Sometimes you just want to remember a day.

My head pounded. For the love. Can we just please not fight about chairs this early in the morning?

“No. Go sit over there. Opposite sides of the table. You can’t sit at the heads of the table,” I sighed.

“Whyyyy?” They cried, the injustice of my simple parenting directive obviously cutting quite deep.

“Because,” I said, still trying to even focus my eyes. “You’re in the baby’s chair and she has to sit there,” I said, pointing at my youngest. Her booster seat was positioned at the end of the table for ease of cleaning. “And then if only one of you is at the head, the other will whine.” And it’s just too early for fighting, I thought to myself.

“I hate this rule!” My oldest yelled at me.

“Well, do you have a solution?” I asked, fully aware that my idea was the only good and logical one.

“We can both share this chair,” my oldest suggested, scooting over. “It’s big enough for two kids.”

I sighed. “Okay,” I said skeptically. “As long as you realize this will just end in fighting.”

But my middle child was already cheering.

“Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!” He grabbed his bowl of cereal and ran over to his brother. “And maybe later, we can play together at the playground?” He said, beaming up at him as he climbed into the chair.

They sat there, happily munching on their cereal, for the rest of the meal.

Later, at the playground, they did play together. But my oldest son, the ever adventurer, had his eyes on the nine year olds shooting baskets. I stood nearby, chatting with my friends when I suddenly felt a head slam into my hips. Two arms wrapped around my waist. I looked down.

These tears were not from a scraped knee. This was a hurt much deeper.

“They said they didn’t want to play with me! They told me to go away!”

When we are adults, we package our anxiety so nice and neatly we can savor it for days. We stare at our phones, wondering if she didn’t return our text because she was busy, or because she secretly despises our very presence. We replay our awkward comment in our heads, relishing each and every poor word choice.

But when you are a kid they are laid out for you. There is no wondering if he doesn’t like you. He told you that he didn’t. We suck them down, barely able to breathe.

Within minutes, he had recovered, and was once again swinging on the monkey bars. My own heart, however, kept aching for him, all of it breaking except the small piece which delighted that he was not too old to run to me.

The sky, still drunk with solstice power, is glowing tonight as we tuck ourselves in. The baby clings to me, hoping I will spare her the indignity of sleeping in the crib. Because at the end of the day, all we want is to be loved. All we want is to be held. All we want is to hear someone say, yes. Come sit with me.

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Imagine you are four. The legs in front of you are not your mother’s.

Imagine you are 4. The county fair is loud and noisy. You look up, and realize the pair of legs you have been following are not your mom’s. You turn around wildly. Your eyes brim with terror and confusion. You cry out. She rushes over to you, saying, “It’s okay, my darling. I’m right here. I was here all along.”

You are 28. The doctor says it’s early yet, don’t get too attached. But you are attached. Your cells grow side by side. Days later, the blood leaves you and you have never felt so empty.

You are 16. You have never seen the intricate underside of your car, the one you spent two summers saving for. But there it is, smoking in the sun. You stare at, amazed you crawled out alive. Your phone is in your pocket. You wonder what he will say. Were you going too fast? Yes. Did you screw up? Big time. You know I still love you? Yes, Dad. I know.

You are 30. She’s six months. She won’t stop crying. She. Won’t. Stop. Crying. You hop in the shower for five minutes, just five minutes please. She wails. You coo from behind the curtain, “I’m right here. Mommy’s right here.” You dry off and scoop her up. Her cries cease. You are her home.

You are 9. Your teacher tells you about things you can’t imagine. Trails of tears. Auction blocks of tears. Camps of tears. Your classmates jabber, “That’s crazy! Why did people do that? Man if I had been there, I would’ve fought on the right side. They don’t do stuff like that today, right?” Your teacher sighs. She doesn’t know what to say.

You are 23. The gangs have spread like a contagion to your village. Your husband has gotten mixed up in it. You told him you didn’t want it in your home. He took you he didn’t have a choice. He tries to leave. You hear what they will do to you if he does. What they will do to your daughter.

You start walking.

You are 5. It is your first day of kindergarten. The boy beside you is crying. Your mom says she will pick you up in a few hours. You believe her, you think. The teacher smiles warmly. You are happy. You are happier to go home.

You are 8. Your dad has carried you for the last several hours. It is hot and your water bottle is empty. You ask your dad if he is sure they will let you in. When they hear what we’ve been through, of course, my son, of course. It is s nation of people running away. Their founders were men like us, he tells you. Men running away from a country that did not want them, men committed to building a better life. They will understand. You ask again if he’s sure. He is silent. A minute later he tells you, “No matter what, I will be with you.”

You are 45. You see pictures of crying babies and your stomach churns. You turn off the news. Everything is so depressing these days. Why bother paying attention.

