Juggling Soccer Balls


When I was in my 20’s, I lived in Ithaca, NY, after graduating from college. I used to see an astrologer routinely to seek guidance during some unsettled times. He was an odd sort, this guru of the stars, and he had an uncanny way about him that was always right, no matter how hard I fought his ideas.

I remember it like yesterday, sitting at a routine “reading” of my birth chart, while he summarized where my planets were at that time in my life and what the significance was to the present as well as the ramifications for my future months and years.

“You like routine,” he said.
“Um…No. That’s kind of the opposite of me. I like spontaneity I’m a free spirit!”
“Well, that may be, but routines work for you,” he said.
I don’t remember how long I persisted in denying that fact, but the inevitability has become quite evident in the years since then.

I do like routine. I like knowing that my morning routine of making kids’ breakfasts, packing their and my own lunch box, then sending them out the door with my wife to get to school, leads into my morning workout then shower and off to work.

I like getting to work and having my time alone before customers or other staff come in and break my silence. I enjoy listening to my radio shows as I work. I look forward to the food that I’ve nicely packed, spreading it out over the 7-8 hours so that each item is savored. I also like leaving my work and coming home to my lovely family.

Boring? Maybe, but I’ve interspersed it with the many other more exciting things that I do throughout the day, week, month and year to spice it up, so it doesn’t seem boring to me.

Every once in a while, and some months more often than that, things pop up that disturb that routine. I try to roll with it for the most part, getting my primary needs met differently, but intact enough to reap the same rewards, yet sometimes that’s just not possible. Like a sick kid, perhaps, or a snowstorm, loss of electricity, a dead car battery, one of my kids who’s forgotten something important at home that they need at school, a friend in need, or a dying relative.

Routine for me is the fuel for the system that keeps my family together, so when it’s gone, the whole unit can fall apart and I can start to get grouchy.

I hurt my baby finger on my left hand this week. Why bother you with such an insignificant whiney detail? Because it’s my shift key on my keyboard. It’s the link to the whole system of my hands that keeps things flowing. It’s been out of commission most of the week and still hurts, but I wanted to put this post out, so I’m trying to teach my right hand to do it instead. Easier said than done!

On a larger scale, my wife has been gone since early Sunday morning to sit vigil with her dying sister. I know that it must sound very selfish when I say this, but we miss her here and hope for peace for Patty soon.

I have been a working parent for most of my kids lives, so I know how hard it is to juggle parenting needs with a career. What I am feeling now is probably more akin to the majority of my friends’ lives who all seem to be sharing their kids with an ex-partner and in a relationship with another person who is doing the same thing with their kids. I often point out to them that we have our kids all the time, so “NO we can’t just go out whenever we want because you’ve got nights without kids! Our kids are always here!” I’ve been through that with my two oldest girls, 4 days on, 3 days off, etc., and while that in itself became a routine, it’s not my routine now.

My system now thrives on 2 parents sharing the load. I don’t know how one parent can do all of this day after day. I do know that my kids wouldn’t all be playing on different soccer teams with 6 games a week, taking instrument lessons, playing in the band, singing in the church choir, and one a boy scout. If I were a single parent they would probably have boring afternoons in the after school program so that I could work a full day.

From the outside, my wife and I have very little in common. We share interests with the kids, but overall, we don’t share a lot of interests. I like sports, music, photography, politics, computers and all technology, cars, bikes, and social media sites like facebook. I keep us tethered to the world on a broader plane, while she does it more locally, chatting it up with parents at games, knowing all of the other kids names, and sharing the “us” as a couple and family more personally with strangers & friends. She likes to garden, has more time to cook, likes to take pictures but leaves me with the sharing and transfer of them, hates technology, never watches sports, doesn’t notice when her car is filthy, loves to talk on the phone, and can talk to just about anyone she meets! Somehow, it works, and I’d say that we’re pretty successful in making it work because we’re so different. But what we’re in sync about is our routine.

This week, not so much. While I’ve made every drop-off and pick-up on time without her help, I’ve been lucky to have help from a good friend whose children also play soccer with our kids, so driving has been easier. We are blessed to have many good friends who have been there in spirit, offered meals and help if needed, and are there for support. That is the key to a good support system and it’s the glue that holds the family together from the outside when cracks start to form.

