something waits beneath it

Our household is usually such a peaceful and cozy one and never so much than late at night, dishes done and the house tided, the kids (usually) on their laptops or one of the other computers in the house – or like now, playing with clay and reading quietly. Ralph is asleep and so are all the cats; Hamilton in bed up around his neck, Harris under the kids’ easel, Josie on our phonograph, and Mable in a cardboard box Phoenix found today and brought home to fit with towels for this very purpose.

The family is happy and healthy. I am feeling better and drinking (booze) less (yay!). The kids are joyful and content. Ralph suffers a bit as at night he typically stays awake longer than he should (for his sleep’s sake), because he wants to have time with us. As for the kids and I, our night-owlery is something we can afford to do with no ill effects; without a school schedule we are free to pursue the sleep and rest and activity we need.  I am quite surprised to see how different our winter rhythms are than summer was. One of the principal joys of having seasons is appreciating the one you’re in and looking forward to ones to come.

That said, the children don’t seem to mind the gloom and cold, yet this year I do. I wonder why?

A Bath With My Young Son
(Small Stone #5*)

Your skin like velvet
Even in the cold pale of winter,
Rich like coffee and cream.

Small stone project

humbuggery

The Christmas I was six years old we lived in the bus and I remember worrying how Santa would visit us – we owned no chimney. Even then I’d begun to observe there was something goofy about this whole Santa business. But I remember the shiny, new, and lovely gift I got that year – one of only a handful, and by far the most beloved – Twink, a stuffed-animal (of sorts) from the Rainbow Brite meme. Beautiful, soft, brilliant white and friendly and chosen just for me. I can assure you I believed in magic.

Ralph and I were active in the Christian church a dozen years ago, but I gradually lost the stomach for institutional attendance – for now, at least. Today I’m an agnostic theist who finds great meaning in practices of Christianity and Buddhism and who (still) believes in Jesus’ divinity. As for parenting, our home is probably experienced as one of belief-friendly humanist ethics. So given that, of course, when it comes to this time of year it’s been no trouble to have the, you know, “There is no Santa, kids!” kind of thing going. I copped to my parents’ role in the Santa business soon after Twink and I remember feeling kind of irritated at my mom and dad’s amused smugness over the whole thing.

But over the last decade I’ve also found that children in my life, occasionally my own, like the Santa story and want to believe… Their delight in such a mystery has made me reconsider just why mysteries are good things. Observing the magical thinking, the deep compassion, the free generosity, and the in-the-moment joy of children has humbled me and at times astounded me. Santa will probably always irritate me, but I am beginning to soften. The story of the saint (and other figures like him) is not based in logic and it’s not really a two-dimensional fairytale and it’s not really about greedy consumerism, either.

So even my curmudgeony ass-heart melted a bit when I read this story about the origins of NORAD and their tracking of Santa Claus (the audio is a brief and lovely listen, too), specifically this bit:

“Since that time, NORAD men, women, family and friends have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to phone calls and emails from children all around the world. In addition, we now track Santa using the internet. Millions of people who want to know Santa’s whereabouts now visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website.”

This little story brought my inner-Scrooge up short. I’m often saddened about how many adults are deep-down terrified of children and quite limited in their competence and compassion regarding children’s needs. And here this morning, reading this article, I’m reflecting that many grownups are still trying to hold or maybe even reclaim a tender heart.

Ralph and I are fortunate in that our children truly want for nothing material; we have food and clothes and a warm home and all the security one could hope for. I know these are temporary conditions, but corporeal circumstances of relative ease allow us the gift of one another, if we are wise enough to allow that experience. It is true our children want for nothing, but all children need nurture; they are built for it and designed for it and seek it out as instinctively as a new kitten crawls into one’s sweater for something more than just warmth and a heartbeat. This morning I feel entirely grateful for my children because they have taught me so much about the value of compassion and tenderness, practices many in this hardened world are too frightened to commit to.

