Thursday, April 4, 2013

part one of a series on why i am a bad parent: thanks and praise

there is a popular parenting philosophy at the moment in the crunchy/AP circles that i run in that it is bad to thank or praise a child for doing something that they know how to do and is just part of normal life. it goes something like "if you thank or praise a child for helping pick up toys, they will only pick up in order to get praise and never learn responsibility for its own sake" or "if you praise a child's drawing they will stop drawing for their own enjoyment and do it to please you instead". i think that's just the stinkiest pile of bullshit.

maybe part of it is cultural. i grew up in the south, where people thank eachother for every single thing just as a matter of basic courtessy. i thank the guy who bags my groceries, even though he is expected to do it and payed for doing it already. i thank him because i am showing him that i see him and his effort is not taken for granted. why would i do any less for my own child than i do for a stranger? when my husband draws something that i like, i tell him how beautiful i think it is and praise his artistic skill, and i really appreciate when he or anyone else does the same of my artwork. why would i do any less for my kids?

never once when someone has complimented my drawing has it changed why i draw. i draw because i love it, and feel a sense of connection with someone when they love it too. i would still make art if no one praised it, but the praise is afirming. i would still load the dishwasher and make dinner if my husband never thanked me for it, but when he comes home and notices and thanks me it's really nice. it's about being seen and not taken for granted. when haven shares her toys with cia, i thank her because i want her to know that i understand that it is easy for a two year old to be selfish and that sharing takes effort and that i don't take her efforts for granted. her contribution to the family matters, and i thank her for it just as i would thank an adult. she knows that she is loved unconditionally, so she is encouraged by praise and thanks but not a slave to it.

despite a slew of parenting articles assuring me that i will raise a morally bankrupt and adulation-crazed child, i instead have a confident child who has a tender heart and loves to encourage others. she doesn't take other people for granted when they share with her or help her, because she is not taken for granted. i know saying this puts me at odds with curent trends in the crunchy parenting world, but i'm actually super ok with that. i will happily be a bad mom if it means raising a happy, healthy, confident kid.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

sandy hook

i saw the first bits of news on friday at my midwife appointment about Sandy Hook. it was a really strange setting - surrounded by women about to give birth - to see reports of so many dead children. not that there is an appropriate setting for that news, just that it felt especially wrong. especially surreal. more than sadness and horror (both of which i feel), there is this huge wall of denial in my mind. i don't want it to be real, because i don't know that i want to live in a world where it is real. perhaps because i'm about to give birth, because i'm steeped in so many extra mothering hormones, i have had a really hard time even thinking about the shooting. i've avoided facebook and the news, knowing that wallowing in the facts will tell me nothing true about what happened. knowing that no amount of anger or sadness that i express to the internet will do anything to bring those babies back. but knowing also that i have to do something, express something, deal with the horror somehow. i've really been struggling with how to live around this, how to shape myself in reaction.

the best i've come up with is that my first reaction to evil in my society must be repentance. not just on an abstract "god forgive us" level, but on a personal level. a level that recognizes my part in the society i live in. a level that recognizes that i play a roll in the numbness, isolation, voyeurism, callousness, hatred, division that leads lonely and disturbed people to a place of desperation and madness. that i play a part in the space that is left open for violent horror to be committed. i play a roll in making a society that fears and judges and isolates those who are hurting, ill, mentally unstable. i play a roll in a society that not only accepts, but fosters, disconnection by constantly coming up with new ways for us to spend less time knowing eachother's hearts and more time reading eachother's tweets. i play a roll in a society that has forgotten how to take care of itself, a community that no longer knows its members or meets their needs, or even cares what those needs are. i allow my elected officials to continually de-fund mental health programs. i participate in a society that requires parents to work the kind of schedule just to make ends meet that leaves not enough time to know their children. that fails to support families and individuals in need of counseling. that tells people who do need that they are wrong for needing. perhaps the denial i feel is in part because i know that if it is real, some of the responsibility is truly mine.

