Tag Archives: parenting

My Lesbian Divorce –> The Next Family

11 Oct

 

Love and gratitude to the folks at The Next Family, who invited and published my reflection today on divorce:

I never expected to stand in front of a hundred family members and friends in a long white dress, lighting candles, exchanging rings, and proclaiming my love and commitment to a woman. I never expected a ceremony like ours to be fully and legally binding. I never expected to want to be legally bound.

I never expected to be a mom, or a stepmom.

I never expected to sit around my dining room table in pajamas one Saturday morning, breaking the news of our divorce to my twelve-year-old daughter. I never, ever, ever expected that.

And yet …     [read more]

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how to tend your poem

27 Feb

potted poemYour teacher reads
a poem
about a flower,
about a fly
attracted to a flame:
The folly.

You listen
with half your heart,
holding the other half
slightly out of sight,
where you will

feed it
your own poems
as you grow
and bend
and flourish
maybe wilt in the evening
sometimes
drink the rain
spread your roots
and make up
verse upon verse upon verse

until you’re ready
to carry one

outdoors,
set it on the porch
and share it with the sun.

Learning to Let Go: Year Eleven

6 Oct

Slowly, I realize your pencil is sharpest while my eyes are averted. Your attention is focused on the page, on the numbers, on the words you are meant to memorize when I hold my tongue.

You are every day so much more your own person – conscientious, creative, sharp-witted, smart – and you prefer not to filter yourself through the words or the gaze or the systems designed by your mother. I get it. I was where you are once.

I respect your choices. I respect your desires. I appreciate that good work, good grammar, completion of anything you begin matters to you. This is everything. This is … you becoming you.

As I, again, become me.

I am still your mom. I will always be your mom, wanting you to succeed, offering to put myself, my life, my own choices, desires, preferences on the line for you, even as you silently show me this isn’t what you need. Or want.

But this is my struggle: Being me, just me, knowing I am enough on my own. I am enough when I step back, when I talk about something other than you, when there is space between us. I am enough when I do me.

This is a middle school lesson I must learn – and not only for myself, which is why it may stick.

This stepping back is how I let you do you, too.

Flip Flops - Cabo

in the blink of an eye

7 May

My girl unfurls herself

from my backseat,

slips each arm easily

into her backpack straps,

and emerges from my car.


I reach

for the project

she’s taken

three months

to create,

while students stream

into the school.


“I want to carry my poster, Mom,”

she says, and

takes it from me,

proudly nods my dismissal,

offers a smile

full of love,

accepts my hug

and carries her poster

down the sidewalk,

stepping lightly,

head held high

while I

start the car

and

drive away.


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A Day Off

23 Apr

“Sounds like you need to take a day off,” my friend tells me as we sit on couches waiting for our daughters to emerge from yoga class.

“I am taking a day off. Well, half a day,” I say brightly. “Tomorrow! Miss E and I are volunteering at the book fair.”

She stares at me, deadpan, for what feels like a minute, two minutes. Finally, she cracks a smile. “That’s not what I mean,” she tells me. “I mean you need to take a day OFF. Not four hours away from work so you can volunteer at your daughter’s school.”

Oh.

Right.

Because I’m wound so tightly now, you could almost bounce a quarter off me.

Wait.

How many metaphors did I mix right there?

Losing. My. Touch. Losing touch. Entirely.

No wonder I can’t write a poem to save my life.

At the book fair, a mom with kids both older and younger than mine shares how she spent last Mother’s Day: At a hotel. By herself. Moms can do that – they can! I’ve heard of such moms, and now I’ve met one. And she says her kids love Mother’s Day. They get to go out for burgers. They spend hours at the arcade. While mom gets to do whatever she wants! Last year, at eleven o’clock at night, she took a bath just because she wanted to. She took three baths during her one-night stay, and she watched TV. Can I TELL you how delicious that sounds?

So, right, with the two mom thing, it’s not like I can ditch out on our special Mom day and expect my Honey to take care of the kid – I mean, she’s a mom, too – but there are other days in the year. Right? Plenty of other days. I can take off another day!

Here’s why: One day, at the close of my first writing retreat in over ten years, the love of my life asked me – begged me – to agree to a puppy. Her work had been slow for a long, long time. She had time in the day for training and exercising a new canine baby.

Our lives had been going along swimmingly. We had reached a state of equilibrium in our home. I had managed two days away to nurture myself.

She really, really, really wanted this. Puppies are cute. Cuddly. Naughty. Hard. I considered it. I railed against it. I talked through all my no’s with a friend, and then I said, “Yes.” I committed. I agreed.

And life became chaos, jam packed every day – good stuff, but so much of it packed into such a short time.

