Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media

The Bullies Have Arrived. And I’m Ready To Use My Words.

My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.

Unfortunately , I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.

When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.

She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.

All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.

The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.

She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.

She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.

As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.

I was so sad. I am so sad.

This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.

I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.

Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.

When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.

Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.

But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.

I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now know that being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.

So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.

Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.

People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.

People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.

And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.

I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.

I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.

She is who she is.

And that’s why I write.

For her.

To create a better world for her the only way I know how.

And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.

But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.

And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.

A mama can hope. A mama will fight.

Parenting, Ranting, relationships, Uncategorized

FYI: You’re Not A Single Mom If You’re Married

I read yet another blog piece about how difficult it is to be a “married-but-single-mom”.

You know the ones.

The ones crying about how difficult their life is because they signed up to be a stay at home mom and now their husband’s work 60 hours a week…so they can be a stay at home mom… and the husbands don’t feel like changing diapers, or they don’t clean up their own dirty underwear, or perhaps the husbands literally don’t lift a finger in the house. The moms that complain that their lives are so painfully lonely because they got everything they ever wanted and now realize how hard it is to be a mom and a caregiver to all of the humans in the house and they think they’re living the same life as a single mom…

Listen. Just stop with this.

Ladies, (and yes, I’m singling out the moms here since that’s who I see debating this subject time and again), if you are married you cannot be a single mom. It is virtually impossible.

Simply put, “single” and “married” are antonyms. They have opposite meanings. You cannot be married and single at the same time.

When can you call yourself a single-mom? When you’re single and unmarried, raising children. Full stop.

Husband gone 5 out of 7 nights a week for work? Not a single mom.
Husband works nights and you work days? Not a single mom.
Husband doesn’t lift a finger around the house to cook, clean, or care for the kids? Not a single mom.
Husband is included in any of your vernacular when describing your relationship status? Not.a.single.mom.

I understand that your husband might put in long work weeks and expect dinner on the table and the laundry to be done and that yes, you are the primary caregiver for everyone in your household. I get that. I get that is nothing short of the most incredibly difficult job on the face of the planet. Because it is. Parenthood is hard. And yes, husbands are like having an additional child. Absolutely.

But you know what you have that single-moms don’t, in case it isn’t obvious? A partner. Of some sort.

If you’re a stay at home mom, you have a person providing financial means. Emotional support. An adult human that lives with you at least some of the time, even if he works long hours or even if he travels for work. Someone to talk to about something other than MineCraft and 3rd grade math. You have a person.

And I’m not willing to give those a pass, who do not actually know this struggle, to share a title with any single mom. Just…no.

Call me an asshole. Call me bitter, (because a divorce that I didn’t want has made me both of those things), but that title isn’t suited for you as a stay at home mom who has a partner. Sorry.

I’m not saying your situation isn’t difficult. I’m sure that when you’re comparing yourselves to other married moms whose husbands come home at 5pm and immediately chip in with the kids, help with dinner, bathe the kids or whatever, I’m certain you have it more difficult. But you’re still married. Maybe it looks different than the fantasy you created in your mind about how it would be, but you’re married.

When I was married, I worked a typical 8-4 job and my husband worked nights as a restaurant manager. When my daughter was a baby and a toddler, six nights a week after 4pm- the caregiving and on weekends? All me. And I do remember making comments to friends like, “Man, sometimes I feel like a single parent!”, because I had no clue what that actually meant.

Now I do.

I am divorced. I have my daughter 5 nights every week, including every weekend. I run two businesses, so I put in about 50-55 hours of work a week, and I provide about 90% of my child’s financial well being.

I certainly could have it more difficult. Obviously, there are moms (and dads) who have their children 100% of the time without any help, some working more than one job. The real single parents. The toughest of the tough shit. I’m sure some reading might be in this category and believe that even I shouldn’t be using the term single mom, and I can respect that to some degree. I will happily accept an alternative title of “bitter asshole, divorced mom”.

But what we both don’t have is a person.

That person that promised me for better or for worse, the one that said “I do” in that thing called marriage? He’s no longer here with me because life had other plans. No more confidant, no more equal contributor to finances, no one to fight over the remote with, no more 30 minute timeouts so I can walk the dogs if I’ve had enough of being a mom in a given moment on a weekend. Because I am single. And a mom. And I’m on my own.

I know we all live in our reality. And all of our realities are hard. That’s the truth. I don’t think any of us as parents believe our lives to be easy. We can all find solidarity in the struggles of raising small humans. This shit is difficult no matter how perfect it looks on paper. All of it is hard. Marriage certainly isn’t a romance novel and raising children isn’t puppies and rainbows like we dreamed these things to be before we had them.

We know mom life is hard. We know.

But, please. Please reserve the title of “Single Mom” to those who actually live it.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media, Uncategorized

On the Keaton Jones’ Bully Video. It Needs to Go Away.

The Keaton Jones’ video. It all needs to go away.

If you’ve been on social media within the last week, you’ve seen him floating around, by no choice of his own. He found himself in inta-fame world, brought to you by the almighty power of the “viral video”.

Everyone felt terrible for this poor, hysterical boy who was pleading with the world to end bullying.

Very sweet. And innocent.

And the mom should have never posted the video. Because the internet is a terrible place that ruins everything that is good in the world.

That video wasn’t out for 24 hours and suddenly all of the ugly came out: mom is a suspected racist, dad is an imprisoned racist, and mom allegedly is doing all of this for money.

Listen. I want to believe otherwise, at least about the latter. I’m a little off-put by the mom prodding the child but I want to believe she had pure intentions.

