Farewell To The Falls @ Gallery Nucleus

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Every so often, geeks get a chance to have an epic experience meeting their heroes and idols.  If we’re lucky, we accidentally bump into them at conventions and have a brief, flustered moment where we blurt out things like, “OMGILOVEYOUYOUAREMYHEROPLEASESIGNTHISICANTBREATHEWHATSMYNAMEAGAIN!?!?!

Oh …maybe that’s just me?

ANYway…

Rare is the moment when a true fan is able to immerse themselves in the culture of their favorite thing in a small room where the creator can be seen casually wandering around, the voices of your idols are willing to take photos and listen to you no matter how flustered you sound, and the friends and family of cast and crew are hanging out as though they’re just regular folks, totally approachable and kind to everyone.

Guys, my five year old got to have that moment.

That’s right, my five year old had that golden experience most fans wait lifetimes to have.  It took place at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra last night at the opening of the #FarewellToTheFalls exhibit, dedicated to the two-season hit on Disney😄; Gravity Falls, created by Alex Hirsch.

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Read the rest of this article and see all our photos and videos from this incredible event on my column at forbiddenpanel.com; Lessons From the MotherShip!!

Dear Matt & Melissa, A Letter of Apology

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I am not a perfect parent. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. My children have bruises and scratches from falls and silly injuries that could have been prevented. They eat junk food at times and occasionally, I let them watch tv that is much too old for them. Last month, I “lost” my 5 year old son at a renaissance faire when he ducked into a child’s maze as we were talking to a vendor 10 feet away.  I thought my husband was watching him, he thought I was watching him. I was horrified when I realized neither of us had eyes on him.  Within about 40 seconds, I realized he was less than 10 feet away, in a child’s maze – but that 10 feet and few seconds… it feels like miles and hours when you are faced with all the potential dangers. Your sweet boy… he was about that distance from you when this happened, right?  See, I have no room to judge. I am not a “pitchfork wielding” mom who casts stones from my perfectly clean, organized, glass house with perfect children who never stray.

You don’t know me, but now, because of this, I know you. I can’t possibly imagine the horror that you have witnessed, the fear that you endured, the loss that must be eating away at you like a black hole, threatening to suck you in. I can’t possibly fathom the level of grief that you are having to breathe through to carry-on, to wake up in the morning, to be willing to open your eyes and get out of bed, to care for your daughter in spite of no longer having a son. I can’t imagine the strength of will that it must take to do the most simple of things; eat, smile, even blinking your eyes takes effort and the sheer force of some kind of magical power to be capable of doing it.

I don’t know your pain, your sorrow, you’re sweet, beautiful memories of pregnancy, birth and those two, precious years, now clouded by a sea of tears so bitter that it’s hard not to choke. I know that you have been through something that I will never understand. I also know many who jumped to judge you the second they heard about what happened.  For many reasons, they jumped to conclusions and assumed the worst of you.

I want you to know I was one of those people.  I said this was a result of “hands-off” and complacent parenting trends. I said parents feel shamed for caring too much about “tiny” rules, so they just don’t follow them.  Rules like don’t let a toddler eat whole grapes, or play with money they could choke on, or sit in a car booster instead of a carseat before they’re ready.  They ignore the dangers by letting a baby who can’t swim splash in a pool without a lifejacket and ignore signs that tell you to stay out of the water, because- what’s the harm? Other people and children are doing it, why should my child be left out? I drew connections between you and the parents of the boy who fell into a gorilla cage, and another that occurred at a park nearby… All situations where the parents of a young child didn’t make certain their children were 100% safe and the child got hurt. When I read your story and saw phrases like, “child splashing in the water where a no swimming sign was posted”, and “two year old playing at 9:30 at night in a foot of water where no swimming signs were posted”, I assumed it was a similar situation to all the others… a parent who allowed their child to fall victim to the complacent parent trend.

After I learned more about your story, how the evening went on and what was happening, after I saw photos of the surroundings, it became crystal clear to me – this could have happened to anyone, including me.  I am so, truly sorry for adding to the noise of judgement.

I want you to know that I don’t blame you for what happened. I never blamed you, not directly – but if you’d read what I wrote that first morning after, it probably would have felt that way as I searched for some kind of root-cause for this terrible accident. I actually don’t think any of this is about blame and this is not about shaming an individual for a mistake that I am certain thousands of people have made before you.  It is about us all trying desperately to wrap our minds around this and to find some way to control an unfathomable, horrible situation.

I want you to know, too, that I see more than this mistake when I read your story and I see your photos. I see loving parents who provided a beautiful life for your babies. You protect your children, you honor your children, you gave life and birth and milk and a home for to your children that kept them safe and warm and secure. You celebrated the small milestones as though they were as big as mount Everest and you posted pictures of them on social media pages brimming with pride sharing these incredible moments with your friends and family. You took dozens of pictures all seconds apart from each other filling your available memory with moments captured that were just too beautiful not to have, didn’t you? Yeah, me too. You researched, right? You studied what was best, you asked questions, you did what you could to make sure your baby was healthy and happy… I did, too.

You and I are not that different and I want you to know that I know it could’ve been me. I want you to know that you are not alone and if anything is to “blame”, it isn’t a person, a parent, a single ideology… it’s much deeper than that and lies within our faith that everything will always be okay.  We can’t fathom something that terrible happening to us, so we don’t prepare for it. It’s human nature to do that and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you and it does not mean you did anything most people wouldn’t also have done.

After spending 2 days thinking about this, I have realized a few super important things, mostly about my reaction and perception of the situation from the outside and I wanted to share these realizations with you, as they may help you to feel a little better about the judgement that you will undoubtedly see. The thing is, my inability to understand the “why” here, has much more to do with me than with you. See, I had several miscarriages before my first son was born. Throughout my pregnancy with him and beyond, there is a part of me waiting for the axe to fall. My anxiety trigger is their safety because, I think… part of me still doesn’t believe I deserve them and every day, I feel like I’m fighting against everything just to keep them alive and healthy.

The reality is, I don’t think I would have wanted my children to go anywhere near that water no matter what time of day, but that is because of me and my level of crazy, not because I think I’m better than you.  I guarantee you, my husband totally would have let them do id and would have laughed at me for being anxious about it.  He’d have said, “honey, look at all the other kids in the water, it’s fine- this is DISNEY, it’s not a big deal”, all the while, I’d be covering myself in my essential oil blends for anxiety, praying he was right and trying to keep myself from crying with worry. (Can you tell things like this have happened before?) I can’t expect every mother to look at every single scenario from a Final Destination perspective the way I do, seeking out the elements of every situation that might kill my child while taking measures to prevent those things from happening. See?! Crazy! I mean, maybe people should think this way a little bit more, but I can’t expect anyone to do it to the extent that I do because they are not me and their thoughts are not colored by the experiences and fears that I have.

