Kindergarten Drop-Off - The Third Day

This morning, after I dropped Little Man off at school, I started to walk away. He turned around and waved for me to come back saying, "Come on, Mommy!" I told him that I couldn't go in with him, that he needed to go to Kindergarten and I needed to go to work.

"Oh, okay, Mommy! Bye!"

And he turned around, and followed the line into school.

My heart swelled up as I watched him, his little body disappearing as he walked through the door, and down the hallway. So grown and yet still so, so small.

It didn't hit me the first day, or the second, but it definitely hit me today. And I was overwhelmed with the sense of pride, trepidation, wonder, and fear of sending my Little Man out into the world.

As Baby Boy and I walked back to the car, I thought about all that my Little Man will face in the coming year and in the coming years. I thought about his excitement and joy in school, and I can't help but hope and pray that he will maintain that. I thought about his goodness and kindness, and can't help but hope and pray that he doesn't lose that.

I also couldn't help but have a little catch of my breath in my throat as I remembered all those little boys and girls just a few years ago who walked into a kindergarten classroom in Connecticut but never walked out. How big they felt, but how small they were. How they had their lives ahead of them, full of hope and promise. Just like my Little Man. My heart wept for those children. And I couldn't but take a moment to pray that the children in Little Man's school, and all schools, would never face that kind of horror again.

Also, although I live in fear for my boys of an unhinged person with too much anger, too much weaponry, and not enough compassion, I can't help but hope and pray that Little Man will not lose his own fearlessness and courage in facing the world.

He heads into a world that I couldn't have imagined in my childhood. That I can hardly imagine now. And it will take all the excitement and joy, the goodness and kindness, the courage and the fearlessness that is in him to face that world.

And so I will love him and support him. Nurture that excitement and joy and remind him to be good and kind. Encourage his courage, and teach him how to be safe while spreading his wings and jumping fearlessly into the world.

And today, I will pick up his Little Man self from school, hold his hand, and walk down the sidewalk, my heart swelling with love and pride and trepidation and wonder and fear and all the swirling emotions of parenthood.

And I will hope and pray...

A Call to Listen

On a day, not unlike today, many years ago, I went to the pharmacy.

My younger sister, a severe asthmatic with nasty allergies, was out of her asthma medication, and needed a refill. She was having more trouble than usual that day, I remember. I think it’s because she was sick. Sickness, even a cold, always make her asthma worse.

I haven’t thought about this day in years, so my memories of the details of when and why all of this happened are a bit fuzzy. But I think my parents were out of town and that’s why I went to the pharmacy. Whatever the reason was, because I was her sister, I wasn’t allowed by the person working the pharmacy desk to pick up her meds.

I argued, pleaded with the person to just let me pay for and take the meds home to my sister. She needed them, I said. She needed them to breathe.

“Tell her to just breathe.”

That was the response.
As if she could.

“Tell her to just breathe.”

Throughout my sister’s short life, people vastly underestimated her asthma and allergies. She was making it up, they would claim. She was a drama queen just wanting attention, they laughed. She was exaggerating, it couldn’t be that bad, they would tsk. I had asthma once, I grew out of it, it’s not that bad, they would lecture.

Time after time. Classmates, teachers, strangers, friends…they all would belittle her claims and her needs. They had never seen asthma do to a person what she said it did to her, so even when they witnessed one of her attacks, they thought that she was putting on a show and so they ignored it.

Then, one day, on a day not unlike today, she had one final asthma attack. The paramedics tried…but there was nothing they could do. She wanted to breathe, she really did…she just couldn’t.

After all was said and done, so many people expressed shock that her asthma had been life threatening.

She knew. But no one listened.

How often we do that. Not listen when someone is trying to tell us their lived experience. They try to tell us, but we laugh it off. It’s not in my experience, we say, so you must be exaggerating, making it up. I’ve never seen it happen, we tsk, you must not be telling us the whole story, because there’s no way that’s real. If they would just [_______], then it wouldn’t happen… “Tell her to just breathe”.

Time after time. Classmates, teachers, strangers, friends…we discount and belittle the claims of our sisters and brothers because we’ve never seen or experienced such a thing in our lives. And so, when we do see something, we diminish it. Write it off. Discount it. Cast it as a one off, an anomaly.

And then something happens.

Like on a day not unlike today, when a man, with a concealed carry permit willfully disclosed to a police officer during a routine traffic stop, gets shot for having a weapon…the one he legally had and willfully disclosed.

And then we express shock that such a thing could happen to a good guy, from a good family, with a good job, who was forthcoming and compliant, with a small child in the backseat.

But he knew. And he knew. And he knew. And she knew. And zhe knew. We just didn’t listen.

We need to start listening. When people tell us their lived experience, we need to listen. Not diminish, not excuse, not explain, not express disbelief because it’s not our own lived experience. Just listen.

