Friday, April 18, 2014

While the cat's away...

With thanks to Meridith for the (impromptu) prompt.

B's trip to an unnamed and unglamorous locale, found a young Ladybird with tears and snot running down her face, pants around her ankles, howling, as she learned the new skill of unlocking and opening the front door.  I still don't understand what that was about, but it was terrifying.

I embraced my most permissive self and said yes to endless gummy bears (all in teeny tiny packages) and bowls filled with Redi Wip, and movies, and picnics on the floor, and sleeping in the mama bed.

The most daunting part was doing both daycare drop off and pick up with all the walking that requires, and of course looking respectable and showing up for work.

We managed pretty well until 11:00pm the night B returned.  I'd tried to move LB to her own bed and she woke up screaming and kicking.  And screamed in my face and kicked me, and I may have yelled and cried and sent B a desperate text.  B got to walk into the pit of hell-late night tantruming preschooler, crying wife, etc.

That was a low point in my ongoing conversation with myself about who I am as a person and a parent, and how I can be the person that I am, while also being the parent that LB needs me to be.  Hard.  Today was high point, got to daycare in time to see LB march around wearing construction paper bunny ears and carrying a pinwheel.  Hung out with some other daycare parents I like a lot and laughed about what has become of a world in which 3 year olds exchange bags of candy for Easter.  LB and I went on a bakery excursion and got whatever we wanted and sat in a cafe.  And there was no screaming.  Easy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Classic African American Children's Book

This book is a most excellent one for your home library and mine.  Poet Gwendolyn Brooks published the book of children's poetry, Bronzeville Boys and Girls in 1956.  Bronzeville refers to the historic Black neighborhood on Chicago's South Side that was shaped by the first Great Migration of Black southerners to the urban north.  My expertise in things related to historical African American childhood ends at 1954, so I've seen copies of this book in various archives, but I don't know that much about its creation and publication.  Except that Brooks is an amazing poet. Her work never fails to move me and thrill me with its ability to reveal the nuances of a cultural moment, and the emotional life of a cultural moment.  And 1956 is such an amazing moment to capture Black Chicago, a time of triumph.  Which is all to say that I really love this book, so simple but so deep.  And, while I like the classic illustrations, you can't go wrong with some Faith Ringgold.  I'm so happy that there is now an in print edition of this book (with the new FR illustrations). Recommend!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Drink for Spring

Grapefruit San Pellegrino, Costco bourbon, and a cherry.  I think I'm going to try this San Pellegrino with tequila next, sounds refreshing for spring.

Today was the other kind of spring, without mixed drinks.  The spring that woke me up as a heavy rain around 5:00am.  Wet walks to and from daycare with a child who no longer likes to use the weather shield on her stroller.  And gusty winds.  And a very poorly designed bus station that offer no really shelter from wind and rain unless you stand in a huddle on the benches at the station, with Greensleeves blaring from the tinny speakers.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lean-In Regret

B is going to be traveling for work, I have an evening meeting, and instead of begging off...I offered to host everyone at my house.  Solves the childcare issue, but now I need to have a presentable home, a number of functional chairs, and a vegetarian main dish.

And, for some reason, daycare deems it appropriate that 3 year olds exchange Easter goody bags!  Because nothing says "He is Risen" like 15 bags of candy.  Blerg.  [But, on the upside, Miss T. taught LB to say "Mama, you look poppin' today," so there's that.]

And I have not completed my taxes.  Recap: worked in three states, first year filing as married, string of expletives about the much increased amount of money we owe the federal government for the privilege of equality.  I'm shaking one fist and give Obama a big side hug with my other arm.

Somehow this has got to change to something much better within the next 24 hours.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Part II: "Mommies are people," people with feelings

Part I here covered why I don't feel guilty about parenting while online.

Part II: Why I don't think expressing anger or frustration as a parent is a terrible thing.

I appear to be in the minority: see Exhibit A and Exhibit B.  Many of my feelings about this topic come from my own upbringing.  My parents were both raised in traditionally dysfunctional working-class families and parented with strong doses of shame, guilt, and physical punishment.  They wanted to raise me in a radically different way.  They understood that small children don't act out because they are bad, but because they can't control their feelings and impulses.  I was raised in a home with very little negative feedback of any sort, and very little shame, guilt, or fear.  B and I parent in much the same way, but I do yell more.  And when I'm yelling, I'm not yelling any version of "you are bad," what I'm yelling is about me, "I'm angry," "that hurts me," "I don't want to hear screaming."

