Conversations With A Three Year Old. About Fathers. When He Has Two Moms.

I’ve been watching “Tidying Up” on Netflix. I like her style. I took her method to my son’s closet and dresser. I took all the clothes out. Packed up two massive garbage bags for goodwill and one plastic container for Summer stuff that will still fit them. Then refolded all their shirts, Tidy style, and I was feeling very proud of myself putting all the shirts neatly folded into their dresser. Declan was in the room with me, chatting with me and playing intermittently.

He took a toy and pretended it was a phone, he was whispering, “Hi, is Mama there?” he wasn’t looking at me. I was chuckling to myself still putting clothes away, “Okay, bye,”. The one sided dialogue was cute, and I turned to look at him when it was over, “Who were you calling baby?” I asked. Thinking I already knew the answer. Me. Mama.

His answer floored me.

“My Father,” (But it sounded like My Fawder because he’s three and talks funny).

Me (trying to act very casual and not freak out): “Who?”

Declan: “My Fawder,” he smiled.

Me: “Oh, uh, who’s your Father baby?”

Declan (takes a moment to ponder this question): “Uhhh, Mommy!”

Mommy is my wife. Who was not home at the moment. Declan was all smiles, glad he figured out who his Father is and resumed playing.

I sorta sat there for a minute with my perfectly folded shirts and wondered how or if I should pursue this line of thinking. Then I thought. Fuck it. At least he knows I’m not his Father. I mean sheesh. I’m Mama. My wife has short hair and no boobs hence I’m sure the confusion. Three year old’s don’t get gender and he probably just thinks she’s the male-ish figure.

I know other lesbian couples where the kids call one partner (generally a more butch-y partner) Daddy and they just let it ride. So that’s what I do.

I told my wife when she got home. She thought it was hilarious. She asked Dec who his Father was, and he smiled shyly and said, “Mommy,” and she smiled and gave him a hug.

Declan is wicked smart. I’m not just saying that because I’m his Mom. I’m brutally honest. Trust me I would say if my kid wasn’t smart. His brother, Jackson, also wicked smart, but lazy. He can do as much and say as much as Declan he just chooses not to unless or until it benefits him. Potty training. Didn’t do it for M&M’s or chocolate chips. Wasn’t the right motivator.

He did it when we started not allowing him to watch any movies until he went on the potty.

Jackson is a cuddle bug. That boy will cuddle with me at any time of day or night that I sit down. He’s attached to me. Declan will snuggle occasionally. And it’s not because he doesn’t like to snuggle. It’s because he’s so damn busy. He’s always taking toys apart and putting them back together. The other day I went into the other room and he had half of a jumbo 24 piece puzzle together. It was hard. It was the jungle. It all looks the same. The kid did it by himself. I’ve never even shown him how to do a puzzle and he wasn’t looking at the picture on the box to guide him.

But I digress.

My point is that he figured out kids have Moms and Dads. Mothers and Fathers. Then he tried to fit his family into that social construct. Mama is a girl obviously. I have long hair and I breastfed him for a year. I wear necklaces and he’s always touching my hair telling me he loves it.

But Mommy, that’s debatable in his eyes. Short hair. Dresses like she works at a paint store (because she does) and wears work boots and no jewelry.

So there you go. She fit the Father mold a little better than Mama (which is fine but for real I’m the one that uses the power tools). Then he assimilated that into a fact in his head and bingo bango a Father is born.

My wife doesn’t care. In fact we’ve talked about utilizing Father’s Day as her day and Mother’s Day as my day so we have separate days to celebrate one another. My kids sure don’t care. But there’s something niggling at me (yes that’s a word).

Why are society’s constructs so rigid that a three year old gets them better than he does his own family composition?

Sometimes people get mad when I reference heterosexual privilege. But I’m going to do it. Because hetero’s have privilege. EVERY movie in existence that is mainstream and three year old appropriate has hetero families and love interests. The boys love Disney movies. Guess what. All male/female. Everywhere. And when, God forbid Disney had Lafou dance with a man, there was moral outrage from every homophobic twat in existence. It was a dance. Not even a long dance. I wouldn’t even have recognized it as a gay moment if I hadn’t been looking for it.

Our society makes a two mom family seem less than, unequal by not giving my sons the same opportunities to see two mom families as hetero families in everything from the media to books to magazines to movies to filling out forms for freaking vaccinations. It’s always Mother/Father. What about Parent/Parent?

My three year old shouldn’t think he’s supposed to have a Father. But he does.

He’s just also smart enough to realize he has two parents who love him, and one of them obviously would fill the Father role better than the other one. Touche Dec-man.

(The picture is Dec reading to all of his doggies. I heard chairs scraping and came into the foyer to find the dogs lined up and him reading. He is defying gender stereotypes by reading from the Disney Princess Encyclopedia)

Not Your Typical “Facebook Happy” New Years Post.

I’m quite realistic. It’s something people either love or hate about me. When I see the sappy posts on facebook about how perfect everyone’s 2018 was…yeah that’s not how I roll.

I don’t ignore bad things. I face them. I won’t say 2018 was a great year for myself or my family. Because in all honesty it wasn’t. But it could have been worse. And scattered through hard times were good times.

