Raising the Good Guys and Bad Guys

The three people in my house under the age of five have been obsessed with the idea of good guys and bad guys lately.

“I’m Batman!” Caden, my four-year-old-son, proclaims as he runs around in his blanket cape.

“And Robin!” the two-year-old replies, right behind him.

“Let’s get the bad guys!” they cry in unison.

My husband and I are usually stand-ins for the villains. I sigh inwardly at their use of the term “bad guys”. But this is all so developmentally appropriate, this cop-and-robber-type play, I’m not sure I should step in, or even what to say if I do.

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“The world turned upside down. The world turned upside down,” The kids and I sing along to Hamilton as we color at the kitchen table. “The world turned upside down.”

“What’s this song about?” Caden asks me. His twin sister perks up to hear my answer to his question. (The two-year-old continues on his mission to break every crayon we own.) I pause. While we’ve been singing along to this soundtrack for months, this is the first time they’ve asked about it. Usually it’s enough for them thatMy Shot” makes an excellent dance tune.

“Well...” I fumble. I minored in history in college. My brain tumbles over facts and stories, but which ones are appropriate for preschoolers? “A long time ago, our country fought another country. They were kind of in charge of us but we didn’t think they treated us very nicely. So we fought them and, well, we won.” I’m not sure they even have any concept of what a country is yet.

“We won?” he asks, eyes brightening. This he understands.

“We did.”

“And the bad guys lost?”

“Well...they weren’t really bad. They just believed different things than we did. They weren’t bad people, we just didn’t feel like they were treating us fairly. So we fought for what we thought was right. And they fought for what they thought was right.”

I’ve lost him now, though. He goes back to coloring, now singing his own little song under his breath that talks about how “we won and the bad guys lost.” Well. I tried.


Continue reading how I’m working to teach my children about the shades of gray in the world over at SheLoves Magazine.

Still Parenting on Days Like Today

A year ago, I wrote a post. It seemed to strike a chord with many, moms mostly, of course. It spilled out of me the morning after the election, as my mind was in overdrive and a million thoughts swirled around my head. I grabbed my husband and begged him to watch the kids for just a little longer. I hoped it would be therapeutic to attempt to get some of the chaos out of my head and onto the screen. After 20 minutes of furious typing (and *ahem* scant editing) I later posted what came out and attempted to go on with my day.

The emotions were still so raw and fresh. The previous night, November 8th (a date nearly as burned into my brain as September 11th), Tyson and I settled into the couch after putting the kids to bed, to watch what we believed would be a historic election. It was. Just not in the way we thought, as by 8:15 that evening Chuck Todd attempted to explain (and visibly come to terms with) the way the results were headed. My celebratory beer quickly turned into a coping mechanism. It wasn’t that a Republican was being elected (up until that point it hadn’t been about party to me), but that a man who boasted about grabbing pussy, used Twitter as a base to mock people, and built his campaign on constructing that God-forsaken wall was really and truly being elected to our highest office.

I’ve thought about that post a lot in the past year. Not because it’s a work of literary genius (*ahem* again, scant editing), but because this entire year has felt like “a day like today”. Each day, each week has been filled with its own new horrors.

The heaviness of Inauguration Day.
Blatant lies from day one. (Inauguration crowd size, anyone?)
The Women’s March.
Inexperienced government agency heads.
Pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The first healthcare scare.
And the second.
And the third.
A march of actual Nazis.
A shooting.
The horror in NYC on Halloween.
Another shooting.
(Those last four all being acts of terror, I might add.)
Women standing together (too many) to proclaim “me too”.
The undying accusations of “fake news”.
A tax cut bill that is anything but.
New snippets, every morning in 140 characters, that prove this is anything but normal.

It’s too much to take in sometimes. That isn't even a comprehensive list. My thoughts become scattered as I ride the emotional roller coaster from anger to fear to grief to sadness and wake up to do it all over again. As Michelle Goldberg put it, “You can’t protest it all; you’d never do anything else”.

And I do need to do something else.

I have three very real children that need me to be present, engaged, and whole. I’m still called to love them above all. Still called to “play and protect and mother and snuggle and discipline”.

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The morning after the election, as Tyson and I walked through a fog of both sleep deprivation and disbelief, I made breakfast and got the kids ready for our parent-child class. I arrived at the school, somewhat stunned to see the sun shining and smiles on the teachers’ faces. Smiling was the last thing I wanted to do. “How are you?” I remember being asked. I didn’t know what to say. Nothing seemed sure anymore. I was in shock, quite honestly. Unsure of so much. What the hell had just happened? How I felt didn’t even seem to be a fair question anymore. I endured playtime and a group discussion on some sort of parenting topic or other and escaped home, still shook to the core.

