June 23, 2015 § 3 Comments
I’ve had a tough time blogging recently for a few reasons. “Lack of inspiration” is the blanket term, but it’s actually more complicated than that. When social tensions spike, I find myself with so many thoughts– many of which haven’t been vetted by my brain. It may surprise you to know what a complicated filter I actually do have, it’s just not the traditional filter. The point is that I want to speak, but I often find it’s just to say “HUSH UP! QUIT BEING SO STUPID!” But that’s neither helpful nor entertaining.
Moreover, while I actually love to write serious things, they seriously dent my readership. Like a lot. Folks get a little, “what the fuck? Where’s my laugh?” and then I’m all, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’ll be funny next time, I swear!” But they don’t come back. And then I feel like I’ve lost someone because I really just wanted to rant on about racism and republicans and the chronic bullshit that’s inundating me every second. And what’s the fun in that? Nothing, apparently.
I also hate that all I have to talk about is mom stuff. Lame.
But recently I’ve seen so many “mom blog” pieces being passed around. Touching letters about a son with autism or a daughter with a skin condition. A kid who can’t eat anything but cotton candy and dryer sheets, or a little guy who’s different and both parent and child feel alone, sad, and overwhelmed. Like any human, I am touched by the stories of these people with serious hardship, but I also can’t help but feel like the desire to explain our own unique situations only deepens the gap between us. ADD, ADHD, Autism– these are very real and very tough things for parents, but at the end of the day it amounts to unceasing reminders that “my kid is different.” I fight the urge to remind many of my friends that if they didn’t keep reminding me, I’d likely forget and move on. In a good way.
Sometimes I lie on the bed naked and lament about all the parts of me that are depressing. I wiggle and jiggle and point at pockets of horrifying and shameless dimples. It enrages my husband. He recently told me that anything negative that’s ever occurred to him has been because I’ve insisted on pointing it out. To him, I’m a big delicious bowl of naked. It’s not exactly severe spectrum disorder, but there are some parallels. Sometimes we have to go out into the world as we are and just see what happens. Maybe we’ll be surprised.
I have a younger brother with one of the most obvious, obnoxious, and socially crippling syndromes around. You think your kid brother drove you nuts? I can hear a pen clicking six offices over and drive myself to insanity over it, and I was given a little brother who chirped, barked obscenities, and threw up the Nazi salute every second of every day. He blinks, he stutters, he trips, hops, yells, barks, and makes the stranges facial tics– and I stopped noticing about 20 years ago.
When I was in middle school, Oprah or Maury or someone else with a couple of couches and a microphone did a show on “freaks.” Four kids with Tourette’s were paraded on stage with their parents. Their parents then proceeded to speak for the kids, explaining to the audience (and the world) how their children would never be able to do the things every other kid could do: no movie nights, no school dances, no organized sports. They couldn’t take them to the grocery store or the mall. They worried their children would never find love or happiness.
My brother and I were both watching. The creeping sense of dread that came over me was too late. I realized that until that moment, we’d never really treated Charlie like a kid with a disability. (I don’t actually know if he knew it was….) As a family (and not because we had our shit together, or even a long-term plan), we simply held him to the same standard as we held ourselves. (Albeit low.) Tourette’s was never a reason for anything to be a non-starter.
He didn’t quit baseball because of Tourette’s. He quit because he’s a pansy and it was too hot outside.
He didn’t quit playing the bass because of Tourette’s. He still plays. We just told him he had to get a real job.
He didn’t quit archery because of Tourette’s. We just asked he not do it around… anyone.
He didn’t stop going to movies because of Tourette’s. He told people to shut the fuck up.
He didn’t shy away from social interaction because of Tourette’s. He made friends on the basis of his humor and alcoholism.
He didn’t avoid romance because of Tourette’s. He’s just not very good looking. (I kid. I kid.)
He didn’t quit law school because of Tourette’s. He bitched about it, took a few victory laps, and then passed the bar. To the surprise of even himself.
And while my parents did fight a lot of battles on his behalf, ultimately we all knew it was up to Charlie to fight the war. The greatest misfortune of being a kid with a disability is often not the disability; it’s cultivating the emotional and intellectual strength to be yourself and recognize that people are staring, people are judging, people are wondering, and simply not care.
I have stood at the ready many times over the years, waiting for someone to cast a stare I didn’t like or say something to him I could beat them for. But in all my years, I’ve never once had to pick a fight. There either wasn’t a fight to pick or Charlie was quicker to say, “get over it. I have Tourette’s.”
I realize that his battle is not my own. I realize (believe me) that the desire to clear a wide and painless path for your child is fierce, but I also know from my own experiences that we have to encourage them to accept themselves, not qualify themselves. Our children believe they are who we say they are and if we tell them they are disabled and different, they will believe it.
Aut could have Tourette’s. It’s too early to know, but we do watch him for signs. Do I think about how his life would be different? Of course. But I think more about how to cultivate in him a sense of pride and acceptance in himself no matter what he does or doesn’t have. After all, even if he doesn’t have Tourette’s, he’s got the Beaulieu legs and the Minton hairline. And those will take confidence to overcome.
