Today, one month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, some students at my daughters’ school are participating in a walkout. The kids leading the walkout intend to stand in silence for 17 minutes, one minute for each person who died in the shooting. They will quiet the noise of everyday life and focus just briefly on each person who was brutally murdered at a place that should be safe for everyone.
The students leading the walkout have met with the principal and students participating have permission to leave class at the appointed time. This is not a protest against the school but a show of solidarity with fellow students. The school is providing the choice for children to participate, or not. The school is providing supervision, but not leading this event. This is by the students for the students. I applaud the school for allowing these middle-schoolers to take a stand, to speak up through their silence.
I sincerely hope that the children who make the choice to go understand how important it is that they really do maintain the silence. I have a hard time imagining a group of middle school kids standing without the noise of chatter, texts and Instagram for 5 minutes let alone 17 minutes. It is this gift of silence that to me is so meaningful.
Although this is happening across schools nationally to send legislators a message, there are many reasons to join this walkout. When I talked to my girls about this they weren’t sure if they were going to participate. If they choose to go to support the message, to remember the people who died, to protest violence in school then I support them 100%. I do not support them going simply to get out of class, and I believe if my kids participate they will do so for the right reasons.
I think today I too will choose to take 17 minutes of silence to support the students and remember the fallen. School should be a place where kids feel safe. They do not feel safe anymore and that is tragic. What is worth 17 minutes of silence to you?
With my oldest turning 13 in just over a week I am feeling sentimental about the days when the girls were younger (if you’ve read my recent writing prompt responses you already know this). I would never trade the time I have with them now for those days when they needed me more and questioned me less, but I do admit that I wonder where the time has gone. They have grown from innocent, trusting little girls to capable, thinking pre-teens.
Each time they grasp a new concept, some abstract idea or lesson I’ve been drilling in their heads I can’t help but feel pride. These girls have come so far, overcome so many obstacles, slayed so many dragons. At the ages of 4 and 5 we ripped them from their comfortable, stable lives; tore them away from friends and family; and dragged them kicking and screaming into not only a new state but a new life.
This life was not one they asked for, nor one they liked. It was constantly changing, unpredictable and scary. For the first 2 months we lived with another family, friends who were willing to take us in while we went through the process of forcing our tenants out of the house we had purchased years previously. Just as that first living arrangement started feeling comfortable and stable we yanked them out of that house and into our own. Then the real problems started. Mom and dad started fighting, something that they had never experienced before. Dad moved to the bottom bunk in their rooms (alternating between each girl’s bunk beds). Then dad moved out of the house. Dad got a new girlfriend, then the girlfriend moved in. Eventually their dad got married and had a new baby.
It was a lot, and still they persevered. It hasn’t been easy, and some days they still miss our old life, but they have grasped onto this one and are making the best of it. It’s been 7 years and yet they will still talk about the way things used to be. But little by little they understand that this is the new reality and they are learning to take changes as they come.
As parents, when our children are born we find our little babies captivating. We love watching every single move they make. Was that a smile or just gas? Look how alert her eyes are! Did you see him grasp my finger? We are mesmerized by these little people we brought into the world.
As my kids grow I find them no less captivating. I’m awed by the people they are becoming.
My oldest daughter is intelligent, articulate and mature. Having breakfast with a friend of mine one day, the conversation the two of them had about nursing was incredible. You would never expect a 12 year old to know so much about the subject or be able to express her thoughts so well.
My youngest is funny, affectionate and thoughtful. It was her idea that we start fostering for the local animal shelter. She did all the research herself online, writing out everything she thought I should know about fostering, and then sat down with me to explain why this was a good fit for us. And I have to say, she was right.
My kids are just a year apart in age, but such completely unique individuals I’m captivated by the qualities that make each one of them a special person. I wish they appreciated each other more than they do today, but I know as they grow older they will understand their uniqueness better.
Photo by Courtney Prather on Unsplash
I love to walk. Sometimes I walk downtown, heading toward a park near the water, meandering this way and that depending on which light is green. Each turn brings me closer to my final destination but the way I get there is different each time I go. Other times I head to a park, following whichever path seems most appealing at the moment. I might have started with a plan to head to the observation tower only to find a large noisy group walking that way, encouraging me to choose a different direction. I’ll still get to the tower, only I’ll wait until they have gone.
I meander through life this same way. As a single mother sometimes I’d love a roadmap, a straight line from where we are to where I want us to be, clear directions to follow. “Want your children to be happy and successful? Turn right now,” the sign should say with a big flashing arrow that can’t be missed. But that’s just not how it is.