Every person needs that glue, whether it’s family, friends, strangers, or a combination of all of those. Thank you all who have been there for us and who generously give to others in their time of need. Someday it may be you who needs the help and I will be there for you!

Sandy butts and the hands of time…

When my first child was born 22 plus years ago, I was a much “looser” parent. I know that, because I’ve been watching old movies of myself, my kids and family, and my life as it used to be, far enough ago that there are people in my videos who I barely recall. It’s a project that I have had on my “to-do” list for years, converting all of my different video formats to digital files. It’s long, tedious work, but the trip down memory lane has been quite eye-opening, to say the least.

My younger version of myself in 1991 laughed and played with my then 2 year-old daughter, not giving a care for the silty, black sand firmly ensconced on her bare cheeks and squeezed into who knows how many cavities! Naked kids are fine, and by the number of naked kid videos that we have of her, my younger self didn’t care. Watching it now, I scream in my head, “what the hell were you thinking?!”

What was I thinking? I was thinking that kids are pure, kids are clean, and fresh, and should run around naked until they just don’t want to anymore. Imagine that world? I can’t anymore.

When that same daughter was just shy of four years old in January of 1993, we had the opportunity to attend Bill Clinton’s first Inauguration. It was a family affair, and lots of pictures were taken. That was before digital cameras, when the “old-fashioned” cameras required film, which then needed developing. Soon after arriving back home from Washington, I headed to the one-hour photo at the mall to do some shopping before picking up my child up from school. Little did I know that a film technician had alerted police that a certain roll of film that he’d processed had pictures that looked suspiciously like illegal material.

Upon my arrival back at the photo shop to pick up my finished photos, I was immediately flanked by 2 plain-clothed detectives. After identifying themselves, one started flipping through my pictures in front of me, asking repeatedly, “Is this your photo?” “Did you take this photo?” Do you know who this child is in this picture?” “Yes!” “That’s my daughter,” I said.

I was asked to come down the “station.” I was allowed to drive my own car, so I navigated myself to the building. I happened to have a mobile phone, which back then was the size of a breadbox, but nevertheless, was quite handy. I called my partner and frantically explained what was happening and she immediately called our lawyer for help.

I was led into an “interrogation room,” for the first time in my life, and although I was very nervous and probably sweating profusely, I still carried my well-honed butchy swagger. I would answer your questions, I decided, but I’m not holding back any contempt towards you when I answer, I thought to myself.

I was asked whether I had taken the pictures and I said “I don’t know.” “Why don’t I know? Because I’m not the one who ALWAYS takes the pictures!” If I’m not IN the picture, well, it could be me, or it could be my partner.” “Yes, I’m in a relationship with a WOMAN! Do you have a problem with that?”

He showed me a picture, of my daughter. She was standing in the doorway of our kitchen. We kept the camera right there on the kitchen counter so that we could snap away, and obviously one of us decided to capture the moment! She was naked, had slipped her little feet into my partner’s boots, and was standing there like a little naked cowgirl. When the shot was snapped, she smiled as big as day, shook her wet curly locks, and grabbed her crotch and pulled up! High. So high that it made you look again to be sure you just saw what you thought you saw!

“Can you explain this?”

“Yes. That’s my daughter. She had just gotten out of the jacuzzi and had decided to try on her mom’s boots. She was  proud of herself and loved smiling for the camera, so obviously one of us grabbed the camera and snapped it! Why? Is there something wrong besides she obviously grabbed her crotch right when the picture was snapped? What other explanation are you posing?”

“Who’s that?” he asked.

“That’s Ann Richards. We went to an event where she was at. You know her? She’s the Governor of Texas?”
(writer’s note: I know that all of my quotations aren’t perfect, but who cares, really…)

He went on, asking me about every photo, trying to trip me up when he asked questions repeatedly. I answered in a “tone,” I’m sure. It’s the same TONE that my wife hates, and I think I finally used it in its proper place as I sneered back at him!