And there are exceptions. But I encourage all parents to think long and hard about what you (we) do because we are scared of what other parents or kids will think and what we do because it’s actually best for the child. Bring your autistic kid to the birthday party. Bring your son with cerebral palsy to the pool. Kids will never stop staring, but your kid deserves a swim on a hot day. And they damn sure deserve cake and ice cream.
May 12, 2015 § 6 Comments
Today was shitty. There was nothing particularly epic or eventful– no real moment that defined it, but there was a low, gray cloud that hung firmly over the whole thing. I worked out for the first time in <unspeakable period of time> yesterday and then you decided to grow some molars, so we were up at the crack of ass this morning. I was tired and work was boring and the FedEx lady was unspeakably awful (and had ankles like a pregnant elephant) and traffic was unreasonable and then dinner never happened. I just wanted the whole thing to be over from about 8AM on.
And then there was this article on my Facebook page. It was a beautiful young girl and she killed herself. And there was no amount of click-baiting that could get me to read it. Because I didn’t want to. I don’t ever want to. I don’t want to read about the ones who don’t make it, the ones whose sad becomes the only thing they know. Especially when they are young. So, so young.
And then your dad told me this story about an 18-month-old who survived a tornado because her parents laid their bodies on top of her. They both died. It was meant to be a sad story with a happy ending, but he trailed off from the telling because we’d both just started watching you and imagining a world where we saved you, but we’d never see you again.
So, like I was saying, today was shitty. Just because.
Today was also shitty because I was depressed. I hope that you see sunshine in every dark corner of the world, sweet boy, but I am also realistic. You come from a long line of world-class crazies, sads, and worriers, and the chances that you will emerge unscathed are not stoutly in your favor. I hope they are, but hope is a frivolity… But even if you do escape with a clear mind and a light heart, I still want for you to understand what it can be like. Because your compassion will fight the good fight. It might even save a friend one day.
For some of us, your Mups among them, the sun doesn’t always brighten the sky. We feel sad for reasons unknown or unseen, hopeless because we believe something the rest of the world cannot understand– maybe something that doesn’t even exist. There are days when–to me–there is no purpose, no reason, no motivation. My mind tells me things that I have no choice but to believe. I sometimes feel scared and sad. I sometimes forget which way is the sky. I forget that things pass, that the winds will shift the the seas will calm. In those moments, I am overwhelmed by the permanence of my darkness. I am convinced I have failed. I am nothing.
But I am always something. Though it may seem like a tiny pinprick of light, an illusion or trick of the mind, the belief that I am something– whether it be to me or someone– is enough to keep me walking forward. The feelings will pass. The darkness will subside. Nothing is permanent. Always remember, nothing is permanent.
If you every find yourself sad, remember that you are something. Visualize the tiniest point of light shining in the distant nothing and do not lose sight of it. Keep walking and waking until that tiny light becomes something– a new day, a friend, a hand, a doctor– something. Please, do not ever stop walking.
More importantly, remember that being sad is okay. Say something. Tell someone. There is no shame in being sad, scared, worried, or anxious. Always, always tell someone. And if someone tells you they are sad, make eye contact with them and then tell them how wonderful they are. Show them compassion and understanding. Imagine that you are their tiny pinprick of light. They are walking; walk with them.
I’ve learned something very valuable by writing things down here on this blog: all the people you think are sane, all the people you think are perfect, all the people you think have it all together– they are scared too. We’re all trying to figure it out– the optimists, the pessimists, the hopeful ones, and the depressed ones. Even the Republicans.
If you one day find yourself depressed, whether it’s for a moment, a few days, or a battle that you fight always, I hope you find the courage to open up. I hope you find a reason to find a person (or a pill) to help you. The path doesn’t always get easier and there are times that the sun stays hidden for longer than you think you can hold on, but if we are only here this one time, and we only have this one chance, you deserve your turn. The world should be so lucky as to have you for as long as possible.
Be kind. Be happy.
Because I love you and I will always be your light. Walk towards me.
May 6, 2015 § 4 Comments
Even though I say I’ll never write a book, the truth is that I would write a book were it not for two things:
1. The only thing I have (content wise) to write about is my life and my family
2. Because of number one, I neither have advice nor license to warrant an entire book
It’s not that I am necessarily opposed to writing scathing or unflattering things about myself or those I love. Given, those things are not always well-received (just ask my mother), but they can net some great stuff. To my own credit (go me!) I’ve never used the blog as a weapon or to arbitrarily hurt someone. (Though let’s be honest with one another, in order for that to be a possibility we’d need a healthy following of people to read said “weapon.” Alas, that is not the case.) But the point I am not getting at is that I feel disingenuous writing about, or even thinking about writing, a book about a group of relatively ordinary and unremarkable people. (In the best way possible.) And in order to make us seem interesting and entertaining, a lot of pretty objective truth has to come out. And no matter how true it is, it somehow manages to be hurtful. Funny how that works, right? The stated truth, emotionless and uncontextualized, makes people very upset. Layer humor onto that and I’ve basically waged war.
For example, here are a few of the Big Things that would make a book entertaining and worth writing:
My son has a three-year-old uncle.
I married a carbon copy of my father.
My step mother is four years older than I am.
My brother is a 28-year-old scotch-aholic with Tourette’s
I’m a hot mess.
