Now For Something A Little Personal #life #parenthood #me

 

In two days my daughter will come to the end of second grade. Had she remained at her public school, she would be moving on to the “big kids” Intermediate School along with her pals. Instead, we switched her mid-year to a private school and so she will only be changing sides of the building.

I’m eager to see this year go. I feel a bit sad saying that, especially when I see the other moms who still have their kids in the public school feeling nostalgic for the loss of their child’s Primary School years. Still, this year has been a tough one. I imagine it probably isn’t the toughest year we’ll face as parents, not by far, but it’s just been a struggle all the way through.

First we had a challenging situation in public school where Kid was bored and losing interest by the day. The teacher was not doing what she could to keep her challenged and there was a sense that we would just have to suck it up. That was less than ideal. However, she had a great social situation with little girl friends who were…well, little girls. They liked to play superheroes on the playground and their friendships were very innocent, pure, fresh things. Even their arguments were childlike and without subtleties.

So, we changed her mid-year, taking advantage of an empty place in the classroom of a local private school.

Suddenly we had school work that was, if not exactly challenging, at least different and given with some depth. Poetry, for example, was explored at length and culminated in a poetry jam where every kid had memorized at least one poem for recitation. In addition, they’d learned about different types of poetry in some depth, written many poems, and read over fifty poems at home for homework. We had Spanish as a class and opportunities like Robotics Club and other specialized learning opportunities.

But the social situation…argh. These little girls were not little girls at all. At least not in the innocent way that her old friends had been. There were conversations like, “Janice said that Marilyn said that Natalie said she didn’t like me.” It was exhausting. Issues of class and income could not be ignored. Cliques were full-on and impossible to figure out. Everything about the social life has been 180 degrees from the social life she enjoyed before the change.

Then there was the entire thing of just getting used to an entirely different school culture. And, whoa, was it different, in both good and bad ways! I just never felt like we really got a grip on things. What was expected? And what was unreasonable? And what was just the way things are?

Add to that book releases, fears, travels, and the longest, coldest winter ever in my memory and UGH.

After everything, I’m looking forward to summer. At least when we go back next fall, she won’t be the new girl anymore and she’ll be starting the third grade with the rest of her class. Hopefully, we won’t have another year of struggling and trying to figure out how to get by every day.

So, yeah, second grade? Adios. We won’t be seeing you again.  (Until Kid has a kid, anyway.) And while parts of you were fantastic other parts were just endlessly stressful. I’m happy to see you go. Bring on summer!

Growing My Leg Hair Out For Self-Esteem #feminism #shaving #rosacea

I wanted to write about some of my deep thoughts on make-up and simply don’t have the brain power for it today. It’s all convoluted and involves all kinds of connected topics such as trans*women, the covering up of “blemishes” or scars, and my own experience with a changing face.

Aw, hell, let’s try for it anyway. Okay, here we go.

Basically, I wanted to talk about what’s real and what’s “not real” and ask us all to ponder some questions about that distinction. Let’s talk about me and my rosacea for a moment. A few months back, I realized that when I manage to successfully cover the redness up with make-up, I felt better about going out in public. I felt less ashamed to be seen and more secure. When I got stared at, I thought to myself, “Today they’re looking at me because they think I’m attractive, not because I look like a splotchy-faced clown.”

However, I also found myself dismissing these stares and any compliments on my appearance because I didn’t feel like it was “real”. I found myself thinking things like, “If they only knew how bad my skin really looks under this make-up, they wouldn’t be saying that.” So, that led me to wonder how make-up does or does not play into a trans*woman’s experience of feeling “real”. And what does it mean to women in general if they’re taught to feel most attractive by applying something foreign to the base version of the “real” them? 

BUT those thoughts are a month or so old now and while they still apply, another experience has interceded and changed the flavor of them. In the last month, I’ve decided/realized a few important things:

a) due to her genes, my daughter is likely to have pretty severe acne in her teenage years. Her father had it and, physically, she is his mini-me. I realized that would be hard on her at that vulnerable time in her life, and in a massive, huge, wow-life-changing epiphany, I realized I didn’t want to model for her an obsession with my own skin. I didn’t want her to see me fretting about how it looked, or feeling ashamed of it, or complaining that I felt unattractive. Which, I’m ashamed to admit, she definitely has overheard many times in the past. I wanted to start modeling a behavior for her that makes it known that what her face looks like is so much less important than WHO SHE IS. So, I’ve stopped talking about my face. Ever.

