I started to type a facebook status, but it was getting long, so BLOG POST, shit, those broken category links, should I fix them– NO. But I should make a picture; I’m sure I’ve taken a picture with a group of people– wait, open source clip art!Two hours later.
After all of this time, I should have skipped the To Do list that was preventing me from writing about how pissed off I am at Sports Illustrated, which I now get to look at all the time thanks to Joel cashing in airline miles for a subscription. So frustrating to read the editor’s little moment of “beauty in every shape”– why am I suddenly I’m getting facebook notifications right there at the bottom of my screen? Replies to my comments– I should check those– NO. That lizard keeps scratching her glass, but when I get her out she just scratches to go back in, but now the dog has to go out, and I’ve snoozed my phone’s lunch alarm so many times that it started overlapping into the afternoon brain break alarm–also snoozed. I need to shower, and did I get a present for that party tomorrow, and dammit why are there only three black women in the Swimsuit Edition, and why is the SI editor so proud of having a full-sized model on the cover, only to airbrush the shit out of the cellulite on that same model’s thighs, and why do the sports announcers call the white basketball players great leaders on the court, only to crow about how much they love the aggression of the black players, and why did SI put the darkest of their 3 black women on the African cost surrounded by black men in tribal robes, and WHY IS SHE THE ONLY ONE POSING WITH A GIANT SNAKE?
It’s always the heaviest rain happens in the minutes during school drop-off, or pick-up. I’m thinking this as rain pours down my back from the tilting off my umbrella, unable to hold it steady while I juggle closing the two others. My 3rd grader and 1st grader are several minutes gone. I don’t even remember if they waved good-bye before being swallowed into the anonymity of hundreds shoes squeaking on the linoleum floors. I walked Elliot to his room the first two days of 1st grade, then he didn’t need me. I walked Zach to his class only on the first day, not because he needed–or wanted–me to, but because those bags of classroom supplies are heavy.
I’m not even thinking about it until I see a red-eyed woman hurry past, and then Oh, It’s the first official day of school for the kinders.
The kind of different that twists just the tiniest bit of guilt. It always be harder, I think, navigating those First Feels, which will largely belong to Zach. I hope that doesn’t make Elliot think I am less attached to him. He’ll get his First, many long years from now. Or not so long.
Once they left the baby/toddler stage, it became harder to see time passing in changes to their faces. I’m with them every day, there is more subtlety in the changes to their appearance now: taller, longer hair, shorter hair, missing teeth, new teeth. Dr. Who wasn’t talking about parenting, but it applies here: It’s a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.
What I can’t measure in my own kids sneaks in from other sources. From my first nephew starting high school this year; my former boss’s 2-year-old also in high school; a former co-worker’s two-seconds-ago 5-year-old who has somehow skipped all of the years in between to freshman year of college.
The faint, smokey smell of time burning, blown away before it can settle.
I know it will happen in an instant, the moment, that final First, when my last child leaves home. That will be the First time those First Feels will belong to Elliot. Bless his heart, I hope he’s ready for them.
I long for a life with everything neatly sorted into the equivalent of a 3D spreadsheet. I long for it in the same way, and with the same futility, as I long for stick-straight hair, a surprise growth spurt, and smaller boobs.
Creativity is messy. I find it in piles of seemingly unrelated objects, sorted with a system that makes sense. To me.
Living in a small house has its challenges, but at least we have two bathrooms. Well, sort of– I’m currently storing boxes of tile and antique light fixtures in one shower. The same shower that needs to be re-tiled, but not the same shower I have already re-tiled. I’ve spent the past few months collecting tile (white subway tile, from thrift stores) for that project. Spending $8 instead of $60? Yes, please. JB didn’t realize that there was a relationship between the tile collection and the shower project, which irritated me at first. Then I had to wonder what it meant that he waited 3 months and 6 boxes of tile before commenting.
