on being a mom

sweet birthday baby

Today I’m celebrating twenty-two years of Thing 2!
Even though she’s all grown up, she’s still my sweet baby.
Y’all, she’s only sweet a portion of the time, and she’s not at all a baby. But she is mine, and I love her more than the moon and the stars!

Thing 2 is doing the hard work of figuring out how to be an adult in this world. And however much she feels like she’s getting her ass handed to her, she’s actually making more progress than she realizes.
She’s one of those stubborn sort of girls, the ones who sometimes can’t seem to get out of their own way. (I wonder where she gets that…?) She is sometimes crippled by her own inability to make and trust a decision. She sometimes feels overwhelmed and defeated. But she’s tenacious. She keeps at it. She’s doing the day to day and eventually that will make a dent in the large and looming future.
I worry for her.
But I have faith in her.
She can do it! This thing called life.
She can do it because she’s chock full of muchness.

It seems strange to think of her as my sweet little baby, she hasn’t been that for so long. She’s her, you know? She’s a girl doing her best to live her life. She’s the daughter to two people who haven’t made her life terribly easy. She’s a sister. She’s a friend. She’s a lover. Now she’s an auntie!
In addition to her being all those things, she’s simply herself. I sometimes wonder if she feels like being herself is enough.
I believe it is. I hope she does too!

I won’t be able to smother her with hugs and kisses today, but I will twelve days from now when I collect her at the airport!
The idea of celebrating her in person brings me such joy!

Here’s a photo I absolutely adore.
Thing 2 deep in thought where the sea kisses the shore.
Can you see her muchness?

circa 2003 on the pier at Folly

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uncomfy as f**k

I’ve hit the wall as it comes to the Thing G situation.

This kid.
Oh, this kid deserves so much more than he’s giving himself.
While I was wrapped firmly in the baby bubble, he rear-ended someone and cracked the radiator in the car. He flunked one college course for the second time and pulled a C and D in the remaining two classes. This is after he dropped two classes in March and told his father and me he’d get a job in April.

We’re in the last full week of June and the kid is not employed. Not actively putting forth any effort to become employed, and won’t be returning to school because of his lack of effort.
I want to do two things simultaneously. I want to shake him till his teeth rattle to get his life together, and I want to hug him tight and fix his life.
Here’s the rub, I can do neither of these things.
First of all, I have no power when it comes to the kid. I cannot lay down rules and expect them to be followed. I cannot even wait for natural consequences to fall upon him. He is immune. In all truth, this kid has never actually experienced a consequence. And if he actually has, it’s somehow been lost on him.

Both my therapist and the therapist YBW and I see together have suggested we make life less comfortable for him. That if he experiences a new level of discomfort, he’ll have to make changes to remain comfortable.
I’ve stopped buying junk for him to eat.
He solved that problem by going out and purchasing his own junk.
I asked him what happened when the money ran out. I told him his dad wasn’t going to put anymore money in his account, that the money that was in there was because he needed to eat on campus and put gas in the car to get to campus.
He said to me, “Hopefully I’ll have a job by then.”
Kid won’t have a job if he doesn’t actively seek one.
I honestly don’t know if he understands that he won’t get paid at a job until he’s been there a couple of weeks.

YBW tells me I don’t love Thing G.
That’s infuriating!
I don’t treat the kid the way YBW treats him, therefore I do not love him?
I’m so tired of fighting to prove to my husband that I love his son.
I’m over here just trying to survive in this household.

You know, I’ve been accused of not loving this kid so many times I don’t even choose to listen to it anymore.
I do love him!
If I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t give a fuck what he did or did not do, or what happens to him. I care deeply. I see a bright, capable young man absolutely avoiding his own life. I watch him get bogged down in his own fear and anxiety to the point he simply chooses to avoid life in general. It hurts my heart. I have to believe it isn’t what he wants, however, he simply cannot get himself together.

What hurts me the most is that YBW thinks I don’t see the conflict within him. That he wants to simultaneously shake the kid till his teeth rattle, and hold him close.
I see that struggle in him. I see him want more for his son. I also see him trapped by his understanding of his commitment to raising his son.
I see him torn between knowing the kid needs to get his life together and how to facilitate that, and his sacred commitment to keep his son safe.
I observe him not making the connection that sometimes keeping a child safe is actively doing the opposite. I observe him making that connection, but being powerless to act upon it because his idea of facilitating the kid getting his life together and keeping him safe seem at complete odds.
Let me be very clear, I can only use my words to describe what I see going on with my husband. He might have different words to express it.