Between the screaming three year olds who fight sleep like it’s the plague, there were hugs and cuddles and the first time they said “I wuv you Mama.” Between watching my dad battle a chronic illness that is stealing him away piece by piece, there were lucid conversations; actual conversations where I spoke and he answered and it was rational and normal and I realized how precious the ability to converse with loved ones truly is.

We’ve had struggles within our marriage that are painful and challenging. But I’ve learned to have empathy for my clients who feel shamed by the struggles within their own marriage, who feel they can’t talk to anyone about it except for me because they know I am outside their circle of perfect married couple friends. I’ve heard, “You must think I’m crazy for staying,” through tears more times than I can count.

I learned a new response, “No, I think you have a decade or more with this person, children, good memories, not just bad, and it seems like you’re not ready to give up on it yet. That’s okay. You have to do everything in your own time.” I preach acceptance to individuals struggling silently in their marriages. Because I know that feeling and I wouldn’t dare to judge anyone else’s decisions within their marriages.

At some point in December we got bookshelves. I’ve been waiting a year and a half since we moved in to get them. My books are like my babies. Yes. I’m one of those weirdo’s who has piles of books around her house. Except for the last few years they have been in boxes. It has been killing me.

So we unpacked them into the bookshelves that I put together in our foyer while I swore a lot because seriously we can never just get a piece of furniture to put together where all the pieces fit perfectly. I always have to pull out my drill and make my own damn holes to finish it off.

Anyway I came across my favorite books. I always come across them when I need them.  It’s the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning. And I read my favorite quotes and cried through my favorite parts. Usually late at night after everyone was asleep.

“Some people bring out the worst in you, others bring out the best, and then there are those remarkably rare, addictive ones who just bring out the most. Of everything. They make you feel so alive that you’d follow them straight into hell, just to keep getting your fix.”
Karen Marie Moning, Shadowfever

“Although it may not seem like it, this isn’t a story about darkness. It’s about light. Kahlil Gibran says Your joy can fill you only as deeply your sorrow has carved you. If you’ve never tasted bitterness, sweet is just another pleasant flavor on your tongue. One day I’m going to hold a lot of joy.”
Karen Marie Moning, Bloodfever

“I’m sorry your pretty little world got all screwed up, but everybody’s does, and you go on. It’s how you go on that defines you.”
Karen Marie Moning, Bloodfever

When I feel like I’m brought to my knees in my life I am reminded that every one is at some point or another in life. That it is how I get up and go on that defines my life.

In 2018 I am grateful for the pieces of joy that overcame the spaces of darkness. I am grateful for my sons even though they drive me insane. Literally. I am grateful for my marriage because it does make me stronger, better, and there are times I just have to be reminded that we started out addicted to one another and it’s still there. It just gets buried under twins and bills and everything else about adulting that sucks.

I am grateful for my house and the life we have built together. I am grateful for my business which is thriving. I am grateful for my dear friends  who have seen my through so much in the past year. I hated making two trips to the emergency department one for my son and one for my Dad, but I am incredibly grateful that both times there were people who I knew taking care of my family members because I worked with them in the past in the emergency department.

I love that Blue Planet II came out. I hate that I showed my sons who were scarred by the whales tearing apart the bird. Mom fail. I miss the arrogance and freedom of my twenties, but am grateful to have lived to 33 as I have now seen too many young people die from heroin overdoses by 25.

I hate watching my Dad decline but I loved the conversations I got to have with him when he seemed back to his old self. One at my dining room table, one in the emergency department, and one sitting in his backyard on his birthday.

I hate the state of our country. But I have hope that 2019 will bring change. I hate that my Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Non-binary Queer clients/friends/family live in fear. I have hope that we won’t one day. I hate that hetero-cis individuals belittle our fear when they have not felt the sting of discrimination ever.

I hate that Ellen D. came out with an awful stand-up routine that did not in the least address the issues the Queer community faces today. I love Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette and I applaud her for facing the tough issues.

I hate hard times in my marriage but I love coming out the other end stronger for it.

“I wish you a marriage peppered with bad days in order to make the good days even sweeter. I wish you the best marriage filled with love in all forms- so powerful that it hurts, and so pure and good that even on the hard days you know you will make it through and come out maybe a little stronger, a little darker, and with a love so strong you can’t live without it.” (me to my sister at her wedding in 2012)

I’m bracing myself for 2019. But as I said. I face shit. So bring it.

 

 

 

 

 

When My Family is Described as a “Sh&tShow” by a Stranger. Mom-Shame and Restaurants.

It all began at a restaurant. As my sister pointed out, “It’s a FAMILY restaurant.” It’s actually the restaurant I bussed tables at when I was sixteen in my hometown. I have to be honest, I would never have imagined myself almost twenty years later in that restaurant for dinner with my three year old twin boys, my wife, my sister, her wife, my five year old niece, my cousin from New Jersey and two of her kids, and my Mom.

It was a weird feeling to look around at the tables I used to clean and remember waiting to get off my shift to go to my boyfriend’s house on a Friday night.

