When Activism Becomes Extreme.

On observations…
 
Activism, no matter what form or shape or cause, is comprised of passion. An injustice is seen and vigorously fought for. As with any activism; there are extremists. Those who find themselves so overtaken with the injustice that emotions often drive the conversation, which frequently leads to heated arguments instead of civil discussions.
 
I fully understand these individuals. I was one; and still am sometimes and trying to change. These are the people who attack on a personal level because they find it very difficult to separate the person from the act. A good friend told me once: “Sometimes you have to punch someone in the face to get their attention.” It’s a beautiful saying and I fully agree. However, it can be done without making it personal.
 
As soon as you go on the offensive (or defensive) with attacking, an insurmountably wall erects itself and the conversation becomes dead before it begins. No one will learn, or even be interested in learning, at this point. Why would they? At this point you’re defending your pride, not your argument.
 
In many instances it’s best to just disengage and walk away. Save your sanity from those who have no desire in learning your side. Being rude and uncivil is what makes movements seem to be led by a bunch of unhinged loons that people take with a grain of salt. Unfortunately a bad reputation is a common byproduct of activism.
 
Before I became a father, I thought nothing of spanking, circumcision or allowing a child to cry in a vein attempt to train them. Now as a father, I have learned better and fight vehemently against them. I see the injustice in these. I voice these opinions. I will not stop voicing them. But just because I don’t allow myself to lash out at a naysayer by arguing or allow myself to walk away upon realizing their intent is not to truly understand but to simply argue and pot-stir; in no way am I condoning that injustice or accepting it’s continuance.

On my blog, I have many many people that don’t necessarily agree with everything; but do listen. They lie in the background, absorbing what is being said and reading the comments. They take some advice and leave some advice. What if one of these people are on the fence and see someone admit they spank or someone that circumcised their child or left them to cry or any else you don’t agree with. What if this person who admitted this was attacked and pounced on by ‘peaceful’ activists? What if this person watching then decided to deem the cause as batshit crazy? I will always defend my opinion. I will always discuss my position. But I will never attack or bash.

The more we are the crazy, the bashing, the unhinged offensive attacks; the less we allow the movement to move forward. The more we are willing to teach through understanding, modeling and with poise; the more we will be listened to as a sane voice. A voice worth listening to. We can be that voice without the extremism. Extremism is not a good thing.

The evolution of the relationship with my son.

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DinoBoy and myself enjoying popcorn and goofing with the camera. This is the picture that choked me up.

The other night I cried.

It was a personal moment.  The rest of my family was peacefully sleeping. I was browsing through hundreds of old pictures; searching for that perfect one for a profile picture for an upcoming interview. There were endless pictures of just my son and I. Some were selfies where we were goofing around making silly faces. Others were of just him, enjoying life; unhindered with no agenda. They were all taken while my wife was at work and we were on mini-adventures; whether at home or while out.

These were moments just the two of us shared; a still frame from a life still being lived. I pause at one picture. It is slightly blurry and not well shot. It’s fuzzy, much like my memory of the moment in time it captures. This photo is both flawed and perfect. It represents more than just the image it contains. It holds the power to conjure memories. Those of my son and I dancing in the living room, gazing upon the moon in wonderment, sneaking in a bowl of popcorn after my wife went to bed, our hikes through nature during the brisk fall in the Midwest. Moments when we could just stop and have a cuddle on the couch while indulging in cartoon.

It was then that it dawned on me. This chapter that I am recalling is complete. Written and concluded. That these free, unbridled moments when it was just two of us are now over. The world we used to enjoy as a duo has quickly evolved into a trio. Those quiet, intimate moments no longer exists with the same frequency. My attention is now divided between two children who need me equally, but in different capacities.

In that moment, the realization of how much I truly missed the closeness, that special bond and the undivided attention I had with my son became too much. The emotions flooding me culminated into a lump in my throat that could not be swallowed. Only tears alleviated them. It felt as if I was mourning the loss of a relationship. A relationship that is evolving so fast I failed to see it. A child growing so quickly I did not want to admit it.

