Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the all the things edition

Waves. I haven't been writing very often. In fact, I write so rarely anymore that it seems like every post opens up with some apology for the fact that I haven't been writing, some statement of the obvious.

I don't write often.

It is what it is.

I'm busy (and no, this isn't some glorification of busy, just a statement of fact).

I'm not in the mood to deal with comments most of the time either, so there's that. Plus, I've been doing more work and advocacy in the real world, focusing less on the online world lately. Between that, all the assorted kid stuff, working, husband working, husband in school, Halloween costume building and home improvement projects, I just don't have a whole lot of opportunity to type.

I'm making myself do it today.

It just so happens to be a Tuesday, which ends up being the right day for a rant or 7 anyway.

So, let's just do it.

Also. Before I start the actual post, I should let you know that I changed my bio on Facebook a while back now. It reads, "Fueled by coffee and rage." It's also accurate.


The Fresh Hell of the Day
Remember when you could wake up in the morning and not feel like you had to check Twitter immediately upon waking to find out if our great and powerful leader was picking a fight with a new country today? Remember that?

Those were the days.

It is to the point anymore, and has been for months and months now, where every single damn day brings some awful news. The great and powerful leader (I will not use his name here, nor will you EVER catch me referring to him by the title of the position he currently occupies) seems to bring a fresh version of hell every day. Is it something one of his trusted advisers did? Is it one of his kids now declining Secret Service protection? Is it a Twitter pissing match? Is it a string of incoherent words about things and stuff that makes no sense and is impossible to follow with reasons because he lacks any ability to be articulate in any form? (That sentence was too long and I tried to make it as awful as something he'd say, but he would never be able to use the word "articulate" in a sentence, so I'm going to stop trying.)

Is one of the people he appointed rolling back protections for assault victims today? Is it time to push privatization of some industry that has proven how terrible it is at self regulation? Are we talking about that fucking wall again? Which marginalized group is the target today, and what are they being tossed under the bus as a distraction for this time?

I'm fatigued. I'm drained. I've been trying to do everything I can to reassure people in targeted groups that I will fight for them, that I will protect them.

It's become glaringly obvious that those with the power and ability to remove this monster from office have no desire to, and that they won't even bother trying until and unless he poses some existential threat to them. So, buckle up, everyone. Those with the power and ability to do something are, for the most part, among the most privileged people in this country. Rich, white, Christian, cishet men. It'll be a while yet before they feel threatened about anything.

Since we can't count on them, we've got to be willing to fight on the ground. Show up for your community members. Fight for your neighbors. Attend those city council meetings and school board meetings and hearings and campaign events. Get involved in whatever capacity you can. Speak out. Take bystander training. Educate yourself. Study accurate history, because Thor knows we weren't taught it in school. Listen to those who are being marginalized. Believe people who tell you when they are harmed.

We Have To Talk About Scout
Deep breath.

We have to talk about Scout. Scout Schultz was a student at Georgia Tech. Scout was a nonbinary person using they/them pronouns, and had been instrumental in the creation of an LGBTQ+ support organization on the campus. Scout also struggled with mental health issues, and had called the police over the weekend, reporting a suspicious person. They left three suicide notes.

The campus police arrived to find them in a mental breakdown, screaming, "Shoot me!".

And the police did.

Scout died shortly after being shot in the chest.

The campus police, untrained in recognizing and diffusing mental health calls, were not armed with any non-lethal alternatives.

We need to talk about this, for so many reasons.

One, police need to be trained in the recognition of when someone is a suspect in a crime or a threat to others, and when that person is having a mental health crisis.

Two, this is a college campus, full of adolescents and young adults, and the campus police weren't carrying non-lethal options. Bullets or nothing.

Three, the mental health statistics for the LGBTQ+ community are deeply and profoundly troubling, all the more so in light of this particular case. I will link some information here. Please read and understand how at risk this community is. Please. I beg you. These numbers I am sharing here are local to our state, but not at all unique. 

This is why the rhetoric of this administration is so fucking heartless and dangerous. I told someone today that I don't even want to talk about the amount of time I have spent trying to convince LGBTQ+ teenagers that the entire country doesn't hate them.

