Monthly Archives: September 2011

talk to me about timeouts

(There is a poll embedded at the beginning of this post. If you’re on a reader, click through!)

I will begin by saying that I have, and still do on occasion, use timeouts with our son. In fact, my wife and I have used them with regularity for one issue in particular, but I don’t think either of us finds them particularly effective. They just seemed to be the only answer we had. I don’t think we’re alone in this.

I grew up with the occasional spanking in my house, with “go to your room” and later with grounding or removal of privileges (my bedroom door when I got caught by the police after sneaking out in the middle of the night). J’s experienced much more severe physical “discipline.” Neither of us would ever even dream of laying a hand on BG, and I will not hesitate to say that this is one issue on which I do judge other parents. Causing a child physical pain is an archaic, ineffective, and ultimately harmful way of disciplining a child.

And since spanking and hitting with wooden spoons and rapping of knuckles has finally gone out of fashion, the majority of parenting lore would have us believe that we’ve been left with just one tool: the timeout. There are certainly different variations on this: standing in a corner, going to one’s room, sitting in a timeout chair (why don’t we have dunce caps anymore though–that could be an interesting variation). There are different rules about how long to leave kids in timeout or how silent they have to be or what they have to say to get out, but it’s all pretty much the same. A child commits an “undesirable” behavior, and the child is either sent to or taken to timeout where the child stays until the child has served his/her time or the parent or child has calmed down.

I’ll tell you my own reasoning for using this: we sometimes simply need to remove BG from a situation where he has decided to test really serious boundaries (i.e. harming the animals), and he has to be removed because otherwise, he continues to chase after them in an effort to harm them again. In these moments, my wife and I also need a moment to calm down because seeing our son with a maniacal look on his face while he uses all of his might to pull the cat across the kitchen by the tail makes us both very upset (and makes us scared that we’re raising the next George W. Bush). So we place him in his room, close the door, and say “No pulling the cats’ tails. Never ever ever!” (or something like that). And we walk out for a minute or two. He is typically not crying, and he usually just busies himself in his room or his bed until we “release” him or he decides to come out. We usually ask him why he had a timeout, and he always answers spot-on: “Pierre’s tail” or “Bite Mommy.” And then we ask him for an empty apology (because we know full well he doesn’t mean it at this age), and we all hug make up.

But none of this really works. Lately, instead of sending BG to his room to chill out, we do this “timeout right here” thing, where I just hold him in my arms for thirty seconds to a minute, and we all calm down. Sometimes we talk about the event that led to the timeoutrighthere while he sits with me. We have a variation of this at the table where if he is throwing food or putting his feet on the table, we just scoot him away from the table for a moment to reset. We’re all still there, still interacting with him; he just doesn’t have access. While I’m not sure if we’re having more success with this, it is decidedly less punitive and more literally a “Let’s take a moment to reset so that we aren’t encouraged to go down that same path.”

I’ve started reading about this, and some of the articles are so quick to classify timeouts as just as abusive as spanking. Some can’t seem to do anything but generalize and assume all children who are given timeouts are expected to sit far away from the rest of the family in total silence until they’ve done their penance, and that all timeouts are likely to make children feel utterly alone, isolated from the rest of the family, and will ultimately create adults who are stifled and unable to express their feelings. I have a problem with any sweeping generalization like this, but in most generalizations, there will be a speck of truth. That’s what I’m looking for.

I tend to react negatively to parenting trends that are themselves overly reactionary. I like strategies and philosophies that are well thought out, well researched, and that simply make sense. And that, dear readers, is why I’m turning to you. I’m interested not in a debate so much as information. What do you do when your child engages in behavior that is…um…problematic? (I hesitate to choose the wrong word here, but I think you know what I mean: boundary testing, breaking things intentionally, throwing food at you after you have asked/begged/pleaded/insisted that they stop, hitting, biting, pulling of tails, etc.) And what do you think of timeouts? Do you use them? If so, why and how? If you don’t, why not? And for any of you, what is your favorite research on this issue?

10 Comments

Filed under parenting

the post that was supposed to be about sperm donors

I have totally dropped the ball on this blogging every day commitment. The last week has been insane. So far, I have evaded the illness, but my wife and son are still only about 75% well.

I got the applications in, got the bare minimum of my work hours completed, and even hosted my dad with his brand new fiance (and a whole 24-hour’s notice) on Sunday.

