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.

Mom Shame and Twin Talk

A few months ago the owner of our daycare approached us and mentioned she felt the boys are behind in language compared with the other two year old’s in their class.

Couple preface statements- We LOVE the daycare. We adore the owner. It’s a wonderful daycare where my two white boys are the minority among kids and teachers which is just amazing. The owner has been in this business for many years and knows her stuff.

Regardless of our warm and fuzzies toward the daycare and the owner it’s like this vicious claw in your gut when some one tells you something’s wrong with your kids. My wife was all type of offended and then she came home and told me and I was instantly on the defense and we both agreed that there is nothing wrong with our kids. That they are perfectly wonderful toddlers.

But it set something in my head. I couldn’t get it out. Still can’t. And to tell the truth, I knew she was right. Why when I’m in healthcare, worked in pediatrics, and am fully aware of child development was I burying my head in the sand?

It’s befuddled me for a few months. But I think I can put a name to it. I felt shame as a parent that something could be wrong or delayed with my kids. I felt like I’m not a good enough Mom because they haven’t developed language at pace with their peers.

There is so much shame put on parents for so much that is out of our control.

Then when we need shaming for not setting limits and not fixing things within our control people are too scared to confront it. I mean I’m not. Obviously. I confront it within myself and within my clients. I said to a client just today, “Look, I’m honest. I disagree with you. I have clinical expertise in this area. We are not going to agree. And that’s okay. But I’m not going to sugarcoat your diagnosis or your prognosis because that would be doing you a major disservice.”

Then I was thinking, yeah, so the daycare owner wasn’t sugarcoating and she wasn’t doing it to shame us as parents. She was doing it as a service for our kids so we can get support if needed to help them develop language.

So here’s the thing about twin boys. Boys develop language slower in general. Then add in they were a month early. Add in the twin thing. And I’m not surprised they are behind. I can tell you they understand EVERYTHING. It’s scary. Jackson is completely Amotivated to speak English because Declan understands everything he mumbles off. So if I don’t get what Jackson is saying, Declan translates. Declan is more developed than Jackson in language because he’s more alpha, and literally they talk to each other and understand everything each other says. Then really they only need to communicate with us and their daycare teacher and we’ve all adapted to their twin language.

The twin talk is totally bizarre. It’s not something I can even describe and I didn’t realize how weird it is until I started to really take notice and listen to them and watch them. They have their own language. It is not English. They have full dialogues about God knows what. Then Declan translates to us for Jackson when needed.

So we’ve started engaging Jackson more, not letting Declan translate. I’ve started making him parrot me whenever I say something to him. It’s helping slowly.

They turn 3 next Monday. I can tell you that it’s been a wild freaking ride. That the whole parenting situation pushes and pulls at me in ways I never quite imagine or expect. I still remember looking at these two little bundles on the futon between my legs when they were four days old thinking, “Holy crap there are two of them,” never comprehending then how life would be today.

I’ve learned about Mom-shaming in the worst ways. I’ve learned about the defensiveness we feel as parents and the ugly side to it as well as the beautiful intense love that only a mom can feel for her son.

When a kid in their class recently asked why there were talking “baby-talk” I had to restrain myself from slapping him. I didn’t respond. But I wanted to say it’s not baby-talk it’s twin talk. And they are speaking it because they’ve been together since conception and they want to talk to each other and I’m going to let them.

It’s this hard balance we have to strike of being parents who allow our kids to develop in their own time at their own pace while also not wanting them to fall too far behind their peers. At the end of the day I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it until they turn three. Which is Monday. Then I decided I’m not going to worry about it until we see their pediatrician in a few weeks.

Then I was thinking how parents come in to see me very defensive sometimes and I think I get it now. It’s hard to hear that there is something wrong with your kid. To be told your child is depressed or anxious or suicidal can make a parent feel shame and fear and defensive.

But if our society was more friendly, more supportive, and more engaging with one another I don’t know that it would feel like an attack. Or perhaps we are trained to take it as an attack on us. I don’t know.

I do know that Jackson figured out where we hid the Halloween candy, I told him it was time to go, he disappeared and came back with both bags and said, “Time to go Mama.” And I thought, that kid just somehow managed to monkey his way to the very back of our counter where he can’t reach from the floor, get the bags with the candy that I hid, and try and bring them to daycare. I’m thinking his brain is working just fine and his language will catch up.