Behind me my kids sleep in a tangle of arms and legs and weighted down by the massive furry paperweight of kitty Harris; the lights are low and the stockings stuffed and Ralph folds laundry and we await my mother’s arrival. I know under our yuletide tree there will be gifts for me chosen by family and friends; an expression of love in the language of giving. I look forward to these wonderful comforts; more so even I look forward to the experience of my children and the magic they have all through their very Beings.

“i didn’t say it would be a GOOD story”

Today Nels and I were up at odd hours. He stayed up all night and I awoke after a very brief sleep, at about 5 AM. Our son was thrilled, thrilled to be awake during his father’s getting-ready-for-work routine. The boy talked nonstop, fetched Ralph this or that, took wet towels in from the bathroom, devoured a honeycrisp apple with great delight, stole some noodles Ralph “accidentally” left steaming on the counter. He followed his father through the house, his entire body a spritely comma jumping in well-timed energetics. “Mmm Daddy?” he’d query politely, waiting for Ralph’s attention, then launch into his latest thought/fantasy/dream/suggestion/question. Minecraft beta is new and an update was released today; Nels was looking forward to bug fixes.

I decided I would try to rest instead of getting by on a three-hour sleep schedule, so I declined the fragrant and lovely coffee Ralph made up (which he did just for me since he doesn’t drink the stuff at home in the morning). I was nowhere near sleepy even after he left so I finished a pair of pants for Phoenie (pictures soon) and then cleaned and closed up my sewing room.

The sunlight was streaming through the house, dispelling our darkest-day-in-four-centuries just two days before. It was quite and warm and cozy. I poured myself a large ice-cold glass of water and drew a bath for my son and I.

Nels’ hair is reaching down past his shoulders now. It is one of my small but deeply-experienced pleasures in life, playing with or stroking it or burying my face in it or caring for it as much as he lets me. I don’t know how much longer until he decides he wants it cropped short again. Like mine, his hair tangles up and kitchens in the back; I’ve had to cut knots out of my hair if I leave it up and sleep on it. We could have a total mess of white-person dreds in no time. Nels doesn’t like having his knots brushed through, no matter how careful I am, but I’m guessing he’d like the dreds even less.

In the bath my son’s body is lean and spare and you can see every bone in his little ribcage and his high shoulder blades like butterfly wings. We had our arms around one another in the sunlight and he tangled his toes up in mine and his neck was the Most Delicious Thing. I was reminded of the many baths my babies and I took when they really were babies. There’s almost no other comparable pleasure,  just having that time together, the closeness and the healing and the Love. I’m glad, so glad, to have experienced so many years of these rituals and maybe get a few more.

After bath I helped him brush his teeth and I combed through his hair and clipped his nails and dried him off and set the bathroom to rights. Wandering through the house in a kind of sleep-deprived daze. I was too tired to work (besides a teeny bit of housework after our bath), too desirous of rest to watch a film or read a book that was good, gripping, or adrenaline-inducing. I settled on the Netflix streaming of “The Beast”, an FBI drama starring the late (and much-beloved at Casa del Hogaboom) Patrick Swayze and some douchily-written young feller, obviously the paragon of sexy leading man (to the dudebro producers/directors/writers) because everyone in the show seemed to refer to his good looks about eight times an episode. Yeah, “The Beast” was pretty funny. It was heralded as “DEEP UNDERCOVER” (Big Deal!) which means, OMG the “good guys” are totally these antiheroes and they’re gonna have to go in deep, and like do drugs and slap women around and cut corners and murder deserving perps at their own discretion because it’s just Such! Important! Work! and that’s what it’s like, Man! At one point there are these eighteen layers of deception and drug dealers who are really cops pretending to be bad guys pretending to be cops etc. so essentially you had all these fistfights and gunshots and crack-smoking mindgames and punchouts* with eighteen people in the room and as it finally turns out only one of them ACTUALLY was a Bad Guy (seems a bit inefficient to me). Hm, what’s the word they were going for, that’s right, “Gritty”. Yeah, it was trying to be Gritty. Swayze was fun to watch, as always. His pancreatic cancer (and more likely, the concomitant chemo) had hacked away at his features and prematurely aged him. How well I remember this effect in my own father.

