The first half of 2015 was pretty decent, with the exception of getting really sick twice. But it held a trip to the Keys, Syd’s tournament in Oklahoma (Here!), and my first ever trip to the west coast. (San Diego was phenomenal!)
The second half held surgery with complications and setbacks, a serious scare with my Ambassador, a death in my bio family, some serious work messes, and a stress level that never seemed to ease. There were a few bright spots including a weekend of shooting the most amazing fall colors I’ve ever seen, and a trip to meet up with family in Indianapolis.
It’s family that fills my mind as the year comes to a close.
A while back, the Scientist and I were meeting with our therapist, V. I don’t really remember the precursor to this, but I’d mentioned that no matter how hard I tried, nothing I did was ever good enough to win the approval of my parents. V nodded as I continued, “…but no matter how hard I tried to earn my place in that family…” and she did something that she’s never done before. She stopped me cold, interrupting me mid-sentence.
“Wait, wait, wait. Kel, do you hear yourself? Do you hear what you just said?”
“No. Just no. You do not earn your place in a family. That is not how family works.”
I guess I look confused, because she kept going.
“Answer me something. Your parents didn’t want you and let you know it quite clearly. You were molested by one family member. Another blamed you for it, telling a 6-year-old to pray for forgiveness and go to Catholic confession. Why exactly were you trying to earn a place in that?”
And I had no answer. It was like I’d forgotten how to form words.
It dawned on me that not only had I been doing this with my own family, but I’ve done it with the Scientist’s family, and with some of my friends. Years of conditioning made me not even realize I’d slipped into the habit of devaluing myself. What the hell was I doing?
Like V told me, “Family is the people who choose to be in your life and who you choose to have there. They love you for you, no exceptions.”
So for 2016, I’m choosing to focus on that. I no longer feel the need to waste time or energy on the people who don’t bring anything positive to my life. My inner circle hasn’t really changed in several years, but this doesn’t just include them. I’ve met some amazing people recently and the impact they’ve had on me is tangible. Their acceptance, their humor, their intellect all encourage me to just be me, and for that, I am exceedingly grateful.
Dog knows I don’t have enough of my own shit together to give advice to others, but I’m going to make an exception today.
This year, make your only resolution to love yourself. Enough with the crap from the media, the weight-loss industry, the self-help gurus. We’re all flawed. Learn to accept the person in the mirror and know in your heart that you don’t need to be what other people deem as acceptable.
Be at peace. Anything else just isn’t worth it.
It’s been an interesting year, I’ll say that. We’ve had some amazing highs and some dangerous lows in our family, and some of those lows will leave some scars for a long time to come.
I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t been changed by some of the events of this year, but I’m also not going to pretend that those changes are all positive. If nothing else, I’m self aware enough to recognize my own character flaws, and honest enough to own them.
But I have had a few things in me change for the better, and I’d like to think I get to own those as well. I controlled my stress level a little better these past few months – not in that I didn’t get stressed, but that I channeled it more appropriately. Normally, I get stressed, and then I get more stressed, and when I finally take some time to just stop – WHAM. I get sick. My immune system sees the rest break as carte blanche to check out entirely. My ear/sinus/tonsil issues go into overdrive, and I’m laid out. I did have one pretty serious bout in June that included pneumonia as well, but the past 2 months have been insanely stressful, but I’ve managed to stave off the worst of the illness. It’s simmering, but I’ve worked hard to rest more, take time to slack off and do nothing – something I do not do well. I’ve swan-dived into my creative stuff by editing photos, making quilts, and designing some projects for Christmas gifts.
I’m also working to get tighter on my organization strategies to help with my AD/HD and focus. After the residual effects of the head injury proved themselves to be longer lasting than I’d hoped, I knew I needed to work within them instead of merely fighting against them. There’s still much work to be done there, but I’m making progress.
I wish I could say that it’s all been about growth and improvement. But we all know that’s not the way life works.
Within the layers of stress that have settled over this year, I’ve found myself withdrawing more into myself. I’ve retreated into this place that’s much more about observation than interaction. Part of that is what I consider “direct” in that the sheer amount of drama and occasionally stupidity I see in people with whom I interact regularly just makes me not want to engage. I’m exhausted from trying to understand the reasoning of people who are seriously enthusiastic about presidential candidates who seek to practically end women’s rights or increase racial divides until the walls are no longer able to be breached. The chasm of misunderstanding is dangerous now, and they seek to broaden it beyond the ability of those who strive to close it. On the “indirect” side, I’m also exhausted by contrived drama, passive aggressive bullshit, and other attention seeking posturing that I see every day. Since I have no intention of rising to the bait, I see no reason to maintain proximity. In short, my bullshit tolerance factor has hit negative numbers.