The racism piece…meh. That’s looking like its unfortunately true, but that doesn’t take away Keaton’s overall message. Because he’s a child who innocently and wholeheartedly wants people to be kind to one another. Hopefully mom doesn’t teach him to hate people of color, especially now that she’s feeling the heat of all of this fallout. Maybe she’s learned more than one lesson, but the boy’s original message shouldn’t be muted because his mom is potentially an asshole.

Yet, here we are, hearing about how much of an asshole his mom is every.single.day. And that won’t go away. That trumps Keaton’s innocence.

And that’s hurting Keaton.

This 15 minutes of fame is going to continue to hurt Keaton more than it helps. Now he is going to stand out even more so than he did before with his peers. And all kids want to do is blend in. They don’t need the spotlight, they just need to feel like they belong. This isn’t helping him. This isn’t blending in.

I feel for Keaton, and I even feel for his mom. She misstepped on this one. And she needs to stop doing media to backpedal out of it. And we need to stop sharing his video on social media. It’s all bad and terrible for him. All of it. Even the celebrities that have shown their compassion for him. All bad.

And this is coming from someone who pours her soul out for the trolls of the interwebs to read and has learned some tough lessons, on a much lesser scale than that of the Jones’.

Which is why I believe Keaton’s video rubbed me the wrong way from the moment I saw it. I saw too much of my own story in theirs.

I get it, Ms. Jones, I do. Maybe you thought you were helping, like I had thought. I, too, have been accused of having my own agenda in “exposing” my child. I see you. I understand what you’re feeling.

My journey took me off course in social media land, too.

I got divorced. And writing gripped me. It was my savior.

And I wrote a post about being in the throes of divorce. In The Trenches. And someone noticed it and said it was great. And it ended up being published on BonBonBreak.

This is when it really hit me.

Words matter.
Words speak to people in ways that penetrate their soul.
People connect through words.
The power of the internet is amazing.
People are identifying with my words.
People want to read my words and connect with me.
I needed these people. They understood me. They empathized. They connected.

This felt amazing.

I felt like I was making a difference, helping people, healing people even. Every reaction and comment gave me energy and a bit of a high. I mattered. I was touching people.

When I began writing about my daughter’s gender identity, the slope started to become a bit slippery.

Scary Mommy wanted to publish my first article on the subject and millions read it.

Whew. This felt big for me.

I will interject here that I have never made one dime off of my writing or any media I’ve done. Not.one.dime. That is important to know.

Because I wrote about a controversial topic, somewhat opposed to the topic of divorce, now I was in a new ballgame.

Negative feedback abounded. Internet trolls came out in force. And personal friends began expressing concerns for how this might affect my daughter in the future.

But I wanted to fight the good fight. I wanted to be a champion, an activist of sorts. I wanted to speak loudly on the subject and really make this all about accepting differences in everyone, accepting our kids for who they are.

This felt important to me because for every negative comment, I was also getting a mom messaging me about her struggles with a child similar to mine. It felt right. I needed this connection. I needed someone, or a bunch of someones, to understand me.

And then media outlets started to reach out to me and wanted my story. And that felt a bit exciting, but also…weird. It felt like now I was possibly teetering on that fine line of overexposing my child.

None the less, I ended up doing one video interview for a British media company called Barcroft. I thought I was still fighting the good fight. You can read here how that went. I’ll sum it up in Cliff Notes and save you the click: it didn’t go well and I regret the day I signed on the dotted line to do it. I should have listened to my gut and not gone forward with any media. It just wasn’t what I was ready for and now that video exists in the bowels of internet hell forever.

And it will affect my child somehow, I’m sure, most likely in a negative way.

So, Keaton and Ms. Jones, I feel you. I get it. But make it stop for yourselves now, as best as you can. Disappear. Stop talking. Silence is the best message now. Be still. 

The lesson to all of us is that, instant gratification and that feeling that we are gaining popularity always is a momentary ego stroke, especially if we feel that we are sending a powerful message with our words.

But good intensions can have horrific fallout in social media land. It’s a place we all hate to love.  Someone’s sad story told today will be torn to shreds tomorrow in this day and age.

What happened to Keaton is the best explanation of 2017’s landscape to ever have existed.

 

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Uncategorized

Thickening of the Skin, Strengthening of the Spine

I had the first real heartbreaking conversation with my 8 year old daughter. The kind where she was sad and confused. The kind that began her story with friendships, fitting in, and feeling left out. The kind that makes me want to take her away to some island where her and I can just be together and safe and happy and free of hurt.

I knew it wouldn’t be long. I’ve predicted this conversation for at least 3 years. Most parents have to have these conversations in some variation, of course, but I knew ours would come a bit prematurely because my child doesn’t fit those traditional molds specific to her gender.

She does well with the one-on-one play. She has school friends, she has her neighborhood friends, but activities like recess and any type of party scenario, she tends to be a bit…awkward. Kids aren’t mean to her, they’re not bullying, and I certainly hope it stays that way, but, she struggles, internally.

A few nights ago, our community had their fall block party. There were probably 30 children there and I noticed that my child had been adopted by an older girl, an 11 year old, that just so happens to be on the autism spectrum. Their friendship seemed to happen quick and easy, despite their age difference. I observed them and it seemed to just make sense to both of them that they’re natural friends. I couldn’t help but feel and think that this was the coming together of two unique spirits, of sorts.

After this sweet girl left, my daughter wanted to leave, too. But I wasn’t quite ready, since I only socialize twice a year, and so I said to her, “why don’t you go play with one of the 30 other kids here? I’m sure you can find something to do with one or a few of them”.

She reluctantly took my advice and I continued to observe, noticing it wasn’t going so well. The boys tossed the football to her a couple times but then quickly divert to boys that could sustain more of an aggressive game. One thing my child is not is physically aggressive in sports. She’s not a tomboy.

