Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mothering humanity

Dearest children of mine,

I love writing to you. I love the thought that one day, an adult version of you, maybe even a parent yourself, will read my words from a time when you were still small and young. Perhaps you'll learn something about me you didn't know. I dream that maybe my words will help your current situation, whatever it may be. At the very least, I hope you can feel the love I carry for you always. 

But sometimes... I am filled with uncertainty about what I should write. To be honest? How honest? How much should I protect future-you from present-me?

The world is filled with unimaginable beauty and good, my loves. I want you to know all of it. There are good people everywhere, we call them "The Helpers". In every city, town, and community, there are The Helpers. Mom and I are some of them. You'll grow to become them, too. In some ways, you're already The Helpers, because of your good and joyful hearts. 

But today, this week... I'm struggling. I nearly wrote that I'm struggling to find my path forward, but that's untrue. You two are my path forward. You're the answer to every question I ask. But current events and the current political climate together create a country that I'm often disappointed in. Sometimes, I find the accumulation of terrible events and deeds happening daily to weigh heavily upon my shoulders. 

Right now, we have the most unqualified person in history sitting in the Oval Office, pulling strings and making decisions as if he truly represents the people of the United States. He's selfish and cruel, uncaring about the plight of the poor and middle-classed; unable to sympathize with desperation and heartbreak that come with disasters that have wreaked havoc in the lives of millions of people. His agenda includes taking affordable health care away from the masses, building a huge wall across the US/Mexico border, preventing anyone of the Muslim faith from entering our country, refusing to aid refugees fleeing murder and devastation in their home countries, handing tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and removing the ability for women to make our own decisions about our reproductive health, among other things. 

Earthquakes broke apart the earth and killed hundreds of people in Mexico; hurricanes and flooding ravaged Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands. Months later, much of Puerto Rico is without power and water and food and the death toll continues to climb. Much of northern California and the northwestern part of the States fell victim to fire after blazing fire, burning up homes and businesses and lives. In October, a man mass-murdered 50 people at an outdoor music festival in Vegas from a 32nd floor hotel room with automatic weapons. A few weeks later, another man rented a truck and drove it onto a pedestrian path in Manhattan, killing 8 people. In November, another man mass-murdered 26 people inside a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas with a semi-automatic rifle. That was 6 days ago. Since then, we're learning about the horrific things that men in power have done to women just because they wanted to and they could. Huge names in politics and entertainment are falling from grace as countless women step forward to share stories long hidden and held close for fear of personal and professional consequences.  

I carry so much empathy and compassion for others that reading and listening to accounts from victims of any one of these issues is taxing. As a whole, the cumulative experiences of pain and suffering are crippling. At the end of all of it, through the haze of knowing that these things have happened and are happening, the thought I'm left with is: 

What if these things happen to MY babies, like they happen to other people's babies every day? 



I'm living on a thin edge between the planes of confidence and fear, my loves. Every decision I make is calculated to help you become the best adult you can possibly be but also to keep you as safe as I can. Having lived through middle school and high school myself, I know that being a kid on the fringe or being an "outcast" from whomever happens to be popular, can be character-building experiences. I also realize that for some kids, these terrible experiences have ended their lives. Ultimately, I don't get to choose what experiences you get and which you don't. We both just have to live with what comes to us. 

I know I make mistakes. I'll make more. I'm sorry for what I don't get right. 

Just know that everything I do... it's borne of my absolute love and devotion for each of you. 



So grow. Learn. Conquer. Seek. Step forward into the light and find your paths. Be bold and confident, children of mine, and together we will do our best to keep the fear and darkness at bay. Together, we will help create a culture, a country, a world that's a better place to be than it is today. 

I will always be behind you. 


Friday, May 12, 2017

A Hard Day

Hard days come in lots of flavors. Problems at work. Not enough sleep. All the right buttons being pushed.

Today was different.

It started like most days, getting the kids ready for school.  While E finished her breakfast, I was changing C.  I sat down on his floor and got him dressed and then he sat in my lap to get socks on.

The first pang.

It is one of my favorite things- when they start coming over and plopping down in your lap. It makes my heart warm. But it holds memories of the other little boy who used to run over to sit in my lap. Bold and proud.

"Ba!" he yells. Pointing at the ball across the room. His socks on, he runs over to grab it. We've always been careful to say "ball" instead of "a ball," but it is still a little tickle in the back of my mind. It probably wouldn't have been so bad if my mind hadn't already been there.

He's bouncing the ball in the kitchen. "Ba! Ba! A ba!"


Damn.













I'm about to go to Mothers' Day Tea at E's preschool, but I'm stuck in the feedback loop of our first Mothers' Day.  The one that felt like we weren't supposed to celebrate, like we weren't real mothers.

So this is for that first little boy. The one who tackled me to sit in my lap on Halloween. The one we took to the pumpkin patch and it exclaimed "A ba! A BA! A BA! A BALL!" as he picked up the pumpkins. 

Him and his sister. And the little girl before them. The kids who taught me to be a mother. My heart will always be broken, but its worth it knowing you each have a little piece of it with you.




Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Spring

Sweet boy.

