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?
“So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”
The Professor got that job. We moved her up to the Great White North over the course of one very, very long weekend. She’s getting settled into her new life, her new apartment, her new climate. She’s having fun, but it’s hard of course, not knowing anyone in her new town. She misses our cat, and can’t wait to get her own. However, our Professor’s coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Yay!), so it makes a lot more sense for her to wait til she gets back. We’re excited for her, though, and we can’t wait to see how far she goes in her path.
The Artist is rocking and rolling on the coast. She’s taking her time, enjoying the ride, and finding her own way. We love seeing her creativity blossom; her innate talent is amazing to see. The Artist has been dating a Marine and recently attended the Birthday Ball for the Corps. It was stunning to see our Artist in a formal gown and heels; her beauty made both of us have to catch their breath!
The Ambassador has had a pretty intense few months as well. His senior year is pretty strenuous, especially with his RA duties. He actually saved a girl’s life on Halloween night after she passed out from too much alcohol. Our pride for our Ambassador is unwavering, but his steady calm allowed him to overcome his own fear and act quickly. He is dating a really sweet girl who brings out some really good things in him.
So what does this mean for the Scientist and me? Well, the house seems huge now, where it certainly never did before. I’m looking forward to having it overrun when the holidays hit. As much as I need my solitude, I do love having people around for holidays.
Our new kitten (age 7.5mo) is adorable and fun. Even the Scientist, who really don’t like cats in general, has fallen for her. She is incredibly affectionate and sweet, and hilariously crazy. Her favorite toy in the world is a drinking straw. Odd, but true. She also loves twist ties, bottle caps, and milk jug rings. Weird cat. While we can never know for sure, we’re pretty sure we’ve figured out her “ethnic” origin, too. Her little mate is a tuxedo, and she does have little spits of white in a few places. Her other half, we’re convinced, is Tortoise-shell Ragdoll. She is clearly a torti girl in color; no doubt there. But her extra long, super fluffy tail is pretty telling. She has the coat, the personality/behaviors, and everything I’ve read seems to point to it. We just call her Princess Floofytail when she wanders along with that tail waving behind her.
Thus far, we seem to be handling this new phase pretty decently. Granted, it’s not even been a month, but we haven’t killed each other yet. I know other things will crop up along the way, and I know we’re going to trip over each other pretty hard on occasion. But so far, we’re doing ok.
One day at a time, I guess.
So things are changing a bit around here. Not in any sort of bad way – on the contrary. But change is always a bit odd until you grow accustomed to the idea.
I read through other Mommy Blogs and see all of the accomplishments of their kids. “She learned to walk!” (Better break out your own cross trainers!) “He spoke his first word!” (Watch your language. You don’t want his second word to be “F***!”) “She made the soccer team!” (Ah, travel teams…all the money, time, and you still get to sit out in the rain and snow!) “He made the Honor Roll!” (Awesome! Get your checkbook out for Harvard!) I’m really not trying to diminish their happiness in any way; just offering a humorous coin flip to the cheerleading, which I myself have done as well.
My Artist lives about 3 hours away from us right now, but she hasn’t quite “landed” yet. She works hard, she pays her bills, she enjoys her life, but her current location will most likely not be a long term placement. Her friends will not remain there after they too, graduate, and the siren song of her artistic talent simply doesn’t seem to originate there. She’ll need to find its source and follow it. When she does, we’ll be able to help her move her bed, desk, dresser, etc, out of her bedroom and into her semi-permanent space. The furniture belongs to her, so it will go with her when she finds an apartment/house/condo/treehouse of her own. For now, we’re happy to store it for her, and its there when she comes home for my custodial visits with my grand cat, Jax.
My Ambassador is still in college. He’s got a little while left before he lands somewhere, but like his sisters, he’ll take his stuff when he moves out for good.
