The Great Bathroom Debate is Bullshit. Here’s Proof.

A few weeks ago, my non-gender conforming daughter (who is 8), and I were in a public restroom. As we were washing our hands, an older lady standing next to me looked at my daughter, (who was out of earshot at the hand dryer at the moment), then turned to me and said, “So, what’s the rule these days? When do parents allow their kids to go to the correct bathroom without a parent?”.

I fell silent for a second, completely confused as to what she was asking me. She took notice of my confusion and filled the silence with “You know what I mean. When will you allow him to go to the boy’s bathroom alone?”.

It took my brain a second to process that she was certain that my daughter was a boy and she was judging me, inferring he should be in his gender assigned bathroom.

“Oh, um. She’s a girl. She’s in the correct bathroom.”

The look on this lady’s face was somewhat indescribable. She could not have been more shocked, stammering and befuddled in that moment. I then saw the look of confusion take over her face, trying to make sense of my child’s gender and what I was saying.

She tried to backpedal and muddled something along the lines of, “Oh, well, well, I, um, just meant that she looks older and, um, I didn’t know…”.

My emotions were somewhere between annoyed, angry, and still confused by the whole conversation. The only thing I could choke out was, “Can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?”, and she couldn’t manage any words.

First and foremost, stop judging parents, period, lady. Because that’s where she wanted to go with it, I’m certain. She wanted to get on her pedestal about how her generation allowed children to go to the bathroom alone at the age of 2 or whatever higher horse conversation she was encroaching on. I could hear it coming.

But secondly? This is exactly why the transgender bathroom debate makes no sense at all and is utter bullshit. Here it is. A prime example.

Here’s a person that assumed my child was a boy by mere esthetics. Boy clothes, plus boy hair, plus boy mannerisms must equal boy. She certainly could not see her genitalia. And because we were all in the bathroom to do what people do in the bathroom, take a piss, we were not bothering anyone. Why this woman felt the need to say anything at all is beyond me but by doing so, she proved a much larger point.

She proved that had my daughter been in the men’s bathroom, no one would have questioned her at all because she looks like a boy. If my daughter was/is trans, she’s visually acceptable and it would go without notice that she is in the stall next to another little boy. No one would know that she actually has a vagina.

The fact of the matter is, you have taken a squat in the very next stall to a trans person. You absolutely have. You just don’t know it. Because, as my daughter proved to this woman, looks can be very, very deceiving. Guys look like girls, girls look like guys, and trans people look like who they are. But more so- who cares?

Straight, gay, trans, bi- when we go into a bathroom, we all just need to go to the bathroom. That’s it. Pee, or take a shit, wash our hands, and move on. Why everyone is so goddamned concerned with our genitalia is bizarre. There are plenty of hard facts documenting that straight men are usually the perpetrators in any kind of bathroom assault or perversion so what’s with this preoccupation with transgender people or gender in general?

Since this whole bathroom debate began a couple of years ago, it caused me so much confusion about what it is everyone is so afraid of. I know the big bathroom debate is tired. I know it’s been written, it’s been discussed ad-nauseam. So, this is me half venting, half {hopefully} educating in a spill of emotion.

The truth seems to be, people just don’t want to be wrong about this marginalized community and this is why this is even still a topic of discussion. They don’t want to try to understand the biology and how it’s different from their own, or even if it’s different at all. They don’t want to realize that they’re just like everyone else.

Regardless of what your bible might tell you or what “morals and ethics” you hold true, or if you’re just one of those that believe those that challenge gender norms are “freaks”, try to put that all aside for one second. They’re people. Just living. That’s it. They’re just human beings. That’s it. Normal, breathing, thriving humans that need to go to the bathroom. If you don’t want to try to understand anything else about gender issues, fine. But just recognize the simple fact that they need to go to the fucking bathroom, just like you.

It hurts so many people when we move backwards, back towards exclusivity, opposed to inclusiveness. The us-versus-them mentality. The you’re-different-so-you-must-be-wrong mentality. And we are, indeed, slipping backward.

I hope we can do better as a whole with this entire topic. I’m not overly optimistic lately.

But also? Don’t give unsolicited parenting advice. Ever.

And, Stop judging books by their covers. Let my daughter pee and mind your own business.

 

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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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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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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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The Function in Dysfunction

I talk a lot. Sometimes too much. I’m an over-sharer and sometimes I feel the need to word vomit in the most simple of conversations. It’s just who I am. Too transparent. But it’s certainly led to some interesting conversation.

I was talking to someone affiliated with my work world, someone I had just met, and she was asking me about life, in general: kids, vacations, etc. Just small talk. She asked if I was married and I said my usual, “No, but her dad and I are still in a relationship. We’re together but don’t live together”.

