In response {aka More Thoughts on “The Swimming Suit”}

I got a comment yesterday morning on my swimming suit post. It was not like the previous comments. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to publish it (because the name and email weren’t recognized, my blog held the comment for moderation), but then I decided that not only would I publish it, I’d respond to it in a post (thanks for the push T). Here is the comment, and below I respond:

In Judiasim,wearing the clothing of the opposite gender is explicitly forbidden by the Torah (Debarim 22:5).
It is also comsidered an abomination to God in Deuteronomy.
Why does everyone want to constantly teach their kids that “anything goes?” Do you also let kids eat candy whenever they want? Skip school because it feels right or better or more comfortable? Come on. Let’s be parents. Discipline, structure, and consistency are not bad words unless you are afraid to be a parent and more comfortable being your child’s friend.

So, where to begin?

First of all, I did not realize there is specific text in both the Torah and Bible that explicitly forbids wearing the clothing of the opposite gender, but I guess I’m not surprised. I’m not at all familiar with the Torah, but my limited recollection of the Old Testament involves all kinds of judgement, condemnation and hatred (and I believe much of the Old Testament is also part of the Torah?) So, not that surprising.

Second, I wonder how one even goes about determining what are, officially, “women’s clothes” and “men’s clothes.” As little as 100 years ago it was pretty rare for a woman to wear slacks, let alone casual pants. The very first humans were lucky to tie some vegetation or roughly woven cloth around their waists, which I’m sure looked more like a skirt than anything. Many indigenous cultures on pretty much every continent still wear clothing that is simply tied around the waste. In many other cultures long robes, that are very similar to dresses, are worm by men of great respect. What is considered “women’s” and “men’s” clothing varies incredibly from culture to culture, and even within those cultures, from era to era. Does that fluidity in the understanding of which clothes belong to which gender not suggest that the distinction in any culture at any time is somewhat arbitrary?

Having said that, I don’t argue that if given a pile of clothing and asked to sort it, most people (of a shared culture) would consider some clothes to belong exclusively in the “women’s” pile, and others in the “men’s,” probably with a rather large portion falling into a third “either/or” category.

Interestingly, most gender specific clothing are actually women specific. I can’t think of any piece of clothing that only men can wear, though most women’s versions of those clothes are cut differently when sold to women. (Except maybe bottoms as a swim suit (as in, topless), but that is more about our sexually-repressed Protestant founding and is not necessarily shared by other European cultures.) Yes women can wear pants, or t-shirts, or button downs or blazers, or boots, or anything a man can wear, ours are just more form fitting versions of their male counterparts. I always assume we, as a culture, are okay letting women where “men’s” clothing because men are considered the stronger, more dominant sex (and gender), and it’s okay for women to aspire to that strength. And for the same reason, I assume the opposite makes it LESS okay for boys or men to wear “girl’s or women’s” clothing (specifically dresses and skirts, or anything with pink, frills or with sparkles–of course make-up is also included) because we consider women the weaker sex and don’t support men or boys identifying with or wearing clothing that is attributed to, or a symbol of, that feminine weakness. (I could be totally wrong about this though, if you have another hypothesis please offer it).

Yes, the gendering of clothes seems, in many ways, to be just one more way of keeping women from being seen as equal to men, and for that reason alone I’m not interested in respecting those gender norms myself, or requiring my children–okay, let’s be perfectly honest, my son–to follow those guidelines.

Even if it weren’t the case that gender specific clothes are most distinctive for girls, I still wouldn’t require my daughter to wear clothes from the “girl’s” section or my son to wear clothes from the “boy’s.” I teach my children that they can be whatever they want to be, and express themselves in whatever way feels most genuine and authentic for them, as long as that expression does not hurt, disregard, or disrespect anyone else.

The thing is, I DO teach my kids the values that I cherish: I teach them to respect others, including all the many people who are different than they are; to love other human beings and tread lightly on the planet; to be grateful for what they have, and generous to others; to be open-minded, honest and helpful; to present and mindful; to have a strong work ethic, and to handle disappointment gracefully. I teach them to be curious and questioning; to be forgiving; to be assertive. I teach them to stand up for what is right. I teach them all of this in the hopes that they will some day be well-rounded, respectful, productive members of society, who will uphold the values of acceptance, empathy and understanding.