Physically, my surgery went ok, but a few accidental missteps have set back my recovery by several months. A whole new round of synovial injections were done, and now we wait. The effects of last year’s concussion have improved dramatically in 12 months, but they are by no means gone. My ability to read, especially out loud, is nearly normal again. My speech is nearly normal again, although I still lose words pretty often. My short term memory hiccups quite a bit, which is exceedingly frustrating, so I’m resorting to writing most things down either on paper or in my phone. I’ve gotten quite good at having lists!
The end of this year brought some gut wrenching emotions out in everyone in our family. We’re working through them together, and we’ll get there eventually. One really great thing that has come out of this is that we’ve welcomed a new grandcat. So now the Artist has Jax, the Professor has Newt, I have Jenks, and the Ambassador has Toph. The Scientist is not a cat person in general, but all of the cats love him, and he tolerates them. He does seem to love our Jenks, though. She adores him and even breaks her “no lap sitting” rule to help him when he’s gaming.
As the holiday season builds, I’m actually looking forward to it. I’ll have some time off to work on a few projects around the house, rest my body and my head a bit, and spend some time with the family.
And as 2016 approaches, I have to say that I’m excited. Some amazing travel appears to be on the horizon, and that always makes me happy.
Here’s hoping the coming year brings everything you hope it will as well.
Limitations have been given a really bad reputation. People see them as negative; that holding you back or preventing you from doing the Next Thing is akin to failure. I see this in some cases, and even agree with it. But I’m starting to see that sometimes, limitations can have silver linings.
I’ve been learning a lot over the past year about my own limitations. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, and I rarely learn it gracefully, but I’d like to think I’m making some progress.
A little background: as a kid, my parents worked full time like many others. On weekend, there was housecleaning to do, errands to be run, and just general Stuff To Be Done. My father’s method of relaxation, other than downing several glasses of gin in front of the TV, was to work in his wood shop in the basement. My mother’s was either to play solitaire (with real cards!) or read. But at no time in my memory can I call up a weekend in which my parents just chilled.
Think about that. We have a rough couple of weeks at work, we might take a rainy Saturday and not get out of our PJs. We’ll make some tea, read a good book, watch some Netflix, nap, but we take the day “off”. My parents? Oh hell no. And really, it wasn’t just them. I cannot ever remember my friends’ parents doing it either. Laziness was simply not a thing. That got so ingrained into me that, to this day, I feel intense guilt if I just blow off a weekend day and do nothing. The Musician still gives me crap for the time I had H1N1 and was too weak to get out of bed, but still had the kids bring me laundry to fold. I just don’t know how to do “slacker”.
But lingering effects from a head injury last summer (car accident), knee surgery this summer, along with an insane work schedule, have all dragged me into the realm of CTFO. I’m feeling less guilt about napping when I have the chance. I’m less stressed when I “waste” a few hours working on a quilt or some other creative project. Maybe there’s something to this slacker stuff!
The emotional limitations are a little harder for me to reconcile. My job has a stress level that burns people out on a regular basis, and I’m getting close. What really frosts my cookies, though, is that the mental exhaustion is spilling over into my Real Life. It’s making me have a shorter fuse, it’s making me unable to give to others as much as I’d like to, and it starts to weave itself into the physical side as well.
I had a friend with whom I was pretty close who was going through some stuff. She drifted away and pretty much quit talking to me, and I still don’t know why. Was it something I did? Or was it just her own issues? No clue. But after reaching out a few times and having it go nowhere, I gave up trying. That makes me sad because I think that maybe if I had more mental/emotional energy, I would’ve tried harder.
I also got into a relationship last year. She’s a great person, and I still consider her to be one of my closest friends, but anything beyond that kinda faded off into the sunset this spring. There’s culpability for it on both sides, but the lion’s share, I believe, lies with me. I just didn’t have enough energy “left over” after work and Family to give to anything else. This too, saddens me a bit, as my job situation isn’t changing any time soon. The insanity and chaos of my life can be draining, and it affects so much more than the 9-5 hours of the day.
As much guilt as I carry for my emotional and physical limitations, I’m starting to see them almost more of safety barriers. I pushed too far while hiking after my knee surgery and set my recovery back several months. Now being forced to rest more is helping. Knowing I’ve hit the wall of stress or mental/emotional exertion prevents me from snapping.