HELP ME FIX THIS. PLEASE.

While we're at it....
You don't get to determine what gender someone else occupies.
You don't get to decide whether they actually identify with the proper gender.
You don't get to tell them which pronouns are appropriate.
You don't get to tell someone that their orientation is just a phase.

If you woke up this morning inhabiting a body and a gender that fits your identity, if you woke up this morning attracted to people of the so-called opposite gender from yours, take a moment to recognize all the levels of privilege you're occupying from those two facts alone.

If you are a cishet individual and don't understand those with differing identities or orientations, that's 100% on you. It is your responsibility to do the work, not the role of the person you're de-legitimizing by asking for more information before you accept who they are and who they are attracted to.

In a larger scope, think about how burdensome it is to demand that a marginalized person from any marginalized group justify their existence, explain how they've been harmed, convince you that they are entitled to equal protections under the law.  Think about having to do that every single day.

Preschooler Socialization
Shifting gears, I wrote a small blurb on a picture yesterday about how I am not designed for parenting preschoolers. I've got a lot of miles on me parenting preschoolers, but I'm not good at it. I loathe it, in fact. I hate playgroups and story time. I hate forcing myself to make small talk with strangers simply because our kids are in the same age range. I hate that I need to do this in order to adequately socialize my kid.

I'm old now. I'm the old mom. I've been the young mom, the first time mom, the anxious mom not sure what to expect. I've done the whole thing where you make friends and hope your kids remain friends forever only to watch all of those relationships disintegrate over the years anyway. I've been shunned from groups for having too many kids. I've been shunned from groups for having kids that were the wrong ages for the group. (true story)

Last week, I tortured myself more than once in the name of socialization. Took the preschooler to a huge playgroup thing with tons of kids and it was basically like my worst nightmare...but I did the thing where I smiled and pretended I didn't hate it. The best part was when a kid shoved mine over a toy and his mom came running over to tell him that he needed to share the toy with my son because my son, "wasn't as fast as he was". Ummmm. No.

This is why I hate playgroups. People justifying the shitty behavior of their kids, usually because it is a direct reflection of how they're being raised. My kid can be an asshole, sure...but he can share.

Why do we do this? Whyyyyyyyyyyy.

Emmy's
I didn't watch them, so I don't have a whole lot of commentary here but there is one thing I need to mention.

Sean Spicer, you don't get to magically redeem yourself. NO YOU DO NOT.

For fuck's sake, you were paid to lie to the public for months, had tantrums on television, did the bidding of our great and powerful leader. Don't think for one second that we are all going to forget your part in this clusterfuck of an administration because you came out pushing a rolling podium  while laughing at yourself. No.

No damn way.

Monday, September 18, 2017

To the one determined to fix everything...

Hey sweetheart. It's actually a few days past your birthday, but I didn't get a chance to do this before it came...probably due at least in part to the fact that I'm spending an hour a day just trying to get you to take a nap these days.



You don't want to go to sleep. Something exciting might happen and you might miss it, which is unacceptable. "No nigh night". On repeat. Every day.

You're three now. You tell me all the time that you are a big boy, not a baby, but the way you are loved on and spoiled by everyone else in the house tells me that you're going to stay the baby forever whether you want to or not, so you might as well enjoy it.




Your current obsession, and by obsession I truly mean OBSESSION, is tools. All the tools. With a tool belt and a tool box and a fix-it hat and a work bench. They have to go with you everywhere you go, just in case something needs to be fixed. You love Bob the Builder, you love Handy Manny. You even adore those house renovation shows your sister forces you to watch. Anything with a tool.

When we were talking about your birthday, you naturally wanted a fix-it birthday....except that apparently not enough other kids your age are as enamored with this stuff as you are, because those plates and napkins just don't exist outside of online orders. So, I ended up having to make you a cake which wasn't the worst thing in the world. It wasn't so much a cake as it was a construction zone.

I'm not even sure you ate any cake because you were so busy digging in it.



Busy. That's a good word for you.

