Zen and the Art of Parenting a 3-Year-Old

“Buddy are you going to put this puzzle away or not?!” I yell.

“I never will,” my son says like I’ve just asked him to join the Dark Side.

“Why not?” Yes, I realize that I’m the grownup and he’s the child and this is the wrong question. However…

“Because it’s a party,” he says for the millionth time. It’s his new excuse for not doing things. Because it’s a party.

And I try to get mad. Or I try to be reasonable. Sometimes I even put on my mommy pants and lay down the law…

After I laugh. Because that’s the best excuse I’ve heard for doing whatever the crap you want whenever the crap you want to.

Because it’s a party, man. Chillax.

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Tired Mom Tells a Story

“Mom, tell me a story. ’bout the real Goldilocks, not just Goldie and Bear.”

“Ok, sure. The real Goldilocks. Right, so… here we go.”

Onesuponatime, there was a girl. A blonde girl. I mean gold… gold girl. Girl with gold hair. And her name was Goldie… locks. Goldilocks.

Goldilocks was… um… going into a house, the bears’ house. She went into a stranger’s house and just made herself at home, didn’t she? Rude.

In Goldie and Bear, she was delivering an invitation but I don’t know why the OG Goldie was in a bear’s house. Did she even have a reason or like… are fairy tales just… plotting for the sake of the moral and not even… Oh right, sorry so…

Goldilocks was in the house and she… went in the kitchen and she ate some porridge. Or she found some porridge and the Dad’s was too hot.

“The Papa. His name is Papa Bear.”

Right, Papa. The Papa’s was too hot and the baby’s was too cold? Or the Mama’s was too cold and the baby’s was good? I don’t remember. There were three bowls and she ate one. And then she… um… she did nothing. She… did… nothing.

….

“Mom? You ‘wake?”

What?! Yeah, yeah. Uhh… so then she broke the chair and um… slept in the bed? And the Papa’s side was too lumpy and the Mama’s side was too hard so she fell asleep in the Baby’s bed and… then what happens? How does this story end? Do the bears eat the girl or like, what’s the point of… of any of this? Bears and positioning everything on a spectrum on which the middle is the only viable option? Like… why is this even a story?

I… don’t know. Dude, I don’t remember this story at all. Can we do Star Wars instead?

“OK, Mom. Tell the New Hope story.”

Sweet. I can do that one in my sleep.

A long time ago…

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Yoda’s Little Basket

My son found the leftover stack of Yoda napkins from his birthday party, unfolded them, and lined them up across the kitchen floor.

“This is the path to baby sister,” he tells me. He walks across it with his arms out for balance.

“When you’re finished walking your path, can you put it away please?” I ask, thinking of the unholy mess of little green shreds I’ll find if the cat gets to it before I do.

“No, Mom. The path doesn’t just end,” he says. “The path never just ends.”

The path… never just ends. Hmm.

“Profoundly true, baby,” I say, thinking of endings and beginnings, doors closing and windows opening. “Wait… what?” I ask, because I’m not sure I heard that last thing he said. “Did you… just call me a poop basket?”

“Yeah,” he says, tossing a transformer behind the couch.

“Yup, that tracks.”

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“You a poop basket, Mom.”

 

Time to Put on Your Big Boy Pants

This article. And this line in particular,

But in Kylo Ren, the franchise has certainly introduced some complexity to its fandom, by reminding us how susceptible we are to giving unlimited chances to sad, angry young men.

has a lot to do with what I was trying to say in my post, Smother Love for Smad Boys.

Feeling justified in my assumption that there’s a cultural significance to the urge to comfort and fix smad boys that has nothing to do with postpartum hormones or the mama bear instinct.

Why do we feel so much compassion for angry white boys? Is it a byproduct of oppression by white men or conditioning from having to identify with them through the prevalence of their narratives? Either way, they are getting away with too much, ya’ll.

Here’s hoping 2018 continues the reckoning that 2017 began.

 

 

Chewbacca’s Moral Quandry

How likely is it that people who trash a story just didn’t get what they needed from it?

