Kids These Days…

After I dropped Jackson off at school this morning I stopped by Starbucks to grab some coffee (gift card on a double point Monday, cheah! Sorry, Dunkin, I love you tho). Anyway, on the way back home I passed the high school. I ended up being stuck at a red light right in front of the high school, and it had all the quintessential high school things happening. Cars pulling in and out to drop kids off, teens driving their own cars (their parents old 2005 Toyota Corollas) into the parking deck. It had kids crossing the busy intersection with the help of a crossing guard, and I assume one of the principals, as he was a tall man in a smart, black suit. There was laughing, and tugging at clothes, and fiddling with lunch boxes and backpacks. There were mom’s talking with their hands in cars, and dads, red-faced, yelling at the cars in front of them. It was, in my opinion, the most sincere sorta morning there could be at a high school, at any school. And then it occurred to me, maybe for the first time since I became a parent, that high schoolers aren’t all that scary. High schoolers are just big kids. And now, well, I am changed.

Listen, don’t get me wrong, I recognize that there are many differences between a kindergartner and a senior in high school, but also, there are a lot of similarities. While kindergartners are adorable, with their toothless grins and their round, big eyes (evolutionary trait for us to love them), teenagers lack those adorable quantities. Teenagers are starting to look like adults, and adults suck. We all know this. So it’s difficult to remember that teenagers are still kids. Especially when they do dumb stuff. It’s been a running joke in our house to make fun of teenagers, as of late. No offense to my teenagers (you know who you are, and we love you!) but when Jackson, for example, first learned that teenagers were vaping, or say, eating Tide Pods, or challenging each other to eat spoonfuls of cinnamon, he just shook his head and said, “Mommy, teenagers are dumb.” And yes, he is right, teenagers are dumb (most of them) but that is how it is supposed to be. And we’ve all been there, and I think this is where a little compassion goes a long way.

What is your damn point here, Missy? I think my point is that as children (especially kids that are not our own, or not from our family) grow up, we start, in my opinion somewhere around middle school, to not trust them. To think they are dumb, or weird, or mean, or bad, or not worthy of a hug, or a smile from a stranger, or help when they might need it. Some people even see teenagers as “the devil” (case in point, Greta the Climate Girl, or the kids who are standing up against gun violence versus Republicans). The thing is teenagers, specifically high schoolers, are a lot more awesome than we give them credit for. They are smart, and resilient. They are living in a time when they are nervous about going to school EVERY SINGLE DAY, because they don’t know if today will be the day someone brings a gun to school. Or a fight breaks out. Or the cops have to bring the dogs in to terrify them. Then they get on social media, they see someone like Greta who is out there making a difference, and they get inspired. Then as fast as they are inspired, they are broken down because they see how Greta and the kids like her are treated by grown, actual, adults. What the hell are we doing, y’all?

Listen, I know I am not making a lot of sense today. I am only half done with my free Starbucks Cold Brew, but I think what I am saying is, if you give high schoolers a chance, the majority of them will surprise you. They are, after all, still kids. Whether or not you believe that. A 17-year-old’s brain is still forming, still learning. He still needs to be loved like a kindergartner, and while he might not need to be supervised like one, he still needs to know that people, his parents, his teachers, his friends, his community, have his back. And no, he may not return the love in handmade cards or macaroni necklaces, but if you have raised him right, he might return the love in acts of service to you, in thoughtful gifts, in gratidude! Ahh, every high-school parents’ dream, a “Thanks, Mom, for giving me an awesome life!” accompanied by a hug.

So all I’m asking today is that you take a moment to realize that kids are good. Kids are smart. Kids are resilient. But also, kids need guidance. Kids need to be trusted. They need to know that they have support, even from strangers. And by kids I’m specifically talking about the bigger of them, because we often overlook them.

Much love to my teenage friends! Y’all are awesome. And I love you.

M.

Field Day, 2019

Today has been a busy day, and it isn’t even lunch time yet! Whew! We were up at ’em at 5:30 this morning to take Mama to the airport. (She landed safely in Kansas City at 10:00 am), then we got back to Tucker, dropped Jackson off to school, and Jerimiah and I had a nice, quiet breakfast at Matthews Cafeteria. Then it was back to school to participate in Field Day. Well, participate is a stretch, as we were just spectators. It was also the first Field Day that I didn’t volunteer to work! It was amazing to be able to move from activity to activity and not be stuck at a damn sno-cone machine, or in this case, the apple slices station! But bless the mommies and daddies who did it!

It was a fun, old-fashioned field day too! Complete with a balloon pop (of which Jerimiah and I did end up working because it takes all hands on deck for that one), a three-legged race, a relay race, and the parachute! Oh the parachute! As soon as we walked into the cafeteria to watch them with the parachute I was transported. All the way back to my elementary days at Anthony Elementary School. Back, back, way back, to Mr. Hendee and the bouncing parachute. It was just what I needed to see.

Jackson’s class was steady in second place for all the activities (there are three fifth grade classes), and when the kids were telling us that was okay, the Spanish teacher at the school overheard and whispered to Jerimiah and me, “Well this class may have taken second, but they are always FIRST in behavior. Man, this is a good class!” We beamed, cause yeah, we saw it with our own eyes. I told Jerimiah later that I felt lucky to have Jackson in such a good class, and he laughed and reminded me that it wasn’t luck. It was hard work in parenting to get our kid into the classes that he is in. It’s kinda neat having a kiddo that all the teachers want in their class. (Excuse me while I pat us on the back…) And honestly, there are a lot of “Jacksons” in his class. That’s why they took second so many times. They went slow and steady. Even in the three-legged race, when some of the other classes had kids sorta pulling their partners along, Jackson’s class was slow and measured. “This is what happens when you have a group of perfectionists,” Jackson’s teacher whispered to us. It was super cute to watch.