I’ll hopefully join the sperm donor blog carnival here tomorrow, bringing up the rear. If not, I’ll hit it next time. I am just so, very tapped out.

I have to complain for a minute about my dad, though. My therapist has called him a sperm donor. I sort of take offense to that. I have more respect for our donor. At least he was selfless for a moment.

Here’s a little known fact: my own dad has not acknowledged my son’s birthday two years in a row. Oh, he was so excited about him during his first year. He came to visit a few times. It was really something else, considering he and I hadn’t spoken or seen one another in several years prior to the pregnancy. But then he missed BG’s first birthday (even though he had confirmed just a few days prior that he was coming–he had a church thing with a lady friend or something), and he ignored his second birthday entirely. I know it’s just a birthday, but it’s the damn principle. We’re an afterthought to him.

I think a lot of this ignoring of his grandson started when after about six months of not seeing my son, we ran into him at the hospital where we were meeting BG’s new cousin. BG had no idea who this man was who wanted to pick him up, and he was in the throes of stranger anxiety, so he cried. My dad got all bent out of shape and actually walked off in a huff. Yes he did. He walked off in a huff because an eleven-month-old child didn’t throw himself at him after not seeing him for six months. Oy.After that, in my dad’s mind, he had a reason not to follow through. The kid didn’t like him anymore, so he didn’t have to put in any effort. It’s just too much work for him to connect with his first grandchild (just as it’s too much work for him to connect with his first child). Life can’t be all about him when he’s around a young child, and that just doesn’t work out so well for him.

Oh, but he came for a visit yesterday, and he wanted me to meet his fiance whom he’s been dating for a few weeks (so lesbian of them). I found out about this engagement on his facebook announcement. They both insisted that J and BG and I come to their big church wedding. She said, “We want all of our kids there since we’re all going to be one big family now!”

Ha. Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Ha.

I have never been more than a distant relative to my dad, and in recent years, well, my readers know me far better than this man does. This lady is a little bit disillusioned–or my dad has given her a whole different picture of who we are to one another. I’ll tell you this: I don’t see myself sitting around a Thanksgiving table with her five kids and their multitude of children and my deadbeat, live-at-home and play computer games, 29-year-old half-brother. Okay, so my other brother would be there, with his sweet little boy and his wife, but I can see them elsewhere, which is what I plan to do because this whole big merged family thing is a joke to me, a really sick and sligtly sad joke.

I’m so tired of being expected to fake my way through a relationship with my dad.

My wife wishes I would cut him out permanently, but he’s family (sort of), and I have a hard time doing that with family. He did, after all, teach me how to drive. But that’s really what I’ve gotten from him. I have only a handful of memories with him, and most of them are about me putting in the effort while he ignores me (or while he takes and takes and takes because he’s an emotional leech). So I keep my distance. And I complain a lot whenever there’s an encounter. And I don’t go out of my way to see him–hell, I downright avoid him as much as possible.

It’s sad to feel this way about one’s father, but I am at a stage in my life where I have far more than my own feelings about missing out on having  a dad to deal with. I have a beautiful little boy who looks up to the men in his life so much,  a boy who falls in love with any man willing to read him a story or play tools with him. I can’t have him falling in love with this guy–his “Grandpops”–because he’ll break my boy’s heart over and over again. He’ll break my heart a thousand times over. I just don’t know where to go from here.

4 Comments

Filed under family

out of my hands

I don’t necessarily believe in a higher power, but sometimes things do happen that make me wonder a little.

This application I mentioned yesterday is something I heard about maybe a month ago. I knew I needed to plan in advance to complete it, that I would need several days to get it done. Unfortunately, life and work have been such that I haven’t had any extra hours. Last weekend, I sat down with my wife, and we made a family schedule. It involved me leaving the house to work from a coffee shop a few days a week. It involved my wife having some paper grading time. And because we had our days planned so well, I was going to be able to fit some extra hours in all week long to pick away at this application.

And then my son got sick.

And then my wife got sick.

