Do Not Undo My Work


All around the country, parents are furious.

Some of them went to great lengths to have their children. They went through infertility treatments for years, day after day of injections, procedures, medications and mood swings and worry, meditating on the child they saw in their dreams. They held their breath through much of their and their partners’ pregnancies, that child’s existence suspended by threads in their hearts. They held their partners’ hands through every ultrasound, every test, every kick and wiggle. When their children finally arrived, those arrivals were the most hard-won battle they’d ever faced.

And those parents are wondering now if, one afternoon, a storm might blow the windows of their houses in, eliminate their access to electricity and running water, coat their walls in mold and make that child, that blessing they begged for, sick. And that they might be holding that child in their arms on the roof, waiting for relief that spells out that child’s survival, if it comes. And those parents, imagining the roof, the cold, the squirming frightened child, are angry.

Some parents knew their child was waiting somewhere for them, if not in the cells of their bodies, then elsewhere: in a foster home, in a pregnant woman not ready or able to care for a child, nearby or across the state or across the world. Those parents waited for years — through paperwork, through interviews, through false starts and second thoughts, through faith and desperation, until one day that baby or that toddler or that teenager joined them in their living room, forever, making them a family.

And those parents are wondering now if, one afternoon, they’ll receive a call from their child’s school about an active shooter in the area. They’ll wonder if every door will be carefully locked, if every student will be safe, if their child — their sought-after, destiny-made child — will be inside, or will the call come at recess time? They are wondering where the nearest gun shop is. They are wondering where the nearest guns are. And those parents, imagining the classrooms of frightened children, imagining their frightened children, are angry.

Some parents received a diagnosis for their baby while that baby still rested in the safety of the womb, or when their child was a toddler, or when their child had an incident at school in second grade. They processed the diagnosis — some of them in turmoil and worry and some of them in practical forthright calm — and set forth adjusting every plan they’d ever had. They equipped their houses, learned the procedures, subscribed to newsletters and online support groups, read journals and settled in for the long haul. They became the experts on their children’s every move — every twitch, every cough, every change in temperature or developmental micro-moment.

And those parents are wondering now if, one day soon, they will approach a pharmacy with a prescription they have no chance at affording. They’re wondering if their doctors will stop returning calls, their insurance companies will erase their names, their savings will disappear. They’re wondering if their children will grow up and be uninsurable, at the same as they’re wondering if their children will grow up at all. And those parents, imagining their sick children staying sick or getting sicker, are angry.

Some parents have daughters, daughters they love and adore, daughters they taught to dance and to fix a loose drawer handle with a screwdriver. They’ve told their daughters that their bodies are their own, teaching them to shout NO!, teaching them to protect their bodies with their hands and legs and teeth, and they’ve told them to be kind and generous, and they’ve told them to chase their dreams and work hard and love fully. And those daughters are the lights in the sky and the sweet warmth of every evening.

And those parents are wondering if, one day, walking home from the bus or down the dark sidewalk to their dorm room, those daughters will be grabbed by someone stronger than them, held down and violated despite the shouting of no and the biting of anything near her face. And those parents are wondering if the adult their daughter asks for help will do anything, and if the university or police or boss or anyone will see it as worthwhile to punish the stranger (or the friend who that stranger turned out to be). And those parents are wondering if that stranger or friend will be punished for long enough to make a difference. And those parents, imagining their hurt, terrified, betrayed daughters, are angry.

Some parents have sons, sons who they love and adore, sons they taught to make cookies and to sand the wood of their old chairs until it was soft and smooth again.  They’ve told their sons about standing up for their friends and themselves, about thinking about what’s right, about being kind and generous, and they’ve told their sons to chase their dreams and work hard and love fully. And those sons are the lights in the sky and the sweet warmth of every evening.

And those parents are wondering if, one day, their sons will be ready to begin their adult lives – full of passion and drive – and a despotic narcissist in the capitol will declare war on another despotic narcissist and send their beautiful sons, their beloved sons, to fight that despotic narcissist’s war. And those parents are wondering if the war will come to them this time, with their sons in the front yard, holding every dream in a sack and a quivering rifle in front of them. And those parents, imagining their peaceful, dreaming sons trapped in someone else’s war, are angry.

In every fear,  we parents hold an indignation that our hard work — of growing or welcoming children, of keeping them safe, of keeping them well, of teaching them our values — will be undone by forces outside our control. In truth, there is no solution to the terrible imaginings of parents, but to take our most frightening worries and mold them into tools for counteraction.

I’m angry about everything above and a hundred more things in the way of my child’s future. And I’m doing something about it.

Below are some organizations that can get you started on using your anger for action. By no means are these the only places doing valuable work in their area of focus. You can also do any of this work – advocacy, hands-on help, direct donations – without a non-profit organization involved. This is just a start. Please do share your ideas in the comments.

Global Giving: Donate to support local disaster relief efforts

Everytown for Gun Safety: Fight for smart, fair gun control

Families USA: Fight for affordable health care

RAINN: Take action against sexual assault

CODEPINK: Take action against war

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2 thoughts on “Do Not Undo My Work

  1. I love this. You are eloquent.

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