I was five when I was first told I was going to Hell. A friend’s mom said it to me. A grown woman said that to my five year old self because my parents had recently explained atheism and that they were atheists to me. Let’s just say, I was completely unprepared for the vehemence and hatred with which people would respond when I answered their questions about my belief system.
For the past 4 years I have been angry. Raising a child who is disabled has forced me to confront a lot of the traumas I faced growing up while disabled, and then if that wasn’t enough, the 2016 elections happened, which were triggering for me on a whole different level. I was bullied in elementary school, and some people who worked in the schools told my parents it was the worse case of school bullying they had ever seen. Because of this, I never thought of Trump as a joke, I found him triggering and terrifying. And that anyone could vote for him, let alone millions, has brought a lot of trauma to the surface. Basically the message everyone who voted for him sent was that it was okay for him to bully and degrade people, and that so many people in the United States believe that and that I walk among those people has been disillusioning. For the past 4 years I have been angrier than I have ever been, and I’ve had good reasons to be angry. But it is not a natural or a normal state for me, and it’s not how I like to live.
They say write from a scar rather than a wound. And I’ve been writing from wounds until the point where I couldn’t anymore, especially as I don’t think I am terribly effective when writing from a wound, and also because doing so is so painful. Still, time goes on, scars form. I’m still attending protests, voting, and calling my representatives, doing what I can to fight the most dangerous administration I have seen rise to power in my life time. But the anger I feel is no longer as strong. It’s faded to a grim resolve. On the one hand I am horrified that I am no longer furious, because it means that something atrocious has become normalized. On the other hand, anger was consuming me.
I’m a long way from wanting to build bridges, especially as harmful people are in power, people who only care about the rights of rich, white, evangelical men. When people in power want to take away the rights of people who don’t have it, bridge building isn’t going to happen. There are still a lot of fights coming up. I am marching next week against gun violence. I will be voting for leaders who reign in a dangerous despot rather than enable him. And I’m at the point where I can write from a scar.
When I was a teenager, my mom worked for several years with a nonprofit that focused on preventing child abuse. She taught parenting classes and classes on what child abuse looks. Later I followed in this path, teaching parenting classes to adults who had lost custody of their children due to abuse or neglect. One conflict both my mother and I got into with people was whether or not it was okay to spank children. My mother would point out that my sister and I were never spanked and we were extremely well behaved teenagers. My sister and I were the Hermione Grangers of our schools, we wouldn’t think about breaking the rules. People would tell her my sister and I were naturally good and positive parenting wouldn’t work with most children. Well, now I have a son with autism, and we have struggled with undesirable behavior.
Last night I had a rather detailed dream that a school had opened up across the street from us and Buddy was to start kinder there. The school was a beautiful log cabin structure with huge windows and an intricately crafted library, not the blue carpeted, florescent light warehouses they tend to be. I remember I was nervous to observe the kinder classroom and see if it would be the interactive, child friendly place I hoped it would be. I really wanted him to go to that school! Heck, I wanted to go to that school!
I was never raised to believe in a deity or pray. And while I have been in several tight situations, I never saw the need for prayer and got through just fine. When I’m in an emergency situation pretty much all of my concentration and focus goes into what I need to do to stay safe. Take the time a bunch of tornadoes ran through Fort Worth in 2000.
This evening I was walking around the house with Buddy trailing me while streaming my amazing kids music station from Pandora. I managed to create a good balance of kindie bands like Laurie Berkner and TMBG with classics such as Puff the Magic Dragon and other kids songs. At the moment, “The Rainbow Connection” was playing, and Buddy stunned me by talking about rainbows while putting his arms over his head in an arch. I wondered where he’d learned that. But what he did next really floored me.
I want my children to be independent. And while I wish this were self evident, I want my children to internalize moral values so that they do the right thing not because they fear the consequences if they don’t, but because it is the right thing to do. At the risk of being overly simplistic, I’ve noticed that parents tend to fall into two camps, those that believe that their children will do good things and when they don’t it’s because something in the environment is happening that makes it difficult, and those who believe that children will do bad things and that morality has to be forced on children with a very heavy hand. I am vocally and decidedly in the first group.