Monday came, and my wife came home from teaching looking sicker than she has in a long, long time. I knew she was down for the week. This meant that those little chunks of time I had planned for all week were gone. I would be on full-time BG duty, and any moment he slept, I would be trying to fit in my thirty hours of work for the week. Normally, this would actually not be so bad. He has been taking these dreamy two-hour naps for awhile now, and that allows me to at least put a dent in the work I have to do. But this week, with the cold, he gave up most of his naps. Instead, he would nap for half an hour, or he would fall asleep on our morning walk, and that would be his sole nap of the day (at 10:00 am, no less). This was all on top of trying to keep him still because the kid was so sick, yet he couldn’t manage to stop. By the time he went to bed at night, around 8:00, I would make sure my wife was settled snug on the sofa, and I would get to work. I have worked until midnight every night this week. BG has fortunately been sleeping through the night all week, but he still only sleeps until 5:30 or 6:00. It’s not been enough.

I melted down yesterday. It wasn’t pretty, but I just couldn’t believe that this was my life, that this application was hanging over my head, yet there was nothing I could do about. (Okay, I could have given up the blog, but the blog posts this week haven’t exactly been coherent, have they? They have, however, been good for me, so I don’t feel apologetic about it.) So I had an ugly moment.

Last night, I was working away at this thing, and the server for the application site went down. I took this as a sign it was time to go to bed, and I did. I told my wife I would need her to be on today, knowing I was asking a lot of her, as she is still sick, but she agreed and was very supportive. But then I had to take BG to the doctor today out of the blue (crazy diaper rash infection), and then he had a twenty-minute nap. My wife tried to keep him occupied, and I spent two hours writing and scrapping and rewriting and scrapping a teaching philosophy. Soon applications to two positions had been narrowed down to one application to one position–the one I had started first. And then BG’s nighttime routine took an hour longer than usual, and we had to eat dinner, and I melted down again, and it was 9:30. I found myself thinking, If only I could get an extension. And then, Sorry, T no more extensions. This is it.

I dried my tears, stopped feeling sorry for myself, apologized to my wife, thanked her for her help, and sent her to bed. I logged on to the application site dejected and stressed out and feeling like I couldn’t possibly get the rest of this done as tired as I feel.

And then I noticed something looked different about the HR homepage, which I was trying my best to navigate away from:

*UPDATE*     *SEPTEMBER 23, 2011*     *UPDATE*
Due to technical disruption of our system today, we have extended the application deadline for the following full-time faculty positions to 11:59PM ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2011:
 
I scanned the short list, saw the two positions I was applying for, and took the deepest breath I’ve taken in a week. And then I thanked the air. Who knows why this happened, but wouldn’t it be nice if this was just what I needed to land my job?
 
Now, I’ve got an hour or two of only slightly murky thinking left in me. I think I’d better get back to work.

6 Comments

Filed under coincidence, job hunting

dipping my toes back in

I’m in the midst of applying for a job–well two different positions at the same school, actually. These are full-time, tenure-track positions at college that is a little bit of a commute, but either position may also have online coursework, which would be pretty ideal. These are some of the very first full-time positions that have surfaced in the last several years, since the budget cuts to higher education in California froze all hiring at nearby colleges. Job prospects have been pretty bleak in my field in recent years.

I have been far from enthusiastic about continuing to pursue the teaching profession for a few years now, and I am set on this whole new birth work career path. But I never have landed that full-time gig, so I really have no idea what it’s like not to be a freeway flyer, what it’s like to have regular health benefits and a salary, what it means to have respect in my position, or even a consistent office for that matter. I’ve gotten so very close on many occasions, but I can’t help but think this might be the time, that maybe I should give it one more chance.

It doesn’t hurt that this would mean an incredible amount of stability, that we could send BG to the preschool we want him to go to at J’s university. It would allow us to look toward buying a house where we want to live. And it would help me afford the training I really want to do for doula and childbirth ed. Of course, the bonus with teaching is that summers are off (if you don’t go all crazy and teach summer school), so J and I would both have summers off. We would have summers off with our son. See why this more than a little tempting?

So I’m giving it a go. I have to see if I might actually like teaching again when I have the benefit of a real position and stability.

It’s terrifying to do this, however,  for a number of reasons: I don’t want to spend my life amidst stacks of student papers and miss out on my family. I don’t want to have to put committee work and meetings and students above watching my son grow up. I don’t want to get stuck in work that  I don’t enjoy just because it comes with a steady paycheck. This last one I’m really afraid of.

