When Prayers and Thoughts Aren’t Enough

How did you talk to your child about what happened in Las Vegas?

What happened was terrifying. Unimaginable. Sad. And so very, very disappointing. I struggled to find the words to share with my boys. I decided to let them know that a lot of people were killed and injured in Las Vegas and they weren’t sure why the gunman did it. I let them ask the questions from there.

I struggle why we as a country can’t address this issue. I struggle why we, as parents, can’t band more together in an effort to address this, for no other reason then allowing our kids to grow up in a safer environment. Every time we don’t address this we are saying gun laws as they are are sufficient. Do they feel sufficient to you? They don’t to me.

My kids ask why gun laws aren’t better? Why there isn’t a national registry? Why aren’t more people outraged by this and demanding action?

I tell them that a majority of people want better gun laws but don’t know how to make it happen. I know I feel, at times, hopeless to make change. It’s obvious we need better gun laws and better protections for all of our citizens, yet those in power — that ultimately can do something about it — aren’t. And when my kids ask, “Why?” I tell them that the people in charge are more interested in staying in power than protecting the people. They hide behind the Second Amendment as if our Founding Fathers intended it to allow people to not only bare arms for protection, but let anyone who feels like firing a gun to do so. It’s ridiculous.

Each time we go through one of these traumas we hear from our leaders, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.” And while this is an appropriate sentiment, it’s a pretty empty statement coming from those in charge who actually have the power to do something about it. I’d rather hear, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and we’re taking action to ensure this never happens again.”

I’m mad. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. And I’m more than angry that I can’t do a darn thing to better protect my family. There feels like there is no safe place anymore. I can’t live my life in fear and don’t want my kids to. But how do you do that when the people who are supposed to protect you, refuse to take the steps needed to?

How are you talking to your child about what happened in Las Vegas? If you are as upset as I am, how are you letting your voice be hard, and your leaders know?

Following are some of the groups that are trying to help us address this (click on the name to go to their site). To them I say, “THANK YOU!”

Sandy Hook Promise

Moms Demand Action

Parents Against Gun Violence

Every Town for Gun Safety

 

 

 

At the Crossroads of Raising an Independent Child

Are you trying to raise an independent child?

I am. I was raised to be independent, it was a conscious decision on my parents part. They were involved in my life — they taught me manners, how to be safe, led groups I participated in, they advocated when they needed to for me, came to every recital, game or event we were participating in and cheered me on — all while teaching me to be independent. I was taught how to take care of my space, learning how to set the table, clean-up (table, room, house), vacuum and wash clothes. I was taught how to earn money, encouraged to get a job when I turned 16. They encouraged me to play sports, music, etc. and try new things. They gave me the skills I needed to go out into the world on my own.

I have always taught my kids about safety, though I’m always unsure how effective what I’ve taught them will be (I hope it will be sufficient); I’ve taught them manners (which we are still working on); and my kids have responsibilities around the house, and are encouraged by us to try new things, but know there are still many my skills my husband and I need to teach our kids.

As I’ve previously shared, my oldest is in middle school and is still adjusting to all the changes that have occurred. We got him a flip phone (his first phone) when he started school so he can stay in touch with us so we know he’s gotten to school or is on his way home. The flip phone was chosen because of the limited capability it has. It was a conscious decision on our part. My son first started with only texting me as we had discussed — when he got to school and we he was on his way home. Then he started adding a phone call into the mix. Or two. Or three. He doesn’t seem to understand mom has a job and can’t always grab the phone right away (though he does know I’ll call him back as soon as I can). And while I love the fact that my son wants to talk to me — whether he’s calling to tell me about his day or a struggle he had, I feel like I’m at a crossroads. Almost like a mother bird that has pushed her son out of the nest only to let her baby bird come back onto the ledge of the nest to hang out. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to my son. I am so grateful he wants to call me and talk, but I wonder if I’m delaying his ability to be independent. I did not have a phone when I went to school. I had to figure out how to get where I needed to be when I needed to be there, and I only called my mom or dad when there was an emergency (I can remember this happened once in high school when my car had a problem and I needed my dad’s help to figure out where to get the car towed to). I remember not wanting to bother my dad at work, but couldn’t think of any other way to handle the situation. My dad was grateful I called, but that only happened once. In reflection, I feel like my parents had pushed me out of the nest — it wasn’t a ‘don’t come back’, it was a ‘you’ve got this, don’t like us hold you back.’ I don’t want to hold my son back. I want him to have confidence in his ability to navigate situations and feel empowered to do so.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I am aware that my husband and I need to be thinking about how we are helping our children be independent — successful on their own. Of course I don’t want my child to pull away from me, but I believe this is a necessary for them to truly grow.

Thankfully I have time, but I’m at a crossroads, and hoping I pick the right path.