My mother has her eyeliner tattooed on.
My sister-in-law got drunk and broke her neck.
I hate myself a lot of the time.
My step mother and I have twice been confused for my father’s “two daughters.”
My step-father sprays ag poison on your food– and makes a glorious living at it.
My step-mother-in-law is terribly bitchy and hates us all.
I’m currently 40lbs overweight.
These are all true and documented things, but try writing a whole chapter on any of them and still get an invite to the holidays. It gives me a huge respect for personal essayists and comedians. The choice to use your life as creative fodder is incredibly difficult. The “public” BEGS for you to make them laugh. They (you) love to hear the craziest stories and most unbelievable details, but what no one takes into consideration is how isolating it can be to be funny. What thick skin you have to have. What one personal considers hilarious, another person consider exploitative and hurtful. And being the one responsible for crafting stories that walk the fine line between the two puts you on a razor’s edge.
Be funny, but don’t be racist. Be funny, but don’t be hurtful. Be funny, but don’t generalize. Be funny, but don’t make it about me. Be funny, but don’t be too honest. Be funny, but don’t be rude. Be funny, but don’t be condescending. Be funny, but be compassionate. Be funny, but don’t use political sensitive monikers.
Making it harder is that I seem to have been born giving zero fucks. Any filters and parameters in place are the product of many years of observing and pulling back. As the years have gone by, my enthusiasm for writing a book has dimmed considerably because I dread the outcome. Even worse, imagine writing a hilarious book about your family that no one buys. Poor and all alone. That would be terrible. If I’m going to be a girl without a family, I’d at least like to be a NYT best seller.
The other part of the fame monster is how much of my own perspective I have to include in order for the content to be meaningful. I have to put myself WAY out there in order for people to connect. And, truthfully, I am a-okay with that, but it can get tiresome to hear what a terrible or selfish person I am. Eventually you start to believe the bad things. Especially when they come from people close to you.
In the ten years since I started blogging, I’ve pissed off many people. I’ve hurt plenty of feelings. But I’ve also admitted to a 17-year-long eating disorder, confessed to hardships with marriage, parenting, and growing up. I’ve confided insecurities about my body, lifestyle, and intelligence. I’ve been transparent about my political and social views. I’ve been honest and vulnerable, but I realize that it’s my choice to do and be and say those things. And I don’t get to make that choice for my friends and family. And in order to write the only book I’d know how to write, I’d have to make that choice. Or choose to do it no matter the consequences.
So, for now, a book is just not in the cards. Or rather, it’s not in the family.
April 27, 2015 § 21 Comments
The decision to get rid of a child is a personal one and you should talk to your partner about what is best for your family. For us, after much discussion, it was clear that the right choice was to get rid of our child.
We had a son in August of 2013. Like most new parents, we were excited. It was a new adventure, one that was sure to be full of ups and downs. When our baby arrived, he looked like most new babies: like a saggy, sunken, squashed old man. And a genius, of course. He came into the world quietly, scoring poorly on the APGAR tests because he simply refused to cry. He stared with wide eyed wonder at the buzzing delivery room, refusing to give any medical professional the satisfaction of a peep. Like Jesus hanging from the crucifix, he stared forward, forgiving, but knowing. He would not cry out. He would endure the shame of public nudity, shocking temperatures, and unfathomable cruelty silently. The battle would not be lost without his consent.
We should have known then that he was willful. We should have guessed that his silent entree to existence was a marker, not of his serenity, but his commitment to doing whatever it took to be contrarian. “You want for me to scream?” he said. “Beg. Beg and might consider it. Tomorrow.”
As the months wore on and he grew from a tiny babe into a sparkly eyed infant and then into a toddling smidge of wonder, his small personality began to emerge. Laughter, joy, and small acts of premeditative evil were his hallmarks. Eventually we began to tire of his pint-sized bullshit, but we pushed through. We continued parenting because we believed it was what was right. It was what society expected. You don’t just give up. You can’t throw in the towel.
We talked with friends and loved ones. We agreed that he was slightly too old to be a candidate for adoption and the risk that he would run off from the fire station before they found him was too great. Sometimes our decision would be delayed. It would seem that he had turned a corner and we would allow ourselves to believe, once again, that we could be parents. That we could have this life that society wanted from us.
But we were wrong. We were naive. In the end we could keep up the charade no longer. So we got rid of our child. We wanted to help others in our position by sharing our experience. We hope that by seeing that others are struggling you will be helped. We’ve documented for you what led us to making the right decision for our family. We hope it helps.
Fuck You and the Shit Stain You Rode in on.
The poop is unfathomable. The poop is so present, so pervasive, that you find yourself becoming desensitized. Poop on your clothes? Meh. Poop smear on your wall? It happens. Accidentally left a poop diaper in the diaper bag for an indeterminate period of time? Bummer. But okay. And then they start eating real food. And what was once just alien enough to be fascinating instead of full on horrifying becomes human. It becomes Poop.
And then they’ll shit in the tub. If you’re lucky they have some sort of bath game that has a net, or– though not ideal– some sort of scooping cups. If you’re not lucky, you’ll spend ten minutes fishing turds out of the tub with a water logged paper towel before you regain your sensibilities and scurry off the find your kitchen gloves. And you won’t even throw them out afterwards.
