They Are Only Shoes Little One

While I generally just buy clothes for both the boys for back to school, I let them pick their own shoes. I know their styles enough to know what they like to wear. Both like skinny jeans. My oldest one loves simple t-shirts, video game/novelty tees, and long sleeved thermal shirts/those 2-tone baseball shirts. My younger son is a bit pickier than that, but he rarely complains about what he gets. He especially loves Gap and Nike shirts. The only shirt he really hates wearing is his “I Know I’m In Trouble When They Use My Full Name” shirt. It was appropriate for him and it was funny.

Shoes are all up to them. I won’t buy shoes without them because A) I want to make sure they fit right; and B) They know what they find comfortable. Before going out to get shoes, I asked them what they wanted so I knew where to go to buy them. My oldest knew that he wanted a pair of Chucks, then a custom pair for his birthday. Easy enough. My youngest, first Googled “Cool Sneakers” and decided he wanted a pair that were $900. Nope. That’s not happening. Eventually he decided that he really liked his Skechers GoRuns because they made him “run super fast”. So he wanted a new pair of those.

We took them shopping. My oldest went to a couple of stores before he went back to the first store to buy a pair of blue Chucks, which were hilariously enough the same color as his school’s color and his championship swim coat that he lives in. We went to another store, allowing the younger son to wander around until he found a pair of shoes that he loved. They were a cool pair of blue/neon green GoRuns and he thought they were the coolest shoes he had ever seen. He loved those shoes.

….Until he didn’t. My younger one complained about his new shoes, how he now hated them. “Well, you liked them when you bought them. You’re not getting a new pair.” My son started to get anxious about them. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he mentioned about how his friends were making fun of his shoes because he didn’t have the “right” shoes. He’s 7. I carefully tried to explain to him about how it didn’t matter what they said. That they are only shoes. That he was a person and that shoes didn’t matter. The shoes didn’t make you a better person. They didn’t make you any cooler or more likable. That it didn’t matter what these kids were saying.

I lied. Things like that do matter to other people. They do matter to make people more likable because kids judge other kids on things like that. I know I lied. He knows I lied. But I was right; they were just shoes and he was awesome no matter what shoes he wore. Those weren’t cheap shoes. They were nice, name brand shoes. Mostly because we’ve tried getting shoes from stores like Target and Walmart, and he tears through them in a month. At least the name brand shoes last him a few months before he destroys them.

I told my husband about this. My approach was to just let him wear the shoes, to try building up his self-confidence in standing up for himself. My husband’s approach was “what shoes do the kids say are the right shoes?” I wasn’t surprised. He told me before that he grew up being laughed at for being Asian, because his mom was “different” from the other moms, because he didn’t have the “right brands on”. I was bullied pretty brutally myself growing up. My husband felt that he was going to give them one less thing to bully his son about. He couldn’t change the fact that our youngest has anxiety or was “too Asian” or that he needs to wear noise-cancelling headphones to function sometimes. But he could change those shoes.

So he did. We went and got him a new pair of sneakers. He considered it a birthday present. Throughout the ride home, we kept trying to reinforce the idea that what other people think doesn’t matter. If you like your shoes, then they can buzz off. That it only matters if he’s a good person, a kind friend, and a compassionate individual. He didn’t care. He could only talk about how no one was going to make fun of him for his shoes now…

We’re guilty of spoiling our children. We know that. But I’d like to think my children never rub that in someone else’s face. We try to make sure that they appreciate the nice things that they have, but how they are lucky to have it. That not everyone is that lucky. That doesn’t make them better than anyone else. And when you have more, you are supposed to give back more. I see my oldest one taking these lessons, slipping money into donation bins or asking to buy things from a shopping list for donating to charities. We make sure that we donate grocery bags to charities during the holidays or donating here and there for various causes, and putting our kid’s names on the paper. This way they can feel proud that they helped.

