You know what’s wrong with our world? We’ve raised our children to be assholes. 1,000 years ago, 2 generations ago, me, you, mine and yours.
I’m 6 and a half years into to motherhood. And everyday I see things with new eyes. Everyday my baby becomes more and more like the adult version of her self and today I was alarmed.
Alarmed for the second time in 7 days. Tonight a little boy and her were playing in the pool with a raft with a rope on it. The little boy got tangled in the rope that Ev was pulling and was drug under the water for a few seconds. He wasn’t hurt just panicked. It wasn’t malicious on Ever’s part simply an accident. But the fucked up thing was when he started flipping out she swam over to him untangled him from the rope slyly and swam away. We pulled the little boy out, he was fine just shook but Ev kept her distance.
When Julius asked Ever very nicely to go apologize to the boy and see if he was okay, she refused. In a bashful way more so than in a defiant way but none the less she refused to apologize.
Parenting confession. This wasn’t the first time that a demanded apology was denied. In fact the majority of the time that’s her m.o. To stop just short of actually looking guilty and then execute a finely orchestrated dance of avoidance and refusal to apologize. Because, we all know, an apology concedes guilt.
Maybe if today was any other day I would have reprimanded lightly and turned a blind eye. But it was today.
The day that my boyfriend texted me that his day was shit. He came home. I was fueled with a laundry list of anecdotes and condolences. To no avail my normal I’m sorry that worked sucked speech doesn’t counter you read a litany of news reports today about your fellow Black Americans being murdered by a regime that was put in place to ‘protect and preserve’ white men. The same white men shrouded in the a mythological concoction of the divine conducting themselves under the collective delusion that one man deserves life and another does not. Topped of by the nagging notion that even if you flea this country there is no place where you would be safe, safe from judgement, safe from persecution, safe from ignorance and violence.
How do you pick up the puddle of anger and disbelief that is the light of your life from that kind of day. (A day not unlike any day before or any day to come). Welp you brainstorm. You fire out suggestions. You offer hope and the ridiculous. Here’s what I came up with:
-You can go to Cleveland to the #blacklivesmatter conference. It may give birth to the next big organized results producing civil rights movement.
-You can channel your rage into your writing, the pen is mightier than the sword after all.
-You can help organize the people of color for the Bernie Sanders campaign. There’s real hope there.
-We can move to a hippy commune, start our goat farm and never consume media again.
-Finally— just because my boyfriend is a super sci-fi nerd and often gets angry at me when I tell him that given no set of hypothetical situations would I actually travel through space with him— you can start the first Black colony on Mars.
He wasn’t really feeling any of my options, except for dissembling all of our household appliances to make a time machine or at least preoccupy his mind for the rest of his life laboring towards the absurd. Ohh and going to a former nuclear bomb site to acquire enough radiation to get super powers and then exterminate all of the terrible people in the world.
At least I got a good laugh or two.
In the midst of that my daughter refused to apologize to a little boy for hurting him. Awwwwhhhhh hell no.
Granted this giant ball of– evil is continuing to prevail and the Earth is literally in the midst of the worst case scenario for the continuity of sustainable human life– may have exacerbated my even keeled parenting demeanor.
Fair or not. I’ll be damned if I raise another shit head that will keep perpetuating unaccountability and disregard for other HUMANS and CREATURES as their equal. We’ll be good God damed to quote my man.
So Ever got snatched out of the pool and we went promptly home. While getting a speech littered with words about 10 years over her head. But she understood the inflection. Mama is pissed.
Really stewing. Weighing all of these things that I know to be true about me, her, the universe. Then concluding that the time has come. You see I wrote this paper entitled The Reality of Tiger Mom a year ago and can’t seem to shake it from my mental reservoir of solid parenting advice. (You should probably read it, I think it’s pretty fucking interesting but I’m biased). Here’s the part that always sticks out in my mind, uncoincidentally Ever has arrived at the age of understanding and I’m 8 months late to the Tiger Mom game.