The girls really don’t have anything in common with my daughter, being that they were in a group doing gymnastics and braiding one another’s hair, nothing my child would have any interest in, so that just left…my daughter.

As I put her to bed that evening, she said, “Mom, I wanted to leave the party tonight because I don’t fit in with anyone. The same reason why I hardly ever play with anyone at recess. No one is like me. I feel different than everyone”.

Ouch. Stab.

Open, gaping wound.

Blood spilled out of my heart.

Now. I don’t believe my child is immune to being dramatic, and she’s certainly bossy at times so I recognize that some of this falls on her because she wants to play what she wants to play, when she wants to play it. And I realize that many children feel like they don’t fit in for many reasons. But. That doesn’t negate the feelings of being different, feeling left out,…because she is, indeed, different.

It’s an awful feeling, at any age, to feel like you don’t belong. I’ve struggled with it more in my adult life than I did in my school years. We all just want to feel accepted and loved.

I could certainly go into the amazing wisdom I feel like I imparted on my child, how I told her that’s she’s incredible and unique and that because of that, she’s going to have to work a little bit harder to find her tribe. I could go on about how I told her that when someone dares to be different, and someone dares to live outside of “normalcy”, you should never compromise and your people will find you, like the sweet 11 year old found her. I could rehash how I stressed the importance of having that one really good soul that “gets” you rather than 25 fake friends that don’t really get you at all, won’t be there for you in the long run and highlighted all of the amazing friends she does have.

But here’s where I want to swing this into a selfish story:

Yes. I cheer-leaded for her last night. The first time of many, I’m assuming. I told her all of those amazing things about herself and how it makes her who she is, etc. but after I shut her door behind me, after our good, long talk, I cried. A lot.

Because this shit is hard.

We can say all day long that every child struggles, every child goes through the proverbial growing pains, and that’s very true, but I cannot ignore, for my daughter, that this is about her gender identity struggles.

30% of kids that struggle with gender identity attempt suicide and 42% engage in self harm and the stats for depression and anxiety are even more staggering. And between 5-10% of all LBGTQ youth attempt suicide. This is scary. Like, fucking terrifying, knowing this is the reason why she’s different. It is and there’s no reason to sugarcoat that fact.

She’s realizing she’s different, she’s realizing she’s not like anyone else. It’s getting harder for her. The confusion is just beginning.

And this shit is hard as a parent.

I feel it, as a mom. I feel the struggle. My friendships have changed since it’s been apparent who my child is and especially since I have written about this topic. Not all friendships, but some. I feel the distance. I feel the chatter behind my back. It’s palpable. Its like a thick cloud sometimes. It’s tangible.

I don’t have many local friends anymore, in this small, conservative area. I notice the lack of Facebook friend engagements. I notice the lack of invites to social events. It’s not in my head. It’s real. The distance is there.

People think this is my doing, that this my choice. That I want this for my child. That being out of the ordinary is my thing and I thrive on it. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: no one wants their child to struggle, ever. For any reason. Being deemed “normal” or more “mainstreamed” would be much easier, yes? A parent would not choose this.

And even if these people know that this is who my child is, they want my silence. They don’t want me to make a deal out of this. They don’t want me to talk about it. They say it’s because they worry how my daughter will feel about these writings someday when she’s older, but I call bullshit. It makes them uncomfortable. They don’t say these things to my face, but they don’t have to.

And sometimes it’s painful. I’m slowing giving away my fucks, little by little, one by one. But sometimes it stings.

Then, little things happen. Just a nudge to remind me that my voice matters.

Just yesterday, my daughter and her dad went to get her hair cut. One of my friends from high school, whose son goes to my daughter’s school was there, too. I received this text from my friend:

Hi there. Just wanted to let you know that my son and I were waiting to get his hair cut here at the Great Clips. Your daughter was getting her haircut. First of all I have to tell you, she is the most beautiful little girl or handsome boy- whichever she prefers. Well, when she and her dad left, the older gentleman next to me said to the stylist- ‘was that a girl or a boy, I sure hope with that haircut it wasn’t a little girl!’ The stylist QUICKLY said. ‘Her name is in our system as a female name and she is a just a kid being who she wants to and obviously has supportive parents’. He just looked like he’d been hit in the face with a bag of bricks. I just looked over and said, ‘yes, she is my friend’s daughter and likes to associate as a boy, but I don’t believe that makes or breaks who she is as a child’. He just gave me a blank look. It was very eye opening to see what you and Lily have to deal with first hand probably on a day to day basis. It really opened my eyes to how cruel some people can be and especially regarding a child! So I truly admire you and all that you do for your daughter!”

Validation. It exists.

This text validated that, yes, people do spew their unsolicited, hateful opinions behind my back, whether they’re strangers, friends, or even family, but more importantly, someone else was able to see how hard this can be. And also? How incredible was that stylist that shut that man right up?

I was so thankful for this text, for this moment. I cried happy tears that people can open their minds if they so choose.

We see the pendulum swinging a bit in terms of LBGTQ acceptance, for sure. Just yesterday, the first openly trans political officials were elected (way to go, Virginia and Minnesota!!). And amazing as that is, the absolute HATE I read spewing online today because of those election results was so fucking depressing and made me realize how much work we still have to put in.

We’re are headed in the right direction, but it’s just awful to see so much hate, so much division over this topic, still. All because people want to live within their ignorance. They want to deny the science behind this discussion, they want to pretend it isn’t real…because it makes them uncomfortable. It’s much easier to call people “freaks” than to open their minds to other possibilities.

The take away here is: there is far more hope right now than hate.

And at the end of the day, my spine is stronger, my skin is thicker, because of raising this child of mine, thereby allowing me to teach her that she is a badass.

