Sunday, January 19, 2014

Today is the Day

Today is the Day - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Newspaper Headlines
My aversion to information is born out of my radio days, some 15+ years ago, when I hosted and produced morning-drive talk radio programs.  Sounds exciting right?  It was, hands down.  I loved every minute of working in radio.  For a few years of my early 20's, I would get up at 2:30 am every weekday morning, commute to the radio station to arrive by 4am, pull fresh stories off the AP wire and other notable sources, quickly rewrite them, and either deliver the news myself or else use the tidbits to spark discussion with co-hosts or callers. 

After a few years, I switched gears and moved into real estate, where I kept abreast of the industry-specific trends and how they related to the world at large, but I never again subscribed to a newspaper, listened to news on the radio or TV,  nor listened to talk radio.  It's as if I was just burnt out on information from the media.Over the years, I've gotten the occasional bug to take a whole morning and read the Tribune cover-to-cover or get sucked into a 20/20 episode, but I have literally made it a point NOT to suck up information if it's at all humanly possible.

Fast forward to a pair of impressionable young minds living in my own household.  Yes, I've kept up with most issues over the years by default of conversation from my girlfriend, parents, and friends, which then motivates me to look up specific points or data on the topics just so I can talk on point.  But I don't read about or get involved with politics, local, national, or world issues, unless I'm hit over the head with it or unless a headline from the Redeye sparks my attention.

Traditionally, I'm not a big activist for anything.  I hold a lot of opinions and am not afraid at all to share them, but nine times out of ten, when sharing opinions, it initiates debate that usually sheds light on new perspectives or facts that I hadn't previously considered, which thereby alters my opinions.  You see I rarely jump on board a major issue train unless I'm fully educated on the topic, and I am not fully educated on most things, unless, like Marriage Equality, they specifically pertain to me or someone I know.

The gay marriage issue was a no-brainer for me, since I've been in a committed relationship with my girlfriend for the past fourteen years.  We have two kids together, we jointly own property and investments, and we're considered 'married' by everyone we know, even those that politically may not agree with Marriage Equality.  Marriage Equality needed to be legislated, in my opinion.

I had no plans on getting involved, though, in the fight.  The invitation came from friends.  First it was the invite from a neighbor to the Marriage Equality fundraiser at a local bar I'd been wanting to try out.  Then it was the request from another friend who is also a gay parent, that urged me to take my girls out of school and join her in a day-trip to the Illinois capital city to participate in the March on Springfield and rally in support of Marriage Equality. 

After we got home late that evening, I realized that I had exposed my kids to standing up for something bigger than themselves.  I had shown them the example of how to make a difference and be part of a solution.  No matter what happened with the issue, and I honestly had no clear indication of how it would play out, I knew I wanted my kids to be educated on things that matter from here on out.

The bill passed and we're now planning a wedding for late summer, in which our kids will take part.  The issue was pretty much of a non-issue for our girls.  They never understood why we couldn't get married anyway, as they are being raised in a time period, and in a geographical location and community where kids don't see a problem with kids having 2 moms instead of a mom and dad.  They're also around lots of adults who mostly feel the same way, but even if they didn't, are uber-PC and wouldn't say anything otherwise to make our kids feel bad about having 2 moms.  It's just the way it is.  My oldest even gave a current-events speech at school on the Illinois Marriage Equality issue, one in which I drilled her in preparation for all sorts of protests or at least debate she may encounter with the issue.  She got nothing.

Conversely, we're heading to Dallas in March for a gay wedding, or actually just a reception, as the guys had to get married in another state, since Texas legislation prohibits marriage equality.  My girls don't understand why their moms can get married here, but our good friends can't get married in Texas.

"It doesn't make any sense," my 5-year-old logically stated.

Illinios Marriage Equality - March on Springfield - Today is the Day - Parentunplugged - Stacy Snyder
Nope.  It doesn't.  My 10-year-old had a bit of an answer for her little sister, in that it was a state-by-state decision.  She had learned this from her research on Illinois gay marriage.  What she hadn't learned, though, was that the issue was still in the forefront of US history, being hashed out state by state, since it was passed here.  I had seen the Facebook posts and headline updates on yahoo, but I'd never once thought to share the information with my kids.  I'd never once thought that it might be important to them, or that it would affect people we know.

