“Maybe it’s just hard”. The Softest Hard Stuff, again.

I don’t remember what I was originally planning to write when I sat down this morning, but then I read this from Bunmi Laditan, the insanely talented and lovely voice behind “Honest Toddler”. It’s so beautiful and so real. So now I’m just going to re-share the post I wrote Mother’s Day weekend, when about 4 people read it.

Originally published here, May 2016.

My 4 year old punched me today, in a fit of rage.

Yes, we’re doing Mother’s Day weekend like that round here. It’s our style. Anyway, he had a full out screaming, sobbing, snot-bubble-blowing meltdown over…something. I don’t even know if he knows what he was upset about, truly. But his frustration exploded out of him with a fierceness, as it tends to do with this one.

After we rode the wave of fury and were able to just breathe, I got him into the tub to calm down in a bubble bath, and I knelt down beside it to talk to him.

“Sometimes it’s kinda hard to be a little person, huh?”

“It’s SO HARD. I can’t wait ’til I’m a big person so it’s all easier.”

“Can I tell you a secret? It’s hard for big people sometimes too.”

“But you always make good choices. I don’t.”

“Nope. I make some crummy choices too sometimes. I mean, I don’t haul off and punch people, since the police show up if big people pull that…”

“And then you go to jail with the robbers and the villians.”

“Yes. Right. The bank robbers. Anyway, I don’t always make great choices every day. And half the time I don’t even know if I’m making good choices, because I don’t have anyone here to tell me if I made the right choice.”

He gave me a tiny smile and then apologized for how he’d acted, and it’s in those brief, tiny, soft moments I think maybe I’m really doing something right. Where I feel a little zing in my heart that maybe they’re getting some of this.

No one tells you how hard it will be to have these conversations, these moments. To bite your tongue in the explosions where tiny people wrestle huge emotions and roar out of control. To clench your fists in frustration, grind your teeth with your own rage. (I have noticed there is also a lack of bean spilling about the actual poop involved in parenting, both the amount and the general disregard for laws of physics it seems to have, so I try to warn everyone that there is just really so, so much poop, since apparently no one else is going to warn anyone about that.) But everyone talks about the way a newborn smells, how many little outfits they go through, how you need a wipe warmer, how you don’t really need that wipe warmer, how your heart will explode with that first laugh. They tell you it all goes so fast, and to enjoy every moment.

But y’all…some of this is not enjoyable. It’s hard. It. is. HARD. Physically it’s just ridiculous at times, like trying to carry an infant in a carseat, a toddler, and a 14 lb diaper bag at the same time while crossing a parking lot, or chasing a 2 year old around a park with no fence (which shouldn’t even BE A THING), or the restraint necessary to prevent yourself from going all “Incredible Hulk” on someone in a school carpool line, or functioning on 48 minutes of sleep, or nursing kids with the stomach flu while you’ve got the same problem. But mentally and emotionally it is just an ass-kicking sometimes. The earliest years are spent worrying you’re going to physically break the baby in some way (Can they roll off that? Are they eating enough? Is this fever too high? Can we introduce peanuts?) but as we move on, I’m realizing quickly my fears are going more toward the “Have I ruined this tiny person for life? Did that just ignite a complex in them? Will they tell their future therapist about this moment with their mother?” direction. There is no answer sheet, no hotline to call, no textbook to flip open and look up if you gave the right answer when your 4 year old asked about death, or if you reacted the right way when your 9 year old daughter blushed while talking about a certain boy, or if you’ve told your child they’re “smart/pretty/cute/funny” too many times. I’m just trying to raise kind, courageous, confident people. If they turn out duds, it will be assumed by the general public that I, the mother, screwed up my opportunity, because “didn’t your mother teach you any better?” As a mama, I’m supposed to simultaneously maintain boundaries, rules, and expectations, and also be a soft place for my small people to land when the world is too much.

Hard, yet still soft.

Sums up motherhood, huh? Be tough, but…stay soft. And then the experience itself is so stinkin’ hard…but the moments within it are some of the softest moments that exist in time. The laughs, the hugs, the quiet, the loud, the smiles, the smooches. This mom gig is made up of the softest hard stuff.

To the mamas with one stronger “Mom Arm”, the mamas who hide in the bathroom for just a tiny bit longer for some peace and space, the glowing mamas-to-be who are blissfully unaware of the poop and terrifying preschooler conversations they will one day face, the mamas who can’t hold their baby’s tiny hands here on earth anymore, the mamas who desperately want to BE a mama (or a mama again) and are tired of staring at ovulation strips and negative pregnancy tests, the mamas who are mamas to other women’s babies, the mamas who are both mama and daddy, the mamas who don’t have their mama around anymore to hug on this weekend, and most especially to my own Momma…Happy Mother’s Day. I hope it’s full of the softest hard stuff.

mc

 

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This week’s post, in which we cover how to interact with your friends on the internet.