Anyhoo, here are some pics of the morning. It was a bit chilly down here, so some of the activities (most of them) were inside because y’all, Georgia kids cannot handle 50 degree temps! 🙂

Here’s to fun, old-fashioned field days!

M.

Arizona Time

I’m still on Arizona time, which is three hours behind our time. Which is why I’m wide awake at 2:00 am, contemplating life, as I stare at the light coming through the crack in the curtain. Well, it’s part of the reason. There are other reasons.

Like, my child is going on his first-field trip alone tomorrow. He won’t be alone, alone, just without me. I’ve ALWAYS chaperoned his field trips, but I didn’t this one, and I’m nervous. It’s to the Holocaust Museum at Kennesaw State. I’m not worried about the subject matter (we took him to the Smithsonian one in Washington, DC earlier this year), it’s all the other things that worry me. Will he take the time to stop and eat his lunch? Will he be mindful of his actions? Will he be respectful of the history? Will he ask pointed and thoughtful questions? Will he let his best buddies get him off track? Will the bus be safe on the highway? Will his teacher be nearby if gets sad? I have concerns.

Then there’s all the other things of life. My work I’ve been putting off, with the deadline this week. My mom’s last three days in town with us. Halloween. Spirit Night. Field Day. Husband leaving for another week of work. Dentist appointment. Therapy. It’s all happening this week. And it’s all piling on top of the fact that I was gone for five days. There’s guilt there, right? Even though there shouldn’t be. Even though my husband and son haven’t said anything about it. It’s just there. In my head. Mom guilt.

Today I told my husband I’m always afraid when I leave, that they will realize they get along fine without me. Worst fear, right? That you’re not the glue that holds the family together. He was shocked. He scoffed a little and said, “Yeah, we get by. But that’s all we do. Get by.” Then he hugged me and told me he was glad to have me home. The dog, he informed me, had been depressed. This I could believe.

So yeah. I’m wide awake at 2:00 am. But it’s only 11:00 pm in Tucson. So, it’s not too bad.

M.

Postpartum

I watched that video of Meghan Markle today. You know that one where the reporter asks her if she is okay, and she basically says no, that she isn’t okay, that she hasn’t been okay, and then she thanks him for even asking her. Did you see it? If not, Google it. Because as soon as I saw it I wanted to cry. Not because I feel sorry for this very rich, very powerful member of the Royal Family (although, yeah I do), but because all I could think was, “I’ve been there, sister. And it sucks.” I’ve been there, when you feel like you’re at the bottom, and anyone, a relative stranger, asks if you are okay and you realize, shit, no. No, I’m not okay. And you realize it, and they realize it, and the whole thing just feels bad.

I was there, not with a reporter, but I was there. With my hair stuck up in a bun, dried breast milk on my shirt, jamming boxes of diapers and wipes onto the conveyer belt at Target. I was there, in my sweat pants, and my oversized shirts. In my sneakers. No make-up. I wasn’t in heels, thankfully I didn’t need to be. I wasn’t in a white dress three weeks after giving birth, thankfully, because the whole world wasn’t watching me. Thankfully. Thankfully the whole world didn’t criticize my clothing, or the way I held my son, or the way I looked “too emotional” one day, or “not emotional enough” the next. I can’t imagine, if I’m being honest, what that would have felt like. What that could feel like in those days after having a newborn. After becoming a mommy for the first time. I’m not sure I would have been strong enough to make it out the other side.

I’m just feeling sad today, y’all. Sad and a little angry that we do this to women like Meghan. That we do this to women. That we do this to each other. We all know. Every, single mother knows the pain, the guilt, the hormones, the emotions. Every mother knows. Every person who has loved a new mother knows. Every partner, or sister, or grandmother, or best friend has picked up on the feelings and the stress that comes with being a new mommy. So why do we continue to act like it isn’t a struggle everyday? Why do we judge each other so harshly? I’m just really tired of it, y’all. So very tired of it.

I’m not there anymore. I’m not hiding in my bathroom, listening to my son cry it out in his crib, while my dog paws at the door. I’m not counting down the hours until my husband comes home so I can pass off the baby for some sleep, or a shower, or a rerun of a funny show to take my mind away from where it had been. I’m not there anymore, but so many women are, and we just can’t forget that.

Be kind. I think that’s what I’m asking today. Be kind to the Meghan Markles of the world. Be kind to the Missys of the world. To all the mommies. The ones with newborns, the ones with toddlers, the ones with teens, the ones with 40-year-olds. Check on your friends and be kind. And for the love of all that is holy, leave Meghan Markle alone. She’s just trying to figure it all out.

M.

Surprise was a Success!

Just dropping in this morning to let y’all know that the “Mama Surprise” went down without a hitch! In fact, Jackson was so oblivious (remember when I said he was usually oblivious?) that he didn’t even realize Mama was standing behind his Daddy at the airport pick-up. He jumped out of the truck, because I told him to help his Daddy with his bag, and I stayed in the truck waiting for the scene to unfold. It just took way longer than I thought. I watched him looking at Daddy. He was smiling and laughing as Mama came up behind them. Finally she was standing there with them and Daddy had to say, “That’s Mama!” Then it all clicked for him, I could see him working it all out in his head! It was pretty funny to see, and the whole way home he just kept looking over at her in amazement. He said we, “Got him good.” Yay us!

