Posted on | August 27, 2015 | 2 Comments
I have always considered myself, well… liberal. I think all men and women are created equal … no matter what they look like, who they pray to, and who they love. It’s a big part of who I am and it’s a big part of how I identify myself. I get upset when people think or act differently than that because I don’t understand it. I just don’t understand hatred.
I get fired up about hatred.
I get fired up about racism.
I get fired up about the assassination of character that sometimes happens when someone speaks up about what they believe or how they feel. So much of the time, I don’t speak up about how I feel. I keep quiet because I’m so scared that what I feel will be somehow wrong. I get scared that what I feel will be twisted and turned into something ugly when it isn’t intended to be.
I believe that all of us are put here for the purpose of helping each other, learning from each other, teaching each other how to breathe in life and breathe out love. I always want to breathe out love. I want my words and actions and very being to radiate a love for everyone. Everyone.
And that’s why I feel so awful these days.
I feel awful and sad and uncomfortable because lately, I’ve been feeling very conflicted. I feel that, as a person who loves, I should be first in line to support and applaud the actions of Black Lives Matter. I feel that I’m supposed to support and applaud their interruption of Bernie Sanders and slam the negative response that followed. I feel that I’m supposed to believe that this was the right way to go about spreading a message. Because it’s a good message and the message is something I wholeheartedly support. And because I support the message, I feel like I’m supposed to support any and every way it is spread.
But I don’t.
Me, the “bleeding heart,” the “silly liberal woman.” Me. How can I not support that? How can I not agree with the articles that say it was needed and necessary. How can I not put myself in a position where I understand that it’s necessary and needed?
I can’t wrap my head around it.
I’ve read article after article supporting what happened at the Bernie Sanders Rally. I’ve read article after article about how great it was that these women took their cause to the stage, took their voices to the microphone, and let their message be heard. And I have to say, I agree that it’s good to take this cause to the stage. I agree that it’s good to take those voices to a microphone and to let the message be heard.
But I disagree with how it was done.
Because what happened that day took something special… something that was and is important… a movement that means Black Lives Matter… a movement that had my full and complete support… and made it into a Kanye West moment at the Grammy’s.
It made someone like me, someone who has always believed in equality of all people, question whether other people feel the same. Because yes, Black Lives Matter. Hell the effing yes they matter. And I will beat the tar out of anyone who says otherwise.
But you know what else matters?
Lots of things.
Things like respect and honor and dignity. Things like love and kindness and vulnerability. I was raised to believe that respect breeds respect, kindness begets kindness, and that even a whisper can be as loud as a roar if it is spoken into the right ear.
Black Lives Matter. They do.
And I want to shout from the rooftops that I support that… that I support every single mother loving inch of that. But recent events leave me unable to.
And the fact that I can’t open arm my support for a cause I believe in, makes me feel so much sadder than I’ve felt about anything in a very long time.
Posted on | August 21, 2015 | No Comments
Tomorrow, my son will be six years old.
Six is when I got a baby brother, when I began kindergarten… when I started to formulate memories that stay with me even now. And as I watch my own child roll into himself, roll into six years old, I can’t help but wonder if we have reached some sort of changing. Some form of a switch where I begin my soft lit fade into “used to be” and he begins his brightly focused march of “will be one day.”
I don’t feel old.
I don’t feel like I’m much different from the me that I was back when I drove a beat up Ford Tempo around the streets of Greensboro, North Carolina, blaring hip hop music intertwined with Dave Matthews Band and the Indigo Girls. I don’t feel so far removed from line dancing Shania Twain at spring break, or folding notes in little shapes and slipping them into lockers. I don’t, I’m not, I refuse to be… old.
And yet I am.
When I watch my son slip his backpack on and shrug out of my hugs and kisses, I am older.
When I push the sign up sheet for school fundraisers across the table of my office, I feel the lines of time softening my face.
When I look around at the collection of memories that are mine and his and all those who have gone before me, I know that somehow, in some inexplicable way, I have become older. I have become the one who came before, the one who used to be the girl sneaking cigarettes at the football game… the one who now sneaks only a second soda or glass of wine as her biggest vice. I have become so far removed from the girl who drove with the windows down, with one arm out weaving the wind through and around her fingers. Those moments, those far away moments, where I held the wind in my hand… felt like they would last forever. I thought I’d be that girl forever, taming and turning and becoming the wind around me.