 

When a Teenager Called me “Wonderwoman” and My Twins Figured Out We Are a Family.

Two amazing things happened today. A teenage girl client of mine who struggles with self-esteem looked at me when I went to get her in the waiting room. I was wearing black leggings, black boots up to my knees with a short heel, and a green sleeveless top, loose-ish. It was humid today so my hair was a little (meaning a lot) wild. She hadn’t seen me in six months. I’d done a lot of hot yoga and eating quinoa salad since then. She smiled big, and said, “Wow you look like Wonderwoman! You are so cool.” I was taken aback. I just watched Wonderwoman last week. She was absolutely fabulous; obviously. Gorgeous, courageous, outspoken, strong, and very smart.

So in my head I was like Yes! Score! I AM WONDERWOMAN!!!

Outwardly, to my client, I smiled, said “Sweet, thanks,” and literally did a karate kick which caused us to both crack up.

I think as women we are always pressured to be better, look better, eat better, exercise more, talk less, wear more make-up, wear less revealing clothes…etc. etc. etc. And I’m at a point where I’m thinking, if the white dudes in this country get to do and say whatever the hell they want…hold my beer. I got this.

So I didn’t let my girl see me doubt her or me. I strode forward with confidence and I hope to be that woman that girls look up to. Through showing my intelligence, being opinionated, and wearing what I want, doing what I want, and being who I am meant to be…well that’s the message I want them to get. And she did. Which was profound.

If every single woman in the USA identified with Wonderwoman we would all be better off. She runs into the fray when she’s being told to avoid it. She fights for the innocent, and she does not turn from the darkness. We need to be the light in a sea of darkness.

The other thing that happened today is my sons discovering they have a family. They were watching The Good Dinosaur (horrible Disney movie that clearly was made by someone who was tripping on drugs, but for some reason my son’s are obsessed) and the dinosaur Arlo, made the little caveman human, understand that he had a family who he missed and was trying to find.

My sons’ said, “His family,” and I said, “Yes, and who is your family?” They both looked at me. “Me, Mommy, and Jackson,” I said to Declan, and then I could see the lightbulbs going off and Jackson said, “Mama, Mommy, Decky, my fami-we”,  and I’m holding back tears of course, and I say, “Yes baby, we are all a family,”

Then they kept repeating it. Pointing at my wife, me, and each other, smiling, and laughing, and saying “Fami-we”. And I’m thinking, they are not even three and they get it.  Why the hell is it so hard for every one else? How could any one see that moment with my twins and my wife and think we are not an actual family because there are two Mom’s. Because if any right winged conservative tried to explain to my sons we are not a real family; my sons would stare at them like they were nuts and then continue on with the knowledge that their Mom’s and their brother is their family.

These moments in life last less than a minute maybe. But these are the moments of light that I cling to in these days of darkness. When sexual assault is normalized. When racism and homophobia are praised.

I embrace being called Wonderwoman because she stepped outside the boundaries of being a woman. She broke through people’s expectations and fought for what is right. And I will continue to fight for my family. Because my two year old twins get it. So I have faith that some day all people will understand that we are a family.

It’s not just love that makes us a family. It’s the bond that comes with the 2 AM puking. The year of breastfeeding. The cradling after a boo boo. The being there when they wake up, when they go to sleep, and every other second in between. The bond of family is the screaming in time-outs and the hugs afterward. It’s them knowing that we are their constants since conception.

We feed them, love them, provide for their every need. Our boys know that we are their family because they watched this stupid movie and they see the baby dinosaur work the whole time to get home to his Mom. They made the connection that they would want to be with their Mom’s too.

The boys get that we are a family because they lay their heads on our chests when they want a “big hug” and we tell them we love them every day and they know even when we lose our minds from the whole toddler twin thing, that they are loved. My son’s know we are all a family because we are all better when we are together.

 

How my twins and my whiteness got me out of two tickets.

I’m not saying this with pride. But on days like today, when they brought me to tears and I brought them to tears. Well I need to think about something other than them flooding my kitchen with the damn faucet when I was in the laundry room for maybe two minutes. And how Declan wrenched my freaking back because he didn’t listen to me, climbed too high at the playground, and then let go and fell and I caught him in one arm…all 37 lbs of him. Yeah that freaking hurt. It was a bad long day for all of us. So this blog post is not about that, it’s about something bigger and deeper.

