Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.
Navigation

Entries in children (20)

Sunday
Aug122012

Happy Birthday to You... And Just You.

"I can't believe I'm never going to be two again!" he says. 

It's said with an angst reserved only for middle aged existentialists who've come upon the realization that life is fleeting and we're all going to, gulp, die. But this boy is only three today, and this is why friends of mine refer to him as "the evil genius."With the girl, it's all sensitive, morose observations sprinkled with feathery head bands and ruffled skirts.

The boy, though, he's all passion, intensity and drama. This is great, except the combination of intellect and uncontrolled passion often results in island lairs guarded by sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. I know intimately the drawbacks of this situation. For example, the real estate market for unloading an evil lair is incredibly bad this year. I blame the peace loving nonsense propaganda disseminated by seemingly benign entities like the Olympics or the people who post cute kitten videos on YouTube.

Evil just isn't as sexy as it used to be.

I have this habit of calling my kids "baby." It was a cute habit, but now it's a bad one, I think. Because they're not babies. You shouldn't call people who are not babies that unless they're Jennifer Grey or you're advertising Virginia Slims.

It's Tariq's birthday, too. Unlike the passionate reaction of his son, Tariq stands quietly in the background also absorbing the fact that his son is no longer two years old and never will be again.

His face reveals more than that, though. Maybe he's realizing that he, too, will never again be the age he was yesterday. Does this happen to everyone? I find that I tend to focus on the complex so much that the simple things like "you'll never cross the same river twice" escape me. Or rather I just forget about them until I'm suddenly jolted back into the reality of the simple.

There's a  symbolism of this shared birthday between my son and my husband.

All of his life, August 12th was Tariq's birthday. Today, he is a neatly wrapped, understated, high quality laptop backpack sitting quietly in the corner observing wildly arranged boxes containing Lincoln Logs, Hot Wheels, Tinker Toys and Lightning McQueen inspired merchandise. He, being the lovely man he is, has graciously deferred to this changing of the tide.

Like we all tend to do when it comes to the children. 

Whether in blogging or literature, there's much emphasis on the relegation of a mother's needs and the shifting of emphasis on the children't wants, needs and desires. I seldom consider the adjustments that the fathers in our lives have to make. Great dads give up just as much as great moms. We shouldn't forget that. I shouldn't forget that.

I want to grab my husband and tell him that he is still so important. That without him, there would be none of this. I want to remind him that I promise that in honoring the boy, I am also honoring him. My dear friend and husband doesn't require this, of course, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be said.

I love these kids, Tariq, but nothing will ever change the fact that you were loved first. 

Today, on your birthday, I want you to remember that while you sit gracefully in the background and let your boy have the fun, that I see you

I appreciate you. 

I am so very glad that you were born. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.

I have had the honor of watching you celebrate the past sixteen birthdays  of your life and, though I'm stunned that it's even possible -- you become a better man every single year.

August 12th is my son's birthday.

But it was my husband's birthday first.

I want him to remember that I know that and I still honor that.

Monday
May212012

Undefined: Working Outside of the Box with Parental Identities

Faiqa's Notes: Often I blog about identity on here as it relates to race or religion. Today, in this guest post, we'll learn about liminal identities that exist outside the boundaries to which we're accustomed. Thanks for taking the time to read and thank you, Rachel Reynolds, for the openness and compassion with which you share your experience.

***

 

 Our identity is the way in which we meet the world.  We present ourselves to the public in ways that are obvious and unchangeable (our gender and race) as well as in ways that require slightly more preamble. Sometimes we give outward hints to our identity through our clothing (an executive power suit, mom jeans), our leisure activities (fishing enthusiast, crafty crafter, football fan), our behavior, and our relationships (divorced, married, "just friends").

Sometimes those outward signs of an identity may mask a true reality. How many Lifetime movies are built around the premise of the woman who shows the world she has it "all together" but hides her destructive behavior/addiction/illegal act/mental illness from the outside world until it all comes crashing down?  These movies may be fiction but chances are good that someone in your neighborhood is living that life right now.

