Thursday, November 10, 2016

Spooky Bingo

On election night we played Bingo as a family. It took the edge off of whatever temporary crisis we were experiencing at the dinner table-- I think it was something about Vivian being too helpful and leaving Isaac, (bless his heart, our inclined family member), without a task to complete at dinner time. Never mind that usually it's like pulling teeth to get him to do his minimal chores-- it was the principal of the matter. Vivian overstepped her boundaries and Isaac would not suffer the indignity of being denied the privilege of wiping down the table. Rather he would suffer the indignity of tears in his spaghetti until distracted by a round of Halloween Bingo (those of you with small children can relate, right? Halloween extends a little bit into November-- far longer than it should. In this house the Fat Lady doesn't sing until the Jock-o-Lanterns have rotted sufficiently to fertilize next year's front yard crop and we have begun our Christmas decorating in earnest. Nowhere have I claimed to be the most On Top of Things parent).

Family Halloween Election Night Bingo went pretty well. We are working on taking turns, honing our "looking" skills, Isaac is learning to read and Viv is doing a bang-up job of identifying letters. We were swimming along, headed toward bedtime, after which I had a bottle of red waiting for me (only because wine doesn't come in blue) and I intended to positively gorge myself on election results. All. Damn. Night.

Now, I've mentioned that I went to an all girl's school in high school and an all women's college. My parents probably intended to raise a nice little democrat who knew when to keep her mouth shut, but ended up with a slightly more left, more vocal, and certainly more furious banshee of a feminist daughter. Which they're also fine with. So anyway, my emotional ass, you know I cried on and off on election day. I was elated. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an early alum of what would become Emma Willard School, my alma matter. (She was racist, and problematic as hell and I bring her name up only to own the fact that I know that I come from a long line of flawed activists, trying to get things right, not always succeeding, but always moving forward). I was going to take my daughter to vote for a woman to be president. A woman I was not thrilled, mind you, to vote for, but a woman I was proud to vote for. A qualified, hard working, brilliant politician, who has accomplished so much. She was going to win the race. She was going to usher in a new era for us, I'd hoped. I considered driving to Susan B. Anthony's grave in Rochester, like so many other women were doing. I stopped short of buying a pantsuit for the occasion, but that's probably just because I was crunched for time. Democracy in action, folks! The unauthorized patriotic tears welled in my eyes the same way they do when some previously unknown American brings home a U-Haul of gold metals from the Olympics. USA!  USA! I didn't recognize myself, but I didn't care. First, women are Ghostbusters and the boy has to be the receptionist, and now this! Now Vivi can play President Ghostbuster and nobody can tell her she's reaching! I was going to take my son to participate in the democracy he'd been learning about, in the country he loves so much. His first memory of voting would be in an historic election! High as a damn kite on the elation of such dorky matters, I floated through much of the day. I finally got them to bed, found a news station without too much distracting coverage and settled in. I even made popcorn.

Guess what? As I'm sure you have guessed, I spilled red wine all over my couch (I tried to tell myself it was a good omen, siting menses as my reasoning). Trump was up, but not by much. When I dozed off, Florida was still in the balance and I didn't want to wait for the last county to report. I woke up at midnight to see that we didn't take Ohio, either, and that the dog was eating popcorn from the bowl. I went to bed in tears, mumbling something about "now we have to hear that rapist's voice for the next four years." At 4 am I checked my phone for the answer I knew would be there.  I rolled back over, desperate to get back to my dream.

Isaac woke up wanting to know if "Heroyree Cwinton" had gotten to 270. I didn't know how to tell him no. He had been so excited, wrapped up in the rush of patriotism, of choice, of democracy. He loves the United States of America (and math. The Electoral College, Redistricting, and Long Division haven't marred his innocence yet). I will not soon forget his face when I said that no, no we weren't going to be celebrating our first woman to head this country just yet. True disappointment.