I need to address something, y’all.
We’re being assholes to each other.

Complete and utter assholes.

I gave up reading the comment section of news articles a long time ago because it was rare that I didn’t find myself appalled at the language, the judgements, the holier-than-though attitudes, the downright obvious hatred and racism and sexism and misogyny and…well, the comments section on news articles is basically the armpit of humanity, I’ve decided.

But lately I have noticed a rather disturbing trend. We’re being complete jerks to people we actually call “friends”. It’s happened to me personally recently and since then I have watched it unfold in other places in my Facebook newsfeed. At some point, I’m going to swear off the comment section of my friends’ Facebook posts because it seems we can’t even be nice to people we know and the people they know.

Here’s the thing: if I keep you around on my friends list, if you can see my posts, it’s because I like you enough to let you. There is a level of trust implied with this privilege, because I’m trusting you to not embarrass me or make me regret keeping you around and allowing you to potentially mingle with my other friends. I’m not sure if we are forgetting how to respectfully interact with other humans on a personal, social level because so much of our interacting is done over a screen these days, but it seems we have forgotten the basic concepts of group discussions. So for your consideration, I have prepared a list of things we should remember when interacting with, and I emphasize this word, FRIENDS on the World Wide Web.Everything is fine don't be an asshole

  1. First and foremost, remember they don’t have to be friends with you. Act a fool and you will likely find yourself un-friended, blocked, restricted, or worse, still friends and described privately as “oh you know who I’m talking about, she has to say something about everything. Ugh.”
  2. If you would not say it to the person’s face, you should not post it on the Facebooks, y’all. It is actually that simple.
  3. If your initial reaction to something you see a friend has posted is outrage, it is probably best to take a deep breath, find something else to look at for a moment, collect your thoughts, and THEN say something if you absolutely feel something needs to be said.
  4. Remember you are allowed to continue to scroll past things your friends have posted that anger/upset/sadden/frustrate/piss off/disgust/create some other undesirable reaction in you. That’s right, you can KEEP SCROLLING. Channel you some Dory and “just keep scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.” You don’t actually have to say ANYTHING! Obviously, if it really is important to you, and you feel you must, then speak up. But refer back to Helpful Tip #1 first. And then #2. And then #3.everything is fine just keep scrolling
  5. If you find yourself annoyed by a comment on your friend’s post from someone you do not know, weigh the pros/cons of responding. You may be about to insult the intelligence of someone’s mother, sister, father in law, dearest cousin they love so much, their friend of 20 years, or their crazy relative they’ve all had a family meeting about and decided to just let ramble without anyone engaging because they are hopelessly crazy and constantly looking for trouble (y’all know you’ve got a family member like this…). If the comment is attacking your friend and you feel they’d appreciate support, help them out. If it’s a statement of agreement with your friend that you happen to disagree with, figure out what’s more important to you – stating your point & disagreeing with your friend, potentially creating undue stress, or keeping this matter out of your friendship. Getting into it on a friend’s Facebook post with another of their friends is just…well, it’s awkward. And since you’ve both got a mutual friend in the poster, you may cross paths again. I’ve had it happen where I’ve had to “warn” friends of mine, “So, Jessica’s coming. You remember the girl you argued with about minimum wage on my Facebook post?” That’s awkward, folks. Don’t be those people.
  6. Making it personal makes it nasty. Don’t air people’s dirty laundry in Facebook comments, y’all. Your mama taught you better than that. And don’t go calling people names. You won’t convince anyone you know what you’re talking about if you feel the need to call people names and use foul language. While I am quite fond of well placed curse words myself, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your credibility when you’re just tossing around enough four letter words to make a sailor cringe just because you’re an adult and you can, dammit.
  7. Speak with the intent to listen. Don’t speak just to speak. Busting into a conversation just to say something because it makes you feel better is rude. Speaking with the intent to hear what others have to say in reply is a different approach that not many people use these days, but it would be better for us all to attempt. We like to hear ourselves a lot anymore. We applaud people for being able to “speak their minds”, “say what they mean”, and “say things other people will only think”. But listening to other people, inviting people to discuss things, sharing information with people who are also open to hearing other information is all seemingly undervalued these days. We could all stand to hold our tongues sometimes and hear what someone else has to say.  The most well defended arguments are ones where you have heard the other side, you understand their concerns, and you have solid counterpoints, because you’ve taken the time to become educated, not just defensive.everything is fine educated not just defensive
  8. Remember, you are absolutely free to hold the opinion you hold, but you are not free from the consequences of stating that opinion. If you put something out there and it turns out 72 people descend upon you with their replies, you don’t get to yell about being attacked. A large number of people who disagree with you isn’t necessarily an attack. Unprovoked ugliness is what makes an attack.
  9. You’re totally free to “agree to disagree”. But that actually does carry meaning, and that meaning is “I can see we do not agree on this matter, and I respect that your opinion works for you and you also respect that my opinion works for me, so this conflict is over.” Key word there is “over”, meaning “the end”. It doesn’t mean, “I can see we do not agree on this matter, but I have more to say about this and I really think after I say these things you will be able to see my side more clearly and will understand why I am right.”
  10. Aretha said it best. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Look, in short, be the kind of friend you want your friends to be to you.