Have they learned all these lesson yet? No. They are works in progress, as am I. But I am absolutely doing the hard work of trying to teach them these values. I am certainly providing “discipline (I use the word here to connote its original meaning, which is “to teach”), structure and consistency, and I don’t as a general rule, try to be my children’s friend instead of their parent.

My parenting is intended to help my children be open minded, accepting citizens, who feel free to express themselves even if society is uncomfortable with that expression (again, as long as it is respectful), and does not force them to remain beholden to ancient texts that are, in many circumstances, misunderstood and misrepresented (or are just unapologetically 2000+ years old and prescribe stoning women to death for any number of reasons).

I believe it is hurtful to tell a child he or she can’t express him or herself in a certain way just because our society has decided that “that way” is only appropriate for the opposite gender. I am not interested in forcing gender norms on my children, especially when I am painfully aware that they will be force fed those gender norms from our society at large for the rest of their life. I want them to know that I LOVE THEM no matter what they want to wear, or how they want to style their hair, or what activities they want to participate in. If my daughter wants to pursue computer science, yes she can pursue computer science (of course, we don’t question that, at least not anymore). If my son wants to take ballet, he can take ballet. And he can wear a tutu when he goes, just like all the other ballerinas (and yes, I suspect the wearing of the tutu, if not simply attending ballet, would be questioned, even today). Of course, neither one of them will be allowed to play football, because we don’t think it’s safe, but that isn’t at all about what is expected of them based on their gender.

I think it’s sad that there are people in this world who would regard religious text (or simple societal pressures) over the self-expression and well being of their children. Sure, most little boys are interested in fairies and princesses, or want to paint their nails, because it is fun and not because of some emerging, not yet fully understood, understanding of self-identity. But for some kids, those early requests to venture outside their prescribed gender are tentative steps in the direction of who they really are, and when they are told those requests are inappropriate, they feel that they themselves are inappropriate too. My heart breaks for any kid, but especially the LGBTQ kids, who grow up in families where exploration of gender is shut down and self-worth is only granted when gender norms are explicitly followed. How devastating to not be accepted by the very people who are supposed to love you and protect you, no matter what.

My children are only six and three. They still don’t know who they are, and that is magical. I’m going to work really hard to make them feel accepted no matter how they want to express themselves, as long as that expression is accepting of, and respectful toward, others. I care more about protecting them and their feelings of self-worth, than following the sometimes antiquated, close-minded cultural norms of our society.

Thank you for being respectful in the comment section.

Long morning

I love going places. If we have an open morning, I want to take the kids somewhere. But it’s raining and the Academy of Sciences will be over run and the kids just want to stay home, so I’m doing my best to enjoy what feels like an interminable morning. 

It helps that my daughter has put together an impressive agenda (dictated to her secretary):


I’m most looking forward to item two: Massage. 

Investing in Myself

Recently I decided that I really want to spend 7-10 days in Ecuador taking an intensive Spanish language course.

I’ve been a student of Spanish since Freshman year of high school. I have official documentation, issued by the state, declaring me fluent. I also have a M.S. in Spanish as a Foreign Language, the course work for which was entirely in Spanish. One might assume a certain level of fluency was required to complete that program as well.

And yet, my Spanish is not where I want it to be. I don’t consider myself, in my heart of hearts, to be a fluent Spanish speaker. I still pause sometimes when I speak. I still stumble. I still have to search for the word (or blatantly look it up). I still sometimes even do a quick conjugation in my head before I finish a sentence. I feel like I can’t express myself as fluidly in Spanish–I know my sense of humor wouldn’t translate. Mistakes abound when I speak about anything outside of my purview.

I talk a lot about finding another a job, but what I don’t mention is that one of the reasons I’m wary to apply is that I don’t feel my Spanish is high enough to teach the more difficult courses, where I’m expected to be the definitive word on exactly when to use each of the past tenses, AND how to properly employ that pesky subjunctive. I know I can teach Spanish I really well, but I think I’d struggle with even some aspects of Spanish II. I wouldn’t feel comfortable applying for (or saying I could teach) Spanish III or higher.

A Spanish teacher who doesn’t speak fluent Spanish!? How did I get myself into this one?

It doesn’t really matter how it happened, what’s important is that I don’t regret that I did. I love the Spanish language. I love teaching a foreign language. I love speaking it with my kids and sending them to an immersion school. I love everything about Spanish. It makes me happy.

The only thing that’s lacking in the realm of Spanish, for me, is my own abilities.

