Posts Filed Under Sometimes, I’m all deep and shit…..

Alright, 2016. You gave me some love.

by renegademama

I learned that if you start doing something you love and keep doing it over and over, saying “fuck it” and doing it again, you may find yourself making a living doing what you love. And it will feel as good as you imagined.

But I learned too there is no arrival, and even as you meet the moments you were sure were going to eliminate the fear – “As soon as [this one thing] happens, I will feel confident and know what I’m doing.” – fear simply morphs into a new version of itself. But you can write anyway. And you grow bored of the motherfucker.

Get a new game, fear.

I learned that I can love a political candidate and get super into the primaries (Oh, Birdie), and that I can feel actual sadness when my guy loses. I also learned that the primaries are way. way. WAY too fucking long. Why do we hate ourselves?

I learned that the moment you realize you have three years left with your oldest child is an incomprehensible one, and you feel robbed and delighted all the same, and wonder if you loved her toddler years completely, and hold on to the time like glittering diamonds.

I learned two-year-olds are still pretty annoying.

And potty training is bullshit.

And snot is an asshole.

But the way they run in quick little steps still takes my breath away.

I learned my children will surpass me with their strength.

I learned I will miss my husband’s beard.

I learned a mini-van is the vehicle of the gods.

I learned my country can betray me. I learned it can elect a man of hate and authoritarian idiocy, and that some people aren’t bothered by a President using Twitter to discuss foreign policy.

I learned we need to improve the American education system.

I learned you’ll feel a little better the day after your country elects a barely literate bullying demagogue if you go over to your best friends’ house and sing old folks songs of resistance while she plays piano and your kids run in circles around the living room.

I learned you’ll feel better until you realize the next morning that at the very moment you sang and cried, your grandmother was bleeding on a kitchen floor 50 miles away, killed by the hand of your cousin.

You will wonder if you cried perhaps for her that night.

I learned grief is a physical agony.

I learned children sometimes face evil too young.

I learned I cannot protect any of us from either.

I learned silence surrounding mental illness kills people. I learned it shatters families and massacres the dignity of life, and death. I learned one hundred human lives can cripple under agony, diminish forever, weep simultaneously for the rest of their breathing days because of the silence surrounding mental illness.

I learned of the dignity of death. I learned you can die beautifully. I learned you can die with your hands held to the heart of your wife of 67 years and the eyes of your daughters and grandchildren surrounding you through their tears, bathing you in the sunlight warmth of a lifetime together.

I learned we all deserve the right to die like that.

I learned once again that the only way through it is to move right to the center, to throw yourself into the flames, let them leap and pull and tear to make you new, turn you to ash, trusting for some godforsaken reason that the embers will burn enough to light your way to the other side.

I learned there is no other side.

I learned this is it. I learned my family is all I have (and that some family isn’t blood). I learned there is more love for all of us in our pain. I learned this isn’t bullshit mind candy. It is the ultimate reality I will always be seeking.

I learned if your grandmother is killed, all the irritation you once felt toward your own mother will wash away like a pebble pulled into the ocean – all the tiny bothers tumbling into the blue – and you will rest easy, and grateful for that, as you hold her hand to your heart and pray it’s enough.

To tomorrow.

I learned we are still here.

And with all my heart, I’m still, I’m still just happy to be here.

my baby and my mom.

 

19 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | December 31, 2016

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 it 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 calmer). 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 am a mother, not a shadow of my former self, and I will not apologize

by renegademama

We have got to talk. We have got to talk about the way motherhood is so often depicted as this sanctimonious martyrdom of hell in which formerly interesting and intellectual humans are reduced to snot and cereal.

This is the situation, partly. There are phases, particularly when children are in their infancy, when life seems to become nothing more than poop and milk and laundry peppered with zombie exhaustion, existential crises, and a lurking notion of “wtf has my life become?” (Clearly hyperbole remains intact, however.)

And there was absolutely a part of me that mourned my old self after I had my first child. I knew I would never be wholly the same, attached as I was, suddenly and irrevocably, to another human being. I could never walk away. I could never not be “mother.”