I’m still not entirely comfortable with the whole thing, and I’m still dealing with some guilt for not being able to be Wonder Woman, as the Scientist phrases it. But hopefully I’ll get there.
How will this affect you?
Well, unfortunately, chances are you won’t be invited. My kids tend to be very much in favor of small, intimate gatherings rather than looking at their partner in confusion, trying to figure out who just wished them happiness in the receiving line.
So you’ll miss the way the beauty of her face, and the gentleness in her eyes makes me weep.
You won’t see her in her dress – that stunning dress – with her riotous curls defiantly straying from whatever hair style she chose for the day.
You’ll miss The Artist, her maid of honor, slipping her sips from the flask they think I don’t see in order to chill her out a bit.
You won’t see The Ambassador, her best man, making her laugh by pulling quotes from their past, and being goofy.
You won’t see The Scientist beaming with pride as he tries (and fails) not to cry when he walks with her down the aisle.
You won’t hear the music played by The Musician, whom I’ll drag in from Denver, as she walks with her father.
The look on her partner’s face, that one we all covet, as she sees her bride, will be lost for you.
You will be absent from the photographs taken by my sister The Photographer, who has flown in from Kansas City.
You’ll miss the food, which will be delicious. Having been raised by me, my kids love good cuisine.
And the dessert! The Professor isn’t a fan of cake, but girlfriend has great taste in other sweets. She’ll have chocolate truffles for sure. I’m sorry you won’t get to sample those!
You won’t double over in laughter as all 3 kids hit the dance floor to do the Cupid Shuffle and other choreographed hilarity.
The love in the air, the laughter of shared jokes, the rockin’ 80s tunes won’t even hit your radar.
Why should they?
This marriage will not have any impact on your life. This love, this commitment, this joy, will not enrich you as it does us. None of this will make you tear up with pride, or snicker in amusement, or even roll your eyes with the cheesy jokes we play.
This union is, quite simply, none of your business unless you are one of the few invited to be a part of it.
So please don’t crow to me about how any love between consenting adults will destroy anything, unless it’s hate. Because with each step down each aisle that each person takes in love, we win a little more of the battle against that hate.
And make no mistake: we will win.
What make a real woman?
There has been a lot of conversation lately about Caitlyn Jenner and her gender-revealing photo shoot in Vanity Fair. While she has been the impetus for much of this conversation, the tangential directions those conversations have taken are more than a little alarming to me.
A little background for the sake of relevancy: most people in my life do not know this about me, and most of them wouldn’t care. But as a child, I wrestled with my own gender identity. I was raised in upstate NY in a very Catholic household, attended Catholic school, was an altar server, and had plenty of dolls and Barbies like any other young girl my age.
But I struggled.
I had my hair cut short, tried to wear as much “boy” clothing as I could, played with Hot Wheels/Matchbox cars, climbed trees, took bikes off of steep jumps, wore scars and blood with badges of honor, and felt at home in the rough and tumble world of boys. I also had friends who were girls, and we played dolls and Barbies together for hours.I knew there were male and female versions of a lot of names, and when I discovered what I thought at the time was the male form of my own, it became mine in my head.
As we got older, we experimented with makeup, talked about boys and dating, and that’s where things started to go a little south for me. I kept struggling. I felt so much more comfortable hanging out with guys, but that became more taboo as I couldn’t let on that some of them had attractions to the same girls I did. I was awkward, never felt like I fit in with my female friends completely. This was through no fault of theirs whatsoever. But the fact that they had so much more freedom than I did, combined with my inability to giggle and sigh and flirt with boys, just left me feeling lost and alone.
Perhaps that’s why the sentiments I’m hearing lately are, in my mind, dangerous.
I’ve heard “butch” women vilify Caitlyn Jenner (and other women, too) as being a poser, a wannabe, someone playing dress-up in pretty clothes and makeup. Derision drips from observations such as, “Could she go a little further overboard in stereotyping the girly girl woman? Real women aren’t like that.” Really? Hmm. I wasn’t aware that there was a definition of a real woman written down somewhere.
On the flip side,I hear women who make snide comments about “butch women aren’t real women. Clearly they don’t want to be women, since they don’t want to look like one.” Hold on. So if a woman doesn’t wear stereotypical women’s fashion and style, she isn’t a real woman but if she does wear traditionally feminine clothing, hairstyles, and makeup, then she isn’t a real woman because it’s a stereotype?
Is anyone else confused yet?
