Another Post on Gender Identity Issues.

Yep. Another one. I want to talk about it some more. Don’t roll your eyes at me. This one is deep.

The interwebs are swarming with discussions about gender identity issues, aren’t they? Gender fluid, transgender, gender confusion, gender identity disorder, gender non-comforming…any other common phrases I missed? Thanks largely to big-name celebrities transitioning their gender, or gender-fluid models that are making some of us question our own sexuality, we are all talking about it, sharing our approval or our dismay.

And then there are the kids, even the young children, whose parents have decided to come forward and discuss their stories, to talk about the struggles of raising children with gender identity issues, to talk about being supportive, to help normalize this for the masses. There are now television series dedicated to the subject of children struggling with gender identity.

Ok, so, we get it. It’s a hot debate point. And we also get that every.single.living.person. on the internet has an opinion. Rightfully so. It is, overall, a weird concept to most of us.

But not to me.

I am living it, as a parent. I am parenting a child who does not conform to gender roles. I am one of those parents trying to normalize it for our hate-filled society, but I’m also not here to blow smoke up your ass about it, so here’s my story so far:

When I was pregnant, I knew I was having a girl before the “big” ultrasound. I just knew. Some of us had that intuition as expecting moms. But, as weird as this is going to sound, I also knew she wasn’t going to be a typical girl. So much so that I requested nothing pink at her baby shower. It really wasn’t because I didn’t care for pink, it was just…a feeling. I went with purples and greens. It just made more sense to me, for her. I never chose a lot of pink things for her as an infant or toddler, but certainly I dressed her as a girl and bought her toys and such that were marketed for females.

I can pinpoint her rejection of girl related anything to the age of two. She hated dolls. As in, would not even touch them. She gravitated towards cars and trucks. She started rebelling against dresses around the same age. I would have to bribe her to wear them on holidays and after a few pictures were snapped, off they came.

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“Ok”, I told myself, “lots of little girls don’t like dresses and dolls. No worries here. She will be a typical girl soon”.

Now let me clarify at this point: I NEVER have taken issue with transgender individuals, homosexuality, or anything of the like. I see no difference between them and me. None. However, when you’re facing it as a parent, it’s scary as shit. It’s scary because, in a nutshell, people suck. Hard. People are mean, hateful, judgmental, and for the love of God, it would just be easier to have a child who conformed to society’s expectations, wouldn’t it? Easier for the child, easier for the parent. It’s a fact.

As my daughter was then approaching the ages of 3-4, we were still dressing her in girlish clothes, but things were really starting to change as she was wanting to make decisions of what to wear. Blue. Always choosing blue. Blue everything. She started to discuss her dislike for her purple colored walls, she never once graced the girl toy aisles of Target, she would always pick the boy character of any given show or movie as her favorites, princesses were not even close to her realm of likes. It was becoming more and more clear that she was, indeed, different. Different from society’s version of a girl.

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By the age of 5, she was making all of her clothing choices which only included boy’s clothing, including underwear. Her favorite shows were Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. Her friends at school were all boys, with the exception of one girl who really thought she was cool for liking boy stuff.

Now, we’re at the age of 6. Now, she is being called a boy by people in public. Now, she asks if she can change her name to Kai or Jace. Now, she carries herself like a boy, her mannerisms are more masculine. Now she asks, “Mom, can I turn into a boy?”, and says she “feels like she’s a boy”. Yes, indeed, she is different.

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Last night, a store cashier called her “buddy” and asked me if “he” wanted the chocolate milk that I had just purchased. You know what my child did? She smiled and said “it doesn’t hurt my feelings when people call me a boy. I like it”. She likes it. It feels right to her.

So, to those of you saying this is a choice and no one is born this way, tell me, do you think my six year old is choosing this? Do you think she likes being different and outcasted from her classmates at the tender age of six? I am educating you right now, in this moment. She is not choosing this, this has chosen her.