My child will only know how to stand tall and take no shit, letting no one talk her out of who she is. She will rise above the hate, she will look down on the ignorance. She will only know self confidence and never apologize for who she is. Her skin will be so thick that she will feel sorry for the idiots that believe that her lifestyle is a choice, whatever that ends up to be. She will be firmly planted in her truth and have no problem telling someone to “fuck off”.

We’re getting somewhere, one political office, one high school friend, and one hair stylist at a time. So, my child and I stand tall, and sometimes we will stand alone, and that’s totally ok by me. I’m more than up to the challenge and, more so, the privilege of being her mom.

Life Lessons, relationships, Uncategorized

A Lesson Learned From Walking In The Rain

I walked to the gym tonight to do some yoga. It’s about .5 mile each way.

I’d been in a funk and I needed to breathe. I realized once I got there that I only had about 20 minutes because of a cardio class that was coming in. That frustrated me but I carried on with my practice, feeling rushed. Not quite what I had imagined.

While I was there, though, a giant rainstorm rolled in, quickly, as they do in Florida. It was so rhythmic and calming that the storm actually brightened my mood. It made me slow down my practice. It made me breathe deeper and longer. It made me more mindful somehow.

There’s just something about a good, evening rainstorm sometimes.

As I finished up my practice, it was raining so hard that I couldn’t walk home. Only, no. It wasn’t that I couldn’t. It was that I didn’t want to. There was no lightening, so, no danger. It was simply that I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. I didn’t want to get wet and soggy and cold and uncomfortable.

So, I sat there. 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes went by.

I started to wonder when the storm would pass. I grew impatient because I was getting hungry. A gentleman sitting next to me, also waiting out the storm, looked at me and said, “I just looked at the radar and this storm isn’t going anywhere. Might as well make peace with it”.

What wise wording. Make peace with it. Make peace with the discomfort, essentially.

His comment sent my brain down a metaphorical highway and got me thinking…

Our species isn’t very good at making peace with discomfort- physical or emotional. We are beings that will do almost anything to avoid discomfort. We’ll pop a pill at the slightest amount of pain. We’ll write off friendships or relationships when things get complicated. We’ll guzzle alcohol at when life gets stressful.

We don’t want to sit with the lesson. We don’t want to learn what’s being taught. We just want to make things easier on ourselves and take the path of least resistance.

A very wise friend once said it so eloquently, though, “Nothing truly goes away before it teaches you what you need to learn”. And she’s so right.

Whether it’s a reoccurring bad dream about someone you’ve wronged, a romantic partner you can’t let go of, a friendship that you can’t seem to reconcile, a job that you know isn’t right for you but you stay…the lesson hasn’t been taught yet. Or more likely, the lesson hasn’t been learned yet. We must listen carefully.

And you have to be willing to be uncomfortable to work through it all.

That storm wasn’t passing tonight. So I took off my flip-flops, yanked up my yoga mat and walked through it.

It was simultaneously exhilarating and fun to walk through the rain. I felt like a kid walking barefoot through puddles. I was wet and soggy and cold when I got home. But the discomfort? It was momentary. It was fleeting. That feeling of freedom and airiness while I was walking in the rain far surpassed my discomfort. I felt really good when I got home. I felt lighter.

I needed that release of walking in the rain. That was my lesson. Right in front of me, yet hidden in my reluctance to be uncomfortable.

But. You just can’t get to the lesson without testing your comfort zone boundaries. Lessons are never easy. They’re never uncomplicated. There doesn’t seem to be much of an education in things that come easy.

It stopped raining five minutes after I got home. That storm wouldn’t pass until it taught me the lesson. I just needed to listen.

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Life Lessons, Parenting, Summer, Uncategorized

Dear Neighbors, Thank You For Being A Part of My Village

I live in the retirement capitol of the world. Literally.

The median age of my town is 67. It’s been referred to as “Heaven’s Waiting Room” and all of the other “near death” jokes you can think of. Bunko, golf, and pickle ball are the focus of most conversations and no one eats dinner after 5:30pm, (which, I’ve somehow comfortably melded into this). The speed limit here is 45 but you must drive at least 15mph under that in the left lane. And, if you’re looking for any establishment to be open after 8pm, you’re out of luck. Our Walmart is open 24 hours, though. That was giant news when it opened.

I have been here the majority of my life and it wasn’t always the most exciting place for children. When I was school-aged, most communities were strictly 55 and over (and still are), meaning, yes, that they discriminate against anyone younger living in them. That said, young families were just dispersed throughout our town since there was not one community that was geared towards that demographic. We were lucky to have one or two kids within a 3 mile radius.

I now have an 8 year old who happens to be an only child. And truth be told, I am one of those moms that hates playing with their kids. Sorry, but it’s true. I am not that kind of fun mom. I will do dance parties, watch movies, go on hikes, go to the beach, go to the pool, but if the play involves my child telling me what to say during imaginary play….nope. Sorry. I suck at it. So, she does rely on her friends, as I believe she should.

About 4-5 years ago, a home builder of those cookie-cutter type housing communities acknowledged the need for a community that appealed to younger families, noticing that this population is growing here.

Low and behold, he was building a monster community where he put in a….water slide.

:::Cue opening gates of heaven music::::

A water slide. Fucking genius. Build it and they will come.

And so all of us young families marched in like zombies to purchase a new home and asked, “Where do we sign?”, declaring, “Take my money!!”. I don’t even think any of us cared what the house necessarily looked like, what the quality was like, or how much it even cost.

There was a water slide. And playgrounds. And walking trails. And kayaks. And even promotional pictures posted of….children playing. It was a Christmas miracle.

