I Will Survive (or Not)

I have a really brilliant friend named Phoebe who has mentioned several times how easy a two-year old is compared to a three-year old.  She recalled barely making it some days, feeling like her head might pop off.  I can remember listening to her stories and feeling so grateful for my super mellow boy.

We are just about three weeks away from three and now I get it.  Earlier today, bag of chocolate coinsI thought I was going to lose it.  I made a big mistake yesterday.  While in Trader Joe’s, I told M he could have some chocolate.  We came upon some awesome little chocolates coins.  Perfect!  He could just have one or two a day.  All would be well in the world.  But I got the opposite.  My sweet, mellow boy turned into a monster.  When denied a fourth or fifth coin (I had already caved), he started screaming and demanding chocolate.  “NOW!” my precious boy hurled my way through the tears and life-threatening pain of the chocolate being put too high on a shelf for him to reach.

This wasn’t the first time the terrific threes have made an appearance.  By the end of most days, I am beyond grateful for the safety of my bed.  Tucked under the covers with the lights off, I don’t have to negotiate with anyone.  S knows not to talk to me while I unwind from the hours of “Stop giving the dog food from your plate” or “If you ask me about the chocolates one more time, I am putting them in the trash”.

My plan all along has been to home school M.  Tonight, I am not so sure. Tonight, I am thinking that full-time school out of the home might be the only way to survive the next year.  I decided that every time I feel like screaming at the beautiful little person who is developmentally appropriately infuriating, I will do push-ups instead.  I hypothesis that I will look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger by the time December 2014 rolls around.  People will cross the street when they see me coming, not sure what to make of my guns.  Little will they know that all they see is a year’s worth of forced patience.  In the meantime, I have been sneaking those damn chocolate coins, trying to dwindle his stash so we can have to over and done with.  I figure he will never remember how many he had and if he does, I can always blame S.  May the wrath be with her.

-Betsy

Whistling in the Dark

My son is obsessed with things that light up the night: glow sticks, solar powered lights, headlamps.  Tonight, he decided that he would don his headlamp in order to play in the dark.  He then proceeded to turn a bookshelf we are about to get rid of into “bunk beds” for his stuffed friends.  He brought out blankets for each one and tucked them in.  It is amazing to watch how his mind is developing.  The empathy he shows is astounding.

little boy with headlamp putting dolls on shelves of bookselfThis has been a tough week in our house.  Besides my dad’s stroke, M was sick with a fever for several days.  We are also ass deep in the joy that is IVF.  That is part of why I haven’t written much this week.  When life gets hard, I retreat.  IVF is hard.  There are twists and turns and unexpected phone calls that can make or break one’s day or hopes.

It was our choice to pursue IVF.  After the last miscarriage, we were down to two vials of sperm from the same donor as M.  The fear of running out became much more of a reality.  IVF, theoretically, will give us many more chances to have another child who shares the same biology as M.  I don’t know why this is important to me, but it is.  There is already this man (the donor) we don’t know in our lives.  The thought of choosing another donor and bringing another stranger into the fold is nauseating.  It feels too complicated.

So we chose IVF.  We chose to spend a tremendous amount of money out-of-pocket (well, we took out a loan) for this one chance at creating the family we envision.  And I am scared.  I am scared it won’t work.  I am scared that we won’t have that table full of our children and their families at Thanksgiving 2043.  M is enough.  Having him is enough, I tell myself over and over again.  Though, sometimes the love I have for him is so much, I know that I have to share it with another child or it will swallow us all whole.

M learned to whistle this week.  Really whistle.  I don’t think I learned that until I was twenty.  I learn so much from him everyday.  The joy that pours out of him is infectious.  So tonight, when I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed by all of the what ifs, I have decided to take a cue from my boy.  I am going to put on his headlamp and spend some time whistling in the dark.  I think that will help.

-Betsy

book shelf with one doll laying on each shelf

Guest Blogger: Jen Daigle-Matos

Agua y Amor

When Ita asked for water the first time, she said “agua”, which is Spanish for “water”. She loves to eat rice and beans, and the first time she danced, it was to a song by Puerto Rican salsero, Marc Anthony (Jennifer Lopez’s ex-husband). She loves in Spanish, too. She has learned to squeeze her moms with eyes shut tight, baby-feet-in-sandsaying “tanto!” which means “so much”. She has my cousin’s sense of humor, my sister’s movements, my grandmother’s pensiveness, my mom’s watchful eye, and my sense of joy.

Biologically, she is not ours.

