Life Lessons, Parenting

Dear Teachers,

I’ve been trying to write this for two days. I keep writing and erasing, writing and erasing.

Because the truth is, I can’t find enough words of gratitude for what it is you do for all of us on a daily basis.

I started to think back to my own years of schooling and all of the amazing educators I was fortunate enough to have. Every single one of you were brilliant, even those that I didn’t care for, especially the ones I didn’t care for because I probably learned the most from you.

Your patience, your dedication, your passion. It all resonated with me. I remember your names, your faces, your messages, your encouragement, your wisdom, your individual skill sets, your special qualities that made you unique, your ability to remember our names 20 years later, your ability to show up for us.

You set me up for success to brave this world. You paved the way for me and all of your students, because that’s what you signed up to do.

You chose your career on sheer selflessness. You chose it on passion. You chose it based on the love for children. The love to educate our youth and to make them better. We are all keenly aware that you didn’t choose this path based on the financial reward.

You spend your own money on supplies, you have very little free time in the evenings and on weekends. You spend those hours grading papers, answering parents’ emails and texts, planning, conferencing, organizing, thinking, crafting.

Now I have a school aged child of my own. In the most violent time in history, I’m raising a child. And you, dear teachers, are raising my child right along with me, carrying burdens that I cannot fathom.

You spend more time with our children on a daily basis than we do during the course of the week. You know them better than we do in some aspects. You have tasks so large that we as parents can not reconcile in our minds how you manage not only the personalities of 15-60 students, but of their parents too.

You are an educator, a babysitter, a therapist, a nurse, a referee, a judge, a mediator, an analyst, a friend, a confidant, a mentor, and a coach all rolled into one. There’s no other profession like yours where you have to wear so many hats.

You have to bear the brunt of how much each and everyone of us suck at parenting in a million different ways.

And here, in 2018, you now have to enter your school on a daily basis faced with a fear so large, so insurmountable, that my heart aches for you. In addition to all of the responsibilities you already have, you now have to worry, and even prepare, to take a bullet for our kids. You have to have that additional nagging stress of “what if today is the day it’s our school?”.

I just can’t sit with that comfortably. It rocks me to my core that this is what it’s come to.

And as I scroll through social media today, I see some offering up your services to arm you with guns, train you to also be policemen and women of our schools to combat the evilness that has penetrated our schools over and over. Some want you to bear that load of being the one to pull the trigger in the face of danger, of delineating and diffusing a violent situation, basically taking on second profession, wear yet another hat.

I see these people, most whom are not teachers, offering this as a solution without even asking you how you feel about it, without even considering the tremendous responsibilities you already carry without having to also worry about carrying a concealed weapon.

And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry so much has fallen on you. It’s unfair. All of it.

So much stress, so much worry, so much anxiety, so much thought process that already goes into your daily grind. I cannot imagine how this all feels to you right now.

As a parent, I have felt sick to my stomach this week when I’ve dropped my child off to school. I should never have to have the thought in my mind that this might be the last time I see her when she’s simply going to school, a place that should obviously be a safe haven.

I cannot imagine how you feel inside these buildings in these times of uncertainly, with the amount of tragic events happening weekly within schools’ walls. It’s too heavy.

And I want you to know I’m fighting for change.

I am one fed up mama. I’m fed up for our children and I’m fed up for you, our educators. And I’m pledging to fight until we see more and more years pass before the next tragedy, not just days.

I will fight until there’s a time when this is all a distant memory and we can look back and say, “man, that was a scary time but look how far we’ve come”. I will fight for schools to be a safer place and fight for a day when you feel like you don’t have to have your guard up. I promise, I’m fighting.

I know we can do this and we will but in the meantime, teachers…thank you.

Thank you for showing up.

I will never have enough words of gratitude and thankfulness.

You are true heroes. My words will never fill that statement with enough power.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media

The Bullies Have Arrived. And I’m Ready To Use My Words.

My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.

Unfortunately , I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.

When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.

She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.

All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.

The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.

She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.

She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.

As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.

I was so sad. I am so sad.

This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.

I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.

Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.

When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.

Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.

But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.

I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now know that being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.

So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.

Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.

People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.

People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.

And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.

I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.

I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.

She is who she is.

And that’s why I write.

For her.

To create a better world for her the only way I know how.

And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.

But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.

And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.