She gave me the same perplexed look that everyone else does. People don’t understand this type of unconventional situation. I get it. She is quite a bit older than me so she seemed more concerned than most do about my answer.

And then she said this: “Well…that’s an interesting set up. So much dysfunction for kids these days. I guess broken homes are the norm with all of the divorces. No one stays together anymore.”.

Dysfunction. I loathe that word in relation to describing a family.

Broken. I loathe that word in relation to a home.

It got me thinking- why, and how, on earth did we ever start describing families of divorce as “dysfunctional”?

Totally rhetorical but my annoyance remains.

This idea that divorce is synonymous with dysfunction and brokenness should not be perpetuated. Those are temporary states, or emotions, within divorce at times, but not adjectives that should describe families.

What a horrible label. It’s something that I have heard less and less of since divorces are so common, but these ugly words we use to describe families that aren’t the fairytale version of marriage and family- “dysfunctional”, “broken”? Let’s stop that.

My family is not dysfunctional. My family is not broken. And my child does not need to think otherwise. If her father and I would have stayed in a marriage, a relationship, which, at the time of separation was completely unhealthy- arguments, tension, unhappiness, amongst other things- wouldn’t that have been broken? Wouldn’t that have been dysfunctional?

The difference is now, yes, she has two houses. She spends the night at one house twice a week and the other house the rest of the week. There are challenges that go along with this. There is navigation involved. There were certainly concerns for my child when this drastic change was made, but at the end of the day, she has two parents that love her. She has a family that functions despite the title of “divorce”. We all still function. No one is broken.

Hearts might have been broken, sure, but they’re in some phase of repair and they certainly won’t stay broken, so let’s not call anything broken. We were living in more dysfunction before, prior to divorce. So let’s not call our new normal dysfunctional. Let’s get rid of that ideal, of that perfection, in relation to what families look like and how they function. Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. We all know this. Let’s stop with the stigmas.

Everyone functions because they have to. They navigate their new normal- all of us do that have been through a separation and a divorce. None of it is easy, most of it is not pretty. And it can certainly get downright ugly. But it was most likely ugly as the textbook definition of marriage, too.

It’s redefining. Not dysfunctional. Not broken.

We know our children do not go unscathed by divorce. We, as parents, we know this. We do not need ugly labels to reinforce this, however. We do not need this global idea that we simply gave up on marriage, that it was that easy. That we didn’t try. No one lives behind our closed doors. Only we know our reasons, only we know what we had to do to function and thrive the best way we know how.

This obviously also goes for divorced families that now have new marriages, maybe step-children. They’re beautiful, extended, blended families. At least most of them are. Not all of them are the families pictured together at the kids’ soccer games, or at Disney together, as one big happy family, donning the shirts labeled with their specific role in the family, (this just isn’t realistic for every family of divorce), but they all function to the very best of their abilities. They all love.

Once again, love wins. Love for our kids, it wins. Always. We, as parents, make every decision with our children at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we do. And the last thing we want is for them to be labeled as “broken” or “dysfunctional”.

Can we do better, collectively? Can we look at a divorce situation objectively and just silently acknowledge that this family did the best the could then and they’re doing the best they can now. I did not grow up as a child of divorce but so many of my friends that did are badass, full-functioning, successful, functional people. No worse for wear and definitely not broken.

All families are beautiful. They are all unique. They are all functional in some way, shape, or form. They do not need perfection. They just need love.

 

 

 

 

6 Ways You Can Judge Me On My Parenting.

As much as we all like to say we’re not judgmental, let’s all come together to confess right here and now that we all judge one another. It’s a human race thing. I know it thrives in our DNA to rip each other’s morals, values and ethics to shreds and pat ourselves on the back for doing everything perfect. We certainly wouldn’t be doing the things we do if we didn’t think they were the right way.

I have noticed, especially recently as my daughter gets a bit older, I seem to be a bit of an unconventional parent. And I know we all know that we are the best fucking parents ever to have lived! But seriously, parents judge one another so harshly because, let’s face it, it’s the toughest job known to mankind to be a parent. There’s no training manual for it, there’s no salary involved, and we are literally creating human beings, trying to raise them the best we know how without completely fucking them up. So, we become one another’s worst critics on how not to turn these little humans into drug dealers and prostitutes.

