My little guy is sitting beside me, drawing, and his tongue is sticking out of his mouth in concentration. “Mom?” He looks up from his coloring sheet, one covered with superheroes and villains. “Why is Ironman called that when he doesn’t do any ironing?” I answer him, trying not to laugh, and notice that his eyes look green today. They reflect the dinosaurs marching across his pajamas. He was wearing them when we dropped the girls off at school, a little homebody who’s relieved to spend most of the day with me, away from the rest of the world.
Superheroes have powers, but what about us? What are ours? I try to keep telling myself that the best way to start changing the world–because yes, we need to, and no, we’re not overthinking it–is to begin with my own family. Show each person in this house unconditional love. Grant a little mercy and grace more often. Make each kid and adult feel like he’s someone good, someone worthy, someone capable.
And then somebody smears toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror and I lose my shit.
I started an argument over Trump with one of my family members Saturday, at a birthday gathering. Not my finest moment. Yesterday, I got up and went for an innocent run, then posted a dopey picture of the sunrise to Instagram before scrolling over to my news feed where the atrocities in Las Vegas were laid bare like some kind of surreal nightmare. I accidentally watched a video of the scene someone had taken while it was happening–I thought I was pulling up a news anchor’s commentary–and desperately wish I hadn’t. Because even though thousands of people experienced this horror, I shut down after a minute and thirty seconds.Changing the world is a lofty notion, isn’t it? I’m not consistent with calling my reps, though I do on and off. I’m not good at trying to listen to the “other side,” because often I feel that no one is listening to anybody, so what’s the point (and my opinion is right, so everybody needs to listen to me, of course. DUH.). And I’m not so good at stopping my mouth before the words come out with my kids, or David, or my beloved family member whose politics are different than mine. The term “gentle warrior” does not, nor ever will, apply to me. I’m more “feisty Irish girl who forgets why she’s mad two seconds after the fact.” That hasn’t changed, though I keep trying at that, too.
I’m naive. I’m ignorant. I’m hopeful and well-intentioned but terrible at follow-through. But each day my kids leave for school I make sure to hug them tight. I wave until they’re out of my sight, out of both fear as much as love. I watch Cian in his dinosaur pjs asking me questions about strength and power as he colors a superhero (who most definitely does not have time to iron). There’s so much bad out there. It’s woven through our very fabric, personal and societal. Yes, there’s good. Of course there’s good. But it’s so easy to settle into the bad: acceptance. Ignorance. Selfishness.
This morning I looked into my son’s green eyes as he talked about dinosaurs and heroes. I wanted to take a picture of his little tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth while he drew. My goal, every day, is to live in a way that will make him and his sisters want to continue to make the world better. More days than not, I fail. But I’m also stubborn.
I’ve already been called too hippie, a “You Liberal” (by different people, even), and a bad Catholic for my views. But honestly, that’s fine. God is love, folks. And most of us choose and vote and try really, really hard to act the way we think love should work in the world. This is mine.
To end gun violence, get in touch with Everytown for Gun Safety (please note: the important words here are “gun SAFETY,” not gun banning). Text ACT to 64433.
An incredible tool for contacting your representatives is Resistbot. Text RESIST to 50409.
I follow Father James Martin, SJ (@jamesmartinsj), Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean), Pope Francis (@pontifex), and Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries (@frgregboyle), on social media (all are authors, as well). They are most definitely not bad Catholics.
Today I’m going to spend time with my children and write some words. I’m going to clean up my kitchen, because even though I’m a natural-born slob, my kids deserve to grow up in a house that’s at least working toward calm and peace. I’m going to call my husband, who’s teaching some colleagues today and either really overwhelmed or really happy to be away from the messy kitchen. And then I’ll figure out how to work on some bigger stuff. Little, then big, over and over again.Until the change happens.
We’re in the car (again, always), heading home from school. Saoirse asks me…