I read a nice article on parenting and princesses and race and I had lots of thoughts.
The first “Barbie” that came into our house was black. The first cuddly dolls I bought were black and asian. Eventually white dolls filtered into the house too. I didn’t buy them.
My children are white, privileged, and upper middle class. They will see the world I present as the default world.
I have pictures of naked fat people hung in my house. I love the work that Adipositivity does and I’m very happy to have my children grow up seeing the beautiful art work. Naked people are not a big deal. My children have been to naked bathing places. Yes, even ones that have both genders present. They are pretty good about how to behave. They’ve seen a lot of kinds of bodies. They think that people are beautiful in lots of different shapes and colors.
I can’t imagine living in a world where you must be thin, blonde, blue eyed, and white to be beautiful. That repels and disgusts me. No. I will not live in that world. You can’t fucking make me.
And thanks to the wonders of home schooling… my kids are growing up in a bubble of my reality distortion field. My six year old comments on being too skinny after her latest growth spurt, “I should eat more.” At a time when 1 in 4 girls under the age of seven have been on a diet. My kid has never heard about calorie restriction for the purpose of losing weight.
Food is fuel. My kids would tell someone that they were loco for not eating. “Without fuel you can’t use your body or your brain. You can’t grow. Don’t get dumb, eat something.”
I feel like I am living a science experiment. With enough privilege… is it possible for someone to grow up with the benefits of modern life while largely skipping the cultural framework?
I’m going to fucking find out.
From the time my kids were curious about bodies and asking for the names of parts they have been able to recite, “Most boys have a penis but not all. Most girls have a vulva but not all. Some people don’t really want to be a boy nor a girl and you have to ask them for their word.”
Ok, that third bit wasn’t there in the first year or so. I didn’t think of it then. We grow with time. But the kids have known it for a while now.
No, I’m not good at asking everyone their preferred pronoun.
I believe it is my job as a parent to prepare my children for the world. That doesn’t mean I need to immerse them in the toxic waters before they even know how to swim. My kids will deal with the fascist beauty standards at some point. But until them I will tell them that my mom-apron is a badge of honor and you have to “level up” or be born lucky enough to be fat enough to get one.
When your kids love on your belly this much… it is sad to see it shrink. I’m not having fun with losing weight.
I believe it is my job to set the terms of reality for now. In our experience of life people have different skin because their ancestors emigrated at different speeds away from the equator. No more, no less. If you meet someone in a given place it doesn’t matter what they look like, assume they are from here and act like that is true. They will tell you if they were not born here. (Wherever here may be.)
Boys and girls are both interested in My Little Ponies. It is always ok to ask if a kid wants to play a pony game. Some boys love playing “poor boy in distress” and you can totally ask if you can be his Princess-to-the-Rescue.
You are allowed to want to be the boss. That doesn’t mean other people at the park will listen to you. Good bosses learn how to be pleasant while they get people to do what they want. Sometimes a bossy voice is the best way to get your way and sometimes it will block you. Think about how you interact with people.
Science, math, and engineering are the building blocks of life. We talk about them all the time. There will never be a thought that “girls can’t do that”. Pshaw. Watch us.
My children are growing up with a very dynamic woman who does things. I declaim intentions and I get shit done.
I feel very conflicted about the not earning money bit. I really do feel like I’m letting down the feminist cause. I speak very positively about the benefits of being a working woman. My kids very much admire the working moms we know. Sometimes my kids ask to move in with them. Then I say, “Know how much time dad is at work? She wouldn’t be with you for that many hours of the day. You’d go to daycare with other kids.”
“Oh. I want to stay with you.”
Ok then. We’ll keep doing what we are doing so long as it suits us all so well. Calli and Shanna chafe at how many hours I spend “away” from them now. I don’t get 20 hours a week off between Noah and baby-sitters. They are really not up for less parental time. It is interesting to watch.
It is hard for me to live with the perfect seriousness of their declarations. They have no sarcasm yet. “I love you. You are the very best mom for me. I’ve looked at the other options. I’m so happy I have you.” Heh. I’m not the platonic ideal of motherhood. I would not be a good mom for many many many many children. I’m so lucky and so happy that I ended up with kids who are such good personality matches. That doesn’t always happen. It’s a gift.
Yesterday Shanna and I had a neat exchange. I don’t remember the segue but she said, “Yeah and if you did x like me you would have been beaten. I’m glad you don’t beat me.”
I said, “Is it kind of weird that I talk about that? I will never harm you like that. I will poke you. I will be obnoxious in your direction. But I will never harm you like that. I talk about it because it lives inside of me and I’m trying to make sense of it. I’m trying to figure out why they did it and why I am not going to make the same choices. I need to figure out what I’m going to do instead. I’m not very graceful about the process. I’m trying.”
She looked up at me and beamed she said, “I know you will never hit me. But it does make me have big feelings when you talk about it.”
I told her, “I’m glad you know that. I’m really sorry I scare you.”
“I’m really sorry they hurt you.”
Then she leaned her head on me. I hugged her. Then we went on with our chores.
