The Heart is Also a … thing that does things

I haven’t been writing much and maybe that’s because I busted my butt in April to “win” Camp Nano or maybe it’s because I’m So. Super. Busy. and when I do get a spare moment of not working/parenting/sleeping, I just want to sit down for three seconds!

Either way, not writing time is prime definitely reading time, even if it means reading two paragraphs at a time on my phone while my infant is occupied with something that probably won’t result in catastrophe and my son has fallen down a YouTube hole full of toy unboxing videos.

That’s why it took me almost two months to read The Sun is Also a Star.

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What I liked about it was the short chapters and switching perspectives. I also love when I learn stuff not related to character development in a fiction novel. I loved the unique (to me) perspectives of the characters and the exploration of the effect of parenting styles on the emotional needs of their children.

What I like most is that about 1/3 of the way through the book, I learned they were making a MOOOOVIE of it starring Riverdale’s Charles Melton and Grownish’s Yara Shahidi. I spent the last third of the book imaging them as the characters and it made my heart grow three sizes. Which is too big. Very uncomfortable inside my chest.

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My next book to read two or less paragraphs at a time is Freakonomics because I like to balance heart biggening with brain biggening because that’s… how balance works?

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I mean, I started out with a big heart so…

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The Most Common Parenting Strategy

First on my list of nonfiction books to write, when I eventually get around to writing nonfiction books, will be a parenting book called How to Raise a Strong-willed Girl Without Destroying Her Spirit.

It will be one page and the text on that page will look like this:

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Because hell if I know. I mean, mine’s still an infant and I can hardly handle it. I was chatting with a few friends this weekend about their teen and pre-teen strong-willed girls and apparently, it only gets harder from here.

The one thing we could all agree on was that being a strong-willed girl is exactly what will get our babies through the tough times and set them up for a lifetime of kicking some ass. But SWEET LORD, what do we do when they give you this look just for trying to change their diaper?

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I’m PLAYING right now, MOTHER.

 

 

Ill-defined Fun

In the spirit of John Cougar Mellencamp–because I can’t seem to get away from him lately–here’s a little story about Where I’m supposed to be right now, Why I’m not there, and How come I ain’t never goin’ back.

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When my son was six months old, I took him to Mommy and Me swim classes at a local gym with a small pool and weekday classes. “This’ll be fun!” I told my husband, who is anti-bodies of water and his submergence in them. And for 6 weeks, it was! We had a great instructor who sang songs and provided graduated steps for infant water integration and who I trusted enough to float my son around for 45 seconds.

So we signed up for a second class! “Oh, this’ll be so fun!” I told my little bundle of joy who took to the water like a reverse amphibian. But it was not. There was a new instructor who said to me on the very first day, “I’ve never worked with babies before. Let’s see how it goes!”

Oh. Oh no. No, no. You have no experience with babies and your best reassurance is “let’s see how it goes?” It did not go well for many reasons. But the reason I demanded a refund on my non-refundable class was that this woman encouraged us all to swim to the deep end holding our infants. Mmm… no, danger. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll just swim behind you in case something happens.” No.

Oh but that was years ago. So when I got an email advertising a Mommy’s Night Yoga course, I thought, “Oh, this could be fun!” But then I got a phone call while I was out with my husband this afternoon. He joked, “It’s the gym saying the class is cancelled.” Haha, three hours from start time? No way. YES way. Yes, they cancelled class three hours before it started after I planned my damn day around this thing.

Yes, they gave us a refund and offered me 1 free yoga class at the exact time my son has karate class tomorrow morning. Which is 1 day after the event they cancelled. Which was for busy moms who can’t find a moment to themselves. So… like, logically, said moms might need more than a 19 hour planning window.

In conclusion, this place needs to lose my email address like they’ve lost my trust.

I would like to thank my husband for taking the children out tonight so Mommy could at least get some writing time. You don’t dangle a kid-free evening in front of a stressed out mom and then YOINK it away like so much cartoon sandwich. It’s cruel.

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Get in Your Chair and Keep Going

I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because ok, yes, Roseanne Connor probably would vote for… you know… And she would absolutely not apologize for it no matter how horrible that choice turned out to be. And she would make Jackie apologize TO HER for her decision.

That’s who the character is: a stubborn, loudmouthed, take-no-prisoners, sorry-not-sorry, working class, conservative, uneducated caricature. We don’t want to hang out with her and be her friend! We want to watch her yell at people. That’s the appeal.

But… I don’t know. There’s something amiss in TV land and it’s rubbing me the wrong way.

Oh right, it was the chair episode. She lost me on the chair episode. And by “lost” I mean kicked me in the crotch and told me to nut up because children can only be controlled by verbal and/or physical assault.