That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Between Riverdale and The Last Jedi, I’ve been reading a lot of vitriol in the realm of fandom that doesn’t seeeeem like criticism as much as bitching. It’s not in the way of intellectual discourse so much as whiny baby bullshit. And while it can be argued that many internet commentators are just dummies with a digital soapbox to abuse, it seems like many of the haters are just hurters lashing out against the story’s failure to address their inner turmoil.

I’ve written about this both here on the blog and in the novel-length, only sort of fictionalized, unreliable narrator-led personal essay NaNoWriMo project I’m still working on editing:

You know what it is? I think the reason I’m feeling the pain of these two characters so strongly, the reason I feel this kind of intimate connection to them is because they’re so broken and fragile and seeing what comfort they take in each other is vicarious comfort for me. Not that I’m broken and fragile. Not in the same way. But yeah, actually, maybe I am and maybe I’m lacking in comfort in the same way. Maybe I’m not OK at all and there’s more to my current mental state than postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation.

But it’s been on my mind a whole lot more since… well, yesterday when I got home from seeing The Last Jedi and immediately read as many articles about it as possible.

 

Lots of bitching. Only a few critiques.

And I get it! Some of us want a story we can recognize and predict because it makes us feel safe about an unknown future. Some of us want a simple story where good is good and evil is evil and we don’t have to stretch our morality or consider the perspective of The Other to understand motivation. Some of us just want the pretty people to make out so we can live vicariously through them. When we go in expecting that, wanting that, neeeeeding that and we don’t get it?

LASHING OUT! BIZARRE THREATS MADE TO ACTORS! CURSE WORDS a’FLYIN’!

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Meanwhile, I like how emotionally and morally complicated The Last Jedi is. It’s not what I expected and I don’t understand why Poe and Finn can’t be the next great space romance, but it certainly wasn’t boring, was it?

People don’t get quite so worked up about boring stories.

 

Jabba Says No

My husband didn’t respond as sympathetically as I wanted him to last night when I moaned and groaned about my pain and discomfort so I said, “You know what? You could not handle this. You would be crying under the covers if you had to feel this kind of pain every day, every time you stood or sat or tried to walk or rolled over in bed. I’m gonna make you watch that video of the guys hooked up to stomach electrodes to simulate period cramps. Those whiny little jerks cried and fell apart over the kind of discomfort that happens every month to most women. That’s NOTHING compared to the feeling of having a fetus head wedged in your pelvis. NOTHING!”

Then he got me a glass of water and rubbed my back.

Meanwhile, I’ve spend a little bit of time today doing what the experts suggest and checking out Amazon Kindle Book categories I’m interested in throwing a new book into, just to see what people are searching for, what people are buying and rating, and where my story idea might fit in.

And guess what nonsense I am seeing too much of in the Bisexual Romance category!

Mpreg.

Freaking mpreg.

That would be Male Pregnancy, for those not in the know. The only reason I’m in the know is because of the Teen Wolf fan fiction I may have read since my favorite character left the show a while back.

Now… I have no problem with men raising babies. Not gay men, not straight men, not transgender men. Anyone with any kind of nurturing skills can raise a child and I support Dad Rights.

But men being pregnant? I don’t… know… about all that. With the exception of trans men, who have some experience with woman pain, that is. Perhaps it is sexist of me, perhaps I’m just extra sensitive because of my current condition, but maybe it has a lot more to do with the mpreg stories I have read having been written by people who have never been pregnant and think it’s all cute and sweet and rose-scented birthing rooms or whatever but I’m just… just no.

Just no to the stories of handsome pregnant men who grow an adorable little bump under their six-pack and then poop out an infant and go right back to being hot and sexually active but this time, with a little nugget asleep in the bassinet beside their bed. Awww!

No.

The only accuracy in these stories is that yes, it does feel like you’re pooping out a child. The rest is utter nonsense and I am personally offended by any pregnant anyone who maintains a six-pack over their baby bump.

But again, I’m a little overly sensitive about such things right now.

Fiction vs. reality, mpreg authors. 

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good Too

“You know what, though?” my husband said on the way home from seeing Ghostbusters last night. “I think the best thing about the whole movie was Holtzmann. She was funny and weird and smart and badass. I think she’s my new girlfriend.”