I can look down at my hands now and see the markings of time; they are not as brightly polished as they once were. There are scars and creases and whispers… reminders of days when the wind was not so kind. Reminders of days when the wind didn’t bend to my will, but struggled back, bending and bruising and marking me with time and experience. The wind is not always something to hold… sometimes, most times, the wind is not something to hold.
It is to breathe in, to dance in, to stand in with your arms spread wide, drinking in the tickle of time as it blows and changes the shape, the substance of who you are.
I used to think I held the wind in my hands, that I was the master of my own time and my own destiny.
But no. The wind is not to hold.
The wind is to set free. To watch. To witness.
And now it is my son’s turn to cup his hands and dream. To feel the rush around his fingers and to believe, wholeheartedly, that one day… maybe…
He will hold the wind.
Posted on | August 10, 2015 | 2 Comments
Last week, my nerves were shot and I was stressed and uncomfortable with the decision I’d made to put J in public school. Last week, I was so worried that he wouldn’t be loved and supported and nurtured along with educated because the school was so big and there were so many students and how, oh how, would they possibly take the time to know MY kid…to love MY kid… for the person he is. Last week, I was scared and overwhelmed and wondering what in the hell was going on because why did I feel so disconnected and under-informed? Why was everything just happening around me and why couldn’t I get my mind wrapped around anything?
This morning, we drove across town for school drop off. I packed a book for J to read so he wouldn’t have to just sit and not talk for the fifteen or twenty minutes that he had to wait in the cafeteria. It was our compromise, our way of dealing with the drama of drop off in the mornings, and I was hopeful it would be a lasting solution. We got to school and I walked in with him because I had a question to ask and I’m so very glad I did.
His principal walked over, all smiles, and gave my son a hug. He lit up like a Christmas tree. It was so clear that he liked her and liked being acknowledged by her. She took the time to tell me, without having to use words, that my son was loved and nurtured at that school. She told me by bending down and looking him in the eye, calling him by name, remembering what class he’s in and who his friends are. She told me by being there, front and center, to answer nervous parent questions and to be the face of the school she so obviously loves.
I walked out of school this morning with an entirely different mind set. This IS the place for my son. This is where he will learn and thrive and yes, be loved and appreciated. This is where he will realize that life has lots of different sorts of people and he gets to choose the sort of person he will be. This is where he will become the person he will be for the rest of his life.
And I am so very very glad that Macon has a public school like this… one that doesn’t just teach the children but that LOVES the children. This week, I’m happy to call myself a Panda Parent… happy to tell people just how wonderful an environment my child and I have stumbled into. I think the first week is always hard… always a struggle to figure out where your child fits in the mix. The first week is just learning the rules… learning the ropes and when to pull and when to climb. Last week was a lot of pulling on my part, trying to fit the rope to my child. This week? This week will be about stepping back and watching my son climb.
What a difference a week can make.
Posted on | August 6, 2015 | 8 Comments
The past two mornings have ended in tears.
I should be more ashamed that the tears were mine, not J’s, but alas… I am not. Because I’m just full on overwhelmed by public school.
It’s not just the no talking or the newness. It’s not the uniforms and the drop off. It’s not even the pick up line. It’s just this feeling that I have no idea what is happening or why it is happening at any given point of the day. I’m not sure why someone decided teachers needed to cram so much into the school day that lunches were reduced to 20 minutes and recess became nearly obsolete. I’m not sure who decided our schools needed to be responsible not just for educating but also for moralizing, feeding, parenting and everything else. I’m just not sure who came up with this new structure that has stripped away any remnants of the public school system I was in waaaay back in the 80s and 90s and replaced it with this detailed prison-system day that gives our teachers little to no room for creativity or excitement… or fun.
School was always fun for me.
Thus far, J has come home every day a little sad.
Thus far, I have left him there a little sad.
