Tag Archives: Farrah Alexander

The Paradox of Parenting in the Trump Era

By Farrah Alexander

“Mom, do you like Donald Trunk?” my four-year-old son asked with a somber, quizzical expression.

My son, with his limited knowledge of our nation’s current polarity, couldn’t have possibly understood what a loaded question this was. Although I’m pretty passionate about political issues, I tend to shield my children from civil discourse. At least until after kindergarten.

But I knew my son needed an answer to this question, which was very simple in his mind. He’s starting to grasp new concepts such as that he lives in the United States. Also, we have a president of the United States who sits in a very prestigious looking office and wears suits. Also, his mom doesn’t seem to like the president very much, which is strange because she seems to like everyone.

One week before the 2016 presidential election, I wrote a piece published on HuffPost and Scary Mommy with the headline “I Have to be Able to Tell My Children I Stood Against Trump.” In the piece, I discussed why I felt a personal responsibility as a parent to do everything I can to prevent a Trump presidency:

“I believe after our children learn of the atrocities committed by Trump and the carnage left behind by his vile campaign, they’ll then look to us – as survivors of the 2016 election – and want to know how we felt. More than that, what did we do about it?”

Honestly, I never genuinely considered the possibility of Trump actually winning. I felt assured by Nate Silver’s projections that Clinton would win by a large margin. But beyond poll numbers, I really just had enough faith in the American people that they would not elect someone who spewed vitriol and embraced such intolerance. And yet, here we are and my son is asking if I like Donald Trunk.

It’s quite the parenting dilemma. I have to explain to my children that while Trump holds our nation’s highest office, I hope they never grow up to be like him.

I may have differing political opinions than Trump, but that has no bearing on my opinion of him. If my son asked about George W. Bush, I would choose to talk about how he sought to unite our country after the most horrific terrorist attack most of us had ever seen. If my son asked about Barack Obama, I would discuss how he worked so audaciously his entire life to break down walls and became the first black president. Even if he asked about a presidential candidate such as John McCain, who I didn’t vote for, I would discuss his tremendous courage and bravery in an utterly hopeless scenario.

I plan to teach my children to treat everyone they encounter with respect, regardless of religion, gender, nationality, sexuality, race, disability or any other inherent differences. They are neither inferior nor superior to their peers. I’ll encourage them to treat others as they would like to be treated and choose to be kind.

When I see Trump mocking a disabled reporter, hear him bragging about committing sexual assault and read his callous insults on Twitter, these are all examples of how I raise my children not to behave.

I believe the Maya Angelou adage that when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. With Trump’s position of high visibility, I know my kids will be exposed to both his past transgressions and his future offenses. I’m not a total pessimist, but I’m not hopeful that Trump will suddenly put a stop to the same vile behavior that brought him into the political realm.

Many have accused Trump of acting like a toddler. As a parent of a toddler, I find this assertion completely absurd. My toddler is more mild mannered, sweeter and doesn’t whine nearly as much.

I understand my children will likely see Trump as someone who has had fame, fortune and now the oval office. After all, his name alone is plastered in large gold letters on the sides of skyscrapers in most major tourist destinations. Many people probably view such success as a goal to aspire towards. So, I know it’s difficult to tell my children not to emulate the behavior of someone in such a unique position of power.

Behind the glitz, tweets and presidential seals, Donald Trump is just a man. He’s a man who has said and done some very bad things that lead me to believe he may not be very nice.

I always want to protect my children from bullies as they grow and bullying becomes an unfortunate reality. But even more so, I never want them to become bullies. Zero-tolerance policies common in schools would discipline any student using language like Trump routinely uses in an attempt to eliminate the bullying behavior. Elementary school students are not allowed to model the behavior they see from the sitting president.

Success is a worthy goal and I hope I give my children the tools to achieve their own definition of success. But success is not the one and only goal to chase in life. Whether my children grow up to be professional street performers who juggle fire for tips in a can or real estate moguls, I just hope they also have character and integrity. I hope I raised them to be good humans.

I want to give my children the strength and courage to stand up for what is right, even if it’s difficult. It’s my job to monitor who influences my children, helps shape their character and molds them into the contributing adults our society depends on. I know I don’t want that influence to come from Donald Trump.

No, my son, your mother does not like Donald Trump.

Hoosier Mama | In Parenting the Days are Long and the Years are Short

WHEN YOU BECOME A PARENT, you fall in love unlike any other time in your life. You meet your sweet baby and suddenly your entire world can be held in your arms and wears tiny diapers. The newborn smell intoxicates you. You could easily spend hours watching your child softly sleep, counting little toes and sneaking kisses. You never imagined you could love someone as intensely as you do when you become a parent.

The feeling is mutual. Your child is your most devoted fan. Sometimes the only thing that soothes a newborn is simply the comfort of being held by his parent. Just the feeling of a parent’s heart beating nearby is enough to calm an otherwise fussy baby. As soon as a baby wakes, he looks for a parent. If a child is frightened by a nightmare, he wants his parent. You could be in your 30s stuck in bed with the flu and want your parent. As a parent, you’ll never be needed, wanted and loved so much in your life.

