You are not your fucking minivan

by renegademama

We needed a new car. We drove a 2007 Expedition until it had 193,000 miles, a giant dent in the back, 159 smaller dents, ripped interior seats, broken visors, and an overwhelming scent of something. At this point, your guess is as good as mine.

Our decision to buy the Expedition was mostly about two things: Money and my ego. It was affordable, and it wasn’t a minivan.

But now, with four kids (we had three when we bought the Expedition), it makes about zero sense that we would attempt to shove our gaggle into anything OTHER than a minivan.

And yet, my guts retaliated. My whole self raged. I damn near bought a car that would require back-row kids to keep their knees at their chins. 

Wait. Would that have stopped them from talking? Shiiiiiit.

Seriously though, lemme just say that I am damn grateful to have the chance to buy a car, and even have a choice in which car to buy, and this is not lost on me, and there is a good chance I will sound like a whiney-ass douche while writing about OMG WHICH CAR SHOULD I BUYYYYYYY THIS IS SO HARDDDDDDD.

It’s not that hard. I’m fucking fortunate. Hashtag blessed.

 

Now let’s get back to my whining.

My intellect knew a minivan made more sense than any other car. The fucking doors open with a button. A BUTTON PEOPLE.

And there’s all kinds of space. And it gets way better gas mileage than a damn SUV. All reason and logic and decency point to minivan. And honestly, I wanted it. I wanted the comfort, but I was almost ashamed for wanting it.

Something about it felt a little like dying. Like giving up. Like surrendering to middle-aged obscurity.

I hate myself. I’m better than this! I am more than my car. I AM NOT MY FUCKING MINIVAN.

Except it kind of feels like I am.

 

But when I sat in the thing and pushed buttons to do all kinds of fancy shit and saw the backing-up camera and rear trunk space and DVD player I was like this ride is fucking sweet – fuck your fucking sexist car assumptions.

And we got it. And I love it.

But I’ve been thinking about the way I fought against it. What was it exactly?

I realized that in my head, a minivan says, “Welp you’re old and fat and unfuckable now. You’re all washed up. You wear ‘mom jeans’ and dress like it’s 1999 and your main purpose in life now is carpool-punctuality and getting those squeeze-apple things on clearance at Target.”

First of all: I fucking hate those squeezy food things. If I got that shit on my hands, I might actually throw up. No judgment though. I’m just saying.

And second: “You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

Thank you, Tyler.

I AM THE ALL-SINGING, ALL-DANCING CRAP OF THE WORLD.

Do you ever think about the sexist shit you’ve internalized and allow to inhabit space in your brain? Do you ever shake your head in awe at how many jacked-up things we believe about ourselves?

It’s a car. Not an identity. It’s a convenient-ass car that opens like a space-shuttle.

It does not open like a space-shuttle. I made that up. It does however feel a little like a rocketship with all those windows.

Meanwhile, while I’m worried about losing my sex appeal via turning into a wide-girth automobile, salespeople are assessing my value based on my gender. Meanwhile, while I’m trying to please the patriarchy, the patriarchy is giving me another “fuck you.”

While I’m internalizing sexism, sexism is leveling me and I’m still worried about pleasing it. Goooooo team!

Specifically, at the first car dealership we visited, a salesman walked up to my husband and I, shook both our hands, but when he shook my husband’s, said: “Hello, BOSS.”

Yes, he’s the boss. Boss man. Good ol’ bossy Mcbosserson.

While test-driving, the salesman asked Mac what he did for a living and asked me how many kids we have, assuming a washed-up broad with 4 kids clearly does not work. I felt erased, and yet money I earn was helping buy that fucking space-shuttle. (We did not buy it from him.)

I was erased from decisions and erased from the economics. Within 15 minutes.

I wanted to tell salesdude that he should try joining the rest of us in 2016 (come on in, the air is fine), but I only speak when my boss gives me permission. The rest of the time I try to stand there and look cute and grateful and sexy if at all possible.

I JEST I NEVER ACTUALLY STOP FUCKING TALKING AND RUNNING THINGS.

Anywho, here’s the thing: How the hell did they convince us that buying a convenient, utilitarian vehicle is somehow a diminishment of our character? And how the fuck did I buy into it?