The relationship with my son has not been lost. It is not  fizzling. Rather it has matured. He understands. He is quickly becoming more independent. It was that independence that I mistook as a lack of connection. Our bond is still strong; still intact. The neediness is gone. The clinginess is fading. In its place is a new being. One that is needy. One that is clingy. One that needs that constant touch, love and holding. He sees this. He understands. He is not mourning this evolving relationship. He is embracing it. At times we both fumble in the moment, but he knows.

After the emotions run their course and I feel better for having them; I now know. I understand.  It is now time for me to embrace it.

Lamenting the Past. Embracing the Present.

I was driving down a pedestrian inhabited street, looking at all the various people as I pass them. My mind drifting to imagine their life; their current state of being. While observing all the smiling, carefree faces as they walk, jog and congregate at will I was suddenly struck with a sense of limitation. Everything now took planning and preparation. The inability to be spontaneous was subconsciously being mourned.

I lay in bed; listening to the 3-day music festival taking place just a block from my house. Its heavy bass and screaming vocals infiltrating my quiet bedroom as my family slept. I found myself envying all the people participating in its controlled chaos. A favorite past time of my wife and I: going to many concerts and festivals throughout the summer on a moment’s notice. The possibility of never experiencing the rush of singing side-by-side with powerful artists was subconsciously being mourned.

I was sitting on the couch watching recorded shows while my children took their nap. Commercials for vacation destinations were being splashed in my face during every intermission; almost to the point of taunting. Places that were once annual retreats as well as places I have yet to experience. My mind filled with possibilities of what could have been. Places that were not meant to be were subconsciously being mourned.

TheBoy and I enjoying the zoo; transfixed on something.

TheBoy and I transfixed on something while while riding the shuttle at the zoo.

It’s okay, healthy even; to be mournful of past lives now simmering in purgatory.  After all, they define who we are and how we have ended up where we are. But that’s exactly what they are: past lives. The lives I see on the streets while driving, the ones I imagine at concerts while lying in bed or those I see enjoying destinations I may never visit are no longer mine. They are no longer a priority.

I forwent those lives for my current one. A rebirth of who I am, who I choose to be.  When I come home and a little boy comes running for a hug; when I spend my evening reading books to an audience of two; when that little boy is snuggled up to me while his baby sister sleeps on my chest as we watch an evening movie.  I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I am in my place of bliss. I’m at a oneness with who I am and the path I chose. There are no regrets or grudges with the lives of my past; just peaceful content.

Losing yourself in parenthood is not a bad thing. Your children need it; they deserve it; if only for the first few years of their life until they become a little more self-sufficient. Our past lives, interests and hobbies will always be there; either waiting to be revisited or simply serving as a reminder of our journey. It’s important to not let it consume who we currently are.

I chose you.

20140824_101344-EFFECTSThere were dishes collecting in the sink. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A different you. A disconnected you. A you reaching out for attention. I chose you. Together we went to the zoo. I held you while you fed a giraffe. I ran next to you while you tried to race a cheetah. I flew with you while you soared next to the bald eagles. I laughed with you as we made a mountain of mulch in the play area. I discussed animals with you while we enjoyed lunch; and napped with you after our day in the sun. I chose you.

There were 3 hampers and a pile of clothes that needed folding. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A you vying for your mom and dad. Parents whose time is now split with a new family member. I saw you in a confused moment with an unfamiliar feeling. I chose you. Together we went to the park. I walked next to you along the creek shore, throwing small rocks into its waters. I held your hand as we crossed the chilly flowing water to the hollow tree. Through the trails we ran, laughing as I tried to catch you. I chose you.

There was a living room in disarray. I saw it. We created it. I also saw you. A you in need of assistance. An F4 tornado version of you that needed wrangling in.  A you without a compass. I chose you. I invited you on my lap to do your favorite activity: reading books. Together we read the same words as you learn how to read. I enunciated while you mimicked the sounds. Together we read 5 books; all of which you can recite by heart. I chose you.

There are things that can wait, and things that simply cannot. In the days since your sibling’s birth your behavior slightly changed. It’s a lot to process in a small amount of time for someone of your limited capabilities. You were not jealous of this new arrival, in fact quite the opposite; you embraced her. You felt you were losing your home base. Your security. I could see that. Your behavior was telling me when your words could not.  I chose connection over control. I chose love over fear. I chose you.