Poop seeps. It creeps onto organic cotton pajamas with tiny bears on them and ruins any chance those $45 pajamas have of seeing a second life with a friend of cousin. Poop hangs out on the crib sheet and no matter how much you wash it, Poop stains.
We lived like that. We communed with Poop until one day we realized we were slaves to fecal matter. He shit, we wiped. And the cycle repeated as we became less human and his Poop fiercer and less forgiving. And then we said, “STOP! We are humans with college degrees and HORN RIMMED GLASSES FOR GOD SAKE!” And we knew. Goodbye, child; Goodbye, Poop.
“Mine” is Not a Complete Sentence. It’s a Lie.
One day his tiny voice rose above the nonsense babble. “Mine!” it said. And we laughed and repeated the word over and over, encouraging him. “Mine!” we’d say and then laugh. “Mine!” We were fools.
Not everything is his. Truthfully, nothing is his. Not his room or his bed, his clothes, or his shoes. Not even that godforsaken piece of shit-smelling filth he passed off as a lovey was really his. We built this empire. This kingdom was built with our sweat and our tears and watching a two-foot-tall life terrorist run around like Christopher Columbus yelling “mine!” at every chair, book, and picture was not only inaccurate it was offensive. Not so much as one summer job or after school grocery gig of his went into the creation of this home.
And then it became about the food. God forbid the parents, the masters, be allowed to eat their pork tenderloins and nice cheese in peace. “MINE!” we would hear bellowing from the high chair, a nice bowl of pasta and sauce hitting the ground. “MINE!” he would squeal until someone parted from their moist pig meat. And then he would giggle. He would actually giggle. Because to him, this torture, this inhumane pageantry was funny. And then I found myself standing at the Whole Foods, picking out a piece of organic, wild caught, Coho Salmon and it occurred to me. “This is MINE, dammit! And I do not have to share it with you!” I felt liberated. I felt free. I knew that I was being treated unfairly and there was something I could do about it.
Hey, Halfpint, Where’d’ya Park Your Stool?
Children are short; and while we as parents try to help them adapt to the world, can we really be expected to wash, brush, rinse, reach, and put away every single thing in their lives until they are able to see over counters or to the top of the laundry machine? It’s barbaric.
In the beginning it was sweet. A soft, pudgy baby perched in a laundry basket was Instagram gold. But the reality of expecting me to wash all those tiny shirts? Seriously? And the stain removal is a full time job. There’s no end to the amount of crap that ends up on the front of those Boden shirts when the wearer has the dexterity of a moose. And we were expected to reduce ourselves to the level of laundry mistress in order to make sure they are cleaned and returned to the drawer, where they will most certainly be tossed out carelessly? No. No, I say! We have choices!
I Am Not Moved By Your Crying. But You Will Be.
Tears flowed like angry rain at any sign of even the slightest (fake) injustice. Just before our decision to get rid of him, our son had a full-on tantrum in the middle of a Toys-r-Us express at the mall because I would not allow him to take every.single.ball out of the ball bin and throw it down the aisle. To my credit, or rather, in my defense, I allowed it to happen three times before I realized what a schmuck I was. I actually thought I was picking out the wrong one and he what he really wanted was a very specific one. Rookie move. He wanted all the balls. All 8792 of them. And he wanted to throw them down the aisle of the store. And if I was going to try to stop him, I would live to be sorry.
He wailed and wailed and wailed. He did that slow, rocking, penguin/toddler walk where the arms don’t moved and the mouth is the size of a petri dish, the face flushed crimson. Photographed in black and white, it would have been captioned, “Young boy hears of his heroic father’s untimely death in a suicide mission to save a 342 Jewish children in WW2.” Photographed with the Nashville filter, it reads, “Entitled Barnacle Screams Over Loss of Balls.”
It wasn’t just the balls, though, or that specific tantrum. It was the inanity of trying to reason with the unreasonable. Did I mention my college education? How could I be expected to endure such ridiculousness? I couldn’t.
You Lack Respect; We Lack You
Sane adults can only be expected to chase after an oily-fingered toddler headed toward a designer couch so many times before they have to make a choice. An Eames lounger can only endure so many close calls with a Sharpie before someone needs to prioritize.
As we conferenced in the living room, my husband in the Eames, myself stretched out on the Muskoka blue couch, the newest furniture arrival perched in our periphery. It would never make it. Between the razor sharp fingernails and the crayons, the mini muffins and the tiny 990s, our furniture wouldn’t live to see our 40s. What were we thinking bringing a child into this home? The upholstery preferences alone should have been enough to convince us that we were being stupid. But then we realized we’d put our furniture at risk and there was no choice left to make. The child would have to go.
College is a Mirage
The college education was really what pushed us over the edge. We don’t even know this kid and we were expected to squirrel away thousands of dollars a year to send him to a four-year, young adult, education and promiscuous sex camp? All my shoes and dinners and fancy cars are being taken away so that you can have a “bright future?” What kind of bullshit is this?
