Thursday, March 31, 2011

We're on the road to nowhere. . .

Truly.  But it doesn't matter where we're going or where we've been - it matters how we choose to walk together along that road.

Which is why the Mr. and I have decided to create that family mission statement I last posted about.  Further, it gives us a language to use together - free of judgement ("Don't be such a jerk to your sister!") and full of investment ("Is this behavior reflective of our goals as a family?").  As Lilly and Carter get older, I struggle between the parent I seem to be naturally (which is, I'll admit it, of highly inferior quality) and the parent I seek to be (which is not perfect, but much, much better than my natural state).  I would like my parentING to be mindful of who I strive to be - because I believe that, with practice, I can be a much better parent - and person.

When I was brainstorming ideas for our family mission, I was focused on the words peace, harmony, and love.  The Mr. added the idea of discipline - something that many of the members (myself included) of this family lack.  It is an honorable goal and now it's among ours.

Our family's mission: To be focused on peace, discipline, and simplicity.

(And in honor of that last part, I decided to make our mission statement as short and sweet as possible.)

Our next act is, as a family, to sit down and discuss what that looks like - how do we foster peace, discipline, and simplicity in the world?  I look forward to the conversation if I can ever get people to stop interrupting and burping long enough to have it.  Perhaps I should add respect - though I suspect that can be covered under "discipline".

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mad props to Mr. Thoreau

When I became Elsa’s mom, I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life with my husband and children, and see if I could not learn what they had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life...

Yeah, yeah, I know I changed it. Deal with it, traditionalists.

I want to write a family mission statement, because I feel like we've been sometimes losing our way with each other, with ourselves, and not to good ends.  I want to raise my children deliberately. To tend my marriage deliberately.  To create real and lasting poetry on the page and in my arms with thoughtfulness and care. All too often these days, I bounce through life parenting by reaction, loving in response, and wasting time on things that, ultimately, do NOT do me or my family justice.

I want to downsize, to treat our remaining things with care, to treat each other with care, to work the soil together, to work cultivating college minds but also to focus on cultivating my little ones' minds.  I want to play more - to ACTUALLY play. 

I do not wish to live what is not life and I've done far, far, far too much of that lately.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


So, about a little over a year and a half ago I wrote a post on "Life isn't bliss, life is just this: it's living" from Once More With Feeling, Joss's Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical.

And you know what?  Right now?  Life is a whole lot of messy living.  Today the baby pooped and it leaked through her diaper and, I thought, onto my pants.  Turns out that which was on my pants was *only* spitup - an accoutrement I've grown so accustomed to that I barely flinch at it anymore. My laundry closet is overflowing. I'm on hour 96 of some tummy bug and now my sinuses are burning with -- allergies.  The kids are on spring break which means EVERYONE is insane.

But at night when I flop into my bed exhausted and get ready for the OTHER work of my day - keeping the little one pleased and sleeping through the night, I lay back and reflect on the fact that for me, right now, Spike's wrong.  This life is bliss.

If you would've told me 10 years ago that I would find this to be blissful living, I would've cold-cocked you, but today I know - the twists, the turns, the unexpected pregnancy, the shocking losses, the business ups and downs, the hard work for little pay with my teaching gig - it's messy, messy living - but given an opportunity to reflect?

Total heaven.

A big thank you to the man upstairs for each breath, for the lightning strike children that run through my household, and for those around me who make each and every day total messy, exhausting, frustrating bliss.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The mommy blogs are alive. . . with the sound of. . .

judgement.  And of course I have to chime in.  I'm not going to judge, for the record, but more jazz-riff off of what she wrote.

Here is the article in question.  Here is a follow up. I've been sitting here this morning reflecting on what this mother has to say. Because I teach writing, I've been contemplating the word love and what she means by that and because I'm a parent, I'm wondering if she meant like instead of love. Maybe not.  I don't know.  Who am I to say.  I didn't honestly have much to say, really, until I read her follow up wherein she claims that the rest of us mothers have these ugly thoughts too and we ought not get too judgmental of her and if we don't like what she has to say, we should probably keep our mouths shut.

And anyone who knows me knows darned well that the best way to get me to start talking is to tell me to shut up.

So in response to her first entry, I have to say I have not had moments when I thought "I love my son more."  I have often wondered if I'm more bonded to him, due to our failed epidural and the post-birth high that accompanies a natural birth.  Or whether I was more bonded to my daughter who I nursed for nearly three years whereas I lost my patience with nursing my son at 14 months. I daily wonder which child I like better and let me be clear: that changes moment to moment to moment, though overall I am in utter wonder of both of them.  I love and like both of them deeply -- and not in the same ways but not comparable in a quantifiable less or more sort of way. 

When I do have rare moments of quantification - of I love him less or I love her less, I often reflect on the fact that what I'm feeling in my heart might well be manifesting in my actions toward my children- and whether it can be fixed by changing those actions.  I watched a documentary once on oxytocin - it's considered a sort of love hormone - and the most successful relationships have high levels of individually programmed oxytocin responses. How do we program oxytocin response?  By touching.  When I'm feeling less loving toward one of my children (or, frankly, my husband for that matter), I correct what I'm feeling in my heart by acting more loving - by hugging more - snuggling more - by spending more time with that child (or my spouse).

In other words, the relationship is what I make of it - and while I do not attempt to love my children the same or treat them the same (after all, they are different people with different needs and desires), I love them with equal ferocity.  If or when that love begins to fade - it's my job to reignite it.

This woman is pregnant again - with a third child - and expressed in her blog that she hopes it's a girl so she can start over on that girl/mom relationship and hopefully do it right.  Anyone who knows me can probably guess how I'm going to respond to that.  Gender preference is far from my thing.  But more than that, using one child to cure the ills of another relationship is never, ever, ever going to work.

