Danger, Will Robinson!

WAKE UP, AMERICA. Donald Trump is Dangerous.

A year ago the idea of Donald Trump running for president and people finding him to be a refreshing voice amongst the doublespeak of many career politicians was vaguely amusing to me. As in, it was kind of a joke. That I could laugh at. Around the time the primaries were coming up in my state, I researched how I could change my party so that I could vote in the primary for the sole purpose of voting against Trump as the Republican nominee.  I wasn’t laughing anymore. People really believed this man was fit to be president. People I know and interact with on a regular basis. People in my community. Friends. FAMILY.

I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton. She has some ideas I agree with and many I don’t. The email thing bugged me. I mean, come on! Classified information on an unsecured server? Ridiculous. She totally knew better. I don’t have a high level of trust in her. But then, I don’t have a high level of trust in any politician. Although Bernie seemed pretty straightforward about his positions and not likely to sell the American people up the river,  I didn’t agree with all of his plans either. It’s not likely that there will ever be a candidate that is 100% compatible with anyone’s individual ideas and values, right? So we have to choose who is most in line with what is most important to us.

Here is what is important to me: raising my boys to be strong in character; I want them to be surrounded by people who value kindness, intelligence, good-humor, hard work, honesty and love. I want them to see these values in their community. I want them to look up to their teachers, coaches, local police, business owners and government as leaders and see these ethics present and at work all around them. I know they will encounter many people who don’t have the same ideals and philosophies and that’s OK. But what is NOT OK, NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT is having the PRESIDENT OF OUR COUNTRY espouse HATRED at every turn.

I’m angry. This latest ridiculousness of Donald Trump’s is kind of like the proverbial straw. Maybe it is because it touched on one of my biggest fears–no matter what I teach and model at home, my sons are going out into this world without me and when they do they are going to be in locker rooms and parties with drunk people and groups of men and they may get the message that women are objects, that women who drink at parties and smile and flirt with you are yours to push up against a wall in the bathroom and grab by the pussy, and that boasting about who you’d fuck with a bunch of men is EXPECTED AND ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR!

Seriously, what the hell is going on in this world? Rapists are being set free with a slap on the wrist because male judges wouldn’t want to ruin a “young man’s future”. And now we have the potential NEXT PRESIDENT of the United States brushing off his repugnant remarks against women by essentially saying that “boys will be boys”! And people are shrugging their shoulders and saying that Hillary is untrustworthy and that her husband had an affair and she stood by him and bad-mouthed the women so all is really even-steven in this race and  women shouldn’t be all up in arms because Trump engaged in some “locker room banter” ten years ago?!

Is this really OK, America? This is where we are? In 2016? Women are still being shamed and blamed and objectified and seen as walking vaginas?

I want to scream.

And of course it isn’t just the RAMPANT MISOGYNY I object to. The hateful remarks he has made about pretty much everyone who isn’t a rich, white male deeply offend me. I do not care if the man could stop every job from leaving the U.S. or cut everyone’s taxes and somehow balance our budget (which he can’t), he is not fit to be the leader of this country.

I was going to let my sons watch this second debate since they don’t have school on Monday and can stay up a little later. Now I feel like I can’t. They won’t learn anything about the real issues facing our country and how the candidates intend to handle them. They are going to see a rude, hateful bully who has been given a MICROPHONE to spread his hate on the world’s stage. What are they going to learn from that??? Nothing I want them to learn for sure.

This has all gone too far. Are we going to let our country be run by someone whose audio we need to shield from our children? Are we going to allow someone who has basically condoned using their celebrity and power to sexually assault women to choose judges? Are we going to continue to defend his ignorant, racist, hateful remarks and say we need to overlook his personal flaws because he is better for our country than an experienced politician or one of the third-party candidates who “can’t win” anyway? Are we going to elect someone whose morals are so vastly different from our own?

Or wait. Are these morals not vastly different from your own?

Are you raising your children with a different set of values? Are you teaching your children that not all men and women are created equal? That we aren’t all afforded the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and safety? That we shouldn’t help our fellow humans when we can? That we should be lazy and dishonest and mean? That power and money should be obtained at any cost? That the only person who matters is yourself? That it’s is OK to be rude and disrespectful to people?

I’m no saint or paragon of virtue, let me be clear on that. But I try damn hard to be a good person and instill my core values and morals in my sons so that they may be good citizens of this world. And I think this might be the part that scares me the most: votes will be cast for Donald Trump. And each one represents a person whose moral compass points in the opposite direction from the one I’m trying to hold for my sons. And if it doesn’t point in a different direction, if your morals and values are the same as mine but you’re a “Republican” or a “Conservative” or “hate Hillary” or “third-party candidates can’t win” or one of the many other reasons I’ve heard GOOD PEOPLE use to defend their vote, I beg you to use your conscience and intelligence and figure out a way to reconcile all those things and DON’T VOTE FOR TRUMP.

