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

2 years, 10 months and 6 days (or Chocolate Waffles)

chocolate wafflesMy boy is weaned.  Not by his decision, which is what we wanted for him, but out of necessity.  Last week, we told him that he could nurse in the mornings for a few more days, but no more nursing at night. The next morning, he didn’t even ask.  Just like that, it was over.  It has now been a week.

Anyone who knows M knows he is a boob man.  That kid would have nursed until he was 16, “Uh, Ima?  I’m about to go out.  Can I top off my tank before I go?”  Awkward picture, but you get the point.  S and I have had MANY conversations about when to wean him or whether to wean him or let him do it himself.  We had decided that three would be a good age for him to get off the sauce.  He and S have been talking about it for months.  We had a prize in his sights.  When he stopped doing nanas, he would get batteries in his turtle night-light.  Lame, I know, but he was excited.

Then we sprang it on him, one month and 25 days early.  He has been kind of depressed since.  He has been talking a lot about being sad about one thing or another.  He has been uncooperative about little things and as he said, his face looks sad.  And this, my friends, is breaking my heart.

As the non-nursing mother, I have been looking forward to the end of nursing as the great equalizer.  I thought that maybe he would cuddle with me, too, if there was no lactation in the house.  I thought I would be so excited.  Really, I also feel sad.  I feel sad that we weren’t able to give him time to adjust to the idea.  I feel sad that he won’t experience that kind of closeness again in his life.  I feel sad for S that a sweet, special thing is over for her, too.  I feel sad that M is so sad.

I know we will all get over it eventually.  Maybe the distraction of Halloween will help.  Maybe not.  The cold winds visiting our town certainly don’t.  They make anyone want to snuggle up on another person, getting as close as possible.  Tonight, when M was having a particularly down moment, I told him that sometimes, when S and I are sad, we like to get under the covers and watch t.v. in bed.  So he did that, a stuffed bunny under each arm.  When I asked him what he wanted for dinner, he said waffles.  So, I made chocolate waffles.  The waffles didn’t make him instantly happy again, but he sure liked they way they tasted.  Today, I’ll take what I can get.

-Betsy

PS. Here’s a link to the recipe I used.  Totally works with some peanut butter and bananas on top.  Be warned: super chocolatey! Gluten Free Chocolate Waffles

My Sunshine

You ever have one of those nights where you are singing your kid to sleep and you realize that you are really killing it?  I mean, like ‘American Idol’ killing it.  Tonight was one of those nights for me.

M has been asking me to sing all the songs from when he was a baby, in addition to the Indigo Girls medley that is the current standard.  I made it through a few songs, eyes closed, wondering if S could hear me from the other room and wondering which judge I would choose when I get a 4-chair turn on The Voice.  Probably Adam.  He is so cute.

There I was, halfway through You Are My Sunshine, and M says, “Is that the right tune?” You know what?  It wasn’t!  I was so far away from the tune.  I think I was somewhere between This Land Is Your Land and Rock and Roll All Nite.  I was feeling the spotlights and hearing the crowd and my not-yet-three-year old called me out.

I remember the very long nights when he was a baby and I would sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,  each round gaining depth and fullness as my baby boy wiggled and cooed for what felt like hours.  It is amazing how sleep deprivation changes one’s sense of reality.  If I had a recording of those late nights, I am sure I would be sorely disappointed in what I heard.  Thanks to my kid, I am fairly certain in that fact tonight.

I think I prefer that cloud of denial a little.  Sometimes, that singing is the only thing that keeps me from collapsing in a heap at the end of the day.  I guess my singing works.  M is asleep and I am writing.  So, I suppose I will keep at it until M asks me to stop.  Hopefully that will be a long time from now because a tiny part of me also wants to keep the hope of fame alive.

-Betsy

 

Up Too Late

Since M was born, I have been flexible about many things…except sleep.  A friend gave some great unsolicited advice before he was born.  She said that her friends thought she was crazy, but she never compromised on her son’s sleep: specific bedtime routine, definite bedtime, etc.  I took this to heart.

sun setting on the east coastM has never been a great sleeper.  He is very sensitive to changes in temperature in the room.  He gets caught in his blankets.  He gets thirsty.  This has translated into him waking 2-6 times a night for almost three years.

Even though friends with kids have made fun of me, we have always been the ones who leave the party first to make sure he gets in the tub by ‘tub time’.  Then, this summer happened.

I let go.  I am not sure how it happened, but I just let go of all those tight restrictions around his sleep.  We started staying at the party later.  One night, I got excited for him to see stars in the sky.  So we stayed up past dark.  You know what? He slept that night.  He slept 10 hours straight.  As I released  my grip, he started to sleep better.  It became obvious that regardless of when he went to sleep, he would sleep 10 hours.

This has been revolutionary for me.  It has relieved a ton of anxiety that came with such rigid ideas.  Flexibility around his sleep has opened up a whole new world of fun things that happen after 7:00 p.m.  Last night, we had a campfire at some friends’ house.  We played the guitar (poorly) and tried to sing songs (poorly) and let the kids run around in the dark.  They ate marshmallows before bed and took their jackets off when it was chilly out.  The best part?  We ended the night with a dance party in the driveway.  Everyone danced in the glow of the car lights until we were done, no pressure to run off to bed.