So, I’ve painted the picture. My neighborhood houses approximately 75% of the young families of our town here. Slight exaggeration but not really.

The amazing result here is that my child now has built in friends. A plethora of young kids her age. So many that I cannot count. She’s so fortunate to have this. I’m actually envious of her childhood, at the risk of patting myself on the back.

But she’s not the only fortunate one. I am, too.

My neighbors are a huge part of my village. The village it takes to raise a kid. And I’m so thankful.

I’m able to have her put on her handy little GPS watch-phone thing and off she goes, sometimes for hours. Maybe playing video games, maybe playing and outside game of kickball, maybe playing Legos somewhere.

So, yes, my kid is the one that’s always at your house.

But it works both ways.

As I type, I’m listening to fort building and nerf gun wars upstairs after a sleepover, that was complete with popcorn, donuts, and massive amounts of YouTube viewing. Sometimes I have as many as 7 children playing at my house, recording videos, destroying my daughter’s room. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope I’m able to give other moms and dads the same breaks, breaks that they certainly deserve, that they give to me.

It might not always be an even amount of time spent between houses. I don’t keep score. My guess is that no, it isn’t. My child probably spends far more time at others’ houses than they spend here because it’s always more fun at someone else’s house.

And if that’s an issue, I would hope someone would speak up and tell me, but I’m assuming we are all in this together. We’re all here for one another, watching our kids grow up together, helping raise them together. (I do expect you to say no to her, as I’ve had to say to your kids, and I expect you to discipline her as you would your own. Again, in this together.)

I love the independence that this neighborhood gives my daughter. I love the freedom it affords her. I’m a huge advocate of breeding healthy independence and freedom because if it can’t start in early childhood, when does it start? When do we stop hovering? When they’re teens and then they go insane with their new freedoms, not knowing exactly how to channel it? I know these are controversial questions, so I’ll answer that for myself…

I’ve realized that having wonderful neighbors allows me to feel safe about letting my child experience things on her own. It has allowed her to make some of her own choices, which aren’t always going to be the right ones, and that’s ok. I trust her. And no, I don’t trust everyone else. Yes, strangers can be dangerous, and I hope I’m doing a decent job of teaching her that. I feel comfortable allowing her to find her way, within reason, because I’m surrounded by a great support system.

I understand that my style of parenting isn’t everyone’s style. We establish that day in and day out with one another, based on the online parenting wars. But I do understand that not everyone agrees with giving their children as much freedom as I give mine. And I definitely respect that. No two parenting styles are alike, which makes the world go round, and ultimately will help my child become more well-rounded, having been exposed to so many different families.

Having all of these amazing people surrounding us, allowing my child to come in and out of their homes, eating their food, playing with their children, even sleeping over at times? I can’t say it enough: I’m so thankful. It’s an amazing advantage and it’s so comforting to know you’re all here. (And special kudos to those parents that imaginary play with my kid. You’re fucking rockstars.)

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of my village. I’m forever thankful. And I hope you feel the same.

 

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Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media, Uncategorized

Things I Miss.

I complain about social media a lot. And I complain about technology and all of the negative aspects of it.

I also spend approximately 80% of my day on my technology or social media.

It’s a complex, toxic, love/hate relationship, right?

But, seriously. I see how problematic it is and I see how beneficial it is.

It especially worries me for my child’s generation. I fear we’re creating a generation of zombies and dumbasses since these neat little gadgets have become our children’s babysitters (and I am guilty AF).

So, this got me thinking. My childhood was so much less complex and so much more boring.

I miss…

…the days of staying outside and playing until the fireflies told us to go home.

…the days when the terms “helicopter parent” and “social anxiety” weren’t widely known or acknowledged.

…the days of having a phone plugged into the wall and the cord would be all stretched out from trying to walk from room to room.

…the days of Super Mario Bros. being the only form of screen time.

…the days when MTV actually played music videos and The Real World had actual content of college kids making something of themselves, discussing real world issues, instead of just getting wasted drunk and fucking.

…the days of simple seated portraits being an acceptable form of photography, opposed to all of these fancy locations with the wind having to blow in the right direction.

…the days of cell phone minute packages so we actually had to care about how much time we spent on the phone. (I had an Erikson and then a Nokia, FYI.)

…the days of writing notes in class and folding them in the most creative ways possible.

…the days before texting was a thing and people actually had to speak so things weren’t lost in translation.

…the days of not knowing where someone was because they didn’t have a cell phone yet.

…the days of spelling things out with numbers on beepers.

…the days of spending summers reading Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club, and Ramona books.

…the days of flannels and grunge clothes that didn’t show ass cheeks.

…the days when The Kardashians weren’t societal icons and middle school kids weren’t so concerned with make-up and lip plumpers.

…the days when rock music actually existed.

…the days when people actually had to have talent to make a healthy living instead of just playing mindless games on YouTube.

…the days when infidelity was the biggest scandal in government.

…the days when bullies actually had to be a dick to your face instead of hiding behind a keyboard, both adults and children.

…the days when selfies weren’t called selfies. They were just pictures you took with your disposable camera and hoped for the best; had them printed and then shoved them in an album.

…the days of rewinding your favorite song in that yellow Sony Walkman.

…the days of actual humorous sitcoms. (Remember T.G.I.F.??)

…the days when the most violent video game was The Legends of Zelda.

…the days of not knowing everyone’s eating, drinking, pooping habits, their political affiliation, and what inspirational quote they’re living by for today via Facebook.

…the days when we all weren’t instantly gratified by every.single.thing. because every answer to everything is in our hand.

And that’s just to name a few.