Isaac did not win Family Election Night Halloween STFU Bingo even once. Everyone else did. Some twice. "We don't always win, buddy. Sometimes that's just what happens. Maybe you missed a few by not paying close attention. Perhaps you would have done better with a different Bingo board, " I told him. "Maybe it's just dumb luck, my kid"...But this is where I messed up. This is where I dropped that oh-so-heavy Parenting Ball, and let him play another round. Just one more game, with just one competitor: me. I let him win. I didn't have the energy for another cry-fest. It was bedtime, I'm tired, you're tired, what's one game, in the grand scheme of things?

For my part, I woke up the next morning not ready to accept my loss. Our loss. That morning there was no do-over, there was no one to gently let me win, just to ease the pain of watching everyone else around me yell "Bingo!" (We live in a red county. They're all yelling Bingo). SO, did I screw up this important parenting lesson? Or am I reaching for the symbolism? I don't know. It remains to be seen. I work hard every day to try to ensure that I am not raising children who feel entitled to The Win. I have tried to impress upon them that the various privileges of their birth are gifts that they should, no-- that they are obligated-- to share with those who are without. We donate to charity not because we have lots of money or lots of time, but because some people have less. When we can help, when we can improve something, we do. We are a family of problem solvers. The racist and sexist backlash I have already begun to see across the country are a huge problem. And here we are, every day, sending our children out into this environment. How do we, as a family, do our part to solve this?

I wish I could take back the fake win from my son. I vow, however, never to let myself slide like that again. Boy-o, the truth is, sometimes we don't win, no matter how long we played, how bad we wanted it or how much was at stake. But listen closely, my Pride and Joy, my Practice Kid, my Soul in Another's Body...sometimes we don't win. But there are far, far more people out there who lose much more, and much more frequently than you will. It's up to us to help them get the wins they deserve, even if it means packing up the game without one personal victory at all.

Monday, January 19, 2015

What Nobody Expects

Dated July 17th, 2014 "I have been putting off this post for a few months because I am swamped, and in part, because I don't even know where to start. Matt has cancer, which is WHAT? He was diagnosed in the beginning of June with Stage 3 testicular cancer. (And lord, I have typed out the word "testicular", like, nine thousand times since then-- and my damn phone still won't auto correct for it!) Most people reading this probably already know that info, and I am hesitant to be so self-indulgent as to assume that anyone is interested in what I have to say on the subject beyond "things are good, we're hanging in there" etc. But then I started thinking that maybe other...

Well, it's January now, and as most of you are probably well aware, cancer won and Matt didn't make it. I didn't have too much to say on the subject in July, and I guess I don't have much to say about it right now either. It's not that I don't have a lot to talk about, it is just difficult to put it out in little bits for public consumption. I only feel that if I don't address it on this blog, then I will never touch it again. It will be this hanging silence. I want everyone to know that the kids and I are doing well. We miss Matt every day, and we talk about him all the time. I got a new job and a new car, and soon we will be moving into a new house. With all of the sad changes that happened to us, it helps to have some happy ones, ones that would make Matt happy, too.

Being a widow is the pits, and I tend to hesitate before making complaints and jokes about raising the kids now, because part of me still thinks "well, at least you're here to do it, asshole". I don't want to not be funny, though, because that's such a huge part of my life, my personality, and made up so much of my relationship with my husband. But I don't want to be a crass, insensitive piece of shit either. So I guess the purpose of this post is twofold. First off, to acknowledge what has happened to our family and not leave it as the elephant in the blog, and secondly, to respectfully ask your permission to resume making jokes at the expense of my children and myself. Can we do that together, you and I? I need to get my little fingers back on the keyboard and make light of the everyday hassle of living with toddlers, and I need an audience. I'm simply not living if people aren't laughing at me. Maybe now that the ice has been broken I will be able to get back at it. I hope there's no objections! Xoxo miss you guys!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stuck Inside the Playroom With the Playground Blues Again