I had no hand in this, her dad had no hand in this. She was born this way. I am here to tell you that firsthand. This is not made up. I do not want my child to struggle with identity. I do not want her to be so different that she’s already struggling to fit in. But here’s something else I want people to know: this is not a phase and she is not a tomboy, so please stop saying these well-intentioned things. You’re not softening any blow with either of those sentiments. She hates sports, including riding a bike, she doesn’t like to be dirty, she isn’t rough and tough and adventurous. And if this is a phase, whew, there’s sure no end in sight.

I am not saying she is transgender. I am not labeling my child. She is 6. I am firmly planted in the  “no way is she transitioning until she goes through puberty” camp, if this is even still a topic of discussion then. At best, she might just be a masculine lesbian and we will call it a day.

Is that harsh to say, “at best she’s a lesbian”? Probably, to the trans community it is, but again, this is scary shit and I am being real here. Parents do not want their children to struggle and the biggest struggle when you’re young is simply being different, right? I’m sure we can all agree on that. Kids are dicks. Period. The suicide rate for young trans individuals is astronomical. I am fucking terrified if she is transgender. Terrified.

A lot of my friends and family say I’m looking too far ahead, things could change, she’s only six, etc., etc. But listen, I am her mom and I just know. She’s different, sans any additional label, she is just different. And what I’m preparing myself for right now is these next couple of years when she will learn more and more everyday just how different she is. As it is, she plays alone frequently at summer camp, unaccepted by the boys because she’s not rough and tough, and strange to the girls for not liking princesses and Barbies. It’s heartbreaking to see my child already struggling. Life shouldn’t be so tough at the age of six.

I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss more about how I feel on the subject.

I’m sad about it quite a bit. I am.

I’m sad that I didn’t get to play dress up with my daughter with princess dresses, I’m sad dolls never were coddled by her, I’m sad that she doesn’t like glitter and cute tutus. I’m sad that I probably will never have a girl who will want to go make-up shopping with me or wear a prom dress or a wedding dress. I’m sad that she doesn’t, and won’t, want her hair braided or collect Barbies. Yes, I admit, I’m sad that a stereotypical girl is not what I was given. This makes me a hypocrite to admit this because I’m constantly trying to advocate for a society filled with less gender specific roles and more equality, but you know what? I like make-up and I wish my girl did, too.

That’s the hard part for me, in combination with my fear of society not accepting my daughter, but you know what isn’t difficult at all?

Loving her and accepting who she is.

Loving how unique she is and loving how she’s proud of what makes her different. She is proud of herself, and I am oh so proud of her. My child gravitates to kids with special needs and my theory is that she knows she is different and she knows they are different and she wants to be a nurturer and she wants to be different together. I couldn’t be more proud of that.

We have an amazing support system that all celebrate my daughter. Her very best friend in the world is a five year old boy and he has never once questioned why she likes “boy stuff” or why she isn’t a typical girl. Isn’t that amazing? If only we can teach the rest of society to have the exact same mind set as a five year old. If only it were that simple.

My plea to all of you: practice acceptance, practice tolerance of differences, practice an open mind, teach your children these practices. My daughter will thank you, as will millions of other kids struggling with this very same issue. My daughter isn’t weird, there isn’t anything wrong with her. She is my daughter and I’m here to advocate for her but I am also advocating for all of those different children because yes, there are so many.

Practice love and be kind. It’s that simple.

Co-parenting is an art, not a science.

As a human race, we are inherently nosy beings. We love to know things about others’ lives. We thrive a little, or maybe a lot, on gossip. We love to be voyeurs, watching and judging, saying how we would do things different, or maybe even admire a lifestyle.

Some would argue that this is not true for everyone, but I will be bold and say it is the truth for most. If you watch any reality TV or have any social media page active in your name, you’re nosy. And hey, even if you don’t scroll Instagram or watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I guarantee that if you heard word-of-mouth of a friend getting a divorce, your first thought would most likely be, “Hmm, I wonder what happened?!”.

Some call it curiosity or concern but I’ll call a spade a spade and say nosy. I’m so very guilty of it myself and being nosy can be a terrible characteristic but for the most part, I do believe it’s harmless. Plus, many of us invite the nosiness and even the judgement by putting ourselves out there on social media or ::ahem:: a very personal blog. It goes both ways.