I feel guilty about not earning money, as a feminist thing. I’m one of those terrible, disgusting upper class bitches. I’m a sponge “living off” my husband. I’ve read lots of nasty nasty thoughts about people in my position. In a lot of spaces I move through it would be more respectable if I had weekend shifts as a sex worker. At least then I would have the potential for autonomy and I wouldn’t be a dependent.
I live in a very specific, very specifically chosen world.
But feminism is about everyone getting to make the right choices for them. Yeah, I’m a dependent. I went hunting for a partner who was interested in supporting me as a home schooling parent. That was what I advertised myself as looking for. Usually I would bring it up by the third date. The only times I didn’t was when I knew before asking it just wasn’t an option for Reasons. I didn’t provide false advertising. I didn’t say I wanted 50/50. I didn’t look for equality.
Yet I did. I also said that I wouldn’t be in a power unequal relationship during the time I raised my children. Some SM or some roleplay is different. I don’t want to be a slave during the time I have children. They will not grow up with a subservient woman as an example. Nope, nope, nope. That was a conscious choice.
Other people feel like the job they do is enough reason to stay alive. Or they don’t think there is a reason to die, so whatever–they are here. They don’t question it. I think I need Reasons to stay alive. I need specific, conscious things that are pulling me here. Because I don’t have a powerful urge to stay. I need to know things will be better/different in the future. I need to. I need to work towards that reality about as hard as I can.
I don’t know how to shape a healthy family in the toxic stews of mainstream American culture. I see people who mostly do it… but I don’t understand how. That’s not a slam on them.
I need to pull out. (And we all know how well the pull out method works, don’t we?) At least for a little while. At least for personality formation stages. I want my kids to learn from me for a while. I want to teach them what the world is like. I don’t want to risk an apathetic kindergarden teacher. That damage can’t be undone.
My children are learning that boundaries are appropriate, even talking up the power structure. When I’m in a bad mood my kids will say, “Mom I think your tone of voice is a lot harsher than you mean.” They feel totally comfortable saying, “You need to calm down before you talk to me.” But they also deal with the fact that sometimes people sound angry without taking it personally. They have lots of practice with, “Mom is in a bad mood. Tone of voice will suck for a bit. It’s not you. I’m really sorry.”
They know that when you do something wrong you apologize, and try to do better. You don’t say, “Well you deserved it.” “I only hit you because you broke a rule.” That doesn’t happen here.
In our house if someone says, “Stop it” you must stop. Period. Even if you are the larger, more powerful grown up. We are past the dental wars, thank goodness. I hope to never have to overpower them again.
I am so grateful I get to have this experience. And I know that I mostly get to have it because of Noah. I am totally aware. That’s a lot of why I try so hard to be nice to him. He has been very good to me.
Life is very complicated.
Sarah brought up a point. She said (roughly), “So I was concerned after the day where you said 8 hours out of the house was rough. How is five months going to go?”
I’ve thought of that. It’s complicated. Part of it is: on the road trip we won’t have the socializing obligations that take so much out of me. We’ll have brief periods of seeing people, but not really. I work hard with the home school community. I have horrible anxiety there sometimes. Not with the women I know well, I’m pretty comfortable with them. But there are some of them that… well… I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing and having them tell their kid(s) to shun my kid(s). It’s very hard for me emotionally to interact with them. And sometimes… it isn’t appropriate to opt-out of interacting.
So spending 3 hours in a group outing is more like 15 hours of being out while alone with the kids.
Spoons, glorious spoons, we have to count them.
But I also won’t have the support I usually have. I have no idea. This could blow up in my face. I’m open to that possibility! I’m hoping that by being open to the idea of failure it will be less likely to happen. Realistically, I think there is the non-zero chance I will get to Noah’s first visit with us and cry and say, “You have to help me drive home.” Then we’ll spend 5-6 days coming home. I’ll give him at least two weeks notice of this.
Failure is always an option… otherwise you can’t try. That said! If we can’t do this trip I have to stop talking about the around-the-world-trip. So there is a fair bit at stake here. Either we can do it or we can’t. What kind of bitch am I? The kind who claims she can do cool shit and then fails?
I think not.
I’m not really a bitch. I’m not sure why that word felt appropriate there. Trying to convince myself I’m more macho than I am? Something.
Every time I look at the map I rethink sections of the trip. “Oh! I forgot about so and so! They live right over…”
I’m kind of working on Plan B.2 right now. Because the detour I thought of last night only involves detouring off the main inter-state freeway onto more local highways so we can see some friends on the way past their state. That’s not anything big enough to justify calling it Plan C.
Because I labeled a Plan A. And that got shot to hell by thoughts of international border crossings and a strong need to re-see the Grand Canyon. “Mom it’s kind of ridiculous that you think that me seeing it when you were pregnant with Calli is good enough.” Strong opinions. We have them.
You saw snow when you were 2! What do you want from me?!
Every year snow trips, apparently. Oh well.
Can’t have everything, kiddo. The sooner you figure that out the better. Your life is not exactly lacking in experiences. There will always be people who have done things you haven’t. Don’t get competitive about life experiences. You’ll sound like an asshole. Do what you want even though that will mean ruling out options. You have that luxury.