So far I knew he could wield a Crayola and draw semi-recognizable circles. What about that was supposed to warrant a $1000/month college education nut? I was insane. It shouldn’t. The idea that we should invest in the future of something we love is not only wrong, it’s irresponsible. It defies human nature. Enough with the selflessness and bed time reading and learning the alphabet. We wanted our lives and our finances back and when we really sat down and looked at it, we knew that there was only one way to get those back. We had to get rid of the kid.
We called around for someone who would take him. Grandparents were out, they’d already done that song and dance once. Friends and other relatives suggested some good orphanages in Upstate New York where they’d heard the foster care system wasn’t so rough for blue-eyed white kids. We had a few responses to a Craigslist ad we posted, but no one that was very serious. We did manage to pawn off an old A/C unit on one of them, though. So it wasn’t a complete waste.
We finally decided to drop him off at the fire station. We’d originally been nervous that he would not stay put until they found it, but we solved that by putting him IN the actual fire truck. They’re sure to have found him there.
And now we finally have our lives back. We’re thinking of turning his room into an exercise space. It’s going to be awesome.
April 15, 2015 § 5 Comments
About six months ago, the unthinkable happened. Relatively abruptly, the husband and I hit the “city wall.” We knew it would never happen to us. We loved the city. We would never leave the city. Living in the city defined us. We hate suburbs. We hate remote-ness. We hate peace and quiet.
Turns out, we hate child care induced poverty, cooped-up toddler tantrums, and April to November street cleaning more. We both woke up one day and it was as though a strange peace had settled upon our existence. We danced around it a little, at first. “So, um, I, eh… I was thinking… Well, nevermind.” Then it came out. We couldn’t do it. It takes a single salary of almost $50,000 a year to cover daycare costs in the city. Couple that with an even bigger haul on the rent and a salary of almost $100,000 a year was being eaten between childcare and rent alone. Worse, we were starting to outgrow our space. Small signs were appearing– temporary stacks of things were becoming permanent piles of “there’s not a place for it” or “I’ll call the storage people.” But more space meant more money. A lot more money.
New restaurants would open, bars would pop up, but we weren’t seeing them. At best, a Saturday stroll to a park or sandwich spot would give us the opportunity to walk by and talk about what it must be like. And we had babysitters; plenty of times, but when you have to make an executive decision about your one free Saturday night, you find yourself defaulting to what you know, what you’re sure won’t fail you. (And you’re tired and look old and haggard. And you no longer wait for anything. Not a table, not a spot on the dance floor.)
What seemed to be the real trouble was two fold. First, we didn’t know where to go. We felt like a family without a country. West of the city wasn’t right, nor was south. Truthfully, we’d never been anywhere else, really. Bigger than our inability to know where to move was the incredibly emotional experience of admitting that it was happening. Our identities were so tied to the city that everything felt like an asterisk-ridden compromise. One Saturday we decided to drive up north to visit Salem. My interest in the city was fueled ludicrously by the most ridiculous reasoning: a former client and his wife lived there. And they were cool. And they stayed cool. And they did cool things. And I was okay being like them. Especially if it looked like I couldnt keep being me.
So we went. We drove the 45 minutes to the seaside town of Salem, parked our Prius, unloaded our child, and stood there. I don’t know what we expected to happen, but nothing did. We had no idea where we were or where people went in Salem, so we just started walking. As we passed coffee shops, restaurants, and stores, optimistic (if not incredibly stupid) exclamations of “it’s just like the city!” or “they carry the kombucha I like!” began to emerge. We took the small boy to see a big ship. He ran in a wide open park by the ocean. His thin wisps of hair becoming wind blown and his nose red. He walked down the sidewalk and pointed at other kids and dogs. He laughed when a restaurant owner made faces at him through the window. We were fucked. Charmed doesn’t even begin to describe it.
We got back in the car a few hours later, knowing we’d be back soon, armed with our meager savings, ready to buy a real, grownup house. Driving back into the city was strange. On the one hand, we were both aware of the distance. It pained us to know that our new lives would be shrouded in commutes and schedules. As we hit every godforsaken pothole along 1A we willed one another not to say anything. For his part, Author looked out the window. He’d point occasionally at a sign or person or let out a squeal as we fell into another pothole. Maybe if he would have screamed all the way, the whole thing would have turned out differently. But he didn’t. Worn out from having his pants charmed off, he half dozed and mindlessly grazed on bits of food he’d hidden in the crevices of his carseat.
The short version is that we bought a condo and moved. Like most of these stories, it’s riddled with mortgage drama and near divorce, massive disagreements about Big Things and small things. But in the end, we became homeowners. The husband’s commute to work actually improved. Rather than walk to a train to take a bus and deal with weather and inconsistent schedules, he can now hop on the commuter rail. Four stops and he’s in the city. For me, life became dramatically different. My usual 8 AM wake up became 6 AM. Frantic showering, waking, feeding, dressing, and getting out the door is followed by a daycare drop off and an hour and a half of source-less traffic. Work now becomes an exercise in efficiency because when the clock strikes four, I’m out the door. Back on the road. And it repeats. Five days a week.
