Why do they call it “The Birds & Bees” talk? Way to make it even WEIRDER.

I want to control the narrative that my kid receives about sex. And I CERTAINLY don’t want her friends explaining it to her…

My (almost) 8 year old knows more about the female reproductive system and how babies are made than I knew when I started middle school. Let me tell you, NOT knowing about sex puts you at a distinct disadvantage in recess conversations. Because if your parents don’t tell you about sex, some kid is going to. And, most likely, they’ll get some pretty big parts of the equation completely wrong.

I want my daughter to understand her own body. I want her to know sex is not shameful. I want to give her knowledge.

And I have. Kind of.

In a theoretical sense, she knows how babies are made. Or, more accurately, she knows how SHE was made. She knows that making a baby requires a girl part (the egg) and a boy part (the sperm)–and that’s true no matter who is making the baby. But, she was conceived in a doctor’s office. While I looked up at star garland that had been placed along the ceiling for just such an occasion. But what she DOESN’T know is how the vast majority of babies are conceived.

And, you have to admit, compared to her conception story–where a doctor is strategically placing the sperm it has the very best chance of connecting with and fertilizing the egg–sex is just WEIRD.

I mean… come ON. A penis goes WHERE??? Can you imagine receiving this information as an 8 year old?

I can’t. Because no one ever talked to me plainly about any of this sex stuff. In fact, like so many other girls my age, my mother just handed me a book about sex, and the body, and puberty and told me I should report back with any questions. I grew up conservative Presbyterian. You can imagine that the Focus on the Family book she gave me wasn’t exactly sex-positive. It was homophobic, masturbation-shaming, abstinence preaching bullshit. But it shamed me into ever talking about or fully exploring my desires as a teenager. So, I guess mission accomplished?

I want something different for Jane. And that involves arming her with facts. Before the other kids try to “educate” her.

I think she’s gonna be pretty mad if I don’t explain the whole penis/vagina thing before someone else does. It’s a pretty big piece of the puzzle to leave out. But, wow, is that an odd conversation to instigate.

The other stuff has come so naturally. We want Jane to know her conception story. It’s an important part of who we are as a family–in part because we’re an LGBTQ family and in part because I just think people should fully understand their own story. So, telling her about the egg/sperm connection was easy. And, since she’s my constant sidekick and nothing gets by her, she asked about tampons at an early age & I told her what they were for. No one in this house is period-shaming. It’s just a thing that happens. No shame. No stigma.

But, you know, sometimes it takes more than one conversation for all the relevant info to sink in. The other day, I got my period and needed a fresh pair of underwear. So I shouted for Jane (who was standing right outside the bathroom door—because motherhood). She got me a pair… then she asked if I was okay (she was probably pondering why her perfectly capable mother seemed incapable of getting her own damn underwear. At least, that’s what I would have been thinking). I said all off-hand like, “Yeah, I’m just bleeding. NBD.”

Her eyes opened wide.

“It’s okay. I’m not hurt.”

She was still staring at me. “You are bleeding? From your VAGINA? Mommy, I’m not sure your vagina is supposed to do that.”

I laughed. Explained periods again. And we moved on. She’s still skeptical about the bleeding part. I mean, again, it IS kind of weird. In the way that the WHOLE human reproduction thing is weird. You should have seen her face when I explained how babies come OUT…

So, yeah, it’s time to explain all the weirdness of sex without making it, well, weird. Fingers crossed that the S-E-X conversation isn’t the first thing she brings up in therapy years from now…

Shhhh… (Rise and Shine)

I’ve got to get up before the sun to get some peace & quiet… and to enjoy a cup of coffee before the litany of questions begin.

My hair’s kind of all over the place lately. It’s growing out from a pixie cut. Which basically translates into chaos atop my head. But it’s managed chaos. And I kind of like it.

Unless I have to blow-dry it.

My hair is wavy. Unless I break out the blowdryer. Then it’s flat as a pancake. No… flatter. A crepe. It’s as flat as a crepe. And then I hate it and want to shave it off.

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So, obviously, I’ve got motivation to let it air dry. The GI Jane look is so 1997, you know?

Anyway, I asked my buddy, who has much curlier hair that is actually styled by a professional (my last haircut was almost a year ago), if she let’s her hair air dry even in the winter. She sure does. I think she saw my perplexed look–because it’s about 30 degrees in Atlanta in the mornings.

