We all scream for ice cream

Last summer, a highly anticipated birthday part at the pool was canceled. My husband, stranded with two volatile terrorists under six, did what any rational parent in his situation would: He diffused the situation with ice cream. They arrived home, an hour earlier than expected, in dry bathing suits but boasting sticky cheeks. “We went to Charmingtons!” they said, referring to the hipster $6/cone store one neighborhood over. My husband congratulated himself on the quick save.

And then, a week later, it happened again. This time, lightning closed the pool right as they were arriving. Meltdowns were imminent. Again, they returned home smacking the dried strawberry ice cream from their lips. This time, I rolled my eyes. Seriously? Again with the ice cream? I pictured my daughters two decades in the future, nursing a break up with a bottomless gallon of Breyers.

A month ago, I was excited when my husband struck up the idea to have a reward chart for good bedtime and wakeup behavior, since our children are generally horrible human beings at those times of day…And then I realized this was, in fact, a ‘Charmery checkmark’ system, which, if earned, was essentially institutionalizing a weekly trip to the ice cream shop. At this point, I secretly wondered if my husband himself had some weird childhood associations with ice cream. (Or there was a particularly pretty ice cream scooper at this place that I should be worried about.)

But then, earlier today, when my daughter ‘graduated’ from Kindergarten, I found myself brainstorming special treat destinations that all included chocolate. That’s when I realized, I’m actually just as bad. The other night, when my husband had to work late and I was bribing the kids to walk the dog with me? Potbelly milkshakes. Bored? We make chocolate chip banana bread. My kids are going to have juvenile diabetes or some deep-seated relationships with sweets if we don’t seriously change the formula here. Luckily, I stopped myself before making any suggestions out loud to the newly minted first-grader, and instead offered to walk with her to the bookstore to get a book. She was psyched, and instead of spending $6 on a cone, we spent it on a story.

Last night, instead of a Charmery check marks, my husband offered our four-year-old a Frozen sticker if she successfully brushed her teeth and went to the bathroom without ruining everyone else’s night. This morning, it was all she could talk about. Tonight, she was going to have TWO Frozen stickers. SUCCESS! I couldn’t believe that some tiny sticker could rival the Great Ice Cream Incentive. I was pretty proud of our parenting that we’d found a non-caloric alternative to rewards. (Until I found out that enough stickers get them a slurpee at 7eleven.) Oh well, at least it’s not the Charmery. Baby steps…

Life After Birth

I was a fetus once, does that count?”

I read the question—scrawled on old cardboard—at a gun reform rally last spring, clearly a dig at those in the pro-life movement who remained silent in the wake of Parkland and other school shootings.

I was 30 weeks pregnant at the time, fully enjoying the warm hug that society bestows on women as they bake a small human. Relatives called more frequently, coworkers jumped over themselves to pick up a fallen pen, random strangers asked to help load my groceries. But, as the protest poster implied, I also knew that hug was fleeting. I have two young children, after all, so I am painfully aware of how quickly a pregnant woman goes from being revered to side-eyed in the grocery store for not getting a tantruming toddler in check.

I’ve thought about that protest sign often over the past month—the first month of my third daughter’s life—since news broke of the Trump Administration’s policy of separating families at the U.S. border. The children impacted by these border separations are, in some cases, toddlers—some still nursing—and yet the compassion from many in the pro-life movement feels absent: It is the parents’ fault for bringing them in the first place; the Democrats’ fault for not conceding to more stringent border security. The Bible tells us to follow the law, and these are lawbreakers. What kind of parent puts their child in this situation?

Children are being used as a negotiating tool to build a wall. And while there has been public outcry, some of the very people who support this policy are those who would fervently stand up as pro-life advocates. In fact, a majority of Republicans (55%) support President Trump’s family separation policy—nearly as many as support outlawing abortion. (Quinnipiac)

Which leaves me to wonder: When did being pro-life become solely about life before birth?

And what would it look like if ‘pro-life’ in the United States didn’t stop once a baby takes its first breath? What if we prioritized supporting those babies who become toddlers who become children who become teenagers? What if we supported their parents, including and especially those who have suffered a harrowing and dangerous journey to arrive at our borders. And what if, rather than criticizing their decision, we acknowledged just how dangerous their homeland must be in order to take that risk—that this was actually just the better of two terrible alternatives? What would that pro-life movement look like? What would the life outcomes for all children in our society look like in that world?

After all, they were once fetuses. That should count for something.