Guest Post: My God, What Will People Think?

In the first of what I hope will be a growing series, my very own mother takes the helm of The Truth About Babies as guest author….

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I am honored to have been invited to write a guest post on The Truth About Babies.  The only guideline was that it had to be at least 400 words and it had to be “my truth.”  I didn’t think this topic was going to come out when I sat down to write, but apparently this truth was aching for a platform and could not be suppressed.  All of these questions and comments came up in real conversations with people I love, and these are my heartfelt answers.

 “She admits to not falling instantly in love with her child!”

True, and isn’t that beyond brave?  She gives voice to the dirty little secrets people usually hide away in deep black guilt lockers, making some already overwrought new parents even more angst ridden. Some of us were blessed with more tranquil experiences, but others have had worse.  The fresh air of candor works miracles. You go girl. 

“She chronicles in vivid detail things that most people wouldn’t even say out loud!”

True, and isn’t it about time someone did?  Admit it, fellow parents of grown children, we hoped we were raising our kids to be brave.  We hoped they would form independent opinions.  We wanted them to make a difference in the world. So far this one is batting a thousand.

“She posts her thoughts out there for just anyone to read!”

True, and isn’t social media an extraordinary blessing?  Sure, there’s a downside, but doesn’t it beat the living hell out of the isolation, the deep terrifying loneliness new parents endured in the none too distant past?  Even more importantly, if she weaves a thread of common experience to a stranger who happens on the blog (she has), if she comforts someone facing a similar situation (she has), if her extraordinary gift with words brings a smile or a laugh out loud moment to anyone reading her work (you know she has!!), she joins the ranks of people who make a difference. 

“She has such a potty mouth, and she’s talking about babies!”

True, but in a very real sense, there are no dirty words.  Words, all words, are tools of infinite power.  Spicing things up with a well-placed F- bomb creates a connection between people.  If you want to get your point across, getting someone’s attention is a really good idea.  And truth be told, she comes from a long line of swearers.

“Shouldn’t she worry that someone might call Child Protective Services?”

Hell no.  Ventilating frustration in words, especially words expressed with such passion, is a mighty deterrent to acting on those frustrations.  She may be the victim of her word-loving Irish heritage where the gypsies are concerned, but even that creates a connection between her boy and his Irish ancestors, all of whom threatened to send miscreant children to the travelers.  Desperate thoughts about taking advantage of Moses Laws or the temptation of an open window, do not child abuse make.

“Shouldn’t she worry that being so very public about her very private thoughts could come back and bite her in the ass?”

Hell no (to keep this parallel), but really hell yes. There is a small but real danger that someone sometime, a potential employer, a private school administrator, etc. could discover this public posting and use it against her.  She makes herself potentially very vulnerable.  Then again, life is risk and the only real protection against the possibility that her words could be used against her is to keep them to herself, which would negate the whole point of expressing herself.

“Shouldn’t she worry her son will be damaged by knowing these deep thoughts?”

Hell no.  Her boy happened to her.  This is her experience.  By the time the boy is of an age when he would be interested in such thoughts, he will already be the beneficiary of years of her style, her wisdom, her candor, her humor, and her truth.  He will totally get her.  He will marvel at her. He will pray that he is just like her.

“Shouldn’t she worry some people will find this blog offensive/disturbing?”

Hell no. If she were to tie someone to a tree and force them to take her thoughts into their minds, it would be deeply offensive.  Absent the use of force, people have to make their own decisions about other people’s thoughts.  Don’t like it?  Don’t read it.  Simple as that.  What would be extremely offensive is the idea that she would edit and censor herself and her very thoughts on the chance that someone might not see things the way she does.

(Disturbing could be a slightly different issue, but writing is meant to be evocative.  If readers are disturbed by this content, it might be that she has touched a nerve because she is addressing issues that seldom see the light of day, things that some folks have never thought about before and that, in essence, is why authors are compelled to write.  The “don’t like it, don’t read it theory” also applies.)

“Shouldn’t she worry about what her poor mother will think?”

Hell no. In the case of the firebrand behind The Truth About Babies, her mother thinks she is off-the-chart brilliant and could not be prouder or more supportive, but I’ll get back to you if she writes a 50 Shades of Gray type novel.

I love you, Mama!

I love you, Mama!

 

A Call to Arms (Even the flabby ones!)

Wanna feel really terrible about yourself as a mother?  Make a decision.  Any decision will do.  There will be someone, some “expert,” some busybody, some article, some link, some tweet, some Anonymous comment, some neighbor, some friend, some family member, some part of your own self who will pack your bags and send you on a guilt-trip.

There seems no end to the list of forces that conspire to make sure we feel like the utter-failure-waste-of-flesh-shit-for-brains parents. From the almighty spanking-hand of Religion to the subtle, insidious raised eyebrow of the Total Stranger, to the Little Voice inside our heads that just won’t shutthefuckup, there hardly seems a safe haven from the “woulda-coulda-shouldas.”