And how come nobody looks at a dad driving a minivan and thinks, “Well he’s clearly lost his will to live.”

No, we think: HOT DEVOTED DAD OMG MAYBE HE EVEN HAS DAD BOD.

Wait. Is that his wife? Oh how sad she’s clearly let herself go.

You know what? I’m not my fucking minivan. I’m not even my “mom jeans.” What are those? Do I have those? Seriously. WHAT ARE THOSE?

I’m not yoga pants or my “mommy blog” (DIE IN A FIRE FUCKERS).

I’m a 37-year-old woman who has four kids, an intellect, interests, and a relatively smokin’ writing career if I may say so myself and even IF my whole life was carpools and squeeze-food things, capitalist patriarchy can kiss my mom ass.

Also, Tyler is hot.

Thank you, Tyler.

Tyler-durden-1

37 Comments | Posted in feminist AF | August 16, 2016

Potty training is bullshit. And that frog toilet can go to hell.

by renegademama

I’ve been a mother for 14 years and have 4 children and the only thing I’ve learned is that “they” are pretty much always lying. Everything “they” promise will happen does not actually happen.

Breastfed co-sleeping kids are not “clingy.” Sleep-trained kids do not burn puppies. Formula doesn’t crush souls; homeschooling doesn’t create teenagers capable of speaking only in Minecraft code.

They walk when they want. They talk when they want. They eat food when they fucking want, and they almost all turn into Perfectly Standard Humans. I mean, not to us, of course, to us they are glittering pillars of genius resulting from, that’s right, our excellent parenting choices.

I can’t wait until I have children-in-law and grandchildren so I can tell them how to parent perfectly like I did. EVERYONE IS GOING TO LOVE ME SO MUCH.

But still, sometimes I forget that “they” are full of shit. Even still. It pisses me off every time I do it. How do I do it? I don’t fucking know. My brain is like a weak-ass sieve.

For example, a few months ago, my obviously overcommitted husband bought a frog potty from Target. I was like, “Mac, dude. He’s not even two. WTF is wrong with you?”

And he said, “Well I see no harm in trying.”

See now that is immediately where parents go wrong. The key is to look for opportunities to NOT TRY, not seek out opportunities for excellence. Be a hero in other areas, assholes! Not parenting! Shit.

So I told him, “Okay well this is clearly your gig because I have no interest in attempting to potty train a kid this young.”

“Have you ever potty trained any of our kids?”

“Well, no, but you never know when I may spring into action and frankly I feel implicated by your premature frog-toilet purchase.”

Then he walked away. People walk away from me a lot.

 

Much to my surprise though, Arlo started showing all kinds of interest in the frog shitter. Mac stuck him on the thing when he first woke up, because apparently that’s a thing you do when you’re “potty training,” and lo and behold the toddler would pee. He even pooped a few times. He even did it when we were on vacation in Tahoe.

THIS WAS ALL AMAZING WE HAVE A GENIUS BOY CHILD WHO WILL POTTY TRAIN AT TWO.  

We stuck him on it, and he went! Over and over again! Wheeeeeeeee!

 

Then we forgot about it.

Yeah, that fucking happened. We forgot about it. We simply stopped doing it. I woke up one Sunday and realized it had been two to three weeks since we stuck him on a toilet gleefully bartering candy for excrement.

The frog was full of lint and toys. Uh oh.

So like any reasonable person, I immediately blamed it on the child. He regressed! He went through a phase then forgot!

When that didn’t soothe my nagging discontent, I got on the Google “to research” and ended up reading about how “if you miss the window, you’re totally fucked and they’ll end up 12 years old peeing down their own legs in gym class and not in a fun way.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what “they” said and BECAUSE MY BRAIN IS A WEAK-ASS SIEVE I forgot “they” are always lying, I PANICKED because I HAD RUINED MY CHANCE FOR POTTY TRAINING.

In terror I committed myself to potty training the toddler NOW. I can’t miss the window! I missed the window! THE WINDOW MY GOD THE WINDOW.

(Arlo is 26 months old. This entire thing is fucking ridiculous.)

 

So I googled, “How do you potty train?” And set myself aflame.

With devotion.