” ……As the author’s hypothesis predicted Chinese immigrant mothers in this study highly endorsed the authorative caregiving style (Cheah et al., 2009, p.316). They were also found to support independence in their young children more so than their American counterparts. A major cultural difference of note is the Chinese concept of the age of understanding begins at six years old. Cheah et al. explains that before this time that the mothers are, “…lenient, warm, and affectionate towards infants and very young children” (Cheah et al., 2009, p.316). After the age of six children are held to a new standard and stricter discipline is imposed. This concept is the product of Confucian belief (Cheah et al., 2009, p.312.) At the age of understanding and beyond highly authorative mothers balance their goal-oriented demands with early self-regulation (Cheah et al., 2009, p.317). Importantly, Chinese mothers emphasize an awareness of the child’s impact on others through reasoning and induction (Cheah et al., 2009, p.317).
The children’s outcomes at the time of the study correlated to the widely held authorative parenting style outcomes. The Mainland Chinese parents that used this style did so in part by encouraging early self-regulation and emphasizing the child’s autonomy (Cheah et al., 2009, p. 318).
‘These children’s abilities to regulate behavior and attention was related to lower levels of children’s difficulties including emotional symptoms,conduct problems, hyperactivity, and peer problems, as rated by their preschool or day care teacher’ (Cheah et al., 2009, p.318)………”
I give Amy Chau a pretty serious analysis the good and the bad for the record. But at the end of the day being the doting, lackadaisical parent that I am in my heart of hearts is doing my daughter a great disservice. And yes it may have taken me seeing her stone cold reaction to potentially drowning a peer to make me realize that.
We came home. She went in her room after being grounded from electronics (my former stand by for punishment that is actually effective). Still the mash up of how is it possible that there is so much hate and ignorance exists in this world and how to actually effect change did back flips in my mind.
In the room for round two (yes I know this isn’t parenting book protocol but to my credit Ever is alarmingly intelligent and pretty accustom to my rants) of my verbose speech on how you aren’t going to be a jerk. It went on and on. The take away,
“You will be kind, you will be nice to your friends and strangers. You will show remorse. You will be considerate. You will be empathetic and sympathetic. Peppered with that is the expectation and do you understands. The finally if you are not I will gladly punish you until those reactions become instinctual in you.”
End scene. Almost.
J and I silently went over the facts that the base line issue is the extreme privilege that my child experiences. “She is soo spoiled” seems like a slight misdemeanor charge given all of the terrible issues that can potentially intersect the parenting experience. But oh contraire. She is so spoiled removes her from reality. Yes, there is innocence in being young and naive and I don’t want to entirely spoil that. However, when I busted out the Save the Children commercials tonight the first thing out of Ever’s mouth was, ” Why don’t they have cars? They need cars? And how come those babies are just bones, ohhh that’s what happens when you don’t eat”. Seriously she has no clue. I’m not trying to bring down the white American land of obesity and hate crime hammer on my 6 year old but I sure in the fuck am putting the breaks on the, “Ever is the center of the universe campaign”. Gigs up kid.
Between the State of the Union speech that I gave and the queue of youtube videos about homeless shelters in Michigan, slums of India and cleft palates in Uganda I made Ever fill a grocery bag with toys that she had to give away.
IT WAS THE MOST DEVASTATING THING THAT HAD EVER HAPPENED TO HER. She was violently sobbing. Had snot careening down her face. She meagerly filled the bag with dress up items that she had out grown and books that were less than thrilling. Nope go fill it up more. Pick two stuffed animals. She did an all right job. It was torture for her to give up one small bag of the mountain of useless objects that she plays with. What an allegory for the state of things on our planet in 2015.
Our night ended with a few more gentle talks about what will go right next time. With a splash of any time that I see you being mean to your friends you will fill up another bag of toys. Tears ohhhh the tears. Tears at the thought of all of the toys that she will lose for being bad. Well Ev you don’t have to lose any more toys if you’re nice plus you could always decide to share.
At the end of the day (literally) I can now honestly say that I don’t believe that children are born innocent and blank canvases. They are born human. There is a primal human desire in everyone of us to sustain our status quo. At the most basic level that’s nutrition and safety but when you are born into swaddling blankets and a world bending over backwards for you the stakes are a little higher. I talk about in that paper about how American parenting philosophy changed drastically after WWII. It is ever changing and settling into a whole new disturbing land of entitlement. What are we gonna do about it? Write it out? Build a time machine? Make your kid give away a bag of toys? It’s my best idea yet.
