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Sorry, Tina Fey: Even My New Kitten Can’t Distract Me from the News

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Everywhere you look, it seems as if the world is crumbling around us. From Nazi rallies to Trump pardoning Joe Arpaio and the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, it can feel like too much to deal with.

Can’t we just all stay home and eat a bunch of delicious cake as Tina Fey asked us to (with her tongue in her cheek, maybe, or maybe not)?

If I had my own version of Fey’s sheet cake, it would be my new kitten, Babaganoush, whom we adopted last weekend. This 3-month-old ball of fur is what I turn to when the going gets tough—and in this day and age, that seems to be every 30 seconds.The country may be going up in flames, but I feel safe and secure with my face in the softest, furriest belly ever.

Is the world getting you down? Then I invite you all to shut it out and de-stress with the splendor that is Babaganoush:

Yesterday Babaganoush fell asleep sitting up. Silly kitty.

Babaganoush likes to bat at colorful things. Aww….

OK, I hope you enjoyed your kitty therapy.

But come on, do you seriously think I’m advocating for sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the world around you? No. Toss that cake and kitten aside (OK, don’t toss the kitten).

Sure, I get the temptation to want to lock yourself off from the world. But many of our neighbors—particularly people of color and economically disadvantaged families—have no choice but to do a lot of this work, with no opportunity to hide from it all. If your home was just flooded, if your family is at risk of being deported, there is no “escapism” for you.

As a Jewish mother, I feel strongly about my duty to speak up for those who can’t, and do my part in making this world a better place. Today that means continuing to speak up about institutional racism and what decisions like Arpaio’s pardon means in the bigger picture—and finding concrete ways to help those hurting from Harvey.

So, yes, enjoy these pictures of Babaganoush, but don’t let them be a distraction from what you should be doing—what we all should be doing—which is taking care of others and the world around us.

If you’re concerned about the destruction wrought by Harvey (and you should be, because these folks are in dire situations right now), there is actually a lot you can do.

The aftermath of Harvey will be felt for months, and these Texas communities will be needing help for a while. With school starting for much of the nation, this could be a great time to talk with your kids about how they can help. Maybe you can gather up extra school supplies, clothes and shoes that no longer fit, or raise money to buy gift cards for those impacted. This is a very tangible way to show your children how we can take care of others in need.

As for the growing, more vocal and visible racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that feels like it’s multiplying nationwide? It’s a good moment to show your kids what the right thing to do is. Whether that is something as “simple” as speaking up when somebody makes a racist joke, or showing up to a local march or rally. Your children are watching and learning, and it is your responsibility to lead by example.

Here is one small way to start if you feel overwhelmed: diversify your children’s home libraries. Make sure they’re reading books with main characters that represent a range of children, not just ones that look like them. Subscribe to a monthly service like Safety Pin Box (which happens to have a children’s option so everyone in the family can learn ways to combat white supremacy!) which not only provides resources and learning on racism, but offers tangible ways to go about dismantling it both in your own community and beyond.

As a mom, I’m trying to teach my son that the awesome things in life (cake and kitties) aren’t there to distract or derail us from taking action about the bad things—but rather, they are a reminder that we need to work extra hard so that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy such things without worry or fear. So yes, let them eat cake and snuggle kitties—but only after the hard work is done.

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