Systematically testing the fences for weaknesses, you can jump the gates and be out the door in mere seconds. You are nearly inconsolable every day when all your people leave in the morning, and ecstatic when they come home. You have already learned which sister is the fun sister and which sister is the one who will console you and give you whatever you want. You know which brother will sit and watch movies with you and which one will play in the dirt. You know that if you ask all of them, they'll all drop whatever they are doing and play hide and seek with you.

You've got them wrapped around your little finger, dude.



You moved rooms this summer, sharing with one of your big brothers now. You gave up the crib too, sleeping (I use the term loosely, of course) in the fire truck bed that once belonged to him. The fire truck bed that is a duplicate of the one your oldest brother had when he was your age.

(Your mom is far more sentimental than she lets on...)



You started learning some of your letters, love cutting paper even if it means you have to stick your tongue all the way out. You hated story time the first few times we went, telling me that the library was full of "scary kids", but you've adjusted to how the whole thing works. You even (gasp) touched the parachute at parachute time today and then talked and talked and talked about the parachute when you were supposed to be sleeping.



You're silly, on purpose. You already tell jokes, which is honestly a little scary. You pick up all of our phrases and mannerisms, the funniest of which is how you have to adjust your hat exactly like your Dad does. He didn't even realize that he does it as often as he does until you started mirroring him.

Then there is the standing leg crossing that has to happen all the time, just because you see us do it. Even when it means you fall over.



You are terrified, TERRIFIED, of any bug that flies right now, after being stung by a wasp in the head twice this summer. It's understandable, and also really cute when you freak out over a butterfly. You're slowly realizing they aren't trying to eat you, and I get the hesitation. I try not to laugh. Honest.

Your hair is still as our of control as it ever was, and will stay that way for as long as you have hair, thanks to the wonder of that double crowned head of yours. Now, you know that it's pointy and so you just tell people you have pointy hair whenever anyone comments on it. Which is hilarious.



You love getting muddy in the backyard and playing with the hose so much that your dad had to disconnect the valve on the back. Taking the hose off wasn't enough. You learned how to connect it. Five kids, and you're the first one we had to do that with. High five, man. Whenever he forgets, though, and leaves it connected, your spider sense tingles and within seconds you are out there, spraying the dog, your siblings, anyone who tries to wrestle the hose out of your tiny little hands.

Your eyebrows carry more expression in them than most people have in their entire bodies.



I have to get this done before you wake up since any amount of distraction on my part means that you've disassembled some part of the house. Or started eating ice cream out of the carton with a serving spoon. Again.

Sleep well, my little boy who insists he is a big boy and isn't a baby except for when he climbs up into my arms and rests his sweaty head on my chest. Recharge those batteries. Your brothers and sisters will be home soon and it's your turn to be "it".

Happy birthday, sweet boy.

Love,
Mama

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rants and Fire Ants

Hi.

I seem to have forgotten how to write on any kind of predictable basis. I really do need to try and get back to some kind of schedule, for my own sanity if not for the benefit of my millions of readers.

Millions.

Heh.

I'm hilarious.

Anyway, there is so much stuff that I want to rant about, but my Facebook posts have already been long as hell this week, so I'm just going to put it all here. And I probably won't even bother editing this once I post it because 1) I'm busy, 2) I don't care, 3) rage typing tends to work well for me generally.

WARE PEDDLERS
First, if someone you are friends with on social media posts a status expressing frustration with the things going on in their lives, DO NOT TRY TO SELL THEM SHIT. Seriously. Don't. Do. It. I get it, really I do...this shake or wrap or oil or bottle of unicorn tears has changed your life, made your skin clear, helped you lose weight, brought you closer to your partner, made you rich, changed your outlook on life. Great. I'm super duper happy for you. Really, I am. And...ordinarily, I might even buy some of your shit because I am an optimist that way at times (I know this comes as a shock to some of you...)

But. And here's the really big BUT, don't fucking try to push your wares on your friends when they are just venting to the universe. Don't. It would be way more helpful if you offered to help instead of trying to get them to buy something they almost certainly don't need to begin with.

Stahp.

NATURAL DISASTERS, ASSHOLES AND FAKE LINKS
What is it about a natural disaster??? They seem to somehow bring out the best and worst in people.

I'll save myself the typing and just cut and paste the thing I wrote on my own personal wall yesterday.