How are you helping your child be independent?

 

Kids and War

How do you explain war to your child?

My knee jerk reaction is to try to shield them from the horror. There is nothing pretty about war. What is going on in Syria is unbelievably sad, and angering. To see people suffer, lose there homes and have to flee their countries in order to survive is unfathomable. Seeing innocent people killed, particularly the children by chemical weapons is devastating.

My boys have been wondering what is going on in Syria and why. It’s hard to explain. It’s ultimately about people not being able to get along and resorting to violence instead of finding peaceful solutions. I get that solving these types of problems aren’t easy, but I really want my boys to know that war is not the answer and never will be.

My youngest son got some exposure to war recently in his social studies class.  The class was studying Native Americans and their struggle to maintain control of their native land from the settlers.  Each class member was assigned a position — you either were a Native American tribe member or a member of the American military. My son was part of a tribe. The class was given different situations and asked how they wanted to handle it. In one situation, both groups wanted a piece of land and neither was willing to give the land to the other. Their choice was to 1) sign a treaty that allowed them to share the land, or 2) decide to fight the other for the land. My son said, “Mom, I signed the treaty, but others kids in the tribe decided they wanted to fight.” “What happened? ” I asked. “Well, I lived,” said my son, “those who fought died.” Wow, I thought, this is a pretty good lesson he’s learning. The next challenge the class was faced with was 1) stay on the Reservation and be safe, or 2) fight and have to get your land back. “What did you choose?” I asked my son. “Well, I was going to go back to the Reservation because I wanted to be safe, but got accidentally shot by one of my classmates who thought I was trying to leave the Reservation,” he said. The idea that my son got ‘shot’ by friendly fire didn’t go unnoticed. Seems  this class activity was a little more realistic than I would have thought. “What did the lesson teach you?” I inquired. “Well, fighting almost always results in death. You might as well find a way to make peace.” Wow. Nine years old and he’s already figured this out. I wish some of our world leaders could.

How do you talk to your child about war? How do you help them understand unexplainable things?

Guns: What Do I Tell My Kids?

Orlando. Sandy Hook. Dallas. And so many more. Did you know there’s a site that lists mass shootings in the US? http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting

I’ve told my children since they were born that Mom and Dad’s job is to keep them safe and teach them things. I feel like I have a great ability to teach them things, and a much more limited ability to keep them safe, particularly with our country’s struggle to protect it’s citizens against gun violence.

When one of my son’s asks me how something works or how they can navigate a situation (particularly avoiding harm, or making the best decision to keep them safe), I usually have an answer. When my oldest son asked what was being done to stop gun violence I didn’t have one. Is my answer: Our politicians are fighting amongst each other and more concerned with staying in office than fixing this issue (mind you, they’ll hide behind the Second Amendment claiming that’s the main thing they are trying to protect), or that a small minority of people with big influence continue to keep enough people scared where they think they need guns? I’m honestly at a loss. It feels like grown-ups acting irresponsibly, and how do I explain that to my kids, when I’m trying so hard to teach them to act responsibly?

As a parent, it really bothers me that I don’t have an answer for this. It bothers me that I don’t have a greater ability to influence this or change what’s going on. Of course, I will continue to vote for candidates that believe we need regulation and oversight, and will continue to contact my senators and representatives, but it doesn’t feel like my efforts (and many others) has had much of an impact. I believe a majority of our country wants to feel safe and doesn’t think more guns, or few gun laws is the answer.

I pray my son’s never encounter gun violence. I pray we don’t encounter someone whose decided to randomly shoot innocent people, but I have to tell you I feel like our chance of avoiding this is as good as anyone else’s. 26 lost their lives at Sandy Hook. 49 in Orlando. 5 in Dallas. Enough. Enough. Enough.

What do you tell your kids? What do I tell mine?

 

I’m Scared

As a kid, what were you afraid of?

Our neighbor is really into Halloween. Each year, their front yard becomes a mini haunted house. I have to admit I was a little concerned how my children would react to the realistic skeletons, blood fountain (yes) and fake guillotine when they were younger, but up until this year they seemed more curious than frightened by them. My oldest son said, “Mom, I know this hasn’t bothered me in the past, and this isn’t real, but it kinda scares me.” I knew what he meant. There seems to be a shift at some age where things that you didn’t really notice or comprehend become scary.

My earliest memory of being scared was of shadows cast in my bedroom as a child from the door not being closed all the way and light coming in from the hallway. I’m sure I’d read or heard stories of monsters living under children’s beds, and while I logically knew the possibility was very small, the slightest possibility unnerved me. When I voiced my fear to my parents, I was often consoled and told, “It’s not real, don’t worry about it.” Easier said than done, right? The mind has the capacity for great imagination.

