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

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

Every day I hold my breath as I ask how her day was

by renegademama

Instead of calling a human being an “it,” you can call them 

“he or she”

“him or her”

“friend”

“they”

“sparkle face”

“love boat”

“person.”

Or, most importantly, whatever they want to be called (even if that’s not perhaps your first thought).

 

If you don’t have that information, and you can’t tell their gender through the lens of traditional performance expectations (in other words you can’t “tell” if they’re a “boy” or “girl”)

You can resort to calling them anything really that

Respects

Maintains

Supports

And

Recognizes their HUMANITY

 

As opposed to

erases it.

 

If you think it’s funny or true or politically poignant to refer to a human being as an inanimate object as if that human doesn’t have

brain bones soul like you do,

then you may raise a child who goes to school with my child

and stands in a circle on the playground yelling

“It”

and pointing to my baby

until

she comes home and tells me about it in

hushed

hurt

cascades

of tiny kid talk.

 

“I think they just didn’t know if I’m a boy or a girl” and you say WELL TELL THEM and she says I DID (but they won’t stop) so you tell the teacher and she investigates and all along you’re thinking it’s innocent 6-year-old confusion but the teacher says

NO.

Sorry.

These kids knew it was wrong. They knew what they were doing was wrong.

And you want to fall over

Cry

Kick

Burn

Unenroll

Unsubscribe

in the whole fucking thing

because of all the things in the world your baby is,

IT

is not one of them.

 

Of all the things in the world she is first, human,

and what do you do if the world perhaps

refuses

to

recognize

her

as

such?

 

The heart of 5 years, 5 months and 2 days grew first in my womb, home, and veins

born here with you

Me

Earth.

She’s OURS.

ALREADY made whole, full and

knowing who and how she is though maybe you deny

the

tap

of her tiny heart

against my own silent pulse

the one

your

child

sent you, too,

in shockwaves to your guts –

the

knowing

fullness

of love,

breath, and bones.

 

There are a thousand things you can say instead of “it.”

Choose one.

They’re listening.

 

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P.S. I’m not putting my child’s face up because the thought of People of the Interwebz criticizing the way my baby dresses herself makes me want to stab things. And though this is about her, it’s for every kid like her, every kid rocking aesthetics that the world may not quite understand. We love you. You’re alright. They are the problem. Fuck ’em. Get your cape on and do you.

115 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | January 7, 2016

How I (sort of) manage Donald Trump and the rest of the bullshit.

by renegademama

For the last two years, almost every Thursday night, I get together with the same two families. We rotate houses each week, meaning every 3rd week, the gang comes to our place. The other weeks, we go to one of their houses.

And we are a motherfucking gang. Six adults and 9 kids between us, aged: 14, 10, 5, 5, 5, 3, 2, 18 months and 6 months.

My friend Kristi suggested this. I would never be that smart. When she suggested it, I thought “Well that kinda sounds like alotta work” but answered “Yeah totally” because I’ve grown to not trust my judgment when it comes to things like this. I’ve found that life hands you some pretty interesting shit if you say “yes” as often as you can, even if your gut is all “No thanks I’m fine right here in Land That I Know.”

I’ve also learned that something “sounding like a lot of work” is a crap reason to avoid it.

And so, we eat together on Thursday nights.

 

We eat together through death and grief and illness big and small. Through depression and joy and arguments and just another boring old Thursday night. We eat together in the dead heat of summer and the rainy chill of winter and we eat through tantrums and squeals of delight.

The kids blend into one another, a giant ball of love and limbs that kind of rolls through the house in an air of noise, the tiniest ones following behind devotedly.

I’ll hold the baby. Mac will hold the baby. Somebody will hold the baby and somebody will cut the kids’ meat and somebody will deal with the finger that maybe just got smashed in the door. Also, they should stop doing that.

We kiss, hold, hug, redirect and discipline as if all the kids were ours. They are, I suppose, all ours.

When screams come from a bedroom we look around and ask “Which kid is that?”

If an adult’s back there, we have another cracker. We know our friend’s got it.

We know our friend’s got it.

 

We sit together through crying kids who haven’t eaten enough for dessert. We sit through BS times in marriage. We sit through alcoholic family members and no money and a little money and vacations and rounds of strep throat and on Halloween maybe we dress up together. We sit together through pregnancies, the expected and unexpected kind, and we sit together through newborn periods and husbands working out of town and questionable mental health.

Each week when I ask “What can I bring?” or read “My house tomorrow, 5:45pm,” I know soon I’ll be at a table with friends who are just friends because we are friends. If that makes sense to you, you are a fucking blessed human.

We pass baby clothes around and it’s less painful because I know I’ll get to see another baby in those pajamas, on a Thursday night, as if he were mine. We all live within a mile from each other. Sometimes we walk to each other’s houses.

Sometimes we stop for a couple weeks, but we pick back up. Right where we left off. Just exactly where we left off. We keep picking up where we left off like a little crew that won’t give up and when the world is crashing and pummeling around me, when 10,000 things are happening that make me feel thrown around at sea, the chair at that table with my friends becomes a 10,000 pound anchor.

A built-in support system. A group of humans who already know because they’re already there. They’re always there. Sick? Soup. Depression? Company. New baby? Both. Out of town? Plants watered.

We know our friend’s got it.

I watch the three girls who’ve known each other since birth, in each other’s clothes, now they’re in a tattling stage. We tell them as they come, one by one, that they can work it out with each other. We laugh. They’re getting big. Ava and Rocket sit with us now at the adult table (none of us have a table big enough for 14 people). We talk and talk and talk. We get interrupted again and again and again. We get up, we clean up, we get annoyed, we discuss revisionist history, and a maybe a trip snowboarding this weekend. They all come out of the room without clothes. Somebody just poured water in her plate. Arlo is snatching toys. The three-year-old is on time-out. The baby’s nursing.

Everything is just as it should be, this Thursday night.

 

In times like this, when mosques are being fire bombed and Muslims spat upon and planned parenthood shot up and San Bernardino shot up and all the schools shot up and all the life bombed and Donald Trump white supremacist hate-conjuring as if the Japanese Internment never happened and old friends are dying and getting sick and newer ones too, and, and.

Each Thursday I sit at a table with my friends and our whirling-dervish mayhem, good food and love become a tiny shelter in an insane unjust bullshit world. It’s all falling apart, out there, it seems, but tonight we share something we made or they made for me, taking in the love of humans still in my arms, now in my arms. Our kids. Our bellies. Lives move on and on and yet stay right here at our table.

We don’t have to talk about it. We just pick up where we left off.

Our kids are the ages of the ones who died in Newtown. We don’t have to talk about it. We will, for a moment. For a moment somebody will say something, but probably not much else, as we sit down and serve ourselves and smile at the 2-year-old who just removed her clothes for the 10th time tonight.

What beauty. What luck.

 

People, I never tell you what to do, but I’m telling you this: Get yourself a crew. Find them. Show up. Cook some food. A lot. Pick up where you fucking left off.

Every time. Just pick up where you left off and know they’ve got it.

Know your friend’s got it. None of us were made to withstand the weight alone.

Mac kissing the head of a baby who isn't ours but is kind of ours.

Mac kissing the head of a baby who isn’t ours but is kind of ours.

****

Two spots left in my January writing workshop.

February is half-full.
Join us now!

WRITE THE MOTHERFUCKING WORDS.

(Also, hang out with me (well, via video). I’m way less batshit than I appear in my writing. LIES I AM WORSE.)

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