I hear feminists who accuse Caitlyn Jenner of being “a man who is trying to usurp our struggle for equality. Makeup and women’s clothing doesn’t make you a woman. Going through it does.” Wait, what? Our struggle for equality isn’t just about man vs woman or XX vs XY. It’s supposed to be about all people being equal to each other. Isn’t it?
And one of the worst definitions I’ve heard slung around? “Real women have put up with their menstrual cycle. Transgender women aren’t real women.” Wow. I guess then, that when I had my hysterectomy at age 29, I lost my right to call myself a real woman. I no longer bleed, I can no longer have children. Am I poser, too?
Many people hold fast to the concept that gender identity is merely a social construct; an existential persona, if you will, placed on a child from his or her outside world. While I absolutely agree that a child’s environment plays a huge part in whether or not a cisgender child stays that way or identifies otherwise, there is an inherent genealogical link that cannot be ignored. Sexual identity is very different from gender identity, but that doesn’t mean they cannot both have a biological origin. Way too many kids look in the mirror and don’t see a representation that matches what’s in their head, their heart, their spirit. The mere fact that there are people who do not identify as cisgender supports this. If we know deep down inside, where the truth cannot hide, that 2 and 2 are not adding up to 5, something isn’t right.
There have been accusations of “celebrity privilege” tossed around as well. And perhaps there is a sliver of accuracy there. Most people who are in transition do not have unlimited budgets for gender reassignment surgery, Barbara Walters interviews, or Vanity Fair photo shoots. But I think when celebrities do use the privilege they’ve been handed, it can have a positive impact on those who are still in the shadows. If one person sees Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner and finds strength, inspiration, or just faith in him or herself, then it was worth it. People call Caitlyn Jenner an “attention whore”. I’m not going to dispute that, considering the “reality” TV show that exists of her family, and that i don’t know her personally to form an educated opinion. What I will say is that opening yourself up to the vicious condemnation of the online world, along with the political pundits and gossip columnists, takes a lot of guts that most of us don’t have. Yes, I know the adage of “even negative attention is still attention”, there’s a big difference when it’s some media-created scandal versus your actual identity as a human being.
We never hear stories of F-M transgender people trying to horn in on men’s issues. Why do we as women need to shove open the gap that divides us further? Do we honestly think that a man would go through the ridicule, painful surgery, hormone side effects, potential job loss, family estrangement, and even physical abuse and violence in order to intrude on “our” issues?
When women deride transgender women as somehow being less than anything other than a real woman, we don’t just bring the hammer of judgment down on them. We bring it on ourselves. We shine the spotlight of bigotry and prejudice where we wish it couldn’t go.
Dissension in the ranks of any group will ultimately be its downfall. Women are no different. If we want to be seen as strong, inclusive, loving people, it has to include all people.
That includes Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox. That includes the butch, the femme, the androgynous, the cisgender, the transgender, the gender neutral, the queer, the pan, the bi, the lesbian. That includes you, and however you identify. And that also includes me. A real woman.
I’ve always been the type of person to take care of other people. I’m good at it.
Maybe part of it came from the mantras of selflessness driven into my Catholic school compatriots and me.
Maybe part of it came from my struggle for my parents’ approval and their continual denial of it.
Maybe part of it came from the innate sense that I didn’t deserve my relationships just because I was there; I needed to “earn them”, along with the love that came with them.
And maybe part of it is just me. Like I said – I’m good at it.
Whatever the reasons, or whatever the motivations, I always believed that you don’t “keep score” in relationships. You don’t give gifts with the idea that you will get one back. You don’t show love for the sake of having it returned. You don’t sacrifice in the hopes that the other person will do the same for you. You do those things because you choose to do them. It’s part of loving.
Makes sense, right?
Then along comes Stephen Covey and blows that shit right out of the water.
OK, well not completely. But the image of his bald head bending over a cartoon bucket marked “TNT”…never mind, sorry. ADHD moment.
Where was I?
Oh right. Stephen Covey.
Anyhow, Stephen Covey promotes the idea of an “emotional bank account” in which metaphorical deposits are made in the form of loving acts, and withdrawals are taken in the form of hurtful acts. So long as the account stays relatively positive, all is well. But when that account drops into the red, relationships suffer. People get hurt.
If the accounting errors are fixed, so to speak, the account can slide back into a positive place and life moves on. But if not, if the same miscalculations continue to occur, it can be time to close the account.
Close the account.
What an odd concept for me.
So how do I juxtapose the idea of altruism within a relationship with this bank account that can, and sometimes should, be closed permanently? Therein lies my problem.