I was fascinated by his response to a question asked by our therapist.
She asked him to describe his parenting philosophy. She was specific he limit it to five words or less.
His response was “Take care of them.”
I was not asked to respond aloud, but I too, answered the question.
My response was “Build a them foundation.”
My eyes were opened that afternoon. And in that moment I understood my husband in a completely different way.

He’s quick to point out that I think he’s a failure as a parent.
On the contrary, one of the things I love most about him is how much of a loving father he is.
In the past, I’ve asked, “Why don’t they know how to do that?” or “Why didn’t they learn that?” What he heard was, “You didn’t teach them therefore you failed as a dad.”
I don’t think he failed as a dad. I think he is a kind and loving dad. A dad who would sacrifice by any means necessary for his kids to have the life he thinks they deserve.
He’s not failed in taking care of them. He’s elevated taking care of his sons into an art form.
The love in my husband flows in his very veins. He is a nurturer of epic proportion.
He either doesn’t see my acknowledgement of that, or he chooses to ignore it. I honestly don’t know which.

I know what he thinks I think of him. And y’all, it ain’t nice.
He is wrong.
I don’t think any of the things he thinks I think of him.
I’ve figured out I can’t really do anything about that. I can only love him and go from there.

We’re so different.
It starts at our upbringing.
I was raised by my emotionally unavailable single mother, and later, my fully devoted maternal grandfather.
Before we lived with Grandaddy, we were poor. I mean poor. I had clothes to wear to school, but never enough food in my belly. I had to be helpful around the house. I had to be helpful with my little brother. I knew how to cook and clean and half-ass parent by the time I was in second grade.
I’m not sob-story-ing it. I’m just saying that was my life. I didn’t know it wasn’t the same as other kids.

YBW was raised by a stay at home mom who did everything for her family. YBW was the 1980s embodiment of 1950s Beaver Cleaver. Hot breakfast was waiting for him every morning when he woke. Clothes were washed and pressed for him. He got called in from playing to wash his hands and come to the dinner table. His mom made his bed each day after he left for school. He was next level well cared for. I don’t know if he knew it wasn’t the same for other kids.

Our upbringing shaped our parenting philosophies.
Take care of them.
Build a them foundation.

This kind of sums up our different parenting philosophies.

image source: imgur.com

However much I am the kangaroo, bear, and monkey, I too am the bird. I knew I could only keep my girls safe and warm and comfy for so long before they would have to fly.
However much I did for them, I taught them to do for themselves. I believe they would tell you they were well cared for as quickly as they would tell you I built them a strong foundation. At least I hope they would. I do know I built them strong foundations upon which they can stand as they begin their own building upon it. And that was my parenting goal.

YBW is all kangaroo, bear, and monkey. I see him working towards the concept of the bird. I see how much it goes against his idea of how to parent. I see he is conflicted. I imagine he wants to facilitate the natural course of development in helping his bird fly without having to actually let go.
These are my words for what I see in him. I don’t actually know his truth.

What I do know is this.
I can no longer stand idly by while Thing G remains disengaged from his own life.
It hurts me deep in my soul that this kid I so love is stagnant.
I can’t unstick him. I can’t help him get himself unstuck.
Nothing I do makes a difference.
I can no longer abide being powerless.

In a conversation with YBW I shared that I’d gotten to the point where I only saw three options for how I was going to deal with my feelings regarding the Thing G situation.
The first is ignore the kid completely. If I’m not engaged I won’t suffer.
YBW asked if this is really practical.
The second is to take point and facilitate his ability to fly.
YBW said he doesn’t want me to ruin my relationship with Thing G by being the ‘bad guy’.
The third is to simply walk away.
YBW accused me of threatening him.

I did not.
The third option is absolute shit. I don’t want it to be an option at all.
I am not saying it’s me or the kid.
I’m saying I am at my wit’s fucking end with this situation. With this kid. I’m tired of being powerless to change the situation. I’m tired of being powerless in the place I live.
I am uncomfortable in this house every single day when the kid is here. I hide out, or leave the house to avoid him.
I am not comfortable enough to move about freely in the place I live.
I’m so tired of feeling like this I could scream!

The kid isn’t uncomfortable enough to change.
YBW isn’t uncomfortable enough to change.
I’m over here uncomfortable as fuck with no real power to change.

How desperate does one girl have to become to create enough change to be comfortable where she lives?

Categories: me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

you got this

I got a call from Thing 1 this morning. She was on the way to the doctor. She asked my opinion regarding birth control. I haven’t concerned myself with birth control since my hysterectomy in 2004, so I didn’t feel as though I was going to be much help to her.
She is worried about how getting pregnant will impact her heart health and wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again any time soon.
She’s concerned about hormonal birth control, how it will affect her depression.
I’m concerned about how hormonal birth control will affect her milk production.
She asked what I thought about an IUD. I told her I know that my mom had one fifty years ago and loved it. I know friends who have them now and love them.