And then, when we’re done listening, we need to take that knowledge and do something. Change something. Do better. Be better.

Lives are at stake.

Hiatus. And a Permission to Begin Anew

I’ve been away. I know it. I didn’t intend to stay away this long, and yet…I did.

I could launch a thousand excuses as to why. Work got busy (we built a bell tower). Life got busy (we had a baby). I worried I had nothing new to add to the conversation (does anyone, really?).

But, at the end of it all is this: I simply didn’t make this a priority.

I kept paying my monthly webhosting fees, and when the domain came up for renewal a few months ago, I let it. But I didn’t do anything with this site…just let it sit dormant for almost a year.

And then, just the other day, I thought:

Dang it. Just make time.

A little over a year ago, I attended CREDO, an opportunity for pastors in the PCUSA (there’s a version for the Episcopal’s too…in fact, they invented it). As a part of the process, we’re supposed to create a “plan” for becoming healthier professionally and personally, in all sorts of ways. One of the elements of my plan was to create.

Create visual things. Create worshippy things. Create educational things. Write.

So, over the last year, I’ve been working on it. I’ve taught myself Adobe Illustrator, and now I’m working on Photoshop. I’m working on teaching myself a font creator software to expand my creative outlets.

I’ve made stoles and given myself permission to be more creative in worship (and not worry so much about it being “cheesy”).

I’ve given a great deal of thought to a number of programs that I’d like to give life to, although that got pushed off because of pregnancy and maternity leave, if I’m going to be honest.

But, I haven’t given myself the permission to write. I get up in my head about it, and I start circling around all those thoughts that I’ve had before.

As the one year anniversary of my CREDO plan approaches, I realize that I haven’t followed through on the biggest part of what I determined during that incredibly formative week would give me life.

And so, today, I start again. I give myself permission to write and, as Anne Lamott says, write a shitty first draft. Who knows, you may well read numerous shitty first drafts as I work towards my ultimate goal of writing something truly worthy of putting out there in the world. 

Nothing New Under the Sun

I long to write and to share things that are thoughtful and useful. I long to write and to share things that are helpful and interesting. I long to write and to share things that mean something to me, and that hopefully mean something to others. I have a list of posts that I have fermenting, some in my brain, some on Word documents, and some in scribbles in journals. A list of posts that I want to write and that I want to be profound. 
But, as I am working on these posts, along comes another blogger, usually someone with a much higher readership than I...and writes about something similar, or writes about something using a similar train of thought as I have been working on. They post it, it gets linked on Social Media, and whooooosh. There it is, everywhere in my feed(s). Or at least that's the way that it seems. 

And I can't help but wondering: If I were to post my thoughts about this subject now, will people think that I'm plagiarizing "their" ideas or riding on the coattails of that other person? Will people think that this piece that I've been working on for a long time, finding the right words and the right thoughts to express what I'm thinking and feeling...will people think that it's less profound because they already read something that someone else wrote about a similar subject? 

At the end of the day, I am, perhaps, plagued by the ever present, nagging fear of Generation X: Maybe I am just another faceless drone in the world, and while I long to be unique and special, I just have nothing new to offer to the world. 
I think that my ever present fear with blogging is that, if I do press "publish" on my treatise on church or parenting or what's going on in the world or what's going on in the depths of my brain...then everyone else will quickly and easily become aware of my ordinariness. Because someone else said something similar or on the same topic first. 

The thought paralyzes me. I freeze up, and I stop writing, wondering  "what's the use?"

It's been part of my silence here the past month or so. And it's a thought that almost had me taking down this site altogether this past week as a subject that I've been working on very hard behind the scenes, something that I have great plans for, was written about and commented on widely within my social circle. My fears kicked into high gear, and I wondered if people would roll their eyes at me when I finally do hit that "publish" button. 
Who does she think she is?

And then I remember: There is nothing new under the sun. And that's okay.
I will probably never have that greatly profound ground breaking thought piece that people stop at and marvel at. Because there is nothing that I can't say that hasn't been said by others a thousand time over...and probably better than how I can possibly say it. And that's okay.
Because what I bring is my perspective and my experience. What I bring is another view, even if it is just one of many.

What I bring is my own voice...and while it may be ordinary, it is mine. And it matters.

So, I will keep writing, for my small audience, yes, but for myself. And I will write things that are important and profound and good...even if to only me. It's not a matter of being the first or even the best. But it's a matter of writing my truth, speaking my story, and wrestling with putting the pieces together as I, and we all, wrestle with figuring out this thing called life. 

And I will finish and publish those pieces that I've been working on, because they are important to me, and perhaps they'll be important or helpful of meaningful to someone else.

Who's Afraid of a Little Pink?

If you spend any time, at all, around Little Man these days, you're sure to hear about two things: Paw Patrol and Pete the Cat (and his four groovy buttons). 

