Toxic Masculinity

So, we all know toxic masculinity is a problem. If you are unsure about that I’m not sure how you made it this far following me. For the sake of this post I am moving forward with the assumption that my lovely readers are all nodding their head in agreement.

I hate the way people talk about boys. I have been seeing this regularly, mainly around the disappointment people feel when they find out they will be having sons and raising them in our current culture that, let’s be honest, is a total and complete shit show. The latest one to push me over the edge was a woman saying that she is sad to find out they are having a boy because boys are aggressive and violent and all the other stereotypes you can think of. This woman is both queer and an educator so it hurt my heart triple.

I struggle with this because I also felt a bit like this before having a kid. I worried that a boy would be too much or that I couldn’t raise a good man. We didn’t know Gus’ sex until he was born but I have never felt a moment of disappointment. Raising him has made me realize how unique kids can be. Watching him with his peers really drives that home. There is no one way to be a boy or a girl and our kids are out there living their individual lives. I wish I better understood that ten years ago. I wish a woman working with children better understood that now.

Raising Gus is a fascinating process. Yes, I worry about toxic masculinity. I would imagine most parents of boys and girls have concerns about it at this point. We do our best to combat it at home. We do limit screen time and what type of shows he watches. We work hard to diversify our books. We talk about consent. A LOT. We read and research and put a lot of thought into our parenting and hope it will pay off.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with watching how people react to boys who don’t fit stereotypical boy molds. I’ve seen a lot of talk in queer family forums about preparing for kids around Gus’ age or a bit older to transition because they are gender nonconforming. I support people supporting their children, yes. But I struggle so much with seeing people talk about how their babies can wear anything or it being cute when their toddler boy loves his older sister’s dressed and then it reaching a point, almost predictably around 3-4, where kids are labeled gender nonconforming and parents wonder how to help them moving forward.

Again, I am all for parents supporting their kids but I feel like there is a point where we are dropping the “You can be any kind of boy/girl you want” line and instead are trying to fit our kids into the right box. A bigger box is still a box. Gus is 3 years and 13 days old and has been asked by people what his pronouns are. I understand the desire to be accepting and loving towards our children but I worry that we are still equating a skirt and long hair with girlhood. I worry so much that we are reinforcing the very ideas that we want to move away from.

I can’t speak for every parent and goodness knows I can’t speak for any child. And again, to be clear, I want all kids to be loved and supported so they are happy and healthy. But I feel like in progressive circles the older Gus gets the less acceptable it is for him to be just a boy who is free to like what he likes. He is different from some other boys, yes. But we have spent the last three years working hard to support him being anything he wants. Why would we stop doing that now? Gus is very clear that he is a boy. He has no reason to believe he cannot be any kind of boy he wants. But I am feeling the side eyes and conversations danced around by well meaning people who think that because he is his own kind of boy he may not be a boy at all. And while I suppose time will tell on that one I am so alarmed by the contrast that comes around three when people stop being accepting of free spirited kids and start needing to see how the kids conform to their adult ideas of gender.

I worry about how growing up surrounded by toxic masculinity will affect him. I worry that by not forcing him to fall in line with societal gender norms it may him him harder, either internally in how he sees himself or externally and his treatment of other people. Like all of parenting I never know if we are doing the right thing.

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Memory

I have a terrible memory. I remember snippets from my childhood but not a lot. This is not because I had a bad childhood – it was totally fine and normal – I just have a bad memory. My wife, on the other hand, does not. She remembers a lot and from a young age. It was something I never thought about much beyond a way people are different. There are so many things you don’t consider until you have a three year old, right?

Gus remembers a lot. He will talk about things that happened a year ago. You can’t trick him with “maybe we will do that later” stuff because he will remember and bring it up constantly. We have gotten comments from his teachers about what he retains and talks about (hahaha, not bad, just that it is noteworthy to them) and have always thought he remembers a bit more than some.

Suddenly it occurred to me that he is now three. He turned three on 10/2. And people remember things from when they were three. Mostly people remember big things but they remember things and something in that really strikes a cord with me. Our kid, as we speak, is making memories.

There are times where this causes me immense guilt. He has been, uh, spirited lately. It’s been a lot. Last weekend was just fucking terrible. When we are not at our best is he making memories of that? Is this how he will think of his moms and his childhood? Logically, I know that a bad day does not make a bad life and that he’s fine but the memory aspect is really not great for mom guilt.

Other times this brings me a lot of joy. There are things we have put off doing because it doesn’t seem worth it and that is getting more fun. Train rides, aquarium visits, dance class. We threw a pool party for his birthday and he loved it in a way I don’t think he would have a year ago. He experiences things differently because they build on his memories and it’s cool to watch how that works.