But I needed to finish the hall bath before destroying the master bath. So I did. Except for a linen shelf. But there was this metal locker…
Thrift shopping is hoarding. Estate sales/thrift purchases require immediate commitment. We need storage, like shelves. But I want to use the scrap wood in the basement first. And I sure don’t want to pay more money for fake wood. I just don’t.
We find the perfect couch, huge, old, non-toxic foam (bonus!), cheap ($550), and in pristine condition. Like that couch spent the first 40 years of its life under a plastic slipcover. But it need end tables. Midcentury modern, two-tier end tables are all the rage, but I cannot force myself to pay $200 for items that I ignored in my grandmother’s house. Plus, all the rage means everyone will have them. Meh.
Then I find two project tables. What was once the bottom of an antique vanity that some other creative person hobbled together into a column of drawers. They’ll need to be stripped and sanded, stained, and sealed. It needs matching legs. And a top. But they are the perfect size, and…different, because they’ve never been tables at all. Which means I’ll never see these tables in anyone else’s house. Ever.
The metal locker. The slightly rusty, in need of paint, locker. The 6 foot tall, single column locker, with individual doors/cubbies. The one that just so happens to fit in the linen shelf space of the hall bathroom. The one that, when I am done with it, will solve the 2 months of bath towels piled on my bedroom floor problem.
Speaking of bedrooms, I painted the master, got a new mattress, and have, within the past few days, accepted that “antique wrought iron” and “queen” don’t exist in this dimension. So I spend an evening whining about my headboards with a mostly-tolerant, mildy-irritated husband, because I am an “eclectic” and he’s a “traditional”. Somehow we both agree on a concept being used in tiny house construction (not a loft). But it needs to be built first. Which is another project.
And I want to sew, having acquired a fabric-store’s worth of vintage fabric. But the crap from my master bedroom is in piles in my studio, so I can’t get to the sewing machine. Don’t talk to me about writing. I’m freezing on a stone patio, because the one activity where clutter and creativity cannot coexist is during sentence writing.
The November birthdays. Elliot, my youngest, who turned 6 today. The boy that continues to delight us with the full-speed joy and enthusiasm he’s shown since his unintentional, un-medicated birth. And Zach, whose birthday is not for another “6 of the longest days in the world”. The boy who will turn 8, and can always be counted on announcing to anyone that will listen how “mom, we could MAKE that.” The kid that was mad because I went to the Reuse Store without him.
My life? It’s messy and cluttered and busy and stressful. And also, creative and inspiring and energizing and interesting.
One of our parenting wins is how we’ve worked to make voting a family tradition, which made this morning’s WRAL’s Go Ask Mom blog post one of the easiest I’ve ever written.
We usually walk to the polling station, where my children watch me receive a ballot and place it in the box. My seven-year-old enjoys seeing our voting count as the ballot disappears into the box. My five-year-old likes the fire trucks. We all get our “I Voted” sticker, and then leave to enjoy our post-voting pizza dinner.
As a registered voter, I am responsible for participating in local, state, and federal elections. As a woman, I am responsible for showing my respect to the women that fought with all they had to earn this voting privilege. As a parent, I am responsible for teaching my children how meaningful an individual voice can be — and how to make that voice heard by voting.
Kids Voting Durham and NC MomsRising with Jack and Jill, LangoKids, Mocha Moms, and other family groups are joining forces to help make voting a family affair!
When: 10 a.am. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 25
Where: Durham Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St., Durham with a parade to the Durham Board of Elections, 201 N. Roxboro St.
Public education funding, pre-K funding, unemployment, equality, environmental protections– there are so many things that need attention in NC. The polls need YOUR attention.
If you have 8 minutes, I made this very-safe-for-work youtube video after being inspired by February’s HKonJ March. Whenever I’m feeling done with politics, I watch it as a reminder of how vitally important it is that we all show up at the ballots with the same enthusiasm shown at protests and rallies.
Sometimes when I return home from a trip-wait, no.Typically it’s a unit of “we” returning home from a trip; let’s start again. When an Amtrak riding Mom travels alone to DC, what will she do?
