An Open Letter to my Daughter about Trayvon Martin

Dear R,

Last night the verdict came in that George Zimmerman was acquitted. Everyone agrees that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Everyone agrees that he followed Trayvon, that he confronted him against direct police instructions. But according to our justice system, he did nothing illegal.

How am I going to explain this to you?

This verdict means that what happened to Trayvon will happen again, and again. This time you’re too young for me to explain that a young boy was killed simply for walking down the street while being Black. But the next time, or the time after that, or any of the hundred or thousand times after that, you’ll be old enough to understand. Some day, probably sooner than I anticipate, you’re going to look up at me and ask, “Why?” Why did this happen in the first place? Why does our legal system say it’s okay? Why is there no justice?

We have a book out from the library right now called Shades of People. You like it because it has lots of pictures of children doing interesting things, like climbing on playgrounds and hugging their parents. I like it because I hope it gives you a good baseline to think about race in the future. That your default assumption will not be that some people look different from you and that’s scary, but that some people look different from you and that’s beautiful.

But if you have that as your baseline, like I hope you will, some day you’re going to be shocked, and hurt, and unable to understand how and why people are hurt and harassed and imprisoned and assaulted and killed because of the shade of their skin. I’m deliberately putting you in a position where you will have to feel as shocked and sick and hopeless as I do right now, and that’s hard to admit as a parent.

But here’s what I want you to understand: in our country, in our world, it’s not an inherent right to safely walk down the street. It’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to trust the police, or to fight back against an attacker. It’s a privilege to ignore the news, or to feel like a verdict like this has no direct affect on your life. It’s a privilege to think that what happened to Trayvon Martin will never happen to your own children. I want you to understand that deeply, with every level of your being. I want you to be furious about it. I want you to understand it so that you never, ever turn that fury on someone because they do not have those privileges. I want you to use every scrap of privilege you have, every privilege I hope to give you, to fight against these injustices.

If I expect you to do that, I’m going to have to step up. I’m going to have to do what I want you to do and use my own privilege to fight this fight. I don’t know how to do that right now–I feel helpless and hopeless and unsure of what the first step is–but it’s clear to me today that I need to step up. I need to figure this out, I need to come up with something to say when you someday ask me, “Why are people so awful, mama? Why does this happen?”

Because the only thing worse than hearing that question would be hearing you say, “I don’t understand, mama–why are people so upset about this?” The only thing worse than seeing your pain and anger would be seeing confusion about why it matters.

I still hope, with all my heart, that some day you will live in a world where we can talk about this as something that used to happen, and won’t happen again. I don’t think it’s very likely, though. So I want to be your partner in fixing it. I want you to know that even when awful things happen, I’ve got your back. I’m by your side. You won’t be alone fighting this hopeless fight.

Nope.

That would be a no on sleeping through the night. Also I slept through my alarm this morning. Good times. We’ll keep trying different things… I’ve got a whole post brewing on the many many emotions I have about sleep training, so keep an eye out for that.

I’m listening to my child fall asleep

I’m trying something new tonight, on the suggestion of Morgan at High Diving Board.

sleeping babyAs I was putting on R’s pajamas, I said, “You know how sometimes you wake up at night to nurse?” (It’s not sometimes. It’s twice every night, at 1am and 5am. Anyway.)

She nodded.

“Well,” I said, “if you want, you can sleep all night and not nurse!”

She looked dubious.

“You can nurse in the morning,” I said. “But if you want, you don’t have to wake up at night! You can sleep all night without nursing! And nurse in the morning!” Cheerful cheerful cheerful!

She started looking a little panicky. “Nurse?” she said. “Side?”

“Yes, you can nurse on both sides,” I said. “In the morning! Not right now.”

“Nurse? Nurse??” she said.

And then I spent five minutes calming her down.

So… Now I’m listening to her talk to herself on the baby monitor. She’s not freaking out, at least, so I’m counting it as a win. I’ll keep you updated how the night goes…

Why I refuse to join the mommy wars

I have an easy child, by all accounts. In her 16 months, R has been consistently cheerful, social, independent, and adaptable. As an infant the quickest way to get her to sleep was to take her out to a restaurant. At 16 months, one of her favorite games is to put her toys away while saying, “Clean! Clean!” (Okay, “Keen! Keen!”)

And being her parent is still, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

what could be simpler?

HAHAHA. This is not what happened. (Photo credit: katiek2)

It took us three weeks to get the hang of breastfeeding, possibly the longest three weeks of my life. Lots of sobbing at four in the morning, and I don’t mean Busy Bee. It was probably during one of those 4am moments that I realized I was never again going to be able to judge any mother who stopped breastfeeding. My ultimate success in breastfeeding is entirely circumstantial. I am completely unable to attribute it to any inner strength of will or personality. Okay, yes, I’m awesome and put in a huge amount of effort to make it work, but I had every informational and financial and social support conceivable and it was still really, really tough.

From those first few weeks on, parenting has continued to be basically a crash course in empathy. R had a couple nights of hours of unexplained screaming–I realized there were parents who had to deal with that every single night for months on end. R woke up every two hours, all night long, for a solid year–I realized that sleep deprivation can lead people to do things they never ever thought they would do. Parenting has taught me to trust myself, to trust my gut instinct of what is right for my baby and what is right for me. And having realized that I have to trust myself, how can I not trust other parents? I can believe other parents need more information or money or social support or sleep, but I can’t believe their gut instinct is leading them astray.

So if you couldn’t get breastfeeding to work, or took a look at your options and said, “Nope, no can do, pass the free formula samples,” my hat’s off to you and I think you’re a terrific mother and I wish I could give you all the support I got. Moms of 9 year olds who are still breastfeeding, hats off to you too–I put that much effort into making something work, I’m not going to stop because of somebody else’s arbitrary deadline. If you’re co-sleeping, or crying it out, or trying a mishmash of random techniques based on what feels right that day (represent!), you’ve got my support. Public school or private school or charter school or homeschool or unschool–if you’re sure in your gut that you’re on the best road for your family, two thumbs up from me.