In the last two years, I have struggled with my identity.  While I am reasonably sure I know who I am, I am challenged by how I now present myself to the world.  

In January 2010, I faced the death of my only child.  

People who knew me before that date would probably tell you that my identity is fairly clear and relatively unchanged.  I am, among other things, mom to Charlotte Jennie. When I make new acquaintances, though, the line gets kind of blurry.  

A conversational topic seems banal until it strikes a nerve.  It's amazing how often the subject of your children (or lack thereof) will come up in casual conversation.  In college, the go-to personal questions were, "Where are you from?” or "What's your major?"  As adults, our small-talk shifts to "What do you do for a living?" "Are you married" and "Do you have children?"

How do I answer that last question?  In the past, the answer was the same no matter who was making the query.  Now the answer I give is dependent on multiple factors.  How well do I know this person?  How much will I interact with them after this conversation?  How do I think they may react to my answer?  Is this a business situation, a social situation, or just a casual conversation?  How vulnerable am I feeling today?  Answers to those questions usually determine how I respond.

Option 1
Question: "Do you have children?"
Answer: "No."
Pros: It's easy and deflects the conversation immediately away from a difficult subject. 
Cons: It's not really true.  I'm a mom and always will be.  

Option 2
Question: "Do you have children?"
Answer: "Not right now."
Pros: A more honest answer and relatively deflectable.  If someone's not paying attention, they usually don't catch the subtlety of my answer and move on.
Cons: If they are paying attention, follow up questions usually ensue.  

This leads us to...

Option 3
Question: "Do you have children?"
Answer: "I had a daughter and she died two years ago."
Pros: The most honest answer I can give.
Cons: The conversation gets awkward.  

A frequent reaction is, "I'm so sorry."  This is totally appropriate.  Sometimes people will ask follow up questions (“What happened?”).  Usually this is ok because I love talking about my daughter and I don't mind sharing our story.  Sometimes people are clearly unsure of how to respond and I look for ways to change the subject in an effort to deflect further awkwardness.  I have relative degrees of success with this.  More interesting reactions include immediate change of subject (as if I never said anything at all) or reactions like, "That's just terrible.  That's the worst thing I've ever heard."  I'm not sure if someone thinks they are being comforting when they say that, but they're not.  I think I know just how terrible it is.  I don't need reassurance or confirmation.    

Follow up questions are ok and usually lead to conversations around our foundation, treatment of brain tumors or other cancers, or questions about Charlotte herself.  I don't usually feel people have crossed the line until they ask the inevitable and most awkward question possible, "Will you ever have more children?"  

I don't have an easy answer to this question and it's rather painful to discuss so let's just say this is where I look to end the conversation as quickly as possible.  

I wish there was a word for who I am right now.  A widow is a woman whose spouse has died. The word is most immediately derived from the Sanskrit word widnewa, meaning "to be empty" or "to be separated".  An orphan is a child who has lost both parents, derived from the Greek word orbhmeaning "to change allegiance or status".  There is no word for a parent who has lost a child.  I think I need a word.  

When a lexical gap like this one occurs, sometimes society fills the void with new vocabulary.  The English language is composed of many words that have their derivation in Greek, Latin, or Germanic/Slavic languages. Words that have been in our vocabulary for centuries are often synergistic creations formed from the roots of these langaugesarthritis: joint inflammation, kindergarten: child's garden.  Frequent use makes it a "real" and recognized word.  

Likewise, most modern novel vocabulary seems to be made of word "mashupsSpork, frenemy, ringtone, brunch...these are all words that have filled lexical gaps as the need evolves.    