First, I tried to put him on the frog potty again because it worked so well before, but now he hates the frog potty and insists upon sitting on the full-size toilet with his legs out, clinging for dear life to the toilet seat. He just sort of hangs there and looks at me for a few seconds, demanding “candy” while I squeal “pee or poop! YAY!”

But now he’s learned to say, “not working,” which he repeats to infinity beginning about 9 seconds after getting on the toilet.

As if he’s fucking powerless. Sometimes he demands that I shit or pee WITH HIM which is impossible because he’s dangling over the toilet himself and there’s no room for me.

Sometimes I walk away and leave him there hoping he’ll get bored enough to do it but instead he starts flicking the toilet water with one hand while clinging to the seat with the other and screaming for his older sister to join him for “swimming.”

THIS IS NOT SWIMMING YOU ASSHOLES.

The next day I muster all my energy and gleefully ask him “Do you want to go to the potty? Let’s try the potty! Omg big boy! YAY! Let’s do it!”

He grabs my face, looks me dead in the eyes, tilts his head slightly and says flatly, “No.”

 

Nobody likes you, Arlo.

 

Then I remember how Georgia potty trained because she refused to wear clothes and didn’t like the feeling of pee down her leg, so I take his clothes off and he ends up taking a shit 10 minutes later on the top of the kitchen trash can while pulling things out of the junk drawer as I cook dinner.

This is the point at which I realize potty training is bullshit.

If you are dealing with a human who a.) sits naked on trash cans while sober and b.) has no problem taking a shit on it while playing with pencils and ear plugs, there is no hope for you.

 Nobody can work with that.

This is not a regular human. This is an individual outside the bounds of toilet-trained capacity and it is absolutely time to focus on doing nothing again.

The kid is only 26-months-old. Someday he will use a toilet. Someday all humans use toilets. In the grand scheme, what’s a year or two? Damn you Mac and your high standards.

And fuck you, frog potty. Fuck you. You can’t shame me into action. I know better! I’ve been a mom for 14 years!

I’m a motherfucking expert.

Oh, you wanted me to poop in the toilet? No worries I actually just took care of that. In my diaper. WHY ARE YOU CRYING?

Oh, you wanted me to poop in the toilet? No worries I actually just took care of that. In my diaper. WHY ARE YOU CRYING?

 

How to stay positive in a dystopian wasteland

by renegademama

Maybe I’m alone here, but I’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense of cosmic dread. It’s kind of a mix between apocalyptic doom and what I imagine it would feel like to be consumed by flames while tied to a cactus.

Perhaps it’s the fact that a racist narcissistic turnip is running for President and at least 50% of American voters think it’s cool. Or maybe it’s that a major party here in the land of the free drafted an anti-gay platform. ANTI-GAY. People. Anti-gay. Because that is, apparently, in 2016, still a thing.

Or maybe it’s being gaslighted by the DNC and RNC and media, all of which insist on shifting reality into “WTF YOU TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE SEEING IS NOT REAL.” Sabotaging candidates, flashing Trump’s face so many times we forget what we’re looking at, calling plagiarism “not plagiarism” because “they are common words” (what now?).

And somehow Putin is involved.

Hold me.

Or, maybe it’s the fact that black people are shot for following police instructions or pretty much doing anything and #alllivesmatter is still around in spite of meme #5,356,945 explaining #blacklivesmatter, or that our police look like the motherfucking military and are being killed in Dallas and people are being mowed down in France while watching fireworks and US-backed action in Syria is killing civilians and cops are justifying the shooting of an unarmed behavioral therapist with his hands up by saying “Oh sorry we were aiming for the autistic man next to him. You know, the one with a toy truck in his hand? Yeah. Him.”

Meanwhile, the only hope we have against the turnip is disintegrating into a broken party and rage and everybody’s shit-slinging and yeah I loved Bernie stop calling me names, please. 

And here we are. Parents. Trying to raise kids. In what feels a little like a dystopian wasteland.

We have to stay positive. We have to keep our heads up. Here’s how I’m doing it.

It works at least 2% of the time.

