the little things

I had two other picture related moments of joy this past week. The first one reminded me that kids really do pick up on silly little things we do without thinking. I have this thing that I do with the boys where we stretch out our arms and say "I love you this much". When they were babies I would stretch their tiny little arms out & say it. We've always done it. It's as common around here as just saying hi, so naturally I never assumed it would be any big deal to them. T came home with a valentine for me from preschool. In it was a picture of him with outstretched arms that his teacher took and he wrote, all by himself, "mom, I love you this much!". I cried a little bit. It was great. The other one came after I had to give my dad back all of our family photo albums. Both of my parents were amateur photographers. We have a lot of pictures. After their divorce, my mom got half and my dad got the other half. We don't have any contact with my mom, so what we've got is all we'll get. He was storing them in his garage, so I took them in for safe keeping. Well, he took them back last week. He says it's temporary, but I know my dad. I'm not getting them back. Anyway, after I got home from dropping them off, I started picking up around the house and to my surprise found my all-time, absolute favorite picture of my dad laying on the coffee table. Evidently, it had fallen out of it's album when I was packing them all up to go. It's taken in the early 60's, but to look at it you guess it's sometime in the mid 50's. My dad is 15ish, hair in a pompadour, hunched over trying to light his cigarette, the guitar he still plays to this day propped up next to him. His mom took it, and it's great. And it's still mine. It makes me happy.

inspiration

This has been a tough week. Either I have been so nauseous that I can't sit up, or so tired that I can't get up. I suppose I have been so out of it that I have had some time to absorb. So, I had several moments this week that have moved me. Here they are....
Self-image: My little dude & I were goofing around and I said to him, "T, you're a boy genius!" His response, in his exasperated little voice, was, "MOM, I'm not a genius. I'm an artist!"
Literature: Saturday night, in an absolute stupor, I decided to read a book. So I read a whole book. I ran to the book store and stumbled across Douglas Coupland's latest book, Hey, Nostradamus!. I forgot how spell-binding his writing is. No one knows family dysfunction like D.C. The casual beauty of his words drives me to tears.
A fine grasp of semantics: My not so little dude was complaining that his classmates weren't listening during library time again and so they all missed out. "Mom, why do they have to ruin it for all of us? Why can't they just be good? It's just madness!"
Honesty amongst strangers: I met a new mother at the grocery today. She was 30 something with a newborn. T was admiring the baby and we got to pregnancy talk. And guess what? I finally met a woman who was not afraid to discuss with a complete stranger how much pregnancy absolutely sucks. I'm sure some women really love it, but this overwhelming consensus that it's beautiful and fun has got to be bull crap. She and I spent 5 minutes, well, bitching. There's no other word for it. It felt great.
Art: I have 3 things I love, 3 passions that consume me. I love words, I love music, I love photography. Nothing moves me more. I stumbled across a picture of a friend of mine, a candid, black and white, casual little snapshot taken at band practice. I have no idea who took this picture, but I swear to god I don't think I've seen a finer picture ever taken. It's flawless. It is the picture I have had in my head of him since I've known him. It is exactly how I will remember him.

I think that's all. It's been a fuzzy week.

mommy madness

Have you read the Feb 21st Newsweek? The one titled "The Myth of the Perfect Mother"? Yikes. I think it may be the saddest thing I have read in a while.
It's about a book a woman wrote. She writes about mothers who are exhausted, over-worked, women who have given up. Surrendered to parenthood. There are common threads. They all seem to want everything to be perfect. They all hint at unhelpful spouses. And, if you read really closely, none of them have control of their children.
A few women say that career is the one thing they have for themselves. That seems a little backwards to me. There are a few things that these mothers said that floored me:
  • They not only have no sex drive, they don't feel like sexual beings anymore.
  • They feel judged and threatened by other mothers.
  • They feel out of control.
  • They feel stuck, or trapped.
  • They find the joy of motherhood comparable to that of housekeeping. They find watch TV more fun.

What? A few quotes. "it's stressful, lonely and tiring." "How do you find time to put yourself first?" The article talks about how we were the generation of "Girls Who Could Have Done Anything". We didn't have to fight for our place in the world anymore. By the time we hit school, we were being taught on the same level as the boys, and encouraged to surpass them. We were "bred...To compete". To climb as high as we wanted to. I guess the collective "We" assumed family would fit in there somewhere. Evidently, something doesn't fit.

There was a quote I found particularly disturbing: "...As mothers many women face "choices" on the order of: You can continue to pursue your professional dreams at the cost of abandoning your children to long hours of inadequate child care. Or: You can stay at home with your baby and live in a state of virtual, crazy-making isolation because you can't afford a nanny, because there is no such thing as part-time day care, and because your husband doesn't come home until 8:30 at night."