So I was feeling slightly nostalgic, but also annoyed because three year old’s in a restaurant is never a good thing. It was definitely time to go when we left. My wife was wrangling one of them, he was singing “Jingle Bell Rock” very loudly and running away from my wife.

The other one was attached to my leg and my niece was singing “Let it go, let it go” from Frozen, and my mom was trying to say good-bye to my Jersey cousin. My mom is hard of hearing so everyone was talking loudly anyway.

So yes. To the older woman trying to walk through our party as we were trying to exit…we are a walking shitshow. But did you really need to say that loudly in front of our children at a family restaurant?

“What a shitshow!” you said with a sneer of disgust as you tried to run me over with your cane.

The great part about this is that I don’t think she was homophobic. I think she was just grumpy and annoyed that we were blocking the little hallway to the dining room. We made room. She got by. But yeah. Total shitshow. It was kind of a win-lose. Not homophobic, just mean.

We don’t bring our kids out much. Because three year olds just don’t do well in restaurants. Once every few months we might bring them to a diner for pancakes or to this restaurant in my hometown because it is family-friendly and the owner is always lovely to us because he’s known us for years and at one time was my boss.

My point to this is that there are a lot of opinions about kids in restaurants. Here’s mine.

We bring them well before bedtime- usually between 5-6 p.m. My wife and I only bring them to a restaurant for dinner when it’s a family function. Meaning we also feel it’s torture and choose to never bring them unless we have extended family who want to meet us out for a meal.

Diners are different- food comes fast, it’s loud, it’s expected they will be loud, and there are always crayons. So we are more likely to go for breakfast or brunch.

However, if you are at a family restaurant between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM expect loud children to potentially be there.

If it says “Family restaurant” on the sign or menu…then it’s a family restaurant which generally means kids are welcome.

If you don’t like kids or the noise and chaos that ensue with them…go later at night or choose a non-family restaurant- one that caters more to adults. I know my wife and I do just that when we get one of our rare nights out alone.

We as parents do our best to keep our kids contained. If they are bothersome to you because they are in your space, then I agree we have a problem. If they are bothersome to you because you’re grumpy- that’s a you problem not a them problem.

Please don’t swear at anyone’s children. It’s extremely disrespectful and mean-spirited.

There is a lot of mom-shame that happens everywhere. Eating out is a big one. If you see a mom or dad struggling with their little one in a restaurant. Don’t make it worse with assumptions and judgement. Maybe offer to lend a hand or just a smile that says, “I’m with you.” Encouragement and kindness are what is needed for parents in those moments.

Trust me we are already judging the shit out of our own shit-show. We don’t need to have it pointed out to us.

Queer Christmas.

I did an intake recently on some one who told me their parents are very homophobic. I laughed, and said, “Well, we will work on that,” and then they noticed all the super gay pictures of my wife and kids and I all over my office. They started laughing hysterically. They thought it was freaking awesome that their homophobic parent made an appointment with the most Queer provider in the area. Divine intervention no?

That happens more than you would think.

I’m used to it now. I charm the parent over about six months and they have NO clue that I’m married to a woman. Then at some point when our relationship is solidified I drop it in that I have a wife or they can’t ignore the pictures any longer, and we talk about their pre-conceived notions of Queer individuals. I’ve only had one person drop out of treatment after this confrontation. Out of many. Many stay.

Many have their mind blown and re-evaluate their beliefs. Often because in the course of this conversation they realize their kid is some sort of Queer also.

I am a Queer magnet. It happens. I’m cool with it.

As an aside I have to point out, because my wife totally got me, we were talking about Mickey Mantle…weird because we both dislike baseball…and I said “Of course I know who he is, he’s a cis white dude,” and she said, “Well so is Santa.” Touche. Sometimes my wife gets me.

Anyway, I see both ends of the spectrum personally and professionally. I see kids just coming out to their parents, young adults who have come out, and parents who are struggling with their children’s sexuality or sexual orientation.

My absolute favorite phone call is a distraught parent who wants to come in to learn how to best support their child who just came out to them. That amazes me. I’m like, kudos and thank-you. You acknowledged that your kid is going through a lot, and you reached out to a professional who you probably heard is Queer who can help. Strong work.

My least favorite are sessions leading up to the holidays. The pain and the struggle is so real.

It’s hard for my wife and I too. Do we send a Christmas card to her parents or not? We didn’t this year. She chose not to. Do we expect a card from them? Sometimes we get one, and it’s usually religiously based with a zinger in there that just twists the knife.

My wife’s struggle is unfortunately common in the Queer community. So many of my clients struggle leading up to the holidays. Do they reach out? Do they not? They find solace in friends, as we do. They find solace in significant other’s families who are supportive, as we do. They sit with the pain. As we do.

Queer Christmas’ are like Queer birthdays and every other holiday where we have to face the fact that we are alienated from our families due to our sexual orientation or gender identity.

But ever the optimist, I cite Belle’s Enchanted Christmas and point out the best gift any one can receive at the holidays is hope. Hope that one day families will heal the bonds caused by discrimination. Hope that even if we don’t heal the wounds between family members we can heal our community. The Queer community needs to focus on saving lives of all our individuals who feel isolated and alone. Our suicide rate climbs. And I hope that one day it will be zero.