So you see, it’s not an easy decision applying for this job, but I have to know whether I have the chops, whether I can make it in academia once and for all. If I can, and I like it, great. If I can’t, it just means I’ve got other things to pursue. It is a bit thrilling, though, thinking about standing in front of a bunch of students on the first day of class again. I can’t deny that the classroom is a good fit for me. And in these last nearly three years away from it, I’ve missed it.

 

4 Comments

Filed under teaching

sick kid ettiquette

A few years back, before we had BG, we had a friend with a toddler, and we would watch said toddler from time to time. Once, I was scheduled to watch her daughter, and I came over to find that her child was very, very sick, but only after my friend left! Of course, anyone who has cared for a baby or toddler with a cold knows that it’s virtually impossible to avoid coming into contact with the illness, between the nose-wiping, the child sneezing or coughing on you, the child wiping snot all over you, it’s just not possible. So of course, I got sick. And I was furious with this friend. I was teaching at the time. I had to miss nearly a week of classes, sacrifice pay, and get terribly behind all because my friend wanted to go to some event.

Nearly every time our family falls ill, we can trace it back to small children. I realize that we may very well be contracting these illnesses at the grocery store or the gas pump or the letter carrier for that matter, but it always seems small children are at fault.

But it’s not really the children who are at fault, is it?

 We have a member of our family who brings her child to family functions coughing and sniffling and snotting it up all over the place and then lies to us, telling us her child has allergies. A few days later, our family is laid flat by some suspiciously similar “allergies.” I know this family member doesn’t want to miss out, that she doesn’t want her child’s seemingly mild illness to get in the way of her plans, but honestly, I wish she would just keep her at home.

This is not uncommon though, is it? I know we all have to take our kids out in public when they’re sick from time to time. I had to do it this week to get medication for my wife because she was too ill to take care of our son. So we went out quickly. I kept him close to me in the cart, covered his mouth each time he coughed, and I wiped down our cart with antibacterial wipes following our trip. I know I wasn’t able to eliminate all germs he spread, but bringing him with me was unavoidable.

But when it is avoidable, why do people do this? Why won’t people keep their sick kids–or for that matter, their sick selves–at home? Why do they need to share their latest contagions by letting their kids drool all over playground equipment or library books? Why?

I don’t think I need those questions answered, but I would be interested in knowing what you think. What should sick child ettiquette be? Would you lie about your child’s health if it meant you were able to attend an important event? What do you do when your kid is sick and you can’t just stay home?

 

9 Comments

Filed under parenting, sick

the sick + an announcement

Oh, my. The first cold of the schoolyear has hit our home. First BG got it; then my wife was bowled over by it. I am still fighting it hard, but am pretty terrified that I’ll have it next. It’s been a rough couple of days thus far. Whereas normally I have the boy until my wife comes home and I go to work, now, because she is so sick, she is staying home and locked up in our room, and I’m on BG duty all day until he goes to bed. Then I go to work for four hours or so. It’s brutal right now. I’m so damn tired.

Today I had a break for an hour and a half when I went to our therapy appointment alone. An hour and a half has never been quite so rejuvenating. I’ve never enjoyed traffic quite so much as I did today. It was actually nice to have an appointment to myself too. I adore our therapist. Today she had me meditating. Lovely. In all honesty, as much as I like our therapist and feel good about this work, I probably would have felt the same about going to the dentist today.

—————–

On another (and far more exciting) note entirely, the blog carnival yesterday generated so much interest that we have decided to make this a weekly event in our queer TTC/pregnancy/parenting blog community. We have put together a blog specifically for organizing the weekly carnival. If you’re interested, you can access it at the Love Makes a Family Blog Carnival blog.  There is no long-term commitment required. Just join in on the weeks you are interested. Instructions will be on the blog. Next Monday’s theme is donor sperm.

Thank you all, by the way, for your kind and supportive comments on my post yesterday. It took a lot to pull that out of myself, and it’s certainly rough to process such personal revelations publicly. On the other hand, it’s freeing to share in this, and the community spirit around this event has been utterly refreshing. So good for us, and hooray for blogtherapy too!

 

Now, I’m off to swallow some vitamins, treat myself with zi.cam, and get myself a few hours of sleep.

2 Comments

Filed under blog carnival, blogtherapy, sick

finding our way

A number of us in the queer parent blogging community are participating in a blog carnival. This week’s topic asks us to explore the impact having a child has had on our relationships. Mine is just one story among many. Please click on the link at the bottom of this post to follow the carnival on the next blog.

