My Facebook feed was filled with beautiful photos of my friends and colleagues enjoying time with their children and grandchildren yesterday. The joy and bond so evident in the photographs warmed me and gave me hope that as a society – we’ve got this. We can raise an empowered generation of wonderful people – equipped to take this world far beyond what we’ve been able to do.
Personally, I spent the weekend with my family at our annual trip to the LEAF Festival in Black Mountain. I realized this tradition has quickly become like a holiday to my daughters – who woke up on Friday saying to us “Happy Leaf!” For some reason this year – I wanted to understand why. Why was this festival such an anticipated event for them? I didn’t have to wait long for my answer. As we were finishing up our camp set up – my oldest daughter said – “Yay! It’s a weekend when Mommy and Daddy can’t use cell phones!” Talk about a kick in the gut and an ah-ha moment at the same time. She’s right, the rural setting and limited accessibility to electrical outlets, keeps phones tucked in pockets and purses for the weekend.
I also realized as the weekend went on, that it was also about empowerment and freedom for my daughters. LEAF is a family festival with a communal atmosphere I can only imagine is similar to how things were in the 1960’s when kids roamed freely through neighborhoods – long before the unimaginable threats that exist today for our kids. This weekend my children had the run of the festival – biking back to the campsite by themselves, busking with violins, balloon animals and face paint – and earning their own money. They played with long lost friends and new ones and explored their world.
The weekend is always a blessing, but this year, I hope to take home some of the magic for year-round. First – my cell phone use. It’s not going to be easy. I work for myself, and work from home – so there are not great boundaries to my work day. It allows great flexibility, but it also means my kids see me on my phone frequently after I pick them up from school – as the rest of the world finishes its workday and I have one foot in motherhood and the other in the workplace. My goal is to keep my phone tucked away more often after they get home from school.
The other is giving my daughters freedom now that we’re at home. We live in a walkable neighborhood and I need to do a better job getting to know my neighbors so I feel like I do have a community where my children can safely explore.
And while I was having a magical and enlightening weekend with my family, I was keenly aware of another group of mothers I had the privilege of considering last week. I learned of the “Black Mama’s Bail Out” action – which was a nationwide event, but coordinated in this state by Southerners on New Ground and Black Youth Project 100. I spoke with one of the coordinators – Courtney Sebring – who explained to me that 80-percent of women in jail are mothers. Beyond that – many of them are serving time in local jails, awaiting their trial because they can’t afford bail. I consider myself reasonably educated on civic and social issues, but had never considered this. That some people (disproportionately minority) can’t afford bail that is set for them when accused of a crime. Understandably those considered flight risk would require money bail, but often people are jailed for two years or more, before ever being convicted of a crime.
So all weekend, while I was basking in the blessings of my children and ability to afford such a wonderful weekend, I thought of the eight mothers bailed out of Durham jail last week – who were now getting to spend the weekend with their children. As much as I appreciated my time, I bet theirs resonated even more deeply.
I realize I took you to both ends of the spectrum in this piece – from a Mother’s Day many of us may take for granted, to sharing the stories of other mothers who didn’t know they’d see their children on Sunday until just a few days prior. But we should consider ALL mothers as we wrap up this holiday, and look for ways to support the ability for women to mother their children. It goes beyond a gift to them, but becomes a gift to the world. When children are mothered and loved, they give that love back to the world 10-fold.