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Perspective

Here beside the news of holy war and holy need, ours is just a little sorrow…

-Ordinary World, Duran Duran

I try not to watch the news. Maybe I am a bit of an ostrich, but it truly is a survival mechanism. If I start putting too much thought into this scary world of ours, I fear that I will find myself in a state of never wanting to leave the house.

During our Holiday breakfast at work last week, I became engaged in a conversation about how different it is for our kids today, with less freedom and more worrying on the part of parents. Gone are the days of going out to play for the day with a pack of neighborhood kids and coming home only when the moms all called out from the stoops that it was dinner time. It’s a different world, we seemed to be saying.

Except it really isn’t. It’s just now, thanks to the media and the wealth of information at our fingertips, we are just so hyper aware of the potential dangers out there that we’ve ended up in a state of erring on the side of caution and keeping our kids where we can keep a close eye on them. Or two.

I also pointed out that we parents now have the added worry that someone may come along and arrest us for popping into the bank while our kids sit in the car alone for a few minutes. An older co-worker told a funny story about how she lived in a small town and how she had taken her son, age five, with her to run errands. He had been asleep when she reached the dry cleaner so she left him sleeping in the back seat while she popped in to the store and then went home only to find he wasn’t in the back seat. She frantically went back to town and when she arrived she found her son on the main street, quite happy, explaining that he woke up and she was gone so he thought he’d just go over to the toy store and look around.

Obviously, she had been beside herself, but all’s well that ends well, right? Yes, there are dangers out there for our kids. But there is also a danger in not allowing them a certain amount of independence and freedom. Otherwise, how will they grow?

And then there are dangers that we cannot prepare for; horrible tragedies perpetuated by evil people that we can neither prepare our children, nor ourselves for: a gunman opening fire on a movie theater, a gang fight breaking out and bullets killing kids playing nearby in a park, a terrorist group infiltrating a school and carrying out a mass killing.

Yet, these are things that happen, along with other less publicized, but equally devasting dangers to our children. Scary, awful, leave-your-light-on happenings in our world.

I don’t let my kids watch the news, which isn’t difficult because as I mentioned I try to steer clear of it myself. However, some issues are too omnipresent to ignore. While on the topic of following rules and consequences for not doing so, I found myself explaining the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. We talked about how hard it must be to be a police officer. We talked about how easy it may be to make a mistake. And we talked about how while it is OK to question authority politely, and at the right time, that it is of the utmost importance to follow the rules, follow the law, and if you feel that you are being treated unfairly by someone in charge to keep your mouth shut, stay alive, and get a lawyer.

Yes, race may have played a part in these cases and maybe it didn’t. Maybe there was an abuse of authority and maybe there wasn’t. I wasn’t there. I can’t know. I do know that even though my sons aren’t black, I still felt it was important to let them know that when faced with a situation in which an officer of the law is telling them to do something, whether or not they are doing anything wrong, to comply. If their rights are violated, we’ll figure that part out after. As a mother, I can’t even fathom hearing that my hoodie-loving son, who is fairly argumentative and isn’t great at following directions, was shot and killed because a police officer thought he was threatening. I do believe it could happen regardless of his fair skin.

As a mother, I also cannot fathom hearing that a terrorist group targeted the school that my children were attending and opened fire on scores of innocent people. Just as my heart stopped and I wept for the children of Sandy Hook elementary school last year, just as I had a hard time sending them to school for days and weeks after that, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the devastating news that the Taliban took out more than a hundred children in a targeted attack on a school.

Yes, I am extremely fortunate to be raising my sons in the United States. However, just as I don’t feel that being white is going to necessarily save my sons if they find themselves in an altercation with the law, I don’t feel that the privileges we enjoy from living in this country are going to save us from a senseless attack of evil. If 9/11 taught us anything, it should be that we are not invulnerable.

Unfortunately, other than thanking God for another day and hugging my children extra tight, I feel that I am helpless to take action against the horrible tragedies and injustices that befall children (and adults) throughout the world on a daily basis. It is overwhelming to think of all the people who struggle to survive in conditions of extreme poverty, violence, and oppression.

