Velocity

When I fell pregnant with 3of3, my last middle child was half-way through pre-K. I was researching schools I'd like to attend, thinking about what I was going to do with the last little bit of my *gulp* twenties, laying plans for the rest of my life. 

I remember walking him up to his first day of kindergarten, eight months pregnant with a future Teller alum, and thinking it was a good thing I loved that school so much, because I was going to be spending the next motherfucking decade of my life there. 

The day that wiggly belly would be almost six, wearing a backpack, reading and writing and being gone for hours a day every day seemed unfathomably far into the future. Except it wasn't at all. Except is was just like *that* and I can't believe it happened so fast. 

Oi vey!

I can't believe that I forgot the air-speed velocity of an unladen child, how fast it goes, they go. This thing, this life I was biding my time, waiting to start living, happened all around me when i wasn't looking and now here I am in that same spot I was forever ago, with my last one off in pursuit of her own self, but this time, I know exactly what I want when I grow up.

Mostly it's to be bold and fearless, just like them.

There's more on this at Cucumbersome today. Oh, I should probably mention I have this other blog, and it's called Cucumbersome, and it's part of the Babble Voices group. I hope it doesn't suck. 

Is

Momma, he is so large she says to me, to herself, to him, to no one and all of us at the same time, but not nearly as large as the shame-hole I just fell face-first into, kid I whisper silently, a prayer for either forgiveness or forgetfulness, though I am not sure which would have been preferable.

He saunters on enough paces that, when he turns, his aim is true. You're not the first person to mention it slams into our chests, propelled by the force of the washroom door slamming shut. I stammer as I lead my daughter back to our table and attempt to sort through the myriad of moves I could make next.

I was never good at chess.

She has reached the level of self-awareness where she needs to find the place that she belongs within the variations of people that she encounters in the world. Overnight, her world exploded from just boys or girls to men and women and moms and dads and dark hair and light hair and skin tones and accents and personalities and ages and she must find a way to catalog the people she meets so that she can begin to define herself within the context of the world as she knows it.

Momma, he likes mint green shirts, too! she would have said a year ago when she still sought out the ways she could liken herself to everyone around her. Now she actively seeks her uniqueness against the backdrop of humanity, but has not yet learned to temper that with consideration, because she is still too young to realize that anyone other than herself is.

And I probably could have let it go. He said his peace, we'd finished our meal, and the chances of running into the same person twice in the fourth largest city in America are so low that I could get struck twice by lightening before it happened. In fact, I almost did let it go. I told my daughter that she ought not say things like that, and it would have been the end of it if she hadn't argued the point with me.

But he is large, mom. Yes dear, but he is many things and we aren't sitting her rattling them all off, now are we?

What do you mean, mom? I mean that it isn't polite to speak of people as if they aren't there, that people have feelings and maybe you hurt his.

I didn't hurt his feewings. How do you know? Did you ask him?

No. How would you have felt if he'd pointed at you and said to me, Shannon, she's so little?

I wouldn't wike it. But you ARE little, aren't you? Yes. So why can't he say it? I dunno, I just can't wike it.


And that, friends, is called Existentialism for Preschoolers, or Wasting Your Breath While Your Thai Curry Chicken Congeals.

It quickly became apparent to me that she was incapable of understanding my point, and I was incapable of understanding hers, but all the same I am her mother and it is my job to teach her at every opportunity I am given, and she just handed me one with a fortune cookie and a side of ginger. I needed her to remember to think before she spoke the next time she encountered someone different than she. I needed to shrink this lesson from Fire can burn down the house and kill everyone to The stove hurts your hand so don't touch it. I didn't need her to understand that discussing people's weight in public is a sensitive issue for most, I just needed her to not scream and point the next time someone over a size 14 walked past her.

So I made her apologize.

Why? I have no idea. I didn't know what else to do, honestly. I told her that he was more than simply large and she was to find out one other thing about him. I suggested she, after she apologized for her bad manners, tell him her name and ask him his. This was not her favorite plan, but to her credit, she did it.

I touched him on the shoulder and his wife shot me the Look Of Death when I told him that my daughter had something to say to him. She looked at her feet and said that she was sorry for her bad manners. He took her hand and said, Thank you. My name is [name], what's yours? When he asked her age, she told him and he looked at me and asked, "She's only five? She's so tall!" And right about then I realized that he didn't at all see a preschooler pointing out a new thing, he'd seen a grown child mocking him in public - and would have carried that with him for a long time if we hadn't fixed it.

In the end, he ended up giving her a hug and telling her he hoped they'd meet again at our little rice bowl restaurant, and everyone went home smiling. And two days later, when we passed a woman in a power scooter with no arms beyond her elbows, my daughter didn't so much as blink at the difference, because I think she saw what is: a woman, not two missing hands.

{Thanks to BlogHer for picking up this post and sharing it on BlogHer.com}
I was syndicated on BlogHer.com

Christmas Cards Make Everything Shit

I find myself as of late completely unable to do most of the things I've always done with effortless efficiency. Like, cook, or write, or take a picture.