It’s hard to be a mother when something like that happens. It’s hard not to want to be petty and buy the most expensive pair of shoes that you can to help your kid one up the ones making fun of them. It’s hard not to let your kids see how angry you are when these things happen. It’s hard not to do everything that you can to prevent bullying from affecting your children. But at some point, you need to realize a couple of things. One is that you need to do what you can to help their self-confidence. The other thing is that you can’t control the fact that other kids are going to bully your kid. It sucks and there’s only so much that you can do about it. They are only shoes, after all.

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Voting In Your Local Elections

I would argue if you aren’t going to bother with voting in major elections, because you don’t think your vote counts, you should at least focus your attention on your local elections. These are the elections that are going to have a significant impact on your everyday life. The people you elect in these elections impact your schools and safety. They will be the ones that decide things like stupidly small trash barrels and overpriced but cheaply made yellow bags for your overflow trash. While the national elections have an effect in ways, these local elections are crucial to your way of life.

Today in my city, we are having a preliminary election. The big piece of this is narrowing down the list of mayoral candidates, though some wards also have candidates fighting for their place on the city council ballots. In my ward, our councilman is running uncontested which isn’t a surprise. He seems like a reasonable person that genuinely cares about his job and his constituents. Even though the outcomes on my street are probably going to go back to exactly how they were, he tried to make the street safer. I don’t fault him for anything other than trying to make everyone happy.

The big race comes down to the mayoral candidates: a past mayor who wants to run the city again, a guy who thinks of himself as the heir apparent to the position, a public servant of the city for a long time, and another candidate. This list needs to be narrowed down to 2 candidates.

I struggled a long time with who to choose here. Well, I already had the list down to two people. One already had their chance to run the city. The other, well, my personal opinions based on what I’ve seen made that a non-starter. That narrows it down to the perceived heir apparent of the city and someone who hasn’t really involved himself in politics. After a back and forth on that decision and meeting one of the candidates, one thing hit me. One of them had a place to make positive change in the city, to say no to those ridiculous trash barrels, to come up with some solution long before the “Oh crap, what do we do now?, and chose not to. The other seems to have a genuine heart to improve the city and serving in those schools my children are/will attend so he understands what can make these schools even better.

It may only be a preliminary, but it’s still an election. The city needs a positive change and today is the first step in making that change. So getting out and voting is a necessary thing to do today.

Kids Learn More Than You Think

My oldest child is at that fascinating age of almost 17. There are so many things that make this age interesting. This is where they start doing their driving school thing. But even more interesting than the shift to adulthood as far as physical growth, is the other aspects of it. It’s the watching them learn to navigate through life. It’s watching them carefully think and form their own opinions. It’s watching their struggle as they try to break away from you while still understanding there is a lot that they have to learn in the world.

For as long as I can remember, my son wanted to be a forensic scientist. Eventually this grew into a want of being like Abby from NCIS: a forensic chemist but also a cyber forensic specialist. His goal has long been to work for the FBI to help solve crimes and make a difference in the world. I never told him what to be. But, apparently my fondness for crime shows rubbed off on him. Though now he is also wondering if he should be more like Spencer Reid, boy genius. It’s his life. I’m just here to offer support and advice as he asks.

That’s another fascinating thing about this age: your shifting role as a parent. With my younger son, it’s all about teaching right from wrong. It’s doling out punishments for not going to bed on time. It’s picking out their clothes until they learn that stripes and camo is not a great look. You give 6/7 year old choices, but you are still the one making their decisions for them. They don’t know any better yet. At 17, you’re done with that. Sure, you still make them take out the trash and do their chores, but now it’s about them. You give them a curfew of 12am, and remind them that this means they need to be walking in the door before the click hits that number. But you aren’t there to run their life anymore. Now, you let go and hope to whatever entity that you believe in that you did a passable job.