Maybe even take stock of your own bag of toys and tricks. Maybe you have a little to give. If you can’t get past the devastation of sharing may you at least be kind.
I get asked, “Are you going to have more children” a lot. I don’t mind answering it’s too complicated for a cut and dry no so I start talking about how Ev would love a sibling but I really can’t justify it right now or rationally any point in the future. Every now and again a fellow mother will respond with,
“My oldest child was a single child for ___ years. The whole time all they begged me for was a brother(s) or sister(s)*. So, I found a man**, got married and had __ children. They love their siblings but they still aren’t happy. There’s nothing you can do to give them what they want.”
A couple of weeks ago that exact conversation happened at the pool and ended with. “Well now she’s 19, moved out of the house and I have a 2 and 4 year old that she see’s once a month or less and only refers to them as my kids”.
*Ev personally wants 100 sisters, no brothers. We’re still crunching the numbers…
**I don’t completely buy that that woman ran out and rustled up the most convenient man to settle down with and start popping out playmates for her oldest. But what I do think is like all single mothers she felt inadequate. She felt like she started a family, the circumstances of the failure are irrelevant, all that matters is that she failed. Other than the desperate women who resort to one night stand “gotcha babies“, here’s an instructional guide if that’s your bag. [Sane] Women do not get pregnant and follow it up with a cozy I’m going to raise this child by myself declaration. It’s not how we’re wired biologically. It makes no practical sense. If you’ve ever had to figure out rent, gas, groceries and $700 worth of daycare a month on once income then you understand. But more than the money and logistics of what in the f am I going to do when little Timmy catches the flu and I can’t find a babysitter, it’s a matter of the heart.
So we set about the world recovering emotionally from the truth of our failed relationship or our failure at planning, clad in the abundant love and joy that our child brings to this world, searching for a partner.
This time we’re looking for keeps.
Here’s the dichotomous nature of those intentions. Everyone in the position to comment on your life, has a million opinions about who you should date… marry and how that should manifest. For me all of the ineligible bachelors thought hey you’re attractive can’t you just bat your eyes, wave a magic wand and find a sugar daddy? Okay, sugar daddy isn’t really PC but let’s be real you need to get P-A-I-D, killing two birds with one stone. Go on, just bibbity boppity boo already, treat yo self.
Some thought. Oh courageous one. Your life is so cute with just you and your daughter. It’s basically like having a sleep over every night and someone to love you unconditionally. Now, let’s be honest a solid man comes around once in a blue moon, let’s not exhaust yourself finding him. Just be content. If it’s meant to happen then it will, but seriously though your like the poster child for cute single parenthood. Why would you want to miss that photo op?
It’s true we’re fucking adorable with or with out a man or father in our life. But do you want to know what is also true. At the time that I took this picture, I was working full time, going to school full time, living with my mother (a state of existence that no adult should have to endure… love you mom but God damn we do not function under the same roof), I was exhausted, lonely, stressed and very unfulfilled. I was also a crappy mother because of all of those things. Ev was shuffled around between me, my mom and her dad’s parents. Nothing was stable for her. Yet, I was doing the damn thing for her sake. To make a better life for her. Here’s the trouble in making a better life, the future may very well be exponentially worse than the present despite your best efforts. We have to invest in the present. That’s all we’re guaranteed.
I didn’t know that then. I’m barely learning that now.
Back to my point so you have two camps:
1-find a man, let him fix it all
2- Come on girl rally, read some Virginia Woolf gather your mothering instincts up and fearlessly trudge into the future without the worry of a man
Maybe that works for you. It doesn’t me.
I hesitate to call myself co-dependent. I don’t need a man. But I am my best self when I’m in a healthy happy relationship. I am the best version of Momma that I can be when I have the support of a caring partner. I’ve known this for all of my adult life, I can’t suppress the need or fill the void with something else when it’s missing.
I went about my life looking for a compromise.