Well, ladies and gents, my Professor just landed. She was headhunted for a job she really, really wanted, and beat everyone else out for it. We do not have details yet, but her move to Connecticut is relatively imminent, and her “stuff” with travel with her. I took a bit of my vacation money for this weekend and had way too much fun in the kitchen section of Target and Amazon. Her OCD kicked into overdrive in approximately .097 nanoseconds, and the Excel spreadsheets abound with apartment details, bus routes, placements of parks, gyms, and the ever important book stores.
Our excitement, of course, cannot rival hers, but we are proud of her accomplishments and hell, it makes us look good that we are 2 for 2 so far when it comes to “raising productive, responsible members of society”. But it will be very weird for us to have one of our kids actually living 9.5 hours away from us. This move will be so good for her; please do not by any means think that I’m one of those people who sobs at the idea of her baby leaving the nest or whatever that bullshit is. Dog no. I’m glad that my desire to instill a sense of adventure and exploration and independence in my kids has flourished. In all of her job applications, not a single one was in our home state. She wanted to go see “somewhere else”, and see it she will.
It’ll be a beautiful area for us to visit, as we’ve never been there. She will have easy access to big cities and the beach. If anything does go Seriously Wrong, the Trainer can be there very quickly until I can get there. Her winter will be a whole new ballgame for her, as she’s used to much more mild temperatures. And hooo doggies, she can have that crap. But it will make her happy, which is always our goal.
It’s quarter to five. And now, I’m one step closer to that “empty nest” people keep talking about. I’m one step closer to being alone with the Scientist in our life – something that not only hasn’t occurred in 22.5 years, but only occurred for the first 10 months that we lived together. I’m not entirely convinced we can make that work, but it will be an interesting adventure to try.
As for the Kellions? They are one step closer to their Next Step. And I can’t wait to watch it happen.
As the clock ticks along through the childhood years, most parents invariably find themselves with some semblance of trepidation (or horror) at the thought of their child dating. Worst yet, the realization that your sweet, angelic little snookems is going to become a sexual adult is going to smack you clean upside the head. Oof. That’s tough even to type. Of course, the instinct to protect our kids flares, along with the innate desire to at least try to shield them from becoming the emotional train wrecks that we all were as teenagers. (Don’t raise your eyebrows at me; you absolutely were.)
So I figured, well, it’s quarter to five, and that means that my kids are smack in the middle of their own dating minefields. I guess it’s time, as The Mom, to do Something About It.
Well let’s turn to the ever wise, all-knowing Interwebz. After all, where else can we find the answers to everything but there?
This works, right? I should simply be able to print these out and hand them to whichever child’s potential boyfriend or girlfriend is in question. Hmm. OK, wait. Maybe I need to rethink a couple of these.
Because, well, in the first list…2-5 imply that my son is too immature or incompetent to make his own choices as to whom he allows in his life. (And #3 would mean that I’d have to read his text messages – something I haven’t done since he was 15.)
Maybe this will get better. Let’s keep going.
#6. Uh, no. The Ambassador and I are close, but he is by no means a “Mama’s Boy”. He can function quite well without his “Mama” selecting his wardrobe options or his dates.
#8. I did raise my son to be a gentleman. Very true. He shows respect to all people unless they prove themselves unworthy of it, and even then, he can remain civil. But this undefined “act like a lady”. What the hell does that even mean?
I’m not going to dignify #9. It implies that I am either violent or prone to committing illegal acts; both of which are beneath me.
#10. This one bothers me perhaps most of all. If my son chooses to marry, I will welcome her into the family as one of our own. I would trust that he will choose someone who complements his personality, and has similar ideals. Why would I want to wish a lifetime of loneliness on my son by promising that I will act like an unholy bitch to his partner?
Let’s try the other list. Maybe we’ll have better luck there.
Or maybe not.
#1. My daughters cry. As does my son. And my spouse. And myself. People cry when they’re hurt or angry, when they’re sad, but also when they’re joyful. Every relationship has strife, and every relationship has anger and hurt feelings on occasion. They’re part of growth, and part of learning how to function as part of that entity. Demanding that a person never make your daughter cry is absurd and unrealistic.
#2. I do love my daughters; with all my heart. How exactly does this equate to hating their potential partner, exactly?