I have big plans to take my kids, for a month at a time, to Spanish speaking countries over the summers as I try to find a place for us to live for a year. I also want to speak Spanish more at home, possibly all the time if my son attends an English-only transitional kindergarten when he’s five. I want my Spanish to be better.

I’m so close. I really do feel so much closer than I’ve ever been. I’ve been immersing myself as much as I can lately; watching TV, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and even sometimes writing my morning pages in Spanish. I can listen to Spanish and do something that requires some brain activity, like grading papers. I’ve been speaking to my kids more in Spanish (I used to be so good about this but have fallen off the wagon in recent years). I even catch myself thinking in Spanish! And sometimes only a Spanish word will come to me and I have to look it up to remember its English translation.

My comprehension is almost where I want it to be (I only struggle when speaking with some people who talk really fast, or eat the ends of their words), but my speaking could still use some work. I want to speak faster, and with less of an accent. I want the words to come as quickly in the past tense as they do in the present (and when I’m giving “commands”). I feel like I’m right at the summit of a mountain I’ve been climbing my entire adult life, and a week of intensive immersion would get me over the cusp.

I found a program in Ecuador that offers 30 hours of one-on-one classes for an absurdly low amount. Oh, and that absurdly low amount includes a home stay with a family. I’d be speaking Spanish all day, six hours a day with someone who can give me notes and answer my questions. I’d also get to check out Ecuador.

Why Ecuador? I know Guatemala has really cheap language learning opportunities but I’ve been there before. Two times. I’ve also been to a few places in Mexico, and to Costa Rica twice.  I’ve never been to South America, and I want to save Peru for a trip with my family so Ecuador it was. I also have a friend whose husband is from Ecuador; I’m hoping he can direct my to some worthwhile cities to visit on either end of my classes.

So yeah. That is currently my plan, and it has me really excited. The only thing that stresses me out is being away from my kids for so long, and the strain that puts on those who will have to take care of them. But a few unique opportunities are presenting themselves on that front, so I’m hoping I can make it work. Right now it feels like an investment I have to make in myself, so I have the skills and confidence to teach at a higher level, if that is really what I want to do. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be teaching math and science in Spanish at an immersion school. That would be really cool.

I really hope this whole Ecuador thing works out.

How are you investing in yourself these days?

 

The Swimming Suit

My kids just started six weeks of individual swim lessons. My daughter has been learning to swim for a while, but this was my son’s first time at a lesson. The only real swimming he’s done previously was at my uncle’s farm last summer. 

I have swim trunks and rash guards for my son. They are all hand-me-downs from family friends. They are all in great shape. I even got him some Spider-Man trunks on clearance at Old N@vy last year. But he refuses to wear any of them. He doesn’t think swim trunks are actually for swimming. In his mind they are just glorified shorts. 

My son will only wear full torso swimming suits, like his sister. 

Last summer he wore his sister’s old suit, the pink one with the frills at the top and the princesses on the tummy. That suit is stretched out and the elastic is shot. So when it was time for swim lessons, I had to get my son his own suit. Unfortunately, I forgot what his preferences were and didn’t order one in time for his first lesson. He would not be persuaded to wear trunks for even one day so I had to get him a suit there. 


He LOVED it. And he had a great first lesson-put his head all the way under and everything!

The next day the suit I ordered for him came. He wore it to last night’s lesson. 


I imagine some people would be uncomfortable letting their son wear a girl’s swim suit in public. I can tell it makes his grandmothers a little antsy. 

My mom came right out and said it (“You can’t let him wear a girl’s suit to his lesson!), but quickly back stepped when I said that I would let him wear whatever swim suit he wanted, and I couldn’t very well keep telling his sister that boys can wear dresses and skirts (she refuses to believe this is allowed, especially since she never seems it) if I don’t let her brother wear whatever swim suit he wants. She agreed, but you could tell she wished he would just wear the trunks. 

Last night, after I texted a picture of my son in his newer suit, my inlaws sent me a link to a full body rash guard, asking if he would wear that to swimming. I haven’t responded yet, but the answer will be, “He has two brand new swim suits, thankyouverymuch, he doesn’t need anything else.” 