All of this aside, many are asking – what do we do now?  “If we can’t blame the parents, who or what IS to blame?”  Well, I think it’s pretty easy what has to be done now and it has nothing to do with blame.  Let’s just remove the term blame altogether, okay? It’s about taking ownership, learning from what happened and moving ahead. Let’s not take another step backward or even glance behind us one more time with this to consider what anyone (including you) could have done differently.

Let us instead, move forward with the facts we now have and look at what we CAN do:

In the parenting world, we can advocate for parents to speak for their baby’s/toddler’s/children’s needs, to remind people how important it is to focus on them, always, and to let them know that disaster can happen in a flash. We can encourage them to never take their babies for granted and to spend every second we can with them. We can ask parents to stop taking unnecessary risks and consider the reality that rules exist for a reason, and even if you don’t personally see the danger, a danger may exist.  We can all do better at not taking chances based on a false sense of security.  Broken bones and skinned knees are one thing, but there are acceptable injuries and there are unnecessary ones and we need to have the maturity to know the difference BEFORE we place our children in those situations.  This is not about judgement.  It’s about facts and keeping our families safe and in tact.

To the topic of vacationing and local wildlife, there is also much work we can advocate for.  All over the nation right now, stories are coming in.  Stories about how tourists thought they could handle situations in the wild that hurt them, hurt the animals, that hurt the environment simply because they didn’t know better.  At this resort and probably many other public vacation areas, we can demand better signage, better initiative taken by staff and rangers to ensure guests get a proper education of local wildlife as they orient themselves with their surroundings. Also, let’s encourage tourists to research their vacations locations for more than just “where’s a great place to have dinner”.  They need to research and learn all they can about worst-case scenarios, wildlife, natural disasters, etc.

This is not to cause them to live in fear or to accuse them of doing anything wrong or being stupid.  The point is to empower them with information and tools that could prevent such a tragedy as yours, from happening a second time.

I am truly sorry for your loss. I know that doesn’t even remotely cover it, but I’ve thought of little else in the last two days and my heart just hurts for you knowing that, as much as I may try, there is no way I can know how this must feel for you.

As a member of the mother’s circle, please know we are all grieving the loss of precious Lane and that we have and will continue to surround your family in love, light and prayers. You are not alone.

In respect, love and with deep apology,

The Cautious Mom

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Responding to Toxic Death Cream

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If we loved like we judge, our world would be so much happier.  If we accepted others as often as we condemn them, things wouldn’t be nearly so complicated.  If we gave praise to those we love as often as we shamed strangers or our children, I truly believe we could cure so many of the world’s problems… and yet, here we are, still in the thick of it, still fighting for our scrap of justice we feel we are owed.

This afternoon I read a blog by a mom who was making a very public statement about how she needed to break out of the healthy mom loop because she’s done feeling bad about her parenting.  There’s just “too many rules” the author said, and every mom who read it cheered on “YES THIS!”, “OMG SO MUCH THIS!!”  My response?  Well, my response was a pretty clear, “NOPE – Can’t get behind that.  Sorry.”

I was the only one who didn’t jump to love it.

See, I get it, the frustration and overwhelming expectations and as I was reading at first, I was totally with her- excited for her self-liberation!  Well done, mama!!  But then, something shifted in her writing…  Even though I understood her anxiety because I’ve felt it before, too… I’m not going to cheer on a mom who rants about how she’s tired, so she should just get a pass to do whatever she feels like because she is sick of feeling bad for not being perfect.

Mama, no one is perfect and I am so, truly sorry you felt this way for so long!  Please know we all have been there, we all know what you are feeling – but there’s no need to toss out every piece of good advice as trash just because you feel overwhelmed.   The thing is, voicing these feelings here on the internet, in such a public and sarcastic way is not just taking a stand for yourself and you have to know that, right?   You are encouraging others to follow you, just by writing it and that isn’t fair to you, us, or anyone’s babies.

I’m so sorry you felt like you were being forced onto some unnatural and unattainable scoreboard.  I’m one of those moms who cares about those things and through your writing, I and every mother who does opt for the safer options are all now a part of the problem making you feel bad about yourself.  Because our very existence makes you feel bad, it’s almost as though you are asking us to stop trying so hard.  When we’re all the same and we all equally don’t try, then everyone can feel good about themselves, right?  Well, no.  That’s not right either, is it?  I just don’t think you are being very fair.

Mama, look- I’m sorry you “hate life” because irony sucks, and oh man, believe me I get it- irony laughing in my face is a daily happening here.  I hate life sometimes, too.  I don’t know a single mom who doesn’t.  Also, yeah, I know all about being too tired to care about the ingredients in sunblock.  Or bath soap, or granola bars or whatever else for that matter, but just because I’m tired of caring doesn’t mean I don’t actually care and it certainly doesn’t mean I have the right to stop doing the right thing.

The sunblock thing… that actually does matter to some people (especially those of us who have translucent children who are allergic to the toxic death cream, just happen to live in California where sunblock is a 365 day part of life – because, magical fairy angels are indigenous to these parts, apparently).  It should be acceptable to feel that what is in your sunblock matters, but now, because of your blog, mamas might question whether or not they should care because it’s just trivial and doesn’t matter or it just makes them look like they care too much.  Wasn’t that your point?  “I’m gonna go play with my boys and you can all stew over whatever stupid study comes out to tell me what I’m doing wrong and I don’t care”?   See, that just doesn’t feel right to me – your liberation should not have to include the condemnation of a different way of thinking or a lack of consideration for how your not caring might affect your children.  I’m certain there is a better way than this.

See, I care about that stuff, but it’s okay if you don’t.  If it’s not for you- that’s cool, whatever, I’m totally not going to judge you.  There is absolutely no need to rope everyone else into your comparison games.  There’s no reason to bite at the way others like to do things because it doesn’t work for you, that’s just bad form.  What you are doing is like hating Hermione because she studied more than you and you failed potions, so now studying is stupid because it’s overwhelming and Hermione reminds you of all you can’t live up to so you hate her and books are lame so, now you want to quit school.

