healing

There’s a kind of funny thing where parenting, in the long game, done right, can help the parent heal from childhood trauma. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this summer, as the Bee graduated from high school and now has moved off to college. It’s funny, because for most people, raising a child to adulthood without having that kid ever run away from home probably feels like a low bar–but to me, it feels huge.

I succeeded as a parent, because even when our relationship was at its lowest points, she never felt like she would be better off living somewhere else, with the family of a friend, or her grandmother, or on the road with no fixed address. It might not sound like a big thing to you, but it’s a big thing to me, because my parents didn’t give me that.

For the past two months, we’ve been doing all the stuff that parents and graduated high school seniors do, to get ready for college–in short, buying all the things. I wrote a post here, a long time ago, about my own experience in going to college–and needless to say, I wanted the Bee to have everything that I did not. She procrastinated for a long time about buying her bedding (largely due to the problem of too many choices–the Bee continues to sometimes be paralyzed by decision fatigue), and when we were about three weeks away from her departure for school, I finally said, “look, this is triggering me, we either need to do this within a week, or I am just going to pick stuff so you have at least a starter set.” (The kids have heard the towel story, so she knew what I was talking about.) I might not be the perfect mother, but there will be sheets, dammit!

The Bee is going to school about 300 miles away from home so landisdad and I decided that when it came to move-in weekend we would leave the Potato with his grandmother and just take her ourselves. This division of labor meant that landisdad drove to his mom’s with the Potato on Friday night, and then the Bee and I left Saturday morning–and we got to spend the whole time in the car talking to each other. Right before we were about to take off, I ran back into the house to get some tissues to put in my purse, and the Bee said, “mom, you can’t cry today, only tomorrow.”

The Bee’s BFF had slept over the previous night, and the two of them had a tearful goodbye (at which point, the tissues got their first use). After we drove off, the Bee said, “was it this hard for you to leave your best friend when you went to college?” and I was so immediately struck by the difference between her leaving for school experience and mine that I actually couldn’t speak. She said, “Mom?” and I told her, “hey, you said I couldn’t cry today, so I’m not going to answer that question right now.”

I mean tbh, there was so much to unpack in that one question…for one, I didn’t get the luxury of having the same best friend from middle school through high school, because I didn’t stay in the same school system for all that period of time, thanks to my parents’ choices. The ability to do that was a gift I gave the Bee (and the Potato) (and, honestly, my past self).

We drove for a long time, and for a good part of the beginning of the ride, the Bee was reading something related to her college orientation. After she finished it, we talked a while, in the car and when we stopped for lunch about things both major and mundane. We ate at an amazing diner, and about halfway through lunch, she said to me, “You know, I spent a lot of time when I was younger wishing that I had been born into another family, but now I realize that the family I have is the right family for me.”

She could not have said a more perfect thing at that moment.

I said to her, at one point during that lunch conversation, something along the lines of “there is stuff that this whole college move-in is about for me, that isn’t about you.” She feigned a look of shock, like, ‘mom, how is anything not about me right now?’ and I laughed and said, “I mean, it’s about my baggage–but that isn’t on you to fix. But some of it is that it’s good for me to be able to give you something that I didn’t have, and felt the lack of.”

We left the diner, and she took over the driving, which was a different kind of luxury. We went out to dinner with landisdad that night, and then the three of us went to Target to buy some last-minute stuff, the three of us for a brief moment the family we were at the beginning. And then the next day, we got up and went to brunch and went to CVS to buy some even-more-last-minute stuff, and then we went to the college and brought all her things in and helped her set up her room. I took a picture of the Bee and landisdad making her bed, that might go down as one of my favorite family photos–not because it’s such a great picture, but because of what it represents to me.

Landisdad left before I did because he had to pick up the Potato on his way home, and when he left, he hugged me and said, “we did it,” and I just laughed and hugged him back and said, “we sure did.” I stayed through the convocation, sitting with the parents of one of the Bee’s new roommates. The roommate’s mom and I were sitting next to each other, each with tears streaming down our faces. It’s a weird thing to cry next to a relative stranger whose kid is about to become so significant to yours.

After the convocation, I walked the Bee back to her room, and she said, “are you ready?” I told her, “no, I’m just going to climb into your bunk bed and hide there, is that okay?” and she laughed. We hugged goodbye for a long minute, and I told her I loved her, and I was glad to see her happy–that made it easier. I only cried a little, and then I let her go.

 

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August 28, 2017. thoughtful parenting. 1 comment.

where did the time go?

The Bee is fifteen today. No, seriously.

Fifteen. Years. Old.

She’s practically an adult.

We went out to dinner for her birthday on Sunday night (her request–she didn’t want to be out late on a school night)–she wanted fondue, so we went to the Melting Pot. Who can argue with food that you dip into cheese or chocolate, after all?

This morning, she woke me up at 5:45 needing to use my computer to get her Algebra homework done…this afternoon, she goofily texted me about the packet of chocolate covered Acai I snuck into her lunch.

