I’m Madly Religious: But Many Millenials Aren’t.

I don’t think that it is a secret that I am Mormon. At least, I haven’t tried to make it a secret. Think what you want about what that means, but what I really hope you’ll do for me before you read this post is assume that my intentions are pure and good. That’s truly all I ask is that you have a little leap of faith in that. If you want to pick apart what I’ve said, feel free to do so, but do so with the understanding that I am only trying to speak from my heart, not to start an argument.

Millenials are known for a lot of things that are unique to the last century (at least since the 1920’s, did you know that our generations are very similar?) such as the desire to work to “make a difference” or the expectation to be a millionaire by the age of 30 (or both, that seems to somehow be the goal for many of us). I am not exempt from such grandiose ideas. On any given day you might find me spouting about some schematic design to change the world with a business plan that I have no resources to fulfill. However, I take some pride in being able to admit that I can be grandiose (hence my blog title).

Ask a Millenial what their political affiliation will be and they will most likely tell you that they are “independent” or “non-partisan” (I will admit that I am guilty about that). Ask them what race they are and they will spend the next 20 minutes explaining where their grandparents are from and what part Native American they are (I have also been guilty of that). They write open letters to people who have been rude to them because they want to make sure the world knows their intentions (again, guilty here). Ask them what their religion is and they will tell you what religion they were raised with but then say that they consider themselves “spiritual but not religious”. They don’t want to be put in a box because they don’t like to think you will choose not to get to know them based on one thing you know about them. They want validation and to be celebrated for being different from everyone else. I won’t comment on whether these are good things or bad things- after all, every generation has its dark spots, so who is anyone to judge? However, the one issue that has struck my interest is that Millenials are much less religious than their forefathers and foremothers, and every religion is suffering an exodus of members due to this mentality.

Here is where I will always be different than other Millenials. I am madly and unapologetically religious. I am spiritual, too, but I am Sunday church-attending, 10% of my meager income-paying, and serve the saint and sinner alike type of religious.

I am madly religious because my religion and my faith in Jesus Christ and what Mormons consider His restored gospel and restored priesthood have saved my life in distinct ways. I cannot deny this and I know that if I do, I will have undone all of the hard work that many others have put into my well-being; and that would be terribly selfish of me. I won’t publicly share all of the details in order to protect the dignity of some other people in my life, but my story is unique and yet not unique in the way that it has brought me exactly to the place that I am in now and I have nothing to complain about. If you want to know, ask me. I am an open book about my life.

One perspective about religion that I want to bring to the table is this: Religion isn’t about piety or self-rejection. Religion isn’t about forcing others to abide by your standards. Religion isn’t about ethnocentrism, race-superiority, and brainwashing. To me, being religious means being a resource for something good- nay, great (and for my own case, life-saving)- in someone else’s life. It means serving someone else regardless of their own self-accountability. It means lifting up others simply because I know what it’s like to need that strength. For me, religion fosters the personal touch and connectedness that human existence is badly craving in our technologically-addicted world. Religion provides a social, emotional, and spiritual support that is essentially unobserved anywhere else. Religion can be a resting place for a weary and confused head, and a comfort from the storm.

Most shelters, food banks, social service supports, and therapy centers are run by religious institutions. Among my cohort in my Master’s program (I am currently working on my MSW), a large majority of them have admitted that their religion motivates them to do their work in the social services. In fact, the U.S. cultural standards about equality and the protection of minorities and individual freedoms can be traced to our religious roots. Just some things to think about.

I am currently interning with Jewish Family Services (we provide community services regardless of religious affiliation) in Capitol Hill, Seattle. My time there has been immensely uplifting and I feel so at home and welcome. I met with the spiritual educator a couple of weeks ago and our conversation was so spiritually uplifting, I feel like I must carry this memory with me my whole life. What I really loved, though, was something she said when I asked her about how Judaism motivates the mission of JFS. She simply said that serving fellow neighbors is what it means to be a good Jew. There is no expected reward, it’s just what you do. In fact, the opportunity to serve is the reward in itself.