“Well,” she said slowly… “I wash my hair an hour before I leave the house. So it’s dry before I go to work.”

Ah, yes. Of course. Got it.

But I can’t do that.

Not because I am not up an hour before I leave the house. I am. In fact, I’m up TWO hours before we leave the house.

But…

I purposely get up before the sun so I can start my day the way I want to. I get up and read and meditate and prepare for the day before any of my people (even the dog) have stirred from their slumber. Well, at least that’s the plan. Sometimes, I swear Jane can smell me wake up. And then she’s up, too. But the very hope of having a moment to start my day, of having a cup of coffee without a soul asking me questions, that hope’s enough to drive me out of bed at 5:30 a.m.

And then, by 6, the circus has begun. And it’s a lovely circus. These are, in fact, my monkeys and my circus.

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But they’re distracting. And before I realize it, it’s 7:10. And my hair cannot handle another round of dry shampoo. Well, maybe it could, but we don’t really want to test that, do we?

But here’s the thing, no one can follow me into the shower. I mean, they could technically. But they won’t because they’ve got relatively good boundaries. And while Jane won’t follow me into the shower, the very sight of me with a book in hand makes her remember the 145,000 things she forgot to tell me. Even though she just saw me a moment ago and her only concern then was whether or not I remembered to buy her a Lunchable.

That’s one of a million things they don’t tell you about being a mom: You will not be able to get a minute to yourself. Not for the first 8 years at least. But, while I’m jockeying for just one moment alone, I’m also very conscious of the fact that, one day, I’ll long for this time when she both wanted and needed me. One day, I’ll have all the time alone I could ever want.

Which makes getting up at 5:30 a.m. just to get some peace & quiet seem not so bad.

 

 

Starting Over (Second Grade Edition)

What’s a kid to do when her parents move her from one neighborhood to another–which means starting a new school?!? Watch as our intrepid second grade hero navigates these treacherous waters.

In mid-September, we moved from one neighborhood in Atlanta to another. The move has proven to be the right decision a million times over. We already have friends and a connection to this community that we revel in. It feels amazing, truly, to not only live in a city we love but to have found a neighborhood that we belong in.

The only obstacle to this move–and it was a big one–was that Jane would have to change schools.

Shit.

We put it off for a semester. I wooed her by explaining that, if she started school in January, everyone would want to be her friend. New kids are still cool in the second grade.

But, truth be told, I was sweating this transition. She loved every minute she was at her old school. She makes friends easily. And she loves people deeply. So much so that, at the end of long school breaks, she’d often be moody and/or teary simply because she missed her friends and couldn’t wait to be with them again.

That thought hung over me for the whole Christmas break. She was ready to go back to school. But it wouldn’t be the same. Her friends wouldn’t be there. And it was all my fault. (Yeah, yeah. I know it wasn’t really. And I know it was the right choice. But STILL. All my fault)

But she was excited. She told me over and over again that she couldn’t wait to start her new school. She mentioned her new teacher’s name no less than a hundred TRILLION times during the semester break, even though she’d never even met her.

So, things were looking up.

And then, four days before the start of this semester, Jane admitted that she wasn’t just excited–she was nervous. Oh, shit.

I know being nervous is normal. I also know it’s a great opportunity to introduce her to coping skills (something I had to sit through years of AA meetings to obtain). But, the God’s honest truth is that I’ve never wanted to fix something for my child more than I wanted to fix this. My drive to make it all better was so strong my heart actually ached. Cue more “It’s all my fault” melodrama. All in my head, of course. Okay… and a little of it spilled out to Simon–he’s a good and compassionate listener. But mostly I kept it under wraps because a) there was no way to fix it, and b) I pride myself on teaching Jane to deal with hard things, not run from them.

So, yeah, I managed to pull my shit together enough give her a pep talk about making it through hard things (like a first day at school, a big test, something scary) by remembering that it’s only going to last for a finite period of time. And soon, it’ll be over and will be part of the past. I told her that in two weeks, she’d look back and laugh and say, “Remember when I was SO nervous to start my new school.”

She thought for a minute. “Yeah,” she said, nodding, “it is only 24 hours after all.”

Really, she has a better understanding of life at 7 than I did at 27.

