Monthly Archives: September 2013

Introducing: Jen Daigle-Matos

(First ever guest blogger!!!  Yeah!  Please welcome Jen to the fold!  I am excited to introduce new voices to TBBW.  Thanks for reading, sharing and being in touch.
-Betsy)

My Daughter Calls Me “Da-da”

IMG_4494

It happened without warning. I walked in to Ita’s room as she pulled herself up inside her crib. My one-year-old grunted as she stood, looked at me, smiled, and exclaimed “Da-da!”

“Hmmm”, I thought. “Maybe she meant TA-DA! like ‘look, Mamí, no hands!’” I shrugged it off. She doesn’t have a dad–not the put-your-bike-together-interrogate-potential-boyfriends type of dad–and she has no idea about gender roles or norms. We haven’t had that conversation yet because…she’s one. I folded her clothes and left the room to hear “Da-da-da-da!”  Peeking my head back in, I corrected “Hi Ita, Mamí’s here.”

“Da-da!” she squealed back. My wife chuckled. “It’s just something new she is saying. She doesn’t know the difference between mama and dada. It’s okay” I consoled myself. I shared my new moniker with friends at Ita’s first birthday party. “You know, she’s been calling me Da-da. Isn’t that funny?” My guests looked awkwardly at their hands. I fretted, “People will think I’m confusing her, that I am going to screw her up because I’m gay.  I’m too butch looking. Maybe I can soften my edges?” I questioned if I was a good parent, if I deserved my amazing little girl.

Later, I sat alone playing with Ita. The littlest things I did made her laugh. She told me stories that were detailed and serious, read me a book she held upside-down.  She fell asleep; snoring in my arms as I laid her down in her crib. I went downstairs and noticed the screen saver on our television. There was a picture from our first quiet moment in the hospital. One of me holding her at the pumpkin festival. A series my wife had taken showing how Ita and I fall asleep together in the same position. I smiled and thought about how my little girl means the world to me.

From the monitor I heard her stirring, which soon turned to crying. I hurried up the stairs taking two at a time. I walked in to Ita’s room as she pulled herself up inside her crib. Tears ran down her tiny face as she stood, she looked at me, and in the weepiest voice squeaked “Da-da”. I scooped her up in my arms and wiped the tears away. As I held her tight, I reassured her, “It’s okay, baby. Da-da’s here.”

-Jen

Jen Daigle-Matos lives in western Massachusetts with her wife of seven years, their daughter (to whom Jen is the non-biological Mamí), and their whippet/poodle mix breed, “Moof”. When Jen isn’t chasing her baby or her dog, she teaches courses and consults on topics of diversity and social justice. She identifies as Puerto Rican and enjoys discussing what it means to be a woman of color co-parenting a White child. Jen holds a Doctorate in Education with a concentration in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Advertisements

A Month in the Life

As you may have noticed I have shifted into a backseat role with Turkey Baster and a Bottle of Wine and will now be doing a monthly post as a contributing blogger.  So with that here are a few glimpses of my past month as a non-gestational, queer mummy to my firey three year old daughter:

September 2:  A close friend of ours is over having an early dinner with us and he shares that he recently sang a cover of  “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers with a friend of his at an open mic.  “I love that song!” I chime in.  Our daughter wants to hear it so we YouTube the video.  She is instantly in love.  We dance around the living room singing along; I lift her up in the air at the “HO HEY!” parts.  She is wearing purple jeans, a mint green t-shirt and a darker mint green handkerchief around her neck.  She looks really cool.  “Did you pick that outfit out?” I ask.  “Yeah!” she chirps.  She is one cool kid.  We smile and let the music wash over us as dusk settles through the house.

September 16:  It’s an early drop off day at the preschool today and my daughter is still sleeping. I check the clock- we should be leaving now.  She slept terribly with a long nighttime waking after wetting the bed.  We are all tired and cranky this morning.  I finally can’t let her sleep any longer and my attempts to wake her gently by keeping her door open and walking around noisily are not rousing her exhausted, small body.  I wake her and she is very sad to be up.  Worse yet, I have to tell her, while bent over my shoulder in my arms, that we need to bring her breakfast to school because we don’t have time to eat at home.  Her body is extra warm from just waking and her hair is a wild mess of beauty.  She sobs in my arms: “I DON’T WANT TO EAT BREAKFAST AT SCHOOL!”  Her face is contorted in sadness and tears stream down her face.  I don’t want her to either.  Today I feel sorry for myself- for our family- that we both have had to work full-time to keep a roof over our heads since she was four months old.  “It’s ok honey, I know, I know, you can feel sad about it.”  I want someone to tell me the same thing.  This stinks.

September 20:  Our daughter is such a funny little person.  She has a phenomenal vocabulary for a three year old and is incredibly articulate.  She is constantly telling stories; I would not be surprised if she was a writer one day or even a professional storyteller (do those still exist?).  I feel so lucky to have this little guy in our lives.