I read these articles about leaving relationships through which “you get nothing beneficial from them” and I think, “But I thought I wasn’t supposed to look at what I’m getting out of this?” Love is a gift, freely given, without thought of return. Very true. But then that pesky bank account comes up with negative numbers again.
Lately, I’ve had some people in my life that just didn’t seem to be interested in being there. It took some heavy contemplation, and I’m still not sure of myself here, but I wound up walking away. Part of me thinks I should’ve gone searching for a reason. “Why? Was it something I did or said? Or do I not fit into your life anymore? But that smacked of disingenuous considerations when I realized that honestly? I just didn’t care. The dramatic exit really isn’t my style, so there was no grand announcement or heartfelt letters sent. Just a quiet nod, a bitten lip, and a slight shrug.
I’m still not 100% sure I made the right decision, but time will tell. I think though, in the end, I’ll be better off with my accounts in the black.
So it’s no secret that the Scientist and I have been in marriage counseling for a while. Well, a few whiles, maybe. We got really lucky – we clicked with her on the first shot. She manages to figure both of us out very quickly, and does not hesitate to call us out when necessary.
Last night was one of those nights.
I’m not saying she was wrong. No way I can actually claim that one and stay honest.
But holy hell. It really sucks when she’s right.
She told me that any time I do what she calls “self-care”, I fall back to a guilt-ridden place where I see myself as “selfish”. Self-care, as the Therapist explains is, is prioritizing one’s own needs, whether physical, emotional, or mental, in order to maintain health. These can be things like spending a rainy Saturday curled up in bed reading instead of cleaning out the linen closet, skipping a social event to go to bed early because of exhaustion, or spending an afternoon with your best friend, gorging on pizza and beer.
We went over some recent stuff that I’ve been pondering, and I explained how I was feeling selfish for things that I’d done. She listened thoughtfully, nodded sagely, and then slowly considered how she wanted to word her response.
“Yeeeah, no. I don’t agree with anything you’ve said about any of it.”
Wait, what? I was expecting validation here. I was expecting her to agree that my self-assessment was on target, and offer suggestions on how to fix things in my head.
Instead, she explained that I am being way too hard on myself, and that I need to recognize that self-care is vital to my existence. She said that, in this usage, being “selfish” has taken a really bad rap. It’s drilled into us that self-sacrifice is the only noble pursuit, and that prioritizing ourselves is a sign of being a bad person.
Now, this is not to say that the pejorative side of selfishness doesn’t exist. It absolutely does. When your actions hurt someone else with intent, it’s definite. When your needs trump someone else’s and they choose to take it personally, then a grey area can be found. The Ambassador, as an RA at his University, has taught us a lot about “impact versus intent”. And while the lessons that he’s passed on are well taken, they aren’t always applicable to real life. I think his inability to prioritize himself is at the heart of a lot of his own misery at times. But as I was just called out for the same, we’d have to first establish which one of us was the pot and which was the kettle.
I tried to take The Therapist’s words to heart. It’s like I said before – she isn’t wrong. I tried to defend myself by reminding her how good I am at taking care of other people. She chuckled ruefully and rolled her eyes in agreement.
So now comes the hard part. I find myself knowing that I need to just recognize, accept, and most of all address my own needs. But it is incredibly difficult for me to discern when I’m exercising self-care and when I’m crossing the line. She gave me some good points on some specific instances I questioned, but it isn’t like I have her on speed dial.
I guess I’m back to flying blind, but trying to be more “selfish” with my own heart and my own head.
What confuses you in your own life about this process?
Privacy seems like such a weird concept these days. Teens howl that their parents need to respect their privacy, but then they’re sending nude photos around the Interwebz. Adults froth at the mouth at the idea that the government has been acquiring cell phone information including the phone numbers we call and text, but then spout off that being detained/searched by the police “should be no big deal if you have nothing to hide”. Parents post gross or embarrassing photos of their too-young-to-consent kids for the humor and shock value, never considering that those photos will still be there when the kid – and their obnoxious peers – are old enough to find them.
So what should be our expectations of privacy? In relationships, I’ve heard of couples who don’t bother to close the door in the bathroom. If that works for you, that’s great. For me? Um, no. Like any other parent, I’ve read the book “Everybody Poops”, and I’m also aware that it’s a natural function of the human body, and yet, I simply do not have the faintest desire to chat with the Scientist while he engages in that particular natural function. (And vice versa) I’ve also heard of couples who maintain separate bank accounts – to which the other spouse does not even have access. For me, that’s an unnecessary extreme, but again, whatever works.