Maybe someday, I'll talk about Pete the Cat (who is awesome, by the way!), but today, I want to talk about Paw Patrol.

Paw Patrol is a show on Nickelodeon that centers around a team of six (or seven, depending on the episode) dogs and one boy who work together to perform tasks to save, serve, and protect the citizens and the community of Adventure Bay, the city where they are located. It is more than just his favorite tv show at the moment, it's also a great vehicle for us as parents to have positive conversations with Little Man about teamwork, helping, kindness, courage, and problem solving. 

As a mom of a little boy, one of the things that I greatly appreciate about Paw Patrol is that it is one of the few shows out there that is designed to appeal mutually to boys and girls, without a strong "girl" theme or "boy" theme. This is something that's important to me, as we as parents are trying to raise our Little Man without the confines of societal gender norms so that he doesn't think that different things, activities, or whatever are "boy things" or "girl things". We are wanting to raise a boy who is comfortable playing with a train or a truck or a baby doll or a dollhouse or whatever he wants to play with. We are wanting to raise a boy who enjoys playing dressup in a police uniform or a tutu. We are wanting to raise a boy who is comfortable expressing what he likes and dislikes based on his own taste, rather than what culture or society tells him that he should. As he grows, we hope that this also will expand to other areas of his life, beyond gender roles, so that he is comfortable....I don't know...maybe being the kid who listens to jazz when all his classmates are listening to pop, or maybe being the kid who enjoys playing football and being in the drama club, etc. etc.

Basically, we want him to be who he is, enjoy what he enjoys, and express that comfortably and openly. We want him to have a healthy sense of self. 

But...often it's hard because what we are trying to do as a family is, quite frankly, counter cultural, and it is often hard to find things that aren't "gendered". Shows are marketed to either boys or girls. Clothes are marketed to either boys or girls; This winter, we wanted to buy an Olaf hat (similar to this one), but had a difficult time finding it in the store because it was tucked away on a display in the girls' clothing section. Even bottles and cups are labeled as "girl" cups or "boy" cups. 

So, you can imagine that we were quite thrilled with the Paw Patrol toys that we found that gave Skye the same treatment as Chase (the police dog) or Zuma (the water rescue dog). The only thing? Skye wears pink...which, I believe, directly impacted what we discovered this Easter.

We try to do a fairly simply Easter for Little Man. The main emphasis is on church, and the lessons there, but we also enjoy having the "Easter Bunny come" to the house. The Easter basket that we put together is a pretty simple one: A bit of candy, a toy, and another little something like a coloring book and crayons or a bit of playdoh or a special t-shirt.

This year, the toy that accompanied the basket was the coveted and long searched for Skye Action Pack Pup that we felt lucky enough to find at a local store (there was a run on these toys, and we spent many, many trips to a number of different stores trying to find all the different dogs). The other little something was a Paw Patrol t-shirt for him to wear that we found in the boys' clothing section at the store. 

Easter Morning, Little Man was thrilled to walk into the living room and find that the Easter Bunny had dropped off his basket, complete with his new Skye toy. He was so excited about finally having Skye in his set that he had to take her with him that day to show to all of his friends at church.

Following church, we got ready to head to his Grandparents' house, and so he put on his new Paw Patrol shirt, still clutching onto his new favorite toy. 

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It was then that I noticed...the dog that he was holding onto so lovingly, that he was playing with, zooming her around the house, was not anywhere on his shirt. The sixth spot was taken up by the little boy who leads the Paw Patrol. Skye was no where to be found.

The message is clear. This is a boy's shirt. A girl dog, dressed in pink, does not belong.

As if it is incomprehensible that there might be a little bit of pink on a boy's t-shirt.

As if a little boy would not think of wearing a shirt with a little bit of pink on it.

As if it would somehow damage his sense of what being a boy means to have a little bit of pink on his shirt. 

As if it's a bad thing for a boy to wear pink.

But it's not. Pink is not a color that denotes gender or sexuality in any way other than what we as a society allow it to. And, even if it is determined to be a more "feminine color" (whatever that means), allowing boys to choose to wear pink, allowing boys to choose to have pink, allows them to embrace and have a healthy understanding of what masculinity and femininity means. Allowing little boys to like pink allows them to grow into men who are not afraid of expressing their feelings and emotions, their likes and their dislikes, because someone might call it "girly." Allowing little boys to do things like like or wear pink allows them to grow into men who are comfortable with themselves, their identity...their whole selves, no matter what that looks like. 

So, I beg you, marketers and the design folks and the promotion folks who made this decision, and so many others like it...I beg you to allow my Little Man the option of wearing a little bit of pink, or a lot of pink if he wants to. Don't take Skye off of a t-shirt just because it's being sold in the boys' section. Leave her on the shirt, and open up the world to little boys. Let them like pink, and let them grow into secure, confident, happy men who aren't afraid to be who they are in the world.