I have thought of a few options.  Childless doesn't seem right as that implies that parentage was never established to begin with.  We could create words like apedia, literally meaning "child loss" in Latin, or kindertodwhich translates as "child death" but these are more descriptions of what happened, not a description of the grieving person's identity.  Clearly, I'm not the first grieving parent to address this challenge but my research hasn't yielded any success in this endeavor.  

At the very least, it is an interesting statement on our society that this lexical gap even exists.  Losing a child is wrong, unnatural, and unfair. I continue to grieve.  I continue to heal.  I continue to allow my identity to evolve.  

 

Rachel Reynolds is a special educator and freelance writer. She writes for a variety of online publications, including her personal blog,See What You MemeShe is also the co-founder and executive director of CJ's Thumbs Up Foundation (CJSTUF)Rachel lives in Ashland, Virginia with her husband and two incredibly annoying (but completely adorable) cats. In her spare time, she obsesses over Don Draper, dark chocolate, and public radio personalities (not necessarily in that order). Four Seasons for Charlotte is her first book. 

 

If you would like to win an autographed copy of Rachel's new book, Four Seasons for Charlotte: A Parent’s Year With Pediatric Cancer, you can enter the giveaway on her author page on FacebookThe giveaway will be open until June 1st.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit

Friday
May042012

Oh, but Parenting is, in fact, "a Job" @betadad

In addition to being timely, dependable, a great dad and a rakishly handsome dead ringer for Sting, my friend Betadad is an excellent writer.

All that complimenting, of course, means I'm going to disagree with him. I was going to e-mail him, but then I thought, you know, why waste five hundred words on a one person audience when I can publicly disagree with him in front of tens of people by writing a whole post.

Okay, it's hundreds. Not tens. I do have my pride. 

In a post on Dadcentric that critiques what I agree is a stupid commercial aimed at getting people to purchase soap by propagating an idea of parenting and motherhood that would seem more at home in a Greek tragedy, Betadad dismisses the idea that parenting is a job, at all:

We could have a very long and pointless discussion about what makes a job "hard" or "dirty" or "bad" or even "rewarding," but that would be beside the point.  The thing is, parenting is not a job.  It has some things in common with a job, sure, but it's a whole different animal.  We don't get paid to parent.  We can't quit if we get pissed off.  We can't look around for better parenting gigs.  We can't sue our employer.  We don't have an employer.  We don't have the option of not taking our work home with us.  We generally don't receive any training, on-the-job or otherwise. 

Well. I don't know.

If we're talking about job in the sense of being paid, then, yes, unless hugs, smiles and poopy diapers count, we are not, in fact, paid. But the word "job" doesn't just include work that is paid. While this is certainly the primary definition, my dear friend the former English teacher and Sting look alike, I believe the informal usage of "job" can refer to general tasks, paid or not.

Being the parent of small children can make you either want to tear your hair out or it can make you think you got this parenting thing in the bag. Truth is, that give or take ten years, you've got another forty or so years before you're not that child's parent any more due to the whole heart not beating any more thing.  If your kids aren't teenagers yet, you're about one thirtieth of the way through.

Saying parenting is not a job when you're three years in feels premature.

And when it's stated that one cannot be fired from this job? Having fired a parent myself, I know this to be completely false. The parent I've fired is still and always will be my biological parent, but they will never, ever hold the trust that a parent deserves. My spiritual and cultural beliefs dictate that they are treated with courtesy and respect. But my heart fired them a long time ago.

They were fired because they quit. They were fired because they tried to find a better gig. They were fired because they went to far away places and never bothered to take their work with them.

So, Betadad, it's easy to say that this isn't a job when you didn't have someone quit on you.

Furthermore, I say, yes, this is a job. I work hard every day not to be the kind of parent that will be fired. I worry every day about dropping that ball, about unconsciously quitting, about slipping into a better gig without realizing it until its too late and I'm left wondering why those damned kids never call me. We don't get paid, that's true, but we can get fired. To me, that's enough to make me want to work very hard and do a good job of it.