Mama, it’s not you, really.  This post is long overdue and directed at the entire culture that has emerged recently, you know the one.. the one that says ;”let’s go be bad moms who do whatever we want and not care about our kid’s needs because they’ll be fine and those studies make me feel bad”.  It’s the trend that defiantly chooses to not be careful.  It’s the trend that deliberately gives their kids junk food JUST to spite the natural parenting world – not thinking that perhaps it is the children who will suffer from these choices, not these other parents you seem to be waging war against.  Also, I’ll freely admit most of my frustration with this is actually because of that new movie coming about about this very same topic which glorifies not caring. I don’t get it and it makes me sad.  It’s polarizing and unhelpful.

I’m even more super tired with this sense of defeatism and please know it’s not just you. It’s like there is this perception that, if a mom can’t manage to be perfect all the time, well then why bother at all and screw anyone else who tries.  (Psst- NO mother is perfect all the time – not ever) If you do something wrong, you do better next time.  It’s no sweat and not really that big a deal.  You may not make the right choice every minute of the day, (like the time I told my five year old he could watch Gravity Falls because it was on the Disney channel, not realizing it was WAY too old for him and now it’s too late- he asks everyone he meets, “have you heard about the demon Bill Cypher with one eye?” while I shrink into my worst parent of all time shell and try to disappear) but I, and every other mom, in spite of our mistakes still make the right choices the majority of the time, right?  Well, that still counts and that should be enough!

I get the tired part, too.  I’m tired ALL.THE.TIME and I’ve only got two children!  So, when I hear about mamas who are exhausted with 4 or more babies under 7 years old, I marvel at their ability to even be upright and speaking coherent sentences!  I wanna give them a trophy for making it outdoors!  I want to say; “Bravo to you, mama!  You’ve got a shirt on and each of your children have their shoes on the right feet!  Well done!!”

I get it.  If I only have two children and I feel like this, I know I’ve got nothing to complain about, but things are far from perfect in my house.  My carpet looks like I raised a herd of wooly mammoths from the tarpits then paraded them through my living room.  My kitchen sink looks like I’m conducting some kind of creepy science experiment involving radioactive superpowers because the disposal is broken.  There’s more, but that’s not the point.  The point is, that’s my house.  That’s my life.  It’s clean, polished, vacuumed and smells nice when I teach voice in my living room, but the carpet stains are still there and there’s still holes of dead grass in the lawn.

Now, I could feel devastated anytime another mom who appears to have her act together better than me comes through my door, but why?  Why would I do that to myself?  Should I be frustrated with moms who live in bigger houses with the extra money to get their carpet professionally cleaned when their toddler spills red and blue food coloring or grinds modeling clay into the fibers while I’m doing dishes in the other room?  (that’s a real story, by the way)

I applied this same principle you wrote about to my life, I should get angry that my street doesn’t have any magical unicorn lumberjacks who build perfect homes that never get dirty and be bitter that I don’t get to live in one of those.

(Dang it, I just realized the mom who wrote that article probably has a way better, nicer house than I do… *sigh* I guess…I don’t know, am I supposed to feel bad about myself now, or something…?)

See, when moms write this kind of stuff, it causes me to question if maybe I’m not judgmental enough, but I’m not going to live that way.  I’m not going to compare myself to other families because theirs are not mine and they don’t have to sit at my dinner table.

Speaking of food… Good lord, I am so over the food, let me just side track for a moment here.  My five year old wants pizza for dinner every day.  Also for lunch, breakfast and dessert.  In fact, if all he ever had to eat was pizza for the rest of his life, he’d be totally fine with that.  I’m experimenting with recipes to infuse protein powder into pizza crust, that’s how bad it is.  My daughter only wants to eat popsicles because “food is terrible for her brain, it makes her tummy cry and only popsicles make me happy”. (that’s what she told me today, anyway) So, I teach voice three nights a week right through the dinner hour while they are walled up in the back bedroom with a babysitter and the television for 3-4 hours each night and guess what they eat on those days?

Pizza.  Chicken nuggets.  Popsicles, mac-&-cheese and corn dogs.  Yes, all from the frozen section of the grocery store- nothing made by vegan elves in the organic trees planted in my back yard by the Buddhist monks on a full moon from seeds that fell after the first snowfall in Narnia. (besides, those trees are much too small to house an entire tribe of elves anyway) Yeah, I admit it; the Cautious Mom lets her kids eat like crap 3 nights a week because she’s usually too busy to worry about it.  I have never advertised this because it wasn’t a big deal.  It does’t change how I feel about organic, wholesome foods.  It doesn’t change my knowledge of what goes into these products or that I know they are terrible food sources for children.  All of that is still true – but I do what I can, when I can and I forgive myself the rest.  I don’t bash anyone else in the process.  It’s just life and stuff gets in the way of your good intentions.  You make due and it doesn’t have to be some kind of ego-centered, public statement about how “I am DONE caring about GMO’s because I’m tired, so you can take your healthy mom crap and shove it, stupid California fairy angels!”

My beautiful, California fairy angels are offended, by the way. (not really, because that would be stupid. Actually, I don’t think they even read mom blogs, they’re too busy making healthy sunblock…)

I freely admit that I’d rather feed these kids what I know they’ll eat than have them waste food I can’t afford.  Do I feel bad about that?  Sometimes yes and when I do, it’s because I want them to be healthy, not because I’m  judging myself against some societal standard. I’m not going to condemn others or belittle other’s ways because they’re tiresome and “oh God the pressure- I can’t take it anymore!!”  I’m just going to go about my life and do the best I can and maybe next time, I’ll remember to meal prep before I have to teach.

Moms, we have GOT to stop comparing ourselves to others.  Stop telling other moms their processes are stupid or over-protective or too complicated or whatever else you want to say just because you don’t feel like doing those things or you’re too busy or your life is not designed to make those things possible for you.  It’s not nice and it isn’t fair to be so snarky and mean about it just because you don’t want to or, for whatever reason, can’t. Just don’t do it and move on.

I know this is a really strange idea, but it really is totally okay to just live and be happy and not care about what others think.  In fact, I’d say that is probably one of the best lessons you could teach your children.  So really, it’s cool, okay?  You don’t wanna do it? – Fine.

If you are parenting (or NOT parenting) your family based on what other people do in their own homes or because of what they think of you or worse- what you think of THEM, it’s no wonder you are so stressed and I am so sorry you are feeling this way!

Give yourself a break, okay?  Just do your thing and know you are doing it well.  Do it, own it, be you, be proud of it and move on.  Love yourself, love your process, change it when it no longer makes you happy and just be the good mom you know you are.  That’s all.

I hope the message I am trying to get through here reaches you in love, compassion and acceptance.  Enjoy your summer, enjoy your boys.  Enjoy your life and live it the way YOU want to, not the way anyone else tells you to – and give others that right, as well.

