Tag Archives: children

Sometimes I Want To Not Care

I have a secret. Sometimes I want to not care about things happening in our world today. It would be easier. I’d have more time for fun. I could be frivolous at will. Maybe I would live in the moment more easily than I do now. Certainly, it would be a relief to live in a bubble free from deep thoughts and anything unpleasant that didn’t directly affect me. Society’s problems would not disappear, but it wouldn’t matter because as a member of the white population in the United States I’m super privileged.

But this indifference to others is not me. I hope for a more peaceful world, and understand that I need to actively participate to create change in it. I care beyond what’s happening in my immediate world.

I care so much it makes me cry tears of rage and sorrow when yet another white male perpetrates a school shooting and kids are killed in the line of fire or while protecting their classmates. The papers call the murdered ones heroes, but that’s not the right word – martyrs would be better. We don’t have to continue our complicity and keep allowing our children to be murdered in mass shootings. We can change the laws by providing better access to (and quality of) mental health care and limiting gun rights in the name of public safety. The Florida legislature’s response (besides its usual thoughts and prayers) to all this of arming teachers – it will not help. Kids deserve and need to feel safe and protected at school. If their teachers are carrying, they are inherently unsafe. Guns do not belong in classrooms with students.

Another facet of education that I wish I didn’t care about is the world of high-stakes testing. My kids aren’t old enough for the FSA, and the incredible pressure that comes along with it. I feel anxious for their future selves because I know how terrible it feels to bomb a single test that determines whether you get to move on to the next grade (or get into a top tier law school). I am a mediocre test taker when only given one shot to prove myself. I may know the material backwards and forwards, but my anxiety causes me to freeze up, misread questions, and panic. And I’m an adult. Now think about how kids feel when faced with the FSA.

We fail our students when we submit them to testing that is designed in the name of education reform but is truly created to destroy the great equalizer that is public education. Tests are rigged so a certain percentage of students fail, which allows the government to label schools as failing. Parents rightfully become upset and begin looking for a way out through vouchers and for-profit charter schools that are publicly funded with our tax dollars (siphoning off money from public school systems) but with less (or no) public oversight. I have family and friends who send their kids to these programs because they view the public schools as broken. They aren’t wrong. They want what’s best for their children. We all do. But as a collective society, if some kids are slipping through the cracks it is our duty to look out for them and lift them back up.

The current inequity in our public schools is astounding, but it can be fixed. Rozella Haydée White’s new book, Love Big: The Power or Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World, contains a roadmap for seeking peace through moving toward justice. She “define[s] justice as equitable access to resources that provide people with the ability and agency to create a life of meaning. Working toward justice requires dismantling any system, ideology, or institution that promotes inequity….Justice becomes a reality when we recognize that we need one another. When we become justice seekers and peace bearers we recognize that our lives are inextricably linked. What one person does, thinks, or even believes affects another.”

“What if we practiced the belief that we belong to one another daily?”~Rozella Haydée White

As I read her words, it clicked that I have been actively working through this philosophy of peace and justice through my membership with FAST. Over the past two years I’ve become increasingly involved with its youth suspensions and arrests committee where we have researched and learned that if restorative justice practices (RP) are properly implemented in our schools, students and teachers succeed. Behavior issues are handled with student accountability and compassion, giving kids a toolbox to deal with the big emotions they feel on the daily. This in turn allows teachers to spend more time teaching the material and keeps kids in the classroom versus being removed, suspended, or arrested for disciplinary issues. Teacher retention rates in schools using RP methods are higher (but we still need to pay them what they are worth, an entirely different battle).

Changing the culture in public education is difficult, but I truly believe RP is the real game changer into creating an inclusive culture where all students feel heard and wanted as assets in their classrooms. Because I truly believe this transformation needs to happen, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and feel uncomfortable. With FAST, I flew to Louisville to learn about RP from a school district that is effectively implementing the initiative. Earlier this year, I spoke directly to school board members not only at meetings but also in front of a crowd of 2500+. This scared me because I’m uncomfortable speaking in public…not only the everyone’s eyes on me part but also my need to deliver my message perfectly using the correct words with the proper gestures and presence. I want to convince people this matters, and I know my discomfort is nothing compared to what kids face at school. So I woman up, lean in, and demand change to make the system more equitable.

I’m not an expert in any of this. I’m a parent who believes that public schools offer the best chance for all kids to become the people they are meant to be. I care, and I want others to take responsibility in creating change, too. Don’t you?