And that is heavy.

But it wasn’t the end. Motherhood is not the end of me and it never has been. I thought it was for a minute there, but I was wrong. My kids didn’t erase me. My kids didn’t turn me into a shadow of my former self. Yeah, I’m not out drinking fifths of Jack Daniels in Barcelona in my crop-top and mini-skirt, but ummmmmm, I’m also 37. Many of choose to change it up a bit around age 30. My husband and I aren’t frequenting bars and shooting pool in between shots we bought for our best friend Charlie who we met 10 minutes ago, but we’re also kinda old and tired and Netflix is calling.

We could still be doing this, but we aren’t, because our lives and values have changed, partly because we have kids, partly because we don’t find that stuff super fulfilling anymore (was it ever?). Also I’m an alcoholic but I digress.

The point is that motherhood was not the end of my personality, character, or identity. It wasn’t the end of my intellect and creativity and sarcasm. I still say fuck. I still like my music. I still like sex. I like movies and politics and critical theory. I like debating shit with people. I like getting fired up and thinking about things, and I like my husband. As a friend and as a lover. I like going places with him. I like to flirt with him. I like to swim in rivers and camp and write the shit out of things.

Even when my days are diapers and my nights are nursing, even when we haven’t had sex in way too long, even when my waking hours are finding shoes and washing dishes, even when kid voices drown out all the things forever, I AM STILL IN HERE.

Do not for a second erase me.

I like my friends who don’t have kids. I like my friends who have kids. I like going on girls’ trips and watching them get naked in hot tubs and smoke weed.

What is wrong with that? Nothing.

And there’s nothing wrong with women making other choices. SAHM, working mom, by choice or force, whatever. And maybe life has become a seemingly endless cycle of mundane tasks. We’ve all been there. But to me, that seems temporary, and I am sick and TIRED of this narrative that motherhood requires erasure of the self. Who the hell came up with this anyway?

And why isn’t it assumed that men disappear as individuals when they become dads? I don’t see too many men apologizing for becoming devoted and loving fathers. In fact, pretty sure we CONGRATULATE THE CRAP out of them for that sort of thing.

But more importantly, I DON’T SEE THIS WHEN I LOOK AROUND AT MOTHERS.

What I see is a bunch of fiercely powerful, badass humans – whether they are “stay at home moms” or not. I see artists: writers, painters, directors, knitters and bakers. I see pissed off feminists and fierce advocates for gender creativity. I see women of color fighting for the lives of their sons and daughters and I see doctors, lawyers, yogis and fat women in bikinis, sexy as hell and owning all 40 years of their beauty. Every motherfucking inch of it.

I see home-schoolers and friends and homemakers and executives. I see women creating businesses from their crafts and talents and heart, rockin’ PTA meetings and preschool events and women leading children on their paths to whoever they were meant to become: fighters and lovers and truth-sayers and storytellers. I see wickedly funny women who call out bullshit faster than you can say “Caillou is the spawn of Satan.”

And yet, they write us like we’re nothing. They write us like we’re sad little shells. They write us like we NEED TO BE APOLOGIZING TO OUR HUSBANDS FOR NOT MEETING THEIR NEEDS PERFECTLY.

Hey, the 1950s called. They totally want their rhetoric back.

Lemme tell ya something: WE GET TO DEFINE MOTHERHOOD HOWEVER THE FUCK WE WANT. And we get to do so unapologetically and locked in solidarity with all the other mamas out there who are like SURE I’M WIPING YOUR ASS ALL DAY BUT I DON’T LOVE IT and I’M IN HERE SOMEWHERE ASSHOLES.

And that’s the thing, really: I don’t buy that we’re gone. I don’t buy that we are really gone. I don’t buy that we curl up to the size of a sippy cup and wait for the years to pass.

We are powerful as we ever were, and I, for one, will never let you forget it.

And if you feel erased, mama, check it out: I see you. What you are, what you once were, and what you are still.

This is motherhood.

This is us.

We get to own it.

