15 July, 2014
Raising four girls a la Little Women has long been a fantasy of mine. Naturally, Jo is my favorite March woman (you're crazy if she isn't yours too), with Marmee following at a close second. I have always found Marmee's parenting style to be quite inspiring: her beautiful example of empathy, the way she empowered her children to stand up for themselves and those around them, her nonviolent practices. I really could gush on and on.
I've also spent years existentially crisis-ing through my past experiences as an adolescent girl, scheming about how I could cultivate a life different -- better -- for my daughters than I had for myself, free of incessant self-doubt, self-hatred, all-girls-everywhere-hatred, perfectionism, submission, hyper-sacrifice, and over-apologization (coining this word now). You know, the basics. I'm not stupid or naive enough to say that I had it all worked out, but I had a plan in mind that I was truly excited to put into action and see where it took my daughter(s) and me.
And then I found out my first was a boy. Well, okay, that was an interesting twist, but in all likelihood another child would soon follow, and then maybe I could finally put my master plan into action. Strangely, my obsession with having a girl was so strong, it lead me to feel a lot of worry about the dynamics of the relationship between Real Life Son and Completely Made Up Daughter. I haven't an older brother, but those are often portrayed as fatherly, protective figures over younger sisters. Real Life Son's existence was seriously getting in the way of my creating a perfect life for Completely Made Up Daughter.
Today, I've got a fire engine obsessed toddler son who has a knack for turning absolutely everything into a vehicle of some kind, including that anatomically correct male Waldorf doll complete with cloth diaper that I bought him. Today, I also have boy 2.0 in utero. My aspirations about mothering my own little March-inspired clan will forever float above my head as mere daydreams. I am making choices about how to socialize my boys on a minute-by-minute basis, and I've recently realized that I'm going to have to come to grips with the fact that I need to get some new ideas in rotation. This is a challenge that excites me but also leaves me at a complete loss.
Internet, are you out there? It's me, MMC. I'm wondering how to go about raising feminist boys.
16 June, 2014
Yesterday was Father's Day and I blew it.
I will be honest and say that I didn't muster up the energy and creativity that is usually required for making a person feel special.
I woke up tired and grouchy, I messed up the meal I had in mind, and I didn't plan ahead. I went by the liquor store to pick up J's favorite drink, only to find I was too late and it was closed. Don't even ask me about the gift I bought because that didn't happen.
I will admit that I spent most of the day defensive, telling myself that we are "so over" these holidays, and because our budget is tight we had no options. I will say, however, that if we had skipped over Mother's Day, I would have felt hurt and my job as a mother would have felt even more thankless than it often does.
These holidays are stupid, yes, but sometimes when you're as lame as I am, you need public, nationwide shaming to make you stop being a jerk. Here goes.
Watching J army-crawl his way through the experience of becoming a father has been absolutely humbling. We started our journey of parenthood blindsided by fear, overwhelmed by change. The weeks and months following Finn's birth are nothing for me but a blur of ugly, painful, mascara tears (just kidding, I definitely wasn't together enough to be wearing mascara then). I get anxiety just recalling those memories. I felt swallowed whole by the experience. And yet, while I was adjusting to the demands of motherhood, J was adjusting to the demands of fatherhood and an extremely rigorous graduate school program simultaneously. The amount of pressure he had to perform under was inscrutable. And perform, he did.
For this summer season, J is staying home with Finn while I work. I am familiar with the rhythms of his days at home, having experienced them for most of Finn's life. They feel mostly slow and frustrating, with little bursts of pride, excitement, and maddening, deep love. Your spouse comes home tired, feeling overworked, and guilty about time spent away. You want nothing more than the small thrill of an adult conversation, a task completed start to finish, and to replenish the energy that somehow a day at home has drained. I can't imagine anything better for a parenthood partnership than for your typical roles to be reversed for a time. I am so grateful to find myself in a position that allows me to better empathize with the demands of the working parent and my appreciation for J has only deepened and my pride in him has completely soared.
J, when I think about where we started as parents and where we are today, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the ways in which you've grown, as painful as those experiences have been for us. You have stretched through these growing pains in a way that I admire and you have developed into a father that even a control freak like me can't help but learn from. I would tell Finn how lucky he is to have you, but I know there is no need. I can tell he already knows that by the way I see him look at you every single day.
12 May, 2014
As my years and experiences in this life add up, I feel a heaviness surrounding the celebration of Mother's Day. I wrestle with how I can best lend an ear or a shoulder to those I know who struggle with the role that motherhood has played in their lives. I shed tears with the couples close to me that must accept the frustrating and heartbreaking news of a negative pregnancy test each month. I lament with the friends and family who have had to say goodbye to their babies before even a look was exchanged. I pray that no one I know should have to face the devastating news that it is time to say goodbye to their infant or child.
Today, my dear friends, I think of you. I struggle, deeply, with the guilt of knowing that I have been blessed with something that you long for. I ask your forgiveness for the times in which I have taken my role of motherhood for granted, especially in your presence, and thank you for how gracious you have been in the midst of my shortsightedness and selfishness. I am so very grateful for the ways that you have mothered me and my own children -- we need you. Whether you are a mother, or you desperately long to someday be one, or have chosen another vocation entirely, I lend my support as you discern your identity and purpose both in and outside of motherhood.