Lately, I have received a lot of blunt questions about how my ex-husband and I co-parent, questions such as, “Do you share 50/50?, do you get child support from him?, do you pay him alimony?, do you still spend time together as a family since neither of you are in a relationship?”. Even strangers will ask me these questions.

I truly do not mind answering at all. Those that know me know that I’m a pretty open book. However, I’m throwing caution out there to those that ask these questions to any recent divorcee with children: these are deeply personal questions that might make some people uncomfortable answering. That goes for questions about divorce, too. The whole “what happened with you and your ex?” question? Yeah, that’s complex as hell to answer when I run into you at Target, but again, I don’t mind answering. In my mind, it’s better to ask than to assume. Ask me anything, it’s totally ok. I’m giving you permission.

But let’s talk about judging the way people co-parent, or better yet, the way they judge how divorced couples should act.

It’s so interesting to me how people react when I tell them that my ex and I are still close, that we still host birthday parties together for our child, that he is still very involved in my daughter’s life, that him and I still care about each other and even spend time together as a family. And, we are even going on a summer vacation together as a family :::gasp:::

The look of shock or the words of “REALLY?! Wow. That’s great but isn’t that weird?!”. Um, no, it isn’t. I married this person, I had a child with this person, I lived with this person for twelve years. Perhaps it might be a bit odd if him or I had a significant other in our lives but even then, you hear about close ex relationships even in those circumstances. Because, well, children kind of deserve to have two parents that can stand one another.

The thing is, co-parenting and living as a divorced couple means something different for everyone. Everyone has to find what works for their family because like it or not, you are still a family. That could be, no, that WILL BE ever changing, what works and what doesn’t, but there aren’t any rules. Not all divorced dads are deadbeats and just because it’s on record that there was infidelity or addiction or whatever it was that resulted in the demise, it doesn’t always equate to hatred or punishing the other party.

As a matter of a fact, my ex and I have have not gotten along this well in about three years, no joke. This is not a coincidence. This is a result of hard work on both of our parts to make Lily our focus. Relationships are complicated, parenting is complicated, marriage is complicated, divorce is complicated. Kids feel all of this and at the end of the day, they just want everyone they love to be happy. It’s that simple for them.

It was just a normal Tuesday.

Only it wasn’t.

On Tuesday, November 25th, 2014, my 65 year old father suffered a massive stroke.

Whew. Ok, there I said it. The end.

Personal traumatic events are funny. Not like in the “haha” way but in the…almost ironic way, I guess. I started this blog for an obvious reason: I pen my emotions. It’s how I release emotions, good and bad. It’s my therapy. Only, with this subject, I just can’t seem to find any fluidity. I’m totally stunted with not only writing about my dad’s stroke but when I speak about it, it’s like I’m talking about a stranger that went through this, meaning him, my mom and me- all strangers. Coping mechanisms, I haz ’em.

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If you know me, you know that my parents are my best friends. I am an only child and I have always been overly enmeshed with my parents. As in, they even came up to visit me in college and went to the bars with my friends and me. (Hey, Florida State had Tennessee Street and Floyd’s and Creed, and football. Who wouldn’t want to do that with their kid?)

He was everyone’s dad as I was growing up. He was the, “Man, I wish your dad could adopt me” dad, the one that makes me always beam with pride. He was infallible, immortal, ageless.

Confidant, business advisor, handyman, computer repairman, star babysitter, “Bop-bop”, travel companion, unbiased, engineer, advocate. I can’t even come up with enough adjectives to describe my dad. He was not someone who would suffer a stroke and fall into ill-health.

Only, he was.

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I never wake up early on my own. Never. 6am should not even be a time to be awake in my world. My natural clock says 7am is good, but on this average Tuesday, 5:55am is when I jolted awake. It’s as if someone shook me. I sat straight up in bed, almost breathless. I laid back down, looked at the ceiling briefly and decide to grab for my phone that was on the floor. I saw a missed call from my mom. “Oh God. Please let that have been an accidental call from my dad when he took my mom’s phone off charge this morning. It’s happened before. Nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong.”, talking to myself.