Today, her very first day at her new school, she woke up at 5:45 a.m. She picked out some leggings she loves, chose her sparkliest shoes, and stuck a crazy-ass green bow in her hair. And she was ready to go. No tears. She chattered all the way to school. But she did hold my hand.

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Simon and I walked her to her new classroom. Her teacher came in, introduced herself to Jane, and then gave Jane a hug. I felt tears spring to my eyes (I cry over every damn thing lately, I swear), because I knew right then that she’d be fine.

When we picked her up today, she declared it an AWESOME first day. And she proudly announced that EVERYONE wanted to sit next to her. Oh, and her teacher said some lovely things about her that made me tear up again.

So yeah, we’re all going to be okay. I just be over here dabbing my eyes, if you need me.

Thanksgiving Convo Fail

Let’s just say that, after our Thanksgiving convo mishap this morning, I am VERY thankful that successful parenting doesn’t hinge on ONE conversation. Especially if it takes place in carline before I’ve had enough coffee.

Jane & I talk a lot. I mean that in the sense that we’re both superbly loquacious AND that we have lots of pretty cool conversations.

This morning, on the way to school, we were chatting about Dress for Success Day. She’s dressed as a teacher, although her first choice was scientist. Her Bobby & I failed her on that one–her lab coat and goggles are still languishing somewhere in storage. (We’re like 85% moved in, but both Simon & I are avoiding the storage unit like the plague. I’ve suggested just burning it to the ground instead of trying to weed through all that random/extraneous stuff, but Simon seemed to think that was a little extreme. Whatevs.) So, Jane opted to be a teacher, complete with a bun, glasses, an apple, and a name tag. Super cute.

Mornings are Jane’s best time of day. She’s optimistic, energetic, loving, and kind. Definitely a morning person (x 1billion). She had just finished listing things she was excited about (they are numerous), when I decided to jump in with, “Let’s chat about Thanksgiving for a sec.”

Now, by the time she’d paused for a breath and I got around to this topic, we’d just pulled into the morning carline. I rushed on, “You know, that stuff about the pilgrims and the Native Americans… it’s not really true. They weren’t friends.”

Puzzled silence. 

At this point, I’m not sure if she doesn’t remember this conversation from last year. Or if she doesn’t want a lecture about human rights first thing in the morning. Or if she just wonders why they lie about pilgrims at school. But something is amiss. Because she’s just kind of looking at me (I’ve turned my head around to have this conversation, because carline in a weird time warp in which time actually stands still).

Instead of realizing this is not the right time, or that I’m running up against disinterest, or any of the other things I could’ve realized, I pressed on. (It was early, y’all. I’d only had one cup of coffee)

“White settlers weren’t friends of the Native Americans. They wanted to take their land and send them away, not live in peace with them.”

Then… Wait for it….

“It would’ve been better if instead of helping the settlers, the Native Americans had just let them die.”

What the FUCK?!? Who says that???? Me, apparently. Me, first thing in the morning in carline.

Good Lord.

But, problems with my hasty/half-ass narrative aside, her response was perfect. She looked at me, sighed, and said, “Mommy, I’m going to get out of the car now, okay?”

How she kept from rolling her eyes all the way back into her head at me, I’ll never know. But she did. And, fortunately for me, talks about social. issues, race, and representation are ongoing in our house. And usually my timing isn’t completely sucktastic. So, I’ll get another stab at this in which I don’t suggest letting anyone die.

I’d always wondered, though, if I’d know if she was completely uninterested in what I was sharing with her. Turns out, yes. She knows how to be crystal clear.

Good on her.

 

Here’s a New York Times piece on the myth vs. reality of Thanksgiving. I’ll probably read this & a few other resources before embarking on this conversation again. And I’ll have another cup of coffee. Couldn’t hurt. Might help.

Parenting is Hard AF

This beautiful, little human is trying to kill me. I mean, not with anything as overt as knives and such. But with eye rolls and sighs, ingratitude and accusations. And if you tell me it will only get worse as she gets older, I will jump through this screen and kick your ass. 

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This beautiful, little human is trying to kill me. I mean, not with anything as overt as knives and such. But with eye rolls and sighs, ingratitude and accusations. And if you tell me it will only get worse as she gets older, I will jump through this screen and kick your ass.

This weekend unfolded in amazing family time and sullen attitudes, in turn. By the time we inched our way toward bedtime last night, I was done. Done being artfully insulted, accused of unfairness, and in general not appreciated. Also, done with a 7 year old acting like I couldn’t possibly, ever know as much as she does.