While I watched (with headphones) this watered-down Grand Guignol my son played Minecraft next to me, occasionally placing a hand on my arm so I’d pause the drama and remove the headphones and watch what he had to show me. Soon he was playing YouTube lyric videos and practicing some singing (a few songs I hadn’t heard before, love songs of course). At about 10 AM I sensed his little body, back up against me and slightly curled-up, was inert. I removed the laptop and placed it on the floor, tucked my son in, and a while later settled into my own slumber.

My husband is home for the weekend/holiday, something all four of us have been looking forward to. While Nels and I slept this afternoon, Ralph and Phoenix made a chicken potpie from scratch and did some Christmas shopping and wrapping. It’s almost embarassing how much work Ralph can get done when the two squawkiest-birds in the nest are down for the count. And I know it was nice for the two of them to spend some time together.

A day where I didn’t set foot outside. Rare for me, but they still make me uneasy. I’m hoping for another day of sun so I can get a little tomorrow.

* Yes, if you were reading closely you might think it is odd THIS is the sort of easy stuff I select for “resting”, and and god-bless-me, don’t know why, but No, this sort of show doesn’t generally upset me when it’s caper stuff with beefy hoodlums shooting at one another – it’s the constant rape/kid murder CSI misery-porn I usually have no stomach for.

wee little grimalkin

Today when my daughter woke up she did what both my kids do upon surfacing – she asked for me to come hold her. We talked and hugged and kissed for a while then I sat up to go prepare her some breakfast. And I told her I didn’t want her to get upset, but I had a question. “I kind of think you might be a shapeshifter disguised as a human girl, because you have leopard eyes. Is this true?” Phoenix reflected for a moment and then said quietly and with utmost seriousness, “I don’t know.”

I have to be very cautious playing make-believe as my children can either love it or hate it. They very much want to be taken seriously but they also flit in and out of devotedly-enjoyed games of Pretend (and is it even Pretend so much?). This goes for games of small-scale terror and overpower, too. One of my favorite amusements with Nels is when he’s laying in my arms; I tell him one of my hands is a stroking hand and the other is a pinching hand. He immediately smiles and squirms and says, “Which one is the pinching hand?” and I tell him Try not to worry about it, just whatever you do, don’t mess with me, or who knows which hand might respond. His smile gets bigger and you can hear the laughter in his voice as he ruffles my hair or tugs on my shirt and says, “I’m messing with you!”, his voice higher and his body tensed and – well, sometimes it’s the stroking hand that tenderly ministers to his little body. But he can’t help messing with me again and – you know the rest, as PINCHING HAND is then released in full-force upon his wee puppy-wiggling body and to his delighted screams. Kept entirely in his control he loves, LOVES being tormented this way.

Today Ralph worked a 12+ hour day and came home tired; he comes home spent from work very rarely indeed (it usually takes our nut-slapping family antics to wear him out). I had the house in great shape and the housework all done and was delightedly listening to a girl band anthology and sewing a Christmas present on my old Singer – a delightful machine that purrs along nicely. We passed our evening in peaceable family time – well as peaceable as it generally gets if Nels is conscious – and my husband fell asleep in my lap while I stroked his hair, like he has been doing the last few nights.

Left awake, my night-owl children and I, awake to ponder Christmas presents and the requested lunch and dinner I’m making my kiddos tomorrow (hot dogs and cole slaw for lunch ala Phoenix; slow-cooked spaghetti and meatballs alongside broccoli for dinner ala Nels) and friends going through difficult times and family conversations – and upcoming sewing projects. I got a fabric order in yesterday – an order I obtained through a loan for my mother – so I now have the velveteen needed for a winter coat for my daughter (better late than never since her previously provided version mysteriously disappeared). I am making the pattern myself and desire a unique sleeve based off the techniques in a vintage sewbook but I can’t quite figure any of it out. Ralph’s brilliant at that sort of thing but Ralph’s pretty overscheduled these days so I don’t know if I’ll make the request.