I’m doing my part. One homophobic parent at a time. I’m not under any illusions though, it’s totally the pictures of my boys that win them. Who doesn’t like a woman who has the cutest twin boys in the world? Even if she’s lesbian?

To my Queer community: You are NOT alone. You are beautiful. You are loved. You will find your family.

To the Hetero’s: Make sure your Queer neighbors and friends are not alone this holiday season. Walk the walk. 

To my Wife: You have found your family. We love you. And yes Santa is cis-white-hetero. Touche.

 

The Day After Sandy Hook and Growing up Without a Santa Claus

In case any of my readers forgot December 14, 2018 marked the anniversary of Sandy Hook. The deaths of 28 individuals including twenty children under the age of eight. I remember that day clearly. Every one who lives in Connecticut does. Because it finally hit our home. The violence we heard about in Aurora and Columbine and Little Rock came to our home. To our babies. To our neighbors.

The saddest memory I have is talking to emergency department staff at local hospitals and them being alerted that there was a mass shooting, and they waited for victims. But there weren’t any. They all died on scene. I have since in varying capacities encountered individuals affected that day. While the rest of the country may have moved on, may have put that memory away, it’s still living and breathing here in Connecticut.

There are still siblings of those who died, parents, there are still teachers, first responders who have never recovered from the gruesome scene, and students who hid in closets, sheltered by teachers, hearing gunshots and the screams of their classmates dying. Yes that’s a thing. There was a classroom on either side of the one that was targeted. Full of children who heard their classmates die.

I couldn’t write this yesterday. I could barely acknowledge the day. Because my sons are three. And nothing has changed. Connecticut says we have passed “tough gun laws”. Well speaking from the mental health side of things, they are not tough gun laws because they keep guns out of the hands of people who sign in voluntarily for a psychiatric admission. NOT the people who are committed against their will. And if a child or young adult is admitted voluntarily and they don’t have guns registered to them (Ah hem Lanza’s were all registered to his Mom) and the patient and the family do not disclose there are guns, then guess what, the guns stay in the freaking home.

The laws that came out of Sandy Hook in Connecticut actually would not have prevented Sandy Hook at all. And that’s fact. All they did was create barriers to inpatient psychiatric treatment for law enforcement who will never sign in voluntarily as they will lose their gun and their livelihood.

I pointed this out to a state senator at a town hall when he made the statement, “The gun laws in Connecticut are very effective.”

I stood up, and said, “Effective for what? Because they won’t prevent a mass shooting if perpetrated in the way Sandy Hook was, and they create barriers to care for law enforcement officers who have higher rates of depression, suicide, substance abuse, and domestic violence.”

He looked at me dumbfounded. And I just shook my head and said sadly, “That’s what I thought.”

Until the very states that have been victims to mass shootings (Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Connecticut, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, California, Pennsylvania…yeah it’s a long list and this is not all of them) stand together and create actual legislation to decrease accessibility of guns and ammunition and until mental health laws make sense and create a preventative culture not a reactive culture, then sadly, there will be more mass shootings. More of our babies will die. Because we are too corrupt and too stubborn to stand for the dead.

My wife grew up in a right wing orthodox religious household where they did celebrate Christmas but not with Santa. Very religious focused. Not something I like, but one of their parenting decisions I don’t actually disagree with. Do Christmas any way you want. I respect others religious and lifestyle decisions unless it brings harm to some one else.

The only harm not having Santa Claus around for my wife was that I have to teach her how to do the Santa thing with our sons. We don’t fill up the stockings until after bedtime…yes I had to say that. We don’t buy Santa’s wrapping paper with the boys there, because now they have seen it and chatted about it, and can put together that it came from our house not Santa’s workshop. Little things.

I feel strongly about creating the magic of Santa for our kids. Because December 14, 2012 20 children were killed. I’ve looked into buying backpacks that are bulletproof. My sons will not believe in magic for very long. The cold realities of our world enter our children’s lives younger and younger. So to watch them believe in magic and to foster that for even a short time. It feels important to me.

Every one says things happen for a reason. Children dying never happens for a reason. It never creates anything positive, it leaves deep scars. And their lives have created no change in terms of legislation at this point which I personally find disgusting as I made clear to my state representative.

There is so much ugliness, that helping them believe in a jolly man who fosters kindness and love and miracles. I’m down with that. Because I want them to know only kindness and love and miracles, but I face the cold reality of our time and know they will know so much more.

Every generation says things changed too much and makes excuses for why they didn’t do better. The baby boomers say technology evolved so quickly, when in reality it did, and guns evolved quickly and the members of all of our legislative bodies are complicit in watching them evolve and doing nothing to halt their accessibility. And we as people are complicit for accepting this as our norm.

The day I stood up in that town hall with a Republican state senator, and about forty democrat constituents. When he made his statement that our gun legislation was top notch, they all just nodded their heads. No one actually knew how inadequate it is. Because unless you work in mental health you don’t know unless you make it your business to know.