When I was a freshman in college, I took a speech class, and at the beginning of that class, we were paired off with another student, asked to conduct an interview, and then assigned a speech introducing that person. I shared with my partner my origins, that my parents divorced when I was four, that my mom divorced her second husband when I was thirteen. I didn’t think much of it until his time came to introduce me, and he began by saying, “We’ve all heard of people coming from broken homes, but I think T’s home life can best be described as shattered.” Whoa. I guess I had never considered how people viewed my family of origin, especially those who came from privileged, stable, nuclear families like this boy had, but looking at it in this new, stark light, I had to admit, I never really had much stability.

I am a child of divorce. I spent my childhood primarily with my mom, but then would have obligatory visits with my dad on holidays, random weekends, occasionally for a week or so over the summer. I never really knew much different, but I can say that I always wished for a stable family life. I wished to not have to split my time between homes, to have a mom and a dad who lived under one roof and loved me. But I think that’s pretty standard fare for a child of divorce. To say this hasn’t colored my feelings about relationships would be a pretty bold lie, and to say that it hasn’t impacted the steadfastness with which I stick to my own marriage now, well, that would be an even bigger one.

When I met my wife, fourteen years ago, we were immediately friends. We more slowly came together as a couple, but once we did, it just made sense. We got each other. We understood one another’s pain, our struggles, our strengths. We were polar opposites in so many ways, but it worked, and we loved each other deeply. However, it really didn’t take long for our arguments to begin. We’re both very emotional and sensitive people, and we’re also fairly vocal. Initially our arguments could derail us for some time, regardless of their cuase, but over the years they have gotten more mature, more productive, and we have always sought to find our way back to one another before going to bed at night. No matter how hurt we were, no matter how long we had to stay up, we would work on finding common ground again and would manage to kiss each other goodnight.

During our pregnancy, we had our moments when we could not see eye to eye, but looking back, so much of that related to my hormones. For the most part, we were pretty blissed out. We were finally getting what we both had wanted for so many years. My wife was so grateful to me for carrying our child, and she treated me like a queen. It was wonderful feeling so close, yet it was scary too. I knew things would change when the baby was born, and I didn’t want this bliss to end. I guess I had a sense of foreboding.

The initial weeks after BG was born were pretty great, although I can see this is where our struggles began. We started to bicker over minutia, and I had a rough time adapting to life as a non-pregnant new mom. In hindsight, I wonder if I had some postpartum depression that I wasn’t dealing so well with. All I know is that my wife found that I had disappeared, and upon my return, I disappeared again into nursing mother land. In the midst of sleep deprivation, we stopped connecting well, stopped comprehending one another well, and every day was fraught with bickering.

When BG’s sleep hit a new stage of nightmarishness at around four months old, I started wanting to cosleep. My wife didn’t want to. She couldn’t sleep with him in the bed. He would thrash around, and she wanted her sleep. She began sleeping on the couch, and she stayed there. She stayed there for a year. At first it was about the cosleeping, but later it was more. It was too painful for her to share a bed with me when she couldn’t access me in any way. She felt like a third wheel half the time. Even though she shared equally in caring for our son, she felt like I didn’t trust her. I admitted at one point that maybe I didn’t in those early days. I had had so much experience with babies, and she had had almost none. I defaulted to control freak, and suddenly my wife felt utterly underappreciated, untrusted, and unaccepted. I felt self-righteous and in charge–and I was totally and completely out of line. I stopped pumping because it was too much trouble and because–well, I was home, why shouldn’t I just breastfeed? I vetoed my wife on baby decisions. I was a monster. I didn’t recognize myself. I was just in some sort of sick mama bear state, and I had given up my compassion for my wife. We started seeing one another as adversaries. It was a very, very dark time.

Perhaps the worst moment in our relationship came at the beginning of this year when my wife told me she didn’t want to have another child with me. We have always talked about two kids. I have always wanted to kids. I wanted BG to grow up with siblings because to me, they were invaluable. I flipped the fuck out when she told me this. It wasn’t pretty. Finally, I had to see why she was saying this though. She didn’t like who I had become. She didn’t like the mama bear who fought everyone who came near her cub–including her wife. She didn’t like being treated like a second-class parent. When it came down to it, she had wanted to share in this childrearing equally, and I had monopolized it all and been, frankly, quite awful about it. It took me time to see this, and she did admit eventually that she would want to have another child with me if I had changed, if she knew things would be different, but she remains dubious, and I still understand.

