Parable of the Bad Parent

*Disclaimer: Before you venture further, know that I’ve done my best to stay mum on this particular topic. I didn’t want to throw my two cents into a pot already brimming with opinions. But 90% of the reason I created this blog was to vent, and so vent I shall. You’ve been warned.

Of all the outrage that I’ve read and heard over the Cincinnati Zoo incident, there’s one Parablethat really irks me: people calling for a CPS investigation to be launched against the family whose child got into the enclosure.
I understand that this gorilla was part of a critically endangered species. I understand the mourning over a creature that so many have grown to love. I get it. I do.
What I don’t understand is how you could ask that this family be torn apart more than they probably already are by involving CPS… and seemingly without justification. First, they have to bear the shame that their child left their supervision long enough to get into this trouble. Two, they have to deal with the absolute backlash from all ends. Three, the threats of possible fines, lawsuits, and being banned from every zoo everywhere, ever.
Do you know what goes in to a CPS investigation? Do you know what that’s like? And I’m not just talking about for the parents and adults of this family. I’m talking about the little 4-year-old boy. And before you go all “well, he did that to himself by crawling through the precautions blah blah blah”. 4-year-olds don’t really have a good sense of cause and effect, especially when it comes to their behavior. Hell, half the adults I meet don’t seem to have a very established understanding of C&E, either.
Now stop and ask yourself this: do you want there to be a CPS investigation launched because you genuinely feel that his parents PURPOSELY endangered his life, or do you want a CPS investigation launched as payback that Harambe was killed in order to protect the child from a potentially deadly situation.
Sure, we could get in to the whole “well, they let their child slip away”… Let me stop you there. If you don’t have children of your own, shut up. Take your hands off the keyboard. If you’ve never dealt with a curious child in a busy, crowded setting: Shut up. Take your hands off the keyboard.

 

Parents screw up. That’s the bottom line. Sometimes it’s a simple screw up like cutting your child’s sandwich into triangles instead of rectangles, or forgetting to wash the outfit they’d planned to wear for picture day. [Insert major mommy guilt here]. Then there are the screw ups that could cost you more than just a headache or an upset kid.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost one of my children in the grocery store. It takes seconds. Literally SECONDS to get distracted reading the label on a box of Cheerios and… POOF… your kid is gone.

 

Yes, seconds.

 

Now we’ve instituted the “hold the basket” policy. Sure, it takes up a stupid amount of space in the grocery aisle, but hey! At least my kid won’t be running around possibly getting into your merchandise or setting something on fire, right?!

 

There was even an incident where I got caught up playing with my sons, forgot to make my then two-year-old’s oatmeal in a timely manner, and she nearly burned our house down after sticking an oatmeal package in the microwave and turning it on full blast.
Parents screw up.

 

And let’s face it, these parents lost track of their kid; a mistake that could have cost their son his life. An entire zoo of patrons may have had to watch a gorilla crush this little boy’s skull with one hand in the same way zoo officials said he could crush a coconut.

 

This isn’t the dentist incident. This wasn’t a set of parents who went to the zoo with the INTENTION to let their child slip away and crawl through a gorilla enclosure, who went with the intention to somehow get this gorilla killed and garner national outrage. And let me tell you something about panic… when your child is missing, you’re not thinking logically. Dozens of scenarios, each worse than the last, pass through your mind faster than you can really comprehend it. My first thought would have been, “someone stole my baby!”, not “holy crap, maybe little Johnny crawled and climbed over all these obstacles to hang out with the apes”.

 

No, I’m running for the bathrooms, the food court, that obnoxious stand with all the inflatable toys and stuffed animals.

 

But I’ve gotten slightly off topic.

 

CPS. I know that people these days like to throw government entities around like an Ace in a poker game, but you’re not playing for something like money. You’re gambling with life. The exact scenario the staff at Cincinnati Zoo found themselves faced with.

 

Don’t punish the child because his parents screwed up, and launching a CPS investigation will do exactly that. As an adult who dealt with CPS and went through foster care as a child, I can tell you firsthand that this can truly devastate this child’s life even more than his little adventure to the gorilla pen. Do you realize what kids go through in a CPS investigation? The kinds of questions they’re asked? The way their privacy is absolutely invaded and their home life crippled?

