The Lumberjill: Priorities

By Jen Jackson Quintano
Reader Columnist

Sometimes, I am guilty of not being the best mom.

Sometimes, I am distracted. (A lot of the time, actually.)

Sometimes, I can be found sending emails to clients on a weekend when I could be playing Uno instead. Sometimes, I can be found hauling my daughter around to bid on jobs instead of going to the park. Sometimes, I can be found paying taxes and insurance premiums instead of paying attention to my girl.

Sometimes, she asks, “Why didn’t you make it to the cookie party at school? Why didn’t you make it to the assembly? Why didn’t you make it to the field trip? Why? Why? Why?”

Jen Jackson Quintano. Courtesy photo.

Because these things happen during the workday, my dear. And I am a worker bee. I am a worker bee so that you might have a home and food and clothing and everything Harry Potter in a world where these things are increasingly expensive and elusive.

Yes, sometimes, I am guilty of prioritizing my agenda (which is often my work) over my daughter’s agenda (which is often play). May she eventually understand. And forgive.

Yet, when it comes to the big stuff — like her safety and sense of security in this world — I will drop everything to attend to that. To ensure that. My agenda ain’t got nothin’ on my daughter’s basic wellbeing. 

I’m sure all of you readers would say the same thing about your littlest loved ones.

So why, then — why, why, why, why, why — is this not true when you corral us in a pen like a political party or a school board meeting or a NRA convention? Why are we nastier beasts when in a herd? 

Why do we continue to throw our kids under the (school) bus when it comes to our political agendas?

For the love of God, why?

I’m not just talking about school shootings, but let’s start there.

At the NRA convention that immediately followed the Uvalde massacre (a coincidence that some attendees felt was a sign of a false flag operation <insert sound of faith in humanity shattering>), speakers denounced not the quick-and-easy access to semi-automatic weapons in this country, but the “evil” in our world. Evil kills kids, not guns. 

Last I checked, evil doesn’t get detained at the borders of other countries. Evil travels freely. So, why then is gun violence so much more prevalent here? Why are you more likely to die of a lightning strike in the United States than a gun in Japan? Why are you more likely to die from “contact with agricultural machinery” in the United States than a gun in England? Why are you more likely to die from “accidental hanging” in the United States than a gun in Norway? Why are strange mishaps more prevalent than “evil” in other countries?

Why does evil reign supreme here? Did it succumb to an accidental hanging elsewhere?

Why does my daughter live in a country — not a world, but a country; let’s make that distinction — where schools are targets? Where children are targets? Where little kids who still believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have to practice active shooter drills? Where innocence is bludgeoned daily?

Why do we value not just the right to bear arms, but the right to bear assault weapons? Why do we find that right more compelling than the safety of our most vulnerable residents? Why do we still believe in superheroes, that a good guy with a gun is going to stop the bad guy with the gun? Uvalde should have laid that notion to rest once and for all.

In our country, we are currently dismantling the right to abortion. In North Idaho, we just essentially elected a guy who believes that incest and rape are not persuasive cases for abortion; that the child shouldn’t “pay for the sins of the father.” (No mention, of course, of the pain of the mother. Nor the ensuing uphill battle of the child in such circumstances.) 

But here’s my question: If life is so sacrosanct — if even a collection of rapidly dividing cells without name or breath is deserving of protection at all costs — then why are our living, breathing children not deserving of protection? Why is our fear of perceived boogeymen (boogeymen by the names of “Tyranny” or “Biden” or “Socialism” or what have you) greater than our dedication to our children’s wellbeing? Do we not see that the boogeyman is in the mirror — is our fragmented population’s collective reflection? No firearm will save us from that, no matter how powerful.

In this regard, the boogeyman is also not critical race theory. It is not masking or not masking in schools. It is not our librarians or our books. It is not acknowledging sexual identity in the classroom. It is not social-emotional learning models. 

It’s as if, in the midst of our current existential anxiety, we are playing a game of Pin the Fear on the School. And our children are suffering for it, with so many sharp worries piercing their reality.

A school district in Connecticut recently voted down a plan to bolster mental health services for kids. The parents were afraid that their children would be counseled on birth control and sexual identity. But, you know, maybe that’s where they need the counseling, seeing as their parents are so afraid of the issues.

In Idaho — a state where nearly one quarter of high school students have reported suicidal thoughts — the State Department of Education has stepped away from the social-emotional learning label, deeming it toxic after plenty of political blowback. One legislator likened SEL to the dystopian novel Brave New World. In reality, SEL is a model for molding responsible and empathic people (something we could use a few more of these days) through teaching the regulation of emotions and relationships. It offers a toolbox of resiliency in an increasingly trauma-filled world. 

However, SEL is under fire as a liberal tool to brainwash our kids into embracing LGBTQ values, among other things. Thus, the learning model that would most help our kids in the face of myriad suicides and mass shootings is getting kicked to the curb, generating more suicides and shootings through a lack of mental and emotional support.

Ugh. If we’re going to hold fast to our assault weapons, can we at least give our kids the tools to deal with the ugly aftermath of their use? Please?

I recognize that, in living under the rule of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, none of this is going to change. All I can do is rant. And beg for minuscule and impossible changes. 

Keep your guns. Keep your beliefs. Fine. But keep perspective. (As a fellow parent recently remarked, “I like the Second Amendment, but there are some other good amendments, too.”) Don’t lose sight of your child’s happiness in pursuit of political agendas. Don’t lose sight of your child’s needs in response to shadowy fears.

Yes, we are all guilty of prioritizing our agendas over those of our children. I do it all the time. Part of being an adult is being imperfect, being short-sighted, being distractible and anxious, and not always wanting to jump on the trampoline. But part of being an adult is also understanding that most boogeymen aren’t real. That our own minds and beliefs are sometimes the most dangerous foe of all. Part of being an adult is getting over ourselves and our Facebook feeds to glimpse what really matters. And it’s not our politics. It’s that little being tugging on your sleeve as you try to read this. So, put the paper down and go play.

Jen Jackson Quintano writes and runs an arborist business with her husband in Sandpoint. Find their website at See more of Quintano’s writing at

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