You’re not going to be there when they are at that party where they are offered a beer or drugs. You have to hope that they hear your voice of disapproval in their ear. You have to hope that if they did make the wrong decision in that moment that you were compassionate enough so that they call you instead of getting in the car with someone who is under the influence. I always told my son “my 10 minute lecture the next day is better than not having a next day”. I won’t lie and say that I won’t be disappointed in his decision, but I’d rather him alive than dead because he was too afraid to call me. I’d like to think that my child is always going to make the right choices, but I’m a realist. He’s going to screw up. I just hope that he knows I’m here to help pick him up afterwards. With my judgement of his situation to come later.

But what’s even more fascinating is the things they learn. My son reads the news, and like me doesn’t trust anything he reads. So he reads more until he’s down a rabbit hole where he feels like he has a good grasp on it. He talks about social justice, asking why things aren’t this way. Then I explain the logistics of “it may sound like a great idea, but like most great ideas, people ruin them”. He doesn’t like that answer. Even more recently, he has become fascinated by cold cases from watching crime shows with me and fascinated with things like false convictions. It turns out, these are things that have further inspired him to follow his current dreams. He doesn’t want good guys to get locked up because someone didn’t do their job in the crime lab. He doesn’t want families to not get justice for their loved ones. So much to the point of when he read “The Lovely Bones” for summer reading, he got so mad that he read the end of the book before he could move on because he couldn’t stand the fact the bad guy got away with it.

I say this a lot in these blogs, but you are not raising kids: you’re raising adults. Whether you realize it or not, your every action can impact your kid and this will either set them on the right path or the wrong one. It’s a big responsibility raising the next generation, but that’s what you signed up for when you made the decision to become a parent. Somewhere along the line, parents stopped remembering that and look where we are now because of that. Kids bully others because they see adults bully. They show kindness because they saw kindness. They work hard because they grew up with a work ethic. If we don’t teach these kids properly, other people will. And that usually never ends well.

When Safety and Convenience Collides

I’ve had this long saga going on, dealing with the fellow residents on my street. You may have read the stories and followed along on the blog with this first major part, then the second part where the neighbors took this as a slight to them. As if this was all about some vendetta the city and I had against them. As if I was the only person who complained about the parking around the street, which it turns out has been a long running joke in Chicopee for forever despite their insistence that everything was fine until the troublemakers (us) moved in.

Recently, there was a decision where the street would be a one way street and that they would add some apartment parking on the street. What does this mean for the parking signs? Do we still get no parking around the bend so that emergency vehicles can safely maneuver around the street? I guess we’ll find out when I have to subject myself to another meeting of dirty looks and name calling.

What I do know is that I’ve never felt more safe on the street than I did when the signs went up. Even though I got dirty looks, people yelling passive-aggressively as I was outside because I was the cause for all their problems in the world. They didn’t care that the neighborhood was safer now. They cared that they wanted to do whatever they wanted, park wherever they wanted, because they are entitled to that. They have a right to be pissed; their parking situation is equally nightmarish as our street is with only 110 parking spots for 150 apartments.

I am scared. Not that I’m going to get mugged by my neighbors. My husband, who always worries, got enough of a security system where even if something does happen, it’ll be on camera or I can hit the panic button quickly to scare people off and get help right away. I’m not scared about that. I’m scared that things will go back to the way it was. Where cars wouldn’t be able to see the kids walking to and from the sidewalk to get to their school or bus stop or just going to the playground. I’m scared that I won’t be able to let my son play on the front yard again because what if another tractor trailer ends up on my lawn. Or even get scared about him riding his bike on the street because the cars blocked the speeding cars on the street from seeing him and he gets hurt or killed. I worry about those things. The neighbors? Don’t seem to care. I’m “just mad some pots got destroyed”. They don’t care that I put those pots there for the purpose of causing some resistance so that vehicles would stop driving on my lawn. They don’t care that it wasn’t 1 tractor trailer, it was 4 in 4 years. What if my son was there? What if the one had enough force to actually hit that tree into my house? But yea, totally about those pots….

I hope things turn out better than I’ve imagined in my head. My sons start school soon and I have enough things to worry about when it comes to their safety at school. I don’t need to worry about them getting hurt coming to and from. I don’t need to worry about an emergency happening and the ambulances and fire trucks not getting to us or our neighbors in time to save them. But, I might have to go back to worrying because parking wherever they want is more important than that. And I’m just a horrible human being for thinking that safety matters.