There's a lot more. It ends discussing that we need real, "politically palatable, economically feasible" solutions. You should read it. It's long. Here's the link.

Ok, my retort. I had terrible parents. Really, they were beyond bad. I didn't have the super great life with the super great mom that made me want to be a super great mom too. I had no example to follow going into motherhood. I never went to college. I make no secret of that. I have an I.Q. of over 150, and I imagine I could have pursued a great career in something. Well, I didn't. I married my second boyfriend and had kids. That's that. I look around at these women who have college educations, who waited until they were in their 30's to have kids so they could experience life first, have some added knowledge, or something like that, and it shocks me how little they seem to know. If I could gather all these tired, depressed, bitter women together this is what I would tell them:

  • Stop reading parenting books. Your mother winged it. So did her mother. You are unique, and so is your child. No one has written a book for the two of you. Stop looking for it.
  • Stop pushing. Yourself, your child, your spouse. Your child is not an empty box that you are supposed to pound full of information. Cooing at your baby is sufficient. Your spouse would like to be treated like your partner, not your galley crew. No one has a list of things they expect you to do for/with your child. Do what is fun or medically necessary. Skip the rest.
  • Have you ever heard of a babysitter co-op? You invite other moms at the playground you go to, or at the grocery, or on the soccer team to join. Moms you know and trust. Everyone has 2, don't say you don't. You make coupons for x amount of babysitting time. Jan calls you and schedules a time to leave her kid with you. She adheres to the time on the coupon. She gives it to you. You call Sue and schedule a time to leave your kid with her. You get a manicure or see a movie. You give Sue the coupon. Sue calls Jan....That's free, trustworthy, part-time day care. Better yet, hire the girl scout who comes to your door to sell you cookies to babysit. Most girl scouts are certified babysitters, and know more CPR than you.
  • Remember that whole "it takes a village" thing? It's true. You cannot do it alone, so stop trying. Involve your family. Involve your friends. Cultivate your village.
  • If you are not having fun, something is very wrong.
  • If your child hits you, yells at your, bosses you around, or treats you in a way you would not let your spouse or co-workers, something is very, very wrong. It must be changed. Now. You are not a waitress. No one hired you to do this. Do not let anyone in your home treat you as if you were, no matter how small or cute they are.

I don't claim to the the world's best mom. I certainly make my share of mistakes. But I know a few things. I know that my job is the most important job in the whole, entire world. I am making men, lovers, husbands, fathers. I would not rather be doing anything else. (It would be super if I got paid for it, but...) I know my name is not mom. I am a person with dreams and interests. I believe that my kids have to see that. I think it makes them appreciate me more. I know that my job is not to bend over backwards to keep everyone appeased, but rather to teach them how to be men. It is, finally and most importantly, to love them more than I love air or sunlight or my freedom or my youth. If I successfully let them know that they are loved, and respected, they will grow up to love and respect. They will find love and respect...And so on. That's a cycle I'd like to see continue.

October 10th

is the due date. That puts me at 6 weeks pregnant. I thought I was more, but I guess I was wrong. The heartbeat is exceptionally strong for 6 weeks, though. So that's good news.
My oldest son kept the ultrasound picture. He wants to show his class tomorrow. Of course, it looks like a picture of a jellybean. A really small jellybean. But he doesn't care. He's excited to have the picture anyway. So am I.
5 vials of blood drawn, and one ultrasound later, the wait begins. 34 more weeks.
I found that cantaloupe seems to get rid of the morning sickness, at least for a few hours. My neighbor who works at a baby store brought some "Queasy Pops" and some morning sickness elixir. Both organic & all natural. The lollipop worked right away, the elixir takes 3 or 4 days to take effect. So we'll see. If anything helps at all, I'll be grateful. I have been stuck on the couch for almost two weeks, barely able to get up from being so sick to my stomach. Ahhh, the joys of motherhood.

Valentines

We are making valentines for classmates today. Tomorrow, they have a party. It's the only holiday party the school has during the year. This is the first time we've done this. I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, so there were no valentines for us. I've never done this before. The kiddies seem to like it. My oldest made me a valentine last night while he was with the babysitter. He used glitter glue and crayons, and wrote me a message in bubble letters. It was very sweet.

I remember being in 3rd grade on v-day. All the other holidays, I was excused to the library during the party. I guess my teacher assumed valentines day was safe, having no religious connotations, so she let me stay in class. So, for the first time ever, I got valentines cards in my desk. Let me tell you, I was excited. And the next day, I had to give every single one back. Wow, was I sad. I don't know why I'm rambling about this, it's just on my mind every February 14th. I think it makes it a little sweeter to watch my kids do normal kids-in-school-stuff, having missed bunches of things myself. I am excited for them!