One of the things I remember best about when we had our first baby was developing the “one thing” strategy of coping. That first baby can feel overwhelming because it’s such a dramatic change of lifestyle, and previously simple tasks seem insurmountable. So Ian and I both decided that in a typical day home alone with the baby that it was possible to keep the baby alive and also do one thing. Sometimes that one thing was to make dinner. Sometimes that one thing was to clean a closet. That one thing could be a trip to the grocery store, or even to just to take a shower. Sometimes the one thing was not possible to get to, but that was okay. It was just one thing anyway.
The learning curve on parenting is really remarkable, though. You
get past those precarious beginnings and into surer footing, and with
time and subsequent children become someone different and stronger.
After dealing with three small children alone during Ian’s deployments
there is not much in the day to day life of regular parenting that I
don’t feel I can handle and still get in a shower, get to the grocery
store, make dinner AND clean a closet. I flew to New York and back
alone with my kids when they were five, three, and five months so I have
graduated beyond the “one thing” level long ago, but still, some days
I’m impressed with how much we can do. Like Sunday.
On a typical Sunday we don’t do much. I work on Saturdays and just
want to have lazy time at home with my kids come Sunday. We eat
breakfast late, we cuddle, we lounge around. Sometimes we’ll get out to
something special and that saps all our energy and then we are extra lounge-y when we get back home.
But this Sunday was ridiculous. I don’t know why I have to drag all my children out of bed on a
school day, but on the weekend they are up and noisy at 6:30 in the
morning. Sunday was no exception, and they were up and squeaky,
and Mona wanted to help me make popovers for breakfast. She’s good at
cracking eggs and melting butter in the microwave, and she asks me
periodically as we’re cooking how far I would be without her help.
Usually I tell her I would be only at the point of opening the recipe
book and she looks very pleased.
Anyway, we made popovers with
strawberry butter (that’s just butter whipped together with strawberry
jam but it’s really tasty), and then we all went to the Y. Ian got in a
run on a treadmill while I played with the kids in the small pool, and
then he played with the kids while I swam laps. On a typical Sunday a
trip like that to the Y would be enough of an event. But no!
Ian decided we should drive to Madison.
Personally, I do too, because at its core it seems rooted in
the basic freedoms to assemble and speak. I don’t have any interest in
joining a union, but I think everyone should have that right. The fact
that teachers and other state workers have agreed to all of the pay cuts
the governor has asked for and are protesting purely to retain the
right to collective bargaining suggests to me that this is less about
budget issues and more about destroying unions. The governor is
overreaching and I understand why people are upset.
So we packed a lunch for the car and drove the 90 miles to the state
capitol. Somehow Ian managed to find us a parking spot only two blocks
from the statehouse and we marched the kids toward the protest signs and
drum circles. It was very interesting. The giant crowds of reportedly
100,000 people were on Saturday, and that would have been difficult to
navigate with the kids, but there were still long lines of people
waiting to get into the capitol building. Everyone was friendly. There
were people handing out bottles of water to protesters. One man was
dressed as Santa and there were dogs wearing banners so there was a lot
to see. Ian told the kids to take a good look because a real protest of
great size in action was a rare event. We walked at Quinn’s slow pace
the entire distance around the capitol building, reading signs and
fighting off the cold.
It was fascinating to watch Aden. Since she’s old enough to
understand what is going on we did our best to explain to her
specifically what she was seeing. (Mona’s cute, but she thought we’d
left Wisconsin entirely, so we still have some basic information to
drill into her before she’s ready for a good civics lesson.) All the
kids kept asking why people were chanting, or carrying signs, or
drumming, or making noise. We kept reminding them that they were trying
to draw attention to themselves. The whole point of a protest is to be
noticed, and those were all ways to be peacefully heard and seen.
Quinn trudged behind and Mona kept running ahead, but Aden stayed by my
side, asked me to explain some signs, and smiled when she understood the
meaning of some on her own. She was looking for her teacher or some of
her friends, but I told her most of the people from her school came out
on buses on Saturday instead. Most of it made her uneasy. I could see
that, because usually large numbers of police officers at a gathering
implies something unsafe.
But her main concern turned out to be the
same as mine. She felt it wasn’t quite right to observe an event where
people were trying to make a difference and not help. I felt a little
awkward just being there to observe as well, but I reminded her that
being counted among the numbers was helping. I pointed out all the
satellite trucks from the news stations lined up nearby and explained
they would not be there if it were not for the large crowds, of which we
were a part at that moment.
the day Ian returned
from his most recent deployment in Iraq. It’s filled with carnival and
game themed everything and it’s a real treat for the kids whenever
we’re in Madison, so that was an event in itself.
We went home, the kids got into their pajamas and brushed their
teeth, and then I found some clips of the circus on YouTube that we
watched snuggled together on my bed. On a school night that worked out
for the best anyway.
It’s so easy to lose sight of how lucky we are to have the way of
life we do. When you live in a country with real freedom and are
fortunate to be among those with the resources to enjoy it, you can
start to feel as if this is the natural state of the world. I’ve talked
to people who have expressed discomfort with Ian’s role as a soldier,
and I remind them that the only reason they have the luxury to live the
way they do is because people like him are willing to defend it. It
does not have to be the case that my daughters are encouraged to get an
education. It does not have to be the case that when we disagree with
our leaders we can say so publicly. It does not have to be the case
that I could make my own reproductive choices, live where I want to
live, marry whom I want to marry, and run my own business.
like a little thing that we went to the Y, or took the kids to Ella’s
Deli, or that we waited in line for the circus but went for a treat
instead. But that’s not little. That’s everything. That’s more than
most people in the world could ever hope for, and for us it was just an
unusually busy weekend. I’m hopeful as I watch the uprisings taking
place all at once in countries where people have suffered so much and
not known real freedom. I hope one day those families have so many good
choices that they can take expecting basic human rights for granted. I
hope in the not too distant future a protest against the government is
just another activity they can take their kids to on a Sunday afternoon.