“Why? I mean honestly…Why would I take pictures of the President’s Inauguration, and then add a few pornographic pictures at the end? And WHY, would I come to the mall and have them developed by some technicians? If I really wanted to be into that business, I think I’d be smart enough to either have a photo lab person who I trusted wouldn’t squeal to the cops, or I’d develop them myself!” I continued to answer his stupid questions…

“No, officer, I do not let my child wander the house with her hands in her “vaginal area,” and if we were to be precise, I would call it a “labia” (I did say that in my inside the body voice because I could tell he was pretty uptight) ” We have a policy that if she wants to touch herself, she can do it in her room where we don’t have to see it!” “No, that wasn’t one of those times. This was a spontaneous act!”

He then went on to tell me that he had 10 kids and “None of them did things like that!” To which I said, “I’m sure that they do. All kids touch themselves. If you spent more time with your kids you might actually see that, so don’t tell me my kid is some kind of anomaly!”

I realize I’m using a LOT of exclamation points now, and trust me, it was an exclamatory day!
How dare anyone accuse me of something like that? What? Taking a picture?

The lawyer finally called, told me not to talk to them anymore, and I left. They didn’t have a charge per se, but they were putting the incident in for an “investigation”. The State Police became involved. It was a scary time. We could only think in worst case scenarios. We had a baby then as well, who was just 16 months old. We grabbed them both up and took off to a hotel for the night. Our lawyer updated us daily, and after 2 weeks, several outside investigative visits and a $1000 legal bill, we were cleared. But our case was put on “probation,” meaning that we needed to not come up on the system again for at least a year.

Standard procedure? I don’t know. Am I more cynical now? For sure. I know that from that time on, I have been a changed person. I think that we all have been changed little by little over time. I know that I am more fearful than I used to be and I am less and less trusting. I don’t take naked pictures of my kids anymore. Afterwards, my friend, who wrote for the local newspaper, wrote a feature on our story and I heard parents everywhere talking about it. Most of them were saying that they had “TONS” of pictures of their kids naked! The world we lived in as children is not the same as it is for our children or will be for their children. Time changes things. Years go by and life goes on and we adapt. We change.

I worked at an event last Saturday. It was an event for LGBTQ and the rest of the alphabet if they wanted to join us! We had a great time, good food, entertainment, and the weather held up well, but one surprising point was when a well-known elder in the lesbian community came up to me and introduced herself. It was a woman named Alix Dobkin, one of the revolutionary lesbian-feminist songwriters who debuted in the 1960’s, when I was just born. She wanted me to be sure to know about the “Old Lesbians Organizing for Change” group, and that they would love to have a chapter opened in the Northampton area. I think she must have asked someone about me- my gray hair, my radio headset on (I was working the event), my “take-charge” look – and focused in on me as a new recruit for the group. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to do. I thanked her, smiled, smiled again just to be sure she saw it (because I know I’m pretty limited in the number of them that I’m willing to give out on a daily basis), and I tucked the cards into my back pocket. I tucked the memory into that bin I keep of stories to tell the wife when I got home. Can you believe her calling me an “old lesbian?!” When I googled the group, it was for over age 60 lesbians! I just hit 50 a little over a year ago so don’t rush me! Who thought up that gem of a name for the group, anyway?

I’m not willing to be “old” yet. I will call myself “experienced,” “mature,” I don’t mind “wise,” or “super,” or “cool,” or “super-cool.” I’ve been “awesome” on occasion, and I like “interesting, smart, but “old?” “Old and lesbian” together? Sure, time has passed since that reddish dirty-blonde hair of mine was showing all over, but if I were to start an uprising, it would be more aptly called, “The Raging Hormones” than a name that has the word “old” in it!

Sure, I’ll admit it, the hands of time can be cruel and challenging, and just when you think you’ve got as much as you can handle on your plate, here comes another helping. My life, and all of the lives of friends I know, have gotten more complicated over these years in many ways which I think has created a feeling that often resembles a top spinning out of control. Some people resort to drinking or drugs, or sex, or other forms of addiction. Some folks seek medical help and subscribe to the more acceptable forms of control like anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, or other prescription drugs.

I often think about the people in countries like Libya who have spearheaded uprisings in their country. I wonder if they have the availability like we do for the use of anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs. I wonder if anyone has ever studied that impact and if not, if anyone ever will.

I believe my “fiery” energy is here for a reason. It’s here to ignite ideas, creativity, fluidity, movement – life! If I let the anxiety or depression win, then I’m resorting to something that will suppress it. That may work for depression, but sometimes anxiety is telling us something, telling us that we need to channel that energy into something positive!