I went to a town that I love more than any other town, funny because it’s not even a town. Or a city. Or, hell, even a state. The founding fathers were weird.
DC: where my past visits have often included at least an hour of aimless, destination-free Metro-riding. Just sticking my fare card into the slot makes my heart do the electric slide. But when I hop a line without having to double-check the map, that’s when my brain does a boogie woogie. Once, years before the Small People entered Life, Stage Left, I rode the red line from end to end while JB and our friends went to a museum.
So happy. (Offers cheese and crackers to the fare card sitting next to me on the couch.) Okay, I’m weird, too.
By the way, Clay Aiken was on my train,
What does the first day of school look like for a SAHM with no kids at home?
Disclaimer: I can talk about this because, for years, I have said the same to other SAHMs. Hell, I did it THIS year.
Polite, medicated, socially capable me responds like this:
“Enjoy your day off!” I sure will.
“I can’t wait until all of my kids are in school all day!” Oh, aware that my kids are actively listening to my response, it IS exciting, but I sure will miss having them home with me.
“Are you going back to work?” For pay? Not this year.
“What ARE you going to DO with yourself for an entire day? All that free time!” Well, I have this book that I’ve been trying to write for a year– it’s such a great story, but fiction is hard. And I volunteer a lot…
My mouth, both good and bad, often flies solo. It’s true, I just open my lips and watch the appropriately vapid responses stream out. After all, these aren’t people stabbing me with a passive-aggressive-interest-knife. In previous years, I’ve spoken similar words and received similar vapidity in response.
This is what I meant when I said these things to other SAHMs.
What would my life be like if I wasn’t white? If I didn’t benefit from white privilege? Certainly being female provides me with a tablespoon’s-worth of inequality perspective, but that’s nothing when it’s measured against a gallon’s-worth of racial inequality.
When I consider how charmed my life has been– not by virtue of a lifetime’s worth of law-abiding, responsible decisions, no– due to the invisibility afforded me thanks to the color of my skin. No one was paying attention to a middle-class, white, teen-aged girl as a potential law-breaker. In point of fact, my teen-aged self only caught law enforcement attention when I was with my black friends. Because then, and only then, was I suspect.
Nevermind the evening I was (illegally) drunk in public (also illegal) at the MacDonald’s of my local mall. Despite knocking over one (three) of the tables, no one ever called security on me. That same mall, several weeks later, I shopped, sober, with a black friend. Security followed us the entire time. Though they weren’t really following us, something blatantly evident when she and I would wander into different sections. A bizarre choice on their part; after all, of the two of us, I was the only one that had ever been caught shoplifting.
Let’s talk about that for a minute. At 12, I discovered the adrenaline rush that comes from deliberately leaving a store with a product for which I had not paid; I was a thief. I was eventually caught though it was many months after I had begun. Back then I remember thinking I was just that good, but in reality, I was just that White. I recall the police officer being justifiably disgusted with my actions, but I was not arrested, nor was I taken into custody. He called my parents and released me to them instead. He did refer me to juvenile court, and later in the week, those same parents accompanied me to the juvenile court intake officer. She looked at my grades, at my parents, and listened to my tearful apology. She determined that I “had made a stupid mistake, but they were going to let this one go.”
They were going to let this one go. How lucky for me. I don’t remember the dollar amount of my unpaid purchases; more than $100, but less than $500. My point here being that I had stolen far more than a tube of lipstick. My privilege had saved me from what could have– what should have– been the start of a relationship with the juvenile court system.
For every example of risk I face as a woman I can counterexample with a time I got away with something I wouldn’t have had I been black. Of the times I drove through road checkpoints with an open container of alcohol–twice. Of the time, in college, that a busted taillight resulted in my being pulled over by two police officers that, though they could smell beer in the car, accepted my (not sober) explanation that I had not been drinking and was, in fact, driving my drunk passenger home.
I’m not proud of these moments and my rather public sharing is causing me no small amount of anxiety. Will people think differently of me for my admissions of younger-self stupidity? Theft, drunk driving– what kind of person am I?