In early March, my Honey took a solo trip. Awesome. With lifelong friends. Since then, we have celebrated her birthday and then Miss E’s, our niece’s birthday, the birthday of a good friend… and the three of us traveled to see my Mom. My Honey’s workload, without warning, exploded into family time. She was suddenly gone all Saturday, all Sunday, easily two nights every week – right through homework-dinner-bedtime-you-know-the-drill – which wouldn’t be too exhausting – I mean, we only have one kid who isn’t grown – but you add to that the PUPPY, who attacks the ancient dachshund, pounces on the cat, snatches homework off the dining room table and nibbles socks on the living room floor – plus an elementary school orchestra concert, a talent show dance and a choral concert with 900 kids.

Sometime last week, I checked out. Gone. Mental break. My days are planned down to ten-minute increments. Our home is a shambles, the bathroom and basement desperate to be cleaned.  I blog in stops and starts. My standards are slipping.

I don’t know if it’s the compounded stress of the past two months, or the current chaos of puppy parenting paired with the seat-of-my-pants homework management of an often inattentive fifth grader, or if it’s simply the reality of a daily poetry challenge where there are dips in skill, inspiration and talent in wordsmithing and observational prowess, but I needed to take a break.

I put my poetry challenge on Pause.

So I’m sitting in a chair with my morning coffee, paper and pen last Saturday. My daughter is still in her bedroom, no doubt on her iPad with headphones on, and I know what’s best for her would be for me to interrupt her, to draw her attention to some real world activity, to make breakfast, invite her on a bike ride, suggest we play a game of cards. But I’m enjoying my time in my chair with my notebook, even if I have to set it down every five minutes now that the dogs are awake because in the act of writing this paragraph, this happens:


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I intervene.

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These few moments of quiet calm in a weekend morning will be what I cling to indefinitely, until summer, until the sea calms and I feel I can stand.

Or maybe

I will take a day off,

a whole day

– decadent –

Just. For. Me.

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another haiku

16 Apr

She said the paper

Was due today. She was wrong.

It wasn’t yet done.

* * *

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*  *  *
National Poetry Writing Month

30 poems in 30 days

love that ball

2 Oct

Exercise Ball 2014 c

She bounces

on the exercise ball

during dinner

or

 

hovering her pencil

over a worksheet,

taking time

deciding

what to write.

 

She

bounces during

talks of all topics

and tones.

“Let’s talk about

real things, Mami,

while I draw cartoons,”

she suggests,

bouncing,

as if

the dual focus

makes hard things

all

right,

 

makes it

unnecessary

to

 

throw

her pencil across the room,

rip her homework in two,

stomp

towards the kitchen trash,

slam doors,

shut down

all

the

way.

 

No.

 

Bouncing,

just –

bouncing.

Just bouncing

now

somehow

makes it

all

feel

right.

 

Mental Hygiene

31 Jul

LilypadsLast Friday, I was gulping down my second cup of coffee, dressed uncharacteristically in creased slacks and heeled sandals at a meeting for work, sitting between a dear friend and a new acquaintance. They were catching up. I was taking it all in. And at some point, my new acquaintance referenced “mental hygiene” as an antiquated phrase which eventually morphed into “mental health.” I’m honestly not sure which phrase I prefer, but she dismissed “mental hygiene” as the foundational philosophy for electric shock therapy and other efforts to clean or sanitize the human mind.

I saw her point, sharing her disdain for our culture’s approach to mental health through the ages, and yet …

“Mental hygiene” also resonated with me. It suggested daily maintenance, frequent care and attention. It’s a phrase that could remind me to take those daily silent moments for myself, opening that deep, rich sense of myself with the same care and frequency I put into brushing my teeth, showering, or brushing my hair.

Did I find a new title for my blog?

For months, I’ve been hopping all over the place in search of a new theme for this blog of mine. Because Miss E now has an undeniable need for privacy, which means telling the stories of our more profound or transformative conversations feels to me like breaking her trust. She is experimenting with distance and intimacy. She is full-on tween. These are precarious days.

She is also nearing the age I was when my mom began to spin out, eventually shedding her role as a parent for many years…

Recently, I arrived home after a grueling day at work, calling “Hello!” as I unlocked the door. My two dogs came running to greet me. I pet them both on the head, cooing my love. Then I went searching for the humans. Kelly, my partner, was out with clients and our home was unbelievably, eerily silent. I walked down to the basement, where my eldest was sorting the chaos of her bedroom, working hard to make it peaceful and clean – and while she was lovely to me and kind, I had clearly interrupted. I tried to stay brief, sticking to: Hello. When is our company coming? What’s the plan for dinner? And finally – Is your sister here?

“She should be in her room,” she answered, shuffling her pile again.

Miss E had never in her life failed to greet me at the door, but I climbed the stairs, knocked on her Minecraft-decorated door, entered, and found her sitting on the bed with headphones on, iPod in-hand. I kissed her head.

“What?!” she said, scrunching up her shoulders. “I’m watching videos.” I hadn’t seen her in ten hours. At least.

Still, I nodded. “Okay,” I told her, leaning over and kissing her again. “I love you.” I stood straight and walked towards her bedroom door.

“I love you, too, Mom,” she said.

I told this story to my friend Helen the next day at work, this story of the first time I arrived home after a challenging day and my young one didn’t run to greet me at the door. She said it hit her right in the heart, which I needed to hear, and she said she’d been there with her kids, too, who are all grown now. “She’ll come back to you,” Helen assured me.

