I’m having a rough time. When I have a rough time, I like to write it out. Sometimes it helps to read what I’ve written so I can understand what I think. It’s cathartic.
My soul is tired, I am treading in the Dark.
On Thursday morning, last week, my youngest child, aged 11, said he didn’t feel well and didn’t want to go to school.
“What hurts?” I wondered, not quite buying the “I’m sick” excuse without at least a fever or explosive diarrhea episode.
“My heart,” he sighed.
“Your chest hurts?” I clarified.
He shook his head. “No. He pointed to that precious area just under his collar bone. That amazing muscle I watched in wonder on the sonogram as he grew in my womb. That beautiful creation that let me know my boy was alive. “My heart.”
“What’s wrong with your heart?” I asked him, curiously.
“I think maybe it’s scared. It just keeps beating really fast.”
Which is when my heart, the one that breaks every single day for my kids for one reason or another, shattered into a million pieces.
I gathered him into my arms and caught my breath, unwilling to let him see the tears pooling in my eyes.
MY Squirrel Master is not a hugger. He isn’t a crier. In fact, he isn’t very emotional at all. But he sagged against me and let me crumple on the floor under his weight and he curled in my lap while I held him. My baby.
The one I would die to protect.
Is scared to go to school.
I know that part of parenting is learning to let go. To trust that you’ve given your offspring the tools they need to survive in the world. But that morning I felt like I was sending my babies into a slaughterhouse and they might survive and they might not.
School shootings are no longer isolated incidents. They happen all the time. In every town, in every state. My husband goes out every night to protect the sleeping and innocent from forces that would do them harm, risking his own life, I know he has weapons to protect himself. I am not anti-gun. Similarly, my children’s teachers walk into their classrooms every day prepared to sacrifice themselves to save these babies they are entrusted with.
The schools have plans in place for killers. Drills. Ways to minimize the death toll in case Evil decides to take a stroll down the fucking English hall. Should Death happen to stop by the cafeteria. In the event Insanity rips our babies from us while they lie quietly in a darkened classroom, praying they’ll be spared.
Like I said, I am not anti-gun. But I also know that the only purpose for an assault rifle is to take human life. They aren’t for hunting game, they aren’t for target practice, their primary function is to take as many human lives as possible in the shortest amount of time. They are good at their job. And in the wrong hands…
Let’s talk about “the wrong hands”. I’ll maintain anyone who isn’t in an active war situation does not need a weapon of this magnitude. They do not need access to these guns in any capacity. Our soldiers? Sure. With the proper training. Police? Maybe. Because these death machines may fall into the wrong hands, it’d be nice if the good guys were evenly matched. Everyone else? Fuck no.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a gun issue. I mean, yeah…guns are doing all the killing, but they aren’t really the problem. Twenty years ago every asshole with a pickup truck brought their gun to school and left them racked and locked in the back. No one died. It isn’t a mental health issue. Sure, people are fucking crazy and do insane shit…but that’s nothing new, either.
The problem, as I see it, is that societal boundaries have obliterated and twisted to where the only rule is there ARE no rules.
Love it, hate it…THIS is the problem.
Men and women have specific roles in raising young. We see this throughout the animal kingdom. Typically the mother nurtures and protects her babies until they are old enough to do it on their own. The father provides food, sometimes, others he just leaves mama to do her job.
This is how it used to be with humans, too. Men would go to work, women would stay home with their children. They interacted with them and raised them. Dad would come home on the weekend, settle into his easy chair, flip on the tube and light up a cigarette. The spawn were expected to be respectful of his time. Mom made dinner and did laundry and struggled with undiagnosed depression. There was no such thing as electronics. If you wanted to enjoy something electric, you watched the nightly news (which was over at 7 and then…welp, you had to find something else to occupy your time) but for the most part you played outside (since Mom had cleaned the house and Dad needed quiet time) or hung out in the family area.
Then a revolution occurred. We decided women belonged in the workplace because we needed more…stuff. A mom can have her cake and eat it, too…she can raise capable human beings AND contribute financially. I maintain it is a mother’s job to raise and protect her children and it is a father’s job to be one hell of a role model. A provider. A worker. A partner.
Along with this intrinsic familial shift came a brand new paradigm. One where offspring arrived home from school and had a few hours to themselves before a parent came home to…parent them.
It was all fairly innocent at first. Hell, some families NEEDED two incomes. And women are perfectly capable of doing the same jobs as men. So the crotchfruit suffered.
Then, along came the internet. All of the mysteries of the world were revealed.
We continued to devolve.
We introduced video games. Not Mario Kart and Duck Hunt, but games where the object is to slaughter police officers and random civilians. Bonus points if you managed to steal a car a mow down a mother pushing a stroller. Score.
A few years ago Rasslin went to a sleepover. He called me around midnight and said he needed to throw up and wanted to come home. I would have rather him puked at the friend’s house but I drove across town and picked him up. “Dude, don’t barf in my car,” I warned him.
He stared at me. “Mom, everyone wanted to play this weird video game. They were killing cops. It was all about murder. They asked me if I wanted to play and when I didn’t, they said I was a pussy.”
Yeah…I failed to teach my kid about the wonders of Grand Theft Auto and those other games where life is disregarded. But other parents looked at is as “good fun” and “something for the kids to do to keep them safely inside while they were finishing the work day.”
I’m going to be very painfully honest. I am NOT a good parent. I model plenty of bad behaviors. My children swear. They challenge authority if they feel they’e been wronged. They eat cake for breakfast…ice cream for dinner. They see me fighting with my husband. They watch me cry. They know I have sex. They understand I drink sometimes. So while I am not a model parent, I am a fucking intentional one.