Part of me feels like I’m letting her down because I don’t have my finger on the pulse of this information.
I’m a forty-eight year old (menopausal) woman with no uterus. How could I possibly advise a twenty-five year old about safe and effective birth control?
I did tell her that if I was in her place, I would choose an IUD.
Why? My gut just knew.

I don’t know that she wanted well thought out, highly informed opinions or advice. I suspect she just wanted to touch base with her momma while she was considering her choices. Sometimes, you just want to talk to your mom. Sometimes talking to your mom brings you the comfort you crave, even when you’re not exactly sure you need it.

I’m so thankful I don’t have to worry about my reproductive health in the current climate.
I am concerned about the reproductive health of my daughters, and even my granddaughter.
Will they have access to everything they need?
I’m talking about proper medical care, appropriate testing, the ability to receive and fill necessary prescriptions.

I’m hopeful that whatever type of birth control Thing 1 chooses, she has appropriate access to it. That it works to keep her healthy while it helps ensure she doesn’t get pregnant. Not getting pregnant will keep her heart safer. Not getting pregnant will keep her heart healthier.
I want my girl to have a strong and healthy heart. I want Baby K to have a strong and healthy mommy.
I’m not sure what choice she will make, but I do know that I support her in her decision to maintain her health to the best of her ability.

Even if I didn’t have good advice for her this morning, I hope that our quick conversation gave her what she needed.
Sometimes all it takes is hearing your mom’s voice to know you can handle whatever is coming at you.
I see her building a life and family upon the foundation I built for her and I know she’s got this.
Perhaps she just needed to be reminded.

Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘laugh it off’ or expect respect

Thing 1 posted this yesterday on social media.
She was feeling sad.

Rude old man in Lowe’s said I looked like I swallowed a watermelon seed then proceeded to laugh his butt off like it was the funniest thing ever said and block my way so I couldn’t get past him. 😭

Of course this got a lot of angry or frustrated responses: middle finger emojis (this may or may not have been mine), angry faces, one hilarious gif of Madea giving the side eye.

My Momma-hackles were up. I was flooded with the overwhelming desire to stab that “rude old man” with my icepick! Leave my kid alone, fuckface. (I know, it sounds like a word I learned in 6th grade, because I did …but just work with me on this.)

This morning I woke to a comment to which I reacted with all the feels.

Well, try to laugh it off. It’s such a limited time in your life and that watermelon is a blessing!

The person who wrote this comment loves my first daughter nearly as much as I do. They share a sacred place in each other’s hearts and lives. I know she was trying to put a positive spin on an incident that upset Thing 1. She was doing what she thought was right. And I love her dearly for it. Helping my baby see that she might be able to just shrug it off and live in a place that is filled to the brim with the blessing of Baby K. And she’s right! That man knows nothing about how or why or what Thing 1 does to live her life. And who cares what he thinks? Thing 1 just needs to keep livin’ man. L-I-V-I-N.

Only, the more I considered her kindness, I considered how women around the world have been conditioned to behave, to accept the behavior of others…
And then my hackles went absolutely haywire.
I responded to the comment in what I hope is a kind and respectful way.

I understand your heart is in the right place in this comment, I know you speak from a place of love. You’re right, this baby is a blessing.
However, my concern is, taking this stance simply perpetuates disrespect towards women everywhere. That man doesn’t know just how much of a blessing this baby is. He amused himself at the expense of a young pregnant woman. At. Her. Expense.
We should never laugh this off.

I’m actually having both sides of this conversation in my head as write this post.
Was that man attempting to be friendly and not super successful, or was he a misogynistic asshole?
I have actually used that swallowed a watermelon line in my life. But never to a stranger.
Part of me agrees that Thing 1 should just “ignore the mean boy” and go on about her life.
But as I argue both sides of this issue I realize how wrong the whole fucking thing actually is!
There is nothing OK about one entire side of this conversation!
I would NEVER let my daughters behave that way, speak that way to or about someone! Would it be different if I had sons? Would I be a bit more, “boys will be boys”?
Um. FUCK to the NO!!

I’ve moved so far beyond the compulsion to protect my child.
I’m talking basic human respect.
This is our world, y’all!
How can this be OK?

Look, I’m not some mad feminist over here beating my bare breasts while burning my bra. I’m just a regular sort of (fully clothed) woman writing about what I see and feel.
My pregnant daughter should never have to be expected to “laugh it off”! She should never be exposed to that kind of random disrespect and borderline abuse!
Nobody’s daughter should!
Nobody’s son, for that matter!

