Sit down

A little while ago, my family was out for supper at a place we frequent. It’s a family friendly location close to home so my kids are welcomed there. We obviously choose family friendly locations because we bring 8, almost-5 and 3 year olds with us. While we have high expectations on behavior, we also don’t push beyond the limits where they can succeed. (I’m not going to bring them where they need to wait an hour and whisper, and have foods they won’t eat).

The girls are expected to order for themselves, sit down, look at the server when speaking/being spoken to, keep to an orderly voice (no shouting/screaming/yelling), use please/thank you, etc. Should they need to use the restroom, they are required to walk, watch out for people carrying food/drinks, etc. We feel like this is part and parcel of being a good person.

We were at this particular location a few weeks ago and the dreaded “travel” team was there. If you’ve ever been in a restaurant where a kids’ sports team comes in and wants to all sit together, and is entitled to do whatever, you know what I’m taking about.

There were kids at this table of 18 that were running through the restaurant, shouting, roughhousing, etc. Their parents were paying no attention to those kids (ages between 8-12, I’d guess and about 8 of them give/take). There were a few times where the servers nearly dropped plates of food or 32 oz beers because these kids were darting without watching right into their paths.

All of a sudden one mom yells at the kids who are no where near a chair to stop. All the restaurant turns and looks thinking “finally, these kids will sit”. Oh, no, wait. They just want the kids to pay attention so they can take a group selfie.

Bits was sitting in her chair watching these kids with astonishment. At one point, one kid nearly hit Bits. My girl’s hair literally moved from the wind of the kid’s arms through the air, it was that close.

That was my last straw. I finally turned and said “You need to pay attention. You touch my daughter, and we’re going to have a real problem”. The girl looked at me and walked away. I could see her conferring with her mother, but as I was glaring, I’m pretty sure the mom decided silence was probably best.

I was talking with the owner later and found out one of the moms complained because her kid didn’t order a meal. He was flitting around, and not sitting during ordering so he didn’t order food. And, all the parents obviously wanted the bill split but didn’t like that their kids had to know a number to get food. If you switch up the parents and put the kids on the other end of the table not near a parent/sibling, exactly how would you like a server to keep those bills straight?

I really wish parents who wanted to do large group things with their kids would just do it in their house and order takeout. Although based on the amount of crap that was at risk, and the mess was made, I’m sure no parent wanted these kids in their place. Or – pay attention and make sure the kids are sitting down, not bothering other patrons with stupid roughhousing and shouting. But then how could you talk to your cronies without interruption?

We might be at this particular establishment a lot (see where I was speaking with owner later ~ we were just shooting the breeze, I hadn’t called her over to complain). Most of the servers who know my family and know my girls stopped by to say thanks. Thanks for teaching our girls behaviors appropriate to eating out, thanks for teaching my kids to look them in the eye and treat them with respect. Thanks for not running throughout as though they were in an indoor playground.

This is probably the one time that I judge parents. If your kid acts out, and you deal with it, I don’t judge that. I have no idea if your kid is autistic or had a bad day or what. So nope, not judging how your kid acted out if you are attempting to deal. In fact, I might shoot a compassionate glance over to say “I get it. You keep doing your best, You’re awesome”. But you let your kids run rampant, I am not giving compassion, I’m shooting daggers. And God help you if my child is hit because your child didn’t couldn’t sit down.

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Lacking community

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “community”.

Growing up, we belonged to the Catholic Church, after we moved into town when I was 4. The Church was a prominent fixture in my life. I went to church weekly. I played soccer and basketball for the Church in the CYO. I referred my first games there. I went to CCD for what felt like decades on Sundays. I made friends there. My parents coached, my brother was an alter server (I grew up before girls could be alter servers). My mom served on committees, my dad was a Eucharistic Minister. We were really involved, and we made friends through our activities. I was friends with the priests (even wrote them in college for a bit, and yes, they were absolutely on the up and up good men!)

We had other communities, too. I knew all the families on my street, and they knew me. We played together, their parents knew my parents, and everyone looked out for one another. My parents knew my classmates and their parents over the years, too. There were small and large niches for us to belong to, and we did, but as a family, the one I remember is the Church.

We belong to the Church here. My girls go to the school because of the education. But here’s the thing, I don’t feel like I’m involved or in a community here. We’re finally (2 years after moving into the house we’re in now, but 9+ years in our town) making friends with the neighbors, and they are delightful people. But – as a family, probably the closest thing to community is my husband’s gym. The girls are known there and participate, and so does he. (I can’t make it work, and right now, I’d rather run).

Here’s why I’ve been thinking about this:

A woman I knew from years ago is in the fight of her life. I promise you, that’s not hyperbole. I played soccer and basketball with her sisters. My brother was her year, and they knew each other. My dad coached most if not all the older kids at some point, I think. We had (have) family friends in common. Over the years, we’d lost contact with them, but would get updates here and there.

And then a few years ago, it came to light of her struggle. And true to form, the community that “was” 20 years ago, rallied to her cause. During the last two years’ runs, my mom and dad have caught up with all kinds of families. Of course, it was a no-brainer that these families all came to her aid as we could. They walked the walk, ran the run. Caught up, prayed for her.

And – I think (selfishly), in 20 years, what community would I have built for my girls? If something goes drastically wrong, what old community will be there? Their school? Maybe. The church, unlikely (although I think Father Erik is doing what he can) unless major changes are made. The neighborhood? Maybe, the two-three families that we talk to?

I think back to the Church and the community that was there. My mom and her committees, my dad and his activities… Good people, that we’d see at Church and make sure we left them their pew as we could. I can’t imagine how my parents had the time and energy to invest in that community. I get home from work, and I’m with my kids so they see their mom before they go to bed. I try to pay attention to my husband after that (or chores, or whatever).  Where did they find time for committees, coaching, and so forth? How did we fit so effortlessly into those communities? How did those communities get built and stay strong for so long?