Thing 1 that I gleaned from my childhood: just because you raise your child in a positive emotional environment, where negative emotions are not freely expressed, does not mean that your child will grow up to be a calm, peaceful person with perfect emotional regulation.  Temperament is shaped by many factors beyond parenting.  My peaceful childhood was one factor is shaping the compassionate, empathetic, self-righteous, sometimes volatile, stubborn, and physically and emotionally self-protective person I am today. I am unconvinced by the argument that if parents present a calm emotional exterior to their kids, then those kids will grow up to be calm, emotionally controlled adults.

I also don't think that calmness and emotional control is my goal for myself or my child.  I have a loving relationship with my parents, but not a fully honest one because emotions of sadness and anger are so painful for them.  I hope that with LB, I'll be able to preserve the good parts of my parents parenting, while also having a more emotionally authentic relationship.  I think it's good to model a range of emotions, including negative ones.  I want LB to know that it's okay to be angry, and it's okay if someone is angry at her.  People get angry, then they work it out and find a solution.

Anger, and the ability to squawk about stuff can be powerful tools for self-protection.  If I yell at LB, it's usually because she has been screaming for an extended period about something I can't fix, or she has (usually inadvertently) kicked, punched, pinched, or headbutted me.  I don't like that, and I say so-loudly.  And, even if it scares LB, I would rather model a world in which women yell: "NO! NO HITTING THAT HURTS ME!" than a world in which women accept that pain is the price of love. 

I don't want to raise LB to be "Alyosha the Pot." (I'm trying to think of some other famous pacifists I wouldn't want LB to be like, but MLK was smart enough to travel with a shotgun in his trunk, and Gandhi was a master strategist, "resist not evil" was a tactic of power, not an effacement of self).  When LB is faced with a mean classmate or a mean friend or (God-forbid) and abusive partner, I don't want her to push her anger away, or turn the other cheek (for more), I want her to own it.   I want both her instinct and her training to teach her to yell, "NO, YOU DON'T TREAT ME THAT WAY!"

We already practice, encouraging a mild-mannered girl to say "NO, DON'T DO THAT," and "NO HITTING, THAT'S RUDE."  And I model, "NO, THAT HURTS MY BODY!" Like those authors of the no-yelling articles, I do think life is a process of learning emotional regulation and self control, but it seems to me that the authors are telling readers (mothers, women) to suppress and avoid feelings of anger and frustration, rather than owning those emotions, using them, coming to know them.  Knowing one's own emotions well enough to understand the difference between useful (even righteous) anger and out of control or unproductive anger.  In my own experience, that later type of anger is the result of sorrow, disappointment, or an untenable life situation, and requires attention and help.  Allowing ourselves to feel anger can help us see it, know it, know if it is a useful emotion, a normal byproduct of a tiring life, or something more serious. 

Perhaps because I'm a child of the '70s who watched my parents work through various kinds of CR and therapy to find their emotions, I find it very strange and retrograde that we have come back to a play where being a good mother-and so by extension a good woman-means significantly limiting our emotional lives.  That makes me angry.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pregnancy in the News

Not in our news, which is all of the boring "thinking about trying" and "paying money to store sperm until whenever" variety.

First, it's New York Times official, baby aspirin is a thing for preeclampsia.

The Navel Gazing Midwife is running a series of uterine rupture birth stories.  They aren't easy to read, but important.  This link is to the first post, which talks about the series itself.

Also, I'm reading a very long biography of the Brontes, and Charlotte just died of hypermesis gravidarum.  I had no idea.

And, one bit of older and not-exactly pregnancy news.  Again from "The Well," a statistically small but deadly risk from power uterine morcellation procedures for fibroids.  Basically, the surgery can grind up cancer cells and release them into the body.  Definitely worth discussing with your doctor before having a uterine morcellation, which is offered as a less invasive procedure than traditional fibroid surgeries.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Still Life: 4th Anniversary

Four years ago I had my first negative pregnancy test on my birthday.  The doctor called himself because there was a massive power outage in the medical complex and all the staff was evacuating the building.  He was very sweet, but I was never again able to answer any call from the fertility clinic number.  B and I had to set up an elaborate relay system where I would let the call go to voicemail, she would call and check my messages, and call me with the info.

Two days after that first call we got married. 

My ladies.