I chickened out on calling her back, I texted her.

“Did you mean to call me?”

It’s like everything stopped in that exact moment when the phone rang. My world stopped completely. I literally could not get my legs to stand or my feet to move or my brain to function as I listened to my hysterical mother telling me something about my dad on the floor, moaning and…”did she say stroke? Did she just say she thought he was dying? Is my mom crying? It’s still dark out, it’s quiet in the house. I must be having a nightmare.”

When people say “my head was spinning”, that is indeed a real thing. My head was spinning. I asked to speak to the paramedics, asked them to take him to Sarasota Memorial. “Ma’am, we don’t have that much time. He won’t survive if we take him that far”.

“What? That far? That’s 30 minutes away. What.is.happening? What’s a stroke again?”. I literally lost all thought process. I was totally stricken with fear. I thought, “maybe if I just stay here and go back to sleep, this won’t be real. Maybe I don’t have to deal with this…because I just can’t”. My motivational thought was then, “What would my dad do if this were me?”.

After I instructed my mom on what was going to happen next (“You stay there, Auntie Dorothy will pick you up, I will meet the ambulance at the hospital”), called my aunt, I suddenly realized…this was real.

I began to hyperventilate. But I couldn’t lose control. “The facts. What are the facts right now?”

-My dad was being taken by an ambulance to Venice Hospital because he had a stroke.

-Lily is asleep in the next room.

-I need to get to the hospital.

-I need to drive there but how will I get my legs to work?

-I need an anti-anxiety pill.

-I probably can’t leave Lily alone.

I called Lily’s father who lives 15 minutes away and he arrives in 6 minutes flat. I somehow manage to get in my car and make it go.

I pull out on the main road right behind the ambulance that was carrying my father. Emergency lights screaming, speed of about 60 miles per hour. My leg was shaking so violently that I couldn’t feel the gas pedal. I honestly could not process what was happening, but I was there.

I go in through the emergency room. I told the triage nurse I thought I was going to pass out. I will never forget her words: “No, you’re not. You’re going to be here for your dad. Sit. Have a sip of water and tell me your dad’s date of birth”.

“Ok, I can do this.”

The time in the ER was not really anything I can piece together. There was a lot of rushing around, a scene like Grey’s Anatomy, no joke. There were a lot of nurses. And a neurologist that showed up that was the furthest thing from Dr. McDreamy.

My mom and aunt showed up at some point. My dad didn’t know how to say his name properly. He knew the year. He had no movement on his left side. He didn’t really know me or acknowledge me. They told me they had to take him for a “procedure” to help stop the stroke damage. TPA, stents, whatever. Only, no, not whatever. I have to pay attention. My dad was always the one here though, paying attention. Where’s my dad?

Everything from here on out was medical. Ups and downs. He won’t live, but he will. He won’t walk, but he will.  24 hour waiting periods to see if he will survive. Sign this “Do Not Resuscitate”. ICU. Left sided weakness. Can’t swallow. Retrain everything. Oh yeah, his heart isn’t working well either. Oh, AND, his left carotid is also blocked and we have to stent that side, too. More 24 hour waiting periods.

And within those 8 days in ICU, my dad, as I know him, showed up, fighting like a mother fucker. He lived. He walked. He swallowed. He talked. He got angry. He was bribing me to sneak him out of there. He complained about the food. He made some jokes, especially when I stepped on his catheter.

Two and a half weeks in intense rehab and he was home two days before Christmas. Home, a different man, yet the same.

So, I sit here seven months later, two days before Father’s Day, trying to process this. I still can’t completely.

People see pictures of him, or maybe even see him, and say “He’s doing so great! He looks so great!”, and he is and he does, but this is his new life filled with doctor’s appointments, medications, and frustrations for him. Roles have reversed and now he must listen to my mom and me rather than the other way around. He must follow doctor’s orders. Although he’s gained some of his independence back (he even drives, against my better judgement), he must give into being taken care of.

His brain is injured, he knows this, but he does not understand his limitations. It’s the fighter in him.

