Wednesday, July 20, 2016

When The World Is Failing, Teach Strength And Love

While the world is going to Hell in a hand basket, I try to shield my children from the ugliness. I can't keep them from hearing every bad thing, nor do I want to raise them in a bubble, but part of my job as a mom and a stepmom is to keep them physically, mentally, and emotionally safe.

My three little monsters range in age from one to eight. The one year old's primary goal in life is to chase his older siblings and put whatever he can find into his mouth. Based on his proven abilities to do both of these things, I assume he's a genius. The middle child, my girl, is two and a half. She is everything you expect a toddler to be: loud, in charge, and constantly asking questions, such as "What's that?" and "Why?" The oldest child, my eight year old, is my stepson. He is full of wonder and is inquisitive about the world.

Watching these children grow has taught me so much about myself and the type of mother I am. Some of the questions my kids have asked me this summer have floored me; some have made me laugh until I cried; some have broken my heart. But I think that in my responses, I have taught them how the world should work.

One of the first questions my eldest threw at me was, "Mom, why are those two men holding hands and kissing?" He asked me this while we attended a hometown event that was right next door to a LGBT center. It was a love-filled and happy environment for everyone. My stepson had very limited experience with people who were different from him, and he was understandably curious. We sat on the front porch of a building watching different families walk by: gay, straight, interracial, and non-traditional. A gay couple walked by holding hands. As they stopped to kiss each other, my stepson's response was, "Eww! That was weird!" When I asked him why it was weird, he said that he didn't think it was okay for two boys to kiss or hold hands. We discussed that his dad and I hold hands and kiss and that his mom and her boyfriend do too. Then the light bulb began to flicker on in his head, and he asked, "So, if they love each other, it's okay for them to kiss each other?" He confessed that he wouldn't like people to laugh at him or make fun of him for showing affection to someone else. I hope he'll remember that beautiful event on that day and not laugh or flinch the next time he sees two men or two women kissing each other.

Several weeks later, he piped up from the backseat of my car with, "Mom, I don't think white people and brown people belong together." I had no idea what he was talking about until he pointed out an interracial couple walking into a restaurant. We talked about why he felt that way. (Many of his feelings come from his primary home, but that's a different story.) He just kept repeating that they were just different. I explained to him that there was a time in history that interracial relationships were illegal. That shocked him! He couldn't understand how an interracial relationship could be illegal. The fact that an eight year old, who doesn't always remember to zip his pants, understand this, but some of our elected officials don't understand this, tells me all I need to know about those elected officials. I then asked if he had any friends who weren't white. He listed off several of his classmates of color whom he loved. Again, once he started to see things from a different perspective, he realized that skin color doesn't and shouldn't matter.

One of my proudest "mom" moments came from my daughter. I occasionally nurse her, and she is fascinated by my breasts, or as she calls them "bobos." She will often put her baby doll to her chest and say "Baby get bobos," and will give the baby doll to me so I can feed her. One morning while getting dressed, she stood up, put her hands on her chest, and exclaimed, "My bobos!" She was so proud and excited about her body. She then patted my chest and said, "Mama's bobos!" We were laughing and having a grand ol' time until I patted her chest and said "Your bobos!" She immediately covered her chest with her hands and said, "No, Mama. No touch my bobos." In that moment, I realized that she listened to me. I had been teaching her that no one could touch her without her consent, not even her Mama. I immediately apologized to her for touching her without her permission. She laughed, took my hand, and patted her "bobos" with my hand. It was on her terms though. She was in charge and in control. And she knew it!

I know that I can't fix the world. I'm not even sure if it's able to be mended anymore. I do know that I can raise kids who are empathetic, caring and embody love. I can raise kids who are aware of their own power over their bodies and aware that their voice matters. The day will come when they won't come to me with every question that pops into their heads. I hope that when that day comes my kids will have the strength, security, and power to find the answers within themselves.

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