Y’all! I am fired up about this! Am I overreacting? Am I justified?
I want to know what you think.
Ladies and Gents, do we simply ‘laugh it off’, or do we do everything in our power to treat other people with basic human decency?
I want to hear what you have to say on either side of this conversation.
Please and thank you!

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twenty five years of Thing 1

When each of my girls turned 13 I created a book. This book was filled with photographs from their first moments until as close as I could get to the deadline before their birthday that year.
For this day twelve years ago I made Thirteen Years of Thing 1.

I honestly don’t know what the significance of my daughters becoming teenagers was, but when Thing 1 was closing in on that title, it hit me in a way I didn’t expect. And going through the photographic evidence of her lifetime brought me great comfort when I was so anxious about that anniversary of her birth.

Today is the twenty fifth anniversary of Thing 1’s birthday.
My first daughter has been in our world for a quarter century. I am awestruck!

I was on the phone with her one day last week, we were talking about her birthday. I remarked “quarter century of Thing 1”, that gave her pause. She hadn’t considered it like that. And then she rallied and said, “Sounds like it should be a book year.”
D’oh!
I did not make her a book. Part of me wishes I had, especially since this is her last birthday before becoming a mom.

I’ve called her twice already this morning. Her phone is turned off. Part of me is pleased she’s getting to sleep late, the other part of me wants to hear her voice.

I’m feeling my joy in the back of my throat and bubbling up into my eyes this morning.

Sally commented on a birthday social media post, “If she only knew how special she was to all of us! She’ll always be 3 in hearts!”
It’s true!
She was the first kid in my friend group. The first kid so many people ever loved. And even though we always tease that Sally is really my first daughter, Thing 1 changed the world for all of us.

Twenty five years ago I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. Truth is, I still don’t know what I’m doing some of the time.
I don’t think I mommied her the best possible way. I think I mommied her based on the way I was mommied.
BIG MISTAKE!
But, I learned better over time.
I grew up with her. I learned to be a woman the same time I was learning to be a mom. She paid a bit of the price for that. But she also experienced the maddest kind of love! More fun than she can possibly remember. And somewhere down deep in her I believe she holds the nugget of truth that she is the human personification of every hope and dream I ever had.
I know I failed at being her mom sometimes, but I also know that I far exceeded any mom expectations.
She is who she is because I am her mom.
I am who I am because she is my daughter.
She made me a mom twenty five years ago. In May she’ll make me a grandmother.
Still awestruck!

This is one of my all time favorite Thing 1 photos.

Age ten, November 2004 on the dock in Charleston.

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Girlie Hotel Weekend

Columbus Day.
Seems such a sham now we have a much more detailed history of his actions.
But I got a day off school, so I’m not complaining.

Three day weekends are a blessing no matter what your day job.
I took mine and went to see Thing 2.

I left school at 2:00 Friday afternoon and pulled into the driveway here just before 5:00 Monday afternoon.
It was fast and furious, but it was worth it!

We tried to plan one of these weekends last year, but could never quite make it work. And in 2017-2018 I actually saw Thing 2 more times in one ‘year’ than I have the entire five years we’ve lived apart.
Thanksgiving 2017 we were all at Thing 1 and Husband N’s.
Christmas 2017 Thing 2 and Boyfriend J were here.
In March when Thing 1 lost her baby, both Thing 2 and I were there to help pick up the pieces.
Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 were here in June for Thing G’s graduation. (and mother-daughter tattooing)

Anyway, we planned this visit so we could see each other more frequently without her always having to come here.
She called it “Girlie Hotel Weekend” and she was right!

Because it took me four hours to get out of Virginia instead of the normal 2 hours and 20 – 30 minutes, I was much later arriving in Columbia than either of us expected. She got dropped off by friends about ten minutes after I checked us in.
So! Much! Giggling!

We started our Saturday with pedicures and mimosas.
Did a little Devine Street shopping before moving on to Target where my daughter said, “Nobody likes to Target the way I do but you.” (It’s genetic)
Roads were closed all over downtown because it was Parents Weekend at USC. What a pain in the ass. But, because we had to take Blossom, I remembered a place I loved to eat when I lived down there.
We had a great lunch, and a pitcher of mimosas, and some of the most delicious cheesecake at Di Prato’s.
We shopped and piddled around Columbia all day Saturday.
Then popped some bubbly and snuggled up in the hotel beds and watched Hocus Pocus. We love us some Sanderson Sisters!