As we move into holidays I am thinking a lot about what that means. As a small family living far from extended family it is important to me that we create good traditions. Holidays are spent just the three of us and I feel like this is the first year he will really start building memories of them. Lesley and I have things we have done for years so I don’t feel at a loss for what to do, I only feel excited about watching him experience it as a kid, not as a baby or toddler. It takes a time that is normally really lonely and sad for me and gives it a more positive spin.

Three has been rough so far, I am not going to lie. But there is such much wonder and joy, too.

When it explodes

If you thought I was going to write a post that flowed well, you were wrong.

I went to see my former counselor yesterday. I saw her years ago and love her and it was comforting to walk into her office and apologetically cry for 45 minutes. She remembered me in a real way – she knew where I used to work which was nice because when she said, “Oh now that I see you I remember you!” I thought, “Yeah, right.”

It’s hard to pinpoint when things got hard. I think they have been for a while but I kept setting deadlines where I thought they would get better and they just didn’t. She said a lot of good stuff that was true and helpful and I know on some level but struggle to listen to. She gave me some homework. I’ll go back next week.

The whole experience leading up to this has got me thinking about how hard motherhood is. How all consuming it is and my great counselor put it best: It’s a black hole. It is work that will never be done. There are few ways you know you are doing a good job and mainly you are just trying to get through the day. There is so much joy and so much struggle and how do you manage that?

One thing that has really stood out to me lately is friendships. I have a group of mom friends that I can never really break into. They have a group of friends and I watch. A few weeks ago I had drinks with one of my friends and she mentioned that she really like this other mom. When I saw the look on her face I realized what mine must of looked like and I had to explain. The other mom is a wonderful person. One of the most wonderful people you will ever meet. But I watched this mom build friendships that I couldn’t when I went back to work. I watched her make friends with people I wanted to be friends with and do all the stuff I wanted to do. I barely know her yet for some reason she represents this major loss in my life. The loss of the mom community.

As Gus gets older I am trying to figure out how to navigate these waters. I want more meaningful connections for me and less superficial friendships. Right now I feel I mainly have the later. I’ve worked on stepping back quite a bit and detaching from the mom friend group and hopefully I can find a way to build connections other places to completely leave. It’s a weird crossroad when your place for social connection is also the place that is making you the most miserable. I suppose that’s a good conversation for the next counseling visit, eh?

A woman I don’t know

Edie Windsor died yesterday. If you are a lesbian or queer or friends with me on facebook you probably know this. I hope you all know who she is. I am weirdly taking this super hard because I am thinking about all the ways this woman I don’t know changed my life. 

I’ve never been big on marriage yet I am married. We needed the rights that came from it even if we did not need to institution to define our relationship. These days I operate in a mainly straight world and I see how straight people value it’s weight. I use wife in the straight world while usually stick to partner in lesbian land.  I see it’s weight and value there. The other night I was out with a friend and told her a story about earlier in mine and Lesley’s relationship. She asked if we were dating or married at that time. I had no clue where we were at in our three kinds of commitment life and it didn’t occur to her that at the time of the story we had never lived in a state where we could legally get married. 

I see the weight it has for others and the ways it benefits us. Ensuring both of our rights to our child and our health care, mainly. I see how the shift in public support has changed my life.  I see how already straight people have forgotten that these are new rights. 

I think about how life was before Edie fought. I think about how things were 15 years ago when I started coming out. I know she is a symbol of a big change that was long happening but losing her is a profound loss. This woman I don’t know who changed my life. 

Watch this and try not to cry.

Self care.

I joined a gym. This is something I said I would never do and I feel like a trader to myself because of it. I am not a gym person nor do I want to be a gym person.

In all fairness it’s not quite a gym- it’s the YMCA. That feels better but still kind of like a sell out. They have cheap childcare and discounts on swim lessons for the kid and whelp, we are doing it.

I’ve gained weight and eh, that is what it is but I joined a gym because of my mental health. I feel constantly stressed. I can’t focus. I have no energy. These things lead me to believe that I need to change something and maybe increasing my output will help. Gus does swim lessons at the Y two days a week so I will do something one of those days and then hopefully two more. My goal is an hour of physical activity three days a week and to see if it helps mental clarity.

I feel so awkward about this. After joining today we walked around for a minute. There are machines I have no idea how to use (nor do I ever want to really…) and people there and it just feels so overwhelming. This is all so far out of my comfort zone. They do offer you a meeting with a trainer of some sort but that kind of sounds like my hell. So I will pick on thing at a time and try to get comfortable.

So that’s that. And I am telling you, dear corner of the internet, because while I don’t intend to ever be someone who posts gym selfies or other fucking bullshit this is so far outside of my comfort zone and causes me so much anxiety BUT I already have so much anxiety so I am hoping making things uncomfortable for a few weeks makes things better. Here goes nothing. (except not here goes right now. I joined the gym. I have no idea when I will go to said gym.)

“girl” things

If you have been a follower for a while you most likely know that I have a boy who loves skirts. He wants to grow his hair long so he can have two ponytails like his friend (a girl). He wears skirts to school often and when the girls get their hair brushed at school he gets in line. When not in skirts he is in leggings. No one has told him yet that certain things are for girls.

I know it’s coming. I know someone is going to tell him and I think it might be the thing I have dreaded most in my entire life. So far he gets most comments about his hair. People’s suggestions of him cutting it. About once a month we ask if he wants it cut and every time he says no. He talks about how his hair is growing and getting longer. He likes it, even if it is in his eyes. We help try to keep it out of his face but ultimately it is his hair and his face. 

When we first got him a skirt I set it aside with dress up things.  He loved it and wanted to wear it places so that is what he did. He wore it and we bought more and that was a thing for a while until it wasn’t. Recently it became a thing ago. I put any skirt we had for him (and bought one more) in his bin of school clothes.  He ears them whenever he wants. I don’t know if it was a conscious choice on my part to put the with school clothes over regular clothes (school clothes are less public) but it is where he tends to wear them the most anyway. 

Last week I told the owner and lead teacher of his daycare how I was impressed that he hadn’t picked up on boy/girl messenging yet. All the daycare staff is nice but I don’t think of many of them as being particularly progressive. I told her because I am impressed but also a subtle way to tell her to not allow it. So far it isn’t a thing there and often when he has a skirt on other kids want to wear it. I told L this morning that I was surprised he hasn’t picked up on the fact he is the only boy there who sometimes wears skirts. 

I often wonder if I am still limiting his options. I don’t buy him dresses (he has worn one though) and I just bought him dress up clothes and did not buy specific “girl” ones (in all fairness they sucked). Should I be diversifying his clothes more?  I don’t know. It kind of surprises me that he in the only boy in our friend group ever in a skirt. Maybe we jumped the gun in having it be an option?  I’m not sure. I wish he saw more boys in skirts as it would help when someone does tell him awful stuff. There are so many things about this that stress me out but exactly 0 of those things are about my son’s choices. 

I’m not sure when this will end and if it will. His interest ebbs and flows and my guess is we don’t have much longer. For right now I love that my kid is happy, confident, and adorable. 

Big conversations

I have been seeing a lot of talk in queer mom land about when and how people talk to their kids about their donor. I feel behind because we haven’t. Whoops.

We have open and honest conversations with Gus but we follow his lead and this isn’t something he has shown much interest in. He knows he grew in my uterus. On some level he knows he was born in our living room (Lesley happily showed him where). We have Zak’s Safari, a book about a donor conceived kid with lesbian moms. When we tried to read it to him he got bored and asked for a different book. He asked me while we were on vacation how he got in my uterus but we were in the car with my mom who was already shocked that he knows the word “uterus” so I changed the subject and hoped he would ask again when we were alone. He hasn’t.

I’m of the belief that big conversations should be somewhat child led and right now my child isn’t leading me into those conversations. He is young, on the cusp of three, and I imagine in the next year those will come up a bit more. I think about this not only with him having a donor but also conversations about racism and homophobia. I don’t think he is quite ready for the conversations but I will not shy away from big topics when brought up.

It’s hard because I recognize that some of that, especially not talking about racism, is a privilege we have. I know that is not the case for everyone. But I want him to be young and innocent a bit longer. I work hard to expose him to all types of family and racial diversity however I can. We talk openly I just don’t start conversations about these bigger topics.

A women I know has a fb group for parents who are activists. It is small and I was in it for a while but recently left. She was posting articles about how to talk to your kids about gay people. It made me so sad that we are something that other people need to “talk to” their kids about. Why are people not just teaching their kids to be kind and loving human beings? I know that it needs to go beyond that. I know that you can’t just teach your kid to be nice and have it stop there but right now it feels like a pretty good start.

Ten trip things

We went on an almost three week trip to see our families. Here is a ten thing summary list about that experience:

1) if you have not read this do so now: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/m-blazoned/vacation-or-trip-a-helpful-guide-for-parents_b_7789310.html

2)It’s interesting to see how different grandparents react to Gus. They all love him but you can tell toddler age is not everyone’s favorite.

3) 3 our of 4 of our parents complimented our parenting and talked about how great Gus was. Even when he was upset about something everyone was amazed at how not bad it was which is nice because often to us it feels really bad.

4) Gus got to spend time with his cousins he adores and it was really sweet.

5) We talked a lot about moving home during this trip. In the end we realized it is just not realistic. I think it would be really hard to go from a very accepting and liberal place to one that is not so much. The town our moms live in is perfect in so many ways. It is a small beach town. In the next town over a church has a display of tons of tiny crosses for aborted fetuses.

6) We saw our friends who came out here for a terrible time at christmas. We didn’t stay with them and as such our visit was super pleasant. It has made me be more committed to continuing our friendship on different terms.