Anyway, here’s a pic of them from Saturday, going through the “Taste of Tucker” book trying to decide which sweets they wanted to try at our town’s little tasting event. They really are two peas on a weird, chaotic, can’t hear each other when they talk, pod.

M.

Jackson is…

Jackson is eleven today. That’s my son, if you are lost. Not my dog. My dog’s name is Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte, and he is only 18 months old. And he’s a piece of shit, but I digress. Jackson is eleven years old today, and although him and I agreed that eleven isn’t like a super fun birthday, it’s still a day to be celebrated. An accomplishment. The excitement of being in double digits is gone, but he isn’t twelve, the last year of “childhood,” as he refers to it. So yeah, he might not be ten anymore, and maybe he isn’t twelve quite yet, but he still is A LOT of other cool things…

Jackson is smart. Gosh. He always has been. In preschool he took that screening test to get placed in a classroom. The teacher sat us down with a very serious look in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry to tell you that Jackson failed the test.” We looked at each other in disbelief. Why? We asked. Oh my! What can we do to help him get on track? The teacher’s reply went something like this: “Well, he’s great at following directions. And we were pleasantly surprised to see that he can umm, read, at a very high level. He’s social. He’s friendly. He was showing us math problems that he knows, which is, uh, fine, but you know, not what we are looking for. For example, we gave him ten blocks and asked him to build a box, and he did, but first he ordered the blocks by color and size.” We looked at each other, then back at her, “Also, he doesn’t know how to skip…” Is skipping important, I wondered later to my husband. Must be.

Jackson is kind. This one took some time. He’s an only child, so when he was a toddler he didn’t need to share his stuff. We noticed quickly this could have a negative impact on him later on, so we started taking him to parks and playdates with his toys. He started learning to share that way. The older he got the quicker he put it all together. He realized that if he shared his extra special, cool truck at the playground, then that other kid would share his extra special, cool motorcycle. Then one day, around the age of five, it sort of just clicked, the idea that being nice, in and of itself, is the best way to be. Being nice and expecting nothing in return, that’s the kind of kindergartner he was. And that is the kind of fifth grader he is. And I’m certain that is the kind of man he will one day be.

Jackson is empathetic, which sorta goes along nicely with kind, right? He knows what it is like to be made fun of. In kindergarten he was made fun of because he painted his fingernails. In first grade he was made fun of because his glasses broke and we were waiting for a new pair and we used tape to hold them together. When someone is bullied at school, he is the first one to jump up from his seat and intervene. He comes home to tell me stories of that time on the playground when that boy pushed his friend down and he told him, in a very serious tone, “That is inappropriate. You apologize to my friend.” And the kid apologized.

Jackson is sensitive. See above. Empaths tend to be. Sometimes too sensitive. He’s sensitive to sounds, to harsh people, to certain foods, and to being messy. He isn’t taken seriously by a lot of adults in his life because of this. A lot of our family members who have sons don’t “get” Jackson. But that’s okay. That just means he’s different. And different in this case, in most cases, is good.

Jackson is funny. He gets his sense off humor from me, for sure. He’s high-level funny. He gets the teachers’ jokes, when most kids shrug them off. He’s way into puns, but so help me Baby Jesus you throw a fart-joke at him and it can tickle his fancy just as much. He’s silly too. A little goofy. Those all go hand-in-hand.

Jackson is honest. He doesn’t like to beat around the bush and he says what needs saying. Wonder who he gets that from? Though he is learning to be a little more cautious when telling it “like it is” for fear of hurting feelings. He is honest, and he is fair. He has a REALLY hard time picking favorites. Like, for anything. He is scared that he will upset the chocolate ice cream if he says vanilla. That might be more empath coming out, but let’s just say my kid is not the one to cheat at a game, then promise he didn’t. He’d either not cheat at all, or get so upset that he would tell on himself immediately. Hoping this serves me well in the teen years. Now, he’s still a little boy. He still tries to run a fib on us every now and then. Usually about screen time. Like that time he figured out a way to work around the child-lock and hack into YouTube for more screen time. Smart? Sure. Deceitful? Yes. We reminded him that people who are willing to lie about “dumb” stuff, are willing to lie about “big, important” stuff too. We used our President as an example. Now he says, “Geez, I don’t want to be like Trump!” I call that a win.

I could go on, but I’m probably boring you all. So instead I will plop down some adorable pics of Jackson through the years. All I can hope for, for this eleventh year and all the years after, is that my kid stays true to himself. Follows the path that calls to him. It might not be easy, but it should be constantly moving him forward, teaching him, pushing him. I hope that he appreciates all we do for him. I hope that he looks back at his crazy Momma one day and laughs at my blog (I do this all for him). I hope he appreciates the 900 photos I take of him, the stories I share (even though he rolls his eyes when I tell him), and that he remembers the love and learning along the way.

Cheers to Jackson Riker on your 11th birthday, baby! To many more wonderful years ahead.

Mommy

That Target Lady

On the eve of my son’s 11th birthday I can’t stop thinking about what a woman said to me in Target when he was about nine months old. We were walking along the bread aisle, one of my favorites because as you know my first true love is Carbs. Anyway, we were walking along and I was singing the alphabet song and he was laughing and giggling and pretending to sing along. I stopped to contemplate kaiser rolls vs. pretzels rolls—this was when I could still tolerate white bread, oh those were the days—and a cart came screeching around the corner of our aisle and a very fast-paced, older woman was walking toward us with a smile. I was nervous at first because older women scare me, generally, because they usually say whacked-out things to me like, Why don’t you wear make-up more often? and Ladies shouldn’t use the F-word. I thought, Oh for fuck’s sake, what is this about? She sped up to a stop right next to me and grabbed my naive, fat arm, and exclaimed, This baby! Oh my goodness! He’s a doll! Look at this hair! (He had those blond, wispy baby curls then.) And his laughter! I heard him laughing two aisles over and just had to come and find him! I was a little taken aback. I mean women are usually drawn to babies like Jackson, this wasn’t the first time that I had experienced this, but this woman, she had more to say and she was talking to so fast trying to get it out before the fear in my eyes made me smile politely and wander away.