When I discovered that Tenacious E was a girl, I worried that my relationship with her might suffer like my relationship with MonkeyMoo sometimes does. Based on his age, I think The Budge and I did have a closeness that was fading with MonkeyMoo.  But rather than thinking of Tenacious E's arrival as an opportunity to fix what was wrong with MonkeyMoo, I saw it as a daily reminder to fix what could go wrong with all three relationships.  A cautionary reminder to daily strive to be a better parent to all of my children.

I know that this woman is feeling the sting of the blogosphere right now - and I want you to know that I truly and honestly do not judge her, I just wish she'd take this monster down, wrestle it out of herself through her actions, rather than parading it through her blog.  And I hope, above all else, that one day she'll erase that blog so that her daughter might never, ever see it.  It's one thing to discuss these issues quietly with friends.  It's another to commit them to permanence, to highlight them, to loudly and proudly discuss them.

I cannot imagine as a daughter reading that one day.  It's hard enough to be a functioning member of a family, to be a woman in this world.  How heartbreaking would it be to see in print that your mom loved your brother more than you - and that rather than redoubling her efforts to love you - she wrote it out and shared it with the world.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I've recently noticed. . .

that in the Hulu tv show vote-a-thon, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is currently losing to Modern Family.

I do not understand this world.

There's so much more I could say about the truly unfair and devastating things happening to the people around me - but I want to keep it light, so we'll just focus the thing that allows me to be irrationally huffy in the face of video and testimony about Japan, my friends' heartbreaking pregnancy complications, and the other things in this world that just hurt my heart.  Screw that, I'm sticking to comedy.  And in that comedy face off, It's Always Sunny should be KING.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Grab a mint julep, your quiet voice, and a comfy chair, kids,

Cuz I'm about to tee off on the subject of gender.

A woman (we'll call her, I don't know, Silly Sally) somewhere said something so offensive, I just had to step in and say something - and because my parents taught me if you can't say anything nice to someone you shouldn't say it at all, I've decided to write it.  So Silly Sally says she wants to have another child to "try for a boy".  Silly Sally has always imagined "wearing a jersey at a football game on a Friday night."

Here's the thing:  I know there are people out there like me who feel like this - but I have honestly and genuinely NEVER had a gender preference when I was pregnant.  EVER.  When I found out MonkeyMoo was a girl, I cried with the knowledge that I'd reap what I sowed and more as payback for *my own* teen years.  When I found out The Budge was a boy, I wept with the knowledge that I had no idea what to do to raise a boy (turns out, it's quite similar to how you raise girls: love, food, change diapers, love some more.  Who knew!).  When I found out Tenacious E was a girl, I wept at the sight of that beating heart, those kidneys, and fingers, and leg bones all in the right places and the long 20 weeks to come while we waited and waited for her safe arrival.

Some women go through losses and realize that gender preference is stupid.  Others don't need losses to realize that a child is a blessing regardless of their dangly (or non dangly) bits.  But there are still some people in the world who have gender preferences.  I guess that's their choice - and that's fine.  I'd rather be elated at the positive anatomy scan than the actual anatomy itself, so insignificant is it, I feel, to my ability to enjoy a child.

But for those who *do*, well, let's revisit Silly Sally and her imagined future of "wearing a jersey on a Friday night game."  I'm going to be honest - I've never held that preference and it's a damn good thing because my children weren't blessed with an overabundance of height or grace.  I doubt they'll be swimmers or football players.  Maybe chess.  Are there jerseys for Chess Moms?  Seeing as how my boy has a preference for Show tunes and wearing his rainbow silk cape or his sister's dresses, I have no idea right now whether he'll play sports or be in show choir.  And - wait for it -


Similarly, my daughter seems to be attracted to team sports like basketball and soccer.  God only knows why - if she weren't so like me in every other way, I'd wonder who switched her at birth.  She may well be into team sports and end up being the water girl for some actual team sport and I may well need to don a jersey on Friday nights to show my commitment to her.  And you know what?  I hate jerseys, but I'll do it.  For her.

My point?  It's around here somewhere, I know it.  Oh, yeah, my point is this, Silly Sally:  You may have a gender preference (though I think you shouldn't) but it's unbelievably unfair to weigh your child down with the detritus that goes along with that preference.  Just because you have a boy doesn't mean he'll be playing sports.  Maybe he'll be singing.  Dancing.  Maybe, just maybe, he'll be sitting alone on Friday nights playing Call of Duty with some guy from Luxembourg. Maybe he'll be the state champion in Chess.  Who knows what he'll be - and honestly, it's unfair for you to put those expectations upon him before he's little more than an XY sperm that might one day meet an egg.

Meanwhile, look hard at your daughters.  They might cook.  They might do ballet.  But they may well be the next NCAA college football kicker.  Or cause controversy in the State Wrestling championships in Iowa.  Who knows what they will be - or CAN be - particularly if you stack the deck in your expectations that with penis comes sports.

The only way for your girls to know that they can - or your boys to know that there are alternatives - is for you, Silly Sally, to stop saying shit like "We might try for another baby because I want a boy."

One of my favorite recent parenting experiences was watching three girls (one mine) dress up in wacky outfits and do battle on the field of the backyard while the boy child sat with my newborn girl and smiled, laughed, and nurtured her.  THIS is what I want for my kids, Silly Sally.  What do you want for yours?

(You should know, for the record, that Silly Sally's reasoning for wanting another child is because she wants A BOY CHILD.  And if she had another girl, she expressed disappointment that her husband would be done because SHE WOULD WANT TO TRY AGAIN FOR A BOY.  And she would "learn to deal" with having only girls.)
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