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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What you need to know... and what I need to know.

Lots of silence. I've heard precious little about Tamir Rice from people in my community. Back when he was shot and killed last November, I didn't hear much. And now that we've learned that the people responsible for his death won't be indicted, I still haven't heard much.

I understand that white people aren't always equipped to discuss matters of race. People fear saying the wrong thing, many of us aren't raised with any level of comfort around talking about race. I get that. And maybe people aren't watching the news. Maybe you really don't know about what happened to 12 year-old Tamir and his family.

So here's what you need to know:

Last November, a 12 year-old boy named Tamir was shot and killed by police for having a toy gun on a playground.  The 911 call indicated that it was likely a toy and that he was a juvenile. That important information wasn't relayed to police and he was shot by a police officer within two seconds of police arrival. And there's a video of the entire incident. This week we learned that the two police officers involved in shooting 12 year-old Tamir Rice will not be indicted.

You need to know that although Tamir didn't die until the next day, no one offered him any aid for 4 minutes. Police officers stood around a 12 year-old boy they had just shot and did nothing for four minutes.

You need to know that when his 14 year-old sister came running over to help him, she was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a police car to watch her brother die. The same police officers who stood around and failed to render aid to the 12 year-old they had just shot, handcuffed his big sister. Audio from the scene reports that she was saying "He's moving! He's still alive."

You need to know that the the police officer who shot him had been identified by a former police force as having had a "dangerous loss of composure" during firearms training. He had been labelled as not being emotionally equipped to handle the stresses of the job.

You need to know that this happened in an open-carry state. So even if Tamir had been a grown man with a gun on the playground, there was nothing he was doing that was illegal.

You need to watch the video. I normally don't advocate watching violence. But this happened here. In our country. To a child. You need to see for yourself how quickly Tamir was shot, how his sister (also a child) was treated, and how long it took for anyone to provide any aid.  Citizens and all of our good police officers deserve better than this: no indictment means no accountability for police officers who act like this.

And then there are some things I need to know. Why would we stay silent when something like this happens? I don't understand how any of this is acceptable, how any of us could not be moved to tears, to anger, to frustration, to SOMETHING, to know that this has happened. Police officers, people we trust to protect us, not only killed this boy but the system isn't going to even try to hold them accountable for their actions. Supporting our police means holding them accountable when they go awry. Good officers know this. Good officers want this. This isn't anti-police by any means.

Christians... Jesus gave us the tall order to love our neighbor as ourselves. He said that's how we can show how much we love God. There's a mother out there who not only lost her little boy, but whose daughter was traumatized by seeing it happen. A mama who's daughter was thrown to the ground and handcuffed when she ran to help her little brother as he lay dying on the ground, shot by the people who were supposed to keep her safe. She is our neighbor. We need to stand with her and call for justice.

Christians... that same tall order calls for us to love those police officers. I don't know what has happened to them in their lives that brought them to the point that they could shoot a child and then stand around not helping him. But they deserve to be held accountable. Saying that their actions that day were acceptable is enabling a broken system and is no way to love them. We need to call for justice for them as well. They are our neighbors too. Give them justice and a chance to change, a chance to provide some kind of restitution.

And I need to know: if you don't care about this now, what will you say to me when it happens to my child? Will you speak up then? Because by then I'll have lost my baby. What Tamir did wrong on the playground that day was have the wrong color skin. The system that is failing to provide justice for Tamir is sending me a message: the life of one of my children is much less valuable than that of the other two.

Silence about this sends that same message.

I need to know if you understand how harmful your silence is.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Calling All Elf Parents!

from huffingtonpost.com 
Are you an Elf Mom? Or an Elf Dad? Welcome! Let's have a little chat...

If you are anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with your Elf. Our Elf's name is Clark. And I love how much my kids love Clark. I love their excitement when they find him in a new spot. I dislike, however, that I never seem to remember that Clark exists until AFTER I've gotten into bed. If I had a penny for every time I said, "Dangit! I forgot to move Clark!" I could probably fund Christmas for everyone. I also dislike the crazy weirdness that Elfhood somehow sparks in parents when we compare ourselves to one another based on our Elf-selves.

My challenge to all of us, Elf Moms & Dads, is to remember the cool stuff about the Elf tradition. Elves, much like the moms & dads behind them, have different personalities, different energy levels and differing amounts of buy-in to this whole ordeal. I love that every family does their Elf-thing differently. In my family, although we do believe in Santa, we don't teach our kids that Santa only brings toys to good kids. It just doesn't jam with our parenting style to use Santa for behavior modification. And it's so nice that our Elf falls in line: we don't read the book, and Clark has become more like a liason between Santa & my kids. They send Santa notes through Clark sometimes but there's nothing about being good or reporting on behavior. It works for us.

All this diversity in the Elf community also means that some Elves will be a little more lazy. Some will insist upon good behavior. Some will be over-the-top. Some will be creative and some, like Clark, will never intend to move every single day anyway. And all of that is okay.

We love to hate each other on the internet, don't we? I admit I have gotten a little eye-rolley over some particularly fabulous Elf photos I've seen on social media. And I've nodded along as I've read articles about how parents need to keep their Elf-mania in check.

But you know what? Someone else's fabulous Elf-skills really aren't hurting me and my family. That comparison & judging is all in my own head. My kids have come home and said, "So & so's Elf brought them money!" Or "So & so's Elf had elf-sized donuts for breakfast and has a new outfit every day!" It's tempting to think that the Elf Mom or Dad behind Super-Elf is making me look bad. But they really aren't. I can calmly say, "Hmmm... why don't you leave some of your cereal out for Clark for tomorrow?" or I can even just say, "How cool!" and leave it at that.  It's okay for kids to see that life looks different for different people sometimes. It might even build character or something crazy like that.

So let's stop judging and comparing one another through our Elf-selves. If you have phenomenal Elf-skills and have decided that it's worth your time to do amazing Elf-antics, I applaud you! I'm glad there are fun people like you out there in the world. I do actually enjoy seeing the pictures of the over-the-top stuff you do.  And I promise not to roll my eyes at you this year. Are you a lazy Elf or a forgetful Elf? Have you decided that amazing Elf-scenes just aren't worth your time? No worries. Solidarity, friend - I'm in this camp. And I bet the amazing Elf Parents will promise not to roll their eyes at our lackluster attempts at Elfhood.

And I have a Christmas present for you: some Elf Printables! Just print these cards & cut 'em out. Now you have a fun little card to stick in your Elf at 2 am when you've woken up out of a deep sleep haunted by the sudden realization that you forgot to move the damn Elf. I always plan for my Elf to stay in the same spot a few times so that it doesn't seem weird on the days I forget (planned laziness: it's an acquired skill). I also included our "Minivan Express" tickets. I have our Elf bring them every year on the morning that we were already planning to go drive around & look at Christmas lights. And, of course, feel free to use these cards to create a flawless Elf scene involving your children's toys and some flour. Or something.

You'll also find the tags I use for our gifts from Santa. We do the "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" thing and it has really helped me keep a handle on not making Christmas about all the stuff.

I love y'all. Parenting is hard. Our Elves don't have to make it harder. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.