I heard a line used on the radio last week by Thom Hartman, one of the smartest guys I’ve ever heard on talk radio. He asked a guest on his show, “what’s the opposite of love?” His guest answered, “hate.” No, said Thom, a wise person once said, “the opposite of love, is apathy.”

Here’s to love, happiness, and more time for fiery energy!

“Dancing” with the Gender Jumble…

On Gender Jumble part 1, I left off with the vision of a utopian world someday, allowing for the blurring of lines between male and female, to somehow include all possible variations of gender alignment, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Perhaps it won’t be in my lifetime, but hopefully someday it will be the norm.

Those of you who know me, know that I enjoy computers, am a frequent Facebook user, and often post causes on my profile. What you hopefully didn’t catch, was that about 2 weeks ago, I hit a “like” button without really reading the who, what, and why of the cause. I thought I was supporting the opposite of their Christian homophobic agenda. It was a page called One Million Moms,” and it’s a conservative “mom” group that is trying to gain support for all things in the media that they deem “dangerous” to their children. One of those awful things, according to OMM’s, is homosexuality and transgender issues, specifically, the possibility that watching TV will influence their kids to want to have a sex-change operation by merely being exposed to LGBT folks in the media. Just by simply watching Dancing with the Stars,” their kids will see a gay man, Carson Kressley, and Chaz Bono, an F-M transgendered man dancing in the competition and think, I should be gay or change my sex!

So, I’m thinking, what’s wrong with these people? If it were that easy to influence their kids, why didn’t all of  the little gay kids who have grown up to be gay adults just decide to be straight? And why didn’t my watching Gilligan’s Island, Charlie’s Angels, and I Love Lucy make me want to grow up to be like one of those women? And will watching Glee will make our kids all want to be gay singers? Haven’t our kids seen enough straight people on TV and shouldn’t we be worried about their effect on our innocent children?  I guess I missed the memo to parents that all we needed to do for parenting is make sure our kids watched the “proper” role models on TV and they would grow up to be perfectly healthy, conservative Christian bigots!

Well, a week later, I’m innocently pedaling away on my stationary bike, iPad open, reading my (great LGBT ally) nephew Aaron’s blog The Daddy Files (and he’s a real blogger, not like his wanna-be Aunt), and he’s talking about this same subject only with a younger, more sarcastic mocking tone. All of a sudden it hits me that I’ve “liked” this group that espouses discrimination and hatred toward ME, and I’m trying frantically to find the “un-like” button, but on my iPad app, it’s nowhere to be found! Hence, it’s another 4 days or so before I finally remember, when I’m at a real computer, to find the damn button!

My big question, and I’ve researched it a bit and am still not satisfied with the answers I’ve seen, is why isn’t Carson Kressley dancing with a guy? I was not surprised at all to see Chaz with a woman, because after all, he was a she before, and came out as a lesbian and is still woman-identified as far as I can tell. What then, is the purpose of a gay guy dancing with a woman? I want to see him dance with a man! Surely there are a few gay male dancers around! I’m just having a hard time understanding what exactly these “significantly less than One Million Moms” (only 36,000 give or take a few) are upset about! Aren’t their kids seeing what looks like heterosexual dancers?

I should be the one complaining! What kind of role model is Carson setting for my kids? They know he’s gay. They’ve seen him on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy!”  What am I to say when one of them asks “Mommy, why isn’t he dancing with another man?” “Isn’t that lying about who he is?” If I didn’t tell my kids about Chaz once being a woman, they wouldn’t ever know. He’s got a beard, dresses like a guy, who would think otherwise?  My kids have learned to not judge, but to accept people’s differences.  I guess that’s what happens when one lets their kids watch Glee!

So fast forward now, since I wanted to finish this after I watched the first show, and I have to say that I was surprised by both of the performances mentioned above. I thought that Carson totally “out-glamoured” his partner and I reiterate my question, “why didn’t he dance with a guy?” because I really think that he would have glittered even brighter! And surprised that Chaz was able to pull his dance off as well as he did. He showed that he worked hard, was determined, and held his head high! It was a proud moment for all of us fans and supporters!

One more note, if you are a Saturday Night Live fan, and also like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream,  check out their new flavor Schweddy Balls and please hit “like!” One Million Moms doesn’t like that either!

