A few weeks ago I was sort of lurking behind the scenes in one of those Facebook groups created to share business referrals within my suburban town. A homeowner was having a horrendous problem with her lawn. Could anyone recommend a landscaper? Someone who could finally rid her of those unsightly weeds?
In response, she received plenty of referrals of places to call from other home owners, but there was one comment buried within the midst of all the others that stood out.
“I wish people would stop making their lawns so pretty. Those damn fertilizers are chasing everything away. We used to have butterflies in this town. We used to have ugly lawns and butterflies. Now we just have nice lawns.”
This morning I woke up and I looked out at my perfectly nice lawn and turned on the news. More people are dead. They didn’t have to tell me anything about the shooter. I expected I already knew exactly what he was like. He was young. And angry and isolated. Here we are again. 1 shooter. 10 dead. A regular day. Another school.
Oh, I know. This is the part where I’m supposed to yell and scream for gun control. It’s not to say I don’t still think we need to get so many guns off the streets. I do. But the part that stays with me about these stories, the part that leaves a pit in my stomach every single day I put my kids on the school bus and think about Sandy Hook because I do – I think about Sandy Hook every single day that I say goodbye to my children - is that bad people will always find a way to do shitty stuff. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop them, but the inability to predict the randomization of it all, of not knowing when someone’s fuse will light? It haunts me.
The thing about the suburbs is that everything is so nice here. We want to make sure our kids are in class with their friends so that they are comfortable. We cut the bad parts off of the apple. We re pave the streets. Again and again and again. We are turning ourselves inside and out to make everything so nice for our kids, so pretty. I wonder if we’re really fucking that one up.
Because we know the truth. We know that life is equal parts pain and pleasure. Do we tell them this? Do we own this? Or do we let it sneak up on them until it eats at them as if a piece of that rotten fruit, making them think they are different and bad because their insides don’t match the smooth and perfect world that we raised them up in. Kids today seem to know how to do everything at a staggeringly young age. My seven year old can do PowerPoint. My five year old can Google stuff. But I’m wondering if I’ve really sat them down and said, sometimes all of it will suck. And you need to own that. And talk about it.
We need to tell them that sometimes you get the class with none of your friends in it. That’s okay. Talk to the kids you might not have otherwise. Learning to build new relationships will be one of the single biggest determining factors in your future success. Sometimes kids won’t look nice or smell nice or be nice. Do your best. Be your best. Reach out anyway. Sometimes be someone else’s light. Even to the shitty kids. It’s easy to be nice to the cute kids. The real work is learning to reach out to the dicks. Learn how to accept other people’s light. Learning how to ask for and accept help will be your second biggest factor in determining your future success.
And don’t be afraid to own your own potential to be a dick. Because once in a while each of us is. And the only way we learn is if someone calls us on our bullshit. Care enough to call your kids on their bullshit. Kids, care enough to own your bullshit.
My mother in law is fond of calling my husband a weed meaning you could throw him just about anywhere and he would thrive. Indeed she is right. And it sets me to wondering if I shouldn’t do my part to work harder to raise my kids to own their thorns, their inevitable rough patches. I need to resist that manicured suburban instinct of mine to try to pluck the bad parts out of their life. I need to let them taste the shitty part of the apple. Because sometimes life is bitter and brown.
Maybe then, when we all acknowledge that life isn’t quite as glossy as we are working so hard to make our children think it is. Well, maybe then they’ll stop being so pissed at us for selling them a bill of goods.
And maybe then the butterflies will finally come back.