I’ve been flooded with observations and realizations over the last few months. I’m by no means getting old, but I am getting older. I can see the subtle changes in my wardrobe, choice of footwear, and tone of my skin. Though I am envious of those who are thinner, better put together, and more youthful, I find it harder and harder to muster the energy to give it much more than that. When I find myself driving Estelle (the Prius) around on errands, clad in a flowy top and skinny pants, my flat loafers giving away my over-thirty, motherhood status, I realize that all those years I spent saying I’d never become this or that or another thing was because I assumed those people had changed. They’d given up or given in. It never occurred to me that they’d finally gotten some perspective or found peace. Life is a lesson in living.
The boy has switched to a small in-home daycare. It’s quirky and imperfect and he loves it. They play outside all day. When it’s raining, they suit them up in their rain gear. When it’s snowing they bundle them. At his previous daycare, he spent four months staring out a window, never going for a walk. Never playing in the snow.
When I pick him up, he beams, running towards me with open arms, squealing and covered in dirt. He speaks absolute nonsense in great detail, pointing for emphasis and understanding. We pile in the car and he eats his snack, not letting the food get in the way of his senseless story telling. On Fridays we go for frozen yogurt. There’s a place to park and the college students who are there let him take bites out of their bowls and laugh at how seriously he takes spoons (“poons”). It’s a ten minute drive to our house. Sometimes we go upstairs and have some dinner, other days it’s straight to the park. “Pups” will eventually make his way through the park on his way home from the train station. The boy has a sixth sense for Pups’ presence, like a hound. He’ll stop look up, and repeat his open-armed running from daycare. We go home together.
The park is approximately 5 houses down from us. Our street is one way, so the boy can amble along, jumping in puddles and picking up sticks, while we keep an eye out. Cars rarely come down, but when they do, they smile and wave. They slow to a stop to let A make his way across the pavement. He usually waves and says “bye.” Even if “hello” would be more appropriate. He doesn’t know “hello.” Everything is “bye.” There are dogs, neighbors, and some strange sense of mutual understanding that I can’t quite describe. The boy isn’t just mine. In just a few weeks time, he belongs to the neighborhood. He’s the little boy who lives next door. They man down the street knows how much he loves balls. The lacrosse team that practices in the park knows to save him a tennis ball. The girls soccer team plans to take a few minutes out of practice to let him “shoot” some goals. They laugh and pass him around.
It’s not all idyllic and perfect, but it’s not the sad compromise I believed it would be my whole life. Strangely, I feel myself “coming to terms” with the idea that it can be easy to be happy. It’s okay to like the wine selection at the Bunghole. It’s okay to find out you’re not all that fancy, after all. It’s okay to park your Prius in your driveway and unload your Whole Foods grocery bags in your comfy mom shoes.
I still wear leopard underwear. I do my hair and put on make up. I haven’t given up. I think this is what it’s like to give yourself a break. To realize that sometimes the extra 30 minutes of perfecting doesn’t give you a 30% boost in happiness. There’s a point of diminishing returns on perfection and I’m learning that I can have a lot more with a lot less. I’m not going to ever live in a $6 million brownstone in the city; it’s time to move on. (Let’s be honest, I’m not ever going to live in a $1 million brownstone in the city.)
When I walk out of my new version of that brownstone in the city, past the house with the creepy number of dollhouses in the window, across the nicely painted crosswalk, and through the wrought iron gates of the Salem Common I’m already beginning to jog slightly to keep up with the increasing pace of the small boy. When the park comes into view, he strains against my metered pace. He runs ahead, sometimes disappearing into a playscape for a few seconds before emerging on the other side. He laughs wildly at his own liberating abandonment and makes a dash for the stairs to the slide, eager to get to the top, eager for the view, eager to slide down the other side.
In some ways I am eager for the same: eager to get to the top, eager for the view, eager to slide down to the other side. But in truth I only have one bittersweet thought after that small boy, throwing himself headlong into the crowd and chaos.
“There he goes.”
January 23, 2015 § 1 Comment
I don’t harbor any ill will towards Victoria’s Secret, mostly because I systematically ignore 93% of the store when I go in. Maybe it’s a hangover from high school, but I do love the thrill of buying 6 pair of undies for $25 and getting to pick out different, completely slutty but still strangely adorable patterns that are vaguely seasonably appropriate. A time or two I’ve even picked up a normal looking bra without memory foam or a mattress pad in the cup and purchased it. All in all, I’d say Victoria’s Secret is what you make it. If you stand in the PINK section, you will start to feel old and soft. But that is your own fault. You are standing in a section of clothing devoted to 18 year old girls and their pretend workouts. Do you remember pretend workouts? Those were the best. A few laps around the gym, a couple of minutes on a treadmill, water from the bubbler, and then a steam shower. And you weighed 100lbs. You are not that girl anymore. It’s someone else’s turn. Now get out of the PINK section before you accidentally buy a pair of pants that says PINK on them and you think that’s okay. (You see, PINK is not a sports team. Neither is PINK a well-engineered athletic performance brand. They do not invest in endurance testing for optimum performance. They invest in creating work out gear for fake workouts. And yoga classes that don’t take place. Ever.)
