Turbulent Times: Lessons for Our Kids
*Originally published on Alamo City Moms.
A little more than a year ago, at 10 weeks pregnant, I walked into my OBGYN’s office with my then six-year-old daughter and watched intently, desperately, for any sign of a fetal heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. A few moments later, my doctor solemnly announced that our little bean was no longer alive. In an instant, everything changed. My husband and I would not be welcoming Baby #2 into our lives the following February. My precious six-year-old would not be the big sister she’d dreamed of becoming. We would not be the perfect family of four I’d envisioned.
Over the next six months, my husband and I worked hard to heal our hearts. We were careful in our handling of each other, nicer in our words and more thoughtful in our actions. We made a conscious effort to enjoy our time together as a family and to make some amazing memories. We laughed, traveled, and soaked up every holiday, every Date Night, every lazy Saturday spent watching movies in our pajamas around the house. In time, our broken hearts mended, and by Christmas I’d made peace with whatever lie ahead in the future. I remember thinking that if this was our path—as a trio—then I knew we could be happy because clearly we already were.
And then, four days after New Year’s, as we kicked off 2016 with a sense of peace for whatever came—or didn’t come—our way, I suddenly found myself face to face with two pink little lines on a positive pregnancy test.
I’m now 36 weeks along with a healthy baby girl who’s due at the beginning of September. Naturally, we’re all thrilled.
But along with that joy comes a sense of sorrow, knowing that our baby will be born two months before Election Day, at the height of Right vs. Left, Us vs. Them, and humanity at its absolute worst. Our beautiful bundle of pink will be born into a world torn apart by #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter, where I can’t turn on the news in front of my second-grader lest I expose her to truly terrifying images and ideas, where suicide bombings and mass shootings are the norm. Worst of all, my precious baby daughter will be born in a time of hopelessness, where every other post on my Facebook feed pleads that we pray for our “broken, evil world.”
As excited as I am to welcome this new little life, at times I can’t help but feel guilty for having to introduce my daughter to the world in a time of such societal turmoil, for having to raise a child in this time of negativity and hate. But when my mind starts to go down that rabbit hole, I realize: I can choose not to participate. I can choose to focus on the good, much like I did after my miscarriage, rather than dwell on the bad. We all can.
I can choose to publicly post political fodder on social media, feeding into the drama of “my way is the right way,” convincing no one who thinks differently, and dividing us all further in the process, or I can reserve my political discussions for private company (if at all). I can refuse to buy into the notion that the world is “broken” or “evil,” and I can remind myself, as we all often forget, that bad things have been happening since the beginning of time. Literally.
I can choose to be thoughtful in my attitude and actions and give my daughters some messages of hope to cling to as they grow. I can remember that my husband and I have more influence over our children than society, and I can revel in our power to mold their minds and hearts positively. Here are the main lessons I intend to teach my daughters:
1. Do not live in fear. Between what we hear on the news and read on the Internet, the world may seem like a terrifying place. But it’s a big, beautiful one, too. Explore it. Travel. Meet its people. Take chances. Do not let isolated incidents frighten you from seizing each day. Life is way too short to live in fear.
2. Make kindness a priority. Treating others with kindness doesn’t mean you have to like or agree with everyone. But it does mean treating others the way you’d want to be treated: respectfully, peacefully, and nicely, without judgment of differences. In the wise words of Maya Angelou, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Be kind. People will remember you for it—and you’ll be glad that they did.
3. Stand on the side of the good. Contrary to the media’s portrayal, the world is not filled with evil people. In fact, most people are decent, hardworking men and women who wake up every day and try to do the right thing. Remember this when you see bad things happen—that the good always outnumbers the bad—and that it is your duty to stand on the side of goodness and inspire it in others.
4. Worry less. If I could lump together all the time that I’ve spent worrying about possible outcomes that never actually happened, I’d probably be able to add years to my life. Try not to worry too much about the future. Have faith that everything is going to turn out all right—because it usually does. God has a plan for you, even when you can’t see it. Trust Him and His vision.
5. Trust us. We know you need to make your own mistakes, and as you grow we’ll try to give you space to do that. But trust that you can also come to us when you need advice, support, or truthful answers to your questions. Even—and perhaps even especially—when you’re afraid that you’ll disappoint us, anger us, and break our hearts, turn to us. Nothing—seriously, NOTHING—you could ever say or do would make us stop loving you. Trust us.
Our kids are growing up in turbulent, complicated times. But maybe if we spent a little less time stewing over the current state of the world and a little more time teaching our children the basics of how to cope within it—you know, the stuff that really matters—we’d ALL be better off. Here’s to hoping.