It’s late – late, late – and my daughter asks for my observance as she plays National Geographic‘s Animal Jam. I notice she is well-liked in online communities and no wonder; she’s a fast typist and an extremely empathetic and witty little creature. It’s more lovely than you’d think, sitting alongisde her and watching her play and listening to her voice and smelling her hair and feeling her warmth next to me. Just: lovely.

This is your life / Don’t play hard to get

This afternoon while I attempted to get some sleep Ralph took my mom’s shop vac to the interior of the car – he picked up gallons, apparently. The vehicle was instantly a lot better (no splashy sound when you step in) – less condensation, and in the shouldn’t-have-surprised-me category it was far less cold for driving (I guess we’ve been running around in a portable DIY air chilling unit, ha!).

Little things like that cheer me up. It’s cold out – approaching freezing temperatures, about the coldest we’re acclimated to here – and wet. I have a headcold and am somewhat frustratedly committing to rest this weekend. So instead of having an active day getting shit done and running around then finally relaxing to some B-movie viewing, I spend the day… doing nothing. Except knitting and reading to the kids. Both good things, both not what I wanted to limit myself to today. And gee, the B-movie isn’t much to look forward to when I’ve been ass-bound all day.

I got up to a little bit of cheerfulness sitting at the Y and typing away on the laptop while the family went swimming. There was another family there with a pretty little baby and I sat there and with my Mind-Control willed the father to Bring Me The Baby (he didn’t, and in any case, I wouldn’t hold a baby while contagious). Ralph and I locked eyes across the pool. BABY. We have a signal.

Tonight after swimming we park in front of my mother’s; Ralph runs inside to help her move something heavy. Nels is filled with remorse because a few minutes previous I had nixed his plans to purchase a little bottle pop. He’s taken this very badly as I’ve been short with him all day; at this last straw he starts crying. “Nobody wants me, nobody likes me… You don’t even want to kiss me.” I pull him onto my lap; the car is warm, the strains of Balmorhea from the speakers and the purr of the heater and his little pink nose and tear-streaked face and the smell of his skin and hair. I kiss him. And I apologize for being short with him. He’s right, I’ve been treating him poorly of late.

Nels is more forgiving than anyone I’ve met; he knows with rapier-sharp acuity a sincere apology vs. an insincere one; he accepts sincere ones when provided (this is a rare and gracious trait). Ralph and I have a terrible tendency to find Nels cute; it’s this that our son bridles at when he sternly tells us not to laugh at him. I put my arms around him now and re-commit to taking him as seriously as a Big Person. And I try to swallow those feelings I have, occasionally, of being worse than a Wire Monkey Mother.

By the time I get home – and Ralph and I roast a chicken, make mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and carrot sticks with ranch dip, then set the table and sit down to eat – I realize I’ve overextended myself. My head feels stopped up and my eyes are itchy and I’m a bit dizzy and I’m thinking, I can’t even rest correctly.

So who wants to get a shot of whiskey, listen to Freddie, and have a good cry with me?

i’ve found there are some things you can’t take away

I hate to talk about the inter-netz, because it’s boring, but I had kind of a shitty day online, overdosing on content by people whose work – I realize today – is ultimately not contributing to my mental and emotional health nor my growth as a strong, compassionate and wise person. It sucks to realize I need to cull, to change, to edit a bit of my consumption, because I feel like I’m cutting loose those who in many ways I admire. Still, having subjected myself today I now suffer a hangover but not from anything corporeal; rather, a spiritual malaise from words ingested, words bereft of deeper meaning but rehearsed hurts and seemingly cyclical suffering and other-centered blaming.