It's a gorgeous spring day. The sun is out; there are big, fluffy white clouds dotting the perfect blue sky, and there's a slightly cool breeze. We're outside playing in our backyard, and you are exploring your world and abilities.

I have indescribable joy in my heart, just watching you. You study the rocks, looking for and choosing the right one carefully. You try to climb up the ladder to the slide, but find it difficult. You work at it doggedly until you conquer it and slide down into the grass again. You touch the bricks, the dirt, run your chubby fingers through the tall blades of grass with wonder in your eyes.

Sometimes, it might seem silly to take joy in watching a toddler choose a rock, which you know will immediately go into his mouth. Perhaps if you have children of your own one day, you'll understand better.

But for right now, for today... and for always. May you always have the breeze at your back and the sun to warm your face. May you approach life with wonder. May you know the sweet results of hard work. May you continue to choose carefully.

Love always,
Mama


Friday, February 24, 2017

A year ago; Today

A year ago this evening, I held you close and whispered reassurances into your ear as a NICU nurse finally, after hours of attempts, set an IV catheter into a vein in your scalp. Our littlest unicorn baby.



Today, I arrived home from work and you ran to me, arms outstretched. I picked you up and swung you around and grinned at your squealing laughter.

A year ago, you wailed in frustration and fear, unable to easily latch on to nurse with all the complications the hospital brings (and an undiagnosed tongue tie, to boot). I cried alongside you because I couldn't fix any of it.

Today, you lie next to me, sweetly sleeping and making tiny, contented noises. Body curled towards me, hand laid upon my breast; you're a much sturdier and larger boy than a year ago. The only tears I shed today are those used to remember the fear and sorrow from last year, and the loving gratitude I feel today.

I wish I could hug myself a year ago. "This will pass. You'll get through it. It's going to get so much better."

But we made it through without that future knowledge.

And it is so good.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

One Year

One year ago, you were a gleam in my eye and a swelling in my belly.

Pregnancy was a different experience than I anticipated. Logic and science told me that my body was growing a tiny human. I felt you all the time, swimming along with me as I trucked through the final days of sharing a body with you. I could identify your bottom, your knees and feet; I could feel your clenched hands reaching and pushing and exploring. Clearly, there was a baby inside me, but I didn't know you. I didn't know who you'd be, what you would look like, how you would change everything. It was shocking when you made your way into the world - you were real and perfect and you'd finally arrived. I struggled to reconcile this tiny, gorgeous babe in my arms with the exuberant fetus who had been using my bladder as a trampoline.

The evening before you were born, I was getting your sister ready for bed when I realized that your debut was imminent. She wanted me to lay next to her in bed and cuddle, but I couldn't do that. My muscles were clenching and releasing, starting to make space for you. I told Mom that you were on your way - she was still at work, but we were doing fine.

I got E tucked in, dinner dishes cleared, dishwasher humming along quietly. I left the light above our wooden table glowing and turned the rest of the lights out. I glanced back down the hall as I padded to the bedroom. The soft amber light gently lit our colorful kitchen and dining room. I recall feeling that our lovely little home seemed... expectant. A wave of gratitude washed over me that your first address would be this house that had seen so many wonderful moments in my life.

I labored through the night and into the morning. I saw my last sunrise without you in my arms. Your grandparents arrived, we went to the Birth Center, and a few hours later, you were born.



Sometimes it seems that it's only been a few hours since that happened.

But now we are celebrating your first birthday, son of mine. One whole trip around the sun. A year of love and laughter and joy and gratitude.

On the day of your birth and every anniversary after, the February sun will rise and its warmth will tease open the first brave gold poppies. The globemallow and brittlebush will bloom and as they do, I will always think that they are celebrating the time when you entered this world and set your own path into the earth.

You are a magical child, C. You are everything and more that we didn't even know we needed. Your smile lights up the room. Your squeaking laugh is impossible to not join in on. You are incredibly loving and sweet. You are ravenously curious and intelligent. You are bold and confident and strong and determined.

This world needs you. It needs you and your sister. I believe we are all here to do important work. We are here to love deeply. To be kind and generous. To be selfless and to serve one another. To be compassionate and empathetic to our fellow humans and the creatures who share this planet with us.

I don't care what you do with this life of yours, my darling boy, as long as you find joy in it. The small things are what matter. Not how much money you make or how successful others believe you to be. No one can determine your worth but YOU.

I am elated to be your Mama and to be given the privilege of walking beside you.

We are so glad you've come!





Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March

This morning, we crawled out of our warm beds and dressed in warm clothes. We chose things that were pink, had inspiring messages, or were rainbow. E's shirt, a pink one, proclaimed across the chest - "Though she be but little, she is fierce!" She wore a rainbow skirt and a pink jacket and waved a Pride flag she chose from a locally owned bookshop on Fourth Avenue. T wore a "Vote ME for President!" shirt, I wore a rainbow scarf I crocheted a few years back, and C wore rainbow leg warmers.







































We ate breakfast and piled into the car. We parked on campus and met T's parents. Together with several others, we boarded the streetcar bound for downtown. We didn't realize how fortunate it was at the moment, but we boarded at the end of the line and just stayed on - the very next stop was jammed up with people wishing to board at the first stop. Our streetcar could only accommodate a small portion of the crowd waiting at the stop and none of the people at any stop after that. Stop after stop, we rode past crowds of energetic marchers waving signs. The wheels of the streetcar groaned and ground against the metal tracks laid into the concrete, car full to bursting with the weight of our collective hope.