That, and the actress’s chit chat with the offender in chief is what sealed the deal for me. Ooohhhh, so this isn’t a joke. This is the bullshit she’s putting out into the world as her actual truth. She’s actually saying that being an abusive bigot is A-OK in her book and giving more abusive bigots an excuse to continue to hurt others. I see. Yesssss, I see now.

I was trying to compare it to the Adam is a bi-sexual man episode of Jane the Virgin (“Jane the Heteronormative”) and how that kinda rubbed me the wrong way too. Jane takes no issue with female bisexuality but male bisexuality is gross and weird? Mmm… that’s not… ok for such a liberal and progressive show. Oh but wait… as the story arc wore on, it became clear that the Jane character was exposing a set of beliefs that are fairly common and then examining them as a way to open the door for a future story line about Petra being bisexual and I’m not 100% pleased with how it all went but at least the dialogue continued.

In Roseanne, the dialogue seems to stop with Roseanne. I kept waiting for Darlene to prove her parents wrong. To show that compassion and trust (to a certain extent. mistakes were made, Darlene) in child-rearing can result in compassionate and trustworthy children would have reconciled some of the crappy things Roseanne and Dan said and did to their own children.

But it didn’t happen. Children are stupid and can’t be trusted and it’s perfectly ok to abuse them if that keeps them in line. The end.

That’s it. It’s all just excused. And let’s not pretend for a second that it’s ok to get into the shower with someone without their permission. EVERYTHING about that episode was bullshit and it that was just it for me. I’m done. Delete that recording, DVR, because I don’t want to watch this garbage anymore.

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File this under things that are not effective or appropriate parenting, marked “How not to teach kids about bodies and boundaries”

Like Roxanne Gay wrote in her NYTime Opinion piece,

I’ve been thinking about how nothing will change if we keep consuming problematic pop culture without demanding anything better.

She also said that shows like this are normalizing these behaviors. I don’t think I need to justify, at this point, my opinion about anyone trying to #MAGA with bigotry and anti-intellectualism. But from a parenting perspective, this kind of old school “family values” 50s throwback, child-controlling, abusive behavior apologism is intolerable.

I’ll stick with Jane.

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Children are magical, even when they are driving you freaking nutballs. Calling them bitches and attempting to drown them doesn’t change that.

The Kids Are Not OK

I work with kids and teens in an after school-type activity and one of them had an assessment yesterday. This girl, maybe 8th or 9th grade, came in crying and freaking out because there was just too much going on in her life and this assessment was the last thing she was prepared to deal with on top of everything else.

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I talked her down, reminded her that it was just us, we were just there to determine what was going well and what needed improvement, and that the only reason there was a Pass/No Pass type evaluation at the end was to … well, to scare the lazy kids into taking it seriously.

But man… I have to reevaluate that tactic after my conversation with her.

She is so stressed out. I’m stressed out because I have two young children and two jobs and not enough money and less than not enough sleep but compared to her? I’m doing pretty well.

I just started thinking about all the kids her age and why they seem to be struggling so much more than I did back in the day. And mind you, I struggled too. But not like this. Not the weight of the whole wide world.

I mean, set aside for a second the whole school shootings/you could actually die from trying to get an education issue for a second (as if you could, honestly) to think about the message they’re always getting:

Everything you do now has DIRE CONSEQUENCES! Don’t mess up. Don’t slow down. DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES, CHILDREN! YOUR DOOM AWAITS YOU!

My GAWD, we need to let up! We need to stop enforcing the idea that adult success is predicated upon adolescent decisions. I mean… things change, people change, circumstances change. I got an F in math once but I’m not whoring on street corners because a bad grade in math directly correlates to an inability to manage my finances or find adequate work.

Why are we all so afraid of failure? So very afraid of making the wrong decision, of buying the wrong brand, of saying the wrong thing and having it haunt us forever? And why are we infecting the brains of kids who FOR REAL have much more important things to deal with (like being MURDERED AT SCHOOL) with our own insecurities?

Listen up, kids: There are things you can’t come back from, yes. Being murdered or kidnapped or abused or raped. Being someone WHO murders or kidnaps, abuses and/or rapes. But failing a class? Choosing the wrong major? Not scoring perfectly on an assessment? Those are things you learn from. You make adjustments and changes. You discover new things about yourself.

And adults: LAY OFF! Worry about MURDER AND KIDNAPS AND ABUSE AND RAPE. Then help your kids deal with disappointment, failure, mistakes. Give them the space to screw up and come back from it. Love them for exactly who they are and what they can already do and then encourage them see what else they’re capable of.

But I shouldn’t have to comfort a crying teenager because she’s so afraid of not being perfect that she breaks down when admitting that she’s not.

And let’s freaking do something about those GUNS, huh? Vote out the NRA whores and elect officials who aren’t so transparently corrupt. Because there’s no excuse for it. There’s no logical explanation for children having to fear for their lives at school. Any politician not willing to DO SOMETHING about that doesn’t deserve a job in public service.