“Mine too.”

“I called her first.”

“I call her harder.”

“This is Abbie Mills all over again.”

Little did we know at the time that the entire internet is abuzz with Holtzmann love. Homegirl is a sensation. And Ghostbusters: Lady Balls Be Blowin’ Up is a triumph.

But I don’t want to talk about FILM and analyze FILMMAKING and psychoanalyze and criticize and jazzercise this piece. I want to tell you how it made me feeeeeeel.

I spend a lot of time in introspection because I am an introvert and what I’ve been working on lately is how my upbringing led to some of my not so great decisions, some of my unfortunate delusions, and a lot of misconceptions about confidence, power, and relating to others. Oh and how Ghostbusters could have helped.

I had She-Ra growing up and the original sucky movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but otherwise, most of the women I saw in movies and TV were of the super hot trophy variety and what power they had came almost entirely from their appearance and how the possibility of possessing them (in whichever way was most appropriate to the rating of that show) was a main motivator for the males in the story.

cleo-from-the-catillac-cats-the-80s-26445402-498-376The cartoon Heathcliff was one of my inspirations for this concept of using appearance/sex appeal to control others way back before I knew what sex even was or what “suggestive” meant in relation to my body and the use thereof. It was that poofy-chested, pink leg warmer-wearing bad guy’s girlfriend who made me think all I needed to do was drape myself across a picnic table and wait for a boy to make goo-goo eyes and do whatever I wanted. Because that’s what all the girl cartoons did. Even Bugs Bunny in girl clothes had power in his prettiness. And I got it in my elementary school mind that that’s all I had to do too. In fact, that’s all I thought I could do because there were no Doc McStuffins or Sophia the Firsts or mothereffing badass women Ghostbusters having adventures and effing shizz up without showing off their boobies or midriffs.

She-Ra and Teela and Cheetara and Buffy were all babes in tight clothes. There were no female Transformers. Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite had no power or influence. For a domineering girl in the 80s, the only way I could see to affect the world was through sexy manipulation of males.

As you can imagine, that kind of understanding of power dynamics made adolescence very difficult, especially since I was not, in fact, a super attractive sexy girl who boys tripped over to do my bidding. Dating was incomprehensible from that point of view and so never worked out well. Friendships with boys were fraught with misunderstanding. And having self-confidence when you don’t look the way you think you need to in order to have any agency was near impossible.

We’ll save all the ways I overcompensated, my family and friends’ contribution to my insecurities, and The College Years for my memoir and how I escaped the cycle for my self-help book. I’ll let you know when they’re available on Amazon. I imagine sometime after I start actually writing them.

I keep trying to imagine my childhood with Rey from The Force Awakens or Holtzmann and the gang as my role models. I’m no gun-licking, ghost-punching genius scientist or anything but even having someone like me now, an adult woman who teaches respect and compassion to the kids in my after school program while building confidence in one’s own strengths and patience and diligence in overcoming one’s weaknesses could have made a major impact.

Instead, I grew up with all those internet trolls who threaten sexual violence on women who challenge the misogynist status quo as my classmates and peers. I was made to feel small and inconsequential by my lack of sex appeal because that’s the only value I was told I could hold. I dated boys who treated me like a third place trophy and suffered condescension from male authority figures who just assumed I’d never amount to much.

Ghostbusters felt like vindication. It felt like who I wanted to be when I grew up: a strong smart woman who could take care of herself and effect change the world without exposing her body. My inner child rejoiced and my outer adult swaggered out of that theater feeling like girlz do rule the world. And also like sex appeal has nothing to do with boobies and bellybuttons and everything to do with being your weird wonderful brilliant badass self.

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Padme, they done you wrong

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“I am immune to the Light.”

I was thinking about Padme Amidala again this morning as my son swung his unlicensed Kylo Renesque light-up plastic sword we bought from a park vendor at last night’s fireworks. I’m not super pleased that his favorite characters are Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, two of the most whiny dudebros space has to offer, but I think it has a lot more to do with the cool masks than the elitist entitlement. To be fair, he doesn’t appear attached to any of the Star Wars humans, preferring droids and aliens, but still, Kylo Ren? And by the way, you want to be freaked out by a toy, check out the Kylo Ren talking plush toy. It’s Adam Driver’s voice and it’s disturbing.