Sunday saw us at our beloved Waffle House. I know. It’s just awful, but we love it. Nowhere else makes egg sandwiches like that. Not to mention, the guy who checked us out used to be the theater teacher at the high school.
Thing 2 was like, Was that Mr W? It sounded like him.
I actually had one of those lightbulb over the head moments! It was!
She wondered if he freaked out when he saw me after I ripped him a new one Thing 1’s senior year.
We laughed and laughed. We’re mean like that.

After breakfast, we made a return to Target and went shoe shopping.
Because I wanted to see the restaurant where she works, we went over and sat in the bar for a few hours. She drank sake and I let her bartending co-worker surprise me. We ate dumplings and noodles and drank and talked and laughed and hung out. I even got to meet one of the “regulars” a Rod Stewart-esque hair dresser that reminded me so much of my dad I could hardly believe it. Thing 2 had her own lightbulb over the head moment when she realized I was right that he seemed so like her beloved Pap.

Monday morning we shared breakfast, grabbed coffee and said goodbye.
She drove to work and I got on the interstate to come home.
I was sad, and even though it was a good kind of sadness, I didn’t want to feel it all the way home so I gave myself until I got out of South Carolina to be sad.
And you know what? It worked. I was only a bit sad, but I sat with it and honored it while we were still in the same state.
Then the Hamilton Soundtrack got me through North Carolina and when I arrived safely in Virginia I called YBW to report the news. It took me just less than seven hours to reach my exit on 95. Another twenty or so minutes to the house and the return trip was over. As I was unloading the car, YBW pulled into the driveway home from work.
Now that’s great timing!

I’m grateful for the time off from school, the financial ability to do a weekend trip, and a new car that made the trip a breeze. I’m grateful for that sacred time with my Thing 2. I’m grateful for our open and honest communication, our ability to laugh at similar things. I’m grateful I’m her Momma and she’s my baby.
We needed that time together, and it was good for us!
My heart is overflowing with love.

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tenacity in her DNA

Been thinking about Thing 2.
Concerned she’s not really getting her life together. She’s employed, sometimes happily, sometimes miserably. (But, aren’t we all?) I’ve been concerned about her emotional well being. And the well being of Boyfriend J. I worry for them. I know what it’s like to feel trapped. To feel defeated and how easy it is to let that consume you.

And then the other day, she shared that her dear friend Jimmy is going through so much with his mom and her health, and then suddenly she suffered a stroke and is in a vegetative state with no real hope of improvement.
Thing 2 expressed how hard it is to feel helpless when all she wants to do in the world is help her friend and his sweet mom through this moment in their lives.

I began to consider everything my baby daughter has been through in the last year or so.
I’ve seen her hold the hand of her dearest friend after the sudden and surprising suicide of his father.
I’ve seen her rush to the home of her sister and brother in law because the latter specifically requested her presence after the loss of their baby.
I’ve seen her be there for Jimmy even though she’s not sure how to be other than to “throw hugs and beer at him”.

This young woman has demonstrated a level of strength and support that most seasoned adults don’t always successfully handle. She is handling her own complicated emotional feelings, as well as for the people she loves. She’s been tremendously responsible for the people she loves.
So I feel like I need to stop and breathe a little bit. I need to realize she’s doing things with her time and life that are important, even if they’re not actively furthering her “getting it together”.
The thought she’s using these things as avoidance for dealing with getting her life together crossed my mind, and it’s a very Thing 2 sort of way to function, but after talking with her today I feel like she’s working hard to get herself together as well as supporting and loving her people.

She’s learning how to ‘adult’ and I think she’s kind of digging it!

I told her not giving up is hard af but it’s more worth it than she even understood. And this superhero feeling is why!

Of course there will be days when she’s not feeling especially superheroish, but now that she has, she’ll remember it and be more inclined to keep going when the going gets tough. Not quitting when life gets hard is part of growing up. Feeling accomplished and empowered when you persevere is the reward. She’ll remember that now that she’s experienced it.
She doesn’t remember fighting for her life as a new baby. She doesn’t remember how hard she worked to stay healthy. My girl is a fighter! She’s got a strength and tenacity down deep in her. She’s seeing evidence of that now. This time, she’ll remember.
Everyone needs their ‘I did it!’ moments.

I told her I knew she had it in her, that she knew she had it in her and just needed to be reminded.
She wrote: “Really I didn’t want to “brag” to you about how everything is working out (albeit in its own silly Thing 2 way) and make you feel, well, I don’t know what I was afraid of, but it’s nice to hear that you’re rooting for me (and us)” (Us being her and Boyfriend J)
“And I know you always are and will be, but I feel like recognizing it.
You gave me my tenacity.
And I am eternally grateful (heart emoji)

I told her that her tenacity is in her very DNA and I’m just here to remind her.