I get so depressed with how the American mainstream conversation – everywhere I go – frames children (when it deigns to consider them at all). Sometimes it seems as I’m one of the few parents who truly enjoys most every moment with my children and truly has almost every moment with them (waking and sleeping). I’m going on a decade now of living life with them! I don’t make jokes (not sure if I ever did) about shitty teen years or when I’ll be “free again” when they’ve moved out. If I ever felt that way before I don’t now.

What’s wrong with me? Everywhere I look kids are either dismissed, dehumanized, sentimentalized (the latter is really a combination for the former two for our own convenience) – or erased. Parents act like it’s so much work and drama to orchestrate their kids’ lives (and it is!), but I don’t relate because I don’t do this anymore. Fathers absent themselves from nurture; we modern ladies are told we’re supposed to aspire to such separation from progeny, grab at “me time”. Work in-home is worth than far less than a paid and status-y career (middle class conversations don’t much concern themselves with jobs that aren’t terribly thrilling, jobs many Americans work), that if we take care of children we necessarily won’t have time to do more important stuff: earning, activism, brain-learninz (so I guess: so much for the idea women are strong and multitasking superheroes). “Mommy bloggers” are mocked or dismissed (and I guess, as someone who’s loved publishing my journal online for eight or so years to much personal reward and thanks from readers, I qualify as such), our concerns trivialized and sneered at.

So today I’m realizing the activist circles I glean my readings from are too narrow: depressingly bereft of anything but cosmetic cares for children for all their lip service to “intersectionality”. I’m gradually weaning off those who don’t take child rights and child stewardship seriously when it’s brought up (as many, many don’t) because you know what? –  There are those who do. Few and far between, perhaps, but when I find them how wise, wonderful, and inspiring they are.

***

Many countries have outlawed discrimination based on gender and race, but still allow discrimination based on age. What justification is there for the assumption that anyone older than a teenager knows best what is good for those who are younger? Our adult grasp of life makes us feel superior to young people, and we use that to justify the substitution of our priorities for theirs. – October 31st, Wendy Priesnitz on Twitter (here, and so on…).

***

If any sensible person thinks deeply, he will respect justice. There is an inborn appreciation and respect for justice within our human body. In children, we find what is natural to be human character. But as they grow up, they develop a lot of conditioning and wrong attitudes. I often feel there is more truthfulness in a small child and I find reasons to have confidence in human courage and human nature. – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

***

Here’s some more from my life:

Last night my son was up late whispering in my ear. He kept telling me how much he loved me, and that he couldn’t wait to take me on “a date” (in our house a “date” refers anything one-on-one). He told me what restaurant he wanted to take me to. He asked me what I’d order. He told me what he’d order. It was his big Plan. I held him and felt him entirely bony and warm and not like anything else I could hold in my arms. So: a date tomorrow then.

I had nineteen dollars in my wallet. But I figured I’d have to make it work.

During the night he’d say in his sleep, “Is it time for our date?” He’d put his hands on me and drift back to Slumbertown, Population Nels.

This morning I was fortunate to have the car while Ralph bussed to work. After getting showered and dressed and putting some work in and some sewing done and spending too much time reading online and cooking up and putting aside breakfast for Phoenix and hemming some pants and sending birthday post, I was pretty excited to go out with with my son. At some point he popped straight of out bed, jumped up and dressed, brushed his teeth and hair and put on his newest homesewn coat and we stepped out into the sunshine. And I was treated to quite the conversational stream, Nels prattling along about pirates and parrots (the latter apparently serve as translator between the former and the ship’s crew, since pirates only say “Arrr!”), Minecraft, weather, animal husbandry, and parenting.

“Daddy told me he posted on Facebook you shouldn’t hit kids, and some people posted and said you SHOULD hit kids,” he told me (referring to Ralph’s anti-spanking linked article and polemic some time ago).

“Oh,” I said, surprised he was thinking of this now. “And what you you think?”

“Grownups shouldn’t hit kids,” he replied. I looked in the rearview mirror to see his brow a small thundercloud under his blonde hair. Consternation.