none of this is to excuse or justify what the shooter did. but he was part of a society that i am part of as well. and we are both influenced by and influencers of it. and for my participation in the wrongness, my heart breaks. god forgive me for my callousness, isolation, willful ignorance, judgment. god help me to know my neighbors, and to constantly expand my definition of who they are. god help me to fight the fear and distrust that well up in the wake of this tragedy by doing the opposite - by choosing to move closer to people rather than further away, to open my heart more rather than less, to seek out strangers rather than avoiding them. god help me to teach my children to do the same - to befriend the isolated and angry, to not just see hope for everyone but to actively cling to and fight for it. because i truly believe that there is hope for everyone, but that the good inside us cannot and will not win out on its own. we were not meant to live alone, and when we leave eachother alone we are all responsible for what happens. god forgive me.
that's all i've got really. but i think it is enough to go on for now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

fat and sassy: some thoughts on pregnancy and weight

i really dislike the recent obsession with "baby bumps" and celebrity pregnancies, and general fetishizing of pregnancy. i love pregnancy, and i love being pregnant, but being pregnant in a culture wild for celebrity babies is really disconcerting.
on one hand, every time my daughter kicks i am reminded of the awesome, mysterious, holy thing that pregnancy is. pregnancy, in my not-so-humble (and clearly biased) opinion, is about as close as a human can get to the divine. the closest a mortal can get to an act of pure love and creation. pregnancy doesnt just form a new human being (though that would be amazing enough), but also new parents and a new family unit. pregnancy is the beginning of every choice and action that the new little human will make in their lifetime. it's kindof a big deal.

so to reduce it to "celebrity bump watch!!!!!!" is grotesque.

what's worse is the whole "bump" terminology. it sounds cute and harmless, but when we obsess about "baby bumps" it is really just a different form of obsessing about weight and image, and judging women based solely on those things. it's a way for a society with a definition of beauty so narrow that it either ignores or openly scorns anyone over a size 6 to wrap its head around pregnancy. if we call pregnancy weight gain a "baby bump" rather than weight gain, then we don't have to be disgusted by pregnant women (because weight gain is so disgusting, right?).
but here's the thing - healthy pregnancies result in weight gain in all sorts of places. a woman who is getting adequate nutrition during pregnancy (which includes not only nourishing the baby but also building up fat deposits to carry her through the first few months of newborn parenting) doesn't just gain weight in a cute little belly bump. we also get thigh bumps, and ass bumps, and hip, and breast, and back-of-the-arm, and cheek bumps. and sometimes double chin bumps, and cankle bumps, and weird poofy vagina bumps. ignoring all but the belly bump doesn't make the other weight disappear. it just passive aggressively makes women feel bad about it, rather than the direct shaming that non pregnant women get if they have any fat in the aforementioned areas. the more we obsess about "baby bumps" the more we are sending the message that weight in any other area is so horrible it can't even be mentioned.
but the emperor has no clothes. or, in this case, has a giant pregnant ass.

i'm honestly to the point where it pisses me off when someone (who i know means well) tells me how "well" i'm carrying. which translates "you don't look as fat as you could". i happen to be 6'2", and there's a lot more room for a baby to grow in my torso than in the average woman's. and the same healthy amount of weight gain takes longer to show up on my frame. luck of the draw. and i don't think that someone looking bigger because they are 5'2" means they are carrying any less "well". it just means that a society terrified of body fat feels more uncomfortable looking at them.

maybe this all seems like an overreaction, but i really don't think it is. not when maternity wear is advertised on models ridiculously photoshopped to look like basketballs on sticks. or when women sigh with relief when they are pregnant enough to "look pregnant and not just fat". or when women, or their partners, feel too uncomfortable with their pregnant bodies to have sex. or when the most horrible thing you could possibly do is ask a woman how far along she is, only to find out that she isn't pregnant (how embarrassing! you almost congratulated someone you should have been shaming or refusing to look at!). or when it is an option when having an elective c-section to have lipo and a tummy tuck at the same time. or worst, when women have low birth weight babies, premature babies, or develop pre-eclampsia because they haven't gained enough weight.