The first ticket they got me out of…I was using my cell phone…on speaker phone about three or four years ago, when I was pregnant with them. Very pregnant. I had a big Jeep Grand Cherokee. The cop pulled me over literally as I was pulling out of the parking lot from work. I had some one on speaker and was switching it over to bluetooth and bam. Red lights.

I explained I was switching to bluetooth but I literally just got into the car. He asked for my registration. I looked at him and explained, “I have to get out of the car to get it. It’s too far, and I can’t reach the glove compartment because I’m pregnant.” This was not a lie. I actually couldn’t reach it over the belly. I leaned over to demonstrate.

The cop looked disgusted. Because who wants to make a pregnant lady get out of her car in the 90 degree heat, behind the psych hospital, and make me walk to the other side to find my registration. He knew it was going to be a shitshow. He asked me if I worked at the psych hospital, I said I do, I’m a nurse practitioner. He facepalmed. Because he knew that my co-workers would likely either be watching or coming outside and then berate him for making the pregnant lady waddle around extra in the heat. He likely brought patient’s to us. He knew my co-workers are mouthy.

He asked me to show him the bluetooth working, which I did. Then he said, “Just go.” but not a nice Just go. An I’m disgusted with this whole situation type of “just go”. I drove away.

Flashforward to Thursday. Yes the day after I wrote the horrible blog post about my horrible week leading up to Wednesday. Thursday morning I got pulled over for speeding. He said, “You were going 50.” I said, “Yes, I know I was, my bad, but I mean it’s a 40 zone…” meanwhile the boys are saying “Hi, Hi, Hi….” on and on until the officer says “Hi” back. He was youngish and smiling at me. It takes me awhile to register, but I think he was flirting which is weird because he clearly saw my twins in the backseat. I’m not used to being flirted with as a Mom.

He replied, “Actually it’s a 35 zone.” I said, “Well shit. My bad.” Because I did actually think it was a 40 zone. Then the boys get louder, and Declan says, “I scared Mama,” and I’m telling him it’s going to be okay, and then I look at the smiling police officer and do my best to look apologetic, and he asks me if I’ve gotten tickets before, and I say No. In my head I think ‘because I’m a nurse and I was pregnant’ but whatever. He lets me go, and tells me to have a “very nice day,” with a huge smile and a wave to my boys.

Now I’m thinking am I being punk’d? Because who gets out of a ticket with a smiling police officer? Then I think, well I’m a white woman with two toddlers in the backseat, in a nice car, wearing nice clothes, and then I’m like Fuck. White. Privilege.

I didn’t want a ticket. And is this only the second one I’ve gotten out of in my life? No. Unfortunately not. But the point is I’ve gotten out of them. And had I been Black or Hispanic or a man would I have gotten out of them? Hell no. I know I wouldn’t have. Had any of these officers known I am married to a woman…would I have gotten out of them? Who knows. I generally don’t wear my wedding ring to work so both times there was no obvious sign I was married.

I don’t know how to change this. Because, well for one thing I don’t want the damn ticket. But neither does any one else regardless of race or gender. It didn’t feel like a win as I drove away. It felt like a, shit, I suck so bad for using white privilege in this moment without even being aware I was using it. But that’s the point right? That’s why people who are not white get so pissed at white people for not even acknowledging that we have privilege and that we use it. It didn’t even hit me fully until I was pulling up to daycare. Where thankfully my two white boys are the minority.

I got out of the car the same time as a Black family, and that’s when it hit me. I thought what if it had been them who got pulled over? A Black Father and his daughter. Would he have gotten out of the ticket with a scared toddler making a scene in the backseat and a winning smile in the front? Probably not.

I’m not going to pretend I could possibly understand what it would feel like to a Black man to be pulled over by the police. Or a Black woman. I can’t. I can imagine it is fear and vulnerability though. The fear and vulnerability I’ve felt when I’ve been with my wife in conservative areas. The fear and vulnerability I’ve felt as a woman when I’ve suddenly realized I’m in an elevator full of men. I felt fear when I got pulled over. But not fear for my life. Fear of a ticket. A piece of paper, money, the hassle.

I can’t imagine being pulled over and fearing for my life. But I know that is the reality for many.

Like I said, I don’t have the answers, but I know this is a problem.