Every citizen of America is responsible for all the gun deaths that occur every day. I hold you and myself accountable. And I hope that our children will too. That the survivors of Sandy Hook and Parkland and Virginia Tech will shape laws to protect our children. Because our current generation of lawmakers are not doing it.

Fuck your thoughts and prayers. The blood of our children requires more.

 

 

 

The Moment Your 3 Year Old Figures Out Mommy’s Family is Missing.

That moment happened. The one we’ve been dreading since I got pregnant. My sons and my wife were watching The Good Dinosaur. A horrible trippy Disney movie that for some reason made it past Disney editors. My sons are obsessed with it.

There’s a part when Arlo, the dinosaur, is explaining to a human critter what and who his family is. My sons learned awhile ago that their family is Mommy, Mama, Declan, and Jackson (and Rajah and Maddy the cats but they fight over who can have Maddy because she’s more friendly to them).

They are watching that scene, and they are holding pictures of my Aunt and Uncle and cousins, and my parents- Poppy and Ba (Gramma), because they tend to walk around with those pictures and chatter about their family.

Declan looks at his pictures, then he looks at my wife and says, “My famwe Mama, Mommy, Chackson, and Decky, Rara, and Maddy.” My wife says, “Yes, good job.” He wasn’t done though. He looked perplexed and held up his pictures and said, “Who your famwe?” That little three year old brain had put it together. All of these extended relatives were Mamas famwe. So where the heck are Mommy’s people?

My wife responded perfectly and said, “You’re my family. You and Jackson, and Mama.” Declan is too smart for his age. He looked at her, and at the pictures, like he knew that couldn’t be right. So he asked again. And again. And again. Because he’s three and he’s my son. I’ve been told I’m like a dog going after a bone. I won’t stop until I get my answer. Apple doesn’t fall far apparently.

So eventually my wife said, “Well I don’t really talk to my family baby.” He responded, “No talk to your famwe?” and she nodded. Then he became engrossed in the movie and seemed to accept this as an answer.

My wife told me as soon as I got home that night. We were both a little surprised and caught off guard. He’s too young for us to explain this. He’s too…innocent. We don’t want him to know that her family cut her off, left her homeless, has never met them because she’s a lesbian. But he’s also too damn smart and nosey. He’s going to know sooner than we would have liked.

His brother likes to live in happy oblivion. HIs brother accepts reality as it is and doesn’t question it. But he will know too, because if Declan’s talking about it Jackson’s going to be listening.

So here we are. Three years and two weeks into their little lives. That’s how long they lasted without knowing or asking.

It feels weird. Kind of a relief. Kind of terrifying. Sad. The way they will be introduced to discrimination is through the grandparents they will never meet. Not how we would have liked it or planned it. But that’s our reality.

It all feels so stupid. Such an easy fix. Yet so impossible at the same time.

There’s no guidebook for this whole parenting thing. There’s also no guidebook for the whole lesbian mom disowned by her parents thing. It’s a lot of stumbling through. Waiting for the questions to be asked and wishing we had different answers when they are.

Cutting Down the Christmas Tree and Twinning. 2018.

We survived without feeling like anyone hated us for being lesbians. So that’s a step up from last year.  We contemplated going outside our town, even though there are five tree farms in our small little town. But I convinced my wife we could just try another tree farm. The guys working there were incredibly friendly and no one cared we were gay. Thank freaking God. Because we had enough to deal with.

My wife said we have two threenagers. I disagree. We have two three year old boys with my gene pool. It was bound to happen. They both are as stubborn as I am, Declan is as empathic as I am, and Jackson is as manipulative. Because yes, I know how to read people and I don’t use my powers for bad in terms of being manipulative, but at age three, who knows, I probably did. They are impatient as every three year old is, but it’s also worse because patience may not be part of my personality at all. Ever.

My Jackson knows how to melt me. Declan knows he just doesn’t milk it quite like his brother.

So there we are at the tree farm. Now I’m picturing finding the perfect tree, having the boys stand and watch in awe as we cut it down. Then enjoying hot cider in the barn afterward. Yeah I don’t know how I thought that vision would be reality. Sometimes I feel incredibly naive as a Mama of twins.

After a long and cold walk my wife and I found the tree. I called the boys over who were crawling on the ground, chasing each other around, and showing off for two little girls who were there with their parents. They come stumbling over, laughing, and I tell them proudly, “Here’s our tree!” They look at it. Declan proceeds to dive into it like he’s diving into home base, then he cracks himself up and stands up and starts trying to climb it. I’m yelling at Declan to stop climbing the tree as the branches start to bend under his weight and Jackson has completely lost interest and has his back turned and is staring at the girls.

We cut it down (by we I mean my wife) and I had to literally drag Jackson back with us as he decided to throw a tantrum. It was cold. We were all hungry. We had a big tree and a big saw that we had to carry back and herd two hangry boys.

What I’m constantly reminding myself with strong willed twin boys is nothing will be how I picture it and/or how I want it and I need to be okay with that.