“What happens when they hit kids?” I asked. “Do you think kids get scared or angry?”

“They get angry,” he said emphatically. Then: “Angry enough they might kill themselves. Because they just want it to stop.”

So.

At the restaurant Nels was the soul of courtesy, including gently reminding me to keep my elbows off the table, which I found hilarious considering here is a child who will slither to the floor now and then out of his seat (from boredom). He ordered pink lemonade and a personal pizza, asking for half the pizza in a box to take home to his father. I ordered fettucine and a salad. He said “please and thank you” to the waiter (without prompting of course). He asked if fingernails were bones. I told him about keratin, amazed I had one fact in my head that could be of use to him. He asked me about nutrition for dental health. We talked about green leafy vegetables. Just when I thought I couldn’t be having a better time he carefully pushed his lemonade close to me, then his plate – and came over to my side of the booth. “I love you,” he said, simply. A serenity beyond space and time.

He paid (with my cash), walking the leather billfold to the server, smiling, laughing. I slipped to the restroom while he settled the bill and while away the phone rang and he answered. “Is Mama there?” my husband asks. “Yes,” says Nels. “Who’s dis?”

Then: my son and I step out into the sunshine to head back home to my daughter, stopping at the Post Office for mail and City Hall to pay the water bill. I peel off twenties and remember my father, who paid most things in a huge bundle of cash.

Another day and another chance to appreciate those things deeply meaningful; trivial and sublime. Living and breathing.

adventure-kinder

Little Trundlekin
This is the kind of awesomeness I live with. It makes up for pretty much any bad thing that happens to me.

In Nels’ right hand he’s holding the handle to his favorite vaccuum. It really is his favorite. We found it (the vaccuum, not the handle) in the Habitat for Humanity store a few weeks ago. I had no money but Nels begged, begged me to buy it. The men there told us it was $5 (the price tag said $10) and put Nels’ name on it. We picked it up via bike the next day. He vaccuums with it, natch, but also takes the handle out as a hiking stick/sword.

Also, I am a knitting sewing fool. The hat, coat, shirt, pants, and bag were all made by me (P.S. I made the kid too).

small wonder

Today was my daughter’s 8th birthday. I snapped a picture of her right when she woke up; then crawled in bed with her and we talked. She was in wonderful spirits. Like most mornings, she immediately rose to tend to her gecko and to play with the kitties.

Harris Whisks Away

Before we left for lunch we harvested the lemons on our lemon tree, a plant we ordered by mail last summer. It had only four blooms when we received it and two were destroyed in its early weeks – thus, only two lemons grew. My lemon tree is one of my favorite material posessions, and is also the result of a two-year-old running Hogaboom inside joke – if you know the story, you are indeed in our circle of trusted friends. If you don’t know it, let me tell you sometime in person – it’s not such a good one for the writingz.

Anyway. The ILLUSTRIOUS HOGABOOM LEMON ORCHARD:
Squeeze My Lemon

Sophie, Wonderment

Kids Contemplate Lemonage

This next lemon harvest is looking impressive; there are hundreds of blooms bursting out of the tree! Guess the diet of menstrual blood and cigarette ash has boded well.

There were no takers on our proposed lunch date in Olympia, and my daughter decided she’d rather not go. So instead we visited Sophie’s second choice of venue, My Sisters Bakery here in Aberdeen. After getting home she spent the afternoon and into dusk outside playing with the neighborhood pack of kids – no seriously, they are riding bikes and climbing trees and building a tree fort by the train tracks! – and then we went to dinner with friends at Alexander’s in Hoquiam. Which was also funny because my son was being what many would consider Rude, and the proprietor was clearly annoyed, but deliberately put a “polite” face on things. And I did thank the proprietor for his patience and we did tip well, but it kind of made me laugh to see him stand at attention with his hands behind his back, giving Nels the polite attention he so clearly felt the child did not deserve.

So, I want to talk about Sophie a bit.