My wife (her birth mother) and her donor are White. I had to adopt her and jump through scary legal hoops to establish what everyone knew—this is my baby. My baby. Born White and culturally Puerto Rican, she’s a little White girl with the grit in her gut and glint in her eye of a Latina. Some folks can’t see our connection. This summer one man asked, “So are you her nanny?” Other folks, the folks who know that love is thicker than blood, know biology isn’t the only connection love creates. My aunt looked at Ita, looked at us and noted “but neither of you have blue eyes.” The staff at my doctor’s office whispered me over and said “Jen! She looks just like you!” I reminded them that this was a biological impossibility.

A biological impossibility.

C and I plan on taking Ita to Puerto Rico someday. We tell her all about the food she’ll eat, the sounds she’ll hear, and the agua she’ll swim in. We tell her about the friendly Puerto Ricans, her people, the ones she’ll meet and we know she’ll love the island. We know this because she is as warm as the Puerto Rican sun, and when her toes touch the sand, she will be home.

-Jen

Soon

S has this thing she does with M.  She asks him how long she can keep him and he typically says, “26.”  He decided that when he is 26, he will move to his own house on “the big road”.  His friends (A and M, brother and sister) will move in with him and he will have us over for breakfast.  A couple of weeks ago, we got an answer other than ’26’.  When S asked how long she can keep him, “‘Til you are 26?” she asked.
“No,” he said.
“Why not?”
“Because I am going to die soon.”

(Insert heart hitting the floor here.)

This has stayed with me since, coming from behind and slapping the back of my head every now and then.  When I remember his words, my chest tightens and I lose my breath, praying that he is just working through things in his head and that he doesn’t actually know something we don’t.

2013 has been a shitty year.  M has learned a lot this year.  Maybe too much.  I try to chalk his statement up to that.  We lost a pregnancy he was invested in. My mom’s best friend died and he came with me to her memorial service.  He doesn’t know it, but my dad had a minor stroke today.

He has seen a lot this year.  I wonder if our decision to be completely honest with him has exposed him to too much, too soon.  I don’t know what the alternative is.  I can’t lie to him, but I want to protect him.  Where is the middle ground?  I just don’t know.

What I do know is that life is short and shit happens.  No matter how much I try to protect him or prepare for the ‘what ifs’, I just can’t shelter him from all hurt.  No matter how much I want to.  And that sucks. I guess that is all part of the letting go that happens the moment a child is born.  From that first moment we let someone else hold him to my last breath, I have been and will be giving him the world and to the world.

I think that is my life’s work.  The letting go and the moving on.  Maybe that is everyone’s life work.  Maybe it is holding on too tight that holds us all back, our children included.  Just maybe.

-Betsy

Guest Blogger: Charlotte Capogna-Amias

So This is Happening

It’s upon us: our three-and-a-half year old daughter only wants to wear dresses or skirts (it is a tiresome battle to get her to agree to wear a pair of pants; even on very cold days), everything she likes is pink, she looks in the full-length mirror in our bedroom after she gets dressed (she picks out her own outfits) to “see how she looks”… the list goes on.  SIGH.drawings of girls in frilly dresses

We have tried to be good gender non-conforming, queer parents.  I swear we have.  Partly, as a fellow parent at our daughter’s preschool rightly put it, “we are victims of our hand-me-downs” which resemble a pile of sherbet when dumped out of the trash bag upon receiving them.  Don’t get me wrong- I am super appreciative of those hand-me-downs, despite their hues; they have saved us hundreds of dollars since our daughter was born.  And the reality is that unless you can afford ultra-pricey clothes from brands like Tea, Baby Gap and Mini Boden, you’re getting gender-conforming garb.

Lately, our daughter has been talking in this high-pitched voice, to the point where she talks normal and then catches herself and says, “I mean…” and continues in the high-pitched din.  Did I say, “sigh” yet?  I think I’ll take another: SIGH.

Ok, so let me be clear about something if you don’t already know this about me: I’m pretty darn femme-y.  I wear make-up most days, simply because I like it when lightly (and sometimes not so lightly) applied… I mostly where dresses or skirts to work, I take a long time styling my hair.  These things are all true.  And I know my daughter watches me do these things, quite likely taking some mental notes.  My spouse, her bio mom, is a soft butch.  She showers, slaps some concrete-like product in her short hair and is ready within five minutes.  I just want my daughter to understand that there are options, and seeing how the tide moves, perhaps particularly for little children around gender, these last few months have been slightly frightening.  I mean take this recent incident (albeit slightly comical):  I have been exploring some different progressive spiritual communities in the area where we live and there are these two places- a Congregationalist church and Quaker meeting- where we have mostly ventured as a family.  I was debating one morning about whether to go to Quaker meeting or the church and my daughter quickly said, “To meeting please!”  So I’m all thinking she likes it there, it’s more her scene, COOL.  Well, while I was foolishly thinking she got some spiritual enlightenment from the Quaker’s calming silence, in fact, it was the play high-heeled shoe collection in the playroom that had her goat.  The Quakers had a verifiable colony in those dress-up bins and my daughter couldn’t have been more pleased.  Hell, a drag queen would have been pleased.