I read the article first published by the Mirror about the woman who stumbled on the fact that her husband had installed Cerberus on her phone, and those of her three teenaged children. Now, Cerberus is marketed as this wonderful anti-theft app that can help track your phone if it’s stolen. What a great invention, right?
The issue is that the person who installs it can then read texts, listen to conversations, and see who the other person is with via the camera. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
Now, the woman in question apparently has no problem with her husband doing this. She claims that he did tell her he’d done it, but she must have “forgotten”. My question is, Why was she informed that it had been done instead of being consulted as an equal as to the necessity? And her kids – why were they not shown a modicum of respect by telling them as well?
There are so, so many great guys out there. But there are also some controlling jerks who simply run roughshod over their partner until she accepts it as normal. If this woman feels that being spied on is “normal”, what else does she consider normal? Her realization of the app being on her phone did not come from an emergency situation in which her life was in danger and her gallant knight came to her rescue thanks to the wonderful abilities of Cerberus. No. This man routinely goes in and reads her texts and listens in on her conversations. How is this normal?
Her reply to this is chilling, as it speaks to the insidious nature of the whole situation. “If you’ve got nothing to hide, there’s no big deal.” She has been stripped of her right to any privacy, and it’s been replaced by a victim-shaming mentality. Basically, if you want privacy on your phone for any reason, then you must be guilty of something. This attitude has nothing to do with her assertion of “transparency” in a relationship. There is a huge difference between not keeping dangerous secrets from your partner and never having a conversation with only one other person. What if your sister needed to confide in you that she was scared of the lump in her breast? What if your son wants to come out to his father but isn’t sure how yet? Hell, we won’t even go to the serious stuff. Surprise party? Christmas gifts? Secrets don’t always mean destructive.
It saddens me to think that the desire for privacy in any form has become a source of shame. It scares me to think that people play on that shame and guilt for their own sense of power. This is not just undermining her as a human being, but it is teaching her children that this behavior is acceptable. They learn that if their partner demands access to every single iota of their lives, they have no right or reason to refuse unless they are guilty of something. Is this truly the lesson we want to teach our kids?
I spent a long time apologizing for various things about me. On my best day, I was an inconvenience for my parents, so I learned how to stay out of the way and under the radar whenever I wanted to be there. My craving for solitude made this easier, as disappearing by myself into my room or the basement for hours was seen as a positive. Needing any sort of attention or assistance from my parents was not met well, so my self sufficiency was also quickly developed.
By the time I was in middle school, I could cook a basic meal, do laundry, iron my clothes, and do basic housework and gardening. I took pride in this, as my independence was something I valued. My friends and I were together most of the time, but spending some time solo was never seen as a big deal.
As I hit high school, though, things definitely changed. Conflicts at home grew exponentially. Being “popular” was something I didn’t particularly seek, but knew I’d never achieve anyhow. My mother had set stupid rules into place guaranteed to make me “weird” such as forbidding me to wear jeans to a public high school. My parents got some perverse joy out of power and control simply for the fact that they could. They got off on it, which just drove me further into my appreciation for solitude. It kept me away from them.
One thing I heard from people over the years was that I was always willing to listen and be there for people, but I didn’t confide in anyone. My enigmatic behavior wasn’t intentional; I simply didn’t have the desire to open myself up for other people to observe and then to judge.
That said, I was still set in the apologies for so many things.
“I’m sorry I needed some time alone and didn’t go to the movies with you.”
“I’m sorry I can’t go to the party; I can’t be out past curfew.”
“I’m sorry I don’t share my problems.”
“I’m sorry I spaced on helping you with your term paper.”
“I’m sorry I can’t dance with you because of my knee.”
This continued throughout adulthood until several years ago. It wasn’t necessarily a light switch moment; there was no parting of the clouds met with an angelic chorus. It was more of a sunrise. Darkness met with an ever increasing light that made me realize that there will always be people who do not accept or approve of me. At one time, that idea would’ve filled me with shame and regret, and a desire to “fix it”. No more.
There are very few people who truly understand me; other than the Scientist and the Kellions, I can count the number on one hand. In a conversation with the Scientist the other day, the example we discussed was the word “stubborn”. People who get me don’t use that word with me, and they know why. It doesn’t need to be explained; it’s kinda like those jokes that lose their humor if they have to be explained. Same goes. If you don’t “get it”, you aren’t going to. Just one of those things. It isn’t any kind of big deal, though. I don’t get angry if people call me stubborn. I just nod and smile, ignore the invective, and move on. But at one point, I would’ve felt the need to explain, to mitigate, to appease. Now, not so much.