Tonight, the kids are staying at landisdad’s, as I’ve got to be on the road tomorrow–so I went over there for dinner, so we could all hang around and open presents and eat cake. Landisdad and I told the kids the story of the day she was born–with special highlights on the “labor makes mom throw up on dad” and “dad turns green after watching a nurse dig around in mom’s hand trying to hook up an IV” sections of the story. The Potato likes those parts the best (especially when he gets to say, “yeah–when you were born you made mom throw up!” because, eleven).

It’s hard to believe that she’ll only spend two more birthdays with us before she’s off to college…

September 30, 2014. family life, the new normal. 3 comments.

that moment

when your kid comes home from school and tells you that her HISTORY teacher told her during class that if she disagrees with US foreign policy, she should move to another country AND THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD BLOWS OFF.

 

I promised the Bee I wouldn’t write a letter to the school board about this. I didn’t promise not to blog. Sigh…

The silver lining of this otherwise wretched story is that the Bee just kept standing up to him, and challenging the analysis of 9/11 that he was trying to push on the class. And that she thought that part of living in a democracy was being able to challenge your government to be better.

 

She also told him that if she could, she’d move to Scandinavia, since they have better social policy than we do. He was like, “sure, if you want to pay all those taxes.”

 

I told her, “next time, why don’t you suggest that he move to get a teaching job in a low-tax state, if he’s opposed to paying taxes? I’m certainly less interested in paying MY property taxes, if it’s going to his salary.”

September 16, 2014. parenting ain't easy, politically motivated. 1 comment.

Mama needs a drink…

Since the separation/divorce, landisdad and I have had a mostly 50% custody split. Most of the time, we work out the weekends in six month chunks, but the weekdays are usually done just a week or so in advance–and need to balance kid school schedules, various athletic events or performances, and the hectic worklives that he and I both have.

Generally, we have a pretty easy time figuring it out, which is good.

This summer, landisdad and his mom took the kids on vacation for two solid weeks, which meant that I ended up with one week each in July and August.

I just got off the August week. Whoof. 10 days of single parenting and mama needs a drink (or many).

 

My hat is totally off to those of you who do this all year round!

August 24, 2014. solo living. Leave a comment.

on parenting and organizing

When I became a parent, I had been working as an organizer for nearly ten years. At the time the Bee was born, I had a job that involved organizing other working women–many of whom were in transition from welfare to work. I didn’t have a lot of role models of successful women organizers who were also moms–most of my female friends who had kids dropped out of work to be stay at home moms, or left the crazy, workaholic world of organizing to do 9-to-5 gigs, that let them be home at predictable hours.

The direct work circumstances that I had at the time the Bee was born made me think often about the parallels between parenting and work as an organizer–because most of the women I was organizing, at the time, had been parents for longer than I, but had much more sporadic work histories–and much less experience as activists. In many ways, parenting has made me a better organizer–not least because it gave me something to talk about with almost any other adult human.

Now that I’ve got nearly 15  years of parenting-while-organizing experience under my belt, I’ve had a number of conversations with younger organizers–mostly women, some men–about what it’s like to be a parent while trying to change the world. Over the years, I’ve developed some rules of thumb that, I think, pertain to both experiences. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Nobody except you is going to have your kid as their first priority. It’s your job to stand up for the time that you need to spend with him or her. You wouldn’t expect someone else to prioritize your work tasks–you’re the person who is best-equipped to know what you need to do to get your job done. This is the same.
  • If you’re trying to change jobs: be clear about your boundaries, but don’t let them limit you. I’ve had interviews where I’ve told potential employers–“I can only travel X amount–if that’s a problem, then I’m not the right fit for this job.” It’s never stopped anyone from hiring me. People appreciate knowing your limits.
  • That thing they say on airplanes, about putting the oxygen on you first? is real. No kid deserves a parent who doesn’t take time for self-care–just like “constant campaign” mode kills activists.
  • Teaching always goes in two directions–whether you realize it at the time or not.
  • Sometimes, the best way to build a relationship is to do the thing the other person thinks is fun or useful. Say yes, more than you say no.
  • Use all the technology available to you. I have had a shared google calendar with landisdad since before we were divorced–two parents with crazy work lives have to be able to sync. And lately, I’ve been parenting by text message–which drives me crazy–but with kids who are digital natives, that’s not weird.
  • Life has goals & benchmarks, but it’s more like a movement, than a campaign. It does have an end-point, but none of us is hoping for the day after.

And finally…

  • There is beauty in people learning to do things for themselves, even if it’s different than the way you would do it.

 

 

May 25, 2014. parenthacks, parenting ain't easy. Leave a comment.

The saddest email ever

From the Potato…

Grace is dead. I am so sad about it. When Hank died, yes i was crying and really upset, but he wasn’t a human cat. He was a cat cat. Grace was a human cat. I miss her.

April 10, 2014. parenting ain't easy. Leave a comment.

That thing where you go to a parent-teacher conference for one kid, and hear about his study habits. And then you come home, and the other kid comes down to talk to you about her homework, and it’s obvious that they do not share study habits.

 

And you wonder, how did either of these kids come from me?