September 24:  I have to explain for the umpteenth time in my life to a student I work with who has a litany of curious questions a loose version of how our daughter was conceived, what role our donor plays in our lives, and what my daughter’s ethnic background is (she’s biracial).  Sometimes I feel tired of answering these questions.

September 27:  My daughter wakes and starts hollering for “Mama,” her other mother, my spouse.  Mama has already left the house, having to be at the high school where she teaches for around 7 am.  She is upset, really upset, that Mama is not there to greet her as she wakes up.  “Mummy’s here honey.”  I say in my gentlest voice.  “I WANT MMMMAAAAMMMAAA!” she screams, writhing in her bed, rolling off the bed, then writhing more on the floor.  “I know, honey, I know.  Mama kissed you before she left but you were still sleeping.”  “I WANT MAMA!!!!”  This goes on for nearly a half an hour.  She is a body of tossing, intense energy rolling about the floor.  We have a speaker phone call with Mama in the kitchen while she writhes around on the floor some more.  I try to just sit with her feelings and not take on that I am not comforting enough to her.  After a while I ask her if she wants space and when she replies yes, I edge away a bit, but also let her know I am right here if she needs me.  Finally I gently offer that we can make a smoothie.  “That sounds good Mummy.  Can we have mango?” she sniffles between final tears.  I sit her up on the counter while we pour items into the blender.  She stops near the end of making it and hugs my middle and I hold onto her for a long time, hugging her back.

– Charlotte

Jail

I know there are a million things that need a lot of explaining.  Clouds, bugs, law of conservation of matter, cooking, math.  I know this.  What I did not anticipate was having to explain to my son what jail is.littleboy with long hair holding a bunch of different colored balloons

Here is how we got there:  As a lesbian, I have no choice but to sing Indigo Girls songs to my son.  The specific songs have ebbed and flowed over time, but when I am tired, I can easily got back to that time in my life (you know, shaved-head-not-armpits, baggy jeans, freedom rings around my neck) and the lyrics just come to me.  Recently, I started singing Hammer and A Nail.  I thought it was a lovely choice as it talk about being a responsible global citizen and fully participating in life.  Then he started to take-apart the chorus:
Gotta get out of bed get a hammer and a nail
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head
I think myself into jail.

…and there it was.  You see, M has a way, like most toddlers, of asking the same questions over and over and over again and picking up on things you really wish could be overlooked.  Now, every time after requesting Hammer and Nail, he asks what jail is.  At first, I just told him it is somewhere I hope he never goes.  But that wasn’t enough.  So, I settled on this: Jail is a place where adults go who need a really big time-out.  He got it immediately.  Now, he still asks every time I sing the song, but now I have a stock response that has almost become part of our lyrics.

It is because of his new awareness of and curiosity about lyrics and specific words that S and I have decided to not let M listen to pop radio.  We are now iPod only.  I have become so discouraged that most songs on the radio promote rape culture, over indulgence in drugs and alcohol, degrade women, hyper masculinity, etc.  The eighteen-year old me would die of embarrassment that I just wrote that, but I have come a long way since then.  I don’t plan to shelter my son always, but for now, I am happy to explain when he asks me, “What is a nomad?  What is an Indian?  What is a saint?”  That feels better than, “Mama?  Why does he keep saying ‘you can blow my whistle baby’?”

-Betsy

Time Flying

Woman, dog and littl boy walking on a wooded path

M and S on a recent walk

M and I have gone to the same drop-in gymnastics for the last year.  When we started there, M was toddling.  He would fall often (which is why we chose a gym with padding EVERYWHERE).  He would trip over his feet or objects or…nothing at all.

He was super shy those first few months.  He would watch kids from afar, more likely to observe than interact.  He would often ask to leave early or to have a snack after ten minutes.  It was fun to go, though, a little stressful that he wasn’t so interested in other people.

Then, he started to change a little.  He grew attached to another little boy.  They would play side-by-side, though not quite together.  M would run all around, getting more and more coordinated as the days passed.  We knew everyone’s name.  Wednesdays was our day at the gym.

Then summer came and it got really hot, so we didn’t stay away from places without air conditioning.  When we started back this fall, we didn’t know anyone.  The first day back, M tried to get another kid to play with him and she just stared at him, then ran back to her mother.  None of our old friends come around any more.  Today, there were six other kids.  They were between 10 months and 14 months old.

All of a sudden, M looked like a kid.  All traces of that stumbling baby were gone as he climbed onto and through obstacles with ease.  He tumbled on purpose, showing the babies his skills.

As I looked around and noticed what a big kid my baby has suddenly become, it was all I could do to not start sobbing. My eyes filled with tears and I took a deep breath, knowing that time is moving so fast and there is nothing I can do to slow it down.  Before I know it, he is going to be at our Thanksgiving table with his significant other, maybe kids of his own, and I will wonder how it happened.  I remember someone telling me before he was born that the first six months would crawl by and the first six years would fly by.  It is so, so true.

Most days, I don’t want it to be.  I want to be able to freeze time, to keep him in this super innocent stage where he still doesn’t understand how terrible the world can be.  Since I can’t do that, I will just soak it up and write as much down as I can so that when I am old and my memory is failing, I can look back at those pages and tell M what an amazing little boy he was.