so the obsession with baby bumps and celebrity pregnancy doesn't just obscure and marginalize the real beauty and wonder of pregnancy. it also directly attacks the beauty and wonder that is any woman's body, whether she is pregnant or not. it strips all women of their dignity and power and reduces them to the size of their bellies. marginalizing (by fetishizing) pregnancy is, at its core, about marginalizing women in general. there is nothing more uniquely female than pregnancy and birth (that's not at all to imply that a woman is any less woman if she never gives birth, just that a woman who does give birth is doing something and expressing a power that only a woman can do and express).
reducing pregnancy to baby bumps and celebrity maternity style is not about celebrating anything (as all the tabloids and maternity stores would like us to believe). it is, at its core, about limiting feminine power. it is about finding a new way to make women feel not good enough, dependent, and unsure. it is the opposite of what celebrating pregnancy should be about.

so that's my rant, and i'm not sure where to go from here. other than to the fridge.
i suppose all i can do is continue to not care how much weight i gain, and keep listening to my incredible husband when he tells me i'm beautiful, and do everything i can to model healthy body image for my daughter(soon to be daughters), and ignore the pregnancy hype and well-meant but backhanded compliments, and try to celebrate my pregnancy in real ways - by celebrating the awesome changes my body is making, and recognizing that they are signs of a power and beauty that has nothing to do with anyone else, especially not some celebrity.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

some pieces of thoughts that i might have if i was better rested

pregnancy has wrecked havok on my brain, rendering me incapable of writing more than one paragraph on any subject. hell, i'm happy if i can maintain a basic grasp of logic and remember to move the laundry to the dryer. it's much worse this time than last time. when i was pregnant with haven i could take naps, and after a nap i would have an hour or two of glorious, coherent thought. no such luck this time. there is too much to do with a toddler around to really allow for naps. all of three or four times in the past 8 months i've gotten the chance for a real nap, and without fail i've found myself unable to fall asleep. so i've resigned myself to the brief snatches of sanity that i'm able to hold onto.
all that to say that anything i post in the next 6 weeks (only 6 weeks till baby!!) is going to be pretty scattered. rather than fight it, i'm just going with it. so here are my current thoughts, in random order:

* as i type i am polishing off the last of the pecan pie i made last night. yes folks, i have eaten a whole pie in just under 24 hours. and i a'int ashamed of nuthin. it is/was some fucking amazing pie. i found a recipe on that didn't call for karo syrup, and added chocolate chips, and subbed rum for vanilla extract since i had no vanilla extract. best pecan pie i have ever tasted, let alone made. oh, and it took less than 10 minutes to make. i can't even describe how good it is. responsible pregnant women cook meals ahead of time and freeze them for when the baby comes. i am seriously considering baking and freezing a bunch of pies instead.

* i had no idea how really worried i was about the election until the results came in. once i breathed a huge sigh of relief, i realized i'm really tired. the kind of tired that is as emotional as physical. my little subconscious has been worrying for weeks. i'm just so relieved that i don't have to worry about losing our WIC, or about tony's parents losing medicaid, or my friends losing the right to get married, or myself losing the right to make my own choices about my pregnancy, or tony being sent to iran because of jackass foreign policy decisions. it is a huge weight off my mind. i know there are a lot of things wrong with the country. i don't really love a lot of obama's policies. but at least now i can go back to bitching about the state of the country from relative comfort and safety, rather than living in terror of not being able to take care of my family, and of losing my rights simply because i have ovaries.

* haven is a lot to handle, especially with tony gone. the farther she gets into being two the more really rough days there are, and i don't have tony coming home at the end of the day to give me a break. however, her amazing little personality is growing at least as quickly as her urge to drive me insane. i really love being the mama of a two year old. i love hearing her pronunciations of new words, and seeing her develop likes and dislikes, and having her come cuddle with me because she wants me rather than because she needs me, and taking walks together, and going up the stairs together on all fours because we are being cats. i love watching her try to stunt ride her rocking horse wearing nothing but a cape and a diaper, or do her impression of a cookoo clock. i love waking up to her sweet face saying "morning! c'mon mama. downstairs!". it is always earlier than i'd like, but there's no one i'd rather eat grits with at 8am. i have a pretty awesome daughter, and i'm really looking forward to having another.

