Sahar, on Voice. Sling Diaries, Vol VII.
The Sling Diaries, Volume VII. A photo-documentary chronicling the art of baby wearing in the lives of families around the world. Over the course of six months, Sling Diarists will create their own Sling Diary though a series of diary entries interpreting a unique theme given to them each month.
Meet all of our Sling Diarists here.
I head to bed earlier than usual, but on this day I cannot bear to stay awake to see what the coming hours will bring. I think of the little baby in my belly, growing and forming, thriving. He is safe. I can protect him. I think of my son sleeping in his room, unaware that the world around us is about to change. Just that morning we walked as a family to the elementary school across the street from our house; I watched my son play with my husband as I stood in line, excitedly tapping my feet. It was important to me to be able to tell my son that he was there with us, with me, on this day.
My husband came to bed sometime in the early morning hours and I remember asking him if it was over. I saw his shoulders deflate in the shadows; I knew the answer before he could respond.
The date is November 8th, 2016.
The next morning felt bleak. There were a lot of emotions. My sister called us from Chicago and through her tears she told me that her daughter woke up to the news and immediately asked if Jamo was going to be ok. Because even at age 6, our niece could understand that solely because her cousin is Mexican and Persian could mean that his safety was threatened. My heart shattered. I felt broken and defeated, not knowing how to exist in a world where hate and ignorance was so openly accepted. Not knowing how to keep my boys safe in a world that seemed against us. I searched for words, but had none. This feeling overwhelmed me for days and every time I spoke to anyone the tears flowed and I felt powerless. I felt unsure of the world that surrounded us and that uncertainty was terrifying.
This feeling of questioning left me wondering. Should I scream out my frustrations and fears? Would it be best to keep quiet, speaking only in places that felt safe? Should I ignore everything and continue to live in my bubble of likeminded people? I wondered if my voice mattered. I wondered how I would know if my voice mattered.
And then I thought of my son. At the time, he was not quite a year and a half old, just figuring out how to speak to us beyond one-word statements, rapidly learning a handful of English and Farsi words with each day that passed. How could I question whether or not my voice mattered – my voice no longer belonged to only me. My voice is how I protect my boys. It is how I love on them. It sets the parameters of how people treat my children; my voice provides the tone in which others engage with my babes. There has never been a more crucial time in my life to make sure that my voice was heard.
And so I talk. A lot. I make sure the people that are a part of our sons lives understand that we approach raising our boys in a way that is inclusive, kind, and thoughtful. I talk to them about how my husband and I strive to create a space for them that allows them to explore who they are and what they need to grow. And in a time when it often feels easy to raise our voices in anger and frustration, we try our best to maintain a feeling of peacefulness in our home and in our lives – making sure that the ways in which we use our voices shows our boys the importance and power words can hold.
I think of my son and how we spend our days, him asking question after question, fully immersed in toddlerhood, his voice full of hope and joy and curiosity. My husband and I are constantly amused by the things he says, how his language is constantly exploding; though we are mindful of how we react, making sure that he always has a place that feels safe for him, where he is not judged or ridiculed. He has no concept of things that make me fearful; he is free of those obstacles. He is fearless with his words. He is confident and sure of himself. I want him to hold on to this feeling forever, though I know it will change as he changes, that it will grow as he grows.
A lot of things changed after that November day. I’ve explored parts of my cultural identity and found new meaning in the dialogues that have surrounded me for most of my life, and I strive to share the stories of my heritage with my sons. I have found a purpose and power in my voice. The surprise of the outcome of that day set in motion something that is bigger than one person. When I see my son in moments where he is struggling, we talk about how he has a choice to make; we present him with his options. We ask him to choose how he wants to move forward. We talk about how his choice may impact his little brother. Right now, those choices are about whether he wants cheddar bunnies instead of pretzels, or if he would rather play with cars or choose a book to read while I’m putting his brother down for a nap. As he gets older, his voice will hold more weight and his choices will become trickier. He will stumble, as we all do. I hope that he learns from those moments and grows from them.
My sons voices will impact those around them. Their voices will be meaningful. Their voices have changed my life, even before they had words.
Photos by Brenda Winburn. Follow along with Sahar over on Instagram, @themamanest, and The Sling Diaries on Pinterest.