Saturday, July 16, 2016

No pity necessary for my mom role at water park

From today's Briefing:

I’ve become the kind of mom I used to pity.
Back in the mid-1980s, my best friend’s mom would drive us to the water park in the height of summer. We’d kick off our sandals, toss aside our towels and run to the nearest set of concrete stairs.
We never worried about our stuff because Mrs. Tarun was there, in the shade, keeping guard.
I remember that I thanked her for taking us out, and I remember silently wondering why she wasn’t irritated about sitting down while we were off sliding and splashing.
I felt sorry for her — though clearly not sorry enough to offer to sit in her place.
The appeal of the giant water slide has since dissipated. I’ve been a mom longer than I was a teenager. And now I understand Mrs. Tarun and all of the stalwart moms like her.
I love being the mom in charge of the gear.
I like lounging on a comfy chair, reading a novel, guarding snacks, prescription glasses, water bottles, towels and sunscreen. I enjoy being the checkpoint, watching for my children and their friends to stop by, listening to their adventures, offering apple slices and Oreos, reminding them to reapply sunscreen, sending them out again.
Once a summer, we brave our nearby water park. We arrive early to find a spot in the shade. I listen to big plans, remind everyone to follow the rules and be kind, and then read and rest while the young people rush toward slides and wave pools and lazy rivers.
It’s one of the only days all year in which I laze, guilt-free, for hours at a time.
I also catch glimpses of other families and watch children have fun in spite of the all the rules we place on them.
The lifeguard at the wave pool whistles about once every 90 seconds, followed by a stern “Walk!” What he really means, of course, is “Don’t run,” but we’ve all been trained to redirect in the positive. Kids understand the scolding nonetheless.
Parents all around me ignore those redirection directions and simply holler, “Stop!”
Children roll their eyes as moms and dads offer advice.
“Mom, I’m listening,” says one exasperated preteen as he tries to walk away from the shaded sidelines and into the wave pool fray.
“You say that,” mom replies, “but then you don’t!”
I watch a soaking wet child return to his family’s home base. He has good intentions of reapplying sunscreen, and there’s not even an adult nearby to direct him — or to remind him that his skin should be dry first.
He sprays on half a canister.
He looks down at his legs, now streaked with white sunscreen that drips toward his ankles.
He pauses. He picks up a nearby towel and rubs it off. All of it, water and sunscreen. Then he bounces back toward the water, not a drop of sunscreen remaining.
A nearby mom admonishes her enthusiastic child: “Don’t get too tired out there! You have soccer tonight.”
Two boys — brothers, maybe, or best friends — share a tube of powdered, colored sugar. One holds the 3-foot plastic tube above his mouth and drinks in the sandy sugar. He passes the tube to his buddy, who follows suit. Then they’re off to conquer a slide.
My own children return, dripping wet, with tales from three laps on the lazy river. They’re hungry and thirsty. Their freckled pink noses signal the need for more sunblock. They tell me how much fun they’re having, then they’re off again, leaving me for my own kind of fun.
For real. No pity required.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Parents owe it to children to tell the truth about Dallas shooting

From today's Briefing:

How do we tell children about tragedy? We tell the truth.
How much truth do we tell? That's the more important question, and the answer varies for every family.
I'm selective in discussing current events in this house. My daughter worries more than most. She considers the whole world her neighborhood. She tears up at vague descriptions of violence. She prays every single time she hears emergency sirens.
I can't shelter her from Dallas.
She knows some of the truth. That people gathered downtown to protest brutality across the nation, that they were peaceful, that they seek justice. She knows that police officers surrounded the protest, that they were offering protection, that they were serving the city and its people -- all the people.
She knows that someone purposefully shot at those officers and that some of them are injured and that some of them have died.
She instinctively knows that families have been irreparably damaged because five of those officers won't ever again go home, won't ever again hug their babies or their mommas.
She knows some of the truth, but she doesn't understand.
I don't either.
I don't understand the anger that pushes one soul to injure or kill another.
I don't understand violence as a means to express frustration.
I don't understand the vitriolic discord that separates neighbors and fractures relationships and pits us against one another.
I was born in Dallas 44 years ago. I grew up wondering how my city could be the same place in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I couldn't reconcile the sense of security I felt with the chaos and despair that I imagined reigning in 1963.
I grew up to realize that one event doesn't define a place -- unless you let it. One violent act doesn't erase countless, everyday acts of kindness. I learned that the hatred that boils up in humans is never, ever greater than the love that runs between us.
Sometimes, though, we let cowardly acts of evil cloud our judgment. We forget that love conquers hate and light always, always dispels darkness.
We can't ignore what we don't understand.
We can't live foolishly, believing that we are always safe in the streets of Dallas. Or in the stands at the Ballpark or in line at Six Flags. We're not 100 percent safe in our suburban shopping malls or in chapels, temples and mosques, or in libraries and classrooms. We are at the mercy of other humans.
Yet we can't live in fear. We can't sequester ourselves or live in self-erected bubbles. We can't let hateful actions divide us more. Our hope lies in our ability to unite despite differences, to uncover joy in all circumstances, to reject violence and embrace peace.
My family will continue to meander the galleries of the Dallas Museum of Art. We will lie on the soft, green grass at the Nasher, soaking in the sun and admiring the genius of Richard Serra and Alexander Calder.
We will wander through Klyde Warren Park, stop to play a game of Connect Four, buy a popsicle or Korean taco.
One day, though probably not too soon because I don't know how our hearts will bear it, we'll walk the same sidewalks that fallen officers walked in their final moments.
We owe our children the truth. It's up to each parent to decide how much and when.
We owe one another -- no matter the age -- gentle kindness and hands to hold. We get to decide that love will prevail, that our reactions will blanket Dallas and its people and our families, all of our families in compassionate comfort.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at