And with the heartbreak of knowing that my son could turn out to be a dudebro someday despite my every attempt to teach him compassion and tolerance and courtesy and respect, I thought you know what? I’ll love him anyway. Because that’s what you do.

c4a95abf36d9db1a309413acd6ab3f56Unless you’re Padme Amidala. If you’re Padme, you fall apart over nothing, lose your will to live, and abandon your two precious babies in a world where their father just became a Dark Lord and the Republic you served so loyally just disintegrated. Where’s your Mama Bear instinct? Where is your indomitable spirit that overcame the blockade of your planet, the numerous assassination attempts, some battles and stuff (I only watched the first season of Clone Wars so I know she did some stuff but…)? You just die? You just… DIE?!

No. NO! The Padme I know and love(d a whole lot more in that first season of Clone Wars because despite Natalie Portman’s best efforts, the prequels were crap) would never go out like that! Homegirl would FIGHT! She would gather up them babies, take them somewhere safe, teach them how to use their voices to fight oppression, and go out on a galactic press tour to speak out about the evils of the Empire. She would probably be assassinated by her husband, true, and her children would be in oh so much more danger, but she would freaking try to make the world a better place!!!

Instead they kill her off in the stupidest, most condescending way possible: she gave up the will to live. Who does that to a woman with that kind of fortitude?

George Lucas. Because he is a robot. Because he is a robotic dudebro sent from the past to remind everyone that scifi is for white male nerds with disposable income and women and POC need not apply. PROTEST GHOSTBUSTERS for putting ladies in it! PROTEST The Force Awakens because there are ladies and POC in starring roles! Make America White Again!

No. NO, I SAY! Go build your metaphorical space wall elsewhere!

OK, but, they established that Padme died when Leia was young (young, not neonatal) so she has to be killed off in the prequels, right? And women die in childbirth sometimes, right? And letting it look like she died before the babies were born would protect them, right?

So how about this: The stress of losing her job (I mean, I assume an Emperor would disband the Senate at some point, right?), losing her husband to the dark side and then… you know, the lava because who could have predicted he’d survive that, and then birthing twins without any pain management that I could see (she was lying flat on her back in a tunnel with just a couple of droids poking at her! They can make spaceships and light sabers but can’t figure out how to deliver babies?!), all of that stress was too much for her heart. She had a heart attack and died. Metaphor for dying of a broken heart? Check. Excuse for pretending she’s still pregnant when she died to protect the babies? Sure, why not. Killing off a character to line up with sequels? You got it. Not giving some bullshit excuse that’s completely out of character? YES please.

Padme Amidala, they did you wrong, girl. I know you didn’t give up on life. You went too hard too long and it caught up with you. But don’t you worry, because your baby girl picked up your torch and ran with it. Your son was a late bloomer, but he did the right thing for a little while. Don’t think about that, now. Just think about Leia. Your daughter, the General. She knows what’s up.

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30 Minutes of Wonderful

My son was startled awake from his morning nap once several months ago when I opened the front door to retrieve a package that had just been delivered. He shrieked and ran to the living room gate, shaking it violently and screaming his name for me. I ran back up the stairs to see what was wrong and as soon as he saw me, he collapsed in a fit of the most heart-wrenching sobs I’ve ever heard. He thought I left him. He was scared and I wasn’t there to tell him it was OK. I’ve never had my heart broken like that and I’m not ashamed to say that I joined him on the floor and cried with him until we both caught our breath and calmed down. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight for the rest of the day.

shelbyAs I mentioned on Twitter, I saw Steel Magnolias for the first time over the weekend. My son took a long nap Saturday morning followed by some very focused self-entertaining play time involving play food and Ninja Turtles. While I can appreciate a lot about the film, I had a lot of trouble relating to the characters: conservative Southern ladies with a penchant for gossip who, although they were strong-willed and resourceful, didn’t seem to take any responsibility for the things that happened to them. Dolly Parton’s character wasn’t a savvy business-owner but a woman with an out-of-work husband who had to make due. Homegirl had a thriving salon. Take credit for that, woman; you did that yourself! Annelle maybe married a criminal but it wasn’t her fault, settled that nonsense and went off on a wild sinfest which wasn’t her fault, and then found Jesus again after a gambling trip that wasn’t her fault. Take some responsibility for your mistakes, yo. I have very little respect for people who just let things happened to them and shrug it off as not their fault.