Oh, and one last thing – I keep using your phrases about magical fairy angels and toxic death cream because it’s hilarious and awesome and I totally love it, not because I am judging you or being snarky and rude.  I am literally never going to call regular sunblock anything but toxic death cream from now on and it makes me giggle every time I think about it.

Gorilla Almost Kills Child- Let’s Blame Someone!

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In the wake of a tragic incident where a four year old fell into a gorilla enclosure resulting in the gorilla’s death, the world is playing it’s favorite game called “who can we blame!” and we all know our favorite target is always going to be….
The parents of the child.  Of course!
Oh look everyone, gather the mob!  Here is another opportunity to shame and blame some stranger’s parenting!  Oh joy, and rapture! Let’s use someone else’s near-miss at death as a great chance to shame them on social media!
We are such a predictable culture.  It doesn’t matter what the disaster is, it doesn’t matter where… if something bad has happened, our first impulse is to point the finger at someone and send them to the public execution block with torches blazing.
The thing is, I realized as I mulled this situation over in my mind this morning, that I have two opposing thoughts on this and I thought I would share them both with you for discussion.
1- The “Cast The First Stone” perspective.
It was a tragic accident.  NO one wanted that gorilla to die.  The parents did not fling their child into that inclosure and say, “gee I hope we can get them to shoot the animal today”. The zoo acted in response to a terrifying situation and they did what they thought was best in the moment.  We know that no one wants their child to die in a gorilla enclosure.  Every parent has made mistakes, looked away for 2 seconds, been overly confident that our child would do the right thing only to realize, always a second too late, that they didn’t and they got hurt.  This tragedy was unfortunate and frustrating.  It seems like a senseless loss of life and a gross display of negligence on the part of these parents and possibly the zoo staff, too, but is that actually where blame belongs?
We cannot use this experience as an excuse to judge the parents – not when every single parent I know has had some tragic or near-tragic run in with disaster.  My baby boy at 4 months old, rolled off my bed because he learned, in that moment when I turned away, how to roll OVER the giant barricade of pillows I’d put around him.  I was in the bathroom and watched him slip off the bed out of the corner of my eye behind me, from the mirror of the bathroom.  I was 8 feet away, but I was overconfident that he couldn’t figure it out.  It was a mistake.  I was negligent.  Another time, he climbed up into my kitchen cupboard and decided to use my steroid inhaler when I had pneumonia last year.  I had to make a shameful call to the poison control… the third call to them in my son’s life (he was four at the time).  He had never cared what was in my cupboards before and I’d never allowed him to access the kitchen for anything without help, so it never occurred to me that he would do such a thing.
My daughter learned to climb to the top of her swing set and shimmy across the top bar LONG before I ever considered she’d even want to do that and she fell and hurt herself.  I should have known better, I was inside, she called for help- by the time I got outside, she was letting go of the bar and fell four feet to the ground, hitting a hard, plastic swing on her way down.  I made a mistake.  I didn’t get there fast enough.  I didn’t make it clear enough not to do that and I wasn’t supervising because we’d had the thing six months already and she’d never thought of doing it so I didn’t think about it.  I was negligent.
These may seem silly, trivial or unimportant, but my point is, it happens.  We get complacent and casual when we never, ever should be and things happen in those moments when we let our guard down.  Hopefully nothing terrible like a death, dismemberment or kidnapping, but that happens, too.  I know someone who had their toddler returned by a neighbor because they’d wandered out the door and down the street. I know someone who had their toddler returned by a complete stranger because they were playing in the gutter off a main highway.  I know someone who had their preschooler in bed with a broken leg because, while she was making dinner, he decided to move his furniture and climb his dresser pretending it was a mountain.  I know another sweet mama who looked away for less than 60 seconds at a party full of family who all kept eyes on all the children and felt confident in carrying a conversation for a moment away from the back door, only to find her baby face down in the pool outside.  I even read an article once about a baby who had his leg amputated because he ran out to his father mowing the lawn and no one saw him until he was literally under the mower.
Things happen and although we may try, we are only human and we make mistakes.  We are not as careful, as cautious, as mindful every second of every day as maybe we aught to be and sometimes things happen.  Sometimes they don’t.  That’s when we are lucky and sometimes, we take that luck for granted.
It’s unfair and incredibly cruel to instantly rush to the parents for blame.
No, actually, you don’t know what you would do in this situation, because you have never been in that situation.  Or, have you?
I know what I believe I’d do- I wouldn’t have allowed my child to be more than three feet away from me, so it would never have happened.  That is what I believe and it is most likely true, but I cannot know that for sure, especially after our last trip to Disneyland where he ran 30 feet ahead in the blink of an eye because he knew the way to the next ride and wanted to show everyone he knew how to get there.  It seriously almost gave me a heart attack and thank GOD he decided to stop running and wait for us… but if he hadn’t? Would I be on the evening news?  All I know is I don’t get to judge and condemn another family because of what I assume but do not know.
My heart goes out to that mama who, I’m certain at this point, is riddled with guilt and shame and, if she were me anyway, probably needs psychological counseling in order to not end up in the psych ward.  What she does NOT need, is the entire world making assumptions about her parenting.
Outside of ALL this, I am a fierce advocate for children’s rights and I am against public shaming of any child or family for ANY reason.  I am disgusted by videos taken in secret of children experiencing meltdowns then shared on the internet to shame and make fun of them.  I am horrified by our culture where it is perfectly acceptable to secretly photograph a child you don’t know, then post that photo on the internet with a story about how awful that child was in public while openly shaming their families.  These sorts of situations truly depict, in my opinion, the very WORST parts of our human culture and I cannot think of a strong enough word to explain how deeply they disgust me.  I have seen in this situation, our world’s impulse to do just that with this poor family and it’s cruel. We need to stop.  It helps no one and it has to be put to an end.
This situation was the worst case scenario of what could happen in those 10 seconds you don’t have your eyes or hands on your child.  It literally could have happened to anyone and has happened to everyone – just not with the same, public outcome.  I think we have to stop this impulse to blame at first glance, calling it an isolated incident then move on with “it couldn’t happen to me”.   We need to start dealing with the underlying issue, which is a culture where it is “uncool” to supervise your children.
This leads me to my second, feeling;
2- The Complacent Parents Drive Me INSANE perspective.
I have a bone to pick with this”hands off” parenting trend.  See, I’m considered one of these gentle-parenting, “hippy” parents who doesn’t use physical violence to get my kids to do what they are told and I am fiercely judged for it by loved ones.
Instead, I’m a hands-on parent who is constantly watching, constantly listening, and nearly always within arm’s reach to help guide them through their choices so they learn along the way what to, and not to do. (does it work every time? hahahahaha…. no.  Of course not, but you do what you can, right?)
The thing is, I just don’t buy this whole, “kids need to be kids” crap where I should let my child wander around where I can’t see them in a place that is not the inside of my home. I’m sick of being called a “helicopter parent” because I make sure my kids are within arm’s reach and can’t do things like climb into gorilla cages or disappear with strangers or fall down cliffs, steal things, hurt other children or get stuck inside park equipment they’re not age-appropriate to be on.
(Yeah, giant pet-peeve there; parents, seriously- if the equipment says “ages 5 and under”, don’t let your 8 year old monster child barrel through and trample over the toddlers to get to the slide their butt is gonna get stuck on.  It’s hard to admit your baby is getting older, I know, but seriously- just stop it.)
Overall, since I became a parent 5 1/2 years ago, I’m pretty disgusted by the people who think I am out of my mind for being attentive to my children but who will, in turn, allow their kids to wander randomly and don’t pay attention when they get into trouble.  They are shocked when another parent has to approach them with their child because they hurt someone or did something wrong because they weren’t being watched.  Then, this parent, likely out of shame, very publicly and vocally reprimands the child and/or threatens them with physical force to make sure the other parents know they are “good parents who discipline their kids”.
No. Okay, that is NOT what you look like, just so you’re aware.  You look like a lazy, complacent parent who is resorting to verbal and physical violence against your child because you don’t want to be bothered to have to actually parent them.
So these poor kids do what normal kids are bound to do if they are not consistently monitored and, because their parents are not watching them, EVER because it “isn’t cool” to always want to be a part of your child’s lives anymore… they are ALWAYS a second too late when bad things happen.
These parents are constantly setting their children up for failure and it’s wildly unfair!   When children are not 100% monitored, OF COURSE they’ll do what is within their nature- test boundaries, explore, wander and fight.  They don’t have the impulse control of an adult.  They don’t have the coordination or the balance or the forethought of an adult or even an older child who can collectively and rationally reason, “gee, if I do this, that might not turn out so well for me, I better stay here”.  They will do what their instinct and their impulse tells them to do and it is THE PARENT’S JOB to guide them through those impulses and help them learn which is the right choice.
There is also a gross arrogance that comes with this parenting style.  The number of times I’ve heard “well if he breaks his arm, he’ll learn, won’t he?” just makes my stomach turn. It justifies a parent’s negligence and almost makes fun of their child’s pain.  I can’t understand it and it hurts my heart for those kids who have to live with parents who would rather their child learn through disaster than just be present and teach them not to do it in the first place.
My job is to keep my tiny, curious, rebellious humans alive, to teach them without them having to learn first hand why something is dangerous and to do that, you can’t just dump them off at a playground, say, “okay honey go have fun” then go back to your blanket 50 feet away in the shade and pretend they don’t exist until they come back to you asking for juice.  I’m sorry, but that does not make you look like “the cool parent” that makes you look like a bad parent who would probably not notice if someone came around and stole your child right off the playground.  It makes you look like a target to kidnappers and when your children are older, they’ll remember going to the park and playing alone because you were too busy on your phone to notice what they were doing.
So, there it is, my contrary and two, completely polar opposite feelings on this subject.
Yes, it was an accident.  No, I don’t blame this family.  I do however, blame judgey people who laugh, make fun of or shame parents who are more attentive.  No one wants to be called the helicopter parent, so they just let their kids do whatever and hope for the best. The fierce judgment of strangers thinking we are being too protective of our children is becoming an excuse for letting them run around unattended or going out of sight with no care to find out where they’ve been because, well, they’ll be back, right?  It’s causing parents to become more lax, more dispassionate about their children’s care and safety and in general, just more complacent.  It’s unfair to children to have to endure this new trend that puts them at risk.
Bottom line- Yes, of course it’s your choice how you parent, but just remember the black and white reality; if you are risky, you’re more likely to be at risk.  It’s just like driving, right?  Increased driving increases risk of accident.  Not because you are a bad driver, but because you are out there more often and the percentage is just higher due to opportunity. If you never drive, you will probably never be in a car accident.   So as a parent, if you are complacent more than you are cautious, your child is more likely to experience accidents. That’s not judgment, that’s just logic.