A mama can hope. A mama will fight.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Uncategorized

The Great Bathroom Debate is Bullshit. Here’s Proof.

A few weeks ago, my non-gender conforming daughter (who is 8), and I were in a public restroom. As we were washing our hands, an older lady standing next to me looked at my daughter, (who was out of earshot at the hand dryer at the moment), then turned to me and said, “So, what’s the rule these days? When do parents allow their kids to go to the correct bathroom without a parent?”.

I fell silent for a second, completely confused as to what she was asking me. She took notice of my confusion and filled the silence with “You know what I mean. When will you allow him to go to the boy’s bathroom alone?”.

It took my brain a second to process that she was certain that my daughter was a boy and she was judging me, inferring he should be in his gender assigned bathroom.

“Oh, um. She’s a girl. She’s in the correct bathroom.”

The look on this lady’s face was somewhat indescribable. She could not have been more shocked, stammering and befuddled in that moment. I then saw the look of confusion take over her face, trying to make sense of my child’s gender and what I was saying.

She tried to backpedal and muddled something along the lines of, “Oh, well, well, I, um, just meant that she looks older and, um, I didn’t know…”.

My emotions were somewhere between annoyed, angry, and still confused by the whole conversation. The only thing I could choke out was, “Can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?”, and she couldn’t manage any words.

First and foremost, stop judging parents, period, lady. Because that’s where she wanted to go with it, I’m certain. She wanted to get on her pedestal about how her generation allowed children to go to the bathroom alone at the age of 2 or whatever higher horse conversation she was encroaching on. I could hear it coming.

But secondly? This is exactly why the transgender bathroom debate makes no sense at all and is utter bullshit. Here it is. A prime example.

Here’s a person that assumed my child was a boy by mere esthetics. Boy clothes, plus boy hair, plus boy mannerisms must equal boy. She certainly could not see her genitalia. And because we were all in the bathroom to do what people do in the bathroom, take a piss, we were not bothering anyone. Why this woman felt the need to say anything at all is beyond me but by doing so, she proved a much larger point.

She proved that had my daughter been in the men’s bathroom, no one would have questioned her at all because she looks like a boy. If my daughter was/is trans, she’s visually acceptable and it would go without notice that she is in the stall next to another little boy. No one would know that she actually has a vagina.

The fact of the matter is, you have taken a squat in the very next stall to a trans person. You absolutely have. You just don’t know it. Because, as my daughter proved to this woman, looks can be very, very deceiving. Guys look like girls, girls look like guys, and trans people look like who they are. But more so- who cares?

Straight, gay, trans, bi- when we go into a bathroom, we all just need to go to the bathroom. That’s it. Pee, or take a shit, wash our hands, and move on. Why everyone is so goddamned concerned with our genitalia is bizarre. There are plenty of hard facts documenting that straight men are usually the perpetrators in any kind of bathroom assault or perversion so what’s with this preoccupation with transgender people or gender in general?

Since this whole bathroom debate began a couple of years ago, it caused me so much confusion about what it is everyone is so afraid of. I know the big bathroom debate is tired. I know it’s been written, it’s been discussed ad-nauseam. So, this is me half venting, half {hopefully} educating in a spill of emotion.

The truth seems to be, people just don’t want to be wrong about this marginalized community and this is why this is even still a topic of discussion. They don’t want to try to understand the biology and how it’s different from their own, or even if it’s different at all. They don’t want to realize that they’re just like everyone else.

Regardless of what your bible might tell you or what “morals and ethics” you hold true, or if you’re just one of those that believe those that challenge gender norms are “freaks”, try to put that all aside for one second. They’re people. Just living. That’s it. They’re just human beings. That’s it. Normal, breathing, thriving humans that need to go to the bathroom. If you don’t want to try to understand anything else about gender issues, fine. But just recognize the simple fact that they need to go to the fucking bathroom, just like you.

It hurts so many people when we move backwards, back towards exclusivity, opposed to inclusiveness. The us-versus-them mentality. The you’re-different-so-you-must-be-wrong mentality. And we are, indeed, slipping backward.

I hope we can do better as a whole with this entire topic. I’m not overly optimistic lately.

But also? Don’t give unsolicited parenting advice. Ever.

And, Stop judging books by their covers. Let my daughter pee and mind your own business.

 

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politics, Social Media, Uncategorized

The Distraction Called ‘Election Year’

Is it over? Can I come out yet?