Picture (not me!) from Razor Free Inspiration.

b) I decided on a whim to not shave my legs again until the hair has entirely grown out. I realized that I’ll be forty this year and I’ve never really seen my body as it naturally looks because I’ve spent my entire life, since I was nine years old and started puberty early, shaving and making it out like my body is something that needs fixed.

When my eight year old started asking when she could shave and I found myself struggling to explain why she couldn’t yet and what exactly “you don’t need to” means (because who NEEDS to? we aren’t going to die if we don’t shave) I chose to do this “no more shaving” experiment. I’ll cop to the fact that I am still shaving my armpits because I don’t like how hair feels under there. I let it grow pretty long but it was bugging me, so I shaved it. My leg hair is not bugging me, though, so I’m going to keep letting it grow.

I might shave again when I’m done and I might not. It all depends on how I feel at that time and if it’s something that I want to do. I admit I’ll probably want to shave for bathing suit season. The social issues alone are something I’m not sure I want to deal with, but I’ll need to give that some thought, too. 

c) By choosing to not talk about my face, or allow myself to even act like the rosacea is bothering me, and by choosing to let my body be natural in terms of the hair on my legs, I’ve discovered that I am much more interested in who I AM than in what I look like. And that realization has made me see how many years and how many hours I’ve lost being distracted with concerns about what I look like. I can’t fathom that men lose even a quarter as much time on that same question. The requirements for men are so much less time consuming and don’t boil down to these tiny nuances like the shape of their eyebrows or if their pubes are properly trimmed. When my husband wants to go swimming, he puts on a bathing suit and goes. When I want to go swimming, I have to tame a forest first. It’s exhausting and, frankly, makes me say no to swimming a lot more often than it makes me say yes. 

Since I’ve stopped focusing on my rosacea and stopped shaving, my husband’s sexual interest in me doesn’t seem to have waned and may have even grown. Not because he gets off on hairy legs (which would be fine, but he doesn’t), but because I think I’m a lot less anxious and a lot more willing to just let it all go in the moment, which is, of course, a lot more fun all around. No more, “Sorry, I didn’t shave….” comments. Or turn-off conversations consisting of, “Why is my face so bad? I didn’t eat any corn. It’s so ugly.” Instead, it’s just me being me and me not apologizing for stupid shit like hairy legs.

So, yeah, so far it’s all been a big success and while I can’t say that I feel awesome about how I LOOK, what I can say is that I think about how I look a lot less, and that’s AWESOME.

If I have the inner strength not to shave and wear what I want…I have the strength and mental fortitude to do anything – L Kaur

I Swear I’m Not A Creeper But This Might Be Kinda Creepy #twitter #instagram #gaydads

So, I sort of follow the twitter of these gay dads that I’ve never met and will likely never meet. (And probably shouldn’t meet because I feel weird about the fact that I follow their twitter and they have no clue I exist.) I look at their twitter feed daily to see what’s up with their twins and if they’ve posted any new pics or videos. Their kids are seriously adorable and when they smile or laugh, it’s like the world becomes a better place in an instant.

This is not Matt and Josh, but I felt like it would be way creepy to put their family pictures on my blog. Like that would feel creepier to me than following them daily on Twitter, which I already feel creepy about anyway.

Now, my bff will tell you that guys and babies are my kryptonite and it’s true. Men? Babies? I’m in. So maybe that explains it. But, thinking about it today, I believe it’s a little more than that. These kids are so damn happy and so obviously loved that it brings me joy just looking at their pictures. How could anyone be against this? These fathers worked very hard to have these children. They jumped through a ton of very interesting (and possibly controversial) loops to get their son and daughter. You can read all about that journey here on their blog.

I realized something else today about Matt and Josh’s twitter/blog while reading a comment from another man I follow. He admitted that he’d realized yet again how lucky he was to be alive. As a gay man, he’d struggled through his adolescence with self-loathing and suicidal thoughts because he didn’t see the possibility of a future that looked anything like the life he has now–a legally recognized husband, home, happiness. So, I realized, yeah, it might be weird that I look at pics of this family, but it hit me that if I’m looking at them, there are other people who find them, too. And some of those people might be adolescents who maybe haven’t ever seen or imagined Matt and Josh’s reality. And maybe some of those people are the parents or grandparents of a kid who has just come out and who need to see that, hey, their kid can find love and have whatever kind of life they’ve dreamed of, even if it includes a husband and kids.