I looked around. I marveled at all these people and wondered what the day had in store for us. Women standing close to us chatted with E and played peekaboo with C. The kids smiled and laughed and charmed everyone. While sitting there, I received a text from one of my friends in Texas. It was a photo of my family, sitting in the streetcar! One of the women who boarded first was standing directly in front of us; she had taken a photo of the packed streetcar and posted it to Facebook. Turns out, she's friends with my friend J, who currently lives in Texas but is from here. Our lovely city is a fair size, but at times like these, it seems downright tiny! We all laughed and were jubilant.






































Once downtown, we filed out of the streetcar and streamed towards the park where everyone was to meet. It began to rain. The sky was full of bright, full, white clouds and the sun shone as the rain came down. Undeterred, marchers gathered in groups. Signs were wrapped in plastic, taped with packing tape, or started to curl due to the rain. Women, men, children, dogs. All of us together. C had fallen asleep in the carrier on my back, so I stood in one place and swayed back and forth to keep him asleep. I looked at all the faces around me and thought, My family isn't alone.

All the people there at the march felt strongly about women's rights. About people of color. About LGBT people. About fighting bigotry, hatred, racism, misogyny.

When my family walked to the streetcar stop earlier that morning, the people there looked at us and smiled. They saw E with her Pride flag, me with my rainbow scarf, C with his rainbow leggings. They saw two small children with two mothers. It was the most "out" we've been in a long time, as we don't typically go out of our way to identify ourselves to strangers as a lesbian-headed family. It's simply too scary to do that. My anxiety level climbed, knowing we were about to go into a very visible liberal event labeled as gay. But when we stepped into the midst of the other marchers, I felt a safety that I've rarely encountered. Suddenly, I knew that if someone wanted to harass us, there were thousands of people around who would step forward and say, "THIS ISN'T RIGHT!" Who would help me protect my family. And a warm flame burned inside my chest, knowing that other people in the crowd recognized that I would do the same for them and their families.











































Finally, the actual march got started. It took a long time to get all the marchers funneled into the street, so we moved slowly. E was losing her patience, but her grandfather had a great idea. He lifted her up onto his shoulders just in time for a cheer to go up among the marchers as the first ones hit the street. Signs and fists were thrust into the air all around us as a cry of joy left many lips. Grandpa turned for a moment to check that we were all still together, and I caught the look on my 4 year old daughter's face. Her face was alight with joy and awe. It would have been impossible to be in that crowd and not feel swept up in the exuberance of the moment, plus, E had the best view of anyone. Proudly sitting atop her (tall) grandfather's shoulders, she got to see the march stretch out before her, as far as her eyes could see. While I watched her, E turned and looked straight into my eyes. I am so full of love and pride in this little girl. I hope she remembers this. She is one of the biggest reasons why we marched - her, and every other little girl out there who has hopes and dreams. She deserves a fair shot, given on equal footing. She deserves a world in which men don't think they are entitled to her body or her mind, one in which she's in charge of herself and nobody gets to decide anything for her.









































This is for you, daughter. And for you, son of mine. May you grow into adults in a world of equality, hearts full of love and minds full of the knowledge that your parents adored you and fought for you and wanted you to be happy.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Thank you Gran

Today is the day my mom (and the kids' Gran) was born! Typically, this day is pretty straightforward - you wish the person a Happy Birthday, maybe you go out for dinner, you give the person a gift. The honoree feels warm and happy and appreciated, then the day ends and you move forward into the new year of your life.

My wonderful mother though... this is a hard day for her. Every year, I acknowledge to myself that Mom doesn't like this day, she doesn't wish to consider the day she was born, and she dislikes being the center of attention. And yet, every year on December 18th, all my thoughts start with her. I cannot resist writing about it. I guess I just really need her to know how vitally important she is to me, and to understand that while this day, to her, is a day of sadness and loss, for me it's a day that I'll be grateful for forever. The dichotomy between the ways we each feel about it is hard for me, because I would hate to think she feels I'm being disrespectful by always bringing it up.

I'm truly sorry, Mom, if you feel I'm disrespecting you. This thought distresses me.

But what would we do without you? My family, my children... they love you deeply. This year is the first birthday you've had with two grandchildren. I'm elated that they are blessed with four grandparents who adore them so much but... you are something special. You relate to children in a way that no one else does. I wish we had more photos of you with the kids - let's rectify that in the new year, okay?

So bring on this next year. Did you know that the Winter Solstice is in only 3 days? You're nearly a Solstice baby. As one of my favorite books says, "A baby born at midwinter is born during the time of year when the days are shortest. This child will be forever walking into the light, as each day after birth, the days become longer." And that is how I think of you, mother of mine. You are always looking for the silver lining, living in sunlight and loving eternally. My midwinter mother. I'm so happy you were born.