When a Bad Man Dies

When I saw the news about Epstein dying, I honestly cannot say my first thought was anything other then “oh well, a sleazy perv died and will get away with his horrific stuff. But at least he’s dead.” I didn’t immediately go tin foil hat. I didn’t care. Honestly, a bad guy dying is insignificant to me. He was either going to go free or not. If he went free like he did last time, the victims wouldn’t get justice. If he didn’t, he’d probably die in jail because pedos aren’t looked upon too highly in prison.

But then the crazies came out of the woodwork. If you were an irrational Republican, the memes and theories were all about the Clinton’s. If you were an irrational Democrat, it was all about Trump. Then there are the crazies who are convinced the royal family killed Princess Diana, who think the royal family did it. The memes are funny enough, but the unfortunate reality is that people believe them.

If you want to go the route of “It wasn’t suicide”, then there are a mass amount of rich, famous, and powerful men he could take down. There could be any number of them that would have the means to get this done. Last I checked, he was friends with both the Trump’s and Clinton’s and likely had dirt on both of them. These families were friends once, maybe it was a joint effort. Both have a lot to lose if those secrets came out, especially the family that is clinging so desperately to the presidency right now.

Or… alternatively, it was just a suicide. He was a cowardly man who preyed upon children. He was spineless. He thought because he was rich and influential that he would just get away with it like he did last time. Only, that wasn’t likely going to happen this time. He didn’t want to face that, so he did the Aaron Hernandez thing and just killed himself to get a loophole acquittal. I promise, sometimes things are just really that simple.

Instead of assuming he got away with something or that the secrets died with him, remember the victims. Listen to what they have to say because you would’ve learned more from them than him anyways. But you won’t listen to him. Because the minute one of them says the words “Clinton” or “Trump”, you won’t believe them. You will say they were paid off. They are making it up for political reasons, just as you have always said when these victims came forward. Kavanaugh didn’t do it, it was obviously a ploy to take away his entitled seat on the Supreme Court. But… what if he did? You assume Monica Lewinsky was a willing participant, but… what if she really wasn’t? Don’t lie and pretend that you care about the facts. You don’t. You care about what facts you can twist to fit whatever theory you have in your mind.

Me? I’m sad his victims won’t get the exact justice that they deserve, but I am glad that there is one less pedo in the world praying on children. I can go to sleep just fine at night knowing that.

No, Racism Isn’t Dead

Do you know who thinks racism is dead? People who have never experienced racism. Sure, I’m a white Irish girl from a middle class family so of course I haven’t experienced racism towards me. I wasn’t raised to be a racist. I had friends across the spectrum because I didn’t care what you were. I just made friends with people. I may have thought that racism was dead back then because I never saw it. My parents welcomed all of my friends because they trusted my judgement. I couldn’t even fathom that there were racist people out there.

Until I saw it. My first experiences with it happened when I started dating my now husband ages ago. People stared a little as we held hands walking around. I heard him get called some pretty awful names for both Asian people and Hispanic people. Which was hilarious, because he’s not Hispanic at all. But it wasn’t hilarious, because WTF people. He was annoyed, but brushed it off. You could tell this was something he’s definitely dealt with before.

After some time that faded away and I forgot about those incidences. Until this one time when we went voting together after we got married. I was looking around a the line and people walked up, got their ballots, and went on their way. Then my husband walked up and I heard something that I had never heard before. “Can I see your ID please?” I looked around him at the person, trying to figure out if I needed to run back to the car to get my ID because I didn’t have it on me. He was stunned, but pulled out his card and showed them his ID. He got his ballot and walked towards the booth area. I walked up, hesitantly. I gave my address and something strange happened: I didn’t need to show my ID. I didn’t see anyone else pull out their ID in a sea of other people that “looked like me”. I don’t believe in coincidences.

