A Letter to My Sons, June 2016

 

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Dear Boys,

Hello. The world feels like a strange and dark place right now to your mama, and so I want to write a letter to the future yous. Because right now, you are so little, you might not understand most of the words I have to say. And, because right now, the world exists in the arms of your mama and daddy, and it is good.

But one day, you will be big. Bigger than you are now. Big enough to reach the sink without a step stool; big enough to tower over your mama, and probably your daddy too. One day, you’ll be able to read the news, and you’ll learn all sorts of things. Like hate. And anger. And anguish. When you do, I hope you’ll be brave.

In high school or college, you may see a girl drinking too much. A girl who can’t stand up or answer your questions; I hope that you stand beside her. I hope that if she disappears outside, you find her. I hope that you protect her from any person who might intend her harm. I hope that you will find her phone, and call the last dialed number to get her a ride. If her phone is unreachable, stay with her. Keep her safe. [1.]

Because, my darling, little boys, you were born with great privilege. You were born white. You were born boys. And you were born rich. With all of those things comes a great deal of power, which requires a great deal of responsibility. You can pretend that you do not have this power, but you shouldn’t. Instead, I beg you to use your strength for people who have none, or for people who need to borrow yours for just a little while.

I need you to be brave when, in the midst of a strange and frightening day on your job, you have to choose between destroying something you swore to protect and fixing a situation  you hoped might never happen. With all the world watching, I hope you’ll be brave. [2.]

Someday, you might find yourself in a place where you finally feel safe, and accepted in ways you haven’t before. This place will feel like a home for your soul where people understand, love, and get you. If someone should come in and start to destroy that place, start taking lives you love, I hope you’ll be brave. I hope that you will protect, that you will fight for that space, and those you love. If you exist outside that space, if you are not a member of that soul home, I ask you to use your strength and power to give a voice to those who lost theirs. That you will not drown out their voices with your incomparable experiences. [3.]

I hope that you shout until your voice goes hoarse, that you parade in front of the Capitol to see changes you want. I dream of passion and power and grace in your futures.

I hope you’ll bravely defend parents and children who experience the painful outcomes of horrific accidents. I pray you not jump to hasty conclusions about the parenting abilities of your fellow humans; that you share grief, and fear, and compassion with others experiencing losses you could never imagine and I hope you never know.[4.] 

Be brave, boys. The world turns on its axis cruelly this June, and mama would like nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry, but you make me brave. I will do everything I can to help you be brave too.

Love,

Prickly Pear Mama

[1.] State of California v. Brock Turner sentencing, June 2. 

[2.]Gorilla killed after toddler falls in zoo enclosure, Cinncinnati, May 31.

[3.]Pulse Nightclub mass shooting, Orlando, June 12.  

[4.]Toddler Lane Graves attacked and killed by alligator, Orlando, June 14.

 

Dear Cloth Diapering Commitment Phobe,

April 4.2 037 5 May (3)

Right now, I just have one child in diapers all the time, but in my not so distant past there were two boys in cloth diapers. And it was okay. In fact, I really loved it.

But, I get it. You think that cloth diapers are gross. You worry about your washing machine and yet another time suck that keeps you from your baby. You think cloth diapers cost too much, or won’t be effective. You’re freaked out about poop.

Poop, y’all. It ain’t pretty. But it happens a lot in my house. As a friend so aptly said, there comes a point when poop becomes the fifth element: earth, fire, wind, water, poop. It’s just a way of life after baby arrives, whether your diapers are cotton or plastic; whether your child is potty trained or you’re just discovering meconium. And, actually, I’ve discovered that the amount of poop getting on me, and baby, and flooring, and crib, and sheets, is greatly reduced in a cloth diaper.

Here’s the scoop:

  1. If cloth diapering interests you, give it a try. The hardest thing about cloth is committing. Once you decide to cloth diaper, the battle is fairly well won. Then, wake up every day and remind yourself of why you cloth diaper to begin with, be it financial, environmental, health, or reducing the dreaded poop-splosion that sends onesies to the dark side. Every. Damn. Time.
  2. There are several trial programs to help you determine which cloth diaper belongs in your home. Try one. Ask your supportive family member to help you try one out as a baby gift. Trust me, you will come away feeling smart about your choice. We went with Jillian’s Drawers Changing Diapers Changing Minds program when Carl was about 18 months old, and I felt well versed in cloth diapers by the time our 21 days were up.
  3. I found that having the support of just one person made all the difference. One person who loves that you cloth diaper, and asks how it’s going. One person to  trouble shoot, or just listen to you wax on about how much you love cloth. Find that person. Let me be that person if you don’t have one in your family or friend group. You can often find people like this on social media, or you can join a Facebook cloth diapering group. Sometimes, when you start talking about the cloth diaper life, people come out of the woodwork to share their experiences with you.
  4. The internet makes cloth diapering easier. Once you know what works for you, you can find myriad resources online about the best care and troubleshooting for your brand. I love Green Mountain Diapers as a resource for washing, reviews, and photographs of how to use my prefolds as my boys grow. I also found a blog that shows all the different ways to fold a diaper and it blew my mind.
  5. Know that your cloth diapering plans can change, and be flexible. Somedays, when I don’t get the prefolds on the line, or in the dryer in time, we use disposables. (In fact, I keep a small stash of disposables tucked away for days like this.) Life happens. Just keep moving forward.
  6. You don’t always need all the jazz. No really. We bought a diaper sprayer, but I soon realized that I actually prefer a good pair of gloves and the “swirl and flush” method. The diaper sprayer works wonders on our AIO diapers, but I only pull those out for the babysitter, so…I don’t know that it was worth it. I bought a huge wet bag for the diapers, and a fancy trash can. But it turns out that I like this tiny metal, lidless, breathable office trash can for my dirties so they can dry out (reducing smells). It also forces me to wash more often, because I run out of room more quickly.
  7. Cloth diapering may not be for you. If you have a weak stomach, think carefully about whether you can overcome that obstacle. If your spouse/co-parent claims confusion over the different folds and snaps, then maybe you should avoid the prefold with a cover and look at an all in one, or all in two. If you can’t begin to imagine using wool, and adding another layer to your wash routine, then a disposable at night might be the right answer. A disposable with your potty training toddler who poops four times in one hour before falling asleep at night might be the right answer. I am not joking. Adjust for your life.
  8. Smells are solvable. Smells can be managed. Smells don’t have to ruin your life.
  9. These things are so damn cute. Buy a couple just for pictures, and then take a million pictures of your kid in their adorable underwear.
  10. Skinny jeans may not work for your cloth diapered kid. In fact, you might consider the oddly shaped, fuzzy butt when purchasing clothes. Size up. Or look for brands that make bigger bottoms in their clothes. Or forget pants (if the weather is warm) and let your baby strut that adorableness all over town. Invest in leg warmers, which make diaper changing easier regardless of what the diaper consists of. You only get to torture that baby with “soo cute” rainbow striped legwarmers for a little while

.10 October (6)

Love cloth diapering? Thinking about joining the cloth diaper movement? Tell me about it.

PPM

 

 

A Letter to Social Media Regarding Brock Turner

I promised myself to stay out of this, but my brain has been thinking about the Brock Turner sexual assault case for days now, and I can’t let it go. My heart breaks and rages simultaneously, and I know that yours does too. But, here’s the deal:

If this incident truly hammers at the core of your being, talking and screaming and fighting on Facebook about who was more wrong, about the inhumanity of Brock, about the injustice of it all, does not fix the problem. I do not know that the problem of Brock can be fixed (more on this soon), but slacktivism does not fix the problem. Tomorrow a new, heart-wrenching cover story will arrive to make us forget about all of this. I pray that you don’t.

I have been wracking my brain trying to determine what to do with this heartache of mine. I’ve come up with some thoughts. You can, of course, sign the petition for the removal of Judge Aaron Persky from the bench, but that is not enough, nor will it necessarily make the difference that you want it to. In fact, any of these suggestions alone are simply not enough. Do them anyway.

  1. Donate your money or time to a sexual assault center in your area. Survivors like the one in Brock’s case utilize the services of these centers. The workers there support her in court, at the hospital, through counseling, and in a myriad of other life-advancing ways.
  1. If you do not have a local center, donate to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN.org) so they can keep running their hotline for survivors.
  1. Support sexual education in your schools. I could not be more serious about this. If we cannot even talk about sex, how can we ever address consent? If parents do not discuss this at home, it should be happening somewhere. These programs often suffer from low or no funding, but work diligently to educate thousands of students in a year. Support these programs.
  1. Support your state sexual assault organization. For example, in Texas, you can donate to Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA.org). They are often the clearinghouse for trainings all over your state, and lobby at the state and national levels for change. If you can, attend one of their trainings, try and stream it, or sign up on their website to do a virtual training.
  1. On that note, if the sentencing in this case burns a fire in you, pay attention when it’s time to elect judges.  Help fund the campaign of a judge you believe in. Learn about their judicial record.
  1. Find out if your local legal system requires sexual offenders to hear from Victim Impact Panels, if they require classes educating offenders about consent, or how the courts work with a local rape crisis or domestic violence center. If they don’t, advocate for these changes.
  1. Talk to your children about consent. Talk to them about sex. If you don’t know how to do this, look it up on the internet, where resources abound. Ask the sex educator in your school district. In our town, there’s actually a church that provides classes on this to teens. But do not pretend that your kid gets it. Even after you talk about it once, keep talking about it. It’s uncomfortable. So was birthing them. Some things just have to happen.
  1. On that note, talk to your kids about consent in front of their friends. Because you never know. Talk about consent as if you were trying to convert the nation to a culture of consent. Because you are.
  1.  Set limits for your children. Tell them no. When they are very young, teach them about personal space, about asking to give and receive hugs. Do not force them to hug and kiss when they do not want to or are uncomfortable, this teaches them that they have no control over their bodies.
  1. Pay attention to how you talk about this case, and other cases. She is a survivor. Rape survivors often have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from not knowing whether they will live through their rape. They do not sleep the way you probably do. They do not have relationships the way you probably do, or at least, not for a very long time following their experience. If you know a rape survivor, call them that: Survivor. It is a powerful word. Understand that they may require hospitalization, therapy, medication. They are not crazy. They have survived. They are fighting for their lives. Still.
  1. If you disagree with someone’s opinion on Brock and the entire situation. If you think they are not strict enough, or cruel enough, or that Brock’s sexual organs should be removed because of his acts, try to have a civil conversation about it. Do not scream at them as if they were an idiot. If you feel the need to scream at them, do all of the action bulletins listed above first, and if you still have energy after that, feel free to yell. But civil discourse can lead to community action, rather than polarization. Talk about it.

