“Dogs are not kids.”

Becoming a mom has definitely changed me.  I’ve never been a kid person.   But my kid is fucking awesome!  

And now I am noticing something I hadn’t really noticed until I started posting on social media and reading comments on articles online; when the topic of kids comes up, it’s amazing how many people are hateful about children!

This morning, I saw this article on things parents shouldn’t say to non-parents.  If you don’t wanna read the whole thing, I’ll just outline the points.

1) “Dogs are not Kids”- based on the premise that the people that always compare their pets to our kids actually do know this.

2) “You think you’re [insert anything here]? Try having kids!”  Okay, I get what they’re saying about playing down others’ feelings, but if I’m exhausted from being up with my sick child, I don’t wanna hear about your post bar-hopping hangover woes.

3. “Don’t worry, when you have kids you’ll…”  Firstly, the author is insulted that parents assume everyone wants kids.  I definitely agree that’s not the case, and it does sound a bit condescending…

4. “Is the party kid-friendly?”  I don’t see what the big deal is with this one.  The author posits that unless you and your friend have a tacit understanding that your kids are always welcomed, you should assume they’re not.  I personally think it should be the other way around.  You call yourself my friend?  Then you’ll know chances are that I prefer to do things with my husband and child rather than without.  Common sense.  At any rate, why should even asking this question be discouraged?  By being insulted by the mere question, you’re just opening the door for miscommunication.

5. “My life didn’t have meaning before I had kids!”  The author seems to assume this statement of personal feeling implies something about their life without children.  To which I say, if that’s how you feel, the problem is with you, not me!  I have not ever personally uttered this phrase because I don’t feel my life was meaningless before, just that it has more meaning now.  But if I was to say it to a non-parent, it would not be to infer that I think their life is consequently meaningless, it would just be a statement of how I felt.

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a question on Yahoo! Answers asking people what they thought of a restaurant that banned kids under 18 (not a bar, a restaurant.)  Almost without exception, the “answerers” were either under eighteens who felt this was insulting and discriminatory, and responses like “This is a great idea!,” full of inferences that if a person had an upset toddler they couldn’t possibly  be a good parent.  Let me tell you guys a secret…

I used to feel this way. 

But– and you may not want to hear it– this IS one thing you can not know until you have your own kid… no matter what you think you’d do, or how you “plan” to be with your kids (should you wish to have them,) it is subject to change; you never really know what you’ll feel comfortable doing until you have to do it.  I always thought if my kid acted up, I’d just bust her ass the way my mom did my sis and I when we were kids.  We aren’t “emotionally scarred” (not much anyway.lol.)  But now that I have a daughter, I find myself loath to lay a hand on her in anger.  It’s just not how I want our relationship to be.  I’m not the same disdainful towards kids person I was before.  

And the fact is that some people seem to forget that children are people too.  They have feelings and thoughts and needs, and often not the maturity to frame them properly.  And yet, by the way some adults behave, that sometimes never changes.  Some people forget that they were kids once too.

At any rate, where’s the list of things that childless people shouldn’t say to parents, like telling us how to raise/discipline our kids, and or (#1) comparing their dog to our kids?  My cats and dogs have always been like family to me, my furry kids.  But…they do not require the same time, attention, or responsibility as a real child.  Deal with it.

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Ha! Joke’s on you! My kid already knows how to swear!

  • Parents (meddlesomeness.wordpress.com)

On Birthday and Mother’s Day Wishes…

First, let me take a minute to wish all my fellow okaasan a happy Mother’s Day.  I feel like this is acceptable.  Aside from the fact that mother’s day is essentially a Hallmark Holiday, some of you are overseas, many of you are still very new acquaintances, and none of you are my mother, thus an actual phone call may be impractical, and possibly even weird.  This may sound like a “Captain Obvious” kind of observation, but it segues nicely into my point.

Thursday was my birthday.  I got a lot of birthday love via Facebook.  My bestie took me and my family out to lunch.  My neighbor brought me fresh strawberries and a mojito.  I was frankly touched.  Even though we’ve become quite good pals lately, the fact that she thought of me even a little was pretty cool.  One of my other friends brought me a whole DQ ice cream cake on Friday (my waistline thanks you!)  I had a very lovely birthday, despite spending at least part of it in the pediatrician’s office with my daughter for a weirdly vacillating rash.