#3 / #6. Yeeeah. Because, even if I did own a gun, communicating a threat (a felony in most states) is definitely not the way to establish myself as a human being.
#5. My daughters are not “princesses”. They should not be treated as such, either. They should be treated as the strong, independent, intelligent women they are. But if their potential partner doesn’t do this? My hope is that my daughter will see it and end it. Like my son, both my daughters are quite capable of choosing partners.
#7. Right. Because what if my daughter had a SEXUAL thought? *GASP* That might make her…human!
#8 / #9. I can’t quite tell if this is meant to be serious or a joke. My daughters are human. They, and their prospective partners, are neither angelic nor devilish. They are beautiful, creative, humorous, intelligent, and also have faults that will piss off those people in their lives. Get used to it.
#10. See #9 in the previous list.
So yeah. Wow. I’m stunned beyond words, but somehow, the Interwebz has let me down. It’s given me a list that paints me as a controlling, violent, hateful bitch instead of the intelligent, nurturing, supportive parent that I’ve always sought to be. What the hell?
Maybe I should create my own list. Here goes.
1. Respect yourself and my child. My child, in turn, will always respect you as well.
2. Respect your body. Be safe with it. Own your choices and the consequences that come with them. This has been drilled into my children as well.
3. Communicate your needs and desires clearly. Mind games only serve to undermine trust and commitment. Don’t play them. My children wouldn’t know how to anyways, as we don’t model that.
4. Your body, your choice. His / her body, his / her choice. No exceptions. And “no” always supersedes “yes” when it comes to sexual decisions.
5. Strive to become comfortable in your own skin. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
6. Understand that we are a really tight family. We’re happy to envelope you, but just know that we’re goofy, crazy, loud, occasionally inappropriate, and fun. We return any love you’d like to share with us.
7. At the end of the day, these rules don’t mean shit. Because at the end of the day, the choice will always lie with my child. I may not always agree with it, but I will always support it.
If my son or daughter chooses you as a partner, welcome to the family. If not, your loss. (Shut up, I had to.)
There is absolutely no doubt that our past affects us, changes us, shapes the way we respond to situations, and can even permanently alter perspectives as well. We become who we are based on our experiences.
I am the person I am today both because of and in spite of my childhood. I refuse to blame my flaws on my parents, my brother, or anything else. I am my own person, and I must accept responsibility for my choices and my actions. But I do understand that there are aspects of me that are the way they are due to the life I lived in that time. And this leads me to my latest mental meandering.
Lately, I have spent quite a bit of time processing the minutiae of my early years, analyzing their effects, and seething over what I am realizing. I’ve used the term “broken” for years to describe those things about me that I know are not healthy or productive, or even that scary term…normal. While I do not want to use my past as any sort of excuse for behavior, I feel that recognition of those intricate layers of groundwork might help me to eventually find a work-around, even if no solution exists.
There are people in my life who object to my use of the word “broken” to describe myself. They see it as pejorative and final, and in some ways, they’re semantically correct in their assertions. But for me, I see it slightly differently. While there is absolutely a negative connotation to the word, and an implication of finality, there is also truth, and it’s there that we find honesty.
These things inside of me that I cannot fix are, indeed, broken. They hinder my ability to ever have a fully bonded, intimate relationship. There is a level of guardedness to which I will cling to my last breath; a metaphorical boundary behind which literally no one in my life has ever traversed, and never will. I simply don’t have the capability to allow it, and if I were to speak truthfully, wouldn’t try. (Which in itself adds another layer to the “broken”; I know. )
So in this irreparable destruction, this “brokenness”, how do I find peace and acceptance?
As broken as I may be, there is a beauty that is found there. Consider mosaics: some of the most amazing artistic pieces would never have been created without the shards of a once-whole object. What some throw away as worthless trash, someone else saw as potential. The shards will never again hold water, shelter the life of a plant, or serve food to family. But they can be repurposed into art that can do all of those things.
I will never be anything other than broken in a lot of ways. But it does not make me worthless, and that’s why I don’t have a problem with saying that particular truth.