Skipping Stones.

Down by the creek bed he crouched, grabbing stones without discrimination. He watched as they splashed with a kersplunk when they entered the water. Ripples spread to the tiny shore and he giggled at his accomplishment. Another rock was sought.

It was a very sunny Sunday morning and still slightly cool, requiring a light jacket. The air was clear and we were all alone in our adventure, basking in the moment.

There was an area of calm water that had a shore riddled with fragmented shale begging to be skipped. I was a bit more selective with my choices, picking only those with characteristics optimal for their skipping ability. Too square, too thick, too thin. Ah! This one. It fits perfect between my finger and thumb, perfect weight distribution, just the right circumference. It was beautiful.

This will be the stone I show him his first skip with. I placed the stone in my palm; eager to show him it’s capabilities. I stood and turned towards my son. He was still indulging in his circular pattern: find stone, throw it in water, listen to splash and repeat.

I watched. His blissful moment. There was no concern for the type of stone he selected. No worries on how it entered the water, just as long as it does. His concerns lie in what it can do, not with what it could do. It can splash crazily in the water. He couldn’t care if it has the potential to skip wonderfully to the adjacent shore. It was beyond his realm of current interests and abilities.

I joined him; with my perfect stone; and tossed it high into the air. It spun and twirled until it hit flatly against the water with a quiet plop. My son giggled, commented on its tiny splash and went for his next stone. There will be many future opportunities for that perfect skip. For now this moment is complete with a slash and kersplunk, it was his agenda.

Moon gazing.

Doug-Zubenel2We were driving home from date night out, my wife and I. DinoBoy (2.5) picked up from care and now in tow, we pulled into the driveway. Upon getting out of his seat he discovered the crescent moon; glowing ever so majestically in the sky.

“I see the moon! It’s right there!”
“Wow. I see the moon too. It’s high up in the sky, huh?”
“Yeah! So so so high!” he said excitedly while reaching up towards it.
My wife: carrying in the food from our date night – “Are you guys coming in?”
Me: “Hold on Mama, we’re enjoying the moon and stars.”
DB: “Ya. The moon mommy. It’s so so high in the sky!”
Wife: “Okay guys. Enjoy. Mama’s going in and getting off her feet.”
Me: to TB – “Can you reach it?”
DB: “I can’t, It’s tooooooooo high!”
Me: “If you could pull it down and grab it. What would you do?”
DB: “Ummmm……”

I could see the mental cogs turning. I knelt next to him and looked up at the same patch of sky, the same constellations, the same glowing moon and ghostly clouds. His mind drifted off into all of the possibilities that could be. He stood in silence, me kneeling by his side with my arm around him and his head resting on my shoulder. Wonderment on his face and awe in his breath.

Me: “Want to hear something crazy? The sun is what makes the moon glow!”
TB: “But the sun is asleep!”
Me: “You’re right! That’s what makes it crazy!”
TB: “Wooooowwwwwww.”

These moments only happen once in our busy workaday lives and can be fleeting, but very magical; and if we don’t slow down and pause to recognize them, they may never happen at all.

I lost a connection.

I have slowly lost a connection.

It wasn’t realized until a few days passed and my irritability level increased way beyond my normal demeanor. The listening, on both sides, decreased. I was putting my self-interests unhealthily above that of our relationship; and he was attempting to communicate as much, but I wasn’t listening.

When bedtime became an immense struggle; I was looking at my son (2.5 yrs) with contempt, rather than compassion for his plight. And that’s when the disconnect struck me. I had the next day just him and me while my wife worked her 12 hour shift; and I dedicated it solely to him.

We spent the day building snowmen, playing games, giggling and reading many books while snuggling on the couch. We went out to eat lunch and made silly faces without a care in the world; followed by a shared afternoon nap after we got back to the house.

All aspects of our relationship righted and our bond restrengthened. That night, at bedtime, I heard a quiet voice call out in the dark: “Daddy, can I have a kiss?” “Of course you can TB.” I leaned over and we pecked: “I love you TB.” “You too daddy”. And with that he snuggled up to me and drifted off. This on the heels of the previous night which took over an hour of back and forth struggles with much frustration.

I quickly reestablished a connection.