Listen to me, she started, gripping my arm tighter, this goes so fast. So fast! And I know you’ve heard this. I know you get sick of hearing it, but you hear it because damn it is true. It feels like one day you put them down for a nap and the next you are taking pictures of them at their high school homecoming. Between the practices, the long school days, the arguments over money and taking the car out at night, the piano recitals and the sleepovers, somewhere along the line it speeds up and you don’t want it to, but there is nothing you can do. Nothing! But to enjoy every, single moment. Even the hard ones. Even all the years of puberty. Be grateful. Promise me?

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I just nodded blindly. I may have mumbled a I promise, but honestly I was thinking who is this woman and what is her deal? Is she mentally unstable? Is she trying to steal my baby?

Then she looked down at him once more, gave him a little tickle. He smiled and gave her another adorable laugh. She laughed too, with tears in her eyes, and she told me to have a good day and she walked away.

I’ve never forgotten that lady. She’s made appearances in my writing over the last nine years. She’s appreared in my head when I’m trying desperately to be grateful, but it just isn’t coming easily. She’s come to me in dreams and nightmares. She’s always been there. I wish I would have asked her name, or how many children she had, or grandchildren. How many she had lost, or gained. How to keep them close, even if I can’t keep them little. But I didn’t ask her any of that. I just watched her walk away, grabbed my kaiser rolls, and smiled down at this nine-month-old sweet, monster who had wrecked havoc on my body and was currently wrecking havoc on my home, my life, and my heart.

Last night I laid in Jackson’s bed with him and recounted his birth story. We do this every year. We all do right? Even well after they don’t want to hear anymore. He amuses me. He asks me questions, he laughs when it is appropriate. He knows by now that I need to share the story with him once a year, just as much as he needs to hear it. But this time the Target woman was with us too. Because Christ, she was right.

She was so right.

Hold those babies tight. Rock them to sleep while they still let you. Let them linger in your arms even after your arms are prickly and pained. Let them watch that second episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Watch it with them. Laugh and yell: Mimmie Musse, Mimmie Musse! Cause damn it, one day that will all be gone, and you will wish for just one more time.

And one day, when we are those old ladies in the Target aisle, don’t be ashamed to grab the arm of a naive mommy and tell her to enjoy it, because honestly, honestly, she has no idea.

M.

Representation Matters

I had a necessary and slightly concerning conversation with some other parents at Jackson’s school the other day that revolved around a picture that is on a website from the fundraiser that we are doing right now. This is the picture:

It’s cute, right? What sparked the conversation was one of the other mommies telling me she wished we would have made it to Midvale sooner because we have been such a blessing to them and Jackson is such a great kid. I thanked her and agreed. I told her this was the best elementary school we have ever been in, and that we have been in three of them.

The first one, I told them, was also great, on paper. It was not a Title One school, which is very important to some people. Like, very important. Like one of my old friends, upon asking why her daughter went to our kid’s school (at the time) when she lived just as close to another one, rolled her eyes at me and she said (in a voice just above a whisper, even though no one was around,) “That’s a Title One school,” and gave me a knowing smile. I didn’t have the heart, or maybe the nerve, to tell my “sweet” friend that I was raised in a Title One school. That I am a product of poverty. That I got free lunch. Of course, this is the same woman who said she wouldn’t send her dog to the Charter school that was in our town, even though she knows people who work there, kids who go to school there. And I’m guessing I know some of her reasoning. PS… She’s a teacher. #EekFace

Our kids at that time, my son and her daughter, were in kindergarten together in a school that was, in the state of North Carolina, an A-rated school, sometimes an A+. The problem wasn’t so much that it had a 3% free or reduced lunch population (which we were a part of, unbeknownst to my friend I’m sure), it wasn’t even that I could count the number of “diverse kids” as she referred to them, it was that the school itself didn’t reflect real life. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the school. I met some amazing people there. Of course I also met some people who turned out to be some real assholes, but most of them were pretty cool. And I’m still friends with some of them. And I still think they are doing what is best for their kids, given where they live.

Let me quickly address the free lunch thing, since I sorta just snuck that in on you. We were on the free or reduced lunch program in kindergarten because at the time that school started we had just moved to NC, and Jerimiah didn’t have a job yet. We were still living off our savings while he looked for work, so the school district automatically qualified us for the program, and we took advantage of it for a few months, until Jerimiah found a great job, and Jackson started to bring his own lunch to school. But still, it impacted the “numbers” for the school, and still the people who were privy to this probably looked at us differently. Most likely. This may be shocking to some of you who knew us back then, especially because people always assumed that we moved to NC because of work. But no. We moved to NC to find better work. We knew we couldn’t stay in Southern Missouri. We also didn’t know that the town we were moving into was basically more of the same, just with more money. I never told people that because I was ashamed of it. But truth be told, we were kinda bad-ass for doing it. For selling off most of our things, for taking a BIG chance. And we have been reaping the rewards ever since. But, again, that sorta behavior scares people. And you can’t make friends easily with that origin story.