 

If there truly is cause for concern that the child was purposely endangered, that his parents were purposely neglectful, then by all means there should be an investigation. But that’s for the people directly involved in the situation to decide. This may be a “democratic” nation, but we don’t get to vote against these people, and essentially this little boy, unless charges are filed and an indictment is issued. Then it’s up to twelve of their peers to decide their fate.

 

The sad part is, either way, this family’s life is changed forever. The collective mass has decided this for them. They’ll probably live under the shadow of this incident for the rest of their lives. Maybe the little boy is young enough that he won’t suffer any serious emotional ramifications from his own actions, and from watching his parents deal with the stress of becoming a target of outrage, but only time will tell. Children are resilient little things.

 

And just like most traumatic situations, there are two victims, two sets of families mourning a loss. You don’t get to negate someone else’s grief because you feel yours is more justified. Don’t unnecessarily punish this little boy because his parents screwed up.

Things I Learned from My Mom

It’s Mother’s Day! Today we celebrate the women39515_442995052303_3204873_n who mean the most to us, from our biological mothers, to our adopted mothers, to the aunts, grandmothers, godmothers, and even our best-friend’s moms and mother-in-laws, who have impacted our lives in so many ways.

So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to take a moment to share some lessons others have learned from their moms and other important female figures in their lives, as well as to share some things I learned from my own mom.

*Disclaimer: There may be some feels ahead.


Jacob B., SJ

  1. If you are on a long car trip and see a road with a weird name, take it and see where it goes.
  2. There is no point in making chocolate chip cookies and giving the mixing bowl to someone to lick if there are not some chocolate chips left in it.
  3. The kitchen sink is a perfectly logical place to wash waist-length hair when you don’t have a shower in the house.
  4. The joy of having a guest is more important than the angst of having an untidy house.
  5. It is OK if your child eats a bug.

Carol H.

“My mom taught me to be strong through the storm. She also taught me the joy of laughter. And how to cheat playing dominoes… [which] she learned from her mom.”

Julie S.

“I learned to pray ‘through the moment’ from my mom.”

Erica B.

  1. Be true to your beliefs, no matter how unpopular they are. Unless they’re illegal, then don’t do them!
  2. How to actually clean a house and everything that goes along with it–dishes, clothes, ironing, bathrooms, etc.
  3. Keeping your head up in hard times and not letting it affect your relationships in a negative way; taking it out on other people, being a complainer, etc. Put your big girl panties on but don’t be afraid to cry or ask for help from those closest to you.
  4. Being a good Catholic woman. Even if I don’t practice it often enough, I strive to be as devoted as her.
  5. Being a great mom that is not her child’s best-friend by giving them everything their heart’s desire, but by teaching them love, honesty, patience, kindness, acceptance, hard-work, sacrifice, generosity, and tough love.

Linda B.

“My mom taught me love, prayer obedience, and service to others.”

Brandy Y.

“My mom taught me patience and how to love unconditionally.”

Kathy S.

“I learned how to cook from my mom!”

Alice B.

“My mom taught me to find joy even when something went wrong, to love even when a person seemed unlovable, to honor and respect your husband and to honor the vow made to each other. Plus, she had made me realize you are never too old to learn something new. She taught me to “dance” every opportunity I could, and I DO!!”

Amy L.

“My mom taught me how to live simply, laugh often, and how to “whip up” a party for 50 with next to nothing in the refrigerator. When I was older and would come to her with friend drama she told me, ‘when people tell you who they are… listen.’ I ❤ that.”

Theresa V.

“I learned how to garden, cook, love being a mom to my own kiddos, put God first.”

Lauren J.

“From my mom:

  1. Never stop at sketchy looking places on a road trip no matter how bad you have to pee.
  2. Never leave the house looking anything than half your best because you never know who you will meet.
  3. Stop and pick the flowers (even in the outfield during a little league game)
  4. You can never take too many pictures. Always document the things that could become the best memories.
  5. A strand of pearls and red lipstick goes with just about everything.

From my grandma:

  1. Never be late to anything.
  2. Always believe in the best of people.
  3. A sale is always a good reason to shop.
  4. Don’t forget to travel
  5. Love your husband and children and grandchildren forever unconditionally.”

Gloria S.

My mom taught me to be true to myself, to develop a social conscience and to practice justice. She also taught me love generously and unconditionally. She tried to teach me how to be graceful and gracious. Still working on that. Oh, and last but not least she taught me to always wear lipstick!

Matthew H.

“My mom taught me all the basic stuff like how to sew and cook and clean, but she also taught me to stand firm in my beliefs, even when the rest of the world stands against me.”