Why I Go To Church, Even When Haters Gonna Hate

Today I had my first overtly negative, specifically addressed to me, response to my kids being in worship at church.

Congregations say they want kids in worship. That we need more families in the pews because they are the future of the church. Right? That’s the line I continually hear, especially from older parishioners. But when kids are actually present in a Sunday morning worship service are they actually welcomed? Are the parents?

As the pastor’s family, my kids feel like the church – the building and the people who come together as Christ’s Family – belongs to them. They are quintessential pastor’s kids (PKs) who have tons of energy and love for the church.

They’ve been known to run laps around the altar and play hide-and-seek in the pews (usually after worship, but not always).

My almost 5-year-old has been especially inquisitive lately about Jesus – specifically how he lived (“tell me more about the cave and the big stone”) and why he gets to live forever when everyone else just dies.

My almost 2-year-old invaded the Palm Sunday processional because he heard his jam begin on the piano (“All Glory Laud and Honor”) and he needed to get closer to where the music is happening so he can get down. A loving choir member took his hand to help.

They love the teens (and have already attended more youth group meetings than I can count) and get so excited to see their friends both in worship and at Faithworks (our version of Sunday School).

They hug and high five their honorary grandparents each week during the passing of the peace (when we make it to that point in the service without fleeing to the nursery for a break).

They dip their fingers in the baptismal font and then do crosses on their foreheads (mine, too) on their way up to communion, which they aren’t quite old enough to take.

They are usually the last ones out of the building on a Sunday afternoon, and are there multiple times during the week to see their Daddy. And his office’s toys – because he always has some scattered throughout his office.

We three are there together, practically every week, to hear the Good News and worship with our chosen faith community. The majority of my time is spent wrangling the littles – trying to keep them in a pew, or sitting quietly on the ground near the pew, eating all the snacks and coloring all the pictures. But they are little. And like to run. And play with their friends. So it can be rowdy. When it gets to be too much, we head down to the nursery (the area, as Henry calls it), and play there until Communion or for the remainder of the service. It’s a nice break for all of us.

Even on the Sundays where I am frustrated or overwhelmed, generous people in our congregation come up to me and thank me for bringing the boys to church. They tell me tales of how they raised boys and totally understand my life, and that it will get easier. They tell me I’m doing it right.And I take comfort in their kind words.

Until today.

After service, a woman decided it was important to tell me that my children were rude and distracting from the reverent atmosphere that is church on a Sunday morning. She told me that she had kids, so she knows all about that, but that I needed to do something about my kids’ behavior in worship. She mentioned that she was a visitor, and that she couldn’t hear my soft-spoken husband over my kids. I said some kind of apology I didn’t really feel about how I was sorry they bothered her worship today, and she cut me off to say that it happens every week. It seemed like she was going to continue indefinitely, so I turned around and walked away.

What. The. Shit.

Never mind her emotional baggage that made her feel it was her duty to inform me about my kids’ behavior, which I already knew about. In fact, I thought they were mostly fine at church this morning (there was some airplane throwing and palm frond sword fighting that got quickly shut down). Better than a lot of Sundays, that’s for sure. Keith only noticed when Elliot grabbed a maraca and shook it like a salt shaker, so I’ll take it.

I cried in the Sacristy. I cried outside Keith’s office while talking to one of my favorite people. I cried inside Keith’s office. My tears came from a place of embarrassment, exhaustion, and anger because each week I already internally feel all those words she said to me. I’m doing my best, but it’s just so damn hard. But I don’t give up. I continue to bring my boys to worship because it matters to me that they are worshiping with their community. Not separate from it.

As I calmed down, I read the comforting words Pope Francis spoke as his Palm Sunday sermon. Children should shout out loud and be like those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem instead of those who yelled to crucify him.

I find my sons’ joy in the Lord and for their family and friends to be an all-encompassing love, and I refuse to silence it. Their presence at church matters. So does mine.

A couple of readings for today seem especially on point (even though I’m only reading and reflecting on them now, since I was a bit preoccupied when they were first read); here they are, in part:

  • Isaiah 50: 7-9a. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
  • Psalm 31: 14 and 16. But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. I have said, “You are my God.” Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

The Word comforts, but I remain incensed. My kids will not be invisible at church. They continue to be a vital part of the community. I love them, and trust in God as I seek peace over the whole thing.