-Betsy

If I knew then…

Be Here Now on SidewalkI am sitting on the couch next to my boy as he watches t.v. He is laughing, eating a snack and…contained. In this moment, I am remembering my pre-child self. I swore up and down that my kid would not watch any t.v. until he was at least five and, then, only occasionally. As it turns out, t.v is the cheapest babysitter in town. If the sink is full of dishes (as it was twenty minutes ago) or if the laundry needs folding (like it did yesterday) or if Mama needs to bathe (as I do regularly), a show makes it all possible.

For a long time, I felt guilt turning on the boob-tube. My boy would zone out so intensely that I would have to turn the show off and shake him a little to bring him back to us. At the time (when he was between one and two-years old), I told myself that it was the educational aspects of shows that made it o.k. for him to watch. In reality, it was the down-time the twenty-seven minutes afforded me that was the true benefit.

He does learn from these shows. He knows his letters and numbers and is starting to try to spell. Now that he is older (2.75…so old), he is starting to interact with the shows. He puts his hand in when they tell him to. He says his name out-loud when asked. He might dance a little if they are singing a catchy tune.

Mostly, these shows give me the time I need to sit on my ass for a few minutes or to keep my house from going over the edge of utter despair (we live dangerously near that edge way too much of the time). So, if I could talk to my pre-child self who judged friends for allowing their kids to watch t.v. and who swore to never do the same, I would tell myself to shut-up. My kid is growing up smart and funny and outgoing and inquisitive and much more. Relax, Betsy. Just relax.

Sometimes I crave Survivor or The Amazing Race or Revenge or any number of guilty pleasures that have no educational value whatsoever. I imagine M is the same. Sometimes, a little veg-time is just the break our brains need.

You know what? M will be fine. I grew up on Fraggle Rock and The Smurfs and I think I am fine (most days). Now that I have the hang of this parenting thing (sarcasm intended), I am working on being gentler with myself and my expectations. How about you?

-Betsy

To Cali and Back

two giraffes facing each otherWe made it to California, mostly unscathed.  Then there was the plane ride home.  Whew.  You should always know you are in trouble when there is no in-flight entertainment.  M was a gem, slept with an eye-mask on, played quietly.  The guy in the seat next to me decided that his lack of movie and my son’s sweet napping were really invitations to spill his entire life story.  This despite my obvious engagement in a serious series of solitaire games.

I was polite for a long time, felt like hours.  Then I mentioned something about my partner.  He said, “Oh, so you aren’t married either?”

“I have been married for 10 years.  It just isn’t legal in many states.”

Of course, he took that as an open door to let me know what he thought.  He proceeded to tell me that his girlfriend has gay friends (meaning men) who, “you know.  They say they want to get married but they don’t even know what that means.  There are real responsibilities that come with marriage.  They don’t get that.  They just want some of the things of marriage, not everything.  I mean, come on.  I hope I didn’t offend you.”

Remember: I am stuck on a plane with this guy.  I am actually stuck in the middle seat, on a plane, next to this guy.  Then it gets better.

Within ear shot of M, he says, “How’d you get him? Adopt or what?”

I say, “My partner gave birth to him.”

“How does that work?”

Knowing he also has a two-year old son, “How did your girlfriend get pregnant?”

He laughs and says he knows how she got pregnant.  I point out that it was a pretty personal situation that led to his girlfriend’s pregnancy and that they probably don’t go around talking details (like positions) that led to her insemination.  He was quite uncomfortable, but I really didn’t care.

To all of you who might ask just because you are curious, don’t.  It is none of your business.  If you are trying to figure out your own process and need information, PLEASE ask away.  I will be more than happy to answer any questions.

I realize this post is a little rambling.  There is probably more I could actually ramble about, but the aforementioned is what stands out.  I am trying to forget that guy and just remember when M saw the giraffes at the San Diego zoo.  Priceless.

-Betsy

Help me.

Tomorrow, I will travel to California with a toddler…all by myself.  My mom likes to tell a story (well, probably many stories) about traveling cross-country on a plane with me as an infant and my six-year old brother all the while people chain smoked cigarettes.  I am SO glad that won’t be me, but I am a little nervous.

M is a good boy.  He is mostly calm and compliant (except when he isn’t).  I have a huge backpack full of new treasures, good books and an iPad.  I have another back full of food, healthy and otherwise, to keep him entertained.  I have a wheelie cart for the car seat.  I am all set, and yet, I am still nervous.  It is not like I don’t spend every day with M, managing crises in public and negotiating until I am blue in the face.  I think it is the getting on and off the plane, making connections if said negotiating ensues and the general exhaustion that will come from anticipated lack of napping.

The nerves could also have something to do with the fact that we are heading to honor the life of a dear friend.  It will be M’s first memorial service and incredibly emotional for the whole family.  So, maybe it is not nerves, just overwhelm.

Wish me luck, on all counts.  I will keep you posted (I am sure you will all wait on the edge of your seats).

-Betsy