And it’s exhausting.

Just as you’ll never experience love like you do when you become a parent, you’ll never experience exhaustion like being a new parent. Shortly after I gave birth to my first baby, I quickly became acquainted with this new level of extreme exhaustion. Turns out babies typically don’t sleep more than two hours at a time and sleeping in two-hour increments gets pretty tiring for an adult. Add breastfeeding struggles, colic and normal newborn fussiness and you’ll be lucky to get two hours of solid sleep from your little bundle.

One of my best friends, a bachelorette in her 20s, asked me in this early period of motherhood what it was like. I told her to reminisce about a time when you had more to do than hours in the day. For example, in college, when you had to work, go to class, do this, do that and then you had a massive project due the following day. So you just made a late-night pot of coffee, pulled an all-nighter to get it done and tried your best to play the part of functioning human the next morning. Early motherhood feels like that, but it’s a never-ending cycle. You have the all-nighters without the next day to crash and recoup the hours of sleep you missed the day before. Yet, you keep going.

You stay awake even though you have never functioned on such a severe lack of sleep. You get out of bed to answer the cries in the middle of the night, even though rolling out of bed seems like too daunting of a task. Parents endure the recovery from childbirth, the pain of infertility and miscarriage, the medical struggles, life stresses, balancing their work life and home life and so many other obstacles all the time. The love a parent feels from their child gives them the tenacity to keep going and so they do.

Typically, it gets better. Even if your newborn is a horrific sleeper, they typically don’t continue to wake hourly for years and years. Even if your toddler only sleeps soundly nuzzled nearby, eventually they grow out of it. I don’t know any high-schooler who still sleeps swaddled next to Mom. There will more than likely be a time when you as a parent will once again sleep in your own bed and wake up well-rested.

Even after the extreme exhaustion new parents experience ceases, you probably will never experience a truly carefree time like you did before you had children. Life is just different now. You have someone who is so incredibly precious to you living in this tumultuous world. So, naturally, you worry and fret. Years after your baby kept you up at night crying as a newborn, you’ll find yourself calming your child down after waking from a scary nightmare. One day you’ll find yourself staying up late until you know your child drove home safely. You may still worry and check on your child even if your child is grown and has their own children. (Hi Mom.)

No matter the age or circumstances, parenthood is simply exhausting. The level of exhaustion ebbs and flows as your child grows but is always there in some capacity. My oldest is only four and I have fully embraced my life with dark circles under my eyes and a cup of coffee in my hand at almost any time.

The exhaustion is truly a small price to pay for this incredibly rewarding and full life. After I became a parent, I experienced love for the first time in a way I’ve never experienced before. I adore everything about my children. Every little perceived imperfection looks perfect to me. There’s just something about loving someone so unconditionally that softens you. Experiencing this type of love provides a fresh perspective on your life that illuminates what’s truly important. It’s like when Dorothy first enters Oz and everything becomes Technicolor.

Soon enough, you can’t imagine your life without kids. A life without your kids looks as bleak and dreary as the tumbleweeds rolling through Dorothy’s sleepy Kansas town before the big storm hit.

The Personal is Political

By Farrah Alexander

NO MATTER WHICH SIDE of the political fence you stand on, most would agree this election season has been divisive, heated and downright ugly. Across the country, we have had many awkward holiday dinners, mass unfriending sprees on Facebook, genuine friendships have become strained and the overall political climate in our country is tense.

Understandably, many people are done. They want politics to return to a taboo topic no longer brought to the dinner table. They want to turn off the news. They want entertainers to focus on entertaining, parents to focus on parenting and everyone to kindly and politely keep their political opinions to themselves.

I get it.

However, the personal is political. I don’t know a single parent who is not affected by policy change of some variety. Even if you weren’t somehow personally affected, surely you have values you believe in and want those values represented by our elected officials.

For example, maybe you want our country to join the rest of the modern world and provide paid family leave for new parents when a child is born. Maybe you want to ensure parents of disabled or medically vulnerable children have affordable healthcare. Maybe you want to make a difference in the local homeless population. Maybe you’re sick of common core and never want to see it on your child’s homework again. These are all political issues.

Apathy impedes progress. Regardless of your political affiliation, this country needs your passion, ideas and voice. If you’re passionate about a particular issue, you’re probably not alone. But if you swear off the voting booth and turn away from the news in frustration, the likelihood of you influencing change is improbable. If you rally together with like-minded individuals and promote your ideas, well, it may still be improbable. But you’re much more likely to make a difference if you do something, anything.

This isn’t about partisanship. I’m not aiming to begrudgingly drag anyone over to my political party. I just believe politics are something that affects everyone and we should care. Dissent is a fundamentally patriotic act. If I disagree with your opinions and you disagree with mine, that’s OK. I respect your opinion and think we both have the ability to grow and learn – if we would just listen. Decency and kindness trumps egotistical pride.