Which begs the question, why aren’t we acting as one another’s safe havens?  Why are mothers writing articles entitled, “Homemade baby food Is best.  Sorry, busy parents, but it’s true.”   I mean, what is that?  A simple, “Why I Choose to Make My Baby’s Food” would make all the same points and cut down on the risk of guilt-tripping some frazzled mother who tortures herself every time she opens a jar of baby food.

It’s bad enough to feel judged by a faceless mom-snob, let alone having to endure the virtual stinkeye from a Facebook “friend.”  Friends of mine (and brand spankin’ new parents) just went through the hell of beloved pets not taking kindly to baby.  When they took to Facebook to put the word out they were looking for a good home for their fur-babies (heartbreaking!) someone had the audacity to admonish them for “abandoning” their pets when they became “inconvenient.”  I thought my head would explode.  I don’t normally throw in my two unsolicited cents into any Facebook arguement, but these days, I find myself pretty ready to spring to the defense of any new parent who is subjected to anything other than, “What can I do to help?”

Ladies (and gentledaddies,) why the hell are we judging one another on our parenting choices?  We are grown adults, not middle school bullies.  Do we really still have to tear down others’ choices in order to feel better about our own?  Your love for your Family Bed can just be that…love.  It’s doesn’t have to come with any nastiness towards folks who don’t co-sleep.  Be proud that you’ve Zumba-ed your way back to your pre pregnancy body, but don’t judge the upper arms of a mother who decided on different priorities.   So, breastfeeding is the best option for you and your child? Don’t lose sight of that fact that every time you “breast is best” another woman, you may pressing on her bruised sense of worth.  Excited that a strict “Cry-it-Out” policy helped your baby learn to self soothe? Well, the mother who just can’t handle the cries of her baby need not dampen your excitement.  Relieved you decided to get your tubes tied after having just one?  Well, that mother of five you just threw shade at might be just as relieved that her kids don’t have to grow up without siblings.

Let’s cut this bullshit guilt tripping, y’all.  There are a hundred thousand ways to raise a successful, healthy, vibrant, contributing member of the human race.  Let’s don’t try to pretend that we have it all figured out.  I mean, who the hell are we kidding?  We’re all just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.  Let’s raise each other up. Let’s celebrate the bravery it sometimes takes to make the choice that’s right for our families.  Let’s congratulate and support, be available and open minded, let’s ask questions and answer honestly, let’s root for each other and hold our breath for each other and wish upon stars for each other and pray for and with one another.  Let’s HELP each other.  Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt and the respect we KNOW we all deserve.  Let’s be grateful that we get to raise our children exactly the way we want and need.  Let’s be kind.

And then, let’s have a drink.

 

You are a super hero. Don't doubt it.

You are a super hero. Don’t doubt it.

 

Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face

When I was in sixth grade, my English teacher assigned a poetry project.  We had to type out and illustrate six poems by an author of our choice.  Then we had to write and illustrate six originals poems of our own.  I chose Jack Prelutsky, because even though Shel Silverstein showed us Where the Sidewalk Ends, Jack Prelutsky gave us The New Kid on the Block and with it, the National Anthem for the United Kidhood of Students: Homework! Oh Homework!  My hero.  Anyhow, Jack Prelutsky wrote a poem called Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face.  The first two stanzas (are they stanzas? Been a long time since sixth grade) go like this:

Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.

Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.

When, for whatever reason, it takes effort to turn away from what’s got me down and be grateful for all my many blessings, these words still run through my head.  So it’s no surprise that I had Mr. Prelutsky whispering in my ear yesterday because yesterday was a “Sandwiched in between your toes” kind of day.  It started out wonky and just slowly unraveled all day until I was cleaning up a poop-bomb diaper and my boy kicked me in the tits.  Both heels, both tits.  I came undone.  I dove face first into Ugly Cry.  No, dove is too graceful a description.  I belly-flopped into Ugly Cry.  I mean U-G-L-Y, you ain’t go no alibi, you ugly.

But today is a new day.  I slept pretty well and my boy woke up in a grand mood.  Today, I am glad my nose is on my face.  And to counteract all the “woe is me”ing I did yesterday, I’ve been reciting, out loud, a list of things I am grateful for today.  Here are a few:

1. My husband.  I am grateful for my husband for many, many reasons, but today, I am grateful that when he came to learn of my day, he poured me a giant glass of wine and when I finished it he said, “Now go have a cry in the shower.”  He so totally gets me.

2.  My mother.  I am also very grateful for my mother for many reasons, but today I am grateful for her because there has never been a better “in the shit” listener than my mother.  I can call her at the nadir of an emotional tailspin and rail, I mean holler my guts out, and she just lets me.  She never takes anything I say in those moments personally and she knows that I just need to lance the boil of frustration.  She so totally gets me.