Instead I follow a meandering path, choosing the next direction as the decision is presented to me. I might head one way only to find the road blocked, causing me to back up to the last fork in the road to head a different way. Life is not perfect; I’m not perfect. But I have faith that no matter how winding the trail is we will eventually get to our destination.
This weekend was a perfect example of the twists and turns of our life. We had a plan. Friday night we were going to go shoe shopping for my oldest daughter. Saturday morning we were going to go bike shopping as they both need new bikes. Saturday afternoon and evening we were going to meet my friend and her daughter at the beach then head out for dinner. Her daughter would spend Saturday night with us then we would get together Sunday afternoon to send her home.
That’s not what happened.
Friday morning the decision was made to have 3 friends sleep over, all good kids who spend a lot of time with us. Friday evening this expanded into 4 friends. Saturday morning all but one of these kids went back to their families, and my oldest went with the remaining one on an adventure with her friend’s dad. My friend, being tired from a morning hike asked to meet us for dinner first after which we took the my daughter and her daughter to an arcade since it had started raining. My girls were invited to a fair Sunday so the sleepover planned for Saturday night was pushed off a couple weeks, and they have just left on their next adventure. This afternoon, having a rare weekend day to myself, I’m meeting friends at a beach bar to listen to a local band.
I’ve always been a planner. I love to come up with a plan and follow it through to execution. But I have learned that often that just isn’t how life is, at least not my life. It’s much better to meander down the path and be open to opportunities as they come up. We stick to our commitments but remain flexible when circumstances change. You never know what you might see along the way.
When my children were born I had this sense that I would get to watch them grow up over time. I watched as little by little they changed and learned. Each milestone was photo worthy – rolling over, sitting up, crawling, pulling themselves up, walking, talking. The first few years went by in a flurry of camera flashes to record each precious moment.
But at some point the obvious physical changes slowed down. The learning continued but not in a way that was easy to document with pictures. They learned to dress themselves, pick up their toys, share, and eventually read, write and so much more.
Suddenly my daughter is about to turn 13. Suddenly she’s fighting to become her own person, no longer going along with what I say just because I’m the mom. Suddenly she’s more critical than praising, more disagreeable than agreeable, more independent than dependent.
I know this is all part of growing up. I want her to question and challenge me, or at least the part of me that wants her to grow up to be a strong woman does. I am her safe space. I am the person she can challenge who will always love her.
I need to teach her to challenge and question respectfully. There are right and wrong ways to do it. But teenagers need the freedom to grow into an independent human being. They need to be allowed to make mistakes now so that they can learn there are consequences to their actions, beyond the ones I dole out. It can be hard to stand by and watch, knowing I could help but also knowing that allowing her to make these mistakes is better than any advice I can give her.
Suddenly I need to learn how to be the parent of a teenager. It’s not going to be easy. I know that. But I also know that she will grow up to be a beautiful, strong, independent leader. She will know she can do whatever she decides. I will support her the best I can, but I also know that one day, suddenly, she will be on her own.
Being a single mother has filled me with questions; questions about myself, my life, parenting and so much more. I wonder who I am, if not a wife and mother. I wonder what I really want out of life, and how I’m going to get there alone. I wonder how I can not only help my kids cope with divorce but learn and grow through our experiences.
Being a single mom of two young girls has been the scariest thing I’ve ever attempted. Managing the house, fixing problems as they come up, living with only one income and handling everything alone was overwhelming at first. Add to that the demands of two children – cooking meals, homework, reading stories at bedtime, packing lunches, extra-curricular activities, birthday parties, school events – and I felt like a juggler standing on one hand trying to keep the balls in the air with just my feet!
Sometimes I wonder how I made it through those early days, but it has also been a time of the most amazing growth I have ever experienced. I never could have become the wonderful person I am now if I’d stayed in that toxic relationship. I have developed a sense of self-worth I never knew was missing. I have achieved things I didn’t know I could accomplish alone. I have learned that I really can juggle with just my feet while standing on my hand, and I have developed friendships with people who will catch the balls that I might otherwise drop.
My girls never would have grown into the strong, confident leaders they are becoming. Watching them today I feel a different sense of wonder. It’s the feeling you get when watching the most beautiful sunset. They’re not perfect (none of us is) but they are remarkable and often surprise me with how grown up they are.
Knowing how far we’ve come, the struggles we’ve been through, I feel a sense of wonder at how much control we really do have over our lives. The world is ours!