I’m starting to feel every ounce of my 40 years of age, saying things like, “Well, back in my day, we had an ETCH-A-SCKETCH and that was it!!”. But it’s true. My generation was so much better off than recent generations, I do believe. We were forced to be creative. And we even had actual books and libraries and encyclopedias. Nothing was instanious. Everything required a little bit of work. Mind blowing, right?

We just had a simpler life. Period. They were simpler times. Or so it seemed.

All of this technology is supposed to be making our lives so much better, so much more convenient, and sure, in many ways it is. I love Google Maps, instead of paper maps, and I don’t miss having to find a pay phone. But it certainly has complicated our lives in so many ways.

The irony isn’t lost on me that you’re probably reading this on your smart-technolgy, linked off of a social media site. I get it. As I stare at my child sitting on the couch watching YouTube on our TV.

I get it.

I love it just as much as the next person. I’ve relented to it, allowed it to meld right into my life, for sure.

Perhaps every generation says this, and I know it’s all relative, but I sure do miss the good ole days. I have officially reached the age of saying so.

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Life Lessons, Parenting, Uncategorized

I Don’t Want To Fit Into My Kid’s Clothes

And even if I could, I won’t wear them.

:::Deep breath::::

Ok. I am writing this with complete cognizance and mindfulness. I am not a fan of mommy wars or shaming. My message is not that of judgement, but more of awareness. Read this as a cautionary tale, of sorts, from someone who has struggled with body image issues for many, many years. That is my disclaimer.

Something has been bothering me about modern day mother-daughter relationships and I am going to attempt to articulate this the best I can.

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I always viewed my mother as a beautiful human. Inside and out. Still do. I cannot remember exactly when I became aware of how beautiful she is but I remember hoping to look just like her when I grew up. I remember thinking how pretty her skin was, her hair, her nails, her jewelry. I took notice of how she took great care of herself and how she always looked so put together. Nothing extravagant or out of the ordinary, but she was gorgeous and I knew it. I’m pretty certain we all believe our moms are beautiful and we idolize them. Or many of us do, especially when we’re little. Nothing shocking about that.

But what I remember most, from a very young age, is being very aware of how thin she was. Not that she was abnormally skinny, but definitely thinner than other moms. It was an observation that stuck with me, for sure.

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When I was young, as in elementary school age, I was stick-skinny. I ate and ate and was just long and lean. People used to ask me if I even ate food at all.

Until I hit puberty.

Then I became long-ish and round-ish. I quickly became well-developed (read: size C boobs at age 12) and packed on an extra 20lbs or so above my “recommended” weight. (I use that term loosely since weight charts are complete bullshit.) Point is- I grew fast and furious, as humans do. My body did what it wanted while I continued to eat what I wanted, within reason, as I believe kids should.

I was acutely aware of how fast my body was growing in those terrible middle school aged years when all of this body image shit starts. I remember being one of the only girls with big boobs in 7th grade and the boys would say things like, “I bet you can’t touch your elbows together behind your back”. Being young and naive, I would try it, as all the boys would laugh and look at my new developments. Middle school was the most evilest of years for me. I digress.

By the time I was in 8th grade, my mom and I were able to share clothes. I continued to grow taller, a bit thinner again, and my mom, who remained consistently thin, was able to fit into my size. She was young and fun and progressive so I didn’t blame her for shopping in the same clothing department where I found mine. (Mind you, this was the late 80s so think high waisted Guess jeans and oversized shirts. Nothing like today’s style.) And, I didn’t see the harm in it, I didn’t find it odd, and didn’t think too deep into it most of my adult life.

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Approximately a year ago, when my daughter was 7, she and and I were in the shower together. She was staring at my belly, then would look at her own and poke at it. She said, “I’m chubby. I’m not skinny like you”.

I literally stopped in my tracks.

“CHUBBY?! NO YOU ARE NOT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW.”, almost yelling.

I wanted to immediately and completely erase those thoughts from her mind. And my mind spun with how this vocabulary even got into her brain since I was always cognizant of using words like “chubby”, “fat”, or any sort of negative connotation in relation to body image since I spent several years of my adult life being overly concerned with how much I weighed, at one point even being diagnosed with anorexia. If I’m being honest, I’m still far too preoccupied with weight. However, I am bound and determined not to bring these issues into her life.

It turned out that someone at school that day had called her chubby so, on that very day, she became aware that she has a body and that we have societal views of perfection. And it made me sad. And it made me angry. And it made me reflect on my own image of body awareness and perfection.

It made me realize, I always wanted to be skinny because my mom was skinny and skinny equaled beautiful. I fault society for telling us this everyday, and I also saw it at home. I wanted to always fit in her jeans because she fit into mine and that’s how I started to measure beauty. Because as women, our measurement of beauty has no other option but to start with our mothers. They’re our yardsticks for everything so body image and beauty are certainly no exception.

Listen. (Especially to you, mom. Listen.) Do not misunderstand. I do not blame my mom for all of my body issues because we shared a few pairs of jeans in 1989. She did nothing wrong.

It’s certainly more than fine that my mom was thin and healthy. It was wonderful to grow up with a mom who valued healthy eating and fitness. It was absolutely ok. And I do not begrudge moms for taking good care of themselves, being fit, looking younger than their ages, getting botox or whatever else women do to become their image of beautiful. I.do.not.judge. I exercise, I shop in the junior department, and I even dye my hair pink. I love pretending to be younger than I am.

However.

I believe what we need to be careful of is creating competition with our daughters.

The thing is, our daughters are their own people with their own bodies and their bodies shouldn’t look like our bodies, and vice versa, even if they do indeed look similar in size and shape. When we buy the same clothes as our daughters, share clothes with our daughters, it’s riding that fine line of wishing we were still their age, almost pretending we are still their age, and being more of a peer to them than their mom. We’re forcing them to draw comparisons to us when we share these intimate similarities with them. They can’t help but compare how their bodies look in the same article of clothing. It’s a natural response to compare. These can be dangerous messages no matter how much of a bond it feels like you’re creating by sharing things.

