So Josh Duggar is an incestuous pedophile. But he says Jesus has forgiven him, as have his victims. He and his parents now feel that we too should overlook these youthful “bad choices” and move along. Old-timey religious moron Mike Huckabee agrees; feels that people making a big deal out of this are demonstrating “insensitive bloodthirst.”
But let’s review.
This is the mother who said that nondiscrimination policies allowing trans men and women to use the appropriate gender bathroom would expose innocent children to perverts. She made this statement while knowing that she had a “pervert” IN HER OWN BATHROOM.
Josh Duggar is the man who has repeatedly said that gay people represent a threat to society, to children in particular.
His father, JimBob Duggar, is the man who apparently waited a full year to go to the authorities after finding out that his son was “forcibly fondling” his daughters. And the “authorities” he went to was a state trooper friend who is himself now serving time for child pornography.
Josh Duggar has served no time for these crimes, has suffered no appropriate consequences for these deviant crimes, and yet felt absolutely entitled to make a living at the Family Research Council, the international headquarters for doling out verbal, social and legislative punishment to those it deems deviant.
This is a family who has referred to Josh’s commission of these acts as “bad choices” and grave mistakes as a young teen, and any other euphemism they can find to avoid saying it: He molested his sisters. He is a child molester. A pedophile. And there is no way around the fact that the act of forcibly groping the genitals of your sisters is not a “bad choice” like smoking pot before a test or driving without a seatbelt. It’s a compulsion. A criminal compulsion that requires intervention, penalization and correction.
None of which occurred in the case of Josh Duggar.
But beyond the issue of Josh Duggar himself, this episode illustrates the deep and pathological disregard for females within this particular Christian structure. Beyond being raised as baby-making machines, these girls have been treated monstrously by their parents. Their reward for telling their parents about this molestation by their brother is shocking, appalling and–I must say–evil. If your son admits to “forcibly fondling” his FOUR sisters, you have a massive problem that 3 months with a friend and a “stern talking to” won’t solve. The message to these girls that they don’t count, don’t matter and don’t rate is loud and clear to anyone with ears to hear. It is absolutely a matter for child protective services, and I hope they step in to assess Josh Duggar’s own children.
So, would Mike Huckabee wave his holier-than-thou finger at me for finding a small amount of satisfaction in the outing of Josh Dugger? Hell yes. Do I care? Hell no. Why? Because it is always a net positive for our society when a bigoted hypocritical excuse for a human who hides behind the flag and the Cross gets served. When those who live by the judgmental sword, die by the judgmental sword.
The other day I was helping to set up for the teacher appreciation luncheon at my daughters’ school. It also happened to be the day of the semi-annual lockdown drill. You know the one. The one required since that terrible morning at Sandy Hook. The one all the adults speak of in lilting, nothing-to-see-here tones in front of the children. The one in which we use language like, “a drill to keep you safe in the case of an emergency.” The one about which my 5th grader asks, “What kind of emergency would that be that we’d stay where we are rather than get out?” The one I can’t bring myself to answer her honestly, “It’s a rehearsal for what to do if a gunman enters your school and tries to kill you and your classmates.”
This is where we are and what we’ve come to as a nation. The people trained to educate our children are now being trained to save those lives, even if at the expense of their own. I was struck immediately by the inadequacy of “appreciation.” The realization that no luncheon or gift card or embroidered sweatshirt can adequately express the kind of gratitude you ought to feel for someone who not only is tasked with teaching your child but with shielding her from a hailstorm of bullets if so required.
Law enforcement officers face danger on the job. But that risk is baked into the job description. If you become a cop with the expectation that you will not come into contact with individuals who seek to do you harm with weapons, then you are in serious need of career counseling. People in the medical profession spend their days around sick people. If you became a physician expecting that your daily vocation would not include contact with germy, sick humans, you would perhaps need to check yourself in for observation. potential diagnosis: stupiditis.
But teachers. There is no expectation as a teacher that your daily life will or should include contact with armed individuals seeking to do you harm. No reasonable expectation that the fate of the lives of the kids in your class might hang in the balance, with you as the fulcrum.