This was one of those moments when I knew I was receiving truth. Do you know what I am referring to? Not just a simple inspiring thought, or a validating experience, but that feeling you get inside where you just know it’s truth and you cannot deny it even if you wanted to. That the only way to reconcile your feelings is if you concede to that admission.

Except, that I am not a Jew, so how can I say that it’s truth for me? The principle in Mormonism is the same- to be a good Mormon, you serve other people. Serving other people can come in many forms and doesn’t have to be under the umbrella of religion, but in my experience it is incredibly effective.

I admit that not all religions act in this way. Do you see areas where your religion needs improvement? Then improve it. Criticism and fault-finding adds to the noise of contention, but filling the holes of your religion with your own works motivates others to do the same and will do so much more good.

I am not sure what I wanted to accomplish with this post- simply that just because everyone else around you seems to be leaving your church, doesn’t mean you are alone and should leave, too. If it means anything, you can remember that I am not and will not. I refuse to think that spirituality only has something to do with how it benefits me or adds to my ideals. I believe that fostering true spirituality comes when I practice my religion and worship; but the application of my spirituality in services to others is a binding force that I choose to foster because I have personally been the recipient of the wonderful fruits of religion.

 

Advertisements

#NotMyFeminism

Those of you who know me well, know that I like to have interesting and stimulating conversations about every topic. I enjoy a good back and forth about policies and social matters. In fact, there are very few things in my repertoire of opinions and conversations that are stubborn and so passionate that I can’t even have a conversation about it. If I am having a conversation with you about it, it likely means that I am doing my best to listen to your ideas.

Except this one thing: “empowering feminism.” I am NOT going to link to any articles about this new definition of feminism because I am so adamantly outraged by it that I need to do my best to even write this post without slamming my computer down onto the ground.

In a nutshell:

Women selling out their bodies for money and actually calling it feminism. They feel “empowered” for consenting to delivering themselves to pornographic material.

Let me tell you about a friend of mine.

For her protection, I will call her Sarah.

Sarah is a young mother of two. She is not married, works odd jobs here and there, and at one point was trying to go to school to get a certification to become a nursing assistant. She is thoughtful, kind, funny, and determined.

When Sarah was 13 years old, she started her menstrual cycle for the first time. Sarah thought she could approach her mother about getting the right hygienic items to keep herself clean and free from the sicknesses that can come with this difficult process of the body. She was disappointed, as she always was, that her abusive mother refused to provide her with these necessities. Not knowing who to go to, she approached her “well off” grandfather. He agreed. But then there was a catch:

She had to let him do sexual things to her body.

Now knowing where to go or who else there was to help her, she eventually consented. For years, whenever she knew that there was no other place to turn, she approached her grandfather, asking to be provided with money just so that she could go to school without bleeding through her clothes (an often unrighteously embarrassing situation). Each time, she had to provide her body as payment.

Eventually, she dropped out of school, became pregnant with a guy that was living in her basement and moved from house to house with various men who would take her in until she was pregnant again or they were done with her.

She suffers from anorexia, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and various other symptoms that are extremely common for women who believe that their only worth is in their ability to sexually please men. Since I befriended her a few years ago, she has broken off an engagement, quickly moved in with another man, quit her job, and quit school. All of this because she simply can’t grasp her own self-worth.

When she opened up to me about her past, her feelings were very conflicted. She was never happy about it, but she was never quite sure if the situation was wrong because she believed that it was her fault that it happened. I told her over and over that it was never her fault. He was the adult, he was the one who manipulated her with resources that she desperately needed so that he could use her body.

It is because of the fact that women in pornography who appear to “consent” that there are young girls like my friend Sarah who have to suffer. Even if the “consenting” women aren’t victims (not super convinced about that argument), Sarah was one of millions of girls who become a victim because men actually believe that women want this type of treatment. After all, she kept coming back, right?

 

Do you see where I am going with this?

 

The purpose of feminism has always been and will always be to provide all people with equal opportunities. To teach us all that people are worth so much more than their bodies, consenting or not. The purpose of feminism is to prove that women bring so much more to the table than a pair of breasts, or that children deserve to grow up to believe that their personalities are beautiful and their ideas are meaningful. No man, woman, or child should ever grow up to believe that their physical appearance is the only thing they can contribute to society. Eventually there will not be much left to give in that area, because these body-thirsty people will never be satisfied.