You are 26. The doctor places the scrawny, bloody alien on your chest. Something overwhelms you, but you cannot put a word on the feeling. Is it love? Is it fear? You vow everything. You promise everything.

You are 12 and you wake screaming. Your mom rushes in to your room, whispering. It’s okay. It was just a bad dream. You ask if you can sleep in her bed, just tonight. She smiles and says you haven’t asked that it a long time. You make her promise not to tell anyone.

Imagine you are 4. The room is loud and noisy. You look up, and realize the pair of legs you have been following are not your mom’s. You turn around wildly. Your eyes brim with terror and confusion. You cry out. She does not come.

Imagine you are 4, and now you live in a cage.

Votes for Moms

It wasn’t long into the first session of the conference before my baby started getting noisy. While my fellow attendees discussed climate change and air pollution, I swayed in the background, trying to shush her to sleep.

I had been nervous about taking her. It was a three hour drive – longer when you have to pull over to change diapers and replace pacifiers. Sleep was a bit hit or miss. My husband had been working crazy hours lately. There were a million reasons not to go, and one good reason that I should.

I really wanted to get out of the house.

I know, I know. That’s not what the reason should’ve been. The reason should’ve been that I care deeply about the world we are leaving our children. And I do. I promise I do. And being a stay at home mom to two wild preschoolers and a baby during one of Montana’s worst winters had left me with a raging case of cabin fever. So despite my nerves and reasons why not, I decided to attend the Moms Clean Air Force Mama Summit outside of stunning Livingston, MT.

“What’s this conference about again?” my husband asked before I left. “Uh, like moms and kids and climate change and clean air and stuff,” I answered, all the while thinking, “It’s about spending a weekend at the gateway to Yellowstone while getting out of having to cook dinner for a few nights.”

When I got there and I finally had an uninterrupted chance to peruse the agenda, I realized it was about more than kids and climate and stuff – it was about encouraging women to get involved in their local governments.

As I listened to various session leaders encouraging the attendees to run for office, I scoffed. I could barely listen to a talk between blow outs and spit ups. The idea of running for something like the school board seemed laughable. I had young kids – it just wasn’t going to happen. Plus I was a stay at home mom with a gaping, diaper shaped hole on my resume.

But when all the pacing in the back of the room worked, and my baby did fall asleep, I realized it probably wouldn’t kill me to attend a school board meeting. Or call my city council members and ask what they are doing about local air pollution. I could check in with my neighbor and see how her fight to get HEPA air filters in classrooms is going.

My baby, being my third child, was not used to receiving my undivided attention, plus the adoring attention of twenty or so other women. She relished returning their smiles, and when she fussed, the other moms shot me sympathetic glances, or offered to take her for a bit so I could get a break. She wasn’t a nuisance. She was the reason I was here.

It dawned on me – our children shouldn’t preclude us from getting into politics. They should encourage us.

Moms have perfected the art of excusing ourselves to the back of the room. We hide our messes in our Instagram photos. We hush and rock our babies. We apologize for tearing up when talking about emotional topics – lead in the blood of babies growing up next to superfund sites, ER trips for children’s asthma attacks. We see the decorum of formal meetings and tell ourselves that the political world is no place for children – and by extension, no place for moms.

As the weekend continued, my conversations with other women flowed from swapping pie recipes to the latest developments on superfund projects. I was surrounded by community leaders – city council members, executive directors, state legislators. “Oh, what do I do? Um, babies, and blog and write sometimes and stuff…”

Although I was less worried about my baby interrupting the talks, I still felt inadequate and unqualified. But as we talked more about climate change – I realized how it would take far more than a few elected officials to create change. It would take an army of people standing behind them. No, I didn’t understand the intricacies of all the science, or the details of every policy.

But I knew what it was like to hear my kids cough from smoke pollution.

So, listen up moms. (And dads and grandparents and aunts and uncles)

It’s okay if your baby cries in the background while you call your representative to ask if they support rolling back car emissions standards.

It’s okay if you ignore the growing pile of laundry to send a letter during nap time to the school board to ask if they’ve considered banning idling in front of schools.

It’s okay to show up to a town hall with a restless kid and ask why air quality is so poor that they’ve had indoor recess every day for the past week. Heck, it might prove your point.

Women, especially moms, have been told for a long time that we aren’t a good fit for politics. We’ve got babies to take care of, and heaven forbid, we might get emotional. But we wold be mistaken to think these are our weaknesses. Our strength lies in our passion – for our families, for our communities, for our home.

So pick up the phone and call.

Pick up a pen and write.

Maybe even pick up a candidate filing form and change the world.

This post was sponsored by Moms Clean Air Force and The Mission List. If you want to learn more about how you can take a stand against climate change, check out Moms Clean Air Force’s work to get involved.