that's all the thought i can muster up tonight. i'm pretty sure there were some other thoughts bouncing around a few minutes ago, but they are gone now. haven was up at 5 this morning, so i'm more brain dead than usual tonight. i've had insomnia for weeks (really frustrating when i'm exhausted but not able to fall asleep before 12) but tonight i think i'm tired enough that i might manage actually getting to sleep at a decent hour and getting some real rest. wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

california love

i miss writing. i have missed writing regularly for most of this year, but especially now that i have things to write about. so instead of wisely using this time while tony and haven nap to either take a nap myself or work on unpacking some more, i'm going to fritter my time away blogging. i'm not moved in enough yet for anything deep, but at least i can do newsy.

moving is no fun. i have moved more than 20 times in my life, and it has never gotten funner or easier. driving across country used to be fun, but is not so fun when pregnant and accompanied by a toddler.
but San Diego is really freaking super fun. i can't even describe how lovely it is here, and how excited i am to live here for the next few years. i liked it right away, but with each step of getting settled in i like it more. the house is beautiful - probably the nicest and definitely the newest place i've ever lived in - and the neighborhood is quiet and full of kids and walking distance to great sushi. we have a fenced in patio where haven can play without me worrying about her running into the road, and it is always (seriously, always) sunny and breezy.

and then there's being at a navy base rather than an airforce base, and actually getting to be in the loop about resources and activities.
and then there's the awesome birth center where i will be seen and give birth, rather than the crummy hospital i birthed haven in. with midwives rather than doctors, and free doulas, and birth tubs.
and then there's the wicked-cheap produce, and way better buying options with WIC here than with WIC in maryland.
and then there's tony being at a command where people actually care about each other and the command is actually interested in helping out the families. we stopped in today just to meet the folks he'll work with, and an hour later left with a long list of everyone's numbers in case i need to call for anything, and resources to look into, and offers of help and friendship, and invites to activities. more in an hour here than in 3 years in DC.
and did i mention in-and-out-burger? you poor east coast suckers who have never tasted its burgery goodness have my deep pity.

in spite of the welling panic i feel at the thought of trying to finish moving in by myself, and go through these last two months of pregnancy by myself (panic that will probably become a wordy and dramatic post in the near future), i still feel like i can breathe here in a way that i never felt in DC. life is slower here, and people are not less crazy but they are crazy in a way that i'm far more comfortable with. every time the panic starts to rise, all i have to do is step out to my patio and feel the breeze coming off the ocean, and look up at the hills, and remember that i get to live here for the next 3 years. getting settled in is not going to be easy on my own. i will probably be exhausted most of the time, and snap at haven, and cry hormonally, and miss tony like crazy, and miss my family. but i will do so in a place that already feels like home, and then i will walk to get sushi and feel much better.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

notes from the eye of the shit storm

i feel like every post starts with noting how long it's been since my last post. i'm starting to think such is grownup life. i just have a lot more life to live than i did a few years ago, and so a lot less blog. but this week i have time on my hands and fuzz in my head, which is a combination that begs to be blogged about.

i've been learning the past few weeks about how to be calm in a storm. unfortunately, that requires being in a storm. the cliche is that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but for me i feel like what hasn't killed me has made me realize how strong i already was. it's a weird feeling, recognizing my strength and the strength of my support system, and one that i don't think i would have been able to feel a few years ago. when the current shit storm began a few weeks ago, i totally freaked out and started to lose myself in the stress and worry. that's my usual response. but this time, as time has passed and the storm has not let up but i have not crumbled, i'm finding a strange sense of calm and...pride? defiance?'s almost like the worse things get the more badass i feel.
the storm is mostly over. the crisis is being fixed, and it is just a matter of waiting now as that happens and preparing for the cleanup operation. it's not fun, and i'm not looking forward to the next weeks. but i feel confident that i will be able to clean it up and keep going, mostly because i was able to go through the storm in the first place.
i'm also finding such a heightened sense of gratitude for my amazing husband (who is under all the same stress as me but also still having to go to work and manage all sorts of paperwork on his end), and the generosity of my in-laws. losing our financial safety net has highlighted how strong our relational safety net is. a big part of my being able to grow and find strength through the storm comes from knowing that i'm not alone in it.