I always call out heterosexuals for not using their heterosexual privilege to advance LGBT rights. Well I’m not about to not call out myself when I’m using white privilege to my advantage without using it to advance the rights of all Persons of Color. This is a conversation that the hate in our country has sparked: finally. If there is anything good that comes out of the asshats in DC it’s the conversations around race, sexuality, gender identity, and that yes white privilege does exist.

As I said, I don’t have all the answers, but I will not remain silent or put my head in the sand and not acknowledge the problem. And that I too am a part of it. These are hard times and hard truths. But, perhaps Prince Edward says it best to Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale, “But you also tilt when you should withdraw…and that is knightly too.”

I know now is not the time to withdraw but tilting puts the knight at risk. It is a true fighter though, someone who weighs the options, knows they may fail, but tilts anyway. This piece was uncomfortable to write for me. Because it makes me examine my faults. No one likes to do that. But until we do nothing will change. So here I am, laid bare, tilting when perhaps I should withdraw.

I also know I need to switch to bluetooth before putting the car in motion and apparently I need to be more aware of speed limit changes on back roads. My bad.

p.s. the picture- of course they had to hold hands and walk down the brick path at the playground today after he wrenched my back, and look all cute and stuff. They know how to play me.

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Boys and Toxic Masculinity

I was watching this show on Netflix with Tony Danza. I’m a Tony fan. There was this scene though that made me turn it off. Tony’s out at a bar with a group of friends. A beautiful model walks in and sits at a booth alone. Tony gets up and struts over to her, and sits down in the booth. He then propositions her. She says No. The scene goes on far too long with Tony continuously asking her to give him a shot, making sexual innuendo’s, and the girl continuously saying No, trying to avoid eye contact, wishing he would leave. He eventually gets up and struts back to his table and says something like, “She’s not my type,” and everyone laughs.

I don’t think it’s funny. That to me is toxic masculinity. Because he’s a man, and she’s an attractive female, he has the right to make her uncomfortable by asking and propositioning multiple times instead of walking away the first time she said no. It was supposed to be funny. I felt my stomach churning and my skin crawling.

I’ve been that girl. Not a beautiful model unfortunately, but the girl being asked by a guy and being told No, and then being asked and asked until I have to be rude and then I’m called a bitch or whatever. When really it’s on the dude.

Walk away when a girl says No. Respect the No.

My wife and I have been harassed and hit on at bars together, and we’ve told men we are married, we have no interest, and they continuously have approached us. To the point I took a swing at one guy (Back when I was young and impulsive and way before being a Mom, because I would never advocate violence!!). But his disrespect of my No’s repeatedly, following me around the bar, blocking my path from the bathroom when I didn’t know he followed me there. These are all times that my No has not been respected and the man who I’m saying No to gets angry, defensive, and even more vulgar instead of just walking away.

Tony Danza was possibly the most unattractive man I have ever seen in that scene. I will never watch another episode of that show. Toxic masculinity is a term I don’t like. Because I want my sons to have positive masculinity. I want them to embrace the aspects of themselves that are masculine. But if they ever disrespect the first No from a girl. I will kick their ass.

Part of being masculine is being able to walk away with grace. Positive masculinity is respecting a woman’s No and smiling, and saying, Have a good night, and walking away. Not pursuing and pursuing and devolving into a defensive ass.

Raising a man is complicated. Masculinity can be carrying oneself with confidence but not being aggressive. Standing up for oneself and protecting others, but not demeaning others or protecting some one who doesn’t want or need protection. It’s being honest but not rude.

Our society wants a man to have the dominance of John Wayne, the mystery of Johnny Depp, the beauty and humor of George Clooney, and the dignity and intelligence of Barack Obama. We have set up these impossible standards while also demeaning masculinity by putting the word toxic in front of it. Without actually thinking about how as a society we actually prize masculinity just not when it crosses into sexual harassment and sometimes even when it crosses into perhaps what’s considered demeaning of feminism. It’s freaking complicated. And a lot as a Mom of boys to consider.

I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I marched in the ProChoice rally when Bush was President. Rode overnight on a bus from upstate NY with no one I knew. I saw it on a  bulletin board, and I called the number and they came and picked me up. One of maybe thirty-five liberals in upstate NY. I’ve stood for girls and women personally and professionally. I’ve had my job threatened when I brought light to the rampant sexism at a hospital I worked at. I take a stand when needed, and always hope to shine light into the darkness.