It’s Quarter to Five, and this broken woman is emerging as a mosaic.
There were some amazing highs, such as the Professor and the Artist both receiving their Masters degrees, and the Ambassador landing an RA position for his senior year. I also did a little solo traveling; first to visit the Trainer for the Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and second to visit the Quilter and the Eagles Fan for the Stockley Gardens Art Festival and a local Greek Festival, along with Florentjin Hofman’s famous duck. Both trips did me a world of good, albeit in different ways. With the Trainer, I got to immerse myself in photography, along with playing with my blond bombshell puppies, and spend time with someone who means the world to me. With the Quilter and the Eagles Fan, the time was all about kicking back, laughing ourselves silly, drinking, playing games, and smooching a fuzzy headed cat.
There were also lows that knocked the wind out of me, such as the first anniversary of the Moore, OK tornado and having some really damaging information imparted to me (followed by confirmation from an outside source). I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that one, and working to separate myself from the situation. The effect on me was a little more than I expected, though, and I find myself spending more and more time in my head. It hasn’t been a great place to be, but maybe it’ll help me get where I need to go.
One thing I’m learning is that at this point in my life, there are always people who are going to hate me for one thing or another. Whether it’s my parenting methods, my open marriage, my sexuality, my disability, my sports team loyalties, my affinity for profanity, my warped sense of humor, or any of the myriad of things about me. I guess there just comes a time in which I no longer give a rat’s ass. I have given up stressing over being what each individual person I encounter needs me to be.
Now that it’s quarter to five, I am learning to appreciate myself for the person I am. I’m smart, bitchy, funny, creative, irreverent, devoted, snarky, protective, and above all, loyal. I am rewriting my shattered past into a new future; one in which my family is comprised of the people I choose and who choose me, and not by genealogical blood lines.
Part of that family is a small cadre of guys who are best friends with my Ambassador. He calls them “the Bros”. And every summer, our house becomes the Brotel, as I never know when I wake up how many of them will be passed out in various beds and couches around the house. I love them all, though, so I have no problem with this. They’re all sweet, polite boys, at least to me, which shows their intelligence! One of the Bros has been the Ambassador’s best friend since 7th grade. The Industrialist is one of the nicest young men I’ve met, and he has worked so hard to get where he wants to go. Having moved back to NC after being gone for 6 years, he’s going to live with us for the summer, and then move in with one of the other Bros to find a full time job. I’m glad to have him back, and really, what’s one more Boy living here?
I still need to get the rest of the way out of my head. It’s going to take some more time, but hopefully having the kids around will help. The Artist will be here for the better part of June, and the Professor is here until she finds a full time job as well. I love having them all here!
It’s summer, it’s sunny, and it’s Quarter to Five.
Most people in my life know me as outspoken, honest, and quite to the point. If you’re new here and haven’t figured it out, this post will probably serve as a neon sign to that effect.
Living in the south brings with it some challenges. Racism, homophobia, and a generic disdain for anyone who”talks funny” pervades the area, with the occasional respite found around the major universities. Bars and churches compete for prevalence, often with the convenience of being right next to each other. It offers consolation and reconciliation in a somewhat ironic, but wildly appropriate cyclical relationship. The parasites of paradox, so to speak.
Among those who frequent either or both sides of the parking lot are those who loves to crow about how “tolerant” they are of “those people”. Now, allow me to clarify something before we proceed: homophobia, gender discrimination (on both sides!), and racism are particular pet peeves of mine. But this particular attitude encompasses not just Those Faggots, Those Dykes, Those N*ggers, Those ChingChings, Those Sand N*ggers, Those Jews, Those Bitches, and Those Duke/Carolina Fans. This applies to any group for whom you brag about your “tolerance”. You dislocated your shoulders patting yourselves on the back, preen like the cock of the yard. But your arrogance and misguided self-importance just makes your strutting look stupid.
Why? Why would I insult you, the ones who so graciously allow Those People to live on your streets, to shop at your stores, to worship in your churches, to learn at your schools?
