The Skunk Outside

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I was volunteering in my daughter's preschool class the other day and they had a lock down drill. I don't know if you have ever been in a lock down drill or if you know what one is. Basically a lock down drill is when you practice what you would do if there was an intruder, a shooter, or some sort of criminal act. The drill is to go to a safe room and lock all doors and shut the windows tight as you darken the room. I didn't have these drills when I was a child in the 1980's. In Arkansas we had tornado drills and I am suspect that the folder I had to put over my head really would be helpful, but I digress.

We actually had to leave my daughter's classroom, because there are too many windows. The children are targets in this room. So as I walked into the dark room with my daughter and her class and one of the teachers in the "safe" room helped explain why we were there. She quieted her voice and told us to be silent...we didn't want the skunk outside to hear us. She gently told the children that there was a stinky skunk trying to get in and we didn't want him to know where we were so we had to be still and quiet. Some kids laughed, some kids cried, but mostly they were so very quiet. 

These are preschoolers.

A couple of days later there was another school shooting. Another one.

High school students and brave teachers and coaches are gone. They are dead. They went to school on VALENTINE'S DAY and were killed. 

There are no words...just action. I am amazed by the survivors who refuse to be quiet. They are children.  The survivors who will not back down about talking about change...it is not too soon for them...it is indeed too late. These survivors are already talking about gun control. These children are doing things that adults have been too afraid to do...these children have been victims of gun violence (this week mind you) and are currently undergoing a crazy traumatic event and they are already mobilizing and taking action. God bless them. 

No one should have guns that can kill that many people so quickly. No one. Yes, we do need gun control. And yes, we do need to focus on the heroes not the people who do these things. And yes, we do need to provide mental care for people who need it. And yes, we do need to build community. 

Personally, I have connected with my local chapter of Moms Demand Action. You don't need to be a mom to join the group and they don't want to take away your guns. They want common sense gun control. Sign me up! 

And for me, one of the most important things is for me to build community where ever I go. We are connected 24/7 and yet we don't have real connections in our neighborhoods or in our communities.

Honestly, I am just doing my damnedest to be more like Mr. Rogers every day. He had it right...he showed us why we should love our neighborhoods and how we are interconnected, he taught us to love one another, and he taught us that we were valuable...that we all had something to add to our community.  

Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.
— Mr. Fred Rogers

So we have some radical love to share and some major changes in our current legislation that need to happen. Oh, and a bunch of other work. But we have to make a change. We can't send our babies to get an education and have them fear for their lives. And we have learned there is no place safe...not concerts, not malls, not churches, and not at schools. There are too many skunks getting away with too many horrible things. We have to make a change.

Love one another...you know, the really hard ones to love...them too. 

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Oh, and I actaully love skunks...they are just serving as a metaphor today. 

Conditionally Yours?

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
— Robert Fulghum

My four year old asked me a question as we were alone in the dark during our bedtime routine. She asks A LOT of questions during this time...usually they are related to things that will get her out of bed..."Can I go potty?" or "Where are my vitamins?" or maybe "Why didn't we eat dinner" (BTW we totally ate dinner). But this is one of those questions that kids ask you that just punch you in the gut. In her tiny little voice she said, "Mom would you still love me even if I was bad?" We joke a lot in our family, but this was clearly not the time to joke. She was legitimately asking. I shined my cell phone on us and told her to look at me and I said the same thing that parents have been saying in some form for eons..."There is literally nothing you could do that would make me not love you. There is nothing you could say that wouldn't make me love you. I will ALWAYS love you no matter what." She gave me giant kiss and proceeded to try to avoid bedtime.

She was just fine, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. My son asks me stuff like this all the time, but that is more his nature. He just wants some verbal validation from time to time. I get it, who doesn't? But the girl, she usually gives exactly 0% of what others think. I asked Miss M the next morning why she asked me that question and she responded because sometimes she hurts my feelings. Yep, she totally does...preschoolers are brutally honest that it can be painful and some times they are just mean out of the blue...but I never think about it...that comes with the territory. So since I am a pretty reflective person I decided to start noodling on it (i.e. going into deep thought). 

We are a very demonstrative family...I mean, not with everyone, but for sure with each other. I hug and kiss my kids all day long and I tell them I love them all the time too. So why would this conditional love questioning start sneaking around?

Well, my mind started to wander as the girl and I drove across town to drop off our taxes.  I was looking at all the new development and how there is so much of this town I no longer recognize. I moved to Portland 27 years ago (how in the hell is that true?). And Portland, Oregon is beautiful and a great place to live and soooooo many people have agreed with that sentiment in the last decade. I complain about the growth, the changes, the differences in the town that I love so very much. Turns out I talk as if I only LOVE Portland if it is the Portland I know, the one I recognize, the one that I "get." That is some conditional love right there. 

I am not saying my four year old picked up on that nuance. She is smart and pretty intuitive, but that is a leap for sure. But if I am doing that about where we live, what else am I setting conditions on and what am I modeling to my children?

I know I am Judgy McJudge Judge. I am...I admit it. I try really hard not to be, but I have to work at it. If people or animals (or I guess even cities) don't fit into my expectation of what I think they should be doing or who I think they should be then I make assumptions. And honestly I am modeling not only how to care about someone or some thing conditionally...I am showing my kids and anyone else around how to criticize others who don't fit into my little mold. That is not what I want to teach...I want to teach unconditional love, I want to celebrate diversity, and I want to honor people for who they are.

Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.
— Anonymous

So let's work on loving each other just as we are. I know I need it. Here are the actions I am going to take. Can these work in your life too? What are you going to do to make sure you are living a life you want your kids to imitate? 

Unconditional Love Guide

  • Love yourself- First and foremost, if you don't love you without conditions how can you expect your children to be able to do the same thing? Oh you may think, "I love me just fine thank you." Do you say things about your weight, how you look, your job, your value, what you would change? Those sound like conditions to me. Try to love yourself without the *asterisk.
  • Express your love-Tell the people in your world you love them and show them you love them. Love them the way they need to be loved. Love the people in your life without limitations. 
  • Educate yo brain-One thing that builds walls around us is a lack of understanding others. You judging someone you don't know? Get to know them. Something bugging you? Research it, get to know more about it before you make any rash decisions. Easy to hate the unknown. Knowledge is power!
  • Pick up & fix things- One way to show love is to love the world. Pick up after yourself. Respect Mother Earth. It helps connect you to something bigger. And if something is broke, try to fix it. What are we doing to the world, what are we teaching our kids, and what kind of waste are we creating when we throw everything out? The message seems pretty straight forward...this is broke...it must be junk. We can do better than that.
  • Practice tolerance-People are going to do things you don't like, things change (even your favorite cities), and life goes off track. You don't get to control everyone and everything. Bummer, huh? But you can try to let go of your own stuff and just take people, places, and things for what they are...not what you want them to be. 
  • Help others-Volunteer, lend a hand, assist someone. Putting yourself in someone else's shoes helps make connections. When we think and act outside of ourselves then we can expand our mind and hearts.

So for me, there is NOTHING my children could do that would make me love them any less. They have peed in my shampoo, pooped in my bath, ruined my laptop (and my body), but it doesn't matter. I love them so freaking hard...it won't stop. Now others? That I have to do some work. Let's put ourselves out there, give each other a break, love unconditionally, and model some magic. 

Children see magic because they look for it.
— Christopher Moore
Kids looking for magic

Kids looking for magic