Disturbances of the peace

I am on my couch with a new laptop…replacement #2.  Somehow my 1-month-old laptop started confusing its numbers with its letters (a feature I found quite annoying) and I returned it and got a smaller, sleeker more fun model :). So I sit reflecting on the week, with a laptop in my hands, an empty ice cream dish beside me (my current concoction is a mix of Edy’s French Silk, Archer Farms Belgium chocolate, and a dash of Ben & Jerry’s VolunTirimisu – don’t even ask!), and a 3-year-old dreaming on the couch nearby.

I glance over at Noah sleeping on the other half of the replacement sofa (courtesy of the foam-hungry police dog’s owner. I’m going to shy away from leather sofas in the future though – they’re ice cold as our temperatures plummet and the boys have noticed – didn’t take long when they plop down in their undies in the morning – and now jump onto the comfy chairs).  Noah looks so peaceful….and I realize I wish I could be in that state – blissful slumber without a care in the world (other than the fact that Micah using the purple lightsaber all day was just “not fair”).

Instead, my peace this past week has been disrupted by too many “incidents” – teen boys in New Jersey who lured and killed a 12-year-old girl, two infants hospitalized here in the city from injuries by their parents, a nanny in New York killing two children in a family.  I feel the pain of these families.  I fear the world in which my boys are growing up.  And I wonder about my ability to prepare them for this world.

It seems parenting is hard enough just taking care of the physical aspects, like

–          Micah throwing up three times on Monday just as I put him to bed…and again and again as soon as I change the sheets

–          Stephen emptying a whole half gallon of milk onto the dining room table and splashing in it in delight as we hurriedly wiped it up with any and all available towels

–          Taxiing Micah to basketball for half a session, rushing by the house to change into soccer gear, and dashing off to stand in the rain for the final game of the season (shhh, don’t mention that we’re missing next week’s make-up game…there’s too much going on as it is already!)

–          Trying with all my will power to breathe quietly and drive safely as the 3 older boys chattered and teased and fought and screamed for an hour and 15 minutes after we left a Halloween party near Cleveland last night – and just as the third one finally drifted off to sleep – the baby awoke and whimpered and cried and spluttered for the rest of the way home.  7 minutes  from the house (according to friendly GPS Jane), the car was quiet….and then we carried them all inside!  (must remember never to do that again!  Or just give in and turn the TV on – who cares if they don’t fall asleep for a while – they didn’t anyway!).  And whose bright idea was it to give the boys tons of dessert and candy and then put them in the back of an enclosed moving vehicle and buckle them up?!?

But it’s more the emotional challenges that drain me, like

–          Trying (unsuccessfully) to stop myself from scolding Micah for soiling his underwear.  I know he didn’t mean it but I keep saying “you’re 6 years old….why do I have to clean you over and over?”  And I know full well that this is not only NOT a useful tirade to be on, but it is not healthy for his emotional state.  Yet, I am frustrated to be dealing with it again.

–          Worrying about whether my boys are in the “right” care settings and how well they’re handling them, especially when Micah states he doesn’t like one of his afterschool teachers because she’s always putting him in “time out.”  And I keep thinking that I don’t want him to develop a construct of being the “bad kid,” but he certainly does pull for a lot of disciplining.

–          And I’ve been very unsettled by an article written by two of our Child Advocacy physicians earlier last week about a recent court decision that would allow people who abuse children (as shown by “substantial evidence”) to not have their names registered as an abuser (because it’s not “clear and convincing” evidence). In which case, even though someone is a known abuser, they may still “clear” the background checks and thus drive my children to school, serve as their sports coach, even teach our children.  I’m pretty frustrated that my state shows so little concern for its children – the future for all of us.  And I realize that I need to be wary and even more protective of my children and yet not wanting them to grow up in fear.  What a balance!

So if you have any of this all sorted out, I’m eager to hear!


“Didn’t you miss me just a little, teeny, tiny bit?” I asked Micah when he first woke up.  “Nope,” he replied, “I was having too much fun.”  “Just a little?!?!?”  I tried consoling myself that this was good.  Clearly he wasn’t miserable that I was gone for 3 days.  Clearly he had a good time with grandma and Aunt Kathy, but seriously, can’t you miss me just a tad.

Well, I missed the boys.  I was away for 3 days at the Prevent Child Abuse – America national conference and can’t even remember the last time I was away, not even for a day, much less three.  It was the first time for Seth who is almost 18 months, so he had quite a lot to say about it in his body language.  Noah, however, gave me the sweetest tightest hug when I woke him up in the morning after returning home late Sunday night.

I confess, it was nice to have some time away – without noise, without 68 pounds of deadweight in the bed beside me, without the demands of feeding hungry mouths or giving baths or getting them to bed “on time.”  I also had a visceral reaction to seeing families in the airport carrying babies in front packs and remember getting back from Disney World last year and being so thankful not to have the weight of a baby constantly strapped to my body almost 24/7.

But I missed them and I missed having a physical presence in their day and knowing what they were doing.  It’s not the same to listen to them on the phone (the 6 year old doesn’t really want to talk, the 3 year old just repeats himself, and the one-yr-old just stares at the phone).  I missed sharing in all their activities and joys (like winning the soccer game again – still undefeated!).  I missed interpreting their world for them as they moved through it.  I missed being their voice.

I’ve been contemplating that concept today – being a voice.  My kids clearly have a “voice” but they really don’t know how, much less when, to use it.  And often they use it at decibels I wish they wouldn’t or to talk about subjects I really wish they wouldn’t.  But they don’t really have a voice in their world and in their community.  For the most part, that is funneled through me – their mother and protector.

Yet, as I think about the project I am working on – to develop a crisis nursery (a safe place for temporary care of young children when their families hit crisis) – I realize that the real reason we need this is because the very little children in our world and in our city do not have a voice.

My safe, secure, fun-loving boys do not have a voice….and so too the child who has been hurt at some time in his life or has seen one of his parents hurt.  And the child laying in the hospital bed being treated for multiple injuries has no voice.  And the little boy hungry and dirty and cold….alone in his house…. has no voice.  And the teen “graduating” from the foster care system and moving into a world all on her own where she might one day get married and have no one to walk her down the aisle has no voice.  And the four-year-old who has moved from one house to another and one apartment to another until he ends up in a cold dark homeless shelter has no voice.  And the girl taken from her family and ravaged by the human trafficking nightmare that is upon us has no voice.

It is we who give voice to our children.  It is we who need to speak up and speak out for them.  It is we who need to demand a change for the sake of our children’s hearts.

Be the voice.  Be the change.  As often as you can speak.