Due to my occasional undie binge, I am on the Victoria’s Secret mailing list. I don’t think I’ve ever opened the catalog; it usually goes directly into the trash, but when I got it this week, I needed something to distract my child. So, like any good mom, I picked the VS catalog as light reading material. He was captivated. When we got back into the apartment, he was distracted by some Cheerios he’d spilled on the floor that morning and wanted to eat, and immediately dropped the catalog, where it landed open on an image that caught my eye:
Now, before you think I was all bent out of shape that my 17-month-old saw this image, stop. I couldn’t have cared less. I was more surprised because, believe it or not, I own those undies. Yes, I bought them before I had a baby, and admittedly they look a touch different on my rear, but none-the-less it was enough to get me to pick up the catalog. That’s when I noticed she was all wet. Cue the internal monologue of an obviously-not-twenty-something-woman:
Well why on earth is she all wet? It’s not a bathing suit. Ugh. that’s going to give her the itchiest vagina. I hope she took them off before they started to dry. Those undies don’t breathe well at all.
I was really baffled by the impracticality of getting wet in those undies. I actually did get wet in a pair of those undies once and can speak from experience– they do not breathe. I continued to flip through the VS catalog, applying the same ideology to the catalog as I do the store: ignore, ignore, ignore. But I did come across a few things that I could not ignore. Not because they were photos of unrealistic bodies in insanely stupid under garments (who the FUCK can wear a neon green bra? What kind of clothes are you wearing over it? Because nothing in my closet would cover a green bra.), but because someone in design legitimately failed.
Here a few of the Victoria’s Secret Fails:
For centuries, women have worked to conceal our bra straps. We even have bras with no straps at all. So what is this? The only scenario in which I could imagine this bra being made would be when 7 MIT engineers got in a room and tried to think of a way to keep some 700lb woman’s boobs from laying on her stomach. We’re simply going to have to add an around the neck hoisting strap, Chang. Yes, Jong, I think you’re right. It won’t look good, but it will be effective.
Oh, is your regular bathing suit not offering enough opportunities for unsightly back fat? GOOD NEWS. Victoria’s Secret has this amazing new suit with micro straps that will provide just enough pressure to make your back look like Play-Doh. They best part will be when your soft, plush back has tan lines that make it look like it is rippled. Like a Ruffle. If you have a bestie who suffers from the same problem but has a flatter stomach, there is a two piece. Thank GOD.
What work out is she going to? Boxing with My Little Ponies? Not jogging, obviously, because everyone knows you have to wear a sports bra to do that. I guess maybe she is just as shocked as we are. They just told her that PINK isn’t a high performance athletic brand and her self of identity has just been called into question. It’s okay, Mindy. Do you need a paper bag to breathe into?
Trying this on in the dressing room will be the first and last time you EVER figure out which hole is for the head. Despite the obvious fact that this shirt has no purpose in the universe, it’s the clothing equivalent of one of those metal puzzles where you are suppose to try to separate the rings, but instead you don’t. BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA HOW TO DO IT.
This is actually a really sweet little nightie thing and if I were five five and ninety pounds I would buy one. Too bad the caption “Everyone loves the unexpected” is coupled with a photo that could only have been taken by a predator hiding in your own home while you relax in your nightie. So as much as I fancy myself someone who loves “the unexpected,” I’m going to have to pass on potentially being raped and murdered in my own home by a guy hiding behind my palm tree with a scope lens. Thanks though!
September 24, 2014 § 3 Comments
One of my very favorite, most beloved friends once said to me, “the worst thing about having kids is that it magnifies every single bad personality trait you have.” Back when she said it, I laughed and nodded. Now I think she deserves a MacArthur Grant.
The small boy turned one last month. We threw him one of those disgustingly adorable parties where every detail deserved some kind of slit-your-wrists Pinterest award. The theme was “Holy Duck Aut is One!” and the festivities had approximately zero to do with celebrating his arrival at the ripe old age of one. He didn’t do shit. We were celebrating the achievement that is making it through the first year of raising a human. We celebrated in the park with duck cupcakes and a huge vat of Cheerios filled with toys, finger sandwiches with no crusts, PB+J pinwheels, and the most obnoxious, handmade, hooded towel party favors that I did just so that all the other moms would feel really, really bad about themselves. Eventually he is going to make me throw him a Disney themed party with gross paper products from iParty and and favors that single-handedly keep China from developing a middle class, but for now he is unable to form sentences and therefore every action is considered consent. Duck themed picnic in the park? “Hells yeah, Mups!” he replied, “let’s do that shit!”
Pretty much all of our friends are already biting the proverbial bullet and getting knocked up with their second. I understand their reasons, they want two. Eventually. Like down the line. Like when “it’s all said and done” they want two offspring. So even though going through it all again so soon makes them tear up, they are doing it now. Getting it over with, if you will. Needless to say, the hubs and I are not there yet. More accurately, we’re not entirely sure what we want now, never mind what we are going to want eventually.
If I had to think of some things that I’d rather do than be pregnant again, they would fall somewhere between being Anne Frank’s sister and an overnight guest at Bin Laden’s in May of 2011. I don’t even really remember hating pregnancy that much– like the physical act of carrying a child around– what I hated was being pregnant. I hated being the consideration at every event, the pregnant gal at the office, the one who needed to be offered water and brought ice cream under threat of death. I hated hoisting myself and looking cute “for a pregnant girl.” I hated the weird sounds and smells and cravings, and I really hated thinking that everyone who saw me couldn’t help think of my vagina– even though it was probably just for a second. (There’s just something weird about pregnancy and the thought of vaginas. You see a pregnant woman and there’s always that fleeting thought, the flash of VAGINA!, and then before you can wrap your mind around what the context is, the thought is gone. I walked the streets of New York imagining the hundreds of people I passed by silently screaming, “VAGINA!”)