(By the way, I believe there is absolutely value to be found in a life that doesn’t involve anything as ‘heteronormative’ in appearance as a wedding and a family, so don’t take this to mean I value this above all life choices. But, hey, can we really call two married, gay men raising children ‘heteronormative’ at all? I would challenge that assumption. But moving along.)

So, I guess I wanted to take a moment to thank Josh and Matt for sharing their life online for people to see and learn what is capable of happening in this world. If we need to see it to believe and achieve it, then Josh and Matt are showing a lot of folks that it can be done.

There’s an app to help you find Girl Scout cookies. You’re welcome | Dallas Morning News

There’s an app to help you find Girl Scout cookies. You’re welcome | Dallas Morning News. <–Pretty freaking awesome. AND if you want ’em, I got ’em. And I’m willing to ship! Let me know!

Yes, that's right! Bird is selling the cookies! And I'll ship 'em to you! Even if you live in another country and you need your Thin Mint fix! Let me know! We'll work something out!
Yes, that’s right! Bird is selling the cookies! And I’ll ship ’em to you! Even if you live in another country and you need your Thin Mint fix! Let me know! We’ll work something out!

I Am Not An Angel #motherhood #parenting #bullshit

So, everywhere on Facebook there is this video going around that pings my buttons. It’s all about how mothers are so amazing and stay-at-home mothers even more so. It’s all about this glorification of motherhood that gets under my skin.

Why does it get under my skin? Because, guess what? No matter what my kid thinks, I am not an angel.

I’m a really good mother. I work outside the home and I have a second job writing books, but my daughter gets so much attention and love from me that she doesn’t know what to do with it all. But? I am not an angel. I’m a flesh-and-blood human being who exists to do a hell of a lot more than wipe my child’s nose when she’s sick (though I do that) and to rock her to sleep (though I do that) and to help her learn to ride a bike (though I do that) and to give her a bath (though I do that) and teach her about the world (though I do that).

And I’m more than the woman who helps her with her homework (though I do that) and does the grocery shopping (though I do that–along with my husband) and cleans up the house (though I do that–along with my husband) and who helps with art projects (though I do that). And I read my daughter books and I kiss her goodnight and I’ve been up ALL DAY LONG, but I AM NOT AN ANGEL.

Yes, I admit my eyes teared up watching this video, in part because of the music with the tender scenes, in part because of the voice over, and I definitely teared up when the child said, “My mom’s an angel” and my daughter grabbed my arm and said, “Mine, too.” It touched me and I am so honored that she can see me that way on one level.

But on another level, I want her to see me as a WOMAN because I want her to grow up to be a WOMAN. I don’t want her to grow up to be an angel. She deserves to be fully expressed in her wonderfulness, just as I do, and just as every other mother does.

This cult of glorifying motherhood is another step along the path of cutting options off from women. Because, hey, to be an angel, you need to stay home with the kids and do all the above listed things with the full power of your mind, heart, and soul, leaving nothing for yourself. You’re tired. After all, you’ve been up all day, doing everything your kids need and nothing else. Now sleep, angel. Sleep and wake up to another day of self-negation.

***

Back in the 1800s a dude wrote a poem called The Angel in the House and feminists have long railed against it. The idea of the Angel in the House has long been used to confine women. The Story wrote a song about it, too.

Things That Schools Teach Girls #feminism #sexism

Ever since my daughter started school three years ago, I’ve noticed that the kind of messages she receives there often make me uncomfortable.

I will not go into the year-long sexual harassment with constant threats of sexual assault she went through in the first grade which ended only when I used the legal terms above in an email to the principal instead of calling it ‘chasing’ and ‘trying to kiss’ and ‘won’t leave her alone’. You read that right, first grade. That was met with a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude and the declaration of ‘well, I see her go over to talk to him on the playground’ which verged on “she’s asking for it”.

I aggressively sought to end the issues but, ultimately, it was my daughter who put the final nail in the coffin when the boy in question was being taunted by other children for the earrings he wears and she alone stood up for him.

“Adam’s a girl, Adam’s a girl!” the kids chanted.