The "why didn't people leave", "they're endangering first responders", "they're selfish for staying" crowd...some knowledge coming your way.
First, evacuation orders weren't largely issued, and even if they had been it is a densely populated area. Many of those they've already found dead were in cars. Trying to leave.
Second, there weren't many who anticipated the strength of this storm. Some meteorologists did, but we live in times where people disregard science. Do with that truth what you will.
Third, people did not leave for a multitude of reasons.
- money, to leave, for gas and housing and food
- disability or the need to care for a loved one
- lack of transportation
- not having anywhere to go
- jobs that threaten to fire those who don't show up for work
- insufficient notice
- lack of the availability of public transit or buses to evacuate large groups of people
- pets
Leaving is a privilege.
Leaving is a privilege.
Leaving is a privilege.
Natural disasters disproportionately impact the poor, communities of color, the sick and the elderly.
But sure, muse about what people "should" have done....

I said what I meant and I meant what I said. 

Joel Osteen is a charlatan. Do not come to my page trying to defend this guy who has made himself rich off of the faith of people who gave him a TON of money so that he could claim he was sitting around waiting for officials to ask him for help. I have seen pastors wading through water to check cars and lines of people with boats helping and know personally of individuals taking in entire families who've lost everything, so don't even go there. 

I also don't want to hear the "don't make this tragedy political" bullshit. It's 20-fucking-17 and EVERYTHING is political right now. Relevant to this particular situation, the funding of FEMA and the National Weather Service, the distrust in media fed by the POTUS, the fact that the chemical plant that literally was exploding this morning just had their regulations loosened by the new administration. All relevant. 

Your great and powerful leader was boasting about the size of the crowd when he went to Texas too, and BTW Obama wasn't President during Katrina, but he somehow actually met with victims, which Trump never did. Truth. Ahhh, it's a thing.

Oh, and there are islands of fire ants now. Also a thing. 

FOOTBALL
Yay. Football season. Sports!

I used to like football. Now, I'm just done. 

I've sided with Kaepernick this whole damn time. 

Even Aaron Rodgers said this week that he knows that Colin Kaepernick should be on a roster, and the only reason he isn't is related to his protests, not his abilities on the field. 

For a second, I wanted to slow clap.

Then I read the rest of what he said, (which I'm paraphrasing because I don't want to look up the actual quotes) something to the effect that he understood the reason for the protest and supported it but he would still be standing and saluting the flag because he loves his country and it isn't his fight.

NOPE.

You lost me there, white man.

It's absolutely not the responsibility of the oppressed group to solely advocate for their freedom and rights and equality while those enjoying the privileges stand back, hand on heart, glowing with pride at their nation. You need to use the privilege of the position you occupy not just in society as a rich white man, but as a quarterback in the same league and one of his only peers in a tiny little microcosm of the universe, to advocate for that same thing he is advocating. You say you get it and support him? Do it.

Aaron, dude...this is your fight too, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner we can get this shit over with and the sooner things might actually get better. 

Same goes for all us white people. 

FFS.

SPEAKING OF RACISM...

What in the actual fuck is happening?

I sincerely hope that whoever is out there reading this right now intends to open a dialogue with their police departments about this issue if you haven't already done so.

And I hope that the most because of the autopsy report that was just released on Charleena Lyle yesterday. My god. 

She had a well known history of mental health issues, documented and known information among police. 

She was pregnant.

She was home with her children.

She called police, afraid and needing help, believing that there was an intruder trying to get into her home.

She was shot seven times. One of those bullets pierced her uterus and the child in her womb. She and her baby died in front of her children, her life taken by the people she called to help her.

If there is any part of you that wants to even begin to defend what happened here, get out of my life. Now. Before you leave, though, re-read the prior pieces of information about how she died. 

Don't pretend to care about the unborn, about all lives mattering, about women and children, about those who need better access to mental health care in this country if you are going to dissect this case in any way and try to come to the defense of the men who ended her life. Do not.

Please, I beg you. Rise up and fight these injustices. If you aren't sure where to start, my friends at Safety Pin Box will be more than happy to help you.