On top of all the newness, I’m now consistently late to work because J is terrified of the cafeteria in the morning and begs to not have to go there. Which means I have to figure out a way to drop him off at 8:30 and arrive at work at 8:30. I’ve placed several calls to Emma Watson for advice, but she’s totally ignoring me.
I don’t know how to do this, guys. It’s so stressful and so overwhelming. And the sloppy edges of all this school-stressed-ness are oozing out in pools and leaving me emotionally bankrupt for all the rest that life has to offer. Is this our life now? This constant push/pull/struggle of putting on uniforms and tucking in shirts and prodding him out the door and into the world of school that is nothing like what I remember… that is nothing like what I hoped and wished for my child.
Don’t get me wrong… this isn’t a school issue. My son is blessed to be in what I consider the best school in our district. This is an actual system wide problem and I’m suddenly all too aware that there is absolutely no way we can adequately educate our children in this type of environment. The fact that children succeed coming out of public schools anywhere in this nation is a testament to the teachers they have and the probable overtime that the children, teachers, and parents do to make it work.
Because something is decidedly broken in the system when both the parent and the child begin and end their days in tears.
Posted on | August 5, 2015 | 5 Comments
Kindergarten may kill me. I’m not quite sure why they don’t do like a “Parent Survival Day” a week before… a trial run to get us all where we know what’s coming, even if it means that some parents realize they’re lions and the rest of us realize we’re just the lame gazelle the herd tossed back to distract.
We started on Monday and drop off was a breeze. In and out in under fifteen minutes and my kid seemed happy and adjusted. I was at work on time, everything was sunshine and roses and I texted a friend and was all “This is so easy. I am so awesome at all the things.” She warned me about pick up and I mocked her. She said she gets there at 2, over an hour early, just to wait around for her kids.
“Lame,” I thought to myself. “How bad can it really be.”
So I left my office at 2:45 and drove 15 minutes down the highway to the school exit, lauding my ability to rock out at all of this parenting stuff. I pulled up to the stop light three blocks down from the school and realized… I was apparently already in the line for pick up. Three blocks back and it was already winding a maze of sadness down through a neighborhood. Parents were glassy eyed and twitchy, watching carefully for the side swiping vulture cars who think that the line is just a suggestion, or perhaps a convenient opportunity to show that they are above the rules. It took me about three minutes to go from totally relaxed and ready to see my child, to stressed out, gripping the wheel and following so close to the truck in front of me that I was basically cleaning their grill for the first football tailgate. NO ONE WOULD GET IN MY WAY TO SEE MY CHILD! NO ONE!
I left work at 2:45 for 3:15 school dismissal. My child didn’t get into my car until 3:50. The majority of that time, I could actually see him but was not sure if it was okay to get out of my car and get him or if I had to wait my turn. Other parents got out and got their kids. I never could quite figure out if that was frowned upon. When we finally got home, I wasn’t sure who was more traumatized so we basically just drank for dinner. Both of us. (Okay no, not really).
But because it’s what we do, we got up and did it all again the next day. Only this time, I dropped him off for breakfast, thinking it would give me extra time at the office. Little did I know what that entailed. On day three, when he refused to get out of the car because he hated breakfast time, I walked in with him.
I’m fairly certain prisoners have a better time during meals.
Someone, somewhere, decided that allowing children to talk during meals leads to choking hazards or maybe not eating or maybe it just annoys people. So there are no-talking nazis everywhere telling children at 7:45 in the morning that there is to be absolutely no talking at any time. They herd them into a room where they are seated “criss cross applesauce” in a single file line… silently… until the
warden guard teacher announces their line can go get breakfast. Once they get their tray, they are ushered to a table where they sit next to anyone from K-5 in straight up silence to eat food. Well.. not exactly silence because while they eat, they are subjected to yelling like ‘YOUNG MAN ON THE CORNER? SIT DOWN. YOUNG LADY IN BLUE? NO TALKING.” I’m not actually sure what happened after that because I was suddenly too concerned I might drop something in the hallway and have to bend over to get it.
