we are right down the hall” will not help him.  He already knows this, but still does not want to be in that room alone in the dark.  We don’t want to downgrade his reality, but we do want to give him strategies and resources to help pull himself out of this paralyzing hole.

With this approach in mind, we calmed him down the night anxiety came to attack.  Of course, an hour past bedtime was not the optimal time for this conversation, but here we were, our after-the-boys-are-in-bed time already dwindled down to mere minutes.  We were frustrated, he was afraid, change was desperately required.

We reminded him that no amount of freak-out would earn him a ticket into either our bed or Luke’s.  We told him that his fears were completely normal.  We felt what he felt when we were kids, and sometimes adults.  Normal, your fears do not make you weird.  We are afraid sometimes too.  We get it.  Now that we had established that fact, we needed to come up with solutions.  He suggested us coming and laying with him until he fell asleep.  Nope, sorry.  That was almost the same situation we were trying to get away from.  We suggested reading with the lamp on until he felt drowsy enough to put the book down and close his eyes.  He agreed, but said he wanted more than the lamp, he wanted his main room light on.  Okay, that was doable.  Tim told Jack how when he feels lonely in hotels, alone on business trips, he packs the pillows all around his body.  Jack wanted to try this so I immediately went to the hall closet to scrounge around for some extra pillows.  These strategies seemed viable.  Hope began to wink her lovely eye.  We may actually get out of this disheartening stage and live to tell the tale.

That night he fell asleep, alone in his bed with four extra pillows, the overhead light blaring and a book just slightly slipping out of his hand.

Panic revisited the next night, but it was drastically dialed down.  Again, we set him up with book, pillows, light.  The formula worked so we kept with it, night after night.  Jack of course, still drug his feet when bedtime rolled around.  The fear still there, but it was manageable.  He had some weapons for combat.

A couple weeks into this new routine, I suggested turning on the little lamp beside his bed instead of having all of his room lights glaring.  I told him it was good for his body to slowly get used to going to sleep in the dark.  Distress shown in his eyes.  He did not like having corners of his room covered in shadow.  That night he tried it, but I noticed later as I walked down the hall, his bright overhead light had been turned on.  He was calmly passed out with every possible light on.

For the next couple of days I pondered how I was going to wean him off this over-illuminated bedtime custom.  And then my own lights came on.  Why did it matter if he fell asleep that way?  We had acknowledged his feelings, we came up with strategies together, why mess with the plan?  Yes, most kids go to sleep in the dark or with a little night light, but Jack isn’t most kids.  He’s our Jack and I wouldn’t trade him for any kid in the world, anxieties and freak-outs included.  I’m sure this is a phase that will last a while, but that’s just what it is, a phase, a short snippet of time.  He probably won’t be a teenager or adult who has to have the lights on when he falls asleep.  And who cares if he is.  There are many fights to pick and this one is not a worthy battle.

I am grateful he is a sensitive boy who feels all the feels.  Yes, I hate to see panic cripple him, but how cool is it that we get to strategy plan with him together?  Some of this angst may follow him into adulthood and that is okay.  Remember, fears are normal.  New ones may pop up here and there too.  Others will fade away as the years compile and his height towers over me.  He is an ordinary and unique kid.  His worries are ordinary and unique, but so is his courage.  He is a spunky and tenacious boy who is afraid sometimes.  I hope he will end up being a man who is stronger because he knows that fear and anxiety are commonplace.  I hope he will understand he doesn’t have to be paralyzed by them.  There is no sense in ignoring or covering them up with the Machoism Lie.  Yes, trepidation and apprehension are real, but so are bravery and confidence and courage.  Sometimes fears cripple us and push us down, but that is not the end.  Courage does not come in pretending anxiety does not exist, it comes when you still take another step in spite of it.

Knowing when and how to ask for help is heroic.  Knowing when to unapologetically fall asleep with the lights on is brave.  Life will throw ugly things at Jack, internally and externally.  I hope he remembers to look for the light switches.

change, faith, love, marriage, parenting

#marriageequality

Me: Boys, BOYS!!! GET IN HERE.  We need to talk about something.

A mini earthquake is created by the feet pounding down the stairs.  They are assuming they are in trouble.  Their minds mentally searching for the mess they forgot to clean up or the chore they didn’t do.  They breath a sigh of relief when they see excited smiles on Tim’s and my face.

Tim:  Guess what?  Today is a historical day.  Great news just got reported.

Me: So, today, the Supreme Court just passed a really positive law.  The Supreme Court is the highest court in our country.  They are like the bosses of all our country’s laws.  What they say goes.  Do you know what equality for all means?

Both nod their heads.

Me: It’s like what Martin Luther King Jr. wanted everybody receiving all the same rights no matter who they were.  Well, today, the Supreme Court just said that everybody can get married.  Even if it’s a man and a man or a woman and a woman.

Luke:  That wasn’t already a law?

Tim:  Nope.  Some people in our country didn’t think gay or lesbian couples should have that right.

Luke: Why did they think that?

Tim: Well, some people read the Bible and interpret it in thinking that God thinks being gay and living a gay lifestyle is a sin.  Mom and I think that is a misinterpretation of the Bible.

Me: We think God made some people who love others who are the same sex as them and other people who love the opposite sex.

Tim:  Love is always a choice, no matter who you love.  When I met Mom, she made my heart go pitter patter.  It just so happened that she was a girl and I was a guy.  We are what people call heterosexual.  Some boys get crushes on boys and some girls get crushes on girls.  They are called homosexual because they love the same sex.    All of us will get to choose who to love and it doesn’t matter if it’s someone who is the same as you or opposite of you.  It’s never sinful to love.  God wants us to love, he demands it.  And He doesn’t care if you marry a man or a woman.  And now, in our country marriage is a right that everybody gets to have.

Jack: Cool.

Tim: Jack, do you think gay marriage should be legal?

Jack: Yeah.

Tim: Why?

Jack:  <<pauses>>  Well….I can’t think of any reason it should by Uh-legal.

Me:  Dad and I wanted to talk to you about this today because it’s so exciting for our country.  But, more importantly, we want to tell you that you can love whoever you want.  If you have a crush on a girl we want to hear about it.  If you have a crush on a boy, we would love to hear about it too, so we can get excited with you.

Tim:  And boys, we wanted to let you know that there is absolutely nothing you can do that would make us stop loving you.  Even if you hurt us, or stopped talking to us forever, or if you made a mistake, we would still love you.  No. Matter. What.  Even if you disagree with us on this issue or any other, everyday we will love you more than the day before.

Me: You guys know that right?  That no matter what you do, or who you love, we will never ever stop loving you and supporting you.

Luke and Jack: Yep.

By this time, I realized they were getting  a little antsy and kept glancing out the window.

The neighbor boy had set up his Slip n Slide and I saw that they had already suited up in their swim trunks.

Me: You guys want go out and play in Jay’s yard, huh. (Both nod). Go for it.

I yelled a, “We love youuuuuu,” as they darted out the door, to play in a RAINBOW colored Slip n Slide.

Perfect.  This day couldn’t get any better.