And I got a few birthday texts.  Which is cool…  Except that not a single one of my four sets of parents or three sisters actually picked up the phone to call me on my birthday.  Ironically, my Dad just called to say “Happy Mother’s Day.”  Maybe it’s easier to call on a Sunday than a Thursday?  My mom, for her part (and weirdly) wished me an early “happy birthday” when I spoke to her earlier in the week.  But why?  Was she planning on being in absentia on my actual b-day?  (Hubby seems to think she just wanted to be the very first to wish me a “happy birthday”.)

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Anyway, it’s not a huge deal, but I have to admit it’s given me pause, and once again made me consider how our ever increasing technology is changing our culture…and our manners.  Is it okay for close family to text or Facebook a birthday greeting in lieu of an actual call?  I have mixed feelings.

I wonder if everyone will mind that I have not, as of yet, made any of my Mother’s Day cards, let alone sent them.  Maybe I can just shoot my three mothers (mom, stepmom, and MIL) a text.

So, readers, just wondering your opinions on the changing times and tides of socially acceptable behavior and cultural traditions and holidays.  What are your experiences and feelings on the topics?

Back to the Future: An Open Letter to My Daughter

In response to today’s Daily Prompt, the first person that came to my mind, naturally, was my daughter.  Maybe it’s not the most original concept, as far as who would be the recipient of a letter to the future, but that doesn’t make it any less the truth– so much so, in fact, that it’s already occurred to me.

When my daughter was about 4 months old, I decided to start a journal, in the form of letters addressed to her.  Whenever she did something new, hit some landmark in her development, or just did something to make me smile, I’d add an entry to the journal.  It was a way to sort out my thoughts and often overwhelming feelings of love (and consequent worry) for her. It is also sort of written scrap book, and a way to let her know I love her in the event that anything should ever happen to me.

I’m under no illusions that I’ll live forever, but the thought of leaving her before I’ve had a chance to see her grow up, before I’m ready to go, is really scary.  I want to be able to be there for her, for all the trials and tribulations (if you’ll excuse the cliche) of growing up– skinned knees and school plays, boy troubles and sharing her dreams.  I want to be not only her mother, but her confidant, and her friend.  But if something should happen to me, if I should be in a car accident or fall terminally ill, there are a few major things I want her to know:

Dearest Daughter,

There are so many things I want to tell you, to teach you, and to share with you.  Hopefully there will be time to do them all, but if for some reason I can’t be there to tell you these things in person, there are just a few things I want you to know.  Some of these things might seem little, but I think they are important nonetheless.

–Always send thank you notes.  It’s good manners, but more importantly, it lets people know you appreciate them.

–Be kind to animals.  How you treat animals is a good indicator of how you will treat people.  Also, animals are innocent and a gift, and it’s our job to protect them.

–Honesty is important.  There is almost never a good enough reason to lie to someone you care about.  Be honest with yourself as well.

–Value your good friends.  You may have a lot of friends, but true friends that are always there for you are rare and something to be treasured.

–Nature is beautiful.  Take time to stop and appreciate it.

–Hold the door for others.

–Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

–Be respectful to your elders, but never be afraid to stand up for yourself.

–Stand up for yourself, and those who can’t stand up for themselves.

–The world can be scary and people can be mean; always be vigilant and protect yourself.

–Know when to say “I’m sorry.”

–Cherish books and music.  They can open doors to magical places and become part of your soul.

–Love unconditionally.

–Love unconditionally, but don’t ever let anyone treat you badly.

And most importantly, know that I love you.  I’ve loved you since before you were born.  I love you more than anything.  Your father loves you more than anything.  We love you no matter what you do, who you decide to love, where you go, where we go…  We love you now and forever.

Love,
Mama

(photo taken by Cynthia Gemmill)

(photo taken by Cynthia Gemmill)

Low Blow…and Not in the Good Way

I really hate to admit when someone gets under my skin…especially if it’s someone who is unimportant to me in the grand scheme of things.  But after a Facebook “conversation” that devolved rapidly into mud slinging, I got to thinking about it, and discussing it with friends, I decided to write a little bit about it.

Aside from being irritated and disappointed by the fact that it seems many people are no longer capable of having a conversation with anyone who does not agree with or validate their own point of view, I am so fucking tired of people judging me based on my life choices.

Tyler Durden said it best: “You are not your job.”

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I guess some people do identify with their jobs, especially if their line of work is a career, rather than just a “job…”   And especially if their career is one that corresponds with their hobbies or pleasures.  For instance, writers likely internalize their career as a part of their personality; cashiers likely do not.

At this time in my life I have found myself in role I hadn’t necessarily foreseen when I was growing up.  I am a stay at home mom.  That’s right.  I said it.  I have a double degree from a University college and I stay home and watch my kid.  And I think it’s awesome!  Sure, I have put off my own career for a bit (however, I am considering going back to school soon.)