7) Gus did great traveling and has an intense love of airplanes. This is good since I plan on taking him on three airplane needed trips next year.

8) There were some really rough parts of our trip, particularly with one of our parents. Said parent is mad at us that we do not make Gus hug people and that we asked said parent to please not call him names. Said parent thinks we are rude and believes that as his grandparent they have a right to do and say what they want to him. We disagree. This is beyond complicated. Said parent has been planning on moving closer to us and we are now not sure that is happening or if we want it to happen. We don’t really know how to move forward. We have not spoken since we last saw this parent a week ago. I know this part of my update is especially vague but I am hoping that said parent might come around and realize that they are totally inappropriate and then we can move forward. They is extremely unlikely and at this time there might be a counselor involved to figure out how to set boundaries with toxic family members.

9) The last weekend of our trip we spent being hosted by midwestmammas who has been my best internet friend for years and it totally solidified that if we lived in the same place we’d be best real life friends. Hanging out with people you know on the internet is awkward. Crashing at their house for the weekend is probably adds a level of intensity. But they were as perfect as I thought.

10) We met one of Gus’ donor siblings too! I should probably write a whole post about that, eh?

Here are a bunch of trip pictures in random order:

Endless responsibilities

It’s sunny and 90 degrees outside. This is dangerous for me.

Nothing makes me want to adult less than summer. I want to drink beers outside and read books in parks and spend money and abandon responsibilities. I want to be young and carefree. This has been hard since having a kid and now as I enter my third summer of parenting I find myself yearning for a bit less structure and a bit more freedom.

I struggle so much to balance me as a person and me as a mom and I am feeling it bad now. Lesley and I met this time of year 11 years ago. All of our early relationship memories and in the sun and on warm nights and involve fireworks and beaches and the joy that comes with long days. I want time together with her. We are lucky in that we are going to visit our parents so will get a few small moments but no where where we can be fully relaxed and our true selves. We talked about going to a concert at the zoo but we would have to take Gus with us which sounds less romantic.

I need more time. I need time to get my work done and get my other responsibilities done and have time to be free. But I am starting to really feel how badly we are struggling without help. I wish we could have some time together. I know how much good it would do for our relationship. And I know we can’t have it.

There are ways that this parenting thing gets so much easier and there are ways where it feels like freedom is so close but you can’t touch it. Last night I crept into Gus’ room to shut the window and looked at his tiny face and missed all of the moments that passed throughout the day where we were not together. Today I wish that I had just a little time to not have that responsibility.

Parenting, amirite?

Ten things on a Tuesday afternoon.

I’m giving you a ten things post because I feel like I have a lot to say and nothing to say all at once. I also feel a bit disconnected from the blogging world and want to write more. Here you go:

1) I really should be working right now. I don’t know how to switch my motivation switch on but I need to figure it out. I struggle with this all the time but it is getting a bit absurd. I need to figure out some sort of system to keep me focused.

2) My MIL sold her house. When asked what she plans to do next she joked that she would come live in a tiny house in our yard. That is not happening. She will not live with us. I don’t feel the need to discuss how much that is not happening because it is so much not happening. But she might move closer which means we would have family closer than 3,000 miles. That’s complicated but also nice.

3) Gus is getting his last tooth. He has also been a major pain the last few days so hopefully those two are connected.

4) We went camping and on a 5 mile hike this weekend. Toddler’s can’t hike five miles – in case you did not know.

5) I bought myself new rainbow chaco sandals that should arrive today. I’m not sure I have ever been so excited about anything.

6) Gus is pretty cool. He knows things and has some great reasoning skills. Last night we took the dog on a walk and Gus wanted to bring something to carry. This is normal. It is normally a hockey stick, golf club, or baseball mitt. We shot all those down. The next hope was his stuffed fox. Lesley told him the walk was for our bodies only. He claimed that fox had a body. Lesley corrected him and said human and dog bodies only. He excitedly yelled, “Okay!” and ran to his room and grabbed his stuffed dog. He won.

7) His imagination is off the charts lately. He has decided he is a bunny. He puts on pretend hockey equipment and pretends to skate. On walks he pretends throws balls. It’s all sweet and strange and makes everything take forever.

8) I am taking him to the big city pride parade on Sunday. Lesley can’t go and gets the whole day at home alone. (She has a work thing that afternoon.) I am jealous.

9) I am going out of town for a two night/three day conference in October. I am both excited and sad.

10) I joined a Step Bet through my fitbit. It is a different app but everyone pays in $40 and you have to get a certain number of steps to get your $40 back. If anyone doesn’t make it their money is split between those who do. I’m determined to make it but it means last night I paced around our house while watching OITNB.

Kid pictures? Kid pictures.

Changing his dogga’s diaper on our walk. 

Watching mama play softball. 

He’s the best.