Bird stood up and said, “Adam is NOT a girl, unless he SAYS he is a girl, and he SAYS he is a boy, so he is a BOY. Stop making him feel bad. That’s mean!”

Yes, she stood up for the boy who’d tormented her all year, because that’s the kind of child she is! Afterward, he came up to her, thanked her for standing up for him, and promised, since she didn’t want him to, he’d never chase her, try to hold her down, or attempt to touch or kiss her again, and he’s held true to his word.

I’m still not sure he fully understood why what he did was wrong and hope that he hasn’t transferred his behavior to another girl, but, for now, he is my daughter’s ally instead of enemy and that’s good news.

But, I’m not going into that, and believe me there’s a lot of that to go into! What I want to talk about are the insidious things. The small messages that girls receive from their teacher. Of course, I’m only getting my child’s side of the story and I’m not in the room to see what actually happens, but I’m going to assume that the gist of what she’s telling me is true.

Not Listening to the First Request vs Mouth Noises

Every day when Bird and I talk about her school day, I ask about who “turned a card”–their way of keeping track of who got into trouble. Every day she tells me what the kids in her class did to turn cards. Sometimes she’s one of them. I’ve noticed a distinct pattern, though. Boys turn cards for things like mouth noises (making noises with their mouth, beat boxing, or car sounds) and girls turn cards for things like not listening to the first request.

One boy in her class, Clarence, turns multiple cards a day for things like getting out of his seat and wandering the room, rolling on the floor, mouth noises, and shoving other kids. Bird, however, has to turn cards for not responding to the first request or being bossy. The teacherly term Mrs. Elder uses for being bossy is “doesn’t show respect to fellow students or the teacher”. Really? This is the same kid who stood up for her sexually harassing bully last year because kids weren’t treating him with respect.

When I ask her for details of her lack of respect for other students, she tells me stories like this one:

“Well, we usually split off into pairs and I usually am paired with Jessa, but today Mary Anne was absent, so Abby came with me and Jessa. We were supposed to decide who would be the leader, but all of us wanted to be the leader and then our time was up and Mrs. Elder asked the leaders of the groups to all raise their hands.”

Bird raised her hand–and so did Jessa and Abby. Mrs. Elder told them they had to choose and Abby put her hand down and told Bird to put her hand down, too. Bird said, “But I didn’t put my hand down because I would do a better job at it than Jessa and so I kept my hand up. Mrs. Elder had me turn a card because she said I was being too bossy.”

Too bossy. Because she was sure she’d do a better job than someone else. Because she was confident and assured.

Now, perhaps there is more to this story than my daughter told me. Perhaps she rolled her eyes at her teacher after being told to put her hand down and that is why she was written up for a lack of respect. I can see her doing that, frankly, because she’s expressive and holding her face still under strong emotion is hard for her. (She still shouldn’t roll her eyes at her teacher, though. Don’t get me wrong.) But for the teacher to have told her she was too bossy? That rubs me the wrong way.

I remembered the quote above when she was telling me this story and I said to her, “Well, I think you are going to be a good leader of people when you are older because you know what you want and you are sure of yourself, so I don’t really agree with your teacher that what you did by holding your hand up and refusing to put it down was wrong. So, let’s just move on.”

I admit I feel conflicted for undermining her teacher–and not for the first time this year, frankly. There was another issue where her teacher wrote her up for having not paid attention to the first request and, frankly, if you leave a well-behaved and very smart child without work to do for more than a few minutes, expect them to go off into a daydream world and have to say their name more than once to get them back, lady. And, seriously, you’re making her turn a card for daydreaming and for having to say her name more than once and repeat yourself, but boys are turning cards for rolling on the floor when they get their work done early? One of these things is not like another.

But also, what’s up with the gender divide? Boys turning cards for aggressive behaviors and active classroom disturbances do not seem on par with girls having to turn cards for daydreaming or refusing to put their hand down because they know they’d do a good job at a task. The message here is clear–boys get in trouble if they make a big, loud scene and girls get in trouble if they aren’t perfect, aren’t completely attentive, and if they have opinions and refuse to cave to peer pressure.

I’m not liking this, y’all. I’m not liking it at all.