What really galls me though is the ever-widening gulf between “women like me” and the opposite extreme of career women.  Aside from the backhanded “advice” I have received from a few of my friends and family about how I “have a degree but haven’t done anything with it,” there often seems to be a sort of implicit judgment that because I do not work outside the home right now, I can’t possibly find my life fulfilling, let alone be a productive member of society.  Today, I regret to say someone I once considered a friend (in high school) attacked me personally when I dared to weigh in on the subject of women in the work place.  Flat out told me to come back to the conversation when I got out in the real world.

What I want to know is…what makes her world more real than mine?

What about the fact that I have a family (and a child with whom I am lucky enough to be able to stay home, during the precious and  formative years of her life) makes me less qualified to have an opinion?

What about the fact that she is single and has a career makes her superior to me, or more informed than me?  I have worked.  I don’t live in a hole in the ground.  I even happen to be a woman.  (Imagine that.)

This world takes all sorts to go around.  Not everyone can be a high-powered business executive.  Not everyone wants to.  Furthermore, projecting your own bitterness or insecurity about your life onto someone innocent is not cool.

Basically, my message for today is two-fold:

1) Think before you type speak.  Even if you think your words are benign or you “mean well,” that does not give you license to judge someone else for their life’s choices, especially when they don’t impact you.  If you really care about and respect the person to which you are speaking, you don’t want to hurt their feelings or insult them.   Even if you don’t know them (ie: random people or mutual friends on social media,) how about remembering some basic fucking manners???

2) If you are one of those people who does believe you are somehow superior to someone else because of your life choices (or theirs,) please do them a favor and take their name out of your phone.  Take them off your Facebook “friends” list.  Don’t mail them any Christmas cards.  They don’t need you in their life, and, since you clearly have your life “together” enough to judge your friend’s, you don’t need them in yours either.  

I think these two principals could conceivably have very wide applications.  Religion, sexuality, appearance, parenting styles. Just about anything you can think of… I might even go so far as to say they’re genius. 😉

And if all else fails…

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Saying Goodbye

I just called the University of Maryland hospital to speak to my grandmother for what will likely be the last time.  She was not awake.  I don’t know if she heard me or not, but I had to try.

Approximately two years ago, as I lay in the hospital in labor with my child, she lay in a hospital 12 hours away, after having passed out and fallen in her bathroom the night before and having lain there all night.  Despite our concerns, she largely recovered from that episode.  She even eventually went back to her own home, despite my family’s concerns for her being alone.  Then last week or so,  she fell again and hit her head.  Come to find out she had something wrong with her carotid that when she turned her head a certain way, she would pass out.  While she was in the hospital this time as the family and doctors decided what course of action to take, her health began to decline.  She has gone from lucid, although understandably depressed, to what basically amounts to comatose.  She has a cyst and fluid on her brain.  Now she is having difficulty breathing.  She will likely not live out the weekend.

And I really have no feasible way to get there to see her.  Even if my mother bought me a plane ticket (because my husband and I can certainly not afford one much less two right now,) the last experience I had taking my toddler through airport security without the benefit of my husband’s help was harrowing and stressful enough that I swore I’d never do it again.  The thought of it makes my stomach feel icky.  Nevertheless, my mother really wants me and the baby there for the funeral…needs us there.  She is emotionally incapable of handling the impending  loss of her mother.  Even if my grandmom lived to be 100 and died peacefully in her sleep, I think my mom would be incapable of handling it.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the people I have known and loved, the “old days,” when I was a child.  As a child, I suffered from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, so I was almost never completely carefree, but those days were probably the closest to carefree I’ll likely ever be.  And when I think about those old days and how they are over for good, it’s something I am not completely at peace with.  Everything changes.  That’s life.  Nothing can stay the same.  It’s just the way of things, and the old adage “youth is wasted on the young” is fairly accurate, in that children generally do not have the emotional or mental maturity to be fully present, “in the moment” so to speak, as they grow and experience life.  I mean, they definitely live life in the moment in many regards, but do they stop while they run, while they play, or even while they sit bored in church, to appreciate the moment and realize how fleeting it is?  I doubt it.  That was something I myself first discovered around the age of twelve, and my anxiety over the passage of time and the retrospect way we experience life in general has been a source of anxiety for me ever since.

Well, I feel I have digressed from the original subject.  But then again, maybe not.  This is all related in one way or another, and as I got off the phone with the nurse who held the phone to my grandmother’s ear, and the tears pricked at the back of my throat, I just felt like I had to write.  And there is so much more I could write.  Like how my grandma will never get to see my daughter, her great-granddaughter, again.  Like how my mom’s health is not good either or how my cat is dying.  About my cousin who died tragically six years ago or my uncle who we lost in ’99, and how it’s still hard to believe he’s gone sometimes.