So, no, women who “consent” to objectifying their bodies is not feminism. In fact, I am not even convinced that when there is a large amount of male money and resources involved that it is considered “consent”- but I guess that would be a debate for another time.

Call it whatever you want, create policies around whatever you want, but don’t desecrate the very definition of feminism.  

If you have even started to believe this heinous lie that pornography is feminism, then please consider a few arguments:

The pornography industry has massive amounts of money and that amount grows every single day as young boys (as young as 8) are being exposed to sexual content online. This money is easily used to manipulate desperate women and children into doing things for their audience.

If they can get feminists on their side, they have much to gain in the area of policies and ability to continue their shady business practices, legal or not.

Pornography funds the human trafficking industry. That fact alone should be enough to convince you that it is the antithesis of feminism.

If you all could join me in at least this:

#notmyfeminism

I will have done what I can at this exact moment to protect true feminism and teach our young generation that they are worth so much more.We_Can_Do_It!

 

What a 3-Year Old, Bullies, and Counseling Have Taught Me About This Election

I want to start by saying that I want to give everyone a cyber-hug. A cyber-hug to those of you who are feeling sad, scared, and frustrated. A cyber-hug to those who are a part of the LGBTQ and  female community who feel like your path seems bleak. A cyber-hug to those of you who feel like your voice has finally been heard after years of being told that your voice doesn’t belong here. Cyber-hugs to all.

When I taught preschool, one of the girls in my class was…well…a bully. When she got mad, she would get into such a rage that she would literally gouge the other kids’ eyes. Children, teachers, and parents alike were afraid of her. Not only that, but she would sometimes evoke sadness and fear from her friends just to get a laugh. Her teachers would scream in outrage when she acted out. Other parents would comment, sometimes in front of her, that she was out of control. Her parents were at a loss of what to say. It was hard to watch sometimes, but I knew what I had to do.

I had to, and did, validate her anger. I told her that if my friends were doing that or saying that, it would make me feel sad and frustrated, too (even if it wasn’t true). Then, I had to teach her how to talk to her friends, how to appropriately deal with her fear and sadness; because, remember, anger is a secondary emotion that is only evoked when the person is feeling fear and sadness. It really helped that my co-teacher was on board and helped a lot, too.

I know, it sounds so counterproductive. But it worked. After a few short weeks, she was literally removing herself from the situations that would normally make her act out and then coming back when she found the right words to cooperate with her peers. In some cases, she had to stay in the cozy corner for several minutes just so she could calm down enough to let her anger pass.

After a few weeks, I was no longer writing daily notes to parents about why their child’s face was obliterated by her. She was happy, excited, making friends, and her parents reported that she was also using these skills at home.

I felt so proud for her. And not only that, but I felt so good to know that she was finally feeling like other people cared about her, felt her pain.

The thing about bullies is that they act out in anger because they feel like they aren’t being heard. And in many cases, they lack the proper life experiences or knowledge to be able to articulate their fears and come up with a better solution. And at the end of the day, in almost every case, they don’t even get a sliver of what they wanted simply because they were classified as “bully.”

I am beginning to see it in my own son. He is an anxious child, and his anxiety often pushes him to get angry and flustered to tears or worse. I try to see what is making him so fearful, but I often get caught up in my own fears of him turning into an unkind person that I forget to do what I need to make sure he knows that I am his ally. Being 3 is rough. It is to them, anyway, and they deserve the best reaction from us, their adult parents.

When I was a teenager, I started to attend counseling. I continued on to attend counseling until right before I got married. Over the course of those years, I remember almost nothing that I said or what was said to me. Except one thing. What I do remember is the relief I felt when my counselors said, “what you’re feeling is normal.” That kind of relief was beyond anything I could have imagined. I never thought that my anger, fear, and sense of frustration would be validated. Not in a million years. I thought that I was supposed to be finding new ways to bury those feelings. But when I was told that I was a normal human being for feeling that way, I was soaring. It was only then that I was on a healthy path to letting go of those feelings.

