Our family is just like yours. Two devoted parents of a little girl that is the center of our universe. We don’t sleep late as much as we’d like. We rock/scissor/paper for who takes the poopy diaper. We have traded Justin Timberlake for Music Together in the car. We research things like car seats and pediatricians until we are blue in the face. We put our kid to bed in the evening and collapse on the couch only to look at pictures of her 10 minutes later. We wonder what we did without her and thank our lucky stars she’s ours.
In the day-to-day, I sometimes forget that our family looks different than most. We all walk through life wearing certain labels that tout important parts of ourselves and these labels are constantly changing. A Texan. An athlete. A foodie. A Longhorn. And then Bam! When you become a mom, you don’t get labeled, you get branded. Our other labels are still there, not hidden out of spite or lack of importance, just faded by the all-consuming label of MOM.
But our family is different than most of yours because our daughter doesn’t have a mom and a dad; she has two moms. And when the worst mass shooting in US history happens at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando and kills 50 people and wounds even more, it means something different at our house.
One of our labels is suddenly front and center and the target of pure evil and hatred. And I cry like everyone else in this country, but maybe a little harder because that was me and my friends dancing and laughing at a club on a Saturday night not that long ago. I am angry and I’m disgusted that we have to prepare our toddlers and preschoolers for a future marked with gun violence and mass shootings, and I’m completely heartbroken that I will also have to explain to my daughter why this happened to us and our community.
Nobody seems to have the answers on what to do about the gun violence epidemic in our country. We cry and we pray and we change our Facebook profile pic in an attempt to feel less helpless. As a parent, the lack of a plan on how to fix this is paralyzing.
I’m so tired of trying to make sense of it as an adult, so the thought of explaining this to a child while also reassuring her that she is safe makes me sick to my stomach. Add to the list that we have to tell our little one that her two moms (who basically moved mountains just to bring her into our family) place her in a “different” category that is sometimes the target of hate and ignorance. As I watched the Orlando news come in on Sunday morning, my baby girl playing with her toys on the floor, blissfully unaware of the TV or Mama’s tears, I just wished she could stay little and unaffected forever.
We as moms can’t stop gun violence (although if ever a group’s sheer will could, it would be moms for sure) but we aren’t helpless. We can teach our children kindness and inclusivity. We can make sure they realize that everyone matters and everyone is equal. We can model kindness that knows no bounds, no color, no discrimination. We can explain that true empathy for others means trying to put ourselves in their shoes to imagine the struggles we may never know ourselves. We can remind our kids that differences are what keeps our lives and communities great. We can celebrate diversity in our community whenever possible. We can hold our children (and ourselves) accountable for behavior or words that are hateful. And when we as moms fail at our own lessons (we are going to make mistakes), we can turn to our children, who effortlessly embody a pure and beautiful lack of prejudice. Watch a group of kids together and it illustrates the daily lesson: we are all more alike than we are different.
Our family is just like yours. We watch our kid grow and we worry about helping her too much or not enough. We miss our alone time and drinking bloody mary’s (all day) on Sundays. We want our daughter’s childhood to be happy and carefree. And we are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure a safe future for our child, and we deserve a community that will do the same.