Disney, Death, and a good “stiff” drink!

(This is not the Part 2 to my last entry, so if you were waiting with bated breath for that one, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. )

When my big girls were young, their other mom and I took them to Disney. It was my first experience there, so I was as full of wonder as they were. I rode the kiddie rides, took a million pictures and videos, happily paid the exorbitant prices, and had a great time seeing my kids have fun. When my now partner/wife and I got together, we took them again, about 3 years later. The wonder had worn off by then for me, and I was happy to never see another Micky Mouse again!

Fast forward to 2007, when three more kids were added to the family, and my wife says to me, “we should take them to Disney.” “Really? Do we have to?” I really don’t care for Disney, I thought…the high prices, the hoopla, “It’s a Small, Small World” over and over again…what good could come of that? After months of my protesting and her cajoling me, I finally relented and the trip was booked. She was determined that I was going to have a good time!

Unfortunately, what we didn’t know then, was that her mom would be on death’s door in March 2008 when we had booked our reservations . Would she be able to make it until we got back? I told her that I didn’t think so, but her 7 siblings and her dad were all saying, “Go, it will be fine!” In her family’s fashion of sometimes denying the facts that were right in their faces, she believed them and off we went-kids busting out of their pants with excitement! Did I mention that I hate Disney?

There we were, at the car rental place. We just got the airport shuttle and had suitcases in hand, the little ones were 6, middle child 9, and big girl who joined us on her college break, all antsy and ready to hit the cash-sucking wonderland, when her brother calls and says, “You need to come home. Mom’s dying!” I had just gotten the keys to our minivan, unlocked the car, when she ran over, handed me all the extra cash and relevant tickets that she had, gave me a quick kiss, told me she had to go, hugged the kids, and crying, ran to catch the shuttle bus back to the airport! I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. She had just left me to fend for myself at f#%&King Disney?!

So, here we were…8 days of familial bliss. Alone. Single parent. And I’m not only supposed to have fun but I’m supposed to put on a happy face, while my sweet mother-in-law is dying and I’m not there to console my wife?

We made it through that week somehow, sent pictures and videos to her by computer, cried and talked often on the phone, recounted all of our travels, and missed her terribly. It stands out as the single most dreadful vacation in terms of my book of memories, and I’ve had my share of bad vacations! I did miss the funeral, (which I had mixed feelings about), but I knew that she was surrounded by many of our good friends and relatives who would be my surrogate, probably more effectively than I could be. That, I was fortunate for.

Today, it’s the day after the 911 tenth year anniversary. I had intended to work on this week’s blog this past weekend, but I had no time. I had no desire either to sit and write. I woke up yesterday morning and caught the Today Show’s recap of the morning of September 11, 2001 and I was in tears, alone in my kitchen, remembering where I was, what I was doing at that fateful moment, like I was back there in time. We had twins, in utero then, 3 months from birth and we were terrified, devastated, scared, and anguished. Would we have brought 2 more kids into this world had we not been pregnant then? We’ve asked that question many times, but along with that question comes the answer-would we have wanted to miss out on the two beautiful babies that are now our wonderful 9 years olds?

When my oldest daughter was about six, she came with me to see the Southwest with my mother and 2 nephews who were about 13 and 16 at the time. My mother wanted to see things before she got too ill and debilitated by her lymphoma, so off we went. The trip was hard, as my mom’s belly was swelling and her breathing was beginning to get worse, but we trekked on, seeing the sights and taking photos. It was at the Grand Canyon that it happened…I let my daughter leave the car with her cousins to check out the view at one of the stops. It had snowed the night before and the ground was slick, but how slick, I didn’t know because I stayed in the warm car with my mom while they went off to view the “lookout.” All of a sudden, a panic overtook me. All I could think about was what if she slipped and fell, down and down into the canyon? It happened every year to some poor sight-seers and if you don’t believe me, Google it! Two or three every year, and they are often kids whose parents let them get too close to the edge. I knew in that instance that if she had fallen over a cliff, I’d have to jump after her. I would know that I would die too, but it was the only way I could handle the guilt of letting my kid fall over a cliff. Seriously.

I’ve been in tears at least 15 times today, but not all for 911. I was alone yesterday morning while my kids slept, because my wife was tending to her dying sister who will probably not live more than another week or two. It’s very hard having so many in-laws and knowing that we’re getting to the age when it’s going to be one after another sick or dying until it’s our time.