 

And a few lessons that my mom taught me:

  1. Strength does not mean you have no moments of weakness, it means you’re able to pick yourself up off the ground, dust the dirt from your butt, and tread on.
  2. PICK YOUR BATTLES! This bit of wisdom originally applied to my children, but I have carried it into my everyday life–well, at least when I have to leave the house and deal with society.
  3. Just because someone is different, doesn’t make them less deserving of love, respect, and compassion; I learned this over the years after we learned that my little brother had a condition called Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. (Side note: they gave him til the age of 5 to live… he’s now 23!)
  4. Menus and budgets. My mom’s a legal secretary, but she should be a professional organizer.
  5. To give and not count the cost: my mom isn’t Catholic, but she truly embodies this teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It took me until I was an adult to finally see just how deep her compassion runs, because I was too busy looking at all the things she wouldn’t give me or let me have as a teenager. (Sorry, mom!)

 

To all the moms out there, and to all the women who share their mothering spirit even with children who are not their own, thank you for all that you do, have done, and will continue to do.

Thank you to all the moms who watch down on their children from heaven, who still continue to work on their behalf. Truly, a mother’s work is never done!

Thank you to the moms who have children in heaven.

Thank you to the moms struggling to conceive, but who haven’t given up hope (and to the fathers and extended family).

Thank you to all single fathers out there, pulling double duty to provide for their child(ren) emotionally, financially, and spiritually.

You may be exhausted, but you’re doing great. Keep going. Keep fighting the good fight.

 

 

The Write Diet

Working place. Laptop, notebook

There are approximately 71,900,000 search results that appear when you Google the phrase “How to Lose Weight”. The fitness and nutrition world is extensive, and oftentimes mind-boggling for those attempting to transition to healthier lifestyles. The upside? There is no shortage of information on how to implement healthier lifestyle choices and achieve your weight goals.

The down side?

The amount of conflicting information and suggestions that one has to sift through to find a plan that works for them and their dietary needs.

Every body is different. Some people have to account for health complications like diabetes or thyroid diseases, while others have to consider certain genetic dispositions. Though there are certain methods of weight loss that nutritionists and fitness gurus agree on across the board, like staying well hydrated and choosing healthier foods, the tedious part comes in the form of disagreements between the how and what.

Now here’s the fun part.

When you Google “How to Write”, there comes a whopping 1.35 billion (oh, yes, you read that right) search results. Of course, you could narrow this search based on the type of writing you plan to do. For example, that number goes from 1.35 billion to 197 million when you search the more specific “how to write a novel”.

That’s still no shortage of information. And no shortage of headache.

Much like the fitness and nutrition world, conflicting suggestions and “advice” can have you reaching for the Tylenol bottle in about .5 seconds, or can have you discouraged in an equal amount of time. Some professionals in the literary world will follow suit with the great Stephen King (no sarcasm intended) and say to cut any adverbs of the “ly” variety from your story, while others say, “hey, don’t be an adverb Nazi.”

And if you’re wondering, “Using adverbs in a novel” brings up nearly half a million results. Holy cow!

The silver lining in this literary conundrum is that, just like every body is different, and a cookie-cutter diet plan won’t work across the board, every mind is different, and a cookie-cutter “how to” on writing your novel won’t work across the board, either. Every writer has their style, their own unique “voice”.

And we all have our own muse. We all have our own idea of a perfect writing space, the perfect music, the perfect pen or word processor. We each have a ritual when it comes to writing. And I think that at some point, we all self-loathe our work. If not, snide kuddos to you.

In a nutshell, the English language is a fickle beast. It can both create and destroy. It all boils down to the sequence in which you pluck the notes to evoke a certain emotion, to tell a certain story. For some people, their music is a simple quartet, while others require an entire orchestra. Both are beautiful, and built for their own purpose.

I won’t offer any advice other than to just keep writing. I think that’s a pretty agreed-upon sentiment in the writing world. Keep trying. Even if the rejection letters are rolling in back-to-back, and your mailbox is brimming, still keep trying. And keep learning your craft. Find your voice and run with it; don’t let anyone else take it from you. Finish that first draft with all the plot holes and spelling errors if for no other reason than to say that you did it.

You can pander on the technicalities later.

And, of course, there is always the comfort in knowing that, if nothing else, we can all agree on this:

There, Their, and They're.jpg