I’ve come least a little ways since that day. Smiles don’t shock me quite so much anymore (erm...depending on the day). I’ve found a better rhythm to keep tabs on the news and also be present in my own home. I’m better able to focus my own anger and channel my emotions into thoughts that might result in an actual conversation, instead of a furious tirade.

The emotional component remains the most difficult part of parenting. There have admittedly been days in the past year when the TV has taken over parenting duties, while I sort out my thoughts on (yet another) issue.

I’ve been finding myself this year, despite, or maybe because, of the interruptions life with three small children brings. Much of the past 12-18 months has found my angsty teenage self rearing her head (probably because she never got a chance during those actual teenage years). I’ve been sorting through my emotions, anger and frustration chief among them. Letting myself feel those feelings, ride the wave, and see where they bring me.

They’ve brought me back to my children. Back to the basics. My guiding mantra the latter part of this year has been, “But what do I want them to hear?” and I go from there. I want them to hear that everyone is loved, everyone belongs, everyone matters to God. I want them to see that we talk to people, we interact with them, that we take care of their actual needs. I want them to hear that we show up, we stand up, and that every day we wake up to new mercies and new chances.

And I’ll keep going from there.

The Importance of Baking M&M Cookies

Yesterday was the perfect sort of lazy day. Overcast, cool, as though it were already fall. I cozied up in one of my favorite oversized sweatshirts, sweatpants, a cup of chai. Though it’s hard to be completely lazy with small children around. They still want things like attention and regular mealtimes. Gone are the days of snuggling under a blanket for hours of reading and Netflix binge-watching, unless it’s a marathon of Super Why. It would be the perfect day for baking, the oven running all day long, full of breads and muffins and cookies. It was also hard to be completely lazy with the grim news splashed across my newsfeed and on the TV.

We talked about visiting the library in the afternoon. It sounded good earlier in the day, but when the time came I felt like tackling some of that baking. Tyson packed up Brooklyn, Nolan, and the diaper bag while Caden stayed behind. We set to work.

I told Caden I was sad because there were mean people in our country, mean people who had done bad things over the weekend. I told him I was glad that he stayed home to bake with me because it made me feel better. I got the ingredients ready. M&M cookies, his choice.

The hopeful pastel colors (*ahem* Easter leftovers) seemed out-of-place given the weight and heaviness of the news, still on my mind. Maybe out-of-place, but also totally and completely right. Baking with a three-year old took over my concentration, just as I hoped it would, removing me for an hour or two from an otherwise awful weekend. A step back and away from the news, away from the terrible, terrible pain and anger in our country.

“I’ll do one and you do one,” Caden told me, as we poured ingredients together. Three-years old and well aware of the rules regarding taking turns and sharing, of basic respect. I still felt sad, my heart heavy, as I thought of someone else’s child, suddenly taken away this weekend for standing up against hatred. My heart felt equally sad over the thought of another child causing this disaster, and I’m not sure which pain is the more difficult to bear. Caden and I watched as the mixer ran, combining the ingredients together into one homogenous, gooey mass. We stirred in the M&Ms and ate a few, straight out of the bag.

He sat in front of the oven to watch the cookies bake while I cleaned up, and as the water ran in the sink I overheard him, in a sing-song voice, “Mommy’s sad because people were mean...and she doesn’t like that...and I don’t like that ei-ther…”

It’s hard to tell him much, at three-years old. As much as I’d like to shelter him from terrible things, I also want him to know at least a little of the evil in the world, so his heart burns to stand up for what is right. It looks small, right now. We talk about bad people going to jail, that there are mean people in this country who don’t like other people. We talk about helping people on the playground, at school, in our neighborhood. We cook meals for friends who have new babies, shop for school supplies for kids who don’t have any.

We bake cookies.

It would have been easy in a way to ignore him this weekend, to get caught up in the swirl of yet another awful news cycle: more devastation, anger, hate, death, hurt, sadness. And it is very, very worthy of my attention. But to regard my own son as an interruption only means that I’m getting caught up in the hatred. It lets the bad guys win.

So we let the butter soften, use our fingers to get the grains of sugar that have scattered on the counter, dump in the flour and the vanilla, and you better believe that we lick the beaters. I put aside my phone and the news and choose to create joy for a little while.

After all, as Caden said, “Mommy, we make really good M&M cookies.”


If you are interested, here are a few of the most thoughtful pieces I read regarding the tragedy in Charlottesville this weekend.

In Charlottesville, a reignited Civil War

What a presidential president would have said about Charlottesville

What U.Va Students Saw in Charlottesville