Multiply in the additional pressures of growing up today: the advances in technology that give us a voyeuristic view into how celebs look and dress. The make-up, the lip fillers, the shorter shorts, the diet fads. Christ, the Jenner girls alone have made girls feel like they all need to be supermodels and look all grown up by the age of 14.

So, we need to be there for them on a different level. Because we’re their moms, their safe place, their rock, their elder, their role model, but we also have a responsibility to show them that beauty looks so very different on everyone.

Does this mean we all have to wear mom jeans, Polo shirts, matronly dresses and ditch every stitch of sexiness to show the hierarchy of motherhood? Of course not, but there has to be a balance and because I lost my parenting manual, I don’t know that I have a formula for that balance, but what I do know that putting an emphasis on still fitting into a jean size that I was in high school isn’t something I need to impress upon my kid, even if it boosts my ego. I do not need to create the belief that this is of importance in life. Because it isn’t.

I obviously hope that she picks up on my healthy habits- exercising, making decent food choices, good hygiene, etc. All of the things we try to pass down to our kids to make them the healthiest version of themselves, but emotionally, I don’t need her to value a body shape or size over another. Therefore, my jeans will be different from her jeans, even if they happen to be the same size.

It’s a lesson to me, too, which is really the point here: self acceptance. When I learn to do that, so will my daughter. And also? To accept the aging process, to acknowledge that a woman in her 40’s really has no business shopping at Forever 21, even if they can. Because we aren’t 21 forever. And that is ok.

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Parenting, Uncategorized

The Sneaky Moments of Motherhood

Motherhood is full of moments. Moments that are new, moments that are scary, moments that are frustrating, moments that are full of emotions. Motherhood is this string of moments that sometimes just seem like one long, everlasting moment.

Sometimes you wish for these moments to disappear forever. You wish some away so desperately, because they’re fucking hard. Sometimes you wish you could remember what you felt like in certain moments because things happen so quickly. Time is so accelerated within motherhood. Sometimes you wish you could relive the moments over and over and over because they’re so full of love.

Tonight, I had a moment.

It was a moment with a familiar emotion…but it’s an emotion I have a difficult time describing. It was a moment that I have a difficult time explaining. But it’s worth noting because I know every mom feels this. I know we all have these moments.

It’s this moment of realizing that your child is yours. That your child is growing. That your child is maturing. That your child isn’t little anymore. They’re these moments you realize…it’s happening. They’re becoming…them.

It’s this moment that I can only describe as those “sneaky moments”, because, for me, it’s an emotion that totally sneaks up on me and surprises me from time to time. It overwhelms me.

These moments aren’t to be confused with those of “firsts”. Not like their first word, first step, or first day of school. They aren’t to be confused with moments we’re flooded with pride because of good grades, or a good game, or where their kind heart shows. It isn’t that feeling of simply feeling how much you love them or appreciate their existence.

No. None of those are the same.

Tonight, as I was watching my daughter get ready for bed, she put on some music. This song Capsize that she loves. She sang every word, words that I couldn’t quite make out, but she knew them. She sang these words with such passion and confidence. She was brushing her hair and singing as she looked in the mirror.

She didn’t know I was watching. I was just observing her. All 4’5″ of her 8 year old self. All 74lbs of her.

It wasn’t anything new or out of the ordinary. But I had that sneaky moment. That moment where her life kind of flashed before me.

That moment where I realized she is the same human that was once 7lbs2oz in my arms. The one I didn’t know what to do with as a newborn. The toddler that that loved the word “uh-oh” and that hated sleep. The one that loved her purple baby and her green hospital pacifiers. The one that hated P.E. in kindergarten and didn’t want to learn how to ride a bike until she was almost 7. This is that same little, tiny human that grew inside of me. None of this felt possible in this moment, it didn’t feel real.

These moments take my breath away because it’s kind of too much to take in. It’s too much to reconcile in my mind that this is happening, this tiny human is growing up and becoming a bigger human. In these moments, it’s when I’m blindly reminded that I’m responsible for who she’s becoming and that she’s who she is because of me- the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s these moments where I catch a glimmer of me in her actions, or her body language, or her mannerisms.

It’s in these moments that I feel cheated because I let too many moments go by without noticing.

You know these moments?

I’ve had these moments before, like the time she told me she was embarrassed when I kissed her outside her classroom this past year. And like the time she told me I didn’t need to walk her to class anymore. Or, even in less obvious moments, like the one tonight, and sometimes it’s happened when she simply says something like, “Bye, mom. I’m headed out to play. I have my watch-phone on if you need me”.

Some days, these moments pass me by without evoking that feeling of sneakiness. They’re just another moment of motherhood. But, these sneaky moments. They’re real. They’re powerful. They’re beautiful, magical, scary, and almost frustrating all at the same time. Frustrating only because you know one thing is for sure: you can’t rewind, there is no replay. This is it. It’s happening.

I’m certain some moms have these moments more than others. I’m sure maybe these moments don’t even feel sneaky to other moms like they do to me. But I know we all know these moments. These moments, they’re different. They’re defining. They’re earth shattering, to some degree. They’re sobering because you’re reminded of the tremendous job we have as moms. The enormous and wonderful responsibilities we have to these little humans.

These moments are teaching us. Sit with these moments and listen. Absorb these moments. These moments are telling us ever so subtly to slow down. And they’re also telling us we are doing one hell of a job.

Don’t blink, mamas. The moments are all around us.