I don’t condone or agree with the hateful things that have been said by anyone in this election. And that is because I know you can’t fight hate with more hate. If you really do care about the kindness in our country, or ending racism, sexism, or homophobia, you can keep calling people names, updating your facebook status about how you just can’t believe what you are seeing, and many other reactions. You can. But it isn’t going to solve the problem.

Try to see what they see. Tell your family member or friend or coworker or enemy that if you perceived the world the way they do, that you would also feel afraid and angry. Once you know that you have adequately shown that you care about them, then you can try to offer alternative viewpoints. It may take a while, so don’t get your hopes up, but it is a step in the right direction. A much better step. I want our society to be free of racism, sexism, and homophobia, too. But in the last 8 years, I have failed to see the right solution to this problem.

After this election, I have seen many outraged people. If you are one of those people, if you feel like the bully has won, or that you are afraid and sad for yourself or your friends, I feel your pain, too. If you are feeling scared, get to know your local safe spaces and go when you think you need to. Talk to a counselor, friend, or loved one.

If you are one of the Trump supporters in my life, I want to say I am glad that you feel like you’re fears and voice are finally being validated. I hope, and believe, that you can approach your fears in a more productive way from here on out, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that a small smile crept across my face last night because I knew that you are finally feeling that relief I once felt in counseling those many years ago. That you feel like you aren’t alone in your fears anymore.

I didn’t vote for Trump. For the same reasons that I didn’t vote for Hillary- I don’t think they will solve the problems. I could be wrong. I know, I am one of those crazy third partiers. But I just wanted to vote for who I felt would be the best president. I assume that you all did the same.

Ollie is 3.

I never imagined myself as a mother of a 3 year old. I think I was too immature to look beyond the terrible 2s- of which we barely survived.

So now we have a threenager. And he is owning it.

I mean, building autonomy has to be the single hardest thing for a child to do. He wants to put on his clothes, get his own drink from the sink, put on his own seatbelt; which would all be great, if he could easily execute these plans. However, I stand by and nervously fidget while he grunts away at his arm getting stuck in the wrong hole, falls off the stool, and snaps his fingers in the seatbelt.

I love him. Someone tell him to stay a little boy for forever.

You know, no 3 year old is complete without at least 3 birthday celebrations. I only documented 2. Something he might bring up with his therapist when he hits his 30th birthday.

 

img_2833
Is the monster cake foreshadowing our next year?img_3109Ollie doing cupcake math, to make sure he gets to lick the tops off at least 4 of them.

 

Memoirs of Boston: The Comments

So, have I mentioned that I have lived in all four corners of the US? Let me just tell you something, right now. I have never encountered such a place with such a people as Boston.

Wait- let me start over.

There is an incredible amount of variety in the whole Boston area. It’s awe-inspiring, exciting, and…fundamentally important that you know this before I recount these stories to you right now. Because I want you to know that not everyone was like this, but there was a much bigger subset of a certain type of woman there. The kind of woman that is so concerned about what is going on that she can’t not say something.

Another fundamental fact you should know, but this time it’s about me- I am really hard to offend. This is both by nature and by choice. I often say things to people not even thinking about if it would offend them because I know it wouldn’t offend me. But when people say offensive things to me, I often think it’s funny. Unless you’re my husband. I can get pretty easily offended about dumb stuff. Sorry, babe.

Here are some of those funny stories:

My daughter’s name is Paisley. I have known that this is not a particularly popular name among those who tend to live a more modest life. Totally fine with me. In fact, feel free to tell me you don’t like it because I didn’t pick her name with anyone else’s feelings in mind. I picked it because it brings me joy. If it doesn’t bring you joy, that’s totally your img_1526feeling and I hope that you name and/or named your kids whatever brings you joy.

Our hippie-named baby.

But her name was particularly not popular where we lived. Unlike on the west coast, I never met another child named Paisley (Oliver is a different story- he was once playing in a room with two other Olivers at the same time. It was epic). But even more interesting, I actually had people ask me what “Paisley” was or tell me that they have never heard that word.

By the way, if you don’t know don’t feel bad, but it’s a pattern. It’s also a church in Scotland.