Yet the worst–and best–part of it all is this: They know it and come to work anyway.
It’s a sad statement of our culture and our times that I direct my girls to always listen to their teachers, not just for reasons of basic respect but because a small part of me knows that–god forbid–it might someday save their lives.
So the next time your school committee is faced with the question of whether to raise teacher’s salaries, whether to enter into a contract that compensates teachers for their expertise and efforts. whether the budget can sustain such expenditures? Should they say yes or no?
You remember the totality of the job.
You remember the unpaid work and prep that goes into any given school day.
You remember that this teacher is not only your child’s educator but also her protector.
And you say yes.
Top o’ the mornin’ to ya, everyone. Been up since before 4am with Baby Sister, whose bedroom is surrounded by trees that are apparently the hot new location for singing birds. The singing starts around 3:30 and ends promptly with the sunrise. We have used a fan AND a white noise machine to no avail. It’s like the bird versions of Keith Moon, Courtney Love and the entire lineup of Led Zeppelin are trashing our backyard hotel room; they are relentless and unapologetically loud. Their speakers go to ELEVEN. And as a result of all these ridiculously early mornings, I feel one hundred and eleven.
For those of you considering having children I must warn you: becoming a parent ages the hell out of you. My passport photo on the way to China to meet Bambina is unremarkable. My passport photo just 5 years later to go meet Baby Sister is a whole ‘nother level of WTF. Forget wrinkles and other expected signs of general aging. Those are no big deal. I’m talking about the enormous dark circles and giant bags under my eyes. The eyes that say, “We have seen some shit you would not believe at times of the day and night you can scarcely imagine.” The BabyDaddy’s photos show the same age progression. The facial equivalent of the President Going Gray by The End of The First Term. You know the situation. Every POTUS ever (except Ronald Reagan, who got DARKER; thank you, boot polish) has gone gray in short order after taking office. It’s the job equivalent of having ten kids.
The beautiful young neighbor across the street had her second child over the winter. We recently just saw each other up close after a few months and I was stunned by how tired she looked. Like, 5 years of aging in one winter. And I was like, “Yep, girl. This is how it goes.” I of course said nothing because “you look tired” is second only to “you are fat” in the How To Ruin A Woman’s Day handbook. But no one emerges unscathed from having an infant and a two year old unless they have full time help to ensure 9 hours of sleep and uninterrupted workouts.
So it’s clear that I need some outside help at this point. But not a nanny and not a skin esthetician; those can come later. No, right now I need someone more along the lines of a sharp shooter specializing in flying, singing asshole early birds. Someone suggested spraying fox urine on the trees to deter both squirrels and birds, both from eating the peaches and plums that grow and also to deter any loitering and singing urges. I’m all for it, but the BBDD has a few questions:
1. Whose job is it to obtain urine from a fox?
2. How is that urine obtained? Do they hand the fox a small cup and a towelette and tell her to wipe front to back first?
3. Once we purchase it, how do we know it is really fox urine and not, say, raccoon urine or–please god no–Dude Selling It On EBay urine?
Legitimate questions all. But considering it’s 6:30am and for the third day in a row I’ve already been awake for three hours, I’m ready to take my chances.
It’s been way too long, no? So much happening Chez Jones that the writing time becomes non-existent. No matter! Next year Baby Sister will be in school full-time FINALLY and I will have actual time to perhaps get a job, write some adequate prose or some dire poetry. Who knows? All I know is that half-day kindergarten is the worst tease in the world. A friend recently asked me (and somehow escaped with his life) “So what DO you do when the kids are in school?” Let’s review!