Your attempts at organizing are fruitless against my new-found powers of Chaos.
 So here it is, two or three weeks out from Christmas, and we've got some serious cabin fever. Days and days of opening gifts have apparently yielded us nothing worth playing with anymore. A whole room dedicated solely to toys is but a wasteland, covered in post-holiday fallout. Trucks with broken wheels lie on one side, discarded to follow Mom to the bathroom. Vintage Fisher Price Little People and their accompanying village have been abandoned, the little round People scattered in a deadly array just inside the door, practically begging to be employed in the breaking of an ankle. Fourteen useless pieces of a sixteen-piece puzzle don't even merit being picked up and put away-- it's over. The trill is gone. The children have fallen back into their old favorite pastimes, the one's that don't require material possessions, the budding little Buddhists that they are. Isaac enjoys his usual routine of being constantly underfoot, while occasionally mixing it up by losing Mom's car key, taking things away from his sister, or, when given the opportunity, removing all the clean clothes from the laundry basket. His only prerequisites for a good time are 1) that it involves the misplacement or destruction of an item integral to the running of the household, 2) that it has the potential for injury to himself or the baby. Ideally both. Vivian, for her part, has more refined tastes. Specifically, a taste for electricity.  Her only requirement is that her time be spent putting, or attempting to put, her fingers into light sockets, sucking on Christmas lights, or toppling floor lamps. Why bother with the giant basket of plastic, squeeking baby toys, when there's power strips to be poked? 
"If I try and look cute, perhaps she won't notice that I'm trying to abscond with the car key again!" Joke's on him: that's the spare. There's no way this plan could backfire, I'm sure of it.
 Oh how we have taken pleasant weather for granted in this household! Why, when the temperature is anything above 22 degrees, are we not at the park?  How easily we forget the days-- the long, long, lonely days where going somewhere is such an ordeal that you don't leave the house for six months except for diapers and wine? In the spring and summer months, going to the park requires three things: the kids, the parents, and shoes. In the winter, even in pleasanter temperatures, leaving the house for 30 seconds is like outfitting a Roman legion for battle. The packing! The preparation!  First, you've got to get the kids' damn attention, stop them from climbing the curtains like feral cats, and focus their energies on locating one pair of shoes. Ideally, you'll find climate appropriate footwear, but sometimes you can't be choosy, and flip-flops will have to do. Just don't put the kid down in the snow. After shoes comes "hat-a-coat-a-mittens", as Isaac says. Locating those is also such a tremendous hassle that we have a giant bin, a grab-bag, if you will, of outerwear accessories. Then there's parent boots, hat-a-coat-a-mittens, purse, baby carrier, diaper bag(ish thing, if you, unlike me, haven't given up on that redundant piece of luggage long ago), car keys, spouse... that's not even the hard part. We haven't even gotten to the car seats yet...And don't forget: that's just on your way to somewhere. You still have to get there, do whatever it is you came to do, get everyone back in the car, unload them at home, in addition to unloading all the wine and diapers you just bought. (In case you're wondering, this is the point where all of the hats and mittens go missing, the wet boots end up thrown outside, and the car key is unguarded, ripe for the toddler picking). I need to be reminded all of this crap in April when I'm like "I don't feel like taking the kids to the park. It's too sunny". Remember, Sarah, it could be worse: it could be January.
 Yes, that's a potato and Mrs. Noah, of Noah's Ark fame, after having been thrown in our Christmas tree. This is what passes for fun around here these days.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Something Christmasy

Guys, I'm going to come clean here. I like Christmas.  I don't love Christmas, I don't hate it, really. I just enjoy it like a regular person. And, while it often leaves me feeling like this:
Christmas isn't the enemy. It's not the most wonderful time of the year, sure, (my birthday is. That's my favorite drinking holiday!), but it isn't the worst time of the year, either (my birthday is, because it's also Isaac's birthday, my niece's birthday, my mother's birthday, mother's day, the end of the school year and memorial day. It's a lot to pull off with a hangover). Here's what I like-- and often love about Christmas: the story. It has always struck me that any organized religion would let one of its biggest holidays belong to a mother and child. It makes me tear up every year to think about a young woman giving birth in such fraught circumstances. Seriously. I love that winter holidays center on light in the darkness. I love the candles, the soft twinkling lights. I love the reminder that it brings us that even in the darkest of days, there is light. Whether that light be hope, be a promise of the eventual return of spring, or if it is in celebration of what many believe to be the birth of their baby savior, the light thing also gets me every time. Family, giving, wishes for peace, a time when people genuinely consider the better natures of their beings to be in charge...those are all the amazing things that manage to get scrooges like me all giddy warm inside.