It’s exhausting as hell, this mothering thing. Trying to act magnanimous, when my feelings are hurt and I just want to cry. Feeling thwarted at every turn. Wondering if, perhaps, I’m a terrific failure at parenting after all.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to spend more structured, thoughtful time with Jane, and I’ve been turning over questions of spiritual principles and practices, so on our epic tour of bookstores in Atlanta, I picked out a Buddhist book of bedtime stories that we could read together. If you’re a parent, you probably know where this is going. Because there is a direct correlation between how much a parent wants something to work (to be special or really to matter in any significant way) and how much the child DOES NOT WANT ANY PART OF IT.

As she was headed to bed, I told her I’d like to read her a story.

So far, so good.

Then she saw me turn a few pages. “YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO START AT THE BEGINNING,” she instructed, haughtily.

Ahem.

I kept my shit together pretty well. “Yes, usually, But you’re going to have to trust that I know how to read this book.” I swear, I was speaking in melodic tones while trying not to lose my mind.

“Now, close your eyes. And take a…”

“I DON’T WANT TO CLOSE MY EYES.”

“Jane. For real, dude. Just chill. You’re going to like this. It’s like when you meditate…”

“I DON’T MEDITATE.”

Now, I needed to take deep breaths. “OKAY. But you do yoga. So it’s like that. Now, point your toes down, then up…”

“How long do I have to DO THIS. JUST READ ME A STORY.”

I closed the book, said good night, and walked out of her room. I did not yell (on the outside). I did not make her responsible for my emotions. But my feelings were hurt, for sure. And I was frustrated as hell by her general crappiness and her snotty attitude.

The irony: I got the book so she could learn to manage her emotions when she doesn’t get her way. Or when things don’t go 100% as expected. (I guess we could all use some instruction on that realm). Her go-to lately is just to spin wildly out of control. Not cool. Not cool at all.

I mean, at least she showed me that I wasn’t WRONG about her needing a way to create some balance in her inner world.

Then, this morning, after I’d worked pretty damn hard to shake off the night before, I asked her if she’d like a hug. “Nah,” she said, walking away and tossing her hair over her shoulder.

My 7 year old blew me off.

I spent the whole ride to school chanting (in my head, mostly): She is not responsible for my emotions. She is not responsible for my emotions.

But, GOD, I felt like she stabbed a tiny knife in my heart and the wound might take an eternity to heal. I’m not sure why it smarted so much. I know she’s just trying to prove that she doesn’t need me all the time. She’s separating from me in ways that are normal and age-apporpriate. But, I guess lately I’ve just felt like she doesn’t respect me. And that is where I feel like I’ve gone horribly wrong. Because I deserve respect, for no other reason than that I am a human sharing this world with her. And somehow she’s come to believe that respecting me is an optional endeavor.

None of this is a plea for affirmation or sympathy. I share a lot of the joyous moments in parenthood. And I focus on redemption a lot–because so many of the beautiful parts of life revolve around that them. But this is a real, honest assessment that parenting is hard as fuck. It’s brutal and exhausting. And sometimes, it just feels soul-sucking.

And that’s why Facebook invented the Memories feature. So, when I’m contemplating moving into a yurt in the middle of the Montana wilderness just to get away from my ungrateful, disrespectful offspring, I can be taken completely unawares by a picture of her when she was just two years old and thought I hung the moon. Then I can remember that, despite what a little shit she’s been, I love her more than anything else in this world.

And then I can saddle up for another day.

Spiritual Progress (rather than spiritual perfection)

I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be.

Virgo – Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it. Thoughts, people, potions, food… get rid of what you’ve had your fill of. Even if it still smells good.                  —@leahtrox

Ooof.

Alright, truth time: I’m struggling hella hard with Christianity right now. Not in a theological sense. Theological stuff fascinates me but doesn’t shake me. No, I’m struggling with the Christian church. It’s a struggle that found its genesis in 1994, when I realized I was queer, and hasn’t let up much since.

So, what does a girl who was raised in the church, who is a big fan of Jesus but feels a bit skeeved by most of the folks who follow him, do? At various points in my journey, I’ve been able to jump whole-heartedly into the church vibe. But now, even with a church I love and admire—that really lives into social justice and mercy, that IS what I believe Jesus wanted his followers to be—I am struggling to fit.