It's like one day I woke up and couldn't walk. This has happened before. One day, 18 years ago, I woke up and I couldn't play the piano anymore, and I'd been playing the piano for about 10 years previous, daily. I loved playing the piano, I taught myself and was hideous to watch but delightful to hear, and I just realized that playing the piano is exactly like having sex and funny, because I woke up one day eight weeks ago unable to do that either and oh my god fuck my life.

But the weird thing was that one day I could do it, and the next day I just couldn't. I couldn't read the notes, my fingers couldn't find the keys, the peddles made no sense to me. It was selective amnesia and the part that was selected was the Theme to the Incredible Hulk sheet music. Maybe the world is better off for it, I don't know.



Lately, everything I've cooked has come out all kinds of wrong, and I've blamed the change in altitude and stocked up on Hamburger Helper just in case. And then my camera broke one day, but it didn't break in the traditional way, it broke in the I fucking hate you, motherfucker kind of way that means it actually works perfectly fine, I am just incapable of operating it anymore. Of course, I thought the settings were all jacked up and happily blamed it on that and swtiched my my phone's camera until my brother could come save the day with his amazing skillz of a hacker but oh no, he tells me it's me.  35 years, eight months and 27 days he's known me, and he still thinks it's smart to tell me things like, "It's you, Shannon; you fucked it" like I'd put clip art on it or something.

But it's me, Shannon. I have a brain full of clip art. It's shit and I can't take a damn picture to save my life right now. This is only inconvenient in that it's Christmas-time and if I don't send my inlaws a picture of my children, whom they haven't seen in, oh, years, they will team up to make my life more miserable. So I finally found one night when no one was getting grounded for the next five weeks and no one was biting all the other someones and no one was painting his toenails black and listening to Distingration on loop and I bribed them with treats to put some goop in their hair and stand almost touching each other for a few minutes.

Of course, it didn't work out so well for me, because, yeah. I can't take pictures anymore.
DSC05929
This one would have been really awesome if I'd only remembered how to focus on something. Anything. One thing.
DSC05984
And then this one was pretty awesome with the utter disdain on the face of 1/5th of my family. If only everyone mirrored it. And I'd had the right lighting.
DSC06040
I love this one. I love it so much I want to kiss it. She just decided we needed to pray half-way through, which is only funny because I don't exactly so much believe in god and she's seen me pray exactly never times. But, yeah, completely unsalvageable. Which, #@*%.
Or This
And this one would have been precisely what I was going for. All I had to do was make some really awful joke about myself, throw in one of the more colorful words my kids wish they could say without gnawing on a whole bar of Ivory after, and voila! Shiny happy children! Giggles and laughter! And no ones chonies were showing! It was made of WIN except it's complete shit and I can't use it.

But I have to use something. So you get to vote for one of these two:
Family Christmas Disaster #1
Family Christmas Disaster #2
I know they're not fantastic, but have you ever tried to get a five year old girl to do anything twice? These are what I'm stuck with. Which one sucks less?

The Impossibility of Toes

My youngest child was just almost 5 when I started this blog.

Five was the turning point for me, the arbitrary time-frame to start living my life. Because I was completely broken by five, so when I first had children, eight million years ago, I was petrified of passing on our family's tradition of breaking their kids before they knew what it was like to not be broken. I decided that each of my kids would get five years wrapped in a cocoon of adoration, and once they were of the age to go out into the world on their own, to start school and form relationships beyond me, then I could pay attention to myself. I had to focus on them 100%, heart and soul, and make sure that they walked out of their infancy with a foundation lacking in cracks and overflowing in confidence.

So that's what I did.

I didn't wash the dishes because I was busy dancing with them. I didn't fold the laundry because I was busy reading them stories. I didn't go on dates with my husband because I was busy rocking them to sleep. I told them 15 times an hour that I loved them, I woke them every morning with a thousand kisses, I tucked them in every night with a silent prayer that I did right by them that day, and I'd do it again the next.

And then 5 came for one, and he walked off to school without so much as a glance over his shoulder, and I knew that I had done the impossible. And then 5 started to approach for the other, and he was just as fine, and I started to dream about what I was going to do next. I was empowered with the knowledge that I'd risen above something so big, I never thought I could see over it. I kicked a family legacy in the ass and my children were whole. We won, it was over, and it was time to start building the person I wanted to be.

And then, on New Year's Eve 2005, three months before my youngest turned five, I hit reset and started over.

I was terrified. I had no idea how I'd managed to get through all those years and not become my mother, my grandmother, her mother. I had no idea where the strength came from to do what I'd done, to beat odds unbeatable and raise two perfectly happy, healthy, fearless boys. I felt like I was so close to dodging a bullet, and now I was putting another child squarely in front of it and hoping that we all knew how to duck. I was smacked in the face with guilt and fear, for the future of this new child, for what I could so easily become, if she was to be a girl and if history serves our family right.

Cue the panic. Gut-wrenching, head-spinning, soul-crushing panic set in. The what-ifs I stared down, knowing that baby could be a little girl, knowing what my every woman in my family does to their first little girl despite what I am sure are the best of intentions, made me question everything I'd just spent the past seven years raising children learning about myself. The only response I'd ever learned to fear was to run, but how do you run from something inside of you? You don't. Your only other choice is to fight for it.