So, I try to model compassion. I try to explain how fortunate we are without making the world seem like the scary place that it is. I try to remind myself that I am doing the best that I can each day to raise my sons to be kind and brave, respectful and respectable, and that we should be grateful for the abundance in our lives because all it can all be taken from us in one act of senseless violence.

Tonight I pray for those parents who had their worlds shattered. I pray for all those who are suffering in this world and wish for peace and plenty for them all. And I pray for perspective as I get wrapped up in Christmas preparations and money woes and bemoaning the over-excited behavior of nine year-old boys as they wait for Santa this year.

We already have everything.

Where’s the line?

Last week, it came to my attention that a woman in my town had been arrested for leaving her 7 year-old at home alone. It seemed she was left alone for a few hours in the evening when the woman went to work. I didn’t get all the details and it wasn’t highly publicized, but it did spark an interesting conversation on a community message board about what is an appropriate age for children to stay home alone and for how long and in what circumstances, etc. Opinions differed. Most people felt that the maturity of the child needed to be accounted for and that age alone shouldn’t be the main determining factor.

A few days later, I read about the woman who was jailed and whose child was taken away from her because she let her play alone at the park in their neighborhood at age 9 while she worked her shift at McDonald’s. She had a cell phone with which she could contact her mom and vice versa. While 9 years old seems a touch young to me, I don’t know this girl. Maybe she was almost 10. Maybe she was extremely mature. Maybe as the daughter of a single mom she learned how to be resourceful and self-sufficient from a young age because that is what she saw her mom doing to make ends meet. And I don’t know the park, but I read that it was a popular town park with many kids playing (and presumably many adults watching them). Sure didn’t sound like a dangerous place. I was in disbelief when I read that the police, tipped off by a concerned citizen, took the child into custody and arrested and charged the woman with felony neglect. The child is STILL not home with her mother.

So, it is better for a 9 year-old girl to sit inside a McDonald’s all day than to play in a park in the summer with lots of other kids? Or she should have been left at home perhaps in front of the television? And let’s talk about the concerned citizen for a minute, shall we?

You are at the park with your own kids. You notice a little girl who doesn’t seem to belong to anyone. She isn’t hurt, she isn’t crying, she isn’t stealing from the other kids, she isn’t rummaging in the trash for something to eat. If you are nosy enough, you ask her, “Where’s your mom?” When she tells you that her mom went to work at the McDonald’s is your immediate reaction, “My Lord, this child has been abandoned! I need to call the police”? No? Isn’t that what all concerned citizens would do?

Right. Here are some alternatives just off the top of my head: ask the child if she is OK, ask the child if she needs anything, ask the child if she would like to play with your child, ask the child when mom is expected to come pick her up, ask the child if she wants to call her mom and have you bring the child to the McDonalds, tell the child to have her mom call you because you know of a great inexpensive babysitter/camp/childcare situation that might work out for a single mom who clearly thought her best option was to let her child play at the park with other children than to stare at the walls and eat french fries at McDonald’s. Or of course, you could mind your own damn business.

Caveat: I do recognize that people minding their own damn business is how true abuse and neglect go unnoticed and unreported for far too long. I am not suggesting that people turn a blind eye to the safety and well-being of their fellow man and definitely not when the safety of a child is in question. But that is just the point. The safety of this child doesn’t seem to have been in question.

Without knowing the whole story of the concerned citizen who felt that her best option was to call the police, it sounds to me like a little bit ignorance mixed with judgement and quite a bit of shit-stirring.This was not a toddler left alone. She was 9. There are 9 year-olds who get their periods, God bless them. But now, she is a 9 year old under the custody of the state forced to be away from her mother and endure this legal ordeal. Surely playing at the park with other kids is preferable to that.

I’ve read several other stories about parents arrested for making choices about letting their kids play outside allegedly unsupervised, or for leaving their kid in the car for 5 minutes while they run to the store. Free Range Kids is full of these types of stories. It boggles my mind. These parents who are getting arrested are NOT abusing their children, they are NOT neglecting their children. They aren’t leaving their children locked in a car so they can go bar hopping. Or, I don’t know, drowning their children so they can lead a carefree life, ahem, Casey Anthony. These are parents who are making decisions for their kids who they arguably know better than anyone else. Parents who should know if they are capable of walking up the street to the bus stop by themselves or staying home for a couple of hours while mom goes to work.

I’m borderline helicopter mom. I have a hard time admitting it, but it is true. G has accused me of being overprotective. I don’t even like letting my boys use a public restroom on their own. But I do it. And I let them play outside sometimes when I’m busy inside. And I have left them in the car while I run to the ATM machine. And I have each of them lying on the couch when they were sick to run the other one up to the bus stop. Judgement calls. The problem that I see is that parents don’t seem to be allowed to make these kinds of judgement calls anymore. I learned that there are actually state laws which govern how old your child must be to stay home alone. I bet there are many laws and rules about things that used to be within a parent’s right to decide.