The kind of person privileged enough to have my mistakes not count, thus allowing me the chance to grow up and to grow out of the tendency of making bad decisions.
Imagine my life story if any of that teen/young adult stupidity had stuck? If they had been treated as the criminal acts they actually were. If both my skin and class privileges hadn’t provided me with seemingly unlimited get-out-of-jail-free cards.
People see what they want to see. Nothing about my average height, average looks, and skin color ever resulted in closer scrutiny. Even later, when I wasn’t breaking any laws, I enjoyed the oblivion of privilege. When the TSA agent searched my carry-on and found 10 bottles of Alum, a white powder used for pickling, he joked about my having “lots of spices” and then sent me on through security. He never opened one of the bottles; he never asked why I had 10 bottles of white-powdered pickling spice in my bag suggesting that it never occurred to him that I had anything else in those jars other than alum. It was post 9-11, why didn’t he check?
I’ve struggled with how to explain this reality to my children, two middle-class, white males that will never experience a life without that privilege. What affect will it have on their own lives? To a lesser degree, I’ve already watched it in action in the classroom; the known/expected behavior problem kids spend the day over-scrutinized with the resulting disciplinary action, while my known/expected well-behaved kid slides through similarly minor infractions without acknowledgment.
Privilege, of a sort, is already happening, and I’d be a fool to think he doesn’t notice.
This issue, of how to explain the full impact of their privilege, has become increasingly more important to me with each passing year. This past January, I spent a car ride trying to explain the importance of Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy to my first grader. Trying to reason out with him why adults would behave that way to other adults based on nothing more significant than skin color.
He doesn’t get it.
Similar to the disjointed absurdity that I felt during twitter’s #YesAllWomen movement, that I was a woman that has never been sexually assaulted, I find myself quietly accepting feeling that same gratitude for being mother of white males. Because while I can certainly worry about their increased likelihood of being murdered (Males, irrespective of race, comprised 76 percent of homicide victims between 1980-2008) I will never experience that fear from the perspective of a black mother. Or to reverse mirror image the words of Stacia Brown, “Their truth is not our truth.”
I can read the stories; I can weep for the losses of innocent lives; I can rage at the injustice. But I cannot live in that reality and so I cannot truly understand. That is my privilege.
Something happens when you become a parent. Things that once personified disgusting aren’t a big deal anymore. I mean, I don’t love poop and I would much rather avoid being confronted with someone else’s feces, but I’ve cloth diapered two kids. Poop has lost some of its power.
Same thing with snot. Once, while talking to my neighbor, a young, newlywed (at the time), guitar-player-in-a-band-guy, I reached over and used my hand to wipe the twin streams of snot off Zach’s face. That memory, one I’ve written about before, still makes me giggle every time I see him.
Then today happened. I did a little trash can diving. You see, I was trying to empty the Dyson canister, which wouldn’t normally be a huge deal. Except the sock that I had lazily vacuumed rather than picked up? Sock was stuck in the vacuum canister.
General Sock fronted a strong legion of The Dog Hair Brigade. How would I counter-attack? With a stick? With my… hand.
After all, it seems obvious that Sock lost his partner to the Canister Wars, perhaps he’s heard that I use hand-in-canister as a very last resort.
So I (gently) banged the side of the canister against the side of the trash can and waited for my victory.
Then bottom of the stupid canister fell off (I think Sock dislodged it on his way out)…settling itself against the side of the empty-except-for-an-odd-liquid-substance trash can.
I’m not tall enough to reach the bottom, even with long barbecue tongs, and instead of walking the 5 feet to get a sturdy chair, I chose instead to balance on a large, up-turned flowerpot.
No, I did not fall in, but that was the result of luck, not sensibility.
What makes any of this story notable is that it all went down sort of in front of that same neighbor. I cannot decide if these situations are coincidence, or if I’m subconsciously trying to warn the young people away from the life where one animates socks and dog hair, imagines a vendetta, and then acts it out in the driveway.