Anyway, I volunteered at a consignment store while we lived there. It was the best, I could buy lightly used onesies for Paisley for only $.50. Yes, you read that right. Now you are forever going to hate yourself when you buy a onesie for $8. You’re welcome for that new insight. So at this store, there were many wonderful older women who would volunteer frequently by putting away toys, sorting, and labeling, etc. One woman was often there when I was, and she and I frequently exchanged pleasantries.

But it was clear in her face that she did not approve of my baby’s name choice.

After giving birth to Paisley, she once asked me, “What is her name? I think it was some kind of hippie word.”

I still laugh at this comment. I think most people I know would agree that I am not even close to being a hippie. (I am more of a believer in monogamy, you know?) But the fact that she attributed me to picking a hippie name doesn’t even hurt my feelings. Hippies are nice. Well, most of them. There was that one guy on Forrest Gump that was terribly mean to Jenny. But this is the type of comment that 1.) I have only ever heard people from Boston say out loud. 2.) That could easily offend someone.

But that’s one reason why I love it there. She could say that, I could choose not to get offended, and maybe even lightly say, “well, it’s just a beautiful pattern”, and we can continue on to discuss the crazy weather or the adorableness that is my baby.

This next story is one I hope to never forget:

I think I have mentioned that we lived in a very walkable area. Well, one of the places we could walk to was a tumble gym that we had a membership to. Ollie could run and scream (within reason, I don’t let him turn into an animal) to his heart’s delight. Well, I was walking to this gym, Paisley in my wrap, and Ollie in the stroller. I was trying to be quick since I was meeting a friend there, so I was walking at a fast pace. This pace had put Paisley to sleep with her head hanging out.

Side note, this was Paisley’s preferred position in the wrap. Head out of the fabric, hanging out, with no support. She was old enough that as long as she wasn’t jostled too much, it didn’t seem to affect her at all. img_2088

Well, as I was walking fast, her head was, naturally, bobbing around. I was watching her and noticed that it wasn’t harmful so I didn’t bother to put her back in. (If I had, she would have forced her head out, anyway.)

Then, I heard a voice shouting something.

Paisley enjoyed the Boston Marathon. From her wrap, head hangin’ out.

I turned my head and looked to my right. But there were cars driving by, so that couldn’t have been it. And then I heard it, again.

I looked to my right, again, and really paid attention to the cars.

A woman- again, an older one- had slowed her car down in the middle lane to my speed. While she was unabashedly impeding traffic she was yelling to me, “HER HEAD IS JUST BOBBING AROUND!” At the same time, she was gesturing with her hands as if she were putting Paisley’s head back into position.

A little flustered already about my inevitable lateness, I shouted back, “SHE’S FINE!”

I was not a stranger to having to tell people that she liked that position. I frequently had people coming up to me in the store, at church, and anywhere, pointing out to me that her head is out of the wrap. I usually just rehearsed the same thing, “She likes it. If I put her head back in, she will shove it out.” And sometimes I would even demonstrate it to the particularly concerned people. Who would then laugh nervously and attempt to fix it on their own. I think a few people even suggested that the wrap was too dangerous for her. (Big chuckle, I wish I would have said, “You have no clue how much this wrap has saved my life.”)

Again, this upset woman didn’t offend me. It was funny, and I appreciate that she was so worried about my baby that she couldn’t let me go another step without modeling to me the proper mothering way.

Last story, promise:

I was visiting the local grocery store. Again, with my children. Paisley was in the wrap and Ollie was running around from item to item asking me 100,000 questions. I wasn’t in any stress, I had no deadline to meet. But I think this situation was overwhelming for some of the people in the store. As I was figuring out which yogurt to buy (why are there so many?) a nice older woman came up to me and asked if I needed any help.

I looked at her, feeling puzzled, looked at my kids and said, “No, I think I am okay.”

She, looking like she wasn’t going to let this go, said, “It’s just that you have two children with you, and you’re so young…

I laughed, and said, “Well, these are my kids, I am almost 28.”

“Really?!”

“Yes.”

“Well, okay then, my husband was just worried about you.” Pointing to a very weathered man who didn’t seem to realize where he was.