I am very sad for her sister and the life she’s lived. I’ve seen her suffering for years. Maybe that end will be a good thing. But death is not usually pleasant. Death can be very ugly and hard and with it comes anger and stress and fighting and tears and not knowing or not wanting to know. It isn’t usually like the movies when someone just decides to let go, closes their eyes and their head rolls to the side. For any of you who have been through it with a loved one, I don’t have to tell you…it’s not something that you want to have to remember or go through, but you do.

Today, while there is a sadness for my sister-in-law, it was another death that choked me up. It was a tragic death of an 18 year-old daughter of my child’s teacher. She was driving a car with a friend of her mother’s, driving on her learner’s permit, just shy of getting her license. I did not know this young girl, but she was a child, and I have five of them who I worry about every hour of every day. She was hit head-on by a driver, possibly distracted by something, who knows, but this driver crossed the center line, and while the girl tried to avoid getting hit, she was killed. It was senseless and devastating for all involved, and a too-young soul just starting her life is now gone.

As a parent, I try so hard to keep my kids safe, walking a tightrope between being too controlling and being a parent who knows, has seen- can “feel” danger. I’ve had experience. I know. I’ve worked too long and hard raising my kids to let them ride a bike without a helmet, or jump on a friend’s trampoline that doesn’t have a net. I don’t care if their kid never gets hurt. My kids will  be the ones who will break. They will be the exception. Get a net and they’re all set, but why play with fire? Get into a car with your friend’s 17 year-old brother? Uh-huh. Sorry, not happening. I would never forgive that kid if anything happened and I don’t ever want to be in the position where I have to feel those kind of feelings toward any other human being.

I made a reference to my wife the other day that dated me. “Danger! Danger!” said the robot on “Lost in Space,” one of my favorite shows in the 1960’s. Apparently it was only out from 1965-68, so she was only 2 years old then, but for a 5-8 year old, it was priceless! It’s an apt description of my inner warning system and I’m sticking to it!

If you’ve made it this far in my blog, hang on… it’s not as random as you might think. The thought of losing a child of mine will bring me to tears at the most bizarre times. I might be out on a walk, listening to music, rejoicing inside at the most beautiful spring day to come along in a long time and then suddenly I think about one of my kids out riding their bike, not paying attention at an intersection, and “BOOM!” I have so many scenarios that I’ve emotionally lived through from drowning to fires, car accidents, breaking their neck falling down our steep stairs…it’s endless. It’s worrying about what I can’t protect them from, and then they grow up and the worries don’t end, I just see them less.  Senseless deaths are the hardest.  I know that for me, it’s much easier to deal with the death of an old person, knowing that they have lived a full life and it’s time.

Back to my sister-in-law, and for any of you who are dealing with a dying or sick friend or relative, maybe something I’ve written will hit home. As I get older, (and I am not that old despite what my kids think), I do think about things differently than I did in my 20’s or 30’s mainly because I’ve seen so much more…I think ahead more. I think about what I will leave behind, how I’d like to leave this world, and what I still want to do before that time comes. When it’s my time to go, I want to have choices.

I have a pact with at least 3 friends who I trust will follow through with it, that if I ever get to the point that I don’t know that I’m at “that point,” they will mix me up a nice little cocktail and tell me “you told me to give this to you when you got to this point.” Hopefully, I will smile and drink the cocktail.

I don’t want to be a burden on my family. I don’t want to get to the point where I don’t know my family, and I don’t want to die an ugly death. If it’s coming soon, I’m all for making it happen sooner. I don’t want to choke to death on my tongue. I would not want to be drooling or incoherent, and I certainly don’t want to be in pain. If any of those things and the 50 other things on my list occur, it’s time!

When the bill, hopefully, comes up for a vote to allow assisted suicide in MA, I will vote, campaign, and donate to the cause. I hope you will too.
To read the petition:

http://www.dignity2012.org/

The joys and challenges of raising a boy…

When I was about 10 years old, I had decided that I would have twin boys and name them Jason & Justin. There was no particular reason, but it was a certainty for me at that time.