Know what I hate though? The Elf On The Shelf. This Dude has got to go. I feel like I wasn't consulted about this phenomenon, you know? Like, there definitely should have been a conference, or at least an online poll about whether we, as parents, are down with participating in the Elf craze. Cause I would have voted no! Nononononono! Emphatic no. How do I hate the Elf On The Shelf? Let me count the ways.

Let's see, well, first off, I hate him cause he's not real. He wasn't a thing when I was a kid, and I wasn't a kid that long ago, really. Why should I get all involved in another "tradition" when the holidays are just oozing tradition already? So, bare minimum, the average family celebrating Christmas has a tree. A tree to pick out, drive home, set up properly, decorate and keep alive long enough to open presents. Not altogether easy. Then you have the gifts, the cookies, the dinner, the church services, the carols, the movies, the books, the stockings, the treats for Santa, and getting drunk with your family. That's enough! But on top of that there's advent calendars, 25 days of Christmas books to open and read with your children (which I do think is kind of cute, but cool it, Pinterest, we get it), and now, the damned elf. Where is there time for me to incorporate this stupid non-tradition? I am set in my ways and I have no space for you, Elf. Which brings me to my second point:

I have no time for you, Elf. Right now, my kids are still young enough to be afraid of Santa and try to eat the pine needles that fall off the tree. I have a grace period before the Elf thing becomes a real issue. But does anyone else feel like this is just some sort of trick being played on parents? Like we don't have enough to do daily, now we have to remember to cook up some shenanigans for the Elf to get into every night for nearly a month? Gimmie a break. My 10 year old niece is still a "believer", and she'll come over, bless her too-old-for-this heart, and ask me if my elf is sick (yes, we have one, a "gift" from my sister in law. Thanks, K!). I have no idea why she would think a toy is sick, except yeah, she thinks its real, and there's rules to the Elf. It has to move every day. Kids can't touch it. And if it gets sick (meaning Mom forgot to move it last night), it will only wake up by doing it's drug of choice, Cinnamon, or something like that. So now I have to move the Elf every day, on the off chance that Reilly is going to come over, or the whole thing will be blown. Our lies will be discovered. I don't have time for this nonsense! I barely get to brush my hair and find matching socks! Now you want me to make time to play fucking dolls every night before I go to bed? Noooo thanks.

So, if I don't do the Elf, I am the ruiner. If I chose not to participate, my kids don't participate. So, then what? How do I deal with the inevitable schoolyard questions? Why don't Isaac and Vivian have an elf? Because their mom A) is trying to instil an intrinsically based value-system in which her children will discover the true rewards of kind and generous behavior without the external pressure from an elvin spy? B) is seriously creeped out by the heavy-handed consumerist message that comes with Christmas generally, and the Elf On The Shelf, specifically? C) is not that nice? D) is just tired? Do I have to try and sell my kids a bill of goods about "magic" and "belief"? Can I tell them the truth, that the elf thing is a load of crap and I just don't want to do it, sorry? Will they spoil the fun for the other moms kids? I don't want my kids being the "you know, that's not real" kids! Ugh! Thanks Elf, for making me have to worry about this shit, too! Jerk.

Lastly, I hate the one-upmanship ("look how creative and silly I got with my elf last night! I covered my entire first floor with ice and blamed it on the Elf!"), the sexism and adult jokes disguised as kid-fun ("my elf is snorting cinnamon rails off Barbie's ass! I'm so irreverent!"), and the general cheeky mischief that the elf is supposed to get into ("Haha, our elf ate all the Christmas cookies!"). Why is he such a dick? What is the fun in inviting a little spy into our homes at all, let alone if he is the one acting like a complete asshole while he's there? What is the message for our kids? I just don't get it. It's fun for the parents, I guess, and there's not a whole lot that's still fun for us this time of year, truth be told.