So color me surprised when I popped out twin boys. What the hell was I supposed to do with them? Turns out I fell in love with them. They force me to re-examine my beliefs about masculinity. They force me to question the term Toxic M. and their very existence challenges me to do better. What I’m learning and exploring is not a battle between men and women but just an embracing of healthy femininity and healthy masculinity in whatever form that takes for people.

I will foster confidence and intelligence in my sons. But I will also instill in them respect and consent and the beauty of a man who can walk away with grace from rejection. I won’t teach them that all masculinity is toxic. Because I disagree. But I will help them explore masculinity that can pair with femininity and not squash or diminish it.

It’s a tall order. But I’ve always been up for a challenge. And if in forty or fifty years they are up for a nomination to the Supreme Court. I’ll sleep easy knowing there will be no skeletons in their closets because they were taught better. No means No. Start it young.

I am lucky to have examples of positive masculinity in my life over the years. The bad have left scars but the good, well they give me hope for my sons. There are positive masculine men out there. I am related to some, treat some as clients, and know some as friends and colleagues. To the positive masculine role models out there. Thank-you. Just as we need strong women; we need strong men. Because they will help set the example for our young boys. Examples we desperately need in this reign of toxic men.

 

 

**** the picture was five years ago. My Dad is a Vietnam Veteran who was MIA and experienced and witnessed the horror of war. He then spent his career in the army National Guard. My Dad would essentially walk through fire for me if I asked. That’s something I always knew. I sort of thought all men would be as respectful, caring, and protective like my Dad. Unfortunately I was wrong, but I can say he is an example who is part of our lives of a great man for my sons and I.

Humiliating Mom Moment #1001…

The boys have started figuring out who are boys and who are girls. About 50% of the time they get it right. They’ve essentially got it that Mama and Mommy and girls, and that they are boys.

So we are at the playground today. Just the three of us, my two little white toddlers and I. It’s attached to a soccer field. A car pulls up and an African American gentleman gets out and starts to do laps around the soccer field. He has headphones in, and we waved at each other when he got there, as we are in a small town, and it seemed polite to do.

My boys started playing on the bleachers, and as he rounded the field again they started waving and saying “Hi Boy!” “Hi Boy!” They were thrilled that they recognized that he was a boy.

Major freaking facepalm and my jaw literally fell open.

My Uncle had been over the previous weekend and we had gendered him and my Aunt as boys and girls. I never even thought to then educate about the appropriateness or not of referring to people as boys and girls. Because it just never entered my head to prepare for that particular situation.

He had headphones in, and as I was running frantically toward the boys on the bleachers to say we don’t say “hi boy” we say “hi sir,” he just waved and smiled good-naturedly, I’m not sure/I pray that he did not hear the “hi Boy”. Because holy shit it was like my worst nightmare came true. I was raising two racist white boys.

So then I had to explain to two two-year olds why we don’t say Hi Boy. Without saying, we specifically don’t say Hi Boy to a Black man because of the degrading and racist connotation that it carries.

“Baby, we say Hi Sir, okay? No Hi Boy.” Declan- “but he’s boy” Me- “Yes I know he’s a boy, but he’s a grown-up, so we say Hi Sir,  Hi boy is not nice.” Dec- “Hi Boy not nice?!” he looked totally incredulous. I at this point am getting sweaty and my heart is racing and I realize I’m getting nervous explaining this. This Mom-ming thing is hard. “That’s right, Hi Boy not nice. Hi Sir is what we say.” He stares at me. Jackson has already lost interest and is back to banging on the bleachers.

The man rounds the field again, and I’m like good God could the boys just go on the damn slides way over there? Why do they want to clonk around on the bleachers? He runs by and the boys look up and say “Hi Guy,” “Hi Guy,” they both look at me for approval. I just shake my head and thank God he has headphones in. “Guy” was never part of the conversation. We will be practicing “Hi Sir,” a lot.

These are the moments that define us as Moms. It’s not how big the birthday party is or how many presents they get on Christmas. It’s handling a total shit moment with grace and explaining and being honest without being mean. It’s not their fault they didn’t know you can’t say Hi Boy. It was mine. It’s something that you just know right? No. Actually some one had to teach it to you at some point. It’s making a human instinctively show others respect and know their history and it’s hard…and downright humiliating at times.