Judging one another certainly doesn’t get us anywhere with the whole solidarity thing, but because I know it’s what we do, I offer you some of the ways you can judge me as a parent…

  1. For pulling her out of school often to do fun things: So, there’s this thing called life that passes us by while we’re all working our asses off 50-60 hours a week and if we’re missing out on life, our kids are, too, in some ways. When I was young, my dad worked a gazillion hours a week, however, there was never any shortage of awesome memories. My parents used to take me out of school for about 3 weeks a year for vacations. They were never extravagant, usually just to see family or take a week at a lake, but it was time together. Honestly, it could have been at the hotel down the street for all I cared. It was a change of scenery. Yes, kids needs structure, absolutely, but I’m that parent that plans a quick weekday getaway (in advance so school work can be attended to) just so she can see that on the other side of all of this work, there’s fun. Life is too short. Childhood goes much too fast to not let my daughter see that work is a necessary part of life that allows us to also have fun. And no, I don’t plan on wavering on this as school gets more difficult. As long as she’s pulling decent grades, I’ll probably allow her even more time off.
  1. For not raising her with organized religion: This is a big one and I could probably write an entire chapter on this. Let me start by saying, I recognize that organized religion works for many, many families and I think that’s amazing and wonderful. Faith is an integral component of life. I get that, however, it looks different for all of us. I am agnostic and her father is an atheist. I’m just as firm in my agnostic beliefs as others are in their religion. And that’s ok. I don’t believe I’m going to hell, just as other believe I will. I have respect for others beliefs, just as I will have respect for what my own child believes.
    Religion played a role in my life as a child and I arrived at my own belief system by simply growing up and living, not by what was shoved down my throat. I hope she will do the same, minus having to navigate through what was shoved down her throat. Personally, I have just been privileged to entirely too much hypocrisy within that space, within the church. It certainly doesn’t make sense for me to tell my child what to believe when I don’t own those beliefs myself.
    I do not turn my child away from religion or fail to acknowledge more mainstream, traditional beliefs. She attended a Catholic pre-school and she attends a Methodist summer camp, so she’s deriving a general understanding of Christianity. She has enjoyed learning about the bible, and I’m so glad she’s getting that exposure. However, now that she’s 7, I’m cognizant of incorporating other religions into conversation and I’m beginning to have open discussions about how different people believe different things about God, Jesus, and what religion means to them. Here’s what she knows for now: love and kindness are our religion. That should be the basis of any religion anyway, right?
  1. For not pushing her to play sports: I had her try soccer, gymnastics, tee ball, and flag football…all between the ages of 3-7. The rule was, if I signed her up for the season, she had to finish it but if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to sign up again. And exactly that has happened with each sport. Listen, I’m not going to ruin my Saturdays and any other practice day during the week so I can push her to do something that’s supposed to be fun, yet hearing her bitch all of the while about how hot and sweaty she is, asking how much longer until it’s over. Not worth it for either of us. I will admit, I wanted her to latch onto a sport, and maybe she still will, but it hasn’t happened yet. If this isn’t the way she expresses herself and isn’t something she enjoys then I’m fine with that. Something will be her thing eventually.
  1. For not limiting her screen time: to my last point, right now her thing is YouTube Minecraft videos and some extremely boring game called Slither.iO or some shit. She likes gaming and she like Legos. Those are her most creative outlets for now. Of course I monitor what she’s watching and I do make sure she’s exercising at least one hour a day but if she wants to sit on her iPad for an hour…or two…or six- no problem. This also allows me some time to do a load of laundry or clean the house a bit. It’s a sanity saver a lot of the time and to be honest, she tends to self regulate her usage. She’s never sat on a device for an absurd amount of time. Like anything, she gets bored and moves onto the next thing within an appropriate amount of time. I might know way too much about Dan TDM and RoBlox but hey, it could be much worse and she could still be watching Stampy Longnose.
  1. For not doing more than the recommended reading homework: School has become a bit of a different beast than what it was when I was young and I’ll just say it: I think it’s bullshit how our children are being pushed beyond what I consider normal limits. The tests, the homework, the Common Core shit that very few of us as parents can understand…it’s too much. The work she was completing at the end of 1st grade was that of a 3rd grader in my day. What was wrong with the way we did it? Yes, I’m sounding old, but seriously, what’s with the intensity these days? Why not play more, homework less? All of this pushing and testing cannot even be proven effective by research so why should I push her beyond her limits? I love when she reads and wants to read. I certainly encourage it but if 20 minutes is her limit, fine. We are done and we are going for a bike ride.
  1. For allowing her to be her own person:  No.Matter.What. My daughter doesn’t conform to gender norms. Never did and probably never will. She has been wearing boy clothes since she was 3 ½ years old, has only ever played with boys toys, likes being called a boy and gravitates towards boys as friends. And guess what? I don’t care. And neither should anyone else. I find it odd when people immediately proclaim her a tomboy or ask what I’ve done to “make her this way”. Y’all, she’s just who she is. I’m not making her any way. It’s not my choice to individualize her or choose her identity. Even if this wasn’t what makes her different, I’m open-minded to her just being her no matter what that looks like. I don’t need a label for her. She doesn’t need a label. She is just her.