I don't mean to hate on you parents doing your Elf thing. Do it up, man. Enjoy. Start your own traditions with your kids, ride that wave! For our part, my father is still making batches of lebkuchen and Springerle cookies every year, as tradition dictates. And, as tradition dictates, no one eats them. Cause they're both gross. (Sorry, Dad). But he makes them every year, because that's what's done. We have traditions that are old, to which we still cling. And while I'm not sure if I'll be the one to roll out those anise cookies once the torch has been passed, I am pretty sure that I'm not in the market for anything new, either. Call me old fashioned (please). I just don't want to participate. But I'm not the boss of me anymore, either, and I suppose if the time comes that the kids want the elf to do his thing...then Matt can do it, cause I am not doing that shit!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Today I Wondered, Out Loud, If I Should Just Give Up and Feed My Children Mommy's Tears For Dinner

If you ever feel like you're not doing enough to show your community just how far you are in over your head with this whole Parenting thing, this expert suggests a trip to Wegman's in the rain. Bring both kids, at, say, noon on-the-dot. Plan on getting lunch and groceries.

Your first order of business should be to dress your baby in a black novelty onesie and your 4T wearing son in a 2T girl's sweatshirt with an embroidered heart and puffy sleeves because that's all you have handy. And a newsie cap that is too big. Do not, under any circumstances, remember an umbrella. In fact, don't even own an umbrella, that's too easy. Once you and both children "run" through the parking lot, (an act you've told them no fewer than 9,000 times is strictly forbidden and "safety second") stopping, of course, to pick up dropped toys, tie shoes, pull off the hat, pull up a hood and look at a red truck, be sure to loose track of the toddler as you stop to wipe off your glasses inside. Don't worry, the staff at the grocery store know him by now and will just point him in your direction eventually.

Once you decide that pizza is a good idea, grab a cup with no lid and some juice. Struggle to keep the infant in your lap as you cut the pizza into triangles (not squares!) for your toddler. Pretend to smile and listen to the teeny tiny old lady next to you as she tells you how cute your son is (she's referring, of course, to your daughter, but who has the energy to correct her? Maybe parents are naming their sons Vivian these days, I don't fucking know. Luckily, she doesn't either). As the baby enjoys a fistful of your hair, finish packing up the lunch mess, including the napkins from spill #1. Cue spill #2, this one resulting in "down the wrong pipe" choking, tears, and requiring a shirt change. Change your son's cool cool robot shirt in the packed cafe at Wegman's and just leave the heart sweatshirt on, zipped, with his belly button hanging out. Ignore the kind young police officer's offer of assistance. I don't know why. Because you couldn't possibly know where to begin? Because he probably can't breastfeed Viv? And because, generally, fuck the police? Poor guy, he's probably going to turn all Training Day now that he's seen what people are really like.

Ready to get groceries? Great. Don't bother getting out your list, your hands are full enough already. One hand from trying to keep the baby in the carrier as she tries to climb out and nourish herself on your chin, with a side of more hair (sorry, I forgot to remind you to forget your hair-tie. Having damp, stringy hair in your face/daughters sticky, vice-grip hands and mouth through this whole ordeal is a key element). The other hand is occupied trying to keep Isaac from whacking people with his new Cool Cool Umbrella that we had to buy upon entry to the store. Besides, who needs a list? Just go from memory. You remember what you need, right? Coffee filters, crayons, bread, oh shit, dinner, something else you can't quite remember-- was it cheese? Surely it wasn't cheese. Oh well, let's say it was bananas. There. Finished. Check out, run outside in the rain, watch the umbrella blow away, chase it though the parking lot, get home, unload the kids, don't even give one flying fuck that the shirtless toddler wants to play umbrella inside and watch Dora Saves Santa for the 8th time in two days just leave me alone and let me make dinner! Start dinner. Remember that it was milk you needed. Milk. The only thing you ever need, ever, on every list, for every trip out of the house. Just get milk.

Ignore the children, plan the milk run to include a stop to get wine. The end.

The Offenders. Her shirt says "Don't look at me, that smell is comin' from my dad". Stay classy, kids.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Advice From Someone Who's Been There

First off, I'd like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing and re-sharing my last post. It went on to be published by the very cool website Offbeat Families and was very positively received. Thanks for helping me get there, thus helping me continue to not get paid for something I do well, just on a broader scale. lol. lowercase. I really need to get on this "getting published" thing one of these days.