 

June 12, 2016.

I awakened this morning, picked up my phone, and noticed I had several friends ‘marked safe’ on Facebook, during “the Orlando Shooting”. I quickly unlocked my phone and pulled up CNN to figure out what was happening. One of my best friends lives in Orlando and isn’t on Facebook, and she was my main concern. I texted her and found her safe, heading to donate blood, and her friend who works at the club where the shooting was happened to not be working last night.

And then I saw it happened at a ‘gay club’, and I read the words ‘deadliest mass shooting in US history’ and my face began to scrunch. I’m not gay, I’m not transgender, I am none of the letters in the acronyms used to describe the community. But I am their friend. A large portion of my friends here just happen to be gay, all because my kid’s best friend has two moms and I’ve been lucky enough to be allowed into their circle. We joke I am their ‘token straight friend’, since I’m often the minority at our gatherings. As a straight, white person, “the minority” is not something I am very often and it is a humbling place to sit.

Have you ever been to a gay club? I can distinctly remember the first time I walked into the gay nightclub here with my friends. Born and raised in the south, I’m familiar with the level of intolerance my LGBT friends face, but it’s only a surface awareness. I will never be able to understand it deeper than seeing it and acknowledging it, because I am not LGBT and I don’t know what it’s like to have my very existence questioned. But upon walking into this night club in south Louisiana, my first thought was “Well, this is incredibly gay.” Beeverything is fine yes pridecause it absolutely was. Because in this element, all these people were completely free to be exactly who they were. Unashamed of their uniqueness, unapologetic, uninhibited, unbound of society’s expectations, rules, definitions. Here they were just them. Completely them. I watched men kiss other men, women kiss women. Outfits that would make heads spin outside the doors strutted confidently past me. I stared in awe as adult men pulled off Beyonce’s moves almost as well as Queen Bey herself. One of my favorite activities at the gay club is to go at “back to school” time, when the college freshman invade this college town and I sit at the bar and watch young, fresh faces walk sheepishly into this environment, unsure about what they are getting into, only to later discover these same people, barely even adults, cutting completely loose for possibly the first time in their lives, confidently and freely themselves. Something I have never admitted to my friends here because I’m not sure how you work this into conversation (but apparently I can work it into a blog post) is I often find myself on the verge of tears any time I go to a gay club or Pride event with them, because I am simply struck by the beauty of people just being themselves so freely, and also so heartbroken that it takes a separate place, a separate building with it’s own label, a separate event, for them to feel comfortable. It’s 2016. Until meeting this group of beautiful people, I never really understood how much I took for granted the fact that I can hold hands with my husband and NO ONE will ever question our value. My LGBT friends don’t have any desires that are outside what those of us who aren’t LGBT have. They want to be accepted as “normal”, not seen as “other”. I want so badly for my friends to feel okay, to feel safe when they hold their legally wedded spouse’s hand, or want to kiss their boyfriend at the river, or God help us all, go to the bathroom wherever they feel most comfortable.

So when I pulled up the news articles and see that a gunman has killed at least 50 people and injured 50+ more inside a gay night club, my heart broke. Much in a similar way it broke after Sandy Hook. The Sandy Hook children walked into their school that December morning, without fear of the big outside world. That was their haven. And when that shooter violated their haven, so many of us felt like our insides were ripped out. Gay clubs, Pride events…these are havens for people. They are sanctuaries for LGBT people. Humans with desires to be accepted, to be loved, to be free to be themselves without a continual need to prove their worth to the “outside world”. And this shooter violated their safe haven. The outside world, with it’s hate and it’s intolerance, came blazing into their sanctuary. This should rip out your insides in a similar way. everything is fine here pride drag

