Monday, October 16, 2017

Mom in Charge

I had an epiphany this morning in the midst of an untimely Toddlersaurus eruption. And several hours later, I am thankful to her meltdown for my sparkly cool fingers and toes. As for my great awakening--I am DONE with feeling like I'm one of the worst mothers in the world. And I am done with feeling guilt that because the Hub has more patience, he is the better parent. Because that's bullshit. He is the indulgent parent, and this morning before I left him at home with a half naked child who should have been on her way to dance class, I told him as much. Because if she climbs up on my television set one more time...

This morning began with me doing dishes, making coffee, setting out her breakfast, fixing her snack, and then getting myself ready to dash out of the house to take the kid to her "dance class" (which is really just a movement class where I get to dress her up in a tutu and watch her run around for 40 minutes). The Hub was working from home today. So as I was busy in the kitchen, they were in the living room together--he at his computer and she at her table. I announced to both of them that we needed to get ready for dance class after I finished up in the kitchen. Which was the first mistake I made, but we will revisit that a little later.

Fast forward to the point when we had only a 15 minute window to get her dressed and strapped in the car to leave, and I had to call downstairs for a second time for her to come up to her room. The Hub carried her upstairs, then she hurled herself onto the floor while he was standing in the doorway asking her to calm down. Of course because Mommy was already annoyed that we were behind on time, I barrel into her room to tell her that we need to change her clothes for dance. Her response was to bite into her pajamas and collapse into a pile of clothes in her closet. You get where this is going...

In response, I told her that if she refused to get dressed, then we would not go to dance class. Then I turned to the Hub to add that I could go to the nail salon instead. She calmed down a little so I ask him (who was still watching from the doorway) to hand me her special light up shoes that matched her tutu. But she got a second wind and began to kick me, so I declared that we would not be going to dance class today, nor would she be allowed to watch any of her favorite TV shows. And then I went downstairs to gather my things. I can't recall how she ended up downstairs with me, but she noticed that I had made good on half of my threat, so she began to moan the name of her favorite show and then climbed onto the TV.

Meanwhile, the Hub came downstairs with her tutu and her special shoes. She was still screaming at the top of her lungs and had worked herself into a frenzy. He intercepted one of her trips from the living room to the kitchen with a pacifier, and the next thing I heard were pleas to allow him to dress her so that he could take her to dance.

I was livid. The color I chose for my hands was called Cosmo with a Twist.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Insufficient Bandwidth

My BFF and I were talking recently and she used the title phrase to describe her inability to manage the constant changing dynamics of unmet expectations. And I got it. I might have been one of the people who had made a promise that I was unable to keep.

It is how I would describe my mood today (Saturday) after realizing last night how full my emotional plate had become. I was getting hit with unrelenting sad, tragic, and senseless news about others, in addition to some of the remaining psychic trauma I have been carrying from back-to-back natural disasters and living in the Era of the Trumpet. Add in my many personal disappointments and shortcomings, my high-strung daughter for whom every little thing is a crisis, my own unmet expectations, and just being 43 years old with a high-strung Toddlersaurus...

I can relate. These are a few of the things that I will no longer manage because I have insufficient bandwidth:

I will no longer worry about folks who do not show much concern for my Mom. I will not bother with staying in touch beyond holiday courtesies, and since I will probably take over the Christmas card list for my Dad this year, I'm guessing that I will be doing some heavy editing or they'll be getting the cheap cards.

I will no longer worry about the feelings or concerns of family or friends who don't respond to my generosity or outreach. I don't think it is too much to receive a text or a even a FB shout-out if I do something nice.

I will no longer expect that people will act out of appreciation for past generosity or respect. All debts are officially wiped out, so I don't expect anything from anyone anymore. And I hope you will do the same for me.

I am not taking on anyone else's children.

If we don't really know each other, my parting shot in any divergence of opinion will generally be "bless your heart". I have opinions and I don't like to be challenged, so even if you are a supporter of the current President, I will not attempt to shame or dissuade you. Bless your heart.

I will not tolerate anyone coming for any of my friends on my FB page or Twitter timeline. Meaning, I keep a jar of Vaseline by my keyboard. Don't do it!

I will try to overlook assaults on the English language caused by constant misspellings or poor grammar on social media.

I am not offended by being called a snowflake since I got a crew, and all of us coming at you is called a snowball, or perhaps even an avalanche.

I've got a toddler and a parent with dementia. I'm doing my best to keep my head above water with them, so I probably can't help you beyond a certain point. And I can't manage your issues.

I don't have Messenger on my phone. I am over GroupMe. My cell phone carrier charges for conference calls. I rarely check my email. I might miss the meeting. If you need to reach me, you've got my number. If you don't, then you don't need me.

Eyes on Me, Please

Blackish is one of those shows that I intend to watch, but rarely do for whatever reason. For example, while everyone was all excited about the premier episode and it's clever nods to School House Rock and also to Hamilton, I was watching This is Us (because Randall, duh). The same thing happened again this week, but someone posted this clip from the week's episode that dealt with Bow's postpartum depression, and I got lucky to see the entire episode shortly thereafter.

And well, my initial reaction is how significant it is to see this issue addressed on television, especially featuring a black woman. I give show creator Kenya Barris credit for confronting the various aspects of postpartum depression; but (and of course there is a but) it might have been nice if the entire episode had been written from the perspective of a woman going through postpartum instead of how it feels to be the guy watching it happen. Save for the showdown scene between Bow and Ruby, the show was focused on how everyone else dealt with Bow's malaise.

Does anyone else think life for women would generally improve overall if the men in their lives stopped focusing on how our issues affect them?

That scene between Bow and Ruby was shocking and perfectly captured a lot of the angst legions of women probably feel about confronting others when they overstep boundaries. It also addressed how debilitating the anxiety can be for new mothers surrounded by well-meaning people who offer help in the form of judgment (ask me how I know). I certainly could relate to feeling like new motherhood was a bad ride at a crummy amusement park and that the people around me were so much more focused on making sure the kid was strapped in properly. My husband took two months of leave from work, which is absolutely fantastic when one considers how men rarely get that much leave. Yet, he drove me nuts!

I assumed that it was just his exuberance over having a baby, and then all of the anxiety of being a first-time father, so I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. I was experiencing all of the same euphoria and nervousness in addition to all of the physical and psychological issues that come with having a baby. But somehow, my husband forgot that other stuff.

I will not recount all of my ailments, the issues with breast-feeding, the changes in my body image, the pressure to adjust to my new normal, or the fact that I had no meddling mother or mother in law to offer me any respite. But watching that clip reminded me of how frustrating it was to feel so alone and unsupported. Which you might read and wonder how could she feel that way since her husband was at home for two months??! And my response would be yes, he was physically there to assist with the baby. But I did not feel that he was there for ME.

This is not an isolated experience. I have read accounts shared by plenty of other women that reflect this same reality--how we are there for our children, our spouses, our parents, our friends, etc., but struggle to see how many of those same people are there for us.

Need proof? Consider that when Dre first realized that his wife might have postpartum, he discussed how to diagnose it with his male co-workers. When Dre continued to feel powerless about his inability to solve his wife's issues, he discussed it with his Dad. I'm not picking on him unnecessarily, because he genuinely tried to talk to his wife and offer her empathy. Ultimately, his goal was to return things to normal...but for whom?

I'm not a therapist so I have no automatic answers for how I overcame my own postpartum issues. I sought treatment on my own and received a prescription. I tried to connect with other mothers. I participated in an online community and found a few women in my circle who were very supportive. I wrote. I cried. I prayed. I got my nails done. Eventually, I did have the BIG confrontation with the Hub, and I think he bought me some flowers from the grocery store.

I still struggle with feeling that my issues cause more discomfort for him, instead of feeling sufficient empathy for what it must be like to be me. I know I'm not alone, but no one has invented an empathy machine yet. So until that time, there are other comforts: new shoes, Sephora, Amazon Prime, whatever show everybody is watching, different nail colors by OPI, podcasts and audio books, New Edition, girls' nights, meal delivery kits, and this handy carrier. You're welcome.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Hefty Legacy

It's complicated when a famous person dies and your opinion about that person varies depending on the specific issue raised when addressing that person's life.

Way back in the day, I wrote about Hugh Hefner for one of my original Fried Chicken pieces. The funny thing about re-reading that piece is that I was still double-spacing between sentences. The sad thing about re-reading that piece is realizing how spot on it was if I had been writing all of this in tribute to him right now. So I will not re-write anything from the past. I will instead assess Hefner for what I think of him right now. And it's complicated.

It's complicated to wonder about all of the mayhem that went down at that mansion, especially when it was revealed that Bill Cosby allegedly assaulted a woman there. Surely, in all the years that the Playboy Mansion was in operation as a House of Orgies fueled by drugs and alcohol, only ONE person was allegedly raped???

It's complicated to wonder about the stories told by the various exes about life in Hef's Harem. When you read them, are we at all disgusted or do we dismiss each woman as an opportunist with no opinion at all about the Wizard behind the curtain?

It's complicated to reconcile that Hefner considered himself a feminist. For when it came to supporting women's reproductive rights and health, certainly we can applaud him for being ahead of his peers in that respect. But he was in the business of selling sex, so supporting women's empowerment through birth control and access to abortion rights is great...and even greater for men who want the freedom to fuck and avoid fatherhood (yeah, I said it).

It's complicated that Hefner was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. One of his best friends was Bill Cosby, who was also an activist. Alex Haley wrote for the magazine in the 60s and his interviews with both Malcolm X and MLK were published therein. Yet, in the history of a magazine that has been published since the 50s, how many black women were playmates? (I only counted 30 names on Wikipedia.) That doesn't imply that Hefner wasn't progressive on race, but take a look at these past centerfolds and consider how Playboy reinforced certain stereotypes on black beauty.

And I get that he was just one man. He was human, so of course he was complicated. He lived a long life, through turbulent and changing times. He could have chosen to just publish smutty pictures of women, with no impulse to take a political stance on anything. He was in the entertainment business of selling men fantasies. And that made him very, very rich. And he used that money to fund a hedonist lifestyle.

Judging him now feels like a cheap shot. He's dead. He was an old man who finally found happiness after a life of searching. Or perhaps he found happiness long ago, so maybe it was love that he really wanted all of those years. So why judge him for living on his own terms when everybody else who chose to travel in his orbit knew the deal and played along? But (and this is the final but), don't airbrush his legacy like one of those Playboy pictorials either. Tell the truth, the full unvarnished complicated truth.

He's dead.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

These Are the Days

Days after I post an article about wanting to be helpful to those in need, I need a whole lot of help my damn self. Because this daughter of mine has plucked every single raw nerve. Which isn't unusual, but somehow today it seemed like the pulling and the tugging was more intense, like her purpose was not just to hear a sound but to actually render me numb.

So I will keep this rant pretty short. She had been ultra clingy all morning. My left knee has been swollen. I was up cooking last night. This morning I was doing the sous chef thing to prepare our snacks. I had plans to leave the house by noon, but that didn't happen. I had a few other things going on, including a bit of an attitude about feeling like I'm always offering and giving help but never getting anything remotely close in return.

I was tired. Suddenly it was almost three o'clock. She followed me upstairs to the bathroom. I just wanted half a moment of peace, which she obliged for exactly one moment before she had me in a choke hold. I went back downstairs to clean up all of her damn toys AGAIN. I decided I wanted a hamburger, and since she was still wide awake, I decided to drive to Five Guys. And of course, as soon as we disembarked from the car, she lost her ever-loving mind.

She got her very first public spanking. And yes, I looked like one of those harried radioactive mothers in the grocery store, so everyone looked uncomfortable and concerned as her cries echoed through the plaza. And suddenly I must have grown an extra arm or something because I had scooped her up along with my ginormous Mom bag, her lunch bag, the bag from Five Guys with our remaining fries, and two drinks. Luckily the car wasn't that far away.

And now she's asleep.

Maybe in a few years I will look back on this post and vaguely remember what transpired. Maybe the memory will make me chuckle. She might be beyond choking me with her aggressive hugging. She should definitely be potty trained, able to clean up her own bodily fluids. She probably won't demand that I play the music from her favorite PBS Kids show since she will likely have moved on to something more obnoxious playing from her own device with headphones to ignore me. She's two; soon she'll be twelve with ten years of accumulated antics.

Don't remind me of how quickly time passes because I look at her now and no longer see that sweet-faced baby who never napped when I needed a break. And then I look in the mirror and wonder how my mother managed not to lose it with me (and then I remember that she did, plenty of times and publicly) so then I sigh. And for a brief moment, I allow myself to get lost in some long buried memory of getting popped upside the head for not listening to her...

Well, rant over. She'll be fully recharged soon.

Monday, September 25, 2017

How Can I Help?

We find ourselves in the midst of a season where there is great need. Natural disasters that have impacted people in various parts of the country and the world expose the vulnerability of human life in the face of Mother Nature. We can debate whether these hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires, and landslides are due to climate change spurred on by human behavior...but first we need to provide some form of relief for the suffering.

I didn't watch much of the news coverage the weekend when Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida, but when I was able to check in, I was heartbroken by the prospect of so much destruction. And then last week, Hurricane Maria apparently destroyed whatever was left untouched by Irma. And in the midst of those events, two massive earthquakes have hit Mexico. To imagine that level of destruction is overwhelming. Unfathomable. There are people who have lost everything--from possessions to their lives in the matter of weeks. And with more hurricanes and tropical weather patterns on the way, the worse may be yet to come.