She replied: “I love you. Thank you for being the best momma, and for being an incredible human aside from your fierce momma-ness”

I shared with her that YBW and I had been talking about how she’s doing, and I shared with him about where and how she is and what she’s doing for her friends. That he’s been loving and supportive in our conversations about her. That even though they’re relationship is a bit tricky, he’s on her side.

She replied:

(This is one of my new favorite Robynbird/YBW analogies. I’m totally the cereal and he’s absolutely the fruit and nut mix.)

That’s the second time this week one of those girls told me they appreciated me.
Thing 1 did it on Thursday in a text message that read: “You’re a great mom. So you know”
And that creates nice warm fuzzy feelings in me.
My own ‘I did it!’ moment!

I built the foundation.
They’re in charge of construction now.
I’m going to worry…I don’t know how to not…but I see what’s being built, and I’m feeling comfortable and confident for them.

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What’s best for children?

Y’all my husband is hurting.
And mad. I’m talking about a ferocity written all over his face before he even finished a full sentence!
It takes a great deal to make him angry.
This deal came in the form of an email from the mother of his children.

Thing G starts college in less than two weeks.
Thing G plans to commute to NOVA for two years before transferring to another school. This was a decision he made on his own and shared with us the whys and wherefores. We supported his decision.
Thing G does not have his license and cannot drive without one of us with him in the car.
His mom began planning who could drive him to college which days without discussing it with anyone. She sent an email to YBW while we were in New Orleans outlining said plan. YBW scoffed and ignored it.
You see, YBW already told Thing G that neither he nor I would drive the boy to college and he needed a plan to get back and forth to school if he didn’t have his license by the time school started. Kid gets on the internet and finds there’s a local bus that will carry him from a stop 1.3 miles from this house to the mall where he will then switch to a bus that will take him to NOVA.
Done and done.
He comes to me with questions of how much time did I think it would take him to walk the distance and we decided he could practice and I’d come pick him up and bring him home. I told him we could do it as many times as he liked until he was comfortable with his timing.
Either Thing G has not volunteered this information to his mother, or his mother never asked, hence the email.

Well, the day we came home from New Orleans, YBW took him to meet with his adviser. (Thing G specifically requested YBW for this task.) Then they went back to his mom’s house to share the information.
Turns out Thing G also drops the bomb that he will no longer be going back and forth between his parents houses now that he’s eighteen and starting college. He has decided to live in this house with YBW and me full time.
And his reasons are as follows:
Mom’s house is 1.5 miles further away from the bus stop.
There is no sidewalk between Mom’s house and our house.

I was not present during this discussion but YBW relayed it in great detail when he got home.
The kid was clear. The kid looked his mother in the face and told her these were his plans. His ideas. The kid stood his ground when the tears came. He loves his mom and doesn’t want to hurt her, but God love him, he doesn’t want to walk that much further on a fairly rural road that isn’t really safe. He’s completely practical. If his mother lived in this house and we lived in the other one, it would be the same house, different parent. The kid is even leaving his dog.

So that’s the story.
Here’s where it gets interesting.

YBW got an email yesterday from Thing G’s mom in which she shares her dissatisfaction with this arrangement. In this email, she accuses YBW and me of going behind her back and making choices for her sons. She blames YBW for the changes in the way their family functions. She closes with something to the effect of she wanted him to know how she felt, but isn’t sure he cares.

I only read it once and I know I’m missing things, but this is the gist.
She’s mad that she’s no longer in control of what their family does.
She’s blaming him (and me) for changing that.
She’s being manipulative with questioning if he cares how she feels.

I ask if he wants to respond.
Emphatically no.

The more he talks about this email, the madder he becomes. Never raises his voice, but his face, and body language, and tightness in his throat express his anger.
He worries she’ll try to manipulate Thing G to stay with her or continue to go back and forth.
He’s mad she’s pissy about me.
(Honestly, I’ve been waiting for that to rear it’s head, and I’m surprised I’m not more of the ‘lightening rod of hate’.)
He’s hurt and angry that she questioned whether or not he cares about how she feels.
Y’all my husband was bent!

We continued to talk about it, and he cooled down a bit.
We discussed that the difference between the way she runs her house and the way we run this one is that we ask questions and she gives commands.
YBW asks his son, What do you think? How would you like it to be? How can you solve this problem?
YBW is actively working to treat his son like an adult. He’s willing to let him fall on his face and get bloodied up. Instead of rescuing him, or fixing things for him, he wants to show his son that it’s OK to fail once in a while. Failure is simply a learning process. One every human needs to experience.
He told their mother this and she went on about how Thing G is not neurotypical and he needs support. YBW reminded her that neurotypical or not, he had to learn to become a self-sufficient adult.
Everyone agrees he shouldn’t be a thirty year old man living in his parents basement. Yet only one of his parents is actively doing anything to prohibit that.

