A few Saturdays ago, Sprout accompanied me on my community bike ride, acting as an enthusiastic second and playing readily with other kids on the playground. The next day, he broke down screaming three separate times when we were celebrating an early Fathers’ Day brunch with my parents and in-laws. I actually picked him up and left the restaurant so he could calm down, something I almost never have to do. This past year with a three-year-old has been full of contradictions: happy/sad, stable/falling apart, independent/clingy. With him on the cusp between being a toddler and school-aged kid, we felt the full-brunt of the threenager phase. With his birthday just past, I’m looking back at the ups and downs of living with a three-year-old.
“You look just like your mom.” Those are always the first words out of anyone’s mouth who knows my mom and is meeting me for the first time. Admittedly, my mom and I have many things in common. Namely, a talkative nature and knack for strong opinions. But lately, I’ve been noticing more and more the ways that I’m like my dad.
On first glance, my dad and I don’t seem to have much in common. My good high school friend once half-joked that he had never heard my dad talk. That was obviously false, but had enough truth to it to be funny.
But for all that our personalities are different, his influence has definitely rubbed off on me.
As I scrolled through Facebook the day President Trump announced America was leaving the Paris accords to address climate change, I couldn’t do anything but sigh and shake my head. As a long time climate change activist, I increasingly identify with the climate scientists sinking into despair the same way the West Antarctic ice sheet is. As there was nothing else I could do, I posted a screenshot of the Weather Channel that made me laugh. That evening, I stood out on my back deck, stared at the stars, and wondered what the hell we’re doing to our children’s future.
Feeling the thump thump thump of kicking feet against my back and the cries of the baby who did not want to be in the car any longer, I thought, “What the hell was I thinking trying to go camping with two kids?” We were still 45 minutes from our site and things were already going very badly. Fortunately, a couple of potty breaks and some whining later, I realized that the camping trip this past weekend turned out a hell of a lot better than I expected it. In fact, it was easily our best camping trip so far.
It had been almost two years since we had gone camping with Sprout. It was the first time we went camping with two kids. Even though the times with Sprout were chaotic, from clueless packing to partying college students, I still wanted to go. There’s a genuine magic that makes all of the other nonsense worthwhile.
Sitting at the top of our concrete stairs, Little Bird smiles down at me. Even though he doesn’t talk yet, his big grin says, “Look at me, Mama! Isn’t this awesome?” Used to my daredevil of a baby, I shake my head, smile back and hustle up the stairs before he gets the idea to climb down on his own.
I suppose it’s appropriate that one of my kids is a risk-taker. After all, exploration and adventure are some of my big values, in whatever form they come. My family stories overflow with risk, from biking around the world to immigrating to America. And I myself was a kid who never hesitated to put anything in my mouth and embraced the wildness of the outdoors. But all of that doesn’t make it any easier on my mental health.
I was going to post a photo of one of the local rabbits, but it was too blurry. So here’s a spider.
Lately, my mood has often wobbled between “exasperated” and “vaguely aggravated.” The world’s political situation is definitely affecting it. But on the other hand, I also got some amazing encouragement for my writing, so that rocked. I won’t say it all equals out in the end, but it’s nice when something pushes down on the scales a bit.
For this week, our articles cover why kids should talk to strangers, teaching kindness, truth telling around racism, and the beautiful challenges of parenthood.
“Going to the movies” read the text from my husband. I shook my head. He had told me earlier that he was planning to go to the movies, but it still annoyed me. Logically, he had every right to go. He had led one of our preschool’s clean-up days all morning, the kids and I were out, and he spends a ton of time with them as a stay-at-home dad. And yet, it still felt wrong. Whereas I and many other women would have used the free afternoon to tackle their to-do lists, his first (and probably only) thought was re-watching a movie he had already seen. In the world of 28 million blog posts about why moms should be taking “me time,” he was living the dream.
Ants. So many ants. They were crawling all over the seat, fabric and metal bars of my bike trailer. I poked at the swarm with a leaf, but they just scattered. I sprayed them with Lysol, but that didn’t seem to faze them. Finally, after hearing many proclaimations of “Ew!”, Chris stepped in. After spraying the whole trailer with the hose and shaking it upside down, he declared that I would not be bringing Little Bird on his first ever bike ride that day.
Before I became a mother, I had dealt with a lot of problems on the bike, from flat tires to thigh-grinding hills. But never ant infestations. This was only one of the many times I’ve had to adapt one of my major passions after becoming a parent.
“Mommy is going to let the people in charge know that we need to respect all people,” I told my son on the morning of the Women’s March. While I’ve been politically active for a long time, he never really knew about it. Because I so rarely miss weekend time with the kids, I wanted to let him know what I was doing and why it was important. As I and two of friends gathered snacks and pinned posters on our jackets, seeing my kids reminded me why we were doing this in the first place.
Explaining what’s going on is even more important if you’re bringing your kids along to a political event. In the case of the People’s Climate March, I knew that I had a responsibility to explain to Sprout why he was there.
From explaining why I’ve missed dinner to testify to our City Council to marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, here’s what I’ve learned about introducing kids to activism: