So… my cat has started to pee on things. It started a few weeks back (I think?) when a neighbor’s cat got stuck in our stairwell. Ever since then my kitty has steadily refused his litter box.
Sometimes I look in the mirror when I’m holding Chick. You know… the whole “Who’s that baby?!” game tiny people find so exciting.
My baby looks like this:
For reals. I’m surprised people don’t ask if I’m the nanny.
That is all.
As many of you know, I did not know if chick was a boy or girl when I was pregnant. Infertility had left me with few surprises. I saw the moment the embryo was inserted into my uterus. I have the picture of him when he was just four cells old.
I wanted some Mystery.
So when Chick was born and I learned that he was in fact that he, I had this moment where I thought “Well, of course you are.” Not because I knew he was a boy, more like because I knew he was himself.
It wasn’t until several weeks later that it dawned on me dawned on me that I am now the mother to a son. It was a lovely sunny summer morning, I looked down at this angelic little face and I thought “Oh my god, I have given birth to the patriarchy.”
I have given birth to a white middle class man.
As funny as this sounds, I hadn’t really given thought to raising a boy. I thought a lot about raising a child. And yes, technically boys are children, so why would raising a boy or a girl be different?
Though I wish it were otherwise, we live in a highly gendered society and there are certain considerations for raising boys versus girls. For example, Chick is on the smaller side. This is what happens when the bun comes out of the oven early– he gets a little underdone and needs to keep cooking on the outside. I’m okay with this. He is healthy, eating well, gaining weight. And yet people always feel compelled to tell me “Not to worry. He’ll get bigger.”
Um… I’m not worried. He is fine. Besides, it isn’t like he would likely be some godzilla baby anyway. Mr. O and I aren’t terrible large humans. But I’m apparently supposed to be worried that my 4.5 month old isn’t the size of a linebacker already to the point I need a lot of reassurance. I was talking about this to a friend who has a daughter 4 months older than Chick and is admittedly petite. Her daughter was smaller than Chick at his age, and all anyone could say was how cute and tiny she was.
No cautionary cause for alarm. No reassuring comments about how her baby would soon be the size of a Thanksgiving turkey.
Lesson learned: Boys should be big and girls should be small. Lame. And yet predictably so.
There are also considerations for raising children in different racial or ethnic groups. I’d like to get all “we are the world” about this, but let’s just be grown ups for a minute. These differences are real and it’s a bigger disservice to run around pretending they don’t exist.
My baby is waaaay white. Sometimes I look at his beautiful blue eyes and think “Where did this Aryan child come from?” No one would guess for a millisecond that his is ¼ Puerto Rican. (Hell, most people can’t believe I’m 50%.) He won’t walk into a store and have people instantly wonder if he is going to steal anything. That is, unless he is wearing a ski mask. Then they might get a little concerned.
The thing is I know a whole lot of perfectly nice white middle class men. I’m even married to one. And yet, I will admit I’m always a little on the defense when I encounter one in the wild. Though I don’t clutch my purse and cross the street, I do wonder if he votes republican or will attempt to mansplain why there is a wage gap. This isn’t nice, but it is. Okay? It just is.
I want Chick to know that by virtue of being born to a certain race, class, and gender, he has some preset advantages other people don’t have. I don’t think he should have to apologize for them, but I also don’t want him to run around thinking the way he is treated in the world is how everyone gets treated. Unfairness is inherent in our society, and he happens to have drawn the longest straw.
In summary, how do I raise a little boy to not suck?
It’s that time of year, friends. When Starbucks red cups abound, and people shriek in terror that we’re declaring a war on Christmas because they can’t find anything else better to do.
If you’re me, it’s also that time of year when impatient relatives start asking where you are spending the holidays, with the implicit expectation that you’ll be spending it with them. (Obviously.)
This year we have the added pressure of “Where are you spending Chick’s first Christmas?!”
Answer? Not with any of you motherf*ckers.
Strangely, my family has been pretty okay with this answer. Maybe it is because I’ve been living so far away from them for so long that they’ve gotten used to not seeing me around the Christmas table. Maybe it is because they pragmatically understand that I burned through every last second of vacation time while I was trying to make up for the 4 week gap between when my leave ended and daycare started. (One of the many complications of having your baby show up waaaaay ahead of schedule.)
No, no…this particular episode of crazy is brought to us by the following sponsors: Mr. O’s dad and Mr. O’s mom. (Seperately. Because let us remember that they dislike each other so much I’m sure they would be appalled I just lumped them into one sentence with nary a comma between them.)
Christmas was always difficult for Mr. O as a kid. In fact, he hated Christmas when I first met him. I couldn’t understand why. Christmas is filled with presents, singing, long lazy days in your pj’s by the fire! Not his. His were filled with being shuttled from one house to the next, waking up before dawn to spend hours in the car, typically culminating with a fight between his two parents.
After a few years of witnessing this first hand, I got it. Christmas as he knew it did suck. Does suck. Because it is December 25th or nothing. If we don’t spend December 25th with his mother or father, they both believe that it’s like we didn’t see them at all. If we manage to squeeze them both in? It’s a question of who we saw first. Or for the longest time. There is always a yardstick that we are not measuring up to.
As I’ve mentioned before, Mr. O is determined that this won’t happen to Chick. There will not be two Christmases or two Thanksgivings. We’ll have ONE, and if people want to come and act civil, that’s wonderful. But as I saw first hand in the Baby Shower Skirmish, civil is too much to ask for.
So how do two grown ups deal with a situation like this? Run away! RUN AWAY!
If all goes well, we’ll be spending Christmas in a cabin on a farm. Just the three of us. I’m planning on naps, hot cocoa, and watching Chick play with wrapping paper.
The thing is I know that this decision will not go over well. And you know what? I kinda don’t care. No, wait… I ACTUALLY DON’T CARE.
Mr. O is all about fleeing for the holidays. In fact, he wants this to be our tradition– we always go some place else. Maybe it is a way for him to separate our family from the clear dysfunction of his. We’ll be our own unit, with our own traditions. In theory, I’m okay with this. I really don’t like Christmas with his family because there is so much tension and so little joy. Where this solution starts to break down is when I think back on my family Christmases. I remember the excitement of being the first person up in the morning so I could open the advent calendar my mom made by hand. I have such great memories of listening to Bing on the turntable and singing “Mele Kalikimaka” loudly (and poorly.) And later, I love the tradition my parents introduced of letting the grandchildren pick one ornament off their tree for the kids to take home for keeps.
But, as Mr. O points out, it’s hard to sell his family on not being home for the holidays when that really means pointedly not being with his parents. It almost would make the matter worse.
This year, we’re sticking to our guns and running for the hills. Next year? Not quite sure how that’s going to shake out. Maybe by that time, everyone will have stopped talking to us. One can only hope!
The other day, my brother posted something ominous on Facebook. One of those “something isn’t quite right” posts. So I reached out to him over email and asked what’s going on.
A lot of no good, that’s what. I won’t go into details, but basically he’s dealing with his own shitstorm.
And I know a thing or two about shitstorms, amiright? Like a good sibling, I offered up my version of a pep talk.
ME: So often in the past few years, I’ve had to remind myself that we don’t pick the challenges we face in life. But we do decide how we’ll get through them. So I guess the question is, how do you want to get through this? This isn’t a question that you need to answer for me. More like a question I ask myself all the time (it seems like) and helps me refocus.
BRO: I choose to think of what is happening to me right now like living through a hurricane. You hunker down and wait for sunny skies.
My first reaction was “Wrong answer.” Amended to “Wrong answer for me. I need to scream into the storm.”
The trouble is that when you treat your life as a hurricane you assume that the hard stuff is temporary. That what you’re going through will pass. What if it doesn’t? What if these proverbial sunny skies don’t actually materialize?
Is this how we divide up the world? Into hunker-downers and storm-screamers? I don’t mean to imply one is inherently better than the other. My brother, for example, wouldn’t find my tactics of facing my trauma head on remotely do-able. Honestly, it would likely be more harmful to him. Just like for me, the hunker down method would probably deaden me inside. (Dramatic, but also accurate.)
There is, of course, a value to conserving emotional energy. I know now that I sometimes need help, to admit I can’t do “ALL THE THINGS.” This has been one of the many painful lessons I’ve learned. But there is a part of me that feels my brother is being naive in thinking that it will get better.
Does this make me a jaded asshole?