Listen, I understand how hard it is to be away from one’s children. But it is only natural that they eventually fly the nest. And all the blaming and passive aggression, and temper fit throwing has nothing to do with what’s best for the child and everything to do with the parent desperately clinging to the desire to control.

What it comes down to is that she wants her current husband, her former husband, and her sons to be figures on a chess board that she can move around as she sees fit.
She did it that way for so long.
And in the last five years, there has been a shift in YBW. He’s no longer on her chess board. He’s living his life.
In my heart of hearts, I believe she’s more frustrated that she no longer controls what YBW does than what’s going on with her sons.

She was very clear that YBW and I are making decisions for her sons and she doesn’t like it.
And I’m over here like, your sons are making these decisions, they’re just not talking with you about it.
Is it because she doesn’t ask? Absolutely.
But another factor is that I truly believe they’re frightened by her. That if they share their plans with her she’ll be reactive instead of receptive.
YBW has remarked something to the effect that you can only play devil’s advocate for so long before you suck the passion from people.

Here’s the thing that kills me. She’s his mom. But I’m asking, What’s best for Thing G, and trying to make that happen.
While his own mother rails and spits and blames because she can no longer control them. I’m sacrificing my freedom for a child that isn’t technically mine.
Why?
Because I love him.
I treat him the same way I treated my girls.
I want him to be the best possible version of himself he can. But that won’t happen if we continue to baby him. To rescue him, and fix things for him. To treat him as though he is his diagnosis.
I trust that Thing G will become a self-sufficient adult because we’re going to help him learn how to be. We’re going to have his back but let him fall. We’re going to continue to ask him how, and what he wants to choose for his life.

I committed to YBW’s sons when I committed to him. Just as he did with my girls.
They’re all our kids. Doesn’t matter that DNA doesn’t match. We’re committed to each other and our collective children because we want to be. Because we made the choice to be. They’re not yours and mine, they’re ours.
He does things for the girls that their father doesn’t.
I do things for the boys that their mother won’t.

We want our kids to be the best possible versions of themselves!
We want to help them get there.
We know that means sometimes we’ll have to step back and watch them falter.
We know we can’t dictate how they should do it.

People’s lives cannot be lived out on a chess board controlled by someone that thinks they know best.
Children must be given the best possible foundation with which to build their own lives.
Chess boards aren’t a solid enough foundation.
YBW knows that.
Thing G knows that.
They’ve begun making their own moves.
Thing G is trying to bolster his own foundation even though he’s not sure how to go about it.

YBW worries that Thing G’s mom will attempt to manipulate him to change his mind.
I said, We have to trust Thing G.
YBW said, I do.

You gotta trust your kids.
You gotta trust that what you’ve given them will get them through.
You gotta expect those “Mommie I need you!” phone calls, or late night knocks on the door, “Dad, help!”
I know the girls are going to be successful. I know they’re going to fall, going to fail. But the fact they get back up and keep at it is what it’s all about.
I’m looking forward to experiencing that with the boys too.

As parents we have no choice but to trust our kids as they take flight.
It’s so f**king hard and scary!
But it’s what’s best for those kids.
Isn’t that what it’s all about? What’s best for children…

Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

mother – daughter dynamics

The girls were here for about ten days.
Mostly it was lovely.
There were moments that weren’t so much.

I see the dynamic between my daughters, their fierce and devoted friendship. I am awed by it. The love they share is truly something to behold.
I feel confident and comfortable in the dynamic between myself and my daughters individually. There is strength in these relationships, a love that is new and ‘grown up’ as well as that powerful mother-child dynamic. While I cannot speak for them, I feel strongly that we are healthily navigating this new way of being in a relationship. The relationship between mother and adult daughter.
When it comes to the dynamic of the three of us in a relationship, well, that’s where it becomes tricky for me. Landmine riddled, and though carefully trod, I seem to be blowing shit up left and right simply by being in the relationship.

Is it simply triangling?

Or is it defaulting to our old roles in the relationship?

Thing 1 has always been a Daddy’s girl. They were each other’s favorites from the get go.
Thing 2 has always been a Momma’s girl. We were each other’s favorites.

When the three of us are together, I worry that Thing 1 doesn’t see my love for her. That I don’t consider relating to either or both of them as a competition. I don’t know how to help change her perception.
I worry that Thing 2 feels as though she must walk the tightrope between her sister and me. That she cannot just stand on her two feet and actively love and accept love from us both.