Is it because we had a community to walk into? The Church accepted us after our move and welcomed what we had to give. It also had niches for young families. I have no idea if our Church has that niche. I’ve seen no evidence, and have no idea how. I can’t figure out how to build the neighborhood community. I’m open to the work of building or participating, but honestly I don’t know how. I don’t know what’s there to help grow. And I don’t know how to ask these question and who to ask…

This blog post sort of took on a winding quality I’m not sure I like, but I’m being a bit vulnerable too. If you’ve constructive ideas, I’m open. They needn’t be church based, I’m just using that example.  How do we go about building the communities that give our children a sense of community? What does it take?

Enough Is Enough

I think we need more people to come out and say “Enough is Enough”. So I’m going to add my words to the gun control argument.

An 8 year old was shot over puppies by an 11 year old. Because you know who should have unrestricted gun access? An 11 year old.  The 6 year old playing in her front yard shot by who knows… The guy shot outside a professional football game egged on by crowds and alcohol. Here’s the thing, I could continue to find more and more and more links of shootings. There are too many.

Here’s the Preamble of the Constitution

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The second amendment give you the right to a gun. If you extrapolate from that, you have the right to a gun so that justice is established and not vigilante justice, we can take care of our nation. You have a right to a gun so that we are guaranteeing to all general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our prosperity.

Well, I’d say the sheer volume of guns in this country is actively preventing Justice, general welfare, and it sure as hell isn’t securing the blessings of liberty for myself or my kids.

My kids have lock down drills once a month so that if a bad guy with a gun comes into their school they know what to do. Sure doesn’t sound like the Blessings of Liberty for my posterity. My kids should not have to go into lock down so you can have a gun. My kids’ lives should NEVER depend on their collective ability to be quiet so the gunman doesn’t come into their room. I should NEVER have to hear a police office say the school had to cut shrubbery a bit more so that the window was better accessible should they need to gain quiet entrance to the building to stop an intruder. This, this, is what our world has come to.

When 3 different colleges had shooters in one day, I said a prayer that the outburst wouldn’t appear on my daughter’s campus. Really? What part of that is securing the blessings of liberty for my progeny?

With all the guns in this nation, you know how often single shooters or mass shooters are stopped by a civilian with a gun? Me neither, but I’m pretty sure it’s not often. I assume that if were, the NRA would be citing those numbers left and right to make sure that we understood how “good” guns were. If more guns were the answer, we’d be the safest nation in the country, but alas, we prove over and over and over again we aren’t.

You know why I’m talking about guns and not cars (they kill people, too right?) Cars have a purpose unrelated to killing something. They get people places. They take us to work, they take us to soccer practice, or orchestra events. They don’t leave the our garages for the sole purpose of killing. Guns? They have 1 purpose. To kill. While you could argue that killing a deer provides food, and it does, it still achieved its sole purpose. It killed. Tell me that guns don’t kill people, people kill people? That’s absurd. People with guns kill. Sometimes in a moment of anger or a moment of curiosity, but the presence of that gun gave that person the best opportunity of taking a life. A gun is immediate, it’s impersonal, it’s easy to keep your distance. A knife, my fists, I have to be up in your grill to do any damage. A gun, I have the luxury of distance.

You want to talk about mental illness being the problem? Explain to me how little kids have a mental illness when they shoot. Explain to me how all preteens have a mental illness when they shoot. Explain to me how people who are drinking or in a fight or pissed off have a mental illness when they shoot.

Maybe bullying is the problem. Nope, not always. Maybe it’s a lack of two parents involved with their kids? Hrm – but wait, the dad was at home with the kids when one shot the other in a moment of curiosity.

I think we need to be triage mode. We have people dying daily because of guns. Daily. We have thousands of people in hospitals recovering from bullet wounds. Daily. We have kids scared to walk down the street to go to school. Here’s what’s obvious to me. If we can’t fix the underlying problems ‘right now’ like treating mental illness, like preventing bullying, like preventing kids from getting mad, then we need to stop the outlet. And that’s access to guns.

Your way isn’t working. Unfettered access to guns isn’t working. Arming everyone isn’t working.

Your right to a gun SHOULD NOT, CAN NOT, WILL NOT supersede my kids’ right to life. The one guaranteed to them by the same Constitution you use to keep your guns.

Bits is 3

As unfathomable as this is, our Caboose turns 3 today. Her joining our family led to lots of changes in our way of life, but its been good. (Pictures at bottom courtesy of digitalbean photography)

Bitsaloo – Watching you grow this year has been incredible. Somewhere along the line you crossed over from baby to toddler and straight into wannabe pre-schooler. I know it frustrates you not to get to school as your sisters did this year, but you’ve been soaking up the Daddy time. You might not be in some formal school, but you’re learning a lot and getting your numbers and letters down. Your quest to be “big” will drive you for a while to learn more and more. Don’t lose that quest.

Your zest for life will continue to bring joy into your dad’s and my life. You live out loud, and everything you do is all in. Whether it be throwing a temper, playing puzzles with Grandma, or playing outside, your enthusiasm is fun to watch. Your heart and soul are full and big, and they make our hearts fuller, too.

I’ve loved watching you cheer your sisters on during their adventures. When your big sister came home from Germany, you didn’t move off her lap or out of her arms for 20 minutes. Your genuine joy at hanging with your sisters is real and I love getting to see it. I look forward to seeing what this next year brings.

Bitsaloo

Bitsaloo

The littles

The littles

I love books

I love books