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Gender-neutral bathrooms are a parent’s dream

by renegademama

So, people are concerned that male pedophiles are going to prey on girls in female bathrooms.

UMMMMMMMM geniuses. These flesh-eating-bacteria-scum were formerly sharing the bathrooms with your boys.

How were you not concerned about that?

And if you are so concerned about the safety of your children, why the hell aren’t you super freaking happy at the prospect of gender-neutral bathrooms? Gender-neutral bathrooms mean we get to accompany our kids no matter what their gender and age into restrooms.

For example, my 10-year-old son is too old to use the women’s restroom but I hate letting him use public restrooms alone because I’m weird and overbearing and have internalized irrational threat narratives, so my only option is to stand wild-eyed halfway in the doorway, glaring at the people and repeating his name loudly until I’m sure he’s peed safely. And washed his hands.

I’m kidding. I don’t do that. But I want to.

Gender-neutral bathrooms would allow my kids and I to all use the same bathroom as one big hand-washing batshit WHY DO I HAVE SO MANY KIDS family.

It’s a damn parent’s dream.

Everybody keeps talking about family safety. Family. Family. The threat to our girls! And now businesses are like, “Hey, you can stay in bathrooms with your kids to ensure their safety” and you’re like WHY DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT THE SAFETY OF MY FAMILY?

Also, our kids are way more likely to be hurt by people we know. This is awful. This is also a statistical fact. We should all get down with facts.

And if you’re worried about you as a woman getting raped, well, I understand that. That is a worry. I too am a woman, but frankly, we are at some risk no matter where we go, and I’m pretty sure if a rabid rapist were hell-bent on attacking a woman in a bathroom, some stupid fucking plastic sign outside the door wouldn’t stop him.

I don’t think sociopathic degenerates are like “Oh, well, if it says I can’t go in there I guess I won’t” when they plan on assaulting a human being. Something tells me societal decorum is not at the forefront of their minds.

I wish they would die in fires.

Let’s move on to freak-out number 3: Men dressing up as women to creep on females in the women’s bathroom. First of all, this already happens, only with men dressed up as men. Have you not heard about that fucking freak show that like lived in a porta-potty or some shit so he could watch women pee, and, evidently, get pooped on?

I read about that years ago and to this day I can’t use a portable toilet without glancing down to make sure a face isn’t staring up at me. Oh god. I should not have said that. I feel gross.

I hate porta potties.

My point is that there are sick fucks everywhere, people, and transgender people are not more likely to be those sick fucks, and if you think they are, you have bigotry transphobia issues. I suggest you work those out somehow, possibly with education. I am not being sarcastic. I am sincerely asking you to learn about what transgender means and how it is not associated with sexual deviance.

Well, unless you’re some sort of religious zealot like that lady who walked through Target waving her bible with her children in tow (how is that not abuse(?)) screaming about how Target hates babies. In that case, we’ll just hope you don’t homeschool.

And if some dude were claiming he is a woman and hanging out in the Target bathroom just kind of chillin’ randomly, don’t you think somebody would see him and he would get kicked out of the bathroom by security? Like all the other sick fuckwits in the world? 

For example, a couple of years ago there was a creepy-ass looking dude sitting at a table in the children’s section of the public library. There were no kids with him. He was filthy and glassy-eyed and had a coat thrown over his shoulder and lap. I’m going to let your mind wander to the foulest thing you can think of, because you would be correct.

You know what I did? Walked up to the librarian and demanded that the sick lap-stroking subhuman be removed from the library immediately, and castrated. Sorry. So wrong. But fuck that guy. And fuck all the men and women that want to prey on our babies. And fuck the people who think trans and gender non-conforming individuals are those people. 

 

This is my daughter, Georgia:

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She was recently thrown out of a bathroom by older children who insisted she was a boy. 

But I’m a girl. 

They blocked her from the stall until she left crying.

Please, be the change, in your family. 

AND BE IT NOW.

 

Dear teacher, I wish I could tell you.

by renegademama

To my son’s teacher,

I know he didn’t do exactly what you said. I know you said “write an essay” and make sure you use topic sentences and correct punctuation and I know these things are important (I am a writer, you see, I get it), and I know my boy didn’t do that. You said use cursive. He didn’t do that either.