He recognizes that everyone treats him differently and he doesn’t understand why. Through all of this, he truly doesn’t understand what he’s gone through and what his differences are. I’m glad he doesn’t. I don’t want him to see those differences because at the end of the day, he’s still my dad. He’s still here. He’s still trying. He’s still persevering through all of these shitty health problems that have resulted from ignoring preventative medicine for 65 years. He is still here. And although he’s not exactly who he was before November 25, 2014, he wants to be. He is still here.

What I do want him to know is how inspiring he is, how amazing he is, how resilient he is, how brave he is. I have sat down many times to write him a letter to tell him this but I have never been so sure that my words weren’t making enough sense or holding enough weight. How do you possibly capture 38.5 years of appreciation, admiration, and love for someone in a simple letter? It’s impossible to put that in words.

This is where I would say that actions speak louder than words, but, not in this case. My dad and I have never been the overly affectionate type. Hugging and kissing- not our thing. “I love you”s- not very often. Actions. Always actions, communication and gestures with us. But again, how do you show someone enough gratitude when they’ve been your rock, your stability, your go-to person for your whole life?

Im not sure but I hope I’m making him proud by trying.

Dear Lily,

It has been far too long since I’ve written you a letter. I think about it almost everyday, I do, ,but I get overwhelmed by what I want to say.

But tonight, on the eve of your 6th birthday, I’m motivated and inspired. You’re my muse.
As I type, I’m crafting Avenger themed trinkets for your party. People often compliment me on my party planning skills, some even say I go overboard. The thing is, I love it. I love doing this for you because in a few years, you won’t want me to do this anymore. You will be busy with your friends at the mall, or going to a school function, or blowing off our dinner plans to see a boyfriend (or girlfriend). That’s ok, love. That’s what those  years should look like for you but as a mom, that will be a tough pill to swallow.

So, I plan parties. It’s my thing.

And you? You are growing up. You’re maturing. You’re not a baby anymore.

Today, on the way to school, we talked about what the age of 5 was like for you. I asked you to tell me some things that happened in this past year. You said:

“Wellllll, hmm. We went to that hotel with the lazy river with Nana and Bop Bop, we went to the Dominican Republic and had so.much.fun., we dressed up like Ninja Turtles for Halloween, we built a new house and had a pool in our rental house which I miss but that’s ALL I miss, Santa made a winter land special for me since we just moved here to our new house, aaaaaand we went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure”.

Isn’t that amazing? Those are the things you thought of. On your own. And you know why I think it’s amazing? Because this was by far the most challenging year of your little life, and even my big life,…and you don’t even know it… or better yet, you don’t even view it that way. You don’t even see all that has happened as hardships. It’s all just life to you. There’s no negatives in your world, (except when I say no to another treat or say no to yet another toy at Target). And I’m ever so thankful that you’ve taught me that important lesson. All of these things that have happened over the past year, they’re just that: things. We’ve rallied and gotten through some tough things together, me and you with Nana and Bop Bop. Is life different? Absolutely, and you recognize that. But you accept it like a champ.

So, here we are, at the end of age 5. You don’t say words with extra syllables anymore such as “commercianal” instead of “commercial” or “digustating” instead of “disgusting”. You don’t depend on me for every little thing anymore. You don’t need to sleep with purple baby quite as much. You don’t want to watch Nick Jr. anymore and Scooby Doo is so last year.

You’re almost done with kindergarten, you’re reading, your best friend, Ty, just  moved in seven houses down, you know the difference between fiction and non-fiction, you tell me I’m being ridiculous, you help around the house, you swim for hours on end, you don’t like babies, you’re following Lego directions, you get your own food (well, snacks and drinks anyway), you don’t like playing organized sports much, you love watching FSU football with me, you ask such intelligent questions, you’re sensitive to others feelings, you’re tolerant of dogs for me, you love Mario Kart, you watch more grown up shows like Sam and Cat or Full House (yes, the show from my era!) and you’ll do just about anything for sugar.

You’re amazing. That’s the nutshell.