M slept 10 hours last night.  10 p.m. until 8 a.m.  We didn’t have to go in his room once.  A year ago, I would have been having a slight panic attack if we were out past bedtime.  Today, I was thinking about all the cool things that happen when you stay up too late.  What a difference a year makes.

-Betsy

Beautiful. Brilliant. Ridiculous.

Just so you know, the last thing you should do when you are trying (and

two women with a tiny baby wrapped in a swaddle blanket, hat on his head

The day M was born.

struggling) to conceive a child is go to an indoor play place.  Every other woman there was pregnant.  The others were holding their tiny babies.  The indoor aspect of the play place just means that the air is thin, filled with tiny baby cries and huge toddler cheers.  Stifling.

This trying to conceive business fucking sucks.  We went to a new doctor last week and the walls were covered with pictures of newborns or large pregnant bellies.  I wanted to see fields of heather or a still ocean, not images of  what we haven’t been able to obtain…yet.

Through all of these ups and downs and the myriad two week waits, the sunshine has been our boy.  When I feel particularly angry or sad about how our process has gone this time around, I try to focus on him.  We have a game that we play.  S asks him what he is.
“Beautiful!” he shouts
“What is Mama?”
“Brilliant!”
“What am I?” she asks.
“Ridiculous!”

This game makes us all laugh, like we are all in on the joke.  Unified.  So, when I look around at all those straight women with endless supplies of sperm, their bellies swollen with their good fortune, I try to remember that even if we aren’t able to have another child, we are still a team.  It is the three of us against the world.  We are beautiful, brilliant and ridiculous, all at the same time.

-Betsy

PS.  Yes, certain assumption were made about those women at the play place.  I certainly know many straight couples who have struggled with infertility.  The story works better in my head when I assume those women got pregnant first try when they felt their perfect little eggs release.  And yes, I realize it is possible that not all of those women were straight.  Again, the assumption they are fuels my anger better.

 

Feelings

There is a tradition at my college that I have been looking forward to sharing with M.  Every year at homecoming (think BBQ and square dance in a cow pasture, not tailgating at a football game), there is good food, horse drawn large bonfirecarriage rides and then…there is the bonfire.  I love the bonfire.  It is one tradition that I get really excited about.  Once the sun sets, a long line of students come down the hill and down the farm road carrying lit torches.  The crowd notices and starts to gather around the fifteen-feet tall pyre, anticipating the annual lighting.  We all know there will be fire spinning after the pile is ablaze, perhaps an illuminated hula hoop or two.  Good times.

It all happened last night.  I had been building M up all day talking about how much fun the big fire is and how I was so excited to show him now that he is a big boy.  When we saw the torches in the distance, he got really quiet.  We inched our way closer as the torch-bearers lit the kindling around the base of the pile.  The wood began to catch and alumni from the last sixty years cheered.  M was pretty quiet.

He asked to stand on a chair right in front of the fire.  After a couple minutes, he said, “I’m feeling nervous.  I’d like to go home now.”  I felt so…proud.   Proud that my little guy is in touch with how he feels.  Then I realized that my job, as his mother, is to help him stay that way.  My job is to raise a boy who will become a man who can talk about how he feels, who can express himself in gentle ways, who can have his voice heard without dominating.  Last night was just the beginning.

So, when my boy told us he was nervous, even though I had been really excited to share the tradition with him, we each gave him a huge hug and headed for the car.  Last night, we did our job.

-Betsy

Wheelchairs

I ran a half-marathon on Saturday.  M and S and my mom came to cheer me on (which I really needed).  After I finished, we hung around to watch the marathoners finish.  There were three athletes using wheelchairs in the race and M was fascinated.

I assumed his fascination was about the people using the chairs.  We talked about what amazing athletes they are and how cool they were.  He couldn’t careless about them.  What he wanted was the chair.  This became abundantly clear when, while trying to fall asleep that night, he says, “Mama?  Can I have a wheelchair?”  He went on to explain that his legs get really tired and that he thinks he needs a wheelchair to get around.  What I thought was admiration was really just plotting to get something else.

He has entered that stage.  He wants things.  My mom doesn’t help (sorry, Mom).  She, as is her job, loves to buy him things: books, instruments, toys, food, whatever he asks for.  This has fueled the fire a little.  Now, he asks to go to the local toy store to buy something specific.  Of course, he has no concept of how much things cost or about expendable income, so when we say no or not right now, he doesn’t get it.

There is a part of me that wants to give him everything he wants, to shower him gifts and luxuries we can’t afford.  But there is a bigger part of me that knows that it is not good for him, that he will have to learn that life just doesn’t work that way.  Choices have to be made, sacrifices.  And sometimes, when you are patient, you can have what you want.

We got M a piggy bank about a year ago.  Her name is Penny. pink piggy bank with blue bandana Whenever there is loose change around the house, M gets to put it in Penny.  Last week, he got to take $6 out of Penny and go to the store to buy whatever he wanted.  When he chose a harmonica and took it to the counter, he understood that he was spending his money that he had saved so he could have something that he wanted.

He still doesn’t understand how much things cost or about expendable income, but its a start.  Now I have to get to him to understand why he can’t have a wheelchair.  I’ll work on that tomorrow.

-Betsy