So, lately, I see a lot of my pals starting or expanding their young families. If any of you are like me, you're constantly clicking on those listcicles on parenting websites and The Huffington Post with titles like "8 things I wish I knew before having kids" and "Three Words That Changed The Way I Parent (They're Not What You Think)", "Parenting: 77 Ways You're Doing It Wrong", "This One Lady Got Her Infant To Sleep Easily This One Time. Read In Envy and Frustration". Basically, advice from people who either have really good children or no children at all, writing articles for the rest of us to read on our phones at 3 am while our youngest engages in a World Record breaking nursing session for the ninth night in a row. So now I want to share some non-wisdom, some common sense, some shit that The Stir is probably wouldn't publish because it's so duh. Parenting "hacks", if you will. I hate that word, so, I won't.

1. Get your hair cut before you have the baby
Like,as close as you can before you have the baby. Even if you have to go in there when you're in early labor, just go get a quick trim. Especially if this is your second baby. The next time you have time to go to a salon for real will be for your child's wedding. I understand now why when we were kids it seemed like every mom had the same haircut for our entire childhood. It's because she did. Don't bother with your nails. Watching your nail polish chip away with no recourse is depressing. And I dare you to try to sneak in an at-home mani while your baby sleeps. I dare you.

2. Make Freezer Meals
Working as a server for ten years, to me, dinner was a shift. A shift that either I worked or a shift that another server worked while I sat down and was served. And served in the most gluttonous sense. Course upon course, cocktail upon cocktail...I did my best to try and spend my way into gout, dropping every last penny on food and drink, never imagining a day I might actually need some of that money for silly shit like groceries. Those were the days. It seemed quaint to me that families actually sat down at home to enjoy a meal that one of them prepared. Not everyone could be a badass like me, I guess, and settle for a slice of turkey on a stale dinner roll and some leftover fries to suffice as a meal. Imagine my surprise when I was first home with Isaac and realized that if I were to be fed, it would be up to me to find and prepare food. I know, right? So, lesson learned, before I had Vivian I sat down and prepared a whole bunch of meals that could be tossed in the crock pot or just slow-cooked on the stove top during the day.  Make up a month's worth. You can find recipes on Pinterest and such. If you're breastfeeding, you're going to be wicked hungry, so seriously, just do this.

3. Breastfeed If You Can
It sucks, it hurts in the beginning, you always worry about one damn thing or another, you have to plan your wardrobe around pulling your boobs out and your partner can't ever trade off a feeding with you (at least in the early days). You know what, though? It really is as great as "they" say. I've done both, and far and away, breastfeeding is more convenient. It is so much easier and cheaper than formula, you don't have to prepare bottles all damn night, you just roll over and give the baby a boob. You get used to the idea of nursing in public so your wardrobe becomes less and less of an issue. I've never felt like I was out of place nursing outside my home. I know some women are still harassed, but I have never encountered it. At least not yet.  And god help anyone who does give me shit, at this point! When you have a second baby, especially, it is nice to breastfeed. It gives you time to just cuddle up with your new one, leaving your toddler to, you know, run the house and jump on the furniture and whatever else they do. I feel like if I were purely bottle feeding Viv, I would never get one-on-one time with her. Literally, never. Isaac is a demanding kid. If you can't breastfeed, don't beat yourself up. It's not a race, you're doing great anyway, and your baby is no less loved. Do not engage yourself in "Mommy Wars" or "Mom Guilt" or whatever the fuck magazines want you to engage in. You're doing great.

4. Two-Year-Olds are Horrible People
Horrible people, who, when they stop terrorizing you long enough to give you a little hug and say "I wub oo Ma-ee", are the best people in the world. Enjoy your screaming, pooping, non-sleeping infant who can't talk. They grow into screaming, pooping, non-sleeping toddlers who have opinions on everything. And I've heard that they usually become teenagers not too long after that, so...

5. Get All Your Shit Together
The following items will come up more than you know: Your SSN, your partner's SSN and your child's SSN. Make copies of your birth certificates, your lease (if you rent), and your health insurance card. You never know when you might have to send that stuff in to one agency or another, and it helps having them all in once place, ready to go. Trust me, I lost both my birth certificate and Isaac's. What a hassle.