What I Remember Is Up To Me

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Lately, I have had to do all I can to remember this statement and believe it enough to not completely lose my head:
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The Padawan is having a hard time.  He’s 5 1/2, growing every minute, learning more, exploring more, understanding more and with all that, having more difficulties.

Every outing these days is, for him, full of learning, fun, exploring, exciting, adventure.  Every outing these days is, for me, filled with anxiety hoping he doesn’t do something that makes him look like a terrible child or me a wicked stepmother or, alternately, an overly-lenient parent who doesn’t care about my child’s behavior.  Believe me, stranger who is judging me with the eyes and the shaking head… I see you and your condescension, but if you haven’t noticed, my hands are a little full to blame myself every minute of the day for his inability to fit into your box.   I DO care about his behavior, but we take things one minute at a time now over here, and I really cannot be bothered by your harsh assumptions and unreasonable expectations for a child you have never met.
I even found myself begging him to please be the boy I know he is so other people don’t think he’s a bad kid.  I couldn’t believe I actually said that to him the other day- I felt so terrible, putting the weight of that guilt upon him… the weight of other’s expectations… it wasn’t fair of me and I promised him, and myself, that I’d never do it again.  But it’s hard not to feel like that.  It’s hard not to tell him, “dude, just be the you I know you are so people don’t think you’re terrible”.
I’m learning, too.  I make mistakes.  I say the wrong thing, I get angry, I punish, I grab him by the shoulder and squeeze until he actually, FINALLY looks up at me as though I just magically appeared out of nowhere to stop his fun and then he melts into a thousand pieces that all fit together to spell out a sobbing “I’m sorry mom”. I cry with him, I accept his apology, I tell him I understand but he still has to try, even when it’s hard.  He smiles and he hugs me, everything is okay and he’s kind again, quiet again… for a few minutes. That quiet after a meltdown is almost always filled with guilt for me.  Guilt because I lost it and it’s not his fault, I need to do better at remembering that I’m the grown up with impulse control and I need to act like it.
It’s just so hard, now.  Especially if people who are with me are like, “eh, whatever he’s a kid let him do whatever he wants, it’s fine” but they don’t understand what it means to allow him to walk 20 feet ahead of me or to play fighting games with kids, or get too close to animals he doesn’t know.
“He seems like a normal 5 year old to me, I don’t know what you are so worried about, let him have his fun”.  This is the kind of thing I’m told with a patronizing sarcasm making it clear how they think I’m being ‘just a little bit overly careful’.  It’s not because I’m a crazy, helicopter parent, I just know my child.
I don’t hold his hand because I want to create a mama’s boy or because I don’t want him to run and play and have experiences of his own.  I would love nothing more than to allow him to do those things!  It hurts my heart when I see him play with other boys his age, knowing he hasn’t had nearly the experience they have had, simply because I cannot trust him to do those things without close supervision.
I don’t demand he walk within a foot of me because I’m overbearing and want to control my child’s every move.  It’s because he’s likely to do something completely erratic and dangerous, something you’d never even think of, and I need to be within an arm’s reach to stop it when it inevitably happens.
People who think they know but never will, love to make me feel like I’m being silly for wanting to make sure he doesn’t push boundaries in a dangerous way or in a way that will upset strangers, or worse; people we know.
Now, shouldn’t people we know respect and understand the struggle?  You’d think that, wouldn’t you?  Unfortunately, people who love us, love him no mater what, but still don’t understand that his behaviors are not because he is a bad, undisciplined child.  It’s because he has autism and he struggles with impulse control, personal and physical boundaries with himself and others, he has patterns and procedures that must be fulfilled in specific ways and volume control is something he just doesn’t get.
He gets fixated on things.  He has almost OCD-like obsessions with songs, tv shows and characters.  He repeats the same words over and over again or quotes lines from shows or movies or sings melodies from shows he watches and even if he wanted to, and sometimes he does, he can’t stop doing it.  He will speak to people in movie or television quotes and they’ll have no idea what he’s saying or why.  They look at me confused and I have to translate.  This is especially heartbreaking when it’s other children who, instead of attempting to understand, back away thinking he’s nuts.
I don’t filter our TV watching because I’m super strict.  It’s because he will repeat every single thing he sees and hears and no one wants to deal with a five year old reenacting a fight scene from Arkham Asylum who can’t stop because he has to finish the scene in his head before he can move on.
Being fed too much junk food, being tired, being confined for long periods of time or getting all hyped up because people play physical games with him (like wrestling, chase, fighting games or running around) then suddenly stop because they’re done playing and have moved on too abruptly… it all just makes it worse.  Then, I get to deal with his meltdowns and outbursts of frustration, sadness and confusion while the person who made him all crazy in the first place looks on like my son the one being a jerk.
People we know constantly make it difficult by letting him watch tv shows he shouldn’t see, eat food he shouldn’t eat, they have no respect for my boundaries or suggestions and will say things like, “oh it was just a little” or, “it’s fine, he’s a kid- let him have fun” then they get that “shocked judgy face” when he acts out exactly as I told them he would if they allowed him to do what I told them NOT to let him do.  (I’m pretty sure that sentence was not even remotely grammatically correct, by the way but whatever you get the point)
They try to take initiative and talk to him about his behavior while I’m in the other room – because they want to, *ahem*, “help”, so they talk to him like you would talk to a normal child of 5-7 years of age.  A child who can listen intently, carefully process, feel appropriate empathy and properly express remorse, then act upon those feelings with respect and understanding.  I think they are expecting some grand turn around moment of clarity where my child, stunned by their incredible ways, makes a full turn around and never does anything wrong again.  I feel like they expect me to notice this miracle and say, “wow, thank you so much for fixing my child!  I will always do everything you just did and, because I’m such a terrible parent, it never occurred to me to try that method before! You saved us!”
Of course that never happens.  When he ignores them, just as he ignores me, they get frustrated and look at me like, “really, your’e gonna let him get away with that?”  Which is usually followed up by hints that I should spank him because, unless I use physical pain, he will continue to walk all over me.  Because, clearly, that is what is happening.  That’s about the part of my day where I scoop up my children and go home because I’m not going to bother getting into all that with someone who would rather hit a child than understand why they are doing what they are doing to actually HELP them.  They prove to me in those moments they don’t understand and they don’t really care.  Because for them, it’s about compliance not about helping, healing or teaching.  They don’t understand he’s not ignoring them- it’s that he couldn’t focus for more than the first 4 words they said.  By the time they took their first breath in the conversation, he was already off in his own world thinking about something completely different.