So, happy birthday, love of mine. Thank you for being so wonderful, so kind, so patient, so resilient. Thank you for being so unique and inspiring. Mama loves you more than you know. Tomorrow, I won’t wake up with you, a result of the many changes of our life, but know that I’m dreaming of you tonight and I will be seeing you, my 6 year old, at your lunch table tomorrow with cupcakes in hand.

I love you.

Love,

Your mom.

An Open Letter: To the Wife That Recently Found Out About Her Husband’s Double Life.

You’re in the thick of it. The pain is almost unbearable. You’re close to not functioning. You’re wondering if you’ll ever make sense out of anything, ever. Your life is unrecognizable. You’re not eating or sleeping. Your emotions go from anger to sadness to almost homicidal.

I get it. I was you. I still am you on some days.

I walked in on my husband with another woman. That was, and quite possibly could remain, the worst day in my life. There was the me before that date and there’s the me after that date. Two totally different versions of myself. Two totally different lives.

You’re in the trenches of this… This hell of figuring out who you married. This hell of wrapping your mind around sharing your husband with another woman, physically, emotionally. This hell of wondering what the fuck is wrong with you that he went down this road.

Was I too controlling?

Was I too fat?

Was I too ugly?

Did I not give him enough sex?

Was I boring?

How long did this go on?

Does he love her?

These questions, the wanting to know everything, every little detail, of the affair, the “why”, even the denial, it’s all there, sitting in you. Literally feeling your entire body breaking from the pain. It’s visceral. Floating through days in this thick fog. Not knowing if your words and conversations make sense. Trying to engage in life but the difficulty is unprecedented.

Then there’s the hatred for her. The need to even blame her. The other woman. The home wrecker. The slut. The husband stealer. The whore. Oh, the many names I had for her.

Perhaps you’re obsessed with her, if you’re at all like I was. You might social media stalk her, google her, maybe you even want to talk to her, scream at her, punch her in the face. Your thoughts might scare you, maybe. They did me. You might be comparing yourself to her. She’s most likely very different from you, physically and otherwise. Maybe you hate that. You hate that he was drawn to the opposite of you. The physical imagery is too much to process. The intimacy that was supposed to stay between you and him no longer exists.

I saw this with my own eyes. I lived the moment and didn’t have the luxury of just imagining it. I completely lost my shit that day. Completely and fully disassembled. I was violent towards him, punching him in the face, and I proceeded to destroy every painting in our home, the home we once shared, the paintings he painted that I once loved. I threw them in a pile in the middle of the floor, all the while in complete hysterics, near hyperventilation. Appropriate response? Absolutely. And I dare to have anyone tell me it wasn’t.

You are forming your own response right now and regardless of what that is, it’s the right response. You’re descending into your process. It’s just the beginning of your process of grief.

And lets not forget about you.

You are going to be ok. Actually, you are going to be better than ok. You are going to be better than you ever thought you could be.

I know you don’t want to hear that yet, I understand. The pain and confusion is too raw.

Live the pain, live the confusion, even embrace it, because it’s in the process of breaking you down so you can rebuild yourself into who you’re supposed to be. Read that sentence again because it is the absolute truth.

You don’t deserve to have to share, and I don’t mean your husband, I mean you. You don’t deserve to have to share yourself with someone who doesn’t respect your value. You were with someone who was cowardly enough to put the work into managing a double life because he thought he deserved all that he wanted. He wanted the family life over here and the fun life over there; the best of both worlds to him. But just remember how exhausted he is from all of this lying and managing. He’s tired. This always takes a toll. And my guess is he’s probably sick in some way. For my husband, it was substance abuse but perhaps its just old fashion narcissism… but this is not for you to figure out. Don’t be distracted by excuses.

This betrayal has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. It isn’t about what you did or didn’t do, it isn’t about who is prettier or more fun. This is about his fucked up way of thinking. This is about him and him alone. Let go of every negative thought about yourself and your contribution to this. It isn’t there. Let it go.

There will not be traditional closure. Questions will pop into your mind months later. The same questions you had from day one might go unanswered. That’s ok. The sooner you acknowledge that these answers do not matter, the sooner you can start to heal. Knowing the answers to some questions might do more harm than good. Know what you know: your husband was living a lie. That’s enough. Let it be enough to move on.