Me, presenting the children with a short list of semi-exciting local opportunities for fun-times today.
Them, with faces a mix between wishful hope and doubt, countering my offers with “how about chuck e cheese?”
Me, eyes-rolling, considering, “we do the Chuck for about an hour, and then both of you spend the afternoon engaging in the brain enrichment activity of my choice?”
Them, “please guv’nah… we’ll do anything for the Chuck.”
Me, wondering how much longer I will get to enjoy the ease of trading what is small for me and big for them with something that is big for me and small to them. These sorts of negotiations being the small moments upon which relationships are built.
Me, remembering similar conversations between my 14 1/2 year old self and my mother– where she would exchange complaint-free room cleaning for getting to back the car out of the garage and up to the top of our driveway.
If you need me, I’ll be the woman pretending that I’m losing at skee-ball to make my kid feel impressive. When, in truth, I’ve always sucked at that game.
The first version of this post happened way back in March 2013 and starts down below the line.
And now The missing Village has returned. Let me start first by agreeing with the author that the isolation of child-rearing is real; that navigating playground politics/parent dating creates a whole new level of pressure. Walk into any Target at 10am on a weekday… the silent gangs of mothers pushing carts of loneliness and goldfish-bedazzled, unhappy toddlers suggests an unfulfilled need. Speed dating for moms? Speed *lunch* dating for moms?
But even with this idea that our society becomes more personally isolated I question the craving for this Village Full of Supportive Adults that comes around. When did it exist? The 50s decade of June Cleavers?
I am sad for the people that feel isolated and alone in their own neighborhoods. My children have just recently gotten old enough to run around the corner to play– and I admit that, despite my tendency toward hermit crab-ness, I enjoy the back and forth of these kids in my house, too. Before that, before my oldest started kindergarten, I had a core group of like-minded friends with like-aged children.
What is it about the alluring call of the village? The freedom from the minutiae of playing yet another round of sea horse versus alien? The freedom from the children because they are roaming the ‘hood like feral bees?
I spent years 4-6 roaming the wilds of military base housing in Ft. Dix that way. Most of it a hazy blur of stolen crab apples, crossing a busy road to go to the park, playing in something called the sand pit. Of wetting my pants, a lot, because to leave the pack to go inside to the bathroom meant being left behind, packless.
I had my Village– of *kids*. I don’t recall the moms hanging out together in some sort of pickle-canning giggle fest. Maybe it’s the idea that there were more eyes on the children, so the children were safer to roam? Because, um, we didn’t have eyes on us. And you can’t have eyes on children now without those eyes calling the cops on you.
I sympathize with the author’s feelings of isolation, but this craving for a mythological village fuels a “glory days” type thinking that does none of us any good. Sometimes you just gotta go stock your own village.
Last week, I talked about why the current generation of moms has developed Stuart Smalley syndrome. This crushing need for constant validation– in kids, other adults, and myself– makes me twitchy.
But. The thing that sets my eyelids twitching so hard that I can feel the breeze? It’s this concept that all women of my generation are suffering because they are mothering without a village.
This ridiculousness that the average 21st century mother has it SO MUCH HARDER.
1) Mothering now is harder than it was 100 years ago? If I were to TARDIS my family back to 1912 to visit one of those super-lucky, village-having moms? Not the romantic one some folks think about, but the real one. You know her, she shucked oysters all day– for a dollar; had a baby every year (birth control, what?); with a husband that didn’t do NONE OF THAT BABY REARING.
My first thought on her reaction?
After she handed me (and my kids) some oysters she’d slap me in the face for complaining about things I read, since no one wasted time putting no learning on girls.
Then, her eyes narrowed into furious slits, she’d realize that I had time to 1) worry about something other than physical survival, and 2) had a husband that knew how to change a diaper.
I think we can agree she might not see my life as particularly difficult.
This idea of a village? It’s been a long time since humans lived tribally; that village became diluted and isolated by agriculture– those farms weren’t close and no one had smartphones.
Or cars. Or time.