Every one of my kids understands the value of life. They were raised on a farm…they understand how easy it is to get pregnant. They know the responsibilities of caring for the very young and the very old. And they know how heartbreaking it is when something dies. You lose a piece of something special.
Last summer some dear friends of ours lost their infant daughter. She was nine months old. They had a small service for her. I asked my kids if they wanted to attend. My daughters declined…they said it would be too painful. My younger son was afraid. But my older son said “Mom, I’d like to go with you.”
I was a little surprised. He’d just turned 13 and with his new teenaged status he’d become kind of a cocky shithead. “Why? Why do you want to go?” I asked him.
He looked at me with a comfortable wisdom well beyond his years. “Do you remember last Christmas? We were baking cookies and the baby was crying so I went and picked her up. I rocked her a few times and she stopped fussing and looked at me. She smiled. No matter how short her life is and no matter how bad losing her sucks, she was part of my journey and I’m part of hers. I’ll go to honor her and be with you.”
Now that statement is pretty gut-wrenchingly profound and most of his musings are typical teenaged bullshit. “So and so is an asshole. That girl is hot. I think my dick is getting bigger. Yeah, it’s definitely bigger. I have pubes. I’m pretty sure I failed my science test. Yeah, I failed my science test so I’m going to retake it. I need you to sign a form so I can retake it. I kept smelling B.O. today and I thought it was That Asshole but I’m pretty sure it’s my shirt. I haven’t washed this shirt for like six weeks now. I’m still wearing the same socks I wore to my first wrestling practice in August. I haven’t washed them either. My underwear has a hole in it. That hot girl ended up being a skank…she sent me a picture of her boobs. Why? Because I said I’d send her a pic of my weiner but I was talking about the dog…then next thing you know? Boom. Boobs. No, I didn’t show my friends but I wanted for you to delete it so that you wouldn’t find it somewhere and lose your shit. I don’t have many friends. The guys I know want to vape and smoke cigarettes…why can’t they just look at porn like normal people? Don’t they know that the cigarettes turn into pot and drinking and…I’m just not about the drug stuff.”
This is not just one conversation…a simple spattering of several platitudes.
It’s not much different than the girls. “I’m pretty sure he wants to have sex with me. He’s already had sex with so and so. I’m totally not going to let him. Yeah, I do take birth control for my acne. Did you feed the horses today? How’s the foal? So and so is a total bitch. All she wants to do is talk about politics and nothing she says is wrong. Does my butt look big in these pants? Should I wear makeup? If people don’t like me without makeup then fuck what they think. I might not sing anymore, I sound terrible. Maybe I should practice more. Can I drive? Can you drive? Can we stop and get a drink? Why was your door locked this morning? Were you and Dad banging? That’s gross.”
I talk to them. I talk to them a lot. I try not to lecture, but I listen and absorb and involve myself. I do not wake them up in the mornings. I do not prepare their breakfast. I sometimes make dinner, but oftentimes they’re on their own. Because I am not raising children, I am raising adults. I am raising adults that understand the value of life. I am raising adults that have very limited access to social media (but not porn, apparently). I am raising adults that are uncomfortable when their friends think it’s fun to play a game that promotes murder for funsies. I’m raising adults to deal with their own responsibilities.
On Friday I told one of my vagina trophies to finish folding a basket of laundry before they went to bed. Not only did they fail to complete this task, they left the next day with nary a fuck to spare. When this particular spawn called to check in later that day I asked if they were having fun and if they’d forgotten anything when they left. “Nope, pretty sure I got everything!” I was assured. “Haha! Pretty sure you forgot to do the fucking laundry like I told you so guess what? You’re my laundry bitch for the rest of the month! Any laundry that needs washing or drying or folding…that’s all you, Baby! Have a great rest of your day!”
I stay home with my kids…or I guess I should say I work from home so I can BE home with my kids when they need me, but like every other family unit in America we rely on two incomes to afford the basics. We did without plenty of stuff when they were little because back then, wiping asses and snotty noses was a full time, payless job. Now they’re old enough to take care of some of the shit on their own. Like the laundry.
Recently my 16 year old daughter traveled with her team to Orlando to compete in the UCA cheerleading nationals. They took the title of National Champions in their division. I wasn’t there. Several parents were…I couldn’t afford to be. After it was revealed, Rah-rah called me, weeping. “Mom, I really miss you and wish you were here. This is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“Baby, I wish I was there. If it makes you feel any better, you probably would have lost if I HAD been there because I would have given everyone the flu.”
“It’s okay,” she said, tearfully. “I would have wanted a hug then, too.”
Gutted. My beautiful, independent, National Champ Title Winning baby wanted me to share this beautiful moment with her and I was unable to be there with her. I felt as helpless and sad as the next week when my youngest said he didn’t want to go to school because his heart hurt.
I don’t have anything pithy or thought provoking to bring this whole thing to a close, so I can tie it up with a bow and add it to my shelf of ponderings. Except that I think this is a parenting problem. We are emasculating our children…wiping their noses and asses for far to long. We aren’t teaching them to hunt and gather or think for themselves. We immediately go into protection mode when an authority figure dares impose a consequence. And then, when our adult-sized babies make their way into the real world they don’t know how to handle ANYTHING.
Fucking stop it. Stop letting video games and social media raise our future generation. Stop ignoring the slaughter. This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. Can’t we all just agree that it should be less mainstream for a kid to get shot in the stomach while learning geometry?
We have to do better.