Ultimately, we ended up in the library, in the peaceful quiet of some good books and the tension in my kid’s shoulders dropped away. I was able to walk him down to his classroom and leave him in the hands of his awesome teacher without any further issues. It seems like there should be a better way for kids to start their day… some option like reading books in the library, or playing on the playground… something they can sign up to do other than be yelled at by Nurse Ratchet as they shovel poptarts and sugary cereal into their mouths. But what do I know… I’m just trying to not get eaten by one of the more ferocious foes around me and just make it through week one peacefully.
Until, you know, survival of the fittest at 3:15.
Posted on | August 3, 2015 | No Comments
If you ask my mother, she can tell you only one true thing about my first day of Kindergarten. She vividly remembers walking down the hallway to my classroom with my hand in hers and with each step, my grip on her hand grew tighter. I didn’t speak, I just squeezed tighter. I’ve always been one to hold on… maybe too hard, maybe too long. I just never have quite mastered the skill of letting things go.
This morning, I fastened a little brown belt around a little boy waist and snapped a picture with him by the front door. I watched him fasten his seat belt in the back of the car, and listened as he told me he was just a little nervous about his first day. From the driver’s seat, I could see his reflection in the mirror: tall, strong, a little boy in a blue and red school uniform. I blinked away a tear and for a moment I could see him there, just a little boy in a blue and white coming home onesie, tightly strapped backwards into the backseat of the same car. I blinked again and the image was gone.
One more blink and we were there, unfastening seat belts and climbing out onto the hard pavement of his new school, feet stepping carefully with his hand pressed into mine as the door loomed ahead. Somewhere along the walk, the grip between us grew tighter, fingers pressing snug against palm and I believe it was me holding too tight.
The classroom was bright and quiet, and he took his place at the table beside his name.
“Do you want me to stay or go?” I asked, silently needing to be needed. Maybe he knew that or maybe he needed me, too.
“I’m not sure,” he said, looking up at me with those same bright eyes that peered up at me from a long ago bassinet in a not so long ago hospital room.
“Then I’ll stay for a bit,” I smiled, hoping my smile would shut in the tears that threatened to fall.
I watched from a distance as he settled in, coloring on the sheet in front of him, possibly oblivious to whether I was still there. It took me a moment to realize I was clutching the arm of his backpack, willing it to connect me to him even as I stood only paces away. His teacher took it from my hand with a smile.
“I’m going to go, bud,” I smiled again and he looked up with a grin and motioned me closer. I stepped in to his hug, feeling the press of his lips on my cheek and the strength of his arms around my back. I couldn’t bring myself to let go, squeezing just a bit tighter before he pulled away.
“Bye mom!” He waved, giving me permission to step away, to step out and allow him to be who he is, a kindergartener in a new school.
I stepped from his room, my hands squeezing into fists as though I could hold in the last scraps of baby… as though my fingers would wrap around the gurgle of his infancy, the breaths of his toddlerhood, the giggles of his pre-school days. As though the force of my wanting could capture it all there in my hands.
I turned the corner away and looked down at my fists, tight and saddened by my side. With a careful sigh, I reached up to wipe away a tear, letting the last few wisps of my baby curl out around my unclenched fists.
Posted on | July 23, 2015 | 5 Comments
Sometimes, when you least expect it, life throws you one of those sweet spot fast balls that streaks down the middle of the plate and you just know, without a doubt, that when you make contact you are on your way to a one way trip around the bases. Your eyes light up with sheer joy, your shoulders tense and then relax because you just know… somehow you just know… that there’s no way you can mess this up. Time slows down. There’s only you and the ball, and you can taste the perfection there on your lips. There’s a crack so loud that you believe every bat in the world split on contact and the ball, that perfect sphere of wonder, will arc in such a way that no one can mistake where it’s headed.
Out of the park.
Over the fence.
Perfectly connected, ball to bat, and you know that no matter how many times you step up to the plate you’re never going to see anything so beautiful ever again.
This summer, I stepped up to the plate in a big way. I stuffed and folded and laminated all the important documents and clothes and necessities and I reached one hand down to grasp J’s and the other over to grasp Banks’ and we headed into the sky on a plane bound for Europe.
First time out of the country.
