Where Do We Go From Here? Talking to Children About the Election

I am trying to find the words to explain to my children what happened, to tell them where we will go from here, as a family and as a nation.

When Trump first began to garner support before the primary, I made the hasty knee-jerk statement in front of my family that if Trump won the Presidency we would look at alternative places to live. I told them I did not want to live in a country with a fear-based mission defined by misogyny and racism. The kids heard me and have periodically asked over the course of the last 6 months, “Are we going to move?”

Since then, I have repeatedly and cautiously told them I didn’t think we would leave after all. I told them that while I understood why some people would choose to go, we would probably stay here because there is work to be done.

As parents, we want to keep our kids safe from anything that will hurt them—from monsters literal and figurative. I want to tell them that we will keep them safe, but I can’t. Not really. We can try and protect our kids, but we cannot keep them safe from what’s happening, because what’s happening right now is not safe.
 
In his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize speech, Elie Wiesel said, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

This is not the time for silence.

Some of us have had the privilege of feeling more safe than others, but it’s that kind of self-centered false security that helped to get us to this place. I can’t lie to my children or give them reassurances. I can’t tell them that the people we love are going to be safe, especially when so many are at this moment afraid for their safety because of the color of their skin or where they are from or what they believe or whom they love.  I can’t tell my kids that any of us will be safe or that it’s going to be ok.  Now is the time for honesty, for looking in the mirror, and for looking around at the people in our circles.

This is what I’m going to tell my children:

We have to stay.

We are stronger together: immigrant, Muslim, Native, trans, gay, Black, Mexican, disabled, queer, feminist, refugee, and all the rest who make up the patchwork of this country, this community, this family.

To threaten one of us, is to threaten all of us, and we cannot stand by and let that happen.

We have to learn from this.

We have to listen, to bear witness, to really pay attention.

We have to add our voices to those who have been shouting for justice and equality.

We have to amplify the cries of those being silenced.

We have to stand alongside those who have never had the luxury of being complacent and comfortable.

We have to hold up those who are being knocked down.

We have to help to heal those who are being hurt.

We have to love one another and defend the right of others to love whomever they choose.

I will tell my children that yes, Trump won this election, but not everyone voted for Trump. And we need to take time to understand why those who did chose to do so.

Most of all, I will tell them that we can still keep working for a better world, and if we are honest and humble, creative and compassionate and brave, we will find ways. Together.

From Awkward to Awesome

For those of us who grew up in the 80s and early 90s, the brainy Encyclopædia Britannica kid from the tv commercial was an iconic image of what a nerdy kid looked and sounded like. For those of us who *were* nerdy kids in the 80s, it was an extremely familiar image. (I certainly had the big glasses.)

It’s likely no surprise that my Geek Parenting coauthor, Stephen H. Segal, was also a nerd; and when he was young, he shared enough of a physical resemblance to the Encyclopædia Britannica kid (played by Donavan Freberg), that he was quite often mistaken for the awkward commercial know-it-all.

Much later, Stephen met and befriended his adolescent doppelgänger, and Donavan turned out to be a kindred spirit. We hear enough about how people fall from great heights and notoriety, but sometimes the story is better than that. Sometimes people take the gifts they have been given and work to make this world better and more beautiful.

Click here to read Stephen’s blog post about how “This iconic geek kid “had a report due on space.” Spoiler alert: He grew up to be awesome.

(Be sure to also follow the link in the story to read the entire interview with Donavan about his legendary comedian/ advertising creative director father, Stan Freberg.)

I love the way that Donavan’s story shows how creating a space for your kids to figure out who they are can help them to eventually embrace their authentic selves. It’s a valuable reminder, and it’s a really good story.

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Early Morning Writing

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Summer, with its lazy afternoons and glorious nights, is challenging for me as a writer; not because of the distractions of sunshine, but because of changes to my routine with the appearance of three children who are suddenly on the scene all the time.

I don’t like to over-schedule the kids, especially during summer vacation. I believe in the importance of creativity that comes out of the eventual “boredom” of unscheduled free time. However, it is harder to get consistent writing done when they are around; plus they are growing up so fast, and I want to enjoy our summers together. My solution is to adopt a new schedule–waking up at 5:00 am to write.

Those who know me well, know this is a significant departure. I’m usually the one writing UNTIL 5:00am, preferring to delve into my fictional worlds under the cover of darkness. However, I’m learning that after a full day of 7, 9, and 11-year-old wrangling and mediation, I’m not able to be as productive into the wee hours of the morning.

In The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield writes, “Someone once asked Somerset Maughham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. ‘I write only when inspiration strikes,’ he replied. ‘Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.'”

Ultimately a writer has to write.

To try and carve out a few precious child-free hours, I have been getting up at 5, checking facebook/email/twitter while I brew my coffee, then sitting down to write for a few hours until familiar kid-clamoring triggers my shift in focus from fiction to family…somewhere around 8.

And so it goes.

It is not my favorite routine, but it’s allowing me to write and make progress.

I still try to set aside time during the day whenever I can, to get additional work done. I’ve had a few writing dates while the kids are with friends/family, and if the kids are otherwise engaged and not feuding with one another, I usually pull out my laptop to write or research.

I’m at the beginning of this next novel (we’ll call it MC); it’s the one I began a few years ago but set aside to work on The Supper Club. I’m enjoying the process of getting reacquainting with it, allowing that bookworld to fill the spaces of my brain and imagination. It’s at that terrifying and exhilarating stage of beginning, where there are more blank pages than written ones.

I also continue to write at night whenever possible and seldom get to bed before 1am. However, by making sure that I get a few hours to write each morning, I find that I’m happier heading into the day. There’s also less pressure at night to be productive; so when I do write after the kids get to bed, it’s bonus time–almost an indulgence.

We’ll see what happens when the kids go back to school and the schedule shifts once again, but this is the routine for now.

It hasn’t been easy to wake-up early, but when I slip out of bed and down the stairs into the kitchen, I try to be mindful of the good things: to appreciate the cool air of dawn, the clarity of early morning writing, the joy of a brighter kind of stillness in the house.

There is also the power and delight of a really good cup of coffee. 😉

Cheers.

(Photo by Mary Anne Mohanraj)
Writing date at Mary Anne Mohanraj’s amazing home. (Photo by Mary Anne Mohanraj)

 “The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”  ~ Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art