And finally, let’s have an honest discussion about Brock and his future. These thoughts may not be popular, but before you rake me over the coals, read all of what I have to say. Brock raped a woman. Brock ended life as she knew it. No sentence received will change Brock or the survivor’s past. Brock and his family have received so much public attention regarding this case that I think his life is over in ways he could not have imagined. HOWEVER, he has money to change his name. He has connections to obtain a good job that pays well and provides him the lifestyle he is accustomed to. A life of privilege. We, collectively, have painted Brock as a vile, inhuman, animalistic rapist. Think about that. We make rape the verb of Brock’s life. We have decided this is who he is. In that decision, and despite a sexual offender website, we make it possible for him to rape again. Because that is who he is according to this universe.

Unless. Unless he were to be educated about consent. Made aware about the difference between wanting something and taking it. Educated about the difference between drinking to lower inhibition versus drinking for an excuse.  Unless, somehow, Brock could become a voice of education regarding consent, of awareness for campus sexual assault, a voice of change. Because that would truly be the only thing his survivor wants of him.

But it might be too late for him, because we decided that he’s not capable of that.

Do not decide for him. Push for him to survive as well; to meet the expectation, and regain his humanity. We are capable of change if we, and those around him believe.

Educate. Fight. Advocate. Listen. Do not let Brock of the past win. We cannot afford to lose.

PPM

 

(Also, just in case you have no idea what this case is about, or wonder how I really feel about it, read this.)

Laundry Day

Today I strung up a clothesline in my back yard. I stretched it taut to hang my cloth diapers, and the bed linens I’ve stashed away for the past two years while we searched for our place to settle. Rooted somewhere in my long-term memory, the smell of clean, wet sheets snapping in the wind sends me in to a momentary daze. I remember sheets as tents, as hide and seek havens, as comfort, and home, and a place of dreams.

The process of hanging things with clothespins on a line also takes me to a less distant past of college days. October days where I rose early enough to catch the dew in the Georgia grass, and walked our front campus through slight fog. Often I was in shabby overalls, carting huge boxes filled with t-shirts designed by students, faculty, and staff. Survivors. Advocates. People who understood that the clothesline we hung every October gave voice to people with some amount of violence in their past or present. Domestic violence. Rape. Sexual assault. Molestation. My strong arms strung up the clothesline to pin those shirts on. My strong voice traveled to the nation’s capital to protest those things that mattered to me.

Ten years ago, my mission was to save the world. To start my own women’s shelter. To be the voice for those who had lost theirs. Ten years ago, I was a powerhouse of energy, headed to graduate school after co-founding a women’s resource center on our campus. After starting a local chapter of The Clothesline Project. After graduating Magna Cum Laude. After spending countless  200+ hours volunteering at shelters.

After.

Hanging laundry on the line brings me back to the present. Where my two boys play in my yard, and I am no longer the Wonder Woman of ten years ago. The decade has changed me; taking my identity and molding it into things I never thought I could or would be. Somehow I have become a different Wonder Woman with eight arms at once, capable of the physical strength required to bounce, carry, hold, rock, bathe, burp, and breastfeed. The one that does not gag at poop, or puke, or diarrhea. The one who sleeps five intermittent hours and arises to start all over again.

I have spent a great deal of time questioning who I am. Whether I can still be a feminist if I stay home with my children. Whether I have value if I don’t receive a pay check. And, if I do, what is that value? I have spent ages wondering what I am doing with myself, and whether the me of ten years ago still means something.

Now, I know.

I am saving the world. But on a micro-scale. I am saving the world for two boys. For the countless men, and women, and children those boys will encounter in their lives.I am tasked with teaching those boys the world, and keeping their hearts soft. I am meant to show them bystander intervention, bravery, advocacy, strength in community, and the power of the individual. I am meant to teach them love.

Laundry day.

There are tiny souls to grow, and diapers to hang. Let us begin.

PPM