When I was a teenager in the late 1990s, I thought I was born in the wrong time. In my mind, I should have been coming of age in the 1960s, the height of the Civil Rights era. I imagined myself as a fierce crusader for the rights of others, on the front lines of the marches and sit-ins to confront white supremacy.
Dear Lord, I was a fool.
Admittedly, that’s pretty common among teenagers. But this was a special kind of foolishness. One that seems especially relevant in this rather terrible time in our nation’s history. This past weekend, a white supremacist plowed a car into a group of anti-racist protestors. There are three people dead (one protester and two police officers in a related accident) and many others in the hospital.
To me, this incident highlights how ignorant I was back then and yet how common my views still are. My naivety illustrates everything about why white parents need to talk to their kids about white supremacy. (By which I don’t mean just the literal Nazis, but also the cultural aspect of valuing white people and white culture above all others.)
“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.
Welcome to Earth Month! This month, I’m profiling a number of “green moms” who purposely live in a sustainable way.
For our third Green Mom Profile, welcome Julie. She’s in Germantown, MD, a suburb of Washington D.C. just north of where I am. She has two kids, who are one and five years old. She’s a mentor for Vegan Outreach, a group who is dedicated to reducing suffering through the promotion of a vegan diet.
Privilege is a word tossed around a lot these days, often in the phrase “Check your…” But even though the words are new, the idea is something I’ve known about for a long time. My mom emphasized how I was lucky to have what I had. Sure, my parents and I worked hard, but what we had wasn’t through hard work alone. I hope to pass that knowledge onto my kids.
Knowing how damn lucky and I my kids are motivates so much of my activism. I got the chance to write about it for Mamalode recently, in a piece called My Privilege Protects Me and My Sons From So Much – This is the Least I Can Do.
Here’s the first two paragraphs:
“President Obama, I know you have two daughters. I know you love them. But I want you to know that I don’t know if I’ll have kids. That’s because I don’t know if they’ll have clean water to drink,” said Eryn Wise, a 26-year-old organizer of the movement against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. As she stared out at the crowd gathered in front of the White House, I gasped just a little. Of course, I know this is a calculation women make every day – whether the world they would bring their child into is good enough. And too often, that answer is no. But to hear a young woman say it in person made me breathe in just a little more sharply.
That’s because it’s a question I’ve never had to face.
Read the rest at Mamalode!
It’s often hard to know what we can do in response to national policy, like the recent ban on immigration and refugees from several predominantly Muslim countries. Between the seemingly prejudiced way those countries were chosen, the terrible implementation, and the many people suffering as a result, it’s easy to feel helpless.
But I hope to make helping a little easier. While I almost never run giveaways, I want to raise awareness on this issue. To help parents talk to kids about refugees, I’m giving away one book from this list of picture books about refugees. The specific book will be the winner’s choice, depending on their child’s age and interests. I’ll also make a donation of school supplies to the International Rescue Committee in the winner’s name.
To win, you just need to like my Facebook page as well as “like” the specific Facebook post about the contest. Next Friday, February 10, I’ll randomly select one person to receive the package.
This is not a sponsored giveaway – I’m just doing it because I think it’s important. Immigration is a huge part of my family story. I want other families to have the same opportunities that my ancestors did. Teaching our children how refugees are like them and providing refugee kids with tools to help them heal is one small way to do so. Resistance takes a lot of forms, but I want all of mine to be driven by love.
For more on my thoughts on refugees and immigrants, read my post Refugees and Other Families Looking for a Better Life.
“Tell us what democracy looks like – this is what democracy looks like!” chanted by countless voices rang through the National Mall. I and two of my friends were in the middle of the Women’s March on Washington yesterday, along with about a million other people. From creative signs to the chants, the crowd was seriously pissed off. At the same time, there was a serious sense of solidarity and dare I say – hope.
As Dave Engledow, the photographer of the World’s Best Father set of photos, says, it felt like the scene in The Grinch Stole Christmas when all of the Whos in Whoville sing together despite the Grinch trying to ruin everything.
Maybe democracy doesn’t come from a store – perhaps democracy means just a little bit more!
A few of my highlights from the day:
Standing on the National Mall in the February cold, I stomped my feet and tried to ignore how sore my lower back felt. Watching the stage, I strained to listen to the speakers, from Silicon Valley billionaires to Native American activists. I was at one of the biggest climate change protests ever, focused on defeating the Keystone XL oil pipeline. While it attracted 12,000 people, it’s unlikely that many were in the same situation as I was: five months pregnant.
Despite the cold and a serious lack of bathrooms, I marched in hopes of shifting the tide against climate change. Now, with the election of Donald Trump for president and the Republican domination of Congress, I find it more important than ever before to be an activist mom.
Of all of the think pieces I’ve read on dealing with Donald Trump’s presidency, there is one small, furry voice that we haven’t heard from: Elmo.
What on earth would innocent Elmo have anything to do with our soon-to-be President, who brags about groping women and lies through his teeth? He’s actually dealt with Trump before – or at least a puppet version of him. In a Sesame Street parody of the Apprentice back in 2005, Elmo is a contestant in a contest to be Donald Grump’s assistant. As the other Grouches (including Oscar) say, “Donald Grump has all the garbage!”
All of us looking to get through the next four years with our sanity intact can learn from what Elmo does in the sketch:
“Did they have a home?” Sprout asked me. I had just finished telling him the Christmas story.
“Yes, they did have a home after that,” I said, skipping the whole “escaping into Egypt” bit.
While his question surprised me, it wasn’t totally out of nowhere. We’ve been talking about how not everyone has the same privileges we do, including homes. As both a Christian and someone who’s concerned about our society’s most vulnerable people, I want Christmas to be about a lot more than Santa and presents. In fact, I want to teach my kids how to serve others during the this time of year.
Here are some ways to turn away from consumerism and towards others at Christmas:
Sitting around the Thanksgiving table, letting the food settle before dessert, was prime storytelling time in my family. At my aunt’s house in New Jersey, we’d cram as many chairs as we could around the table. Instead of focusing on the vastly different places family members ended up, we looked to the past. Even outside of holidays, my family often shared stories, of struggles and triumphs, of funny incidents and serious ones.
As an adult, I now see that these stories influenced my values so much more than any amount of lecturing would have. In fact, children who hear family stories about both good and bad times have more resilience in the face of difficult circumstances than those who don’t. Here are a few of my family’s stories and the values they passed on to me.