“I never came back to my mom,” I replied. I didn’t think it through; I just said it. But it was true, I realized as the words came tumbling out of my mouth.

So THIS is the trouble I’m having now, I thought. This right here.

… which brought me back to the idea of Mental Hygiene. And how writing for me is like flossing.

Flossing my mind?

Helen may be right. It’s possible. Miss E may come back. Or maybe she won’t go far when she goes. When she separates. I can’t predict.

After all, at forty-five, I am slowly coming back to my mom – imperceptibly perhaps, but STILL – I wouldn’t have predicted that.

And so I floss. And I brush. And I rest. And I write. As much as I can. For my own mental hygiene. Praying we’ll all turn out all right.

 

The truth about eggs

24 Jul

IMG_20140724_213440_582Writing guides a writer to what’s real. Or writing guides me.

“Write until you hit that nugget of truth,” we’re told.

Write.

Just write.

Kelly calls down the laundry chute to me this morning before work, “Roi, do you want me to make you some eggs?”

“Yes, please!” I tell her, looking up from the fitted sheet I’m folding.

“One or two?”

“Two, please.” Eggs are delicious.

I arrive at the table some time later. My daughter is gnawing on something which is not an egg. She’s reading, too. Breakfast in our house is rarely a family affair. We come and go from the table, pop in and out, sometimes only half-dressed, in search of a shoe, a necklace, a key, hurry through, distracted by the day’s to-do’s, by our books, and by our devices. Breakfast is rarely a family affair, but dinner is. At dinner, devices and books are banned.

But not at breakfast.

“Thank you so much, Honey!” I feel well cared for. It shows. Kelly smiles.

Then she asks Miss E, “Did you not like your eggs, cutie?” They are still on her plate, one tiny bite missing.

“No. You made them all runny. I don’t like that.” She doesn’t look at either of us. She crinkles her nose. She lifts the edge of her bitten egg white with her fork, lets it down again, and turns her attention back to her book.

I’m stunned, although I shouldn’t be.

“That’s good for me to know,” Kelly says. “I make them like that because you used to like them… runny.”

“I don’t like them runny,” Miss E replies without moving her eyes. Kelly nods. Because that’s the truth, Miss E’s truth, here, this minute. She does not like the runny eggs. And she does not like talking. Right now. To us. That is her truth and it’s clear, even before I sit down hours later to write it out.

A few minutes later, I ask her to please thank Mama for trying. She does. Mama seems pleased – which pleases Miss E, too.

Over time, I hope this sort of interaction becomes its own reward — this thanking, acknowledging, making people who care for you feel good. That’s my truth.

That’s my own truth about eggs.

And then I wonder… If we all tell our egg stories, no matter how mundane, amid the stories of spelling bees won, goals kicked into the net, gracious manners and lessons truly deeply learned … If we all tell the truth about eggs, will we see ourselves in one another? Will it make us smarter, wiser, kinder?

As bloggers, as writers, as readers typing in the comment box, as friends emailing with friends, can we build the elusive parenting village in this technologically (dis)connected world with stories as simple as fried or poached or scrambled eggs?

If we write.

Just write.

Just write our own truths about eggs.

Settling the Dice

22 May

Dice PopperI have twenty minutes in the hot sun.

My kid’s in yoga and I’m the one sweating. That’s just how our lives fit together right now – her in class and me in the car. Waiting.

Writing. With pen and ink. Filling stolen bits of time with words. Making the most of the moment.

I ought to be at the store buying pretzels.

For her tutor.

I digress.

The truth is, I’m mired in too many moods today to make poetry. Or prose. Or sense.

Perhaps you know the feeling?

What’s more – most of these moods are not mine. My partner’s pre-menopausal. (She’s using the word now, so I can, too.) And our youngest flung herself headfirst into her tweens some time ago.

It’s a magical combo.

You know those big families who have trouble getting a photo where everyone’s smiling at the same time? That’s my house at dinnertime. Our dinner table seats four. Sometimes six. More often three, since Grace is home for awhile but working nights – serving other people dinner, dealing with other people’s moods.

We’re adjusting.

To the hormones.

To each other.

We’re learning the new normal. We’re discovering – when all the words and worries, flared tempers, diminishing hope, when all the small talk and back talk and cross talk and just talk is stripped away – what each of us really needs. We’re learning to take what we need. We’re learning how to ask each other questions, too. We’re learning.

Do you remember those childhood board games where the dice were inside a kind of dome that you had to push down until all the dice popped up with a loud clattering sound and as a kid, it was fun to pop the dice over and over again if for no other reason than to grate on your mom’s nerves? (Not that I would have done that, Mom.) That’s my house. That was my house earlier this week, all loud and popping.

Until the dice settled and we went on.

We went on with the game.

We waited for the dice to settle, and then we went on.

Learning new rules. Making new rules together.

For this new game.

 

Photo discovered here. 

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