6. Stop Googling Everything
Your baby is most likely fine, you're just going to make yourself nuts. If something really is wrong with her, you'll know. And WebMd won't be able to help you, just a real Md. Relax. They all spit up a lot, they all cry a lot, none of them sleep, they only look blind in the beginning, their ears aren't abnormally small, newborns kind-of quiver in the first few days, like they're shivering, it's normal, cradle cap goes away (put some olive oil on it for a minute and brush it gently with a baby toothbrush. Voila). These are all things I Googled, by the way. Also, when their belly button falls off, it's super gross and kind of smells weird. And no, the baby's guts will not fall out through that hole.

7. Accept Help
For some reason, when Isaac was born, I almost took offense to my mother coming around to do things like clean my sink. I saw it as an insult, in a way, like she was saying that my house was dirty (which it was, and which it remains). That wasn't her intent at all, I know now that I'm not a New Mom Hormonal Mess. People want to help you when you have a new baby. Let them. One day they stop showing up and your sink will be dirty forever thereafter.

8. They Have To Eat a Pound of Dirt
...and other conventional wisdom. It's all true. Stop sanitizing the shit out of your hands. Soap and water will do. Coming into contact with day-to-day germs helps build their immune system. In the same vein, everyone's baby falls off the couch or the bed, you're not a horrible person if that happens, just be careful next time. Babies survive a regular babyhood. The human species wouldn't have lasted long if knocking their little noggins on the underside of the coffee table were deadly. We had to survive Saber Tooth Tigers, for goodness sake. Give your kid some credit. (This is not meant to be medical advice, as they say).

9. Write Stuff Down
You'll forget more than you know.

Good luck, all! I love you and I love bossing you around. Take care of your pregnant selves. Be confident and strong when you bring that new one into the world. Hire a Doula, trust your instincts and kiss your baby. Give yourself a break when it comes to being a parent-- none of us are doing it right, but we're all doing the best we can. See anything I missed and you'd like to add?

I forgot:

10. The First 5 Weeks of The Baby's Life Is Longer Than The Whole First Year
It gets better, I promise. And on that note:

11. Cultivate Friendships With Other Parents, Especially Other Mothers
Having someone to lean on, advice to hear, advice to give, someone to listen to you bitch, someone to listen to you brag, someone with whom to have a glass of wine or two...these things are invaluable. It can be work, when you are mired in baby land, but it will be worth it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dora Dora Dora the (Outdated Gender-Stereotype) Explorer!

Dora the Explorer has finally found her way Isaac's House (it's over the shallow river, past the tall church, then you get to Isaac's house! Say "Map! Say Map!"). I've never minded Dora, my niece had a big thing with her a few years back so I'm well acquainted with her program.  Obviously I love that she's a little girl who is always the hero of her own story.  Dora senses the needs of her friends, does all of the planning, the guiding, the saving and helping, all on her own (well, with Boots, of course, but as far as his role goes, he is defiantly a side-kick). There are very few children's programs on air now that even give equal screen time to male and female characters, let alone have a female protagonist that isn't rife with stereotypically feminine traits (conventionally attractive to the point of being "sexy", a nag, in pursuit of a husband/boyfriend/appointment to royal status, or a fairy. Or a princess. Or both). Dora (now, I'm talking just regular Dora, pre-fairyprincess Dora. Fairy Princess Rock Star Dora doesn't factor into Isaac's life. Because she's bullshit), Dora, in general, is fine by me as a television character for my kid to enjoy.