My response is usually something along the lines of; “I did tell you he did that… but you didn’t listen. Now do you see?”  (If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that to someone)
But it doesn’t matter what is true- it matters what they believe.  Sometimes these moments are followed up with an attempt to understand by asking, “um… so, did you ever have him assessed?  Is it autism? Is it ADHD?” They want to put a label on it, something that makes them feel better, safer.  They want to know a PROFESSIONAL with a degree is working with him because, after all, 100 years ago, people like him where usually just institutionalized, isn’t it nice to see how far we’ve come?  It makes them feel better to know that I’m “taking steps” to ensure he can be NORMAL.
Ugh… “normal”.  That word has made me cringe and my stomach turn since I was in kindergarten.  No one needs to be normal.  Others need other people to be normal so they can feel safe.  Which, when you break it down, IS NOT NORMAL.
…Anyway…
He’s not bad. He’s not mean, he’s not rude. He’s very sweet, loving, cuddly and kind. He’s creative and inventive, he’s got amazing problem solving skills and he cares deeply about his family. But his brain races through his head like a bullet train and he can’t keep up with it sometimes and it hurts him when too many things are going on at one time. People want him to pretend it doesn’t because that makes it easier for them to pretend he isn’t there. Because most people don’t really like children – at least the ones that need attention.  They “enjoy” children when they are quiet, creative, ‘darling’ and sweet.  Not when they speak their minds or can’t sit still or repeat the same actions over and over again compulsively while singing a song they can’t get out of their heads at the top of their lungs.
So, at Disneyland on Monday, we were watching a parade and he turned around worried because he couldn’t see his friends, so he started calling for them in the crowd. He was on my shoulders at the time and wanted to get down to find them. As I worked to get him down in a tightly packed group of people, he lost his balance slightly and grabbed for the first thing he could to stabilize- some random guy’s arm. The guy was an ASS and yelled, “HEY WATCH IT!” Liam even said he was sorry, but the guy just huffed all offended. It was obvious he only touched him because he was about to fall off my shoulders. The stranger’s girlfriend got mad at him and wanted him to apologize but he was like, “what, he grabbed my shirt!” like that was literally the worst thing that could ever have happened to him.  She rolled her eyes, I glared and tried to make sure Liam didn’t see him or have to deal with him anymore.
It was disappointing. I’m thankful he is blissfully unaware when things like that happen, but I am sad for the day, which I am sure is coming soon, where he understands this hatred and judgment.  I’m more sorry for the days when I know he will see it coming from those who “love” him.
Honestly, we had issues all day long. His behavior was erratic, impulsive, sometimes dangerous and sometimes mean. I had to force him to follow directions and threaten massive amounts of punishment to get him to just do what he was told while his friends were like, “dude, chill out” and our friends were attempting as much as possible not to judge, to try and help in any way they could because they’re awesome.
The thing was, he was a mess because his whole life was turned upside down.  Every scheduled task that we usually had that week got cancelled because our friends were here. His sister had the stomach flu, so daddy stayed home with her while we went to Disneyland.  It was his first trip there without half his family and the first time in a year with new friends.  Friends who did not want to do things the way we normally do them at the Park.  It was a frustrating, challenging, boundary-pushing day.
The next night, he had a fever of 101.5 and I realized he had also been fighting the flu his sister had.  I felt awful for how many times he had to be in trouble during our day when I knew it was circumstantial and not because he is a bad child, but what are you supposed to do?  Just shrug off the negative behaviors and pretend they don’t matter?  He still has to have consequences and he still needs to learn where the boundaries are, right?
All of that aside and the reason I am writing today is to tell you it was still an amazing day. The random behavior issues during the day pretty much sucked and the encounter with the stranger was sad, but those were still only few out of thousands more moments that were incredible.
It’s all about perspective. It’s all about what you are willing to keep and what you let go of.
As a parent, you get to choose which one matters more, the positive or negative moments. I can choose to see the joy on his face when he is on Star Tours, or remember his frustration and not listening when he kept bumping into people in line.  I can choose to remember how happy he was to spend time with his far-away friends in his favorite place and how he was so excited to share it with them.  I can remember him quietly saying,”okay mom” when I told him we were going to wait on getting popcorn until after the ride.  I can remember how he softly took my hand and quietly walked with me in and through the Haunted Mansion line while encouraging his friends not to be afraid.  I can remember how much fun he had, or I can remember how awful I felt all day as my anxiety peaked every time he said “no” or when tore his hand away from mine into a crowd, or freaked out on me because he was tired, hungry and bored or did exactly what his uncle told him not to do.  I can remember his joy, or I can remember my own pain.
When faced with the choice, I will always choose his joy because in the end, that is what matters.  I know he is only having a hard time and it’s my job to help him through those moments, not take them personally.  I keep telling myself every day so I don’t forget; “don’t take it personally – try to figure out why”.  I do my best to believe it and most days I do, but I’m only human and sometimes I feel like I’m failing him.
I hope he knows I’m trying.  I hope one day, when he’s older and understands things better, he knows I have always done everything I could to learn more and do better for him and through all the moments he will remember where I failed, he can at least know I was always trying to do better.
To those other people who don’t get it? Eh, whatever. They don’t have to. I’m not going to degrade my child by identifying him as his disorder or put a sign on his back that reads “please excuse my autism” just to make a stranger feel better. Of course I wish there was more education, awareness, understanding.  I wish there were more compassionate, patient people in the world willing to take the time before they shame and judge and throw guilt, but their lack of understanding does not rule me. What is best for my son is what rules me and I will do my best to remember the good and learn from the bad to be the mom he needs to be the human he is.
I may not always be good at it, some days I might absolutely, 100% fail, but it’s up to me what I decide to remember, what I decide to teach him and what I decide matters.  Not them.