Because your tolerance is bullshit. Tolerance is some politically correct doublespeak that simply means you agree that you can’t legally run them out on a rail, so you keep your hatred and your bigotry on the down-low instead of preaching it on the street corners.
Let’s look at the definitions of the word “tolerate”, shall we? We’ll quote from Merriam Webster’s website at http://www.m-w.com. Feel free to make sure I did it right.
- to allow (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) to exist, happen, or be done
- to experience (something harmful or unpleasant) without being harmed
- to accept the feelings, behavior, or beliefs of (someone)
However, under the “full definition” of the word, that last one is not seen. It’s simply been added to the casual usage.
Tolerating something is enduring a hardship. It’s dealing with something unpleasant that you cannot change or prevent; it’s a way of conceding. The driving emotional force is still as pejorative as the hatred and lack of respect that created this need for concession in the first place.
Nowhere in this mess is there any hint of the real emotions that would make you an actually decent human being. Understanding; true acceptance; celebration; learning. Tolerance doesn’t occur without judgment. Real acceptance does. Acceptance is what occurs when you can recognize a difference in gender, religion, culture, orientation, or sports teams, and understand that those differences do not affect the quality of a person’s character. Understanding takes the opportunity to learn about each other and embrace it without reserve. It realizes that we do not have to experience another person’s feelings or beliefs as our own in order to show respect.
Let me repeat that last bit one more time in case you missed it. We do not have to experience another person’s feelings or beliefs as our own in order to show respect. Hatred has no place in acceptance and understanding.
We tolerate a lot of things in this life, because we don’t have the power to change it. Applying this to humanity implies that people who are different than you need to be changed in order to fit your own personal image of what should and shouldn’t be. That level of arrogance isn’t just sad; it’s destructive.
The next time you brag about how tolerant you are of Those People, perhaps you should take a step back and realize that Those People aren’t the problem here. You are.
On this, what would’ve been Syd’s 10th birthday, I offer my thoughts from 11 months ago. The loss of this beautiful child still affects so many, but the joy and love that have spread through the communities lives on.
Many of us are doing Random Acts of Kindness in Syd’s honor today. My hope is that anyone who reads this does the same.
Originally posted on Fractions and Fractals:
It’s been a really crappy few weeks. No way around it. I’ve wanted to blog about so many things, and yet the words wouldn’t come. My fingers would be poised over my keyboard, ready to help my head and my heart process recent events. And nothing flowed. I’d force myself to type, then shake my head and erase. Why couldn’t I find the right things to say?
My trials and tribulations were nothing out of the ordinary: some family drama, some health stuff, some more family drama, some work stuff. Regular life, regular stress. I took some time this past weekend, and went to visit the Trainer, reveling in laughter, friendship, Labrador slobber, and photography. Definitely a healing few days.
Then I arrived home. I unpacked, chatted with the kids, and decided to play a bit on Facebook before heading to ponder dinner. A…
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I have never been known to be fashion forward in any way. I am clueless about style, hopeless when it comes to the latest trends, and wouldn’t know what’s currently “in” or “out” if it smacked me like a swinging door.
Just one of those things. The Artist, I’m sure, will corroborate the assertion that I’m a fashion nightmare. If I get into a situation in which jeans or khakis and a solid color shirt won’t cut it, I panic and start blowing up her phone with howls for help.
However, it’s come to my attention that in one aspect, I was an Accidental Trendsetter!
Me? Trendsetter? How is this even possible? Well, the big way was that we didn’t use physical discipline and still managed to raise 3 incredible, intelligent, conscientious, creative, civic minded kids. Amazing that, eh? The other, though is something that’s hitting the news quite a bit lately. It’s called gender neutral parenting. The premise, in short, is that you don’t force predetermined stereotypes on your kid based on what’s between their legs. There are plenty of people who will recoil in horror at the idea of allowing a child to choose for themselves what colors they prefer, what toys appeal, or what clothes to wear.