“Well, that’s nice of him to think of us, but we are just grabbing a couple of things and then heading out.”

“You know, I remember what that was like at your age. Try to enjoy this time.”

“Thank you!”

I wouldn’t give up these memories for anything. I loved living in Boston- lack of filter and all.

Memoirs of Boston: The Time A Muslim Woman Stood Me Up

I have been thinking for a while that I want to pen my experiences in the greater Boston area. There are far too many. But I think there are a few that I would love to look back on fondly and feel grateful that I can remember it the way it happened.

You know how sometimes you forget important details about significant events in your life? I just don’t want to do that.

This one was one of my favorites, in a kind of frustrating way.

The city that we lived in for this last year was Arlington. More specifically, though, we lived in East Arlington. We were fortunate, nay, BLESSED (if you believe in that kind of stuff) to live in East Arlington and not be shoveling cash out of our ears to live there. The Red Line train- which made Adrian’s commute ONLY an hour- was just a 15 minute walk from our apartment (we were one of the few tiny complexes in the area), and there are many restaurants (mostly Italian, go figure), a kid-friendly library, barber shops, boutiques, a grocery store, and a theater that was built in the 1920’s. It was a magical place and all of it was in walking distance. It’s one of those places that has small community festivals, a funky African drum shop, and a DIY pottery spot.IMG_1409.JPG

A beautiful church door down the street from our complex. It always made me smile.

But the setting you need to imagine at this point is the library. It was called the Fox library for it’s history of being saved by a woman called Edith M. Fox from it’s imminent destruction. It is not a typical, run of the mill library. It’s small, has a small adult section, and a HUGE children’s section with fun puppets, bean bag chairs, and other toys. They hold all kinds of exciting weekly events. We made it one day during the weekly, well-attended singing time, but Ollie wasn’t interested. There were so many kids and adults, I think he was intimidated. Anyway, we left early and went to the play section of the library where kids could check out toys. Ollie was interested in a play kitchen set that some young girls were playing with.

I generally let Oliver play with the other children if they were willing to let him. I usually instruct him to approach them and ask nicely if he can have a turn or play with them. This wasn’t an exceptional situation and the girls were kind enough to let him. As is the case with the parental interaction, if it’s more than one mom, I politely stand by and watch my son. But, if it’s just one mom, I will try to start a conversation. Accompanying these young girls were two moms talking, and in another language. I’m not a language guru, but I would guess that they were speaking Arabic. I sat next to Ollie and watched him play.

Then, one of the moms started talking to me, small talk. I was grateful that she was willing to pull away from her conversation to talk with me. The wonderful thing about being a mom is that you always have some common ground with the other mom- kids. All you need to do is say or ask a few uncontroversial things about kids and you can have a pleasant interaction. In this case, I didn’t want to talk about how kids are terrible at sharing, or how some kids are shy, while others will just get right in your face. No, I wanted to tell her that I had taken a course in college about Islam. I wanted her to know that I thought her hijab was beautiful and that I’d love to ask her about her experiences in America. I didn’t, though; I just didn’t know if it would be too forward, too anything.

Well, when she and her friend and the kids got up to leave, she hung back to talk to me. She asked me if I typically come to this library. I said, “Yes, I come all of the time.” She said she hasn’t been in the area long and that her daughter has a hard time wanting to go out and play in public places. She thought that if her daughter knew another child that comes consistently, she may want to come more often. I said that I would be there again on Thursday afternoon the following week and we’d love to play with her
again.

I went that next Thursday, and the next, and the next. She never came again. I never saw her. I saw and would smile and nod at other Muslim women, usually just on the street, but never the woman with the two beautiful girls. I waited around longer than I planned, hoping she may just come one day and I could show her that I remembered her.

You see, I do love getting to know other people. But what I really wanted was for her to know that she and I aren’t so different. Being Mormon can sometimes be very alienating in this world. Don’t get me wrong, I know I make that choice, but it’s nice to meet someone who is like you, just not exactly like you. Someone who can relate to your drug and alcohol abstinence or views on modesty, but not because they are Mormon. Someone who has had to flee her country just because others didn’t like her religion, culture, or politics. I really wanted to get to know that person.