Drop kids off at school
Go home and shower (because all bathrooms in full use by husband and kids prior to this time)
Buy groceries or go to doctor’s appointment or work on school volunteer stuff or spackle and paint kitchen or whatever I can do in 2 hours
Make lunch for kindergartener who is hypoglycemic so has to eat the second we walk in the door
Go pick up kindergartener
Thus endeth the productive portion of my day. Having said that, I know from the experience of my 5th grader that once they are in school full time they do inch away from you little by little. You no longer get a breathless “Lucas peed on his chair! And the ladybugs in the class died! And I fell and cut my finger!” the second the school door opens and your effervescing little lovebug ricochets into your arms. You only find out about their days via what they grudgingly grunt at you. You no longer get slurped on and squeezed within an inch of your life anywhere at anytime. You get hugged and kissed in the comfort and privacy of your own home lest any friends see such an uncool spectacle take place. You no longer get asked to read the 100th Gerald And Piggie book for the 1,000th time while your child poops. Kids who can read tend to like to attend to their toileting needs solo. And certainly no 5th grader is on board for any discussion of anything bathroom related. Even my once-hilarious Scottish accented, “LIGHT A MATCH, CHARLIE!” is met with an Olympic-level eye roll and a “Seriously, Mama?” So I do understand how lucky I am to have these days and moments with my little one, exhausting as they are. You really don’t get them back.
With my tween, the workload is just as intense but in a completely new and different way. We spend a lot of time talking (about stuff she wants to), listening to music (she likes), watching YouTube videos (that entertain her) and playing video games (with which she is obsessed and that make me want to stab myself in the eye). I essentially feign interest in her interests because that’s where she is and so that’s where I need to meet her. Yes, she is a scam artist; always needing to chat right around oh, 9:30pm, when it’s really way past her bed time. Or making cute faces at her father when looking for the green light on some video game related in-app purchase. So we’re not total morons over here. But I’ve promised myself that I will always listen to her, even if it’s freaking midnight. I will always say yes to any request to hang out with her even if it’s the most inconvenient time for ME. I will always take an interest (even if I have to fake it) in the “small” things in her life, because to her they are big things. I remember being a pre-teen. I remember the desperate importance of so many now-obviously-not-important things. I remember the intensity of feelings, the confusion around other people’s actions, the sometimes overwhelming irritation at the adults in my life. I remember being mortified at any attention being directed my way, even the positive kind. I remember just wanting to do my thing and be left alone. So when my pre-teen wants to hang out with me, I am ALL OVER it, because I know my days as a credible activity partner are numbered until she graduates from college and I’m cool again.
It’s also the reason why you’ll be reading much less about Bambina in these pages. Telling cute stories of a chutzpah-filled little girl with no filter is adorable. Telling stories about my tween is not. I’ve always tried to find the line in my writing that divides what is legitimately my story to tell and what is not. Certainly, my stories have involved others, and so those people become part of the story that is mine. But I think, with our children, there comes an age when sharing funny-seeming anecdotes about them crosses the line into stealing something from them, to appropriating their stories as our own. Bambina is at such an age where my relating her exploits to the general public on a blog is, for lack of a better term, shitty parenting and a violation of her right to privacy. Don’t misunderstand: Facebook friends will still get the funny quips (with her permission for me to post). But the blog will be Bambina-less unless she tells me it’s cool.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since seeing a disturbing rise in those photos of little kids holding signs saying things like, “I’ve been in foster care for 1,213 days and today I got adopted!” And it goes viral, and people comment about God and Jesus and luck and fortune and warm hearts and kindness and charity. And I feel nothing but ICK and rage on behalf of these children who have no way to consent to such a public airing of their lives. If the adoptive parents want to hold signs that say, “Our kids were in foster care for 1, 213 days and today, We Adopted!” then go for it all day long. But to put your kids on the internet holding signs that laud YOU and bring attention to YOU? Nah, bruh. Remember that the internet is forever. These children are human people with hopes and dreams and fears and rights that exist beyond you and any extension of you. They have a right to privacy, a right to the details of their lives not being in the public domain at such a young age, a right to go to high school as a teenager and not have some a-hole classmate find these pics and private family details and use them against them. Because it happens, and when it does, it will be your fault.
So the good news is I’m back. The less good (but wholly appropriate) news is that there will be fewer episodes of Bambina hilarity for you to enjoy, unless she says you may enjoy them.
Until next time….
