It’s that time of the year when there’s just the hint of a chill in the air, along with visions of ghosts and goblins, witches and spiders, smiley Jack of Lanterns and bowls of chocolaty goodies.
The memories come flooding back, the fevered anticipation, weeks before, kids imagining who they’d like to be, superheroes and princesses, fairy queens and firemen. Costumes and face paint, homemade or store bought, it matters not. The fun is in the pretending, in dressing up and then heading out door to door, bag or basket in hand, and collecting the loot.
Trick or treat!
I’m thinking of it especially this year as Congress wrestles with proposed legislation for kids and families. I recall those early days as a stay at home mom, pregnant with our second daughter, struggling to make ends meet — with a little help from the USDA, food stamps — while my husband finished law school. Day care was virtually non existent, save a few moms who took in a couple of neighborhood kids whose mothers had to work. And even if child care was readily available — and safe and trusted — whatever I’d make as a teacher would barely cover the cost, times two.
So, I had plenty of time to fashion Halloween costumes, to make play dough from scratch, and monster cookies to eat. I had hours to spend reading stories and coloring, doing puzzles or just snuggling on the couch.
For me, then, the choices had been made, as our family grew from two kids to three and then four. And we were able to make it work, delaying my return to the workplace, then opting for part time positions that still allowed me plenty of time as the lead parent as my husband’s career took off.
But that’s an old model now, as families have changed, as opportunities for women have expanded exponentially, as working mothers are no longer the exception — though nothing is the rule. And that’s exactly my point, there are many ways to be a mom, or a dad, and societal conventions or available child care, are not the impediments they used to be. Today’s parents have options, they have choices, and, if they are lucky, they can exercise them.
With a little help.
So, I’m thinking of this now, as our elected officials in Washington are confronting head on our national lapse at prioritizing parenting, from caring for precious newborns to making sure our three and four year olds are kindergarten ready, to seeing more of our almost adult children off to college. It’s a brash, bold initiative, as expensive as it is expansive, but setting a new, and necessary, high bar on how we treat our parents and kids. Paid parental leave, affordable child care, free preschool, the wish list goes on and on as the cost goes up.
But for those of us who have been on the front lines as moms and dads, and for our kids and grandkids, the needs are imperative and the benefits clear.
Realizing a bright future for those little ones who are in our care, individually, family by family, and collectively as a nation. Recognizing that nurturing them, educating them, is an investment that yields dividends for us all. And that meeting our obligations to them is the right thing to do, whether it’s a family with two parents, or one, whether it’s a family where one parent stays at home, or both parents co-partner in caring and earning.
The trick for them, and for us, is how to do it, but the treat is clearly for all.