A few weeks ago, we had dinner with friends, and we let the kids stay up later than usual. Alma ran herself until she was out of energy and then asked to be put to bed. Cyrus, who was born with FOMO, stayed up for a while with us. Our conversation turned to state-run media outlets reporting lies, like North Korea falsely telling its citizens that it won games in the World Cup and then punishing the players that lost. Cyrus asked lots of questions during the conversation, and all of the adults took turns filling in the gaps for him.
Once we finally got him into bed, my friend commented on how great we were about including Cyrus in the conversation. And it’s true – he’s great at finding inroads into adult conversations he’s interested in, participating for a bit, and then bouncing out again to go do what he wants to do. And I think one reason why is because of the ways we get him engaged in politics and the broader world.
But there are some things I haven’t figured out how to talk with them about, because of how complicated they are in my mind. And this is what I wanted to write about today – how I’m struggling with many of the 666 laws that Texas just passed. I discussed bans on Critical Race Theory in a previous post, so here today I’m thinking about everyone’s favorite topics: abortions and guns.
The first is guns. We’ve had personal safety conversations with them ad nauseum about guns. In pre-COVID times, they didn’t have playdates at other houses without making sure the parents didn’t have guns. My father-in-law made a joke about having a gun (he doesn’t) and Cyrus came running in the house, screaming “Grandpa’s got a gun!” and hid under the bed. So maybe our personal safety conversations went too far, I dunno.
But I can’t bring myself to having the guns in school conversation with my kids. They’ve never experienced a random shooter drill. They don’t know about mass shooters. They don’t know about the billion-dollar lobbying industry that puts the rights of gun nuts over the rights of kids to stay alive. They don’t know that nearly every other country in the worldhas stricter gun control than we do. One day, of course, they’ll know. But for now, I can’t figure out my way into the conversation. They don’t know that I never applied for a job teaching in the state of Texas because I was too afraid my students would bring guns into the classroom, and they don’t know that Texas just passed a law allowing guns without gun licenses.
We just moved back to Austin. I’ve been in love with the city of Austin my entire adult life, and moving back after being gone for 15 years has just renewed my infatuation. I love the food. I love the old growth trees with patio seating everywhere, and I love taking my kids swimming in all of the rivers that wind their way through the Hill Country. I even love how everyone chats to you so it takes forever to buy a cup of coffee. Even better, we have scores of friends who still live here or who have moved back or who are discovering Austin for the first time – a huge social circle waiting for us in post-COVID times. We’ve been able to find two all-outdoor homeschooling pods for Cyrus and an all-outdoor, COVID conscious, nature-based preschool for Alma. I’ve spent my entire adult life hoping we could move back here, and after six years in Lincoln it feels like I can finally breathe again. I love it here.
But I look at the anti-abortion law that passed yesterday, and I wonder how I can reconcile raising two girls here? In a state that allows complete strangers to put bounties on the heads of people providing abortions, seeking abortions, intending to get abortions, aiding anyone getting an abortion. That’s right – every Karen in Houston ordering her triple decaf iced latte with a squirt of caramel who overhears two friends talking about getting an abortion can report them for $10,000. Fucking shameful.
How can I subject my kids to living in a state that politicizes their bodies, leaves them vulnerable to gaslighting and abusive relationships, limit their career and educational choices, jeopardize their health. I also haven’t talked to them about this yet, of course – how critical I believe living in a state that protects the rights of girls and women is to our family.
I don’t know how to reconcile these things except to say that activism works. When Poland tried to ban all abortion, women showed up. Shut things down. (I want to buy the woman with sunglasses on her head a drink and learn everything about her. I’m obsessed with the look, and everything her eyebrows are conveying here).
Although the Polish law went into effect in January of 2021, women are still protesting, still fighting back.
I hope that we, as people, fight like hell for ourselves and our daughters. And I hope that white women think about how much more complicated this all is for abused women, women of color, for poor women, for women in rural communities. We all have hard thinking ahead of us for when and how to spend our privilege in a way that boosts all women – not just in ways that allow us to shield our own families.
And this is hard for me. What I want to do is leave before my kids are old enough for this to affect them. I want to stay in our beautiful homeschool bubble of outdoor nature pods and shield them from the reality of shootings and how the world is dark. And while there’s a virus, I will do that. But I know that on the other side, when there’s a vaccine and we can re-enter the world a little bit, we need to go back swinging, fighting for the future of our kids the way that the Baby Boomer generation never fought for us. Those of us on the Gen-X/Millennial cusp need to repopulate the coffers that Boomers drained, create a community focused way of living and governing.
I see a lot of anger on Twitter right now. I hope it translates into the streets. I hope it translates into women having real conversations with the men in their lives about the lived effects of laws like this, and I hope people change the way they vote. I hope that women are given the resources to continue to support each other, and find ways to connect each other to health care, even as their government turned against them.
If you have the money to, here are some grassroots organizations in Texas that could use some support right now:
And times like these always remind me of Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad – maybe buy one for a woman in your life who needs to stay mad?
Also, a quick plug for Epilogue Editing – I’m starting to get busy (which is great!) and I still have more slots to work with people on the writing project of their dreams. Have an idea for a project? Need a coach? Have a first draft of something that needs editing? Let’s talk!