So today marks 9 years since my Dad has been gone. NINE YEARS! I generally try not make a big deal out of it on the principle that my Dad’s life was about so much more than the day he died, so to make a giant anniversary out of it kind of misses the point of who he was and what he created in his too-short time on this earth. It also misses the point of what this day means to me, which is: not much. I love to have a drink for him on his birthday, on Father’s Day, on Burns Night, definitely on Hogmanay. I think it is good and right to note the day he passed because doing so acknowledges that he existed and is now no more, but I prefer to make celebratory days more of a focus simply because that’s what he would have wanted and because they better characterize the wee man with the big personality. He is likely bummed that we mark this day at all, it not having turned out to be a good one for him. ;) But mark it we must, since thems that lives gets to makes the rules.
So what can I say about JP except that I miss him and that when I’m sad about him being gone it’s because I’m sad that my kids don’t get the experience of knowing him. I’m not sure where I land on issues of theology these days, but I do believe that no one is ever completely gone. That they live on, whether in energy or spirit or simply in the memories of the people they influenced while they were alive. Judaism has a phrase, “May his memory be for a blessing.” It expresses the hope that the memory of the person will inspire you to be a blessing to others. That those still living remember what good things that person would want us to do, and then go do them. So I try to do that.
One of the key ways I try to honor my dad is to make sure my kids do whatever they want to with their grandparents and their great-grandmother. My Dad always did whatever the hell he wanted to vis a vis his grandchildren. He didn’t baptize any of them (like Archie Bunker did against The MeatHead’s and Gloria’s wishes in an episode my Dad called ‘one of Archie’s best’), but you know, he just basically told us to go away if we were bugging him and his good time with his grands. I remember him taking Bambina outside to walk around and collect leaves when she was about 1 year old. I was fussing about how cold it was and she should wrap up more and shouldn’t they limit their time outside, blah blah. And he just waved his hand toward his apartment building and told me to “away wi’ yer shite!” If I was cold I should go in but he and “the wean” were doing just fine and I was ruining their fun. So inside I went. But not without monitoring events from the window like any first-time mother does. To see them having a fantastic time without me. I realized then–and reminded myself over the years–that I owe it to my kids to let them have their own relationships with their grandparents. I can manage babysitters. I can manage their friend relationships while they are young. But I need to let them have their own dealings with their grandparents. As long as I know that the GPs aren’t drinking and driving or posting pics of the kids on the open internet, or calling them fatties or whatever, it all just has to be good. Memories of my grandmother trying to spank us with her shoe or my other grandmother sending us to the store to buy her cigarettes would have been impossible had my parents gotten as involved as parents do today. My father believed fervently that having stories of grandparental malfeasance is your child’s birthright. So get out of their way and let them get on with it.
So that’s my plan for this anniversaire. Reminding myself that if my mom wants to keep them up till 10pm; whatever. If their Gram and Pop want to feed them cookies at 10am, whatever. It’s all good. It’s what both God and Nature intended for the grands relationship: that they do whatever the hell they want to and then send them home exhausted and punch drunk (and the kids are a mess too). Ha!
Sounds simple. Sounds trite. But sometimes it’s good to have a reminder: if you are presented with the option to either be kind or be unkind, choose the former. Sounds simple, right? And yet it’s not. Because in the heat of the moment, in the rush of our daily lives, in the push and pull of relationships, it can be all too easy to be thoughtlessly, unthinkingly, capriciously–even unintentionally–unkind.
I’ve been ruminating on this topic (that’s a lie. I’ve been STEWING) since Bambina’s school musical. This is the 6th year I’ve volunteered, and my third in a larger administrative-type role. Long time readers will recall that I volunteered after the first year because I could NOT BELIEVE how inept all the people running the musical were. Just astonished at the lack of organization and attention to detail. So I signed up to “help” but really I signed up to be an a-hole know-it-all who was gonna show them how business is conducted properly. You know, that crucial and life-changing 3rd through 5th grade volunteer musical life-or-death business. Grandiose, much?
