When the kids are little, you're all "small house, big picture." You imagine you're changing the world because the family is a mini nation and it matters if you feed your kids organic homemade granola bars instead of nutri-grain bars, or fresh fruit instead of fruit snacks. It matters that you kept Disney out of the house because you resented the way that corporation pioneered advertising to young children, that you limited screens to one hour or less a day, that you sent up a feminist rah! rah! when your bullish daughter clobbered the unsuspecting toddler boys on the soccer field while wearing a pink tutu, that you taught your son to carry ants outside in the name of world peace, that you taught them both to pick up trash, conserve energy, walk instead of ride, and to forever hold love over hate.
Then you find yourself in the checkout line at the grocery store, your cart overflowing with individual-sized GatorAid and water bottles, paper and plastic dining products, fake-flavored chips, big-ag ground beef, white flour rolls, processed cheese and unnaturally blue frosted cupcakes because, just for this one day, for this one end-of-year party, couldn't our family please please be normal, Mom, PLEASE!?
Dejected, and even embarrassed by the the wagon-load of pure and unadulterated shit that you find yourself suddenly responsible for, you quickly and furtively stuff the plastic crap and the styrofood into your van, hoping no one, especially a reader of this blog, has seen you. You quell the anguish in your thumping little eco-friendly heart by telling yourself it's just one day, that your family will return to it's green and healthy routines the very next morning.
But when you arrive home, you remember that things in your small house have taken a turn. You find every light in every room glowing bright, two TVs blaring (why do you have two TVs?), the Xbox, YouTube, Instagram, Vine and unlimited text messaging all operating in tandem. When you forget your indoor voice and demand to know who belongs to the pile of junk-food wrappers on the end table, your son swaggers through the room cradling an entire box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies that he purchased after his newly-licenced buddies drove him the quarter mile to 7-11. He shrugs and says he'll pick it up "later."
You turn to your younger daughter for reprieve only to find her Instagramming herself as she dips gluten-free pretzels into a bowl of melted chocolate chips while watching Hannah Montana reruns out of nostalgia for the Disnified childhood you didn't know she had. When she sees you, she leaps out of her chair because she's so excited to tell you that her new favorite line to her new favorite song is: "She's the hottest bitch in the house!" which she sings for you with unexpected "hottest bitch" know-how as she gyrates about the kitchen.
You despair that the "big picture" you so hoped to change with your little family is something so relentless and impenetrable that it will instead swallow your children despite your greatest efforts. You wonder if you should even write about it anymore.
Until your niece sends you a music video. When you watch it with your kids, your son says, "cool," and your daughter adds it to the short list of songs she overplays daily. Their reactions ease your worries. On the surface, the video doesn't have anything to do with food, or plastic, or screen time. It's about sexuality. But in your moment of despair, it struck a chord anyway because for you, these things are all connected: Whether for the planet, the self, or the Other, you've tried to teach your kids about love and respect and justice. You've tried to teach your kids that it's all the "same love." When someone else stands up with that message in a culture that wants to squash it, you are reminded to do so too.