Furthermore, I hold the people who do this job well in high regard and esteem because I know, from experience, that they absolutely have a choice even if they think they don't.

Now, is parenting the hardest job? I don't know about that. My understanding is that dumpsters have to be cleaned and scraped on a bi-annual basis. My vote is with the dumpster cleaners.

Photo Credit

Thursday
Sep082011

Home Sweet High Rise

We're here.

I'm going to do a run-down in the form of a bullet post because, hi, I just moved away from my home state that I lived in my entire life and I do not need the pressure of writing a whole post, so why don't you back off already...

Um.  So, that was me talking to myself.  Okay... bullets...

  • Road trip. We split the drive to Memphis up over two days this past weekend.  It would've been 13 hours straight, but someone in this family hates road trips.  That someone is also the only other licensed driver in the family.

  • Tariq drove. The entire time.  I suggested this was because he's a control freak.  He explained that it was because he wanted me to relax and didn't want me to stress about having to drive, too.  He apparently does not have any problem with making me feel like the biggest jerk on the planet for saying that other thing.

  • We stopped in Atlanta. Where some of THE coolest and most awesome people I know live.  I'm a huge jerk.  Again.  In my defense, we got in at 8p.m. and left at 11a.m.

  • The kids were terrific. Seriously.


moving to memphis "My kids at hour seven of their second day of traveling."

  • Weather.  Checking the weather before you leave is a good idea and something I will remember to do before the next road trip we take.  We drove through a tropical storm for about a third of our trip.  Good thing we're Floridians and we eat tropical storms for breakfast.

  • Alabama, I love you, but your road signs are bipolar. One minute I'm horrified by the sign that is proclaiming homosexuality to be a sin, another moment I'm equally horrified by the sign that's boasting that their strippers were featured on "Jerry Springer," and I just shook my head at the one with an older black lady, a young white woman and an older white man proclaiming that they were Republicans.  These signs were all within ten minutes of each other.  I guess the section of Alabama we drove through is fine with straight Republican strippers of various races and ages.  Everyone else?  Move it along.

  • We finally got to our place on Monday evening.  It.is.AWESOME!!!  Let me put it this way, we have a concierge. I totally belong in a building like this.  It's like my mother ship, really.





"This is my hood, yo."

  • Oh, and there's a law school around the corner, too.





"Calm down, Dad. This is not going to happen."

  • I kinda love it here already. It's only been two days, but I think downtown living suits me.  Every day is an adventure.  In fact, yesterday, Tariq drove to Arkansas just to get to the nearest Wal Mart. He returned from this trip every bit as horrified as you're imagining.  It seems that while he was in the electronics section, someone asked a salesperson what a "ringtone" was and how they could get one.





arkansas bridge memphis "The bridge to Wal Mart. In Arkansas. As seen from our building's roof."




  • And, finally, I AM COMPLETELY UNPACKED. Yes.  In one day.  All my stuff.  Out of sixty (big) boxes.  I didn't realize this was a big deal until Britt told me she was impressed, like, four hundred times.


That's all I have for now.

Photos taken with my SONY DSLR-A230. Cough::SEE, Britt?::cough.

Thursday
Apr072011

Out of Town

Tariq is out of town for work again.

In an uncharacteristically passive aggressive move, I preemptively blogged on Aiming Low about Tariq's bathroom habits in an attempt to exact vengeance for being left ALL alone for four WHOLE days.

I found Chex Mix in my sneakers yesterday morning AFTER I put them on, and we also had another Sprite incident last night.  N.'s telling me I'm not "acting like her mother these days because I say 'no' too much."

My children are (1) evil geniuses and, most upsetting, (2) outnumber me.

It's a good thing I pray a lot.

Call the National Guard if you don't hear from me in a few days.  These kids don't play around.

**


Have you listened to the Hey! That's My Hummus podcast, yet?  We talked about American civic ignorance, blood money and the gay kiss on Glee.