Equally, I also just wanted her to know that I am happy she came to America. And I am sad I never got to say anything like that to her.

 

Today My Kid Pulled the Fire Alarm at Burger King

yep.

that moment.

it happened.

just like an hour ago.

This post isn’t about judgmental stares or unkind words about keeping my kids in line. I don’t have any inclinations to justify what happened or call out others in an open letter for their assumed self-righteousness. (Honestly, I’m sure a lot of people would have handled it better than me- and this, arguably, wasn’t even the worst parenting decision I made today. I mean, Burger King, Hi-C, and sorry for the sunburned cheeks, Pazey.) In fact, I didn’t even notice that stuff. I chose not to notice it, really. I just wanted it to be a learning moment for me and for my child.

Here’s what happened:

We were getting ready to leave. I was fishing for my keys in my diaper bag. (I always said I would never have a large diaper bag, practically for this reason. But once Paisley was born, that was it, we were large-diaper-bag people and trying to convert other people.) My son was running back and forth between me and the door toward the parking lot. I kept yelling to him to “stay by me, Ollie!” I finally found my keys, grabbed Pazey, and just as I got within a few feet of the doors, my son reached right out (seriously, are they ALWAYS at a toddler’s hand level?) and grabbed it. I’m sure I screamed. Something like, “No, Ollie!” or whatever. But I didn’t need to. My son was panicked. I ran frantically toward the front shouting to everyone in the store that it was “just my son! Not a fire!” The management came around and I told them it was my son and I was so sorry. Not sure what to do, I stood at our table with two of my friends and their kids. Ollie was in rare form, shaking and crying, even a little dramatically (c’mon, he’s two) gagging. I set him on the edge of the table, reminding him, “that’s what happens when you pull those.” I’m sure he was thinking something like, “thanks Captain Obvious.” My 7-month old Pazey acted like it was any other day while my friend walked around with her.

After we were told we could leave, and my son had settled down, I buckled my kids in the car to head home for Pazey’s nap. Ollie looked at me and said, “I so sorry, Mom.” “It’s okay, Ollie.” I say, “Do we pull those?” “No.” “What do you do when mom tells you to stay by her? Run away?” “No.” As we shamefully pulled away, I tried explaining that it’s okay if he’s curious about something and that he can ask about it, just no touching. “Okay, Mom.” I don’t know if he got it, but I know he understood the experience, and I kind of doubt he will do something like that again.

The moment that really meant something for me, though, is what happened next. As we were driving home, my son reminded me that tomorrow we were going to be able to go and rent the Planes movie and he gets to buy a small, used toy from the consignment store. I’ve been teaching him to wait, so this is something we talk about all day.  At this moment, I considered telling him, “No. You don’t get to have a new toy since you pulled the fire alarm. What you did was bad, and when you do bad things, you don’t get to have fun things.” But, I didn’t. Not because I don’t want my kid to know that some choices are bad choices. Instead, I told him, “Yes, we will go tomorrow.”

I feel like it was the right decision. I know that he was truly regretful about pulling the fire alarm. And I have faith that the next time around, maybe with a little reminder of this incident, that he will stay by me when I ask him. But really, I just didn’t want to make the situation more confusing than it already was. I wanted him to know that it was scary, and he shouldn’t do that; but I also wanted him to be aware that when he messes up, I will be there to provide comfort and direction on what to do better next time. Not every mistake we make in this life is something that will dramatically affect every other aspect of our lives. Some do, some are really serious mistakes. But not something like this.

It’s kind of funny how an hour before that happened, we were at a family connections event where the directors were singing songs with the kids. It was one of those moments when Ollie came out of his shell and really had fun watching the puppets and singing. I watched him with so much warmth in my heart, thinking about how awesome it is to be his mom.

I don’t want the fire alarm moment to ruin all of the other fun parts of the day or days afterward. I don’t know what you would have done, but I trust that you know what is best for your child, so I won’t judge you. But if you’re feeling a little down about your parenting choices today, I give you permission to think, “Well, at least I didn’t take my kid to Burger King and let him pull the fire alarm.”IMG_1696