It didn’t help during all of this time that I was underemployed and my wife was unemployed and we were living in an outrageously expensive region where we really had no hope of getting by at the rate we were going. It didn’t help that we had absolutely no family around (except for my sweet mom who would travel three hours for a quick overnight visit every few weeks). It didn’t help that we were sorely short on friends, or that those who were in our lives were far from being able to understand what we were going through. We both felt utterly alone, utterly strained and terrified financially, and totally and completely unstable in our marriage.

Something shifted when we moved last spring. The first was that we started making an effort to get BG out of the bed and to get us back in the same bed. Then it was a matter of sticking together to get our family out of the hell hole we had moved to. We came together in that crisis. We were closer there than we had been in a long, long time. Then we had to spend nearly two weeks apart while BG and I stayed with my parents and my wife got us packed. Being apart reminded us that we really did miss one another, that we loved one another, that we wanted to be tougher as a family. When we moved to our current home, we finally made a solid and successful effort to move back into our bedroom together and to move our son into his. This has helped. But as we have settled here, our problems have risen up again. We have bickered and fought and threatened to split up. We have resorted to unhealthy crutches. We have been at our absolute worst some days.

On top of all of this is an issue only two-woman households can truly understand. Shortly after my period returned following BG’s birth, our cycles lined up. This has happened in the past, but never for very long, although each time, it has been disastrous. Presently, our cycles have been aligned for going on two years. My wife and I are some of the most obnoxious women I have ever encountered a week before our periods. It became predictable for awhile that when we had the “That’s it; we’re splitting up!” fight, we were most certainly a day away from a visit from old Aunt Flo. This little matter has not helped. Not one bit. It doesn’t seem fair that amidst all of the other adversity we’ve got clashing hormones to compound it all, but it is our reality (and something we can both probably do more about).

It doesn’t escape me, however, that many women’s cycles line up, and they don’t threaten to split up. They might argue or be catty, but they don’t go this far. As I mentioned in the beginning of this epic account, we are two very emotional, sensitive, and, I think I can safely say, even volatile people. But we’re also two people who were given absolutely no tools by our parents, no good modeling for healthy relationship behavior. And we’re also two pretty broken people in many ways. We have been very codependent for many years, leaning on another for absolutely everything, relying on ourselves for very little. Adding a child to this was a bit disastrous because suddenly we were focused on caring for him, and there was nothing left for one another. We couldn’t be one another’s everything when we had to be everything to this little boy. This is where things started to fall apart. This is what we’re trying to repair so that we can rebuild.

At present, we’re in therapy. We’ve had several sessions and have been given some good tools. Some weeks, we’re really good at using those tools. Some weeks we fall back into old behaviors and go into therapy acting like a couple of kids sent to the principal’s office for a fight. We are acknowledging, though, that we both have our “work” in this, as our therapist likes to call it. We’ve both contributed to the pain, and all we can do is work to improve ourselves and how we behave in the relationship. This is new for us, holding ourselves accountable, focusing on ourselves, not relying on the other to do the molding and shaping.

On one of our date nights recently, my wife and I both agreed that we would like the idea of our marriage ending to be off the table, that we would both like to be in a place where when we do argue, we aren’t immediately looking for separate apartments (and we have both been there more times than I would like to admit in the past two years). For so long, the impetus for not splitting up was that I didn’t want BG to have the childhood I had. I didn’t want him to have to choose who he spent Christmas with or who got the bulk of his summer break. I didn’t want him branded with that “broken”–or gods forbid, “shattered” label. I want him to grow up in a home where he sees two parents who love and respect one another, where he can feel safe and secure.