March 18, 2014. family life. Leave a comment.

the Halloween parade

photo (1)

Yesterday, I had coffee with a friend who has a new baby–he and his husband adopted over the summer, and their son is 7 months old now.

We were talking about the differences that parenting makes in your life, and I mentioned that this was my last year as an elementary school parent–next year, the Potato will be in middle school, and the Bee will be a sophomore.

He asked me, “what does that mean to you?” and I’m not gonna lie, the first thought I had was “freedom.”

It’s not total freedom, of course–but being the parent of two kids in their older school years is very different from being the parent of a kindergartener and a toddler, which is the  place I was in when I started this blog.

But it does mean no more worrying about how to cover after-school care every day. It means that he’ll play soccer after school, not in the evenings and on weekends. It means some small measure of freedom, that comes with your kids becoming more independent.

Today, though, was my last elementary school Halloween parade. And that’s kind of sad.

Though of course, when your son wants to dress up as Death for Halloween, it’s not exactly a warm & fuzzy moment…

 

October 31, 2013. growing up. 1 comment.

the perils of dating (parenting edition)

The Bee, so far, is somewhat anomalous among her friends in that she’s never had a boyfriend. She’s 14 now, and a high school freshman, so I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time.

A few weeks ago, she asked me to buy her a dress for homecoming. It’s not till November, so I thought it was a little weird at the time, but she told me she wanted a specific dress online, and wanted to have time to exchange it if it didn’t fit right. So we bought the dress.

A few days later, I noticed one of her friends talking online about how all the girls she knew were getting asked to homecoming, and how all the boys were coming up with creative ways of asking (this, apparently, is a function of Tumblr, according to one of the Bee’s friends, who is a senior). And a lightbulb went off in my head.

So I asked the Bee, “are you going to homecoming with someone?” She said, “not yet. But a boy is going to ask me. I don’t know who it is–but all my friends do, and they won’t tell me.”

Oy.

I joked to landisdad that we should write an open letter to the boy to let him know that the Bee hates surprises, and doubly hates when other people know things about her life that she doesn’t know. And then we waited for her to tell us more about the boy.

After about a week of not hearing anything else about it, I broke down and asked her, “hey, did you ever find out who the boy was who was going to ask you to homecoming?” She said, “yeah, but he ended up asking the Rabbit (one of her best friends) instead. The Crow (a frenemy) found out he was going to ask me, and she told him to ask the Rabbit instead, because she didn’t have a date. So now I don’t have a date.”

The Bee didn’t seem too overwhelmingly upset by it–she said that the boy was a nice kid, and she would have gone with him, but just as friends.

I told her, “the thing that sucks about dating in high school is that there is a finite pool of acceptable boys, and you tend to be competing for them with your friends. It won’t always be like that.”

Of course, from a single mom perspective–there don’t seem to be too many adult men who are interested in winning Tumblr by being creative daters, so there are trade-offs everywhere, I guess.

October 21, 2013. growing up. 1 comment.

helicopter high school

The Bee is three days into high school, and I’m already exhausted. Why does the start of the school year have to come right after I’ve spent August relaxing?

Two quick things this morning, but they’re linked, somehow, in my head.

The Bee is continuing to play field hockey, at least for this year. I don’t think she actually loves the game, but a couple of her friends asked her to do it, so they could have a freshman team (in addition to varsity & JV ones). The high school field hockey parents? are insane.

Both of our kids have played team sports. I’ve never experienced a team sport where the parents rotate who is going to make dinner for the kids on game nights. There are 42 girls playing field hockey. I am not running a restaurant kitchen!

Two days ago, one person sent out an email to the parents’ listserv asking for the college addresses of field hockey alumni, so the girls could write to her. (Landisdad, to me, privately–“what, they never heard of facebook? make a group!”)

In related news, I just read this article, from the Atlantic, about parents’ use of online grade systems in public schools.

We’ve had access to the Bee’s grades online since she went into middle school, and I confess, I can probably count on my fingers & toes the number of times I’ve logged into that thing. The Bee, however, is on it all the time.

Two nights ago at dinner, she and the Potato were complaining about various teachers, and he asked her why she didn’t like a particular science teacher that she had been complaining about. “Ms. W. doesn’t even know how to use Genesis! Last year, I was absent one day on a day she was absent too. She left a busy-work assignment with the sub, and she told me, when I came back to school, that I didn’t have to do it. And then she marked it as incomplete in Genesis! I told her 3 times to correct it, but she still didn’t, until I stood over her and made her do it!”

I can’t tell if envisioning the Bee nagging her teacher to change a grade made me more horrified, or more proud.

What I do know is that eventually, the Bee is going to go to college (and god help any professor who makes a mistake on her grades!)–and I’m not going to go with her. I certainly don’t question her competency at standing up for herself.

I’m not sure what’s behind the impulse to continue helicopter parenting into high school. I certainly don’t have it. Maybe it’s that sense that you’re about to lose them forever, and you just want to hang on while you can?

September 7, 2013. growing up. 2 comments.

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