Parents have the ability to bring a heap of valuable experience, diverse backgrounds and new ideas to the political landscape. We also have the tremendous responsibility of raising the next generation of voters. Kids are naturally inquisitive and may be interested in the political process already. Are we cultivating them to be civically mindful, or are we dismissing politics as a boring chore reserved for adults?

By involving our children in the political process, we have opportunities to share historical lessons. Would you have the right to vote 100 years ago? You have an opportunity to discuss suffrage, civil rights and the responsibility and duty every American holds in the democratic process. What is your child passionate about? Sure, your child may not have strong opinions about tax policy. But your child may care about social justice, the environment or education opportunities. While encouraging these interests by volunteering or learning more, your child is becoming an altruistic and knowledgeable future participant in our democracy. The future will thank you.

I’ve heard many gripe that moms should stick to being moms and stay out of politics. Frankly, this is insulting. Yes, we’re moms. But we’re also women and Americans whose opinions go far beyond our preferred brand of diapers. We have voices we shouldn’t be afraid to use and deserve to be heard.

Although the temptation to bury your head in the sand may be great, I implore you to resist. I trust that you’re a bright, caring, and passionate individual and have much to offer. With a mutual respect for each other and a willingness to work together despite our differences, I feel confident that we can propel our country past this hiccup of dissonance. Together we will be stronger.

Let’s stop considering politics such a dirty word. Let’s stop distancing ourselves from those who are different. Let’s start talking and then listening with the same care. The future of our country depends on it.

HOOSIER MAMA | Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

By Farrah Alexander

Four years ago, I was a brand-new mom taking my brand-new son out of the house solo for the first time. I was still recovering from an intense labor and delivery and the newfound state of extreme exhaustion I never knew existed. My husband returned to his demanding routine of balancing grad school, an internship and his full-time job. My baby was adjusting to the world after an early arrival, recovering from jaundice and breastfeeding struggles.

We were tired. All of us, so very tired.

Even the tiny goal of a trip to the post office seemed daunting. What if he cries? How am I going to carry these packages and a baby? What if he’s too cold? What about the germs? Oh my God, the germs. But off we went.

As I struggled with the logistics of getting my newborn out of the car seat, into my carrier and out into the farrah3world, I spotted and locked eyes with another mother. Although she was clearly in another stage of motherhood, she also looked tired as she shuffled her small army of little ones into her minivan. I must have looked desperate and overwhelmed to this veteran mother who had years of experience compared to my mere weeks.

Now that my oldest just turned four, I know this mother could have told me anything. She could have scoffed at my exhaustion and warned me to just wait. Just wait until potty training. Just wait until school bullies. Just wait until sibling fights. She could have turned her experience into pessimism.

Instead, she looked at me without even pausing her shuffle of buckling kids in their seats – a routine she’s clearly done countless times – smiled, let out a half-hearted laugh and said with absolute certainty and conviction, “You’re going to have so much fun!”

farrah2Just as I now know all mothers face different challenges as their kids get older and all mothers face some level of physical or mental exhaustion, I also know she was right. It is so much fun.

Before I became a mother, I thought parents were surely lying when they claimed life was more fun with kids. I thought it was something they said to justify the monotonous realities of parenthood. Choose late nights up with a fussy infant over catching a late movie? Then spending weekend mornings up early watching Curious George rather than sleeping in and relaxing with a hot cup of coffee in your pajamas until noon? No, thanks. I honestly thought much of the fun ended when you began having kids.

The truth is it’s a different kind of fun. “Netflix and chill” is more than just a euphemism. Now, I spend the latter part of my evenings looking forward to putting the kids in bed, snuggling up on the couch with my husband until one of us falls asleep under the warm glow of the television. It is a truly rare occasion that farrahI’m still wearing makeup and actual pants past 8:30. Weekends are spent going to the zoo, attending kids’ birthday parties or something else I wouldn’t have any interest in if I wasn’t a parent. You don’t go to events like Disney on Ice because you want to see if Mickey Mouse has skating skills. You want to see your child’s face light up with the sense of wonder and excitement that only exists when you’re a child.

Suddenly all these silly, goofy things are fun because you have kids and the kids make it fun.

There’s so much fun to be had and there’s no one more eager to have fun than a kid. Although as a parent, you obviously carry all the responsibility and the less fun factors of being an adult, you also get to call all the shots.

So, you remember trick or treating at the house with the full-sized candy bars? You can be that house. You remember wanting to wear your Batman costume for no particular occasion, other than Tuesday? Well, happy Tuesday, kid. You’re the caped crusader overseeing our daily errands.

The days are long, but the years are short. This time in our lives is fleeting and one day will be but a memory. Everyone only gets one shot at childhood and we, as parents, largely shape just what kind of childhood that will be. So, let’s have some fun.