At this point in my life, I’m finally content in who I am.
I am a person who has AD/HD and struggles with it on a regular basis.
I am a person who craves solitude, and for whom not getting it can be disastrous.
I am a person who cannot handle the “joined at the hip” type of relationship. I am forever grateful that my kids weren’t clingy; they are very close to me, but there’s a difference. And hell, I can’t lie. If the Scientist had been that type, those kids would not exist.
I am a person who will work as hard as I can for my job, and who also works just as hard on my creative projects. But like most people, I prefer my creative pursuits.
I am a person who values her own independence more than a lot of other things, and who has no intentions of ever relinquishing it.
Not even a little bit.
And you shouldn’t be either. What do you apologize for that you should embrace instead?
Recently, while perusing the vastness of wisdom found on the Interwebz, I was stunned to discover that my kids should probably all be dead by now. This news shocked me, as I had just been congratulating myself on the fact that they all reached adulthood (mostly) unscathed. How sad to see my self-congratulatory ovations deflated like a mylar balloon in January!
Now, I realize that as a parent whose kids were born in the Dark Ages (early 1990’s), we’d barely seen these new-fangled gidgety-bops like car seats that faced backwards (how am I supposed to shove the spit-cleaned paci back in their mouth if I can’t see them?) and baby slings (how do they not fall out?). But despite our distinct disadvantage when it came to technology and education, we seemed to think we had it together.
I was never one of those panic-stricken first time parents. My sister once remarked on the fact that her college friend, who also had her first baby within a few weeks of my having the Professor, tweaked out over every gurgle and spit, whereas I was very laid back. And I was. From the first time I saw the Professor, I told her that, ok fine, I had no clue what the hell I was doing, but neither did she. So if she didn’t give me shit about it, I would extend the same courtesy to her. It seemed to work out most of the time.
And sterilizing pacifiers, bottles, and the like? Uh, no. At home, stuff was washed with hot, soapy water, rinsed, and called good. However, if we were out somewhere and the paci hit the floor? I’d pick it up, wipe it off, stick it in my mouth, and give it back. Mom spit cleans everything, doesn’t it? Sure it does.
However, as time went by, I had no idea the magnitude of the damage we were inflicting on those poor kids: myself, the Scientist, and every other clueless person navigating our way through the quagmire of Parenting Without a License.
When the Professor was born, we were told unequivocally that we were to put her to sleep on her stomach. This worked well, as even the act of lying her flat on your lap to zip a jacket would result in ear splitting howls. Upright or face down, thank you very much. We did not co-sleep because we owned a waterbed at the time, but she had a cradle next to our bed for ease of nursing. But the cradle, being handmade by my father, was solid wood panels at the ends, and solid wood spindles on the sides. So what did we have? Yup. Arrest us now. Bumper pads. We won’t even get into the fact that, as she got a little older, she would not sleep at all unless her head was butted up against the crotch of her stuffed bunny, with the matching blanket tucked all around her. As each kid transitioned from that cradle to their crib, guess what was also found there? Yeeeeeah. More crib bumpers. The abuse truly was long term.
And while we’re on the subject of sleep? Can we also mention the fact that when the Artist was born, we were informed that it was simply by the grace of a deity that the Professor hadn’t suffocated? And that we absolutely, positively must put the Artist to sleep on her back? Heh. Right. So, here’s the thing. The Artist had a few little quirks in her body when she was born, and one of them was reflux. Any time, and I mean any time she was placed on her back, she yarfed. Even a simple diaper change meant a full clean up from the yarf. For the first 4 months of her life, the Artist, with her pediatrician’s full approval, slept either in her swing or her car seat. When the Ambassador showed up, the Somnolent Powers That Be were aghast that we had two daughters who survived infancy, because the only acceptable sleeping position for an infant was on their side. How could we have been such horrible parents? So we did the rolled blankets, propped him up, and he’d fuss an wriggle until he was face down. We’d sigh, and dutifully shift him back onto his side, and pat each other on the back for being such Good Parents. And then the little bugger would fuss and wriggle and get himself face down again. We didn’t know what else to do, short of becoming Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest, so we shrugged and left him alone.
Food was another realm into which we ventured, unknowing, paving our own express road to hell with the best of intentions.
White bread isn’t good for you – everyone knows this. Whole wheat is so much healthier! So my kids’ first experience with toast was always with whole wheat bread. Peanut butter was an excellent source of protein, and since our personal favorite jam was strawberry, and it had less sugar than grape, that’s what we used to make their PB&Js. All before age 2. Oops.