Well, apparently, because Dora is a girl, of course, she is a character for girls. There's like, no way that she can just be a character for kids, according to all the people. Seriously. It started when Isaac decided he wanted cupcakes. I figured we'd make cupcakes and take them to work for our friends. I gave him one of my aprons but it was too big. The next week at the local farmer's market I spied homemade kid-sized aprons. They had some robots and some flowers, but what really caught my eye was, of course, a Dora apron. It is bright pink and lacy but whatever. That's not something that would register for Isaac. He loves his Dora "shirt", as he calls it. He wore it all day that day, wore it to bed, we had to hide it on him in order to get it clean so he could wear it all day again the next day. He wore it to the bakery next door with my niece. Apparently the women behind the counter said things like "what are you wearing? Does your father know you're wearing that?!" I mean, this kid's dad wears an apron to work every day of his life. I guess I wish I were shocked. I wish that a boy child wearing pink didn't illicit some sort of visceral, nasty response in people. He's too young to have understood what they were implying, but Reilly sure wasn't! (Thanks for that, bakery ladies! Certainly a young girl burgeoning on adulthood needs to be reminded of her second-class status whenever she goes to get a bagel!). So we've decided, at my brilliant co-worker's suggestion, to commission a Matt sized Dora apron so the two of them can match next time they go grab a "fuffin" for the kid. If my anger has subsided by then.
Stylin hard with his pockets full of beverages!

So here's what I can't wrap my mind around: (and complete disclaimer here: I am neither an expert in child development nor gender or queer studies, these are just my opinions, gleaned from items I've read and experiences I've had). At two, gender is still very fluid. Isaac doesn't know "boy" or "girl" at all. Like, no concept whatsoever. He calls every child "kid" and I love it that he does. I'm certainly in no rush to make my child fit into any category at all (besides Two-Year-Olds Who Still Don't Sleep Through The Night Ever. Suggestions welcome). So, even if your average bakery worker isn't quite up to speed with child development and gender politics, it's still safe to say that "shaming" my kid (because that's what they were trying to do), isn't alright. He's a child. He's doing his thing, man! He's got a great new outfit to wear on his big adventure to the store down the street, he's happy as can be! It's got pockets big enough to hold cars and his juice! How are you going to come at him with some sort of bullshit like "boys with good fathers don't wear pink aprons"? Not OK.  And for what, exactly, should he be shamed? Because girls wear pink and girls aren't as good as boys? Because if a boy has on clothing that was intended to be worn by a girl, then he may somehow draw the pink ink into his veins and get gay? Because fuck all that. Girls are great! boys are great! trans* kids are great!...Colors are great, aprons are great, hand made items are great and Dora, at times, is great. And wearing a pink Dora apron doesn't infuse gay into your veins. I tried it and it didn't work. Why or how could I possibly care if my child or children were gay? How could that even register on things that would upset me in any way? The truth is, it goes way beyond how Isaac presents himself and identifies himself someday in the future. The really important part of the societal conversation we need to be having is that statistically, he's probably going to grow up a straight, white male, with all of the privileges that are afforded people like him. That is all the more reason he needs to understand that other worldviews and experiences have value. He can be one of two things, in my mind: an ally or a bigot. In our house, we're allies. Every day we have to fight the battle for our children so that one day they will be able to fight it on their own.

I was grumbling about the whole situation to Matt the other night and a real sadness came over me. As I was going on and on about "he's young, colors don't mean the same to him that they do to society at large", I kept adding "yet". Soon enough the world is going to harden around him. Soon enough he will start to get the vibe that girls and girl culture is less-than.  Less than important and less than meaningful. Less than exciting and less than adventurous. He might observe some homophobia along the way. Hatred of trans* individuals is still, unfortunately, a very real thing and likely will still be as Isaac grows up. (Ohmygod, read this blog: gendermom. Hope springs eternal). I won't teach him that kind of hatred and other-ness, his father certainly wouldn't either. It is information that he will absorb, however. He may become embarrassed and deny having worn his Dora shirt. He will blush and protest when I mention that he used to demand that I paint his toenails whenever he saw a bottle of nail polish and that he loved to jump around in my heels. That world is coming for him. It will seep in, through the cracks under the doors, through the advertisements and toy stores, through the off-hand and cruel comments by both his peers and those old enough to know better. That may happen. It may not. My job isn't to change the way the whole world thinks, or even to keep my kids away from it. My role is just to allow the two little people in my house to think better. To think better of each other, of people they don't know, to think better than to make asinine assumptions based in ignorance and hatred. Most of all I want them to be able to think better of themselves, so one day, when they are confronted with bigotry, even in it's tiniest, most micro-aggressive forms, they are able to stand firm on the side of inclusiveness and err on the side of progress.