I’m sure there’s more to judge about my parenting, like feeding my kid so much processed food that she will have a shelf life of hundreds of years, or that I tend to cuss around her quite a bit so the word “shit” doesn’t even remotely make her wide-eyed anymore. But, the thing is, we are all in this with the same end goal: raising humans we can be proud of. So, if my daughter ends up to be a devil worshiping, illiterate, deviant who doesn’t know how to be part of a team, I will be one proud mama. Ok, so not really, but I would have sure as hell tried my hardest to do what I felt was best for her.

Parenting is all about throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks. None of us have any concrete answers and there is no true right or wrong. Here’s to hoping the right components of what I’m throwing against the wall sticks.

And I’ll accept your judgment if you’ll accept mine. Solidarity in parenting, friends.

Being an Only Child, Raising an Only Child.

Being an only child is interesting. And by interesting, I mean it’s fucking awesome.

Clearly, it’s all I know but as I raise my own only child, it’s brought up a lot of thoughts, conversations, and emotions.

As a child, I remember looks and words of pity from other children and parents alike about my sibling status. I remember adults making judgmental statements about being certain that I was a “spoiled brat” and almost being fearful of my personality prior to even knowing me because surely, only children can’t be nice, don’t share well with others, and must be socially awkward. While pieces of all of those things may be true, I never understood why some viewed, and still do view, these as exclusive traits to only children. I know plenty of assholes and mentally unstable people that have siblings.

To be perfectly honest, yes, I lived a pretty charmed childhood. I was raised in a middle class neighborhood by parents who worked their asses off to give me a good life. I didn’t truly want for anything. There were no younger children in my extended family which translated into me being the center of the universe in my younger years, and maybe somewhat in my not so younger years, but I digress. I had three step-cousins that grew up down the street from me and they were the closest to siblings as I could possibly get. I loved my life.

I did pretend to want a sibling in my elementary school years because it sounded like a semi-good idea but the truth was, I really liked being an only child. I had plenty of friends, I learned how to share well (eventually), I became extremely generous as I transcended into adulthood, I was always taught a strong work ethic, I am extremely self-sufficient and independent, I formed a bond with both of my parents that was unprecedented amongst my friends, and I was extremely social. I liked my own space, and still do, I was bossy as a child, and I was very particular, and still am, but again, I’m not sure those translate into any kind of “syndrome” from being an only child. We will never know, right?

The biggest negative for me of being an only child  is now, in the present. I’m pushing 40 and now is when I do sometimes wish I had sibling. Watching my parents age, especially with a father who has been in extremely ill health for the past year, is tough to do alone. But who’s to say if I had a sibling that we would have some unbreakable bond and be able to lean on each other for support? Not every sibling relationship thrives. It might not even be considered a wish to have a sibling, it’s more of a curiosity of what that relationship would have looked like.

I now have unbreakable bonds with a few friends and cousins. No, they’re not a sibling replacement of any kind but none the less, they’re strong bonds and a thick foundation for all that matters in life: family.

So, raising an only.

Needless to say, I can’t imagine it any other way. I knew when my daughter was first born that I wold never have another. Motherhood was way too intense of an experience for me from the beginning to go through it again. Now that might be a result of having a small family or being an only child, but again, who knows?

What I do know is that I’m raising her, like we all try to do, to simply be a good person with good character. And guess what? I can do this without having another child.

She is taught to share with friends, she is encouraged to socialize, she is taught the value of money and hard work, she is rewarded for positive behavior and punished for undesirable acts….just like children with siblings.

Now that I’m raising my own only child, the looks of shock, surprise, pity, disgust and the comments of, “You cannot just have one child!”,  “You have to have another child, for her“, or “Oh, she must be so spoiled”, are truly offensive, not only to me as a mother, not only to my parents for having an only, but to my character because I am an only child.

My daughter is not suffering because she is an only child. It is not some form of torture. I am not turning her into some horrible human with malice intent because I decided to not have another child. I am a fairly well-adjusted adult raising a child to the best of my ability and having a sibling for her would have no bearing on this.

Is she spoiled? As much as I hate that word, yes, I guess she is. No, she doesn’t get everything she wants and demands, but she has a charmed life. And if she had a sibling, he or she would be living a charmed life as well. Why? Because I can. Because I work my ass off to do so. And I can do so with also teaching her good morals and values, just as my parents did for me.

In reality, it’s all in the way each and everyone of us are raised, sibling or not. I turned out alright and so will my daughter.