We weren’t completely technologically deficient, though. We had a baby monitor. Of course, it only had one “channel” to it. And there was no video feed. And it couldn’t be hooked up to the Internet. And we couldn’t talk back to them through it. OK, shut up. We still had one, and it was cool! Want to know how cool it was? When the kids were old enough that we didn’t need it, but too young to be left alone for an evening, we would put them to bed, wait til all 3 were asleep, and then set the monitor in the hallway on the floor. We gated the stairs so they all had access to the bathoom, but only upstairs. Then we took the other part of the monitor, went next door, and played cards with our friends for a few hours. We never heard a peep – the kids were great sleepers. But I’m quite sure that little snippet of ingenuity would get us arrested today.
Each of the kids got a Tonka dump truck for their first birthday. Not the modern, cheap, crappy plastic things. The real ones. The metal ones that could crash into another truck and still keep going, could haul rocks and dirt, and reflect every “Vrrrooooooommm” back with its sturdy rumble. Know what else they could haul? Kids kneeling in the truck bed, rolling down the just-inclined-enough driveway. Don’t raise your eyebrows at me – of course I told them not to do it. I took the physics lesson and brought it to the level of the 5 year old, and explained why it was going to hurt like hell if their weight shifted even a little over the back of that rear axle. They listened, dutifully nodded, and went out to play. The Artist still wears the scars on her toes from scraping across the pavement after falling out the back of that damn Tonka truck. And hell yes, I said it. “I told you so.”
All of my kids have scars, though. Another that comes to mind in my Memoirs of Child Abuse is on the Ambassador. Across from our house was a construction site for a neighbor’s house. The crew dug a pit, ringed it with huge bounders and concrete blocks, and left it there. They might just as well have set up neon-lit arrows pointing to it, and billboards saying, “Come play here!” Seriously. Again with the cautionary lecture about falling, hitting the rocks, getting hurt. This one also came with a bonus admonishment. “I don’t want to hear it if you go over there anyhow and get hurt. Don’t whine to me about it.” As expected one afternoon, I hear the front door shut, and scuffling up the stairs.
“SHHHH! Shut up, don’t let Mom hear!”
“Ohmygosh don’t get blood on the carpet. Mom will tweak.”
I went to investigate, and found the bathroom door shut and locked. Nice touch, guys.
They finally admitted me to the bathroom clinic where I found the Ambassador with a gash on his leg. I growled and muttered and tossed in a few mild expletives, but as any parent does, I also painstakingly cleaned every speck of schmutz out of his leg before cleaning and bandaging it. And then I popped a few ibuprofen when I glanced out the window an hour later and saw all of them back on the “mountain climb”.
My kids truly were raised in a different time. I proudly was (am?), as my inlaws sniped, a “car seat nazi”, demanding that they be buckled any time they were in a vehicle. But kids were in rear facing ones until their legs got cramped; then they swapped. The best convertible one at that point? Had the bar that swung over their head, down in front of them. They were in that until they were 3; then it was a booster seat until they were 4, and then a seat belt with a height adapter. Nowadays, I know parents who had to have car seats for their 7 and 8 year old kids. Let’s be clear – I am all about safety, and if that’s the way it should be, then that’s great. But man, they’re really making us old fogeys look bad, here!
We started leaving them alone in the house for short periods (30-45 min) around age 8. We could go for an Adults Only walk around the neighborhood and converse with our friends. They knew where we were, and could easily find us if needed. Say, if the Professor had stapled her thumb and was too scared to pull it out. Yup. By 10, it was 60-90 minutes, and by 12, the Scientist and I could go get a bite to eat without freaking out. They had my pager number (ha! A pager! Yes, I had a pager because I was a doula) and they could always call it if needed. The first time we left them overnight, I think they were 14, 16, and 17. We provided food, strict instructions to clean the kitchen, and off we went. They didn’t clean the kitchen, and they had a miserable subsequent few days because of that choice, but they were in fact, still breathing.
Injuries during childhood are going to happen. But it seems like parents these days are really trying to bubble wrap their kids like they somehow shouldn’t. My kids played sports, and played outside, and they got hurt. We saw concussions, the occasional broken bone, cuts, bruises, scrapes, and a couple of shiners.
But as I read parenting blogs and see the products available and popular for parents, it makes me realize that I owe my kids a huge apology. Sorry I almost killed you all those times, guys. Hope you can forgive me…and maybe even let me hold a grandchild if one appears?