  1. Send a lot of texts to people you know aren’t nutbag assholes using all caps and rage emojis and a lot of “WHAT IS HAPPENING DUDE SERIOUSLY.”
  2. Eat carnitas and chocolate with wild abandon. When we’re all living in bunkers, will we have carnitas? No. NO WE WILL NOT so stop fucking around with your damn kale.
  3. Snuggle your face into the folds of your baby’s neck (after a bath, probs) where baby scent and hope live.
  4. Turn music up really loud and sing it even louder because if this is the end, we might as well go down singing.
  5. Find lovers in other countries. I am not doing this. I am happily married to an excessively kind, bearded man. But it may work for you. On the other hand, there is no place to hide in a dystopian wasteland so maybe a foreign lover is useless. I told you, my ideas are only about 2% reliable.
  6. Block the fuck out of people. There is no time for their nonsense. I realize this does not “build bridges,” but also we all have our brain limits.
  7. But don’t block people before screen-shotting their drivel and texting it to your friends as a reminder that not all people are fucking crazy.
  8. Keep remembering you are not crazy. The world is crazy. DO NOT GET GASLIGHTED. THIS SHIT IS NOT NORMAL and OF COURSE IT WAS PLAGIARISM.
  9. Exercise (?). Haven’t tried it but it sounds solid.
  10. Watch Michael Scott hate Toby on The Office. Do it. I swear it’s cathartic as fuck. The unbridled irrational rage is strangely comforting.  
  11. Actually, watch literally anything in bed while eating chocolate, for as many hours as you possibly can. Because will there be wifi in hell? Who knows, bitches. Who knows. I’m not taking any chances.
  12. Engage in rampant escapism through apps on your phone such as Candy Crush, Pokemon Go, and/or whatever other embarrassing game works for you. This is not the time to judge. This is the time to band together in collective self-soothing through vague denial and flashing lights.
  13. I have a feeling #12 is a badddd call in terms of societal progress.
  14. Anywho, have sex.
  15. Write stuff.
  16. Read poetry.
  17. Turn your phone off. Delete Facebook (I hear that’s an actual thing people do.)
  18. Buy the essential oil blend called: “Self-care in Dante’s 10th Circle of Hell.” Rub it on the soles of your feet and inner wrists. It’s lovely. Lot’s of bergamot. Very soothing.
  19. Cling to the love.
  20. Pray for November.

We can do this. It ain’t right, but we will (probably) survive.

Now what do you have? What are you doing to keep your damn head up?

I’m serious. I want some ideas in the comment section.

together

Tonight, the blankets stay on the floor

by renegademama

I slept in my mom’s bed until I was in junior high. Not every night. Just sometimes. I guess I needed the closeness. Some kids do.

Even when I came home to visit from college, I crawled into her bed once or twice, and fell asleep, because she was there.

But there was a last time.

My daughter, Ava, will be fifteen in November. I remember bringing her home. I was a baby with a baby. She texts me now. We Snapchat. Actually, she Snapchats and I try to respond. I make her laugh with my ineptitude.

There was a day she set down her doll. There was a day she didn’t pick it up again.

 We don’t remember, you know, the day it happens. The inconsequential last.

Yesterday, my ten-year-old said, “You know when you tell me I can’t sleep in your room now, I don’t care so much anymore.” He was proud. He said them without warning.

We were driving, and I looked over at my husband in the passenger seat, saw tears in his eyes. He looked back at me like See. I fucking told you.

He whacked my leg playfully to process the searing pain of words you expected and welcomed and denied for years. In his eyes, I see years of us watching kids grow. I feel the day we look around at a quiet home, once overflowing with kids.

Our son always wants to be on our floor. Since he was three, he’s had a little spot on our floor. Posted up there. A pile of blankets. A teddy bear. A stuffed cat. His sweaty little blond head. Lately, he’s not allowed there on the weekends. On the weekends, only daddy and mama sleep in the room. Well, except for the baby.

Sometimes there were tears about it. Sometimes he would not sleep. Sometimes he would whine from the other room and we would tell him, “Hey. You get to be there almost all the time. Now knock it off.”

I’d get mad. I’d get madder than Mac (he’s always more chill). Maybe I would even yell.

I’d get mad about the blankets. The mess. The chaos. WILL MY ROOM EVER BE MINE WILL IT EVER BE CLEAN I’M SICK OF THIS SHIT.

