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.

 

Just Wait, a Revelation.

I started this post as kind of a vent about something that bothers me very much.  But then I had a revelation, a brilliant gift from my brain to my heart and it’s helped me reframe the way I interpret that very bothersome thing.

Here’s the vent part:

I rarely use the word “hate.”  I tend to go for the understatement-to-prove-a-point option of “do not enjoy.”  With the proper placement of punctuation you can really drive it home.  “I do NOT. Enjoy. Rachael Ray. One. Bit.”  And, since I rarely use “hate,” reserving it for things I really, seriously can’t stand makes my point quite nicely.

As in…

I hate static shock. (Nothing lets loose the expletives like seeing the spark jump from the light switch to my fingertip.  Nothing.)

I hate being tickled. (The only thing that makes me violent.  I’ll punch.  I’ll kick.  I’ll draw blood.  And I won’t be sorry.)

I hate opening packaging.  (It’s just hummus.  Why is it so goddamned hard to get into a tub of hummus? )

And I hate when people say, “Just wait.”

Man, that one really irks my liver.  When I was newly pregnant, it was “Just wait til you’re nine months.  You’ve never been so uncomfortable.”  When I was nine months pregnant it was, “Just wait ’til he’s here.  Better get your sleep now.”  When he was born it was, “You think you get no sleep now? Just wait ’til he’s teething.”  It is an endless pattern and NO ONE seems to understand how infuriating it is.  It’s just the most unhelpful thing in the world especially if it’s response to being upset.  Telling me to “just wait” for something worse that’s coming down the pike not only doesn’t help me feel better now, but it completely dismisses my present feelings as insignificant, AND paints an even darker picture about what’s to come.  It’s also terribly condescending and assumptive.  Every kid and every parent is different so what makes you so goddamn sure that my experience will be just like yours? Not to mention the very simple fact that I don’t need a reminder to wait for the future.  WE ARE ALL JUST WAITING FOR THE FUTURE!  That state of being is called the present. Why the hell do people do this?!

Then came the revelation:

When two different beloved family members gave me the “Just wait, you’ll see, you’ll feel differently” recently, I was flooded with white hot anger so quickly, it scared me.  I wanted to scream, “But I’m not writing about how I’ll feel in the future, I’m documenting my present, the here and now, and THIS is how I feel right here, right now. DON’T DISMISS ME!”

But then I actually started to think about why people do this….

What are they really saying? I have lovely friends and family who support me and root for me and want me to be happy and successful.  And still, they say it.  So it mustn’t come from a place of hostility.  Maybe it comes from a place of reminiscence.

My present is their past.  Maybe they’re not commenting on my present.  Maybe they’re reminiscing about their own past.  It’s been a long time since they had a six month old baby.  Maybe it’s hard for them to take my difficulties seriously because the soothing salve of perspective and time has worked its magic and healed their wounds from Battlefield Baby.  Maybe advice, unsolicited advice in particular, is really just nostalgia.  Maybe when they say “Just wait,” what they are really saying is, “I miss my baby.”

LIGHTBULB!  Now I have the framework to transform something that makes me very angry into an opportunity to let someone I love (or like, or tolerate, or am standing next to in the produce section) tell me something about themselves.

So when my boy starts to crawl and someone inevitably says to me, “Just wait ’til he’s walking,” I hope I don’t get angry.  I hope I can give them the gift of talking about their journey instead of feeling like I have to defend mine.  I’m going to ask, “When did your child start to walk?  Tell me about your experience.”

And then, if I ever get this fucking thing open, I’m gonna have some hummus.

 

Just wait. Someday you'll say, "Hey, I know that guy!  I watched him grow up on The Truth About Babies."

Just wait. Someday you’ll say, “Hey, I know that guy! I watched him grow up on The Truth About Babies.”