3.  Facebook.  Say what you will about the dark side of FB, but I will forever be grateful for Facebook firstly because it reconnected me with the childhood friend who is now my husband and secondly because it keeps me connected to a network of friends in varying degrees of closeness, most of whom who love me, support me, are interested in me and in knowing about my life.  Facebook helped me reach out to MPU, LRH, and KDU, girlfriends I haven’t seen since high school, but who answered my S.O.S. when my boy was first born and have been rooting for me ever since.  I am especially grateful for FB these days because I have yet to build or join a community since we moved to Florida.  My entire support system is long distance.  Facebook helps make that work.

4.  Amazon certified frustration-free packaging.  As I’ve mentioned before, I get wrapper-rage something fierce and I just love that Amazon understands that and helps me not throw away the thing I just bought because I can’t get it open.

5.  Southern hospitality.  Friendly strangers help ease the sting of loneliness.  I may not have local friends yet, but the ladies who work the deli counter at the grocery store (I call them the Deli Dames) always seem so happy to see me.  It helps.  Maybe it’s weird that it helps, but it does!

6. That my boy has turned a corner.  At five months, Boyo was a different baby.  At six months, he’s a peach.  Enjoying spending time with my son is an answered prayer six months in the making.  As my girlfriend KUD says, “God made seven to nine month old babies as a reward for making it that far.”

7. That my nose is on my face.  I have a wonderful life, really.  I have love, friendship, health, a beautiful home that I am proud of, a family that understands me, a sharp mind and a clever tongue, and a sun that always rises on a new, better day.

Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Prelutsky.  And for Homework! Oh, Homework!  It’s my favorite.

 

 

Somedays are like that.  Even in Australia.

 

Admit to the Shit

When I was about eleven years old I was thunderstruck with my first crush.  The thing was, it didn’t feel like a crush to me.  It felt real.  I really, truly, with my whole little heart and brand new soul loved Craig Biggio, catcher for the Houston Astros and undisputed dreamboat.  I did the little girl crush things like write him letters, cut out any newspaper or magazine article (especially if it included a picture!  Goldmine!) collected baseball cards, wrote “Mrs. Craig Biggio” on everything, and dotted the all the i’s with hearts.  The works.  I was certain that all we needed was the chance to meet and… well, the eleven year old version of happily ever after…. Pancakes for dinner and a game of Uno while we watched Family Ties.  Something like that.  Then, one day, the article (with picture!  Aaahhh!) was about a charity fundraiser and there was my prince (in a tuxedo!  Aaahhh!) standing next to his wife (Wife?! WIFE?! Aaahhh!!)  The world crumbled around me.  I was devastated.  Not only because my future husband and fellow pancake connoisseur was already married, but also because I understood for the first time how completely and elaborately I had deluded myself.  The light of understanding dawned (in as whole a way as it could for a young child) and spilled over my first lesson in fantasy.  I felt stupid.  I felt taken advantage of.  I felt like I was a victim of my own emotions.  It weighed heavy on my heart.  Until I admitted to my mother how I was feeling.  Sitting in the car, I spilled my guts about how much I loved Bidge and how terrible it felt to know that he was married and how silly I felt feeling that terrible about it.  I remember with crystal clarity the conversation because my mother said something that would become one of the lenses through which I saw and interpreted the world.

Me:   I feel so stupid because my heart really loves him even though my head knows it isn’t real.

Mama:  It’s real to you, and so it is real.  What you feel is just as real as what you know.  Sometimes, even more so.

Admitting to true feelings is incredibly daunting.  There can be a chasm, a great gaping maw, between what we feel and what we think we are supposed to feel.  For example:

How I think I am supposed to feel:

I am supposed to feel that my son is the greatest blessing and gift to my life.  I am supposed to feel fulfilled by his very presence.  I am supposed to ache with love whenever I look at him.  I am supposed to chalk up the occasional difficulty to a small price to pay for the fantastic journey of motherhood.  Totally worth it.

How I actually feel:

My son is the biggest challenge of my entire life.  I am fulfilled by every moment that he is asleep.  I ache with disappointment in myself every day.  Not all day, every day, but every day.  The unrelenting difficulty is an enormous, burdensome price to pay for the fantastic journey of motherhood.  But worth it.  Still.  When my son smiles, there is no such thing as hardship or challenge or difficulty or burden.  When he nuzzles my neck, he bathes my world in light.

It’s so easy to fill the “Supposed To” gap with judgement and vitriol and blind determination not to acknowledge the disparity. We somehow find comfort in that delusion, as though if we spend enough mental energy, we can convince our feelings to align with some predetermined projection of parenthood we thought up long before we had the first fucking clue of what parenthood would actually feel like.

Well, I’m calling shenanigans!

Let’s don’t spend the precious commodity of our mental energy trying to ignore the truth, just because it’s messy or hard or not what we wanted the truth to be.  Let’s spend that mental energy finding the courage to admit to the shit.

Craig Biggio, I'll love you til the day I die.

Craig Biggio, I’ll love you til the day I die. 1989.