Here Is What You Don’t Know

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I came across this post on Facebook this morning and it struck a chord.  I thought I’d share, in case you hadn’t seen it yet.
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This sort of judgement and “kind advice” from strangers has been a part of my life since before I even gave birth and I’d be a fool for not recognizing how it fashioned me into the advocate I am today.
This is how I turned “If you only knew” into, “here’s what you don’t know” and why I believe advocacy is so important in the parenting community.
Our first trip to target after Liam was born.  He was a week old and it was my first trip out of the house post-C-Section.  My husband had encouraged me to go with him to get out of the house because he could see I was a bit down.
The trip was a nightmare.  
The baby was asleep the entire trip there and into the store.  We placed the carrier in the cart and from that moment on, it was a barrage of advice from strangers.
He had begun to cry, I assumed because of the lights and the rattling from the cart.  As we tried to finish up our shopping as fast as possible while he cried in my arms, women seemed to come out of the walls like roaches in the dark, I’d turn around and there’d be one, turn the other way and there would be another… All cooing and trying to comfort my child as though I wasn’t doing it well enough on my own.
Why was he upset?  Because there was nowhere to sit and nurse him but the bathroom and I refused to do that to him.  Also, (and honestly, probably more relevant) my severe postpartum wasn’t allowing me the luxury of believing something terrible wouldn’t happen on the way there, so all I could do was stand there, walk slowly and try to do whatever I could to calm him.
Also, he was what they call a “high needs” child who struggled with bottles, needed physical touch to be calm, became anxious quickly when left alone and just needed more care and attention.
After he began crying, I tried nursing him standing up and walking around, but it was too hard for me to get it together with the cover on and people kept throwing nasty glances at me if the cover fell away and god forbid they had to watch a newborn eat in public. With the pain from the C-Section, I didn’t have enough coordination to manage holding him, getting him to latch, keeping the cover on and not twisting in some strange position that pulled on my incision, so I just held him close and tried to comfort him as best I could.
I even had one lady come up and whisper, “honey, you need to stop what you are doing and take that baby home- shopping can wait” with a tone that wasn’t even attempting to hide the condescending superiority. I replied, “if I could just feed him it would be fine” She said, “do you have a bottle”, I said, “no, I have a breast”. She laughed and said, “well, now THAT certainly is a terrible idea- maybe you should just take the baby to your car and feed him covered up. Let hubby here do your shopping.” Then she walked of like she’d just done some great service to the world and I was left to understand how distorted our world is.
After that, I saw it everywhere- that “kind” advice… “put him down or he’ll never walk”, “don’t let him nurse to sleep, he’ll never sleep on his own”, “if you keep nursing him, he’ll never learn to talk” and literally thousands of other, incorrect and down right STUPID tidbits of terrible, judgmental advice… a year later, I was fed up. A year later, I was done with people and their bad, selfish advice. I started to fight back with ACTUAL knowledge from the modern scientific, medical and psychological community. I’d just finished my degree in psych and I used what I knew and learned as much as I could about breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping and more so many other topics… when that saccharine-sweet grin with the “helpful” advice would come my way, I’d put them on the spot. I’d ask for their source of that information, pushing their unreliable, false information back with facts, sources and documented truth.
A year after that, I had my daughter and I thought it would get better, people would see that I’m an experienced parent now… no one will judge me or give me terrible, selfish advice, right?
Wrong.  In fact, the judgement got worse because now there were TWO children “sucking my life away” as some, supposedly well-meaning people often joked… I nursed them both, slept with both, cuddled both and made them my priority because that’s what moms are supposed to do.
Then, the moment came when someone in my family told me to “cover up or just feed her regular food like everyone else”.
Three days later, I started this blog and the Facebook support page to honor, lift up and provide educated FACTS to moms in hopes that I could help other mothers fight back against all this invalid, inaccurate judgement and condescension masked as “support”.
The phrase, “if you only knew” was something I often whispered under my breath as people shamelessly gave advice that was incorrect, damaging to babies or just flat out stupid, but you know what?  We shouldn’t have to whisper it and we shouldn’t have to deal with it.  We shouldn’t have to politely smile as we “allow” great aunt whoever to tell us that baby will grow up with buck teeth if you let them nurse past 4 months or to sleep-train at 3 weeks of age or else they’ll be “needy” their entire lives.
The only way we can deal with this false and potentially harmful information is by doing the research and learning the truth, then having the nerve to SPEAK that truth when people give you wrong information.
I encourage every mother who has ever had to think “if you only knew” to instead, SPEAK – “here is what you don’t know”.
Stop the judgement.  Stop the bad information from spreading.  Stop being a doormat to others’ egos.  There is nothing, ANYwhere, that says you have to just cope with that because YOU need to be the polite one.
No.
See this stuff for what it is.  It’s condescending judgment and it’s unacceptable.  Have some self-respect and have the strength to protect your legacy as MOTHER and stand up against it all.  Your baby, and possibly someone else’s, will owe their happiness to you.