I don’t want to debate gun laws here. I don’t want to hear your biblical passages. I don’t want to discuss Islamic radicalism. I don’t want to discuss anything other than a radical need to bring more kindness, more acceptance, more love to this world. We cannot let intolerance fester. Intolerance breeds hate and hate breeds violence, it spawns evil, it creates villains. Ignoring the creeping darkness does no one any favors. Indifference to our problems only further enables them to grow. The only way to combat darkness is with light. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it. Dumbledore reminded us of it. Anne Frank scribbled it in her diary. We cannot count on “someone” to do something, to be the light, but rather we have to see it as our duty as fellow humans on this big planet to be each other’s lights. The world cannot have enough sunshine. This is a storm. We need enough light to see the rainbows.

everything is fine this is a storm

To my friends, the boys who kiss other boys and share my appreciation for JJ Watt’s chiseled face, the girls I’ve stood beside as they marry another girl under big magnolia trees, the pretty men who can work a pair of heels better than I will ever be capable of doing, the women who “don’t look like a lesbian”, the people who my children see as family and with whom we have spent holidays celebrating & cooking & laughing together, the people who have such beauty and strength in their souls and I feel lucky to call my friends…I love you. I see you. I know your worth and I value your life, your existence, your being. Know that you have love on your side and there are people who are willing to stand behind you, beside you, and in front of you to keep shouting to the world that we are all worth a little more sunshine.

everything is fine here pride family

We have some kinks to work out.

We left for Disney World the day after school was out for summer. The first family vacation the four of us have taken, it was honestly a really wonderful trip, filled with laughs and so many fun memories. I’ve been working on a blog post recapping our trip, from the planning to execution because I know a Disney World trip sounds overwhelming to so many but I actually really enjoy planning them and love to share the tips and tricks I’ve learned with anyone who will listen to me ramble about it.

everything is fine AOA
If this isn’t award winning photography, I don’t know what is. Just stellar work on my part. Really captured the essence of a drive along the Gulf Coast with those smeared bugs though.

However, that post is not ready. And by ‘not ready’ I mean it’s not even remotely in the form of a coherent piece of writing yet. Why? Because it’s summer.

Summer means my two children are here trying to drive my sanity off a cliff making memories together.

Summer in South Louisiana means it’s already insanely hot. Yesterday it was 98* (“You’re my sunshine after the raiiiiinnnn…”) and the humidity is just absurd. IT IS JUNE, Louisiana. June. Two months to go before we even reach mid-August. My kid has asthma, Louisiana. Back off for a bit.

Summer also means growth spurts, apparently. Or an intestinal parasite. Something that causes my children to need to use the phrases “I’m HUNGRY” and “Can I have a snack?” and “Is there something I can eat?” more than even seems possible. Where do they put this? They’re a whopping 95 lbs combined. How can they eat this much? Why does food cost so much? How do people afford more children than this? Would it be the worst thing if I just decided to let them eat whatever they could reach whenever they wanted? Maybe I should put the Easy Mac in a more easily accessible location. Perhaps we’ll find out if life is sustainable on granola bars, string cheese, and juice boxes.

Summer also means bedtime IS. A. WRECK. It’s hard to convince a little person that it is actually time to take a bath and put on pajamas when it’s still daylight outside. “It’s like, the middle of the morning,” J said to me two nights ago. No, J, it’s 8:28 pm. Put on pajamas, son, because your mother is quitting for the day. Last night, he appeared at my bedside at 4 AM. In a decision I would later regret, I decided to pull him up into bed instead of walking him back upstairs to his room. 48 minutes later, I’m awakened to a little tap and a whispering voice informing me he needs to change clothes. Because he has wet the bed. My bed. This morning was spent wrangling sheets and blankets off the bed and shoving them in the washer. And then as the machine cranked up it’s intensity under the weight of my urine soaked comforter, it rattled the Costco size box of Oxi-Clean powder right off the top of the washing machine where it landed upside down on my floor. I took one look at that mess and just closed the laundry room door while my kids were telling me they were hungry again. For ice cream. Conquering the Oxi Clean disaster later.

Even my dogs are making this hard. They want out, so I get up and let them out. But then 6 minutes later, they’re too hot and want back in. I let them back in. Oh, they need more water now. Drink too much water. Need back out. The cycle continues all day.

For those of you thinking, “My goodness, they need some activities or a tiny bit of structure in their summer,” I hear you. This year, we decided to join the neighborhood pool. Fills so many needs. Beat the heat, physical activity, social activity with other kids and families in our neighborhood. Just a fabulous idea. Literally THE DAY we joined, the pool pump broke. It’s been out of commission since last week. I feel like I need to issue an apology for spreading my terrible luck around the neighborhood and now I’ve tainted the pool.

everything is fine here pool
Our neighborhood pool. Before we joined/contaminated the neighborhood pool with our terrible luck.

Someone is screaming. I have ear buds in and I can hear this over the blasting Muse song I’m listening to. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and I love this time with them. But whoa, summer. We’ve got some kinks to work out.