{It should be stated that his father supports him wearing whatever he wants, always.}

Gender is so prescribed for boys, much more so than for girls. I regularly shopped for my daughter in the boys section, not just getting her khaki pants for school, but also t-shirts with super heros and other characters on them. No one would ever notice. I’m guessing that wouldn’t be the case if I got my son a t-shirt with princesses or fairies on it, especially if it were pink and had frills of any kind.

The thing is he, my son hasn’t figured out yet that boys aren’t really expected to play with and wear “girl things.” Just this weekend he went to soccer with sparkly wings because he was a soccer fairy. 

I don’t know how long my son is going to want to wear a “girl’s” swim suit, or fairy wings to soccer, but he’s never going to hear me say it’s not allowed. And anyone who suggests otherwise will hear some words from me. 

Sun!

This weekend there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It’s been raining A LOT lately–I can’t remember the last time I so enjoyed seeing the sun!

We spent Saturday morning at the park before my son’s soccer “practice” (they play games that teach basic skills). After we got home, I left for an afternoon with some college friends who were in town for a bachelor party, and had invited me to a couple of hours on campus, a bit of a walk down memory lane.

It was so nice to get away, and so great to see some familiar faces.

My friends headed back to the city before 6pm, but I wanted to avoid bedtime, so I walked around a bit, replacing a sweatshirt I ruined last summer and getting the kids a a shirt each on sale. I toyed with the idea of seeing a movie alone, but there wasn’t anything starting at a convenient time.

I was home by 8:30 and only had to snuggle my daughter for a bit. It was nice to get a break from bedtime.

My husband left for a short business trip before we all woke up Sunday morning. The kids and I hit up the zoo, then I worked out while my son napped, and when he woke up we all went to a little get together at one of his friend’s houses.

My daughter’s preschool class eventually became quite close and I still see many of the families that we know from there a few times a year. I haven’t made any attempt to get to know the parents of my the kids in my son’s class. I think mostly I just don’t have the time, energy or inclination to initiate, so I really appreciated somebody else planning something so I could some time with them today. They all seem very nice, and one family lives right around the corner from our house. My son is a lot more socially inclined than his sister was at this age; he would genuinely love to get together with friends outside of school. Now that I’ve finally met–and talked to–a few of the families, I’ll be trying to set up some get togethers.

Only one more week until I get a week off! The kids get President’s Day, but I get the whole week. Also, the 7th graders on one of my campuses are going to outdoor ed this week, which means one of my classes will only have about half the kids. It’s not a big difference, but I’ll take anything that makes my days a little easier.

My husband comes back very late Tuesday night, so this trip is short. We’ll probably hardly realize he was gone. 🙂

The Vital Difference

My husband has been staying at work late this week. I texted him around 5:30pm saying he should take what time he needed, not to worry, so I wasn’t surprised when I hadn’t heard from him by 7pm. It wasn’t until almost 7:30pm that I thought to check the calendar and see if there were a reason he wasn’t yet home. I had forgotten he had a retirement party. 

I texted him a few more times. He never responded. This is a common occurrence in our marriage; I am much more inclined to communicate throughout the day. My husband rarely responds, and when he does it’s usually monosyllabically: Yes. No. Okay. Sure. 

The retirement party ended at 7pm, but by 10:30pm my husband still wasn’t home. He never texted to say he was staying late. He never even reminded me he had this event. 

Finally at 11pm he responded to a text, one in which my frustration was apparent. At 12:30am he finally waltzed in. 

And therein lies the vital difference. He can just be gone for an entire evening and not think twice about home. He can carry on with his life as if we weren’t even here. 

Can you imagine?

I can’t. I could never be gone for so long and not check in, at least once. This is partly because of who I am, but it has more to do with the expectation that I would be there. I’m the parent that handles evenings. If I’m not there, plans have to me made. My absence must be accounted for. 

It’s such a fundamental difference in who we are and how our family factors into our lives. I am at the center of my family. If I am gone, objects must be set in motion to counteract the loss of my gravitation pull. My husband is a satellite. His absence can go unnoticed. He can fall out of orbit without glancing back at our little solar system. At least for a little while. 

I don’t think he can ever really understand what it’s like to have the pull of so many lives circling around you. To be the center, always. To never get a break.

It’s hard not to feel understood. It’s lonely. 

Quiet

The blogosphere is so quiet these days. Most mornings I wake up and there are only three or four posts in my reader, and one or two of those are how-to´s on living a minimalist life. And while I´m still pursuing simplicity, I don´t crave a bunch of posts with bolder headings and short, concise, helpful paragraphs these days.