What I REALLY hated, was being a “new mom.” Good Christ. Every woman, sister, mother, grandmother, nurse, nun, and librarian has some advice for you. Well intentioned though everyone was, I still wanted them dead. “Cherish every moment!” “Never wake a sleeping baby!” “Sleep them facing the rising moon.” “Rub your nipples counter clockwise to stimulate milk flow.” “Eat the heart of a gecko to grow his brain big!” “Sleep train them early!” “Potty train from birth.” Endless streams of advice from random people on the street. It’s like the Sixth Sense, except no one is dead and everyone is loud and won’t shut up. To make matters worse, if I never have a second, we are locked in this unspoken purgatory of indeterminable new momness. See a woman with three kids and you assume she knows what’s up. See a woman with one…
But enough of that. The simple version is that while it’s possible that maybe one day a second Beaulieu baby will grace this Earth, the popular opinion is that we are one and done. We baked our person and now we settle in and see how we did. And he’s how we’ve done so far.
Our child is bald. Not quite Mr. Clean bald, but definitely a Benjamin Button meets Andy Kauffman playing a bookie in Boogie Nights bald. Humidity reveals soft tendrils of baby mullet in the back, while the top makes a slow and pitiful creep towards establishing a hairline.
I only dropped him on the floor once. And there wasn’t so much as a threat of CSS intervention.
He has excelled at growing teeth (10 so far!), as well as chipping them. We don’t know when. We don’t know how. But we’re poised for one of the most awkward kindergarten photos ever. Bald, big, shit-eating grin, chipped front teeth.
He’s either a genius or a sociopath. Only time will tell.
He’s the kind of cute that makes you worried for his future. Like the kid in Jerry Maguire. As a mother, I don’t want to have to tell him he peaked at one and now America thinks he’s awkward, but I’d rather have the tough talk and avoid having him end up on Perez Hilton looking like Haley Joel Osment.
He seems confident in his gender, but firmly unsubstantiated in his sexuality. We remain unbiased and optimistic about his options. (Kids loves him a necklace, though. Like Liza.)
If there is a recall on the lacquer on his crib railing, he’s going to end up with cancer. Because he ate pretty much the whole thing.
He’s built exactly like every woman in the developed world wishes she was: tall and malnourished looking, but completely healthy.
The list of his achievements in the first twelve months is short, but included the usual sitting up, crawling, shitting his pants, going on an airplane, and standing up on surfaces high enough to give him brain damage, but not kill him. As for us, we’ve learned a thing or two about The Art of Parenting. Starting with the unabashed reality that there is zero art to parenting. Parenting, for us, has been 365 days strung together with well-intended meals, insanity inducing bouts of sitting on the floor “playing,” and waking up panicked at least 4 days a week that we fucked up and killed him.
A friend recently asked me what our “must haves” were for a baby registry. We had it all. We had the gidgets and gadgets and heaters and warmers and cuddlers and cradlers– all of it. And yet, we couldn’t come up with anything. You need a car seat, it’s the law. Otherwise, a boob and some diapers. That was pretty much it. We started out strong, firm, right, and noble. In the end, we decided that sterilizing was for bitches, fancy stuff breaks, and nice stuff gets shit on. We learned that what you really need is a blood vow with your spouse that you will constantly remember “this too shall pass” and that snapping isn’t always personal.
We definitely learned how selfish we were. And how much we liked to sleep. We learned that we should have gone to more bars and restaurants when he was tiny and started saving for college before we met. We found at that “looking like a parent” isn’t really a choice so much as a natural progression from caring about how your look reflects you to knowing where the meaning in your life comes from. We learned that there is nothing in the whole world so sad as the sound of a tiny cough and nothing in the world so annoying as a child in a car after 45 minutes. We’ve learned to hate stuffed animals and loathe those who bring them to our home. We’ve learned that we don’t always agree with our friends’ parenting styles but it doesn’t mean we have to stop hanging out. We’ve learned that stress can make you say and do things that will both horrify and delight you. We’ve learned that no matter how much you want to wake them up to kiss them, you shouldn’t. Only idiots do that.
We learned some scary stuff, like how little we know about life. And how little our parents know. We’ve learned to worry about the future, but also realize that there’s nothing we can do about it.
We’ve learned the hard and sad ways that not every baby makes it to being a kid. We’ve learned that we are so fucking lucky that he has a sharp mind and a light heart. We’ve learned that baby toys take over and they hurt like a mother fucker when you step on them. We’ve learned to buy the good humidifier and the good white noise machine. We learned that babies can’t “blow” their noses, so you better be ready to suck snot.
We’ve learned good stuff, bad stuff, sad stuff, surprising stuff. We’ve learned that we have so much more to learn.
But most of all, more than anything, we’ve learned to never, ever bathe a child after dinner if they haven’t pooped that day. They will shit in the tub.