Again the school we were at for kindergarten through half of third grade was great. The real problem was just that 90% of the kids were little white kids with the same socio-economic status. And as some of you might know, some of you who have left your bubble, moved away from the places you were born and raised (unlike my sweet friend mentioned above) this is not reflective of real life. As I told this story to my new friends one of them actually gasped, a white woman, and said that was her worst nightmare for her kid. To go to school with people who looked just like her. I agreed. Explained that it was a driving force for us to move into “the city” and enroll Jackson into the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, even with its many problems, it was much more reflective of real life. Then I brought up this picture.

Again, it’s cute. But, after what I just said, can you see the problem? You might hear a lot of people talk about representation nowadays. And if you are white, you may not pay much mind to that talk, well because, you are represented. Everywhere. But this pic concerned me in a lot of ways.

First off, this is the pic that all the kids and parents see when they first log into the site. So if you are a little Black girl (which we have a lot of at our school) then you see a scene that is not reflective of your life. If you are an Asian boy (which we have a lot of at our school) you are not seeing yourself represented very well either. And so on and so forth.

This might be a good time to add that the county that we live in, DeKalb County, Georgia, is the second most affluent county IN THE COUNTRY, with a predominantly Black population. Let me break that down for you. Most of the money, coming in and out of our county, is from affluent Black families. We are minorities here. Jackson is a minority in his school. Both in sex and race. This is our life. Our community. And it is good. Really good.

Back to the picture. Did you notice all the white kids are on one side, while all the “other” kids are on the other side. See that? See the token Black girl? And the Asian boy? See the two kids that could “pass” for Latino? It’s a bit odd. And maybe I’m reading too far into it, one tends to do that when they have been enlightened to white privilege, but I don’t think so. I also don’t think, or want to believe, that the company did this on purpose. I think it was more of an, Oh shit, we need some “diverse” kids in this pic too! And then they hurried up and made sure they had “one of each.” That’s how I think it went down. Either way. Bleh.

I think I’m just noticing things like this more because I am more aware of the world that we live in. The world advertisers create. The world the white-males make for us, and I’m starting to call a spade a spade, if you will. Like my sweet old friend, who still has others fooled, but I’ve seen her true side. Her “Christian” side, and it ain’t pretty. But more about her in another post.

So that’s what’s been kicking around in my noggin today. Representation. The importance of being around people who do not act like or look like or live like you. The importance of cutting through bullshit and getting down to the nuts and bolts of what needs to be said. So here I am, saying it. Like always.

This weekend, try to step out of your comfort zone a little bit. Eat at a new place, try a new store on the “other” side of town. Start a conversation with that one Black man that lives in your town. I dunno. Try something. Be present. Show up for others. You won’t regret it.

M.

Just the Boys

Jackson is headed to his first fifth grade field trip today. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but this is the first field trip that I have not been invited to chaperone, like, uhh, ever. In fact, there were no parents invited to chaperone this one because this one is to the Fernbank Science Center. And this one is Just for Boys. And this one is chaperoned by Mr. Budd, and Mr. Board, and Mr. Hammonds. And this one came with an accompanying vocabulary list, words like:

Penis

Acne

Vagina

Semen

Yeah. That is this field trip. And I gotta say, I am glad I am not there.

It’s not that Jackson doesn’t already know these words. We are always a little ahead of the game. You don’t get a kindergartner with a third grade reading level if you aren’t. Likewise, we didn’t want the kid that says “balls” for “scrotum” and giggles a little. We want a kid that knows to never use the word “pussy” in any context. Like any of them. Yeah, even cats. Cats are called cats. That is to say we are raising a man with a respectable mouth. Sure he might yell, “What the hell?!” when a car cuts me off, but that’s learned behavior and I’m okay with that. But if my son ever referred to his penis as his “dong,” I’d probably lose my shit.

Our son is, naturally, a bit nervous about today’s trip. He said, and I quote, “I’m just gonna keep my head down and my mouth quiet.” And I believe him. Though I encouraged him to listen attentively, to not giggle when the other boys do, and to try to keep his head up. This is all valuable information. Then I warned him that I want to know EVERYTHING that happened, so he should try to take copious amounts of notes. He rolled his eyes.

I have a fifth grade boy on the brink of puberty. That is amazing. And scary as hell. I have this smart, funny, honest child who is just a bit shy about saying the word “vagina,” but will say it when it is appropriate, because he knows better. He also knows the term, “Sexual Intercourse,” probably much to his grandma’s chagrin. He knows about “consent,” and he knows about birth control. His birth control. His responsibilities. It seems a bit early to bog him down with the wonders of “the pill,” though I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I hope there is a male version before he is of age.

I guess I am telling you all this today because I am nervous. I hope he behaves. I hope he represents. I hope he learns. I hope he lets his guard down just a bit. I secretly hope he does giggle a little bit to himself. Or turns red in the face. Or makes eye contact with his best bud Lucus, and they both make that face. I hope this is just another step in teaching my child to be the best version of himself he can be. And I hope one day he will know how much I worry, but push through anyway.

Teach those babies right, y’all. Have the tough conversations. Because if you don’t they will have them with people they shouldn’t. It is inevitable.

M.

I Want to Ride it Where I Like

Jackson and I have been riding bikes to school and back home the past few days. Prior to this Jerimiah was dropping him off every morning, and I was walking to get him every afternoon. That meant that Jackson was walking one mile a day, and I was walking two. But this week Jackson wanted to ride his bike to school. But a mile is far, and you have to cross a five lane road to get to his school, and let’s be real—I am too anxious to let him ride alone—which means I have to ride with him. So how is that going?! Great. Fine. Awesome. No, but really.