When I first started to write this, I wanted to address the question posed by my title, which is what can the rest of us do. We are in that awkward place of wanting to offer assistance, without any specific ideas of what that might entail. Unless you work for a power company, are a construction worker, or a medical professional, there really isn't that much tangible the rest of us can do.

So we start with prayer. I am a firm believer that offering prayers in troubling times is doing something. I know that some might argue that God allowed this destruction, so why turn to Him after the fact? Well, because God is a comforter and a healer. God sent the rainbow after the great flood to remind us that He is always there. And despite all of the destruction and chaos, God is here and will restore and fortify what has been lost.

We can also give, which is the second thing we should do in the aftermath of a disaster. A monetary donation to an on-the-ground relief organization in the initial days after a disaster helps to provide immediate resources that serve the most vulnerable. Food, clothing, and shelter are our most basic needs, so giving to a reputable charity or relief organization, local or national, is always a good choice.

It has been three weeks since I started writing this, and typically my life has been so hectic that I couldn't find enough time to get back to finish this piece as I intended. And I've only gotten more ashamed after each subsequent disaster that I wasn't more focused. Despite sharing information on the Busy Black Woman FB page, my agitation has been how could I do more than just post links. Because one of the unintended consequences of not immediately giving or responding to a disaster relief is that life happens. We may have good intentions, but it is easy to get sidetracked. To get lazy. To forget. And then to do nothing...

Monday, September 4, 2017

September Summer

I was in denial the week after July 4th when I started seeing back to school displays going up at my local Target, but now those are slowly making way for Halloween displays. Which means the summer is pretty much over and I don't have much to show for it.

No tan lines to take forever to fade away like in years past. No memories from summer barbecues to reminisce about with the friends who were there with me (and who witnessed the same crazy). No summer concerts down on the Mall. No drive-in movies or even a full outdoor movie that we didn't have to leave halfway through because of rain. No backyard barbecues or pool time.

But I did manage to lose a little weight in spite of my broken promise to participate in a workout group. I did get a glimpse of what my day could be like for a few hours without a toddler running around. I did get to see a movie at the theater, including the opening previews. I sat and watched my daughter run after fireflies (and inadvertently kill a few because she squeezed them too hard).

This summer is almost a wrap. We will have one quick beach weekend soon so that I can pretend to get a tan. I might blow up that discount pool that I got from Target so that the kid and I can have a few pool days in the backyard. I might get her cousin so that we can take a drive out to see the wild horses, and then maybe we might spend the evening at one of those dinky amusement park/carnivals. And I might get the chance to go someplace fancy so that I can finally wear one of those cute sundresses that I have been saving for a special occasion.

September comes so fast and then it serves as a reminder that December is also coming. Because alongside those garish Halloween displays of stuff nobody needs, there is a small space saved for Christmas ornaments and lights, which will slowly expand to encompass an entire aisle by the end of the month. And once the entire aisle is devoted to Christmas stuff, it feels like the year continues to speed up and then September becomes that transition month when we remember doing a few remaining summer activities. The month when we lament what we didn't do in July and August.

I know that there are all of these arguments out there for why we need to have our children in school all year and other arguments that summer is kind of a waste considering that most of us don't live on farms, but I miss summer. I miss the idea of slowing down to take in a few activities that don't have a time limit. I miss the pleasure of doing things that can only be done during this time of year, like watching my daughter chase fireflies or run around outside barefoot. Like hanging out with my niece all day with no real idea of what we might do, and then just going for it.

For instance, I am seriously thinking that the girls need to have a lemonade stand next summer for no reason in particular. We can spend all day working on their storefront and then set up the next day right in my front yard. And then sell our homemade concoction for some ridiculously stupid amount of money with no charitable intentions, just for the fun of it. Do kids do that anymore?

Does anybody do anything without any purpose or end game?

I know I'm on a weird nostalgic bend of late, and it could be that I am feeling my age or looking it or just accepting it. I have a toddler who is still very much my baby, but also getting more independent each day. Next year, she should finally be potty-trained(!) and it will be our last carefree summer because she'll be three and that's when we're supposed to jump on the hamster wheel. And the fact I am hesitant to do that is putting me in a state. I am not looking to delay the inevitable, but then again maybe, I am. Because as soon as we have to go to Target in the middle of July with a back to school list of supplies, I suddenly become that Mom who realizes that she has no life.

But then again, I might actually get something done around here. And when September rolls around again, I can declare that this was the summer that I did something.