Bubble wrap won’t work to protect my kids. So what do I do instead? I love—and teach them to love.
I write this with a broken heart.
I began this piece a few days ago, with an already incomprehensible amount of suffering going on in the world. My original intent was to lighten the burden, to write of how silliness saves me, how the return-to-fun fuels my family’s love. Then I woke up Sunday to discover that more lives have been taken, ruined, broken, by a man with a gun. And now I know my intent, still the same cry for love in its purist form, comes with even more desperate passion, more conviction that fun with my children matters, that the “no big deal” moments with our families matter—that the love and compassion we put into each act is meaningful. For, when our children go out into the world as adults, it will have been the compilation of these moments that has shaped them.
Our homes matter, our families matter. Our joy matters, our love matters.
I was going to write about how a kitchen dance party can take away the tedious stress of a day, how it can ease the negative vibes in a house. How a glass of wine and some good old Motown can send Mama back to the days when she was footloose and fancy free, how watching Mom and Dad be silly together can be a deeper lesson for the whole family.
Then Orlando happened. Another mass shooting. And now I can’t just write about the dance party as I had before, but the dancing suddenly become a metaphor for a much bigger picture. For how the tiny moments we spend as a family, nurturing these little beings, how they matter in a big way. How we may never know the full value of these moments we spend together, learning to navigate the world.
How finding the light, even in the darkest of days, guides us forward.
My heart has been heavy too often lately. I feel it deep in my soul, and physically in my body. I know I’m at a fragile point when watching my son skip down the road, not a care in the world, moves me to tears. When my daughter’s gorgeous greenish hazel eyes look out into the ocean and sparkle with the reflection and that pure image alone causes my stomach to flip flop and my throat to get thick with an emotion unnamed. I know there is heaviness when it terrifies me that one day I will have to let my spunky, empathetic, vibrant babes out into the big world.
My home is filled with immense love. And yet, all the time, I scroll through my newsfeed and find heartache, pain and horror of this world that should never be. I’m left with the eternal question – what can I do? What can I do?
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For a split second I feel hopeless, as though the situation is too large for me. Then I sit with the question, and I’m quiet with myself, the answer is always the same. Always, always, it comes back to love. Love bigger. Love brighter.
Show these tiny people, our children, that they are, in fact, correct and right and wise to love without hesitation. Children don’t look at others with judgment to decide who deserves their love and who doesn’t. No. Children see people, all people, for the light and the love that they are—they readily accept them. Children are taught, by something outside them, that some people are worthy of love, while others aren’t. They innately know how to love. We need to remember how to return to that place.
When I am so sad about the events in our world that I feel sick, I know its time to fight back with radiance, light, and joy. I will not allow hatred and fear seep into the walls of my family. I will not.
Here is where the silly, the fun, the healing of any kind comes into play. For us, it is often the kitchen dance party—an important part of my family’s healing. These dances may or may not include a glass of wine, but most definitely include some sort of fun music, horrible dance moves that my children think are AWESOME, and lots of laughter and forgetting the weight of the world.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned—as our kids grow, they are learning that the world is full of heaviness. More and more they will discover the serious, forgetting the innate joy they have claimed since birth. But I want them to know how to return to the only thing that truly matters: love. Pure and simple.
I want them to know how to heal their own hearts, and in doing so, I want them to know they are also healing their world. That their fun and laughter and joy and love matters.
I can’t change other people’s hate. But I can respond by pouring more love into my home.
Our world out there is scary. Quite incredibly scary. If I could keep my babies safe from it forever, I would do whatever that thing would be. I would wrap them in any sort of bubble wrap that would do the trick. But I can’t. Bubble wrap won’t work. So my number one priority becomes teaching my children to never let go of that love in their hearts. To have the tools to open their hearts to boundless joy, to relentless love. It’s the best gift I can give them. Every time I hear of hate in our world, the words of Lao-Tse return into my heart.
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
Our little actions, our day to day moments that seem trivial—they matter. This world doesn’t need our children striving to be successful or powerful, or whatever other words we may have fostered as a culture in the past. We need our children growing in love, present in love, ready to radiate love to every one they meet. They need to know joy, how to return to joy, how to keep hatred far away from their hearts. They need to believe their actions matter, that the peace, joy, and love in their hearts contribute to the never-ending ripple of kindness, compassion, and pure love that extends far beyond each of us.
As parents, as families, as a society, we need to slow down for the moments that foster love, for the spaces between that help love grow. We need to invite more space for beauty. We need to build up our children’s repertoire of kindness, compassion, and joyful heart space. Our children will be offered the chance to share love or to spread fear and hate more and more as they get older. It is my belief that it’s these small, slow-in-love moments that make up a childhood that will lead them to decide whether to love or to hate.
So what can we do at home? When we make time to assist the bird that flew into the window, we teach compassion. When we spend the first part of dinner sharing our ‘thankfuls,’ we teach gratitude. When we pause to cry for a friend who is sad, we teach feelings matter. When we stop to talk about each and every rhododendron in the neighborhood, we teach that beauty matters. When we sit in silence and simply feel, we teach to find an inner voice. When we dance, we teach that no outside source can steal our inner light.
It matters. It all matters. It has to.
We can’t keep hurting each other like this. We’ve got to be teaching that every heart matters. That joy wins over suffering. That families can heal—and that all healing can ripple out into our aching world. Every person and every family can show the haters that no one can take our sparkle away.
Love wins. Every single damn time. Love wins. How could we possibly tell our children anything else?