I remember so much about my pregnancy – which over the last nine years has been rendered into fragments, impressions, and sometimes vivid experience. My reaction upon taking the pregnancy test: stunned, from across the little studio apartment I could see the little double-line result and it was like a scene in a movie where the camera pulls back and zooms at the same time – actually kind of like alot of this imagery and terrifying orchestration, not necessarily a positive reaction at all, and I would not be able to cook the dish I’d been preparing that day, ever again; and I remember getting a second test at the Health Department (recount: whaddya know! Comes up pregnant again!) and later that day Ralph’s reaction (amazing, so sweet, so tender, so excited)…

My pregnancy went very well. I was praised by coworkers for working as shift foreman, working as hard as a man even while carrying my spawn (now I know to say “FUCK off, seriously, I do love you guys but I do not work nor pregnate for your approval”*, but I didn’t know this at the time and I lapped up the “Good Girl” compliments). Pregnancy and, later, pregnancy while nursing and then, nursing two, was awesome – I felt physically amazing and had the appetite of a linebacker. Yet with Sophie’s pregnancy I was nervous and tried to “do things right” during the duration (again, learning a little FUCK OFF is a lesson I’d love to impart to today’s breeding families) but I suffered no ill effects and, after a rough birth, took to breastfeeding and baby-loving with a wonderment and energy that has never subsided since.

Ah, Sophie. Has any baby been more loved than our baby girl? Her second year of life I quit my “Good Girl” job and we received unemployment benefits (due to a big OOPS on the part of my former employer) and this was life-changing and instrumental to our family life and what it was to become. Ralph built his computer business up enough that it changed everything; during this year he was home so much and although work-from-home and no-one’s-really-employed wasn’t easy (thank you so much, State medical, which covered my child and myself for one year), it was like a respite and a deep dive into family life, and it was incredible. This was Ralph before he grew to hate me for various and sundry, before our second child seriously challenged our worldview of PARENT IS BOSS AND IN CONTROL, before we had four mouths to feed and the high cost of living in Port Townsend caught up with us (NSF, sorry, no groceries, hungry lady-with-two-hungry-babies!).

But these idyllic memories are concomitant with so much baggage and weird shit I believed, like my baby should behave well and look cute and that other restaurant patrons have the right to never once have the experience of Children foisted on them (this is a big one for me, as I’ve always enjoyed eating in restaurants) and perhaps more importantly, this is before I knew that children grow so fast, and that it doesn’t make sense to do anything but enjoy every minute you have with them, truly, even if that means you don’t get the shit done you want to, or they splash in the tub and you have to clean the bathroom; and please, cleaning the bathroom floor while your baby / child laughs and watches you and loves you so much, is there any reason this isn’t just as amazing and wonderful experience as anything else? Fuck-yeah! to being happy to be alive and to have those we love beside us?

My daughter is cited as the “easier” child in the minds and mouths of those who know us and who hear us talk about our son – but of course, she is not “easy” because to the extent she is a more convenient child she is one we can wound, suppress, and over-socialize. We can so easily teach her – and when parents do this is it almost always, always inadvertently – that her compliance and Good Grades and Good Behavior are necessary for her to upkeep to receive our love. She is strong yet (usually) defers to authority; she is rugged yet impressionable. She sees deeply into the truth of things, probably in part because I do as well, and I’ve passed this on to her – but also, of course, this is her nature. I asked a lot of her as an older sibling, and I still do, and maybe one thing incredible to me is she knows this and accepts this most of the time; yesterday in my mother’s old truck as we drove home in the sunshine she said, “Being older is better, but it means we have to do more work.”

It was funny because the other day I was taking a bath and my girl came in the room to join me. She was carrying some sci-fi fantasy paperback she’s been reading, and she asked if she could get in the bath. I was thinking how when my daughter was born I would have wanted all the things I currently have (“have”): a smart, intelligent, well-read, well-adjusted, polite, slim and beautiful little girl. But I would have wanted these things for many wrong reasons: to glory in my “accomplishment” of this child and to be assured I wasn’t screwing up in some way, and in some way to prove to everyone Look, I Can Do It, or maybe more accurately, to ensure I would never receive criticisms for making Huge Mistakes in my role as parent, because holy damn, making mistakes as a parent really, really sucks, bad, it hurts worse than any mistake I’ve made in any other way – jobs, relationships, anything.

