Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Happy #FathersDay to my favorite feminist

June 15, 2014

I was raised by a feminist: but not the one you think. Truth be told, my dad was probably a better 70’s era feminist that my mother (and she was a feminist). My parents raised three children in the chaos that was the era of bad car seats, no helmets and toys with lead. Amazingly, we all survived (although sometimes my sister and I wonder if feeding my brother lead based paint because we were told kids liked the taste explains some of him).
My dad has never found it necessary to use a monosyllabic word when an uncommon polysyllabic word sufficed. More importantly, after stating whatever SAT worthy sentence he was discussing, he’d then explain the statement in normal human language (it’s because xxx). He never spoke to us as children: he translated adult into kid. One of his favorite stories is about a toy I had as a toddler: it had various shapes (circle, rectangle). My father taught me alternate words: rhombus, parallelogram, trapezoid. My grandmother played it with me once asking me the shape and instead answering rectangle, I provided ‘parallelogram’ as the answer. My mother said it was the last time my grandmother played the name the shape game with her daughter’s children.

Having daughters in the early days of Title IX meant that we could participate in the various sports leagues. Let me be clear: participation was playing the minimum, as catcher in T-ball because we had a tendency to pick flowers in the outfield or otherwise be disinterested. And we were bad: really bad. Our team didn’t lose – but that was not due to the contributions of my family. My dad would spend parts of each weekend playing 2-1 basketball games. Dad is 6 5. We were under 5 feet. He blocked our shots: he didn’t let us ‘win’ per se: if we scored before time was up we ‘won’. He also shot sky hooks (seriously). Barbie dolls, baseball bats, books: all were fair game. He taught me how to keeps score at a baseball game, he let my sister have peanuts and whatever else she ate. He didn’t view one over the other: he nurtured our interests and spent time with us.

Once, somebody made the comment to my father about how my dad had to ‘babysit’ the three of us: my dad said, you don’t babysit your own children: unheard of 30 years ago. He gave quirky advice as we headed to college “don’t ever call home after a night of drinking”. We would call my mom for the idealism: we would call my dad for the pragmatism. But the pragmatism wasn’t gender based: it was reality based. Take an economics class, take statistics. He raised two daughters and a son who work STEM based careers before it was trendy (and the one with a history degree finally figured out math).

I’ve always thought fathers receive the short end of the parenting stick. My dad cooked, did some of the housekeeping, gardening, helped with the canning. He avoided the laundry (budgetary reasons) and wisely stepped away from the decorating the house for Christmas. I’ve been told ‘most’ men don’t do this. The feminist ones do: and they are responsible for many of the cracks in the glass ceiling.

Love you Dad.

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For Charlotte’s parents.

December 17, 2011

Friends of mine had the most adorable baby a week ago.  She was born a bit early and with more than her fair share of complications and is currently in a NICU.  A long time ago, I decided NICU nurses are like chemo nurses.  They balance pragmatism with hope, and can steel emotions enough to do the hard things while maintaining enough compassion to remember the patient and his/her family.

When I heard my friends’ baby was going to the NICU in a different hospital, I remembered my family’s tour(s) of the NICUs.  Nieces 2 and 3 were born way too early and enjoyed 2 helicopter rides, some very scary moments and while short by NICU stays, a long stay in the hospital.  Luckily, they were never in different hospitals but they did come home separately.  Nephew #3 apparently wanted to join the other two in this adventure – but he skipped the hospital ride and didn’t get a long stay: just enough to freak out his parents.  My family is lucky: all 3 are fine – if not downright ornery this time of year.

I started hearing what people were saying to my friends: about medicine coming a long way, about how the time would pass quickly, about how everything is going to be ok.  I’ve never been pregnant, the closest I’ve come to parenting is the rare times my sister let’s me watch a child or the cats.  I’m pretty clueless about how to care for an infant.  Putting a sleeper on a baby terrifies me: I’m afraid I’ll break his/her shoulder!

Ok, some NICU tours are more normal than others jaundice lights for example.  But saying to a parent that “you’d do the same thing at home” (watch your baby) as in the NICU is asinine.  At home, you can hold your baby at will, you can be a family.  In the NICU, you move to the rhythm of the hospital.  You can hold your child when allowed, sometimes see your child only at certain times, and let’s face it, very few of us are used to the sounds of alarms and noises.

As a friend, sibling, co-worker, you don’t know what to say.  There is the deep part of us that wants to say “your baby will be fine” but we don’t know this: there isn’t a promise with any birth.  Watching small improvements via pictures can bring smiles but are only the smallest of exhales that the parents may feel.  We don’t have to live in the fear of the phone ringing about our newborn.  We don’t have to live in the yo-yo of a NICU where guilt of a child becoming healthy can creep in as we watch other new parents join the NICU family or facing other families watch a baby loose his/her battle.

What we can offer our friends and family is love: an open phone line, gift cards for meals, and the mocking we’d do during our relationship (i.e. #newdadsarefunny).  We can offer a place of normalcy where we can let those we care about decompress. If you can’t think of something to say, simply say, that.  Or let your friends know that every emotion they feel is valid, authentic and acceptable.

But most of all, please don’t say something stupid.  Please don’t say this is part of some plan: it is hell.  It is hell for the people brought this baby into the world and all who love the family.  And Charlotte, you will look fantastic in orange.

Mother’s Day: A Case Against

May 7, 2011

Let me be clear.  I love my mother. Yes, at times she drives me batty. I drive her batty. It’s called a mother-daughter relationship.  I think my siblings and their spouses are fantastic parents.  And I despise this holiday more than every other schmaltzy Hallmark holiday created.

Why? First it celebrates an ideal.  A June Cleaver combines with post-modernity woman who can balance everything with a smile and STILL have time for a “girls night out”.  Hell, I’m single, can barely get myself out the door most mornings having fed the cats and figured out something for 3 meals.  Mothers aren’t perfect.  Shock, I know.  Mothers are human. They make mistakes. Try finding a card that says something to that effect. 

Second, Mother’s Day doesn’t acknowledge the wounds of being motherless, being un-mothered, not being able to have a child (for many reasons).  That pain is deep and ever- lasting.

Finally, Mother’s Day doesn’t acknowledge those couples, the women who choose not to have children yet provide mentoring roles.  Where is that celebrated? It takes a village to raise a child.  Part of that village very well probably includes childfree couples or individuals.  They may not be raising a child but  in providing a unique mentoring  of not being a parent, these individuals often can be the ‘adult’ sounding board that a child may need and provide insight to the parent(s) about the uniqueness of the child.

To my friends who parent: enjoy your day. May it be full of love of the rewards of your hard work.  To my friends who struggle on days like this, my thoughts are with you.  We don’t live in a Hallmark world, I just wish we’d catch up to it.