And to say that it was a perfect trip would be, well… lying. I mean, we were on a plane for 8 hours with a five year old. And we were on a train for 6 hours with a five year old. And did I mention we walked mile after mile only to end up at another museum or church… with a five year old? So no, it wasn’t perfect. And I could (and perhaps will) write you all kinds of little snippets of the trip that will have you wondering if my last name is actually Griswold. But, like in any segment of life, there were moments of absolute perfection.
Like the moment I stood with my son and boyfriend at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
Like the moment I stepped out of the stairwell into the chapel at Saint Chapelle.
Like the moment I turned around to drink in the beauty of Montserrat Monastery and found myself looking down into the eyes of the man I love as he stretched out a small black box and told me he loved me. No. Told me he loved us.
It was the perfect pitch.
It was the moment I thought I’d never have, on those long nights when I cried myself to sleep, knee deep in divorce and baby and new job. It was the moment I thought would never come as I toiled through the every day, the moment I gave up on when I slid off my first wedding band and put away my wedding albums.
It was the perfect pitch.
And though I know we’re going to have moments when I’ll want to kill him, moments when he’ll want to strangle me… moments when we both wonder what in the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into… in that one perfect moment, at the top of Montserrat, time slowed. The air swirled up in amazement at just how far I’d come since that long ago day when I stretched yellow sheets onto a forgotten marital bed. The dust of the ground settled beneath my feet… level, even mountain top, and I knew there was no way I could mess this up. There was no way this could be messed up.
So I said “Yes.”
And watched as it sailed up and over and out and around in all the right ways before settling back where it should be. Here. With us.
Posted on | June 1, 2015 | 3 Comments
We had a busy weekend, full of trips to the pool and the park and playing with friends. Then this morning, J pulled his back pack onto his back and climbed into the car for the trip to his very first day of non-school summer camp. Sure, he’s been in camp before, but it’s been right at the Montessori school, with the Montessori teachers. It’s been a controlled environment with skilled adults leading the way. Today was his first day of summer camp.
Real summer camp.
He was excited all morning and even more so in the car. It wasn’t until we checked him in and started down the pathway to the pavilion that his hand reached for mine and he whispered “I’m a little nervous,” into my listening ear. I was a little nervous, too.
It probably doesn’t help that I was a summer camp counselor in high school. It probably doesn’t help that I know the ropes and rules and ways of life for a summer camp counselor. I’m sure that my view of those teenagers is skewed by my own experiences herding groups of children through outdoor summer activities. But regardless, when the lanky teen looked at me quizzically and said “I’m not the guy in charge of this part,” and walked away from my son and I, I wanted to scream “BE IN CHARGE, DUDE. MY FIVE YEAR OLD IS NERVOUS.” But instead I calmly waited for “the guy in charge of that part,” who turned out to be genuinely awesome. I watched as J followed his instructions on putting his lunch in the right place and putting his backpack just where it needed to go. The teen then turned to J and said “Alright man, you can head on down to the playground,” and my son took off around the corner as though I were nothing. As though I weren’t the same person he needed only moments or years before.
“I love you!” I called out, transforming into that crazy mom from Almost Famous and wanting to chase after him and toss my body atop the grenade of age and wisdom that was stealing away my baby boy. Instead, I simply turned the corner behind him to see if he made it safely to the playground, scanning the crowd of children for that familiar messy hair and blue star wars t-shirt.
And then there he was, half way to the bottom of the hill, standing still and tall and looking around as though he weren’t entirely sure of the life that lay ahead. I waited for him to move, to take off down to the rest of the kids but instead his eyes met mine and he smiled that sweet half smile and turned back to me.
“I love you, mom,” he called out, barreling into me for a quick hug. Then, as though maybe my love had energized him, he took off down to the playground, all legs and arms and almost six-year-old-ness. Though I stood and watched for a lifetime longer, he never did look back at me. Finally, I moved away, heading back down the winding pathway to the quiet sanctity of my car where I could let the tears fall.
My son is growing up.
The little boy who has been almost the entirety of my world for six years is doing what six year old boys do and getting taller and smarter and more adventurous. He is growing and changing and all the while, I am achingly just the same.