Forgive him. You will need to eventually. You certainly will not forget but forgiveness is such an important component to this saga. Work hard on forgiveness. It’s a process and it won’t come easy, but work on it. Bitterness will rear it’s head but you’ll suppress it because it doesn’t make any sense to let it take over.

Don’t play the victim for long. You’re better than that. Be sad that it happened, grieve the loss, however that looks for you, but this is something that happened. Don’t let it define you.

You will move on and you will live. You will laugh and mean it soon. You will feel joy soon. You will get to know yourself in a different way. Make this time about your needs, your wants, and what makes your soul smile without a partner. When is the last time you’ve done that?

For now, you’re in pain, no doubt about that. Maybe more pain that you’ve ever experienced. But it’s fleeting.

Take many deep breaths everyday and soon enough you will be breathing new air. Air that isn’t full of lies, deceit, and pain. Air that is full of healing is around the corner. I promise.

How To Turn Your Child Into a Germaphobe In A Few Easy Steps

To the parents of Facebook posting about their child’s current viral battle, I would like to explain to all of you how you’re increasing my anxiety and therefore teaching my child that irrational thoughts are totally acceptable. Yes, it’s your fault, not mine. At all.

It’s that time of year again. No, not the “holiday spirit” time, none of that shit. The time of year when every second or third Facebook status in my feed is comprised of giving graphic details of vomiting and/or feverish children.

Look, I’m totally guilty of it, too. Misery loves company and when your child is sick, at my age you know that at least 200 out of your 500 Facebook friends can relate to what you’re going through, maybe even more. There’s comfort in that, I get it, but let me tell you how my brain processes these status updates:

Step 1: Analyze severity of said virus. If virus is more severe than a common cold, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Analyze where this friendly Facebook poster is geographically located. If they’re in Florida, move onto step 3. If they’ve been in direct play contact with Lily within the last 3-7 days, go directly to step 5.

Step 3: Begin Six Degrees of Separation analysis. Ex: If they’re in the same county, do they go to Lily’s school? If not, how do I know them and who knows them that I interact with? If there is any link to Lily or me whatsoever, move onto Step 4. If there isn’t a link, continue checking back to poster’s Facebook page to make sure said child is better just in case it’s possible that Lily will somehow come in contact or linked to sick child in the near future. Or perhaps the virus is contagious through the computer.

Step 4: If there is any indirect interaction with Lily within the last 3-5 days, begin preparing for said illness: Vitamin C load up, make sure OTC meds are stocked, wash linens, etc.

Step 5: OMG LILY IS GOING TO GET A STOMACH VIRUS AND THEN I WILL GET IT AND THEN I WILL DIE AND LILY WILL NOT HAVE A MOM.

These are the joys of living with high levels of anxiety. You make everything into a catastrophe.

So, ok. Now I’ve read the statuses and my brain goes into survival mode. Must.prepare.for.worst.virus.ever. Logically, I go to Lily and sit her down for a heart to heart:

“Lils, listen. There are a lot of germs going around right now. You know what that means?”

“Mooooooommmm, yessssssssssssssss!”

“Well, what? Tell me.”

“I need to wash my hands every few minutes at school, don’t eat anyone’s food, don’t put my hands in my mouth.”

“AND?????”

“And don’t touch anyone.”

“Right. Good girl. Not even the teacher because all of the kids touch the teacher. And don’t touch the lunch table.”

Eye rolls ensue and the child asks to leave the country to get away from me. Kidding. She’s not quite there yet.

Currently, it’s as though I’m playing this weird game of musical chairs in my head with my ex to see who will get “sick Lily” in the middle of the night. Who will be the one to get that sick sounding, pathetic voice in the middle of the night? Will it be mom or dad? No one knows. It’s bound to happen though based on the statistics I’ve derived from my Facebook analytics.

Anyone see that movie “Bubble Boy”? Someone please tell me where I can buy one of those bubbles. Thanks in advance.