No. Apparently not. My social media feeds are telling me it’s not safe yet.

Hasn’t it all been awful?

Trump.
Clinton.
Racism.
Emails.
Misogyny.
Emails.
Bigotry.
Emails.
Pussy grabbing.
Emails.
Trump University fraud.
Emails.
4000+ law suits.
Emails.
Homophobia.
Emails.

I mean, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, it’s  been awful. Ok, maybe a little bit more on one side than the other, in my opinion. But I digress.

Here’s the thing: it’s over. The election is over. It was terrible and awful and unprecedented. But it’s over. And it’s all been such a huge distraction and many of us are losing sight.

We all picked a side. That’s what it’s about. Our government was designed that way. Republican or Democrat. Conservative or Liberal. We all are categorized and labeled to everyone’s comfort.  We are all then grossly generalized by these respective labels.

The one unique, not so subtle, elephant in the room (no pun intended) with this election is that one of the candidates was more anti-establishment appearing. Anti-policy, perhaps. He went after a silent majority, in large, people that have never voted in their entire lives, promising change, promising a different government, promising big things. How these things will be achieved has yet to be seen, let alone actually discussed or laid out in a plan, put he has promised. People have hung their hat on him since many trust a white business man over a female politician, apparently, and that’s their right to do so.

But, friends. This, this presidential campaigning, is all a distraction from real life and has brought out so much ugliness. This is somewhat like getting caught up in some soap opera that we’re desperately wanting to see unfold. We can’t wait to see the next episode.

All of us were privileged to the kind words of both candidates immediately following the election. Clinton urging Americans to embrace the change as best they can, especially with the eloquence of her concession speech, and Trump commending Clinton in his acceptance speech, thanking her for her years of service to this country, after absolutely ravaging her character for over a year. Paul Ryan now sitting next to Trump, promising the nation great thing, after Ryan vehemently spoke against Trump. And so on. Now everyone in government is suddenly copacetic, sitting in their offices figuring out what’s next on their agendas, collecting their much larger paycheck than mine; business as usual. Funny how that works.

Meanwhile, us, the average Americans are angry. All of us.

The Clinton supporters, in shock that this was the result when it was supposed to be a slam dunk, the fear of what will happen to so many individuals’ rights.The violent protests of some Clinton supporters, even though these might have been some of the same people that were fearful and angry that Trump said he wouldn’t concede if he lost the election. Trust me, I understand what they’re protesting. It isn’t the loss and the display of sore losers. I get it. But is it productive? I’m not so sure.

The Trump supporters bashing the grief of the Clinton supporters, telling them all to “Suck it up! Support democracy!”, although, most didn’t want to do so when the FBI cleared Clinton more than once in supposed email scandal. I’ve also continue to see such hateful memes and bullying on this side of the fence. Social media is one of the biggest culprits of creating divisiveness, and has been this entire election, continuing to pit sides.

Hypocrisy is abounding. Everyone is angry.We all want answers. We’re all turning on one another. Still.

They ignited a fire in us. We’re left to put out the flames.

My pleas to us:

Clinton supporters: take your time and grieve. Please do. Process your fears. I certainly am. But channel it. Channel the grief. Get involved in local government, sign petitions, make safe moves to protect rights. Be proactive. Be the change. I am assuming that I don’t know any of you personally that are violently protesting but please, please stop. Peaceful. Practice what we preach.

Trump supporters: Please, allow your Clinton supporting friends their time to process, be angry, and grieve. Please stop telling them to “move on” or insinuating that they’re a bunch of pussies. Be fair. Assuming that I’m resonating with those Trump supporters that claim themselves to not be racist, sexist, misogynistic, or homophobic, talk to your kids about other cultures, other religions, and not chanting “BUILD THAT WALL!” to their Latino classmates like I saw today on the news. They have fear mongered us over the last year and our kids were listening more than we realized, as evident by racist, violent acts throughout the country as I type.

On the topic of children, like I’ve heard many say over these past few days, morals and values are built at home and not taught by our government directly to our children. I totally agree. But within that moral compass that we’re cultivating within our children, government must be a topic of discussion. It’s imperative that our children understand why we’re so passionate about elections as adults, for them to grasp that these offices make very large decisions about our country, our freedom. We can’t ignore all of the commercials that we’ve seen over the last yet and assume they didn’t impact our children . We can’t fail to explain these to our kids. This election has already proven to have a large, grave impact on our children. Please explain why to them. Help them understand.