#charleenalyle
#sayhername
#blacklivesmatter

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Groundhog Day

I woke up this morning and it was Groundhog Day, but not the kind in the movie where one person is subject to the same repeating set of circumstances and trying to change them to escape the monotony, but the kind where I asked for this monotony in the first place. Dreamt about it, in fact. Never believed I would be allowed to have it, fought for it, wished for it with every ounce of my being. I created this monotony. With intention.

Wake up, get teenagers out the door, make smoothies, kiss husband goodbye, engage in a game of twenty questions on the way to middle school, at least half of them generally about my abundant failures as a mother, then the daily conversation with the kid transitioning back to public school about why he's going and why he needs to go every day and why we are doing this and reminding him that he actually likes it, and then finally getting him to get out of the car...and then the real part of groundhog day starts when I attempt to tire the toddler out enough that he will nap so that I can have a moment of time to myself, never knowing if it will be successful or if I will spend three hours this afternoon begging him to sleep because I need him to sleep because I can't take it anymore.

For the love of god, child. Nap.

I'd almost entirely forgotten how isolating being home alone with a toddler all day long is. Almost. I remembered, of course, because I have been here so many times before, but I'd forgotten as a survival technique, one passed down since the beginning of time that allows and encourages us to have more kids when we begin to forget just how bad it was in this stage.

I've forgotten many times. It comes back. It always comes back.

I don't need to be reminded that I'm fortunate to be home. I don't need scolded for complaining about mothering. This isn't some declaration to the world that I resent my child or children or husband or life. I've done away with those who make those accusations because mothers are their own worst enemies. Yes, I'm looking at you. I know with certainty that I will one day miss this age and this time and this smothering and this constant need and I know it because I have been here before time and time again. I know.

And yet, I'd forgotten.

There is tired and there is a soul-leeching kind of tired that goes so far beyond physical exhaustion. There is tired and there is this.

This child, I wonder, is he really more demanding than his siblings were at this age or am I just older now? Did the others push my buttons so constantly and have I just forgotten, or has he discovered novel ways to drain my life force? I can't honestly tell. It's been a while since I have had to endure this isolating constant demand every single day.

There are always people who say things like, "it will be so much easier with just one home", "you'll have so much time with just the baby", "you'll finally have a break". My husband of all people uttered some of those words, and when I looked at him with eyes that could bore a hole through his soul, he immediately understood just how wrong he'd been. Or maybe he did. Maybe he doesn't really understand, but maybe he has learned to trust my judgment better since we are doing this now for the fifth time. Again, I can't really tell.

Briefly for a time there I wasn't "just" a mother. I was a teacher too, but not even just a mother and a teacher. I had a limitless list of goals and standards and resources and materials and I was the administrator and the educator and still the wife and the mother and the chauffeur and the chef and all the other things. And you know what? I was damned good at it almost all of the time.

More than that, it was the first time in my nearly 17 years as a mother when I didn't feel like I was just a mother, and it was the first time when I was treated by everyone around me as just a mother. My husband, my family, my own children. I had some other redeeming societal value beyond serving them.

And then it was gone.

Putting my son back into public school, even with me still working with him on virtually all of the things I had been when he was here full time, has caused a great shift in my identity. Again.

Who am I now? Am I just a mother again? Is that all?

The fact that I actually started working outside the home in this intervening time, by the way, is of no consequence here. I don't even really remember who I used to be anymore, have no idea who I'll one day be, away from all this, and so I go to that job to pretend. To escape from this.

I don't even write very often anymore, though it represents such a huge piece of my identity. The reasons at least as plentiful as the number of children I have. I don't write because I don't have time. I don't write because when I do get a break, literally all I want to do is sleep. I don't write because it frustrates me to live in a world where the work of creators is so arbitrarily rewarded. I don't write because I am not in the best state of mental health and haven't been for a while, and even though I am better than I was doing a few months ago, my absence here is indicative of my overall well-being. I don't write because I am tired of writing about my dead parents, but I know I'm not done writing about my dead parents and will probably never be done writing about my dead parents and maybe that it just part of the shitty reality of having dead parents. I don't write because I don't like to accept these truths. I don't write because I am completely fucking exhausted from arguing with people and having strangers tell me how to live my life and for a long time I tried to keep them around, convincing myself that someday, somehow I could make them understand and gain some empathy, but then I realized that they weren't budging and I was only harming myself, and so I've started to remove them from my life, even if they were only ever part of my virtual life anyway, but also even when they have been real presences in my actual life.