Of course, these are the stories I make up. I don’t know what goes on inside them.
I want to create an environment in which love is an even field. Where we can be together and feel safe.
What I want and what actually happens seems to me, vastly different.

I was stressed with both girls here. I watched them speak their own private language with awe and amusement, but after a while, I began to feel sad and hurt. The time we have together is precious, and they were using it to be together without me.
I began to feel as though I’m simply here to swipe my card.

There were moments that felt connected. That felt like we were in that even playing field of love and safety. But they were few and far between. Even the precious and sacred trip to the tattoo shop was tricky.
I know they had moments of dissatisfaction while they were here. But I don’t know what they were thinking or feeling.

I feel confused.
I feel disappointed.
I feel sad.

Last summer when Thing 1 was here, it felt so different. It felt like we were really successful in relating to each other, in loving each other.
The difference between last summer and last week is that Thing 1 was here alone last summer and Thing 1 and Thing 2 were here together last week.

I understand that I relate to them in different ways.
With Thing 2 I have an easy, yet deep intimacy. We can talk of deeply personal feelings and the whys and wherefores behind them.
My relationship with Thing 1 is loving, but with a practical twist. We don’t have the ease of intimacy between us, but we can be real with each other.

The quick and easy way to fix to this landmine situation is to only spend time with them one on one. But that’s not really a solution for the long term.
I’m not sure how to go about removing the landmines from our even playing field of safe love, but I want to try. I’d like to be able to be with both the girls and for all three of us to feel safe and loved and comfortable.
Mothers and daughters will always be tricky curious beasts.
I would like, and I hope they would like, to remain as tricky and curious as ever, but to do it in a healthy, safe, and loving way.
I feel hopeful.

Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

new ink

Thing 1, Thing 2, and I got our mother – daughter tattoos Tuesday!

You may recall a conversation involving two birds and a squirrel and think, ‘well damn if that doesn’t look like elephants.’
Yeah.
Turns out we weren’t meant to have birds and a squirrel as our matching tattoos.
Turns out we were meant to have a momma elephant with her one slightly bigger than the other babies.

Thing 2’s on her left calf

Thing 1 remarked one day that she thought she might like an elephant tattoo. I replied that I’d been thinking for a while that our mother – daughter tattoos should be elephants and the idea took off like wildfire!
Both my girls love elephants. They do because their Grandmommy loved elephants. I love elephants because I saw the love my mother had for them become precious to my daughters and spark their love.

We traded found images back and forth in our group chat. We discussed if they should match, or if it would be OK if they were different even if each work of art had a momma and two baby elephants. I’m not actually sure which one of us found the photo that was the jumping off point for what we finally decided on, but in that moment, we knew all three would be exactly like the others.
In one particularly precious conference call we finally decided how to move forward.
I met a guy called ‘Grumpy’ at Storyteller Tattoo and he quickly turned our concept into actual art.

Momma’s on her left upper arm

We rolled up into the tattoo studio Tuesday ready to go!
Grumpy shared the finished artwork and my first words were, “I’m going to need mine much smaller.”
It made sense because of where we wanted them on our bodies.
Thing 1 has hers the original size because she has long legs.
Thing 2 has hers once reduced so it would fit right on her calf.
I have mine twice reduced because while my arms are biggish, they’re not all that big.

Thing 1’s on her outer right thigh

Here’s the difference in tattoos twenty years ago and now.
When I got my first tattoo the shop was filled with smoke as the artist chain-smoked through the entire process. The tattoo gun was loud. I never really had much pain, a bit of discomfort, but the sound of the gun made me anxious and I didn’t really enjoy the experience.
Storyteller was clean and bright and filled with interesting artists with twisted senses of humor who weren’t afraid to drop the F-bomb. (These are our people, y’all!) We talked and joked, and shared experiences, and even music. Grumpy’s tattoo gun was quiet. No, not just quiet. It was silent!
Y’all! That made the biggest difference for me!

Momma holding Thing 1’s hand

Elephants form tight knit family groups that are lead by the eldest female. The role of the matriarch is to keep the herd out of harm’s way.
Momma elephants keep their herd safe.
However grown my girls are, the desire to keep them safe, the desire to gather the herd, to be together when we can, is always in my heart.
Even though we are far apart, we are tightly knit in our hearts.

We three girls are overjoyed with our new ink!
Yes, because we have this art on our bodies. But also because we went through it together.
We embraced the beautiful mess that is being these particular mother and daughters. Our most powerful and sacred love. We took all that and created a wonderful experience with which to celebrate us!
Two sisters and their Momma documented their love and joy at being each other’s with indelible art on their bodies. These elephants further connect us, serve as a visual reminder of our unbreakable bond.
That they’re beautiful makes it even more lovely!

Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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