In the past few weeks, or maybe the past couple of months even, my reasoning has changed a little though. I have seen my little family–the three of us–doing our thing in the word: going to the beach, having a picnic, enjoying a particularly great lunch, snuggling and reading a book, gardening in the backyard. And I have fallen in love with this family. More importantly, though, I am rediscovering my love for my wife. I have so much more compassion for her, so much more empathy, and so, so much remorse for the hell I put her through. I can’t go back and change who I was in the months and now years following BG’s birth, but I can be different now. I am working to lighten up, to give my wife the space to be her own parent to BG, and not a carbon copy of me. I’m working to prioritize our relationship too. And I’m working on finding time and space for me. I feel like we’re in a place of becoming, and that while we aren’t out of the woods just yet, we’ve got a compass that is mostly reliable. I have faith that we’re going to make it. We’re both so damn stubborn; I would be surprised if we didn’t.

image courtesy of In Her Image Photography

 http://therealgayagenda.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/a-little-seriousness/

16 Comments

Filed under us

my son’s dragon

 

Our poor boy has been stricken with a nasty cold. In the past, we have helped him through his congestion and cough with a humidifier. We tried to do that again last night and again tonight only to learn that to our son, the humidifier (which he can pronounce perfectly) is a steam-breathing, hissing dragon. He just woke up wailing for me to come to his room. We has snuck the humidifier in after he fell asleep because his cough was so nasty. Well, he discovered it, and he told me “Humidifier away, Mommy! Turn humidifier off! Humidifier scared!” I obviously removed the thing promptly. This language of his is so heartbreaking at times. Had I known how scary the thing was to him, I would have hid it somehow.

And now, a few photos because we’re all just too busy and harried tonight for a full post.

 

Rediscovering the Ergo: He adores fastening the buckles and now carrying his bear around. Nevermind that if he stops holding onto it, it will slip right off.

 

 

 

 

"Mixer hat": One day, we were baking, and I put a bandanna on my head. BG wanted one too, and the next day, brought his one out for me to put on him. He calls it his mixer hat.

 

 

BG sampling a little honey.

 

Precocious little boy.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

going tribal

When my wife and I moved to this new area three and a half years ago, we came here seeking our tribe. We loved Humboldt in so many ways, but that place was holding us back. We had found that with each passing year, we were just stagnating more and more, holding onto unhealthy behaviors, and generally becoming more and more depressed because we wanted–needed–to be around people who were more like us. There, we were surrounded by academics and old college friends, none of whom wanted children. The lesbians we knew were the sort that hated children. In fact, many of our friends, gay and straight, were disgusted by talk of procreation in general. Of course, this was one of many reasons we needed to leave, but it was  big one.

When we moved, we were still trying to conceive. We sought out other lesbians on the TTC journey in our new area. In fact, in our first month in the new town, I posted an ad on craigslist to find lesbian moms and lesbian moms-to-be. We even met up with two couples–but we didn’t hit it off. So we gave up on that for awhile. We did make some casual local friends, and while we didn’t have that larger supportive community we were seeking, there were people in our lives whom we could have fun with.

After BG was born, a larger local lesbian community began to organize online, and within that, there was a mom’s group. Score! I thought. Well, it turned out that one of the couples we had met previously were organizing it (and we really did not click with them). There were others, and we even befriended one couple for awhile, but ultimately, we found ourselves scratching our heads looking for a larger connection. We had assumed that our tribe was going to be made up largely of lesbian moms. We were so sure of it. But when it came to actually meeting these moms locally, we were lacking that crucial chemistry that leads to friendship. It was frustrating, but it was an important lesson.

Over the summer, my wife began taking BG to swim lessons at the local YMCA. One day, she came home, and she said, “It happened.” I thought she meant BG did some fabulous thing at swim class. Maybe he blew bubbles in the water or dunked his own head, but no. “Another mom asked me to come join a mom’s group. She gave me her number. She wants to hang out! She wants us to hang out.”

It is so hard to explain the significance of this moment. My wife and I have been so lonely, especially since our big move this summer. We’re still in the same county we’ve lived in for three years, but the new city has been big and crazy and full of absolutely no familiar faces. This summer we hit a low point. Some friends we had made through that original mom’s group sort of ditched us because we weren’t paranoid enough about plastics or nitrates or something, and our attempts at getting together with other friends kept being thwarted by tantrumy toddler days. So this invitation could not have come at a better time.