As a parent, my kids are now experiencing fear in their own way. Whether it’s the neighbors Halloween decorations or the unexplained noise (our house is old, and known to creak), or being afraid of the dark, it’s all very real to them. I sat my kids down after one of the boys asked if vampires were real. “Do you think people would be walking around outside ever if vampires were real?” I saw that I got their attention so I continued. “Doo-dee-doo, look at me, I’m just strolling along, hoping no vampire is going to come and get me.” With that, my boys started to smile. Realizing what I was saying was true seemed to comfort them. I added, “Same for werewolves, mummies, and zombies. We wouldn’t have a lock on our door, we’d live in a metal vault that would require a million different codes to get in. We’d never see our neighbors cause they’d have the same thing. Man, how’d we get groceries (and who’d work at the grocery store all open and exposed for some vampire to walk on in), or get to work or school, or go out and do anything fun if all these things that were trying to kill or eat us were all around?” Now my boys were laughing. They got it…vampires, werewolves, mummies and zombies aren’t real.

But it was a good reminder. Fear is real, and needed for survival. It gets complicated when we talk about things worth really fearing in our world. But that’s a talk for another day. In the meantime, I’ll continue to look for ways to help my children understand those things they need not fear at all.

How do you help your child work through fear they are experiencing? How do you explain all the ‘scary stuff’ that comes out at Halloween?

Enjoy the extra hour of sleep following Halloween. I’ll be back in early November.

Do Something

I am in disbelief that I blogged about gun violence only a month ago and we’ve already had another mass shooting. This has to end. As parents, we have to take a stand. We have to raise our voices. We have to protect our children. We have to do something.

Image result for gun statistics 2015

Join a community such as SandyHookPromise.org, or momsdemandaction.org, write to your senators and congressmen and women. Do something.

According to Everytownresearch.org at least 204 child shootings have occurred in 2015. More than two million American children live in homes with guns that are not stored safely and securely. The link to everytownresearch.org includes an interactive map that tracks every publicly reported incident in 2015 where a person age 17 or under unintentionally kills or injures someone with a gun.

Silence = Acceptance. We cannot accept this. For our own sakes, but more so our children’s and there’s to come.

I know you love your child as much as I do mine. Please join me and do something.

Back to School — Okay with Not Being Popular

Being popular can cause people to do strange things. Largely not being themselves but trying to be what they think others will perceive as cool or popular.  

I’m looking at being popular quite differently this year. Instead of worrying about my kids feeling like they fit in (being most liked or not), I’m much more concerned with them feeling safe.

Are there any parents out there that are fearful of their child going to school and getting caught in random (or targeted) violence? We’ve seen what happened at Sandy Hook, we continue to hear news story after news story of innocent people being killed by people who had access to guns and felt entitled to use it as they see fit (not to defend, but for revenge). The most recent story being the horrifying work place killing of the news reporter and photo journalist this past week in Roanoke, VA.

I am tired to hearing these stories. It feel like it’s something I’m just supposed to accept. I don’t. I will never get used to these stories. I will never be okay with innocent people dying at the hands of someone who has a gun and uses it because they can.

I am tired of people having easy access to guns and using them in violent ways. Often stories can seem ‘far away’ and not something we have to deal with in our personal lives. I live in a place I would say is safe, yet we’ve had two events where multiple people died at the hands of ‘ordinary’ citizens in the past few years. You hear about people killing people in movie theaters, who would have ever thought that would happen?  Where does it end?

I am tired of having to deal with people who have guns who feel entitled to have them and brandish them anywhere they see fit (I was in a fast food restaurant not long ago and a gentleman came into the restaurant with a pistol tucked into the back of his jeans, it wasn’t in a holster and wasn’t secure. It was almost like he was asking someone to pick a fight with him, or call him out on having the gun, so he could use it. I tried not to panic, but had my kids with me, so we got our food and quickly exited the restaurant. What kind of society do we live in, where the person with the gun has more rights than the unarmed citizen?).

I am tired of being scared to speak out because there are those that are much more vocal than I that feel differently. I am not against people owning guns, but do feel people should have to demonstrate that they can operate them safely and in the right places if they want to own one.

And I’m tried of being quiet because I fear someone with a gun may want to silence me for speaking up.

My kids are what are helping me find my voice. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t say anything because I can’t bare the thought of them dying at the hands of someone who happens to have a gun, and feels compelled to use it against others; or that as a society we don’t figure out how to address this so our children don’t have to when they are adults — how much worse does it have to get before it gets better?

As the kids go back to school, I think about it being a new year, new opportunities, a new chance to teach our kids a different way. We have to model what that change is.

I know my position may not be popular, and I’m okay with it. Especially if it helps others find their voice. The more of us who feel this way and speak up, the better chance we have for change. Is there anyone else out there that is with me?