Preschool Assessment

My brilliant child received his first preschool assessment this week and the best way I could describe it to my friend was this:

“They’re assessing a monkey in a cage doing human tricks not a monkey in the jungle living its best life.”

I mean, you can only assess what you can see and I totally understand if my little simian, in that maelstrom of stimuli, can’t concentrate on answering inane questions or performing feats of mundanity.

But that don’t make him a dummy who can’t word good. Daaaamn.

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My son is glasses smart.

The Cracked Mask of Customer Service

I got caught in a web of social transgressions today when I stopped by work with my daughter and got roped into a customer service transaction I wasn’t prepared for.

You know I’m terrible at the small talk, like many introverts are. But body policing is a pet peeve of mine so my customer service mask was a little too tight and in danger of cracking.

“You don’t even look that tired,” the husband says to me after asking how old my daughter is. That’s kind of a compliment for the mother of a newborn so I thank him and try to continue explaining what offer we could make them. “How is it that you don’t even look tired?” he continues and why is it now starting to sound like an accusation?

Turn on the small talk machine, I say to myself, smiling and shrugging. What do other people say? Something about coffee, right? People like coffee. Moms drink a lot of coffee. “Just… you know, a lot of caffeine, I guess. Anyway…”

“Not too much, I hope,” says the wife. “You are breastfeeding, aren’t you?” OK, woman I’ve never met before today because I’ve only ever dealt with your husband. You’re getting a little too personal.

“If you are breastfeeding, you shouldn’t be drinking too much caffeine. And I hope you’re breastfeeding.”

Hold up. Now… I don’t know you, you’re here to buy something from me, and you think you can just go talking about my boobs like you have some say in the matter. No. Nuh uh.

Wait… no, let’s just steer this back to the subject at hand. Trying to up sell here. Gotta keep that mask on. “Oh yeah, no, you know…”

“You need to be careful,” she says all serious now like she has some sort of stake in this. Like she… even knows my first name.

“Yeah, uh huh, so what do you think about…”

“So important,” the husband says, nodding at his wife who then speaks to him in French and points at my sleeping infant.

Once she stops, I finally get to finish my pitch for this new service they want, they agree, and eventually go away.

But I’m just like… how do you… even… like… What makes people think that they can just lecture strangers about their habits? I’m not downing red eyes and snacking on Milky Ways in my office with my baby hanging off a boob, asking them what they think about my parenting philosophy.

Can everyone just stop being a judgey old lady from Target for 3 seconds and spend more time taking care of their own business.

Because, did I mention, that while these two paragons of parenting were checking my caffeine intake, their kids were out in the lobby smacking each other and making a mess.

Get your own house in order.

 

LEGO Batman Fo-Evah

My preschool-aged son has taken to lamenting that if I don’t help him RIGHT NOW then whatever his need, it will go unmet “fo-evah!”

Case in point, I was nursing the baby on the couch next to him and couldn’t spare a hand at the moment to dig through the couch cushions for the LEGO Batman helmet he dropped. This is after I told him to be careful not to drop the LEGO Batman helmet so naturally this was all my fault. His response to my failure to respond immediately was, “Now it gonna be gone FO-EVAH, Mom.” Direct eye contact, sad puppy face, he repeats, “Fo-evvvvah.”

This is a silly example. My kid is smart and sometimes lazy and he could easily have gotten his own damn LEGO piece. But “forever” is a concept that gets thrown around a lot more often than it applies.

I have no problem with children and teens misunderstanding the nature of “forever” because they haven’t lived long enough to see how often things change. I can’t think of a better example right now than with my infant. Days go by and everything changes! She grows, she learns a new skill, she likes a faster speed on her baby swing, she can hold a bottle by herself? (That one’s new!)

And most things, I realize, change so slowly that you don’t always notice: how my preschooler needs a haircut before I realize it looks any different than the last time it was cut, that he doesn’t need his food cut in such small pieces anymore, that he knows the word “catastrophe” and uses it in hyperbole like, way too often.

But there are people who should know better. There are people who should have the experience and knowledge and insight to know that, at least with children, “forever” isn’t necessarily true.

So explain to me why my son’s doctor told me, when he was only nine months old, that if I continued to rock him to sleep, I’d be rocking him to sleep for the rest of his life. “Do you want to be rocking your thirteen year old child to sleep? No? Then maybe you better stop that now.”

Or how lots of people think I nursed him too long and he’d never be able to give it up.

Or how some of the older people in his life think that if he’s not potty trained by NOW, he’ll be wearing diapers until he’s in college.

Or if I still have to help him get to sleep at night, he’ll never learn to fall asleep on his own.