Barefoot Princesses #fairytales #kidsbooks

My daughter has several versions of the book The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It is a favorite of hers and the re-reading of the various versions of it are part of what led to the inspiration for Love’s Nest, Keira’s and my m/m romantica version of the tale. (Which is not at all appropriate for children!)

These illustrations are from Barefoot Books version, which is my daughter’s very favorite. I’m always impressed with how beautiful Barefoot Books are. I definitely recommend looking at them, especially for gifts for children.

BUY THE BOOK!

Slut Shaming 101 — The Kiddie Version #parenting #feminism

A few days ago, Bird asked me, “Mom, what does the word ‘slut’ mean?”

I didn’t have to ask where she’d heard the word. We’d both just seen the Degrassi episode where Emma calls Manny a slut. (Oh, Emma!) So, it was no surprise that she’d want to know. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to how to answer this question, but I took a deep breath and dove in.

“It’s a word that people use to try to control women. It’s a word that is meant to make a woman feel bad about herself. It’s a word that is supposed to make a woman feel like she’s not a valuable human being. Specifically, it’s a word that means the person using it thinks you’ve had sex with too many people. But here’s the thing–having sex with people doesn’t make any woman less valuable or make them bad. There is no way for any amount of sex to make a woman worth less than some other woman who hasn’t had the same amount of sex.”

“A woman can have sex with however many people she wants,” Bird said. “If that is what she really wants to do.”

“Right. If a woman wants to have sex with many people, that won’t change whether or not she is a good, valuable, strong, smart, funny, lovable person. There are good reasons and not-so-good reasons to have sex, though, and when you are old enough to have sex, I want you to be smart about the reasons you have sex. I want you to have sex with people you trust, care about, and who treat you with respect. I want the sex you have to be safe and to make sure that you know how to prevent pregnancy and diseases. But if you have sex with only one person or with no people or with fifteen people, you will still be smart, funny, valuable, and lovable.”

“I know.”

“Again, though, the reasons you have sex with someone are important, and those reasons might change as you get older. That is something we will talk about a lot more as you grow up–what are good reasons for sex (because you care about the person, because you trust them, because you enjoy sex) and what are bad reasons (to prove something to someone else, to try to prove that you are sexy, to try to prove that you are lovable–because you are always lovable, and having sex won’t prove that if you’re doubting it). But we’ll talk about that a lot more as you grow up.”

“Okay.”

“For now, just know that people use the word slut to try to control women and that they don’t even use the word just to control them about how many people they’ve had sex with. In all my life, I’ve had sex with just one person–your dad–and I’ve had men and some women call me a slut. I laughed at them because they can’t make me feel bad about myself that way.

But obviously, the word had nothing to do with how many people I’ve had sex with. What it was about was trying to make me feel bad about myself, to try to hurt me, to try to make me feel ashamed of myself. And when we feel bad about ourselves, we are more willing to let someone else tell us what to do and how to behave. If we feel bad about ourselves, we might be willing to have sex with someone for bad reasons, or we might be willing to do something else they want us to do to “prove” to them we are not the bad thing, or we might allow them to treat us badly because we feel like we deserve it.

But if we understand that we always deserve to be be treated well, if we understand that we always deserve to be loved, then we won’t be hurt when someone calls us a slut. We’ll know that even if we’ve had sex with fifteen people, or more than that, it won’t matter and it doesn’t make us someone bad.”

“Got it.”

“And that word? Slut? It’s important that you never use it to try to control any of your friends. It would be unkind to try to hurt them that way.”

“I won’t! I would never use it!”

“I know because you have a kind heart. If you hear your friends use it on someone, or hear a boy use it, you can tell them that is a rude word and when you’re older, you can tell them that attempting to control women by using words like that makes them look foolish and that you wont fall for it.”

“Okay. Thanks, Mom.”

“You’re welcome.”

And that was that. I’m sure a lot of it went over her head, but I don’t know–my kid’s a deep thinker. She’s pretty smart. So, that was our first conversation about slut shaming. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

3 – Twenty Five Things Tuesday: Where the Orchids Grow

CSC_0081

Sometime before I die, I want to attend a Tori Amos concert with my daughter. It’s been a dream of mine since before I ever had her, and when it became clear that she loves Tori Amos, too, my dream only intensified. One day, we will sit in the audience together. Maybe we’ll hold hands. Maybe she’ll ignore that her mommy cries half of the show. Or maybe she’ll cry too.