Tuesday, July 21, 2015

4 'How To Be a Lady' Lessons My Daughters Won't Be Learning From Me


So pleased to collaborate with BlogHer on this piece that is very near and dear to my heart. What lessons do we pass down to our daughters and why? Come join the discussion to find out which ones I won’t be sharing with my girls.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Craving Fundamentals

Sometimes when I am driving in the car, I will grip the wheel very tightly. I feel the leather slip between my fingers, its relative heat radiating off the bumps and groves of its rippled, manufactured skin. I like to linger there, perhaps too long, and to strangely take stock of the seemingly obvious fact that I am clutching a steering wheel.

I am holding something. It is right here. In my hands. I can look at it and touch and turn it. I know what it is. And if I show it to you, you too will agree that this is a steering wheel. Inexplicably as a parent, this is increasingly meaningful to me. As a parent in the age of Internet and social media, this is life, and air. Everything is opinion. Nothing is fact. I need to know what is real.

Sometimes I will spend all day with my kids and I will give every ounce of my physical and mental self and all of it will end with “you’re the worst.”

Why? Because I asked her to put on her water shoes, or I asked him to buckle his seatbelt, or I asked the baby not to floss with the car keys. It doesn’t really matter the exact nature of the alleged crime. I’m left feeling empty.

I’m the worst. I tried so hard. Still, I’m the worst.

So then I go online after bed because the mindlessness of the Internet is a balm on my irritated and tender soul like nothing I’ve known. I read three different things all telling me to put on bikini. Or don’t put it on. Or put it on my daughter. Or don’t. Because bikini wearing for anyone is bad and anti-feminist. Or bikini wearing is pro-feminism.

Almost everything I read is made up of slices of individual frames of reference. Maybe it always was. The Internet is a massive time suck that exists somewhere in this tiny chasm between both total permanence and impermanence. Everything is shaped and adjusted. Nothing lasts. Nothing is longer than 140 characters. Everything can be deleted except when it can’t. It is a giant candy colored existential brain fart. Objective truth seems to either not exist or at the very least is not relevant.

Life begins to feel a bit disorienting. It feels the way those pilots do when they fly into the straight line of the horizon forgetting too easily which blue is air and which is water. We begin to think they are interchangeable until they aren’t. That’s what it feels like when I worship too long at the altar of opinion:  my children, the blogosphere.  I begin to lose my view of the horizon. I crave fundamentals.

Isn’t it amazing how the universe has a way of sending what you need when you need it?

Enter Sister Gloria Jean.

My son wasn’t feeling well so I took him to the pediatrician. On the way out, the children noticed a car backing up and moved out of the way to avoid it. After the car parked, the driver got out and approached.

“You don’t need to worry. I could never miss children with hair that color. They are beautiful. Just so beautiful. My name is Sister Gloria Jean, and you have just beautiful children.”

She looked older. Not old, not elderly. But older than me, enough extra years on her to know more than I even realize at 37 that I’m missing. She was proud, with her hair curled, and a bright purple dress. In every way she was a complete stranger, yet for a reason I cannot explain the children and I drew closer to her. With no expectations, we leaned in.

“I can tell you are doing a good job. I can see they are alright with each other. That is because of you,” she joyfully exclaimed.
 
Amidst the scorched earth of motherhood, a veritable desert of unsolicited compliments, I greedily absorbed her kindness.

“You must know more, you have years of experience. What is the secret to all of this,” I asked, as if hoping that the universe had sent me some blissful key to parenting in the form of a brightly dressed stranger in a parking lot.

She didn’t answer. Instead she said, “Tell me their names.”

One by one they answered. The little one is Hope, I answered for her.

“Hope! Why you in the Bible baby! But only one thing is more important in the Bible than Hope. That’s Love.”

“That’s your answer. That’s all you need baby. Just love them. Just love each other. Just let them know that no matter what happens, they can always come home to your love.”

And then she bent down and asked if she could give them a hug. My children who correctly so do not normally feel comfortable embracing people who they don’t know, one by one stepped forward to wrap their arms around a complete stranger. Even the baby stepped up. When they were through, I found myself shyly inching forward.

“Of course Mama. You need one too.” Her embrace felt tight and familiar. It felt like kindness.

We climbed into our car. Lips sticky from the lollipops, our arms and hearts heavy with genuine human emotion. I gripped the steering wheel until the whites of my knuckles began to show. Her words were comforting, like the well-worn cotton of your favorite blanket and the cool straight lines of hard and simple truths.

It isn’t that complicated. I just need to love them.

With our sights on the clean and clearly visible lines of the horizon, we headed toward home.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

#iamwriting


I have been struggling lately with the space both physical and mental to make time for writing. I have a lot of excuses for why that is. But more than not, I think the reason I haven’t been writing is largely the same as the reason I ever did: it’s scary.

Writing prompts are short themed sort of micro essays that give you an opportunity to free write on a suggested topic. No pretense, no fear, no editing, no excuses: just write.

Today I decided to take 10 minutes out of my day to try this prompt by Dina Relles at Literary Mama. I am grateful to the Charlie Brown special on the television, the baby’s nap, and a one sided and protracted Monopoly game that conspired on this rainy day to make this possible. Today’s prompt centered at what bubbles up when you return to a place that holds memories for you.

So I thought to myself, where else do you go in the summer? Come join me at the beach….

 

*****

As a young girl, I never worried about the tide coming in too far or too fast. It was a foolishly held belief that is possible only when you are very young that I would somehow always be able to find my footing. I watched the top of the rock carefully to see how far the water was rising and looked for my mother on the shore. At the beach, I felt small and free. I would float amidst the seaweed and motor boat oil that drifts to the top in protected waters. When something like water that is meant to be free flowing is surrounded mostly by land, the feeling that a beach should have is largely an optical illusion. At the shore, you should stand at the edge of the water and feel as though there are no limits, no land. Everything is dangerous, yet possible. For children like myself who grew up on the shores of Long Island Sound, you buy into the flawed principle that life is entirely full of safe harbors. That we will always be swimming where we can see land. Until you can’t. The disorientation of adulthood, of realizing that our hearts almost always beat outside our own bodies and fully without knowledge of safe harbor on the other side of the expanse that is life, is utterly terrifying.

Now, as an adult with my own children’s hands held tightly in my own, I see that shadowy lump across the water for what it is: the promise of the unknown. The only guarantee we have on this journey is uncertainty. The motor boats rev their engines and the bar in the distance plays a cover of Dave Matthews’ Crash. The lemon ice mixes with the sand on my lips creating a savory yet sweet and gritty paste that I hastily run my tongue over. It is comforting to know there are certain things you can always count on, like the way sand manages to find its way into every crevice and orifice of your body, and the way it tastes. Amidst the endless brightly colored throws and buckets and discarded cigarette butts, there is a blanket of children’s laughter that wraps itself around me and takes up nearly the whole expanse of tiny shoreline. I look down at the flesh and curves of my babies beside me. I pray that they will not fall victim to the flawed expectation that shelter provides: to the assumption that there is one likely outcome and that passage through protected yet murky waters will necessarily prove safe.