I realized that I hadn't kept my promise of educating myself and my kids further on issues that not only affect us, but on issues that simply have a clear side for us to stand on. While it's great that my daughter was able to fill in the blanks for my little one, as she can seek out issues and news on her own now, it became apparent to me that I need to start taking a more active role in the news and issues of our day, so that I can not only be knowledgeable myself, but also so that I can help answer questions and/or debate issues with my very-informed children, and be knowledgeable enough to help them form their own opinions.

So, today is the day I draw a line in the sand regarding what's important. Today, I vow to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get back on that horse.  Today is the day I pull my head out of the sand and get up to speed on what's going on in this world.  I can't promise I'll debate the issues or even have an interest in much of what I learn, but I do promise to be aware from this day forward.

Any suggestions on where to start? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Think She's Got It

I Think She's Got It -ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
When your kids start deciphering for themselves that they don't want to play with the kids that aren't nice to them or other people, it's a beautiful thing.  All the years of making decisions on behalf of them and trying to coax them to speak, act, and behave in a way that is respectful to themselves and others, and also to expect thoughtful behavior from others, has paid off. 

Now I realize that the cards can fall either way, depending on the day, the child, and the circumstances.  However, the first time I heard my daughter say, "I don't care" when I extended an offer for a playdate with one of her friends, I realized that my child had taken a stand, even if just for one day, and I was proud.  She didn't go into detail, or try to explain what I already knew was transpiring, through witnessing interactions with her friend and my daughter or with her friend and other adults, including her own parents and teachers.  My kid didn't stoop to gossiping.  She just indicated that it didn't matter to her, which is code for, no thank you.

My eldest is a super social kid and if she had her choice, she would have playdates 7 days a week.  Super close friends, mild acquaintances, neighbors across the street, or new kids at school, she's a sucker for any social opportunity that presents itself.  But she's also a big believer in showing consideration for others.  She treats all people, her friends, her family, her teachers, the people she meets on the street, with kindness and compassion.  She feels most comfortable when the people around her do the same.  While she gives most kids the benefit of the doubt when they're having an off day, assuming that they, like she, sometimes forget to use their manners, she often will remind them of such.

I noticed over the past few weeks, though, that she had reached her limit with one little friend, and that the relationship was heading toward a hiatus.  I decided to take an inactive approach and not try to steer her in any specific direction as she shared with me her disappointment in her friend's words and actions, but just to listen to her process aloud the problem she was encountering with her friend.  We simply reviewed the issues with said friend and compiled a list together of her options.  She could a) ignore the disrespectful behavior and continue on with her friendship; b) mention to the friend that her behavior is rude to those around her and ask her to change the behavior; or c) walk away or disengage from the relationship.

I didn't think much else about the conversation, as I remember going through friendship drama myself as a girl, and know that these things ebb and flow:  today a friend, tomorrow a foe, and next week a bestie.  Additionally, I know that no story has simply one side.  My kiddo could be creating part of the problem as well.

Then recently my younger daughter, who likes to hang with the big dogs and who is traditionally tough as nails, even with kids twice her age, came crying to me, complaining that the same friend was making fun of her and being mean.  I didn't think much of it until I saw my older daughter's face.  The deadpan stare right through me said it all, after witnessing the interaction.

I still didn't know how it all would play out, as my older daughter, while loyal to the end of the earth, has a hard time with speaking up for herself, and even more of an issue with confrontation.  But when the invitation for a playdate days later was not acknowledged in the usual manner by my daughter, of running to get her shoes on, but instead not even glancing up for her craft project with her little sister, I knew a line had been drawn in the sand.  This was her way, just for today, just for this minute, to take control of a situation she's not pleased with.

Maybe tomorrow the girls will be back to being best buds.  Maybe not.  But for today, I think she's got the right idea!  Kudos, Sweet Girl.