I am still the person who swaddled and rocked and nursed his tiny body. I still feel that need to shelter and protect and wrap him in my arms. My need and love for him… it never changes. It doesn’t shrink or bend or break with his back talk or intelligence or entirely too grown up vocabulary. I am always and only the same.
But he is not.
And this learning to let go is a slow and painful process when I am still the same.
Posted on | May 12, 2015 | 1 Comment
If you ask his teachers or the parents of his friends, everyone will tell you my kid is “all boy.” He plays loud, messy, and hard, and if it shoots or launches or in some way represents super powers, it is his most favorite thing. He just likes all that so-called “boy” stuff. And for the entirety of his short life, I’ve always thought that I’d be the mom who would be okay with whatever he wanted. If he wanted pink bows for his hair, he’d have them. If he wanted his toes painted pink or purple or glittery blue… he’d have it.
I never once thought I’d balk at any request for experimentation of any kind because colors are just colors, toy are just toys, and there’s no such thing as “girl” or “boy” things. (Except genitalia, obviously.)
Yesterday, J came in my room while I was putting on my make up. He watched as I put the foundation on and then blush and eye shadow and mascara. With each application, he asked what it was and why I put it on. He stood there, picking up each piece of make up and turning it over in his hand as though it were something strange and unique and interesting and all of a sudden, I found myself wanting to slap it out of his hand and tell him that boys don’t wear make up.
Yes. Me. Little old liberal-esque me. I wanted to quickly and carefully snuff out any interest he might possibly have in putting on make up of any kind.
And that feeling overtook me without him ever asking once to put on any of it. I was mortified by myself. I was horrified and sad and honestly, it made me question so much about who I’m inadvertently raising my son to be. Does he sense that revulsion from me? Will he grow up to make fun of boys who try on nail polish or lipstick?
We went to a party not too long ago where one of the little boys had nail polish on his toes. At the time, I thought “what a brave momma” and wanted to go out of my way to tell her that I thought it was great she let her child be whoever he was. Now, I can’t help but wonder why I felt it was commendable in another parent yet worrisome in me. I feel like I’ve let myself down or maybe let J down, without even doing anything at all. Just by internally balking at the possibility of him wanting to try something “girly” have I condemned him to live a life where he condemns?
I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what I would have done had he asked to try on something.
But I know that even I have a lot of learning and a lot of understanding left to do.
Posted on | May 11, 2015 | 3 Comments
Oh hi, remember me?
No? Yeah… I figured. Seeing as how I’ve sort of dropped off the face of the Earth, what with work and life and imbalance and stuff. It’s hard work to do all the things, am I right?? But Mother’s Day brought with it a soft but insistent reminder that I need to do more to take care of ME not just everyone else. Because if I can’t take care of myself, how can I possibly be good at caring for anyone else?
I’ve never been all that good at self care, something that became infinitely more obvious to me last week, when I made the decision to get up at 5am to either write or maybe to mediate or read the Bible. I thought it would be good to set aside some quiet time; time just for myself, ya know? In my head, that time looked a little like this: feet tucked under, curled up on the sofa with a steaming cup of coffee and either my iPad or the Good Book. Maybe there would be muffins. Maybe there would just be the sweet call of backyard owls as I focused on my breathing: inhale the good, exhale the bad. In any event, it would be peaceful and quiet and just what I needed.
Except that no. Not even slightly.
What ACTUALLY happened, was that I hit snooze for a good 30 minutes, stumbling out of bed at 5:30 and proceeding to use that 30 minute head start to get ready for work. So by the time I was actually ready to sit down and do anything other than straighten my hair and put on makeup, J was up and asking for breakfast. My “quiet time” consisted of me reminding him, on repeat, that I was having quiet time, dammit, and couldn’t he see how peaceful I was trying to be?
Clearly this whole self-care thing will need some work. But I’m still determined. It’s just going to take a realization that it’s okay to just get up and BE for a while. I don’t have to rush around to get everything finished before I take care of myself… before I do what I set out to do in the first place. Because there’s always more to do. From now until my dying breath, there will ALWAYS be a list a mile long of things I could be DOING. But really, BEING is so much more important than doing. And I think it’s time I learned to just be.keep looking »