I’ve since released myself from believing my children’s behavior and choices are direct reflections on me and my worth, my work ethic, or my intelligence. I’ve since rejected the concept that my children’s lives should be used as sole measure to justify or denigrate my parenting STRATEGIES, my personal strengths or weaknesses, or my savvyness at making-sure-I-get-my-way and kids-need-to-know-their-place,-see?-mine-sure-do; likewise, I release my friends and neighbors from these same dogmatic correlations and when my Judgment wells up I gently address it.

And in releasing those who judge based on my children and their accomplishments or good behavior – or lack thereof – I have in the meantime been delivered the most glorious and amazing children. They couldn’t please me more, simply put, although when I am complimented on their manners or intelligence or forthrightness I do not feel smug or Right in how they are; I feel grateful and humbled and joyous, and more than this I feel so excited because they are doing this all themselves, I am only their love and a bit of guidance and I feed them and care for them, but I do not hold it as my job to mold them – not anymore. I am still reeling from a change in worldview, that it is not solely my efforts that make amazing children – or my lapses that create conflict and fights – and I’m still so excited when I talk and it spills over sometimes I worry it sounds like bragging when it Just. Isn’t.

Today my daughter, I couldn’t be more proud of her, but I am not proud in the way I thought this meant so many years ago. I am proud of her in that I cannot believe my good fortune, and the miracle that may occasionally move through me, but really isn’t about me at all.

Sophie, Upon The Morning Of Her 8th Birthday

* “pregnate” = Not A Real Word

just:

Balls.

It is passing 6 AM and will soon be light out.  I have been hit with the no-sleep curse, something that strikes every now and then and is a pretty disruptive force.  I’ve had to cancel (much-looked-forward-to) plans for tomorrow – um, actually today, only a few hours hence – and this cancellation, though regrettable and suck-tastic in just about every way, at least means I may in fact get a bit of rest. You know, before the kids are up and my services are required.

Have I written much about how very, very much I hate insomnia? There is no upside.  Or if you can think of one, let me know.  In fact, call my phone number with your thoughts at about, oh, 8 AM, just when I’ve probably drifted off.  Shite.  The terrible thing is I was almost asleep right around 4:30 and something snapped me to wakefulness: likely an impending sense of doom, which happens to me often enough at night.  I am too tired and worn out to get up and sew, or write a good film review, or do the dishes or start some bread or do anything.  I am just sitting here kind of hating myself for having sleep problems. How very un-mellow of me.

Thank Jeebus for two things: first my son, whose warm, lovely body is curled up next to mine.  He drifted off late, late, late, with his arms around me and his last words were, “You are my girlfriend, my precious Little Mama.” This makes up for some of the times he comes after me with a knife.  So anyway, he’s here, and he feels and smells better than just about anything.

Second thing I am thankful for: my husband’s laptop because I can at least just loll around, no pressure, while I await my body to take its rest.  My choices for viewing tonight have thus been “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog” (very good; albeit too brief), and The Thin Blue Line, the latter a documentary on the killing of a Texan police officer (and Texans in general, holy moly!).  Both were viewed with absolutely no preconceived notions of content nor context, for which I’m grateful; I do hate, though, to have accidentally surprised myself with a movie-watching session ending on decidedly sociopathic notes.  My brain can only handle so much.

So: I’m off to log a few more minutes of viewing (look, if I have to, I’ll watch some real dumpage* if it means it will lull me to somnolence!) and hopefully get some shut-eye.  And seriously?  I’m hoping some love and tenderness is coming my way.  Universe, I need it.  Worn out and frazzled.

* ETA: I admit it – I couldn’t bring myself to do it.