I mean, I get it.  She sees this stuff everywhere.  She takes note of who holds power and lore in the occasional books she comes upon with fairies and princesses.  She doesn’t watch TV, we don’t buy books like that, but it’s out there.  There’s actually more upsetting things about race and looks that bother me on an even deeper level that are surfacing (our daughter’s biracial).  I don’t want to get into that in this particular post, but let’s just say: this stuff is deep.

– Charlotte

Never-ending Halloween

Thursday was our first foray into trick-or-treating.  My boy dressed as a payphone (yes, a payphone) and was excited for days beforehand.  We went early to the area of town where half of everyone goes to collect candy from strangers.  They do it up right.  Street closed off.  Hot chocolate for the parents. Folks on their front porches with giant smiles.

My boy was confused by the costumes.  He kept saying, “Mama.  I don’t know who all these scary people are.”  He would ask why that five-year old had red stuff (fake blood) all over his face or why that boy was wearing a gas mask.  He was more than eager to collect candy (he had never had it before), but was a little confused and scared by the whole of the event.

It took him two hours to fall asleep that night.  He kept telling me he was scared.  He woke up a bazillion times that night, crying out like never before.  I learned, that night, that he isn’t ready for big kids halloween.  Which is fine by me, actually.

The unexpected thing to come out of the event is his new obsession with candy.  We threw out half of the paltry amount he collected, leaving him with about fifteen pieces.  He was told he could have one piece a day after a good meal.  He put all his candy in a silver bowl (his “sweeties” bowl) and has been carrying it from room to room for almost a week.  He will pour the contents out, sniff each one and then put it back in the bowl.  He will eat one piece and then make a plan for the next day, “Can I have the bubblegum lollipop tomorrow?” Sometimes, he will thrust the bowl under my nose and tell me to smell it.  At the end of the day, he will place his sweeties bowl next to his bed, just in front of his fish, and tell it goodnight.

So, I really learned two things from last Thursday.  People are scary (although, I kind of knew that already) and candy is addictive (I guess I kind of already knew that, too).

He is asking for another halloween, not sure if he can wait until next year.  Maybe next year we will have a party and hand out apples and dental floss. Ask everyone to come dressed as a butterfly or flower.  Put off the candy and scary people for a while, try to keep by boy little as long as possible.

-Betsy

Toot, toot!

That, my friends, is the sound of me tooting my own horn.  I am quite proud of my big parenting win from last weekend.

We were having a great time visiting our hometown of Atlanta.  We kept deciding to stay another night until we had been there 6 days and 5 nights.  Two trips to the museum of natural history, one to the botanical garden and one very anticipated trip to the zoo.A zebra looking at the camera

The zoo was my idea.  When M and I were in California a couple months ago, we went to the San Diego zoo.  M kept saying, “Let’s go.”  Animal after animal, very little sustained interest.  So, I thought Zoo Atlanta would be a chance for zoo redemption.  We got there early and there were only a handful of other people in the whole place.  It was kind of awesome.

The flamingos were first.  I waited for M’s reaction.  “Let’s go.”  Oh shit.  Here we go again.  But then it got better.  He was having a blast running around the practically empty zoo, slightly interested in the animals.  He rode the carousel and the train and was SO happy.  Then, we indulged in some really healthy hotdogs and chips.

Soon after sitting down to eat, my boy ended up in a puddle of his own urine.  I mean, full-bladder emptied.  My boy has been potty trained since he was 20 months old and has had exactly two accidents out in public since.  So, I was woefully unprepared when he soaked his pants completely.  No change of pants.  No change of socks.  Nothing.

So when S came back from the bathroom, carrying a bare-assed toddler, I knew I had to jump into action.  The thought of having to tell M that we had to go because he wet his pants didn’t feel like and option.  I remembered that bathroom had a hand dryer.  I spent the next thirty minutes burning my hands under the dryer until his pants were dry enough to put back on to continue the day.

M didn’t know what I had done.  He didn’t know there was a crisis.  He didn’t know that he had done something unexpected.  He didn’t know that people from neighboring tables were looking at the lesbians who let their child sit naked at a restaurant.  He didn’t know any of that.  And that, my friends, was my parenting coup.  Toot, toot!

-Betsy