 

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Life Lessons, Uncategorized

Be My Friend So I Can Beg You To Stay My Friend

I’ve always had a problem with fitting in. Not exactly the proverbial “I hated high school because I was an outcast” type of not fitting in. My problem always has been wanting everyone to like me. And I mean everyone.

I moved to Florida from the suburbs of Chicago when I was 10. It was the perfect age of late elementary school, early hormonal issues, to be transplanted in a new environment. It was just enough of a wake-up call to realize that the world is much bigger than it had previously appeared.

I noticed from the first day in my new place that I didn’t fit in like I did back in Chicago. My friends had been my friends since toddlerhood back in my comfort zone but now? Now I had to make new friends with different personalities, being the dreaded “new kid”.

It wasn’t easy for me.

I’m an introvert by nature, which some have a hard time believing about me, but it’s true. I come off as standoffish in new environments, around new people, because I’m not very confident. I’ve always been this way. So, in fifth grade, in my new school, I was bullied for being a “bitch”, which was really just me being…a quiet and scared introvert.

I didn’t make friends easily and what that taught me back then was that I needed to try harder, only I didn’t know how to try the correct way by just being myself and attracting others most similar to me.

I ended up joining “team bully”, trying it on for size, throughout 6th and 7th grade so people would like me. It didn’t feel right, but I did it. It momentarily felt good to be a part of something, of a group, instead of the outsider. I tended to become the people I wanted to be around, even if those people weren’t good people. I wanted to be liked. I would chameleon myself to fit in, I would say and do things to fit in, I would gossip just to be the person “in the know”, to get attention.

By 8th grade, the bullies started to fade away, for the most part, and I found my people, I found my tribe, a healthy tribe. I was popular in high school, but only because it was way too high on the priority list for me. I tried too hard. I wasn’t always myself to achieve that popularity. I tended to be who others wanted me to be or expected me to be.

I wanted to be perfect for everyone.

Clearly, none of this is drastically uncommon for these teenage, school years.

Only, it didn’t really change in high school, or college, or beyond that for me. Well, some of it changed just by merely maturing and getting to know myself, but underneath the surface, I always really want people to like me.

There’s my confession:

Hi. I’m Vanessa, I’m 40, and I still really want people to like me.

Ridiculous, right? I know. But it’s who I am.

Many of you reading might say, “Oh, I stopped caring what others think a long time ago!”, and if that’s 100% true, good for you. I want to be you when I grow up, but if you think back, I’m guessing there have at least been a couple of interactions or situations in which you were maybe the smallest bit concerned with how you were perceived. Maybe you bit your tongue when the other soccer mom was yelling on the field, maybe you changed your shirt because you felt like you looked pregnant, maybe you lied about the reason you canceled plans… Dig deep.

So, that phrase we hear all.of.the.time. of, “Who cares what other people think of you? You shouldn’t care and just be yourself!”.

Yes. True. That’s very true. But it’s not so easy. I care too much how others perceive me.

Therefore, when I lose someone, a friend, a relationship, I have a really, really difficult time letting go. Or even when I argue with someone I care about, I need to fix it right.away. I need to work through it, over-talk it, over analyze it, until its the deadest of the dead horses.

I’ve been ghosted by quite a few friends within recent years and my marriage failed within those years, too. Literally, friends that I had for years that I’ve never heard from again without any kind of falling out. No response to texts, phone calls, etc. I think this is a bizarre way to end any kind of relationship but I’ve done a lot of work trying to figure out why it’s happened.

What did I do wrong?
How could I have done things differently?
What can I learn from these losses?

All healthy questions to ask myself, all normal responses to try to validate the loss, but where it becomes toxic for someone like myself is when I believe this is solely on me as an individual, that there is something inherently unlikable about me, or maybe many things, that must be changed. That if I change- I change my ideals, my beliefs, pieces of my personality, as much as I possibly can, I will then be loved. That maybe, if we don’t say what I want to say out loud, I keep our feelings to myself, I just blend into the wallpaper, that I will at least have the security of people liking me.

But here’s the thing: that’s not how it works. This thought pattern is unhealthy and exhausting. 

There’s a fine balance between introspection, (working on my flaws, acknowledging downfalls, realizing where work can be done), and flat out changing who I am for others. It’s a tight rope and it’s tricky.

We all know that begging people to be, or stay, in our lives doesn’t make sense. If you have to beg with incessant one-sided communication, it isn’t worth it. If you have the perception of being the one putting in all of the effort to a relationship, it isn’t worth it.

Neither is changing yourself for others’ comfort or attention.

Some things just aren’t worth trying to figure out or fix. But when you’re a fixer, when you’re a control freak, and when you truly care about someone, this is the toughest part: letting go.

Let it go. Let.it.go. LET.IT.GO.

So, I’ve come to realize that this might just be my biggest character flaw. This need for people to like me, even when it’s clear that I’m the one driving the relationship. I’ve realized this probably too late in life, but at least I’ve realized it.

I’m working on it. Working on liking who I am, always, and learning to turn the obsessiveness off when others don’t like who I am, what I say, and what I stand for. Working on realizing that not everything can be fixed or mended. Working on realizing that sometimes…it’s them, it’s not me.

And that’s ok for them not to change who they are, too. We can’t expect that from others just as we can’t expect that from ourselves. We all are who we are.

The quote “People come in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” is one to live by.

Not everyone is meant to stay forever. We are ever evolving, always learning, always growing, so it cannot be possible that all people can stay in our lives forever. You can’t always stay on the same path, you can’t always grow together, and ultimately, dynamics shift and if your relationship stands that test, wonderful, cherish that with every ounce of your being, but it might not always be the same and it might even fall apart completely. And that’s ok.

Self accept. Self love. Be who you are and say what you need to say. It will work out how it’s supposed to.

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