It would seem weird for someone like me to go from no activity to bike riding two miles a day, but really, it wasn’t a bad transition from the walking. I already had the bike, I bought us all new bikes last year after we rented beach cruisers at the beach and I was all, Oh my gosh, this is awesome, why did we ever stop biking when we grew up?! Quick answer: It’s hard. And people judge you.

People really do judge you. I mean, the people in the cars don’t want you on the road, and the people on the sidewalks don’t want you on the sidewalk. People don’t want you going past their driveway, they give looks, and people don’t want you riding on the shoulder of the road or in a lane like a car. In the state of Georgia, if you are over the age of 16 and on a bike, you are supposed to treat it like a “vehicle.” They understand it is not a “motor vehicle,” but they still consider it a “vehicle,” which means you are supposed to ride it on the street. Why do I know this? I Googled it, after I realized that I only see real bike riders (you know who I mean the people on teams who compete and have racing bikes with those funny little suits and make motions with their hands) I see them on the streets all the time, not the sidewalks, because well, sidewalks are for walking. I get that. But, if you are under 16, you are supposed to ride your bike on the sidewalk. This is all new information to me because I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a kid!

So do you see my dilemma? Probably not, because I haven’t laid it out very well. I want to make sure I am on the sidewalk with my son when he rides his bike, but riding my bike on the sidewalk is technically “illegal.” So I ride behind him on the sidewalk, we get off our bikes at the crosswalk and walk them across, and when I am riding alone on the way home after I drop him off, I ride in the street like I am supposed to. Well, I did. Once.

The cars were not nice. Like, not nice at all. Most of them just zipped past me like I wasn’t even there, with no thought to how close they were to me or how fast they were going. They split lanes, they didn’t get over when they clearly could have. I don’t know what the rules are, but when I see a bike rider on the street I get over if I can, and/or give them plenty of room and slow down. Not these people. I am seriously surprised I didn’t cause an accident, and the whole time I just kept thinking, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do! Maybe it’s because this is Atlanta, but riding my bike on the road did not feel safe.

So I ride on the sidewalk now, but I get mad looks from people in the cars and on the sidewalk, even though I know I am not supposed to be on the sidewalk with wheels, so I stop when a walker or runner is coming and I get off my bike and wait for them to pass. Do I want to do that? No, I lose my momentum and believe me, my fat-ass needs my momentum, but I think it is the right thing to do. Ahhhhh! I just want to ride my bicycle where I want. Thanks, Queen.

Anyway, I have no real reason to be writing this but to complain. Maybe you have suggestions. I’m just going to keep on keeping on as long as Jackson wants to ride, and I guess the cops can pull me over on my bike. Lord knows they can catch me.

As a reward for reading my rant here are some pics of a new pair of bikers. I asked him if we could get leather vests made with our nicknames on them, and he said, “We aren’t those kind of bikers, Mommy.” And I told him we were, in our souls we were… #SonsOfAnarchy4Lyfe

M.

Down the Worry Hole We Go

Since school is back in session, and things are back to normal around here, Jerimiah is back to his previously scheduled trips to Baton Rouge each month. This week he had to fly out on Labor Day in what sounds like, to me anyway, one of those “If I have to be here, then you do to” sorta deals that bosses do. So that’s fun. This is the second holiday he should have spent with us this year, but instead was in Baton Rouge (he was called to work on Fourth of July as well). Before June this was old hat. He flies out for one week a month and Jackson and I are left here to do the mundane daily stuff without him. It was tough at first because we are a tight unit, but it’s getting easier. This month though, after being with him for a full five weeks straight (wow!) it has been a bit more difficult.

Sunday night we all headed to bed like any other night. Jerimiah tucked Jackson in, but instead of saying, “I love you. We are going to have a great day tomorrow, I will see you in the morning.” He said, “I won’t see you in the morning, I will see you Friday night.” Jackson said okay, and we headed for bed. A few moments later a crying Jackson came into our bedroom saying that he was afraid something bad was going to happen to daddy. What if the plane crashed? What if he never made it home to us? Why was his brain making him think about this?

I sorta froze at first. Jerimiah jumped into action, called him into our bed, held him while he cried. I was just so damn shocked. Not because Jackson has never had worries or anxiety like this before, but because he had said something new, that I have been saying for a couple of years now, “Why was my brain making me think this way?” He knew it was a worry. He knew it was anxiety, but he didn’t know how to stop it. I jumped into therapy mode and tried to emulate what my therapist says to me. Tried to get to the root of this particular thought. Jackson and his class have been tracking the hurricane, was he scared about that? Daddy assured him that Louisiana was safe this time. But it wasn’t that.

I started to ask more questions. Was it because he had read about a plane crash the other day? We saw it in the newspaper together. Maybe, he said. Was it because when we hiked Stone Mountain that day, Daddy needed to sit down at one point, when Jackson and I didn’t? I got another maybe. The bottom line he said, is that he was afraid something bad was going to happen to us. Man, that is tough to hear. Maybe all kids have this worry, some just don’t admit to it? Maybe I’m overreacting, but this shook me pretty hard.

I remember when I was his age. My mom would go out at night and leave me alone at home. She would tell me to lock the doors, and have the phone by me in case I needed it. I was always afraid, but I never told her. I wasn’t afraid to be home alone. I wasn’t afraid that someone would break into our house, or try to hurt me. I was worried that my mom would not come home. This was around the time my worry and anxiety started, and I am afraid he will be the same.

He ended up sleeping with us that night. He snuggled in between us, and we lulled him to sleep with silly stories of the day. He was laughing before he drifted off, and right before the Uber came for Daddy in the morning daddy kissed him and told him that he loved him. Jackson shot up in bed and said bye, and that he loved his daddy, then drifted back off to sleep. For that I was glad.