Here’s the conundrum. At least in my age bracket you can’t very well go out to a club and proposition someone to be your surrogate baby daddy. Well you can and then systematically have every man in the place slowly back away and then run. So instead you put on your heals that you’re liable to break your neck in, you find some perfume labeled sex kitten in lieu of the pheromones that you should actually be roller balling all over your body. And you go out. The selection of potential male suitors is always grim if you’re as picky as I. If your efforts aren’t entirely in vain you’ll find one guy that’s worth nestling up to the bar with. You’ll give him doe eyes and exaggerated laughs at things that probably aren’t funny. Maybe you’ll take a few too many shots and fuck him that night. Maybe you’ll take the high road and simply exchange numbers.
Best case scenario you’ll exchange snap chats and quips about sports or some shit that you’re not even vaguely interested in. If your lucky you will be offered a real date like you’re a real girl. At which maybe you’ll break the I have a little babushka ice. You slip it into the conversation over the appetizer like so,
“Hhahahahha, ohh that’s funny. Speaking of funny things earlier today my daughter said the darnedest thing. Hahaha”. Ohhh solemn face. What? I didn’t look like I have kids. Was that on account of my still intact vagina? Or because I don’t have a ‘mom’ haircut? I’m a little confused. But really having a kid is no big deal. Hopefully one day soon I’ll feel comfortable enough to introduce you two. You’re going to love her, she’s brilliant, funny, charismatic. Basically the most incredible human to grace this earth….”
“Well except that she’s going to want you to die. Absolutely die. It doesn’t matter if you bring her lollipops or a unicorn your still an intruder. A “new one” and she doesn’t like your type. But then you’ll overcome that and we can buy a cute little bungalow and ride bikes to the farmers market on Saturdays and go on vacations every summer. She’s really a blessing in disguise. I mean shit. I didn’t mean to say any of that out loud. What I really meant is , like, basically she’s like a puppy. She just wants to play and she naps a lot and totally doesn’t get in the way. You won’t actually have to be her father, she already has one, you’ll just have to come over for ice-cream and say hi. Then we can have sex. It’ll be great.”
That was not an exaggeration. That conversation is so painful. Straddling the line(s) of
-I’m inherently flawed because I have a child(ren)
-I still have to present my self as a completely self-sustaning single parent
-convincing them that they are primarily going to be a romantic partner to me and just vaguely a part of the kids life
is some kind of shitty position.
I used to fantasize about meeting a single dad at the park whose ex-wife had ran off with the circus leaving him with his 1 or 2 children. He would be so stoked to have serendipitously found me. We would start this beautiful stock photo worthy blended family. It would be magic.Despite all of the hours logged on park benching, prince charming never swept Ev and I off of our feet. So, I was forced to improvise.
My solution. Date older men that already know me in the context of being a mother. Bammm awkward conversation (it’s bigger than a conversation, maybe life proposal) adverted. This way they would know before the first wink and smile what they were getting themselves into. [Read here about how my daughter is not and will never be baggage.]
What happened? Well, the plan wasn’t fool proof. There were a couple of less than great decisions that I made in relationships. But they were part of my journey in discovering what I needed in a relationship and what I had to give. Why did I stumble so many times? Because they weren’t ready. And because they weren’t my one.
Finally my ode to Father’s Day.
The other day I wrote about how pragmatic that J and I were about our relationship at first. Maybe I was being slightly unfair in my depiction of how our relationship started. We were both really cautious. With good reason we had just come out of really fucked up relationships, we lived in different states and there was a child involved. At one point early on we exchanged these excerpts from emails (modern day romance, am I right?)
Do you know what its like to search for love for years? To grind and toil over it, sweat and labor searching for it, getting knocked down again and again until one day it just floats into your lap like a dandelion in the breeze? Sometimes I think you’re a mirage, and that I’m still in the desert, deliriously chasing a figment of my own imagination, but in reality stumbling to my own death. [He goes on to sugarcoat likening me to death and then:]
I fell in love with your words before I fell in love with you. Can you blame me? Those emails were like reading a well written romance novel were I was the lead character. [ Pro-tip fellas girls dig that shit, unless you can’t make coherent sentences than spare us.]