Defining “Full-Time Single Parent” Through Social Media

I am addicted to Instagram. It’s honestly an obsession. I just love looking at pictures, more than the average person, I believe. I prefer Instagram over Facebook, hands down. On Instagram there is rarely any abounding negativity or that vague-booking phenomenon of, “Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers!”, or, “I AM SO DONE”, with no explanation of why I should even consider praying for said individual or what that person is “SO DONE” with. No, on Instagram there just seems to be love, kids, pets, yoga, and humor. I adore it.

There is one exception to my love for Instagram: Commenter wars. I don’t know if this is even a thing but that’s what I call it. I’m sure you’ve all seen it, if you’re an Instagram fan, these wars between commenters that take place usually under popular pictures, mostly posted by celebrities or high traffic Instagram accounts.

Today, I saw a post by Heather Armstong of Dooce.com. (If you don’t know her then you must be new to the internet so in that case, welcome.) She made a comment under her photo post about how you celebrate the small victories when you’re a “full-time single parent”.

“Oh, how I can now completely identify!”, I thought to myself.

I rarely leave comments on pictures but I wanted to praise the post and find that single-mom solidarity with her. As I went to hit that “Comment” button, I noticed a small war brewing within the comments already posted. Random women, most likely strangers to Heather, were discrediting her for her use of the term “full-time single parent”. Women berating other women. Parents berating other parents.

There were 12 comments at that time, more than half of which were giving Heather their own, more accurate (says them), definition of single-parent. As I type, there are currently 80 comments with more of the same.

“‘Single parenting’ means no co-parent- someone widowed or whose former spouse has shirked parental responsibilities”- Jackiedanicki

“The issue isn’t the use of single parent. It’s ‘full time’ single parent. We know she has shared custody, we know she has family. With all due respect she has no clue what being a full time single parent is. Hint- no alone trips, no relief. All you all the time”- turbulentmouse

Those are a couple of examples of the comments left on Heather’s photo.

These people were striking a huge nerve of mine. Why must we all one-up one another with how tough our life is? Why is someone else’s battle less hard than your own? Why does it matter that someone’s definition of full-time single parent differs from yours? Is there even a definition of “full-time” single parent? Does there even have to be?

The truth is that full-time single parenting means so many different things to every individual experiencing it. Everyone lives in their own reality and everyone is on a journey that includes hardships. This is true for life in general, single parent or not. That we can all agree on. So, let’s stop attacking someone else’s reality because it does not and will not ever mirror your own. Let’s stop making assumptions about people’s lives, how hard they work for their kids, their custody agreements, etc. It isn’t fair.

For me, I have learned through my brief stint thus far in single parenthood that there are just too many dynamics to define what it truly is. It looks so different in every situation. It’s somewhat undefinable even though the words seem so self explanatory.
I have my daughter five nights a week, leaving my ex with two.
Do I stop worrying about her those two nights a week and do I stop parenting when she’s gone? No.
Do I have it easier than someone whose ex spouse is completely out of the picture? No, I don’t think so because in some situations co-parenting is more intense and more difficult than just doing it your own way 100% of the time.
Do I have it harder than divorced parents who split their time 50/50? No, see previous answer.
Do I have it harder than all married parents because I am no longer married? You know what? No, I don’t. Not in all cases. I have seen plenty of parents that are married and would completely define a full-time single parent because of how absent their spouse is.
Do I consider myself a “full-time” single parent? Abso-fuckin-lutely.

What I know is that I am a parent who has her priorities in line. My child comes first, period. That qualifies me as a full-time parent in my book. Any parent that prioritizes their children as number one in life is a full-time parent. I just so happen to be single. Does that component make it difficult? Hell yes but I refuse to be the asshole to say, or think, my life is so much more difficult than anyone else’s. I do not live in anyone else’s reality.

So, Instagram commenters, stop trying to define something that bears a different definition for everyone. More importantly, let’s remember that there is a human with emotions on the other side of your screen, someone who is fighting a battle that you know nothing about aside from what TwitGramBook tells you. Be kind and let’s lift one another up. Think of something kind to say to a single mom that is posting on social media, and clearly struggling, not something to shame them.

Oh yeah, also, Instagram commenters? Stop ruining my happy place.