Jerimiah’s plane landed fine. He did his day and week of work, and we will see him tonight. But there was worry and anxiety floating in the air this time, one that I am just learning to deal with, let alone help my son combat. I tried to keep him busy, have some good Mommy and son time, and of course talk to daddy every night. I’m just nervous this is the beginning to more worry and anxiety for my son. I’m nervous I passed my mental illness down to him. I’m worried I’m at fault.

Man, this parenting thing is tough. We blame ourselves a lot. We worry and we wait. And we are never quite sure if we are doing things the right way. Or what the hell the right way even is. I’m sure you’re all struggling with something today, so here I am, sending big hugs to all of you out there doing it today. You’re doing just fine, Momma. You’re rocking it, daddy! Things will be okay.

M.

My New Doctor

I had my annual exam this morning with my new doctor in Atlanta. There wouldn’t normally be much to report, it’s usually the same old song and dance. I need to lose weight. Get my medication right. But today I met my new NP, and things were different. She’s sweet, and young, and resourceful. She’s an immigrant, who left Iran ten years ago with her brother to escape religious persecution. She was raised in the Bahá’í Faith. It’s a more progressive sect of Islam. Women are viewed as equals in her religion, but still not in Iran. In Iran she was treated poorly because of her religion. She was not allowed to go to college. Her parents could not own a business, or work for the government, schools, etc. they can only work for private companies. The ones that will hire them. Her life was hard growing up, and if it weren’t for her opportunity to come here, she isn’t sure where she would be.

She didn’t just offer up this information about herself, of course. She just asked a normal “doctor” question.

NP: How many pregnancies?

Me: Two.

NP: How many children?

Me: One.

This is when the doctor usually says she’s sorry for my loss. She may ask what happened, depending on what I’m there for, she may not. Today my sweet, young, Farsi-speaking NP simply said, “Tell me about your baby.”

What came next was a ten-minute conversation about how abortion, especially ones like mine, where the baby isn’t viable, are totally okay in Iran. In most of that part of the world. That this stigma here in the US, we did that to ourselves, and she thinks it’s nuts. “No one,” she told me, “No one in Iran would have expected you to carry your daughter to full-term. You’d seem crazy to them if you did that.” She went on to tell me a bit about her life and religion. She told me she thinks the powers that be in her new country, our country, use the issue of abortion to hide what they are actually doing. It’s all a game with them. They don’t see the women.

It’s weird, and a little funny how things happen. I forget that sometimes. I’ve been torturing myself all week. A wreck with guilt, as I am every year around this time, for something that I just shouldn’t have guilt about.

I was reminded of this today. I was reminded by someone who didn’t need to know my why, or my how, or my when. She just needed to see the struggle in my eyes. She put her hand on my shoulder as I struggled to sit upright, my open gown covering nothing of my upper body, my breasts hanging out all over the place, and she said, “Look at me.” I looked at her. “I would have done the same thing you did. You’re strong. Strong to know the toll that would take on you. Strong mentally to know what was best for you and to do it.” Then she took my hand and helped me sit straight up. Helped me close up the front of my gown. Helped me straighten my crown.

There’s good out there, y’all. Everyday, everywhere. And it comes to you when you need it.

❤️

M.

The Day After Yesterday

Yesterday is over. I wait all year to get through the month of August, and though I still technically have a few more days left, the month is over for me. If I can get through my daughter’s birthday, well then, I can get through anything. She would have been eight years old yesterday. We would have had a party. Who knows what kind. Maybe a Minecraft party, thrown with her big brother as the host. Maybe a retro party like Jackson had last year, full of clowns, and bright colors, and a bounce house. Maybe she would have wanted a Disney princess party, or a Toy Story party, maybe she would have loved a llama party like her mommy. I think about these things.

Of course any of those parties would hinge on the fact that she would have had to be born. And then she would have had to be born “normal,” nor “abnormal” like it was written on all the paperwork. She would have had to shaken off that extra chromosome somehow. She would have had to be a totally different daughter. The one I imagined in my head, not the one she actually was.

I’m not losing it, don’t worry. I’m just letting you into my brain on the day after the eighth anniversary of losing my daughter. I cried in my therapist’s office last week. I told her that I have been having panic attacks in the middle of the night. I told her that I’ve been waking up thinking about death. Existential dread, sure, but so much more. She assured me that it was okay, and in fact normal, for eight years later to have this happen. It will also be normal in 20 years. And in 30 years. Because grief doesn’t stop just because you want it to. You can’t will it away.

I cried for the better part of an hour, while my husband held me yesterday afternoon. My people texted me. Thinking about you. With hearts and hugs. I’m here if you want to talk. I appreciate it all. I appreciate the love and support you give to us, but I am also sorry. Sorry that you have to send that text. Sorry if you feel like I talk about her more than I should. We all have our ways I guess, this is mine. I say her name, I tell her story, I educate people when I can. And I have learned that’s okay. But on August 25th I sort of just shut down. And I’m slowly learning that’s okay too.

The day after yesterday is better. Brighter. More possibilities lie ahead. So thanks to those who helped me get through, especially Jerimiah, Jackson, and Duke. Three outta four ain’t bad.

M.

Burger King Hysterectomy

I’ve been in a major slump this week. Like major. This time of year always gets to me because this is the time of year I lost my daughter. If you want to get up to speed on that you can read this: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/08/20/august/ or this: http://mudseasonreview.com/author/melissa-goodnight/ and you should be all caught up. But the other day when I was explaining to my husband how I’ve been feeling this week, I used the phrase “profound sadness” and I meant it. I meant it, but I am not sure it explains exactly how I feel, but it is probably pretty close. I started to wonder why this year was hitting me that much harder than other years and, I think, quite simply, that there is something else I haven’t properly dealt with that needs some attention, my decision to have a hysterectomy last year.