When I was around 16, as part of my “coming-out” process, the first person I told that I was a lesbian was my sister Rachael. I remember her crying all night about it, concerned mostly that “now you won’t have children!” For some reason, in 1976, I believed that reasoning. I went on believing it for a few more years before I came to my senses and decided to be a “pioneer lesbian” who defied societal expectations and became a mother. It was a no-brainer for me, really. I had a uterus and by golly I was going to use it!

Fast forward to 2001, when after already becoming a mother 3 times to 3 beautiful daughters (2 from a previous relationship), my partner and I were told that she was carrying twins-a boy and a girl. Now, the last 3 pregnancies, were certainly open to the possibility of having a boy, but without fail, I welcomed the news that they were girls with excitement. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a boy, but I really had no clue about raising a boy and I was scared to embark on that journey. By this last pregnancy, I was excited, elated, yet still scared shitless!

Raising a boy has been quite a pleasant surprise for me. I grew up in a family with 3 sisters, have always been attracted to females, so my exposure to the male species is much more limited than many. On the surface, boys up to the age of 1 don’t seem all that different than girls, and since he couldn’t complain, I’m here to say that dressing my son in outfits traditionally made for girls when his blue or yellow sleeper wasn’t clean hasn’t seemed to scar him. Even the flowery onesies didn’t make him more effeminate and I believe only contributed to augment his feminine side. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that boys are different than girls in many ways.

Even if I tried hard to raise them all the same, which I do on many levels, there are many distinct differences. For instance, he doesn’t seem to whine as much as the girls. He has tantrums, but he gets over them and moves on, not holding a grudge or acting pouty. He likes stereotypical boy toys that have motors and moving parts, require assembly, have wheels, make noise, and dig in the ground. While the girls have enjoyed them as well, they tended to gravitate to more to stereotypical girl things up to this age. All of them have been through the American Girl doll phase, but those never seemed to attract my son. They all like music, dress-up, and sports, but  know we won’t allow them to play with guns or even look like they’re shooting a gun, so that activity is completely out.

One of the issues that I worried most about when thinking of having a son, was the whole subject of male genitalia. What to do with it, what not to do with it, how to clean it, what to teach about touching it, how to pee with it, etc. For 9 plus years, we have dealt with how to tuck it into the diaper, pull the foreskin back to clean it, teaching him to clean it when he got older, teaching him to go to his room if he was going to touch himself in front of us, and all was going well. In fact, after I had initially decided when he was born, that we were going to teach him only to sit on the toilet and hold his penis down to pee, I soon relinquished that idea and allowed him (once he was tall enough to reach over the seat) to pee standing up. I’d heard horror stories about walls and surrounding radiators, furniture, and sinks getting sprayed by pee in boy-centered households, and I’d vowed that he would sit down to pee until he was 18. Happily for him and his other mother, I changed my mind at about 3 years old and now he’s an upstanding member of the male population, pun intended!

Fast-forward to this past weekend when my wife & I had a wonderful 3 nights away and the kids stayed with their fun Auntie Val and Uncle Arthur and cousin Bradley. Staying at Auntie Val’s is always an exciting time. They get to cook and eat delicious goodies, swim in the pool, play video games, and do all sorts of fun things. At nine years old, my son is now needing to take on more responsibility for himself and his actions. Apparently, it’s also his time to bond with other males, big and small instead of constantly being surrounded by an all-female clan. Here he can celebrate his masculinity by shooting arrows out back with Uncle Arthur, tease the girls in the pool with cousin Bradley, and play video games all day if he wants because Auntie Val has enough girls in the kitchen to help her! Life is good!

When we come back to pick them up, we swoop in and hear stories quickly, get updated by Val in the corner of the kitchen, and sometimes need to hear about events of mis-behaving and tantrums. This time, it was a little different.