I stopped rocking him when he was ready for it. I weaned him in the span of two days, after I started taking a medication that could affect my breast milk. We’re slowly working on potty training when his mind and body are so inclined. And I’m giving him strategies for falling asleep on his own and letting him backslide on bad days.

People who lose limbs are dealing with “forever” type situations. People who insist that potty training is just a bag of skittles and a weekend of cleaning up messy floors away? Those people need to reassess.

 

Also, we finally left that terrible doctor. That’s a fantastic story if you’re looking to get riled up toward people who mistreat children. Another day, perhaps.

Twy Again, Mom

I’m not sure how it happened but I’m relatively sure I did it and that’s why I think I should be able to take credit. My son is now fond of saying, “Whoops, twy again” when things fall down or apart or don’t go his way. How’s that for resilience? I don’t need you, Parenting Magazine. I don’t need no Scary Mommy.

Now, I’m not saying he’s the most mellow toddler in the world and when he’s hungry or tired, it’s full on melt-down time if he drops a crayon or his sock is slightly askew. But when he’s well-fed and well-rested and playing in his own little world with or without me, he’s more likely to say, “Twy again” than he is to freak out when his block tower falls down.

I mean, I think that’s because of me. I remember saying “try again” to him before he started saying it himself. But it wasn’t an intentional parenting strategy. It wasn’t a mantra. It was just my way of distracting him BEFORE a meltdown occurred. Apparently, the kid has internalized that attitude and it’s made for much more chill play time.

So my next step, I guess, is to foster that attitude to include other things: putting clothes on by himself, using the potty, going to preschool, trying new activities, homework, cancer research, astronaut training, running for elected office. You know, all the important stuff.

And as proud as I am of my little can-doer, I have to reserve some of that praise for myself. This “try again” attitude I’ve infected my son with by accident was a long and painful process for me. I’ve never done well with rejection or embarrassment or … just things that seemed really hard. But the reality of life for a woman is that we have to keep trying, keep working, keep pushing if we want the things we want: again, the important stuff like equality and opportunity and equal pay and equal rights and equal representation. If we want to normalize women’s lives and experiences and health and professionalism, we have to keep trying. If we want the world to be a better place for our children, even for those little can-doers who don’t necessarily need our help, we have to keep trying again and again and again.

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Here’s where I SHOUT OUT to all the brave and bold women running for office in the next few years. She Should Run gives me hope for the future and inspiration to be a leader and a role model regardless of political aspiration (or lack thereof). Do your thing, homegirls, and if it doesn’t work out the first run, TRY AGAIN!

My Beeswax is Over Here

Today I went to a playgroup and it was not awful!

A neighboring town’s library holds a 45 minute playgroup every week and since my search for affordable day care has gone horribly… so so horribly*, I’m checking out free options for kid interaction instead.

*I should explain. Daycare would be helpful for work reasons but more than that, I want to socialize my shy kid. Turns out, part-time day care is more than I would make working extra hours. I could have a fleet of cars for the price of part-time day care. I could have a much bigger house. I could spend a weekend a month in Las Vegas for the amount they want me to pay for part-time day care. So… playgroups, here we come.

We went on An Adventure today! Our first trip to the library! Our first playgroup! Our first time spent with multiple children of the same age as my little guy! Very Exciting… for Mommy. The kid, not so much. I’m thinking it might take more than one visit for him to acclimate.

c3701b8147a87663f25cf2bf55f4ba19The reason I’ve avoided playgroups until now, and I really am starting to sound like I have some major beef with them, but honestly it was because of Scary Mommy. I’ve read so much anti-other mom bologna, so many The Five Awful Moms You’ll Meet At Playgroup-type articles, so very many “Hover Moms are Ruining Everything!” rants that I got stuck in an introvert fear bubble and assumed the very worst.

It really wasn’t that bad. There were hover moms and sit back & watch moms and grandmas and a grandpa. There were kids who cried, kids who stomped around, kids who spun and fell down, kids who tried to take all the toys, kids who attached themselves firmly to their mommy and refused to let go until the instruments came out (that would be my kid), and totally chill participating kids. It was normal. Totally normal! This is how kids are. This is how the people who care for them are. It’s really not that big a deal.

Yeah, one kid hopped on the back of the chair my kid was sitting on and tried to push him off. His mom came over and grabbed him and apologized. There was a kid wandering around yelling adorably at people. We all thought it was cute and didn’t care. There was a 2 year old the size of a 5 year old who ran around at the back of the room. It was fine. There was a kid who screamed at 10 minute intervals. Whatever.

Maybe some of the caretakers were cranky, maybe there were glares and glances and judgment but I didn’t notice. I just focused on my kid and the group leader and thought it was lovely. Maybe that’s the secret right there: mind your own beeswax and everything will be fine.

We’re going again next week. I might be the more excited of the two of us.