I wish I could tell you how he sat at the table working on his paragraphs for 4 hours over many days and how when he was finished he came into my room 5 times in 20 minutes to check if the baby was asleep yet so I could read the words he wrote “totally by himself.”

I wish I could tell you that last week he lied to us again about his assignments and I failed to check and I didn’t know about the writing project due last week. I wish I could tell you how we talked to him about facing hard things and how even if it seems easier in the moment to deny and pretend it’s not happening, we have to face the challenges of our lives.

And so this week, with this essay, he’s facing the super hard thing.

I wish I could tell you how hard it is. I wish I could tell you how he didn’t talk until 3 years old and came home from preschool with migraines and would curl on the bathroom floor in pain. I wish I could tell you how I took him out and homeschooled him after that and how he could not not not not not learn any letters at all and I would lose my patience. I would lose my patience with my learning disabled son so I wish I could I tell you I GET IT. I get how hard it is to teach these kids.

Still, I wish I could beg you to tell him what a great job he did on this essay and how proud you are because he worked so hard. I wish I could ask you to say this in spite of the phonetic spelling and words running together and lack of punctuation or topic sentences or cursive.

But I probably won’t.

I probably won’t because being the mom of a learning-disabled kid means walking the line – no, skinny ass thread – between “helicopter enabler mom” and “letting the kid own what’s his” mom. Between “not catering to laziness” and “protecting a child in a system that wasn’t created for him.”

Between helping a kid own his disability while defending him against unnecessary exercises in futility that serve only to make him feel more stupid. How much is the disability? How much is his personality? Where do I end? Where do you begin?

But we don’t talk about this at IEP meetings. We talk about auditory processing disorders and rapid naming disorders and “2nd grade instructional” reading levels and another battery of tests so he can keep his IEP. I know when we’re doing those anyway, before you even mention it, because he turns deathly quiet before school, again.

I suggest perhaps they’re unnecessary since he’s not going to magically become un-dyslexic. But I know it’s about funding. I know there are so many kids in your class. I know how hard you work. I know about teaching. I did it, though with college kids. I could never handle a bunch of ten-year-olds and their fucking parents.

But I have to hold you accountable and that feels weird. I have to intervene. I have to watch like a damn hawk. Not because you are a bad teacher (although he’s had one of those), but because the system wasn’t built for kids like him.

I wish I could tell you about first grade and how it was okay and second grade and how it wasn’t okay and how he was shoved out of a chair and dragged across the room by his collar and nobody even told me. I wish I could tell you how he learned NOTHING that year except fear and separateness and I took him out again, for healing. He got 15 minutes a day with a brand-new resource teacher who had no idea how to teach dyslexic kids. I had to refer her to options. That was when we lived in a poor town full of poor kids. And apparently if you’re dyslexic and poor, you’re fucked.

I wish I could tell you how we moved for 3rd grade to get to nicer schools because I knew my son’s education and possibly life depended on that. I wish I could tell you the guilt I felt that I even had that option but how in third grade his teacher wrapped her love and strength around him in a way that made 2nd grade and preschool and his impatient mother dim into damn near nothing and his reading specialist and special ed teacher (who he spends an HOUR with every day) taught him to read. And he worked. And he worked. And he went from a pre-k reading level to 2nd grade instructional in one year. And they loved him. And he spoke in front of the class.

And I sat in the back and wept.

I wish I could tell you this journey, so you see the 4th grader standing before, beyond “daydreaming” or “off task again.” I wish I could tell you this so you know what you’re looking at when you get his paper so far “behind.” So lacking. So not following the rules.

I wish I could tell you so could see the ten thousand hours of fear and desperation and love and fighting and strength that live in each misspelled word, each scratched out, run-together line, and how his eyes beamed blue and bright and proud when he held it out to me and asked, “Do you think my teacher will like it?”

I wish you could have seen my face.

Janelle

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End of the year gift for his special ed teacher.

105 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | February 4, 2016