“Arthur had to have ‘the talk’ with him,” Val said. My first thought was “he’s too young for that, isn’t he?” Then she got more specific…”He needed to learn about putting the seat up before he pees.” she said. “Arthur explained that good manners means that you lift up the seat to not dribble all over the seat, put the seat down after, cover the top, then flush it.” My other daughters chimed in when I instinctively defended him, “he doesn’t drip hardly at all at home and always wipes it off,” I said. “NO, HE DOESN”T!” his twin and her big sister said in unison. Well, he always did when I was looking…

So, why do I feel like I was kind of reprimanded too? I guess it’s because I always felt that if he wasn’t spraying the walls, floors, or surrounding furniture, it was a bonus. I don’t have expectations from the girls besides FLUSHING THE TOILET once and a while, telling me when the toilet isn’t flushing so another person doesn’t go and do a big poop and it won’t flush! I harp on the damn toothpaste cover never getting put back on and the clumps of toothpaste littering the sink, the toothpaste spray on the mirror and the towels left on the floor, but to get on my son’s case about not wiping off the dribble every time? I’m actually OK with him not lifting up the seat, believe it or not. I’m more crazy about the germs ON the seat, and knowing that I have to ask him each and every time I know he’s used the toilet, “have you washed your hands?” and he gives me a sly smile and says “yes,” which means “no,” makes me feel better knowing that he hasn’t, in fact, also touched the seat, transferred those germs now to the toilet handle…

Bottom line? There is none. I still don’t know how I feel about it. I guess in my perfect world, he would use a piece of toilet paper to lift the seat, wash his hands every time he goes near a bathroom, and if he dribbles even on the rim, wipe it off, because the next person to lift up that seat is going to touch his dried up pee on the bottom of the seat and them I won’t be able to even touch the handle without disinfecting it first! Did I mention that I’m turning into my mother?! That’s for another day…

The Tooth Fairy

April 12, 2010-Previously pod on Facebook…
The joys of parenting-they just never stop!

Last night,I asked our 8 year-old son, who had just lost another tooth, if he was going to put it out for the Tooth Fairy. He added it to a previous tooth he’d lost in March, and put it under his pillow before bed. As I was getting him ready to sleep, I asked him if he wanted to keep the teeth or let the Tooth Fairy have them, because if he wanted to keep them, he’d have to leave the TF a note to that effect.

He got out his pad and pencil, and knowing this would take a while, I left the room to attend to other things. When I returned, he’d written:

“From Tucker, Dear Tooth Fairy
I’m putting 2 teeth under my pillow because I forgot to put the other one there when I lost it. What is your name?__________________
P.S. I want to keep them.
P.S.S. What is your name?________________________
Thanks,
Tucker”

I asked him “Isn’t the Tooth Fairy’s name Tooth Fairy?”

“Yes, but Riley’s Tooth Fairy is named George, and I want to know what mine is named!”

I asked him if he thought his was a girl or boy,( just so I could eliminate some names that I’d be choosing from). He didn’t know. I told him that since he lived in a family with 6 other females, it was probably a female,( but I didn’t want to rob him of a masculine connection if he had his heart set on another male joining the “virtual family”). He didn’t seem to care one way or another, so I threw out potential names to see what he thought. Finally, he said, “maybe it’s Melinda!” To which I couldn’t help but reply, “you might be right!”

Anyway, my wife got home after he went to bed and just as we were almost settled in for the night, I remembered my conversation with him and the need to put some money under his pillow (yes, the TF has forgotten many a night and “must have been really busy with other kids’ teeth!”. ) I recounted the story to her and we giggled hysterically as we tried on different names, imagining his smile when he discovered that his TF was named something queer like Esmerelda, or Fanny, even trying to come up with a middle name too..when finally it hit my wife- “PAT!”  That name, of course took me back to Saturday Night Live and that hilarious androgynous character from the 1990’s who one never knew if s/he was male or female!

Perfect! We couldn’t wait to see his reaction!

We were laughing hysterically as we completed his note with the name. I think we had a lot more fun than he did when he read it. It wasn’t the highlight of his morning. I don’t think he really cared. I think it just frustrated him more and he was NOT a happy camper!

The moral of the story? I guess it goes a lot deeper than the Tooth Fairy…
Do we lead our kids to believe in mysterious animals that bring loot for their teeth? Or eggs and candy at Easter? Or lots of presents at Christmas? Do kids grow up with better character, more trust, sense of reality when told the truth? Do we play down the excitement of fabricated stories that we heard when we were kids, or perpetuate the fantasy that we enjoyed as kids?

I don’t have the answer for that, but what I do know is that we should all laugh belly laughs every day if we can. I know for a fact that mine are too few and far between, but when they happen, and I feel the joy of my life and my family and the gems of innocence that our kids bring, it is the best present I can ever receive!
May your days be full of laughter and joy as well!

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