I’ll just say one more thing.  Right after Christmas, only days after my daughter and I returned, my husband’s grandmother succumbed to a stroke brought on by hip surgery she had right before Christmas.  I am very thankful that I made it a point to take the baby to see her on the night before her surgery.  That was the last time I saw her as well.  My husband and I could not make it back to Maryland in time for her funeral either.

Both his grandmother and mine were (are) wonderful ladies who were, in many ways, the heart of the family.  In the case of my mother’s side of the family, my grandmom is likely one of the only things still keeping a strained family together.

But like I said before, resistance to change is futile and will only end in anxiety and fear.

I don’t know what beliefs I subscribe to at this point in my life.  That’s been another source of confusion and anxiety for me for a long time.  But I do hope that peace will somehow find my grandmother and the rest of my family during this difficult time…and maybe there will be some peace left over for me.

BE The Mom; loving yourself

I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past couple of days, and what better day to stop thinking and write it all down than Mother’s Day?

I have been pretty hard on myself, especially lately.  I’m sure there are a few reasons for that, but for this purpose I guess they are pretty irrelevant.  What is important is my stomach is too fat, my nose is too big.  I’m not pretty enough, I’m not a good enough mother.  I spend too much time on the computer.  I don’t keep the house clean enough.  I’m a naggy wife.  I’m not successful enough.  I screw things up.

And as I looked at my poochy belly the other day and once more thought to myself “that’s just disgusting,” I realized something important;

I love my daughter more than anything, and I want her to grow up loving herself and knowing she is special.  I would love her even if her nose was too big or she had a pudgy belly…and SHE loves me no matter what I look like (or clean like or what I screw up.) 

How can I expect her to love herself, though, when I am not setting that example for her by loving myself?  When she gets a little older and comes to me and says, “Mommy, I don’t like my nose,” or “Mommy, am I fat?” (and it may happen considering all the pressure put on girls and women to be beautiful,) how can I tell her she is beautiful no matter what when I don’t believe that for myself?

So, for her sake, if not for my own, I am going to make an effort to be kinder to myself, and see in me all the good that I see and want for her.

I love you, baby. You’re beautiful.

photo ©Cynthia Gemmill and alienredqueen

Peach

I stand in the doorway, unnoticed, watching her while she draws.  Her head is bent low over her paper, the tips of her straw-colored hair almost touching the flat writing surface of the little school desk that her Nana rescued from a yard sale for five dollars.  Despite the slightness of her frame, the expression of extreme concentration on her unlined brow makes her look curiously studious as she hunches over her drawing, rendering each line painstakingly, and then attacking it with her giant gum eraser when she see something she doesn’t like.

I am overwhelmed with a species of muted sorrow.  She is growing so fast .  It seems like only last week she was  lining her stuffed animals against the wall to play “school,” teaching them the alphabet and scolding them in her nonsensical toddler’s vocabulary.   Only last week.  But maybe time is different now.  Four years have passed.  And I’ve spent every moment of them, every moment I can, watching her.

I try to speak to her, but she never answers.  Maybe I should have listened more when she was little.  Now I grieve for those moments, working at my laptop at night, when she would wobble over and try to insert herself onto my lap, dividing my attention from my work.  It seemed so important at the time…

I feel a tear slip down my cheek and I laugh softly at the irony.  “I love you so much, ” I say to her, for probably the thousandth time these past few years.  I have to make sure she knows.  I wasn’t ready to go.  My heart would have broken in half, had there been any life left there, at the thought of not being there to watch her grow, to tell her how special she was to me, and let her know everyday how much I loved her.  So I stayed for a while longer.

I drift soundlessly to her side and peer over her shoulder.  She has a colored pencil clutched tightly in her little hand -it’s Peach- as she surveys her art with all of a seven year old’s critical eye.  The three figures on the page stand in a line, linked together by their stick fingers.  Two large and one small one in the middle.  They stand in front of a white house with purple shutters and a lumpy brown dog frolics in the very green grass behind.  A huge yellow sun with long eyelashes and pink cheeks smiles down on them.

After another moment, she puts the Peach pencil down and picks up a red one the color of bricks.  I watch silently as she pencils a wobbly heart next to the figure in the blue triangle dress.  Then she begins to carefully print.  She prints the word “mommy”, and my eyes once again fill with phantom tears.  I can go home now.