At Thanksgiving they barely sat for five minutes at the table and the one group picture I’m literally holding Declan down to the chair. Getting the tree we are not going to have a family moment where we sing Oh Christmas Tree as we cut it down. It’s going to be a mess. It’s going to be running after them, herding them like cats, some one crying, some one hitting, some one climbing, and then just when I think I’m ready to toss them across the freaking tree farm Jackson will come up to me, pull me down to eye level, hold my face in both his hands and say, “Mama, I wanna donut.” Then kiss me and wait for me to say “Of course baby.”

So many people I talk to daily have ideas of how life and moments “should be” and what I’m finding is if I focus on the should’s, it makes me upset at the here and now, and I’m missing it. I’m missing the crazy. Because that’s what it is having twin boys. A whole lot of crazy intermingled with those moment of hands cradling my face asking for donuts.

It’s exhausting. I feel tired all the time since I’ve had them. And I’m sick of people saying innocent things like, “Oh you are getting your tree this weekend? That will be fun with the boys!” or “Christmas will be so fun this year!” or “The boys must have loved Thanksgiving.” I just smile and nod. But in my head I hear this evil maniacal laugh and I’m thinking ‘You want fun? You think it will be fun? Fuck you.’ Because it’s fun but it’s also work. It’s an incredible amount of energy. All the time. And sometimes all that work and energy only gets us a temper tantrum. Which literally makes me want to cry.

There are moments as a Mom when I want to just fall to my knees and say, “You win,” to them. I want to crawl under my covers and go to sleep for a week.

But we trudge onward. Because that’s apparently what parents do.

We get the tree. We put it up. (Well first we hose it down and my wife and I were snippy with each other after the exhausting tree farm experience, so I’m spraying it and it starts to slide down the house and I’m saying ‘grab it, grab it,’ and she’s yelling at me, ‘stop spraying the water!’ which I don’t. So it falls. Then we are yelling at each other as she’s picking it up, and I’m still trying to spray it, the boys are running around with their doughnuts, and then we are cracking up because we realize we are ridiculous)

We appreciate the absolute shit-show it is hanging up the ornaments. I laugh as I pick an ornament off the bottom of the tree, the branch bent to the floor, by not one but a chain of three ornaments one of them made and hung. I made little pizzas thinking they would love them. They of course did not touch them and wanted a year old candy cane they found in the ornament bin.

As I lamented the individual pizzas I came across an ornament that listed all of our names, and I called them over and I said “Look babies, look, it says Declan, Jackson, Mama, and Mommy, it’s all of us.” And they did actually look, and Jackson snatched it out of my hand, and walked around carrying it for the next hour and he and Declan would intermittently hold it up and say, “My famwee” “My famwee” (family). And it was that moment. That moment where I stopped caring that they didn’t stand nicely in front of our tree at the farm, that I had to drag them across the freaking farm screaming while holding a saw, and that they didn’t eat the pizza and I was just content. Content to have my famwee with all its imperfections.

 

“Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History” F*&$ That.

I’m starting to hate that quote. Why is there no quote that well behaved men rarely make history? Because questioning the norms, speaking out, and creating change are all admired in men, but put down in women.

A woman I know who became active and vocal in local politics received a threatening letter, not signed, and her mailbox was destroyed. Social media response ranged from outrage to “Well she was a rabble rouser, what do you expect?” What the fuck?

This letter threatened her two children under the age of five. And by rabble rouser we mean- questioned the first selectman’s process in spending the town’s money all within the guidelines of the town charter and laws. She never actually “misbehaved,” she demanded accountability and dared to question the white men who got their knickers in a twist when she demanded transparency (as is her right according to her town’s charter and laws).

Someone wrote the above quote on her facebook page. And it pissed me off. Because she is behaving. She’s not misbehaving by exercising her right to free speech and demanding transparency in local politics. Which by the way all started because of a local project to re-vamp a playground. A playground people. If we can’t be transparent about a playground we have some serious freaking problems.

I never thought I was a feminist. Because that word has a strong ring to it. A rather violent burning bras type of ring. But apparently even women who just exercise the same rights men do fall under the feminist umbrella. This horrible situation in a small red town in a “blue state” demonstrates the vast chasm within our country. Our problems don’t start at the White House. They end there. They start in our own homes. In our neighbors homes. In our town halls. In the sexism and fear of the unknown that permeates conservative culture.

Many people have stated, the Republicans need to return to the party of Abraham Lincoln, who was one of the first Republicans elected to office. At the time the Republican party stood against slavery. Amazing. Susan B. Anthony was a Republican. She obviously was “misbehaved” and did so in the name of the Republican party. Lincoln states,

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”
Speech to the Illinois Republican Convention, 1858

Instead we as a country have become further divided than I ever thought possible. Polarized. But Lincoln’s right. A house divided will not stand.

But as long as we have people who think that women who protest, who speak, who exist in a manner that is pleasing to themselves; are “misbehaving” then we will continue to be divided.

What is the solution? Stop being douchebags. I mean, for starters, seriously just stop. If a woman speaks out maybe don’t send a letter threatening her family. When a young woman is elected to congress maybe don’t focus on her shoes or her clothes but her brain and her actions. Don’t categorize women engaging in politics and exercising their rights as “rabble rousers” and “misbehaving”. Respond to them as you would respond to a man bringing up the same issues (without the “Who’s dick is bigger” contest).