I’d clean them all up and enjoy the blanketless floor. Look around, satisfied.

“Someday Janelle, he won’t ask to be with us anymore, and when that day comes we will miss him. Someday we’ll have no kids in our bed or on our floor and I don’t want to miss a single chance.”

I knew he was right. Thank god he said it.  

Sometimes, all six of us are in one room. It’s hot. I can hear the breathing of four children, feel the toes of a toddler in my back. I want out. I want to scream.

I wake to a tiny baby palm on my chest and smell his warm neck.

 I want to live there forever.

I don’t really care anymore when I can’t sleep in your room.

He wanted to impress me, my son. I felt a thousand nights disappear in his pride. In the lilt of his voice pushing the edge of little boy, in the lingering gray of pre-teen. He’ll join our oldest soon.

I told him, “That’s great.” I meant it. It burned.

I told him, “You are always welcome with us, son.”

And in my voice now there was maybe a begging, a tiny request, a nudge, for one two or three more years of a thing I wasn’t sure I even wanted a week ago. The old familiar wonderment at my own lack of perspective creeps in. My stomach flips in sharp regret.

I know not to go there. I know this is motherhood. I know sometimes the shit gets old. I know I’m tired. I know I want space. I know I want my body to be my own. I know sometimes I don’t want to see children let alone have them in my bedroom.

And I get it, on the weekends, sort of. I know it’s not always enough.

I know it feels fucking heavy and endless.

Until it ends, and you wonder with a broken open heart what the fuss was all about all those years, and unfold the blanket that very night on the carpet, watch a four-year-old boy fall asleep with curls around his face, a stuffed cat, shaking your head at the hallucination, because he’s ten now, and doesn’t mind being on his own.

Tonight, the blankets are on the floor. I’ll watch for the last.

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*****

Hey, join me for my last online writing workshop of 2016, beginning in October.

I’m super deep in other projects and will only run one more “Write Anyway” this year.

If you’ve been curious, now is the time.

I’d love to write with you.

I found this a year after I named my workshop "write anyway," which basically means I am Junot Diaz.

****

I have an idea: Let’s stop telling women how to give birth

by renegademama

I recently read an article cleverly titled “You should get an epidural” (I know, I know I should have stopped there) that told a story about some “natural birther” who was rude to the writer in a grocery store. Apparently she asked the writer – WHILST STANDING IN A CHECKOUT LINE – how she planned on giving birth then shamed her for wanting an epidural. This is almost unbelievable in its fucked-upedness (yeah that’s a word).

Who the hell would do that? I’d like some stranger to ask me when I was visibly pregnant “how I planned on giving birth.” I’d be like, “On your face, asshole,” and leave.

But that’s irrelevant. The point here is that in response to her outrage at being told how she should give birth, she wrote an article telling women how they should give birth.

Because this is how we do in the interwebz.

Why god WHY?

She implies that women who want unmedicated birth are trying to “win” something and attempts to discredit the real and valid reasons people opt for unmedicated births by bolstering the benefits of epidural and invalidating the “science” stating that epidurals “slow down labor” with the words “but I’ve talked to a few doctors who say it speeds it up!”

Fuck.

Can we all please stop making shit up at random and calling it “evidence?”

Yes, that includes you, lady on the internet who declared that not leaving the placenta attached until it falls off on its own is an act of “violence.”

Yes, I read that. I read an actual human writing those actual words. I can only imagine how fun she is at dinner parties:

Non-Violent Placenta lady: “Oh! You just had a baby. What, pray tell, did you do with the placenta?”

Normal person: “Well I cut the cord and the doctor like, took it away.”

Aghast and appalled, Non-Violent Placenta Lady breaks down weeping right there next to the triple-cream brie.

I have an idea: Somewhere between one must let the placenta fall off untouched in soft moonlight and a choir of angels and FUCK THESE ANTI-EPIDURAL MARTYRDOM WANNABE HEROES is the land of Not Being a Dick.

Also known as, informing yourself and doing what is best for you and your baby and body and family.

Also known as, not caring how strangers birth their babies.

Also known as: Not being a dick.

Always, we’re back there. It’s like Oz. All roads lead to it.