Mothers, Always.

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This is going to be a quick one, today.  

To every mama who never was, who almost was, who was for a moment or even longer but today, for whatever reason, you are without a child to hold…

Please know I share this day with you.  Your tears are my tears.  Your heart is being held and lifted up and your struggle is understood.

When I suffered miscarriage after relentless miscarriage, dark thoughts crept in and I often felt less than human.  Words like “wasteland”, “barren”, “broken”, “ruined”, “unworthy”, “undeserving” and so many others, flooded my  mind and I understand that pain of knowing what was, what almost had been and understanding the grave reality of knowing deep within my soul what had been taken.  This holiday began to take on a bitter tone and would feel more like a slap in the face, than a reason to be joyful.  It was only proof that I didn’t belong in that circle of the honored.  I could honor my own mother and my sisters, but, eventually, I gave up on ever feeling like I was worthy of honoring myself.

Luckily, I had amazing support.  Not all of us have amazing, thoughtful sisters who will send you cards and give you flowers or a mother who buys you a gift to honor you on that day, as everyone is celebrating her, just because they love you and they know you suffer on a holiday that would have been joyful… had baby just survived.  

But, y’know what?  Everyone should.  So, consider this your hug, flowers and mama crown from a mama who has been there, who understands loss and that empty feeling that today can bring no matter how happy you wish you could be for others.

Please don’t allow this pain to harden your heart.  Please remember, these mothers who are celebrating the day and honoring their own mothers are not doing so to hurt you, they just don’t think about it and don’t know what it is to feel the loss you know so deeply that it’s become a part of who you are.  You ARE a mother and I’ll bet you are told that on a regular basis because it’s IN you to be a mom.  You are motherly, you are nurturing and compassionate, you care deeply about those around you and you do whatever it takes to help those around you feel safe, happy and successful.  You care for animals, friends, even strangers, in ways others can’t even imagine simply because you feel protective of all life and you have an intrinsic desire to care for it.  Don’t lose this precious gift simply because society does not, on the whole, understand the losses you feel on this, and likely, every other day, as well.

I consider myself lucky.  So many mothers haven’t been… so many others were given the chance to hold, love, nurture, protect and grow with their children OUTSIDE the womb, even if for a short time, only to have them taken by disease, disaster, accident or abuse.  I cannot begin to understand this level of pain and my heart grieves for these mamas every day, but especially today when their loss can feel so much heavier because it seems the whole world is rejoicing in what they do not share.

For those who have never experienced this type of loss, the only thing I can equate it to is watching the ex-boyfriend you never “got over” get married, publicly, every year – while you remain alone, unhappy and lost.  The entire nation is happy for them, telling you to “get over it” because it’s unkind to be bitter, misunderstanding your grief as spite.  The more people around you find their joy in marriage, the more bitter you become and the more angry you get and the more lost you feel because everyone around you, even those you don’t seem worthy, get to have everything you can’t seem to touch and you don’t know why.

I know women who would have and will be amazing mothers but never found someone to share their lives with or found those people so late they could no longer have children and they feel a deep sense of loss and even shame on this day. Many of them have become the “step-mom” and in some ways get to share in this holiday, but in most of those situations, the “real” mom makes it abundantly clear that it is actually HER day and does all they can to make sure step-mom knows her place.  It’s cruel and terrible and my heart hurts for these amazing women who give SO much to these beautiful children she did not bear, but are not allowed to share this day without feeling shame for not having physically carried the babes they raise.

I want to share it with you, this day that is “my” day, to lift you up and remind the world that this is your day, too.  I know what you are feeling and I know you may even be ashamed to admit that you are jealous, that you DO feel spiteful, that you compare yourself to moms around you and wonder, “if she was allowed to, why not me?”  I know that dark feeling and it feels like a hole, deep inside your chest that nothing an fill.  

You are not a terrible person, you DO deserve to be happy.  You are perfect and there is no “why not you”.  It had nothing to do with that.  You are incredible.  You are power.  You are surviving.  You are strength personified and you are always, always, always, always, mother.  

For every mother who feels like you don’t feel like they get to be part of this day, I am here to hold you, love you, to respect your pain and tell you that you are exactly who you ought to be.  You are not broken.  You are not ruined.  You are not unworthy.  You did nothing wrong and it is not your fault.

Please believe; motherhood is not something that disappears with the child.  The honor does not get stripped from you if you encounter tragedy… you are forever within the circle and today, we lift you up.  From the first spark of life within your womb until your final breath on Earth, you have been a mother and I honor you.  I honor your struggle, your passion, your grace and your ability to carry on.

We may not know why things happen and maybe you have a faith that helps support you and your loss, a faith that provides a deeper understanding to give you peace, but please know that even if you do not, that you are worthy of that peace.  You are worthy and you are good and you are supported.

Today we celebrate the spirit of motherhood and the mothers who are, who have been, who were for a moment, who are forever.

Don’t let anyone tell you today is not your day.
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