I’m irritated. Irritated that young girls have to be told they are “misbehaving” in order to speak out, to question, to create change. That we have to be labeled feminists in order to seek equal rights with men. That we have to essentially wear a strap-on to get any respect.

I’m angry that we have allowed this concept to perpetuate generations of young girls. Instead of just stating that Women who make history challenge the norms, push the envelope, and demand the world be a better place.

That women who make history like: Susan B. Anthony, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth I, Jane Austen, Maya Angelou, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Blackwell (First female physician), Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai (If you don’t know her look her up and watch her on the Letterman special on Netflix. She is quite frankly amazing.), Ruth Ginsburg, Oprah, Hilary R Clinton, and Michelle Obama…etc…that these women were not misbehaving.

They were existing. They fought for their right to exist, to learn, to teach, to write, to love, to speak. They fought for their right to speak. We should NOT view them as “bad girls” because they are some of the greatest women of all time. They were great. Awe inspiring and to demean their accomplishments and existence and survival by putting them on a naughty list is wrong.

Women make history. Not well behaved or misbehaved women. Just women. Great, intelligent, brave, bold women exist now as they have throughout history.

To say it any other way is wrong.

Life With a Nurse

I have the good fortune of having met my wife while working in the emergency department. She was an EMT/tech and I was an RN. She’s been exposed to healthcare. So she gets it on some level when I’ve had a bad day. She’s also been there when kids have died. So she got it when I worked in the ED too.

There are a few core differences to being married to someone in healthcare than to someone who works in an office with no needles or blood.

Let’s start with bad days. When my wife has a bad day…I mean now she works in management in retail. Stressful for sure. But no one walks in bloody and dying. My bad days have evolved from trauma in the emergency department, to insanity on an inpatient psychiatric unit, to a different sort of bad in outpatient psychiatry. I hear horrible stories of abuse, rape, murder, and often it’s not random. The abuse is by a parent. The sexual abuse or predator is a relative. They are horrific, soul-deep stories.

Over time I’ve grown a thick skin. And doing medication management for some people means I won’t hear the actual detailed story. But for my clients I do therapy with. Yeah I’ll hear it.

I also, even in the prescriber role, end up being the first person some one has told something. Often a kid. Often sexual abuse or physical abuse. They could have been in therapy for awhile, and for some reason, it’s just happened a lot, they tell me in our intake. I don’t know why. But it happens. Then I have to tell the parents. Then I often have to tell DCF. Then it totally backlogs my packed day.

So yeah. Bad days in my eleven year career have evolved from death and dying and abuse to abuse but in a different presentation. I’m not collecting the rape kit now I’m helping with the emotional healing after the rape.

It’s heavy stuff. Some times it gets to me. My wife knows. She doesn’t ask anymore because I don’t tell her. Obviously. I can’t. But she knows. She knows because I scoop up my sons and hold them and she sees the tears prick at the corners of my eyes. She sees me on my laptop until late into the night catching up on notes and billing. She knows I’ll put on something hilarious on the tv, or something that will make me cry so I have an excuse to let it out. I’ll pick up more hot yoga classes. I’ll make an effort to connect with a friend for a drink.

The bad days are bad when you are married to some one in healthcare and the recovery can be emotionally taxing on every one if you do not practice self care.

A couple other things: I have a high tolerance for bringing my kids to the doctor and I do a lot of self treatments at home. Which my wife thinks I’m totally nuts to do. e.g. An ingrown toenail. I’m opening that baby up, getting the pus out, and treating that at home. Rashes- unless it’s something I know is bad, we stay home and slap on some aquaphor. Head and mouth injuries- the boys have had a few- with lots of blood. Unless something is dislodged (like a tooth) or a bone is broken, we aren’t going. And the one time I went to an urgent care clinic for asthma that I tried treating at home- well I was taken by ambulance to the ED and evaluated by the ICU doc’s in the emergency department because they thought they were going to have to intubate me. I don’t mess around.

She can’t watch medical shows with me. I can’t tolerate them and she can’t tolerate me. Doctors never do blood draws, and nurses are sorely underrepresented, the whole situation generally just pisses me off. And I can usually guess the mystery diagnosis, which irritates my wife. So we don’t watch them.

I am a human lie detector. I don’t know if that’s a nurse thing, or specifically an emergency department/psychiatric nurse thing. Because all the ED nurses I know are scary and also are human lie detectors. So it’s definitely a thing. It means my clients can’t get away with a damn thing. Neither can my kids or my wife;)

I have interactions with law enforcement and attorneys regularly regarding clients. I’ve had high profile clients and cases and through it all at the end of my day I have to shut it off and go home and make dinner and pretend I’m normal, and that the case on the 5:00 news is complete news to me, not a case I’ve spent all day dealing with. After a day full of what feels indescribable and insurmountable acting “normal” just seems impossible.

Life with a nurse is interspersed with bad days, but it makes the good days that much sweeter. Because I walk with the worst regularly I relish the best. I give so much of myself to my clients that sometimes it’s hard to have anything left for my family.