If this was your first election ever voting, wonderful, tell your children why. If one candidate spoke to you about issues that were important, resonated with you, talk about it. Take the time to do it. Please. We are privileged to live in a country with this democracy. And we’re a passionate species. It’s unjust if your children are just watching this unfold without having some pretty pointed conversations.

We are a nation divided and we must start to move forward and mend. It is our only choice and our only hope. I’m not asking everyone to “come together”. That’s a unicorn. This election year has made it clear that it’s just not possible at times. Friendships and family relationships have been fractured, some beyond repair. Let that be ok. Find your people and stick with them. But put one foot in front of the other overall. Don’t get distracted from life. We will all be ok. We have to be. Don’t create too much anxiety for yourself no matter who your candidate of choice was. It’s energy wasted. Keep living.

People keep telling me to “give Trump a chance”. I have conceded peacefully. It’s my only option.

 

Parenting, Ranting, Social Media, Uncategorized

Dear Facebook Friends, Please Stop.

I love Facebook. I really do. I love the concept. I get most of my news, my gossip, my baby picture fix, my puppy picture fix from Facebook. I’m able catch up with friends and family that live far away, I’m able to laugh at funny Vine videos and read some amazing articles. I sometimes get too much information about friends’ marital woes or personal struggles but hey, I’m one to put myself out there a lot, too, so I don’t judge. I’m among the many that have become addicted to the online connection that is social media.

I post pretty frequently and I’m not ashamed of it. Call it narcissistic or attention seeking but we live in this new age of over-sharing and I melded right in. I truly embrace most of what Facebook has to offer.

However. The politics and the hate. I can’t get on board.

Everyday that I login to Facebook, I am inundated with hateful memes, political rants, verbal attacks from party to party. I’m truly not understanding this facet of Facebook. If this is simply just an exercise of freedom of speech, please, Facebook friends, explain to me why this is necessary.

When you’re slaying hateful statements about anyone, a political party, our Commander in Chief, or even attempting to discredit someone’s beliefs, what is your purpose? Are you sincerely attempting to persuade someone to your side of the argument? If so, do you think this is a successful way to do so? Posting a meme about how “stupid liberals” are ruining the country, or something similar, do you think this is effective? Or, perhaps you’re looking for solidarity with others that believe as you do? Again, if so, is this an effective way to connect with others? I’m honestly vying for a better understanding here.

My opinion is this: it is bullying. It is adult online bullying and it really should stop.

I totally get it. Our world is in a scary space right now. Terrorists are attacking worldwide and record acts of violence are being reported everyday. We are, as a whole, as one unit, terrified. We can all agree on this, I’m certain. So, it begs the question: on some deeper level, are these posts simply a fear response? I’ll leave that answer to the shrinks of the world but what I do know is that it is far more damaging than it is helpful. As a matter of a fact, I don’t see it as at all helpful. It’s a divide. It’s hate mongering. It’s making me really dislike people that I thought I not only liked but respected.

I’m all for a good, healthy debate, so please don’t misunderstand. I’m always the first to the table to verbalize my own side of controversial topics…in person. I learned that the internet is not a healthy place to do this. I used to engage, I did, but I learned that everyone is more brave behind a keyboard, including myself. Fact. Each and every one of us has typed things that we would never convey in person that exact same way as we typed. It’s so easy to become a different, braver, meaner, more outspoken version of ourselves online. And, yes, the morals, values and opinions are the same, but they’re verbalized in such an aggressive way online. Some would argue with me here but, friends, would you honestly verbally attack me in person and call me a “stupid liberal” to my face? If so, unfriend me right this moment. I’m not into keeping verbally abusive people in my life.

In a nation and in a world where we are constantly talking about how we fear for our children and for their future, I have to ask my Facebook friends who post so much hate and one-sidedness to please…stop. This isn’t helping our kids. This isn’t helping our future. This is showing our kids that although we encourage them not to bully, adults can do it all day long. This is showing our kids that the world is so divided and broken that all we can do is throw insults around because we don’t know what else to do.

There’s a better answer: get politically involved. Write to your senators, become an activist in whatever it is that you believe in, run for office even. But please, please stop hating one another. I really want to still like all of you.