Fast forward to me volunteering and realizing that the inept moron in the building was and always had been ME. These moms and dads volunteering for this show were busting their asses in ways I had never noticed (or frankly, never thought to notice). Every single one of them was a truly nice person working on their own time and their own dime trying to create something special for my kid and her classmates. But all I’d had time for was judgment. Unkindness. Never expressed, of course, but carefully nursed and considered. I didn’t characterize it as unkindness of course. It was righteous indignation. Helpful critique. Wise counsel. But in the end, as I look back, it was just lazy unkindness, nurtured by an over-developed sense of entitlement regarding my child. I’m not proud; I’m just coming clean.
Fast forward again to the past three years in which I’ve worked in a larger role for this musical. Fast forward to every single year receiving an indignant email from a parent literally within hours of the show ending. So: three years volunteering for 6+ months on a major project involving upwards of 50-100 children. And three years of not getting to put my head on the pillow that night feeling good about it. Three years of having the sense of accomplishment and joy and shared labor of love poked in the eye by a parent who couldn’t wait even 6 hours before zooming off an email detailing what we did wrong as regards his or her child. And in every case, the email came from a parent who volunteered ZERO hours to the project. ZERO.
The most recent this year really got me off balance precisely because it was truly unkind. Whatever point she wanted to make about how to improve the process or outcome was completely lost in the general nastiness of the message. And all I could think was, “Would you have said this to me if you were standing in front of me?” I imagine not. But who knows? It was just so demoralizing precisely because all of her concerns/complaints were so deeply unfounded as to be demonstrably wrong to any eyes that saw us working with her child over the previous 6 months. And yet it was such a punch in the face not perhaps because it was so very incorrect, but because it was so very unkind. There was no sense that ‘hey, you’re nice people who maybe didn’t think about items A B or C.” It was “you intentionally did A B and C to be petty and mean to a 10 year old.” Which is monstrously unkind.
The Baby Daddy of course had his even-keeled view of things as I closed my computer vowing to never volunteer ever again. I mean, you don’t volunteer because you expect a ticket tape parade. But you don’t volunteer to be shit on either, right? Like, I cannot wait to spend my free time working with 50 kids and spending my own money to create something special so I can feel like a pile of shit within three hours of final bows. No sane person signs up for that. And I vowed this was my last year. Then BBDD reminded me that if 50 kids were in the show and ONE parent is pissed off enough to send a nastygram, those are pretty great percentages. If our kid and her friends learned something from the experience and bonded a little and grew a little as humans, then those are pretty great outcomes. And if I can find a way to not let one person being thoughtlessly, needlessly and seemingly enthusiastically unkind ruin a full year of planning and rehearsing and producing, then that would be the greatest outcome of all.
And so I’m still in. A little bit more cautious in my dealings with other people’s kids. Slightly less willing to make that extra-extra leap simply because no good deed will go unpunished. But on the plus side, I’m reminded of the value of kindness. Of giving the benefit of the doubt. Of assuming the best in others intentions even if I can’t see it in their actions. Of remembering, that just as I get up every day and am doing the best I can, the odds are good that 99% of the world around me is doing the same. That if I ever find myself assuming the worst about someone and feel called by God to send them an email at 11pm cleaning their clock, I will review the following sign that hangs in our house (you know, for the kids):
If the answer to all 5 isn’t an enthusiastic Yes, then err on the side of silence. And kindness.
Boston calling here, dear readers. You know Boston. Cradle of Liberty. Where The American Experiment All Began. Fabulous Sporting Title Town. Site of Cheers, that show your parents liked back when you were 6. Birthplace of such various and astute personages as Leonard Nimoy, Edgar Allan Poe, Benjamin Franklin and Donnie Wahlberg. Well, we are also unfortunately the Snowiest Effing Town On The Planet. We’ve already had about 6 feet of snow and hey! another foot is on the way! The only thing getting us through this unbearable state of affairs at the moment is the knowledge that spring will come (right? It will come, right?) and funny memes. Please enjoy while your house leaks unrelentingly from all the ice dams on your gutters. 36 DAYS UNTIL SPRING!