my next month and a half is going to be maybe the busiest of my life. i'll be cleaning out the house and getting ready to move, and wading through paperwork and appointments with my OB, and WIC, and the movers, and the housing office, and then driving across country and moving into a new house/city/state. all while being mommy and wife, and 7 months pregnant, while tony has to spend extra time at work. i spent the first half of august with a growing sense of terror about how i would manage it all. but i've spent this second half of the month with a growing sense of confidence in myself because none of the coming stress will be worse than the past few weeks. if i can survive being stranded out of state for weeks with no car, a toddler, away from my husband, living out of a suitcase i packed for a 4 day trip, while all our finances disappear.... i'm pretty sure i can handle a move.

on a strictly happy note, i just hit 24 weeks pregnant. it's such a huge pregnancy milestone, especially after my worries about miscarriage, since now baby would be able to survive even if she was born super early. oh, by the way, the baby is a girl and her name is valencia grace. and in 4 months when she is born all this stress will be just a memory.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

letting go

i am so incredibly grateful and happy to be pregnant (oh, hey, for those of you who missed the facebook announcement, i'm pregnant), but this pregnancy has hit me much harder than when i was pregnant with haven. i've been sick, and exhausted, and she-hulk cranky, and was really not prepared for how different it would be to be pregnant with a toddler than when i was pregnant by myself all day. but every time i think about the little grape-sized person growing inside me, and how amazing it will be to add to our family, and how my heart feels full after feeling achy for many months, it is so worth it.

when i first found out i was pregnant again i had mixed emotions. i was excited, but also gripped with terror that i would miscarry again. i didn't want to get my hopes up, or get my heart set on another baby, only to be crushed again. i spent a few weeks mentally wringing my hands, with my stomach in knots, expecting to lose the baby at any moment. but then it hit me that living in fear and worry wouldn't make this baby healthy, but could cause me to miss out on all the joy of pregnancy. i decided that this baby is worth all the hope and excitement and joy and pride in my heart, for as long as it lives...whether that is 80 years, or only a few weeks. this baby is my child, and deserves a mama who isn't afraid to fall totally in love with it.

it's not easy to let go of the worry. i have to remind myself daily to let go and love my baby with all that i am, for as long as it is my baby. i even feel a bit weird writing this post, because i'm still two weeks away from that magical, 12 week mark where the risk of miscarriage drops off. at the back of my mind is the fear that my next post could be about awful loss. but the truth i must try to remember is that it is no more risky to love this baby than to love anyone else. all love is a risk. any opening of oneself to someone else is inherently risky. it's just a little more clear and immediate of a risk in this situation. and maybe that's good.

i decided years ago that i would rather risk the pain of heartbreak than live with a heart too calloused and bitter to be broken. situations like this pregnancy are both a test and an affirmation of that. it's times like this where god challenges me to actually be the person i say i am. it's not about denying or ignoring or belittling my fears. it's about looking them in the eyes, and having compassion for the part of me that is afraid, and honoring that protective impulse, and then gently saying "but i will love anyways". it's a process that i know will continue for the rest of my life, and that i will need to go through over and over and over. because there will never be a way to love without risk, and i will never be the kind of person who is not afraid of risk. but i will also not be the kind of person who lets the fear choke out the love.

i am treasuring every nauseous, exhausted, grumpy, glorious, scary minute of this pregnancy. i'm choosing to let go of the worry, so that i can hold tightly to those i arms are long, but not long enough to hold onto both. and i'm hoping that i get to write many posts in the years to come about this new baby and our growing family. once i hit the "publish" button for this post, i will probably get a horrible sick feeling in my stomach, like i've tempted fate. but i think that's the only way i want to live.