Oh– when the girl-people got themselves hitched, they moved to their husband’s farm. To the village run by their new mother in law’s.
And the industrial worker village? I guess, since the kids were working with their parents, not pottery barn kitchen work– but actual for-survival work…
This gut-emptying craving mothers have for being reassured? What the hell, ladies?
Check it out. Sometimes I do a great job. I rock the parenting thing like it’s my job (snort, snuffle– because it IS) and my family spends the day grinning and cheerful.
Please note, this rocking of the job almost always happens over the simplest of things, like playing tennis in the driveway. It almost never happens when I let them use power tools, deliver unto them prepaid Great Experiences, or cheerfully allow them to destroy my house with their gluttony of toys.
What my Small People see as parenting successes are the Simple Things. Figuring that out saved me (and later them) thousands in therapy bills.
Saying yes more than I say no. Not talking shit about them to other parents when they are clearly close enough to overhear me (for real–how often do we all do this?). Following through on my promises– and recognizing that Small People hear each utterance of, “yeah, building a sky scraper does sound cool” as “we’ll build a sky scraper RIGHT NOW. This VERY SECOND!” Remembering the importance of reading a particular book, be it the first, or thousandth time. PUTTING DOWN THE DAMN PHONE. Photographing the big stuff and not every single other minute of their lives.
Those are how we all rock it as a parents.
Then the days (weeks, months) I fail. When I’m overtired and cranky. When my head is pounding with a migraine, and they deliberately screech at me like the sociopaths they often resemble. When they are entitled, demanding, and self-absorbed. When they are whiny and belligerent and…
In other words, when they behave like children.
My personal parenting goal isn’t to make sure that they grow up to be adults that never resent a single parenting choice/mistake I’ve ever made. I’m human, my husband is human (I think), my children are human. Part of a child developing an identity separate from the safety net of their childhood requires a certain measure of young adult discontent. Otherwise you risk raising your own Stuart Smalley, then paying for him to lay in bed all day eating fig newtons.
I make mistakes; sometimes I behave badly. I throw temper tantrums. I lose my patience–with them, with my husband. I huff and I puff.
Later I often apologize and then– say it with me people, I let that shit go.
Because that’s what humans in relationships do– they love, they laugh, they fight, they cry.
Anything else is fake-ity fake fake and serves my children no purpose.
My husband’s family doesn’t argue. No screaming matches. Just quiet anger. My family argued, but my Dad preferred stony silence. Not polite passive anger, but Angry Anger that followed him around like the smell of a bad fart.
Neither method teaches actual conflict resolution.
I do crazy things, like accidentally volunteering to sew 25 seat cushion so that ALL KINDERGARTNERS REST THEIR BUTTS ON A SOFT PLACE. Not because I’m “that” mom, trying to outdo everyone else. Not because I’m an expert seamstress.
My only motivation, as it is with most things, is boredom avoidance. Learning new things like, how to sew a seat cushion assembly-line style, prevents that muscle called my brain from atrophying into a gelatinous mess of carefully removed sandwich crusts and dirty yoga pants.
Of course, you can’t then ever un-know how easy it is to sew these things, forever preventing you from spending $11 on any sort of stuffed seating thingy.
Double-edged sword, people.
I let my kids use some power tools, because I think it’s fun to use power tools and enlisting them as “helpers” means I have a shot of accomplishing something during their waking hours. And do you know what my children think? Because using power tools exists in their reality, they are NOT IMPRESSED WITH USING POWER TOOLS.
Or, despite having spent a full 6 hours completely engaged with him and activities of his choosing; spearing him with the love laser of my undivided attention, I still got attitude for taking an hour to write this post.
Self-absorbed twits, all of them.
I’m almost certain that the mom up there would shove me under a bus, to steal my TARDIS to come enjoy my luxury life of popping hormone therapy and facebooking my discontent. I’m completely certain that I’d be utterly miserable shucking oysters (a shellfish I adore) all day.
Perspective. It makes the world go ’round.