Now, I’m not saying we never used pink and blue clothing, lace or trucks, or whatever. But as much as possible, we tried to remove the stereotypical gender roles and expectations from our kids’ lives in order to encourage them to explore their world without reservation, to decide for themselves what aspects of life they liked and what they didn’t. In short, we didn’t want them pigeonholed by a society that can barely manage to tie its own shoes.
Most people know from this blog (and my previous one) that by gender, I have two female children and one male child. When it comes to orientation, one is gay, one is pansexual, and one is straight; an ally. Can people tell by looking which child holds which orientation? Nope.
In a recent meeting at work that had dragged on way too long, I doodled this list of facts about my kids. Think you can tell which ones are which in the items that don’t apply to all 3?
- All 3 received Tonka dump trucks on their first birthdays – the original metal ones, not the flimsy plastic crap
- 2 have been admitted to the hospital for a serious illness
- 2 have had stitches in the Emergency room
- 1 has had broken a bone
- All 3 have photos of them wearing a dress and heels
- 2 have photos of them wearing a suit and tie
- All 3 are attracted to women, albeit very different “types”
- All 3 will receive or have received their Bachelors degrees right around their 20th birthday
- 1 is a math genius, although the other 2 are quite proficient
- All 3 have black belts in taekwondo
- 1 played on a Little League baseball team
- All 3 owned a Barbie house and Corvette
- All 3 have tattoos; 1 has multiple piercings
- 2 write poetry very well
- 1 speaks a foreign language proficiently
- 2 of them want kids
- 2 prefer monogamous relationships to open ones
- All 3 like to read
- All 3 love to travel
- 1 has learned to use a sewing machine and has sewn something independently
- 2 have been in physical altercations
- 1 loves to cook and has a well-developed palate
- All 3 are Harry Potter fans
- All 3 were invited to Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, but only 1 took the SAT at age 11
The answers might surprise you, as my kids really do not fit the traditional, stereotypical behaviors for their gender.
I may be a fashion nightmare until the day I die. I may never understand how style works. I may be clueless as to the latest technological gadgets for a while. But I will always know that in raising open minded, accepting, courageous, creative, adventurous kids, I was twenty years ahead of the game.
When two people get married, communication is almost easy. You’re still learning each others’ stories; the previous stitches in the fabric that creates your life. Each one can be inspected, discussed, perhaps glossed over, maybe regretted, but they’re all on display.
Over the years, kids are added to the mix. The fabric gains brighter colors, intricate patterns, but now you’re weaving together. Stitches are put in by both hearts, woven into the memories of each.
But the drawback to this? All of the stitches are now familiar to both of you. Years and years of fabric, all woven by both of you. No new colors or patterns, no interesting twists.
Then the kids take their fabric off the family loom and start to continue the weave on their own. What’s left is as familiar as an old hoodie – it’s soft, it’s comforting, but it’s still old.
At this point, the Bear and I are faced with each of us holding an empty needle, struggling to find threads that haven’t already been used. We both have threads we could reach for, but it’s of little interest to the other person. Neither of us is sure what to do, how to continue the conversation.
A few weeks ago, we traveled for the Ambassador’s judo tournament. Nearly 7 hours in a car over two days, and we spend maybe half an hour in conversation. Both of us have high stress jobs; leisure discussion about either of them does not appeal. We have separate hobbies, separate interests, mostly separate lives. We’re grasping at conversational straws that can’t stave off the drowning silence between us. Other than the kids, we don’t know what to say.
This has been a concern of mine for a long time, now. We can’t find anything to say to each other over a 7 hour car trip; how the hell do we fill the next several years once the kids have all moved out? We have little in common, though we get along just fine (most of the time). We’re still great friends. But at this point, the prospects for our future look more like that of roommates weaving fabric next to each other than two people continuing to weave the same piece.
People will say, “Do more stuff together! Create your own stories!” but that isn’t always possible with chaotic schedules, widely-varied interests, and vastly different points of view. It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.
The fabric of a family will always be attached unless actively severed, and ours will always connect. But as his drifts further and further away from mine, it makes me wonder how tenuous those threads will be.