But the days I have with them means I am present. I am there and I bask in the fun because I know all too well how quickly life can change. There is a darkness hanging over nurses, an edge, because we truly know that life is precious and we’ve seen people waste it, abuse it, lose it, and we don’t take our own for granted. I’ve seen people’s brains and insides. I’ve taken care of people who are murderers, rapists, and I’ve taken care of the victims. Those are things that can’t be unseen or unheard or forgotten. We’ve seen the worst of humanity in every possible way.

In Adrian Monk’s words, “It’s a gift, and a curse.” And it truly is. Nursing makes me smarter, tougher, kinder, more open and more educated. But it also makes me more cynical and more suspicious. Nursing brings out the best and the worst in me, and always pushes me to be better. I can’t speak for my wife, but I can hazard a guess. Life with a nurse is never boring, always a little unpredictable, and lots of fun- because for real, we are pretty fun.

 

 

 

When My Dad Threw Bunkles at My Head.

When I was maybe six or seven we went and stayed at a hotel in Sturbridge Village. It ended up being an absolutely horrific trip for a multitude of reasons. But my most vivid memory from that trip was Saturday night. Looking back I realize it had been a disaster of a day.

But at the time I was in my happy little kid land that everything was fine because my parents did a pretty good job at covering up how bad my Mom’s tooth situation was and how stressed my Dad was because she had spent the day in the emergency department dealing with severe tooth pain and he had spent the day with us. Also, the hotel was hosting a dog show. They had neglected to tell us this ahead of time. So it smelled like dog. Everywhere. So we are all in the room, it’s probably around 9:00 pm and we are about to go to sleep and I can’t find my bunny. His name was Bunkles. 

I looked and looked, and could not find him. I told my parents. Neither of whom wanted to deal with this problem. They also didn’t believe he actually wasn’t in the room. But I cried. So they looked. Couldn’t find him. My dad wanted to wait until morning and go and ask the hotel staff. I cried more. My mom mumbled something through a swollen mouth and my Dad eventually stormed out of the room. 

To this day I don’t know what happened. But he came back into the room about an hour later and chucked Bunkles at my head. Apparently the bunny got tangled in the sheets and was taken by housekeeping with the sheets. The hotel staff had tracked it down; I’m sure with my Dad being super irritable with them in the process. 

I remember being highly insulted at my Dad for throwing Bunkles at my head. I wisely kept quiet though and just turned my light off and went to sleep. It’s a night that’s always stuck with me. Because I remember feeling it was unfair that my Dad was angry at me for something out of my control. I didn’t know they actually took the sheets off the bed at the hotel every day. I mean I actually didn’t know that. We didn’t go to hotels much, and we certainly didn’t have our sheets changed at home daily. My Dad was pissed because he was tired and wanted to go to bed not track down a damn stuffed animal in hotel laundry. 

Now that I’m a parent with two three year olds though, I get it. Because I’ve wanted to chuck stuff at their heads a lot. 

And looking back through adult eyes- the dogs, the tooth, being out of state, dealing with two kids all day, just wanting to go to bed, and having to go track down a white bunny that got lost in a sea of white sheets. Yeah I’d be pissed too. 

Kids have this innate ability to drive us to the edge. Since the time change my sons have been absolutely horrific at night for bedtime. To the degree that we actually had to stop reading books at night because reading nighttime books was adding to the nightly horror. So now I feel like a horrible mom because we don’t read to them at night anymore. 

I also feel horrible because I feel like we should be able to contain them at night. We should be able to wind them down and calmly get them into bed with hugs and kisses and smiles and I love you’s. Instead it’s more like crying, screaming, craziness. Sometimes I’ve been to the point of tears, and they are always to the point of tears. In the midst of this we are trying to potty train them. So occasionally while they are screaming and we are holding them down into their beds they suddenly have to pee pee on the potty and we all get a timeout. But it just delays the inevitable. 

I’m pretty sure I have actually thrown stuff at nighttime in the last few weeks. Because it’s been so freaking miserable. But usually I leave the room, walk to my room, and throw something and yell and punch a pillow. Then my wife goes in. 

Something I always thought was rude was people telling me “Three will be worse than two.” Because two wasn’t so bad for us. It was hard, like every age with twins is, but not horrible. But if the first few weeks of three and bedtime are any indication, I mean those people were not wrong. But did they really need to say that? I will never say it to another parent.

Because to just make that blanket statement is horrible. We are in survival mode and to think it could get worse? That blows.

To the all the three year old mom’s out there. You got this. And if you have to throw something, throw a stuffed animal. They are soft and they bounce. And throw it out the door, not at the kid. Because they will remember if you throw it at their head. And likely write a blog about it in about twenty-five years. 

It’s taken me awhile to write this because it’s not fun. It’s not fun talking about the painful routine that has become life for us in the past few weeks. My wife and I are exhausted and we literally dread nighttime. It’s been bad. A bad few weeks. But for tonight, they went down with minimal fuss, probably because they didn’t nap, so yeah that was awesome. And I’m signing off and going to bed because like I said, we are beat.