Resist the Bubble
I normally don't use this space for my political views. It's meant to be a documentation of our family life, and not much more. But with recent events I couldn't help but offer up my stance.
I'm not an informed mom these days. I was about to watch a news clip about Charlottesville when my son decided to take off his diaper and pour its contents onto our playroom carpet. While cleaning that mess, my 8-month-old twins screamed for food and my daughter complained about the smell.
It takes an enormous effort to think about the world outside of these walls right now. But when terrorist attacks and hate crimes happen, I'm reminded of how spoiled I am to have the option to retreat into our suburban sanctuary. If I wanted, I could never watch the news or check social media, and I'd live in a blissful state of ignorance. Happily scrubbing away at the feces on our floor.
It's easy to feel the magnetic pull of the bubble. That innate desire to keep our kids safe and innocent and protect them from the evils that exist in neighborhoods we don't have to live in. We strive to give our children something better than what we had growing up and love seeing the joy on their faces when life feels like a fairy tale.
But once in a while I have a bubble popping moment when my privileged position becomes blatantly obvious. This happened at the grocery store when we first started feeding my daughter formula. I looked throughout the baby aisle but couldn't find it. I didn't understand why it wasn't located next to the small jars of baby food, diapers and other baby items. Annoyed, I went to ask someone at the counter.
Before I could find someone to help, I saw the rows of formula displayed behind locked glass doors with metal bars across them. I didn't get it at first. I just felt inconvenienced and irritated that I had to ask for assistance in my rush to get home.
Then it dawned on me. Formula is expensive and babies need lots of it.
Desperate mothers were stealing those packages of formula.
In my mind I imagined a single woman working two jobs, who never had the choice to breastfeed because she had to be away from her baby most of the day. The wages she earned were just enough to pay for childcare, the rent, and a few groceries. She received all the information at the hospital telling her about her baby's brain development. How important it is to feed them right. In her natural desire to give her baby the best she could, she attempted to steal from the store, justifying her actions out of selfless love.
I sat there in the store staring at those packs of formula for a moment. As much as I could imagine that woman's scenario, I'd never truly know her pain. Part of me knew it was also highly unlikely that I'd ever cross paths with her. My children probably wouldn't play with her children. My kids wouldn't see what their life is like when dad isn't around and trunk loads of groceries don't appear on a regular basis. And they wouldn't understand the fear her kids feel when she needs to leave them home alone because she has to go to work.
Why should they be exposed to a life that is something they'll never live? This is a happy home. Bad things happen "other places".
Yet in my opinion, this way of thinking is what has created a huge divide in our nation and an intolerance of anything "different".
It's the privileged children who have access to the best education and opportunities. Because of this, they are most likely to reach leadership positions in our society. If throughout their lives they have little to no exposure of what life is like outside of their bubble, they are unable to empathize with the marginalized people they are leading who need the most help.
Some of these leaders, much like our current president, are like the bullies on the playground. They seek out people just like them, people they can relate to, and who won't make them feel guilty for their lack of perspective. They gang up on anyone who looks or thinks differently and make sure they clearly segregate themselves from outsiders.
As a parent, every single bit of my heart wants to protect my child from the injustice of the bully. I never want them feeling the shame of being on the outside.
In my current position in life, if I really wanted to, I could insulate my kids to an extent. At least until they reach middle school age. I could keep them under my wings, shut out the world, and lavish them with praise and love.
The praise and love will happen no doubt, but the truth is, what would make my heart more happy than their comfort, is to know that they recognize injustice and they act on it. They stand up to the bully and let their voice be heard. If they have the means, I hope they want to give to people who didn't grow up with their same advantages. And beyond giving, I hope they want to enter into the human experience of people unlike them.
I want them to know other races, religions, and economic situations exist. I want them to be grateful for their blessings but also impassioned with a desire to change the world. I want their faith to fuel their fight for social justice. I want them to know, without a doubt, that love trumps hate.
So, I've stated my wishes as a mother. I want to resist the bubble.
How do I do that? I'm not quite sure.
If I had the time, and the hours of my days weren't filled with diapers and tantrums, I think I'd start a non-profit. It would be called Resist the Bubble and it would be a resource for parents. A place to find information about how to have tough conversations about injustice. And maybe a tool to connect families from different backgrounds with opportunities to volunteer.
If this sort of thing already exists, please let me know. I don't have time to research right now, but someday I will. And if any parents out there have advice on resources for how to teach social justice to children, I would love to hear it. I'll make sure to gather whatever information I receive and share it on a future blog post.
In the meantime, I encourage all of us to resist the bubble and raise a generation of people that tolerate differences better than we do today.
The artwork at the top of this post is by Judith Edwards-White, a painter and scratchboard artist based in Queensland, Australia. I asked for her permission to use the image I found while looking for bubbles online. Resistance is hard. Parenting outside of our bubbles is hard, but necessary.
You can find more of her work here: http://judithedwards-white.weebly.com/