I want to read about people and their lives. I want to hear from all of you.

I know it´s hard to write about our lives right now, when it feels like we are living them under a shadow of doom and despair. But I think it´s important that we keep coming to our spaces and saying what we need to say. Even when we´re not sure what we need to say, or how to say it.

That has been my biggest problem lately. At the end of the night I feel so overwhelmed and inundated, it´s hard to carve a path back to who I am. I am struggling, but even that struggle is hard to put into words.

But if I´m going to ask other people to write in their spaces, I should be writing in my own.

Here goes…

My kids are getting big. Physically, they are big kids. Tall. They grow through size so fast. A couples of weeks ago some family friends dropped off a bunch of clothes at my parents´ house — hand-me-downs for my son. They´ve been living in my trunk for weeks. Yesterday I finally took them all out and sorted them. I´m getting better at only storing the clothes I actually think we´ll use, and immediately giving the rest away. 

With the khaki pants I´ve been stock piling (my son has to wear khaki pants to school), I don´t think I´ll need to buy him anything in 4T. For this I´m grateful.

My daughter is growing like a weed. She is 6.5 years old but I´ve been buying her 7-8 clothes since the start of the school year. I wonder sometimes if I expect more or her because of her size. I catch myself almost saying she´s seven when someone asks her age. It´s hard to remember she´s six when she´s as tall as some third graders. 

My son is the same way. People are astonished that he just turned 3-years-old. I think sometimes even I forget. 

It feels good to have purged most of the 3T clothing and folded and put away the 4T stuff. I find great satisfaction in getting tasks like that done, perhaps because I can see the progress made and know when I am finished. So much in my life feels ongoing right now; it´s valuable to have a completed task I can point to and say, yes, I did that, it´s done.

What have you completed recently?

#fuckeverything

Betsy DeVos’ confirmation really bummed me out yesterday. It’s not like I was particularly thrilled with the direction the Obama administration took with education policy, but the idea of that ignorant asshat taking the reins of education reform in this country makes me want to cry.

Elizabeth Warren being silenced on the Senate floor actually did make me shed tears.

And the Trump administration’s attack on judicial review is freaking me out.

I really don’t know how to keep giving a shit when it’s just one monumental cluster fuck after another.

As you can probably see, I’m struggling to crawl out of this #fuckeverything attitude I’ve fallen into.

*   *   *   *  *

I’ve been thinking a lot about next year, considering “ideal” schedules I might propose to my principal when we meet later this month. It’s becoming clear to me that leaving my husband to manage the mornings alone just isn’t tenable. Not without a second car. My daughter’s school just starts too early (7:50am!), and is too hard to get to on public transportation (two buses, one of which only runs every 25-30 minutes) to put that on them. Getting one adult and two (ornery) kids ready that early would make them all miserable. I don’t think I could manage it myself with the car. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to.

I’ve been considering asking to stay at the other school next year, but not in a co-teaching position. This would allow me to take my daughter to school AND teach more 7/8 classes. Both of those are very good things, and they would offset the obnoxiousness of being at two schools.

I was actually feeling pretty good about it, because I know this is an ideal scenario for the district. They get a Spanish teach at both campuses without having to hire someone else! It’s a win-win.

Except this week it has been really rainy in the mornings and it’s taking me over an hour to get to work. Monday I was 10 minutes late and yesterday I was 20! And this was with me leaving my daughter’s school earlier than normal. I can’t, in good conscious, ask for a first period class at that school when some simple rain makes me that late. The traffic is just too bad for me to get there on time.

So now I’m not sure what to do. It seems like I can’t continue teaching in my district now that my kid is at school in the city. At least not with my new principal, who won’t accommodate my schedule like they did last year (when my prep was first period and I could arrive before 2nd). That means I REALLY need to find a new job, and it needs to be one that starts at 9pm.

My co-teacher suggested I ask if I could have first period prep at my school and teach three or four periods there, and finish the day at the other school. My principal originally said that I he couldn’t “justify” allowing me to come in during a first period prep (like they did last year), but maybe if I were teaching at two schools that would be grounds enough to “justify” it. Lord knows no one else wants to teach at two schools; I can’t imagine anyone would bring up equity issues about it (no one did last year that I know about, and our school is such a rumor mill, I’m SURE I’d know about it).