The mom’s group were were invited to meets at a local birth center. In fact, it’s the center where I want to do my doula training. The day we went for the first time was nothing short of magical. On our drive, moments away, BG fell asleep. By the time we arrived, he was in full nap-mode, so we carried him into the room and found a circle of rocking chairs and sofas and a few moms  (one of whom was the woman who invited us) with their kids sitting around and nursing. We sat and rocked the sweet, sleeping BG taking it all in. As more and more women arrived, as we introduced ourselves, we felt instantly home. Many of the women are breastfeeding well into the second year. Many of them cloth diaper. Most of them avoid television. A good lot of them are still cosleeping or have coslept with their kids. One of them–one of the other new moms that day–was also a lesbian. But the majority of them–99% of them–are straight women who happen to be mindful attachment-oriented parents.

Those women embraced us right away. We have this one organized activity when we meet where we go around and share highs and lows of the last two weeks. People offer bits of advice, condolences on lack of sleep, cheers and applause for potty training and kids’ own beds and sleeping through the night. And then we talk while the kids play. Everyone looks out for other people’s kids. If a kid is kicking another kid, the nearest mom says, “Jane, please stop kicking Sam!” And Jane listens, whether it was her mom talking or someone else entirely. The room is loud, filled with moms talking, kids crying and laughing and squealing and dumping toys around.

And the nursing, oh the nursing. My son is down to about two or three nursing sessions a day, but when amongst these kids, he wants to nurse constantly because there are boobs everywhere. In fact, I get the impression that most of these kids are close to weaning, but at Mom’s group, they can’t help themselves. They see one child nursing, and they’ll run to their moms, asking for “na-na” or “nu-nu” or “boobies” or “num-nums.” Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bare boobs in one room in my life. We complement one another on our bras. We remark on nursing habits. It’s really lovely because it’s all so comfortable with these women.

Since our first mom’s group meeting at the beginning of August, I’ve gone to several park playdates and even more meetings at the birth center. I’ve got potential childcare trades for date nights. I’ve commiserated with other moms who are struggling in their relationships. I’ve shared tips on how to find the cutest shoes on ebay. I walk away from these experiences full in a way that I haven’t felt in years. These women, who are already friends, have so easily welcomed me into their fold, and while my wife can’t typically be at these events because she is teaching, they still include her too, asking about her, wanting to know how life as a mom is for her. In fact, she and BG are on a playdate with one of the mom’s and kids now.

I’m so grateful that we found these women, that they found us, because for the first time in a very long time I really do feel that I’ve found my tribe. There is no replacement in the world for that feeling of belonging, of having others who understand you, and most of all, having friends. Oh, how I’ve missed this.

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

wahm

I am always so tired at the end of the night, which is when I end up writing most of these posts.

I work online–and I’m now at 3/4 time, so I’m online for at least 30 hours a week. Working from home may seem so lovely, but it’s not the glamorous life you all dream of. Yes, I may work in my pajamas (read: unshowered), and yes, I am home with my son, but I don’t get to work while he’s awake or otherwise unoccupied. He slams my computer shut if it’s open for more than a couple of minutes when he is around. So I work when my wife comes home, but that’s not easy either. BG barges into my office, wanting hugs or snuggles or a book. He demands that I stop working (“Mommy, all done working!” “Mommy, outside!” “Mommy, make BG muffins!”). The work I do is fairly cerebral. But there really is no focusing with a two-year-old in the house. And there is no focusing after wrangling a two-year-old from 5am on with no nap. I’m a tired mom, and more than once a week, I find myself working insanely late hours, falling asleep while typing. I have been known to start dreaming and typing what I’m dreaming. It’s creepy.

We’re going to start a new routine next week where I leave the house to work from a coffee shop or something a few times a week. To be determined: whether the distractions of a coffee house are greater than that of a two-year-old banging on my locked office door shouting, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” At least I’ll be more inclined to finish a cup of coffee than I am at home. I don’t remember the last time I actually saw the bottom of a coffee mug before abandoning it to read I Wish That I Had Duck Feet or to change a diaper.

I guess when it comes down to it, I sometimes kind of miss being a woman who gets ready for work and leaves the house and sees real people who are older than three. I might even miss the feeling of coming home and kicking off my uncomfortable work shoes and releaving my back of the weight of my teaching bag. I love being at home with my son, but as introverted as I can be, I guess I’ve learned that even I need to be out in the world occasionally doing things that resemble important activities.

But ask me again in a week how I feel about this whole work-at-home-mom thing, and I may be in total WAHM bliss. Isn’t that the nature of these things? Isn’t the grass always greener on the other side of the two-hour-commute?

1 Comment

Filed under work