Then, the incident that really shook me. The one where some little girl refused to play with my son because he was a little Chinese boy. That wasn’t the last time that he was referred to as a Chinese boy in a negative way. It probably won’t be the last time he experiences racism because he happens to be part Korean. When I married my husband, I didn’t care about that. I cared that this was someone who treated me well and loved me and my son. I cared that he was my better half. I didn’t think “oh maybe I shouldn’t marry him because he’s different from me and I’m going to birth children who were different”.

So no, racism isn’t dead. Just because you’ve never dealt with it or witnessed it for yourself, doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. Just because you’ve never met a white supremacist, doesn’t mean that there aren’t white supremacists out there. The idea of that is insane to me. Just because they aren’t walking around in white sheets, doesn’t mean that it’s some tin foil conspiracy. It’s dangerous to say things like that, especially when you have such a massive following of people that mistake you for news instead of an opinion guy speaking out of his butt.

In short, racism exists and it’s dangerous to ignore that. As parents, it’s our job to raise our kids not to hate by showing them not to hate. That little girl that was ignoring my boy because he was “Chinese” was too young to become a racist on her own. At that age, she learned that behavior. We can easily stop this problem by teaching our children to be better.

You Guys Had it All Wrong… It Was the Video Games!

It was only a matter of time before the conversation came back to the favorite scapegoat: video games. Of course it isn’t the fact that these psychotic people shouldn’t have been able to legally purchase those guns to begin with. That isn’t the problem. The problem isn’t the fact that society has become more emboldened again to show off their racist and hatred-filled rhetoric to those youth that are vulnerable to those things. No, it’s the fact that a kid likes to play Fortnite or Overwatch that’s the problem.

For the people who are all about “guns don’t cause violence, people do” to turn around to go “guns don’t cause violence, but people do because they play video games” is a ridiculous argument. Look at the eSports community across the globe. Last I checked, Korea and Japan don’t have a mass shooting problem in their countries and those are probably the biggest countries for gaming. But please, tell me how I’m a terrible person because I enjoy games that may or may not be considered “violent” and allow my kids to play video games. Spoiler: I allow them to play video games because video games don’t cause violence. People cause violence, if you want to use that same line to protect your precious guns. I will fight for my right to play harmless video games more than I will fight for yours to have a gun that can shoot off 100 rounds too many per minute.

There have been the same amount of legit studies that show that vaccines are harmful as there are legit studies to show that video games cause violence. Spoiler #2: There are none. But science doesn’t matter when you want a scapegoat that doesn’t make you lose millions in lobbying money from the NRA. If video games had lobbyists that spent as much as the NRA does, this wouldn’t even be a conversation right now. But politicians don’t care about people; they care about money.

I’m not sure if they don’t care to find a solution, because as long as they are making millions it doesn’t matter if people they don’t know are getting shot and killed at these mass shootings. There has to be a solution, but politicians are too dumb, lazy, and greedy to figure it out. Maybe if there was more God in the culture they say. What they mean to say “If there was more Christian God in the culture”. Sure, you can vote new people in, but people can be easily bought to trade in their morals and integrity. They can make big promises but they won’t deliver. Our kids will continue dying. One day it will be someone in our family, maybe yours. Maybe even some day a politician’s family will be affected by these tragedies. Will it matter then?

The fact is that there is a solution, somewhere, that’s a compromise. Asking for stricter background checks before you let people buy guns that shoot multiple rounds at once is reasonable. Making laws that have people convicted of violent crimes or have proven to be a danger to others have their legal guns taking away is a reasonable answer. There are reasonable solutions that don’t interfere with your right to have guns and for other people to have the right to live. But it won’t happen, because no one wants to come to the middle since this whole damn country is a divided place where people hate just because. Where they won’t open their minds to hear another side. Where if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you’re automatically enemies. I used to think we were better than this. I try to teach my kids that we are better than this. I’m really starting to doubt if we are as we slide further down this path of disregard for other people. And that isn’t the fault of guns or video games or a lack of God. It’s our fault.