Monday, November 17, 2014

Raising Entitled Children

My grandfather called me his “blonde bombshell” when I was three. “I’m NOT a blonde dumbbell!” I yelled & punched him in the nose.

Somewhere along the way, that self-assured kid got lost. She learned that she laughed too loudly for a girl, that boys would pick her for their kickball team but would never want to kiss her if she was good at sports, that fat was the worst thing she could ever be, that she was smart but it was arrogant to admit it, & that the only acceptable way to speak about herself was negatively.

I said she got lost but truthfully, I buried her. I put duct tape over her loud mouth & hog-tied her active limbs. I’m not sure exactly when, but I remember feeling too loud, too abrasive, just too much of everything in elementary school.

In fifth grade, I started to wear a bra & get hips. The other girls my age didn’t need bras or have curvy hips. I wasn’t only too loud, too rough, too snarky, I now had too much body. Everything about me felt excessive & I wanted to shrink.

I curled inside myself and didn’t feel entitled to anything, not even love. Sometimes I didn’t even feel entitled to the life I had been given & a few times, I tried to give that life back to the earth by taking it away from myself. I was ten years old the first time I attempted suicide.

I believed that I had nothing to offer the future. I didn’t feel entitled to breathe the air that someone else could use. I had already taken too much, been too much, & I wanted to be nothing. I wanted to shrink and get out of everyone’s way.

I have since rediscovered that brazen, self-assured little girl who would punch anyone, even her grandfather, for calling her stupid. Not only within myself, but I see her in my daughters I don’t want them to lose her, as I did. I worry that they won’t feel entitled to all that is theirs by birth.

They are entitled to grow, to explore, to fail, to succeed, to love, to live, to learn, and to fail a hell of a lot more. Sadly, I expect they will have to fight for those things. The world will never let my kids forget that they were designated female at birth. If they are trans*, they’ll face a higher risk of physical or sexual violence based on that fact alone. If they are cis, they’ll fare a bit better. The world will try to pay them $0.72 for every $1.00 it pays cismen. The world will tell them their worth is tied to their bodies, which will be too much or not enough. The world will tell them their worth is tied to their sexuality, their sexual experiences or lack of them.

The world will tell my kids they are not entitled to bodily autonomy. It will tell them through judging their clothing choices, their decisions to pierce or not pierce their bodies, to tattoo or not tattoo their bodies, to have or not have children.

The world will tell my children they are not entitled.

It is my job to do everything in my power to help them hold on to their entitlement throughout the barrage and assault the world will throw at them. It breaks my heart to admit this, but I may not succeed. But you can bet I will do my damnedest to raise a couple of entitled children.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Letting Myself Go

I saw an essay recently about "Moms who have really let themselves go." The non-Mom author felt her Mom friends shouldn't be surprised to discover that their sex lives have dwindled, their partners are unfaithful, and their friends avoid them - since these Moms have really let themselves go. They don’t take time to do their hair or wear makeup. They haven’t lost the pregnancy weight& wear unflattering clothes. Just really let themselves go.

This sparked two visceral reactions within me:

1) I wanted to punch her in the face. If your partner is cheating or your friends reject you over your hair, makeup, & clothing – they are ASSHOLES.

2) I thought, “But I have let myself go, haven’t I?” I feel frumpy. My twins are fourteen months old. The pregnancy weight I lost so quickly after they were born (nothing burns calories like a breastpump) is creeping back. I find myself thinking, "Shouldn't I have more energy than this?"

In these moments, I completely forget that I still get up with at least one kid in the middle of the night regularly. I also forget that I spend nearly every waking hour caring for two toddlers.

I never wear my hair down and rarely wear makeup. As for clothes – no, they don’t fit right. My body has permanently shifted and changed. Nothing I bought before I was pregnant will ever fit me in the same way again.

I need new clothes & a haircut. Desperately. Yet, every time I consider making an appointment for my hair or going shopping I calculate how long I could feed my children for the same cost. I forget my children aren't starving. Yes, money is tight. There will never be a day when money is not tight. The twins will always need things, but so will I.

I have let myself go. I have let go of my wants & prioritized their needs, their wants, and the things I imagine they might want. Not all of this is bad. It's good to be a bit self-sacrificing as a person and especially as a parent. Kids are tiny people trying to figure out what it means to be human and there are a lot of things they need help with on their journey. They can’t feed or clean themselves when they’re teeny. We need to do that for them, for now. In the future, as their own abilities progress and allow, we need to stop doing that for them.

This isn’t just about stuffing their faces and wiping their butts. This is about everything. Most children will move out eventually and they will need to know how to care for themselves. Perhaps more importantly, I am modeling roles and behaviors for them. How can I expect my kids to believe that a woman doesn’t have to sacrifice herself on the altar of motherhood if that’s what I’m doing every single day?

I love me. I’m a wonderful person who has done and been amazing things before I had my twins. I don’t want to let go of that version of me because I’m a mom. I want to add mother to my list of awesome traits and roles. I don’t want it to consume all the others. That has nothing to do with wearing yoga pants and skipping the makeup. But it has everything to do with taking time to take care of myself.

I’m okay with letting myself go, but I’m not going to let go of me.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


In 1984, we had three children. We made a paving stone with their handprints. All our photos were lost in the fire. That paving stone is the only proof that for one month in 1984, we had three children.


Her name was Jessica and she was very brave.

People think she was a coward. They say she gave up, as though that was easy. They talk about other people who are still alive, as though bravery is based on your ability to breathe, as though calling these others “brave” can make up for their own gratitude that they are not one of these others.

“You are so brave. I don’t know how you endure.” They coo patronizingly. “Not like her.”
“It’s the coward’s way out.”
“It’s so selfish.”
“She had to know how much it would hurt us.” As though she owed it to them to suffer. So they could call her brave and sleep peacefully through the night, confident that, as bad as they had it – she had it worse.

Without a pariah to gauge your life against, how can you be certain of your own goodness?

Her name was Jessica and she was very brave.

I know. She went before me. I was too scared to go first. 

“But what if death is worse?” I had asked her. 
“It might be.” she had said. “If they’re right, He will punish us.” She blinked back tears, even though I had been weeping openly for awhile now.

“I’ll go first.” She said resolutely, “and then, I’ll come back for you.”
 She pulled me close for a hug and whispered, “I’ll see if it’s safe.” 

Just like she had every time we tried to run away. She would always go first. She’d get caught and punished before I ever got out of my bed. She would come back to our room, bleeding, welts rising, bruises forming, and whisper gently, “It’s not safe. Not just yet.”

It was never safe. Not for my sister. She never let me go to check.

“I’ll see if it’s safe.”

And though it never was, I was always safe. Because she went first.

I stayed with her body for hours, they tell me. She took the pills and we laid down on her bed. She put her arms around me and whispered, “I’ll see if it’s safe.”

I fell asleep, listening to the sound of her breathing as it slowed.

I’m still waiting for her. They took her body away and moved me from her bed, from our home to another bed, somewhere else. But I know she’ll be able to find me. She would never leave me behind.

Sometimes in my dreams, I can see her. At first she was so far away, she was just a vague impression of herself. But every night she gets closer. I’ve been storing my pills so I’ll be ready when she gets here.

Last night, she reached for me and whispered something I couldn’t quite understand. I wanted to join her then, but I promised not to go before she knew it was safe.

I’m awake, but I can see her when I close my eyes. For once, she’s not bleeding. There’s not a blemish on her skin.

Her name is Jessica. She is my sister. She is very brave.

She grabs my hand and smiles.

“It’s safe.”