That would be a doable solution, since my school is closer and 2nd period at my school starts much later than 1st period at the other school–I’d have plenty of time to get there. Also, my school starts earlier, so going from my school to the other campus is easier (there is about 25 minutes between the end of 5th period at my school and the beginning of 6th at the other). Also, we’ll have the same schedules next year so there won’t be a time when I have classes at both campuses that overlap.

So yeah, that is my current plan, I guess? Of course I’ll still look into finding a new job, but I honestly can’t imagine being offered on that makes the $25K pay cut worth while, especially not when I’m looking ahead to my dreamed of year abroad, which will surely require a significant amount of savings. Also, the new job would need to have a later start time, or be closer to the city (I can’t look for a job in the city, as that would require an even bigger pay cut).

It’s hard, this balancing family and a job thing. And I don’t even have a job I like all that much! I’m just trying to pay my mortgage, feed my family and be able to drop off and pick up my kids (in a very high COL area, to be fair). I can’t even imagine the sacrifices people have to make when they are are actually working a job they are passionate about. Blerg.

As I said before, #fuckeverything right now. Seriously.

5:35am

Both my kids were up before 6am today. 

I officially wave the white flag. 

The good news is they usually have an easier time getting dressed and ready when they’ve been able to play for a while. 

Oh and I had a chance to respond to the comments on yesterday’s post while they were playing. 

Happy Tuesday everyone! It’s going to be a doozie! 

When does it get easier?

Yes, I am asking that question again, even though I already said that it was getting easier. I guess you get used to easier and then you start wanting it to be easier still. Or maybe it gets easier and then it goes back to being harder.

It’s just that some times, okay a lot of the time, my kids can be so damn exhausting.

You know how kids go through cycles? Oscillating between incredibly challenging behavior and excitingly new developmental milestones when suddenly they can do so much more, and are so much more agreeable? The thing is, when you have two kids there is rarely a time when they are both in an easier stage. (I seriously don’t know how people with 3+ kids manage it!)

My daughter has been moody lately. She is always a little moody, but lately her attitude has been making me want to pull my hair out. Nothing is good. Nothing is fun. Everything is terrible. How do 6.5 year olds even get into a mind space like that?

I feel confident we are handling some challenges well; I believe that giving her a space to sleep on the floor in our room was absolutely the right more and has helped her feel more positive about going to bed, and sleeping in general. I am also very thankful that my husband is willing to sleep in our daughter’s room once a week so she can sleep with me; that time together is clearly incredibly important to her. We rarely hear about nightmares any more, though sometimes I hear her having them on the floor in our room. 🙁

I am also taking steps to support her at school, getting her noise cancelling headphones for homework time at aftercare (the people who work there say it makes a world of difference in how much she is able to get done) and a wiggle cushion for class (its an inflatable disc that helps kids with ADD sit still for seat work–I might get one for aftercare too). I made her a checklist so she can go through her backpack and make sure she has everything before walking to aftercare or being picked up.

I also know I’m making mistakes. I get too frustrated when she loses things (oh my god! I’ve spent hundreds of dollars replacing the shit she loses!–see checklist above) and when she responds in a way I feel is totally age-inappropriate to disappointment (usually when she can’t have some sweet treat she is obsessing over). I see her crumble when she registers my frustrating and disappointment and I know I’m hurting something deep in her soul.

I also feel like, STOP LOSING YOUR SHIT OVER NOT GETTING A LOLLIPOP! YOU JUST FINISHED A BAG OF COOKIES!

So yeah. It’s hard.

My son isn’t make things any easier. Oh my god how that boy takes me to the brink and back every hour of the day. No one is a sweeter snuggler. And no one can throw a Thomas train against the wall with such indignant rage. He is like the Hulk–so destructive when he’s not getting what he wants.

I guess we’re just headed into yet another dip in both their behavior cycles, and I better hunker down and get ready for it.

Seriously though, does it ever get easier? Really and truly? For a prolonged period of time (like entire years)? I think for some people it does, but maybe for me it won’t. I don’t things were ever really “easy” for my parents with my sister. They still aren’t and she’s almost 30. I think some people just have a harder time navigating this life. And their parents have a harder navigating it with them.

It doesn’t help that I’m not the most even keeled person myself. {Though I do think the Vitex I started taking to balance my volatile hormones is helping. My PMS was WAY less affecting on my last cycle, and my boobs only hurt for 4-5 days! (Instead of 10). It’s supposed to take about three months to really start working so I have high hopes for good things.}

So yes, I know I am part of the equation. I try to give myself what I need so I can give my kids what they need, but holy shit sometimes it feel like everyone in this family is so goddamn needy. And everyone needs me.

