Cole won his soccer game last night, and I made one of his favorite dinners for when he got home. He did his homework right after school, so that was one les thing we had to do and cleared out some freetime for the evening. After bathtime, the kids played for a bit and eventually I put them to bed. Come 5AM, Avery wanders into my room to get in bed with me. I knew that she would get in, snuggle up to me for a half a second, then start kicking her legs and singing so I picked her up and took her back to bed, knowing full well she'd fall back asleep. On my way, I noticed that the TV was on, the back door was wide open, and Cole was sound asleep on the sofa. He'd been up sleepwalking again. Once I got them both back in bed and sleeping, I tried to get back to sleep myself, sort of smiling and thinking "These kids, I swear - they're something else!".
Come 7AM I got up, made coffee for myself and breakfast for my babies. After everyone was fed, dressed, hair and teeth brushed, AVery and I took Cole to school. On the way home, there was a little girl walking on her way to school in what I call "The Blind Spot" of Double Churches Road. It's about a 1/4 mile stretch that dips down so low that until you're in it, you cannot see anything there. This little girl was just a little wisp of a thing, very petite and waify even for her age. She looked to be about 10, and I'm guessing that from the fact that Haley is turning 13 next month and this girl was nowhere near as big as she is. Anyway, I no sooner drove past her walking on the sidewalk when it hit me that she was walking alone and I panicked a little.
The truth is we don't live in a world where it is safe to have your 10 year old daughter walk alone to school, we live in a world of Amber Alerts. We don't live in a world where a person can offer a child a safe ride to school, because you just never know about people anymore and besides - parents aren't what they used to be. Parents think it's perfectly acceptable for their kids to walk to school by themselves at such a young age, I've even seen kids much younger walking to school. These are the same parents we see on TV crying because someone has abducted their child, and within 24 hours that same child is found dead in a field somewhere. I was 6 years old when my best friend from kindergarten was murdered, I have a picture of us together at Field Day a month or so before it happened. True, some of the most cautious parents in the world suffer similar tragedies, but you cannot control some things in life - all you can do is take the necessary precautions to ensure your child's safety at all times and hope that you never have this sort of nightmare to live through. At least that's something you could live with, knowing that you did everything you could to protect your child should something horrible happen, rather than knowing you failed as a parent to protect them.
What is the fuck is the matter with people today? Who needs to see a video of someone being beheaded? What possible point does that serve? Why do people instinctively look the other way and not call out something so completely fucked up, instead letting their apathy drive them? I'll never understand this, no explaination will satisfy me so those are rhetorical questions. There is a fine line between being paranoid and being apathetic, but when you have children you have a responsibility to them to lean closer to the paranoid side - more a very cautious side - than to leave them to their own devices. My own parents didn't pay enough attention to me when I was all but screaming for help as a kid, and as a result I rarely ever see or speak to either of them. Not because I don't love them, but because I don't believe I could ever look the other way like some things didn't happen when we all know they did, and that's what I am expected to do.
People are letting their children watch bullshit TV all day and night, play video games and watch movies that glamorize violence and crime, listen to music that trivializes sex and embraces misogyny, and then wonder and complain why their kids are brainless, mouthbreathing, slack-jawed, and disrespectful. Seemingly no one insists their kids play outside with the neighborhood kids, or read a book, or encourage them to be creative. Cole and I have conversations about things that interest him every day, and I listen to him whenever he has something to say like it's the most important thing I have ever heard. Avery and I spend all day and night together, even when she's playing by herself and occupied with something I'm still a part of it. I know that at some point they're just going to do whatever they're going to do, no matter how much you disapprove, but that's not an excuse to use for bad parenting. It is not the child's job to be the parent, after all.
If you don't have children I don't expect you to understand and of this. But if you don't have children and have read this, and it doesn't strike some emotional note within you, then please don't ever have them to begin with because clearly you're not ever going to understand. Matter of fact, don't even get a dog because you're probably too selfish. Nothing wrong necessarily with being selfish, but you cannot be selfish and successful as a parent. No, I'm not the perfect parent - no one is - but my life and all of my wants and needs come second to these children when I'm responsible for them, and I have learned to have a balance between all of that so I can do what I need to do and still have something leftover for myself.
If you do have children, you make goddamned sure that everyday you spend plenty of time with them, because there is never enough.
Tell them they are beautiful and that you love and adore them in some way every day of their lives.
Respect that they are people and individuals, and encourage them to be themselves and not YOU.
Let them pick dinner half of the time, and you let it go when it's not worth fighting over.
Make sure they know that no matter what they ever do that you'll always love them and will always listen if they need to talk about something.
When they call you to come see something exciting, get off your ass and go see what it is and celebrate whatever it is with them.
Dance and sing with them with the music blaring, and let them pick some of the music.
Wake them up an hour after they go to bed on a Friday night and take them to get ice cream. In their pajamas.
Educate them on your own time to make good decisions, question them and respectfully question their answers.
Make sure you know their friends and their friends' parents before letting them go to someone's house.
Find out what interests them and encourage them to dream and make things happen for themselves.
Make sure they respect themselves and others.
And most of all, never ever lose sight of the fact that they are the best thing that ever happened to you and nothing - no spouse, lover, friend, nothing - can compare to them.
Haley said it best on one of her weekends with us. We were having breakfast and coffee and she said "I wished I lived here instead of my house, you guys are so cool and it's always so much fun over here all the time."