So where do we as a society draw the line? How can we reclaim the rights as parents to decide when our kids are old enough to bike to the park alone? Or play on their DS for 10 minutes while mom runs into the store for milk? When are we going to stop punishing parents for doing the best they can, like letting their daughter play at the park while working at the McDonald’s to put food on the table and start punishing parents who don’t support their kids or who exhibit true signs of neglect and abuse?

We are doing our kids a disservice by hovering over them and planning everything for them. We are doing parents a disservice by taking away their ability to exercise their common sense and judgement when it comes to raising their children. We are creating a society of dependent, helpless, entitled children from families of impotent, ineffective parents. This is not the future I want to live in.

a mother’s nightmare

During the spring and summer, I was somewhat obsessed with the Casey Anthony trial. It was something I hadn’t followed up until then, maybe only reading bits and pieces over the years the case took place. I do remember when Caylee went missing because I remember thinking that she was about the same age as my boys and thinking what an awful tragedy it was and feeling so sorry for Casey Anthony. I remember seeing pictures in the National Enquirer and without reading the actual story and just seeing headlines I can recall thinking, that poor girl (Casey)…there they go, blaming the mother…probably because she is single and pretty and the media is sensationalizing the story and she is grieving the loss of her daughter. Then there was a story that made me stop and think, oh wait, maybe she really was involved. And that was an even more awful thought.

so when the trial began and I started reading news stories and then found myself going back and back and back to read articles following the case I grew more and more upset and more and more obsessed. I started listening to the trial online while I was working, occasionally stealing glances at the proceedings to get a look at this woman I became convinced had done something horrific to her little girl. Somewhere toward the end of the trial my heart sank even further when it seemed to me that she was going to go free. I’m glad I wasn’t on the jury because in my head I feel like there was too much doubt. There were too many questions left unanswered. And I’m not sure how I would have been able to hand down a judgement that was based mostly from a gut feeling that Casey was guilty.

Now another little girl has gone missing. A baby. And if people weren’t already scrutinizing the mother and father and their strange story of her being taken away in the night on the very first evening the dad worked the nightshift, they are certainly doing it now that the mother admits she was drunk and passed out and had no recollection of much from that night. People are condemning her in the media already and it is hard not to do so. She lied to the police. Not a good start. And she got drunk while her three young children were under her sole care. Not endearing to the public. But comparing her to Casey Anthony?? That is going over the line.

Casey Anthony lied and hid the fact that something had happened to her daughter for more than a month. She pretended everything was A-OK. She wouldn’t have mentioned her daughter was even missing if not for the fact that her own mother essentially called the cops on her and forced her hand. Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin reported the child missing immediately. Deborah was sleeping  (drunk, passed out, whatever) when her boyfriend came home from work that night…not digging a ditch in the backyard, not frantically doing laundry to cover anything up, the other children were sound asleep as well…when would she have had the time and wherewithal to sober up and get rid of her baby and get back to sleep without a trace of disturbance, with TWO OTHER CHILDREN in tow…

It just doesn’t add up. As a mom with two young boys, if something as disturbing as say, a household accident, occurred and mother is freaking out and baby is hurt or no longer moving and mother in some crazy scheme throws y’all in the car and drives far enough away to not leave a trace and say parks on the side of a shady road and heads into the woods with a bag, or stops in an unfamiliar parking lot and pays a visit to the dumpster and then chats you up on the way home telling you everything is ok and if anyone asks what we were doing all night you just say sleeping…um, yeah, there is no way those kids just laid their little heads down and drifted quietly off to dreamland. And I highly doubt they would have gotten through even the most routine questions asked by the police without some “tell”. I just don’t buy it.

On the other hand, the whole story doesn’t add up. The thing about the missing cell phones seems like a bad cover up. But the fact that a young mother of 3 kids had some boxed wine and went to bed without locking the doors? Irresponsible, but not criminal. I just hope and pray that they find that sweet baby unharmed and the the two other young children in this case don’t have their lives completely torn apart. I hope that people will focus on looking for the baby…and not spend too much time focusing on Deborah’s bad judgment. I can only imagine what this mother must be going through losing her sweet baby girl and blaming herself for not being more alert and responsible and possibly preventing this awful tragedy.

God bless Lisa Irwin and all the other missing children out there. Keep them safe until they can return to their mother’s loving arms.