Neither kid will even speak to my husband when they wake up at night. Both demand that I snuggle with them before bed. I started getting my son dressed in the mornings because he was making life hell for my husband (who was in turn, making life hell for me), which has totally destroyed my already fragile “me time” in the mornings. My son won’t even participate in his soccer class unless I go with him; when my husband takes him he just melts down on the sidelines until they finally come home.

Today we took the kids to a women’s basketball game at our alma mater. It was fun. Kind of. I got a picture with the kids and the mascot, and it’s definitely a memory I’ll treasure forever, but the actual outing was mostly just exhausting. The kids pouted and whined most of the time. They hung on me for the entire second half of the game, which frustrated the hell out of my husband. Minute to minute it really wasn’t very enjoyable, though I could show you pictures that would suggest we had the greatest time. I think that is what parenthood is like, at least during these early years… Incredibly bright highlights set apart from a backdrop of grey drudgery. At least that is what they feel like for me. I read blogs by other mothers that suggest they may be having a different experience.

I don’t know, maybe my expectations are still too high. Am I wrong to get exasperated that I STILL have to tell my 6.5 year old not to put her gaping mouth on the back of the seat of the train? (THREE TIMES IN ONE RIDE!?) Or to be aware enough of her body (that she has draped lengthwise over the bench) to not repeatedly hit the person in front of her? (Yes, we eventually moved to much higher seats where no one else was sitting.) Is it really too much to ask her to accept my “No, we are not having an Icee AND cotton candy,” without a 10 minute meltdown that requires me bodily removing her from the game? Do I expect too much of her?

Clearly I do. And whether what I expect is age appropriate or not, she can’t manage it yet so it doesn’t really matter.

I worry a lot of the time if I’m pushing her too hard. I know in some situations she needs that push and will be happier in the long run for me making her uncomfortable initially. Sometimes I’m less sure. Like with reading. I know she could read books way above the level she is reading them, but she just isn’t interested in taking on the challenge. Do I let her keep picking the books she wants, when they are clearly too easy? Or push her to read at her level? Right now I push her some nights and let her take the easy road on others.

{I really struggle with school stuff because I’m a teacher and I want to instill in my daughter an understanding that homework is a priority, not something you do when it strikes your fancy. I also know my kid is smart, but I also recognize that there is a part of me that would delight in her being really smart (like her father). I catch myself comparing her to her peers, and it’s only when I find out they are six months or more older than her that I stop wondering how they can be reading 200 page chapter books by themselves in 1st grade when my daughter still balks at a Level 3 selection in the Step-Into-Reading series. I also catch myself bristling when other people refer to their kids as “gifted” or “brilliant.” (Though some of that bristling is a conditioned response from dealing with many parents over the years who had very unrealistic understandings of their “brilliant” kids’ abilities when the parents weren’t around to “help them.”) When I have visceral reactions to shit like that I know there is some deep seated shit going on that I’ll eventually have to deal with.}

{Even more interesting, I seem to have zero expectations of my son’s intellect. I don’t know if this is because he is my second child and I didn’t invest the same amount of time and energy into his “education” as a baby/toddler, or that he’s a boy (god, I hope it’s not because he’s a boy), or if it’s just because I’m too tired to give a shit. One might argue that I have been downright neglectful when it comes to my son’s “education”–I was taken aback when I realized he could sing his ABCs at 2.5 years old, mostly because I had never bothered to sing them to him. I have to remind myself to practice counting with him too. If it weren’t for school he’d be getting nothing but a decent foundation in reading.) When people (mostly his grandparents) comment on how smart he is, I mostly look at them with a quizzical expression, and think, Is he? I know this is fucked up, and I have attempted to examine where it’s coming from. It’s not that I think he won’t be smart, I just don’t seem to have any expectation that he will be. Where as with my daughter, I think I do. So yeah. Messed up shit that I have to get a handle on pronto.}

So there you go. Some very raw and honest trains of thought from a tired and disheveled mother who is just trying to do the right thing, but would appreciate if her kids could stop making it so damn hard. Please be kind in the comments, because I see how messed up a lot of my thinking is. It’s a work in a progress, as is everything.