I haven't written about this summer and probably won't write about this summer in detail ever, but suffice to say that it was awful in so many different ways, and I know with absolute certainty that the kids going back to school won't make things better and may create new problems but I'm still relieved sometimes to see them walk out the door for a few hours. And maybe that makes me a horrible mother. I'm sure that some people would categorize me that way, but those people don't know what we've been dealing with, what I've been dealing with either directly or indirectly more than anyone else because it is the mothers who shoulder the bulk of the load for all of this worry. It just is.

I'm not looking for validation or answers or sympathy, either. Instead, I am attempting to demonstrate how motherhood somehow simultaneously came to be the most important responsibility I will ever have and nowhere near enough. For me, for them, for any of us.

How can it be both of those absolutes at the same time? Who did this? Why is our society built this way?

Obviously the answer lies in the patriarchy, but us, the mothers of the past and present, we're complicit in it all. And for what? So that we can feel like successes and failures both constantly?

There has to be a better way. There must. Which direction that path goes, though, and who builds it, I don't know. I'm too fucking busy and exhausted.

Motherhood is exhaustion, love, resentment (yes, it's there in some form) and guilt for all of the above.

Guilt for loving them more than myself, more than my partner, more than my parents; and then living constantly with the consequences of each truth.

Men, fathers, it seems, don't have these choices thrust upon them, or if they do, they're more able, encouraged and expected to compartmentalize everything while we're expected to mesh it all together seamlessly and endlessly in between trips to the gym and healthy dinners until the day our children leave us and we are left here, having forgotten entirely who we are.

I see the effects of this disconnect constantly, as a doula, as a mental health advocate, particularly one working with new mothers, just being introduced to the fresh hell we expect of them.

We don't have a village. We have the people who show up with the pitchforks and tell you how you're doing it wrong, but we don't have a village of people who will ever help you when you need it. We don't. Do it on your own, mom, and do it all perfectly, or we're coming for you. If you haven't learned to question everything you are doing and learned to hate yourself and question why you ever wanted to have children in the first place, give it a few days or weeks or months. It'll come.

It will come and slap you on the face when you're standing in the middle of a grocery store with a screaming toddler, having forgotten why you were there in the first place.

It will come when you are being paged to the daycare room at the gym because that one time you finally managed to combine the self loathing with enough motivation to work out failed epically because your kid won't stop crying.

It will come when you cringe but smile and nod when someone tries to tell you that you'll miss this time someday, makes you feel guilty for not adoring every single second.

It will come the first time your kid shares a class birthday with a mom who has to out-mom you.

It will come when a kid leaves your house with a goody bag full of stuff you didn't want to buy for ungrateful children who ask, "is this all we get?"

It will come when you look around and realize that everything nice you once owned is broken or ruined or sticky or gone.

It will come when someone asks when you're going back to work and you calculate how many years it has been since you worked in that field you were once passionate about but will never get hired into now because you are old and ragged and worn down and have different priorities.

It will come when your last kid goes to school and you stare at the wall wondering what the hell you are supposed to do now.

It will come, because it always does, and sometimes it will come relentlessly and constantly. If you're willing to deal with all of the people shaming you for feeling these feelings and you dare speak it aloud, other mothers will reach out. Quietly. Usually privately.

And they will say, "me too", and you will know that you aren't alone. None of us are, really. We just never managed to construct that village for ourselves and each other until we were already here.

And we will do nothing to fix it because we are too exhausted.

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To the one always tucked under my wing...

Dear Chicken,

I wrote yesterday about how I almost forgot that we'd changed your nickname here. Someone asked me shortly afterward what it means, "Chicken". Most people probably think it's some reference to you physically somehow, but it isn't that at all. It has to do with the fact that since you were the tiniest little baby, you've been a tucker. A burrower. Fairly often nestled under my arm, up near my ribs. Even now, you still do it. When you're really tired or sick or frustrated with the world, you'll still draw your legs up under both you and me, and get fully tucked in.