Lucky me, that little baby knows her momma, and fight is exactly what I had to do.

The beginning of that pregnancy was the kind of bad that they don't make words for in several different languages. My body was saying no, loudly, but my heart was saying yes and the baby was saying yes and maybe it's a blessing because I was too sick to think, let alone fear. And then the tests came back and the doctor said words that were so much more frightening than anything I'd ever feared before, and there I was, 29 years old, scared out of my mind to have this child and scared out of my mind to lose this child and I had to choose, right then and there, fight or flight. Stay or go. Do or die.

And when they stuck a needle in my stomach and I watched on a grainy black and white monitor as her little hand reached into the blackness, wrapped her tiny, perfect fingers around that needle and squeezed it as tightly as I was squeezing the bed and her father was was squeezing my hand, I knew it was all going to be okay. I knew we were all fighting. I knew we were all in this thing together and she needed me to be braver and stronger and smarter than I was capable of being.

So that's what I did.

She was born five months later, perfect in every way, especially in her conjoined toes. And I wasn't afraid.

She turned five three weeks ago, and I am still not afraid. And I am more today than I ever dreamed I could be, and I think it's all her fault.

Just like a Libra is supposed to do, she taught me balance. I still sang to her and danced with her and woke her with a thousand kisses, but I also managed to wash the dishes and fold the laundry (occasionally). I started to rebuild the life that I'd traded for theirs in 1997 when the first baby came to me. I stared my demons in the face, because I had to, and in that I stopped fearing their shadows. I learned compassion for them. I'm still working of forgiveness, but I think irrelevance is more noteworthy a triumph than forgiveness, anyway. I don't care what was done to me, or all the first-born daughters in my family anymore, because every day with this little girl of my balances those scales and redeems the past. My story is now told in the shadows of hers. My past is re-written. She, twisty little toes and all, has stomped out the footprints of our ancestry and together, we are all making new ones.

I'm three weeks late writing her song this year because this is her fifth year, the year that has always been my benchmark for success. I always thought that five was the magic number, that if we could make it there, we'd make it anywhere. And this year, I realized that my lucky number is 9 3/4. That I still have a lifetime ahead of me. That whether they're 5, or 10, or 12, they still need thousands of kisses every morning and enough I Love You's to make them squirm, and that blowing off the dishes to dance never will get old, and that when they turned five and went out into the world and formed relationships beyond me, it's wasn't the end.

It's merely the beginning of doing impossible things.

Close Up Toes

Singular, Multiplied

I’m outside on my patio, cleaning up after the day’s fun, when I catch a glimpse of my daughter in the corner of my eye. I stop my day’s chores to watch her, spinning alone in the living room with a puppy and a monkey tied to an old string. She twirls and dances with her friends, oblivious to the fact that I’m watching her, absorbed in her own little world. Her face is full of wide eyed wonder as she watches the universe go zooming around her, and my heart is filled with admiration at this child that I too often fail to see for what she is…one child, a singular person, a creature of earth and of me and of God.

She moves uninterrupted in front of the tv screen, around the laundry basket, beside the couch, dancing to her own rhythm in a space that has opened up for her. No one is telling her to ohmygodmoveyouareblockingthemovie, no one is snatching the toys out of her hand because they’re not hers, no one is doing anything and she is wallowing in the silence. Her brothers have gone on vacation with their grandmother, and for the first time in her life, she isn’t the third child…she is the only child.

Our family has never had an only child. Our second baby came on the heels of our first baby; the only way I’ve ever seen my children is through each other’s eyes, and that is the most glorious way to come to know a person, by how they are perceived by the people who love them. Tonight, however, I watch her though the window, fancy and free, uninhibited and unrestrained, and I ache in my heart with the knowing that this child, raw and wild, is here every moment of the day, waiting for her moment to shine through.

The space she occupies is a vacuum that draws everything into it, helpless to resist her tiny little charms. The energy in the room yields for her, the air parts to make way for her dance, the dust that has settled into the crevices of our life joins her in raucous celebration of nothing. The void that is created by the absence of her brothers is merely her personal challenge to fill with grandeur and delight and unmitigated beauty. For two weeks, she will own her surrounds. She will know what is it that she can be when given the space, and I will bear witness to it from afar.

There is a difference between my children and my child. The difference lies in the way her blond curls bounce with the pounding of her feet, the way her waist bends when she has all the room in the world to spin it. The difference lies in the quiet moments they spend in their life apart from each other, allowed to find their own, unencumbered rhythm without scrutiny or consequence. The difference lies in the space they are given to spread their arms and just spin. The difference lies in their singularity, multiplied.

Each one of my children is also my child, unique to themselves. I can’t imagine my life without all three of them, and I can’t imagine their lives without each other. Having a family with three children is gloriously complicated and intricately unrelenting, and as I steal this private moment she’s having in the rarest of moments when no one is watching her, in the fragment of time when she is completely free, I am awe-struck by the simplicity of her perfection.