And I’m just not sure I should any more.

I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at the spriritual not religious folks. But that’s a more accurate descriptor of my current state of being. I’m in recovery, which I talk openly about (because openness saves lives when it comes to addiction). I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be. It feels like work. But good, honest work. Like meditation. It’s all kinds of hard. But it’s worth it. Managing a spiritual program of recovery iswork. And it’s work I’ve been doing all along (I wouldn’t be sober without it). But now it feels like work I need to do in community to push myself to do better & dig deeper.

And I’m not saying folks aren’t doing that at church (especially at my church, because I KNOW they are). It just isnt’ resonating with me in this place I’m in right now.

So, what’s my hang up? Why don’t I just step back quietly from the whole church business and be done with it? Why am I even still pondering this? Because of my kid.

It’s always been important to me to raise Jane in the church. I want her to have an unshakable foundation—an understanding that God made her, adores her, seeks communion with her without condition. I’ve always felt like, even at my lowest, my belief—deep down—that I was loved by God saved me. Doesn’t she deserve to have that touchstone?

Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it.

But here’s some deeper truth: I didn’t really have any sort of meaningful relationship with my Higher Power until I got sober. Church didn’t teach me about God in the way that shapes my life now. AA did.

It’s so complicated, this question of how not only to impart something I hold so sacred to my child but also to find my own place of ease. Everything about parenting is complicated & joyful simultaneously… that’s the mystery & magic of it all.

I’d love to hear your (complicated) thoughts on spirituality & religious tradition and how you share that weighty and sacred stuff with your kids. But no hellfire & brimstone bullshit. I grew up with it & have had my fill. Just light & love welcome here.

 

Photo Cred: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

That First Cup of Coffee

I love mornings: the sun’s slow, upward climb; the quiet; the COFFEE. But I don’t wake up perky. It’s a little fuzzy in my brain first thing in the morning. And I’m real sleepy until that first cup of coffee.

I love mornings: the sun’s slow, upward climb; the quiet; the COFFEE. But I don’t wake up perky. It’s a little fuzzy in my brain first thing in the morning. And I’m real sleepy until that first cup of coffee. Here’s a visual representation of my mental state first thing in the morning:

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But that’s fine. Because Simon sleeps later than I do. And after a cup of coffee (and a quick browse through social media), I’m all like this:

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But there’s one wild card in this morning situation: JANE. Jane wakes up like a shooting star every morning. She hops out of bed and greets the world with all the sunshine, rainbows, and sparkles she can muster. It’s A LOT of perk. Trust me.

And she gets up early. Really early. 6 a.m. early. Even on the weekends. I know. I know. I’ve tried to reason with her. She just can’t help herself. She’s SO EXCITED TO BE ALIVE.

So, when it comes to forging a bit of quiet time for myself in the morning–and believe this: I am a MUCH better mother after that first cup of coffee–I have to get up early. 5:30 a.m. to be exact. That gives me half an hour to wake up in the relative quiet (the dog snores, so there’s that) before facing the day (and other people).

Years ago, this was my everyday practice: up before the kid so I could have coffee and be charming and whatnot. But Jane & I, we know each other well. So well that sometimes it’s uncanny. (Like I really think sometimes she can read my mind. I wish I was joking. SO not joking).

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Jane can sense when I get up (the squeaky hardwood floors probably clue her in, too). When she was young, and not yet as familiar with the ways of the world (and the moods of her mother), she used to come in and climb on me when I was trying to have quiet time–which by it’s very nature is child-free time.

But this morning, I heard her get up. And slam her bedroom door shut. And slam the bathroom door shut. (She means nothing by all this slamming. It’s just her way). Then I heard her stomp into the kitchen like a baby buffalo, where she commenced slamming cabinets making her lunch.

And never, not once, did she venture into the living room where quiet time had commenced. She did not bother, pester, or annoy. She did not ask to cuddle, tell a story, or launch into a million questions about the day ahead. She just let me be.

When I wandered into the kitchen to greet her, I was all full of sunshine, happiness, and good-mother-vibes. Because coffee. And love.

All of this is apropos of pretty much nothing–except to say that the children, they are trainable. Don’t give up. Just keep loving them, redirecting them, and drinking just as much coffee as it takes.