Under my wing.

I'm the Chicken Mama. I just might stay that way forever, and I'd be okay with that.

It's your ninth birthday. Nine years since you showed up that stormy August afternoon. The air was heavy and damp, the barometric pressure helping you along in the way that it seems to. You were, at the time, the earliest of my babies. Knowing that you were so early, knowing that you were a boy, knowing all the problems your brother had down at sea level with its abundance of oxygen, I worried. I was afraid that you'd have an even rougher time than he had.

And then you came. Itty bitty with those tiny little legs, but breathing well without any help. I didn't really breathe that sigh of relief for a few hours, always thinking the nurse was going to come and take you away to the NICU. But you stayed. Nestled and tucked.

You were a feisty baby, wanting to crawl and walk and run and jump as soon as you were able. I think you were barely two years old the first time I found you on top of the refrigerator. You haven't ever stopped climbing since...until this summer when you broke your arm. Two places, not one, because you are an overachiever.

For your birthday today, you got to go back to school. Happy birthday? I know it isn't exactly what you had in mind for today, or for any birthday really. Especially this time around.

I thought you'd be home this year. The stacks of curriculum materials remind me of it constantly. I know you thought you'd be home this year too. We all did, until an opportunity arose and we jumped at the chance. And maybe it works and maybe it doesn't, but we know that there are always options if we need them.

I know that you're nervous about going back because that last time went so badly. I know. I'm scared too. I want to swoop in and tuck you under my wing and fly away from all the things that scare us both. But I can't. It's my job to nudge you, to nudge myself right along with you, to do the things that are scary sometimes.


Of course, as I am writing this, you are at lunch recess, probably playing with all the friends you've already made. As I am writing this, your fears and worries are probably fading away into the midday breeze. I am confident that you will be okay. I am.

And I'm confident because you are okay. You're so very different than you were the last time you were in that space. You're not just a few years older, but you're more aware, you're more observant, you're more empathetic to others. You've got a toolbox full of skills you didn't have back then, and only a few of them have anything at all to do with school.

I know you're going to be okay, but I'm going to miss having you around all the time too.

This year I've watched you grow up so much in so many ways. When Dad went to the scout store to pick up your new uniform shirt, he called me and asked how long you were going to stay in. I asked you. Your immediate response, "Eagle". And you just might do it too. Watching your brother finish his, you know what an accomplishment it would be and how much hard work is involved....but hard work is basically your favorite thing anyway.

You're always the one offering to help with projects around the house. With cleaning. With dinner. You even offer to help with the things no one else wants to, the things they all run away from. You aren't afraid to get dirty or sweaty, blisters are badges of honor in your world. While some of your siblings are content to stay inside where the wifi is, you're out in the yard seeing how deep that hole can get before the day's end.

You amaze me sometimes with how your mind works, so different from my own. It seems like any time I'd present you with a new concept in math, you'd sit with it for a few seconds, then come up with some way to solve it I'd never imagined. You don't just think outside of the box, you deconstruct the box and use it for scaffolding to build something more amazing. I can't even explain half of the things your brain can comprehend so quickly...you just have a way of figuring things out. Solving problems. Seeing it all differently.

It's refreshing. And humbling for me, as both your parent and teacher, because you're constantly making me question what I think I know, making me realize just how little is certain and how much is possible.

In much the same way it has worked for your brother, your love of math has translated to a deep love of music. Never fall out of love with it, never. I know that we'll have to work a little harder to get your hands on all those instruments now that you're back in school full time, but we have our own mini symphony at home. The piano is always open for business here. And you can do choir now too, jazz hands included.

I'm so proud of you that I could burst sometimes, and I was never more proud of you than I was this morning walking into school.

I asked you if you were okay. You said no.

I asked you if you were nervous, your eyes filling with tears you managed to fight back. You said yes.

Then you grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the door.

You did it. 

Like I wrote just yesterday, being brave isn't about not being scared. It's about being afraid and doing the things that scare us anyway.

You're still the bravest person I've ever known.

I love you.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Love you more first,
Chicken Mama

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