Now listen, I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of it. Some of you really don’t care to know all that, but if you do just ask me, I will tell you EVERYTHING, cause I’m that kinda person. But I will say that because of some issues I was having, I was a candidate for a hysterectomy. Not a “Full Hysterectomy,” just a partial, so I elected to have it done. So last May I had my uterus and Fallopian tubes removed. They left my ovaries so I wasn’t a 36-year-old going into menopause (thank you so much for that, doc) but the rest they took out and threw away in a trash can behind the Burger King. Well, maybe not. But in my mind that’s what happened.

My Burger King uterus was a Mess with a capital M, but it had served me well through two pregnancies, so it was a little bit sad. Now, have I enjoyed not having a period since then? Uh yes, absolutely. It’s a new kind of freedom that I haven’t had since I was 12 years old, and I highly recommend the procedure if any of you are considering it. Highly. Recommend. (And if you are in the Charlotte area, I highly recommend you doing it at Novant! I had THE BEST experience there!) But I digress.

The hysterectomy came as a surprise to a lot of people, because for the four years leading up to my decision, Jerimiah and I had been trying to have another baby. We struggled with infertility after we lost Lydia in 2011, and we came to be diagnosed with “Unexplained Secondary Infertility”. In fact, if you go back in this blog, like way back, you will see that my first ever post was the night before I was headed in to have a “procedure” done to start the fertility process. I did have it done. And a couple more procedures. In fact, we got to the point where we had to either go all in, like $50,000 all in, or back off and hope for a miracle. Jerimiah and I both decided at that moment that we would rather spend $50,000 on the adoption process than on trying to get pregnant, so we went with the “trying for a miracle” and well, the miracle never came.

Meanwhile, I was more and more bogged down with all the aforementioned “issues” each month, until I was finally so fed up, fed up with the issues, fed up with my body rebelling against me, fed up with the constant depression every month when I was not pregnant, that I said enough is enough and decided to make a final decision. And boy is it a final decision. In fact, I didn’t realize how final it really is, and now I’m dealing with all these feelings, for the first time, because over the last year I sort of just shoved them down. Hmpf. Way to go, Missy.

I mean, I knew what a hysterectomy was going into it. I had to sign so many papers that my hand cramped. Yes, I get it, I get it, I said to my doctor. No more babies for me. And yes, I did get it. But what I didn’t think about was all the feelings I would have after I could not have any more babies. I know I am not making myself clear here, partly because I am working it out for the first time myself (there will probably be a series of “Burger King Hysterectomy” coming at y’all) and partly because it’s a weird thing to write about, but I will get better.

What I mean to say is that I sometimes want another baby. Bleh. That is hard to admit. But I certainly didn’t want to try to do it the way we were doing it. And I certainly know it isn’t possible anymore, and I am almost certain that I don’t ACTUALLY want another baby. Like, I like this life that I have. I love that we have one. That we can take off and go whenever we want. That we get to travel and experience things, and that we have one kick-ass kid already. But sometimes, when I am already sad, I start to miss Lydia, then I start to think I sold myself short. Myself, my husband, my son. Even though, let me say, everyone was behind my decision, myself included. Gah. It must be the hormones. Maybe I can get someone down at the ‘ol BK to take out my ovaries too?

Well, I’m rambling now. I will keep thinking on this topic, you guys think on it too, and maybe we can come up with a conclusion? And no, not just a Missy is nuts conclusion. We already know this, that is taking the easy way out. Try harder, you guys. I am counting on you.

M.

Mike the Tiger

I’m writing this post early, like three days early, because on Sunday morning (this morning, but not this this morning, you know what I mean) I am actually headed to Louisiana for two weeks and the plan is to head out early because it is a bit of a drive from Atlanta to Baton Rouge. In preparation for this trip, I have been talking to my 10-year-old son about Louisiana, because he has never been. My husband goes once a month for work. He has also been to New Orleans, as have I (if you don’t already know that get yourself up to speed on my Mardi Gras Experience in my four part series. Here is the first part: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/03/01/corner-of-bourbon-and-canal/ be aware, this is not for the faint of heart.)

Anywho, we have been discussing alligators and the show Swamp People. We have been talking about slavery and Water Moccasins. Civil War, why rebel flags are in fact hate, not heritage, LSU and Mike the Tiger, and Crawfish. I even gave him a painfully boring lecture on what it means to be Creole versus Cajun, and how pidgin languages came to be. He isn’t as into linguistics as I’d hoped.

The thing is, he is now TERRIFIED of Louisiana. But for good reason. I mean, they keep a tiger in a cage so that with every roar they can score touchdowns. It doesn’t add up. So yeah, he’s confused, and a little scared. He thinks we are going to be attacked by an alligator if we take an airboat tour. He thinks the Mike the Tiger will get out of his enclosure and chase us. He thinks he will go for a swim in the hotel pool and the bottom will open up, all Freddy-style, and suck him out into the swamp and he will be forced to live with Troy and Big Billy and make a living off of unsuspecting tourists for the rest of his life. And truth be told, it could all happen. Especially in Louisiana.

So, I guess what I am asking for here is some prayer. Or some good thoughts. Or maybe where to get gumbo that won’t burn his tongue? Cause I don’t know much about Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. And I don’t know much about much anyway. So if we get eaten by a gator, well then that is on you guys. Or the Voodoo Queens that I made mad. Just a heads up.

See you around.

Or not.

M.