Eventually, I saw through the facade of 80s cinema trying to make a non-confrontational women’s movie with female characters who could kick some a, but would never brag about it and focused on Ms. Julia. Yes, there are times you need to pshaw your doctors and make miracles happen (Walk On, Bruce Lee) but having a child isn’t the kind of situation where you just throw caution to the wind and hope things work out. You don’t say, “Well, this might kill me but as long as I get what I want for a little while, I don’t mind the risk.” To hell with that, I say. That is selfish talk. THAT is irresponsible and the reason I’m gonna go ‘head and hate this movie is because it showed me my very worst fear: my baby screaming for me as I lie unconscious on the floor, unable to comfort him.

Now, I had some postpartum complications that laid me up a little while and a surgery that made lifting my little love nugget almost impossible for a couple weeks but it was all unforeseen health issues I had no way of knowing would affect us the way it did. And honestly, it wasn’t all that bad. But the guilt and the ache I felt at not being able to even lift my baby sent me into hysterical crying fits (also, the hormones made me less than rational). I had food poisoning once and had to stop in the middle of a diaper change to go vomit and felt like the worst mother in the world. So to know full well that pregnancy would irrevocably damage my body such that I didn’t know how long I’d be around to raise my child? No. No, Shelby, you selfish piece of garbage, it is not worth it to have loved and lost in that way because it’s not about you, bitch.

And speaking of bitches who selfishly abandon their children, dying of a broken heart? I’m looking at you, Padme Amidala. Physically healthy but with no will to live? You think you’re the first woman whose husband turned out to be a piece of crap? You can’t deal, so you’re just gonna die? Leave your babies, who you’re alive enough to name, but not enough to think of a reason to live? Selfish. Although, to be fair, I consider that whole business to  have been created by the warped and inhuman brain of George Lucas who is himself a cyborg that doesn’t fully understand human emotion. Still. Selfish.

So here I am, Monday morning, with that image from Steel Magnolias playing over and over in my head of the little boy screaming while Shelby lays unconscious by the telephone. I’m here making sure my son can see me when he wakes up. I’m running to the bathroom to pee quick as I can. I’m making a mental checklist of my biggest fears and pushing “Surviving the apocalypse alone” and “Spiders” down to numbers 2 and 3. Oh, and I’m also trying not to be a total neurotic nut about this whole business which, frankly, is taking up most of my mental space today.

Will I get any writing today that isn’t about mom guilt and George Lucas conspiracies? Probably not. Might be a better day for laundry and bill paying and meeting the needs of house and family rather than personal fulfillment. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to storytelling.

 

 

Buried in Kipple and Target’s to Blame

I have been totally under Target’s thrall since the moment I stepped foot in my first back in 2002 but once I got pregnant, maaaaan, there was no stopping me. And the crap I bought when I first started bringing my son, kicking his little legs in the cart, just became more plentiful when he decided to obsess about Star Wars.

TODAY, however, I bought nothing for my son. I gave him things to look at and play with and then put them back on the shelf and said goodbye as we rolled away. My mission was cat food and hand soap and I am proud to say that I completed that mission… and a couple of V-neck t-shirts on clearance (it’s my mom uniform of choice) and maaaybe a frozen pizza for lunch. But that’s it. I put back the Ninja Turtle bubble bath, the generic non-Nerf football rocket, the $7 Star Wars greeting card and the As Seen On TV veggie spinner that makes noodles out of zucchini. BACK ON THE SHELF WITH YE!

I don’t want to brag or anything, but I also rolled right past Starbucks. My Self-Control game is strong today.