This seems so reasonable, and yet, the nonsense prevails. We pick and choose data and statistics and studies. And we all know how I feel about those. We strategically ignore and omit and focus on this information over that information to prove our points and back our game.

There are valid and real and intelligent reasons to opt FOR and AGAINST epidurals.

And yet, rather than treating both options as sound decisions, there are actual people CRUSADING for and against the use of epidurals. Straight up ON A MISSION. People arguing that all women should have medication. People arguing that all women should have homebirths. To me, they’re all missing the fucking point.

Everybody keeps talking about women’s empowerment by demanding women do things THEIR way.

Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

 

Look, I gave birth four times, each time without an epidural and twice at home. Yes, I wanted a birth without an epidural, and yes, I wanted that adamantly, for myself. Not for you. I truly could not care less how you have your baby. In fact I can’t really think of anything that affects me less than how strangers have their babies.

I wanted births without epidurals because I am a control freak and wanted as much power over my body as physically possible. I wanted to move freely and birth how I wanted. I was MORE afraid of losing that power than I was of the pain of childbirth. Of course I do not looooooooove the pain, and I certainly didn’t “dance my baby out” (some hippie suggested I do that), and I may or may not have wanted to kick (gently! I love you!) my midwife on account of her infinitely soothing voice, but I was not really concerned about the pain.

Not because I am a martyr. Not because I believe Eve must be punished for her sins. Not because I’m anti-feminist and not because I hate doctors and not because I think YOU should do it. That’s just my preference.

Wait. Seriously, stop calling me a fucking martyr. I am not a martyr. Martyrs are heroes. I am not a hero. What am I fighting for? WOMEN ACROSS THE LAND?

Stop. There is nothing “heroic” about my choice. I was not particularly brave and I was not impressive and I was not trying to “prove a point” and I am not anti-epidural.

Which brings me to my next point: Having an epidural is not cowardly, unnatural, or un-“womanly” (whatever the fuck that means). In the past, I have used the term “natural” to describe “unmedicated.” I don’t do that anymore. It’s a loaded term. I apologize for not realizing that sooner. (On that, the writer of the article and I agree.)

To me, we’re all brave. And I don’t mean that in some cute woo-woo way. I mean it truthfully: We face a thing we are a little (or a lot) afraid of. All of us have grown up in a culture of fear surrounding childbirth. How that manifests in each of us will be unique, but universally, we face the unknown. Whether through surgery or birth at home or in a hospital, we face something infinitely new, with stakes higher than anything we’ve ever faced. And we have no choice. We walk in. We handle it.

That is bravery.

I felt safest with the littlest intervention as possible.

We get to define that for ourselves.

All this shit-slinging about choices is nothing more than self-righteousness masquerading as “helpfulness.” It’s not about other women. It’s not about new moms. It’s about THEMSELVES. It’s about their own damn choices. It’s about pretentiousness and insecurity.

Fun fact: People secure in their choices do not feel compelled to run around screaming how other people should be like them.

Oh, and BTW. If you’ve never had a child: Shut the hell up with your demands on my vagina/uterus/offspring. No, really. Shut the actual fuck up. Nobody cares.

I see people who made choices like mine treating women who get epidurals or planned caesareans as some sort of strange subspecies that barely loves their children let alone possesses the spiritual depth necessary to raise them. They act as if Ina May Gaskin is THE GODDESS of motherhood and we all must embrace her or die alone in parental wasteland.

Perhaps I’m overshooting the mark a tiny bit, but seriously.

You know what? Yes. I believe our maternal healthcare system is pretty fucked, and I believe it needs to change. But that will not happen by running around spewing orgasmic birth as The Only Way.

We have one job. We know what it is.

 

You know what I want? Women to have equal access to information and education to make informed choices that work for them. I want women to have doctors and midwives who explain the pros and cons of choices openly and honestly, treating women like they have brains in addition to vaginas. (I know, revolutionary.) I want women to be treated like humans, not cute little pets. I want women to be respected, validated, and heard. I want women to be the central player in the birth of their babies.

I want women to have POWER, however they define it.

 

Kumba-fucking-ya.

We’re all warriors here. We can own that.

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let’s be real: it’s all about the fucking newborn breath. omg newborns. I NEED ANOTHER BABY.